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Topics - Kremon

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1
Outside Realm / So, this is the beginning of a Goodbye.
« on: 08/30/17, 08:46:25 AM »

This day was coming up on my calendar, but that makes it no less difficult.
This is goodbye, for two years time.

I've decided to serve a religious mission, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was a decision I debated, but ultimately knew the eventual choice. Part of the standards that missionaries vow to uphold is to abstain from the distractions of the world, so... This will be a farewell until we meet again.

I'm hoping that in two years time, I'll come back and still find all you wonderful people still here, but since the passing of time is cruel, I must assume the worst and that this would be an adieu to you all for good. You are all wonderful people that I have come to love and have learned from over my time spent here. Be it highs or lows, Begeren Colony's always been there as a place for me to express my creativity and love for Star Wars.

In that time, I've come to make exceptionally good friends among you all, and I would hate to leave without some special remarks.

Seraphie - Your incredible. You host Palace Night, keep the decor constantly updated, arrange and GM numerous events, besides welcoming everyone to the site and being an all around magnificent hostess both on and off the site.

Noth - A while back you were having a hard time, but I'm happy to see your back on your feet. Your a great artist, and no matter how much the world knocks you around, keep on enduring, because your understanding nature is a joy to behold.

Karmic - You've always been a willing one to lend an ear and offer advice when someone's going through trouble. If ever there's ever a single person on the site expressing worries, it's a sure bet that your there to console and express kindness.

Niarra - If anyone's taught me anything about good writing and character development, it's been you. Don't kid yourself that your writing isn't good, it's fantastic. You've definitely got a talent for it, and I urge you to pursue it. I'd love to read a publishing of yours in future.

Mei - I only just got to know you through the recent storylines, but it's clear that you've got spunk and I like that.

LVT - Your a cool operator that always got my plots moving and my creative juices flowing one way or another. You always had a clear sense of right and wrong with them that I liked, and I want you to know that I appreciated that.

Nicohlas - For whatever reason, your constant attempts to convert my characters and others to the Imperial side reminded me of Starship Trooper... I always half expected you to say; "Would you like to know more?" But your a good organizer and great at keeping everything and everyone in the IWSC up to date.

Last but not least, Lolermelon - I've really only got one thing to say: Keep it wacky.

I still have a few days left, with the final date being 12th September. Until then, I hope to keep in touch with you all for as long as possible.

2
Holocrons and Info Nodes / Redemption
« on: 07/14/17, 10:47:23 AM »

So the end of the arc with the cabal is near, and a new generation of characters and different directions in storytelling comes into the light, but first there's a few more loose ends to tie up.

So, I hope you all enjoy the first (And rather short) installment of Redemption.



Exephos stepped into the Jedi's library, just out of sight of the Jedi he'd spoken with, Master Reymark. What he'd told her was the truth, he was through with war and in dealing with it's savage ways. For a moment, he'd thought she was on the right track at the beginning, but then she'd started talking about courts and trials.
He regretted some of his actions, he took responsibility for them, but if the time came and he was put before a Senate, to be judged by a bunch of fat aristocrats living privileged lives for the actions he'd taken out there on the battlefield? He wouldn't go through with that. Not unless they'd been there. Not unless they'd been in the shoes of a frontline soldier. Otherwise, they'd find that their key witness; him, would vanish in the night.
But he would give her and the rest of the Jedi the benefit of the doubt, despite his disgust for some of their members. Only that evening, he'd discovered that there were apparently some Jedi that did not even stand with the Republic. Such gall irked him that the defending troopers of the cause he'd pledged to protect bled and died for a war that the Jedi had started, and then they didn't stay with it and continue to fight it, expecting everyone else to bear the weight of their-
He paused in his thoughts.
He was doing it again, ramping himself up to fight, to battle, to find another war to start. It was that thinking which had brought him here in the first place, so if he wanted to live the remainder of his life in peace, he'd have to swallow his pride and his hatred. Otherwise, he'd return to that hellish pit in his mind where he did nothing but destroy and kill, the same pit it felt like he'd been clawing out of for the past decade.
Then Rell rounded the corner of one of the bookshelves, and his world changed. He lit up his galaxy, the only one he still cared and fought for.
"My boy." Exephos said, as his son rushed to embrace him.
He held him in a tight hug, as Rell wordlessly clung to him. He'd been through far too much already. Nineteen years old now, and he'd been a prisoner twice, seen his mother killed before him, and lived out the majority of his days in an Imperial camp. But no more. He vowed right then and there, nobody would mess with his son, his pride and joy, ever again.
"Did they mistreat you?" Exephos asked, implying both the cabal and the Jedi.
"No... No. I was just... So worried about you, father. What they might make you do." Rell replied, letting go and stepping back.
"Well, it's all over now. For good. No more plots and schemes, nor running off to fight other's wars." He returned, with a heavy-hearted sigh. It was good to say, but he had the feeling that at some point, it'd all be over. His ghosts, both physical and mental, never truly left him alone.

Jess Gervani was seated at a desk the Custodum had graciously lent her as she carefully went through the piles and piles of flimsi and data that they'd recovered at the hypertower. She shuffled a stack of mundane troop movement schedules to the side, before running a hand through her hair with a sigh and checking the chrono. It was late, well into the Coruscanti night when ordinary people went to sleep. But like a project on corruption, this one swallowed here. Here was something well beyond the local CSF officer taking bribes. It was a network breaking and bending all of the rules, all beneath the radar. It was a terrifying and real prospect, but fortunately, they also had very real evidence.
She'd already gone through the communications, and that was enough to expose suspicious activities alone. It mentioned, BY NAME, individuals among different departments talking about ways to influence the vote on various topics. Everything from defense committees deciding on the size of troop complements to the outer rim, to economical boards limiting corporate power in Republic space.
They had a hand in everything, and direct cooperation like this, between these heads of department wasn't necessarily illegal, but definitely enough to turn heads. They were supposed to be advising and running the day-to-day tasks of the Republic, not dictating all of it's decisions. Dubious though, not yet illegal.
But that was only the tip of the asteroid.   
There were financial records, where certain accountants had transferred around funds to various side funds. She'd heard about the expensive furnishing at the Hypertower, and this told about where the credits came from. Only a bit would be siphoned off each sum, maybe a hundred thousand credits here, a hundred thousand there. In a government that dealt in billions, if not trillions of credits, it wasn't even noticed in the crafty back and forth transactions of the cabal.
Definitely illegal.
But there was worse. Much, much worse.
Certain senatorial elections from ruling planets like Coruscant, Corellia, and Ord Mantell would be purposefully manipulated. Perhaps not by direct interference with polls, but opponents would be eliminated in various ways. Perhaps they'd get all their campaign funds stolen in fraud, maybe a bit of dirt would come up from their past, or just maybe they'd have an accident happen. All of these were not only mentioned, but planned, and had the results reported on in the records obtained.
It was so fundamentally wrong to the values of the Republic, that it boggled her. Never in her life had she suspected such corruption. But just like that pompous governor on Ord Mantell that had thought he could get away with embezzlement, Jess wasn't going to let this network get away. She had a grip on them now, and they weren't slipping free.
The question was, how to go about it?
The public had to know, it had a right to know. That was why she joined the press. To right wrongs and empower the people, and not the unscrupulous. She knew as well that once it went public, a massive investigation would be set under way. That every last trace of this cabal filth would be flushed out, burned away, and stripped off. Perhaps with it would also go the last of Saresh's influence, and bring a rise to a good honest government again.
But that was getting ahead of herself.
First things first, she needed to package this information in a way that everyone could understand it, and in which the perpetrators were obvious. The last thing that the Republic needed right now was to become disorganized.
That meant unity, she needed to play off of the idea of unity.
Perhaps inspire patriotism in the diction... 'Here in our Glorious Republic'... No, no. That sounded too much like a Tion Hegemony dictatorship.
No, she needed to inspire patriotism but not in the big grand way, no she needed to craft something that appealed to the little guy. To the ones on the streets, in the factories, working in offices, and fighting on the front. Something that kept the Republic together, but also made it clear that something had to be done about this network infesting the Republic's bureaucracy.
This was going to be harder than she thought.

3
Events and Occasions / The Hypertower
« on: 06/23/17, 08:30:10 AM »
Lurking in plain sight, the network that maneuvers the Republic into the positions it pleases continues to defy all attempts at investigation... Until the discovery of Jess Gervani. A journalist that Exephos spared after being ordered by the same mysterious cabal to kill her. Being sent to the Jedi to be under their protection and care, she revealed the cause of the attempt on her life.

A hypertower on Coruscant, receiving shadowy transmissions from the same Senator Antileen who holds Exephos's son hostage and orders him to do the network's bidding. The Jedi, aware of it's presence through the questioning of the journalist by Master Niarra Reymark, have the ability to infiltrate the hypertower and discover just what insidious plots lie within...


So as the intro describes, I'm going to host a chat-based event for members of the Jedi Custodum on Coruscant, or anyone else that might be involved with this investigation of the cabal, to find out just why Senator Antileen keeps sending messages to the same place at the same time, each day.

This little 'visit' won't be official like the last one, so it remains open to a good variety more people than the last event. It should not take too long on time, definitely shorter than the Interrogation Lab event, but as always, be prepared as they usually run longer than expected. The event WILL use Niarra's Under 100 system so make sure you have your character's stats filled out.
For now, the time remains to be determined.

Who: Jedi, those involved with the Cabal investigations, friends/contacts of Jedi. (Because it's being sneaky, that means that Imperial characters can attend if they get contacted.)

Where: Begeren Colony's Chatroom.

When: 11th July, 7:30 server time

Why: Find out why Senator Antileen keeps sending consistent daily transmissions to the tower, and uncover any information possible about this shadowy network.

4
Holocrons and Info Nodes / The Hunter
« on: 06/07/17, 10:23:53 AM »
A bit of a sidetrack from the current Exephos storyline going on right now, but there was no way I could let this slide past, especially with Gharzog needing a change in pace.

So I give you...

The Hunter

Gharzog carefully watched the street from beneath the wide brim of his hat, noting each Gammorean enforcer and Weequay gunman that passed by. He was monitoring the hideout of a gang boss the Hutts wanted dead on Nal Hutta. The fool had decided to try and muscle out a piece of territory for himself out in the factories.
Poor sod.
But a job was a job. Credits were credits.
He turned away from the factory roof's edge with a sigh, his long coat swirling about his legs as he did so.
It used to be fun doing this job, being cheeky with Hutts, dancing along the edge of danger and safety, toeing the fine line between acceptable conduct and death by bounty. But that fun was gone now. It'd all started with Exephos.
He'd made the mistake of trying to hunt down that old soldier, that brutal executioner. Then he'd found him. Found him and crippled him for months by stabbing him in the leg; almost killing him from blood loss too.
That'd sucked the joy out of the job.
Then combining that with the galaxy's current state... With Zakuul gone, it'd looked hopeful, like the galaxy was going to pick up again. But instead, things had just gone from bad to worse. Shadowy things in motion, rumours of superweapons in places far from here... It scared him.
And he hated being scared.
So he'd wised up. Gone was the wisecracking and fanciful bounty hunter that did it for fun. He'd started training; practicing his draw, his aim, taking up lessons on close combat, upgrading his arsenal, and paying closer attention to his surroundings. Exephos wouldn't take him down again, nobody would. He was prepared.
For now though, business as usual.
He strode in through the factory's roof entrance directly down a won set of stairs before emerging directly onto a catwalk overlooking the factory floor. Factory workers laboured beside droids as they handled fiery hot crucibles of molten metal, dodging out of the way as they poured their flaming contents into molds. Vats of treating acid were carried overhead on arms, dipping and twisting this way, dropping flecks of dangerous corrosive acid on the factory floor below. In a separate corner, industrial droids clanged as workers fed completed molds into their radius where they were chopped and pounded into the shape desired.
Hutt territory had no industrial regulations to keep workers safe; it was a dangerous work environment where losing a limb was a daily risk. If one did lose an arm or a leg, the Hutts sure weren't paying for a replacement either.
As it was, he strode high above the factory floor on the overhang towards a ladder in the corner which would take him down to the ground floor, right beside one of the service doors. It'd be an easy matter to get in here, he'd just needed to blast a token security droid before filching the access card off it and open the door.
Of course, it wasn't like these places were all that secure in the first place. They were more concerned with keeping out the casual thief than someone determined. After all, what was there to steal? Even the products this place shipped out, eating utensils, weren't worth their weight, let alone any of the ancient droids or dirt-cheap raw materials.
Coming up to the ladder, he grabbed hold before sliding down to the ground floor, startling a factory foreman as he did so. He jumped, dropping his datapad as Gharzog's boots hit the ground and turned towards him as though to give a lecture. Before keeping right on turning.
Hutts sent enforcers to check up on their holdings all the time, the poor chap probably thought that he was doing the same. So he gave a tip of his hat to the foreman before walking outside out onto the street. It was like most Nal Hutta streets, close to becoming a bog with puddles, littered with trash, and clogged with smog and who knows what other kind of pollutants.
Gharzog made sure that his respirator was secured so that he didn't breath that in, before strolling across the street, avoiding a string of chained Evocii being led by a taskmaster droid. The boss's hideout was in one of the old factory cellars. Clever, since it would be costly to the Hutts to blow it up and risk harming their precious factories. Not so clever because there was only one entrance and exit. So that meant no escape routes.
He opened up the hatch leading into the cellar before striding down into the darkness. After a few moments, he emerged out into what had been turned into a sort of cantina with a counter with a couple mismatched stools, and a variety of tables scattered around with an equally diverse variety of patrons. Spice dealers, stim marketers, addicts to both, gunrunners, enforcers, and drunks. Two doorways to the left and right of the large room led into adjacent chambers.
Before he could go any farther however, two guards at the door stopped him.
"Koona t'chuta?" One of them derisively asked, a Weequay ugly even by their standards asked.
<<Going somewhere?>>
"Wata che chunkee lorda, kung." Gharzog replied.
<<Here for your boss, scum.>>
"Cheespa bo coopa, Gharzog." The Weequay returned, but gesturing him forwards.
<<Better watch out, Gharzog.>>
He walked in past the two muscles-for-brains before making straight for the right side doorway. The 'boss' as it were was a certain Rodian named Rhoota. He'd met him once before, a lazy overseer that took bribes from every person he possibly could. Rhoota must have figured to try his luck and carve out a little niche for himself. Bad luck for him that the Hutts didn't like that though.
Gharzog strode into the 'audience' chamber as it were, where the Rodian had set himself up a throne using an old starship chair where his overflowing rolls of fat were bulging over the sides.
Various workers were gathered around him, tending to his needs, or begging for a lower 'tax' for their families. Well, the Hutts would be taking care of that later.
As he walked in, Rhoota looked up and the green colour drained from his face to a more pallid olive colour.
"Gharzog!" He exclaimed.
Even in his depressed state, he wasn't going to go without a crack at the junior crimelord.
"Hello, Rhoota. Lost some weight?" He asked, before drawing one of his wide-bore blaster pistols and firing it from the hip in a lightning quick motion.
He tumbled over backwards in his chair, oozing like a meat pastry. The people around him moved back, shocked, but no screaming. This was Nal Hutta; blaster fire was an everyday occurrence. That did not mean it went unnoticed by his followers though. Shouts carried through the doorway before two or three blaster bolts arced through.
Gharzog through himself to the side, his coat trailing behind him as he drew the matching twin to his other blaster.
As more shots came hurtling through the doorway and the workers previously gathered around Rhoota scattered, he ducked out and fired off a volley of high-powered rounds into a group of the cantina patrons that had turned weapons in his general direction. With a renewal of fire on his position, he rolled a thermal detonator into the opposing room before rolling over to the other side of the doorway.
As the resulting explosion shook the structure, he used the moment to lean out again and fire off a few accurate shots directed at those with blaster rifles.
As shouts of anguish rang out, he ducked back again before holstering one of his weapons. With one hand, he fired a stream of suppressing blasterfire out into the cantina area, while with his other he tapped out a quick command on one of his wrist guard's control panels.
He'd upgraded and invested in some handy new things.
Like a flamethrower.
Triggering it, he stuck one gloved hand around the corner before shooting out a stream of fire into the cantina. People shouted and yelled as the white-hot flames flew in. For ten seconds, he kept up the torrent before it shut off. Each wristguard didn't hold much fuel to keep the size and weight down.
As he drew his second blaster again to have one in each hand, he paused to listen for blasterfire. There didn't seem to be any, but that didn't mean he would lower his guard.
He rolled out into the cantina area with both blasters raised, before gunning down three that had been trying to sneak up on him around the sides of the room. Once they were down, he scanned the interior, determining if there were any threats left. A few that were down were whimpering to themselves, still alive and only wounded, but he'd leave those alone. There were also some that must have figured they'd rather stay neutral who were taking cover behind the bar.
He ran an appraising gaze over them to see if they were the kind that would put a bolt in his back, or if they had bounties or not. Satisfied that they didn't seem to, he turned with a flourish of his duster back towards the outside.
Another contract complete... Another assignment that was too easy. He needed more, not Exephos's bounty; especially not with his face plastered all over the place, but yet... Tiny squabbles on a Hutt world? It was time he got out there and saw the galaxy.
He pondered the problem as he walked through the polluted factory streets of Nal Hutta, avoiding laden down cargo droids every now and then. Of course, he could just hop on a shuttle and go anywhere he'd like to find something to do... But he needed purpose, a reason to go tromping across the galaxy.
As he came up to an intersection though, he idly ran an eye over
a nearby notice pad as he was thinking and paused.
Something had caught his eye on a bounty board.
A face he'd seen before...
Ke'rii Ogasawara.
Eight million credits.
He had to reread that a few times. Eight million credits? Absolutely insane. But where had he seen him before?
That Tatooine place... Yes, where he'd gotten into that argument with a Jawa... That man, he'd said he was the proprietor of the place and that he set the prices.
Yes, that was it!
He hadn't seemed terribly dangerous to him, but then again, neither had Exephos, and he'd only had one eighth the bounty this man did. If he was wanted dead by the Crimson Dread Pirates though? Well... What the kriff, why not?
He knew just where to start looking too.

5
Events and Occasions / Confronting the Colonel
« on: 05/15/17, 05:34:10 AM »
So I've come up with another event (Another centered around the Exephos plotline, I really need to find something more original...), in that Vilenor has successfully managed to arrange a meeting discussed in the previous Jedi Night with Exephos where they will attempt to confront him about his crimes and either bring him to justice, find out more about his shadowy benefactor... Or maybe even redeem him. The ending is fluid, based entirely on what the rest of your characters do.

It's open to pretty much anyone that was at the Jedi Custodum night, or otherwise affiliated with the Jedi however players that are obviously Sith, Imperial, or wanted for crimes against the Republic won't be able to make it to this one due to it being on Coruscant IC'ly, right in the heart of the Republic's military holdings. (Sorry to all you guys)

It'll be taking place in-game at a Coruscant stronghold I've set up for the purpose and I'll be passing out invites when the event time comes. If your character is Jedi or Jedi-affiliated but on Imp-side, then let me know in advance and I'll go ahead and work out a way for you to get there.

As for timing, I'm looking alot at May 24th (Wednesday) or May 25th (Thursday) probably around 8:00 PM server time but I won't set it in stone until I've heard back from people interested in going to find out the best time to do it for everyone.

I hope people will enjoy it, I'm certainly looking forwards to it!

Quick recap:

Who: Jedi or Jedi-affiliated, no obvious Imperials, Sith, or Republic wanted individuals.

Where: My personal Coruscant stronghold.

When: May 24th or 25th, around 8:00 PM server time most likely (Possibly due for change)

Why: Confront Exephos for information on his backers, bring him to justice for his crimes, or redeem him from his war madness.

6
Holocrons and Info Nodes / An End, Once and for All
« on: 05/10/17, 10:29:05 AM »
A long, long time ago, I set everything in place for just what was coming and left little hints. The biggest being at the end of 'Loose Ends' here: http://begerencolony.org/index.php?topic=4566.msg51434#msg51434

Did anyone see it coming? I hope not... But after six months of careful planning and plotting, I decided the time was right to give you the first installment of:

An End; Once and for All

"With the fall of Saresh, we need a stronger public figure. Someone that the crowds can rally behind. We may need Exephos sooner than we thought." One of the dark figures seated around the table suggested.
"Absolutely not! The man's too volatile! The situation's far too volatile as it is." Another at the head of the table snapped.
"What choice do we have? If we don't get someone into the higher ranks, Gregikov's going to completely wipe out all of our pull in the upper military hierarchy." The first voice stated.
There seemed to be a silence at that.
"What about Major Shad'ra? Could we use him?" Someone else asked.
"Not possible. We've got no leverage on him; plus if we put him in a public position, Exephos would turn on him." The first replied.
"For kriff's sake! Surely, we've got to have some more officers around with enough experience to challenge Malcolm!" The prior aggressor shouted.
"Like who? General Lachim? Colonel Briggs? General Isov?" A person asked before banging a fist on the table as he continued:
"They're all dead! Either casualties of war, or casualties of their own age! Exephos, that stubborn son of an akk hound, is our only option left!"
There was a pause as they seemed to consider this.
"What do we have to control him?" Another asked with a sigh.
"For starters? His son. Then there's Shad'ra or his precious battalion. We threaten to blow them into pieces from orbit... Or the evidence we have of him killing Dershoi. Blackmail him with a life sentence in a Republic prison." Another, different person suggested.
"So we can use him... Is he up to the task?" A female voice asked.
"He's killed thousands on the frontlines. I'm sure dealing with a few senators and giving speeches will be fine." The first replied harshly.
"I'm talking about if he's capable or not. If he shoots everyone he meets, we can't exactly use him for politics." The female again angrily responded.
"We'll keep him under check and tell him, exactly, what to say." Someone else in the confusing crowd of dimly lit plotters growled out.
"What of his connection with the IWSC? It's possible he's defecting." A gravelly worn-out voice threw in.
"We'll terminate that connection. Anyone that won't keep quiet about it will be eliminated. It would be unseemly for our spokesman to have a secondary agenda." The first replied.
"All those in favour of bringing in Colonel Exephos?" The leader at the head of the table asked.
A majority of shadowy hands went up.
"Very well. Inform Senator Antileen of our approval."

Ryyk moved through the dim maintenance tunnels of Nar Shaddaa, closely followed by a column of six. They'd heard rumours that Exephos was down here so he'd come with a squad to do recon and see if those rumours were true. Perhaps they were, perhaps they weren't. But after the failure of finding him at that hotel, they were grasping at straws. They needed his leadership and Ryyk reckoned that he needed them.
That old colonel had saved their lives more times than he could count, and it was their job to repay the favour. In any way possible.
"Anything on scanners?" Ryyk asked through the helmet comms, directing the question towards one of the squad members wearing a bulky pack which housed the sensitive electronics.
"Nothing larger than a borrat, sir. I'm starting to thin-" The PSO, the short term for the Portable Scanner Operator, started to reply before cutting himself off. When he spoke again, there was an edge of excitement in his tone:
"Hang on. Got something... Down to the right of this tunnel."
"Alright. Better than anything we've found so far, we investigate it. Cautiously." Ryyk ordered, before the squad branched off the main accessway and carried on down a metal grating which sat just above a waterway. It was impossible to tell just how deep it was given the greenish opaque quality of the water. He certainly hoped that it wasn't the drinking water supply.
They moved along it for a couple hundred meters before coming to a stop. Nothing to see except more water and dirty girders.
"Must have been a glitch in the scanner. Could of sworn it was a positive reading though." The PSO remarked.
Ryyk wasn't so sure. He had a feeling...
Regardless, he shrugged it off and turned back down the way they had come, gesturing for the squad to continue onward.
"Ryyk!" A firm voice shouted from behind him.
He whirled around, raising his blaster rifle at the source of the sound, to reveal Exephos. He was dripping wet after just clambering out of the water and wearing civilian clothing but still as he remembered him. There was also his blaster pistol in his right hand.
The colonel's hard gaze drove into his visor as he spoke again:
"Did Shad'ra send you to find me then?"
Ryyk shook his head and slowly lowered his rifle.
"No, sir... After the... 'Business' at the coalition meeting, that spineless coward backed down to the coalition's demands. Me and the rest of Rancor platoon; well, we couldn't hold onto the missiles but we sure weren't going to be taking orders from someone that'd turned on his commander that quickly. So we left, avoiding that smuggler's patrols." He explained, before gesturing towards Exephos.
"That's when we started looking for you, sir. Our real Cee-Oh. Not some pretender that likes to play dress-up as a Mando."
The veteran seemed to take this in for a few moments, stroking his beard and nodding to himself as though processing his story before giving a final tilt of the head and holstering his sidearm.
"Well... I've certainly got a story to tell you..." Exephos replied.

Exephos strode down the dim Nar Shaddaa street with a cloak around his shoulders and the hood up, making himself as inconspicuous as possible.
He chewed over the occurrence of the past few days. They'd made significant progress in beginning to piece together and identify Caben, and just how to kill him. The addition of Rancor platoon also put him greatly at ease, they would be very useful in dealing with the remainder of the coalition. He'd kept them off of the IWSC's ship though... Just in case.
"Hello, Colonel." A female voice stated from behind him.
Exephos whipped around with his blaster drawn in less than a second. Few people knew his rank, and only one had that voice...
Senator Antileen, or rather, 'Ex-Senator', as he'd expected. She had the same arrogant air, the copper-coloured hair. Though after Exephos had broken her spine, she seemed to have replaced her legs with prosthetics. 
"You have five seconds left to live. If you believe in a god, you'd best start praying." He growled, shifting his aim towards her face.
"Now, now, Colonel. I wouldn't be so hasty. After all... You wouldn't want your son to come to harm." Antileen replied, a smug look written large across her features, as she pulled out a holocommunicator and flicked a switch. A figure appeared in the field of view, kneeling on the ground with his hands bound. The flickering blue image was of poor quality but it was still clear as to who it was... Rell, his son.
"You akk dog." Exephos swore, setting the power setting on his blaster to maximum with a click.
"Your going to be doing what we ask, 'Colonel'... Otherwise it won't be just your son that dies." Antileen returned with a satisfied look on her face, as she stashed the holocom back on her belt.
"Your going to regret this." Exephos warned, his face settling into a mask of rage.
"No, you will regret it if you do anything. We'll be in touch soon about just what we want you to do... But don't try anything... Otherwise you'll find that you really don't have everything to lose." The ex-Senator replied in a cheery tone, before turning and striding off.
The urge to shoot her, to blast her head clean off her shoulders as she walked away was tempting, so very tempting... His finger settled and creaked on the trigger, before with a curse, he holstered it. Kriff it! He knew this could have happened, he knew!
He turned and began walking quickly back towards his latest safehouse. Quarasha. The coalition... They would all have to wait.
Needed a plan. Something to fall back on...
One thing was certain, he could trust no-one.
Not when dealing with the hidden Republic network.
He, Exephos, was perhaps one of the few in the galaxy that knew there was a hidden intelligence network interwoven into the military, one that had it's hands in everything. SIS, the Navy, the Senate... They were supreme as they ruled from the shadows.
'They' had no name, no identifying mark, no code phrase. From the outside, they were just a group of well connected individuals...
But from the inside...
They dictated policies, controlled rationing, deployed troops, set propaganda motives, organized all the defense meetings.
Everything he knew about them, he knew from General Dershoi's files after he'd killed her. Knew from days spent decrypting and reading through classified files.
How did one fight the entire Republic?
What was worse was that anyone could be one of their operatives. Anyone. His old army contacts, even that other colonel, Artheer.
He could trust Rancor platoon but the IWSC?... He'd have to cut off all contact. Ensure that they never knew about his betrayal of their agreement...
If Rell or Shad'ra were to not be hurt though... He'd have to play by their rules for now. Until he could come up with a strategy, a way to fight back. He would bide his time.
Before he waited for the perfect time to strike.


A dull bell chimed on Exephos's holo-console, snapping him wide awake in an instant.
Another person might have left it for morning, but only three people had access to his personal holo-frequency.
One was dead, the other was in no mood to speak with him, and the last was held captive.
He got up out of bed and checked the message ID.
An unknown signal, with no location listed.
"The kriffing network." Exephos muttered, before accessing the message.
It was pre-recorded, showing no people but a single image of himself on the field of battle.
He had a bad feeling about this.
"Colonel Exephos... Yes, we know all about you." A calm voice greeted him, before a whole host of videos and stills flooded his screens. Scenes of him giving orders on the battlefield, shots of him with an outstretched arm; commanding troops onwards, news footage of the Ninety-Fifth on Coruscant, and some from even further back. An old still of him amongst his fellow squadmates of Squad 39, him beside his now dead wife, Selina.
His whole life, all revealed in one message.
"We know all about you, Exephos, and your less than pristine service record." The voice continued on, emotionless.
The pictures and scenes changed; clips of him gunning down civilians, and photos of the aftermath, whilst a list continuously ran down a list of names, tallying up the numbers.
Three-dimensional digits sprang up on the console as the list came to an end.
It stared at him accusingly:
'Responsible for 13,653 deaths.'
"It's unfeasible to escape from the reality, Colonel, and impossible to escape from the Republic." The woman declared.
A cold feeling settled into his stomach.
Fear. The likes of which he hadn't felt for decades, the kind where he'd been discovered slacking off in front of his drill sergeant.
He'd deserted. Killed his commanding officer.
"We know what you did to General Dershoi, in fact, we have it all on recording. You see, we've been keeping our eye on you for quite a while now." The woman continued on speaking; as though she'd read his thoughts.
"It comes down to it, Colonel, that you've been a very naughty soldier. It would be an absolute tragedy if the military police found out. At best, you would be locked away forever... At worst? Well, let's just say that you'll be on the wrong side of the firing squad this time." That horrid, flat voice carried on; without a change in tone or emotion.
"Of course, these records can be deleted... They can vanish completely and utterly from the face of the galaxy..." The female started. As she spoke, the videos and pictures slowly disappeared, one by one.
"But that has a cost. You will report to Coruscant at the following coordinates and follow the instructions provided."
Exephos's knuckles tightened and popped in anger. Blackmail to do whatever dirty work they'd come up with.
Surely he wouldn't have to play their games.
"Of course, we also have access to your last psychological assessment. We know that you would not care if you lived or died..." It resonated, an underlying sense of menace beneath the surface.
"But I'm certain that you would hate for Rell to live a short and painful life, or for your battalion to be discovered by the Empire, or for Shad'ra to be revealed as a Mandalorian traitor..." It threatened in that emotionless voice.
How the tables had turned against him.
"Do try and be on time, Colonel, and remember... We are always watching." The message ended, the holo-console shutting off.
He stared into empty space in silence, his fists resting on the surface of the controls.
How clever had he thought he was, removing the Ninety-Fifth's records from the system, and for wiping out Dershoi. He thought he had preserved his troops and their secrecy.
How wrong he was. He'd broken the tip off the meteorite; he should have known, Republic politics ran far, far deeper than simply one person pulling strings.
He'd reviewed his notes of this network inside the government, controlling the military, the senate, and maybe even influencing the cursed Jedi. He had always wanted to believe that it was a conspiracy theory... Propaganda to encourage desertion...
But it was true. All of it.

A sharp wind blew through the streets of Coruscant, sending bits of rubbish bouncing along the ground and Exephos's coat billowing in the breeze. People went about their business; shopping, chatting, rushing to meetings, or dining. It was far more cheerful here, now that the Eternal Empire was gone, and the strict bars on rationing had been lifted. The Republic was in the process of rebuilding but the old scars remained...
Graffiti calling for the new revolution, or denouncing the current regime. One particular patch of graffiti seemed to stand out to him, for whatever reason... It was a gloved hand holding a scalpel, with the word 'TRUTH' in bold letters beneath it. For some reason, he felt that he should know about that one but quickly put it off to raw nerves.
The message had contained instructions... That he wait here on this Coruscanti street corner, dressed in his officer fatigues. A few people took notice of the uniform and the colonel stripes, but no-one approached him. Wise of them.
As he waited with his arms crossed on the Republic capital world, he decided to see if he could pick out the people that would contact him before they revealed themselves.
They were almost certainly watching him... Either through that holocam across the street, right above the glowing neon sign. Or it could be the delivery van that'd been sitting outside that market for the past twenty minutes. Then there was the two CSF officers dawdling idly down the street by their cruiser. Or that old man sitting at the diner behind him, who'd finished his caf but hadn't moved. Anyone was suspect.
Of course, when they didn't try to hide, it was all too easy...
A black speeder came down at an angle from one of the skylanes above, with tinted out windows and an overall sleek appearance. If anything screamed 'government vehicle', then this was it.
Sure enough, it came to a stop in front of him before two burly humans stepped out. One was wearing a brown bantha leather jacket, the other a white shirt with a black vest. Government security in daylight hours, hitmen in night hours...
"Come with us." One of them ordered.
Exephos gave him a cruel look, before opening the door and getting in the back. The interior was luxuriously upholstered as he'd expected, with exotic wood paneling and some sort of leather for the seats.
What an absolute waste.
The amount of credits that had gone into this speeder would have been so much better spent in producing weapons or armour for troopers somewhere.
Bantha-Jacket got in the driver seat, while Black-Vest got in and sat beside Exephos without once taking his eyes off him. He didn't go outright to drawing a blaster on him, but one of his hands was out of sight behind his side. Exephos would have bet his rotary cannon that he was holding a blaster or stun baton in that hand.
The speeder lifted off from the ground and quickly ascended into one of the skylanes, moving into one of the special clearance courses reserved for emergency vehicles or military transports. No, they were definitely not being low profile at all with this. Perhaps it was meant to be a warning to him; "We ARE the Republic, don't get any ideas."
Well, he'd never been good at taking heed of warnings. They'd get what was coming to them, soon enough.
The speeder carried on in it's journey, streaming past lines of other Coruscanti traffic on it's journey through the capital city. As he kept an eye out the window, he noted some of the damage caused from the latest Zakuul bombardment. The scars of these conflicts were going to be around for centuries.
He was distracted from his thoughts as the speeder emerged out onto the Galactic Plaza. The Senate building itself, it's massive domed structure sitting imperiously on it's foundation like a testament to the planet's power. Even it was marred though by some of the damage. There was scorch marks from places where cannon fire had blasted at the structure, and a few places where scaffolding marked repair efforts underway.
He'd only been inside a handful of times, mostly for after-action reports where he lied through his teeth about what had actually happened on the battlefield. It seems though that they were heading there once more. The speeder arced around the perimeter of the building, towards a rear landing pad where it came to a landing.
"Out." Black-Vest commanded, gesturing with a blaster that he'd revealed. Well, at least he'd been right.
He got out of the craft right before it ascended and once more shot off into Coruscant's traffic. It'd left him on one of a number of Senate landing pads, where a few valets attended an exotic variety of speeders, and a handful of Senate guardsmen in their light vests maintained a perimeter over by the doorway leading inside.
Just what the Network wanted him to do here, he wasn't sure. So he made his way over to the edge of the platform and waited. Some of the guards watched him warily but they didn't approach. After five minutes of waiting, a female mirialan in the colourful garb of a Senate aide came striding out quickly towards him.
"This way, please." She said, leading him past the still cautious guards and into the tower itself. It was much like he remembered it. High vaulted ceilings, opulent furnishing, fancy carpets. What was different from coming in through this side of the Senate tower however was the layout. There was a large expansive reception desk where a whole host of clerks of greeters were working away. Over to one side of the lobby, lounging around on couches was a veritable army of porters. No doubt responsible for welcoming foreign dignitaries.
The mirialan didn't stop at the desk but carried on right down a corridor past statues of important nobles or other Republic figures, down another left where a conference room was visible through glass doors, until they reached a turbolift which they entered inside. The aide typed in a four digit code on a pad before selecting the floor sending it whisking upwards. It didn't stop for anyone else before it arrived. He was then further lead down another three corridors before they arrived at a door marked:
'Senator Antileen'.
Seems she had cleared up her previous altercation with the CSF in order to be a senator again...Seems she had cleared up her previous altercation with the CSF in order to be a senator again...
They entered into a spacious office with plush red carpets, and maroon walls trimmed with some sort of golden looking metal. Probably painted durasteel, not even the Senate could be so wealthy as to ornament every room with gold.
A broad wraparound transparisteel window curved around the entire outer wall giving an expansive view of Coruscant's spaceport and the promenade leading to the Senate tower itself. Very prestigious.
Behind an expansive desk sat the senator, dressed more decoratively in a scarlet gown, with that same smug look on her face.
"Colonel. So good to see you again." Antileen greeted him, a demure smile on her lips.
"Just tell me what you want." He growled back. Never before had he had all his weapons, all his skills, and yet been unable to do anything at all. That feeling of helplessness antagonized him nearly more than the sight of the senator.
Nearly.
"Oh, I'll let you know in time... But first, there's a few rules." Antileen replied, standing up behind her desk to indicate a bracelet she wore around her wrist.
"If you harm me, all I have to do is activate this; and Rell will die. Similarly, if I die; it sends an automatic signal which gives the order for Rell to die. If you don't do what I wish, I press this switch, and-"
"I get it, he dies." Exephos snapped out.
"Good. I'm so glad that we're clear." She returned in that fake sweet voice of hers. Like poison dripping from her mouth.
"As for what we want? Well, there's a whole host of things that we want, but first we plan on introducing you to a few people." Antileen added, pulling a flimsi file out of a drawer and pushing it across the desk. With a brief gesture, she indicated for him to pick it up and read it.
He picked it up and read through the first few lines.
"You can't be kriffing serious." He groused.
"Oh, but we are. We plan on introducing you to the galaxy, Exephos. Exciting, isn't it?" Antileen answered.
"I won't do it." He snarled, slapping the file down onto the desk.
Her hand was hovering over that bracelet a second later, and her sweet tone was entirely gone as she spoke:
"Careful. Won't is a strong word. I think you'd best reconsider."
He turned away with a savage growl, facing towards the side as he rubbed a hand through his beard.
This would mean his enemies would know where to find him... And going incognito would be very, very difficult. It was a master stroke by the Network. Bring him out into the light, and he couldn't disappear again. Plus it'd satisfy whatever twisted political agenda they had.
Perhaps he could bargain... They knew that he knew about how constricting this demand of him was. Maybe he could coerce his own end...
"I want my own security. Of my own choosing." Exephos demanded, turning back towards the senator.
She seemed to consider a moment, but he could already see the victory in her eyes. Fool. He would build up an army, right under her nose...
"Done. But do remember, Colonel... No matter how many soldiers you have... It only takes one little twist of the finger... And your entire legacy is wiped out." She returned, her eyes flashing.
"Just ensure that my 'legacy' doesn't come to harm... Otherwise there won't be a hole deep enough in the galaxy to hide you, 'Senator'." He returned harshly, before turning and striding out.

Exephos looked at himself in the mirror accusingly.
What was he doing? Dressing up in his full Republic Army uniform, with the brown trench-coat, matching peaked cap, and black calf-length boots, preparing to go before the Senate.
What in the galaxy was he doing? He should take his knife to those that were using him, this network, and kill them all. No, he reminded himself forcefully. They threatened everything he'd ever fought for, his battalion, his son... He would do as they commanded, for now. The time to strike back at them would be later, once he'd won over their trust and figured out who to target. Until then, play their games.
"You look stunning, Colonel." Senator Antileen complimented almost mockingly from behind him.
"Let's just get this done and over with." He returned with a growl as he straightened his peaked cap and turned on his boot heel.
Antileen was dressed up this time in a white dress, an elaborate gold and emerald necklace complimenting a plunging neckline.
Exephos scowled at the finery of not just her, but of his surroundings. The Senate suite was lavish, exquisite silk tapestries covering many of the walls with a number of detailed vases, historical items, artifacts, and other items of value arranged on tables places strategically around the room.
Complimenting that, chandeliers of brass and crystal hung from above, throwing a warm glow over everything.
It was one thing to have a well-decorated place of government.
It was quite another to have an expensive palace; especially during war-time and hard economic strife.
"Shall we, Colonel?" Antileen asked, gesturing towards the door.
Exephos's scowl tightened further into a hard look as he followed behind the senator. His two guards were blessedly of his own troops, who'd agreed to return to this so long as they could keep their identities concealed. Two of Rancor platoon's, wearing their full white combat armour and carrying their heavy-duty battlefield rifles. It put them quite at odds with the ceremonial Senate Guardsmen, who wore intricate uniforms, light blast vests, and carried mostly ceremonial blasters.
The Republic was at war. He hoped that the fully armed and armoured soldiers would remind everyone of that. It certainly turned heads in the corridors, though that might just have been the scars on Exephos's face. With his helmet off, it was easy to see the many close calls of blaster bolts, patchworks of previous shrapnel wounds, and a single vicious ropy scar that ran from his right temple to his left chin where he'd nearly had his head taken off from a Sith's lightsaber. He imagined that those kinds of wounds were not commonly seen here in the Senate, not even from Jace Malcolm.
"Colonel Exephos?" An aide in colourful robes asked, coming up to him and the Senator.
"Aye." He returned, giving the young lad an intense sideways look. He could be an agent of the network; anyone could be.
"Right this way please." The aide replied, ushering them down a side passageway of which Exephos didn't know.
He'd tried to get the blueprints to the Senate building once; but his ploy of reviewing it for security concerns all those years ago hadn't worked, so he was essentially blind as to the layout of the building, save it were for the well-cataloged common areas.
So he was quite surprised when they emerged into perhaps what could be called the center of the Republic.
The Senate chamber itself.


Not my image, belongs to LucasArts/Bioware. Sorry for the blurry image.

It was enormous, large enough to take three Manka-class walkers end to end, yet still have room left over in it's cavernous amount of space. The hexagonal shapes of viewing platforms ran in rows upon rows upon rows, easily enough to accommodate every conceivable representative in the galaxy, yet still have spares to lend to news crews and press teams. Furthermore, the earlier fanciful decorations were gone, replaced instead by solid gray durasteel, with a few yellow strip lights running along edges to ease the lack of colour.
He approved of it; businesslike, and to the point.
There were seats, but Exephos remained standing, already aware of the many cameras pointing about the place. If he was to get away from this network, he'd have to play his part well; and that meant no slouching in a seat, it'd ruin his reputation before he even spoke.
Around the chamber, other senators, ambassadors, representatives, and all-around bureaucrats began to take their seats, most if not all choosing to sit down. There were very, very few military types that he could see. One or two obvious spooks from whatever intelligence service the Republic had these days, a group of young officers, and perhaps one or two generals.
In the center of the chamber, on the raised platform, wasn't just the chancellor, but two aides, and Marshall Gregikov. One of the few still alive in the Republic Military that could rival the amount of years Exephos had under his belt. It came down to tallying up the months in difference between them both. Despite their similar times in services, he had never met the man, nor ever wanted to, but it seems that Gregikov had known who he was. It'd been him that signed the deployment orders for Exephos's final campaign; the disaster of Onderon. It gave him a bitter taste in his mouth to look at the officer with that in mind.
"Your attention, ladies and gentlemen, this session will now come to order." Chancellor Madon boomed.
"This session will be managed by Ambassador Klin'Ta, who as a neutral party, has offered to act as a mediator. It will be overseen by Marshall Gregikov." The chancellor stated, nodding towards the human ambassador and soldier, before he took his seat, after which the ambassador stood and began his address:
"Thank you, Chancellor. Today's meeting has been called for by Senator Dremen, representative of Ord Mantell, in regards to the Republic's policy on the war, specifically if the Republic is to continue sending troops to Iokath."
One of the hexagonal platforms floated out from it's alcove on repulsorlifts, revealing the man in question. He was human, though that was almost hard to tell for the rolls of fat coating his arms, neck, and cheeks. A fleet of attendants seemed to surround him, carrying food, beverages, and notes.
He bobbed his head forwards at the address.
"Leading the opposition to this is Senator Irien." At this, another platform hovered out quietly, revealing three Twi'leks, the Senator being the blue-skinned female one at the head.
"Senator Dremen, we will hear your opening remarks first." The ambassador stated.
"Thank you, Ambassador." The senator stated with another bob of the head, before he seemed to look out towards the crowds.
"Representatives! I ask you but one question today! Is the war worthwhile, especially on a planet like Iokath?" Dremen boomed, causing a stir among those gathered.
"We lose trillions of credits every single year to a cause that in itself has gone nowhere for the past fifty years!" Dremen carried on in saying.
Exephos was of the right mind with him, the war needed to end, but for entirely different reasons. Even as the Senator carried on, quoting how many materials and resources the war effort expended; he made no mention of the loss of life. No-one here on Coruscant cared about the troopers dying out there on the front.
Ungrateful cowards.
"Thank you, Senator Dremen. Senator Irien?" The ambassador said, before turning towards the twi'lek.
"I could point out all the good that this war has brought; and the advances in technology that have come about, but instead; I'll actually be turning this over to Senator Antileen and her accomplice." Irien replied, as she gestured towards them.
The platform lurched slightly as Cathina tapped in a command to bring it out into the open, hovering out on it's repulsorlifts.
Exephos was well aware of the thousands of eyes turned on him and his two soldiers, armoured and armed as they were.
"Representatives, I have with me today Colonel Exephos, from the Republic Army's decommissioned Ninety-Fifth Armoured Infantry battalion." Antileen announced, her voice magnified to echo around the massive chamber. A few floating news probes closed in to get a better look.
"A short history on the Colonel, if you wouldn't mind." Antileen added, before launching into her narrative:
"Exephos was born Corellian, but has made the Republic's military his home. He has served among several branches for the past fifty years; including a walker posting before the Treaty of Coruscant, a career in Spec-Force during the Cold War, and actively serving on the frontlines up until the present; with several recent successful campaigns against the Sith Empire under his belt." Antileen said, drawing further unwanted attention on him. Of course; it was far too late for that now, and he had to play the part, if the Ninety-Fifth was to survive this ordeal.
As it was, he lamented.
His enemies would know where he was.
His whole history, a matter of public record.
His face, plastered on news bulletins everywhere.
His son was at risk though... He had to do it.
So he stepped forwards into the limelight, and called upon the full wealth of experience that fifty years could offer.
"Representatives." Exephos growled, his voice amplified like Antileen's to bounce off the walls of the chamber.
He gazed around the chamber, making no attempt to disguise his harshness and disgust. It was what they expected; so it was what they'd get.
"I'm not going to tell you about material counts, percentages, or even the kriffing death ratios." He carried on, swearing heedlessly despite the formal circumstances which seemed to create a rustle among Senator Dremen's crowd.
"I'm here to tell you about the war with the Sith Empire; not from the view of a desk, nor from a command post far behind friendly lines." He stated, dragging his gaze slowly across the ambassador, chancellor, and supreme commander.
"But the perspective of the war from the bloody front, and let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen; it's pretty kriffing grim." He rasped out, before switching his gaze sharply back to Senator Dremen.
"You might take that statement and call that the end of it... But there's one little matter which makes that an advantage in the Republic's favour." He paused in his words; before completing:
"The fact that it's been grim from the very beginning; and we're still here."
There seemed to be complete and utter silence at that, in which time Exephos crossed his arms and scowled.
"It's been hard these past damned years of war, but the Republic's slugged through them. Always has. Always will." He declared firmly, eyeing the audience gathered around the chamber, daring anyone to argue.
"You know why, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate?" He asked rhetorically, eyeing Gregikov from the corner of his eye. The Supreme Commander wouldn't like this next bit.
"It's not because you lot have argued these past fifty years; that's for kriffing sure. It's because of the hard-asses on the frontlines; all those soldiers out there that dig in their teeth and bear the entire weight of the Republic on their shoulders." He snapped out harshly, causing a ferocious clamour as senators and their aides all tried to be heard over the outcry.
Exephos looked over the effect his words had caused and tried not to smile. He'd been waiting for a long time to tell them that. Once the ambassador had quieted everyone down, Exephos continued:
"Those soldiers out there? I've been among them; hell, I am one! We're not fixing to back down from a fight and stand by while our homes get burned down and our families get slaughtered by tyrants! That's the spirit carried by our troops!" He boomed across the entire chamber.
"And sooner, rather than later; the people of the Sith Empire are going to realize that they've been trying to crush the Republic for a long time now, and it's not bloody well working! That'll either mean surrender; or a mass desertion that'll break the Imperial military's back." Exephos firmly said, before pausing to glance over at the other senator, the Twi'lek, Irien. She seemed as equally shocked as Dremen at his words.
"I can already see the question some of you are asking. 'When can we expect victory?' Not today; probably not tomorrow. It may not be this year, or even the next. But I swear to you that victory will come; one day." He promised, before resting his gaze squarely on Senator Dremen.
"Everyone serving in the Republic's branches of government; be it the trooper on the front, the pilot in the skies, or the peacekeeper on the streets. All of them are prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to carry on. Who's to tell them no, simply because someone wants to build more luxury palaces?" Exephos finished, before clasping his hands behind his back and nodding towards the ambassador at the middle of the chamber. He was happy to see the look of outrage on Senator Dremen's face. It wasn't worth the cost though; millions of Republic soldiers would continue fighting and dying on the front.
His words might empower the troops, perhaps somewhere out there, they were cheering him on...
But all he could think of was the faces of the dead.
All those that had died at the hands of these undeserving bureaucrats.
He only hoped the ghosts of the past would forgive him.



So I know this one came out of the blue, but that is somewhat the point of it. @Nicohlas, going to get back to you about what the crew of the IWSC ship would notice on Exephos's absence or to plot out if you want the good Moff to begin hunting down Exephos for his perceived betrayal.

7
Holocrons and Info Nodes / The Beginning of the End
« on: 04/26/17, 04:09:05 AM »

After secret dealings most foul, and several meetings, Moff Nicohlas Heermann offered the retired Colonel Exephos a deal; if he would spearhead the hunt for the members of the Anti-Zakuul coalition, then the resources to complete that hunt would be provided for him, no longer requiring that he live out his life hidden away on a backwater planet.

After agreeing, Exephos finds himself aboard a captured Valor-class cruiser, manned by the Imperials he once hunted...


Exephos stood aboard the bridge of the Valor-class cruiser, surrounded by Imperials, and wondered just what the hell he was doing. Here was a group of people he'd killed, brutalized, and systematically exterminated during the wars, yet now they saluted him and took his orders.
It was very possible that he had even killed family of anyone of these Imperial troopers. In their gleaming black armour, he would never know if they were scowling away at him, or raging away behind the soundproofing of their helmets.
He didn't like this; not one bit.
As it was, that Moff, Nicohlas, was offering something that he needed. Resources. The kind necessary to end this war between him and the coalition once and for all. At his command, he had an entire battalion of light troops and the supplies necessary to supply them; all Imperial, but they had guerrilla experience so he could work with their limited armament. Besides, he would need to wage a war far less public than he had in past, in this regard, the experience he'd gained in SpecForce would work well. He just needed to start formulating a plan, one that would take down the leaders of the coalition, and end this once and for all.
Thinking to himself on possibilities, he turned and strode down one half of the bridge's operating deck where the technicians in charge of actually running the ship were running through diagnostics and maintaining scans of the surrounding area. He let them run themselves for the most part, he just gave the general directives and had them do the rest. Better for both he and the Imperials that way.
As it was, they still saluted as he passed to which Exephos returned a tip of his officer's cap or just a nod in return. After leaving the bridge, he turned down one of the corridors and after a few minutes walking, entered into what he referred to as his campaign room. His armour and rotary cannon lay out on tables in the middle where he maintained them and modified them as necessary for the upcoming battles. What was more important however, was the various flimsi documents covering the walls. Call him old-fashioned, but he worked better with something he could touch and feel, so he'd put up maps, pictures, and other assorted files all over in either flimsi or paper.
He let his gaze rove around the room, taking in all the information.
Overall, he had five primary targets. The ringleaders of the coalition, and the ones that would need to be eliminated as threats, or have their power bases greatly disassembled. Their four pictures were plastered on the walls from the coalition's meetings. He'd used his armor-cam to grab stills of them at the time.
First there was Caben. The admiral. He'd worked in the background during most of their operations, but it was not to be mistaken, he played a vital cog. That smuggler handled logistics and naval affairs which any quartermaster could tell you; without those, your entire war effort fell apart.
Then there was G'abe. General hired muscle, but he'd had contacts and supplied the lodging for a large part of the fighting forces. A quiet one; he'd have to be watched carefully.
After that, they had Urziya. Mandalorian clan liaison.
Her Mandos had been proven to be excellent shots during the battle of Abregado-Rae. She'd proven receptive in the past, it might be possible that she could be persuaded into abandoning the watch for Exephos and her fellow coalition members.
Harkasone. Not much in the way of combat, but he did have some contacts, including a slicer friend somewhere. If anyone was to detect this initiative to wipe out the coalition, it'd be him.
Lastly, there was the ringleader. The one that'd started it all.
Quarasha.
Manipulator. Political agitator. Overseer. Taskmaster. She fit all those roles, and more. She was the one that had started it all, and dictated the coalition's policies. She was also the one that had dragged he, Exephos, and the rest of the Ninety-Fifth into that accursed war. She was target number one.
There were three others, their pictures crossed through with red ink.
Karmic. The assassin of the group. Technically, she was also a very large threat, one that would have to be dealt with eventually. Nicohlas had made it clear however; Karmic was not to be harmed, not during this campaign at any rate.
The other was the Viper. He was also dangerous, but if his dealings with the pirate Shaan were successful, he wouldn't be a threat for much longer.
Of the crossed out three, the last was Taelios. Delinquent playboy Sith Pureblood, which ran a very successful multi-purpose company. He was a wild card and Exephos didn't quite know what to do with him. Taking him out was beyond his knowledge for now however. Finding a way to defeat him would require a great deal of research. He knew he could do it if he prepared but he just didn't have that kind of time.
All of them had their strengths, which meant that all of them also had their weaknesses. He would begin observation soon, but first he needed to decide on an initial target. Someone to focus on, and eventually eliminate as a threat. Quarasha wasn't an option; too public. As for Caben... No, he'd need time to gather more information about him. He still didn't know enough. Going after Harkasone didn't seem like a good idea either, he seemed like the type to network and people would notice his absence.
Urziya however... It might be beneficial to get her out of the way... Either by eliminating her and any of her clan connected to the coalition, or by negotiating.
Yes, that was a plan... Urziya, the Togruta Mando.
He turned towards holo-console and thumbed in the contact details after ensuring the link was encrypted.
Jee'Jee suddenly appeared in the holofeed, obviously dealing with one of her herbs as she had her breathing mask and goggles on.
"Jee'Jee. The next time you head out to the Dancer's Palace... I have someone you need to get into contact with..."

8
Storyboards / Enemies in the Dark
« on: 04/15/17, 06:51:08 PM »
So this is a thread for @LVT and @masterzw342 which is pretty much a culmination to a feud between the Viper, and that notorious pirate of the Maw, Shaan. Through shady secret dealings in a Nar Shaddaa cantina, Shaan has recruited the help of the infamous Colonel Exephos to bring an end to the vigilante of the smuggler's moon. It comes down to him to ward off, in the deep underbelly of the criminal world, the enemies in the dark.



Exephos warily scanned the dim street for anyone that looked remotely out of place. Beaten down workers, slave-collared Evocii and brutish foremen were the only ones he saw. Satisfied that he had not been followed, he ducked inside the hostel where he was staying. A small, dingy establishment where those looking for a place of quiet and privacy could take shelter. There were perhaps a million such small-time places to stay on the moon, though this one was a bit special. It advertised itself, discreetly, to a very specific kind of customer. The sort that would want soundproofing built into the walls, and bug sweeps done when the rooms were cleaned. Espionage was a thriving trade on Nar Shaddaa, and that made places of counter-espionage just as profitable. This was the 'Hunter's Den', a hostel favored by a higher-caliber of bounty hunters, gun for hires, and covert operators.
Even the diminutive land-lady behind the counter wasn't suspect, Exephos knew personally that she was an ex-assassin that used to be in the employ of the Hutts, and that she wore a dart launcher on her wrist, capable of shooting a lethal toxin through clothing and armour.
He'd come across this place back in his Spec-Force days. Every now and then, they'd needed to visit the planet 'off-the-books'. When they did, they came here. No-one asked any questions in a place like this, there was too much of a professional courtesy for that. Plus if you did give away secrets in a business focused on counter-espionage, then you were usually not long for the galaxy.
After making his way up the narrow staircase, punctuated every few meters by embrasures, he navigated down a corridor to his room, a cramped but clean space with a narrow bunk against one wall, a locker against the other, and a barred window facing out onto the street. Upon closing and locking the door, he pulled out his datapad and began encrypting a message, one that would throw the lower levels of Nar Shaddaa into peril. Once satisfied that it was secure, he sent it off, to the one known as Shaan; the one who'd approached him and recruited his help. As it was transmitted, he took the time to read through it again:

"I am in position, and now ready for the plan outlined previously. Get into touch with your contacts, and begin securing the following items that will be needed if your planning on going toe-to-toe with the Viper.

-Force pikes made of phrik or cortosis
-Ten kilograms of grade 20-25 explosive
-A system slicing kit, capable of patching into Nar Shaddaa's networks

There will be more required in future, but this will be a start. Our first objective is to find the Viper and begin observation. We're looking for habits, routes he might take, regions or people he cares about in particular, allies, disguises, and maybe even the face under the mask. Be discreet, and either use droids or cameras, or a very long distance. He knows what you and I feel like in the Force, and will sense our presence if we get too close. Do not mess this up.
"

9
Holocrons and Info Nodes / The Journal of an old War Dog
« on: 04/06/17, 08:43:05 PM »

So I decided to come up with this little mini-series after being inspired by going back through the old Gnost-Dural records. Furthermore, I figured it'd also be great to see the history of SWTOR from a different point of view, as well as keeping a record for Exephos's past.



<<ENTRY-001>>

This is written based off my decision to keep a journal of my past; though for security concerns, I won't be writing down where I am currently; nor what the date is; just in case this should fall into the wrong hands. No, this record is so that those in the future may know what it was like as a soldier in the Republic Army; an uncensored version to avoid the propaganda placed on every unsecured scrap of writing by either the Republic or the Empire.

Almost undoubtedly, someone will get a hold of this and either destroy it, or they'll modify to fit their own political agenda. Regardless, something has to keep me sane on this planet; with no-one for company save for that Twi'lek and her daughter.

I digress, perhaps it's time I leave off on this entry and take up the mantle of writing at some other time.

<<ENTRY-001-END>>



<<ENTRY-002>>

I believe that in this record, I should follow the chronological order of events so as not to confuse any readers. So, I shall delve into the past. One more than fifty years ago, of a time before constant galactic war.

Even before the Empire came, I knew I wanted to serve and protect people. Originally, I had set my sights on my homeworld's security forces, CorSec. That all changed during a Republic military demonstration, the second I saw that gleaming white armour, and the precise coordination between units; I became obsessed. I dreamed nothing except of serving in the Republic Army. I immersed myself in every scrap of news and information about the skirmishes and minor battles that the troops got into; and since this was before the time of the Empire, that kind of thing was quite easy to obtain, even for a fifteen-year old lad.

Furthermore, I began preparing myself. Part of the reason I was able to go into the war already bulked up and fit was because of my family's genes; both my mother and father were large and muscularly built, and they only improved that from working in one of the various shipyards scattered about Corellia. But the other part was from my own personal training. For three years before I could enlist, I trained; and trained. By the time I did sign up, I was easily the largest recruit.

You'd have thought that have made boot camp easier, but unfortunately; it wasn't. The drill sergeants were hard as nails, even then. Early morning treks with no breakfast, crawling through mud-filled obstacle courses amidst live fire exercises, or intensive sparring matches with the instructors; that had no reservations about breaking bones if you didn't move fast enough.
These may sound like cruel and terrible treatments, and at the time, perhaps everyone thought that privately to themselves. However, it made strong troopers that weren't as likely to break under pressure, and prepared them for the task of facing difficult challenges.

It was there that I took a liking to heavy weapons, so I soon earned a nickname that was used somewhat during the early years. Not a particularly clever one; I smashed things with rotary cannons and assault weapons, so they called me 'Smasher'. Terrifically original, but there was certainly worse. There was one poor trooper in the unit who got himself the nickname; 'Bantha Fodder' or the other one, 'Shitter'. Not hard to guess what he did.

After six months of intensive courses, and a few advanced classes, the training unit was divvied up to their separate postings. I was deployed to the 37th Walker Battalion. I'll write more on that in my next log.


<<ENTRY-002-END>>



<<ENTRY-003>>

The 37th Walker Battalion had really only two objectives; transport logistical supplies from primary supply depots to forward operating bases, and to terrorize the hell out of anyone stupid enough to look the wrong way at the walkers.

A more detailed explanation on just what kind of warfare was taking place would need to be given however for that first statement to make more sense. As mentioned in an earlier entry, this was all before the Empire attacked. So the Republic Army was not engaging enemy forces on a massive scale like it did in the Great Galactic wars, nor was the enemy in large numbers.

No, the Republic forces were fighting against insurgencies, warlords, and separatists during these early years. Anything larger than that got glassed by the Republic Navy. So the primary nature of warfare, was to occupy a planet; and to either wipe out all the leaders of the local cells, or to pressure the local population into turning on them. That could entail intimidation or sweet-talking. It all depended on the commander in the area and just how patient upper command was with the entire situation.

As a result, the 37th Walker Battalion was in charge of supply runs. Keeping all the garrisons supplied, as well as providing some light fire support every now and then. Back then, walkers weren't the kings of the battlefield; they were the Emperors. Usually the locals had nothing that could leave a dent on their heavy plating, so they had complete dominion over the entire conflicts.

My job in all this was as a walker deck officer. I managed the space aboard the beasts of war, making sure that we always had plenty of room on the deck for supplies, extra ammunition, and a small troop complement. If we were ambushed, I dismounted and secured the perimeter. I was quite good at it; most especially the fighting bit. Often times, the troop complement was fairly soft in both morale and armour back then. The smallest blaster bolt hissed by them, and they were gone. Hiding away in the hold. So, I became somewhat known for sticking it out in the underbelly of the walkers; fighting in the open to defend the underbelly of the walker; a blind spot where an insurgent could, just maybe if they were lucky, immobilize the vehicle with a lucky shot on the hydraulic systems.

This kind of dedication was noticed back then; it wasn't long before I ascended to the rank of Sergeant, and I took command of my own walker. I like to believe that I led it well, but in reality, it was probably my grizzled corporal that did most of the work. I was simply an NCO along for the ride, learning the ropes of firing angles, target vectors, and movement commands.

These were the good years, the years where we actually made a difference. Insurrections were put down, warlords toppled, and peace restored. Everyone felt like they were doing good work for good reasons. That all changed when the Empire attacked. A topic I'll cover in my next entry.

<<ENTRY-003-END>>



<<ENTRY-004>>

At the point the Sith Empire made itself known to the galaxy, the 37th Walker Battalion was stationed on Bonadan. An industrialized world in the corporate sector. We were there on emergency posting; there'd be possible threats of rioting and dissolution so we were tasked with defending the Republic's interests on the planet, more specifically a generator powering a nearby development facility.

Realistically, it was about two days after the Sith Empire had revealed it's presence with it's assault on Korriban at this point, but information was hard to come by and specifics were sketchy. The officers definitely knew that something was going on, but they didn't spread the information down the line. As it was, official standing orders from our CO at the time, Captain Atil, was simply to remain alert. Why we weren't notified of the danger before it was upon us, I still don't know to this day. Some theories indicate that they weren't certain, others that they kept quiet so as to not effect morale.

Whatever the case may be, none of us in the 37th was prepared for the ensuing attack. Imperial cruisers jumped into the system; whereupon they decimated the orbital defenses of the planet in mere minutes while we could only look on in horror. Those cannons were then turned on the ground, incinerating every tactical target within range. The generator was included on that list; in just one volley, half of the 37th was wiped out. Vaporized by the intense turbolaser fire. The walker I had command of defended me and a platoon from harm, but it was critically damaged and had to be abandoned.

We had no standing orders, no air support, no walkers left, and no clue what we were up against. As the Imperial shuttles descended, we probably all would've continued to stand there in shock until we were gunned down or taken prisoner. By all accounts, we should have died that day, if not for Captain Atil. He had one concern and one concern only; getting his troops out of there. He led us back to the spaceport, where an effort was being made to evacuate as much personnel and equipment as possible. Mounting a proper defense was out of the question, we were completely unprepared.

The critically wounded were being moved first, so Atil ordered us to mount a defense of the spaceport. It was here I came in first contact with the Imperials. They came streaming towards the port in their gleaming black armour, carrying their shiny blaster rifles. With the heavy repeater I had at the time, I engaged and cut them down, but there was more and they returned fire with far more accurate shooting than we'd come across before with the insurgencies and rebellions. I was hit, twice.

Both shots were non-lethal, only grazing wounds that nicked my shoulder. It wasn't the first time I'd been wounded, but it might have been debilitating in any other circumstance. In this case, I was desperate; and that pushed me forwards. The 37th took more losses, but we were able to hold the line against the continuous Imperial onslaughts until we could pull back to the transports. In the time that we'd had, we'd prepared every explosive we could get our hands on. So when our ship took off, I had the personal honour of blowing it to hell with the detonator.

That day had been filled with luck, there was no denying it. The luck hadn't ended however; our transport, a CR-20 blockade runner was quick enough to outrun the heavy-hitting dreadnoughts... But not the attack shuttles. The Imperials boarded the ship, right before it jumped to lightspeed. The ensuring battle was a chaotic hell, a haunting memory of a raging war aboard an isolated ship.

I'll cover that in my next report.

<<ENTRY-004-END>>



<<ENTRY-005>>

People always fight their hardest when they're at their most desperate. When their's no alternative to fighting but death, with backs against the wall. It's a moment in life that truly defines people, as they stare at the void facing them, and decide if they go fighting, or if they go quietly. Aboard that forsaken blockade runner, everyone faced that very black hole of personality.

The attack shuttles had divulged a full company of Imperial marines, and they moved through the ship quickly and effectively. In mere minutes, they'd taken the bridge and the hangar. With the ship moving through lightspeed, ejecting an escape pod would be suicide, so the defenders had only one choice left. The 37th and the rest of the crew dug in around the engine room, and prepared for a battle.

The Imperials attacked in droves and at first were repelled, before  coming up with a cunning plan. They attacked through the walls of the rooms, breaching through with explosives, as well as flanking around behind, by using the maintenance droid access corridors. A stray shot struck the life support panel, and the ship was plunged into darkness.

For the next six hours, it was a living hell. Screams echoed through the corridors as brilliant flashes of green and red lit the interior of the ship. When the gravity was disengaged, the blood and bodies of the dead created dark, looming clouds throughout the ship as it turned into a gruesome close quarters brawl.

Finally, after the last of the blaster-fire died down and the calls of the wounded turned into deathly silence, an engineer was able to turn the gravity and lights back on, revealing the victors of the engagement. Every last one of the Imperial marines had been killed, but at a horrid cost. Perhaps one tenth of the crew was still alive, and of the 37th, there was just seven left; myself included.

We were able to limp into Coruscant, barely left standing. Dishearteningly enough, there were similar stories like ours, as more and more broken, destroyed battalions reported back in. The command structure was in chaos, the rank and file severely demoralized, the Jedi unresponsive. We should have lost in those opening moments, if it weren't for one person...

I'll elaborate on this later.

<<ENTRY-005-END>>

10
Events and Occasions / The Interrogation Lab (Event plan)
« on: 02/23/17, 04:19:35 AM »

Alright, so I've been plotting this one for about a month now and discussed it with Noth (Who's agreed to co-host, a big thank you to him!); as well as laying the groundwork somewhat at Jedi Night and Anti-Zak Night meetings. Starting up this thread to sort of spread the attention around for it, for anyone that doesn't know about it; as well as to see just who's interested in attending.

So, here's the plot:

"In the hunt for Exephos, Shad'ra rallies a team to go delving into Exephos's Interrogation Lab, located in the Works on Coruscant in the hopes that they'll find the colonel there, to bring him to justice, but more importantly to take him off the dejarik board; and eliminate the threat he poses. The Jedi and the Coalition are petitioned for help, especially from warriors and slicers, to overcome any kind of traps that may have been left for the intruders..."

It's going to be a chat-based event, taking place on Begeren Colony, on the optimistic date of the 8th of March, Wednesday, at 7:00 PM (Server time) and it's going to be focusing a lot on ambience. There's going to be creepy corridors, wild conspiracies (Some proven, some theories), and plenty of chances to discover dirty little secrets about both the Republic and the Empire, on a lovely horror-esque backdrop. It's going to get disturbing, it's going to be gritty, and hopefully, it's going to be a fun little experience.

The invitation's open to pretty much anyone that would have in an interest, there's no picky entry requirements. It could be people willing to take down Exephos because of his betrayal of the coalition or what he did to Bren. Could be people that simply want to explore a dark corner of Coruscant. Or it could be people that want to data-log everything they find. Any reason's fairly valid on this one.

If your interested in joining in, you can shoot me a message or drop a comment here, and I'll keep a list. (Partly because I have no clue how to insert a sign-up list.)

So, quick recap:

When: 8th of March, Wednesday, 7:00 PM (Server time)

Where: Begeren Colony Chatroom

Why: The hunt for Exephos

The Setting: Horror/Give-you-the-creeps

PS: The time conflicts a bit with Anti-Zak night, but from what I've been able to tell, that one's ending/winding down so I'm hoping it can be squeezed in there. Don't know how long it'll last, it'll all depend on how quickly the party moves through the facility.

PSS: First event I've ever hosted, wish me luck.


11
Holocrons and Info Nodes / A New Time
« on: 01/25/17, 09:08:09 PM »
So! I didn't get this done as soon as I'd like, it was pure agony to write some portions simply because I kept hitting walls and I'm still not satisfied with some portions, but hopefully I'll be able to write more, and quicker, in future!

A New Time


The old star fighter Exephos had 'borrowed' from The Viper came to a stop just out of orbit of a backwater planet, Excarga, in a nameless system, far from just about everything.
For a moment, he was silent: before he let loose with a tirade of vile swearing, threatening, and general frustration; mostly at himself. It would have been enough to have driven a navy sailor to shame.
After two full minutes of relentless foul oaths, he stopped.
He'd really done it this time; carried away on his campaign against force-users, he'd alienated just about all of his contacts, driven off even Major Shad'ra, and accomplished nothing.
Of course, not that those kriffing rot-ridden bloody foolish Sith weren't-
He stopped himself there; it was time to start thinking with his mind and not with his heart, because his heart wanted to stab every person he knew, perhaps including himself.
He had this ship; it was old and smelled like Nar Shaddaa, but it seemed reliable enough. He had his armour, SO-72, knife, sidearm, and an emergency fund of credits on his person but more importantly, he had his wits. At least fifteen years in Spec-Force, plenty of street knowledge from his time enforcing on Coruscant, and countless decades on the front, analyzing and assessing situations.
He'd had plenty of time to think on his journey here, and he'd come to a decision. It was time to bury the berserker for now and put the other side of him to use, or he'd wind up dead.
Not that he feared death, no, he'd welcome it when it came. Before it did though, he had business to settle. Some of it was with Shad'ra, some of it with members of the coalition, and other parts of it finding his son Rell, again, and teaching him how to survive in this galaxy against both those armed with blasters, and the Force. That was long-term thinking however. First, he went to ground, but not here.  Excarga was far too close to Hypori and had way too small a population for his liking. But first, as soon as he landed, he needed to find clothes. Wearing his bulky front line armour and carrying his massive rotary cannon was certain to draw too much attention. After that, he needed to 'acquire' both funds and a new ship; because although the fighter was usable, he suspected that with Excarga being a mining planet, there was certain to be either criminals or a filthy rich corrupt bureaucrat where he could get those from.
After that, he'd move fast. He'd need someplace crowded. Lots of people to throw off potential pursuers, and impossible to keep track of individuals, no matter how distinctive their faces are. It also needed to be occupied by some form of criminals; that way he could purchase any information or equipment he might need.
As he piloted the small fighter down through the atmosphere, he decided that he'd make that choice later. For now, he considered all the possible stories he could come up with as to why he was on-planet.
Unless, he didn't need to speak to the authorities at all... It was unlikely that there was much of a law out here, other then the law of the blaster. As he approached the largest collection of buildings that could only loosely be described as a town; it seemed to be the latter. No barking voice demanding identification sounded through the comms, at least. So he set down the starfighter on the flattest portion of land his scanners had picked up just on the outskirts of the settlement. Not particularly secure; but he wasn't planning on keeping the fighter anyway. In fact, if it was stolen or stripped down for parts, that'd actually suit him better. It'd leave less of a trail for anyone following to track.
With that in mind, Exephos clambered out of the cockpit with everything he owned on his person; his heavy armour sending up a cloud of dust as he landed on the arid, sandy ground.
Unsurprisingly, a number of the locals had come to poke about and see who was landing out here; but they held their distance warily about thirty paces off.
Most of them were dressed in soot-stained coveralls each with different company logos emblazoned on the lapel. Almost everyone also seemed to have a blaster on their hips. The law of the blaster definitely prevailed here.
He raised a hand in greeting towards the closest resident, a burly miner with a thick mustache, as he approached. Exephos figured that he'd be the least intimidated.
"Ho." Exephos greeted roughly as he came close.
"Rare to see a Republic soldier way out here..." The miner remarked in a gritty, thick accent.
"Rare indeed. Why, if one was never here today, you could keep the ship." Exephos added on without missing a beat; proffering the access codes.

Twenty minutes later; and a Republic soldier had never landed in what he now knew as the settlement of Denizon. He'd changed into a well-worn jacket over a sooty old shirt and slightly torn working trousers with plenty of pockets. He'd stored as much of his ordnance as he could on his person; but his armour and disassembled rotary cannon were slung over his back in a rather large but not unusual rucksack. He also had his sidearm slung down low on his hip, much like how the natives wore their's. It was important to blend in as much as possible if he was to remain under the radar. His various war scars might be a problem, since they could hardly be described as ordinary but maybe he could say they were from an industrial accident if anyone asked. It helped too that he'd rubbed dirt across his face to better hide his features.
Now that he was disguised to better suit his surroundings, Exephos ran through his mental checklist of what he would need.
Predominantly, a new ship. Credits too, and provisions. The latter was the easiest, there was bound to be company supply stores scattered about the mining town. As for the ship and credits... He had a few ideas.
He thought about it whilst he walked. What he really needed was to find the criminal underground, they had credits and ships for the taking, provided that he took them out. On a planet like this, it was probably racketeering or spice dealers; either would serve his purposes.
So as he came up to one of the shops, he kept his eyes open for any kind of enforcers that he could see. You could always tell them apart by their bearing, or by the chunky modified handcannons they carried on hips or in shoulder holsters. He found a pair fairly quickly; two rough bearded individuals leaning against a wall, large carbines clearly visible through their open jacket fronts.
He kept them in the periphery of his vision as he headed inside the dusty store; manned by a battered commerce droid. It raised one of it's four arms in greeting from where it was stacking boxes of food tins, but otherwise said nothing. Exephos moved among the aisles, selecting a few items; a handful of packages containing the flavorless ration cubes he'd come to know and 'love' in the military; along with several large canteens filled with water. Most ships had reusable water systems; but it was no guarantee on a planet like this; and he really did not want to die of thirst in hyperspace.
Exephos paid from his emergency credits for the supplies to the still-silent droid before loading them in his rucksack and proceeding out of the store again. Those enforcer-looking types were still outside, which was good, considering that he planned on following them. He made his way around to the alleyway right beside the supplies shop and proceeded down it, just in case they were watching, before doubling back and crossing around behind the store to the next building over. If he was lucky, there'd be a ladder or some sort to get to the roof. There wasn't unfortunately, so he heaved his rucksack around and tossed it up before following personally; clambering up the side via a power conduit. It was certainly not much of a roof that he emerged over the edge on to. There was the dilapidated remains of what might have been a cooling system and a pile of rubbish that inexplicably ended up here, even though there was no rooftop access.
Regardless, he maneuvered his rucksack over to the edge of the roof, making sure to keep low the whole time, before tucking himself down against it to watch the street. The two enforcers were still there. Now, he simply waited and watched where they went. Eventually, they'd have to head back to their operating base, one way or another.

Several hours passed atop the rooftop, and dusk was beginning to fall. It also brought a surprisingly chilly evening which he felt acutely through the worn-out threadbare clothing he'd been passed. It was tempting to slip his body glove on underneath it, but he didn't, the slightest movement could give him away. He just hoped they moved soon,  because he was getting far too old for skulking on rooftops. It seemed as though they'd heard his thoughts, even as he thought it, they said something between themselves before strolling off together, down one of the alleyways to their left. Exephos gathered up his rucksack prior to carefully vaulting over the low wall, landing with a roll on the ground below. Fortunate that it was only a one-story building.
This was where things got difficult though. He had to follow them closely enough that he wasn't spotted, but yet not too close that they noticed they were being tailed. It was a balancing act that he was none too fond of. He'd rather bash their heads in, then find out the location of their base through slow and systematic torture; but he didn't have the time or resources for that. So it was he found himself striding along behind their path, hunching his posture under his rucksack to make it appear like he was hauling some sort of heavy goods. Perhaps it'd also make him look much older, which would assuage any paranoia his two targets might have.
As he continued to trail them endlessly through the winding streets of Denizon however, it seemed his efforts were for nothing. They never even looked behind themselves once, simply chatting as they took their leisurely stroll through the mining town. It was extraordinarily sloppy for anyone with even a remote sense of caution to do. In fact, it was so unbelievable, that he half wondered if it was a trap. Surely, it couldn't be this easy.
But easy it was; they strode right up to a warehouse, one that could easily house any imaginable number of criminal activities.
The two conversed shortly with a security panel, before a small door off to the side of the main ones was buzzed open.
Well, time to say hello.
Exephos strode up and attached a detonator against the side door, priming it with a three-digit code, before moving just next to it, out of the way of the shaped charge. After drawing his sidearm, he rapped his knuckles thrice on the metal door.
"Who's there?" A gravelly voice asked through the security panel.
"Haarshun delivery." Exephos replied, before reaching over and thumbing the detonate button.
"Haarshun delivery? What the kri-" The panel started to emit whilst Exephos turned his back to shelter himself from the explosion. With a tremendous bang and the tearing shriek of metal, the entrance was blown inwards, leaving a gaping hole just large enough for a person to walk through.
With his weapon ready, he ducked inside. It was certainly a criminal's stronghold. Crates labelled: 'ORDNANCE' were stacked everywhere, piles of blaster rifles lay in the process of being assembled on tables, and a well-armoured dagger-shaped gunship sat in the process of being half-loaded.
He was interrupted in his observation however when three of the rough-looking local residents came jogging over. They stopped in their tracks at the sight of him and the destroyed door.
"Who the hell are you!?" The lead man asked, grabbing at a compact blaster rifle beneath his coat. Exephos didn't reply, he simply raised his sidearm and shot him in the face, then turned his aim on the other two beside him and gunned them down too before they had a chance to draw.
"What's going on!" A round man in a suit asked as he waddled out from behind a speeder.
Exephos blasted him right between the eyes before proceeding on, shooting anyone he saw. Almost no-one was able to get any shots off simply because they weren't prepared for any trouble. Their stay on a planet far away from law enforcement of any kind had left them ill prepared for a shooting.
He moved from one end of the warehouse to the other, until he came to a sort of office set beside it. The second he came around the corner of a pile of crates, a hail of blasterfire met him from the windows looking onto the warehouse floor, driving him back into the safety of cover.
He shrugged off the heavy rucksack containing his gear, before checking the charge in his sidearm. Now's where things got interesting. A quick peek around earned him a glance at the number of people he was up against before he pulled back again to the renewal of more blasterfire. About five of them, all taking cover behind a waist-high wall. Probably not reinforced.
He knew precisely how to get them out of that hole. Exephos reached into his rucksack as the firing carried on, before pulling out one of his high-powered explosive shells that he normally loaded for special occasions into his SO-72. He wasn't going to go to the trouble of assembling it right now, so instead he turned off the recessed safety on the mini warhead, before rolling the cylindrical ordnance across the floor towards the office. Counting to three, he then threw himself out of cover and took a flurry of shots at the small device.
The first one clipped it, whilst the other triggered it; sending a wall of shrapnel and flames outwards in a deafening explosion.
It buffeted Exephos as he landed on his side, but otherwise, he was unharmed as he rose to his feet and surveyed the damage.
The office front had been completely wiped out; the shooters blown backwards into it's interior. He stalked forwards, searching out their individual bodies before planting a round neatly in each of their heads. No-one could survive to talk about him.
Satisfied that they were well and truly gone, he retrieved his rucksack and started making towards the gunship.
"Please! Help us!" A voice suddenly cried out, stopping Exephos mid stride. His hand fell to his blaster as he whirled around, trying to distinguish who'd spoken.
"Please!" The agonized voice called out again. It was a female by the sounds of it; but it could be a droid too, programmed to mimic voices.
He proceeded cautiously around the edge of a stack of crates towards where the sound originated from. Once he was at the corner, he drew and spun around the side, taking aim at whoever had been speaking.
It was a caged Twi'lek, he'd guess in her late twenties, that had spoken, though she wasn't alone. A young child, also female, that looked barely more than ten was with her.
Exephos approached but did not holster his blaster, just in case this was a ruse. They were both blue-skinned, a not unusual skin colour for their species.
"Please... Release us, I beg of you." What he took as the mother to say.
It was just typical that he ran into their species, again, considering all the ire brought to him in the past by Twi'leks. First Saresh, then Quarasha.
"I have nothing to give you to guarantee our release, just my plee." The mother begged, desperation clear in her eyes. If she was an actor playing on a ruse; she was a very good one.
Exephos holstered his blaster, before fixing her with a cold look.
"If I free you, you will have nowhere to go on this planet. Then, they will shoot you." Exephos stated, before beginning to turn around.
"Then take us with you!" The mother suggested earnestly, standing to put her palms against the bars.
"You'll only slow me down. I have no use for you." Exephos growled over his shoulder. There was plenty of sad stories in the galaxy, and he had no desire to get mixed up in every single one of them. He had enough issues.
"We can help! We can work hard, and... And... Get in and out of places without being noticed!" The twi'lek pleaded.
Exephos kept walking.
"Please... I ask you as a mother. If you've ever had children of your own, surely you would do anything to protect them." The mother sobbed out.
Exephos hesitated a second, his thoughts flashing to Rell. With a frustrated growl, he turned back around and marched up to the edge of the the cage.
"Can you handle a blaster?" He asked roughly, sizing her up.
"In theory, yes." The twi'lek replied, as her wide-eyed daughter watched on. Exephos sighed to himself. Bloody fool's endeavor. Likely, she was going to stab him in the back, then take the ship.
"Fine. Get aboard the ship. Make no noise until we're off the planet." He snapped, blasting the lock open.
She nodded, before grabbing her child by the arm and rushing across the bay towards the ship. Exephos kept his eyes on her as he followed along slowly behind. If she tried anything; he'd aim the blaster at the girl. He boarded the modified gunship directly after her, and proceeded directly to the cockpit after he ensured that the two of them were in the hold. They were going to get him killed; Exephos was certain of it. As he maneuvered the gunship around and blasted open the warehouse doors, he thought about why he'd freed them. No advantage, and more likely to leave a trail for those that followed him.
Pah. Perhaps he'd shove them out the airlock as soon as they were away from the planet. Even as he thought it though, he knew he wouldn't. He'd killed women and children before; but every time he did, it was because he'd perceived them guilty of something or another. Harboring criminals on Tatooine, or aiding Imperials like on Byblos. These two weren't either. Just bystanders that hadn't even gotten in his way, at least, assuming they weren't agents of whatever criminal faction he'd just ticked off or if she was up to some other devilry. If she was, he'd shoot them both. He hadn't survived for as long as he had for placing his trust in just anyone.

Exephos tapped a finger against the small cockpit's one of two chairs, thinking as he looked over a galaxy map. He had a ship and he had credits from the weapons smugglers. What he needed now was a planet to hide in. Like he'd planned before, it needed a large population to disappear into, and an existent criminal underworld to obtain information and equipment. Coruscant technically filled that criteria but it was off the table from the start. Too obvious, and too many of his enemies had resources there. Much of the Outer Rim was likewise no good. Crawling with bounty hunters, and Caben almost certainly had assets to bring against Exephos there. Plus it'd be hard to find a high population world. The Tion cluster could perhaps fill out his requirements, but it was always switching back and forth between warlords. Besides, he'd heard disturbing rumours about a Sith using some sort of Force sorcery to control armies of the dead out in that region. Pass on that entire sector.
There really wasn't many options now that he looked at it. Not with the requirements he had. Unless...
Nar Shaddaa... It had plenty of people, plenty of crime...
The Viper was there, but perhaps Exephos could avoid the sectors he operated in the most... He'd also have to steer clear of anywhere within many kilometers range of the Dancer's Palace...
It was settled, he was headed for Nar Shaddaa. It'd probably be the last place they'd expect to look too. He typed in the instructions for the nav-computer to calculate a course to the planet and once it was completed, Exephos pulled the hyperdrive lever back: shooting the ship into the stars.

Exephos jerked awake, a fist already rising to fend off the next enemy as he looked around, before realizing that he was alone. He hadn't even realized that he had fallen asleep and quickly checked over the ship's instruments to ensure that they were still on track. Everything seemed normal; though he also did a quick visual scan of the interior to make sure that his 'guests' hadn't paid him a visit. It seems they hadn't. As it was though, he'd best go check on them and assess how much ordnance they had aboard. It could prove a useful bargaining tool. So, he palmed open the door before climbing down the ladder into the small hold. The mother seemed to perk up from where she'd been sitting quietly next to her daughter. She certainly seemed to have recovered from her earlier desperation.
"I wanted to thank you for what you did, my name is JeeJee, by the way." She said, stepping into his path.
Exephos edged around her, before continuing on.
"What is your name?" JeeJee asked as Exephos stomped past her towards the stack of crates to inventory what was back here. He paused a moment to fix her with a long silent look, before going back to inventorying, tallying items up on his datapad.
"What do I call you?" JeeJee persisted.
"Sir." Exephos growled out in reply, not bothering to look over. Before he knew it, she'd be asking for his whole kriffing life story; leave a lovely little trail for a bounty hunter to wheedle out of her. With her child with her, it'd be easy for anyone to coerce her cooperation.
JeeJee was blessedly silent after that, simply watching him as he marched to and fro, making sure that the crates they had aboard in the small hold were secure and wouldn't be thrown about if he had to put the ship through rapid maneuvers.
"You were a soldier, weren't you?" The twi'lek suddenly asked. Damn. He hated it when they were perceptive. Now it'd be another line she could draw between him and a pursuer. Something would have to be done.
"You listen here." Exephos said, wheeling towards her.
"I let you go against my better judgement, because you leave a trail. I have a number of very powerful and very dangerous people coming after me, and the last thing I need, IS a trail, understand?" He stated, pointing first towards her, then towards himself.
"Now, it would be much better for you- And for me, if you see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing." He finished, before turning back towards the cockpit and striding out past the eerily silent Twi'lek girl.
It was beneficial for them both this way. He had no weaknesses to be exploited, and she had no information to give interrogators.
'No information means death in most interrogations.' A voice reminded him in the back of his mind, but he pushed it aside. If she kept her head down and didn't get caught, she'd be fine.
Of course, a Twi'lek keeping their head down usually meant slavery, especially for the planet they were headed to. The Hutts were all too fond of their exotic dancers.
He once more pushed the thought out of his head. He couldn't look after every wide-eyed slave in the galaxy. He had his own issues right now.
The soft thump of a door closing behind him in the cockpit had him jump to his feet, his hand moving to his blaster at his hip.
It was JeeJee again. She was very quiet on her feet, he wouldn't have heard her come in if it hadn't been for the door's mechanical noise.
"What're you doing up here?" He asked, reaching to his holster threateningly.
JeeJee breathed out deeply, before she spoke:
"I came to deal. Me and Jelgi... We wouldn't last a second on Nar Shaddaa on our own. If we were with you-"
"No. Your lucky I didn't dump you out the airlock, let alone free you. Your NOT joining me." Exephos growled out, cutting her off.
"I have contacts there." The twi'lek added softly.
That gave him pause. If she did, they could come in handy... Perhaps get him some security arrangements, leads on where Rell was, some ordnance...
Of course, that all assumed that she was telling the truth.
"And how does a Twi'lek slave 'have contacts'? Hard to believe if you've lived your entire life in a cage." He retorted.
JeeJee seemed to scoff at this.
"I wasn't a slave until just recently. Not all Twi'leks are dancers." She replied, with a roll of the eyes.
Oh, he knew that only too well. Saresh and Quarasha were prime examples. Of course, that little comment also upped the danger level considerably. She could be very proficient as an assassin or a gunman. Perhaps 'her contacts' were simply a trap.
Exephos decided to come outright and voice his doubts with the raise of a blaster and a hard statement:
"I don't trust you; and I don't intend being stabbed in the back. Give me one reason why I should believe you."
To her credit, the twi'lek didn't quail at the blaster aimed at her. If she had spent her life in the underworld, it was probably a daily occurrence. She simply raised her hands casually upwards.
"If you want to shoot me, do it now. I'd rather a quick death to a wild-eyed soldier, than a slow death to a overweight Hutt." JeeJee responded, calling his bluff.
Could she be counting on him not shooting her? Had she predicted it long beforehand in a long and convoluted plan? Not likely. He knew that he had a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later; so it would have been a gamble among the most extreme.
She'd live; for now.
Exephos lowered his weapon slowly, still eyeing the twi'lek warily.
"You'll tag along... For now." He assented, before holstering the blaster and pointing wordlessly to a co-pilot's seat. While she was here, she'd make herself useful.
"Monitor the long-range sensors. Tell me if anything at all comes within two kilometers." Exephos ordered as she slid into the chair next to his and wisely strapped in.
He reached forwards and pushed a lever inwards, dropping them out of hyperspace; right off the orbit of Nar Shaddaa. He had to play this carefully now; he needed a location on Nar Shaddaa that got as little attention as possible. One of the industrial sectors perhaps. Then again, he needed a place with lots of traffic as well...
"You. You familiar with Nar Shaddaa?" Exephos asked in a guttural tone, turning towards JeeJee, who gave a simple nod.
"I need a port that gets plenty of traffic in the general vicinity, but it's nowhere important. Someplace to disappear." He explained.
"That'd be the shanty district. Millions, if not billions live there, working the factories and labs of the Hutts." She replied, typing in the coordinates of the place on the database.
"Hmph." Exephos grunted back. He was still doubtful about her.
Regardless, he began piloting the ship in through the myriad number of craft approaching and leaving the planet in steady streams. He joined one such lane headed for the far side of the planet, shunting into a slot in the space traffic. Coruscant had a network that you wired your destination in to, and then it did the flying for you in a lane like this; but on Nar Shaddaa, it was all manual. A short time later; and they were approaching the port.
Exephos snapped his fingers towards JeeJee and pointed at the comms.
"You call in our approach." He commanded.
"Spaceport Reek, this is... Uhh..." She paused to look down at the current transponder code details on one of the screens.
"Light freighter 'Irony's Delight' requesting a landing space." She  said, before going quiet; waiting for a response.
A gravelly voice responded:
"Irony's Delight. It'll cost 'ye credits."
"Credits won't be a concern." JeeJee returned.
There was silence again for a bit, before the comm again blared.
"Irony's Delight; land at Docking Bay 332F. Have 'yer fees ready."
JeeJee looked towards him expectantly, but he said nothing, instead piloting the ship around in a curve before bringing it down to land, somewhat roughly, on the landing deck.
"Get your child, and grab what you need." Exephos barked, standing and striding out; grabbing his rucksack on the way.
He moved past the hold, where the still silent Twi'lek girl was idly swinging her legs back and forth on a bench.
A quick palm on the access panel, and the rear door slid open.
Aware of JeeJee coming down the ladder behind him, he stomped down onto the duracrete tarmac where a burly security droid and a Weequay flight supervisor were standing, waiting.
"Got 'yer payment ready?" The supervisor asked as he approached.
"Depends, do you accept goods?" Exephos asked, switching his gaze warily between the two.
"Depends on the goods." The weequay said in turn.
"Ordnance. Blaster rifles, pistols, some explosives." He evenly declared.
"How much?" The supervisor warily inquired, looking towards the rucksack as though it all might be in there.
"Several crates full. They're in the hold, and you can have them all, but on one condition." Exephos responded warningly when the supervisor started forwards, but stopped at his words.
"No records of my arrival, and my ship stays as long as I like."
The supervisor seemed to consider a moment, even though they both knew it was as done a deal as any.
"Agreed." The flight officer replied, before striding towards the ship's hold just as JeeJee and Ojulgeji were coming out of it.
He let them lead the way out of the spaceport, but well within sight and reach. Just in case.
That distance had to get much shorter once they emerged outside however... There was a thick crowd proceeding in and out of the spaceport, and it stretched across the streets as far as the eye could see through all the neon and pollution.
Should anyone try to follow him through this mess... He wished them luck, and if they did get close, he would gut them. No more bandying about with threats; he was planning on cutting straight to the core of the matter from hereon. Or more aptly put, straight to the jugular.
He expected no mercy, so he would deliver none.


"How are things going?" Shad'ra asked, striding into the command center where a variety of technicians were packing up their gear and equipment.
"Pretty well. We've got all the small systems out and ready for shipping; though the major infrastructure's taking some time to dig out. The generators and water purifiers primarily." Imler, promoted to Lieutenant in the course of the last battle, replied with a salute.
Shad'ra nodded, eyeing the base through the various camera screens still online. A few flickered in and out as they were in the process of being dismantled. Overall however, most seemed pretty cheerful to go. Hypori was realistically, a terrible place to farm. Sand everywhere, little nutrients or water.
The jungles of Evaar'la Ca'nara, although populated with predators, would be better.
"How about you play them a song through the intercom while it's still operational, Imler." Shad'ra suggested, to which the lieutenant chuckled to himself.
"Aye, sir." He returned, pressing a button.
A half Mando'a, half Basic song started playing. 'Ni Kelir Cuyanir'.
"Charming." Shad'ra remarked as the upbeat deesco music echoed through the emptying halls and rooms.
"And suiting, sir." Imler added with a grin and a little jig, before returning back to the business of overseeing the dismantling of the sensor systems.
Shad'ra shook his head to himself as he strode back out into the sunken streets where crowds of families and troopers, burdened down with bulging rucksacks, made their way towards the large bulk freighter and collection of smaller ships and freighters at the other end of the base. Like everything they did, it was done with militaristic efficiency. Families received pre-designated spots on starships, all based on importance to the initial colonization efforts. Soldiers and their families were posted closest to hatches, whereas support staff were further back, depending on how vital they were needed in an emergency. That way, they wouldn't have thick crowds to jostle their way through if they were needed. Tankers and their families stayed aboard their platforms of war too, to maximize the amount of space used.
An orderly system overall, it'd taken a few days of planning beforehand between himself, Lieutenant Imler, Captain Jaceen, and Captain Ditto.
Perhaps it'd have been easier, if they'd had the two most experienced members of the cabinet of officers. Captains Ringo and Ryyk. The former had been killed on Abregado-Rae, shot down in the last stages of the battle. The latter...
He didn't know where the latter was, he'd taken off with his platoon, Rancor Platoon. They must have somehow gotten off planet because none of Shad'ra's search parties had turned up anything to their whereabouts. Maybe they'd had a shuttle stashed in a secret location all along, maybe they'd stowed away aboard any number of coalition vessels moving in and out of the base. Hard to say; but one thing was certain; they were long, long gone and it was unlikely that they were going to be caught.
Especially since Shad'ra hadn't quite told the coalition everything...
They'd been so focused on the missiles and their deadly concoctions, that they hadn't questioned just what Rancor platoon had escaped with. The missiles were safely in Caben's hands, true, but not Exephos's anti-Jedi arsenal.
Electro-net launchers, force pikes, gas grenades, stun mines, phrik shields, flamethrowers, bolas, and slugthrowers, among a myriad other things that would cause even the most confident force-user to pause in hesitation. The Ninety-Fifth still had a large stock of these weapons, even with Rancor Platoon running off with a large part of it, though Shad'ra decided that it'd be better that the coalition didn't know that. In fact, as soon as they were on Evaar'la Ca'nara...
He was going to authorize general anti-Force training. The experts of Sabercat platoon had amassed years of techniques and systematic methods of eliminating Sith on the frontlines, Shad'ra would have them spread that experience around.
He wasn't planning on going to war with the Jetii or Darjetii, but he wanted to be ready.
Ret'lini. Just in case.

"Everything's loaded aboard. We're ready to lift on your orders." Lieutenant Imler stated at Shad'ra's shoulder as he looked out across their now abandoned base. The sunken streets were eerily empty, the square devoid of life, the dunes absent of the sentries.
They were leaving their homes once again, first it'd been the Republic, now it was Hypori. No matter how inhospitable it had been, it had been home.
Now though, it was time to move on. From more than just the planet; it was time to move on from the combat of old. No more wars. Not for the Republic. Not for the Empire. Not for the cursed coalition. If any di'kut showed up on their doorstep asking for help again, Shad'ra would tell them to politely kriff off and forcibly remove them from his planet.
It was a new time for the Ninety-Fifth, hence the name of the planet. Evaar'la Ca'nara. 'New Time' in Mando'a. Shad'ra just knew that it would be a sanctuary for them all there. They would settle there, dig in their boots, and hold the planet no matter what hell came their way. That is, assuming they didn't get eaten by the wildlife.
With that cheery thought in mind, he turned back towards Lieutenant Imler, his kama cracking in the breeze kicked up by the starting engines of the freighters.
"Cin vhetin, Imler." Shad'ra replied, clasping the soldier on the shoulder.
"Cin vhetin, Shad'ra."

12
Holocrons and Info Nodes / Return from Abregado-Rae
« on: 01/11/17, 02:32:06 AM »
Just a short post today, mostly illustrating the losses that the Ninety-Fifth experienced during the campaign on Abregado-Rae as well as a few mentions of just what Exephos plans to do next.


Exephos had not been looking forwards to returning to Hypori.
He knew what he would have to do; the crowds he would have to face, where he would have to tell them that some of their number didn't make it.
There would be funeral services to arrange and attend, and those with families that had proceeded on this mission and perished would need their widows, widowers, and children looked after.
The numbers they had lost were forever burned into his mind.
Eighty-two dead. A hundred and fourteen wounded. Six missing.
The last figure ate at him most of all.
They could be back there on the forests of Abregado-Rae, wondering when their comrades would return for them, or perhaps they were being tortured for their part in taking down the Star Fortress.
A far worse scenario persistently worried him.
What if they were in an interrogation block, having the location of the Ninety-Fifth's base wheedled out of them?
He really hoped not.
The freighter touched down with a jolt, and a low whine echoed through the ship as the massive doors were opened.
He didn't want to go out there. To see the expectant families, ready to receive their loved ones in open arms; only to receive a casket.
Despite his reluctance, he pushed himself up and strode out the door and towards the cargo bay. It was his duty to console those who'd lost someone. He'd done it every time for the past twenty years he'd had his own command. Despite that, it never got any easier.
Emerging into the cargo bay was... Saddening. Medics bearing stretchers of troopers in critical condition ran out the door towards the med-bay while sentries of the base ran a final roll-call among the platoons, double-checking that no-one else was missing.
Tankers covered in grease, scorch marks, and blood emerged from their beasts of war, some of them for the first time since the beginning of the battle, having had to secure their ordnance and reactors.
The worst of all lay in a dark corner.
Set out in neat rows lay the bodies of the fallen, each one covered over with a Republic flag. They may not serve the Republic any longer, but they were veterans of it's wars and they deserved the full honour of that.
Set beside each body lay each soldier's weapon and helmet.
Every platoon of every company had encountered losses, there were the thickly armoured helmets of the tankers, the force-pikes of the saber-cats, and the embroidered rifles of the Rancor platoon.
Exephos strode amongst the dead before coming to a stop next to a tanker's helmet set beside a sidearm.
A ragged synthleather kerchief hung from one side of the helmet while a snapped antennae on one side trailed limply by a cord.
Lieutenant Horsav.
Killed instantly in his walker when it took a hit from a missile.
He turned and strode farther on, before stopping next to another body.
A series of tally marks had been scratched almost entirely across one side of the helmet, while on the other; a cartoon Saresh had been painted on, depicted with bloody fangs and claws.
Corporal Den'han.
Ten shots to the torso in the final engagement.
Exephos walked on, stifling a sob at the amount of the dead, his comrades, though they felt more like family.
Ferin. Gone.
Hoik. Sliced in half.
Tyreesus. Blown to bits.
His pace slowed, then came to a stop as he came to an old well-worn helmet, charred all over and with the visor smashed in.
Despite the damage, the intricate trim delicately painted on the edges was still just visible, the edge of a rose barely discernible across the right side.
The rifle, an HBR model, was clean and well cared for, with the standard factory durasteel stock and grip replaced for an exotic ivory.
Captain Ringo.
Exephos sank to his knees.
The old baron of the Ninety-Fifth, gone after all these years.
He simply sat there and did nothing. He'd lost far too many comrades over the years to shed any more tears; but it ate away at his insides that they should have to die after leaving the Republic's service, a cruel joke the galaxy played.
Ringo had been a mentor; a constant pillar of wisdom, and more importantly, a friend.
Another one to bury over the course of his service.
"Sir." Shad'ra's voice said from behind him as his second-in-command placed a hand on his shoulder.
Exephos calmed himself down and let out a deep sigh.
His mourning would have to wait for duty. Ringo would have understood.
He stood and turned towards the cargo bay doors, where some platoons were already marching out into the brilliant sunlight amid the faint sound of cheers; the realization that some of those they loved weren't coming out would hit later.
Exephos emerged outside and pulled his brimmed cap down low to shield his eyes from the bright Hypori sunlight.
Once the crowds of the Ninety-Fifth's familes saw him, the cheering redoubled with entirely different shouts from what he was used to:
"You've done it, Colonel!"
"Another impossible victory under the Ninety-Fifth's belt!"
"Hurrah for the colonel!"
Exephos paused a moment, running his gaze over the many people cheering the return of the soldiers in their little settlement, held back politely by cloaked sentries. Should he address them over the losses experienced now? No, no. Let them enjoy their celebrations, he owed them that much. So instead, he gave a sharp salute towards the crowd before carrying on down the ramp, joining his troops on their return from the battlefields once again; victorious, but at a hefty cost.

"Right... Face!" A sergeant growled out.
The honour guard of five troopers turned to the right.
"Ready... Aim... Fire!" He ordered, to which the honour guard tilted to the left with their rifles, fired then returned the weapons to their shoulders.
"Ready... Aim... Fire!" The order came again, with the repeated motion as they fired.
The sergeant's face was expressionless as he once more gave the last fire command:
"Ready... Aim... Fire!"
As the honour guards moved the weapons to their soldiers, the sergeant turned on his heel, facing the same direction as the troops.
"Forward... March!" He grated out, before the troopers strode out in time.
The crowd that had been gathered around for the closing ceremony of the last of the burials dispersed off to their various tasks upon the final shot.
Exephos remained, looking at the memorial and all the names carved into it's smooth surface.
How many had he lost over the years? Hundreds? Thousands?
Friends. Family. None survived the passing of time.
Except him.
Somehow, he continued to live no matter how much he threw himself at his enemies, how recklessly he charged into battle, how many times he picked fights; hoping to come across someone who would better him and end it all.
Yet; the galaxy was cruel. He survived.
Others might see that as a blessing.
To him, it was a curse.
He was a soldier. He'd make use of whatever he had, and in that case... He was going to show that coalition the price of war and just how foolhardy it was to bring the Ninety-Fifth back into active service.
They called him and his men war criminals.
It was time they started acting like it; beginning with the next coalition meeting. They were going to be reminded of the value of every single soldier, the hard way.
Starting with this 'hunt for himself' that he'd heard of from Major Shad'ra. They wanted him? They could come for him; it would only mean more force-users for his torture chamber.
There would be no more mercy for the coalition.
The moment they accepted the Ninety-Fifth's help on the field of battle and they had their deaths on their hands, they stepped into his world and that meant they played by his rules. He gave the orders now.
They would accept his ultimatums, or he would give them a war the likes of which they wouldn't believe; the kind of war that would make their campaign on Abregado-Rae look like a mild fist fight in comparison.
But for now... He would prepare for any premptive strikes.
"Shad'ra!" Exephos called out, turning to the side towards the officer.
"Aye, sir?" The ex-mandalorian returned, coming to his side with a salute, as loyal as ever, despite the attempted persuasion that the Viper had concocted.
"Keep the base on full alert from here onward. Full troop complement on the perimeters, all batteries on standby, and sensitive locations in lock down." He ordered.
"Yes sir!" Shad'ra replied before rushing off.
"Captain Ryyk!" Exephos called out, turning towards the other grizzled officer, who saluted and came forwards.
"I've got an idea in how to scare up that coalition..." Exephos stated, nodding in the general direction of the coalition's base.
"And that is, sir?" Ryyk asked.
Exephos chuckled as he replied:
"Do you remember our march on the Republic Headquarters?"
Ryyk slowly smiled and nodded.
"Survey the terrain and get the marching orders ready. I'm going to scare the kriff out of those members." He commanded.
"Aye-aye, sir." The captain replied before moving off.
The coalition's next meeting was going to be... Interesting.

13
Storyboards / A Threat Fulfilled
« on: 12/28/16, 10:49:56 PM »

So this is a thread me and Noth have been plotting for awhile as a continuation of the near-fight that broke out at Anti-Zak Night. We'll see how it proceeds along, but it's definitely going to be interesting.


Iridonia. Home of the Zabrak.
But there was more than horn-heads on the planet; no, some Jedi had decided to make it home and set up an enclave there, which also happened to be the home for a certain Jedi he was looking for.
Exephos leaned against a street corner of a small town on the planet, a hood pulled down low over his face as he waited. The Jedi he was after was here; but he couldn't directly look at him.
He'd had plenty of experience in killing force-users, and he was well aware of their precognitive and sensing abilities. It was what allowed them to know where strikes would land and pick out pursuers in a crowd. Of course, there was the issue of his 'signature' in the 'Force'. Nothing he could do about that except to remain at a distance, in this case, a very long distance. He always made sure that he was at least fifty meters away from his target at all times.
Perhaps he was being overly paranoid, but if fighting Sith had taught him anything, it was to take nothing for granted and to never, ever underestimate their abilities.
So he worked indirectly; he'd set up cameras to watch the intersections and the Enclave building, and they would give him the intel he needed to proceed, without him sticking his neck out and leaving himself vulnerable.
He was principally looking for where the Jedi spent most of his time, where he lived, routines he did daily, and weaknesses that could be used against him.
People or things he was fond of, strict schedules, constant habits.
All could be used against someone.
Considering that this was a Jedi, any passerby on the street could probably be used against him. Due to his connection with the Force, he would sense their pain.
That could be manipulated.
But there was the 'small' matter that he couldn't actually think about what he was going to do to him. Doing that would be like shooting up a flare and proclaiming your intentions to a Force-user, or so he thought.
They could sense emotions, and thinking about how much he hated them all? Not exactly covert in the emotional field.
So his experience in Spec-Force back during the Cold War came to the fore at times like these, to clear his mind of thoughts and to simply act. That experience came in handy and not just in how to deal with force-users.
Keep a low-profile on the streets. Blend in with the local populace by using native clothing, trust no-one, and pretend to be of a profession that wouldn't be suspicious lurking around but also wasn't noticeable.
In this case, he was a street sweeper, albeit a lazy one if anyone was watching. Every now and then, he'd use his broom to sweep up a bit of rubbish and dirt to keep up appearances.
It was a small town though, so originally he'd arrived on-site and remained in deep cover as a trooper. A completely off-the-records transfer over as a relatively low-rank, everyone back on base thought he was a sergeant from the Survey Corps and that he was off making maps of the terrain all day. The perfect cover to wreak havoc on an Enclave.
But first he would wait, and once he knew everything he needed to... He would strike; not immediately of course. First he would mess with this Jedi; let him know that he was watching. Start off with a few emblems spray-painted onto the walls at first; small things, easily mistaken for graffiti. Then perhaps something more invasive, like a damaged Republic trooper helmet left where he might come across it. Lull him into a sense of foreboding.
Then he would strike hard and fast, and leave his mark on the Jedi, both internally and externally.
He would make him regret every word he'd said in that meeting. That was a certainty.

A week later.

Exephos marched towards the enclave wearing another soldier's ill-fitting plastoid plates rather than his own durasteel, and carrying a rifle he was not familiar with. As a 'sergeant of the Survey Corps' he couldn't exactly be wearing a massive suit of armour specially modified for the rigours of frontline combat and carrying a forty-year old rotary cannon. That'd raise unwanted questions.
As it was, he was able to pass the sentries at the gate unchallenged and proceed directly within the Enclave grounds. This was where he had to be very careful; all it took was one inquisitive Jedi youngling, and Exephos's careful deception would come crashing down. So he struggled to keep his feelings as neutral and bored as possible; no matter how much he wanted to burn this entire compound to the ground. He breathed deeply in and out, forcing his mind blank; couldn't think like that, not here, where a Jedi might sense his emotions.
As he came up to the main doors, he reached to his belt pouch and pulled out a holo-recorder and collapsible tripod; tools of a surveyor.
"Is it possible to get access to that rooftop, Corporal?" Exephos asked one of the troopers on guard whilst he motioned to the top of the building.
"Aye, sergeant. You can enter it through the maintenance accessway." The sentry replied, already telling Exephos what he knew. He'd made sure to have a look at the building's blueprints prior to coming.
Exephos gave a nod of thanks to the trooper, before striding inside as he checked the chrono in the top left of his HUD.
Early morning.
Good, that meant that all the Jedi should be out practicing their 'mystical arts' outside. Striding along the corridors, he made straight for Bren's room. He had a little gift to leave him.
Once he was outside the door, he ran a scanner along the edges, looking for any alarms or traps the Jedi might have set up to catch any that might enter his quarters. Unlikely, given Jedi's supposed hospitality, but he didn't take chances.
The scan came up devoid of anything, so he palmed the access panel and strode quickly inside.
He reached around to the pack on his shoulders and pulled out a standard trooper's helmet, with one difference. A blaster hole was shot neatly between the eyes. A quick look around the quarters until he found a table, and set it there; facing towards the door.
Another marking of his presence, if the Jedi was smart enough to piece it together.
He had one other thing to do while he was here, but first he glanced around the scene to see if he'd left any trace of himself. Satisfied that he hadn't, he left the room and closed the door behind him, before once more walking along the corridors.
He spared another glance at his chrono as he went.
Starting to run out of time. He'd have to move quickly.
Moving a bit faster along the corridors, Exephos made for the maintenance room.
His target was a cleaning droid, specifcally the one that cleaned Bren's quarters. He had it's designation number recorded. CD-55.
A slight modification to it's normal operating regime, and it would be ready for his plan.
However, he didn't know if there was any maintenance staff inside. If there was, they'd have to be relocated in a way that didn't draw attention, it was too soon for him to be drawn out into the open.
Once he came to the door, Exephos braced himself; ready to answer potential questions or inquiries.
The maintenance room was a tight, cramped facility designed for utility and function rather than beauty. Warning signs painted around machinery were worn and faded and the ground was stained with oils and cleaning fluids. It was also empty.
Perfect.
He made straight towards the cleaning droids, stored in their recharging racks. According to the schedule he'd observed, these droids would clean the common areas at night, then do personal quarters during the day.
He'd had some of his technicians back on Hypori make him up a program which swapped that around. CD-55 would clean Bren's personal quarters at night, when he was sleeping, and he'd be carrying a loud message to wake him up.
Careful to remain out of sight of the droid's optics, he booted it up and used a data spike to upload the change in programming which was accepted willingly by the droid's less than secure core.
Within a minute, it was done and he removed the spike. It would be instructed to head to the Jedi's rooms at night and say the words; 'Someone is watching' over, and over. It'd certainly get his attention.
Time to leave though. Staying any longer risked running into Jedi.
He made a quick exit through the corridors and gave a salute to the troopers on guard out front before heading back towards the base there. If anyone asked, he'd simply been taking photographs as part of the survey corps.
That Jedi was going to have a nasty awakening and more than a few scars when Exephos was done.

14
Holocrons and Info Nodes / The Cost of the Past
« on: 11/09/16, 01:31:25 AM »
So, the latest and potentially one of the last few Exephos writings. It's been a great time writing out his various actions and decisions throughout the years, but let's face it: He's over seventy years old. It'll be time for others to start taking over the mantle. (Of course, that's not to say he's going to come out of retirement every now and then to beat up anyone that threatens Rell or to exchange threats with Quarasha.)

So, this story requires some context not found in any of my previous writings: In the waning hours of a Dancer's Palace night, Exephos got into an argument with a Jedi when the vigilante of Nar Shaddaa, The Viper, revealed himself inside the Dancer's Palace. He demanded that Exephos pay for his crimes of the past. Minnette entered the scene and said that he deserved justice; but not exactly the mutilating kind at the hand of the Viper. Upon Shad'ra entering the scene, he was able to convince Exephos to turn himself in to the Tatooine authorities to answer for the people killed in 'A New Life'.



Exephos waited in the back of the shuttle. Shad'ra was flying.
He'd be delving into Tatooine's court alone and unarmed.
A slight jolt and the whine-down of the engines indicated that they had landed. Anchorhead. Some said that it was the birthplace of the planet. Others said that towns that made those claims shifted with the sands.
He'd had little to do with Tatooine,  outside of a short garrison duty, and that one... Incursion. There were Imperial forces on the planet that skirmishes were sometimes conducted against but it wasn't exactly what you'd call a front-line posting.
It helped that Anchorhead had always maintained it's independence. It let Republic forces and dignitaries in, but so far as he knew, they had to play by the militia's rules.
The shuttle, a Rendaran-class, slowly lowered it's ramp-door at the rear of the compartment.
Outside, a squad of militia members waited a good ten meters off.
Shad'ra climbed down the pilot's ladder to see him off.
The grizzled NCO looked out at the militiamen, then back at Exephos before sighing and saying: "It's better this way, sir."
Exephos nodded wearily.
"Better that it's taken care of now, than a few years later, when someone sticks a knife in my back." He said, despondent.
"Just... Take care out there, sir." Shad'ra advised.
"Aye. Take care of the Ninety-Fifth... And my son." Exephos replied, forcing the words before he turned on his heel and strode out, not trusting himself to say any more.
Ahead, the militia squad of six raised their motley collection of blasters appearing both nervous but determined at the same time. One among them however didn't bother to hide his disgust and hate as he raised his blaster.
For just a moment, Exephos wondered if he was simply walking towards his execution. Was this how it would end? A vengeful youth scattering his head's contents across the hangar bay's permacrete floor?
Then the blasters were lowered once it was clear that he was unarmed, the one guard obviously doing so grudgingly.
Everyone always made the same mistake of assuming that he needed his rotary cannon to be deadly. It was not a mistake he would correct them on this time, however.
Once he drew close, they didn't ask for his name or even if he had any hidden weapons or not. They knew who he was.
Instead, they simply snapped on a pair of cuffs, a strong Czerka model, one that he noted was equipped with a shock function.
What followed was then a rigorous pat down that would have uncovered anything larger than a holo disk which he did in fact have on him, in his brown army coat's breast pocket. The older of the militiamen, a gnarled looking man with gray beginning to sprout up in his hair raised a quizzical eyebrow at them.
"Personal memento. Just in case." Exephos replied to the silent question.
The grizzled man nodded before tucking them back into his pocket.
With a wordless bark from him, the five others fell into a box formation and led him to a turbolift.
They bundled inside, and soon enough, it was zipping down towards the ground floor.
"Some people will likely recognize you. If they threaten, mock, or call out to you; keep walking." One of the militiamen suddenly warned as the lift slowed down to a stop.
The lift doors opened onto a busy terminal, all manner of dubious characters and sun-baked locals going on with business.
The militiamen marched him out and it wasn't long before their little procession started to draw attention.
At first, the looks were just curiosity. Then for some, bafflement. Others looked disgusted. A few seemed morbidly fascinated as he was led toward the spaceport's doors. A twi'lek crossing their path spit in his direction.
To his credit, he gave no response but inwardly, he seethed. This was exactly like the treatment the Republic forces had been given on Balmorra, and later Coruscant; after Zakuul had leveled it's vicious economic sanctions.
They reached the doors without further incident, but once the door slid open, it revealed a far greater problem.
A crowd, easily numbering in the hundreds, calling out laments, curses, and threats.
"Stars above." He breathed to himself, and for a moment, he was frozen, a similar moment from years past reliving itself in his mind.
A crowd just like this one on Balmorra, being brutally cut down by blaster fire. Men, women, and children slaughtered in a number of short seconds as green Republic bolts lanced through them.
A dig in the back from that one hateful militiaman's blaster rifle brought him back to the present.
He bowed his head and followed the guardsmen's lead.
That memory had reminded him of why he'd come. To right the past's wrongs and end the nightmares he'd been having. Horrid dreams in the middle of the night of bloodied, mutilated victims.
Even now, their calls were echoed by the crowd here on Tatooine as he was jostled through the masses.
"Murderer!"
"Insane mad man!"
"Cold-hearted bastard!"
Others among them cried out in laments those rose and fell.
"My son, my dear son!"
"My whole family... That was my whole family..."
"Just wanted peace... All they ever wanted was peace..."
Exephos forced himself to drown out the voices. If he continued to listen to them, he would surely break down.
Even so, they penetrated the durasteel walls he'd raised around his heart, forcing his breath to come in gasps as the militia led him through.
Finally they were through, though the crowd continued to follow right behind, their accusations and demands pounding at his mind.
He was glad by the time they made it into the militia building, the sliding glass doors closing behind them. A guard on duty wisely locked it once their procession entered, as the crowd came right up to the doors, still making their now muted calls.
An elderly man, as old as or perhaps a little older than Exephos; which was saying something considering he was past seventy, stood up from behind a desk and hob lied his way forwards.
He hobbled, as where his left leg had been was now a clawed metal foot. It was less a prosthetic though, and more of a peg-leg.
"I'll take him from here." This new arrival announced in a grizzled tone, dismissing the squad as he toyed with a thick bushy mustache.
Exephos said nothing as the squad departed and he was led deeper into the Anchorhead militia building.
They passed a few offices where some of the more civilian aspects of the militia were writing on sheets of flimsi or typing away on terminals.
A few looked up with scowls as they passed the doorways, so it was fortunate that they soon passed these by, instead entering the prison section, which was guarded by a militiaman sitting by the door with an old-fashioned rifle propped up against his leg.
He gave a nod to the old militia veteran and paused him a key card.
With a short wave, Exephos was led inside and directed inside a small cell. There was a cot, a sink, a few chairs with a table, and a small secluded lavatory, hidden by a thick curtain. Certainly more luxurious than some of the places he'd had to live on the front-lines.
The one legged man locked the door from the inside before tucking away the card into a pocket.
He then approached and undid the binders with a short code tapped out on the keypad.
"Please, make yourself comfortable... I have a few questions for you." The militiaman said, addressing him for the first time even as he occupied one of the chairs.
Exephos sat, rubbing his wrists consciously.
"I take it your Anchorhead's militia commander." Exephos noted, eyeing the other man's well worn features.
He chuckled at the suggestion.
"Not exactly. We don't have quite so formal a command structure as your probably used to; there's the sheriff, but he's not really an ultimate authority. I am however, a constable. Constable Granden." Granden replied.
Exephos gave a slight tilt of the head in acknowledgement but otherwise remained silent as the militia captain pulled out a pipe and tamped down some sort of tobacco in it.
After he'd lit it, and taken a few puffs, did he eventually speak:
"So... That was you that wiped out that farming settlement."
"Aye." Exephos replied simply. He did not want to go over the details.
Granden slowly nodded.
"Minnette let us know well in advance that you were the one that did it, I just needed you to confirm it." Granden said, pausing every now and then to clench his pipe in his teeth.
He leaned forwards, smoke billowing around him.
"I just have one other question then. Why?" The militiaman asked quietly.
Exephos sighed and leaned back in his chair.
"You don't want to know the answer to that question." He growled out.
A scowl crossed Granden's face before quickly disappearing.
"Moving forwards on the assumption that I DO want to know; all the details, then let me ask again; why?" The gnarled frontiersman replied, his words carefully intoned.
"A means to an end." Exephos returned once he'd finished.
"What?" Came the incredulous reply.
"Killing them was a means to an end. That's the answer to your question." He repeated.
"What end? What end constitutes killing almost fifty people in one of the most brutal bloody massacres that I've seen in all my years?" Granden asked, the scowled returning to his face.
Exephos folded his arms before he spoke: "I'm not going to tell you that."
Granden scoffed.
"What will you tell the court then? I killed that village, but I'm not going to tell you why. That's 'sure' to go over well..." The one-legged man said sarcastically.
Exephos breathed out through his nose in a heavy sigh.
"Fine. I killed them as a facet of psychological warfare to lull a criminal gang into a sense of horror; so as to facilitate easy interrogation." He stated.
Granden raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his chair. He took a long pull on his pipe, seeming to ponder for a moment.
"Well... I did ask for an answer..." Granden muttered, before he looked sharply up at Exephos.
"The Republic didn't fool around with training your sort, did they?" He remarked.
Exephos didn't give a response as the other man took another drag on his pipe and then sighed.
"Alright, are you going to tell me why you tracked down this criminal gan-" The constable started to ask before Exephos cut in sharply:
"Off limits."
Granden didn't push his luck. He let the matter drop.
After a minute of them both content to be left alone to their thoughts, the one-legged militia veteran pulled himself upright.
"The court'll meet tomorrow. It's less of proving if your guilty or not; understandably, but more on what your punishment is deemed to be. Get a good night's rest; your going to need it." He said; nodding as he hobbled out.
Exephos watched him leave, the cell door locking with an electronic buzz behind him.
A good night's sleep?
Not likely.

 
A dark corridor stretched before him, lit only by a glowcube suspended from the roof. The walls were of rough earth, the roof of scavenged materials bolted together to stop the passage from caving inwards.
Explosions overhead shook the ground around him, sending clods of dirt tumbling off the walls.
It was like one of those horrid siege tunnels of Ryloth.
Further blasts sent some of the scaffolding clanging to the ground.
He had to get out! Before the entire ceiling caved in!
Making for the door at a run, the corridor seemed to stretch, the door never getting any closer.
His foot caught on a protruding rock and he tumbled to the ground.
He rolled over, facing the ceiling, unable to rise only for it to come tumbling down on top of him, suffocating him in it's intense clutches.
He couldn't breathe! He couldn't move!
With a gasp, he sat up; this time in a different scene.
A trench. Balmorra.
Armour rattled as troopers ran past, clutching blasters close to their chests. An officer in thick, armoured fatigues slowed to shout at him: "On your feet! No slacking!"
Two troopers bent down to grab him by the forearms and drag him to his feet, carrying him away with the surge of soldiers.
Eventually, their line came to a stop, facing to the left.
The officer from before strode along the line of troops, firmly speaking:
"Everyone fights, no-one deserts! Anyone caught abandoning the fight will be shot!"
A trooper, armour blood-stained, with one hand clutching a dirty wound in his side stumbled out of the line.
"Sir! I... I can barely walk!" He groaned.
Without a word, the officer drew his sidearm and leveled it at the trooper.
A blaster shot rang out in the close confines.
The trooper, a young lad, surely no older than eighteen fell to the ground dead.
"Am I understood?" The officer shouted.
"Sir, yes, sir!" The rest of the battle line hollered back.
"Then charge!" He screeched, sending the shouting crowd of soldiers clambering out of the trench and raising towards the enemy lines.
Explosions and blaster-fire erupted like lances of lightning, cutting down whole squads of soldiers at a time.
Exephos ran forwards, even though he knew getting there would not stop his torment. A massive blast from an artillery knocked him off his feet, throwing him against the side of a crater.
He couldn't rise, nor speak, only watch as hundreds threw themselves to their deaths, charging headlong into a sacrifice that meant nothing.
Lakes of blood collected in the craters of the battlefield, and fires burned among the corpses. Some of them still alive, as they begged for a merciful end to it all.
Above this hellish scene, a larger-than-life green-skinned female twi'lek he knew all too well watched with a proud look as thousands died.
Suddenly, a group of soldiers he knew emerged onto the field. The Ninety-Fifth.
Their colours flying as they marched in time, right into the warzone.
"No! No!" He shouted to them, trying to ward them off, but they carried on marching heedlessly.
Overhead, Saresh began to laugh as the Ninety-Fifth were cut down by intense blaster fire and artillery that rocketed down from above.
"No, no, no!" He cried out, trying to stand, to save his soldiers, but he couldn't move.
They died in droves, their last cries dying upon their lips as they crawled forwards:
"Exephos... Why didn't you help us..."
A missile descended from above, slowly falling towards his position.
It exploded in a burst of shrapnel, driving him awake.
He glanced around at the interior of his cell, drenched in a cold sweat.
A quiet shuffling echoed through the dark building.
Exephos rose from the narrow cot to stride over to the bars of the cell. It was not yet morning; surely this wasn't some crowd let in to torment him further.
The shuffling continued, growing closer.
The first figure drew close, driving Exephos's heart cold.
It was a mutilated figure, with a leg missing and part of their head crushed as they shambled forwards.
Blood-stains covered ragged clothing with unmistakable black burn marks from blasters.
The first figure was joined by another, then two more, until slowly they began to fill the corridor, pressing up against the bars.
"Exephos..." They cried out in moaning, agonized voices.
All of them were horridly misfigured, grisly injuries marring their frames.
"Why did you kill us, Exephos?..." They groaned, rattling the bars.
"We only wanted peace. We only wanted peace!" The throng cried out, blotting out the light as they pressed themselves tightly against the cell's door.
Exephos backed away in horror.
A familiar figure, Wilms, grinned an inhuman smile, his mouth pulled back to expose his teeth with a round blaster-hole in his skull.
"Everyone dies eventually... We'll ALL be waiting for you, Exephos!" He called out, rattling the door's lock.
"I did what I had to... To complete the mission!" He returned, though his conviction wasn't in it.
"Don't worry... They accept all sorts where we come from..." Dershoi replied, numerous jagged cuts lacing her frame.
"Join us, Exephos... Join us!" The ghosts of his past cried out, smashing down the cell bars. They pressed in, their horrid hands peeling, tearing, and smashing.

"Get off me! Get off!" Exephos shouted, throwing off numerous arms that were clamping down on him.
He opened his eyes, revealing not the horrid demons of his nightmares, but the Anchorage militiamen.
"You were shouting in your sleep." One of them noted as they backed away, some rubbing bruises.
Exephos only nodded before he swung his legs over the side of the cot and rubbed his face in his hands.
The guards, uncertain what to do, simply traipsed out as they threw uncertain looks over their shoulders.
Even when he was awake, he couldn't rid himself of the faces of those he  killed, no matter what he tried.
How many had he killed? What made him any better than these puppet-masters that he so despised?
He let his head sink into his hands.
Nothing. Nothing at all.
He remained that way for the rest of the night.

They came for him at dawn; Granden at their head with a grim expression written large on his face.
Exephos stood as they entered his cell, putting his army cap and tanker gloves on.
"It's time." The constable said, before two guards approached somewhat nervously with binders.
He let them snap them on without trouble though he noticed several of the stun-staves that a number of them gripped tightly in their hands. This trial was to go through, obviously. No matter if he was willing, or not.
Granden led the way out of the militia building, the same way they'd come past the offices and through the reception. There was no crowd waiting outside this time, fortunately.
Just outside, an enclosed landspeeder waited, though it bore no official markings or features that suggested it was the militia's.
He was bundled inside, one of the militia driving in the front, two in the back. The constable sat up front in the passenger seat.
He was well familiar with the lad on his left though. It was the same one from before; still giving his customary glare.
As the driver sped off, the young militiaman dug an elbow into Exephos's ribs. It was timed in such a manner that to anyone else, it would seem that he'd simply been thrown against him by momentum.
His first instinct was to grab this youth in a chokehold with his binders, but he quickly suppressed it. Not withstanding the fact that he didn't need another death on his conscience, he doubted that he'd be regarded favorably by whatever sort of magistrate he was about to go before.
The young man elbowed him again.
Exephos merely clenched his teeth and kept his eyes forward. He'd suffered far worse aggravation than a demented militiaman.
The landspeeder pulled up in front of a large convention hall. It was made of the same rough sandstone like concrete as the rest of Anchorhead, with plain steps leading down into the interior.
He was let out of the speeder, then led inside to a small lobby.
No-one was around.
Granden, without missing a step, turned right towards two double doors set a ways back.
He paused, before throwing them open.
It was obvious where'd the crowd had gone.
Hundreds sat in gradually raised rows in a massive amphitheater.   It was packed full of people, of all ages and species.
Facing the crowd was a panel of seven people, each seeming to represent a different background. Two were obviously farmers, while another two had the look of businessmen. One was clearly the sheriff; he was wearing a militia uniform. The mayor was there, though Exephos only recognized him from the profile he'd read of him. The last looked as shady as any criminal he'd seen. Liaison of the Hutts, perhaps.
A single chair sat in front of them, back towards the crowd.
He only just noticed as a figure that had previously been standing before the panel slipped in among the crowd. He didn't get a good look at them, but it'd definitely been a female. One that was oddly familiar.
Exephos put the thought aside. He had to concentrate.
It was very quiet as he strode forwards, his boots clicking audibly on the ground.
The entire hall's eyes rested on him as he paused, then sat.
"This meeting will now come to order. Today's issue; the killing of forty-seven people in the nameless settlement at the Western edge of the Jundland Wastes. Let the crowd and the judges bear Stell'ange's previous remarks in mind upon judgement." The mayor proclaimed.
Whispers erupted around the hall. He could just barely make out some of them:
"Forty-seven? Did he say forty-seven?"
"Bastard deserves the noose."
The businessman cleared his throat and leaned forwards before he spoke:
"Exephos, correct?"
"Aye." He returned.
"You have no surname?" The sheriff asked.
Exephos hesitated, before he gave his reply.
"It's complicated."
"Hmph. Never knew someone's name had to be complicated." One of the farmers grumbled.
"You confess then to the killing of these forty-seven people? That you were the one responsible for their deaths?" The second businessman brusquely asked.
"Aye." Exephos repeated.
"That settles it then, execute him, and we'll be done with it." The other of the farmers declared.
"Not quite so hastily, Sarn." The Mayor replied to the farmer, before looking back at Exephos with his next question.
"Can you tell us why you killed those people?"
Exephos sighed. There was no nice way to put this.
"I killed them to ensure that my objective would proceed smoothly. That objective being to inflict psychological terror on a gang of criminals in the area to make things... Easier for a future interrogation." He stated quickly, wanting to get it done and over with.
There was a long pause as the members of the panel seemed to realize just what he meant.
Suddenly the one that'd he'd thought a criminal started laughing. The rest of the panel looked towards him, as though expecting him to elaborate, but he simply shook his head then fell quiet again.
"...Be the reasons as it may, what shall be the sentence?" The sheriff asked.
At this, the crowd began to make loud proclamations.
"Hang him!"
"Chop off his hands!"
"Feed him to a Krayt dragon!"
Some of them cried out.
"Order! There will be order!" The mayor announced, banging a gavel against the desk.
After a few more moments, the crowd settled down.
"A moment, please." One of the businessmen stated, before the seven turned their chairs around and conversed between themselves.
Exephos remained sitting in the chair, saying nothing.
If his fate was to die; then so be it. He did not fear death, not any more. That was not to say that he wouldn't go down swinging however...
Several long minutes passed.
Finally, they returned back to their positions; stony faces giving nothing away.
The sheriff stood.
"Exephos, you are hereby charged with the deaths of forty-seven  including unarmed women and children." His voice resonated, the damning words falling from his mouth like durasteel bars.
"We've reviewed the case file, and took Stell'ange's plea for a stay on violence into consideration. So we decided, that in light of your previous service to the Republic, and taking into consideration your mental stability after said service; the sentence is to be ten years of military service as an adviser and trainer to the militia with the allowance of leave." At this, the sheriff sat whilst the mayor rapped his gavel once on the desk.
"Meeting adjourned."
Members of the crowd grumbled at the verdict, and he swore he heard one of the farmers deliver a loud complaint:
"Last thing we need is him being in a position of power in the militia. We should have gone with Minnette's proposed plan..."
Exephos paused in his motion of standing up at the mention of the name, then continued. He had known that she'd given some suggestions to the court. So he retraced his steps back towards Granden. He'd been prepared to die, right then and there, and he got the feeling that he'd come very close to it.
From this point on; he was going to make some changes.
For too long, he'd been carrying the war around in his heart, whilst he lied to himself that he was fighting for peace.
No longer.

He was taken back to the militia's headquarters, but this time, not in chains. Granden led him inside where all number of militiamen stood, alarmed, when they noticed the lack of binders.
The old militia veteran held up a forestalling hand as he led Exephos wordlessly through the building.
"It's fortunate that the court ruled in such a manner, as we have need of someone with professional military background." Granden explained whilst they walked, not back towards the cells, Exephos noticed.
"There have been several pirate gangs that have been pushing us hard in the past few weeks. They're organized, well-armed, and unified. None of the usual infighting we get from these sort." The constable continued as they passed an armoury.
He paused outside a door.
"Before we go any further, I want to have your promise that you'll do your best to help the militia. I won't tolerate a half-hearted effort that gets my men killed." Granden stated, his face hardening as you spoke.
Exephos gave a slow nod as he gave his reply:
"You have my word, Constable."
The militiaman's face softened, before he turned and opened the door, revealing a large planning room.
A massive holomap glowed blue in the center, taking up most of the space while around the edges, terminals glowed and hummed.
He recognized much of the equipment in here. Old Republic calculation and probability models from many years past; he'd even used a few versions of them before.
Without even pausing, Exephos strode directly up to the table and regarded it's intricate detailing.
It showed not only Anchorhead, but the rest of the surrounding area for the next five hundred kilometers.
A variety of small notations and coloured markings depicted areas of activity.
It didn't paint a pretty picture.
Even at a glance, he could tell that the militia was outnumbered, outgunned, and surrounded.
Fortunately, it's foes, while dangerous, weren't committed to pressing any offensives.
"What's the motive for these pirates, Granden?" Exephos asked, peering at a depicted stronghold cut into a canyon.
"Credits, mostly. Sometimes they take captives for labour." The constable replied, sidling up next to him.
"Explains why they aren't pushing any attacks. Anchorhead's ring of settlements provides a steady income. No point in losing fighters to cut  that off." Exephos stated, nodding to himself as he surveyed the landscape.
Granden chuckled causing Exephos to raise an eye at him.
"You realize that you just came to the same conclusion in a few minutes that took us hours of discussion to recognize?" He remarked, before continuing:
"We're not organized or trained for this sort of thing. Keeping out bands of brigands or desert creatures, policing the town drunks, and taking down the odd gun-man that gets too cocky is our job but fighting an all-out war against pirates?" The old constable shrugged.
"We just don't have the experience for it."
Exephos jerked a thumb towards himself.
"Which I'm guessing is where I come in..." He suggested.
"Exactly." Granden replied.
He sighed. Everyone had always told him that he wouldn't be able to escape the war. Looks like they were right.
"Alright. First thing's first. This watch post here? Pull it back. It's too close to the pirate base; and too far from the closest outpost. Unless you've got some serious firepower stocked there, it'll be due for an attack any day now." He recommended before striding across the length of the room to point at a settlement.
"What do they produce here?" He asked to a stunned Granden.
The constable shook himself and quickly replied:
"Tjannis oil."
"Is it valuable?" He asked.
"Well... Not really."
"In that case, move the patrol stationed here over to this cliff-face up here. Give them a nice high-power transmitter, and they can provide intel over the whole area with reconnaissance." Exephos ordered with a curt nod, before gesturing towards Anchorhead itself.
"How many personnel could you field here at full roster?" He quested.
"A couple thousand, I reckon." Granden responded.
"Probably none to spare then... Alright, acceptable enough." Exephos muttered to himself, chewing on his lip as he looked over the holo-map.
The first key to winning a battle or a campaign was the efficient deployment of forces, which seemed to be alright with his changes. Multiple supporting groups within range of each other.
That was the easy stuff though, what was harder was figuring out what the enemy planned on doing, and then not only ending their threat, but following through with a knock-out blow.
"Which group of pirates have been the most aggressive lately?"
He asked Granden, not looking away from the map.
"This group here. Raids at least once a week." The constable responded, pointing to a stronghold set in and on top of a cliff-side.
Aggressiveness. Good. That made them predictable.
"Tell me how one of their raids usually go." He suddenly inquired, peering at the settlements closest to the stronghold.
"Completely random. They attack whoever they like whenever they fancy." Granden rasped back.
"Nothing is ever truly random, Constable. Tell me; do their attacks always fall within a time-frame?" Exephos growled back.
"Well... It's always in the day with clear visibility." The constable hesitantly suggested.
"They want the people to see their forces. They attack in the night, and the farmers only see three or four guys around in the darkness and they get brave. They look out and see a few armed skiffs and that dissuades any retaliation." He replied, nodding slowly. These pirates were relying on sole intimidation to get cooperation rather than having to do any fighting. Lazy.
Then what about their targets... Pure chance, or a carefully crafted mirage to throw off the militia?
"Do you have records of these settlement's shipping manifests?" He suddenly asked.
"Err... Yeah. I can pull them up now..." The perplexed militiaman replied, typing up a command on one of the consoles, bringing up a list of dates, cargo, and times.
"Narrow it down by showing only the most valuable products." He ordered.
Granden still seemed confused, but he held his tongue and type out the command, removing about eighty percent of the information on the screen.
"Now cross-reference the past month's shipping records with the dates of raids." He commanded.
The order was punched in.
The terminal ran a check, before highlighting about half the items on the shipping manifest.
"I'll take those odds." Exephos remarked, looking over at Granden.
"All this time, and we never saw it?" The constable seemed to mutter to himself, looking at the list.
"They're hitting farms and workshops when they knew they've got a large supply of goods. My guess is that they then take this surplus; sell it for a tidy profit, and then use this extra-large paycheck to buy new weapons that give your militia a hell of a time in trying to stop them." He explained, before striding back towards the map.
 "Now that we know what they're targeting, we can come up with a solution." Exephos said, before jabbing down at the settlement that was second closest to the cliff-side pirate stronghold.
"What do they make here?" He asked, drawing Granden away from the console and back to the map.
"They assemble and fix equipment there. Mostly moisture-farming equipment though they do the odd speeder here and there." The constable described after a moment's consideration.
"Alright... How many militiamen would you say you can spare? They need to be combat-ready too; not speeder traffic coordinators." He added.
Granden seemed to consider a moment, looking over the map as though tallying up in his head.
"I could scrounge up about... A hundred and fifty officers." He replied at last.
Exephos nodded as he replied: "That'll work."
He gestured at the workshop and began with the explanation of his plan: "So, what you do is, send in a massive order of landspeeders to this settlement here for repairs. Make it juicy. Modern models, kitted out speeders, the works. Try not to be too obvious though. Then, arm the militiamen with the most ordnance you have, preferably the flashy sort. Siege rifles, projectile guns, assault vehicles, anything you can get your hands on and have half them hold here." He pointed to a labelled cave system a few hundred meters away.
"A quarter of them here." This time, he indicated a cove in a plateau face on the other side of the workshop.
"And a quarter here." The settlement closest to the pirate stronghold.
"Be absolutely certain they're not discovered. No transmissions. No camp-fires." Exephos instructed.
"Four scouts will be providing overwatch. Best shots. Two here, and two there." He motioned to the earlier cliff and to a rather high rise in the dunes.
"When the time is right, these scouts will send a signal to the two nearby teams while the third will wait in reserve; ready to counter-attack any possible tricks the pirates have. The two assault teams will keep their presence concealed as best as possible while they surround the workshop and force the pirates to surrender." Exephos finished.
Granden seemed to take it all in, before dipping his head in approval.
"However! There's one big risk to this plan." He proclaimed.
"That being; the civilians of the workshop will be right there with the pirates. If a firefight breaks out, they could be harmed. Worse yet, they may take them hostage and try to bargain their way out." Exephos described, jabbing a finger at one of the representative workshop structures.
"That's... Worrying. We don't have any sort of special operations squad or anything that you might be used to." The constable murmured, rubbing his chin in consternation.
"If that happens... I have a way to bluff them, though your not going to like it..."
"Tell me." Granden replied.
"Well. I take it that my... reputation is somewhat well known on Tatooine?" Exephos asked, to which Granden's face darkened and he bobbed his head in affirmation.
"We attach detonite to the speeders that we send in for repairs. I confront these pirates and threaten to kill everyone inside with the explosives. Perhaps just one of them will be detonated as a warning. If they know my reputation, then I can convince them that I'm not above triggering the explosives." He suggested.
"... Oh, Kriff! You warned me that I wouldn't like it..." Granden swore, rubbing his forehead before looking up and asking:
"And if they call you on your bluff?"
"Then I improvise. With my knife." Exephos shortly responded.
The constable sighed and shook his head and looked up at the ceiling, deciding.
Eventually, he looked back down and answered:
"Alright. But I really, really hope that it doesn't come to that."
"Neither do I, Constable. Neither do I." He remarked with a sigh.
A minute passed as both mulled it over.
"You remind me of this one guy from before. Crusty old veteran like you. Was part of some sort of unit called the Wraiths." Granden suddenly remarked.
"Did he have a name?" Exephos inquired.
"Oh, I'm sure he did but well... Ehh." The constable shrugged as he said this.
Another minute passed, supposedly of him trying to remember the name.
"Well... We'd best get on with the second part of your sentence... I have a few rookies that need training. They've gone through the basics, but well, we need fighters. Good fighters." Granden suddenly said, dropping an orbital strike of a surprise on him.
"What?" Exephos asked, turning towards him.
"It was included in the verdict. Not only service as an adviser, but as a trainer." The constable stated.
"You've got to be kriffing..." He stopped and sighed heavily.
"Alright. Fine. Let's see these recruits."

Exephos strode along the line, hands clasped behind his back. A few of the volunteers nervously glanced at him as he passed.
His booted footsteps rang out in the silent desert air.
As he walked, he ran a critical eye over their uniforms, weapons, gear, and appearance.
A dirty uniform here. Mismatching cuff links there.
Rifles weren't standardized, but he judged them according to how clean and well-handled the weapons were.
That one was holding it at far too low an angle. Another had discharge soot covering the muzzle.
Gear was limited to chestplates and bandoliers, and that was in a generally dismal state. The straps had not been cared for; grit and sand filled every nook and cranny. The plates themselves were filthy which was excusable; they were a fighting force, not a Senate Guardsmen parade unit, but they were peacekeepers. If the public saw them in smelly clothes, wearing dirty armour, they wouldn't trust them.
Then there was the general appearance.
If Drill Sergeant Trins had seen them, he would have been reduced to a bawling wreck. Wispy stubble. Long hair. Hands stained by dirt and oil.
Unacceptable.
The question was though... How to approach the matter? Were these lads the sort that needed a whipping into shape, or were they the sort that needed encouragement?
He decided to find out.
"You! Why is the hem of your uniform frayed?" Exephos barked at a random volunteer, pointing at the torn edges of his leggings.
"It got torn on a rock... Sir." The volunteer drawled.
Definitely a whipping into shape.
"Alright, what's your name, militiaman?" He growled out.
"Soldier Mikenley, sir." Mikenley returned, slouching to the side.
"Stand up straight when addressed!" He reprimanded, before pointing out at a cluster of stones.
"See those rocks, soldier?" Exephos asked, innocently enough whilst the militiaman straightened and nodded.
"Move them over by that wall! Try to not tear your uniform on them this time!" He ordered.
Mikenley looked between the stones and Exephos incredulously.
"Move! Move! Your not here to lollygag!" He shouted, drawing his extendable baton and flicking it to it's full length.
Mikenley ran at that, and started moving the rocks.
Exephos turned back towards the rest of the line.
"You!" He stated, leveling the baton at another recruit.
"Why is your coat unbuttoned?" He asked, indicating the undone uniform coat with the point of his baton.
"I'll button it up now, sir..." The volunteer replied apologetically, reaching down to do up his buttons.
Exephos waited until he was done, then spoke:
"Now unbutton it!"
"What?" The recruit looked up, confused.
"Unbutton your coat, right now!" Exephos repeated.
He dutifully unbuttoned it.
"Now button it up!" Exephos ordered.
He did it up.
"Now unbutton it, right now!"
Without asking this time, he undid it.
"Now button it up!"
He buttoned it.
"Now in future, button up your coat!" Exephos shouted, before turning and making his way down the line.
"You! What's your name, scumbag?" He barked, pointing the baton once more, this time at a tall Weequay.
"Den'mur." The weequay growled.
"Den'mur what?" He returned.
There was a pause, before the Weequay added:
"Sir."
"Say it all together!" He commanded.
"Den'mur, sir." The weequay grunted.
"From no on, your name is Grunt. Do you like that name, soldier?" Exephos asked.
"No... Sir." Den'mur replied.
"Then what are you going to do about it, soldier?" Exephos asked, his voice rasping.
Den'mur didn't know what to do for a second, before suddenly raising his fists.
Alright, if he was to get this militia within fighting order, he'd need to actually show them how to fight.
He raised a hand to indicate the Weequay to come swinging.
The tall brute threw a hooked punch around the side, aiming to hit him in the side of the head.
Exephos simply stepped backwards out of reach, then ducked beneath a follow-up lunging strike.
In that moment, a short opening, he reached up and grabbed him by the throat, but not firmly. He didn't want to harm him.
"Dead." Exephos stated.
Den'mur ducked back and threw an uppercut.
In retaliation, Exephos spun to the side before throwing a blow and stopping just short of the side of his head.
"Dead." He repeated.
The recruit lashed out with a kick but Exephos grabbed it, then slammed the volunteer to the ground. He put a knee on his chest and placed his hand just above his head.
"Dead." He said once again.
Exephos stood and helped the chastised recruit up, before turning to regard the rest of the line.
"You'll all end up EXACTLY the same way if you don't do EXACTLY as I tell you! Dead!" Exephos shouted to the line of militiamen.
All was deathly quiet as they listened.
"It is my duty to make sure that you stay alive and kill as many of the enemy while doing so! Understand this now; the path you've taken is a hard one, and it will never get easier and I'm not talking about the combat." Exephos stated, regarding each one in the eyes as he passed.
"After my fifty years of warfare; I'd say I've learned a thing or two, so heed my words! Killing is not the hard part. Any thug on the street does it every single day. No, the hard part is discipline, self-control, and mastery!" He paused at the Weequay, before continuing on with his walk and his speech:
"When I am done with you all, you will be true warriors, capable of inflicting death on command. More importantly, you will all know when is the appropriate time for such action for with this power comes responsibility, and you will always... Always. Be held accountable in the end, one way or another."
He empathized the last part, giving firm looks to any that looked his way.
"My price is high. I expect complete and utter obedience and the utmost dedication to whatever task I give you. Anything less than that, and you will be transferred to whatever slacker squad will take you! Am I understood?" He barked.
There were a few mumbled responses.
"Am I understood!?" Exephos roared.
"Yes, sir!" They all shouted back.
He nodded to himself. They'd do.
"Drop down and give me fifty push ups right now! If you can't do it, then your arms had better be broken!"
They all fell to the ground and started pressing themselves up and down on their hands and feet.
"What the hell are those? I've seen better from a trained gundark!" Exephos shouted when they started to flag at twenty.
"I'm more than seventy years old, and I could do better than that!" He yelled at a slow-moving group.
He sighed to himself; he was getting too old for this.
Dropping down to his knees, he tucked his left arm behind his back and started pressing himself up and down to demonstrate. True to his word, he was happy to see that he was at least twice the speed of the fastest of the group, but he was going to ache in the morning.
Rising to his feet once more in one motion, he held up a forestalling hand.
"I think I've seen Hutts move faster! If you hope to survive in extended periods of combat, you'll need to be at least twice your current speed because I won't suger-coat it, ladies and gentlemen! You lot wouldn't last two seconds on the front lines!" He barked, before motioning for them to rise.
"More important than strength, discipline, or any of it is guts, recruits! Something that may be lacking among some of you! You may find yourself in a real shit hole, with enemy fire pinning you down from all sides, artillery raining from above, and no support! It will be steely determination that will keep you alive!" He shouted, before brandishing his baton at a random recruit.
"You! Slime ball! How far is the nearest cantina?" He asked.
"Err... About a kilometer away, sir." The volunteer replied somewhat hesitantly.
Exephos pulled out a few credit chips and placed them in his hand.
"Your going to run there, refresh yourselves, and then run back!" Exephos commanded.
The militiamen cheered. They didn't know that their was a catch.
"However! Your to be back here in exactly ten minutes! Any later and I'll have you doing exercises until the planet freezes over!" He barked.
There was a collective groan at that.
"Oh, and one other thing...I suggest you don't get anything alcoholic. Drunks will be used as meat shields during explosive training! Understood?" He finished.
"Yes, sir!" They returned, more strongly than before.
"Then get moving!" He ordered, making a show of checking his chrono.
"No-one will ever mistake you for the cuddly type." Granden remarked dryly from behind him as the recruits hustled off.
"I'm here to turn them into cold-blooded killers. Somehow, smiling at them while I do that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth." Exephos replied without turning around, watching as the recruits ran.
"Never said it was a bad thing." Granden grunted whilst he hobbled up to his side.
They were silent as they watched them disappear into the town.
"You realize that the end-game is for these lads, don't you?" Exephos asked tiredly, rolling his shoulder with a grimace now that the recruits were out of sight.
"I've got an idea. I did a bit of poking around into just what it was your Ninety-Fifth did in the wars." The constable replied.
Exephos nodded in appreciation. Good and professional to research who you gave your lads to.
"Shock-troopers. The sort that can fight at the front for hours and never falter." He affirmed, before pausing and continuing in a softer tone:
"You know what that means though, don't you? There's a terrible cost on them, not just with their well.being, but with up here." He tapped his forehead to illustrate what he meant.
Granden grimly nodded.
"The militia needs a fighting core, unfortunately. These are dangerous times, especially with what's floating overhead." He sighed out.
Exephos turned and looked him dead in the eye.
"Promise me, constable, that you'll deploy these lads responsibly. If you end up using them like the Republic used me and mine..."
He shook his head as he finished:
"I'll slag everyone responsible. No-one deserves that fate."
Granden gave one of the militia's queer salutes.
"You have my word. I won't turn them into a second Ninety-Fifth." He solemnly promised.
"Good. Now I'd best get to readying their actual training. It takes more than speeches and harsh threats to turn greenies into fighting men." Exephos growled, striding towards a collection of training dummies.
"Say, you weren't actually serious about using the drunks as meat shields, were you?" Granden suddenly asked.
Exephos stopped and gave him a look.
"Kriff. Where the hell did the Republic get men like you..." Granden muttered while turning and hobbling away.

Two days later.

"Grunt! Move your wrinkly shebs!" Exephos hollered at the large Weequay as he crawled beneath barbed shock wire.
One of the other recruits brushed against it and got a painful lesson in not touching the nasty fortification.
"Oh, you think this is hard now? Do it under intense artillery fire, with blaster shots arcing down around you, and starfighters battling meters overhead!" Exephos roared, striding along the side of the obstacle course as the fifty or so trainees scrambled beneath the vicious obstacle.
"Denn! If you put as much effort into crawling as you did cracking jokes, then you might actually be worth the air you breath!" He shouted towards the slacking militiaman.
As the first made their way out of the wire, he ran up with them to a two-meter high wall.
"Get over that wall, militia!" He ordered as the first started to clamber over.
"Mikenley! If you moved any slower, we might just be able to kill the enemy with old age!" He barked as the diminutive man struggled to get a hold on the upper edge.
"It should take you less than ten seconds, and I mean TEN SECONDS to get over this obstacle; so move it!" He shouted at the recruit.
Finally, he went over it.
"Not one of you will ever graduate from my command unless you can get over this wall in less than ten seconds!" Exephos roared as one of the only five female recruits in the entire platoon threw herself at the wall and grappled on with her hands just barely clenching the surface.
"Get the hell over that wall, Eleanor! If the galaxy wanted you up there, I suppose it would have put you up there!" He shouted as she pulled herself up and vaulted over to the other side.
"Get up there, Grunt!" He shouted at the large Weequay once more came around.
He took a running start, before leaping over the concrete wall.
"I think we finally found something you do well, Grunt!" Exephos hollered, before turning to the next trainee.
"Move it! Move it!" He barked.
Once this one had made it over, he hustled over to the next obstacle, a thick tangled netting made of rope that they had to climb up and then descend from on the other side.
Mikenley was there, slowly clambering up.
"Mikenley! Tatooine's going to freeze over at this rate! Move it!" Exephos ordered.
Even as he watched though, his foot slipped and he tumbled back down to the ground... From a height of two meters.
He stomped over to him.
"What the hell was that, trainee!?" He shouted, leaning down over him.
"I lost my footing, sir!" The recruit replied, sounding out of breath.
"You lost your footing..." Exephos repeated before sighing.
"Get back on your feet and start from the beginning!" He suddenly barked.
Mikenley quickly jumped to his feet and started towards the netting again.
"From the beginning!" He ordered, pointing back towards the start of the obstacle course.
"But I..." The trainee started to reply, before Exephos fixed a steely look on him.
"Yes, sir." He finished, before trudging off towards the start.
"You will do this right, or you will do this through the entire night!" He shouted to them all.
They might groan now, but they would thank him later. It was important they built up strength, and the knowledge of how to handle various obstructions to their objective.
They would finish and they'd finish well.
Otherwise he was going to work them all the way through to the next day.

Six days later.

Exephos checked his chrono: right on time. It was just starting to get light outside.
He strode inside the barracks before flipping a switch, throwing light onto the barrack's austere interior before shouting:
"Get off your ass and on the deck! Every soldier will be out of their bunk in precisely five seconds, and I mean precisely five seconds, or they'll be carrying their bunks!"
Some of the militia looked up, blinking bleary eyes, while others quickly clambered out and rose to their feet.
"Get on your feet!" He roared at one of them still laying in his bunk as he gave it a solid kick.
The occupant quickly jumped to his feet and stood at attention at the head of the bed.
"If this were an inspection; you all failed!" Exephos hollered, gesturing towards the untidy beds, where in their panic, no-one had tucked in their sheets.
"Go back and trim your bunks!" He ordered, sending them scurrying back to set the sheets in order.
Only once they did and returned to their previous positions in front of their beds, he continued:
"It will be your first live-fire training today! No mess-ups, no accidents! Anyone messes around on my firing range... I send them running five laps around Anchorhead!" He barked as he strode down the aisle.
"Am I understood?" He asked, his voice booming in the small confines of the barracks.
"Yes, sir!" They chorused.
"Then form up and move out!" He roared, sending them marching towards the range.
He followed off to their side, ensuring that no-one fell out of formation.
Once they arrived, he instructed them to form a long line facing towards the field of fire.
"Pay attention, I'm only going to say this once! Among the weapons you will be using as militiamen; there are three categories! First, you have your standard small arms."
He gestured towards a table where a variety of blaster rifles and blaster pistols sat.
"You all are already familiar with these, but I will provide a brief summary for you to take note of. Most of your standard firefights will be solved with these weapons, using either ion, particle, or plasma as the base of it's ammunition; with some more exotic examples being projectiles. All have their advantages and disadvantages, understand?" He asked, making sure they were paying attention.
"Yes, sir!" Came back the response.
He strode over to the next table.
"One weapon which none of you have used before however, are these!" He pulled a dust cover off the table, revealing four medium repeating blaster cannons.
There was a collective oohing and awing.
He didn't know anyone that didn't like getting new ordnance.
"These, are Merr-Sonn MRB-5s!" He announced, laying a hand on one of their burnished barrels.
"I had them ordered in specifically for your platoon, so DO NOT DROP THEM!" He ordered, and he meant it too.
"Now! I specialized in heavy weapons over the course of my entire military career, so I will be leading the training of them, personally!" He declared, before pointing to the side where Constable Granden had inched in.
"Half of you will be with me, and half of you with the constable! Any questions?" He barked.
One of the recruits, a Twi'lek by the name of Yemir, raised a hesitant hand.
"What is it?" He growled out.
"Sir. You mentioned there were three categories... What's the last category?" The recruit hesitantly questioned.
"After you've finished off both crash courses, I'll show you what the last category is. Now, first and second squad! The constable! Third and fourth squad, with me!" He commanded, turning back towards the table.
Twenty-four recruits gathered around the table.
"Most medium-repeating blasters, like these ones, are usually deployed with two men manning them. One carries the weapon, he's also the gunner; the other carries the tripod and power source. He maintains the power supply and keeps it from overheating." He explained, pointing to the primary gun-body, the mounting, and a small power pack with a sling.
"Sometimes, a third crew-man may be employed to serve as both a spotter, general proximity security, or a runner." Exephos added, before gesturing to the group.
"Third squad, your up first. Three men a gun. But if you drop them, I swear that I'll run you so ragged, not even a Sand Person would be interested in robbing you!" He warned as the squad made their way forwards. The gunner position was obviously the most sought after.
They wouldn't be so eager after they found out how heavy the weapons actually were.
"Now, the proper way to carry a weapon of this size is like this." He said, before picking up the chunky blaster cannon and cradling it at his hip.
"It's not ideal, but you want to be able to fire this weapon on a moment's notice should there not even be enough time to set down the tripod or power pack, understood?"
"Yes, sir!" Was the response.
"Good! Then pick up your gear, and lug it all to that sandbag emplacement a hundred meters up!" He barked, handing the weapon to one of the recruits who nearly; very nearly, dropped it from the unexpected weight.
"Do NOT drop my repeaters!" Exephos cautioned him.
They started to move towards the emplacement slowly, afraid to drop anything.
"Hustle up! Your platoon's under heavy fire and your comrades need fire support on the deck, now!" He barked, grabbing his disciplinary baton and flicking it open as he chased after them.
The slowest of them got a rap on the back of the thigh.
That certainly got them moving, they dashed the rest of the way as fast as they could.
Once they arrived, he didn't get them a spot of rest.
"The enemy's charging at your position! Every second you waste, another one of your comrades gets killed!" He shouted as they scrambled to set down the tripod.
"Tripod first, followed by the weapon; once stable, attach the generator power cable!" Exephos instructed in the chaos.
In their hurry, one of them let a repeater's nose dip into the sand.
"Get that repeater out of the dirt!" He boomed.
The recruit quickly lifted it while the loader connected the cable to the weapon body.
Another group were fumbling with the tripod, struggling to get the right elevation.
Exephos simply shook his head. Too slow and too clumsy.
When they finally had all four blasters set up and pointing the right way, then looked towards him expectantly.
"Not bad... For a bunch of worthless in-breds!" He reprimanded before pointing at the repeaters and continuing:
"Sloppily set up! You should have at least one hundred and eighty degrees of fire and you never, absolutely never get these weapons dirty! Your blaster rifle jams from mistreatment; you die! Your repeater jams; your comrades die! Do you all understand!?"
"Yes, sir." They replied dejectedly.
"Go back and do it again!" He ordered, sending them disassembling and hauling the repeaters back.
It was going to be a long training session.

15
Holocrons and Info Nodes / Loose Ends
« on: 10/18/16, 01:36:50 AM »
So, it's high-time for the next installment in the Ninety-Fifth's storyline. I tried to keep the content clean compared to the last entry but there's still some parts that aren't quite graphic but disturbing.
Additionally, I asked around to see if adding music recommendations was a good idea and the response was mostly positive so I'll be going ahead and adding those
Feel free to drop a comment on what you think of it, if the music was a good idea or not, etc.
Without further ado, I present to you:

Loose Ends

((For your listening consideration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BJ9AJ7iwIg))

Hypori: Ninety-Fifth Armoured Infantry Battalion's Base of Operations: 1300 hours

"Atten-Shun!" Shad'ra barked from Exephos's side as he strode up to the battalion. Everyone was back in their old rig; white armour with orange bordering, emotionless black visors blinking in the sun's reflection.
He looked out at them all, well over a thousand men and woman, Humans and Aliens, all standing before a massive banner bearing the Ninety-Fifth's emblem. The silhouette of a Manka-class walker on an orange background, two crossed rifles over it.
For a moment, he was speechless. Here were troopers that had followed him through thick and thin, trusting him enough to follow him out of the Republic to a desert wasteland, and he was to ask them to go right back to combat.
The visors all looked at him, expectantly, waiting for a speech to empower them, whilst in reality his words would harm them.
He just couldn't. He just couldn't bring himself to say the words that would send them back to the awful horrors of war. He knew they'd do it if he asked, and that scared him. Thousands relying on him, counting on him, expecting him to make the right decision. No, he'd find some other way to get the supplies they needed. He'd tell Quarasha to go find someone else to fight her war. Just as he was about to turn away, something caught his eye.
A young boy, no older than six years old surely, went tottering through the towering lines of troopers. It was a bizarre contrast, a child making his way past hardened infantrymen.
Eventually, he came to a trooper and stopped, before hugging the soldier's leg. It was impossible to tell how such a young lad knew which one must have been his father through all the armour plating but he somehow did. The trooper quickly leaned down and directed the toddler away towards a waiting mother at the edge of the formation and the child made his way once more on unsteady legs into waiting arms.
A realization suddenly struck him.
If he asked them to go and fight a war, he was going back on his oath and delving back into those horrors.
But if he asked them to fight for the better of their homes and families, then that was the defense of the home front.
He could do that with a clean conscience, knowing that he wasn't asking them to return to the atrocities before.
So he spoke, with a loud voice: "Troopers, Tankers, Soldiers! That is what we have been called in the past! Now, however, we go by a different title!"
He paused for just a breath.
"Fathers, mothers, and family! That is what we are now! For we have retired from our arts of war, and dispensed with needless killing at the whims of bureaucrats!" He boomed across the assembled troops who remained quiet, but he saw helmets tilting in nods.
"We have become farmers, mechanics, builders, tinkerers, hunters, and so much more! From nothing, we have built a society of our own design! One without the politicking of the privileged and corrupt!"
His words echoed over the crowd, and he let his words sink in, wanting them to feel pride for what they'd accomplished.
"However, I ask of you a terrible burden." He said, still speaking loudly enough to be heard, but with sorrow in his voice.
"I ask of you to return to your weapons. To don the armour for combat once more, and meet foes in cursed battle."
They reacted as he thought, bowing their heads in either sadness or despair. He felt that he knew what they were thinking. Would they ever escape their violent past?
"However, I ask you to do this not for the Republic, nor for me. I ask you to do this for your homes! For your families! For our future generations!"
Exephos shouted, letting his voice rise at the proclamation.
"Do it so that even if we must battle, we do so for the welfare of all that we have accomplished! Now let us prove to our enemies why we were feared by the Empire's finest!" He roared over the crowd of troops.
"We shall decimate those who oppose us by destroying everything they hold dear! Be it their homes or their families, all shall burn before our might! Then they shall rue the day they awakened us from our withdrawal from the galaxy!" Exephos bellowed.
"For the Ninety-Fifth!" The troopers called back with one voice, arms snapping to helmets in salutes.
"Now go! Ready yourselves for the conflicts ahead of us, that we might end our foes quickly!" He ordered, before the formation broke up into squads to march off to their different duties.
"I'd hate to be the Eternal Empire right now." Shad'ra remarked as soldiers surged away, armour and weapons clanking in a cacophany.
"Don't underestimate them. We lost a war to them once, best that we don't lose a second." Exephos reprimanded.
"Yes, sir." He quickly replied, falling into his position at his shoulder whilst Exephos strode towards the command center.
"Have you retrieved our anti-Zakuul records?" Exephos asked while they walked.
"Aye, sir. Archived data from both the initial conflicts and from our raid on the Star Fortress. I've drawn up a few similarities in tactics that they use which we could prepare our troops for." His second responded before they entered the center.
It was busier than usual with constant activity as comms were transferred in and out of encrypting stations, data constantly streamed onto a holoprojector, and slicers listening intently to various codes, transcribing the information onto sheets of flimsi.
A circle of officers stood around a table off to one side of the room, waiting for Exephos's approach.
"Sir!" They addressed, saluting as he made his way to the head of the table.
"At ease." He returned, taking off his helmet before sitting. The others followed suit, arranging themselves according to rank. There was Shad'ra, Ryyk, Jaceen, Ditto, and Ringo.
All acting heads of the battalion's companies, though they wouldn't be deploying the 95th's full strength.
About five hundred would be staying behind to hold the fort, mostly the older veterans and those with families.
"Report." He ordered.
"Alpha company's ready and raring, sir. Rancor platoon especially." Ryyk responded.
"The Airborne are good to go. These past few weeks of training have been well for them." Jaceen affirmed.
"Our walkers are fully functional, sir, though ordnance may be hard to acquire if we plan on going out on a campaign of any length." Ditto added, holding up a datapad screen which displayed levels of ammunition for the walkers. It was rather low.
"Standard infantry's always ready, Colonel." Ringo reported.
Exephos gave a tilt of the head in confirmation before speaking:
"As I'm sure you all know, we'll be dealing with the Eternal Empire." He started, placing his palms on the table as he spoke.
Around the table, the assembled officers gave gestures of confirmation.
"To be more specific, we'll be conducting large-scale strikes against targets of opportunity spread across the galaxy. For the most part, I believe that these strikes will be directed at Zakuul's prison and internment camps though there may be any number of other objectives we're expected to fulfill." He explained, looking among the assembled soldier's faces.
Each was grim and determined.
"The only catch is that we'll be doing this for that damned string-pulling Sith, Quarasha." He added.
Captain Ryyk and Captain Jaceen both opened their mouths at the same time to complain but he held up a forestalling hand.
"Now before you complain, I don't like it either. I'd much rather impale her on a rusty spike than do her dirty work, but we need supplies and credits, both of which she is offering. Once we have what we need, we can be rid of her; one way or another." He growled out, silencing the protests.
"If she comes here, to our home..." Ditto warned.
"Then you have full permission to kill her as you see fit in as painful a way as you deem required." Exephos finished.
"Until then however, she'll be sending us missions of which we can take our pick. We arranged for them to be sent through a mediator, Turari. I believe she's been here before." He carried on, gesturing at Shad'ra at the mention of the Chiss's visit.
"We can deal with that one. She's business-like. Professional." Ryyk remarked.
"Not a bad sort. For an Imperial, that is." Ringo added.
"Regardless, I want our operations clean and with no casualties. It's a cruel thing to survive a galactic war to be killed by a skirmish with the Eternal Empire's forces. As such, I've had Shad'ra compile some reports on Zakuul's forces." Exephos said, motioning for him to begin.
Shad'ra nodded, before standing and passing around holodiscs to the other officers.
"I've taken what information we have from our own archives as well as what I could scrounge up from the Republic's records from the electronic back-door we left in their system, and formulated it into a standard manual on taking down Zakuul's forces." Shad'ra said, before reaching forwards and turning on a holoprojector.
A revolving figure of a skytrooper appeared.
"The majority of their forces are their skytroopers, which are deployed in large scale masses. All of them are equipped with jetpacks, so they are very mobile and quick to respond." Shad'ra narrated.
He switched the projector to show a model of the rifle it was carrying.
"They're armed with fairly versatile rifles, which so far as I can tell, uses
standard particle energy, though it may also be some sort of hybrid system that we're not familiar with. Whatever the case, it's efficient but not unduly worrying especially given that armour penetration on it seems to be fairly light. However, be warned; there are mixed rumours about some models being equipped with flamethrowers." He said, using a thin pole to point out the trigger, barrel, and receiver.
The image switched back to the skytrooper.
"Now, the best way to take them down seems to follow standard anatomy. Aiming for the head and chest are good hits, though a shot to any of their other servos is guaranteed to cripple it. Pretty much the same models we went against five years ago."
Shad'ra then switched it to a line-up of three different droids. One was a skytrooper carrying an assault cannon, another was a praetorian model, and the last was a three-legged siege droid.
"Besides just normal sktroopers, there also seem to be a few specialized units. All are heavily armed and armoured, but fortunately, they're not in the same immense numbers as the ordinary droids. They are also controlled by the same tactical system which can be slow to react to new developments and is incapable of delicate operations."
The grizzled veteran changed the holo-projection again, this time to show a Zakuul walker.
"Zakuul has little in the way of heavy weapons, except this." He announced, before bringing his pole up to point at the center cab area.
"It's manned by a single organic, not droid, pilot which may or may not be always force-sensitive, we're not sure."
The pole shifted to the blaster cannons.
"Now, Zakuul's walkers are really not all that well-suited to front-line warfare. Armament is light, with some sort of repeating cannon and two dual anti-infantry repeaters. Excellent for anti-personnel duties, but our Manka's turbolasers should have no problems in punching through their armour."
The pole again moved, this time down to the legs.
"As you can see here, their walker has just one gripping claw on the feet which leads me to assume there's some sort of electromagnetic or suction system both of which are ill-suited to all-terrain duties."
He moved it up to direct attention at the undercarriage.
"As if that's not bad enough, the connection and axis servo which connects the cab and legs is incredibly thin and tall. I don't know what the designers were thinking when they made it, but whatever the case; it's a prime target for launchers."
He switched to one last final image of a Zakuul knight.
"These are the more dangerous of all of the Eternal Empire's forces. We don't know how many they have, or just how powerful their armour or shields are. What we do know however is that they are quite good at tactics and taking hits; excellent line infantry. From our past experiences and some of the Republic's tactician's estimates, I've determined that the best way to deal with them is at range and with heavy firepower. Those shields are tough, but heavy repeater fire, explosives, and cannons should do the trick."
Shad'ra folded up his pointer with a snap of the wrist and turned off the holoprojector.
"Thank you, Shad'ra." Exephos said as the other sat. He then turned to the rest of the group.
"Any questions?" He asked.
"Aye, sir. Do we have free clearance on all ordnance?" Ringo inquired.
"That's unconfirmed as of yet. I mentioned to 'that' Sith that we expected our ammunition to be resupplied and requisitioned at her expense but I'm unsure as to what level of ordnance she has the funds to pay for, especially given some of the more heavy-duty firepower we can bring to bear like the Manka's turbolasers, or the lance walker's high-velocity cannons." Exephos replied after a moment's hesitation.
"I'm guessing that using the XR-50s is probably out of the question." Ditto added with a sigh.
"Definitely. Not only are those irreplaceable, but I don't want Quarasha to know we have those. They'll be our ace in the hole if she starts any sort of hostilities." He firmly responded.
Yes, a few chemical warfare missiles would be a good safeguard against any sort of plot that anyone happened to hatch against the Ninety-Fifth. Considering that just one of the eight missiles could annihilate a small  city of twenty thousand, it would only take one good shot in the right place, and a whole power base could be toppled.
A tidy backup plan to fall on if things grew difficult.
"Just what exactly will be transporting our forces, sir?" Jaceen asked, before adding: "We're not exactly an easy to transport battalion."
Exephos nodded in agreeance before he gave his reply:
"We'll be using the bulk freighter. It's large enough for our forces and gear but low-key and not liable to be noticed so long as we make certain that we keep swapping out transponder codes."
"Not exactly an armoured landing craft. Hot entries will be nigh impossible in that thing." Ditto remarked.
"Fortunately, we don't plan on doing hot entries. We'll deploy at our own pace and do proper preparation for battles." Shad'ra answered.
Exephos stood once more to look them all in the eye.
"I want you all to remember that our goal is minimum to nil casualties. That takes priority, even over the success of the mission. If just one trooper dies, then the entire operation is deemed a failure. So I want to make sure that you all understand; our troops take priority. If we have to leave other resistance members to die or have civilians to take fire to preserve our forces, then you do it." He firmly commanded, his voice without compromise.
"Most of all, trust no-one else. Everyone in this little coalition we're about to aid is NOT our allies. They are simply groups that agree to not kill each other and there are politics abound, ones that I have no interest in dragging the Ninety-Fifth into. We do what gets us our supplies, and nothing else. Understand?"
"Yes, sir!" The rest chorused.
"Good." He gave a curt nod.
"I'll be overseeing the Manka's combat readiness checks. In the mean-time; ensure that your own troops are prepared accordingly." Exephos paused in his orders.
"There can be no mistakes this time." He stated, before striding off.

Hypori: Ninety-Fifth Armoured Infantry Battalion's Base of Operations: 1500 hours

"Prime APP generators." The walker commander ordered.
The engineer in the cab flicked a switch on his panel.
"Primed!" He called out.
"Engage servo drives." The commander barked, this time addressing the walker's driver.
"Engaged and operational!" The walker driver returned after pressing a series of buttons, their respective lights switching green.
"Prep primary power plant." The head commanded, to which the engineer moved a lever, sending a low whine through the Manka's frame.
"Confirm clearance." The walker leader said, this time speaking to one of the two gunners.
The assistant gunner opened a hatch on the side of the tiny cab and leaned out before hollering: "Clear for draft!"
A voice came back, faint from the noise and distance; "Clear!"
The gunner gave the commander a thumb's up, who then turned to the engineer; "Engage primary power plant."
A safety cover was lifted, and the switch inside turned and pressed in.
The whine from before turned into a roar as the Manka's immense engines threw into motion, before descending to a steady hum.
"Primary power plant online. Ninety-six percent efficiency." The engineer listed from a series of screens and dials.
"Primary gunner, confirm weapon checks." The head directed.
The one at the hatch closed it and returned to his seat whilst the primary gunner rattled off a list.
"Primary cannons primed. Firing chambers empty and on standby.
Secondaries primed. Secure connection to power-plant.
Auxillary rear-mounts on standby; range of motion is steady and remote firing options are in the clear."
"Assistant gunner, confirm ordnance checks." The commander ordered.
The assistant gunner read a few statuses off the screen as well as comparing them with a data pad in his hand.
"Standard turbo-laser shot is in the green. Estimated thirty shot capacity on standard; fifteen on hyper velocity. A further five hundred by the same ratio waiting in the racks. Secondaries running on ion charge; connection to the primary and APP are stable. Rear-mounts, repeat on previous." He said, tucking away the data pad.
The walker commander picked up a commlink tethered to his command dash by a cable and spoke: "Manka-class walker, designation A-3, fully operational and on standby."
Exephos observed all this from the very rear of the cab, crammed between a communication's console and the doorway into the transport compartment. Walkers were not known for their comfort or wide open spaces.
He gave an acknowledging nod to the walker commander who then began issuing a few terse orders.
They were prepping for their missions now, and cold-starting a Manka as quick as possible but as safely as possible was an absolute must in training. Do it wrong, and you could damage your walker's internal mechanics, or worse. There were reports of walkers exploding when the gunners forgot to check the firing chambers or when the engineer put too much strain on the engine too quickly.
This crew of five seemed to have it down however, so he clambered out of one of the side hatches, down the ladder built into the hull, before dropping the rest of the way to the ground.
The signs of the upcoming conflict were everywhere. Mankas stomping about on manoeuvres, troopers testing the seals on their armour, Saber-cat platoon specialists sparring in rapid succession with their new phrik force pikes against droids outfitted with shields and pole-arms, while veterans gave instructions on where to shoot using disabled skytroopers as models.
"Fix bayonets!" An officer ordered to a separate group, who promptly attached vibro-bayonets to the ends of their rifles.
"Ready!" He barked.
They crouched down, a line of the dangerous blades pointing outwards.
The officer waited a moment, regarding the line, before drawing his blaster pistol and holding it up in the air.
"Charge!" He cried, lowering the weapon to point at a group of training dummies filled with stuffing.
The line surged forwards, brutally disemboweling, dismembering, and decapitating the dummies at close quarters. Exephos paused a moment to consider the results. They were only static targets, and few battalions used bayonets anymore, but he'd learnt not to underestimate the effect a bayonet charge could have. Done in the right way, it could absolutely obliterate enemy flanks before they even fired off a shot. Half the times it was used, the enemy simply didn't know how to respond.
He passed even more scenes of combat readiness checks and training.
The Ninety-Fifth was mobilizing for war once again.
Shad'ra strode up to stand at his shoulder, regarding the scene before them quietly, him still in his Mandalorian armour. He'd decided to continue using it for the battles ahead.
Exephos left it up to him, but he'd donned his old armour once again. It's kama cracked and snapped in the breeze rising off the dunes.
"Are you ready, sir?" Shad'ra asked, his T-slitted visor turning towards him. Exephos cast one final look out at the preparations.
"Aye. Let's get it done." He finally replied.
They turned, making their way towards a waiting shuttle, it's drives already hot and on standby.
Rell waited there, wearing that jacket he'd gotten for him. He'd obviously taken to it with no small amount of fondness.
When Exephos approached, he ran up and hugged him, pressing against the hardened durasteel plates.
"Stay safe, father." Rell advised, stepping back.
He nodded, before ruffling his boy's hair.
"Don't you worry about it. Just make sure that you continue working on your aim." Exephos replied with a chuckle.
With that, he turned, readjusted the SO-72 slung on his back, and marched aboard the shuttle.
There was a loose end to be dealt with. Time to cut.

Coruscant: Stratosphere: An un-marked shuttle: 0900 hours

After a long flight tucked into a nondescript delivery shuttle, they were arriving on Coruscant. It's hyper-lanes into the city bustled with traffic, but they avoided the queue with priority codes they'd hijacked from the mainframes before they left. They were on a tight schedule with no time for waiting in a line of freighters and commercial liners.
As they swooped down among the towering hyper towers, Exephos scowled. He really hated this infernal planet.
All of his problems had come from this ecumenopolis. If it'd been up to him, he'd torch the lot, but he didn't have that luxury.
Instead, he contented himself by pulling on his helmet and muttering a few foul few foul oaths in it's private confines about how far he'd like to ram one of these hyper towers up the senate's sleazy shebs, to borrow a word from Shad'ra.
"According to our observations, General Dershoi leaves for the office at 0730 on the chrono, and returns exactly at 2030, like clockwork." Shad'ra said from the pilot's seat, smoothly bringing them around the side of a tower decked out in recruitment holos.
Exephos clicked his tongue disapprovingly before speaking:
"She ought to know better. Falling into a routine is the best way to get yourself killed. You might as well tell the enemy your whole schedule."
Shad'ra grunted an affirmative as he cut off a taxi speeder earning a blare of a horn from the driver.
"Better for us that she is. Other then that one flaw, she's paranoid to the extreme since we gave her that scare at the headquarters. There's now a constant garrison of at least a company of her finest at the building at all times. She travels in an armoured Czerka speeder, with an additional two CSF cruisers as escort, except it's not CSF in there, but her personal security team. They go with her everywhere, except for inside the apartment. They wait a few floors down instead." The mando explained whilst his gaze flicked across the shuttle's many instruments and screens.
Exephos paused, surprised that Shad'ra had come up with such a large amount of info on such a short notice.
"How exactly did you find out all this so quickly?" He asked, grabbing a hold of one of the hand-rails as the shuttle yawed to the right.
"Mostly CSF contacts, amassed from our time enforcing this rock during the economy riots. An old spec-force buddy too. He owed me a favour, so he did a little poking around as well." Shad'ra replied, bringing their shuttle in to land at a massive lot for parking freighters.
"Very impressive, 'Major'." Exephos expressed, deferring to using Shad'ra's rank as a title once more.
"I'm glad you think so, sir." Shad'ra replied, focusing on setting down the shuttle gently.
Once they touched down, he shut down the drives before looking to Exephos.
"Before we continue, sir... Are you still certain you want to include the psychological warfare part of this?" The grizzled NCO asked as he strapped on his helmet.
"Absolutely. She's going to suffer before she dies." He affirmed over his shoulder whilst walking towards the landing ramp.
Shad'ra breathed out what might have been a sigh before he spoke:
"Yes, sir. We'd best get to it."
"Aye... That we should." Exephos responded, before leading the way out into the crowd of Coruscant's citizens.

Coruscant: A high-rise hypertower: A private lift: 2029 hours
((For your listening consideration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pehQ4uSlCF8))

Dershoi waited as the lift shot upwards, it's many floor buttons lighting up as it passed each level.
A slimmer of light blinked through the doors on each one, casting a bright kaleidoscope of colours at speed, until the elevator slowed down before coming to an eventual stop on her floor, the two hundred and third of one of the myriad Coruscanti hypertowers.
Before the doors would open however, she had to tap her code cylinder against the reader which then slowly opened at the request.
She stepped directly out into her apartment; she had the whole floor to herself. Oddly enough however, the lights were off.
Steniv, her steward, usually did a good job at making sure that her arrival was well-tended to.
With a disappointed frown building on her lips, she made her way over to the house monitor screen to turn them on, only to find it disabled. The screen had been smashed in and wires wrenched out. She immediately turned back towards the lift, only to find that it had gone. Sent away to some other floor.
With one hand reaching for the GR-44X blaster pistol in her shoulder holster, her other palmed the lift call button.
It didn't respond at all to the motion.
She drew her sidearm and immediately turned back towards the rest of her apartment. A quick press on the side of her blaster turned on it's mounted light, throwing a blinding arc of illumination over the small lobby.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary here, except for the destroyed wall panel. As she started forwards however, she stopped and realised that something else had changed.
She kept two Republic banners hanging on either side of the doorway that led farther into the apartment.
Both were missing.
Warily proceeding forwards again, she watched each angle carefully. A hallway came next, empty of occupants, though her light reflected off something on the ground.
After creeping forwards cautiously with her eyes on the far doorway, she knelt down and inspected it. A fresh pool of blood, quite a bit of it.
Something dripped onto her shoulder.
She looked up, training her blaster at the roof.
A dead body looked back.
There was a reason why Steniv hadn't seen to her arrival.
He was pinned to the roof by a series of vibro-blades. His eyes stared sightlessly down at her, causing Dershoi to shiver and look away from the gruesome sight.
Something was wrong here, very, very wrong.
She reached to her belt for her commlink and activated it, intending to call for a security team she kept on standby.
She placed her call request through as she made her way back to the lobby. Captain Henri answered.
"Yes, Ma'am?" He asked, his voice crisp and professional.
"There's been an incident at my apartment, come immediately." She ordered, keeping her voice cool and calm, despite the circumstances. She had to maintain her reputation, regardless of what happened.
"We're on our way, Ma'am. ETA; five minutes." He responded, before cutting the channel.
Five minutes, she'd lasted for far longer on the frontlines back in her old fighting days. Five minutes wouldn't be a problem.
She put her back to the wall and waited, eyeing the doorway with caution, her finger resting on the trigger.
The seconds slowly ticked by.
After two minutes, a sudden clanging broke the silence.
Like metal banging against metal, it echoed through the apartment.
She kept quiet, shifting her aim at the corridor.
Another clang echoed, this one closer. Followed by another, closer yet. There was a short pause.
Then the clanging echoed in rapid succession, getting steadily louder like footsteps.
Just when it seemed that surely the maker of the noise would emerge from the doorway, it stopped.
Behind her, the elevator doors suddenly opened.
She turned, prepared to see a flood of familiar white-armoured troopers.
Instead, she saw a mass of bodies, clad in the livery of her security.
Captain Henri was at the forefront, his visor shattered and his face torn.
The others bore similar injuries, all targeted at weaknesses in the armour. One trooper seemed unharmed at first glance, but on closer inspection; someone had slit him through a small space in the armour where only a body-glove gave defense.
Whoever had killed Steniv had killed her guards as well, without blasters no less.
She had to get out of here. Now.
Ducking into the elevator and ignoring the bodies, she tried pressing any of the buttons.
None responded.
"Kriff." She swore.
The clanging started again, louder than ever, just beyond the doorway before stopping just as quickly as it started.
She warily approached, blaster clutched in a tight grip.
Suddenly, she stepped quickly around the corner, looking down the hallway to reveal...
Nothing.
A hand suddenly fell on her shoulder.
"Dershoi, Dershoi, Dershoi, what am I to do with you?" A metallic voice rasped in her ear. Her stomach grew cold, she knew who it was.
"Trying to track my location, 'General'? Now that's not good. Not good at all." The voice said again before the figure behind her reached forwards and in a bone-breaking grip, wrenched the blaster from her hand. It then spun her around to face it, confirming her fears.
A white armoured trooper towered over her in the darkness, but not one she wanted to see. Exephos. Fully kitted out in his old war-gear, all scuffed and worn. He had his helmet on too, it's emotionless reflective visor telling little of the emotions within.
Exephos held up one of his hands, revealing what was in it.
A bloodied blade glinted in the light from the elevator.
"We're just going to have to right past wrongs, aren't we?" He growled, stalking forwards.
"Stay back, Exephos! I'm warning yo-" She barked, stepping backwards as he approached.
Before she could finish, he leaped forwards with a savage growl and smashed a fist into her temple.
The world went black in an instant.

Coruscant: The Works: A hidden interrogation facility: 2230 hours

She awoke to a piercingly bright light shining down into her eyes, a classic interrogation tactic. Standard protocol would involve jumping right into the interrogation the second she opened her eyes. She had no doubt at all that this was indeed an interrogation cell. Tight walls, a chair securely bolted into the floor, and no furniture of any kind.
A quick pull of the wrists confirmed that theory further. Both hands had been cuffed together, which had then been cuffed to the seat. As an extra precaution, they'd then been lashed together with cord. The same went for her feet.
If Exephos was going to join her in this cell...
Oh kriff...
For a second, she panicked; just imagining him brandishing that wicked knife of his and slicing her to pieces. She quickly stopped herself. No time to lose her focus. Escape. Escape was what she needed.
First off, assess her situation.
Secured quite soundly to a chair in an unknown room, which could be part of an entire facility, or simply a lone building on some back-water planet. No, that wouldn't work.
She couldn't have been out long enough that they'd be able to transport her across the galaxy. Coruscant still.
That meant that if she could get out onto the streets, she was safe. A quick call on a public terminal, and the CSF would be all over the place.
She had a goal, what'd she have to do it?
Her weapons, including the hidden hold-out blaster in her boot were gone, as was her datapad and commlink.
In fact, her boots were gone period. Exephos must have known about the trackers she had in the soles. So was the garrote wire in her collar, that devil must have found out somehow.
She had nothing but her wits and her fists. Not good odds.
A heavy footstep clacked on the ground to her side, causing her to jerk her head to the side to see who it was, adrenaline flooding her body at the thought that it might be her captor.
It was technically her captor, but not the one was was expecting.
"Shad'ra." Dershoi said, watching as the stern individual made his way into the cell wearing Mandalorian armour, it's helmet tucked under one arm.
Why the armour, were they perhaps trying to frame-
No. That was right, Shad'ra had been a Mando before he joined the Republic's cause. It seems he'd returned to his old traditions.
"General." Shad'ra acknowledged, narrowing his eyes at her, before turning away and setting up a holorecorder.
This was her opening. Trying to deal with Exephos would be like trying to coerce a durasteel wall, but maybe his second would see reason.
"Tell me, Shad'ra. Why go through with this?" She asked, peering closer at the NCO of her tormentor.
Shad'ra didn't even look up.
Damn. She'd have to try something more confrontational.
"After all, one can only wonder why someone as level-headed as yourself would go through with a psychotic superior's orders to commit heinous war crimes, desert the army despite the oaths given, and commit treason by assisting in my abduction."
At her words, Shad'ra paused, before slowly standing and turning around to look at her, before bursting out laughing.
He continued for a full minute, before catching his breath to speak.
"Oh, General, you never did understand, did you?" Shad'ra said between breaths.
"Of course, a cold shab'uir like yourself would never comprehend, would you?" He asked, chuckling again before continuing:
"What you will never understand, is that Exephos was always there. It didn't matter how old or how wounded he got, he was ALWAYS there." The mandalorian paused in his words to look down at her.
"Countless times, he'd charge selflessly into hell itself to save squads under fire, regardless of the risk to himself. If even he lost even one man, it would haunt him for days afterwards. Sometimes he would stay up all night, devising and perfecting tactics that would be the safest for his troops, and then go fighting the next day on only a few hours of sleep, because he couldn't bear to leave his soldiers on their own." Shad'ra stepped up and jabbed a finger at her chest with each word.
"He asked us to do hard and difficult things, actions that might make us uncomfortable; and he was unyielding in these demands, but we were all too happy to give it to him. You know why? Because we all figured that Exephos gave us every bit of himself, what he asked was a small price."
The grizzled second leaned down, looking straight into her eyes from centimeters away.
"If I had a choice between following a man like that, someone who dedicated their life to the well-being of their soldiers; or to some digi-pen pushing bureaucrat in a cushy office on Coruscant, regarding me and my comrades as numbers and statistics to be used, then I wouldn't hesitate for even a minute." He stated, his eyes full of disgust.
Then he pulled away, all business-like again; returning back to setting up his holorecorder.
For one of the few times in her life, Dershoi was speechless.
What was she supposed to say?
One thing was certain however; Shad'ra was not her means of escape.
After a moment's tinkering, he stood up straight and turned back towards her.
"Now, you have two choices, General." Shad'ra announced, stepping to the side so that the holorecorder had a clear shot at her.
"You can confess to using the troops under your command for your own political benefit, to deploying them on extended campaigns with no intention of leave, eliminating rivals by sending them on suicide missions, and for careless use of Republic soldier's lives. Do that, and you get released, though you'll be discredited; maybe thrown in prison."
Shad'ra offered, his voice giving away nothing.
"Or?" She asked, her blood running cold. She already knew the answer to that question.
"Or Exephos can change your mind." He cheerfully replied.
Dershoi scowled, though she knew her decision was already made for her; it was a clear option.
If she got out of here, she might be able to suppress any footage that was released.
"Alright. Let's get this over with." She finally said, giving a nod towards the holorecorder.
Shad'ra in response, pulled out a sheet of flimsi which had what she was supposed to say already written on it and held it up for her to see, but out of the recorder's view.
With one hand, he reached over and turned on the holorecorder.
She sighed; this was going to hurt her reputation.
"I am Tureen Dershoi, General of the Republic Army, personnel code: OC-0759." She read, pausing a moment to wonder just how long Exephos had been accumulating information on her.
"This recording is done for the benefit of Republic soldiers that over my career, I have... Mistreated, subjugated, manipulated, and killed." She continued, having to force the words out when her conservative side cringed at the idea of the damage this was going to cause.
"I am guilty of using Republic assets and all the forces under my command as tools to further my political position; deploying battalions, companies, and platoons on extended campaigns, well aware that they are legally entitled times of leave, sending rivals and disagreeable subordinates on purposeful suicide missions, and of throwing away the lives of Republic soldiers when better alternatives were available." Her own words damned her. Her career was done for.
"These crimes I have committed are all true, and are proven by the files that shall accompany this video broadcast. For these heinous crimes, I am sentenced to-" Dershoi paused in her reading, only just noticing the last line.
It was written quite clearly in black; 'Sentenced to death'.
Shad'ra switched off the holorecorder.
"You said I would be released!" She shouted, squirming to get out of her bonds and out of the chair.
Shad'ra picked up the holorecorder, and regarded her.
Then he smiled.
"I lied, General. Goodbye." With those words, he strode out.
The lights suddenly went out.
"E-X-E..." A quiet voice spelled, each letter ringing in her ear.
Something clanged behind her.
"P-H-O-S..." The voice spelled out again, this time from the other side.
Something clanged again.
"EXEPHOS!" The same voice shouted, just as the lights switched on again. She looked around, to her sides and behind her, but no-one was there.
Just as she turned around to look forwards again, a knife pressed into her throat.
"You don't know how long I've waited for this moment, 'General'." A mocking voice whispered in her ear.
Kriff!
"Ever since I was placed under your command, all those years ago, I knew it would come to this." He growled, before releasing her and moving around to the front to where she could see him.
He was still in his armour, but with his helmet off.
Kriff! Kriff! Kriff!
"Psychotic, I believed you call me? Well..." The hulking veteran chuckled, advancing forwards with his knife.
"Let's test that theory..." He rasped, his nightmarish features looming above her.

Shad'ra paled and turned away from the one-sided transparisteel window once Dershoi started screaming. He didn't like a spineless hut'uun like her, but he wasn't sure anyone deserved such a fate.
He'd done some things he wasn't proud of himself; interrogated a few people with some physical persuasion needed, but that was nowhere close to what Exephos did to people. In an interrogation room, he was a demon that made Sith look like cheerful Life Day celebrators.
It had to be done though; not only as justice for her careless negligence of soldiers, but also because she was a liability. She was the last tie the 95th had to the Republic.
As more disturbing sounds continued to emanate from the holding cell, Shad'ra decided to leave. He started hauling open a thick door; old school style, with a manually turned locking mechanism for a hundred kilograms of durasteel. After wrestling it open, then snapping and locking it shut, all sounds of the struggle inside vanished.
It'd been specifically upgraded that way, as this had been the Ninety-Fifth's covert holding and interrogation center. It was buried deep down in Coruscant, lower even than the under levels. A discreet little collection of rooms hidden away in the Works.
It was perfect; far from prying eyes, the last place to expect, and when the prisoners needed to be disposed of; there were plenty of furnaces to choose from. Their fires burned so hot too, that nothing was ever left. Not even bones. Everything was turned to ash. If the Works were of Corellia's nine hells, then this place was lowest level of torment.
 Shad'ra roamed these corridors now, and couldn't suppress a shudder that came from all the memories of this hell-hole.
It was so secret that not even the rest of the Ninety-Fifth knew about it. The only ones who did besides Exephos's highest command structure was Rancor platoon.
Fifty of the most elite and loyal soldiers in the entire battalion.
Their number transported, guarded, and even helped interrogate the prisoners in this fiendish pit which meant no visits from one of Dershoi's black ops squads, or worse, one of Saresh's kill teams,
Even with such a discreet place to carry out the interrogation however, this operation had been one of the most ambitious yet.
Abducting a Republic general, even a minor one like Dershoi, was no mean feat. Her security had been quite impressive on the outside; automated turrets, omni-sensors, a full security team on standby, and routine system reboots.
Fortunately a handy little slicer's program, courtesy of Harkasone's slicer, solved those problems.
Remote control over the entire power grid of her apartment.
One use, so he'd be told, but it was all they needed to bypass her advanced security.
It'd been an easy matter from there to disable the security measures,  stop the elevator bearing the security team between floors, drop Exephos in to do his grisly work, and then send it on again.
They'd even insured that no CSF response teams would show up. The few officers that had owed them favours back when the Ninety-Fifth was putting down riots on Coruscant had simply made certain that Dershoi's particular building was given a blind eye for the day.
Shad'ra checked the chrono in his buy'ce's heads up display and figured that it was about time to get the holorecording prepared.
He made his way back to the interrogation cell and opened up the bulkhead like door to grab his data pad and the recorder.
As he was on his way out however, he made the mistake of glancing to the right, through the one-sided transparisteel.
It was an ugly sight that put him on the edge of queasiness; without going over the horrid details, Exephos was carving her up like a side of nerf steak.
Shad'ra quickly turned away and left, closing the door behind him.
He walked quickly towards the up link center, trying hard to nit think about the gruesome scene. He somewhat succeeded, but he'd carry that awful image with him for the rest of his life.
He opened up the door to and entered the up link center, though 'center' was really the wrong word for it. It was a small nook-like room with two desks against each wall, all manner of electronics, scanners, screens, and ports covering their service. He didn't know what half the things did in here, but he didn't need to. All he was concerned with was the up link panel.
He swiveled a chair around and sat at one of the desks, hooking a cable to his pad, and then hooking his pad to the recorder.
He focused on transferring the video, applying encryption, and censoring  anything incriminating to take his mind off what he'd seen inside the cell. Any encryption could be broken, so he made sure to be extra generous with the censorship. Any sound he had made got deleted, even the very faint inaudible sound of his breathing, as was the view of the chair that Dershoi was sitting on. Same went for the rivets on the wall.
Perhaps he was being paranoid, but he preferred paranoid and alive to relaxed and dead.
By the time he was done, all one could see was Dershoi, and only a bit of her; he'd cut off from view the hands and feet too, just in case she used some sort of sign language.
Once he was done, he still wasn't satisfied.
So he watched through the entire video, judging how she spoke. Could it be possible she used some sort of code with her syllables? No, she'd read exactly from the transcript. Did she empathize any words or letters, perhaps spelling out a name?
He listened closely, trying to gauge if she had. It didn't sound like she had, but just to be extra cautious, he applied an audio filter that emanated a slight hissing static.
It'd distract anyone trying to decipher a code just enough, but wouldn't be seen as censorship; just bad quality.
He watched the video one more time, trying to see if she gave any clues to who had been behind her abduction.
Nothing out of ordinary... Unless she'd planned well for something like this and had a special movement she did that gave them away.
Too risky that such was possible.
So he added a very slight blur to her face. Not enough to mask her identity, but enough to make reading visual clues very difficult.
He added a standard pre-packaged encryption, but that was bound to be  broken, almost undoubtedly.
Instead, he plotted the up link to the holonet to instead be transferred to  a public network terminal. Completely untraceable unless they dug up half of Coruscant following a cable among trillions, maybe even quadrillions or quintillions. Old tech beat new tech any day of the week.
Once uploaded to the holo-net, it'd be undoubtedly discovered by SIS and removed but they wouldn't be quick enough. The news stations would get a hold of it through one way or another.
It'd make it's rounds for about an hour on the networks then never be seen again as some new tid-bit new information grabbed people's attention. It'd be enough though.
Exephos stepped into the room, ducking beneath the short doorway.
"It's done." He said simply, cleaning his blade with a rag that might have once been white, but was now red.
Shad'ra nodded.
"Better for us all that she's dead." He confirmed before gesturing towards the set-up he had.
"The evidence is ready for uploading at your leisure, sir." He added.
Exephos stepped forwards and looked it over as he tucked his knife into it's sheath on his belt.
"Better for everyone that she's dead." He grunted, leaning down and activating the upload.
Within two minutes, it beeped twice to confirm that it was done.
Across multiple sites, all over the holo-net, the damning footage was posted up anonymously.
Shad'ra stood, joining Exephos as they watched the program spread it across the holo-net.
"An end to it. Once and for all." Exephos said, before reaching down and turning off the datapad.
"Let's go home."


"Most intriguing." The shadowy figure remarked at the end of the surveillance footage.
A second person, features indistinct in the darkness, gave a barely perceptible nod in response.
"We could use someone with more efficiency and less operational strings." The second one said in a harsh guttural accent.
"Your thinking about the Senate job, aren't you?" Number one asked, before chuckling and continuing: "It's certainly ironic."
"That it would." Number two responded, before swapping the screen over to an image of General Dershoi from the confession video.
"The late General did us a favour by keeping her troops under her tight control. Now that she's out of the picture, there's very few who know about the Ninety-Fifth's unique situation." The second figure added, his harsh voice biting down on every consonant.
"Pity that they retired. We could always use recruits that have had their morals worn away." The first one replied with a heavy sigh.
"There's always other ways to get someone's cooperation." The second barked out before laughing darkly.
Figure one changed the screen to a grainy still from a live battlefield. It showed Exephos standing atop a ridge, firing his rotary cannon ninety degrees parallel to the direction of the observer. A battle line of the Ninety Fifth were beside him, crouched down as they were frozen in the moment of firing a loose volley of accurate rifle shots.
"Is that wise? This isn't the usual riff-raff that we can bully; it's a battalion of ticked off front-line veterans." The first figure said slowly, voice dropping down to one of caution.
"While tempting to test and see if that reputation is merely a bluff, there are others way to get people to do what you want." Figure two responded off-handedly before opening a holo. A largely built young man in loose prison garb filled the space.
After a pause of consideration, the first figure spoke again:
"Now, that's devilish..."
The second figure laughed again as he gave a reply:
"He assaulted an entire prison compound to get him back. He'd probably do whatever it takes to ensure that his legacy lives on." 
"Just keep him at an arm's length with a contingency plan set up. I've seen some pretty gruesome things, but that man takes torture to a whole new level. I don't want to end up on the receiving end of that big knife of his." The first person added with a shudder.
"I'll handle it. Just make sure that everything's lined up and that the SIS doesn't catch on to what we're doing." Came the response, before this second one leaned forwards and tapped the frozen still of Exephos on the front-lines with the words: "Live your life well now, 'Colonel'. Your an antique pawn that's become a loose end. Time to use you up..."
The figure chuckled mirthlessly. "Then we cut."

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