Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars. I totally invented the names of Vevut Squad members besides Dec, simply because we never get to know the others in canon sources. Planet Gasarro is also something I created for the purpose of this fan fiction.
Author's note: I've been pacing myself to write this kind of story long ago, when I read True Colors by Karen Traviss where we find out more about Bardan Jusik as a Jedi and soon to become Mandalorian. What we don't clearly know is his role in the Grand Army. Kal Skirata knows that he is a general who commands a whole commando group, five hundred men that need objectives, briefing and support. Rav Bralor's squads (Vevut among them) are the ones he has to check on in this case. I hope you'll find this story entertaining.
Morale visit to Vevut Squad
Landing area 76B, Bogg V, Bogden system
He stepped off the Aay'han with a hint of bitterness from lingering thoughts about Etain's condition, Kal and the hunt for Ko Sai. Being kept out of the loop by Kal had stung, deeper than he'd expected, and now that everything was relatively in the open he could to deal with it the best he could.
Jusik climbed into his interceptor and ran the engines, starting the navicomputer to calculate the route to Gasarro. According to his estimations Vevut squad was operating under radar there, a mission that could be a challenge even for Delta. He checked his mission journal on the console display and selected their assignment when an incoming message from Rav Bralor popped up.
Tell Zey that if he needs me he can bring his jetii shebs over to Gasarro and help my boys out of the osik he sent them in.
The Delta-7 interceptor reached Bogden space as he sent his reply message:
Copy that, Sergeant. Tell Vevut that I'm on my way.
The hyperspace route calculation stopped at a hundred percent completion. Being in control of his own responsibilities within the GAR was a liberating feeling. His trust issues with Kal'buir were swept away as stars shot white streaks around the canopy.
Northern hemisphere, underground of the CIS compound, Gasarro
Dec threw the shovel at his squad mate, Six, to continue digging while he sat against the dirt wall of the tunnel. He resisted the temptation to remove his helmet. Six shoveled some dirt over his shoulder, showering him with a rain of solid rubble.
"Remind me why we're not making the natives do this for us," he complained. "They have the century-old technology, we have these."
He clutched angrily at the durasteel tool, portable, compact, solid, GAR issued shovel. But it was small.
"Look, no one is volunteering to work their communication skills again. If we had been educated on Gasarrian diplomacy we'd have brought a Jedi along."
Six whacked brutally at something tough.
"A Jedi would have moved the ground under the building," he grunted. "With a nod."
Dec had his HUD full of databank links to intel articles that could remotely solve their troubles. In vain. Gasarrians were semi-insectoid, humanoid beings that populated the planet below the surface. They had entire cities and layers of infrastructure dug underground . Sadly they weren't very outgoing. The first time he and his squad made acquaintance with them was through the narrow opening of a pit hole in which they had been thrown into. These natives looked like big rodents standing on their hind legs, with wide, intelligent eyes and omnivorous habits. They understood and spoke Basic, but as he later learned, that didn't make them any more cooperating.
"I think I hit a hard spot."
"Want me to take over?"
"No, you should try to get Splat and Cod out of detention."
They were the Gasarrians' insurance that they wouldn't gang up on them. Contact with the detainees had been lost when the natives figured out they could talk to eachother within their private link. The only reason they could keep the helmets on was for breathing purposes when working the tunnels.
Dec turned his gaze to the two guards looking at them with ever focused red pupils. Their weapons looked like large snail shells that shot bright energy bolts. They seemed to have unlimited ammo, too.
"Maybe another time. Keep digging or they'll think we're scheming."
"We could die of old age in here. Die of old age and halfway into this haran. We'd be digging our own grave--"
The comms icon flashed in Dec's interface and he blinked towards it instantaneously.
Hang in there, ad'ike. You got Jedi help coming your way. Bralor out.
"It's good to hear from Rav'buir again," he told Six, cheerful again after two weeks. "Looks like your wishes are coming true."
He turned towards him, holding his shovel in a victorious pose.
"Roger that, ner vod. Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!"
The guards snapped to attack position, squeezing their snail-guns nervously.
Dec switched to speaker channel. "Easy now, he was just telling me that he needed to urinate."
They flared their nostrils and their whiskers shivered slightly. One of them, if Dec remembered right his name was Terekalu, directed a clawed finger towards the other end of the tunnel.
"Do it there."
"Woah, no - wait." Six shook his helmet side to side. "Now that I'm thinking about it, I also need to defecate. And I haven't had my fibers lately."
They stood confused for a moment, and Terekalu complied. The good thing about wearing helmets was, among a lot of other benefits, that people couldn't tell if you lied or told the truth. Six followed the irritated guard down the underground labyrinth, leaving Dec to continue digging.
"So, what do I do when he realizes that nothing's coming out?"
"Shab, make an effort!"
"Well, Sarge, forcefully squeezing stool out was never part of our training. Do you think we should send a suggestion to the Kaminoan idea box?"
He turned around to take a sneak peek at Pasikalu, the other guard.
"I think we could afford a slight diplomatic disruption for this time."
"Alright, give me your signal."
"On three. One, two…"
Six managed to yelp loud enough to be heard by Pasikalu and Dec jumped him. Gasarrians were smaller than the smallest Bothans and their strongest warriors couldn't stand a chance against a clone. Something snapped when he gagged the guard with his gauntlet and Pasikalu fell limp to the ground, his head turned in an awkward angle.
"Why didn't we think of this before?" Six said, sounding like he was running.
"Probably because we wanted to respect these people's neutrality."
"Don't give me that political osik…"
Six reappeared in the tunnel, with Terekalu slumped over his right shoulder and Splat and Cod were in his trail.
"Oya!" Dec cheered.
"You don't say," agreed Cod, equipping his helmet, DC-17 in hand.
Splat went over to Pasikalu's inert body to take his snail-gun. He had the better medic skills in the squad: he could diagnose dead like anything. "So, are we expecting the underground cavalry?"
There was a low rumbling sound that predicted no good. Dec cursed between his teeth, raising the retrieved Deece that Cod gave him, and prepared to fire at anything furry or whiskery coming their way.
Something poked his shoulder plate, then another on his helmet. Then it was a shower of dirt.
"Six, ner vod, you can stop now--"
Get out of there!
Wherever that voice came from, he didn't feel like disapproving.
They all scattered away from the apparent cave-in, finding themselves flat on the ground, covered in dust as the roof was collapsing. The funny thing was - and he had to find it funny because he thought stuff were going to fall on him - that the roof was collapsing upwards. Back on his feet he carefully approached the opening over their heads, blaster first. Daylight appeared into the underground.
A length of durasteel cable fell down, hanging from somewhere up the perfectly circular drilling. Looking up what seemed like twenty meters of soil his vision was blinded by the white brightness of the sky.
Gasarro was a rock, literally. There was nothing but dirt and sand on it's surface because of its unstable dying star that irradiated all living things. And since it was inhospitable, all of its natural underground resources were available to whoever dared settling there.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" said the same voice from the other end of the well. "Grab the line!"
Dec let his brothers go first, being the squad leader it was his responsibility to make sure that everyone was accounted for during an extraction. After Six got lifted up the tunnel, he got the line back and started climbing. The last few meters were painful to pull through with the extra weight of his Katarn armor but someone pulled the line up to the surface. He blissfully stretched his back, glad to be able to stand up straight again and turned to his squad: all four of them looked more brown than white, and their golden markings and sigils were masked by the rust. There were patches of fresh soil scattered all around them on the dry whitened surface. He thought explosives but even that would provoke a cave-in.
Then facing their savior, Dec froze in confusion, as they all did. No uniform, no robes. And that set of green beskar was of the wrong color to be that of Rav'buir.
The man stared them back through his black T-shaped visor.
"Thanks would be a good start," he said through his helmet speaker.
Dec recognized that voice. "General Jusik?"
"Good guess, ner vod."
"I like your style, General," Six said, nodding several times in approval.
So the Jedi had finally gone full-out on the mando thing. Dec found it unsettling: he associated the sight of beskar'gam with the highest authority he could think of. And no, that wasn't the Chancellor, but his training sergeant. When a Cuy'val Dar showed up with full armor and his buy'ce on it generally meant serious business. It really did not suit a Jedi.
Jusik lead them towards the nearest natural shading spot, a canyon at approximately two clicks away from the bunker they had been digging to.
"Looks like you got yourselves quite a situation," the young general said as they walked in line, out of habit.
"The mission got compromised by the locals," Dec replied, switching to report mode. "They caught us on their grounds and we failed to obtain their cooperation so they kept us in custody. They're extremely paranoid."
"They didn't kill us, though," added Cod. "That makes them stupid as well."
The Jedi - Dec needed to remind himself that - turned his visor towards them.
"Any signs of Sep leaders?"
"No wet traffic so far." Dec assumed that Jusik knew clone jargon when it came to designating living beings as opposed to droids. He was a SpecOps Commander after all. "This system is completely on its own if you regard Battle Droids as tools rather than personnel."
"Aren't the locals upset that their world is being exploited?"
"Probably," answered Six. "Though they blame us for provoking the Seps to go to war."
Splat cleared his throat. "I think they don't want the shield to go down otherwise we could just bomb the surface and their hidden cities would be destroyed. Nobody would hear them screaming."
"Very incentive. What's your name?"
"Um… Splat, sir."
Jusik paused. "What kind of name is that?"
Dec laughed. "Funny thing with a Geonosian… It was the last sound he heard before passing out."
"I fell down three stories and landed on a bug."
Jusik unrestrainedly guffawed, seeming inexplicably cheerful all of the sudden, for a general sent to a back-end part of the galaxy just to help them. They couldn't even remove their helmets because of the sunrays but that didn't seem to bother him - the man liked it.
They made camp in the shade of a shallow cave in the canyon. Dec's muscles were complaining about the walk and the dehydration. He pulled his bucket off and immediately regretted it; the thin, hot air of Gasarro was more suffocating than his filtered, climate-controlled suit. He could tap into his air supply if things got unbearable but thought better of it.
The general had brought an additional pack slung around his shoulder with water and food rations. Dec gratefully greeted him hand-to-elbow, the mando style. Providing sustenance for new friends was one important aspect of Mandalorian hospitality that Sergeant Bralor had taught them, and refusing that was considered an insult.
"We'll need the locals' help to get to this last shield generator," Six said, biting in a compact protein biscuit. "Their drilling machines could take care of the entrance issue in a few hours."
Jusik removed his helmet, brushing back greasy blond hair that needed a dramatic cut. "What kind of society do they have?" he asked. "GAR Intel has failed me once again."
"Doesn't it always," Splat grinned. He scratched dry dirt from his left shoulder plate to make his golden mythosaur skull appear.
"It's a matriarchal structure," Dec answered, having read all of the sociologic articles from his bank. "Females do the decision-making as they are in smaller numbers and the males take care of the rest."
"So in other words," Jusik said, taking a sip of water, "we're shabbed."
"Being all male, and identical didn't help us at all," said Cod. "They probably kept us alive because we're like droids to them."
"Or," Six continued, "they want to cut us to pieces, see how identical we really are."
"Alright, I get it. But how is their technology?"
"It's weird," Splat said and showed him the snail-gun. "Looks organic, yet it fires some sort of laser."
Jusik inspected the weapon with a curious expression, like a kid getting a new toy for his birthday. He got up and aimed towards a mound of rocks outside the cave. The blast was almost melodious due to the curled shape of the barrel, and there were none of the rocks left to be seen, just a pile of dark smoke. He looked at the smoking muzzle and blew wind into it, recreating part of the shooting melody.
"Crazy thing," commented Six. "And it never runs out of ammo."
"I guess you should hang on to it then." He tossed it back to Splat and stood, hands on hips for a thoughtful moment. "This is worse than I thought."
"No osik," Cod said. "Unless you could just do what you did with your Force trick down there, and it's a walk in the sandbox."
He scratched his hairy chin. "That's not what I meant." Picking up his helmet he looked around at them. "How desperate would it sound to ask Sergeant Bralor to come over?"
Dec looked perplexed at him. It sounded like a last resort suggestion for a task they weren't prepared for. But in the end, Republic Commandos had to be prepared for anything.
"She would be pissed," he answered. "She's in the Talus sector with another company. What's the plan, General?"
"We need a female ambassador."
He equipped his helmet and went silent, sheltered in the soundproofing of his buy'ce while he conversed with the chain of command. Dec finished eating his ration and took a long drink of water. Minutes later, Jusik took his helmet off and held it contemplatively before lifting his blue eyes from it. Something had gone wrong or maybe he was just annoyed.
"We got reinforcements coming," he said quietly.
"You say that like it's a bad thing," remarked Six.
He sat down and bit on his protbar, munching carelessly. "Well it could be worse… At least they have a few troopers with them."
"Skywalker and his Padawan."
"Which is the female one?"
Jusik squinted out to the horizon. "The Padawan."
They all kept silent for a confused moment of mixed impatience and irritation. Dec thought that the odds of completing the operation were low, but now they seemed to be back to where they started.