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DeCicco Ehne: Darkest Agent: Chapter 1


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“60 seconds,” said a voice over the intercom.

This is it. This was what Lieutenant DeCicco Ehne lived for. There were few things more exciting…or terrifying…than jumping out of a dropship at a hundred thousand feet into the jungles and night of Dromund Kaas. He and the rest of his six-man squad sat on opposite sides of the tiny dropship, sitting in the red light that filled the compartment.

Their mission was a training exercise. They were suppose to jump out of the dropship, activate their stealth generators (these particular models not bending visible light rays, but everything from infrared down), and activate their single-use jetpacks just a few hundred feet from the ground. This temporarily nullified the stealth generators, but the heat flash would be be so suddenly there and gone, it would imitate a golfball-sized meteorite crashing down on any sensors. Even visually one could not accurately tell what the flame would be if any using the jet-packs were just a few kilometers away. Once on the ground, the team would dismantle the jet-packs, creating a specialized recon rifle and a tactical pack. On a normal mission, any remaining fuel would be stored in orbs with an ignition fuse on the side. Primitive, but an effective and easy-to-make incendiary grenade. The squad would then trek their way to a mock republic base, encountering ‘difficulties’ along the way. Secure the base, grab the ‘intel,’ and get out without raising an alarm. The entire exercise was also timed. If so much time passes, the squad fails. If in incredible amount of time passes, a search team is dispatched to find the lost squad. DeCicco’s squad never failed, and they certainly did not get lost, through rebellious intentions nor ignorance.

“30 seconds.”

Time was passing by both too fast and too slow. The lieutenant wanted the jump now. So did Knight, the squad’s sniper, Exile, the squad’s heavy munitions commando, Crystal, the squad’s medic (and eye candy for the mostly-male squad), and two trainee’s pulled straight out of the academy to tag along and see how the pros do it. All the squad mates stood up and did final checks on all their gear, each and every piece in matte-black.

“Hey Hawk!” Knight called out, addressing DeCicco, “How 'bout we say last the one down buys the next round at Crimson 87?”

“I don’t think you have enough creds left for today, Knight,” DeCicco remarked and flashed a smile at Knight.

Knight replied, “I will once I take your spot as squad leader! All I need do is wait for you to forget not to be bolt fodder again!”

“Now boys, play nicely,” said Crystal, all the gear betraying no indication she was different from any of her male companions, but anyone listening to that sweet voice couldn’t help but let their minds wander into a fantasy of courting the lethal woman.

“10 seconds.”

DeCicco wanted the count to be over already, minute traces of adrenaline already surging through him. The natural drug was an addiction really; the more adrenaline that got released, the more DeCicco craved it when it was gone.

“5 seconds.” And with that, the rear doors opened and the squad put on their oxygen masks. At a hundred thousand feet, air was extremely thin, and one wouldn’t want to hold their breath all the way down. DeCicco took point.

“Green light! You’re cleared for jump!” the pilot said over the intercom. The filling light in the cabin went from red to green. A sergeant at the rear of the dropship was yelling through the comms on his breathing mask “GO! GO! GO!” and one by one they jumped.

The metallic taste of adrenaline… his heart pounding in his ears… the thin air rushing past his body… this was what he lived for.

Everyone had cleared the dropship. Several hundred feet later, a shockwave went through the air. It was subtle, but it was there, like standing in a control tower and having a large fighter fly past. DeCicco flipped over and looked up through his mask. There was a fireball in the sky and the dropship was in pieces falling on a different path than the squad.

This was not part of the exercise, and now the adrenaline dumped unwelcomely in DeCicco’s system. Now was the time to stop just living. Something had gone wrong and now was the time for surviving.

Exile’s voice broke the silence of the comms in freefall. “Geez, look at that…”

Knight was the next to chime in. “Suppose anyone made it out?”

Exile replied, “Not a chance.”

DeCicco flipped back over and opened his long range infantry comm. “Breaker! Breaker! Emergency code niner-zero-niner! Emergency code niner-zero-niner! This is Lieutenant Ehne, Seventh Battalion, Second Stealth Infiltrations Unit. Training exercise gone critical! My team is freefall, but dropship AX-157 Black Beauty has just exploded! No signs of extravehicular personnel! Please respond! Emergency code niner-zero-niner!..”

This took a few minutes to get a response, and by that time, the squad had already fallen sixty-thousand feet. “Lieutenant Ehne, this is Tac-Command, Kaas. We have received your distress call. What is your location?”

“Thirty-Five thousand feet above intended destination of Point Bravo for training exercise eighty-seven!”

“Confirm Point Bravo.” DeCicco confirmed the location. “Stand-by.” And with that, long range comms went silent.

“Standby, that’s real reassuring,” said one of the trainees. “Just roast us on a spit, why don’t cha…”
“Naw, they’ll just let us drop. Already put the effort through,” replied Knight.

DeCicco snapped at the trainee, “Keep your mouth closed, Corporal! Squad, prepare for jet-pack landing! DO NOT activate the stealth generators, we want to be found.” Ten thousand feet, DeCicco started the pre-ignition sequence on his jet-pack. In truth, the device had been activated since before the jump; too many accidents happened when someone jumped from high altitude and was unable to cold start his jet-pack before he met the ground.

Eight thousand feet. “I got a problem!” It was the other trainee. DeCicco spied the private falling in the sky through one of the many camera feeds at the top of the lieutenant’s HUD, the indicator on DeCicco HUD said that the private’s jet-pack was still cold.

Seven thousand feet. “Private! You have to start up your pack now!!!” The private gave a negative filled with panic. DeCicco opened his arms and legs to slow his descent and allowed the panic-filled private to catch up. Everyone had more than enough room to pass him.

Five thousand feet. DeCicco reached the private, he yanked the soldier closer to him and tried to interface with his wrist comm. It also had the controls for the jet-pack, but was not responding to any of DeCicco’s commands either. DeCicco was pounding buttons furiously. After that didn’t work, he started pounding the private’s pack.

Two thousand feet. The damn thing simply wouldn’t work. “Just fire! You piece of…” When DeCicco pounded it next, a panel came loose, and all the innards of the pack came flying out. The weren’t so much as parts on a fuel-propelled rocket system as they were random pieces of metal. DeCicco had the immediate suspicion that the explosion of the dropship wasn’t an accident, but a setup.

Five hundred feet. This was the recommended height at which the jet-packs were supposed to be fired and that was for one person. Both DeCicco and the soldier whizzed passed the rest of the squad. He hooked himself to the soldier and yelled through the intercom “Hang on!” He ignited his jet-pack at three hundred feet. He felt the violent yank of the jet-pack wanting to go up and the soldier wanting to be claimed by gravity. It was a fight to keep them from flipping and tumbling through the sky. The canopy was coming fast, far too fast. Their descent had slowed but they still hit the ground pretty hard. And that’s when the lieutenant’s vision blackened.

For a moment, DeCicco was back in Crimson 87 on academy grounds. It was a late night and most the patrons had left the exclusive officers club. He and Crystal were finishing their drinks when DeCicco asked, because one of the previous nights, if Crystal wanted to take things further. He said he wanted to get to know her, the kind of deep things that friends just can’t share. A high pitched whine, like a battery in a taser charging, became audible. She hesitated before looking back and saying that it was just one night, and that maybe they shouldn’t have done anything. DeCicco asked what she meant by that. A great pain filled DeCicco’s chest…

…as he convulsed and came to from the electrical charge Crystal had just given him. It was incredibly painful as all the receptors in DeCicco’s nervous system all fired at once. He collapsed on the ground and stared up at the star-filled sky through the foliage that hovered dozens of feet above him. He looked over at Crystal, who had her helmet off and her red hair pulled back over one shoulder, kneeling and leaning over him.

“How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Two, your thumb doesn’t count, sweetheart.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

With a smirk DeCicco said, “Well the first thing that comes to mind…”

She got a puzzled look on her face and said, “What?”

DeCicco just flipped his eyebrows twice, still holding the smirk.

“Men,” she said, rolling her eyes now producing a slightly annoyed face. She and Knight helped DeCicco on his feet. Knight had a perplexed look on his face, curious as to the silent conversation the squad’s leading officer and the squad’s medic just had. DeCicco gave him the look which conveyed I’ll fill you in later.

Nothing felt broken. He didn’t even feel disoriented. Just hurting all over with a slight headache. Nearby was his helmet, a nice crack running down the right side of it, along with some blood. DeCicco touched his forehead through his glove and felt a very thin bandage on it. Must not have been bad then. The jet pack was worse for wear, but all the necessary components for making the rifle was already pulled out and assembled, so it relatively survived the crash. The private, Ducat the lieutenant believed his name to be, was several feet away with the cross Exile. Ducat looked quite shaken, and he awkwardly made his way to DeCicco.

“Good to see you’re back on you feet sir, we were-” and he was cut off when DeCicco’s hand shot out and grabbed the private’s throat. Ducat’s eyes went wide as the officer’s eyes went into a glare.

“Next time your stupidity gets you in trouble, I’m not saving your shebs, understood? You damn near got me killed and you will not have a second chance, di’kut.” Lieutenant Ehne didn’t know any Mandalorian other than the handful of curse words, but cursing at someone with a foreign impression normally got the point across and left little room for a verbal counter. The private nodded quickly, and his throat was released.

DeCicco checked the systems on his wrist comm, they also appeared to be functioning. Pretty lucky considering the circumstances. Both Knight and Crystal were standing off to either side of the lieutenant as he opened his comm. “Lieutenant Ehne to Kaas Tac-Command, come in Tac-Command.”

The external speaker on the wrist comm came to life, the signal fuzzy, but strong. “Lieutenant Ehne, this is Admiral Kaad at Tac-Command.” Things were always bad when you had the brass contacting you. “You are to proceed to Point Bravo and secure the site for immediate exfil.”

“Sir, with all due respect, the training exercise has gone critical.”

“This is no longer a training exercise, Lieutenant, a rogue Force-adept is loose in the area and it is estimated he has at least thirty troops that has joined his cause, you are to proceed with extreme caution.”

That last transmission got everyone’s attention. DeCicco replied, “Sir, say again your last. Sounded like you said we have a rogue saber-jockey with guns to back him up.”

“You heard correctly, Lieutenant,” said the admiral, “You are to intercept and destroy if possible. Too dangerous to try to capture and all other targets are expendable. Contact me at 0200 when you and your team are within a klick of Point Bravo. Admiral Kaad out.”

And that was that. “Talk about going in blind,” said Exile, now standing with the rest of the squad. “Hawk, this was just supposed to be a pre-mission exercise for the war on the front lines. We don’t know anything about what we’re going into now.”

“Not entirely, we have the layout of Point Bravo from the initial training schematics, assuming not much renovating has been done,” said Knight. “Our good admiral said there were thirty men plus one saber jockey. Let’s assume sixty and figure out just where they might be in the outpost.”

“I agree,” said DeCicco, “We have our weapons, our stealth generators, the cover of night, and our comm systems. With the kit, the darkness, and we play our cards right, their numbers will count for nothing. Exile, I know our initial mission didn’t want incendiaries, but uh…”

Exile flashed a grin, “I got twelve stashed away, Hawk.”

“Good man. Everyone, activate your stealth generators.” DeCicco called up a small hologram depicting the topography of the surrounding area on his wrist comm. “We will make our way to this cave here. It’s on the way. Close enough to deploy quickly, and still far enough away to do what we please.” The lieutenant took a quick look around for the sixth soldier of the group, having temporarily forgotten him while the transmission from the top came through. “Before we get on our way, can someone tell me where the corporal went?"

Knight replied, “Probably dead, his pack didn’t appear to be working either, and we all guessed he crashed somewhere between here and Point Bravo.”

That didn’t set DeCicco at ease at all. Two jet-pack malfunctions? The same malfunction? With soldiers outside of DeCicco’s regiment? That plus the explosion and the rogue…

…DeCicco looked over at the private, his eyes ducked and staring at the ground.

With a hushed voice, DeCicco said to Exile, “Keep an eye on Ducat, things are adding up to a number I don’t like.”

The squad reached the cave with relative ease. It was in a cliff face overlooking Point Bravo that either had to be free climbed up or down to reach the mouth of the cave. It was relatively close to the top, so hooks were embedded in to make going in and out easier, not that there was a need other than safety concerns…

Deeper in the cave were DeCicco, Knight, and Crystal sitting around the faint light of a glow lamp. All the jet-packs were converted into their regular pack forms, never going to see sky again. A variety of weapons were laid out next to the packs. There were several blaster pistols, blaster carbines, blaster rifles, the twelve incendiary grenades fueled by the remainder of the squad’s jet fuel, and an old-styled projectile sniper rifle to satisfy Knight’s nostalgia.

Projectile weapons hadn’t been extensively used since before the Great Hyperspace War, but Knight would argue that it’s still an extremely effective weapon for a sniper who didn’t want to be found. Laser bolts can be seen, and therefore, tracked, even if they are silenced. Projectiles on the other hand typically cannot be seen, and a silencer on the rifle can also be effective in hiding the muzzle flash. Unless a guard knew exactly where to look, the sniper can stay hidden, especially if he’s astute enough to move positions after each shot.

DeCicco got up and checked all the equipment he had on him. The tactical knife and the small medkit he had survived the fall. His wrist comm had several days left on its charge, and that was if all the displays and components were active. He went over to the weapons stockpile, picked up a pistol plus a couple power packs, and started heading to where Exile was to see how he was doing. Before he left he made the comment of not wanting to come back in on Knight and Crystal at an awkward moment. The sniper gave smirk to the lieutenant, but the medic glared at both of them. Knight still didn’t know about that one miscellaneous night between DeCicco and Crystal, but still the joke was that, a joke. Crystal however was getting more annoyed with how close DeCicco kept getting to just spilling out and just saying it. When DeCicco left he heard them go back to small talk in the dim light.

Exile around the bend and thirty yards away from the mouth of the cave, he held his blaster rifle in both hands in the at-ease-slightly-pointing-down-and-to-the-side stance. DeCicco gave out a double whistle through his teeth to let Exile know a friendly was coming up behind him. “How’s our guest doing, Exile?” DeCicco referred to the figure of Ducat standing practically at the mouth of the cave, him looking down at the dim lights of Point Bravo just a klick away.

“Hasn’t moved much, Hawk,” the spec-ops squad member replied, “He’s just been staring down at the outpost the entire time. Scratched his nose once and adjusted his stance against the wall a few times, but otherwise just being a creeper staring at the guards down below.”

“Well you’ll be pleased to know we contacted Admiral Kaas and the plan is on schedule with several exfil plans laid out.”

“We going after the rogue?”

“Yes, and we have a name. The saber-jockey’s a flunkie from the glowstick school in Kaas, calls himself Verick, and he’s a self-proclaimed Darth after killing one of his instructors” said DeCicco.

“Self-Proclaimed Lord of the Sith?”

“Yup, yet another ‘fantastic leader’ wanting to overthrow the Emperor,” Lieutenant Ehne looked back to Ducat. “Want to switch out? Let me play stalker a little bit?”

“Naw, still my turn,” said Exile, still holding the professional look like a spotter staring at a target for a sniper partner. Decicco knew he meant well, even if he got tired of the constant professionalism.

DeCicco started his walk back to Knight and Crystal and addressed Exile as he started the short trek back, “Ever get tired, let me know, someone’ll take over and have their chance of pushing him off the cliff.”

There were different, smaller glow lights on the way back. Red meant left… blue was right… blue again… and then blaster fire, coming from near the mouth of the cave, echoing on the walls. DeCicco pulled his blaster pistol and ran back to Exile’s position. Exile wasn’t there, there were a few scorch marks where he was along with the rifle. He rounded the corner and stared at Ducat holding a small hold-out blaster to Exile’s head, blood running down Exile’s side and a scorch mark on his right shoulder. Ducat must of taken Exile’s knife cause DeCicco couldn’t see it on Exile’s leg.

How? This was for all practical purposes impossible! The commando was watching his target the entire time, weapon ready!

“Darth Verick sends his regards, Lieutenant,” and with that, Ducat pulled his hold-out blaster’s trigger. The short whine of DeCicco’s blaster pistol while it was being raised to the ready-fire position foretold DeCicco’s intention of revenge against the traitorous soldier.

Exile’s now lifeless body fell from Ducat’s grasp and slumped against the cave wall. Ducat then began his thirty-yard run to the cave’s exit, moonlight now filling the rocky corridor, firing behind him to cover his escape. DeCicco took cover behind one of the adjacent cave walls, furious at Ducat’s cowardly tactic. He then heard sharp whisper of Knight’s projectile rifle followed by the painful scream of Ducat. DeCicco left the cover of the adjacent wall and aimed his blaster pistol down the corridor. Ducat was crawling on the ground, his left leg having a gruesome wound at the knee, leaving a trail of blood. His hold-out blaster having slid several meters in front of him.

DeCicco closed the distance and stomped his foot on Ducat’s back, keeping his pistol aimed at Ducat’s head. The lieutenant was then hurled into the relatively low cave ceiling and was dropped. He landed on his feet in a half kneeling position and looked up at Ducat, the private having a grin on his face. Ducat then made a gesture with his hand, and several loose and hefty rocks came flying at DeCicco. Lieutenant Ehne and Knight, closer now to provide backup to DeCicco, both hugged the corridor’s walls to avoid the makeshift projectile’s.

When the boulders had passed and dropped, Ducat began to make another gesture. DeCicco pulled his blaster pistol once again, but before he could fire a shot off, Knight had already sunk another projectile into Ducat, this time the right knee. He gave out another cry of pain. DeCicco holstered his blaster pistol and pulled his tactical knife, activating the vibroblade. Pinning one of Ducat’s hands, he sunk the knife into the private’s wrist and the blade sunk into the rock floor.

Fear now filled Ducat’s face. Knight kept the sniper rifle trained on the fearful private’s face while DeCicco frisked the man, recovering Ducat’s and Exile’s blades and a small datapad, no bigger than the screen on DeCicco’s wrist comm. The lieutenant then got up and walked over to the hold-out pistol that had slid, picked it up, and seemed to examine it.

"Darth Verick has several things to answer for, and so do you, Private,” Lieutenant Ehne said, his back towards everyone, the aggression in his voice ominous.

“It’s the Empire that has to answer for its crimes!” Ducat said in a panic filled voice, far more terrified and probably more legitimate than after the free-fall.

DeCicco with the hold-out pistol in hand walked over to where Ducat laid and put a blaster bolt in the private’s uninjured hand. More than anything he just wanted to kill him now for causing Exile’s death. DeCicco yelled down the corridor, “Crystal! Pack the gear!” Chances were, the hide-out cave was not safe, any stray transmissions coming from the private could have called for an enemy patrol to converge on the cave’s position.

“What can you tell me that’s not on this datapad?” DeCicco asked.

“I’m not saying anything!”

“Then I will guess, shall I? You and the corporal are the reason the dropship exploded, quite possibly from the components in your jetpack. Then while you use the broken jetpack as a ruse to kill me and heroically sacrifice yourself, the corporal lands unharmed and gives first rate intel to your Master as to the rest of the team. You didn’t count on me saving both you and I and to make up for it while saving your skin, you kill Exile to regain what little ‘honor’ you have left for your failure. As for what’s on the datapad, I can only imagine with a little bit of virtual breaking and entering, I’ll be able to find the comm frequencies of anyone who is willing to pick you up. Am I mostly right?”

Ducat’s face went pale. Whether it was from fear or the loss of blood, DeCicco couldn’t be sure, but he had a feeling it was the former considering Ducat was now sweating and not saying a word.

“You know what I also think? You’re expendable. A liability.”

Ducat’s gaze shot up at DeCicco. “No! I am a valued servant of Darth Verick!”

“You’re a washup that can do a few magic tricks, that’s it. And trust me you’re worth less now that you’ve killed Exile.”

“Darth Verick will rule! My actions today have gained me honor!” Ducat kept yelling at DeCicco while the lieutenant pulled Knight off to the side, having since lowered his rifle considering Ducat’s only good now for complaints.

“I’m done, do what you wish with him, Knight. Ask questions, have fun, whatever. I have what I need.” DeCicco said in a hushed voice.

“Just one thing I want to do,” Knight said. Crystal came back with three packs, one on her back, one in each hand, all most likely filled to the brim with equipment. “Crystal, hand me one of the incendiaries.” Crystal put all three packs against the corridor wall and complied. Knight handed her the rifle and began to walk over to Ducat, removing the ignition mechanism from the grenade. He then took his knife and stuck it in where the ignition mechanism used to lay, puncturing the fragile casing. Pouring the jet-pack fuel over Ducat and then shoving the orb in the private’s mouth, he held it there for a couple seconds. When he let go, Ducat spat the orb out and began coughing, the fumes burning his insides and unable to turn with DeCicco knife still pinning his left hand to the rock floor. Knight then activated the ignition mechanism in his hand, sparking rapidly. “You deserve worse, murderer,” said Knight. Keeping the renegade soldier’s chest pinned with one knee, used both his hands to pry open the man’s mouth and dropped the sparking switch in.


Outside the cave, one of Darth Verick’s patrols began their descent to the mouth of the cave, now glowing with a faint yellow light. Captain Ormorov preferred his real uniform with Verick’s clashing sabers patch over a modified Imperial emblem as opposed to the ruse he used on Lieutenant Ehne and the rest of the stealth team. Two of his soldiers were already at the entrance, having disconnected their cables. Ormorov resumed his rappel down, followed by several more soldiers. When the captain reached the cave, he too disconnected from his line when he had solid footing.

The two soldiers before him were in defensive positions just after a burning corpse. With his blaster rifle pointed down deeper into the cave, he cautiously approached and kneeled next to the smoldering corpse. The scrawny thing had to be Ducat, clearly experiencing a worse fate than the one he was supposed to suffer from the free-fall. He was nothing more than a pawn, not good enough for any of the academies within the Empire. Still, Captain Ormorov felt sorry for the man, clearly having suffered hell from the inside as well as out.

Then Ormorov heard a clank, he looked up to see a small orb bouncing his way. “Grenade!” All the soldiers either hugged the wall or hit the ground, one of the two forward soldiers picked the grenade up and threw it down the corridor, where it detonated in a ball of fiery concussive force. The wall remained on fire as the liquid continued to burn. “Defensive positions, men!” the captain yelled, and with that, the small force had all weapons pointing down the hall, half kneeling, the other half standing behind.

It was dark, the burning corpse preventing everyone’s natural night vision from adjusting. To compensate, all the soldiers activated the flood lights mounted on their shoulders. White light soon filled the corridor. “Move up and secure!” The team began moving up, half jogging, weapons still pointed down the dark corridor. Then there was a click, followed by two more. The clicks were grenades dropping from the ceiling, one close to the mouth of the cave, and the other two dropped right into the patrol.

Those closest to the grenades, including Captain Ormorov were thrown into their fellow comrades. Fire enveloped the tight cave and there was no where to run. It was an inferno of pain. Some soldiers burned alive, others were knocked out or killed from the concussive blasts, the fire slowly approaching them. Ormorov had collapsed on the ground and his entire left side was on fire, the only two untouched soldiers trying to put him out.

A direct comm from Point Bravo opened up. “Captain Ormorov! Get your men out of there! We’re taking heavy sniper fire from several directions! We’re taking heavy losses and have retreated inside the outpost! All outside bulkheads are now shut and locked, but we need you to go and eliminate the hostiles! Captain Ormorov? Captain Ormorov, respond!”

Lieutenant Ehne and Crystal ran to another outcropping and took cover behind the raised rock, slowly making their way towards the middle of the large crater where Point Bravo was situated. Bolts coming from base had decresed significantly, thanks to Knight’s precision sniping. DeCicco and Crystal were nearly at the outpost’s blast doors.

“I thought the admiral said there were only thirty guys? Shouldn’t they be running out pretty soon?” Crystal said, kneeling and her assault rifle primed and ready. All three members of the squad were all still in their matte black stealth armor.

“I know what you mean, intel might be off. But even so, you try fitting sixty guys in there comfortably.” DeCicco said, after which quickly looked over the outcropping, fired off several shots from his rifle, and ducked back down. Ricochets slammed the outcropping. Several moments later, there was a scream of pain in the distance. Knight was nailing Darth Verick’s men skillfully and quickly, forcing the renegade soldiers to keep their heads down lest they lose them. Both Lieutenant Ehne and Crystal were now relatively close to the outpost, but just far enough away where soldiers on the shallow roof could still take potshots at them. DeCicco popped back up again and fired off several more shots, a bit more aim than the last volley he had just fired off. He looked down at Crystal and yelled “GO!”

She jumped up over the outcropping rocky ridge and ran towards the outpost under covering fire from DeCicco. When she reached the ferrocrete wall, DeCicco ducked back behind his rocky cover, bolts flying overhead. He moved several meters to the side, still under the cover and concealment of the outcropping, and opened his squad’s comm frequency. “Knight! We have three on the roof and they’re onto me. What’s the forecast for rain?”

Several moments passed.

“One hundred percent. All three are down. No movement.You’re clear. Standing by.”

DeCicco hopped over his rocky cover, and ran towards the outpost. Crystal had the interface panel next to the blast door ripped off and she was sifting through multi-colored wires. “How’s it coming, Crystal?”

“May be a few minutes before it’s opened, there’s a crew on the other side keeping the door shut.”

“Keep at it,” he opened up the squad’s frequency again, “Knight, get down here,” and was rewarded with an affirmative.

Knight ran up to the outpost several moments later, smelling of burnt powder. And silent minutes ticked by. Finally Knight spoke up and said, “Having trouble with the door Crystal? Did you try the doorbell?” Crystal glared up at Knight and gave him an obscene gesture. Knight just stared back at her and said, “So you haven’t tried the doorbell yet?”

Lieutenant Ehne knew the sniper was trying to keep things light-hearted, they all still grieved inside from Exile’s death. But there was still a job to do. “Knight, shut it!” DeCicco said, “Your ranting isn’t helping. Crystal? The door?”

“Blast door’s ready when you guys are set up,” Crystal said, holding two wire’s with the copper threads exposed.

DeCicco handed Knight one of the incendiary grenades and motioned him to get on the other side of the metal entryway. He then nodded at Crystal and raised his rifle. The interface sparked and the doors whooshed opened. Knight tossed the grenade in and after the detonation, both Knight and DeCicco entered the sloped corridor and sprayed blaster bolts at those who hadn’t been killed by the blast. The goal in any firefight that a soldier was in was to effectively throw more well placed projectiles at the enemy than they to the soldier. With the soldiers scattered from the grenade, the two Imperial stealth infiltrations soldiers had no problem claiming superior firepower. One soldier had taken cover behind a bulkhead. As soon as he moved out of cover, he was immediately cut down by DeCicco’s and Knight’s blaster rifles.

Crystal rejoined the two in the lit hallway and DeCicco pulled up a hologram on his wrist comm. “We’re here, the command center is here, for us to get out of here, we need to eliminate all threats down there. There are four corridors that intersect there, so stay sharp. Rack 'em and stack 'em.” Partial blaster magazines were stored and replaced with new ones, the blasters recharging with fresh energy.

Strangely, they arrived at the command center with no difficulty or resistance. The stealth team entered the command center, its overhead lights dimmed, the monitors and consoles still active, but no one in the room. The far and adjacent blast doors to the other hallways opened. DeCicco, Knight, and Crystal each took a section of the command center to clear. Knight said, lowering his rifle, “Hawk, I don’t think anyone else is here. We need to call command-” and he was suddenly thrown, as if by an invisible hand, into one of the adjacent corridors and all the blast doors closed. The room became extremely dark, only the glow from the active monitors in the round command center providing any light.

DeCicco and Crystal both raised their rifles again, searching once again for any movement in the room. A snap-hiss sounded and immediately after, Crystal yelled “Hawk!” He snapped around and turned to see a man in dark Sith robes with ash-gray skin and black crew-cut hair, illuminated by the crimson light of his lightsaber. His yellow eyes clearly showed the hatred and anger behind them. He reached out with his hand, using the Force to groan thin metal piping from a nearby wall. Both DeCicco and Crystal opened fire on the man, but the man deflected most of the bolts that came close, ignoring all others. Another gesture of the hand, and the piping straightened and was hurled at Crystal, The piping took her towards the wall as it pinned her on her flank a meter off the floor. A short scream sounded from DeCicco’s comrade as she failed to restrain the burst and held onto the piping, fear in her eyes at the as she stared at the horror sticking through her. DeCicco held fire but kept his rifle aimed at the Sith.

Darth Verick said in a harsh voice, “Lieutenant DeCicco Ehne. 2nd Stealth Infiltrations Unit. Graduated as an officer from the infantry academy. Fought against the Republic in theaters such as the snow-capped mountains of Alderaan, the hyperlanes leading to Manaan, and the fields of Dantooine.” He flourished his blade from side to side. “I believe you already know who I am.”

Lieutenant Ehne still stared down his sights at the man. “Well, now the formalities are out of the way, there’s only one more thing to do.”

“You don’t know how right you are. I have foreseen the future and there can only be one of us,” Darth Verick said. DeCicco Ehne was about to pull the trigger when the Sith continued, “Which is why you are here. Ever wondered who approved your ‘Point Bravo’ exercise?”

The lieutenant kept his aim on Darth Verick. Confusion and frustration set in for the soldier. “What do you mean?” replied DeCicco, half growling.

The two warriors began circling each other at several meters distance. Darth Verick replied avoiding the question, “It’s as I said before, there can only be one of us in the future. Only one of us will emerge from the flames of harsh fate and continue to the open arms of destiny.”

DeCicco fired a single shot from his rifle, the bolt flying towards Darth Verick’s chest. It never made its destination as the Sith deflected it easily. Smirking, he said, “You’ll have to do better than that.”

DeCicco said, still circling the ashen skinned man, “So tell me, do you believe you wouldn’t have been found out sooner or later?”

“You mean traced? I am the True Sith Lord, I have made the necessary preparations to disappear and reappear whenever I choose. A clerical error will be blamed for your death, I can assure you.” DeCicco took another shot at him, this time at Darth Verick’s weaponless hand. He again deflected it with ease.

“Nothing is truly invisible, even nothingness has an existence,” DeCicco said, “Take stealth generators for example.” He fired another shot, this time at one of the Sith’s legs producing the same result it had the two times before. “They allow the user to be virtually invisible to the visual spectrum and in many spots along the energy wavelengths. But they do leave a wake, a subtle one, but one is always there. Almost like a drop in a lake.”

Darth Verick kept his gaze on DeCicco, still smirking, “So you’re telling me that I will eventually be found because of the ‘wake’ I leave and the might of your outdated Sith Empire will come crashing down upon me?”

“No. While you’ll be found, alright, the trail will lead back to your dead corpse.” DeCicco let loose the blaster bolts from his rifle on full-auto. The bolts were not aimed center mass however, they were aimed at the extremities of Darth Verick, forcing him to use the majority of his energy blocking bolts instead of deflecting them. DeCicco slowly approached, keeping the rifle bolts erratic. When he was just a few paces away from the Sith, there was a distinct click that came from the rifle, unable to fire from an empty magazine.

Darth Verick saw the small window of opportunity to strike, and he let loose with his one volley of lightning straight at the soldier. DeCicco quickly ducked down behind some of the dimly lit consoles, now being licked by the deadly tendrils of electricity and short-circuiting. He moved behind the row of consoles, each one sparking and smoking, and Lieutenant Ehne continued moving asl he slapped in a fresh magazine into his firearm. He neared the end of the row and ran, firing in the process and forcing Darth Verick to once again go on the defensive.

It was a stalemate, neither combatant able to advance safely, until another click resonated from the lieutenant’s rifle. Taking the small window of opportunity, Darth Verick quickly closed the gap between the two. The man’s lightsaber first tried to strike vertically, forcing DeCicco to sidestep, dodging the deadly light. DeCicco took the opportunity to lash Darth Verick with the butt of the rifle, hitting him in the side of the head and knocking the Sith off balance for a moment. DeCicco reached for a new magazine, but before he could lock in the fresh energy, Darth Verick reached out with the force and threw the rifle clear across the command center; the magazine came loose and fell mid-flight from the rifle.

The Sith was in a fury, flourishing and lashing out with his lightsaber relentlessly. Another console became a casualty as the hot blade scorched its screen and the components inside. Black smoke slithered up from the equipment as the rubber wiring caught fire.

Before the lieutenant could pull his blaster pistol to continue fighting, the Sith tore the blade from the machinery and tried another vertical slash, this time, striking a shallow cut in DeCicco’s armor. There was a moment’s pause with DeCicco’s hand on the butt of his holstered pistol. Holding his follow-through, Verick looked up at his opponent with satisfaction on his face, thinking the cut had gone straight through the armor. The smirk faded back into anger as DeCicco raised his blaster pistol, a single shot leaving the barrel and Verick awkwardly twisted the saber in front of him to block the potshot to his face.

DeCicco retreated the few steps to the center of the rounded command center where there was more room to maneuver. Verick followed at a stroll, the anger burning behind his eyes.

The Sith swung his lightsaber horizontally, aiming for DeCicco gut. DeCicco jumped back and then rolled to avoid the next wide attack from the blade. Swaths were cut into the ground around him as Verick frustratingly again and again, tried to cut his enemy in half. While still on the ground, DeCicco crossed his legs with Darth Verick’s, causing the Sith to fall and drop his lightsaber. Still on his side, DeCicco aimed his blaster pistol and put several bolts into the back of the Sith. The bolts cleared a hole through the Sith cloak.

The man remained motionless, and DeCicco got up from the ground, shaken. He had never fought a Sith before, but from the stories told by the soldiers around him, he expected to be dead. Why am I not? He holstered his pistol and picked up the lightsaber. He could still hear blaster fire in the corridor where Knight had been thrown. Good, that meant he was still alive and bad that a few of Darth Verick’s lackeys were also still kicking. He took a quick look at Crystal, whose face had gone pale and was still impaled from the piping, keeping her elevated off the floor. DeCicco ran over to her, activated the lightsaber, and cut the piping as close to her body as he was comfortable. He waited for the piping’s edges to go gray again, letting him know that while it might burn Crystal slightly, she would not be scorched, causing further damage. He set the lightsaber down and pulled Crystal off the piping.

He laid her down on the floor and grabbed the small combat medic’s kit strapped to her leg. The woman was bleeding out worse with the piping removed. Field dressings, gauze pads, drugs, nothing in the pack that could stop the bleeding. Perhaps the past hot edges of the pipe wouldn’t have mattered. A thought crossed DeCicco’s mind, and his arm shot out to the lightsaber to try to cauterize the wound. Except the lightsaber wasn’t there.

Looking frantically he spread the now scattered first aid contents around, looking for the saber. Where is it?! Where is it?! He’d already lost one man, one comrade, one friend, under his command; he was determined not to lose another.

His priorities quickly changed when he looked up and saw Darth Verick standing in the middle of the room. He ripped off his cloak, revealing black armor underneath. DeCicco cursed under his breath, rose to his feet, and pulled his blaster pistol once again, and readied himself for round two.

DeCicco let loose with a small barrage from his pistol. Most of the bolts were deflected or ignored by Darth Verick. One bolt Darth Verick deflected back at DeCicco and struck him in the shoulder. The thin armor absorbed most of the energy, but his shoulder now throbbed in pain.

Darth Verick began slowly walking towards the lieutenant, and DeCicco responded in turn by shooting a conduit that was nearby the Sith. Sparks flew directly at the Sith, bouncing off of his armor and stinging his revealed face, forcing him to step back and block the sparks with a gloved hand. This gave DeCicco a moment to discard the nearly depleted pack in his pistol and replace it with a new one. When DeCicco raised his pistol again, Darth Verick was standing safely behind the sparking conduit with his free hand open and slightly shaking.

Before DeCicco could squeeze the trigger, he heard a sharp, twisting sound of metal off to his side. Darth Verick was ripping one of the consoles right out of the floor. From where DeCicco and Crystal were positioned, they would be hit by the impromptu projectile at their flank. As DeCicco grabbed one of his two remaining incendiary grenades, the large piece of metal launched at DeCicco. At the same time, the lieutenant used his thumb activate the dead-man’s switch on the grenade and threw it at the Sith. A split second later, the charge exploded and fire engulfed Darth Verick. The Sith screamed in pain as the fuel ate away bits of his flesh and his hair, the man using his gloves to try to protect his face. DeCicco was hit hard, knocked onto the ground, the throbbing shoulder now exploded in pain as bits of DeCicco’s armor folded inward, cutting into his skin, and his arm awkwardly angled. He landed sideways in a small pool of blood, Crystal growing paler and in immediate need of closing her open wounds.

Darth Verick continued screaming in agony while DeCicco used his good arm to force the console off of him. He had to act fast, and he couldn’t do it with only one arm. I can’t just lay here! Using his legs to get up, he wedged his hand in-between the two intact consoles next to him and twisted hard. Another rush of pain ignited his body and he heard a distinct shunk as the shoulder went back into its socket and almost collapsed again from his own agony.

Darth Verick was smoking silently on the ground, his back turned and kneeling, when DeCicco’s vision focused. His shoulder bled from the trauma it had received and still carried the sensation of a hot sledgehammer banging away at it, but it was usable. DeCicco pulled his sidearm once again. Before he could shoot a few into the Sith’s hand, it flew out of his hands. Darth Verick got up and turned around, DeCicco’s blaster in hand. His charred face still slightly smoking and his hair completely burned off. He took a harsh look at DeCicco and threw the blaster pistol in the air, quickly cutting it in half with his crimson lightsaber. He then forced pushed DeCicco into one of the command center’s bulkheads at the edge of the room and slowing approached, DeCicco’s shoulder roaring with pain once more as he was pinned by the invisible hand. He lifted DeCicco up with the force by his neck, pressing down on his larynx. While the edges of DeCicco’s vision began to blacken, Darth Verick approached DeCicco.

Still choking DeCicco with the Force, Darth Verick growled, “You are a unique opponent, Lieutenant. The intuition and reflexes of a Sith. Your abilities unparallel by the non-force users around you, your movements near-unpredictable even. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were Sith yourself.” DeCicco clawed at the invisible hand, unable to find air. “This is the end for you. A new era will be ushered in and neither you nor anyone else will stand in my way!” said Darth Verick, a mix of hatred and determination; he was almost within arm’s reach of DeCicco.

No. No! It can’t end! Suddenly, blast doors opened next to the two contenders, light flooding the command center from the hallway as Knight rushed in and began opening fire on the charred Sith. Dropping his concentration to face the new threat Verick dropped DeCicco, and the soldier took a quick gratifying breath in. He focused quickly and lunged out with a leg towards the distracted Sith, connecting at Darth Verick’s knee. Darth Verick’s leg bent backwards as a satisfying crack permeated the air; he once again screamed out in pain and dropped his lightsaber. DeCicco quickly snatched up the lightsaber again, his throat extremely sore and fighting the urge to cough every time he breathed.

DeCicco activated the crimson blade and held the blade near his enemy’s own throat. Darth Verick in anger yelled “You will not survive! I will personally see your Empire burned to the ground as I march on the dead corpses of your armies and you will fail!”

“Only you have failed,” and DeCicco sliced Darth Verick’s throat with the blade, not quite charring the flesh. Blood poured from Darth Verick as he grabbed his throat in a futile attempt to save his own life.

Seeing the battered DeCicco and the soon-to-be-dead Sith on the ground, Knight scanned the room for Crystal. He found her and pulled his medical kit attached to his leg, first-aiding the unconscious medic.

“A-tten-TION!!!” a deck sergeant yelled out. Inside Admiral Kaad’s Fifth Fleet Flagship, the Crusader, a memorial service was being carried out in a massive briefing room onboard. Two coffins with an Imperial Flag draped over each sat at the front of the room. Everyone got up and stood at attention as two teams of colorguard approached the coffins. Standing on either sides of the coffins, each color guard picked up the flags and held them straight and steady. And order barked simultaneously from both the color guard sergeants, and both color guard teams folded the flags once horizontally quickly and efficiently. If anyone blinked, they would of missed the quick execution. Another order barked and the same move was performed. One more order prompted the soldiers to fold the flags into triangles and left the folded flags on top of the coffins. One last order had the color guard form rank once more and exit out the back.

“Dis-MISSED!” and slowly the crowd of officers exited the immense briefing room. A few approached the coffins to say a few private words, and then exited. Both Lieutenant Ehne and Knight remained at the front, saying nothing. They had already said what needed to be at the beginning of the ceremony with their eulogies. A few short minutes later, Admiral Kaad approached the two.

“Damn shame, it really is. With this war with the Republic, I’ve signed too many grievance letters for circumstances such as this, circumstances that should’ve never happened,” said Admiral Kaad sympathetically.

DeCicco, his left arm in a sling and in his Imperial Army dress uniform, turned to address the admiral. “They can never be replaced, not ever.”

“I understand, and I’m giving you that chance to make a difference.” Confused, DeCicco and Knight now stared at the admiral, Knight still leaning on Exile’s coffin. “Lieutenant Ehne, Lieutenant Taal, you have both been transferred to the Fifth Fleet Naval Operations Division. You’re both going to make a difference in soldiers’ lives.”

Several weeks later…

Captain Ormorov and the two men who helped him stay alive had their hands bound behind chairs, all three beaten, bruised, and bloodied by Commander Ehne’s ensign aboard a medium sized patrol ship, the Revelation.

“You’re a disgrace, you know that Ehne? Do you?!” screamed one of Ormorov’s men. “You’re absolutely pathetic! Oh what! You gonna shoot me for mouthing off?! Big tough guy with a gun!”

Commander Ehne replied “Well, now that you mention it…” and squeezed the trigger on his pistol, sinking a bolt into the rebellious soldiers head. He put another bolt in Ormorov’s other man and aimed the blaster pistol at Captain Ormorov’s head. “The penalty for treason is death, former Captain,” Commander Ehne said in a neutral tone. He approached the bound captain and shoved the pistol barrel beneath the man’s jaw, “But how would you like a job?”