Crimson Steel Ltd

Conclusion: Operation White Noise

There was something comforting about the wheezing of the drop ship’s engine as it rocked through the atmosphere. For a few tense moments, the group did nothing but listen to the sound of the starboard engine as it coughed and choked through the repairs that had just been made, but eventually their flight began to stabilize and everyone felt a wash or relief.

They had held their lines at the landing platform as long as they could; beaten back only by the arrival of the planetary military’s armored divisions that rolled through their guerrilla defenses at the last moment. It had been close, but their last desperate fight had given Dicer and the repair team enough time to get the vessel back into operation leading to the panicked escape.

Nobody spoke as the ship blasted across the planet’s skies, racing for the atmosphere. Outside the viewports, they could see the capital city; gouged as though a giant hand had torn something out of the planet’s very surface. In the distance, the bright flares of light could only have been the sporadic fighting between the remaining mercenaries and the locals.

Various voices managed to come through the static of the dropship’s communication systems, fading in and out as the dropship passed over various parts of the city. Despite complete communication failure, it appeared the mercenary army was still hoping their cries would be heard.

Through the static and confusion, the panicked voices of soldiers who were left to rot filled the cabin of the dropship; screeching hard over the sound of the engines. While most belonged to voices they did not recognize, there were a few they did recognize…

As they heard the bitter screams of their former comrades, Dicer reached out and shut down the links causing the entire cabin to go quiet. Soon there was nothing but the cold vacuum of space; and the shrinking image of the planet they had been successful in fleeing.

“Stand by for the jump to light speed…” said a particularly somber Dicer as he grabbed a lever on his console that would shoot them all into the history books.

The trip through hyperspace was an uneventful one that ended with news of Komsta Prime already ahead of them. Their defense of their homeworld had won the people of Komsta Prime the right to hold their heads high and cry victory over the conquered mercenary army. Within an hour; the group had broadcast their intention to declare open rebellion against the Empire, their words emboldened by their victory that made them feel invincible.

It was a show of strength that they had hoped would be echoed by others, and through collected strength they would show that they could not be simply swept away into the night. But they were wrong; and the Empire responded before anyone else could hear the rallying cry. The Empire arrived dozens of vessels and rather than risk a full scale invasion through the devastating effect of the quickening; the Empire executed their orders to purge all life from the surface of the world.

Every square mile of Komsta prime was razed over two days of continuous bombardment. By the third day there was nothing left and the Empire withdrew; sending the message to all who would listen that any opposition would meet with swift Imperial justice.

But their message was heard and interpreted differently by those around… Fear may have struck the hearts of many, but the bravery of Komsta Prime in the face of inevitability was sung from planet to planet; bringing about the war cry that they would not let the Empire get away with this. Families of the once proud community who were fortunate enough to have been off world throw in their lot with the rebellion, the names of lost souls clinging to their lips as they launch themselves into a dangerous war with little hope of success.

In less dramatic terms, the prices of galactic energy take a step up; especially in the outer rim where Komsta prime had been a major supplier of portable gaseous energy. Men are made millionaires over night; while others come crashing down after resting their hopes and financial futures on the delicate galactic market.

The balance of power is rapidly shifting, and only time will tell what the future holds and what part Omega squad will play.

The fate of all heroes


The two stormtroopers did not turn to the sound of their squad leader’s voice nor the approaching steps of their comrades. Instead, their eyes remained solidly fixed on the ‘abandoned’ landing platform where Dicer had been forced to divert his badly damaged craft towards.

It was unremarkable by most respects; four walls with a pair of forward guard towers, built into the curve of a valley side. Without proper rappelling equipment; the only way forwards was through the front door.

But as for why the two men had decided to hunker down over 300 meters away as opposed to rushing in to wait for the landing ship was obvious to the newcomers as they came over the rise and saw the bright lights and shadows of activity emanating from the platform.

“Why can’t intel ever be correct?” griped Kaz as he shook his head.

“Look on the bright side… at least there is a landing platform. Knowing the first class intel we’ve been getting tonight, I was half expecting the bloody carnival” replied Exton.

Arand tuned his helmet’s visor onto the platform and frowned; there were two guards in the towers overlooking the only road in and two more standing by a major durasteel door that blocked the way within. To make matters worse, one of the guards in the tower was very clearly armed with a heavy weapon mounted on one of the railings; something which would undoubtedly claw the group should it catch anyone within its sights.

“How long till Dicer gets here?” asked Jarael as he peered into the distance.

“Less time than I’d like… We need to let him know to slow his descent” replied Arand to which Exton held up an empty evacuation flare.

“Took care of that already… I think he got my message; but there’s no way to know for sure”

“Then we have no choice… We’ll need to take that pad directly and quickly” said the Talz’s vocabulator as the hairy alien patted Fritz, a salvaged super battle droid that had been disabled during the weather center raid. Unfortunately for the droid, it wasn’t doing too well in the open ion storms and was clearly suffering for it.

“Easy for you to say. I see a grand total of two rocks between us and the pad, which means we’ve got no cover for our approach” retorted Jarael as he glanced back. Even now they could see the very faintest hint of the drop ship rocketing towards them; an engine leaking a plume of bright red smoke and fire in its wake.

“Lets split up then; Jarael, Romo, and Kaz on that rocky outcropping to the right, Exton take left and stay quiet. If things get bad, you’re on sniping duty while Kaz draws fire with the Z6”

The troopers nodded and began moving for their positions, which left Romo and Jarael to look at the squad leader with an odd glance.

“… What, your idea for an advance is to sling ourselves at them until they run out of ammo or something? That’s over 60 meters of open ground from the rock to the door; and there’s no way we’ll be able to advance on that while that repeater is in place” said Romo with a blast of exasperation as he pointed at the tower.

“Both of you get to your assigned spots… I’ve got a plan” replied the squad leader as he slipped off his helmet and turned his all-weather cape so that it covered most of his armor.

Romo shrugged and with that the two aliens reported to their assigned spots by Kaz.

“That’s his plan?! He’s going to get bloody slotted and then we’re going to have that base on top of us” cried a beleaguered Talz as he stole a glance from around the outcropping.

No sooner had the two aliens gotten in place had the lone squad leader marched up the road, his arms wrapped around his sides and a look of absolute terror wretched on his face.

“Don’t worry; the boss knows what he’s doing”

“You may want to think about finding a new leader… I think you’re going to be short one very soon” pointed out Jarael with a smirk.

“Hey, cut the chatter… He’s almost within visual” scolded Exton’s voice over the comlink.

The squad leader was almost up to the edge of the wall’s ambient lighting when he suddenly froze, his entire body seemingly caught in the spectacular stillness of a photograph.

“Is that part of the plan?” asked Romo as he peered at his absolutely still body.

“… Not sure… Exton, you got a visual” replied Kaz.

“I think… Oh for xendor’s sake… Looks like they mined the road” began Exton before swearing.

The plan had been simple; get up close and gather the guards attention; and then hopefully be at the door and within the gun’s dead zone giving Arand the opportunity to either chuck a grenade into the tower or at least give the others a major distraction.

That was of course until the sound of a metal click went off causing his entire body to freeze instinctively. Had it not been for the storm and the soldier’s natural reliance on his helmet’s upgraded visors, Arand may have noticed the landmine a little earlier; but at the least he had noticed it soon enough to stop himself from causing a very bad mess with his lower body.

Arand knew his armor would be able to absorb the brunt of the mine’s force; but there was little doubt that it would alert the garrison in a most hostile manner that something had gone wrong.

He felt around his utility belt hoping for something that he could use to disarm the mine; but without actually knowing what he was doing or having anything more delicate than the blunt side of his blaster; Arand decided to go for the unconventional.

He began to cry.

“… Oh yeah, totally has a plan” groaned Jarael as he watched their squad leader burst into tears and wail for help. A moment later a tower spot light shined on him, negating any cover of darkness he once had.

A trooper approached him gingerly and the group listened to Arand as he blubbered about how he had fled into the desert after the invasion and had thought to take refuge at the platform.

“Alright… well, don’t worry friend, just keep your foot down and don’t move a muscle. I’ll see about getting this thing disarmed” calmed the soldier as he dropped to one knee and glanced at the landmine that the trooper’s toe was resting upon.

“I just… I was so happy to see that the platform wasn’t abandoned and then… and then this?!” blubbered the man who nobody would have ever mistaken for a squad leader.

The soldier pulled out a set of tools and began to work, his hands gently twisting and prodding certain parts of the landmine.

Arand rubbed his eyes and took stock of his options. His mind raced as to what he could say to get closer to the wall, as his right hand tightened on the blaster pistol beneath the cloak. He had become so engrossed with his plan when he noticed that the soldier had just said something that he’d missed.

“I’m sorry?”

“I said; which town were you from? Never quite heard an accent like yours before”

“Kamten… I’m from Kamten” replied the squad leader after a long moment of thinking, trying to recall something he’d seen on the news reels while sitting in the station.

For a long moment the soldier said nothing and gazed at the officer.

“No way… I’ve got a cousin in Kamten, maybe you know him? Jilek? Big guy who works in trucking”

The squad leader let his heart beat again as he gave a random answer and let the soldier get back to work. It had been a close call and one that nearly me-

“… Plastoid boots? I don’t think I’ve seen those since the clone wars…” said the soldier suddenly, his hands frozen on the landmine as he noticed the solid armor.

The trooper began to draw back, his hands reaching for the rifle on the ground as Arand decided that everything was about to go south and that he had all but one option left to him.

A plume of fire and smoke blew apart a chunk of the road flinging the squad leader upside down as Exton opened fire on the heavy gunner. The man in the tower was wearing heavier armor than his companions and it showed as the shot jostled the man’s aim as he let loose a burst of bright blue blaster fire that peppered the ground around Arand.

The next few moments were a blur as Kaz opened up with the repeater to blanket the wall while Jarael took off down the road; sprinting down the precise path that Arand had taken only moments ago in order to avoid any other surprises that had been laid.

Two quick blaster rounds left Romo’s pistol as he moved up the right flank, his ability to see through the darkness a major asset as it allowed him to close on the wall without having to hesitate about other landmines that may have waited for him. While imperfect in its aim, it did distract the man by the gate from aiming at the approaching doctor or whatever was left of Arand who laid on the ground unmoving.

A burst of sniper fire from the western tower bounced off the rocks which Kaz was hunkered behind causing the trooper to pull back for a moment.

“Get that guy in the left tower; I’ll deal with the repeater”

“The gunner’s got some heavy armor on him; I don’t think you’re going to be able to knock him out from where you are” pointed out the sniper as he pulled around the corner and placed the sniper squarely within his scope. The man was young for his trade, but the stormtrooper didn’t hesitate as he squeezed the trigger and sent him into the next life.

“Who said anything about the gunner?” joked Kaz as he darted out once again and unleashed a fury of shots that reached out into small bunker where the repeater was housed. Like a bright ribbon of bright blue liquid, the arc splashed across the walls of the tower before a shot struck the side of the repeater’s housing causing it to explode in the gunner’s hands.

“Keep me covered!” shouted Jarael as he dropped to his knees, skidding along the weather beaten road beside Arand’s body. Blaster fire continued to erupt from Romo’s blaster pistol at the guard by the door as he moved up the right flank beneath the spray of fire from Kaz’s rotary cannon.

Tired of trying to shoot a target who refused to stand still in the night, the guard turned his blaster from Romo to Jarael only to be knocked off his feet by a shot from the Talz. The sickening smell of his own flesh being cooked by the heat of the blaster round overwhelmed his senses as he collapsed to the ground and dropped his blaster.

The soldiers quickly appeared from their positions of cover; blasters drawn and trained on the bleeding guard by the door.

“I surrender?” choked the man, as he raised his arms into the night.

“That’s nice” was the only reply Exton offered as he drew his pistol and pulled the trigger casually.

“Was that necessary? He could have had information on him” said the Talz as the man slumped the ground wordlessly.

“You think he would’ve done any different had it been us on our knees?” replied Exton as he holstered the pistol and covered the towers.

The talz shrugged and went to the door panel, pulling out his tools for the task ahead.

“How do you feel?” said Jarael’s voice as he tapped the syringe from his medical kit twice to dispel the excess fluid.

Arand tried to talk but found his chest too tight to choke out any part of a sentence.

“Excellent” muttered the scholar before plunging the syringe into the side of the soldier’s neck.

“What do you mean excellent?” asked another voice, this one belonging to Kaz.

“Means he can still feel and his organs haven’t failed. He’s lucky the concussion didn’t turn his insides to jelly” said the doctor whimsically as though he almost wished it had happened so he’d have the challenge of trying to put him back together again.

The squad leader winced in pain as he felt the syringe go through, but was almost immediately relieved of the tension in his chest that was making it difficult to breathe.

“You shouldn’t say that about him… Man’s a hero for drawing all that fire off us” replied Kaz curtly as Jarael continued to find move more things from his med kit back to Arand who was still coming back from the brink.

“Oh I completely agree… This is precisely what happens when you try to be a hero” replied the doctor as he snapped a synthetic flesh dispenser over an open wound on the Arand’s forehead.

“Will you please stop talking about me like I’m not here” groaned the squad leader as he moved back into a seated position. Kaz gave him a hand and helped move the soldier into a seated position.

“Couple more seconds and you wouldn’t have been” replied the doctor as he snapped the armored plate off the trooper and looked at the large black and red bruise that was quickly forming across the injured man’s torso.

“Does it hurt when I do…” began the doctor as he laid a hand on the soldier’s side. His sentence was never finished as the squad leader yelped in pain.

“I’ll take that as a yes… Two broken ribs at the minimum but at least your nerve functions are intact which means your kidneys are probably okay” continued the doctor as he administered a muscle relaxant and began to wrap the soldier’s midsection with a large cloth.

“Door’s ready to come in fifteen seconds; we ready?” reported Romo’s translator through everyone’s comlinks.

Arand groaned as he was helped back to his feet after snapping his chest pieces back into place. As odd as it was to have been so close to death’s door, Jarael had not only kept him from going over the brink but had brought him back to something close to fighting form. He had certainly seen better days and his insides felt like they were on fire; but everything responded the way it was supposed to and it didn’t feel like his heart would seize up whenever he turned or moved.

It almost saddened the squad leader to think how many more men he had seen in a state better than his who had died because someone like Jarael hadn’t been around.

“Think you dropped this…” said the doctor as he held up the squad leader’s helmet. There was a large crack along its frame, but the visor was still operational and felt sturdy in his hands.

With a quick flip he pulled the helmet over his head, finding an odd sense of tranquility and peace as his forward visor sprang to life.

“… We’re are now”

Scattered perspectives

D-day + 2.2 hours

“Everybody down!” screamed Jarael prompting Romo and Arand to throw themselves into the soft sandy ground.

No sooner had the warning been given did they hear the roar of the weather monitoring station they had been assigned to capture detonating behind them. The heat of the explosion and the scream of sheared metal raced across the sky behind and over them; filling their view with debris that would pelt the land for miles.

Jarael and Romo were already back off the ground; dusting themselves off and sprinting; leaving Arand to slowly pull himself together. Whatever was left of the once simple yellow painted monitoring station was now a slab of concrete; burning brightly behind them.

Hold the station for as long as you can… If an evacuation order has to be given, remember to blow the station to prevent communications falling to the enemy and the enemy alone. If we’re going to have to fight deaf and blind; it’s better that they are too.

“What the hell are you waiting for? We’ve got to go” chastised Jarael to the emphatic agreement of Romo who waved for Arand’s attention.

In the wake of the explosion; Arand found himself lost in his own thoughts… They had followed their orders to the letter… So why did he have the darkest feeling at the pit of their stomach that something just wasn’t… right?

As Arand felt the grab of the massive Talz’s hairy arms pull him back onto his feet; his mind jogged itself and he remembered how everything had led to this point…

D-day -4 hours

“You just going to lie there all day bucket head?” joked the Talz as he gave the squad leader a quick tug bringing him back into a standing position.

“I was planning on it…” replied Arand as he quickly dusted his armor. The massive roggwark had landed a lucky last tail sweep at him, throwing him clear across the landscape.

“Are we sure it’s dead?” asked Kaz as he kept his rifle leveled firmly at the now still creature.

As if to answer, Exton casually drew his disruptor pistol and fired twice at the massive creature. It lurched to life for a moment and whatever spark and soul that was left in the once noble beast was quickly robbed as the painful wave of a energy crept across it. A low moan of pain escaped as its final gesture to the world before whatever was left of its form was converted into bright yellow and black embers that floated into the night sky.

“Well let’s not just stand around… Our kit was supposed to have been dropped just over that hill” motioned Jarael as everyone began moving towards the rocky mesa outcroppings ahead.

D-day+2.2 hours

“No plan ever survives first contact…” grumbled Kaz as he gave the flare in his hand a quick twist before throwing it while in sprint. Exton was right beside him, the both of them sprinting across the desert like their armor and weapons weighed nothing at all. The stormtroopers corp had drilled their men from inception to fight, run, breathe, and survive in their armor; which was precisely what kept their breaths even despite the hectic run.

“We did our jobs and we got paid in advance because we knew how to do them; it’s not our gorram fault the rest of those yokels couldn’t pull themselves together” replied the nearly identical trooper who sprinted alongside him; their voices relayed from one to the other within their sealed helmet’s.

Another three hundred meters of silence passed as Exton drew a flare from his backpack. They were originally designed for the simple purpose of transmitting a single burst frequency to anyone who was actively listening in for it. Even through the thickest of these ion storms, the use of these flares could provide an electronic and visual reference for pilots.

“I don’t know about you… but I can’t wait to get off this rock” huffed the heavy weapons specialist as he jumped over a low boulder. The terrain was very quickly going from sand to rock; which the trooper was thankful for as it was much easier to run on.

“Rock? I’ve officially named this ‘planet retard’ for xendor’s sake…” replied Exton as he gave the flare a heavy throw at his feet. A moment later a thick green smoke began to pour out, reaching higher and higher into the sky.

The two troopers might’ve had a chance to discuss other things but a massive explosion rocked the sky behind them causing the both of them to stop and turn. The explosion was in the direction of the communication station that they had just been ordered to sprint away from…

For a moment, both troopers wondered the same thing. Did the explosives go off as planned or had something gone wrong?

Well… had something else gone wrong?

Exton was the first to come from the angle of reassurance, not entirely sure if he believed the words he heard himself.

“Our orders were to get to the landing platform as quick as we could. I’m sure they’ve just blown the center like they planned” reassured the sniper.

“Agreed… Lets rumble” replied Kaz as he squared his shoulders and started sprinting again. Exton took one last look towards the source of the explosion. Both he and Kaz knew that the detonation wasn’t supposed to happen for at least another twenty minutes.

“Come on lads… We’re not out of this one yet” muttered the sniper to the men he couldn’t see before turning back to Kaz and picking up the pace.

D-day –3 hours

Doctor Jarael finished the last touches to his triage center; his equipment and necessary drugs arranged by alphabetical order for the next person who needed surgery. Unfortunately, that really only lasted an hour by which time Jarael was bored stiff and was wondering what the next five hours with these guys would be like.

Romo was busy trying to bring one of the battle droids back to life from its ionized state while the two rank and file stormtroopers wandered the perimeter setting up explosives around the center.

Arand however was doing something worthwhile; monitoring the transmissions across the planet now that the virus had been installed and was swiftly working to reroute all communications their way. It took a little bit of effort to tune the lines into something cohesive and usable; but the squad leader had succeeded into tapping the latest news networks with the goal of finding out if anyone was onto their invasion plans.

“Mr. Immer… Have you discovered anything interesting listening to the tabloids? Perhaps another celebrity dangling an infant out a window?” asked the doctor as he walked over to the other side of the center.

“Might as well… It’d be a lot more exciting than these debates I keep reading about” replied the squad leader, his voice betraying his boredom after finding nothing relating to even the slightest of hints that they suspected what was about to happen.

“Real debates are settled through logic and knowledge… It’s been a long time since I’ve heard of a real one that didn’t eventually degrade to mindless ignorant squabbling” replied the doctor as he took a seat at the console to listen in.

The idle banter continued in the background as Arand moved the communication lines from one channel to another. It might have felt wrong to dive into the private conversations of billions; but mercenaries who killed for money rarely had to think of such matters.

As the communication feeds switched from one conversation to another, interspersed with flashes of static, Jarael’s eyes narrowed and his hands shot out to quickly dial back the conversation.

“Heard something interesting?” asked Arand.

“Just… Something I was idly thinking about while setting up the triage center and looking at the reports on these monitors…” mumbled Jarael, his thoughts lost as he traced the conversations to the one he had just listened to…

“… And I’m telling you, we need to make plans for what the lack of a harvest season will do this year” sprang a voice filtered through the electronic speakers of the console. It was an economic forum.

Jarael’s eyes narrowed.

“Quickening or not, I do not believe your policies of taxing our farmers to be something that will help governor… All you’re going to do is exasperate the community to put a bandage on a temporary issue” came the reply from another stodgy local, much to the cries of support from several others.

“That’s what was so important? Screaming about this backwater world’s economy?” asked Arand, looking up from the console with a look of curiosity.

Jarael turned and marched over to one of the weather monitoring stations and began pulling up reports that floated into view in rapid fire. It was now Arand and Romo’s turn to walk over.

“Does he always do this?” asked Arand as he watched the white haired doctor flip from one chart to another without paying anyone a moment of attention.

“More than I can tell you… but it’s usually for a good reason” replied the Talz as he hunched his shoulders.

“Gentlemen… I think we’re in trouble” said the doctor finally, his voice calm and without even the slightest hint of anxiety. His hands had finally stopped moving and before everyone now was a big holographic image of the planet with various lines and colors drawn upon it.

“What’s going on in there? You guys seeing something on sensors?” asked Exton’s mechanically filtered voice.

“Not exactly… but reroute your visors through mine. Something’s up” replied Arand as he slipped on his helmet to activate the shared view. It took a second to establish the link, but soon Kaz and Exton were able to see everything that Arand was able to.

“I’m not sure if anyone bothered to read up on this planet, but it’s a farming world that generates its income through the production and harvest of gaseous energy that is used in products like energy packs, and common appliances” began the doctor.

The doctor paused for a moment to see if this would elicit a reaction, and when it didn’t do anything but gather some odd stares; he continued.

“Every year the planet undergoes something called ‘the quickening’. Farmers pull almost 85% of their annual income during this month long ion storm that blankets the planet in hurricane like conditions which make flight an absolute impossibility. Most people take refuge in the biosphere capital cities or retreat underground for the month until the winds die down”

“… You’re not about to tell me that the quickening is meant to happen this month, are you?” cut off the squad leader, his voice betraying the slightest hint of worry that was on everyone’s mind.

“Absolutely not… in fact, the quickening was meant to happen over two months ago”

“What do you mean, meant to happen?” asked Kaz over the comlink.

“That’s just it… The storm never hit so now the entire planet is wondering what to do. Based on their total GNP, the quickening represented over 65% of the planet’s national income and they’re now squabbling over what they can do to ensure that their economy doesn’t go out the airlock”

“… That’s the dire emergency? Sorry if I seem uninterested in something that has absolutely nothing to do with our operation here” replied Exton’s voice with more than a hint of sarcasm.

“It has everything to do with us jar head. Look, everyone on this planet seems to think that the storms aren’t going to happen because its two months late but I know they’re wrong” finished the doctor as his hand reached out to run a program that would begin running its weather simulation graphs based upon the new information Jarael had found.

The global hologram began to shift as the weather lines began converging, and cloud formations began to form and swirl across the planet. The time index at the bottom of the hologram began to accelerate and within a few moments, the cloud patterns began to blanket the entire planet in a furious series of swirls and circles.

“If this storm hits Jarael… And it hits as hard as your charts are projecting… We’re going to be stuck here for a month, aren’t we?” voiced Romo’s communicator which did so with absolutely no emotion or worry.

When this storm hits… It’s going to be of a scale that hasn’t been seen in over half a decade of storm monitoring. We’re talking about winds so quick they’ll tear the flesh off a man’s arm, and electronic disturbances so thick that most electronic devices need to be stored in airtight containers to simply be usable again after the storm”

“How long do we have doctor?” asked Arand before Jarael could go on.

“… Based on my calculations… The storm will hit in less than twenty four hours with a 78% chance of it occurring within the next three”

There was a shared moment of silence within the weather monitoring station, now filled with the white noise chatter of the distant console and the occasional beep and grunt of processors emitted by the monitoring equipment.

It was with an odd sort of finality that Romo’s soulless translator was the first to speak after a long series of hoots and squeals.

“So… We’re humped”

“Definitely humped” thought Arand to himself as he squared his shoulders and stared into the night sky. The quickening was beginning, and the invasion had fallen apart after an accident at the central Komsta power grid took out half the city; forever branding the mercenaries as terrorists. Dicer had taken a bad hit and was now being forced to reroute to a separate landing platform a few kilometers away from them; which meant they had to sprint if they were going to help Dicer fix his ship and leave the planet before everything closed around them.

They had been asked to hold position at the communication center to assist with coordinating the retreat, but frankly it was their own fault they had wound up in that mess and Arand saw very little reason to endanger the men under his command for idiots.

It was not easy to make the choice of abandoning the remaining 40,000 mercenaries for his band of 5; but making the hard choices was an officer’s duty and Arand was not one to shrink away from such a call.

He had heard them begging and screaming for Omega squad to hold position but he simply dialed down the volume and left with the others. Thanks to Romo, they had rigged the station to only detonate within 30 minutes or if one of the salvaged droids detected any movement towards the doors. It had been a good idea, striking the best of both worlds as it allowed them to leave, while also guaranteeing the station would not fall into enemy hands.

He had hoped that in 30 minutes, vital information such as alternative transportation routes or navigating trapped forces away from dire road blocks could be accomplished through the communication uplink with the flagship up above.

Hope however had a funny way of changing things. Barely a minute had passed since they left the weather monitoring station when they noticed the familiar shape of a Roggwark marching towards the station; its massive lumbering shape advancing on the latest heat sources with a mild curiosity about it.

The creature had taken no more than two steps when the first of the massive explosions began to ignite, supported by the booby traps laid by the two troopers before hand. Fusion, fire, and bits of debris combined into a giant ball of light and heat as it pushed them to the ground. The three stood in quiet reverence for a second, watching the station burn in the night sky. How many soldiers were now doomed to march down blockaded roads? How many would find themselves ambushing one another in a crazed attempt to cut their way to the transport? Would the transport even know when to leave or when to stay?

“Come on… I’m not planning on making this my home for the next month” said Arand simply as he broke out into a sprint with the other two close behind.

First contact

“Jacked up and good to go”

It was always hard to tell the difference between the troopers and their mechanically filtered voices, and the sandstorm that roared around them wasn’t helping matters much.

The hairy talz hunched his shoulders and seemed to mumble something behind the cloth wrap that protected his face against the wind around him. The automatic translator seemed to chirp something, but it was lost in the wind.

“What did he say?” asked Arand the squad leader as he activated a small holoprojector on his armored glove. Within a few moments the miniature computer had calculated their position and direction, chirping with the information they needed to find the equipment drop zone.

“He said he couldn’t believe your jarhead really just said that” shouted the doctor, his voice muffled by the cloth that was wrapped across his face. While the Imperial deserters had their environmentally sealed armor; the two aliens were forced to resort to more low-tech solutions for the desert world which came in the way of tigh3. Your title here…htly wrapped strips of cloth around their bodies and weapons.

Once upon a time, sand getting into the crystallization chamber of a blaster was a true problem for anyone waging a war on a desert planet. Anything from jams to misfires could occur for older weapons, but modern day Imperial sandtrooper rifles had been modified for just such environments.

The aliens on the other hand had to resort to more colloquial protection; taken in the form of strips of chemically soaked adhesive strips wrapped around the barrels of their weapons to keep them clear.

“Charming. In any case, our kit should be waiting for us 400 meters north… Exon on point, the rest of you form up and lets make tracks” ordered the squad leader falling back into his usual role. One of the stormtroopers with the mighty looking sniper rifle nodded once and immediately took to the lead, gliding into the thick fog of swirling sand like a natural.

The rest quickly followed, their heads bowed down beneath the onrushing currents of air that whipped and billowed against their forms. The loose sand made travelling the desert as difficult as moving through a swamp; but the assembled soldiers said nothing as they moved up.

At the back of everyone’s mind were thoughts of the strangers they were now alongside. The imperials, while deserters at best (and traitors at worse), still held the presence of the aliens as an unnecessary liability. To the armored stormtroopers who had fought and bled alongside one another in many a life threatening conflict, the presence of the outsiders seemed… trivial.

But on the other hand, the two aliens had their own reasons to doubt their new comrades. How many men in the exact same uniform with identical voices and mannerisms had they killed in the past month alone? Cabot was certainly no Imperial lover and his contracts had placed the men of plastoid dress codes down their sights several times.

Not wanting to say or start anything unnecessary however, the soldiers forged on; guided only by the dim blue light on Exon’s backpack that was somehow able to shine through the swirling mist of sand all around them.

Fifteen minutes of uneventful and silent marching continued with only the punctuated sounds of light breathing passing through the comlinks of the stormtroopers to everyone else. The friends you made in this business had a funny habit of winding up dead or aiming guns at you; so most mercenaries that had been in the business for a while saw little reason to talk unnecessarily.

It was because of this that it came as an odd surprise to everyone when Exon finally spoke up.


“Exton? See something?” asked Arand, raising a single hand to slow down the entire line as they began to crouch down in anticipation of anything.

“Not really… Just that I thought we were finally getting off onto hard ground; only to sink into even looser sand up here…” replied the trooper, his voice displaying his temporary confusion.

Arand was about to ask for more details when his boot hit a ridge of hard rock, almost causing him to stumble. Sure enough, a slab of solid brown and black rock stuck out from the sand. The surface of the object was almost shiny and waxy, glowing brightly against the setting sun.

“Hold up… Something is wrong here…” muttered Jarael as he stopped in his tracks and began unhooking his blaster from its holster.

A slight rumble in the ground turned to an almost bone shattering seizure in the ground below as it began to open up directly beneath Arand and Kaz.

“Back it up!” shouted Kaz just as the ground suddenly split open as an angry creature began to claw its way out of the ground. It was easily up to 4 meters tall with a thick razor hide carapace and a large array of serrated teeth that still held the remains of previous meals between them.

With a massive roar and glare, the creature turned its attention to the two human stormtroopers who stood directly before the massively lumbering creature.

“… I don’t know what that thing is… but do you think it’s hostile?” asked Jarael as he raised his weapon.

Almost as an answer to his query, the animal roared once more as it drew itself to its full height and raised its strong claws to slam down directly upon the two troopers.

“Oh yes… definitely hostile” muttered Romo as he took an instinctive step back to get a better grenade throwing arc. It was time to greet their first local of the planet…

Insertion - Operation White Noise

Aside from the glamor and glitz in the holographic movies, a mercenary’s life is not as inviting as many might have imagined. Unlike soldiers who at least died knowing they fought for their countries, ideals, or family’s; a mercenary pushed forward for nothing but money. Rightfully so; the men of such a profession were often vilified by society for their almost casual disdain for the sanctity of life.

How long could you trust the man next to you who fought for money? At least if you fought for ideals, the man beside you could be counted on to at least want the same thing as you (whether it was the liberation of your h5. Your title here…home world or the defense of a common way of life); but here?

Within the cramped cabin of the “In your face” (a name that Dicer, the mad drop ship pilot felt most appropriate to his personal hunk of junk); the five men sized one another up. Everyone present had been in at least one situation where the men next to them eventually became the men down their sights. The only thing that had kept everyone alive through such double crosses, was a keen sense of paranoia and very quick trigger fingers.

The air in the cabin of the drop ship was quiet, save the howl of the engines as the ship plunged out of hyperspace. The planet Komsta Prime lay just beyond the view screen, swirling in bright orange and red; a steady reminder to its constant whirlwinds and energy storms.

Once a peaceful mining colony, Komsta was a separatist planet which came under heavy republic assault. Although the planet was eventually captured, lots of civilians were killed in the process resulting in a certain amount of animosity for the Republic’s (and invariably, the galactic empire).

With word of the galactic civil war beginning to move forward, Komsta joins a growing league of planets that is on the verge of throwing in their lot with the rebellion. While other planets have been bombed to cinders for the mere mention of such things; the Empire is not blind to the effect of martyrdom and has decided to take a different approach with Komsta.

The cover story is that the local government has lost control of the planet due to rebel terrorist acts and they have contracted the services of Shattered Sun Incorporated; the largest private military corporation in the sector to help restore order. This solution will help to reduce the chance of any perceived martyrdom towards the rebel’s cause, as well as helping to prove that the problem is not as big as others may suspect (something they may well conclude should the Imperial grand army mobilize).

Anticipating harsh opposition which could easily stretch out into weeks of conflict; Shattered Sun has subcontracted the use of specialized teams to move in advance of their invasion to disable/ capture key strategic targets. By seizing up their key infrastructure functions (such as power, communications, and transportation), Shattered Sun hopes to bring a swift (and perhaps more importantly; cost effective) resolution to the current operation. That’s where these five men come from; all of whom were personally picked by J. Cabot; one such subcontractor who had been hired to ensure planet wide communications were seized.

The idea of arresting an entire planet’s communication grid may seem outlandish without the usage of ships and thousands of soldiers and techs, but Komsta’s constant energy storms have forced the entire planet to centralize all their communications through the use of signal towers.

While seizing the main communication network may have been incredibly difficult (especially without the reinforcements from the main invasion), the planet’s decision to unify the entire network meant that an intrusion at any one access point could potentially mean seizing everything.

As such; the mercenaries had the very simple task of securing a single weather monitoring station; hopelessly isolated and with minimal crew and security. Upon seizing it (preferably without an alarm going of); they only needed to upload a security program that would quietly build a programming backdoor into the network to allow complete and utter control to a single hub.

If they did their jobs right; the mercenaries could look forward to some very impressive payments for a decidedly simple babysitting job.

“Two minutes to drop men… We’re going dark” shouted Dicer as the ship’s luminescent lighting turned to emergency red. The engines that howled loudly through the cabin suddenly went quiet as the ship rocked and bucked through the atmosphere.

“Looks like we’re about to hit some turbulence… Everyone strap in; could be bumpy” muttered Dicer as the ship took a hard shake to the right causing everyone’s stomach to enter their throats. Usually such storms could be easily navigated by way of planet based weather networks and the use of the ship’s engines; but when trying a covert drop where even the slightest tap of the main engines could light up a sensor network…

“I think I have it… I think I have it…” began muttering Dicer only to have another atmospheric front slam into the cabin like a force of nature. Suddenly the once steady red lighting began flashing rapidly as emergency klaxons began to sound.

“… Totally don’t have it. I’ll likely crash and kill us all…” joked Dicer as he wrenched the ship from one side to the another, using little but its maneuvering flaps to cross the violent air currents.

The ship continued to rock from side to side, warnings blaring indicating that their descent vector was too steep and that they were losing various parts of the starboard engine.

Throughout this chaos however, the mercenaries knew better than to panic. There were thirty seconds to drop and that meant it was time to ready themselves for the jump.

The skies outside went from black and dark to brown stretches of open desert. The sun was beginning to set, turning the clouds into a faint shade of orange as the drop ship scooted into a patch of open air above an endless desert.

“Fifteen seconds to the LZ… Get ready for an immediate stop in 3…2…1… Mark!” shouted Dicer, who as promised brought the ship to an almost dead stop with a hard tap of the maneuvering thrusters. The universe slammed into an invisible wall and the lighting in the cabin went from red to green as the doors locked into an open position. The air outside was cool and faintly sweet as it rolled into the cabin with a nearly concussive force from the sharp deceleration.

Wordlessly, the mercenaries were free of their harnesses and racing out the side doors and down the ropes onto the desert below. The desert sand, while soft and slippery was a welcome change to being helplessly strapped into a rolling metal coffin with a lunatic for a pilot.

“We’re all clear here! Move it Dicer” shouted one of the mercenaries into the short range comlink. Not one who needed to be told twice, Dicer pushed the ship’s engines to life again and began to rocket away into the night sky. It wasn’t long until the familiar screech of the engine’s faded into nothing, only to be replaced by the softest chirping of distant animals.

The mercenaries quickly pat themselves down to ensure everything is with them; and once satisfied that everyone is good to go; they begin their trek across the cooling sandy desert towards their first objective…

A light in the darkness

A flashing red light is all that illuminates the small living quarters you reside in as you return to your home one wet Nar Shadda afternoon. The screams and wailing of a universe ready to self destruct is hot on your heels until you seal the door behind you and find yourself confronted with interspersed darkness.

If you strain your ears you can still hear the muted whispers of fear and anger amongst the ebb and flow of the crowds outside your domicile; but you shrug it off as your imagination and step through the night of your living room with practiced ease.

The holonet springs to life as you key in your registration codes and thumb through the messages. Your eyes catch the occasional glimpse of the oncoming doomsday; mimicking the whispers outside your door through the sinister electric blue holograms before you. Stories like another political activist being found guilty of treason, or a supply depot burned to the ground by ‘armed’ guerrilla forces trickle by like the rain rolling down the windows. Has it really only been three months since you read of the bombardment of Ralla 6 over a simple riot?

Your personal mailbox has the usual garbage of service solicitors and scams promising a better you for a minimum investment. There’s a note from a colleague about another brother in arms who is MIA from some border dispute on a distant world; a tragic occurrence to be sure but one that you’ve long since grown accustomed to reading about. A job offer or two tumble by but are quickly discarded once you realize the pay isn’t worth leaving the planet, or that the contact brokering the deal is an idiot who has amazed everyone with their continued existence.

You’re almost ready to give up and go to bed when you notice the last message sent was from Cabot, a broker who has never dealt you wrong and has always treated you well (even when the jobs fell through). You know he’s promised to keep you in mind for any special jobs he runs across, and you’re proud to admit that it’s because you know how to finish a contract without shooting yourself in the foot like the thousands of amateurs out there.

The message is simple and brief; there’s a planet on the rim that may be on the brink of open war and the Imperial Army has contracted Shattered Sun Incorporated to handle the situation before things turn out badly. While Shattered Suns is big and mighty (and frankly is less a mercenary organization, and more of a giant directory of generic names that could become an army with enough prodding), there are still too many little gaps to fill, and so they’ve turned to men and women like Cabot to act as subcontractors.

The piece of the pie that Cabot’s secured is a mere drop compared to what Shattered Sun’s is being paid; but the contract is to simply assist with some peace keeping while they send the bulk of their forces into some city that needs to be straightened out. It’s easy money and with Cabot; at least you know he’s going to get you paid…

You smile as you think about the last operation you had with him and the frankly extravagant taste of ‘the good life’ you got from the credits on that job. One of these days you’re going to have to learn to invest your money better; but for now…

“Meeting will be at the Blue Spider, the golden room” finishes Cabot in his message as he recites a time to meet him there at. His creased face gives you a tired grin before the message fades leaving you to the empty darkness of the room and the whispered cries beyond your front door.

Without thinking about it, you shut out the noise outside and reach across the holonet interface to begin keying in your reply to Cabot as you plan your route to the meeting later this week…


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