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Chapter 10

Imperial outpost

It was like nothing she’d lived before. If she tried to remember the worst ever things she had to endure, nothing could really compare. Runa never had any broken bones or bad accidents in her life. So when they activated the nodes connected to her hands, neck and head all she could focus on was the pain. The straps on the chair kept her from flailing and convulsing to the floor so she clenched her teeth hard trying not to bite her tongue and just counted the seconds until the shocks stopped.

It was her second session now and she tried remembering the face of her torturers: a couple of masked troopers wearing the new, modified white clone armor and a human officer wearing an olive drab uniform with a triangular hat. She couldn’t read his rank, it had two bars so she guess a lieutenant or captain. Captain of interrogation?

“All of this can end if you just tell us who you’re working for,” he said in a tired, soft voice.

He looked in his thirties, had gray eyes and black hair but she couldn’t remember his name. He probably never told her.

“I don’t work for anyone,” she panted. “It’s not work…”

“Then who sent you?”

Thinking became hard. Runa guessed that the point of exhausting her brain was to let honesty kick in because thinking of a lie was too much of a hassle after a while. Another shock. She lost her train of thought.

“Who sent you here?” repeated the officer.

“…I don’t know…”

Well, in fact she wasn’t sure who really decided on sending her and Devik to play spies. Was it Bardan or Skirata? Or even that clone? It could have been her father as well.

The man touched her knee and it felt like an assault.

“Admirable efforts to protect your friends, but at this pace I don’t think you’ll survive long enough to see your rescuers. I’ve seen much tougher subjects… It’s a wonder why they picked you to come here.”

That stung. She was hurting too much to fight off tears so she just let them roll down her face.

“I’ll tell you why they picked you: they don’t think you’re fit to fight. This is a suicide mission, darling. So here’s what I offer you: give me one name and I’ll let you live.”

She thought of Devik, and the last time she saw him was at the medical ward and he had said mean things. She didn’t know where he was now and focused her mind on finding him. If he’d been caught the lieutenant or captain would have told her that for mind-breaking purposes.

She could feel her pulse pounding in her head, blood almost boiling under her skin and sweat stinging her eyes. Her bowels were about to give way and she knew, for the first time in her life, that death was just around the next electric shock.

When he was about to press the button again she lost it and cried like a baby.

“It’s easy, just tell me one name,” he said victoriously.

If she told her name Devik would be in danger. If she told Bardan’s name then she might never see him again. She could still feel his presence from that night when he held her hand, her mind found comfort in that memory.

“Well?” the man insisted. “What’s it going to be?”

She could live and hope to see a rescue party, or die never knowing true happiness. The choice was clear to her now.


They let her rest in her cell but the part of her brain that allowed her to sleep was not complying. The man’s words still rang in her head making her feel bad about what she just did: betraying a man she barely knew and who only meant well for his family. She sobbed from nervous breakdown for what seemed like hours until she went over to the sink and cleaned herself as best as she could. Standing was not easy when everything was spinning around her so she lied down on the floor hoping it would stop or at least slow down.

A part of her hoped that whoever was watching the surveillance feed from her cell would come to her aid, but a more rational voice told her to quit being miserable and to get on her feet. Devik would be that kind of person if he were in her shoes. He’d find a way out of there.

So she waited. They could come and get her for an execution now that they had the information they needed, but she wasn’t leaving without a fight. Once she recovered her balance and a clear mind she sat up straight and stretched her aching arms. Her muscles were rusty but she still remembered a few close combat moves from self-defense classes that she attended years ago.

Boots clanked on the metallic floor in the hall. Runa’s heart jumped, she stood with her back against the wall and waited for the door to hiss open. She saw a food tray and black gloved hands holding it, so she grabbed one, pulled it forward and swung her elbow straight at the masked face of the trooper. He yelped in his amplifier and the metallic tray fell to the floor but Runa knew the fight wasn’t over. Much to her dislike the soldier was much taller and heavier than she was, so it took more effort than she expected when she attempted to lock his arm and pin him down. That was the plan and of course she ended up struggling for too long and found herself slammed against the opposing wall. The man was strong, and it hurt her already weakened bones when he punched her in the face and thorax. She knew she had it coming but wanted to call a truce and talk it out. Obviously there was no rule for that kind of brawl so the armored man kept beating her up until she was lying flat on the floor.

She looked unconscious so he left, probably upset for not being thanked since he brought her sustenance. Why did they let her live?

There was a loud blast, so powerful that she felt the floor vibrating against her face. She heard her assaulter running passed her cell door then coming back, screaming something in his comlink, then blaster firing covered his voice. He was being chased.

Her door hissed open again and she saw white boots hastily entering; he tried picking her up but he pressed on her ribcage and she cried from the pain, also realizing that her mouth was filled with blood and one of her teeth had moved. The soldier then pulled her legs intending to drag her but he suddenly dropped her feet and a loud hum made him gasp before the sound of his body hit the floor. She smelled blood - mostly her own - and burnt flesh.

Runa then heard footsteps in her cell and a curious electric hiss over her head. She tried looking up but it was a blur of green and brown. Gloved hands touched her face and pulled her eyelid down to check for eye response.

“You’re gonna be okay Runa, just hang in there.” The disembodied voice was breathing heavily.

“I can’t… move,” she managed to mutter. “Broken… something.”

“Two ribs and your left wrist are broken according to my scan. You can walk. Now get up!”

He was one of the Mandalorians and she recognized that tone, she felt the urge to be strong and overcome her pain. He helped her to her feet with a supporting arm around her back, and even though her injuries still made her complain she found that she could walk quite fast.

There was suddenly a lot of things going on but she only registered herself being half carried across a dark hallway and walking over inert bodies on the ground. She noticed cauterized wounds from blaster shots, some larger than others, burned white armor plates and… limbs. She wondered who was using blades when most people had rifles and pistols. The sight of one particular head cleanly detached from the rest of its body made her hurl. Not because she was weak in the stomach, she just wished she hadn’t recognized those gray eyes.

They came to a room with a lot of smoke and more dead people around. She saw colored beskar and T-visor helmets. They were three, four of them with her rescuer and they gestured towards the elevators without saying a thing. When they all clumped inside the elevator she understood that she just couldn’t hear what they were saying because their helmets were soundproofed. They were probably yelling at each other or counting kills. She was missing out on great action, and shamefully felt like sitting down.

As she had trouble keeping her eyes open someone put a bottle against her lips so she could drink. It was water but it tasted like more blood down her throat.

The elevator stopped at an upper level, and when they walked out of it she saw more white armors and olive green uniforms. They shot their blasters, red laser bolts. Runa squinted and tried to cover her face - a stupid reflex since that wouldn’t save her at all - but she got blinded with a green light that shrieked to life and threw all the blaster bolts away from her. A lightsaber. The laser blade scared the wits out of her but never seemed to get too close, it was like a shield.

She looked at Bardan only to see his green and gold helmet as he batted off incoming fire. A mando’ad using a Jedi weapon, that’s what he was to her right then.

More armored bodies fell and they started pressing forward. One man in red armor, Runa thought his name was Ordo, signaled to them before throwing something towards their enemies. Bardan got her to a crouch and spun around in front of her.

“Cover your ears.”

She couldn’t see the explosion but the muffled detonation was enough to give her a hint of the amplitude. Bardan held her up again and they ran straight ahead. They stopped facing a bulkhead and he handed her his blaster.

“Stand clear while I make a shortcut.”

As bad as she wanted to watch him use his saber as a metal cutter she had her own job to do so she held the blaster in direction of the hallway. She had never shot a living being before but until that day she never got shocked nor punched either. The hissing of melting alloy ended and Bardan kicked the wall down. There was a room behind it, and it looked like the medical ward.

From what she remembered that part of the base was only occupied by droids, perhaps he knew that too, and they proceeded through it without problems. It was as if the building had been deserted.

“Wait… We have to wait for the others," Runa said, worried about being cut off.

Bardan stopped, then found a room but it was locked. He waved his hand over the door console and it opened. Runa would have expressed amazement in better circumstances. He sat her on the medical bed inside and started rummaging for supplies.

“They’re clearing the way around,” he said, then sighed. “Are you all right?”

She caught her breath and nodded. “Yeah, just in pain.”

He found stims and a bacta injector. He shot the bacta through her sleeve and kept the stims in his belt pouch. Then he inspected her face. She looked back at him but all she could see was the black of his visor.

“What happened to my brother?” she asked. “Do you know?”

“He went on with the recruitment and got shipped to the training grounds. We lost contact then.”

“No…” she tried to shake her head but her spine disapproved by cracking alarmingly. “Why did he do that?”

“I couldn’t change his mind,” Bardan whispered. “I’m sorry.”

Runa just couldn’t believe it, that Devik had been indoctrinated that quickly after all that happened since they landed on Mandalore. He was lost now, she knew that she had very little chances to ever see him again.

Bardan froze for a moment, nodding to unheard voices, as she guessed he was talking to the team. “Time to go,” he told her.