Part 1 [21/1/13]
"It must be bad," Hunter says, "if he needs us to evacuate him."
"Who knows," Tracyn says. "All I know is that if it is Mandalore we have to go to, forget it."
"What are you on about?" Aranar counters. "He's our instructor! Other clones would help save their instructors."
"Yes, we know," Lightning agrees. "But what would Spec Ops says were we to go off on a personal errand?"
"Can you see any Jedi around here?" Aranar questions. "Besides, he's like a brother to us. We never leave brothers behind."
"Oh come on," Tracyn scoffs. "Try telling that to all those who lost brothers at Geonosis."
"Don't bring Geonosis into this!" Lightning shouts. "I've heard of the stories. We all have. Brothers of other squads were killed, and they got reformed. Just be lucky none of us were killed."
"That's right," Hunter says. "Now then. We can go now, and rescue our brother. Or we can go after we contact Special Operations, and possibly lose him. I know which one I want."
"But we'll be disobeying direct orders," Tracyn states. "Simple fact, technically, we can't."
"But we can," Lightning says. "We're not droids. We can think for ourselves. That's why we were created, or haven't you thought of that fact yet."
"Look," Aranar interrupts. "All arguments aside - are we going or not?"
"Really, we have no choice," Hunter says. "I suppose it falls on me, the leader, to give the final words. But we were chosen for this. That's why we, specifically, were selected out of everyone else.
"He needed someone he could trust. No matter what."
"To Mandalore then."
"And remember, we are Mandalorian," Hunter quietly says. "It doesn't matter what we were bred to be, it's what we're raised to be that counts."
Lightning then calculates a jump to Mandalore and throws the switch. The starscape changes to the angularities of hyperspace.
Part 2 [27/1/13]
The ship blasts out of hyperspace to see the planet Mandalore, forests and water with a desert at the pole, and the two moons orbiting.
"Now we're here, anyone got any ideas on how we're actually going to track him?" Aranar asks.
"Well, we can't just announce that we're Republic and we're hear to claim a Mandalorian," Tracyn jokes.
Hunter is already on it, however. "Communications Central, where was the last comm made from Mandalore to Republic personnel?"
"Information is being processed," the voice comes back. It sounds like a female vocoded droid. "The last call was made in the forest region Olankur."
"Well that shrinks it down," Lightning says. "Head on down?" he then asks Hunter.
The ship then heads down, keeping near the forests of the northern hemisphere.
"Well, this isn't doing us any good," Aranar says. "We need to get lower down. Into the trees."
Lightning manouvres the ship lower down, skimming the tops of the trees. In an opening of the trees, he cuts the speed right down, turning the ship and lowering it through the gap. The whine of the engines as they power down is like a sigh of relief that no-one spotted them.
"Right then," Hunter says. "Lightning, stay here and be tracker. Me, Tracyn and Aranar will go out on foot."
"Sure. But what if someone does come?" Lightning asks.
"Don't let them in and ask what their purpose is here. And I'll also need the jetpack again."
"Sure. Take it."
Hunter, Tracyn, and Aranar walk out of the ship, Hunter adjusting the straps on the jetpack. All they can see is a lot of trees.
"Nice place for a vacation," Tracyn comments.
"We're here on a mission, not for a holiday," Hunter remarks. "Now then, load up your maps and pin this location. We'll need it if we get lost."
All three get their datapads out and mark the location. They then walk off in a random direction.
Part 3 [31/1/13]
"There got to be more of this forest we haven't explored yet?" Aranar asks. "It feels like we've explored all of it."
They had indeed been trekking through the forest for about an hour now, but there was still no sign of who they were looking for.
"This forest is vast," a voice then says through their helmet comms.
"Was that you speaking Hunter?" Traycn asks.
Hunter lightly hits Tracyn's backplate and makes the had signal for 'Quiet'.
"Come on," the voice says. "Even with the speed I know you guys can pull, there's no way you could have explored this forest in an hour by foot."
"Sarge!" Tracyn shouts.
"Where are you?" Hunter asks, seriously.
"About a klick south of your position," the voice states. "Holed up somewhere. I won't say exactly where, as they are hunting me. They could be listening on this circuit."
"Don't worry. We'll find you," Hunter says. With an eyeblink, he then cuts to the squad only circuit link. "Lightning, did you get all that?"
"You've found the sarge, he's being hunted and is in hiding, and you've got to trek a klick south to find him," Lightning sums up.
"I think that covers it," Hunter says.
"So, you want air support?"
"If you can give it. Just scan the area from the air. Track the EM scanner and we should be able to find him."
"Sure. I'll get onto you when I'm in the air and have him located."
"Okay. You two. Let's go," Hunter says to the other two.
"Do you really need to ask?" Aranar remarks.
The three clones walk through the forest, pushing away twigs sticking out from the trees, and ducking under fallen logs. Small litterings of light swam through the gaps in the trees.
With half of the distance covered, Lightning then gets on the link again. "I'm in the air now, and I'm sending a rough location of where I think the sarge is. However, there's a number of people stealthily following you."
Part 4 [5/2/13]
"Are you sure?" Hunter asks.
"Well, they are stationary for the time being," Lightning says, "but they seem to be focused on two points. One is your position, and one is the sarge's."
"Well, it looks like we'll have to get this rescue done real quick. Get the ship near our position, and get ready with the cannons." Hunter then switches back to Darjate's link. "Don't worry. We're coming. But Lightning has tracked other people in this area who seem to be focusing on you and us."
"Shab," the voice comes back. "Well, hurry with this rescue. Otherwise we'll be stuck in a firefight."
"No worries. You trained us for combat like this."
"Yes. And I'm happy to have trained you."
Hunter, Aranar and Tracyn run south, and reach the position in minutes. Looking around, Hunter spots an arm appear out of a bush. Calling the other two, they pull Darjate out, and stare at each other for a moment.
"I'd ask what happened on Geonosis but that can wait," Darjate says. "We have to go-"
"Nowhere," another voice, harsher, spits out. "You four are going to stay right where you are."
Hunter, Aranar and Tracyn look around. Pointing at them are an assortment of guns from differently coloured armoured people.
"Everyone is going to stay calm while we sort this mess out," the voice says again. "I am Pre Vizsla, of Clan Vizsla. And you are?"
Hunter had a feeling this Vizsla was referring to him and his men. "We're Re-"
Darjate interrupted him. "These are my teammates who have come to rescue me from this place, and after being chased by you through this forest, I'm glad I have."
"Not yet, you haven't."
If Lightning was listening to the conversation, he couldn't have timed it better. The ship appears over the trees, spraying the area with lasers, and during the distraction, Hunter grabs Aranar and flies up with his jetpack while Darjate does the same with Tracyn.
At the ship, the hatch is open, and so they fly through it, stumbling to a landing as the hatch closes.
"Hurry up here," Lightning calls. "I'm taking the ship straight out in twenty seconds."
The four of them untangle themselves and get up, then quickly rush to the bridge and strap in.
Part 5 [10/2/13]
The ship blasts upward at roughly seventy degrees, but slowly starts angling to horizontal again. Lightning zig-zags the ship to avoid the lasers from Mandalorians shooting at them.
"What's wrong?" Hunter asks.
"Well apart from the fact we have lasers flying over us, the ship is almost out of fuel and won't take us higher than one thousand meters, and that is steadily declining," Lightning alerts.
"Well, that's our trip home busted," Aranar states.
"Not so fast on the defeatism," Darjate says. "There are a number of settlements on Mandalore that might suit our needs for more fuel. Hunt down the settlement of Norg Bral and land near to the outskirts. I will need to go on alone once we land."
"Is it not safe then?" Hunter asks.
"Oh, it is safe," Darjate says. "But clone commandos in Mando territory? It wouldn't hurt if you'd deserted but... You're still serving. They wouldn't take kindly to it."
"Desert? Who would do such a thing?" Tracyn asks.
"Not many now, but mark my word. How you lot came to be made, and how you are treated now, will make you question your loyalties to the Jedi."
The cockpit is silent after that, for a long time, until Lightning alerts them that they are about to land. When the ship does, Darjate exits the ship and the four clones see him walk, while also with telltale signs that he was on the in-built helmet comlink.
When out of sight, the clones started to talk.
"Do you really think we will?" Tracyn asks. "Question our loyalty?"
"I'm not sure," Hunter says quietly. "He was the closest thing to a brother we ever included in our team. In fact, he was more like our father."
"And now I think about it," Aranar speaks, "what exactly did the Jedi do, during the Battle of Geonosis?"
"Get caught, try and rescue their own, then get beat and get us in this sorry mess in the first place," Lightning accounts. "Then they ship half of us back off to more battlefields after an initial chill down, while the others go through more training."
"I don't care for this talk," Hunter says. "yes, the Jedi might mistreat us. Send us to battlefield to battlefield with no rest. But we're soldiers, and there's a war on. What do you expect?"
No-one had any answers.
Part 6 [15/2/13]
When Darjate appears again with another Mandalorian riding a speeder and carrying supplies, the mood inside the ship is still frosty.
Darjate then comes aboard again, and knowing the mood of the clones, says "Sorry if I caused you any unrest. What I said wasn't very tactful of me."
"But you know, don't you?" Hunter asks. "You know of clones who have already deserted."
"I've only heard stories. That's all any of us have heard."
"Hey! Veerl! You coming to help me out here?" the other Mandalorian asks.
Darjate looks round at the entrance, and the others follow his gaze to see a red Mandalorian helmet looking into the cockpit.
"Oh. Republic, hah?" she says. "Bralor. Rav Bralor. I couldn't care less for the politics of the Republic, but I care for its soldiers."
"Um..." Tracyn prompts.
"Cuy'val Dar. Just like me," Darjate states. "All us Mando instructors still keep in contact with each other."
"Yes. True," Bralor says. "So, it's just the fuel?"
"Yes," Hunter says. "Just the fuel, and then we'll be on our way."
"Oh, and be careful. If you've been seen with this mir'sheb, then you'll have Vizsla on your tail."
"The Mandalorian who we met earlier," Darjate informs.
"Ah," Hunter acknowledges. "Why are you running from him?"
"Confidential. Now let's get fuel in here and get underway."
Hunter helps Darjate and
Bralor attach the fuelling pipe, and watches the gauge as the tank fills. He then helps take it out again once the tank was full, when Darjate pulls him aside and says "You do realise I'm not going with you, right?"
"But you called for extraction!" Hunter exclaims.
"No. I only called for help. I'll be making my own way off Mandalore soon, but there's something I still need to do."
"I understand. The others won't take it well."
"I'm sure you'll calm them down. I'll be off with Bralor then."
"Take care, and don't get caught again."
"I'll try not to."
Darjate then walks to the speeder of Bralor, and Hunter watches them speed away. Once out of sight, he then turns and walks back to the cockpit of the ship.
"Where's the sarge gone?" the others instantly ask him.
"He's... He's not coming back with us. And don't argue! There's nothing we can do."
"Who's arguing?" Lighting says, turning around and activating the engines.
Hunter takes his seat, straps in, and Lightning raises ship and blasts to the atmosphere.