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This is the place to post stories you have written about your character's timeskip; what happened to them in the five years between the fall of the Gav Daragon and the rise of the Empress Teta.

TOPIC: [Timeskip] Ryanna Meilerin

[Timeskip] Ryanna Meilerin 1 year 10 months ago #15638

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- Chapter 1: Nothing new under the sun

- Chapter 2: Cato Neimoidia

- Chapter 3: Needless deaths

- Chapter 4: <to be announced>
Last Edit: 1 year 10 months ago by Ryanna.
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[Timeskip] Ryanna Meilerin 1 year 10 months ago #15639

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Chapter 1: Nothing new under the sun

_____The small convoy of heavy transports had been on the road for ten days when it crossed the frontier into the fertile flatlands of the Bertiz Valley. The first snows had already fallen in the mountains to the north that towered above the route, their peaks gleaming brilliantly against the blue sky. The early winter had been kind to the men escorting the convoy and though the air was cold and crisp, there had been no rain since they had left the imperial mining operation near the village of Atik. A bitter frost had left the ground hard and easy going for the wheels of the heavily laden transports and single armoured vehicle that was part of the convoy’s escort.
_____The imperial officer in command of the convoy was sitting in an officer’s speeder with his driver, driving a short distance ahead and as the route crested a hill. He tapped the shoulder of the soldier and pointed to a spot next to the track. The soldier nodded and lowered the speed as he drove to the indicated spot, stopping there. Ahead the road stretched out in a long straight line, rippling over the landscape. The commander had a clear view of the farming-town of Mira in the distance, two dozen kilometres away where he was due to meet the marine escort sent from the Imperial Headquarters on Kinyen Prime. The company of soldiers that had escorted the twenty transport trucks on the road from Atik would then drive back to their barracks at the mine, leaving the marines, under the command of the commander, to protect the small convoy for the rest of the journey to the capital.
_____Commander Neral turned in his seat to survey the convoy driving up the slope behind him. The soldiers were Bothan, recruited from a tribe on their homeworld, for their kind they were large, fierce-looking warriors with unkempt fur thrusting out from under the ridges of their helmets. Neral had ordered them to keep their helmets on as they passed through the hills, as a precaution against any ambushes from the bands of Gran rebels or brigands that preyed on unwary travellers. There was little chance that the brigands would risk an attack on the convoy, Neral knew well enough. The real reason for his order was to cover up as much of the Bothans’ barbaric hair as possible to avoid alarming any civilians they passed. Much as he appreciated that the Bothan soldiers could be trusted with guarding the mines, their tribe being known for its loyalty, Neral felt a very Imperial contempt for these men recruited from the wild tribes beyond the borders of what he considered ‘proper Imperial worlds’.

_____ ‘Beasts’ he muttered to himself, with a shake of his head. He was used to the spit and polish of the Empire’s finest and had resented being ordered to Kinyen to take charge of the latest shipment of vintrium from the imperial mines there. After so many years of service as an officer, Neral had very fixed ideas of how a soldier should appear and if he had been posted to a battalion of Bothan soldiers, the very first thing he would have done would be to order them to trim those wretched wild furs and look like proper soldiers.
_____Besides, he was missing the comforts of Dromund Kaas.
_____Under normal circumstances, no one would have ever thought of dispatching crack imperial marines for a simple retrieval mission. The value of Vintrium however, over five hundred credits per gram, made a more elite escort a necessity. Lesser trained units might take a fancy to the several tons of refined minerals that were carried by the transport vehicles.
_____Commander Neral was typical of his rank. He had joined the Imperial Navy and served as a marine lieutenant on the ISS Khar Delba, working his way up through the ranks, before taking a transfer to the army and serving as a captain for several more years and then applying to return to the Imperial Marines. A few more years of steady service had led to his present appointment as commander of the Marine contingent aboard a Harrower. In a few more years Neral would retire with a handsome gratuity and take up an administrative post on some peaceful and remote imperial world. He had already set his sights on Karideph where his younger brother owned several large farms. The city of Nod, where he lived, was on the coast with fine views of the bay. In the city were a decent set of theatres as well as a fine arena, surrounded by taverns selling cheap, but good wine. There was even the prospect of an occasional brawl with men from the neighbouring town of Tad, he mused wistfully.
_____Behind the first five sections of Bothan soldiers, piled in the transport trucks, came the twenty supply trucks, heavy vehicles able to carry several tons of materials. A soldier sat on the seat next to each of the drivers. There were eighty crates in each truck, each containing twenty five kilo’s of refined vintrium – forty tons all, worth approximately twenty billion credits.
_____Neral could not help a moment of brief speculation about what he could do with such a fortune. Then he dismissed the whimsy. He was a soldier. He had given his oath to protect and obey the Empress and Dark Council. His duty was to see that the trucks reached the shipyards on Dromund Kaas. Neral’s lips tightened as he recalled that some of his fellow officers had a somewhat more flexible understanding of the concept of duty.
_____It was less than three months ago that the Dark Council had been wiped out to all but one member: Darth Acina. The armies of Zakuul had been swift and brutal, Neral recalled, and even though the accession of Darth Acina had been a confused affair and she was hardly the ideal figurehead for the greatest empire in the galaxy she had proved herself a, for her kind, fair and acceptable ruler.

_____His gaze shifted to the last five sections of the Bothan troopers in trucks behind the transport trucks. While they might not look like proper soldiers, Neral knew that they were good in a fight, and their reputation was such that only the most foolhardy of brigands or rebels would dare to attack the convoy. Anyway, the danger, such as it was, had passed as the convoy descended on to the broad flat valley of the Bertiz Valley.
_____He clicked his tongue and pressed his left foot down on the gas pedal. With a brief growl of the engine the speeder lurched forward again and Neral steered it back on to the road, passing a truck filled with Bothans and their commander, Captain Armin, until he had resumed his position at the head of the convoy. They had made good time. It was not yet noon and they would reach Mira within the hour, there to await the marine escort if it had not already reached the town.
_____They were still some three kilometres from Mira when Neral heard the sound of approaching vehicles. The convoy was passing through a small forest of pine trees whose sharp scent filled the cold air. An outcrop of rock a short distance ahead obscured the road beyond. Neral instinctively recalled his days as part of a marine detachment to house Thul on Alderaan where the enemy’s favourite trick was to trap imperial columns in similar confined settings. He had the driver slow the speeder and threw his hand up.
_____‘Halt! Spread out everyone!’
_____As the trucks rumbled to a standstill, the Bothans hurriedly piled out of the troop transports, crouching down on either side of the road. Neral stood up in the passenger’s seat and moved the map he was holding into his left hand, ready to draw his pistol, and glanced round into the shadows beneath the trees on either side. Nothing moved. The sound of vehicles grew louder, echoing off the hard surface of the road and the rocks. Then the first of the vehicles came into view round the bend, decorated with the distinct emblem of the Empire. Behind the officers car drove two troop transports, carrying at least another twenty men.

_____Neral puffed his cheeks and let out a sharp sigh of relief. ‘At ease!’
_____The soldiers lowered their rifles and rose back up to their feet, and Neral waited for the vehicles to approach. The lead vehicle drove to the side of the road and slowed its speed before coming to a stop a few metres from Neral’s speeder. A door opened and a young woman wearing an imperial uniform emerged. She had blonde hair and wore lieutenant stripes, she was beautiful, although on the young side for him. Probably fresh from the academy on Dromund Kaas he mused.
_____‘Commander Neral, sir?’
_____Neral looked closely at the other officer, who had closed the distance to his vehicle and snapped to attention. The face was beautiful indeed, with striking green eyes.
_____‘What is the correct challenge, Lieutenant?’ he demanded.
_____‘The grapes of Alderaan are ripe to pick, sir’ the woman replied formally.
Neral nodded at the phrase he was expecting to hear. ‘Very well. You were supposed to wait for us at Mira, Leftenant…’
_____‘Kataryna Sellia, sir. Leftenant of the second company, 661th Regiment.’
_____‘Ah yes.’ Neral vaguely recalled the name from somewhere. ‘So, what are you doing out on the road?’
_____‘We reached Mira yesterday, sir. Place was like a ghost town. Most of the people had gone to a nearby shrine for some local festival. I thought we would drive out and meet you, and your boys there.’ She gestured towards the Bothan soldiers.
_____‘They’re not mine,’ Neral growled.
_____‘Yes sir, we saw you approaching the town, sir, and, well, here we are. Ready to escort the wagons back to Kinyen Prime.’
_____Neral regarded the lieutenant silently for a moment. He liked soldiers who stuck to the letter of their orders and was not sure that he approved of Sellia and her men meeting them here on the road instead of in the town, as arranged. Clear plans for the delivery of the vintrium had been made on Dromund Kaas some two months earlier and all concerned should obey their instructions. The moment officers began to play free and easy with their orders, plans began to fall apart. He resolved to have a word with Sellia’s commanding officer when they returned to the Marine Headquarters on Vaiken Spacedock.

_____‘Captain Armin!’ Neral called over his shoulder. ‘On me!’
_____The officer in charge of the Bothan soldiers hurried forward. He was a tall, broad-shouldered individual whose plasteel armour just about fitted his muscular torso. He looked up at the commander, his fur almost flame-red in the sunshine.
_____Neral nodded to the lieutenant. ‘The escort from Kinyen Prime. They’ll protect the convoy from here. You and your men can turn back towards Atik at once.’
_____The Bothan pursed his lips and replied in heavily accented basic. ‘We were supposed to make the handover in Mira, sir. The lads were hoping to enjoy themselves in the town for the night before we headed back.’
_____‘Yes, well, that’s not necessary now. Besides, I doubt the locals will take kindly to being invaded by a small horde of Bothans. I know what your men are like when they get some drink inside ‘em.’
_____Captain Armin frowned. ‘I’ll see to it that they don’t cause any trouble, sir.’
_____‘Nor will they. I’m ordering you to turn round and march back to the mines at once, do you hear?’
_____The other man nodded slowly, his bitterness quite clear. Then, with a curt nod to his superior he turned and strode back to the convoy. ‘Get back in the trucks! Make ready to depart! It’s back to Atik for us, boys.’
_____Some of his men groaned and one swore a loud oath in his native tongue, drawing a sharp rebuke from the captain.
_____Neral glanced at Sellia and spoke softly. ‘Can’t have a bunch of hairy-arsed animals imposing themselves on decent folk.’
_____‘Indeed not, sir.’ Sellia nodded. ‘Bad enough that the Bothans have been allowed in the army as it is. Luckily we can assign them to tasks that don’t test any of their cognitive abilities, like guarding the mines.’
_____‘Indeed’ Neral said with a faint smile on his lips. Then he shifted himself in his seat. ‘Have your men form up either end of the supply trucks, one truck on either end. As soon as the Bothans are out of the way we can proceed.’
_____‘Yes, sir.’ Lieutenant Sellia saluted and turned away to call out the orders to her men. As the Bothans grumpily got back into their transports the transport trucks formed a single column beyond the supply vehicles. The two trucks with imperial soldiers eased into place on either end of the supply trucks and soon the two small forces were ready to part company. Neral approached Captain Armin, sitting on the passenger seat of the lead troop transport, to issue his parting instructions.
_____‘You’re to return to Atik as swiftly as possible. Since I won’t be there to keep watch on your men, don’t let them cause any trouble in any settlements you pass through on the way back. Understand?’
_____The captain pressed his lips together in a tight line and nodded.
_____‘Then you can be off.’
_____Without waiting for a response, Neral turned to walk to his staff car, he beckoned Lieutenant Sellia over to join him on the back seat. He waved his arm forward and gave the order for small column to advance. With a growl of the engines, the vehicles began to move with a clatter and deep rumble from the heavy wheels. Neral felt the wind gently stroke over his face as they moved. He did not look back until they reached the rocky outcrop. Then he glanced round and saw the rear of the Bothan column a quarter of a kilometre down the road, driving back towards the mountains.

_____‘Good riddance,’ he muttered to himself.
_____The vehicles, with their new escort, followed the road round the rocks and the route resumed its straight direction, through another few kilometres of pine trees, towards Mira. Now that he was well clear of the Bothan troops Neral felt his mood improve. He smiled faintly as he looked around, finally focussing his gaze on the young female officer beside him.
_____‘So, what’s the latest news from Dromund Kaas?’
_____Sellia thought for a moment and replied with an amused smile. ‘The Empress continues to press for war against the Republic’
_____‘Oh?’ Neral frowned at the casual manner in which this young officer spoke of those high above her station.
_____‘Yes. Word round the officers mess is that she has told the moffs to stop worrying about Zakuul. Naturally, they aren’t so keen. But that’s the least of their worries. You’ve heard of Moff Rurik Metkal? According to the latest reports he’s been made a Grand Moff.’
_____‘Makes sense,’ Neral responded. ‘He was one of Acina’s most loyal supporters.’
_____Sellia glanced at him with an amused smile. ‘You don’t know the half of it, sir. Metkal is using his influence, as well as that of his wife to appoint his protégé into the ranks of the moff’s as well.’
_____Neral raised his eyebrows. This was a dangerous development; the wife of now Grand Moff Metkal, Lord Icana, was opposed to the relative independence the higher imperial command enjoyed. Metkal, now with the powers of a grand moff would be able to tarnish that independence. Especially with if his protégé: Markos, was promoted to moff. Now there would be even more scheming on the homeworld. Neral shook his head. ‘Why on earth would the Empress agree to do that?’
_____‘Maybe her mind is on other things, or she just doesn't care’ Sellia suggested. ‘Lord Icana however claims that she only wants Metkal to have a protector on the job and who better for the job than his lifelong friend and protégé? Someone to look out for his interests when he is not on the scene. So all in all, quite a turn-up, eh?’
_____‘Yes,’ Neral replied. He fell silent as he considered the implications.
_____‘There’s more, sir,’ Sellia said softly, glancing over her shoulder as if to make sure that her men did not overhear. ‘If you would care to know it.’
_____ Neral looked at her sharply, wondering just how far he could trust the other officer. In recent years he had seen enough men put to death for not guarding their tongues and he had no wish to join them. ‘Is there any danger in hearing what you have to say?’
_____Sellia shrugged. ‘That depends on you, sir. Or, more accurately, it depends on where your first loyalty lies.’
_____‘My first and only loyalty is to my Empire. As is yours, and all the men in the Imperial army’
_____‘Really?’ Sellia looked at him directly and smiled. ‘I would have thought an imperial citizen would be loyal to the Empress first.’
_____‘The Empire and the Empress are the same,’ Neral replied tersely. ‘Our oath is equally binding to both. It is dangerous to say different, and I’d advise you not to raise the issue again.’
_____Sellia scrutinised the commander for a moment and then looked away. ‘No matter. You are right, of course, sir.’
_____Sellia turned her head, looking towards the pine trees on the side of the road, seemingly in thought.

_____The convoy reached the end of the pine trees and emerged into open country. Neral had not passed any other travellers since dawn and could see none ahead in the direction of Mira. Then he recalled what Sellia had said about the festival. A short distance ahead the road descended into a slight fold in the landscape and Neral stretched up in his seat as he caught sight of movement amid some stunted bushes.
_____‘There’s something ahead,’ he said to Sellia. He raised his arm and pointed. ‘See? About a quarter of a kilometre in front, where the road dips.’
_____Sellia looked in the direction indicated and shook her head.
_____‘Are you blind, woman? There’s clearly something moving there. Yes, I can make it out now. A handful of small vehicles and men among the bushes.’
_____‘Ah, now I have them, sir.’ Sellia stared into the dip a moment and then continued, ‘Could be some civilians in camp.’
_____‘At this time of day? This short a distance from Mira?’ Neral snorted. ‘I don’t think so. Come, we need a closer look.’
_____He tapped the driver on the shoulder and pointed towards the bushes. The rest of the trucks slowed somewhat as the two officers and the driver set off to investigate. Slowly, making their way carefully in the uneven terrain, they approached the bushes nestling in the dip. Sellia beckoned to the leading troop transport to follow her. As Neral drew nearer he realised that there were several more vehicles and speeders than he had first thought and now he could see a handful of humanoids crouching down between the bushes. The anxiety he had felt shortly before returned to prick the back of his scalp with icy needles. He reined in a hundred paces from the nearest of the men and their carts to wait for the others to catch up.
_____‘I don’t like the look of this. Those scoundrels are up to no good, I’ll be bound. Sellia, ready your men.’
_____‘Yes, sir,’ the lieutenant replied in a flat tone.
_____Neral heard the clip of a pistol holster being opened and took a tight grip of the armrest of his seat as he prepared the imminent encounter.

_____‘I’m sorry, sir,’ Sellia said softly as she fired a round into the back of the head of the driver. Instantly he fell forward and the speeder slowed from its slow movement to a full stop. The commander reacted instinctively, turning towards the sound of the fire. Before he realised what was going on he felt a searing pain on the left side of his chest, hearing the sound of another bolt being fired after he felt the pain. The plasma projectile cut through the fine material of his officers tunic and on through the flesh and bone of his ribcage. Neral’s head jerked forward under the impact and he let out a sharp gasp as his fingers spread wide, half clenched like claws, releasing his grip on the armrest of his seat. Sellia shot another round before she leaned forward and opened the door of the speeder. The commander tumbled backward, falling out of the car. He fell heavily to the ground, rolling on to his back. He stared up, eyes wide open as his mouth worked feebly.
_____Sellia turned to her men. ‘See to the drivers of the supply trucks and then bring them up to the vehicles here.’ He looked down at the commander. ‘Sorry, sir. You’re a good officer and you don’t deserve this. But I have my instructions.’
_____Neral tried to speak but no sound escaped his lips. He felt cold and, for the first time in years, afraid. As his vision began to blur, he knew he was dying. There would be no quiet life for him on Karideph and he felt a passing regret that he would never again see his brother. Swiftly the life faded from his eyes and they stared up fixedly as he lay still on the ground. Further down the road there were a few surprised cries that were quickly cut off as the truck drivers were ruthlessly disposed of. Then the vehicles and the troop transport Lieutenant Sellia had beckoned over continued towards the waiting speeders. Sellia turned to a large man that approached on a speeder and indicated the commanders’s body. ‘Darius, put him and the others on one of the vehicles. I want two men to scout ahead and keep watch. Another two to go back to the bend in the road and make sure those Bothans don’t pull a fast one and turn round to take some unofficial leave in Mira.’
_____The men in the small vehicles emerged from the bushes and formed them into a line beside the road. Under Sellia’s instructions, the chests were quickly unloaded from the supply trucks and laden on the speeders. As soon as they were secured, they were covered with bales of cheap cloth, sacks of foodstuffs, or bundles of old rags. Once empty, the trucks were driven deep into the bushes and nearby gulley. Their wheels blown off with smokeless detonite charges that they collapsed down, out of sight of the road. The bodies of the commander and drivers were taken further into the scrub and tossed into a muddy ditch before being covered over with brush cut from the bushes. Finally the men gathered around the carts as Sellia and a handful of others cut some more brush to cover the gaps in the bushes where the trucks had passed through and to sweep the tracks in the grass. Thanks to the frost there were no telltale ruts in the ground.

_____‘That’ll do,’ Sellia decided, tossing her bundle of twigs on where the corpses were resting. ‘Time to change clothes, gentlemen!’
_____ They hurriedly removed their uniforms and swapped them for a variety of civilian garments in a range of styles and colours. Once the uniforms were safely tucked away in bundles in the trunks of their speeders, Sellia looked the men over. He nodded in satisfaction; they looked enough like the merchants and traders who regularly passed along the roads between the towns and cities of Kinyen.
_____‘You have your instructions. We’ll leave here in separate groups. Once you get beyond Mira, take the routes you have been given back to the spaceport near Kinyen prime. I’ll see you there. Watch your speeders carefully. I don’t want any petty thieves stumbling on the contents of these chests. Keep your heads down and play your part and no one will suspect us. Is that clear?’ She looked round. ‘Good. Then let’s get the first carts on the move!’
_____Over the next hour the speeders left the dip in the road singly, or in groups of two or three at irregular intervals, strengthened by the few soldiers that had accompanied Lieutenant Sellia. Some made for Mira, others branched off at the road junction before the town, passing to the west or east and following an indirect route to Kinyen Prime. Once the last cart was on its way, Sellia took a final look around. There were still some tracks left by the trucks, but she doubted that they would attract attention from travellers on their way to or from Mira.
_____With a brief nod of satisfaction, Sellia got onto the speeder bike that was left to her next to the road and drove it unhurriedly towards the town. She paid the machine at the parking place of the local inn and entered to get herself bowl of stew and a mug of heated wine before continuing her journey. She left the town via the southern road, the road towards Kinyen prime.

_____It was late in the afternoon when she saw a small column military transports, bearing the decals of the Empire driving up from the south. Sellia pulled the hood of her worn brown tunic up over her head to hide her features and raised a hand in greeting as she passed by the imperial officer sitting in the staff car at the front of the convoy, on his way to meet the convoy from Atik. The officer leading the escort haughtily ignored the gesture and Sellia smiled to herself at the prospect of the man having to explain the disappearance of the trucks and their cargo of vintrium when he reported to his superiors back on Dromund Kaas. Alone now, and on a speeder, she was able to drive far faster than the slow transport trucks were ever able to go and it was at noon the next day she arrived at the spaceport. She smiled as she walked over to a middle aged man wearing a casual outfit and sporting a neatly trimmed beard. They smiled at eachother for a moment he opened his arms and hugged her in a paternal fashion. As they embraced, the man opened his mouth whispered in her ear. 'The cargo is leaving the system as we speak, well done, Ryanna Meilerin.'
Last Edit: 1 year 10 months ago by Ryanna.
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[Timeskip] Ryanna Meilerin 1 year 10 months ago #15645

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Chapter 2: Cato Neimoidia

_____An early spring storm was raging across the city of Zarra as Ryanna entered the complex that served as the vacation retreat of the Neimoidian senator. She was escorted to a particulary luxurious suite and then ushered into Mon Dod’s office by one of his neatly groomed clerks. Ryanna handed her drenched cape to the clerk before she crossed the room and sat on the chair that Dod waved her towards. Behind the senator was a drenched window through the panes of which the view of the city was distorted. Black clouds billowed across the sky, illuminated every so often by a dazzling flash of lightning that, for an instant, froze the city in brilliant whiteness, before the vision was snatched away and Zarra was plunged once more into the shadows.
_____ ‘Rested, I hope?’ Dod attempted to look concerned. ‘It’s been several months since that mission where you retrieved the Vintrium.’
_____ ‘I’ve been keeping fit,’ Ryanna replied carefully. ‘I’m ready to return to active service. I want to find that… bastard.’ She exclaimed the last few words with evident rage. The fact that a Jedi knight, one she had come to trust in the last few months as a friend as well as a teacher had betrayed her and the republic by running off with the valuable mineral still stung like an open wound. The thought of it brought a bitter taste to the back of her throat, they were supposed to be incorruptible, the Jedi. But when Mikael Montra was confronted with over twenty billion credits worth of precious minerals, all his values and principles had melted away. He had taken the credits and disappeared, causing considerable damage to republic interests regarding the usage of those minerals, as well as a considerable blow to the personal fortunes of several senators, and Ryanna’s trust.
_____ ‘Good. That’s good.’ Dod nodded, he showed very little emotion, despite the fact that his personal damages incurred over the loss of the last convoy had been in the millions of credits. With the loss of so much vintrium his company had, due to it having to rely on republic shipments of vintrium, missed a most lucrative trade deal. He should be seething inside, yet he seemed so calm, ‘I have a mission for you miss Meilerin, for you and that admirable lieutenant Dakkar, this one comes straight from the senate.’

_____Ryanna froze for a moment, feeling a sick sense of inevitability rise up as she realised this republic senator had further plans for her. Ever since the theft of the shipment of vintrium which had landed her in the same room as this politician she had been at his beck and call.
_____ ‘I don’t understand,’ she said. ‘I thought I was waiting for my request of leave to be approved, and I believe lieutenant Dakkar had requested the same.’
_____ ‘Ah, well, the situation has changed. Rather, a new situation has emerged.’
_____ ‘Really?’ Ryanna smiled mirthlessly. ‘And what would that be?’
_____ ‘Those datapads you and Dakkar recovered from his house here, I’ve been studying them closely for some time now, and I appear to have stumbled on to something quite interesting.’ He paused. ‘No. Not interesting. Shocking, you see, it seems the Jedi you so trusted is here, on this very planet, doing his very best to destabilise our prosperous government.’
_____ ‘Let me guess – with a plague of tax collectors?’
_____ ‘Don’t be glib, Meilerin. Leave that to Dakkar - he’s better at it.’
_____‘But he’s not here.’
_____ ‘What a pity. Now if I might continue?’
_____Ryanna shrugged. ‘Go on then.’
_____Dod leaned forwards, clasped his palms together and propped up his chin as he began. ’There was a passage which insinuated his plans here, on Cato Neimoidia. It seems he intends to use the large amounts of vintrium he stole to drive up the price between different buyers here, intending to drive up the price of the commodity. With supplies being low as it is, especially with the tribute being paid to Zakuul the mineral is absolutely required to keep our droid factories running, as well as maintain those we use to grow our produce, without it, we will lose the ability to grow crops, feed ourselves.’
_____Ryanna sniffed with derision. ’Then import it from agri-worlds.’
_____ ‘It’s not quite that easy, Cato Neimoidia is a major producer of foodstuffs, medical supplies, plants. We cannot simply go from a producer to an importer, it would destabilise the region. Food and transport ships are precious enough to come by with the recent losses suffered against Zakuul, especially considering the tributes we have to supply to them. Add to that the fact that some… of the more influential of my people have called for changes in government, some are even in favour of a total abolishing of government, making all sorts of wild religious-esque statements.’
_____ ‘Why not just stamp them out? Proscribe their leaders?’
_____ ‘All in good time. If the need arises.’
_____Ryanna laughed. ‘Are you saying these people are threatening to overthrow the Neimoidian government?’
_____ ‘No. At least not yet. But we’re keeping an eye on them. If I judge them to be a genuine threat then they will be . . . removed.’
_____Ryanna reflected that it was typical of what she knew of the man to talk in such euphemisms. For an instant she felt contempt, then with a sudden flash of insight she wondered if the Neimoidian senator could only carry out his work because of a euphemistic frame of mind. After all, the decisions that Dod made frequently resulted in deaths. Necessary deaths perhaps, but deaths all the same. Opponents of the Republic consigned to oblivion at the stroke of a pen. How that must weigh on a man’s conscience. Far better for Dod to see them as a problem removed, rather than a string of corpses littering his wake. Of course, Ryanna thought, that presupposed the man had a conscience to be perturbed by the decisions of life and death that he made every day. What if he didn’t? What if the euphemisms were merely a matter of rhetorical style? Ryanna shuddered. In that case Dod was completely without ethics. The ideal of the Republic was no more than a hollow edifice whose real centre was the simple, unadorned greed and lust for power of the elite few. Ryanna tried to shake off such thoughts as she forced her mind to focus on the matter at hand.
_____ ‘So what do you want me to do about it?’

_____Dod leaned back in his chair and sighed. For a moment he said nothing, and Ryanna was conscious for the first time of the rattling of rain against the window. The wind must have changed. A distant flash of sheet lightning momentarily silhouetted the senator and after a pause the sound of thunder grumbled across the city.
_____Dod stirred. ‘I need someone to investigate the matter further. Here, on the planet, I want you to assess the dangers, and if possible resolve them.’
_____ ‘Resolve?’ Ryanna smiled. ‘Now that’s a vague term if ever I heard one. Covers a multitude of possibilities.’
_____ ‘Of course it does.’ Dod smiled back. ‘And it’s up to you to discern the best means of resolving any issue you judge to constitute a threat to the Republic.’
_____ ‘Me?’
_____ ‘You and Dakkar, of course. You can pick him up in Jorra when you board a ship bound for the eastern river-delta.’
_____ ‘Now, wait a moment-’
_____ ‘Unfortunately, we can’t wait. There’s no time to waste. You must leave Zarra immediately.’
_____Ryanna stared back at Dod with a hostile expression. ’That last mission you sent us on nearly got us killed.’
_____ ‘You’re a soldier. Getting yourself killed is an occupational hazard.’
_____Ryanna stared at the senator for a moment, consumed with rage and a sense of injustice. She forced himself to answer as calmly as he could. ‘Dakkar and I don’t deserve this. Haven’t we done enough for you already?’
_____ ‘No man can do enough in the service of Republic.’
_____ ‘Find someone else. Someone better suited to this kind of work. Let Dakkar and me get back to the fleet. It’s what we do best.’
_____ ‘You’re both fine operatives and soldiers,’ Dod agreed smoothly. ‘As good as they come. And being soldiers is a useful cover for your real mission. You and Dakkar will be assigned to a garrison unit near the river-delta, where we think he might be hiding.’ He shrugged. ‘In a way, you are victims of your own success, as the saying goes. Come now, Ryanna. It’s not as if I’m asking you to risk your lives. I just want you to assess the situation.’
_____ ‘And resolve it.’
_____ ‘Yes, and resolve it.’
_____ ‘By what means?’
_____ ‘You will be acting with the full authority of the Neimoidian inner circle. I have prepared a document to that effect. It’s waiting in another office, together with lieutenant Dakkar and your letters of appointment, the report from Kinyen and all the other material I felt it was relevant for you to see. I’d like you to read through it tonight.’
_____ ‘All of it?’
_____ ‘Yes, I think that would be wise, since you will be leaving Zarra at dawn tomorrow.’
Last Edit: 1 year 10 months ago by Ryanna.
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[Timeskip] Ryanna Meilerin 1 year 10 months ago #15720

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Chapter 3: Needless deaths

_____The commander of the supply station near Ptean, a few hundred kilometres north of the city of Jorra, was having his morning meal when the sergeant in charge of the dawn watch made his report. A light drizzle - the first rain in weeks - had been falling since first light and the sergeant’s cloak was covered with droplets that looked like tiny beads of glass.
_____ ‘What is it, Treyn?’ Captain Davesson asked tersely, dipping a hunk of bread into a small bowl of blight beetle sauce in front of him. It was his custom to walk his rounds of the small fort and then return to his quarters to have his breakfast, without interruption.
_____ ‘Beg to report a ship has been sighted, sir. Heading along the coast towards us.’
_____ ‘A ship, eh? Just happens to be passing along one of the main sea lanes on the planet.’ Davesson took a deep breath to cover his impatience. ‘And the marine on watch thinks that’s unusual?’
_____ ‘It’s a pleasure yacht, sir. And it’s making for the entrance to the bay.’ The sergeant ignored the sarcasm and continued to deliver his report in the same deadpan voice that he had used ever since the Captain had taken command of the outpost nearly two years ago. At first Davesson had been delighted at the promotion. Before, he had commanded a sleek Neimoidian spacecraft in their planetary flotilla and had grown heartily sick of the stifling lack of opportunity that went with being a junior officer commanding a small vessel that rarely ventured out of the planetary system. The appointment to the small Neimoidian station at the village of Ptean had given him independence, and at first Davesson had striven to make his supply station a model of efficiency. But, as the months dragged on, there had been no sign of any excitement and the men of the station had little to do beyond checking or assisting the transport ships on their way to the city of Jorra where their goods would be shipped off-world. The only other duty Davesson had to discharge was to send a regular patrol into the delta to patrol and pacify the region.
_____And so Davesson eked out his days commanding half a company of Neimoidian soldiers and as many droid guards, together with an old dropship - the Resolute - that had once served in the systems fleet. After a short carreer in the army of the republic it had been decommissioned and sold to the Neimoidians, where it was absorbed into their planetary militia and served with the Alexandrian fleet before it was finally sent to end its days at Ptean, beached in front of the small fort that overlooked the bay.
_____It was a dismal posting, Davesson reflected. The coastline of the delta was low and featureless, and much of the bay was taken up by mangroves where predators lurked, lying still like fallen palm logs as they waited for any prey to come close enough to be rushed. The Captain lived in hope of adventure. However, he mused, the nearest he would ever get to that this day was overseeing checking the reason for being here of the new arrival. Hardly worth disturbing his breakfast for.

_____ ‘A yacht, eh?’ Davesson bit off some bread and chewed. ‘Well, it’s probably just travelling around.’
_____ ‘I don’t think so, sir,’ said Sergeant Treyn. ‘I’ve checked the station’s log book and no ships matching that description are due to put into Ptean for another two months.’
_____ ‘Then it’s some other reason,’ Davesson continued dismissively. ‘The captain must surely have lost his way, when we tell him where he is he’ll be surprised he’s near Ptean instead of Jorra.’
_____ ‘Shall I order the men to arms, sir?’
_____Davesson looked up sharply. ‘Why? What’s the point?’
_____ ‘Standing orders, sir. If an unknown vessel is sighted, the garrison is to be alerted.’
_____ ‘It’s not an unknown vessel, is it? It’s a yacht. We are the only people who operate military craft on this planet. Therefore it’s not unknown, and there’s no need to trouble the men, Sergeant.’
_____Treyn stood his ground. ‘Unless the ship is making a scheduled call, it is unknown, according to the book, sir.’
_____ ‘The book?’ Davesson puffed his cheeks. ‘Look here, Sergeant, if there is any sign of hostility then you can call out the garrison. Meanwhile, inform the quartermaster that we have a visitor and that he and his staff are to be ready to provide any assistance needed to the yacht. Now, if I may, I’ll finish my breakfast. Dismissed.’
_____ ‘Yes, sir.’ The sergeant stood to attention, saluted and turned to stride down the short colonnade towards the exit to the commander’s quarters. Davesson sighed. He felt guilty about treating the man with disdain. Treyn was a good junior officer, efficient, even if he wasn’t terribly imaginative. He had been right to cite standing orders, the same orders that Davesson had carefully penned in the early days of his appointment when the first flush of enthusiasm for his new post had governed his actions.

_____Davesson finished the last mouthful of bread, drained his drink and rose to make his way to his sleeping chamber. He paused by the pegs on the wall, and then reached for his armour and helmet. It would be as well to greet the captain of the ship formally, and to ensure that he was efficiently served, so that a favourable impression was conveyed back to the command on Zarra, the planetary capital. As long as his record was good, there was always a chance that he might be promoted to a more prestigious command, and could leave Ptean behind him.
_____Davesson tied his chinstrap and adjusted his helmet, then slipped the belt holding his service pistol around his waist and strode out of his quarters. The fort at Ptean was small, barely fifty paces along each wall. The durasteel walls were ten feet high and would present little obstacle to any enemy who decided to attack the supply base. In any case, the walls themselves were in sore need or replacing and could be knocked down with ease. In truth, there was no danger of any attack, Davesson mused. The Neimoidian government was in firm control of the planet, and the nearest threats were the Empire and Zakuul, hundreds of light years away. The only threat to this post would be bands of lawless brigands who would prey on the planetary trade routes for a while before the local militia stomped them out.
_____The Captain’s quarters were at one end of the fort, flanked by the quartermaster’s stores and the landing pad. Six barrack blocks lined the street running down the middle of the fort towards the gatehouse. A pair of sentries unhurriedly stood to attention at his approach and presented their weapons as Davesson passed between them and left the fort. Although the sky above was clear, a thin mist hung across the bay, thickening where it lay over the mangroves so that the tangle of rushes, palms and shrubs assumed a vague spectral form which Davesson had found a little disturbing when he had first arrived. Since then, he had frequently joined the river patrols and had become used to the early-morning mists that often cloaked the river delta.

_____Outside the fort lay a long strip of beach and a simple pier. The beach reached round the bay towards the mangrove. In the other direction it gave way to a rocky strip of land that curved out towards the sea, creating a fine natural harbour. On the landing pad waited the dropship, which came with the command. The chief engineer had lavished many months of his time on the old dropship and he and his men had replaced any worn armour plates and applied fresh paint to the hull. The ship was ready to take to the skies, but Davesson doubted that this veteran of so many battles would ever see action again. The pier was little more than a simple but sturdy wooden jetty that projected from the shore forty or so paces out into the bay to allow visiting ships to moor alongside.
_____Although the sun had not yet risen above the mist, the air was warm and Davesson hoped that he could quickly dispense with any formalities arising from the arrival of the ship and remove his armour and helmet. He turned and strode along the dusty track that led towards the lookout post. The small tower was built on a rocky outcrop on the strip of land forming the natural breakwater of the harbour. At the end of the strip another, sturdier, watchtower guarded the entrance. On the sturdier tower a cannon was mounted, so that any enemy vessel approaching the fort, either from the sea or from the air could be subjected to the torment of plasma fire.
_____When he reached the lookout post, Davesson entered the shelter at the bottom and saw three of his soldiers sitting at a bench, chatting in muted tones as they ate their bread and dried fish. As soon as they saw him they rose and saluted.
_____ ‘Easy, boys.’ Davesson smiled. ‘Who reported the approach of the warship?’
_____ ‘Me, sir,’ one of the soldiers said.
_____ ‘All right then, Nute, lead the way.’
_____The marine lowered his bread into his mess tin and crossed the interior of the tower and climbed the ladder leading to the roof. The Captain followed him and emerged on to the platform, next to a crate with a flare pistol. A section of the space was sheltered by a roof of thatched palm leaves, the original durasteel plating that made the roof having long since been fallen into such a state of disrepair the garrison had replaced it with what could easily be found in the vicinity. The sentry who had replaced Nute stood at the weathered wooden rail, gazing out to sea. Davesson joined him and Nute and stared towards the ship approaching the entrance of the bay. The crew were busy furling the sail, a wine-red spread of synthweave decorated with elaborate silver-coloured designs. A moment later the sail had been lashed up and the engine of the ship navigated it towards the pier.
_____Davesson turned to Nute. ‘Which direction did it come from, before it made towards land?’
_____ ‘From the west, sir.’
_____The Captain nodded to himself. From the direction of Jorra, then. Which was odd, since no luxury yacht was due to pay a visit to the outpost for at least another two months, when the governor of Jorra and his local worthies would pay him a visit to ‘get out and smell the roses’, which was nothing more than a glorified wording of making him play nursemaid while they would enjoy the wilds of the less explored parts of the delta on a hunting trip. The thing that made such a thing definitely worth it was the fact that they would also drop off the quarterly pay chest. Davesson watched as the ship passed by the tower guarding the entrance of the harbour and continued across the calm waters towards the pier. He could see the men lining the sides as they surveyed the bay.

_____A movement over by the fort caught Davesson’s attention and he saw Treyn and the quartermaster, together with a small escort of sailors, making their way down to the jetty.
_____ ‘Best join the reception committee,’ he mused. Davesson took a last look at the ship crossing the bay, a picture of efficient grace against the tranquil backdrop of distant mangrove. Then he turned to climb down the ladder.
_____By the time he had returned to the end of the jetty the captain of the ship had descended from the deck towards the wooden planks of the jetty. He walked over to Davesson, who took a place a step ahead of his companions.
_____ ‘I’m the commander of the supply station, Captain Davesson.’
_____The officer took his hand in a powerful grip and nodded curtly. ‘Lieutenant Mekon, on secondment to the Jorran militia. We need to talk, in your headquarters.’
_____Davesson could not help raising his eyebrows in surprise and he was aware of his subordinates exchanging an uneasy look at his side.
_____ ‘Talk? Has something happened?’
_____ ‘My orders are to discuss the matter with you in private.’ The officer nodded towards the other men on the jetty. ‘Not in front of anyone else. Please lead the way.’
_____Davesson was taken aback by the younger officer’s terse manner. The man was no doubt a recent arrival from Zarra, and therefore inclined to treat the local military with a haughty arrogance that was typical of his kind. ‘Very well, Sergeant, this way.’
_____Davesson turned and began to make his way along the jetty.
_____ Just a moment,’ said Lieutenant Mekon. He turned to the soldiers waiting on the deck. ‘With me!’

_____They crossed the gangway and formed up behind the officer, twenty armed soldiers, all burly men with powerful physiques. Davesson frowned. He had been expecting to exchange a few pleasantries and some news before he gave the order for his quartermaster to see to the ship’s needs. Not this brusque encounter. What could the officer have to tell him that was so important that it had to be said in private? With a stab of anxiety Davesson wondered if he had been wrongly implicated in some crime or plot. He gestured to the officer to follow him and the small column made its way towards the shore. Davesson slowed his pace until he was at the side of the lieutenant and addressed him quietly. ‘Can you tell me what this is about?’
_____ ‘Yes, shortly.’ The officer glanced at him and smiled slightly. ‘Nothing that need worry you unduly, Captain. I just need to ask you some questions.’
_____Davesson was not reassured by the reply and kept his silence as they reached the end of the jetty and marched up to the gates of the fort. The sentries stood to as the officers and soldiers approached.
_____ ‘I don’t imagine you get many ships calling in here,’ said lieutenant Mekon.
_____ ‘Not many,’ Davesson replied, hoping that the other man was revealing a more conversational aspect of his seemingly cold character. ‘Occasional Neimoidian patrols, but they always arrive via dropship or shuttlecraft. Other than that, a few transport or fishing ships with storm damage over the winter months, but that’s about it. Ptean has become something of a backwater. I wouldn’t be surprised if the governor in Jorra didn’t reduce our establishment one day.’
_____The lieutenant glanced at him. ‘Fishing for information about my being here?’
_____Davesson looked at him and shrugged. ‘Of course.’
_____They had entered the fort and lieutenant Mekon stopped and looked around. The place was quiet. Most of the men were in barracks. The night watch was finishing off their morning meal and were preparing to rest. Some of the other men were sitting on stools outside their barracks, playing at dice or talking quietly. Lieutenant Mekon’s eyes keenly took in the details.
_____ ‘A nice quiet posting you have here, Davesson. Quite out of the way. Even so, I imagine you are well provisioned.’
_____Davesson nodded. ‘We have ample rations and munition in stores. Just not much call for it these days.’
_____ ‘Perfect,’ Lieutenant Mekon muttered. He turned and nodded to the sergeant in command of the party of soldiers. ‘Time to proceed, Hiral.’
_____The sergeant nodded and turned to his men. ‘Take ’em.’

_____As Davesson watched, four of the soldiers abruptly drew their weapons and aimed towards the sentries on the gate. They just had time to turn at the sound of the lieutenant’s order before they were cut down with a savage flurry of bolts; they had no chance to even cry out before they were killed. Davesson stared in horror as the bodies slumped to the ground either side of the gateway. He turned, aghast, to lieutenant Mekon.
_____The man smiled at him. There was a buzzing sound, a blur of movement and light and the captain felt a sudden searing blow in his stomach, as if he had been punched by a red hot iron poker. There was another blow that left him gasping in agony. Davesson looked down and saw the other man’s hand clenched round the handle of a lightsaber. An inch of bright blue blade showed before it disappeared into the fold of his tunic, straight through the armour. Smoke rose from the hole as Davesson stared down at it in numbed incomprehension. The sergeant turned the blade inside him, slicing through vital organs. Davesson gasped for breath and grasped the arm holding the saber in both hands. ‘What? What are you doing?’
_____The lieutenant withdrew his blade and Davesson felt the pain lessen just a bit. He released his grip as he felt his legs buckle and he collapsed on to his knees, staring up at the lieutenant in mute horror. Through the gateway he could see the bodies of the sentries and, beyond, one of the soldiers striding into clear view in front of the fort and punching his rifle up into the air three times. This must have been a prearranged signal, Davesson realised, and a moment later there was a cheer from the yacht as men who had previously been hidden along the deck swarmed over the side on to the jetty. Davesson saw the quartermaster try to draw raise his pistol, but he was overwhelmed by a flurry of bright red blasterbolts, as were the stunned sergeant and the sailors. They were dead even before they could draw their weapons. Their assailants rushed along the jetty and up towards the entrance to the fort.
_____Davesson slumped against the wall of the gatehouse. The officer who had stabbed him stood nearby. He had sheathed his saberhilt and was shouting orders at his men as they rushed into the fort, shooting down any opponents they could find. Davesson looked on, in agony. His soldiers and sailors were being butchered in front of his eyes. Those who had been playing dice outside the barracks, and others who had emerged at the first sounds of fighting, now lay dead. Muffled cries and shouts from the barracks told of those who were being killed inside.
_____The sergeant looked round the fort and nodded with satisfaction, then turned and gazed down at Davesson.

_____The Captain cleared his throat. ‘Who are you?’
_____ ‘What does it matter?’ The man shrugged. ‘You will be dead soon. Think on that.’
_____Davesson shook his head, already he could see spidery dark shadows at the fringes of his vision. He felt giddy and licked his lips. ‘Who?’
_____The man untied his chinstrap and removed his helmet before squatting down at Davesson’s side. His hair was dark and curly and the light line of a scar marked his brow and cheek. He was powerfully built and well balanced as he sat poised on his haunches. He looked into the Captain’s eyes steadily. ‘If it is any comfort to give a name to death, then know that it was Mekon, who killed you and your men.’
_____ ‘Mekon,’ Davesson repeated. He swallowed and muttered. ‘Why?’
_____ ‘Because I wanted this fort. I needed it, and took what I saw, force makes right. That is the way of things. Now, prepare yourself.’
_____He stood up and drew his saber again. Davesson’s eyes widened into a frightened stare. He threw up a hand. ‘No!’
_____Mekon frowned. ‘You are already dead. Face it with dignity.’
_____Davesson was still for a moment and then he lowered his hand and turned his head up and to the side, baring his throat. He clenched his eyes shut. Mekon drew back his arm and placed the hilt in the cleft above the Captain’s collarbone, he flicked the switch on the saber and ignited the blade. Davesson’s eyes snapped open, his mouth sagged and he let out a pained gasp before his heart gave out, pierced through. Then he was still.

_____ ‘Hiral!’
_____One of his men, a dark-featured human, came trotting forward. ‘Sir?’
_____ ‘Take five men, work through the buildings. Kill the wounded and any others that may have been missed. Have the bodies rowed across the bay and dumped in the mangrove. The predators will make short work of them.’
_____Hiral nodded, then looked above the head of his leader and thrust out his arm. ‘Look!’
_____Mekon turned and saw a flare rising up into the clear sky beyond the wall of the fort. ‘That’s the watchtower. They’ve fired their flare gun.’ Mekon looked round quickly and waved over two of his lieutenants. He addressed a tall, muscular black man first. ‘Carr, take your squad to the lookout post at the double. Kill the men and make sure they can’t fire any more flares. Biron, take the tower at the head of the bay.’
_____Carr nodded and turned to bellow the order to his men to follow him, before running back through the gate. The other man, Biron, had bright blonde hair and had once been a mercenary in the black suns on Coruscant before joining his band of men. He smiled at Mekon and beckoned the other party to follow him. Mekon stood aside to let them pass, and then strode across to the wooden steps that led up on to the wall of the fort. From there he entered the gatehouse and a moment later emerged on to the tower platform. He surveyed the supply station and took in the fort, the bay, the small river craft drawn up on the sand a short distance from the mangrove where a stretch of river led inland. In the other direction he watched as Carr and his men stormed into the lookout post. The bright flare in the sky slowly dropped into the water below where it fizzled out.
_____Mekon scratched the stubble on his jaw as he considered his situation. For weeks he and his men had been on the run from their pursuers, two operatives who kept on his trail with remarkable single-mindedness. They had been compelled to keep running away, hopping from system to system. Finally they had arrived on Cato Neimoidia where they were forced to land because of low fuel supplies. The ship was beyond repair and they had commandeered a pleasure yacht from a worthy cruising the river.

_____The strain of being on the run for so long had taken its toll on his followers. They were still loyal to him and followed his orders without complaint, but Mekon knew that some were beginning to lose hope. The fortune they had amassed would be confiscated immediately if he was captured. He let out a sigh, he should have killed the young padawan when he had the chance. Ryanna had been his padawan for a few months prior to the incident on Kinyen, they had met during a meeting of Jedi shadows on Tython and had taken an immediate liking of each other after which he had taken her on as his padawan. Their relation had been productive, yet when it came to it and he had needed her loyalty more than anything, she had refused to join him. She had refused to run away with the credits gained, he had argued his case well, they had served the republic for long enough and the republic needed have known about it. That money should have been his just reward for services rendered. Worst of all, she had exposed him and together with that blasted agent Dakkar had been hunting him ever since. He had been accepting of the fact that he could not return to the Jedi, but if he got out alive, he would have billions of credits to set up a life for himself, far away from prying eyes. He could live in comfort, actually indulging in the things the Jedi had been denied for all those years. Perhaps he’d even get married. It was a good prospect, yet nothing of it would ever materialise if they were caught.
_____ ‘This will do for now,’ he said softly to himself as he considered the supply base. ‘This will do very nicely indeed.’
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