Chapter 1

Heavy rains patter against sharp rocks and spindly plants. Pools form in depressions created by the weathering of the ages and are swiftly occupied by the normally concealed micro-amphibians that linger beneath the soil until the rains come and they can breed. The small creatures are no bigger than a gnat and cover every available surface of the stones. Their tiny bodies are easily crushed under foot and make the stones even more slick and treacherous in the dark. DT-A262 carefully slips between the towering rocks ever grateful for the dozens of nights spent sneaking through treacherous jungles in an effort to evade the instructors and their stun blasters. Those nights of being hunted forced his class to learn how to become one with the terrain, and how to move through it without ever being seen or leaving a trace.

His helmet's advanced sensors and visor overlays are the only things allowing him to see the rest of his four-man squad as they creep through the rock fields. A place that the locals universally consider to be impassable. Nothing more than an evening's hike for the Empire's Death Troopers. Imperial Intelligence, an oxymoron for most of the Galaxy, narrowed down a terrorist cell's main base of operations to an abandoned research facility that belongs to a now defunct local company. As opposed to the Rebels that plague much of the Outer Rim these are true terrorists attacking schools full of children and distributing illegal narcotics and toxic substances like they are going out of style. There is no overreaching goal or ideal that they strive for except to cause chaos and misery for their own pleasure.

A cancer that must be cut from the body, and the Death Troopers are uniquely suited to do it. Their comm-lines remain silent their forms blending in perfectly with the dark stones. Specters of death sent from the stars. The facility is run down and consists of five buildings in the dome style of the natives. The concrete analogue substance is dark like the surrounding stone with small depressions suited for shielding the lights that illuminate the buildings from flying debris. The lights are dark now to conceal the presence of the insurgents, but there are signs of habitation that are harder to conceal. The door controls are illuminated, poorly camouflaged speeders clustered together under a dark tarp, a few sleepy lookouts huddled under what cover they can find to escape the rain.

A262 stealthily creeps across the rocky terrain, circling around and below the first lookout. His knife slips easily from the magnetic sheath, the blade's flat coated in a black weather proofing to cut down on reflection from light. He creeps up on the sleepy near-human guard. Quick as a striking snake he wraps a gloved hand around the man's mouth and rams his knife into the man's side, the blade long enough to sever the aorta. He dies quietly and A262 lets the body drop back into his seat as if he really was merely asleep. Three more shadows claim their own sentries without a sound. No word of warning is passed to the rest of the base.

The Death Troopers move like oily shadows across the open ground to the speeders. Remotely detonated charges are swiftly applied to the fuel cells. Their sabotage completed they advance to the first building. Their tech-specialist, DT-J556, takes no less than thirty seconds to crack the case of the door's controls and splice into the camera systems from the same panel. A major security fault in the design of the research facilities is easily exploited: everything runs on the same system. Dejeen hasn't seen war or significant civil unrest in centuries and thus have relaxed the security standards of every computer and network in the system. A splicer's paradise. The security cameras are put on a loop and security locks linked to the squad's arm computers before anyone could recognize what is happening outside.

J556 turns and wiggles her index and middle finger to mime walking then slashes across her throat. No internal roving security. Hubris and stupidity making their security measures lax. The door opens and they sweep in smoothly clearing corners and securing either end of the corridor. While the outside might be dark, the inside is anything but. Bright sterile lights shine across filth smeared walls and piles of refuse. A scowl stretches across A262's lips at the lack of discipline displayed by the insurgents. The squad doesn't need any prompting to split into their two-man fireteams. DT-G778 follows closely on A262's heels. Each room is painstakingly cleared and secured; any data downloaded into their data-sticks to be combed through by Imperial Intelligence later. They don't encounter an insurgent until they arrive at a public refresher. Something that they were trained to always check just in case.

A262 opens the door and comes face to face with a human, the blue veins ringing his bloodshot eyes a sure sign of substance abuse. The insurgent hesitates in his sleep addled state the only visible weapon being a heavy blaster holstered on his belt. DT-A262 doesn't. His fist lashes out with inhuman speed crushing the man's windpipe and choking off a scream. His knife is swiftly drawn and rammed through the man's temple killing him instantly and shoving the body aside.

A262 charges into the refresher on instinct, his augmentations propelling him forward faster than any unaugmented human would be able and seizes a Dejeen's thin skull in a steel grip. A twisting pull snaps the man's neck killing him before he can scream. Both bodies are policed for any useful intelligence and then they move on. No use wasting time on trash.

The sweep continues. They open a supply closet and find two nude individuals asleep tangled each other's limbs. Knives serve to keep them quiet. Another four rooms are cleared silently before they are discovered once again. This time there is no concealing their presence. The burly human is carrying a short-barreled carbine and reacts with admirable speed forcing G778 to fire. The crack of his E-11D triggers a chain reaction. First, his blaster spits a crimson bolt that smacks into the man's chest like a sledgehammer. Enough power to crack through heavy armor is transferred into unarmored flesh blowing the man's chest wide open and sending his corpse flying back a meter. Next, every insurgent in the base wakes up at once.

Muffled shouts emanate from the next room indicating a larger concentration of insurgents within. A262 rips a grenade from his harness, primes it and opens the door. The grenade whines as it comes to full charge and he flings it through the door. Cries of alarm and warning flit through the closing door before the grenade detonates in a deafening blast that triggers the audio-dampeners in the Death Troopers' helmets. He opens the door, pointedly ignoring the way the door's mechanism screeches as it is pulled aside and flicks his display to thermal. A few shapes thrash and groan in pain drawing the ire of his blaster.

"Silence broken, prepare secondary measures," he reports coldly, breaking comms silence for the first time since their stealth shuttle inserted them four hours before.

"Confirmed, signs of movement registered in our sector. Going loud," J556 replies in her cold contralto.

"Let's get moving," A262 says keeping the external voice modulators built into their helmets silent. As fear inspiring as it is during open conflict it can easily give away one's position and allegiance. Far better to let the chaos foment as long as possible.

"Yes sir," G778 replies in the same cold, mission focused tone as the rest of the team. The two Death Troopers return to the hallway rifles raised and ready. Insurgents burst from the doors clothed and armed haphazardly. The two elite operators fire precise, single blasts from their high-powered blasters and press tight to what cover they can find. Insurgents drop at an astounding rate before they can return fire in any meaningful manner. Scattered return fire from old blaster pistols and poorly maintained rifles digs divots from the walls and floors or splashes off the duraplast plating that forms the majority of the Death Troopers' armor.

G778 tosses a grenade down the halls sending the insurgents fleeing for cover. Some don't make it and are shredded by the blast. A262 ignores the way the blast shakes his bones and charges forward to assume a new position. He flicks his weapon to fully automatic and sprays a sustained burst at the first two insurgents to appear in his sights. Both drop in steaming heaps. The two Death Troopers move in a well-practiced, mechanical rhythm that cuts through the insurgents like wheat in a field. A262 swiftly swaps power cells and resumes his fusillade, peppering a heavily armored insurgent officer with more than enough firepower to turn the fancy armor to slag. The last of the insurgents falls with a low moan, clutching at his ruptured beer-gut.

First building clear. Two more to go.


A262 snarls savagely as a massive Trandoshan charges from the slowly opening blast door. The massive lizard man is covered in green scales, is strong enough to fight a Wookie in hand-to-hand and possibly win and wants to eat his face. His greatest enemy: face eating aliens. His E-11D spits angry red bolts that barely seem to slow the massive alien as it slams into him with the force of a bus at full speed. The alien pins him to the wall with a slam that rattles his teeth. Training kicks in.

Not strong enough to overpower the lizardman he releases his grip on his weapon letting it hang on the sling. The lizard rears back a massive fist that would no doubt take him out of the fight with one strike. His boot lashes out and slams into the lizard's hip, an awkward place to get hit that robs the whole leg of strength if done right. The Trandoshan hisses in anger and surprise loosening its grip for a moment, long enough for an armor-clad fist to smack into the alien's face. It feels like punching a wall, but the lizard is driven back a step. Far enough to draw his sidearm. The standard issue SE-14r light repeating blaster is a…decent piece of hardware for standard issue Imperial gear.

However, any good operator knows how to modify their weapons while remaining within Imperial regulations. After all they only care that the outside looks the same, not about what it looks like when you crack it open. So, when he squeezes the trigger and the pistol barks it spits three rounds fired so closely together that they share the same recoil pattern. The three rounds burn through the Trandoshan's leather shirt and the scaly hide behind to incinerate whatever organ is on the other side. The lizard wheezes in pain and releases him entirely freeing his elbow to snap down and nearly break its jaw. The pistol snaps up and fires two more bursts at point-blank range cooking the alien's heart and then brain. It crumples in a heap at his feet. The remaining insurgents are fleeing in fear from his squad's fury.

He holsters his pistol and takes aim with his E-11D. The last seven insurgents are cut down in a hail of crimson bolts. The silence that follows is deafening. The visions of horror forever frozen on the faces of the dead insurgents is almost as disturbing as the sight of their killers. Four sable clad figures standing amid ruins filled with corpses, the flickering flames and red lights reflecting off their armor.


The briefing room is cold and sterile. Imperial grey and white are the only colors here, overriding everything else. The sole table is bare steel and is occupied only by a mug of caffeine, two bare steel chairs are set on either side of the table bolted to the floor. DT-A262 stares at the Imperial Intelligence agent seated across from him, features blank. Stripped of his imposing black armor and equipment he is left instead in slate grey fatigues over his sealed black body glove. Underneath all of his equipment is an astoundingly average looking man. Regulation cut black hair, bright hazel eyes, high cheekbones and a strong but narrow jaw. His skin is pale from his life in artificial lighting or sealed in his armor but not to the point of appearing strange.

The Agent across from him is the strange one. Pale almost platinum blonde hair, blue glowing augmented eyes, and an almost plastic face after so many surgeries to change his appearance throughout his career as a spy make him look like a living doll. The Death Trooper, however, knows that beneath that dreary grey uniform is a body more enhanced than his own and more than capable of killing him without a weapon. The data pad in his hands is far more dangerous than the Agent in the right hands.

"Your unit is to be commended for its performance on Dejeen, as expected of a unit with your accolades. The Insurgency is broken, and Imperial Army units are moving in to properly secure the planet under Imperial rule. For good this time," the Agent's voice is like oil sliding across A262's senses. All sweet words complimenting his actions and achievements while carrying a hint of an alternate motive.

"Thank you, sir, the squad will be happy to hear it. What is our next assignment?" The Agent smirks, and suddenly the aggressive trooper wants to smash his head in.

"The Rim has been a trouble spot since the inception of the Republic. This Rebellion that is gaining so much traction here is one of the symptoms and the Emperor wants it dealt with. Imperial Intelligence is seconding you to an Inquisitor. You are to assist him with whatever task he requires accomplished." A chill runs down A262's spine at the mention of the Inquisition. The only branch of Intelligence that is more feared than the Death Troopers themselves, the Inquisition is a group of Force users devoted to the Emperor and given carte blanche to do whatever it takes to hunt down the remaining Jedi or bring Force sensitives into the service of the Empire. And they don't have much tolerance for anything from anyone.

"Yes sir, when do we leave?" It's the only answer that can be accepted.


Fleet Anchorage Dresden is a minor hub of Imperial maritime traffic. The large space station is a storage facility for parts, supplies, fuel, ammunition, and short-term lodging for personnel transferring ships or being assigned to their first commands. Far from the Core, it represents one of the main bastions of Imperial power in the Mid-Rim and a mid-way point for formations moving towards the Rim itself. For Death Trooper Squad Besh-77-43G, it was their home for three years. Their operations utilized assets that visited the station and they ran simulations in the highly advanced training arenas near the center of the station in preparations for those missions. But now they leave it possibly for the last time.

No tears are shed, and no grief is felt. They are professionals, the best of the best of the Stormtrooper Corps. Home is the inside of their armor and the presence of their squad. The crowds of Naval personnel make way for them without a side-ways glance. Roving squads of Stormtroopers on standard security sweeps nod in respect as they pass but no words are exchanged. The boarding tubes are crowded but somehow space is made for them to pass through. The looming shape of the Gladiator, flagship of the Gladiator-class of Star Destroyers, is visible through the transparisteel tube's walls. All barely subdued power and bristling with weapons.

One of the most powerful escort and patrol ships in the Empire, the Gladiator-class is more than capable of handling itself or delivering the two battalions of Stormtroopers to the surface of a rebellious world. More discreet and less in demand they are often underappreciated by the Moffs and Governors of the Empire who would prefer an Imperial-I class to stand sentinel over their worlds twenty-four seven, but anyone with any real sense could recognize their power in the right situation. Like chasing down a mobile resistance that relies on fighters and converted passenger liners as main-line combatants.

Many back-room strategy groups have theorized that if the Empire used fewer of the massive Imperial-class and produced more Gladiator-class sized vessels they would actually be able to better protect their territory. Being smaller, cheaper, faster and more maneuverable than the main-line combat vessels would make them better suited to pursuing the fast Rebel ships. But reason and sound military theory is overruled by the Emperor. A262 sighs and hefts his duffel bag. Their orders are presented to the Officer of the Deck, electronically signed, and then they are carted off to their quarters by a jittery junior spacer. It doesn't take long for them to get their extra uniforms stowed and their blasters and explosives placed in the armory with the rest of the Stormtroopers. They retain their knives however; no Death Trooper would ever consent to being fully disarmed even on an Imperial ship.

The await the Inquisitor's arrival on the Quarterdeck, all four sealed in their armor quiet and menacing to the crewmen going about their business. The undercurrent of tension that plagues the Quarterdeck while they await the Inquisitor's arrival is nothing compared to what is felt when the being in question steps on board. Standing tall and dignified, quite literally a head and shoulders over even the hulking form of G778 who himself is an imposing sight. Expensive robes of black and red silks cling to the being's lithe form. Every step is taken with grace and a regal bearing but still manages to convey that of a predator's coiled readiness to pounce. The hilt of a lightsaber all black metal and menacing intent hangs from a crimson cord about the Inquisitor's waste. The man himself is of an alien species that not even the Death Troopers recognize.

His skin is coal black with his red eyes appearing as two rubies being the only breaks from the norm. Not a single hint of hair or fuzz is to be seen across the surface of his head. His jaw is narrow and comes to an almost severe point. His limbs are long and graceful though no doubt are corded with lean muscle that when augmented by the mystical Force would be more than a match for the bio and mechanical augmentations of the Death Troopers. The Inquisitor stares them down silently, a throbbing at the back of their minds the only sign of his intentions. He smirks sending chills down their spines. His voice is like the hiss of a serpent whispering temptation in your ear. Cold and menacing.

"Let's get to work."