Jesp looked over at General Nokta pensively as she leaned over the holomap. He should have been helping her figure out the map and the forces being displayed on it. Should have. However he was too distracted by her profile, lit up by the blue light emanating from the holodisplay.
“We can't keep hitting them in the front like this.” she said in evident frustration. “We're just throwing away lives.”
“We can't position men fast enough to make use of any potential breaks, and our fighter tanks don't have the firepower to punch through their entrenchments without being overwhelmed.” Jesp said, providing no useful information as he continued admiring General Nokta's features.
“Perhaps I can be of assistance.”
Jesp jumped and looked up to see a man wearing Mandalorian armor with shoulder length black hair enter the command center.
“Who are you?” he asked immediately. “You're not authorized to be—“
“—he's my husband Captain.” General Nokta said distractedly without looking up from the map. “And he also outranks you.”
Jesp clamped his mouth shut as the newcomer smirked at him. Husband? The General was...married?
Yes, and you'd do well to remember that. Growled a warning voice inside his head.
Jesp's eyes widened as the man smirked at him. He was a telepath?
And I can do a lot worse than read minds Captain. Keep your relationship professional and you won't have to find out what that means.
General Nokta put a hand on her husband's breastplate as Jesp jerked his own hand away from hers in reaction to her husband's threat.
“Stop harassing my aide and look at this.”
He cast a last warning look at Jesp before looking down at the map, his eyes racing across it rapidly as he absorbed the unfolding battle before he pointed to the north.
“Hit them here.”
“We tried,” Jesp interjected. “They repositioned and hit back before we could take advantage of the shift in forces.”
The General's husband glanced at him dismissively before continuing.
“Use my lancers, we can penetrate their lines and run amok behind them. They'll have to catch us or let us slice up their rear.”
“Lancers?” Jesp asked incredulously. “I didn't know any of the Lancer Battalions were still alive!”
“Mine is.” the General's husband said with a smile. “For now at any rate, and we can penetrate that line. They'll have to either contract or reinforce that position which will mean adjusting the whole of their line to compensate. If you apply pressure when that happens you can break through.”
General Nokta nodded. “Alright, do it, we'll make sure we're ready to move.” she looked to Jesp. “Captain, inform the line commanders of the plan, make sure they're ready.”
Jesp looked at her husband for a moment more as he turned to go before nodding and following the order.
Don't worry Captain. His voice echoed in his head. I'll be coming back.
You aren't seriously jealous of one of my officers are you?
Kahan smiled as he stepped out of the commander center and mounted his speeder bike.
Should I be?
No! Declared Aira-ty. Where is Jaeriel?
I left her with 'Aunt' Xierra. Kahan said with amusement as he gunned the bike and headed towards his unit's mustering ground.
Aira-ty's annoyance was palpable as she replied.
You know how I feel about her.
She will take care of Jaeriel. Kahan asserted with confidence.
She's betrayed you before. Aira-ty countered.
You know why she did that. In her own way, she loves me as much as you do.
Aira-ty didn't sound reassured as she replied.
Conceited bastard. Be careful.
Kahan nodded as he approached his lancers.
I will be. Be ready to exploit the gap we create.
The 77th Lancer Battalion was one of the hundred such lancer units activated at the start of the war. To Kahan's knowledge it was also one of the few that was still intact. Of the five hundred seventy-six troopers in his unit, he had to date kept most of them alive. The other lancer units hadn't fared well in the war and were essentially considered defunct, being allowed to continue fighting simply because despite their losses, they did serve a purpose as Kahan intended to prove here.
He called his officers to him, the battalion commander, the major and captains as he keyed his gauntlet’s wrist display and pulled up a mini-map of the battlefield.
“We're going to head north on a wide arc and then sweep down towards the enemy positions. Our job is to penetrate a portion of the line that is not directly engaged with 302nd already. Once that is accomplished we are going to keep running amok behind their lines until we link up with the 302nd's lead elements and move further inwards towards the Separatist position.” he looked around at his officers. “Any questions?”
There were none, and the unit mounted their bikes as they hefted their power lances and headed on a parallel course to the battlefield on a northward track that would carry them beyond the Separatist's heaviest lines towards their lightly defended flank.
“It's working.” Jesp said as he watched the blue force that belonged to the General's husband pierce the red lines of the Separatists to the north. “He's punched through.”
“And the Separatists are trying to readjust their line to compensate for what they think is our thrust.” General Nokta said with an eager smile. “I want a full aero and artillery barrage across the front, infantry and armor are to advance the moment that halts.”
As her orders were relayed, Jesp looked at the General with what he hoped was a genuine smile.
“Looks like your husband—“
“Commander Seris.” she corrected.
Jesp nodded. “It looks like the Commander is pulling it off.” he looked back to the holomap and frowned as a new series of blips appeared. “They're not taking it lying down though.”
The General followed his gaze and her eyes narrowed. “No, they're not...and they're moving very fast.”
“Kahan, you've got incoming from the southeast.”
Kahan halted his bike's forward momentum and raised his lance.
“Copy that, unit composition?”
“Unknown.” Aira-ty replied worriedly. “But there are a lot of them, and they're coming for you.”
Kahan smiled. “We'll give them a warm welcome.”
“I can't help you from here Kahan, don't do anything reckless.” Aira-ty cautioned.
Kahan chuckled. “I'll try not to, we'll push through and rendezvous with you at the city center.”
“I'll see you there.” Aira-ty said, making the words sound like a promise as she cut the link.
Kahan signaled his men and formed them up in their sub-formations, each centered on a captain. The entire formation swung south, leaving the devastated Separatist position where the 77th had been running amok amidst the hapless battle droids. They didn't have long to go before they found their new foes. Kahan took a good look at the enemy formation and smiled slightly as excitement coursed through him. The enemy unit was a lancer formation as well. Black battle droids were mounted on fast speeders with their own power lances and there appeared to be three times their number. Kahan's battalion was badly outnumbered. Oh well, they couldn't very well run from their opponent. He signaled his men and the sub-formations formed into a series of supporting wedges, lances lowered and aimed at the enemy. The opponents chose a far less graceful approach, simply forming a wall of black lances aimed at the Republic lancers of the 77th. The two formations closed and clashed in an explosive roar as bikes, riders, and lances were shattered in the tumult.
Despite being heavily outnumbered, Kahan realized that a good number of his men had survived the deadly clash while none of the enemy lancers were left save one. That one was the hulking brute that Kahan had first seen, the enemy commander. He had a clone trooper impaled on his lance and was looking at Kahan with obvious intent.
Kahan keyed his comlink. “He's mine, the rest of you help the survivors.”
The enemy commander threw the dead clone trooper off his lance and couched it, lowering it as he revved his bike's engine and came towards Kahan with a vengeance. Kahan accepted the challenge with aplomb and a thrill of excitement as he charged his opponent. The encounter happened in a flash and the results were very nearly fatal as the enemy commander dipped his lance and speared Kahan's bike. The heating element punched clean through Kahan's ride and threw him into the air. He handed and rolled in the dirt, kicking up a cloud of dirt and dust in the process. He scrambled to his feet, reaching down and drawing his Force-sword and channeling his energies into it. The blade came to life, glowing as the Force conducive metal became energized. Kahan held the sword before him as his opponent came towards him, lance lowered for the kill.
Kahan braced himself, focusing and allowing his body to become immaterial. The enemy commander's lance sailed through him as Kahan twisted and rematerialized his body, slashing downwards. His cut sliced the lance in half, and cut the maneuvering vanes of the enemy bike, sending his foe flying. Turning and taking a breath, Kahan squared off against the enemy commander as the monster picked himself up. Whatever remaining cockiness that Kahan had held onto faded immetiately as ten feet of armored behemoth loomed over him.
“I don't suppose you'd care to surrender?” Kahan inquired hopefully.
His answer was a quickdraw as the enemy pulled up two blasters and opened fire. Kahan deflected the flurry of bolts, rushing forwards and cutting through both blasters. His opponent grabbed him by the front of his breastplate and hurled him aside.
“It has been too long since I killed a real Mandalorian.” the beast snarled.
Kahan landed and shook his hair out of his eyes with a smile.
“Well, I may disappoint you in that.”
The enemy commander laughed and raised his arm. A geyser of flame spat out at Kahan who phased once again, letting the fire pass through him harmlessly. After a moment more of the futile attack, the commander closed with Kahan as two small energy shields activated on his forearms. The pair engaged in a running duel, Kahan slashing at his foe while he in turn tried to batter Kahan to pieces. The melee wandered around the wreckage and body strewn battlefield. A moment's over extension by the enemy commander was all Kahan had needed as he drove his sword deep into the armor of his enemy. The blade was capable of slicing through durasteel when unenergized, with Kahan's Force energy coursing through it the blade had no trouble going straight through the armor of his foe.
Panting, Kahan stood there a moment and in that moment a chilling sound reached his ears. Laughter. He looked up to see the enemy commander laughing at him, it was a chilling death rattle noise. The enemy raised his gauntleted fist and punched Kahan in the ribs, sending him flying and skidding across the ground. He lay there as the enemy commander loomed over him, blocking out the sun. Panting heavily, Kahan realized that he'd been too confident, too cocky, and he was going to die because of it. He was going to die. His mind raced, thinking of little Jaeriel, barely a year old with Xierra. He'd never see his daughter again, that thought made him strain against the pain he was feeling. Then his mind went to Aira-ty and that Captain of hers. If he died here, would Aira-ty be left with that clone to keep her company? That thought served to fuel a deep righteous anger inside of Kahan as he unclasped his hand. There was a pop and his sword appeared in his hand. With a furious shout, he slashed laterally across his foe, cutting him in half. The enemy commander stood there a moment, looking down at Kahan from behind his malevolent mask before toppling in two parts to the ground.
Kahan lay there for a moment, panting heavily as he looked up at the sky. He had to get up. He couldn't stay here. Aira-ty would be expecting him. Staggering as he clambered to his feet, he was joined by the survivors of his battalion. There weren't all that many, and most had lost their speeder bikes. He shook his head. So much for being one of the few intact lancer battalions.
“Get us a ride, we need to rendezvous with the General.” he ordered.
Aira-ty frowned as the larty settled on the roof of the Separatist command center. She felt a great misgiving over something, but she couldn't quite feel what it was. She raised her comlink.
There was a prolonged silence and she felt ice settle into her stomach. Force, please no.
“Kahan are you there?” she repeated, trying to control the fear she felt bubbling up inside of her.
She was about to call him again when a worn voice answered her.
“Oh Force, where are you?”
“Enroute to you.”
“You sound like hell.”
He chuckled, sounding tired.
“Yeah, remind me not to underestimate the other side again.”
“I'll tell you about it later, status?”
Aira-ty looked to the breaching squad as they set their charges on the roof of the command center.
“We're about to knock.”
“Right, I'll come join the party.”
Aira-ty hesitated a moment but then spoke what was on her mind.
“I love you.”
“I know.” Kahan replied and she felt his mind touch hers, the warmth of his affection reasuring her.
She smiled as she ended the call and turned to watch as the charges were blown and her men rappelled downwards into the enemy command bunker. She followed them, hitching her harness to one of the rappelling lines, dropping down through the hole with Jesp besides her. They landed atop the holomap display to find that their troopers had secured the interior of the facility. Two troopers were pointing weapons at the Separatist General, Aira-ty recognized the kerkoiden male and couldn't help the smile that crossed her features.
“General Loathsom, I'm sure you won't mind being a guest of the Republic a second time.”
The kerkoiden glowered at her sullenly but said nothing in defiance as the troopers pushed him towards the exit. As they did so, the doors opened and Aira-ty saw Kahan and several more troopers enter. He glanced at the Separatist general before crossing to Aira-ty.
“Looks like you've got it well in hand.”
She nodded, frowning as she looked him over.
“You look like you got run over.”
He smiled at her, the expression strangely tired.
“I did,” his expression sobered. “Got a lot of my men killed in the process.”
Aira-ty was going to say something but she saw Kahan's eyes narrow as his gaze shot towards Jesp.
“You want to say that out loud Captain?”
Jesp stiffened and shook his head.
“No sir, sorry sir.”
Aira-ty glared at Kahan.
He shrugged. “He shouldn't think it if he doesn't want me to pick it up.”
Aira-ty rolled her eyes and was going to further reprimand her husband when something overhead exploded. She looked up to see debris from the larty raining down through the hole in the command center's ceiling along with an armored form that landed atop the holomap and glared around at them all malevolently.
Aira-ty's men opened fire immediately, but the beast merely shrugged the weapons fire off and leapt towards Kahan who shoved Aira-ty out of the way as it swung a massive arm and sent him flying into a wall.
He landed with a grunt as the wall caved in around him, leaving him lying in the rubble looking up at his attacker with an irritated expression.
“What does it take to kill you?” he inquired in disbelief.
His answer was by way of the beast grabbing the front of his breastplate and slamming him into the wall again.
“KAHAN!” Aira-ty shouted, rushing forwards and taking up her lightsaber. It wasn't the same saber she'd had originally as a Jedi, but a new one following her leaving the Order. However it worked just fine as the green blade sliced through the creature's arm and dropped it and Kahan to the floor.
“Leave him alone!” Aira-ty snarled viciously as she stood between Kahan and the beast.
It laughed at her, roaring menacingly as a mass of what appeared to be bound muscle shot out of its severed arm and enveloped Aira-ty, wrapping around her and pulling her into the beast's body.
“Aira-ty!” Jesp shouted, dropping his weapons and leaping towards her.
He managed to grab her arm, pulling her back out of the creature for a moment before more of the corded muscle wrapped around him as well and yanked both of them inside of it.
The silence that hung in the command center following Aira-ty's apparent defeat was broken only by the heavy footfalls of the enemy commander as he loomed over Kahan who was looking up at him angrily as he picked himself free of the beast's severed arm.
“Give me back my wife.” he said in a low voice.
“She's dead, and you're next Mandalorian!” the beast roared at him mockingly.
Kahan's smile was vicious and even murderous.
“I have had enough of you.” he bolted forwards, straight at the creature's chest.
“Die bounty hunter!” bellowed the creature as it swung at Kahan.
Its strike however connected with nothing as Kahan's form dematerialized and he phased into the beasts' body. The creature stopped in bewilderment as Kahan dove into it. If the clone troopers in the command center had been frightened before, now they were terrified. They'd just lost their General and apparently the other senior officers as well all within a minute. Their concerns however were allayed as Kahan emerged from the other side of the enemy with Aira-ty and Jesp each in one of his arms. He turned back and looked up at the enemy commander with a grin as the beast rounded on him.
“You're done.” he said simply.
The creature raised its remaining arm up, even as the severed arm reattached itself, to swipe at Kahan yet again. Then a loud boom was heard and the creature erupted from the inside out, splattering the command center with the strange purple and pink muscles that made up its body, leaving Kahan standing amidst the carnage smiling triumphantly despite his battered appearance.
Jesp was choking and coughing, still trying to catch his breath as the beast exploded. He looked over at Aira-ty who was soaked and covered in the goo from the creature's demise.
“Ar—are you alright General?”
She nodded, staggering to her feet with his help. He couldn't help but notice her soaked features and found himself imagining what she'd look like wet without the armor on. No sooner had he had the thought however than the General's husband pulled her away from him and kissed her passionately. The General let out a surprised squawk as she released Jesp's hand and kissed her husband, leaving Jesp standing there awkwardly while the pair embraced.
When they broke the kiss, the General was looking at her husband in disbelief.
“What was that?”
“Do I need a reason to kiss my wife?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No, I just...that was random.”
“I thought I lost you for a moment there.” he replied. “Don't scare me like that.”
She smiled at him and leaned against his armored chest.
“I wasn't afraid, I knew you'd save me.”
As the pair embraced, Jesp looked away. She was his, he realized sullenly. Any of the thoughts he had were just pipe dreams.
Never forget that Captain. The Commander's voice said inside of his mind. She's my wife. Not yours.
Jesp's fist clenched and he felt the Commander laughing at him.
Try it Captain, make this easy on me.
“Captain,” one of the troopers said. “General Loathsom escaped in the confusion.”
Thankful for distraction, Jesp turned from the General and Commander.
“Spread out, search the facility.” he looked back at General Nokta as she disengaged from her husband. “Your orders ma'am?”
She turned on her husband. “Can you find him?”
Commander Seris nodded. “I'll try, I'll round up what's left of my men and start searching.”
As he walked away, Jesp couldn't help but think that he hoped the Commander met with an unfortunate accident.
Careful Captain, I can still hear you. My wife likes you, so I will not hurt you, but if you try and remove me from her life I promise you'll not enjoy the result.
Jesp swallowed. He wasn't afraid of the Separatists or their droid armies or all their monsters. However he suddenly felt very, very frightened of General Nokta's husband.