"The ETA Actis Starfighter," Pre Vizsla said as he pointed out the specs of the ship on the Holo out, "a next-generation interceptor. It's faster than our Talon Strikers by a factor of three in sublight but, unfortunately, it doesn't come with a built-in hyperdrive," he said locking eyes with me, "but you know where to find one of those, don't you?"
"Watto," I grinned brightly at the thought of my old acquaintance. Dad just massaged his forehead while in his governor attire, he couldn't wear his armor all the time but then again neither could I.
"That poor Toydarian," dad muttered as he leveled a slightly baleful look at me, "but you know your mission. If the Starship is good enough for your missions then I expect the Strike unit to be fitted with them by next year's end. You will procure the ships by any means necessary, if you need to take your team, so be it. Go, you should have this mission finished by week's end."
"Dad, you know I can finish this by the end of today," I said with a crooked grin. Dad just sighs and nods.
"Yes, but at the end of the week we are due to leave for Naboo. I would have you seen at my side after the disaster that was the dinner with the Duchess," he says with a glare at me, I throw my hands up in defense.
"Dad! That was two years ago! And Blake spiked our drinks! Of course, we were going to be awkward for a while in public," I said exasperatedly. A week after my Verd'goten's memorable ending, we were due to be seen with the Duchess for a state dinner. The pacifists had been adopting Alderaanian ideas and thought that dancing would be a wonderful item for the docket, like that was a good idea to do. A thirteen-year-old and a fifteen-year-old who had just went at it like rabbits for most of the week being seen in public together was never going to be a good idea to begin with but when you add in the fact that we had been friends for years before that then it would make since that people would think you would want to dance together.
Bo was so embarrassed that she turned the same shade as her hair before darting away from me. We made it for it in the sparring yard a few weeks later and then again in the bedroom… Woman's a minx.
But anyway, we're still close friends and only do that after life and death missions. Fortunately, those are more common than not since I founded the Strike team and she founded the Nite Owls (bloody terrifying, they are). Usually, she'll bring her best friend Ursa and another one that refuses to speak on missions with me and my six commandoes. They're the best of the best at what we do, the Force Sensitives of Mandalore.
We're armed with the best tech all the same but we're the elites of Death Watch, the ones I managed to find that is. The Jedi will usually avoid Mandalore like Plague so it makes it that much easier to find those people.
Most of us aren't armed with a lot, just the jetpack, the bootjets, a blaster, and lightsabers scavenged from what I can find on planets like Malachor, Ruusan, and other powerful Force worlds - though, I'll admit, I got the hell off of Malachor after scavenging as many lightsabers I could from that pyramid I stumbled on.
Anyway… The crystals I managed to scavenge went to the Strikers as they meditated to make their own lightsabers. They're the most lethal force on Mandalore, and I'm the baddest motherfucker of them all.
The amount of weapons I carry into battle is actually a little ridiculous but it's better to be prepared for anything than other incinerator and urn. That being said though, the Strikers are a speed and lethality group, an answer to the Jedi Shadow Guild. But to do that we need speed, and the poor Talon just can't deliver on that. They're great for the twenty heavy troops I keep as a compliment to my crew but they're not what my team needs.
I can't help the grin that crawled onto my face thinking of the Starfighter, dad and I discussed a few options like the Headhunter and the newly made Fang but both of those were too noticeable, better for attack roles than scouting or hit and run strikes like my team would use. And besides, the Headhunter and Fang are both outclassed by the Talon Strikers on board the Fist.
I shook my head as I walked to the speeder bike hangar, we could wear armor around the mansion whenever we felt like, all of the staff were Death Watch after all. I slipped my helmet on as I hopped on my speeder bike, taking off toward where my ship was grounded - I had a mission to initiate.
The trip wasn't terribly long, just about half an hour but I was going at nearly five hundred miles per hour the entire trip… Semantics. But even after all this time I couldn't help but smile as the Fist finally came into view. Jabba may have updated and built this ship from the ground up but there were always room for improvements - like painting the hull black. Seriously, everyone's all about needing stealth tech but a good coat of black paint is sometimes all you need - and thus all of my ships were painted black.
Seriously, if there's not a star or another light source too close to the ship then seeing the thing should be damn near impossible - then again most people want you to actually see them in Space.
"Bout time, Perce," I heard come from the gangplank. I looked up to see the black and blue armor standard to Death Watch with our own little twist on it. The Six standing in front of me are wearing completely black armor with only a few blue stripes on the chest piece and outlining the classic T visor on our helmets.
"Shut up, Green," I said to the guy, reaching my hand out to clasp his. He does easily even while we're all in armor.
"What's the mission, Boss?" the left-most female warrior, Saorise Anios, asked.
"Infiltrate Kuat Drive Yard," they all started nodding I know I saw at least one of them flinch, "and steal one to seven of these," I reach out my hand and let my holoprojector show off the starfighter, "the ETA Actis. It's fast, maneuverable, light, heavily armed, and well shielded. It's slated to be scrapped so it's successor - the Actis two - can take over. A much inferior ship but much cheaper to produce. We take the ships, get back to the Fist, and get out. Understand?"
"Got it," Sao said quietly, even being one of my elite troops, she knows just how hard this raid is going to be.
"What's the time frame?" Sam Xophos asked, his arms crossed as he inspected the hologram.
"One week, less actually," I replied. He pulled his head up sharply at that but it wasn't him that responded. No, that honor would go to Tara.
"One week!? Are you insane, Vizsla!?"
"No, I'm not, Saxon," I sneered slightly, she's a good fighter and I know I can rely on her when shit hits the fan but her personality is grating, "these are orders directly from Father," she immediately backed down hearing that.
"Is that all?" I asked the assembled group who just shake their heads, "good. Prep for a jump to Kuat, we have a mission to complete," those four immediately jumped into action, leaving me with the last two, my specialists: Ayla Tenau and Julius Rau - the daughter and son of Lux Rau and Maz Tenau.
"What are our orders, sir?" Ayla asked quietly while Julius stayed silent as he usually would.
"Keep the others in line, make sure the stealth generator is operational, and get the heavies under control. This isn't a wreck and check mission, this requires Stealth. I want us to drop out of hyperdrive at least a day's travel out from the Drive Yard. We can approach at Sublight and avoid their sensors for as long as possible. It's a drive yard, ships are in and out of there on a regular - we shouldn't be seen in the shuttle."
"Yessir," Ayla said as Julius nodded and turned away to go prepare for the rest of the voyage.
"Approaching Kuat Drive yards, the shuttle is prepared to launch, Striker Vizsla," I nodded to my team as we approached the processing yard.
"Anios," I said simply, she nodded as she launched the small, cheap shuttle. It's basically an escape pod but armored to withstand a turbolaser barrage, we're basically flying a tank into the Drive Yard. What makes it even better is the fact that the thing resembles a hunk of space junk, pulling it off most sensors. The bad part? There's no life support system onboard so we have to rely on our suits' internal systems to protect us from hard vacuum and lack of oxygen. To communicate we mercifully had short-range radios, ever since the invention of the galactic holo most people hung up whatever other forms of communication their own planets developed in the face of the cheap, effective communication grid.
The only other form that still saw use were comlinks but those were easy to listen into, radio waves were largely ignored if they were even spotted. Still scrambled the frequency to be safe though.
So there we went, in a bunker-like shuttle headed toward the largest starship manufacturer in the known galaxy to try and steal their shit… Their shit that they were about to scrap but it was theirs all the same.
"Five hundred yards out, Trident. Approaching the ring and gravitational field," Anios said through the radio. I nodded and slammed my fist into the button to open the airlock and hatch.
"Then let's go," I didn't give my team time to respond as I opened up full thrust with my jetpack and bootjets in the zero-gravity environment. I took off like a blaster bolt as I waited for my team to exit the pod, it didn't take them long and it didn't take me long to spot the scrapyard.
I briefly thought that for a drive yard that their systems were shit but then again, they probably have defenses to redirect asteroids. Sure enough, we watched as our faithful scrap pile was yanked from its trajectory toward the ring like it was pulled by a rope. "Tractor beams," Ayla said, "the emitters are on the north and south sides, spaced out every three hundred meters. The weakest point should be between those."
"Roger, Lieutenant," I said back, we all have code names for missions, hers happens to be LT by how efficient she is.
"Let's move," Tara said, antsy as always.
"Cool it, Hotshot," Ryan said back quietly.
"Shut it, Oak, we have a job to do," she huffed back as she angled herself toward the center of the tractor beams with us in tow. I quickly take the lead, the tip of the spear if you would. I got the nickname since I insisted on taking point while Tenau and Rau stayed by my side, making us look like a Trident, but I took the nickname.
"Initiate Radio silence, in three… two… one… Silence until the target is acquired, split into your teams. Rendezvous here if the target is not found in three hours or - if you get caught - launch your flare, Godspeed," I said as our magboots grappled onto the durasteel surface of the ring surrounding the planet. We quickly split into our groups, Oak and Golem (Ryan and Sam), Lieutenant and Phantom (Maz and Tenau), and Hotshot and Captain, leaving me to go alone to find the starfighter.
It takes forever to find the starfighters but thankfully we found them, fueled up, unpainted, unserialized, and unarmed. I couldn't help the grin that crossed my face at the sight of the hundred of them sitting on the platform innocently. I tapped the side of my helmet to activate my radio and sent the team my position. In seconds, the team appeared at my side like helmeted ghosts.
"Now the hard part," Hotshot muttered as she clambered into a starfighter. The bad thing? I agreed with her. Getting in is always the easy part. No one likes getting their shit stolen, even if it is slated to be scrapped or refitted.
Together, the rest of us entered the cockpits and activated the preflight checklists. I glanced around at the controls and just couldn't help but grin, a simple, easy cockpit that anyone with even a little experience could get the hang of.
"What're the top speeds on these things?" Oak's voice rang through the radio and I responded with:
"Rather slow, isn't it?" Hotshot, of course asked.
"For now, but it'll get us to the Fist in seconds. We can soup them up when we get to Naboo, but first I have to visit a miserable Toydarian on Tatooine."
"Watto? Why do you have to visit that cunt?" Golem asked.
"Buy a hyperdrive off him and see where he got it so I can steal some for you guys," I said with a vicious grin that they obviously didn't see, "initializing take-off sequence," I tapped my helmet and activated my comlink to the ship giving the preplanned signal. Immediately, the crew prepped the jump to Alderaan and then up to Ossus so we could double back to Mandalore. It might take longer but it's safer in the long run.
"Take off in three… two… one… Liftoff! Go! Go! Go!" I said into my mike, feeling the little starship take-off faster than any blaster bolt could think about being. I almost thought we would get out of there Scot-free but that was a load of Bantha Fodder.
We managed to get about three-quarters of the way to the ship before we were being shot at by turbo laser batteries. Thankfully though, Kuat either is very good at their job or terrible at making weapons because those bolts just glanced off of the shields like they were nothing. Mercifully, we made it back to the Fist before the shields could fall too low and making the jump to Alderaan.
I jumped out of the ship, pumping my fist as I did as Golem and Hotshot did something similar before rushing off to their shared quarters. Mandalorians are pretty open about sex and, honestly, it's not all that surprising. A warrior culture where children are pretty much the top of the food chain?
Thankfully, the rest of my team weren't quite as amorous as those two were. Oh, they still celebrated but just with a lot more alcohol and a hell of a lot less sex. I grinned as I looked over at LT standing there with her helmet under her arm and a small smile on her face. I walked over to the blonde and punched her shoulder gently.
"Yes, Tri?" She asked quietly, a bit of a smirk playing at her lips.
"Lighten up, LT," I said with a grin, "we did our jobs and that was the least messy mission we've ever had! Isn't that worth celebrating?"
"It might be," she said, pushing off the dark grey starship to turn to face me with a smirk still playing on her lips, "in private, I assume?"
Yep, definitely a smirk. One accidental orgy and suddenly everyone thinks that that's all you think about. Although… "I wouldn't see why not," she stepped closer and took the collar of my baffle-weave bodysuit and pulled me down to her lips. 'Maybe this won't be such a long flight after all…'
"Percy, do you ever stop?" Ayla asked as she looked down the bedsheet once again.
"I don't think so," I said pensively. I've never been tired out by a woman once, no matter how many there are (though my record is taking on the three Nite Owls and Ayla all in the same night), or how long we go for. It's probably a gift from my heritage but it wasn't like I was about to tell her that. We laid there for a few beats of silence before she rolled off of me and toward the place where she threw her body suit and armor. She pulled it on with quick easy motions, but started talking to me as she readjusted some of the straps.
"Yeah, I'm sure. You want me to send in Captain?" she asked with a smirk on her lips, "or maybe even Hotshot?" I shuddered slightly at the second name, we only fucked once but that was the closest I ever came to being worn out.
"I think I'm good, she and Golem seem to be getting pretty close. I think they're considering dating," I said seriously. Mandalorians may be ridiculously open about sex when single but we're loyal to the mothers of our children to the very end. Dating is almost a religious experience in our culture, if dating doesn't work between a couple the two are rarely even seen in the same room anymore.
"Oh damn," LT whispered before shaking her head, "and Captain?"
"I think I'm good, but if she wants to come in tell her to come in whenever," I said nonchalantly. LT nodded and turned out of the room, fully dressed but with a noticeable limp.
I couldn't help but smirk as she left but summoned my lightsaber to me a few moments after the door hissed closed. Perks of being the owner of the ship? My own private quarters to meditate in.
I let my lightsaber float in the air before me, disassembling and reassembling the blade absently. It was always a post-mission thing for me to do, the light the Kyber Crystal produced was always calming and time was running short to get back to Mandalore. The mission might have taken three days but it was looking like it might take us three to get back to Concordia without any unexpected delays. I couldn't help the slight grumble that slipped from my chest as I thought about the upcoming mission to Naboo.
The Duchess said that we ought to tighten relations with a water planet that wasn't inhabited with nothing but criminals - like Aquaris. I couldn't help but roll my eyes slightly at that. Yes, Concordia and Mandalore need water but Naboo is mostly saltwater not freshwater like Aquaris. Yes, there are ways to strip the salt from water that are relatively cheap but why spend that money on shipping water from further across the galaxy and then paying more to purify that water?
It made no sense to me but there was the niggling in the back of my mind that this wasn't just a mission for water…
"Perseus, you're early. Was your mission a success?"
"More than successful, dad, we got seven of the Actis Ones but they were slated to be repurposed, not scrapped. Kaut has something in mind for them."
"As I suspected," dad said, tapping his chin slightly, "go prepare for the mission to Naboo, we will be leaving tomorrow. Pack your armor and gear on the Fist, if things go awry then I want as much firepower as we can waiting for us on Enarc or closer if you can manage it. There have been whispers that the Trade Federation is doing something with Naboo, if there's a battle coming then I don't want us unprepared. Take my gear as well," he said quietly as we walked down the hall, "and, for the sake of the Manda and my own, go shower boy!" he barked with a wrinkled nose. I just lifted my eyebrow before the unmistakable smell finally hit me.
"Damn you, LT," I whispered as I went to my rooms to clean up before dinner.
A few short minutes later and I was finally back at my room, ready to shower, pack, and sleep for three days. I entered my code and pushed the door open only to see a familiar face sitting in one of my armchairs.
"Hey, Perce," she said cheerfully, standing up to greet me.
"Not that I'm not happy to see you but what are you doing here, Kat?" I asked with a small grin.
"Officially? I'm visiting my friend before he goes on a diplomatic mission to Naboo on behalf of my sister, the Duchess of Mandalore. Unofficially?" she pulled the tie on her dressing robe, letting it fall away, "you've been gone too long and I have no idea where you've been, so," she started walking toward me, laying her hand on my tunic since I left my armor and gear on the Fist, minus my lightsaber of course, "you're going to tell me exactly where your dad sent you and why."I couldn't get a word out before she pressed herself to me, nipping at my neck.
"Kuat Drive yards," I groaned slightly, wrapping my arms around her, "sent us to capture a few interceptors for the Strikers."
"Still pissed you didn't let me join, Percy," she said playfully as she pulled my shirt off.
"Bo, the one time I let you use my lightsaber nearly killed us both," I deadpanned, "and don't forget that I gave you my third to defend against Jetti," I cupped her bum in my hands as she pouted up at me.
"Maybe," she admitted, "but what kind of guy just gives a girl a lightsaber on a small ship full of bounty hunters and says get the door open! I'll hold them off?" she grinned up at me as I just shook my head.
"One who's holding off thirty Hutt enforcers while the target is behind a durasteel vault on a capital ship when it was just the two of u-aghh," I groaned as she bit my neck a bit harder.
"Also got you an awesome nickname with the Hutts," she said playfully, "and me one too but yours is much better."
"Yes, because Death is sooo much better than the Lady Reaper," I said with a grin, "okay, so I really need to shower. You down?" I asked with a grin.
"You know I'm down for anything," she whispered in my ear and, Ancestors help me, she really was. The woman was insatiable.
"So when will you be back?" Kat asked an hour later, our shower went a bit off the rails and took much longer than either of us expected.
"I'm not sure," I said truthfully, "it could be in a week or it might three years, you know how these things are."
She tapped her chin thoughtfully as she took her pants from where she had folded them on the dresser, "true enough, but you better keep in contact," she hissed and I couldn't help but gulp nervously before nodding, "good," her face softened as she pulled her beskar headband on.
"This won't be the last time we see each other," I said quietly, cupping the older girl's cheek. She leaned into my hand slightly before she pulled away.
"For even in Death we are united," she said quietly.
"For even in Death we are united," I repeated our old mantra back to her. It was something we said on our first mission together and it's just kind of stuck since then, I would have even adopted it to my strikers but this is our thing. We nearly died on that mission and I told her that so that she would remember we wouldn't be alone for long.
"Be safe out there, Percy," she whispered as she leaned in to kiss me, I returned the chaste kiss easily before parting with her.
"And don't forget me," I told her just as easily.
"I could never forget you," she said as she walked back through the door, "and if this mission is what I think it is…" she trailed off before locking eyes with me again, "go with the Manda, Percy." is all she said as she turned away through the door.
I just looked at the door frame as she left, wondering what she could have meant.