Part One: Anything Goes
Bakk "Wildcard" J'ruce walked down the hallways of the CRS Vigilant, yawning as he went. His thought process consisted of one thing only. Kaf.
He turned into the doorway to the Simmons Schock Deck and stopped in his tracks as he saw Colonel Chris "Jalb_k" Reynolds. He quickly saluted, stifling a yawn as best he could which wasn't successful at all.
"At ease, Flight Officer."
Finally, he yawned. Making his way to the bar, he put his index finger up at Iggy to indicate: "One kaf please, Iggy."
He sat down at his favourite stool, next to 2nd Lieutenant Rosk "Silence" Vikeron and Captain "Gremlin" Gemilan, who were both enjoying a cup of Iggy's finest kaf.
The repurposed IG assassin droid poured a cup of piping hot black kaf in front of him, and finished it off with a light dash of crema. Wildcard sipped it lightly. After several minutes he had drained the cup and acquired basic social skills.
"Morning. Dear god, that's the stuff." He said, making eye contact with nobody in particular. Looking at the empty mug, he remarked: "The kaf here is passable at best compared to this one place back home, if you ask me."
Silence laughed,"Passable is an overstatement. Where are you from anyhow?"
"Berchest. Calius City, if we're being specific." He said, "Nice place. Big rocky mountains for miles, and the city was cut into them. They hate destroying the natural landscape, so they just build everything into it."
He suddenly became aware of how much he had given away, scolding himself inside.
"Damn, I'm talking again." He muttered, gesturing for another kaf.
"Listen pilot, we're all a long way from home. I'd happily listen to Gremlin telling me all about Zeltros for hours, and I know she'd do the same for me. You're one of us now, so I'm more than willing to listen." Silence said.
He chuckled to himself sardonically, finding the spirit of it all amusing. "Thank you, but I'll refrain from revealing more about myself than is necessary. You never know who's plotting against you..."
Major Myke "Wolf" Krenn walked towards the briefing room. With datapad in hand, he paused at the door and checked his notes again. Just a briefing. I've seen and gave them before. No problem. Exhaling his tension, he went through the door and approached the center of the room. His squadron stood at attention and saluted.
"At ease," he said. "First order of business. The planet Berchest has voted to join the New Republic. Most citizens are pleased, however this has sparked the remaining Imperialists to take action. Several soldiers stationed at the Imperial garrison bombed a civilian gathering at an ancient monument."
Wildcard's heart sank. The people of Berchest valued only one monument. It was a chunk of stone taken from the center of the mountain in the exact center of Calius City thousands of years prior.
Wolf continued, "The bombing killed twenty civilians, and part of the conditions of Berchest joining the Republic is that we apprehend the group responsible. Now, our job will be twofold. Spectres One through Six will defend our ground forces from starfighters and Seven through Twelve will be tasked with destroying a power generator that allows their turbolaser batteries to target our fighters."
As Wolf began delving into specific assignments, Wildcard felt his mind wander. Home. It had been so long since he'd been there, so long since he'd even considered visiting. A wistful smile tugged at the corner of his mouth at the thought of introducing his squadmates to his old stomping grounds. But he felt his heart sink at the reason that he'd be returning - political instability was never an easy thing for a native population to deal with, and if it was getting violent, that would make it harder on everyone.
"Report to the hangar at 1700 hours tomorrow to deploy."
Wildcard snapped back to reality, barely realising he'd lost himself in thought.
"You alright there?" 1st Lieutenant Jeni "Angel" Courtner whispered over.
"Yeah, sorry. Lost myself a little there." He replied, just as discreetly.
"I'll catch you up after, don't worry." Angel told him with a pat on the arm.
The blue sky of Berchest was as beautiful as the day Wildcard had been taken away. The city of Calius jutted upwards with splendor, bringing tears to his eyes. A thousand thoughts rushed through his head. His R2 unit bleeped at him, but he dismissed it. You're not Jazzy, you never will be.
"Spectre Twelve, spooled up and ready to go."
His S-Foils were set to attack position and he pulled the stick left before corkscrewing into a dive with the rest of the squadron. His targeting computer was being fed data from command, showing the garrison on the ground. A small rectangular building sat at the centre, wedged between a power generator and a fueling station. The generator controlled what little defenses the base had, making it imperative to destroy it so the commandos could move in.
"I have eyes on the generator," 2nd Lt. Edwyn "Talon" KalDan said through the comm channel, "moving in for our first run."
Talon's X-wing launched an ion torpedo. The blue projectile sped towards its target at full speed before hitting it dead on, scattering blue fire across the power generator. 2nd Lieutenant Andika "Damak" Malim sprayed a precise salvo of laser fire upon the generator, before pulling up. Wildcard did the same, the generator now showing visible damage. The rest of the squadron could be seen engaging the fighters that had been scrambled, allowing the strike team to work without being harassed. The team came around for a second run.
In the distance, an eyeball broke off from its pursuit of an X-wing to take on the fighters who were damaging the generator. Its twin ion engines screamed as it twisted behind Wildcard. His astromech screeched something at him in terror, which he immediately knew meant trouble. He put power into his engines, before beginning evasive maneuvers. He keyed his comm to call his wingman, Damak.
"Eleven! I got a tail! I can shake him on my own but I can't make this run!" He juked left, tricking the TIE into attempting to follow him. Bringing his ship into a long loop, he pulled the stick upwards but stopped as the ship levelled out on the eyeball's tail. Wildcard pulled the trigger, sending scarlet lances through the solar panels.
As the TIE erupted into a great ball of fire, he focused on getting back into formation. He made it just in time for the third attack run. When his turn came, he opened fire on the generator's sparking husk. The turbolasers ceased fire, causing a second of pure silence.
"Another day, another victory," Talon said through the comm.
"We've got word that the commandos took the base without any problems. Now we get to relax a little." Gremlin said to her squadmates as they walked into the bar. Instead of drinking onboard the Regis, which they had arrived in, Wildcard had suggested that one of Calius City's finest watering holes would make for a nice change of scenery.
"Let's be honest, a small garrison with no hyperspace capable ships? Total blue milk run." Wildcard returned cockily.
The Blonde 'N' Pretty lit up the mountainside it used as a foundation with neon blues and reds. Spectre Squadron swaggered in, drawing looks of awe from around the room. Bartenders scrambled to serve the twelve drinks at once, pouring Zeltron Wines and Corellian Ales and other variations thereupon. Wildcard raised his ale to Talon from across the room in a gesture of respect. Gremlin approached the stool next to his, carefully setting her wine on the bar before taking a seat. She swept her hair back and sighed.
"So Wildcard, I thought you'd be off reuniting with long lost friends. That's usually everyone's first priority. A home visit is a rare occurrence, y'know."
"Heh", he smiled wryly to himself, "My friends don't deserve the time of day. If you can even call them friends. Last I heard most of them ended up jailed or killed over petty gambling disputes."
She frowned, sipping her wine, "They don't deserve the time of day? What did they do?"
Wildcard glanced at her sidelong, waving a hand up. "Information like that is useful only to interrogators and spies, and I sure as hell hope you're neither."
"I understand how you feel. One experience changes the world for you. Forgive me for prying, but I can tell you weren't always like this. It's not in your nature. I mean, we call you Wildcard! Surely you earned that title once."
He cocked an eyebrow, leaning back on the bar. "You're smarter than I give you credit for, gaffer. I did earn it, a long time ago. Part of me hopes I'll find a way to just let go and become that unpredictable kid again, but I can't seem to do it." He sipped his drink, avoiding eye contact with his XO.
"That stuff's no good, pilot. Try this." She slid an elegant glass towards him, filled with a deep crimson fluid.
He swirled it around and took a sip. The strength hit him like a hovercar. "Dank farrick! That's got a kick," he erupted into a coughing fit but started laughing halfway through, producing a strange wheezing sound.
"Yeah," she giggled, "it's not for everyone".
Wildcard's shoulders eased slightly, he was relaxing. "I suppose opening up couldn't be too bad. I mean, how many spies could really be interested in me?"
"That's the spirit, I think?" She tried her best not to think about it too much.
"What do you want to know, then? Nothing too personal, mind you."
"How about how you earned the name ‘Wildcard'?"
"Alright, that should be a fun one. It was around ten years ago..."
TEN YEARS EARLIER
Calius City, Berchest
The moonlight softly illuminated the alleyway that the ragtag group were huddled in. Their ages, builds and personalities all varied wildly, but they needed one another. In the corner, a taller and bulkier kid of around 19 puffed on a tabacc stick.
A slightly younger kid sat down next to him. "Pass it over."
The older kid snorted, "Yeah right. I'm allowed to be irresponsible, I'm too far gone. You don't have such a privilege, Bakk."
Bakk smiled, "Alright alright, just testing you, my good man. Has anyone ever told you that you talk like an old man?"
"You. Every week, dude."
They chuckled, staring up at the stars in between conversation. The older kid's eyes widened for a second, before he slapped Bakk on the shoulder. "I totally forgot!" He pulled two holographic cards from his pocket. "I got us some fake chain codes."
"I know right! According to these very official documents, you and I are twenty one years old!"
Bakk laughed, "Are you sure it'll work, though? I mean come on, Screw, you're lying about two years, I've gotta convince 'em I'm four years older than I am!"
"You'll be fine, dude. Let's go."
"For drinks at the Blonde 'N' Pretty!"
By some miracle, the fake chain codes had worked, so Bakk and Screw swaggered into the bar, taking in the atmosphere with every step. They each ordered a beer and leaned against the bar like fighter pilots they'd seen in holonet dramas about the Mandalorian Wars. They hadn't seen much on the recent side, though. Their only option was a beaten up datapad they found in the trash that had a few old dramas saved already. The teenagers sipped the beer, silently pretending it wasn't an amazing new experience.
"Y'know something, Screw, you're like a brother to me. Seriously, mate, I love you."
Screw raised an eyebrow and noticed Bakk had finished his beer. He set his own on the bar. "Woah, slow down!" Screw whispered.
Bakk lowered his voice equally, "Be real here, bud. We got about twenty minutes before they realise something's up and kick us out. I'm making the most of it. I scrounged a lot of money to spend tonight."
Screw rolled his eyes, "You're gonna get kicked out for being too drunk to walk, forget being underage, you idiot."
He noticed that Bakk had taken his own beer from the bar and finished it off.
"Right, stay out!"
Bakk and Screw were launched from the bar by the barman, who looked most displeased.
"Well, Bakk, I'd say the first mistake was relieving yourself in public. The second was doing it into a glass."
Bakk stumbled on his feet, his head spinning. "Listen big man, I'll take you a square go any day of the week!"
Screw cracked his knuckles and raised his fists, before Bakk did the same. Bakk clumsily threw a punch but missed completely, falling over onto his face.
Gremlin wiped tears of laughter from her face.
"I know! I thought I could knock him out, I was plastered!" Wildcard laughed with her, struggling to breathe. The barman narrowed his eyes at Wildcard, as if deep in thought, before refilling their drinks.
"So was that incident the reason they call you Wildcard?" She asked, finally regaining composure.
"No," he said, "that didn't happen for another while yet..."
TEN YEARS EARLIER
Calius City, Berchest
Bakk strutted into the alleyway where his friends were circled with a grin on his face. Screw caught his eye, donning an inquisitive look himself.
"Alright J'ruce. What's the story?"
Bakk couldn't help himself from smiling even more. "I slept in a warm bed for the first time since I was a kid."
"No way, how?"
"Chatted up a lady outside a club, went back to her place."
"You... didn't...?" He left a pause, Bakk knew what he meant.
"No. Little con I ran. I was so 'tired' from my night of partying that I wanted to leave everything till morning. I wonder if she's woken up yet..." he trailed off.
Screw's eyebrows furrowed, and he raised a finger in disbelief. "So you're telling me you could've... enjoyed her company, and you just left?"
"Whatever her company's sellin', I'm not buying. I wanted to sleep. Imagine how much more tired I'd be afterwards! I was trying to make the most of my temporary accommodation."
Screw frowned, sighing softly. As Bakk walked past, he detected a pleasant aroma, coming from his friend- "Bakk, did you use her damn shower?"
Bakk grinned sheepishly and winked.
"I swear, you'll do anything just for the hell of it, son."
"Son?" Bakk cringed,"two years between us, man."
"You see my point, though. That's your role in the group. I'm the brains, Flex is the muscle, and that makes you... the wildcard, I guess."
"Heh, Wildcard. I like it."
Wildcard went to sip his ale, but he'd finished it during his story without realising.
"So..." Gremlin asked, "whatever happened to Screw?"
"Well he wasn't the saintly brother figure I'd always seen him as. It probably has something to do with when I...
TEN YEARS EARLIER, Empire Day
Calius City, Berchest
Wildcard swerved the speeder to avoid knocking down a life size plasteel figurine of a stormtrooper. The parades parted around him as he sped around, laughing and whooping as he went. Steal an Imperial speeder? Easy. I'm the Wildcard.
Screw had convinced him without much effort to boost a speeder for fun. What better way to stick it to the Empire than playing with their toys? His ears stung as a blast whistled past, missing him by an inch. The Imperials were now in hot pursuit, doing their best to cut him off and box him in. Wildcard found himself barreling towards an alleyway. Sithspit. That space is too tight. No other choice I suppose...
He wrenched the steering yoke to the left and braced for the potential impact. The repulsors scraped the inner wall of the narrow passage and the lively thrum of the engine died down. The metallic husk crashed into the ground, and Wildcard heard the Imperial speeders slow to a stop behind him. A strong hand lifted him to his feet and jammed his arms behind his back, before securing him in restraints.
"The game's up, rebel." The stormtrooper said through a perfectly polished helmet. Wildcard heard footsteps approaching slowly, and the stormtrooper turned.
"Thanks for the tip off, Screw. This'll help speed up that promotion I'm up for."
Screw laughed, and handed the trooper a stack of credit chits. "And here's your reward for looking the other way..."
That turncoat piece of-
Wildcard felt the back of his head pound as something metal struck him.
Calius City, Berchest
"That's all I remember before waking up on the shuttle to Kessel..."
His eyes welled with tears. "I'm sorry. It's just that I thought he loved me. I loved him like a brother. Every day in there I wondered what I did to disappoint him, what I did to deserve that. I never meant to hurt anyone." Wildcard broke down, sobbing into his hands.
Gremlin put her arms around him, "Listen, Wildcard. He's gone now. You never needed him. You'll get past this, and you'll see that you're better than he could ever dream of being. It's always darkest before the dawn."
He shook her off, wiping his eyes as he walked from the bar. The cool night air made the tears dry on his face.
Wildcard knew in his heart he hadn't picked the Blonde 'N' Pretty for its varied choice in drinks, or its brilliant atmosphere. The truth was, it was just around the corner from Screw's last known address. He had found himself at the door without meaning to. Still acting on instinct alone, he rapped the door hard. It opened with a creak, revealing a disheveled looking man holding a half empty bottle. The shadow of a smile found its way onto his scruffy, bearded face.
"Well, look at this. It's the Wildcard. Home at last."
"Hello, Screw. It's been a while."
"Not long enough, Bakk. What do you want?"
"I want you to know that you ruined me. You destroyed ten years of my life. I was on Kessel for ten years! You don't even care! I guess you never did."
"Listen I never meant for it to be labelled a rebel act, I was gonna let you do 2 years and then I'd have a prison hardened Wildcard."
"And you never considered how that would make me feel?!"
"Calm down, street rat. Let's make up, it'll be like the old days. You can go boost a speeder and I'll get rich!" Screw cackled maliciously, spittle flying from his mouth like shrapnel as he did so.
Wildcard's fingers hovered near his holster, flicking the safety on his new K-16 blaster pistol. One move. One reflexive action and it would all be over. No, he thought. That was too merciful. Screw deserved pain. Suffering. Look at him, he'll get plenty just by living.
Saying nothing, Bakk J'ruce turned on the last piece of his old life that was left on Berchest.
2 Days Later...
The CRS Vigilant sat in space with several smaller ships, a grey pebble set amongst the colours of the planet below, casting its shadow against the Toseng system.
In its very own bar sat Wildcard, staring into a glass of ale, watching his own reflection stare back. For the first time in a while, he was alone in the universe. Nobody at all left at home, and he wasn't close enough with anyone aboard the ship yet to consider them a friend. The room was empty save for Wildcard and Iggy, who worked away in silence.
Footsteps echoed from the corridor. Wildcard looked up from his drink and saw Angel walk in. She held her helmet under arm, striding up to the bar. Wildcard glanced over from his booth in mild curiosity, hoping to distract himself from the deafening void of his isolation. She turned around, holding a whiskey. Noticing he was the only one available, she sat in front of him, smiling politely.
"Hey, good fight the other day. You did great."
He smiled reluctantly at the remark, trying his best to remain modest. "It's all part of the job, no big deal," he replied quietly.
She narrowed her eyes slightly and cocked her head to the side, "You okay, Wildcard? You don't sound so happy for a man who blew up some Imps and got a night out at home."
"Heh, it's nothing. I guess home just isn't so homely these days..."
Angel sipped her whiskey, nodding lightly for him to continue. "I get it. I really do."
"Nothing says badass fighter pilot quite like a guy coming back to the ship early to drink alone and contemplate the fact that he has nobody at all left. Hell, I used to be happy just having a droid at least. Even he got blown to bits," he said, swirling his drink around absently.
"Hey, listen. You're not alone. I saw Gremlin when we were at the bar, she listened to you talking all night and I can bet any of us would do the same. I understand that you're still kinda twitchy, but you gotta realise that you're one of us, so you got family whether you like it or not."
Wildcard smiled. Perhaps she was right. Nothing could be gained by holing up in his room whenever possible. How many of them would actually betray him?
"You're a good person, Angel. The galaxy doesn't have enough of those." He raised his glass and she clinked hers against it.
VSD Crusader, Imperial Space
The cloaked man barreled through the hallways, keeping a brisk pace with every step. His boots clicked sharply against the floor, announcing his coming to everyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in his path. Stormtroopers stood to attention for him, to which he paid no notice. His face was burned, the skin scarred into a dark leathery texture that clashed with his now milky white eyes. A green astromech rolled by his side, its dome not moving, only looking straight ahead. He arrived on the bridge, watching his crew working with crisp efficiency.
"Commander Luidi." The Captain was standing to attention in front of the scarred man.
"Yes, Captain?" His voice was rough and raspy.
"We believe we've located Bakk J'ruce. Our informant on Berchest spotted him."
"I see..." Luidi growled, "When was this?"
"Two nights ago. We believe he aided Spectre Squadron in their attack on the barracks."
Luidi's eyes filled with hatred. "Set course for Berchest."
"But sir, Madame Director is insisting-"
"Madame Director can wait. You are under my command."
He turned to the green astromech at his side, "It appears, R2-JZ3, that you are going to be reunited with your long lost master in due time. Together you and I shall engineer his destruction. "
The Star Destroyer shot into hyperspace like a dart at a board, leaving behind only empty space and unanswered questions.
Part Two: From Berchest, With Love
Two Weeks Later
The hallway was filled with the splashes of wet footsteps and the clatter of armoured boots after them.
Nearly there, so close.
The stone walls dripped with condensation, the moisture being boiled by stray blaster fire. The footsteps bounced off the walls, the hard boots still close behind. Fluaq ran, sweating from head to toe. That didn't bother him, however. He had one mission: Alert the New Republic.
The stormtroopers kept up their fire, and he kept twisting and lunging as he moved, never wanting to give them a clear target, feeling the blaster fire singe his clothing and bare skin.
I need to do this. I'm so close.
The transmission station was just up ahead. He knew he was going to die, but it had to be after he'd got the message out. The equipment sat, ready for use on the table. Fluaq pressed the button. "Calling any New Republic vessels, Berchest requires urg-"
His message was cut off by the blaster bolt which had gone straight through him and into the communications equipment.
He fell back to face the troopers, grasping his wound as he grew weaker. "I did my duty, I don't regret it for one second. Go on, shoot me!"
The stormtroopers obeyed his last order. Every one of the five troopers opened fire with their E-11 blaster rifles in order to ensure he died and stayed that way.
Berchest burned. The once beautiful mountains were blackened and charred. Calius City was nothing more than a forest with trees of flame and grass of ash. TIE Fighters roared in the skies above, flying in perfect formation over the Empire's latest victory. In orbit sat a Victory Class Star Destroyer.
On the bridge, a cloaked man stood to attention, looking proudly over his accomplishment. "Your move, J'ruce. I know you will try to kill me soon. I anticipate it, I crave it. I will have my revenge. I will see that you suffer for what you have done to me. I will see that you know pain unlike any resident of Alderaan, unlike any Wookiee under our enslavement. All I must do now, is wait..."
Wildcard pulled the stick on his X-wing fighter and twisted hard into a loop. The TIE Fighter on his tail was still out of his field of view. Come on, nearly there...
He kicked power into engines and spun around to face the TIE. As he came in for a head to head pass he noticed a blue projectile advancing on him. Ion missile, dank farrick.
He pulled up and around to try and outrun it, but he made no progress. The missile struck him and his shields were completely depleted. His ship shook violently as laser fire bombarded his hull. His ship went up in a plume of fire and gas and he sighed.
"Every single time."
He could hear 1st Lieutenant Jack "Frosty" McCauley laughing, already outside the simulators.
Wildcard stepped out, visibly annoyed at the grinning Corsair.
"Have you considered a job more suited to your abilities, Wildcard? Like... I dunno, sanitation?"
"Nobody likes an unpleasant winner, Frosty." Wildcard retorted.
"Buy me a drink and I'll forget the whole thing!"
"Dude, seek help. You are clearly an alcoholic."
Frosty waved a hand at him, before grabbing a hip flask from his belt. "Take it up with my therapist..."
"I've tried! Multiple times! Dear god, fella."
"I fly better when I drink, what can I say?" Frosty said dryly.
Wildcard let out an exasperated sigh and stopped trying. He knew he shouldn't have been so hard on Frosty, but he'd been stressed. For two weeks there had been no communication from Berchest. Not a single shred of information. He was sure that someone else in the New Republic would look into it, but Renegade Wing was swamped. The liberation of Toseng had their resources stretched thin as it was, and there was simply no reason for them to get involved in what could possibly be yet another lengthy battle.
For the past week, Frosty and Wildcard had used what little free time they had to practice dogfighting against one another. Every single time without fail, Frosty had won (usually half drunk whilst doing so). Now, as per tradition, he was going to buy Frosty a whiskey for his win. Wildcard knew perfectly well that he could simply decline the offer to train and save the credits, but he couldn't stand the possibility of not getting the last word in. The ritual had only come around because of his own cockiness. Frosty had picked up on it and seen an opportunity to con him for some free booze.
"You're going to bankrupt me one of these days. You'll want your victory drink and I'll have zero credits to spend."
Frosty raised an eyebrow in his direction, "Y'know they take that outta your pay, right?"
"They do? That explains why I make so little money. Maybe I'm the alcoholic..."
"I'll drink to that!" Frosty said, sipping from the flask.
As Wildcard watched in shame as Frosty sipped his victory whiskey, he heard a familiar voice greeting someone. Glancing around casually, he saw a young brown-haired woman nicely filling out a technician's uniform entering the SSD, exchanging a greeting with a patron on their way out.
Wildcard turned around, trying not to draw attention to himself. He whispered something to Iggy, and the droid expertly filled and placed two small glasses of whiskey in front of him. He grabbed the first, draining the whole glass in one go. Frosty went to grab the second shot, assuming it was for him. Before he had the chance, Wildcard slammed that one too.
Frosty looked up and scanned the room, noticing the pretty technician and a smirk made its way onto his face. "And here we have my favourite part, watching the rookie wet himself over some skirt."
Wildcard cracked his knuckles and his neck. "Shut up, I'm gonna go talk to her."
"Only took you a week of staring and sweating."
Frosty's aim was solid, but Wildcard didn't give him the satisfaction of a reaction as he sauntered over to her. "Hey" he said, suddenly aware of how warm the SSD had become, and wondering where his big fancy words had gone.
"Uh, I'm Bakk." He said, analysing every word a million times over. She looked up at him, being slightly shorter than Wildcard was, and smiled, lighting up her emerald green eyes.
"I'm Drawa Jesu. My friends call me Jawa." She brushed a lock of her long, straight hair out of her face.
"Nice to meet you, Jawa. Can I buy you a drink?"
"Sure, I'll have a Ruby Bliel please."
Wildcard swaggered over to the bar, eyeing up Frosty and lowering his voice. "Watching the rookie wet himself, was it?"
Frosty laughed dryly in reply, finishing off his drink.
1st Lieutenant Sigurd "Battledog" Stormhand leaned against the bar, gaping in disbelief. The new kid was chatting up the cute technician.
"I..." he said.
"I know." Frosty said.
"I don't know."
Wildcard walked over, grinning. "Well, she had to take off, but we'll be seeing more of each other soon."
Battledog patted him on the shoulder. "Well done, but it doesn't count if you slip something in her drink."
"What? No, only thing I slipped her was a drop of that famous Wildcard charm."
"Wildcard. Please, never say that again."
"Yep, wasn't my best."
Captain Corell "Foo" Davis of Buccaneer Squadron leaned on the small podium, examining something on his datapad before looking up to see that everyone had arrived. In front of him sat Wildcard, 1st Lieutenant Paul "Rogue" Sweet, and Angel of Spectre Squadron, accompanied by Battledog and Frosty of Corsair Squadron.
"Thank you for coming, everyone. As you all know, Toseng has made all of our other operations pretty hard to navigate, what with many XO's and OC's being swamped. The reason I've called you here today is because all of us are lucky enough to be free right now. Now this is completely your choice, none of you are obligated to agree to this, but I'd like to run a patrol mission across some nearby systems, check for Imperials and whatnot. Before I go into further detail, those of you who aren't interested: leave now please."
All of the pilots remained seated, listening intently.
"Good. Now, we'll be making a nice round trip with a refueling stop halfway through." A holographic image of several planets in a circular shape appeared, with labels tagged to each one.
"As you can see, we'll go to the first system, the second and then the third," he said, gesturing to Berchest on the starmap, "to begin with. At Berchest we'll check to see what's going on, and assuming everything's fine, refuel using the tanks at the Imperial garrison that Spectre Squadron helped capture a fortnight ago, before moving on. Any questions?"
A hand was raised.
"So what happens if we do find some Imps? Surely to god there's gonna be someone out there with something heavier than the six of us!"
Foo nodded. "Good question. It might not slake your thirst for blood, but if we're out of our depth we run away and call someone else. Renegade Wing may be up to its knees right now but I can assure you the New Republic has other people who are more than capable."
Wildcard felt a weight lift off his shoulders at the mention of the patrol route. With as much as the Wing was tasked with at the moment, leave was out of the question, but this would at least offer up an opportunity at finding out what was going on. He still felt uneasy, however. A total message blackout rarely ended with sunshine and rainbows, but only time would tell.
Wildcard had found himself in the hangar, chasing a stray thought about the status of his preflight preparation. Inside the cockpit of his X-wing sat Drawa, configuring something on his targeting computer. He climbed the ladder, and leaned on the side of his ship. "I've known you for five minutes and you're sitting in my cockpit. Must be my lucky day."
She turned to see him and laughed, turning red as she did so. "Wow, that one took you all day, huh? For future reference, I liked it, but most girls wouldn't."
"What can I say," he flashed a cheesy grin, "I'm a poet."
Refocusing on her work, she kept tweaking the computer. "Is your astromech an ex Imperial model? I'm seeing traces of Imp code here."
"Actually my old one was. He uh... he's gone now. It's stupid, I know. I just always loved that droid."
She smiled, putting a hand on his arm, "You're talking to a girl who works with tech for a living. I've had many a friend in droids. Anyways, that should be you. Good luck out there, flyboy."
"Thanks. Tell you what, if I don't die a fiery death, how does a few drinks sound when I'm back?"
"It sounds... like you better not die on me."
Wildcard sat in his cockpit, running through the whole conversation in his head as Frosty passed by.
"A fiery death?" Frosty began. "You're such an idiot. You're lucky she doesn't seem to notice the stupid things you say. Good god, Bakk."
The mission had largely been a bore for Wildcard, but the nervous ache in his stomach had continued to grow. The systems they had swept so far had been safe and sound. As scheduled, he was in hyperspace, on his way to Berchest to refuel and resupply. He felt himself anxiously fidgeting in his cockpit..
Angel's voice came over the comm. "You nervous, Wildcard? You've been quiet for a while."
"Something's not right. I have a bad feeling about this..."
The blue swirl of hyperspace turned to starlines which became stars once more. Wildcard's stomach lurched. "No. No. No!"
"That's a Victory Class Star Destroyer! Pull out now! We can't do anything," Foo urged his team, the panic clear in his voice as he dodged laser fire that was lancing towards his U-wing.
Wildcard pushed his thrust forward and switched his lasers to burst fire.
Commander Luidi's leathery face was engulfed in the darkness of his hood. The explosion that had done this to him had stripped him of everything but his hatred for the man responsible. He was a monster, he was barely identifiable as human. All because of Bakk J'ruce. A pilot from the middle of nowhere. Looking out into space from his command chair, he noticed five blips appearing in the distance. The claxon wailed all around the ship and an evil grin twisted onto his face.
At last. I have you.
As four of the five fighters pulled up to retreat, one advanced on his ship.
So impulsive, so unpredictable. Just as I planned.
Its lasers splashed harmlessly against the shields, and the turbolasers opened fire.
"I want him alive. The man who kills him answers to me." Luidi told the gunnery crew.
R2-JZ3, formerly known as Jazzy, inserted his scomp link into the port. He monitored the battle schematics, and picked up on a familiar transponder code. The network showed that the tractor beam was attempting to gain a lock on the snubfighter. That lock was broken, much to the confusion of those working the beams.
Wildcard's jaw ached. He and the rest of the squadron had found themselves on the surface of Berchest after being beaten down by the Empire. They had set the ships down in a hollowed out mountainside, a construction site of some kind, but the fighters would have some concealment from orbital scans by the discarded equipment and half-completed buildings. He was to blame, he knew it. Once they had gotten some additional cover on the fighters, Rogue had let him have it with a haymaker right to the jaw. Wildcard's head had hit the ground like a proton torpedo on a star cruiser.
Frosty extended a hand. "Alright. Get up."
Wildcard used Frosty's hand to pull himself to his feet, and found himself hitting the deck yet again as Frosty clobbered him.
"Dank farrick!" He groaned from the ground.
Foo helped him to his feet this time, with no threat of a follow-up punch, and led him to a corner of the cavern. "What's going on, J'ruce? You put yourself and everyone else in danger. You know as well as I do that we were never gonna leave you behind. We had no choice. If I'd died out there, or Frosty, or Angel, it'd all have been for nothing. We never beat the Empire by fighting battles we can't win."
"Oh yeah, because it was a fair fight when you guys sent two squadrons against a planet-killing space platform!"
"Don't, Bakk. You're better than that."
"Better? Better than what? Since I joined all I've done is crash and burn. I never took down a Star Destroyer. I never blew up a Death Star. I'm selfish. That's all I am. Growing up I had to do whatever I could to provide for myself. Lie, cheat, steal. I didn't give a damn. I swaggered off with some hot food and a smile. It's good enough for some, doing this job for their family, or their friends! I don't have a damn thing to live for here! You don't know what it's like to evade a tail and be disappointed you never died. Part of me always wishes I'd just go up in flames and the better pilots could replace me. Maybe we'd all be better off if I'd died in that crash when I was in Jade."
Foo sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Look man, I want to help you. I will help you. First, though, you need to help us get out of here. You made a mistake. We all make mistakes. You have a chance to redeem this one."
Wildcard sighed, tears now falling across his face. "I'm broken, aren't I?"
Foo patted him on the shoulder. "You think we'd all jump into fighters and blow stuff up if we weren't?"
"Commander Luidi... I'm sorry to report that the Republic fighters escaped. We were," the junior officer paused, licking his lips, "...unable to get a tractor beam lock on J'ruce's ship."
Luidi's eyes burned holes through the young ensign's face. "Excuse me one moment." He approached the station of an older gentleman operating the tractor beam. He stood up to face the Commander. "Would you care to explain why you failed to lock onto a single fighter making close range attack runs on our ship? It seems a simple task."
The technician smirked. "Sir. With all due respect, it's a little more complex than that. You see-"
His condescension was cut short by a gloved hand smashing his face into his station. The buttons sparked and bent into a crater made by his skull. Luidi repeatedly bashed his head against the console, with increasing aggression. The man's lifeless body crumpled into a bloody heap on the ground.
"Inform Recruiting that a vacancy has opened. I want J'ruce in twenty-four hours. Otherwise I'll pick any of you at random next time."
Luidi left the room slowly and calmly.
"Ma'am! We've picked up several starfighters entering the atmosphere! They don't appear to be of Imperial designation or model. Should we investigate?"
The young soldier panted for breath. He had run a few kilometers just to relay this information. The current Imperial occupation had seen local communications under constant jamming for two weeks now.
Dileih Tikean turned to face him with a scowl, her blue hair waving in the wind. "Don't call me ma'am. I'm not your boss. Send a small team to track them and report back their findings. Don't make contact unless it seems absolutely safe."
"Yes, ma- Yes."
"Oh, Ali?" She said, suddenly remembering, "May the force be with you."
Wildcard leaned against a crate, friends and acquaintances alike paying attention.
"Years ago, Berchest served the Republic during the Clone Wars. The first battle of Berchest saw the clone army emerge victorious, however a counter attack the following standard year left us at the mercy of the CIS. A droid garrison was built around three miles outside of Calius City. After the war ended, the droids were shut down and the remaining units in the garrison remained untouched. The Empire didn't see it worth their time to waste resources flattening it so it's been lying dormant all these years. If I can slice that baby open, we've got a platoon of clankers to use against the Imps."
Battledog nodded his head. "Nice work, rook. I'd say some ground forces are a handy start."
"How do you know all this? This was before your time," Rogue chimed in.
It was a good question. Wildcard decided it would be best not to mention that he learned this from a history fanatic who he seduced for the chance to use her shower.
"Eh... I read it somewhere." He replied gingerly.
Frosty turned towards the half-built building entrance, eyes narrowing. Drawing his blaster pistol with lightning speed, he fired a warning shot at the rocks piled near the empty door frame. They clattered around, and he heard the sound of panicked footsteps. Waving a finger at Battledog, the two pilots quietly stepped side by side towards the entrance, weapons drawn as the rest of the group took cover, pulling their own sidearms and aiming in the direction of the noise. Frosty leaned against the inner wall, preparing to rush the corner.
"Wait! Don't hurt us!" A voice cried out.
Foo looked over at Frosty and slowly drew his blaster; clearly not buying it. Frosty nodded in return, aiming his blaster once again at the door where the voice came from.
"Who's there?" Frosty returned.
"My name is Ali. I'm not Imperial. You're the Republic, right?"
"Who's askin'?" Frosty yelled at the disembodied voice.
"Wait, who's us?" Wildcard piped up.
"Me and three others. We tracked your ships. Are you here to save us?"
"Well we ain't tourists." Frosty grumbled.
Suddenly a blaster clattered through the door, coming to a rest by Battledogs foot and an empty hand peered through the door, followed by the rest of Ali stepping into the light. His comrades followed him.
"My god..." Battledog muttered, shoving his pistol back in its holster, "they're just kids..."
Ali chuckled nervously, "Well, you were seventeen once. Besides, someone has to fight. The security forces were rounded up and taken to the camps. If the rumours are true, they're never coming back. Look, we don't have time for this. If you want to help us, I can take you to our people."
Foo sighed and dropped his blaster. "Okay," he said. "Let's go, but any wrong move and I'm putting a bolt in your back."
Ali looked hurt by Foo's retort. "I told you already we're on your side!"
Foo's response was quick and abrasive. "And I was seventeen once too.....get moving."
Dileih Tikean paced around her office, mind turning slowly from one terrible option to another, wondering what she should have done better. What she could have done better. What she needed to do better next. After years of bounty hunting, here she was commanding a cobbled together militia that had been formed a week prior. A militia held together by tape and bits of string. Great.
Her office door knocked gently.
The portal slid open to reveal Ali, followed by figures in the orange jumpsuits of New Republic fighter pilots. As the crew filed in, one of them seemed familiar, but she couldn't quite place him.
Wildcard followed Angel and the others into the small office, nodding a greeting to the blue-haired woman who had been waiting inside. And then his eyes widened.
"Sithspit," he mumbled.
"What?" Angel whispered.
"Y'know the amateur historian I put the moves on for a free wash?"
"And y'know the old separatist base she told me about?"
"You see where I'm going with this?"
She sighed softly, "Yeah..."
As most of the pilots grumbled amongst themselves, one holstered their weapon and extended a hand. "Captain Corell Davis. Pleasure to make your acquaintance."
She smiled and shook his hand firmly. "Dileih Tikean. Shall we get down to brass tacks?" Dileih leaned back in her chair. "So, where would you like to start?" She asked, leaning back in her chair.
"What the hell happened here? It's desolate out there. Did this all come from one VSD?"
"You underestimate the power of the Empire, friend. They struck without warning. Overwhelmed us before we could figure out what had happened. Steamrolled our security force, culled them and any nonhumans they could get their hands on. It was a massacre..."
"How many died?" Foo asked.
Finding a small rock amongst the outcrop they had been traveling though. Foo had to sit down, it was too much. "The Empire was always ruthless, but this..."
"Personal is the word you're looking for. This isn't a matter of war. Someone's angered a warlord no longer bound by his own laws. It's only a question of who."
Built like an akk hound but less timid, thick fleshed, steak coloured, with two hieroglyphs on his face that meant trouble, Commander Luidi sat perched on his command chair.
"Commander Luidi. Source Cropper has confirmed that J'ruce and his comrades have not been reported missing. Their mission was allegedly to have any number of stops. Although he does claim to have rather important intel regarding the situation at Toseng."
Luidi laced his fingers together through closed eyes.
"Toseng does not concern me, Captain. Tell Source Cropper to inform me of any changes in Renegade Wing's awareness of their missing pilots. He is on thin ice at the moment, he will no doubt obey without question."
Wildcard examined the heavy door, noticing a scomp link port. Trying to avoid being seen, he removed a set of tools from his belt and inserted them into the lock. There was a satisfying *click* and a small terminal lit up at the far end of the doorway.
"Reveal your secrets, magic door..." He inserted a datacard into the slot on the side of the square console, and the screen rained lines of code. Child's play, he thought, now to disable the alarm.
Mobilising Defense Units
"Oh, dank farrick." He muttered. A claxon wailed. The rest of the group readied their weapons, with Foo giving Wildcard an extra glare. The door began to slide open, steam erupting from the hydraulic system. Wildcard's heart stopped dead in its tracks. In the flickering alert lights he could make out the shape that he recognised from the history datacards. The hulking outline of four B2 Super Battle Droids faced him, all standing perfectly flush. He sprinted for cover, his legs burning. Until- nothing. The metallic warriors stood tall, intimidating but completely dead. Tikean had noticed the commotion by then and stood behind Wildcard, waiting for an explanation. He turned around, freezing on the spot as he tried to find a viable excuse.
"Oh! Hello there. I was just... standing here. The doors opened as if by magic. Alakazam!"
Her brown eyes pierced daggers into his. "You're going to have to do better than that next time. However, I can't fret for too long. After all, you've done in ten minutes what we've been struggling with for all of a week." Her eyes brightened, "Could you reactivate them, do you think?"
"Well," Battledog interjected, "he got that luxury massage droid working fine..."
Wildcard spun around fast enough to break his own neck. "I told you it was scratching an itch!"
"Uh huh. That looked like some pretty vigorous 'scratching' it was doing."
Dileih suppressed a laugh, doing her best to maintain formality.
"Okay you - hand me the hydrospanner! I've found the localised network casing. All I need to do now is..."
Wildcard wrenched open the access panel and flipped the auxiliary power switch. He had spent all of three hours slicing into the battle droids security system and modifying their behaviour cores. Now it was time to activate the platoon. All fifty six droids rose in unison, raising their blasters at a perfect ninety degree angle. A droid donning yellow paintwork clinked over to Dileih.
"What are your orders?"
"None for now, Commander. Stand by."
Wildcard sat perched on the cliffside near his ship. He had returned along with Battledog to ensure that the fighters were safe. The three moons varied in size and colour, and he smiled to himself. "Yknow," he called back to Battledog, who was working on his X-wing in Incom Factory colours, "growing up we were always told that when the three moons are visible over a clear sky we'd have good fortune the next day."
Battledog grunted as he wrestled with a bolt, "I never had you pegged as the superstitious type, Wildcard. You always seemed too paranoid for that sort of thing."
Wildcard chuckled at the remark. It reminded him of how far he'd come, how much he'd changed. "I wasn't always that way. Back then I was wide eyed and hopeful."
"If you mean foolish, just say so."
He wanted to be offended but it was hard to disagree from his point of view. "Come on, you can hardly comment on anyone's mental state."
Battledog sighed a breath of relief as the bolt finally came loose, opening the maintenance panel. "Listen, it works in your favour in this scenario. I don't care about your little mishap earlier."
"In any case, I'd prefer not to die fighting Imps. I'll kill them all before I die if I have to."
"We all die, sooner or later."
"You make yourself sound almost suicidal!" Wildcard said.
"Look, I've been fighting this war for five years, almost everybody I knew when I started is dead now and I figure I'm surviving on other people's bad luck. I got into this because the Empire has to be stopped and that's what keeps me going, stopping them - not killing them."
"I'm heading back to the base," he smiled warmly, "I'll see you in the morning." Bakk J'ruce slinked off into the night, savouring the calm before the storm.
Part Three: To Die By Your Side...
The Next Morning
"Alright everybody, get into attack position." Foo's voice crackled over the tight beam comms. They had discovered shortly before takeoff that their normal comms were being jammed, so a primitive solution had to be arranged.
As long as they stayed within visual range, it wouldn't be a crippling issue, but a decent portion of the fighters' astromechs would be keeping the tightbeams tethered to each other. Dileih Tikean and her small militia were making a push for an Imperial checkpoint with access to the jammers. If they could capture it, the New Republic could be notified. The issue lay in its defenses: the militia had identified five AT-STs and a hovertank. For a starfighter these were easy targets, but not for the ground forces, battle droids notwithstanding. Wildcard opened up his S-Foils into the shape that gave the ship its name, and started powering up his shields.
"G-t v-sual -n the wa-ers, F." Angel said, her voice cutting out at random intervals.
Great, my last words won't have any kriffing vowels.
The five AT-STs aimed upwards, firing at the squadron. Wildcard pulled hard into a barrel roll, each shot flying either over him or under him. "Leftmost is following you, Rogue."
Rogue's X-wing looped back to gain some distance before spraying the walker with red flames. It crumbled with a deafening blast, causing the others to scatter. Wildcard's sights rested on the second AT-ST, he turned slightly to keep its fleeing form in his crosshair. He squeezed the trigger and watched the machine disintegrate by his own hand. The other pilots dispatched each and every walker with great ease.
The comm buzzed, "Tikean here. You got them all, beginning our assault now."
Wildcard grinned, "You tell those clankers to give 'em hell!"
Battledog's voice replied with scorn, "Keep that language up and Syntax is gonna have a word."
Dileih gripped her blaster carbine with a kind of professional delicacy that only a hired gun would have. She shot three stormtroopers from the hip and leaned over a terminal as the battle droids and organics alike secured the various rooms inside the checkpoint. The defence had been fairly tame for the Empire, however this was the first act of resistance they'd encountered since occupying the surface, so negligence was to be expected. She pressed several buttons, looking for the jammer controls, and found them at last.
Here goes nothing, she thought.
A light in Wildcard's cockpit pinged, indicating that the jamming had ended. "Tikean should be notifying the New Republic any minute now," he said. "We'll be home and dry soon enough."
A raspy growl came through. "I wouldn't celebrate too soon, J'ruce," the voice spat his voice like a wretched curse.
"Who the hell is that?"
"This is Commander Kodo Luidi of the Galactic Empire. Before you rejoice at my having survived, allow me to present my demands."
Wildcard's heart felt like it was being strangled by a Hutt's tail. That was impossible.
"As you no doubt noticed, I am at the helm of a Victory Class Star Destroyer, more than capable of orbital bombardment. However, that would be a waste of a perfectly useful planet. So you have three days to give yourself up. Should you obey, I will take you prisoner, leave this place, and allow you to save millions. Otherwise, I will turn your rocky hellhole into a monument to your cowardice."
Wildcard finally found the words he was looking for. "But... you're dead! There's no way you could've survived! The whole place went up in flames!"
No response came.
Commander Luidi's opaque white eyes gazed onto the planet below, hoping that any second he might see that X-wing, hoping that he could have his revenge. A radar technician gasped loudly, drawing the attention of everyone there.
"MC-75 CRUISER IN SYSTEM!"
The room jolted, throwing everyone from their feet.
Jazzy enabled his stabilisers to prepare for the inevitable flurry of laser fire. His scomp link extended again, inserting into the nearest data terminal and he began working.
The hull was battered by blasts from the juggernaut across space.
Luidi scowled. You weren't supposed to be so soon...
"This is Vice Admiral Gio of the New Republic Cruiser Phantom speaking. Your occupation of this system is at an end. You are outgunned, surrender and we will be lenient."
"Sir!" A cracking voice called from one of the Star Destroyers' crew pits. "Our shields are down, and turbolaser battery power is being diverted to the internal trash compactors!"
The bridge erupted into pandemonium. Men ran for escape pods whilst some stood their ground and readied for a counterattack.
Luidi clambered to his feet, steadying himself with his hands. Time to abandon ship. Until next time, J'ruce.
As Foo and his crewmates flew for the New Republic Cruiser, a barreling shape appeared on his radar.
An escape pod? He thought to himself.
He engaged the U-wing's short range tractor beam and locked onto the pod. It sealed onto the access hatch and he handed over control to his co-pilot before jumping down to apprehend the inhabitant. With a hiss, the pressure equalised and the door slid open. Foo stepped back.
A cloaked man entered alongside a green and white astromech. His eyes were glossy and white and his skin was burned and scarred horrifically. The man dove for Foo, lunging at his throat as the pilot's crewmates grabbed at him to no avail. Foo gasped for air as his windpipe was crushed. He used what little energy was left to kick at the man but it was no use.
The room flashed white and his assailant convulsed on the floor, releasing his neck. The astromech had extended a shock prod and restrained his owner.
"Thanks," he croaked.
CRS Vigilant, Toseng System
The pilots entered the bar, still noticeably scruffy from their long mission, and all took seats in a corner booth together. Wildcard sighed, feeling relief in the ability to sit in a seat that didn't have an ejector.
Iggy approached, holding a tray already filled with drinks.
"But," Wildcard began, "we didn't order anything."
Iggy turned to face him with the kind of sharp precision that only a droid could have.
"Colonel Reynolds has paid for this round."
The crew accepted the drinks, and raised their glasses in Jalb's direction, a gesture which he returned promptly from the bar where he sat with the rest of Rogue Squadron.
Wildcard slumped onto his bed, glad to finally have come home. Commander Luidi had been restrained in custody onboard the Vigilant, and his droid sliced into. He heard a soft chirp from next to his bed.
"I'm glad to have you back, Jazzy." He smiled warmly at the droid.
"Commander Kodo Luidi"
Luidi sat bolt upright, his arms restrained by the security jacket he had been enveloped with.
It had been only a day since his arrival on the CRS Vigilant, but word of his presence had spread far and wide among Imperial defectors who knew of his unforgiving ways.
He stared across the table at his interrogator, running through intel stored in the depths of his mind. After several moments, he arrived at his conclusion.
"You however...", his voice was rougher than sand, "are Rosk Vikeron."
She narrowed her eyes and leaned back in her chair.
"You sure know a lot, Commander uh... Luigi? And please, call me Silence. All my friends do." She frowned.
"It's Luidi. Soon to be Commodore for my brave conquest of Berchest."
"Oh, come on." Silence laughed in his face. "That was a failed mission. You wasted resources killing things with no gain for the Empire. I'd say you're game for a demotion." Rosk intertwined her fingers and leaned on her elbows.
Luidi shifted in his seat. "Part of me is glad that your Rebellion killed so many of my men. You have no idea how many war crimes you could be charged with by the Empire."
She laughed, shaking her head at him. "I have a fairly exact idea. I'm sure the natives of Alderaan would agree. If they were all alive."
As much as Luidi was aware of his atrocities, his many victims deserved what they got. Opposing the Empire was never taken lightly. "You and I both know that you shan't leave this room with the information you seek. Why don't you and I dispense with the bantering and let me speak to him." Luidi said, cutting through the tension she had created with that last remark.
She smirked, "Ooooh. Pronoun game. Mysterious. Now, why don't we discuss the purpose of the classified installation where you were stationed when you captured him, and maybe you two can get some alone time."
He ignored the question, sighing in frustration.
"Lucky for you," Silence said, "the good man would like to see you too. How romantic is that?"
Wildcard waited patiently for the buzz that indicated the door had been unlocked. As it echoed around the small anteroom, he drew in a deep breath. He mustered the mental strength to enter the room, and the door slid shut behind him silently.
A malicious grin spread across Luidi's unrecognisable face. "Flight Officer J'ruce. We really must stop meeting like this..." Luidi's voice was low, constantly exuding an air of sadism.
"Don't say a word, Wildcard. I need this golden goose to give up the goods first," Silence said, refusing to break eye contact with Luidi.
Wildcard was fighting against every impulse he swore would be under control a moment ago.
Luidi lay his head back and breathed deeply, smiling with a kind of sick pleasure. "If that is the price I must pay, then so be it. The installation was for many things. As you know, it was being used for attempts at reviving the Defender project. However, its main use was the research and development of a new superweapon, by the order of the Emperor himself."
"Really? Tell me more..."
"Oh I wish there was more to tell, the horror on your faces would be a delight. It was most unfortunately concluded that the Empire simply hasn't the time or resources for such an endeavour. Not anymore. Thus, TIE Defender production began. We believed that if our superweapon project was truly dead, it might be worthwhile to engineer something that may turn the tide of the war somewhat less dramatically. Alas, it was not to be."
Silence raised her eyebrows in surprise. "I have to say I'm surprised you gave us all that for five minutes with this guy."
"I believe a final word with him would make my time in prison that much more satisfying. After all, it's certain that I won't be released soon, or likely ever, and I wouldn't be mistaken in assuming that I am now an enemy of the Empire."
"Alright, Wildcard. Here's your cue," Silence said, before getting up and leaving the room.
For a moment, Wildcard stood and simply stared at the restrained man with nothing but disgust.
"So... Flight Officer J'ruce. I really am glad you agreed to see me on such short notice."
"What do you want, Luidi?" The venom in his voice could be felt in the air.
"I want to let you know that I have already set your suffering in motion..." Luidi stared into his chest, cackling quietly. He swung his head up, startling Wildcard with the suddenness of it all.
"LOOK AT ME! I'M A MONSTER! YOU DID THIS TO ME!" He trembled with rage and tears soaked his face.
"No, Commander, you've always been a monster! Just because you finally got what was coming to you, all of a sudden you're the victim? Spare it. Just be grateful you haven't been executed. You may still be useful yet."
"Do it! KILL ME! Kill me like I killed everyone on that planet of yours! They were in pain and I relished every second of it!"
Wildcard grabbed the datapad on the desk and swung it. The screen collided with Luidi's mouth, sending teeth flying.
The Imperial spat onto his straight jacket, staining its perfect whiteness with blood.
"I'm winning, Bakk. Every second you think about me is another victory. Even if you kill me now, I shall forever be... the author of all your pain. Soon you shall see..."
Wildcard closed his eyes for only a moment, doing his very best to calm himself.
"Well, Commander. You can spend every one of those precious seconds aboard a prison ship. You're being transferred tomorrow."
Wildcard will return...