munnin: (Jedi)
[personal profile] munnin
Title: Arguments End - Act 2 – Shadow Jedi – D’rue
Fandom: Star Wars.
Disclaimer: No ownership, no profit and no offence meant. Everyone is of the age of consent in their country and period of history
Author’s notes: This ‘verse started as a first anniversary gift for the members of the Canberra Star Wars Collectors Club. This was part two of the original story.

Summary: You don’t win when the enemy knows your playbook. You need pieces on the board that move in unexpected ways.


Jedi Master Plo Koon paced the deck of the republic cruiser, his eyes closed as he reached out to the planet below. Through the force, the forest planet of Glebe was a jumble of life and light but, here and there, he could feel great scars of pain and destruction where the Trade Federation’s droid armies had burnt and pillaged.

For years the settlements and small cities had lived in harmony with the native population. The planet’s rich Carbon16 deposits were mined with care and with little damage to the planet’s ecosystem but the Trade Federation had grown greedy, driving out miners and natives alike to blast great gouges across the landscape. Their homes and ancestral lands destroyed, the people of Glebe rose up and the once peaceful planet had become a war zone.

Two weeks ago, Jedi Master Chrys, a deeply capable and calm-spirited man had been sent with a small group of clone troopers to assess the situation on Glebe and to report back. His last transmission however, had been one of distress and danger, and was lost before any news could be gained.

Here in orbit above the planet, their transitions blocked and their descent halted by a seemingly impenetrable planetary defence system, Plo Koon and his troops waited, impatient to help the people below. He took a deep breath, seeking the calm to wait for reinforcements, when he felt a strange shudder in the Force.

“Sir?” a trooper called as he crossed the deck, his identical face hidden behind his identical helmet. “We are receiving a transition.”

“From the planet?”

“From an incoming ship.” The trooper answered.

“Finally Master Windu has arrived.”

“No, sir. The transition is from an unknown ship. They claim to be Jedi sir, and have the proper pass codes.”

“Then what is the problem, trooper?” Plo Koon growled, strangely frustrated.

“The transition was sent from the middle of the fleet, sir. The ship appeared beside us without being detected by any of our systems.”

Koon hissed, pulling the force around him like a cloak, ready to strike out at this unseen new player. “Has the Jedi identified himself?”

“Yes, sir. He claims to be Jedi Commander D’rue Nor-smen.”

***

Plo Koon held himself erect as the smaller, unmarked ship landed in the docking bay. He had heard of the so called Shadow Jedi and disapproved greatly. Although most believed them to be a myth, this group of fringe Jedi were set up during Sith Wars as a small marauding gang of specialists, brought in only at the most dire of moments. Made up of Jedi too rogue to be members of the Order, the Council allowed them their freedom to work independently just as long as they played by the rules. Which they usually did...barely.

The idea appalled Plo Koon and he had protested at the Council that their very existence was a threat to the Jedi Order. Such unchecked power could skate too easily to the dark side and destroy them all, but others had argued their effectiveness, their proven record for reigning in situations beyond traditional means. Effective or not, he felt the ripple they made in the force as they disembarked the ship like a stain.

The first figure to disembark was tall and broad-shouldered. A warrior more that a Jedi, in war-worn armour that only vaguely resembled anything used by the Republic. He walked with the air of a leader as a handful of clones followed him; their armour too, well beyond standard.

“Jedi Commander D’rue Nor-smen.” The warrior presented himself with a shallow nod. “We’ve come to assist you, Master Koon.”

As he spoke, three more figures emerged from the ship. A tall woman with the fierce grace and baring of a Madoloraian, the padawan at her side dressed in short robes, her dark hair swaying around her face as she leant in to whisper to her master, a serene looking matron in the patterned robes of a librarian but the burning eyes of one who knew more than most.

“We need no assistance at this time.” Plo answered stubbornly, unsettled by the swirls and waves they caused in the force, not dark side so much as a subtle wrongness; a discordant note in a harmonious symphony.

“I beg to differ.” The Commander’s diplomatic tone strained with a flash of anger. “There are sentients, troopers, and Jedi dying down on the planet and you have yet to engage with the enemy. I can only assume there is some impediment behind your...inaction.”

Plo Koon felt the accusation like a slap and hissed. “The planetary defence system is powerful. Until the intel Master Chrys sent us is decoded-”

“What’s the problem?” the librarian asked, stepping up to D’rue’s side.

Taken aback by the woman’s abrupt approach, Plo stepped back. “The data was fragmented when the transition was lost. I have intel officers working on it but-”

The woman glanced over her shoulder to D’rue who nodded.

“Master Nansi has a great gift for unravelling puzzles. Perhaps she can assist your officers.” D’rue offered but Nansi was already striding off after one of the clones.

Plo bristled at being overridden. “Without that intel we cannot hope to approach the planet without significant losses and that is a risk I will not take.”

D’rue gave him a reproachful look that spoke volumes of his contempt for the Jedi Council. “Even if Master Nansi is unable to decode the fragmented data, I have an agent on route to the planet as we speak. She should be able to obtain the necessary intel.”

“How?” Plo demanded, more than a little angry that this information had been withheld. “How can you get a ship through the planet’s defences?”

The padawan sniggered quietly and was knocked in the ribs by her master.

“We are...” D’rue smiled dangerously, “resourceful.”

Plo bristled again. “Perhaps you should take some time to familiarise yourself with the intel we have and we can meet again in an hour for a briefing.” He held his hand out, gesturing to the cluster of clones waiting by the ship. “I’m sure your troopers would appreciate a chance to refresh themselves and mingle with their fellows.”

D’rue cocked his head with a curious expression. “Most thoughtful of you.” He muttered, clearly assessing Plo’s motives. “One standard hour then.” He watched as the Jedi councilman swept out of the hanger.

***

Plo went straight to the terminal in his quarters, pulling up what information he could on the recent arrivals. Most of it was dry service records but between the lines he was able to glean something of the personal histories of the four Jedi.

Before the war, Master Nor-smen had been a combat instructor and warrior of some renown. His preference for non-standard techniques and weapons had earned him some ire among the other instructors and he had requested and been granted, a transfer to one of the outlying training houses off Coruscant. Many Jedi of note had travelled to the school in the hopes of training with Master Nor-smen but his willingness to teach appeared to have dwindled, taking on fewer and fewer students. The records stopped just before the beginning of the war with Master Nor-smen leaving the training house, no destination listed.

His file however did include a known associate –one Sera Stringsinger. A procurer of rare items by trade and a smuggler by reputation.

Master Nansi Bathan was a name known to many though few could put a face to it. A renowned historian, Master Nansi’s treaties on the Sith Wars were required reading at the academy. However her interest in the dark side and contact with the Altisian Order had put her out of favour with the Council in recent years and this was the first recorded contact with here since she had left Coruscant three years earlier on a research trip.

Jedi Knight Jod’i Jadesky was somewhat of a mystery. Mandalorian by descent, Jod’i had left Coruscant immediately after her knighting ceremony and was not seen for many years. Her return, along with a baby girl of great force potential was questioned greatly however Jod’i refused to give any information on her whereabouts or the child’s linage. Deemed a ‘grey’ Jedi for her unwillingness to comply with the Council’s demands, Jod’i took a position with the Jedi Service Corps and remained in active, if quiet service till her records stop a year prior to the beginning of the war.

Padawan learner Keyani Jaden, the child brought to the Temple by the returning Jod’i come to the Council’s attention early as possessing great force potential. However her high-spirited nature had brought her into conflict with her masters at a young age and she had been brought before the Council of Reassignment on several occasions. Unable to find a suitable master for her, the last record on Keyani file indicated that she was to be sent to one of the outer training houses for specialised training.

What connected these individual seemed unclear so, on a whim, Plo searched the records by the name of their ship – the Colligo. The ship was listed as being commanded by a Captain Mirkell Blake, a sturdy man with a long and decorated service record with the Republic navy. A cool head in a crisis, Mirkell had been a much sort after as a fleet commander but had been re-assigned to the Colligo at the beginning of the war.

However the ship Plo had seen in the docking bay little resembled the stats on the Calligo’s records. The ship was of the triangulate shape of the Acclamator II-class assault ship but less than half the size. Its sleek lines were broken by bubbled domes near the engines. It looked both fast and manoeuvrable, a fact borne out by its unannounced arrival in the middle of their fleet, something that still made Plo bristle. He pulled up the feed from the hanger bay, examining the ship. Painted down the ship’s flank was the words Akaanir Kyr – Argument’s End in Mando'a.

“Sir?” A clone trooper called from the door. “Commander Nor-smen is waiting for you in the briefing room.”

Annoyed at having lost track of time, Plo stormed towards the briefing room, ignoring the trooper who followed him.

The visitors – the three Jedi, one padawan and the neatly dressed Captain stood around the briefing table with half a dozen clones, each of them with different markings on their shoulder pauldrons and their helmets off.

“So good of you to join us.” D’rue muttered, not ungraciously. He pulled his lightsaber from his belt and laid it on the table. It was longer than standard, leather wrapped with a flanged pommel, more mace than sabre.

On his signal, the others did the same. No two sabres were alike. Keyani’s was sharp with silver spines around the bladehood and at the pommel, looking more like a throwing weapon than a lightsaber. Nansi’s sabre had talon-like hooks that folded back from the hood, forming a protective guard around the wielder’s hand but made it look like the claw of some dangerous beast. Jod’i was simpler, a standard ridged handle but the silver surface shone with an odd gleam under the briefing room lights. Mirkell too laid down his weapon – a small, sleek service pistol, clean and well maintained.

They looked at Plo Koon expectantly, waiting for him to do the same. After a moment he complied, his own weapon seeming simplistic and small beside theirs. Rather than giving in to this thought he turned to Master Nansi, addressing her directly. “What progress have you been able to make on the fragmented transmission.”

Nansi smiled and ran her hand over the projector, lighting up the table. “I was able to recover some of the tactical terrain data. We now know the location of the planetary defence generators however there are still gaps. We have no idea about troop placements or enemy command points.”

One of the clones, a grey haired ARC trooper with a red mace design on the shoulder of his armour rubbed his chin.

“Thoughts, Tem?” D’rue asked, always open to the experienced trooper’s suggestions.

“Yes sir.” He leant over the map. “If Master Chrys and his team had been positioned here as we understand from previous reports and their position was overrun, they would have retreated along this path. The area allows for defensible position and doesn’t leave them hemmed it. Given how long they have been without re-supply, this area here would seem ideal unless something happened to the surveyed water source.”

“Speculation.” Plo muttered.

“Yes sir.” Tem answered, holding the Jedi Master’s gaze. “But based on the available data and an understanding of the strategies we are all trained for.”

The padawan grinned. “I’d listen if I was you Master, Tem’s usually right.”

The seasoned trooper shot her a small smile at the complement but tilted his head, listening to his comms. “Sir, Corvus Squad are reporting in. Captain Stringsinger has returned.”

“Good,” D’rue nodded. “Tell her to send up anything she’s got.”

“Yes boss.” Tem turned away, hand on his comm.

Plo Koon made a soft, irritated noise under his breath.

D’rue cocked his head. “Problem?”

“Working with bounty hunters and thieves.” Plo muttered disdainfully. “Hardly the Jedi way.”

Keyani and Jod’i bristled along with several of the clones.

D’rue, on the other hand, was ever serene. “Sera’s methods may be unusual at times but she is an asset to this team.”

Plo flicked a glance sideways as another clone trooper entered, this one helmeted with a stylised black wing on his shoulder pauldron. He handed D’rue a data chip with a slight nod and joined his fellows at the back of the room, at eases as he awaited orders.

A slow smile crossed the other Jedi’s faces but none of them spoke.

D’rue loaded the chip into the projector. The data overlying with Nansi’s, giving them a much more complete view of the ground.

“You were out, Tem.” Keyani muttered gravely, trying to hide a smile. “All that training and you couldn’t acutely predict where they’d set up camp.” According to the new map, the clone commander’s approximation had been incorrect...by less than three metres.

“How did you obtain this information?” Plo demanded, spluttering. The data showed very accurate layouts for the Trade Federation Stronghold and sweep patterns for the planetary defence systems.

D’rue ignored him as he and Nansi leant over the map, examining the ground. “And the cloak still works inside the atmosphere?” D’rue asked, not raising his eyes to address the recently arrived clone.

The clone nodded. “For the most part.” There was something off about his tone, more synthesised than normal through the helmet’s speakers.

“How did you obtain this data?” Plo demanded again, rounding on the Jedi Commander.

D’rue sighed. “As I told you before, Master Koon – we are resourceful. And Captain Stringsinger has a very fast little ship.”

“Such information should not be in the hands of a bounty hunter!” He spat the word, distasteful in his mouth.

There was a metallic crunch as a well worn blaster was placed heavily on the table between the lightsabers. The black-winged clone shook off his helmet to reveal the face of young woman, her eyes bright and dangerous. “You were saying?”

“Stand down, Sera.” D’rue muttered, not looking up from the map. “What are your impressions of Master Chrys?”

“A smart leader and a strategist.” Sera answered, still holding Plo’s eye. “He and his troopers are pinned down but they’ve developed relationships with the natives. They’ve been helping him gathering data on enemy positions. He’s a thinker, a planner. Frankly, I reckon he’d be an asset to this team.”

Captain Mirkell typed a flight path into his pad and flashed it to the others, getting nods and a few minor alterations from Nansi.

D’rue glances over the plan, nodding approvingly. “Yes but Keyani and Fidelis squad take point with the fighters. You’re our best flyer. We need you up front.”

Keyani grinned, sticking her tongue out at Jod’i. “Told you.”

“Cheeky little...” Jod’i growled under her breath, grinning as her padawan sped away to prep her fighter.

D’rue nodded to Tem. “Call the troops back. I want us ready to leave in under one standard hour.”

Tem touched his comm. with a quiet smile. “All Odds to the End.” He signalled, rallying the rag-tag, handpicked squads of clones back to the ship.

Plo Koon bristled with rage. “You’re not going down there! You cannot hope to break this blockade with one ship and some fancy flying.”

D’rue shot a grin over his shoulder as they each collected their weapons and headed for the ship. “Just watch us.”
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