That Cathar really gets on my nerves sometimes Torin thought to himself as he exited her office within the Praxeum and walked through the quiet hallways of Odan-Urr’s centre of learning. It had been a little over six months since he’d been here himself, having only learned of his ability to manipulate the Force after the fall of the Thuronian Monarchy. As he made his way to the Praxeum shuttle pad he whistled quietly to himself nodding greetings to the few guards he recognised from his time there.
As he left the cool hallway and walked out into the sunlight he squinted as the sudden change from gloomy darkness to dazzling sunlight momentarily blinded him. Making his way over to a grounded Low Altitude Assault Transport, the symbol of Clan Odan-Urr emblazoned proudly below its cockpit, he pulled himself up into troop bay and held on tightly as the LAAT took off.
“Where we headed sir?” asked the co-pilot.
Poking his head into the cramped cockpit Torin said “I need to get to Fort Pernicar A.S.A.P.”
“Roger that sir, we’ll have you there in a few hours” replied the co-pilot as he turned back to his instrument panel.
Taking a seat the Jedi began to ponder just who would be dumb enough to try and approach the home of House Hoth unnoticed. It could be the Harakoans, there were a few tribes within the jungles to the west and south of the Fort but none that would attempt to attack a well-defended compound protected by Force users, at least not in the numbers the datapad Xirini gave him would suggest. If they were to attack they’d only do so in large numbers. Poachers perhaps, but why would poachers approach the Fort. The whole idea of poaching was to avoid getting caught by the authorities.
Turning in his seat Torin shouted “I’m gonna try and get some rest. Wake me when we’re thirty minutes out!” to the co-pilot who answered with a quick, informal salute. As he closed his eyes and got himself comfortable in the decidedly uncomfortable seat he drifted off into a light slumber with a myriad of questions still bouncing around in his head.
What seemed like only moments later he heard the co-pilots voice shouting “Sir!”
Sitting bolt upright in his chair Torin said “I’m up, I’m up” as he rubbed the stiffness out of his legs and back.
“We’re thirty minutes out from Fort Pernicar sir” said the co-pilot.
Standing and stretching he said “Excellent, slow us down to about fifty percent but don’t change trajectory and hand me those macrobinoculars.”
As the co-pilot handed him the small device the Jedi began to slowly scan the vast stretch of grassland that spread out from the coast to the east. But all he could see was the natural rhythms of the grasslands, herds of herbivores grazing while birds both large and small circled overhead hunting for prey disturbed by the grazers. But as he began to scan the jungle further west something caught his eye.
Most people would have overlooked it but Torin had been raised within the Forest Trekkers of the Melewati, taught from a young age how to hunt and track in just such an environment. He could see two figures dressed in combat gear edging up to the perimeter of the jungle one pointing up to the LAAT as the other spoke into a communication device. Well there not poachers or Harakoan, he thought to himself so who are they?
“Pilot,” he called out “make a note of our co-ordinates please. And get me to the Fort now.”
“Roger that sir” said the pilot.
Ten minutes later the transport touched down in the large Fort Pernicar hangar bay that had been cut into the cliff face overlooking the ocean to the east. As the side door slid open Torin leaped out and headed for the small room he maintained at the Fort as a member of House Hoth. As he entered he noticed the bed, which was situated directly below an air vent, had been disturbed as if someone had dropped from the vent and landed on the bed. There were only a few people within the Fort small enough to fit in the vent and Torin only knew of one brazen enough to sneak into someone’s quarters while they were away, House Hoths youngest member Gui Sol.
“I swear,” Torin muttered under his breath “if that little frakker’s taken something again I’ll kill him.”
Walking over to a large metal locker in the back corner Torin punched in his code and popped open the door. Within was an assortment of weapons, armour and survival gear for a variety of conditions. He began to reach for his armour, the same armour once worn by his father, but thought better of it. The aim of this mission was to observe and report not engage and the armour would likely slow him down. All he’d need was his trusty Quietsnipe, a blaster pistol and a hunting knife his father had given him when he was sixteen. Pulling the rifle from the locker he gave the weapon a quick once over and, satisfied that it was in tip top shape, slung it over his shoulder. After closing the locker and re-engaging the lock he made his way back down to the hangar bay to find the pilots who had ferried him from the Praxeum.
As he approached the pair he asked “Do you have those co-ordinates for me?”
“Yes sir” replied the pilot handing the Jedi a datapad.
“Thanks guys” Torin said as he took the datapad from the pilot and headed off in the direction of the turbolifts that would take him from the heights of the Fort to the grassy plains below. As he entered the turbolift he glanced at the screen and saw that the figures he’d seen at the edge of the jungle were approximately ten kilometres from Fort Pernicar. It would take him most of the day to get there on foot but if the hostiles heard the approach of a speeder or swoop his mission would have failed before it even began.
As the turbolift doors slid open and he stepped out onto the plains he looked to the east where a large storm was brewing over the ocean, a storm head of dark black clouds moving west towards the plains. Hoping to minimize his exposure to the incoming inclement weather the Jedi took off at a fast jog though the waist high grass in the direction of his sighting.
Several hours later the sun had set and the rain was falling in sheets while lightning cracked in the sky when Torin approached the edge of the jungle. Getting down onto his belly he slowly crawled through the grass making his way to the edge of the jungle. It was slow going but after forty minutes of dragging himself through the mud he arrived at the edge of the grassland. Before him was an area of wide open ground, perhaps forty meters wide, which separated the grass from the jungle. With no sign of cover in site he’d have to move across as swiftly as possible to minimize the risk of being seen.
He laid there for thirty minutes scanning the edge of the jungle for any sign of movement, the lightning illuminating everything around him every time it boomed overhead. Satisfied that there were no sentries posted at the edge of the jungle he waited for the flash of the next lightning strike to fade before he took off running as fast as he could across the open ground, sliding into the undergrowth of the jungle a handful of seconds later. Once in the undergrowth he lay perfectly still listening for any sign that his mad dash had been spotted.
After a few minutes of silence Torin rose to his feet and lifted his rifle scope to his eye, the devices night vision system kicking in automatically. As he scanned the ground in search of a trail he could see signs of a pair of men, possibly the pair he’d spotted earlier, moving through the jungle making no effort to hide their movements. As he followed their trail deeper into the jungle Torin would scan the ground making sure he hadn’t lost their direction of travel. He’d been following the tracks for over an hour, the jungle opening up the longer he went. Looking up through the now open canopy Torin got a clear look at the now cloudless sky, the stars twinkling brightly in the inky blackness.
The open spaces didn’t last long however as the jungle once again closed in. Off in the distance Torin could see a glow; it was extremely faint but definitely noticeable in the dark jungle. Unsure if it was a Harakoan village or the unknown forces he was looking for Torin approached more cautiously now, taking a handful of steps before stopping and listening to the sounds of the jungle for any signs that his approach had been detected. It took more than forty minutes for him to get within sight of the source of the light. It was a large fire coupled with more than a dozen artificial light sources surrounded by fifteen or twenty tents.
Well their not Harakoans the Jedi thought to himself. He slowly began to circle the camp keeping to the shadows as best he could until he found a large cluster of low lying ferns that would give him some cover from any casual observation. Taking a prone position he began to observe the camp spying several figures silhouetted by the fire. Despite leaving a trail through the jungle a seven year old could follow these men were clearly professional soldiers as evidenced by the way their sentries held their weapons in steady hands while their armour was well used but still in fine working order. As he contemplated entering the camp to gather some intel a branch snapped to his rear and he froze, calling on the Force to cloak him in shadow.
The nearest sentry raised his rifle and said “Who goes there?” in a calm stern voice.
“It’s Jerrol and Vosca” came the reply from the darkness behind Torin.
Lowering his rifle the sentry said “I wondered when you’d be back, see anything interesting?”
“Nothing, dunno why Landala want’s us trudging through this frakkin jungle at all hours” said Jerrol as he and his companion entered the light of the nearest lamp.
Landala, Torin thought to himself at least I’ve got a name. As the night slowly passed Torin kept his eyes on the camp until the sun slowly rose in the east and the grey dawn light began to break through the canopy. In ones and twos the inhabitants of the camps tents began to stir, exiting their makeshift homes to eat or relieve themselves in the brush. As the day dragged on they began to leave the camp, always in pairs, to scout out the jungle. As they returned they all reported to one man. Landala? Torin wondered.
He was a short, stocky man in his late forties or early fifties with dark brown skin, a shaved head and a thick white beard. Unlike his subordinates he wore no armour; instead he was dressed in a quasi-military uniform devoid of rank or insignia. On his hip was an old gun belt and holster with an aged but still serviceable looking DC-17 blaster pistol from the Clone Wars. This is good, Torin thought but I need more.
As the sun reached its zenith and Torin’s stomach began to rumble a scout came running into the camp, his breath coming in short ragged gasps. As he sucked in several deep breaths the man called out “Where’s Landala, we’ve got a situation.”
Landala strode purposefully over and said “Report soldier” in a gruff voice.
“Sir, me and Crim were scouting to the North West and we spotted a group of those blue skinned natives coming this way” replied the tired soldier.
“Warriors?” asked Landala.
Shaking his head the scout said “No sir, women and children.”
“Take five men, intercept and eliminate. We can’t risk our operation being discovered. No survivors, do you understand?” asked Landala.
Saluting the scout replied “Roger that sir” before pointing to five men and running off into the jungle.
Torin couldn’t allow this to happen but it would be next to impossible to leave his observation point in broad daylight without being spotted, even with the Force. He needed a distraction and he needed it fast. Stretching out with the Force Torin could sense the men in the camp, the men running off through the undergrowth and, after a handful of minutes, off in the distance the presence of a small group of Sthiss. The Sthiss were a species of reptilian herbivore that made their home in the jungles of New Tython where they congregated in herds to better protect themselves from predators. The presence of the Sthiss gave him an idea, stretching out with the Force he probed the mind of one of the beasts implanting the notion that a predator was nearby and that it had to flee. As he’d hoped the Sthiss panicked, as did the rest of its herd, and took off running straight for the camp.
As the herd came barrelling through Torin quickly rose and stalked off in the direction the scouts had gone, his movements completely covered by the stampeding herd making its way through the camp. As the stampeding herbivores distracted the sentries posted around the camp Torin slipped from cover and moved off in the direction the six men had travelled, moving through the jungle like some great hunter stalking its dinner. Every now and then he would scan the ground finding a boot print here, a broken branch there. All signs that he was on the right track.
Twenty minutes or so later Torin could hear the sounds of crying and shouting a short distance ahead. Unslinging his rifle from across his back he slowly crept through the undergrowth, every step measured to ensure his approach went unnoticed. Suddenly through the trees he spotted the men surrounding a group of frightened Harakoan women and children huddled together on the jungle floor. As he peered through the scope of his Quietsnipe he could see one or two Harakoan woman dead at the feet of one of the men, a large blade covered in blood in his right hand, a cowering woman kneeling at his feet. As he raised his blade Torin squeezed the trigger of his rifle, the magnetic accelerators within the weapons barrel accelerating the metal slug at near supersonic speeds. The slug flew unerringly through the air striking the man through the back leaving a thumb sized hole where it punched through his body armour.
As he stumbled forward and dropped to his knees Torin had already lined up the next target, a Rodian in black and red body armour, and fired. The slug crossed the distance between the pair in a fraction of a second punching into the Rodian’s large glassy eye before it exploded from the rear of his skull. With two men down the Harakoans bolted, running in all directions into the jungle as the remaining guards opened fire. Dropping his rifle to the ground Torin pulled his lightsaber from the rear of his belt and ran headfirst into the middle of the fray. As he approached the closest soldier he ignited his lightsaber and slashed it down from right to left, the yellow blade bisecting the Human from right shoulder to left hip.
The moment the three remaining guards heard the snap-hiss of the Jedi’s lightsaber coming to life they ignored the fleeing Harakoans and concentrated fire on the Jedi. As the blaster bolts came flying in Torin was a blur of motion, the blade of his lightsaber blocking the incoming shots left and right. As he blocked more and more shots his confidence grew until he was directing shots back towards the rifle that had fired it dropping a Nikto as the bolt he’d fired at the Jedi returned in a heartbeat, striking him in the stomach. With four men down and two remaining one of the survivors, a Twi’lek, leapt into the undergrowth leaving his compatriot alone to confront the oncoming Jedi.
As Torin walked purposefully towards the Human man standing before him he slapped aside a handful of barely aimed blaster bolts. As he closed in on the terrified man the Jedi spun on the ball of his right foot and slashed with his lightsaber, the blade slicing through the Human’s neck like a hot knife through butter. As the severed head dropped to the floor with a thud, the body following moments after, Torin deactivated his lightsaber and took a few deep breaths to calm himself. In the now still clearing Torin took began to take in the grisly scene before him when, off in the undergrowth, he could hear a faint voice.
“Are you deaf? There’s a Jedi here, he’s killed everyone, you gotta send some help” said the panicked voice.
“Frak!” Torin swore to himself as he pulled his blaster from the holster on his hip and fired. The blaster bolt flew into the undergrowth, slamming into the skull of the Twi’lek hidden there. With fifteen minutes at most before the compatriots of these men stormed the clearing Torin went to work looking for anything that could help identify them. He’d searched three of the men and found nothing before he hit the jackpot. In the backpack of the Rodian was a datapad but it was locked and Torin’s slicing skills weren’t good enough to get it open.
Pulling a small comm unit from a pouch on his belt he keyed in the code for his House’s Aedile, Revak Kur, and waited for him to respond. Less than ten seconds later the Aedile’s voice came through the small speaker. “Torin, what have you got?” he asked.
“Revak I found them. I have no idea who these guys are or why there here, they’ve got no I.D’s or insignia’s on their uniforms but their well-armed and well trained. Their leaders name is Landala, I don’t know if it’s his first or last name but he’s definitely had some form of military training. I managed to get a datapad off one of his men but it’s locked and I don’t know how to open it.” answered Torin.
Upon hearing that Revak replied “Understood. You need to get that datapad back to Pernicar now, we’re tracking your signal from here. I’ll have a LAAT on station the extract you the minute you’re out of the jungle” in a calm voice.
“Copy that Revak, Torin out” the Jedi replied as he scooped up his rifle and ran through the jungle as fast as his tired legs would carry him.
Thirty Minutes Later
Landala strode into the clearing now littered with the bodies of his men along with a handful of dead Harakoans. Looking around at the dead bodies of his men he turned to one of his soldiers and said “Get the client on the holo-comm.”
“Yes sir” said a young Human with a comm unit strapped to his back. After a moment he handed the devices receiver to Landala as a figure appeared clothed in a heavy robe, his face hidden within the shadows of a hood.
“Why are you contacting me Commander?” asked the robed figure in a raspy voice.
Clearing his throat Landala said “Our operations been compromised. The Jedi are aware of our presence. What are your orders?”
“Get your men off world as soon as possible Commander. We cannot have our plans compromised any further” replied the hooded figure before his hologram disappeared.
Handing the receiver back to his comm officer Landala turned to one of his men and said “Sargent prepare the men for exfil, we’re off this mudball.”