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Aug 14, 2020 9:47 AM
Shortly post-Order 66, the galaxy is a very dark place (Tai and Sage self-inserts in Star Wars: Rise of the Empire Era)
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Just off the junction of the Hydian Way and the Mandalorian Road, the Taris medical research station hangs peacefully above its namesake. While terror and confusion rocks the galaxy, the relatively unimportant station, officially focused mainly on studying the Rakghoul plague, is seemingly undisturbed, business continuing on as usual under the keen eye of Dr. Natasi Finos, one of the premier biochemical experts in the galaxy. 

This scene of serenity is disturbed by the approach of a heavily modified Pathfinder-class corvette from the edge of the system. As its intended path becomes clear, station control sends out a hail to it, receiving a request to dock in return, along with the codes authorizing their request. A quick message is sent to Dr. Finos, shortly followed by orders to let them through.

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"They've sent us coordinates for docking, master," the pilot says quietly from his place at the controls. 

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"Take us in, then, Jorel," Sage tells him, stepping forward to get a good look at the station as they approach, eyes scanning the surrounding space for any sign of treachery. As they pass through the station's shields, however, they turn their head to glance at the other man in the small area behind the cockpit, concern entering their expression on seeing his own.

"How are they, Sergeant?" 

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"Only minor injuries, sir," Galvan replies, snapping to attention, only the barest hint of a waver in his voice.
At his side his fist trembled against his armour.

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"At ease, Galvan," they sigh. "After the past few days-" they shake their head. "That's good to hear. I'm sure my contact on the station will be able to provide medical attention while we look into what has happened while we were in Hyperspace." 

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"Very good, sir." He made to leave the cockpit, but hesitated, looking over his shoulder at his two Jedi.
"If I may, sir," he paused, looking down searchingly, "I suggest tempering your expectations about what we'll find when we dock. Us clones are the finest army the Galaxy has to offer, after all."
With that he left the room, hastily muttering that he ought to check on the others and inform them to prepare to disembark.

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They look away as he speaks, nodding. They are more than aware of this fact.

As he leaves, they close their eyes, straining for calm, and reach out to the presences of their people for reassurance that they, at least, are still there.

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The rest of Senth Squad waits in the central room of the ship, all crowded around a table and sitting practically thigh-to-thigh. They all look up when Galvan enters, but RC-9129, known as "Crest" to all those aboard the ship, is the one to speak up first, his hands stilling around the small piece of twisted metal in his grip while he turns his attention to their squad leader.

"Any news?"

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"Pilot's taking us to the station as we speak, all of you be ready to disembark immediately after the doors open," he announced, "once we're in the station I want us to do a full sweep of the station for any hostiles, that includes any broadcasting devices. General Sage is confident that the medical station is secure, but I want us to be prepared for anything; there's no telling if it was compromised from when they received the transmission and now."

Moving to grab his helmet and pack from where he had left it next to Snag, his eyes catch on the metal in Crest's hands.
"What've you got there Crest?"

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There's nods and affirmatives all around at these orders, and they all start moving to pull together their packs and buckets, and then double-check their weapons and equipment.

Crest lifts the object in response to the question, revealing the twisted bit of white duraplast armour. "Nothing, Sarge," he says. "Just a memento." He tucks it into a little pouch around his neck, tucking that back under his own armour. 

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There's a gentle shudder as the ship lands in the station's docking bay, and everyone disembarking heads for the ship's loading ramp. Jorel remains up in the cockpit, ready for a quick take-off if this turns out to be a trap, while Sage joins up with Senth, focusing intently on what they can sense from the bay outside.

"I don't sense any hostile intent from those waiting for us outside," they tell Galvan, noting the squad's state of readiness. "Barring a Force-wielder with better emotional shielding than my senses, I don't believe we'll find any trouble."

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"All the same sir," Galvan replied, "I'd rather we do a sweep of the station just to make sure, threats aren't always direct after all, and forgive me for assuming but I don't think droids can be said to have intent, sir." With that Galvan unholstered his blaster pistol.

"Jinx, I want you here in the hanger just in case to give the Commander a fighting chance if things go wrong," motioning first to the sniper, then to Snag at her side, "Snag as always you're her spotter, you'll remain here as well for backup, if things go wrong you're second-in-command; the rest of you, on me," and with that the remainder of Senth squad smoothly filed out of the hanger bay.

 

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Jinx nods as she tugs her helmet on, setting up at the top of the ramp for the vantage point as they go down - this leaves her more open than she'd like, but there isn't much cover to be had that would let her retreat if they need to jump out. Snag kneels at her side, blaster at the ready. 

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"True enough," they agree in response to the droid comment, "You certainly won't hear any arguments from me on the topic of ensuring our safety."

They do a quick sweep of the hangar as they head down the ramp in the rest of the squad's wake, finding nothing. As the commandos leave the hangar, Sage casts around more carefully, searching for any familiar presences. 

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Within the medical wing, Diǎnrán haunts the corridor leading to the medical bay, her fists clenching and unclenching over and over.
Casting her senses out once again, she felt her chest seize as several force signatures presented themselves.

Clones, unique in the Force, each one different but with underlying similarity like blasters that were personally modified from their factory-standard selves.
The clones were moving quickly through the station with another two near the hanger, but there was a discrepancy with the two separate clones.

She submerged herself even deeper in the Force and, ah, there was a shielded Force user in the hanger with the two clones.
A Padawan, she thought to herself. One too focused on making themselves unseen that they instead made themselves into a blank spot in the Force.

She raised a hand to open the door controls to the med bay only to find her lightsaber trembling in a white-knuckled grip. Taking a steadying breath she replaced it back onto her belt and opened the door.
Inside, Dune was sitting on a table with his back to the wall, his chest bare with bacta-patches dotting his skin, ruined pieces of beskar'gam littering the floor around him. He had his blaster disassembled and was mechanically cleaning each part, his modified slug pistol sitting next to his thigh, easily within reach.

In another corner, Dr. Natasi fiddled with a panel connected to a series of wires to a tank of bacta.

"Doctor," she called out, "it seems those friends of yours you mentioned have docked."

Finally unable to ignore the elephant in the room anymore, she strode over to the bacta tank; her eyes flickering to how Dune had started reassembling his blaster at the mention of new arrivals.
Placing her hand on the cold glass, she sighed.

"Oh Padawan."

She felt for her Padawan's presence, muted with unconsciousness and weak from her injuries, but stable within the tank of bacta.

Drawing in a fortifying breath, taking comfort in the Force signature in front of her, diminished as it was, and in the signature achingly far away, weak and distant but still alive.

"Shall we greet our new arrivals?"

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Natasi looks up from the panel at her words, "Ah, they have, have they? What can you sense of them?" She asks, both curious and cautious, "I'm expecting a pair of Jedi on the ship in question." 

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"Five clones and a Padawan," Diǎnrán replied. Submersing herself in the Force once again, she made another scan.

"The Padawan seems...tense, or anxious, They're so focused on hiding themselves from me that they're a blank spot, or they simply aren't good at hiding themselves," she paused, "the clones are shaken, one of them in particular."

"It's strange," she continued lowly, "the Padawan is between two clones but they aren't trying to run, a stowaway perhaps; and I sense...." Trailing off, she paused to confirm her suspicions before continuing, her brows furrowed in concentration, "I sense a shimmer in the Force heading this way. Someone with very strong shielding, the Padawan's Master."

Looking up back at Dr. Natasi, she finished off with, "I suppose that fits your expected guests, doctor."

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"Or a trap with two hostile Force users and five elite clones," Dune interjected, "the clones are an unknown and the General wasn't able to sense the Force users' intentions."

"And all clones would be shaken after this whole thing, even if they're still under Orders," he finished off, loading a fresh magazine into his blaster with an emphatic click.

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"It could be a trap, Commander, but the Force users at least fit what I know of those I was expecting. Knight Senetti and their Padawan, Jorel Drettz - I'm sure you met them during the siege of the Ord Cestus medical center, Master Jedi, if only briefly," she adds to Diǎnrán. "Most of the work they've been doing has been with Intelligence. I have no idea why they would have willingly brought those Clones along, however. We should be on our guard until we have an explanation." 

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"Knight Sage and Padawan Jorel would be able to hide themselves from my senses, and Senth squad matches the number of clones I sense now," Diǎnrán replied, tightening her arm guard, "all the same, they may have been captured and interrogated. I suggest you remain behind in the med bay until we ascertain their intentions, doctor."

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"A wise plan," she agrees. 

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"Commander, on my six," Diǎnrán commands before heading out the door, the comforting muted thumps of beskar boots echoing her steps.

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Sage pulls up short as they sense those two semi-familiar presences start heading their way. The Jedi's emotions are not easily sensed, but they can at least feel the turmoil they are in beyond their shields. The clone, however, is easy to sense, and has none of that mechanical-slippery feeling those they'd run into during their escape from Coruscant had displayed. They wonder why - had they broken the brainwashing as Senth had? But then, if all six of the clones aboard the station had managed it, why had none of the others they'd encountered?

Still pondering this, they tuck themselves into a sheltered spot to wait for the pair to arrive, lowering their cloak and shields just the slightest amount to allow the Jedi a better sense of their general location, if not their specific hiding place.

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"The Master's shields have dipped, Commander," Diǎnrán informed Dune lowly, "they're just outside the corridor leading to the hanger. The clones are sweeping the hanger control room, we'll confront the Master first."

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"Understood, Ma'am," Dune replied, holstering his blaster across his back in favour of drawing his slug pistol and reinforced vibroblade.

As they reached the junction to the corridor in question, Dune slowed his pace to lengthen the distance between himself and his Jedi and give himself a better shot in case of an ambush.

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"How many times have I told you to call me Diǎnrán, you clones are so stubborn," she sighed fondly, though without her usual accompanying humour.

Reaching the junction, she gripped both her light sabers and rounded the corner, igniting them as she went, casting the metal and herself in a jaundiced hue.

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