Personal Safety

It has been a VERY long time since I last posted.… I hope you guys don’t mind that I’ve come back to pick up where I left off. I’m going to post four chapters. They’re each very short chapters, but together, make up a decent amount of reading.… I sure hope you’ll enjoy the chapters… Please, don’t be afraid to give me your comments. I look forward them.
Thank you


An Accidental Fire​
Six weeks earlier, sitting at his tiny metal desk in his tiny office, which he shared with his four subordinate company commanders, Major Trent Ordensk read his orders. He commanded the 2931st Light Infantry Battalion of the 977th Lt Inf Regiment of the 326th Lt Inf Division. This unit was based out of General Werren Pollard Imperial Army Base, in Derthmoor prefecture, on planet Ziost. Within the battalion, the troops called themselves the 31st Battalion, 77th Regiment, or the 31st / 77th.
This unit was currently deployed on ship and taking part in security patrols with the 459th Imperial Naval Battle Group, which consisted of six Harrower-class dreadnoughts, eighteen Terminus-class destroyers, and nine Gage-class troop transports. Each Gage-class transporter was loaded with a division of infantry reinforced with a heavy war droid regiment and a heavy self propelled artillery droid regiment and all of their attending logistical support units.
Major Trent Ordensk’s orders told him to load his battalion onto four of the much smaller Juggernaut-class troop carriers, which were berthed in landing bays within the gargantuan Gage-class troop ship, and which were being modified with stealth-field generators for this mission. His orders stated that he must take a full load of supplies and munitions for thirty days of sustained combat. He became convinced that he would likely face heavy enemy resistance after reading that an entire company of heavy war droids and their handlers would be attached to his battalion.
“ That’s a lot of firepower! ”
His orders stated that his tiny fleet of four transporters would link up with three Terminous-class destroyers, acting as escorts, thus forming Special Naval Task Force 12.
“ Three Terminous-class destroyers to escort four measly Juggernauts?! That’s overkill! ”
Sometime after that, he would be given his mission. The rest of his orders told him which communications maintenance unit to get his communications gear from, what frequency channels and encryption keys to use, and which medical aid unit would join his battalion, including how many medical droids the medical unit would bring with them.
“ That’s a lot of medical support. They may as well give me a field hospital. ”
Major Ordensk was pleased with the generous support being given him. It looked like he would be getting into a major action soon, and he appreciated all the help he could get. However, there were a few major discrepancies with his orders. He saw them as important problems which needed to be addressed, so he decided to discuss them with his superior commander. In Officer Country, Trent Ordensk walked out of his tiny office and made his way down the passageway, two hundred meters, to his regimental commander’s quarters and touched the door chime switch.
Colonel Frey Brakk commanded, “Enter!”
Major Trent Ordensk entered and announced himself, “Major Ordensk reporting, Colonel.”
Colonel Brakk, looking as though he expected trouble from his subordinate, asked with a hard edge in his tone, “What is it, Major?”
“These orders sound like I’m going somewhere hot – real hot , but it’s got no mention of naval gun fire support, close fighter ship support, artillery. There’s no mention of combat resupply support and nothing about reinforcements, either. These orders are incomplete, Sir.”
Colonel Brakk’s expression changed ever so slightly as he realized that Major Trent Ordensk had not come to complain to him, but that his subordinate had not yet grasped the nature of his orders. He didn’t want to lie to his friend and decided not to mince his words.
“You aren’t getting any of those things, Major Ordensk.” Then he asked, “Did your orders tell you what unit will relieve you in the field, when you’re coming back?”
Major Ordensk turned his head to the side, making a face that showed his disgust. He shook his head in deep anger as his features expressed his realization of the situation.
When he recovered his composure, he returned his gaze to his commander and, snapping to attention, saluted smartly, telling his superior, “It’s been a real pleasure working with you, Colonel. I’ve learned a lot from you.”
Colonel Brakk stood from behind his desk, walked around to the front of it and, snapping to attention, returned the major’s salute. Then he extended his hand towards his friend. Major Ordensk took and shook his friend’s hand.
Colonel Brakk’s tone was somber but firm, as he explained what the major already knew, “Orders like these are randomly issued. There is nothing any of us can do when we get them. I’m deeply sorry, Trent.”
Major Ordensk nodded curtly, replying, “I know, Frey.”
“You’re dismissed Major.”
With determination in his tone, Major Ordensk said, “We’ll give them a wound they’ll never forget, Sir.”
Then he turned about and marched out of his commander’s quarters, thinking to himself, “ Why didn’t ‘ suicide mission ’ occur to me?! We’re being used as a diversionary force! ” Angrily, he concluded, “ We’re being thrown away to distract the enemy from some other battle! ”
Four weeks later, Special Task Force 12 traveled to the Tatoo Star Cluster, a cluster of twenty six stars which included the Tatoo Binary Star System with the only planet within the star cluster capable of sustaining life and which was famous for being a den of pirates and other less than savory inhabitants, Tatooine.
In the Tatoo Star Cluster, Special Task Force 12 was dissolved, with the destroyer escort traveling to the Tatoo Binary Star System to visit Tatooine for a few days before returning to the 459th Imperial Naval Battle Group. Meanwhile, the four modified Juggernaut-class troop transports had activated their stealth-field generators, and made their way to Hutt Space. It was then that Major Trent Ordensk received his mission.
The ship’s captain, also commanding the four ship transport group, called the major to his quarters. Major Ordensk walked, from his quarters, six meters down the passageway in Officers Country, to the commander’s door and touched the door chime switch.
The ship’s captain called out, “Enter.”
The ship captain, a naval officer, was actually the same grade in rank as the major. He waved his hand to a chair beside a small table in the captain’s quarters.
Trent Ordensk sat in the offered chair, thinking, “ What is Randin going to complain to me about this time? ”
The two thousand troops of his battalion and the four hundred troops of the support units attached to his command were all crammed into the four ships, together with all of their equipment and supplies. Discipline was difficult to maintain in the four crowded ships. The Juggernaut-class troop transports were designed to accommodate four hundred troops with their equipment and supplies, but they were each packed tight with six hundred troops, their gear and their supplies. Life aboard the smaller transports was nearly intolerable for the overcrowded Imperial soldiers.
So, he was mildly surprised that instead of getting another earful about his men getting into another brawl with the ships’ crews or of his men breaking something on one of the four ships, Commander Grett Randin wordlessly walked to a wall safe and opened it. Commander Randin took an object out of the safe then shut the safe again. The object was sealed in heavy metal foil with anti-tamper evident markings all over it.
He set the mystery object on the table in front of the major and told him, “You can’t leave, whatever that is, in here. You have to take it with you, including the foil wrapper.”
Major Ordensk, feeling his exhaustion, spoke flatly, “Thanks, Grett.”
Commander Grett Randin, equally exhausted replied just as flatly, “Yeah sure, Trent.”
Then he walked out of his quarters, leaving Trent Ordensk alone. Ordensk went to work to tear the metal foil open to get to the object inside. The foil was tough to tear open, but he finally got it done with the aid of a folding pocket knife. Inside the tough metal foil packet was a smooth, stainless, flat metal rectangular box. After figuring out how to open the box, he found a datapad inside. Taking the datapad out of its metal case, he activated the datapad and retrieved his mission statement.
He was to select a location and establish a secret base of operations on a planet called Makeb. He’d never heard of Makeb, but it was in Hutt Space, so he imagined it would be full of gangs and gang activity, not to mention crooked Hutt businesses.
He wondered to himself, “ What could the Sith Empire possibly want from this world? ”
That information was not provided in the mission statement. His mission was to select the location for the base, establish it, maintain security and, while maintaining utter secrecy, wait for a special operations team to arrive. The special operations team would be the ones to actually conduct the main mission, which also wasn’t explained in his mission statement.
After establishing the secret base, his battalion’s main mission would continue to be to provide security and to maintain the secrecy of their presence on Makeb. However, in addition to his prior responsibilities, his unit would also perform any missions given him by the special operations team leader.
Trent thought skeptically, “ So, I’ve got to turn over overall command to whoever shows up? Whoever it is better know what the hell he’s doing… ”
There was an encyclopedia of information about Makeb. After skimming through it, he decided there was too much there to read in one sitting, so he decided to revisit that section later, to give it a more thorough reading. The only guidance his mission statement gave him was to ensure the secret base was located within operational range of any Hutt controlled commercial operations.
Trent Ordensk, incredulous, thought to himself, “ Please, don’t tell me we are risking life and limb to find out what business opportunities the Hutts are pursuing! ”
After a moment to clear his mind, and to think things through, he decided that couldn’t possibly be the case.
“ Maybe we’ll be stealing some new tech from the Hutts, to give us an edge over the Republic? Or maybe we’re going to take out a secret training facility for Republic backed terrorists? ”
He didn’t know how close to the truth he was.
After thinking more carefully, Trent told himself, “ I need to stop speculating. For now, all I need to know is that the Empire just wants us within striking range of wherever it is the Hutts are on this planet. ”
The first paragraphs of the encyclopedia told him, that the Hutts had only recently established a presence on Makeb.
Facetiously, he told himself, “ There’s likely to be only two or three Hutts on world. All I have to do is search the entire planet to figure out where on the planet they each decided to build their respective palaces. Then pick one and establish a base within striking distance, all without getting caught. Easy! ”
His orders authorized him to draft any aid, from his naval escorts, without revealing his mission to establish a secret base on Makeb. Major Trent Ordensk wracked his brain for five minutes trying to decide what help he could ask Commander Grett Randin that wouldn’t give away the fact that he was to establish a secret base on the planet.
He laughed at himself, when he realized, “ Grett and the other three ship commanders are going to know that I’m going to establish a freaking base on the freaking planet when they unload my battalion and all of our gear on world. How am I supposed to keep all of that a secret from them?! ”
He got up from the chair, returning the datapad to its case and shutting the case tight. Rather quickly, the case became hot to the touch. It threatened to burn his fingers, so he dropped it onto the table. The table’s surface was made of a combustible material that almost immediately began to smolder.
He immediately cast about for a pressurized fire suppression canister. He found it near the door. Grabbing the fire suppression canister, he turned back towards the table and found a fire enthusiastically burning where the once smooth and silvery – but now warped and brightly glowing red box sat. He activated the fire suppression canister, aiming it at the ruined metal box. Even as he attacked the fire, he watched it go from a bright red to an even brighter yellow. He fought the fire frantically, as he watched the glowing box expeditiously burn its way down, into the flaming table top, threatening to fall through onto the floor.
In a near panic, Trent Ordensk shouted at himself, “Damn! That was fast!”
After a short but frantic battle to put out the rowdy flames, the completely warped and ruined box had darkened from an enthusiastically energetic yellow, to a bright red that continued to darken until it stopped glowing altogether, turning a sleek stainless metal box into a dark, mottled gray and warped mess, burrowed halfway through the now ruined table top.
Despite the fact that he had quickly put out the small, but wild and quickly growing fire, the fire detection sensor in the captain’s quarters had activated, causing the ship’s crew to respond to their fire fighting stations. A fire suppression team had arrived and, opening the door, began to enter the Captain’s quarters. Commander Grett Randin, with a look of great concern, stood behind the fire suppression team, peering into the room from the passageway.
Inside the room, Trent was hunched down to stay below the smoke. He wore a stricken look of great embarrassment, as he explained, “Grett, I had no idea it would do this! Accept my deepest apologies!”
Commander Randin, with some consternation, demanded, “Do what , man?!”
Trent quickly exited the smoke-filled captain’s quarters, to allow the fire suppression team to get to work.
The moment he stepped into the passageway, he hurriedly explained, “As soon as I returned the datapad to the metal case, the damned thing got so hot, I had to let go of it. I dropped it back onto the table. It had gotten so hot and melted so fast, that I didn’t even have time to blink a second time! Before I realized it, the damned table was already on fire!” Shrugging and holding up the expended fire suppression canister, he added lamely, “I put the fire out, though.”
Randin shook his head slowly, disbelief plastered all over his face.
“It’s bad enough that your men keep breaking things on my ships, but you too? That was my favorite table!
Ordensk pleaded, “Grett, I didn’t know it would do that!”
Unable to contain himself, Grett Randin burst into laughter.
Neither did I, or I wouldn’t have given you that thing in my quarters!”
His laughter subsided as he reflected, “I’ve never heard of anything like this before.” Before Ordensk could offer his renewed apologies, Randin added, “Well, now I know. Next time I have to give one of those things out, I’ll give it in the air lock in a heavy metal can with thermal resistant insulation lining the bottom of it.”
Trent got to business, while stating the obvious, “We need to discuss the mission, but I seem to have made a mess in your quarters, so we can’t speak here.”
Just then, the executive officer burst out of his quarters, still activating the fasteners of his tunic, and rushed the three meters to the captain’s quarters, joining the commander and the major.
He peered into the room, and saw that the fire had already been extinguished.
He turned to his commanding officer and in a very serious tone, demanded, “What did I tell you about cooking in your quarters?!”
Ignoring his executive officer, Commander Randin told the fire suppression team leader, “Get the chief in here. I want to be sure the fire is out, clean out the fire suppression powder and the smoke residue, and get me a new table.”
The fire suppression team leader replied crisply, “As you say, Commander.”
Turning to face his executive officer, Commander Grett Randin announced, “I need your quarters, X. O.” Pointing at Trent, standing beside him, he added, “He and I must converse, but my quarters are in a bit of a mess.”
The executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Harrol Ottor, arched his eyebrows and imperiously demanded, “And how do I know you aren’t planning to set a torch to my quarters?”
Commander Randin pointed at Major Ordensk, again with his thumb, declaring, “It wasn’t me. He’s the miscreant who set fire to my quarters. He smells of smoke and is holding the incriminating fire suppression canister which was used to put out the flames. Do take note, X.O., I do not smell of smoke.”
Trent rolled his eyes at their exchange but looked embarrassed, nevertheless. Seeing the look on Trent’s face, Lieutenant Commander Ottor realized there was an opportunity there. He leaned forward and sniffed at Commander Randin. He then sniffed at Ordensk and took on a look of shocked surprise as he stepped back.
He declared with amazement in his tone, “By the Emperor’s thousand years, he does smell of smoke!”
Trent cast his face downward as his shoulders slumped. He shook his head slowly, and spoke tiredly, “Yes. Yes. I get it, have your laughs.”
Unable to contain his mirth any longer, Harrol burst into laughter, telling his commanding officer, “Very well, then. Go on ahead and use my quarters.” Turning to Trent, he added facetiously, “Only, try not to set fire to it. Is that a promise, miscreant? ”
He laughed again as he stepped around the other two officers and stood before the opened door.
He peered inside the smoked-out quarters, declaring, “Well! Now I’ve got to see the damage for myself!” Seeing Major Ordensk’s jaded expression, Lieutenant Commander Ottor added, “It’s to prepare for the written safety report. There was a fire aboard an Imperial Naval vessel, and we’ve got to explain why it happened.” He added, accusatorially, “I’ll check in with you, later, to get the correct spelling of your name.”
Trent opened his mouth to spell out his name, but Randin quickly cut in.
“I’ll give you the correct spelling later, Harrol. Right now, we’ve got business.”
Harrol Ottor, laughing merrily, stepped into his commanding officer’s quarters to start his accidental fire investigation.
Grett glanced at Trent and nodded towards the X.O.’s door. The two walked the few meters to Harrol Ottor’s door and entered the room. Randin gave the go ahead as soon as the door slid shut.
Trent got to the point.
“You need to land my battalion, with all of our gear, onto the surface of a planet in Hutt Space called Makeb. You need to land us close enough to areas showing a Hutt presence, and you need to do this without letting local Makebi security forces, local populations, or anyone else on Makeb find out about it. Then, just as stealthily as you drop off my battalion and our gear, you need to leave Makeb space and head back to Tatooine to rejoin Special Task Group 12.”
Grett’s face became more and more serious as the gravity of his orders struck him.
He asked, “I’m not sticking around to pick you up when you’re done? When do I come back to get you?”
“I don’t believe anyone is expecting us to be retrieved.”
Grett didn’t know what to say to a man he’d already thought of as a friend, who was decidedly on a one-way mission.
He decided to adopt a professional demeanor, merely replying, “Let’s get to work, then.”


Misery​
The morale of the troops and of the specialized personnel Darth Marr had assigned to Darth Nox for this operation had plummeted. When Darth Nox found out why, he laughed at them. The troops felt terrible guilt for the slaughter of so many scores of unarmed civilians. They grumbled amongst themselves, blaming the woman they’d nicknamed “ Death’s Mistress, ” for the slaughter they were forced to perpetrate.
Major Trent Ordensk kept a professional demeanor at all times when dealing with her but, deep inside, he utterly detested her. He and Commander Grett Randin had painstakingly selected their landing sight. After the ships had left, he coordinated with his subordinate company commanders to carefully, quietly, move their troops through the thick temperate forest, arriving to a site he felt was as close to the village as was possible without being discovered by the locals.
The site he had chosen was three days forced march, through heavy forests and rough terrain, from any population center. It was far enough way to avoid most nature hikers, campers, and hunters, but close enough to allow him to send out long range scouting patrols to the outskirts of the nearest village.
Their objective, a Hutt owned industrial center was a day’s march beyond the village, meaning that any long range patrol operations would need to march for four days before reaching their target. Five days after he had established the camp, the special operations team he was expecting had arrived. Against his strongest protestations the civilian administrator who’d taken command from him, had ordered the camp moved to within a day’s march from the nearest village. She felt the encampment was ridiculously situated too far way.
Just as he’d feared, some young men from the village, who’d been hunting small game, stumbled across his men as they were setting up camp. The three youngsters were immediately captured. Early that afternoon, as troops were preparing to march back to the site he had originally chosen, one of the adolescent men had escaped.
His troops were unable to recapture him before he’d reached his speeder bike to call for help. The troops were forced to kill him as he dialed the emergency help frequency from the speeder bike’s built-in holo-transceiver. To deactivate the communications device on the speeder, they had to shoot it from a distance, otherwise they would have gotten in the device’s field of view, and their image would have been broadcast for the recipient of the call to see.
The troops knew that help would be coming from the village. The sergeant, leading the squad that had chased the youth down, sent two of his troops back to the camp to report the situation to their platoon leader, and to request additional forces. Before his troops had shot up the holo-transceiver, the sergeant had seen the holographic image of a uniformed official projected above the handle bars.
Five hours later, four marked speeders slowed to a crawl as they approached the three speeder bikes parked on the side of the unpaved road. The speeders came to a stop. The doors opened and eight armed constables exited the speeders. They approached the young man’s shot up speeder and saw his corps lying beside his bike.
As the eight law enforcement officials cautiously approached the last few meters to the dead youth, a big ruckus from further down the road caught their attention. A huge droid tore out of the brush and trees and onto the dirt road, on the same side of the road the speeders were parked, and began firing its blaster cannons on the law men’s four speeders parked several meters behind them, destroying their vehicles one after the other.
The lawmen each activated their personal shield generators, and then began firing their blaster pistols at the Imperial war droid. Immediately thereafter, the squad of Imperial soldiers opened up from the opposite side of the road of the parked speeder bikes. Police issued blaster pistols were no match for the powerful Imperial military blaster rifles. In mere seconds, their shield generators were depleted, and they soon fell to the merciless storm of blaster bolts.
Major Trent Ordensk was filled with fury, but he worked hard to restrain himself as he presented his report to the mission commander.
“The youth was killed, but not before he dialed for help from his speeder bike. My men tell me they shot him before he could speak, but his death and undoubtedly the sounds of blaster rifles shooting, was broadcast to the local constabulary force. They responded in force, eight constables in four speeders. My men reinforced their position with a heavy war droid and established an ambush. The eight law men and their four speeders were destroyed.
Currently, my troops are dragging the bodies and their destroyed vehicles off of the road and into the bush. I have no doubt that the youths and the law men will be missed. I fear the villagers will call for aid from neighboring villages. With a village as small as the one the young men and the constables had come from, I’m guessing that those eight were their entire constabulary force. It will not be very long before the bodies and the destroyed vehicles will be found.”
Katha Niar sat with her elbows on her desk, her face buried in the palms of her hands, and her head slowly shaking side to side. Lord Cytharat stood silently beside her desk, his face an impenetrable mask that refused to give away what he thought of the situation.
Major Ordensk added, “We shouldn’t have moved so close to the village, but going deeper into the forest now will be pointless. In a few hours, there will likely be a large search effort made for them.”
Katha Niar gulped back her fear. They hadn’t even started the mission, and already, they were about to be discovered.
She felt revulsion even as she forced the words out of her mouth, barely audible.
“Destroy the village.”
“Excuse me, ma’am?”
“Kill everyone in the village. No survivors. Do it before they sense the missing constables and the youths.”
For the first time, the Sith lord exposed some of what he thought, when he nodded his approval of the order.
Ordensk asked, “And the prisoners?”
Her voice was husky, “Them, too. No witnesses.”
The major betrayed the anxiety he felt when he removed his officers cap and combed his fingers through his hair before replacing his cap.
“That might buy us a few days before their silence will start to raise questions from other villages.”
Katha merely nodded her acknowledgment of the major’s assessment.
He stomped his boot and shouted, “Yes, Ma’am!”
He turned about to carry out his task.
The operation lasted ten hours. Four local field transmission cancellers were stealthily deployed around the four corners of the village. No communications signals would be able to leave, nor be received while their holo-transceiver frequencies were jammed. After a perimeter had been established around the village, the war droids moved swiftly into town, destroying any occupied vehicles, and destroying targets of opportunity – pedestrians.
The people, in a panic, ran into any building they could flee into, and hid from the war droids’ murderous fire. Many hundreds of people tried calling the constabulary, but there was no holo-communications service. Others attempted to call friends or family at nearby villages, but their calls could not get through.
Soon after, the troops began to go house to house, building to building, rounding up the villagers. There was a large amount of confusion amongst the villagers. Many of them mistook the Imperials as the Regulator mercenary army working for the Hutts on Makeb.
“Hutt tail kissing scum!” Some had shouted at the Imperial soldiers.
The people were all taken to the village center, and held in a hasty field prison established in a park in the center of town.
Any villagers that managed to escape, or evade capture, were shot dead by war droids patrolling the streets, or the Imperial troops set on the perimeter around the village. When it was assured that all of the villagers had been gathered, they were marched three hundred at a time to the edge of town, where captured work droids were used to dig mass graves. The villagers were massacred at the graves, and the work droids neatly arranged the dead in the deep trenches, so that the capacity of each trench would be maximized.
Throughout the night and into the early morning hours, Major Ordensk worked his troops hard, driving them like slaves to hide the wreckage of speeders, removing them from the streets and from the sides of buildings where some of them had crashed, and moving them into garages and parking structures. Imperial soldiers commandeered commercial transport speeders to recover bodies from the streets and the outskirts of town and transported the bodies to the graves.
His troops were exhausted, but he kept them working, driving them as he established the new camp site at the edge of town, in the woods. That afternoon, as his company commanders reported to him the progress of the work done to hide their horrific crimes, he reflected, for the first time in his distinguished seven year career, that he hated being an Imperial Army officer.

The troops of the 31st / 77th had set their encampment, in tents, hidden in the woods between the outskirts of town and the warehouse complex outside of town, which Katha Niar used as her headquarters. However, Darth Nox had ordered the troops and specialized civilian personnel to take up residence in the now vacated homes of the dead. Additionally, he ordered them to set up operations in the various shops and offices in the small town’s tiny commercial district.
However, the personal effects of the mass execution victims, their clothing, toys, family holographic images, etc, haunted the men and women now working for the dark lord. Nox had ordered all of the troops to dress in the clothing found in the homes of their victims. Many of the troops could not bring themselves to do it. Though it irritated him to do so, Darth Nox found it necessary to address the troops.
“Darth Marr gave very explicit orders to keep out of sight. Yet, you were discovered. It would not do to let the failure of your discovery be compounded by letting your presence be reported to the local officials.
“To keep in compliance with Darth Marr’s directive, you took very harsh and necessary measures to keep your presence concealed. You massacred and buried the local townsfolk.”
Nox swept his eyes across the light infantry troops, black ops specialists, and specialized civilian operatives assigned to support his mission on Makeb. The Force allowed him to feel their abject guilt and self loathing. Nox worried greatly that, in their current state of mind, they would end up failing him and failing his mission, but he knew that attempting to minimize their crimes would only cause their morale to plunge even lower.
Nox thought, “ I must keep them focused. I must keep them from wallowing in their guilt or they will become useless to me! ”
He continued his speech, telling them, “However, this leaves all of us with another very serious problem. A village without people in it is also suspicious and can attract the attention of the Hutts and their minions. You must occupy these homes and wear the locals’ clothing to hide the massacre – at least until we’ve accomplished our mission.”
Katha Niar spoke out of turn, interrupting Nox’s talk.
“Dark Lord, what do we do about incoming holo-calls from relatives of the deceased, or their visitors?”
Nox, rankled by her interruption, spoke tersely.
“You should have thought of that before you gave the order!” Mentally kicking himself, he continued in a more civil tone, “Don’t answer the calls.” Then he added, “And don’t place any calls on their holo-transmitters, either. That would be another way to announce our presence here.” He added, callously, “Dig another mass grave and dump the bodies of any visitors that come to town in it, until we’ve accomplished our mission and leave this world.”
Darth Nox returned his gaze to his forces assembled in the warehouse and told them in a stern tone, as he felt their self loathing grow, “Orbital observation must not detect a town without people in it! Before the end of this day, you will all be quartered in these houses and running operations from those commercial buildings and wearing the local civilian attire! Is that clear?!”
The light infantry soldiers and the Black Ops team members all reflexively shouted, “Yes, sir!”
In contrast to the civilian operatives, who answered in subdued tones, “Yes, Dark Lord.”


As A World Dies​
Major Trent Ordensk had been tasked to assign housing to the Imperial personnel as decreed by the dark lord. The major started by taking inventory of residential and commercial structures in the village. He then began to assign housing based on how close those were to the village’s business district in the village center. The town was quite small, with a population of just under four thousand inhabitants.
The special operations team members were assigned housing near the larger of the two business districts closest to the village center. He assigned them the business district’s four two story professional office buildings from which they were to conduct their operations.
He assigned the four Black Operations teams housing near the warehouse complex at the far edge of the village, near the mass graves. This gave Black Ops access to a place they could use to prepare for and launch operations, and it also gave them the cover of the forest, which abutted the edge of the village on that side of town.
The remainder of the housing was divided amongst his own battalion. Officers all lived together, near the village center, nearby the special operations team. This gave his subordinate officers access to the village council building, where they could plan and coordinate security patrols, and other military operations. The council building became Ordensk’s battalion headquarters.
He assigned his battalion medical support section the medical clinic in the smaller of the two business districts on the opposite side of the village center. His supply unit was tasked with taking over the shops, and restaurants and pubs and making them functional supply, repair, and mess facilities, to feed the troops.
He ordered all Imperial personnel to turn in all food, found in the residences, over to the supply officer. That food would be used first, to feed the Imperial personnel, before turning to their field rations as a food source.
It was a lot of work, but it was all done before Makeb’s star had set that evening. Lord Cytharat had delivered the progress report to Darth Nox.
The dark lord merely replied, “Good.”
In the parking lots of the restaurants and adjoining shops, tarps were set up to give overhead cover from direct sunlight, and to provide camouflage for the troops that would gather to eat their meals there. The battalion’s officers, Black Ops teams, and the special operations team all ate their meals in the village’s three restaurants and four pubs.
There was no cheer under the tarps as the enlisted ate their first hot meal in over a week. They were dressed in the clothes of the victims of their slaughter. Darth Nox could feel their gloom. It angered him, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. The orbital observation probes might spot their uniforms otherwise.
He forced himself to ignore the misery of his troops, instead focusing on what his scientists had to say. They detailed the results of their simulations. Prior to Darth Nox’s arrival on Makeb, the scientists ran two dozen simulations on two dozen different super computers scattered across several Imperial worlds in Sith Empire space.
Nox’s mouth had fallen open. Incredulity showed plainly on his face as he asked with incredible disbelief, “You communicated with the Sith Empire over the last few days – from here?! ” Then, with his fury rapidly building at what he perceived as utter folly, he asked, “Did it not occur to you that your intra-galactic holo-communications could be intercepted?!”
Lord Cytharat quickly spoke, to assuage Darth Nox’s growing fury, telling the dark lord, “We used the Black Ops teams’ special communication equipment, meant to allow them to send and receive communications from deep within Galactic Republic space without detection, Dark Lord. It is a proven technology.”
Nox quickly turned his head to face the four Black Ops team leaders, and angrily snapped his inquiry.
“Well?! Is what Lord Cytharat saying the truth?!”
Cytharat expected Sith superiors to suspect their Sith subordinates to deceive and plot against their superiors, but he was, nevertheless, offended at Nox’s blatant disrespect towards him in the presence of the lower classes. Yet, he remained silent. He knew his standing was in question because his own dead master, Darth Malgus, slain by Nox several years before, had betrayed the empire and usurped the Sith Emperor’s throne. Though he had proved his innocence of the charge of treason, he was never trusted nor respected again by the Dark Council.
The senior ranked team leader replied, “It is so, Dark Lord. This equipment is used routinely to send and receive communications deep in enemy territory without detection.”
Nox, sensing no deceit from the Black Ops captain, began to relax again, accepting the captain’s word.
“Very well.” Then he ordered the lead scientist, “Continue your report. Tell me about your simulations.”
The scientist, a Neimoidian named Nadrin Tro, stood nervously before the Dark Lord of The Sith and resumed his report where he’d left off.
“Most august dark lord, the data has come back with the most satisfactory results. Nineteen out of twenty four simulations have returned results that show the experiment would succeed – with great certainty!” He exaggerated that last point a little. He added, “The remaining five simulations showed, not failure, but less than favorable results, Dark Lord. All in all, a most satisfactory conclusion.”
Nox’s customary scowl didn’t change at this most satisfactory conclusion that Dr. Tro had proclaimed.
Instead, Nox snapped impatiently, “Stop lying to me, and tell me what I am facing, here!”
The Neimoidian, beginning to tremble, spoke most earnestly, as he explained, “Most august dark lord, the meaning of these simulation results is that we can save the planet from tearing itself apart and becoming an asteroid ring around its star. However, it is most regrettable that the planet will cease to be habitable. All ecological systems and the people living on this world will still die.”
Nox asked, “How is it regrettable? If it saves the planet, and I can mine its resources, then why should I care what happens to the ecological systems of this world? As for the people…. It is unfortunate, but there is nothing we can do for them.”
Katha Niar spoke up, saying, “Actually, Dark Lord, I have an idea that can be useful to us, as well as give the people a chance to escape.”
Darth Nox, sensing her desperation, asked as though he’d already thought it a bad idea, “What is the risk it will tip off the Hutts to our purpose?”
“This is information the Hutts have and are acting on. Their activities, as they prepare to evacuate the planet are already drawing the attention of the people. The people do not yet realize why the Hutts are so rapidly moving their assets off world.
“If word could be leaked out…”
Lord Cytharat could see that, by the expression on his face, Nox was not going to be sold.
He cut in saying, “That could cause a worldwide panic. It would further tie the hands of the Hutt’s mercenary army, The Regulators.”
Darth Nox liked the notion, but he wanted to be careful.
He commanded, “Be silent, everyone. I must think on this.”
The moments ticked by as Katha, Cytharat, Dr. Tro, and the four Black Ops team leaders sat or stood silently around the conference table, waiting for the dark lord to address them.
After some thought, Darth Nox ordered, “Katha Niar, I will go with your idea. Plant the rumors and let them know that the planet’s destruction is tied to the increasing and worsening ground quakes.”
Before Katha could acknowledge her orders, Nox raised his hand to forestall her, and then pointed a finger at her, cautioning her, “Take absolute care that we are not tied to the rumors. It would seem awkward that we are handing them weapons to fight for their homes on the one hand, while on the other telling them that their homes are doomed anyway.”
Lord Cytharat spoke, “Dark Lord, it may even tie the hands of Republic forces on Makeb as they find themselves having to assist with evacuations.”
Darth Nox smiled wryly, telling Dr. Nadrin Tro and Katha Niar, “You see? We didn’t even have to worry over the fate of these people.” Turning to Lord Cytharat, he continued with his point, “We’ll let the Galactic Republic take on the burden of rescuing these people. If they refuse to evacuate the Makebi people…,” his wry smile widened as he concluded, “we’ll find a way to let the galaxy know that the Galactic Republic had let a planet full of people die when they were in a position to help.”
Katha Niar, feeling great relief, spoke resolutely, promising, “Then I will make doubly sure we aren’t implicated as the source of the rumors, Dark Lord.”
Darth Nox turned to the Neimoidian scientist and told him, “When we have control of the mines you have specified, I will allow you to proceed with your experiments.” Nox added a very heavily implied threat, “I look forward to the successful completion of these experiments, Dr. Tro.”
Dr. Tro immediately realized that failure would undoubtedly mean a death sentence for him.
He felt it necessary to remind Darth Nox, “Recall, most august dark lord, success means the air will become unbreathable. There will be toxic smoke and superheated ash pouring into the atmosphere from many opened fissures on the planet’s crust. We will, ourselves, need to evacuate. Do not think such a necessity as a failure, but as a consequence of keeping the planet in one piece.”
Darth Nox turned to Lord Cytharat and ordered, “Make a plan for our own evacuations. We must be ready to be kicked off a disgruntled planet.”
The disgraced Sith lord bowed, replying, “As you will, Dark Lord.”

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