Changing of the Guard, part III - An Urgent Matter by DarthTenebrus
Disclaimer -- Last time I checked, I still own nothing...********
They had been invited up to the main administration offices where Colonel Youngblood had set up his command suite. Colonel Forlan had already gotten back into his command walker and called up to the Sunrider
for some engineers and to set up an energy shield around the inside of the defence perimeter. Once that was done Forlan had a busy day with coordinating with Lieutenant Calvert for the roving patrols, then giving their tech MacKenzie a chance to look at the walkers and see what upgrades he could work into the turbolasers and the drive systems for the legs. He probably wasn’t used to working with durasteel, but Forlan had been told that he was a master metallurgist and mechanic, which was why, Forlan had guessed, that Colonel Youngblood had hired him to be part of the Rangers. Maybe he could give the Republic’s vehicles a new lease on life…
He instructed his company commanders to set up their firing positions to fill in the gaps between the parapets for the Rangers’ mechs. Fifteen standard minutes later they reported back that at least 80% of their units had dug in, so he was pleased. It wasn’t the one hundred per cent he was looking for, but from the latest intelligence estimates the demons weren’t exactly the smartest troops on the field. Their tendency to roar and charge blindly cost them in every engagement with the Redrock Rangers, and though even the least intelligent unit commander knew that it wasn’t a trend that he expected to continue, the nature of these enemies left little to the imagination in terms of strategy. And Colonel Forlan’s unit wasn’t expected to go on the offensive in this operation; they were holding onto RBR II for the Rangers until they came back. Until then, though, Rally Base Ranger belonged to the Army of the Galactic Republic.
Ten minutes later had the Republic positions at one hundred per cent, so he had his commanders rotate their troops out to take their meals in the food court. It was their first time eating Earth food, but since the population was human for the most part, there didn’t seem to be much difference to the troops, and they went by platoons, one off line, and two platoons on the line in their holes, to sample the fare of the Youngstown Mall. He had taken advantage of the down time to sample some of the food for himself, just to see what he thought. While he was sampling the pizza, which he seemed to like the most out of everything there, Colonel Youngblood had called him up to the administration offices, where he had billeted the command staff of his Rangers and set up their operations section.
“Come in, Demetrius,” said the regimental commander as soon as Forlan stepped through the door, “I’d like your thoughts on a job I have for some of your men.”
“Straight to the point, sir?” Apparently the whole battalion wasn’t going to be sitting pretty in their holes while the Rangers went out and fought the demons. He hadn’t planned to be complacent anyway, but he had imagined that RBR II was going to be his baby until Youngblood took command once again.
“That’s always how I’ve conducted my business, Colonel, I hope you agree with that policy.”
“I’d agree with that one hundred per cent, sir. That’s just military business, whether hired or appointed; it doesn’t pay to beat around the proverbial bush.” That statement came straight out of the void… Was Colonel Youngblood trying to sort him out for something? Forlan decided then that the next words out of his mouth would bear him out.
“That’s good to hear. Have a seat, Demetrius, while I tell you what’s going on here.” Almost before Forlan had fully seated himself in the strangely comfortable chair in the mall’s general manager’s office, Youngblood resumed his conversation. “We’ve had some people come in, refugees of a sort. Some are civilians and some obviously aren’t, but they’d have to show you what makes them so special because otherwise, none of us would ever sort them out from the general population.”
“Are we talking about the Slayers at last, Colonel?”
“Very good, you got it in one. These are girls, who by rights shouldn’t have this burden to bear, but they’ve got it and right now they can’t handle it on their own, which is why we’re all here today, why we’ve all come from wherever we all came from.”
“I don’t think we’re the only ones here who’ve figured that out so far; The Imperials are bound to try and exploit that, and that Sith Lord is doubly bound to try and turn some of them into his own personal assassins if he can twist their minds around and make them think he’s one of the good guys.”
“And it doesn’t take a mech surgeon to figure out he’ll try to do just that. And that’s not likely right now given how extremely pissed he must be to have found out one of his AT-AT pilots has defected to the Republic.”
Forlan snorted derisively and said “You’re a master of understatement, Colonel Youngblood; he’s likely to round up everyone that ever knew him and execute them on the spot…and he’d enjoy it. Dark Lords of the Sith aren’t exactly known for remorse…”
Youngblood contemplated this for a second and then nodded his assent. “I’ll take this to Major Sanchez and let her know this is top priority; she’ll get up with General O’Neill about it as soon as she can. Now, about the job. We’ve picked up a family of what our resident Slayers have termed ‘were-bears’. Normally under these circumstances they would have all been grease spots except for the fact that they had spoken. Demons don’t talk, of course, they just scream and snarl and spit and then charge at you and die. They’ve been caught by the Hellmouth and can’t get out of their current predicament. All this is per our Senior Slayer, Jenny Halleck. I want you to get up with her and figure out a way to get those weres home. “
“Not a problem, sir. They just earned themselves a free shuttle ride home. Can you get us some close air support till we’re clear of the combat zone?”
“I’ll contact O’Neill about that myself, and he’ll see what he can dig up, I suppose,” said Youngblood. They had all gotten a soft spot for the unfortunate family that had found themselves caught in the crossfire between the demons and the Rangers. They had just wanted to get out of there before things got too bad. But when the children lost control after changing, they had to drop those plans for the interim. It was only through an ironic turn of luck that they had found their salvation in the very people that under other circumstances might not have thought twice about shooting every one of them dead.
They all agreed with ISWC’s policy regarding weres as “people with a monster problem.” They were to be given every care and comfort that would be given to a normal human being under similar circumstances. And HSC had adopted that policy as a matter of course, as ISWC now fell under HSC’s jurisdiction.
“Fair enough, sir,” Forlan finally acceded after reflecting on these thoughts at the same time as Youngblood. “And how’s your newest ‘acquisition’?”
Youngblood’s eyes opened a fraction. “You mean your Imperial pilot? I’d say being here is sort of a culture shock for him, but he’s adjusting rather well. He shows a lot of potential, if we could just break through all that Imperial conditioning. I mean, he’s still wearing his Imperial pilot’s uniform; that wouldn’t be a big deal for me if I hired him, and I think he could find a home with the Regiment if he wanted to – he just needs to let go of the Empire.”
“That would be easy enough but for one thing. The Sith Empire doesn’t like letting go of one of their own, so they’re going to be coming after him. And when they get him back, they’re going to make absolutely sure he never tries anything like that again. I daresay he might not survive the ‘reconditioning’ they’ll put him through…”
“Alright, so we need to get him out of here. We’ll disguise him as one of us and put him in a mech. He’ll have to undergo a, ummm, ‘crash course’ in mech operations, but with his experience I think we could start him out in one of the lights. An Osiris, maybe, if Sonya will have him. I think he’d enjoy learning to pilot one of our vehicles.”
Forlan’s expression suddenly became much more grave. “Sir, there’s one person you won’t be able to hide him from, and that’s Darth Thanaton.”
“Thanaton? That’s the Sith Lord?”
Forlan’s eyes widened, and he nodded slowly as he answered. “Oh, yes. He’s not to be underestimated, either. He has ways of finding his prey that have to be seen to be believed. Just be thankful that it’s not you he’s decided to hunt.”
Youngblood held up a hand and retorted, “You let me and my Rangers deal with that Sith Lord. He wants Omas, he has to go through us.”
Forlan shook his head in pity. Colonel Youngblood was a brilliant commander and mechwarrior, but he knew next to nothing about the Force or its Dark Side. “He’ll go through all your mechs like they were nothing. Respectfully, sir, this is a problem for the Jedi. They understand better than anyone the power of the Force, and how to resist its Dark Side. I’d tell you more, but that would take a lot more time than I think we have.”
“Alright, I’ll contact General O’Neill and let him know what’s going on, then we talk to Master Falleen and inform him. Between the two of them, I’m sure they’ll work out a solution that doesn’t involve bloodshed. Let’s get moving.”********HSC Central Command
Rally Base Refuge
Five minutes later…
Jack was livid. This could not be tolerated in his command. If one of his soldiers wanted to go to another unit, protocol demanded that they submit a request in writing to their commander. However special though this case was, the departing soldier being from the Sith Empire and being received by the Redrock Rangers care of the Galactic Republic, this was one example that had to be made. But he was in a quandary; he knew that he couldn’t very well force Pilot First Class Omas to return to the Empire – they’d kill him for attempting desertion. On the other hand, he had to impress it into everyone’s minds good and deep that defections from one command to another could not be permitted while the soldier in question ultimately served under his command.
He summoned his aides and said to them, “I want you to call a teleconference meeting of all top-level commanders here in five minutes. I am going to address a potential problem, and I want to set policy right now.”
In five minutes the holoprojector was up and running, and images of every unit commander at Colonel or above appeared where those that were deployed in the field could not attend in person. He took careful note of all that were physically present, especially Darth Thanaton. He especially concerned O’Neill. A sinking sensation suddenly arose unbidden in the general’s gut that the Sith Lord would not heed his word or adhere to policy if he thought it was not to his advantage. If the man wanted to punish someone for attempting to defect from the forces of the Empire out of a conscientious objection, then Thanaton was bound and determined to do so. In the mind of the Sith Lord, there was no such thing as a conscientious objector, and it was his job to make sure it stayed that way.
He looked deep into those diseased yellow orbs, and saw his own hatred and fury reflected back toward him a thousand fold. The calm, careful smile on Thanaton’s face was only a mask, O’Neill was suddenly reminded. The true face of the Sith lay within the eyes. He took a deep breath to calm himself to a degree. Then he focused his own ire and addressed the assembled commanders.
“Gentlemen, ladies, an urgent matter has come to my attention that out of a conscientious objection, a certain soldier, and I will not name any names here although I firmly believe that someone
here” and he looked dead into the eyes of the Sith Lord “knows who I’m talking about, has decided to abandon his unit and defect to another one. He has since sought asylum out of that same conscientious objection, and so I am ordering that there shall be no reprisals sought against him or his unit
. From now on, that’s policy, is that understood?!
“YES, SIR!” echoed throughout the classroom from the commanders present.
“Good. Now that that’s been said, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. The next time a soldier in your commands wants a transfer out or to another command, you make it clear to your people that that transfer must be requested in writing from that soldier and signed off by the relevant commanders if they want to approve it. That too is policy from now on. Am I clear?”
“Because of the varied nature of the respective commands being represented here for Code Ragnarok, I will have forms drafted and posted for download and print for any unit in this command that has another issue like this in future. Are there any questions?”
“NO, SIR!” the commanders responded as one.
“Good, then you’re all dismissed. Um, Master Falleen, Lord Thanaton, please stay for a moment…”
“Yes, General?” replied each of them.
Jack studied each of them for a moment, while everyone else either left or their holoimage derezzed. At length he spoke. “I asked you two to stay because you both know the ways of the Force. That means you both are aware of the soldier I’m talking about, you know his identity. I’m especially talking to you, Lord
Thanaton, because our fictions have made me aware that the nature of the conflict between you and Master Falleen is representative of the conflict between all Jedi and all Sith throughout the long history of your galaxy. Well, guess what? I DON'T GIVE A FLYING FUCK!
I already told you that this is not your galaxy, and I’m telling you now that you gentlemen will NOT
continue your little grudge match in my universe and on my planet so long as you are both under my command. Because we men are not the only ones who have answered the Code Ragnarok call. There are gods
here that have volunteered to fight alongside humanity, gods
that I can appeal to if I hear of so much as a disturbance in the Force. And if
I hear about any roundups on the Imperial side, or any executions for, shall we say, disloyalty
, then I will make it my personal mission in life to have every one of those gods send you screaming back to your galaxy with a billion demons on your ass the whole way! Do we have an understanding?”
…”snarled Thanaton. Master Falleen then bowed in assent in his own calm and serene manner.
“Then return to your duties, gentlemen, and I’d better not hear about this again…”
The image of the Jedi Master derezzed in an instant, leaving only O’Neill and Thanaton, who stood there for a moment, his eyes blazing with fury and hateful energy.
Before he could turn on his heel or utter another word, O’Neill said, “Get out of my sight!” The Dark Lord turned and left without a word, leaving only the pulsing sensation of violent intent in his wake. Jack knew he was not Force-sensitive, but he swore he could feel the evil rolling off the man in waves. He was going to have to do something about him eventually…but first he was going to shower that evil off his skin, no matter how long it took.********