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Tales of the Galactic Empire

Survivor

By G. A. Thrawn


This is the story of one man’s survival on a dangerous and enemy occupied planet. Stranded on the fourth moon of Yavin shortly after the Battle of Yavin, Colonel Maximilian Veers must survive the harsh jungle and avoid capture by the fleeing Rebel Alliance. Can he survive and stay free until the Imperial fleet arrives?

Part I

Stranded

Chapter I - Evacuate

DAY ONE

“Are you certain?” Colonel Veers questioned the technician currently hunched over a flat data screen imbedded into a console. It currently showed a two-dimensional image of the Death Star’s layout and a red line highlighted a trench in the Northern Hemisphere, a trench that was currently witnessing a space battle between Imperial and Rebel starfighters. The very same Rebel starfighters had a certain interest with the trench.

Veers had heard several reports from the TIE Ops Center that several starfighters had dove into the trench on a strafing run. But they weren’t attacking the surface, just flying and following the trench. To where, the Colonel feared the worse.

“Yes, Colonel.” The technician replied. “If the Rebels continue to fly along the trench they will come across a thermal exhaust port. It is one of the station’s critical ports that dispel the heat directly from the core. It is ray shielded so their lasers won’t do any good, but the thermal exhaust port was not equipped with a particle shield since it would prevent the exhaust port from doing its primary job, dissipating the heat.”

“Could the Rebels shoot a proton torpedo into the exhaust port?” Veers asked, his worse fears suddenly coming true.

“It is possible sir, but highly unlikely.”

“What would happen should a Rebel succeed?”

“It would uh…in theory…destroy the station.” The technician stumbled over his answer in disbelief. The very idea that a single proton torpedo could possibly destroy this station, the ultimate power of the Galactic Empire, was nearly impossible to believe.

But Colonel Veers believed it and feared that is what the Rebels were aiming to accomplish. Why else would they send all of their starfighters against something the size of a small moon, knowing they would just be committing suicide, unless they had found a critical weakness?

“Chief Bast!” Veers called out urgently and against proper procedure.To hell with procedure.He thought as Chief Bast, the head of the Death Star’s engineering and technical staff, approached the Colonel and the technician.

“Yes, Colonel, what is it?” Bast sounded unhappy that he was being disturbed from whatever he was doing a moment ago.

“Sir, I believe we found what the Rebels are trying to do.” Colonel Veers and the technician then quickly explained what they both had discovered. Chief Bast’s face blanched at the revelation. The same idea had never crossed his mind just like everyone else onboard the station.

Except for Colonel Veers and a very few others.

It was his job to analyze the enemy’s attack strategy and find a counter-strategy, then deploy it through whatever resources he or his superiors had available. Although he was an officer of the Army, he was on board a space station and therefore it was his responsibility to defend it. Even though the battle being fought was in space.

“Sir, I suggest we evacuate as many personnel and soldiers as possible just in case they do succeed in destroying the station.” Veers suggested.Better safe than sorry. He thought.

“I agree. I’ll go and inform the Governor of your discovery.” Bast replied and left to talk to Tarkin.

A minute later Chief Bast returned to the Colonel’s side. He didn’t look too pleased about something. “The Governor has denied an immediate evacuation. He thinks we overestimate their chances.”

“His stubbornness is going to get us all killed.” Veers replied quietly. “We should evacuate just in case.”

“I do have the authority to evacuate my people, but as for the troopers and everyone else. Its up to General Tagge or Admiral Motti.”

“Is something wrong, gentlemen?” The voice of General Tagge asked. Colonel Veers cleared his throat, knowing that Tagge would listen to him since it was he who strongly feared that the Rebels could find a weakness in the station. Veers explained that weakness to the man.

“I see. Has the Governor been informed?”

“Yes, but he refuses to evacuate.” Bast answered.

“Do you strongly believe that the Rebels will succeed?” Tagge asked. It was proper procedure to get as much information as possible before making a decision on an order, such as evacuating a space station that has one in a million chance of being destroyed.

“Yes.” Bast answered before Colonel Veers could. “All it takes is one torpedo to get through and we are all gone.”

Tagge nods in agreement. For the next thirty seconds he looked thoughtful as he decided on whether to make the call or not. After half a minute later he gave his answer. “We evacuate.”

“Yes, sir.” Both men acknowledged in union.

Veers turned to the technician. “Are you critically needed to run the station?” He asked and the technician shook his head no in reply. "Then get to an escape pod or a shuttle.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Commander!” General Tagge called.

“Sir?”

“Order an evacuation of the station. All non-essential personnel are to leave the station and assume a polar orbit around Yavin until either the danger has passed or the fleet arrives.”

“Yes, General, sir.” The commander replied slightly confused, but followed his orders to the letter.

“General! Lord Vader reports there are three starfighters attempting an attack run in the trench.” A TIE Ops officer reports.

“T-minus five minutes until planetary target is within range.” A monotone voice over the speaker system announced, soon followed by the shrill sirens of the evacuation alarms and the voice of the commander.

“All non-essential personnel are to evacuate the station. I repeat all non-essential personnel are to evacuate the station.”

“It’s time we go, Colonel.” Chief Bast said, then as an after thought he turns to the General. “Sir, will you be joining us?”

“No, I’ll stay with the Governor as long as possible.”

“Very well, sir.” Colonel Veers said, disappointed, and then left the General to evacuate.

Chapter II - Crash Landing

T-minus thirty seconds and counting.” The intercom of the Imperial shuttle announced just as it began an approach vector toward Yavin that would put it in a polar orbit. Colonel Maximilian Veers glanced eagerly out the portside window to see if he could see the space battle above the station.

I have you now!”Exclaimed the mechanical voice of Lord Vader. Veers saw a series of green flashes and then a small explosion as a starfighter blew up.“What the…?”

Look out!” Another tiny explosion was seen and then all comm traffic ceased from the TIE fighters.

You’re all clear kid! Take the shot and let’s go home!”An unidentified voice exclaimed in excitement followed by a very familiar Wookiee howl.

After a moment of silence the same voice returned over the comm system.“Great shot kid, that was one in a million!”

“Oh no.” Veers whispered, fearing the worse has just happened. “By the Emperor, please don’t let it be true.”

But it was. The Rebels had succeeded in doing the impossible.

The Death Star exploded in a fiery display.

All aboard the vessel stared in shock and horror at the tragedy that they were witnessing. None paid attention to the sudden approach of the super-sonic shockwave until it was nearly on top of them.

“Evasive actions!” Veers exclaimed and clutched tightly onto his restraints just as the shockwave impacted against the shuttlecraft. His teeth clicked together sharply and rattled along with every mechanical part of the shuttle. The stars and the gas giant outside swirled past the viewscreen several times, making the Colonel dizzy and sick to the stomach.

If I wanted to ride a maglev-coaster I would have stayed home with Zevulon and took him to the amusement park! Ugh, make it stop already!He thought sarcastically, the contents of his stomach trying to fight its way up.

“I think I’m gonna puke!” A young enlistee in the back of the shuttle moaned and the sounds of someone regurgitating soon followed.

Lights in the cabin of the shuttle flickered on and off. The sounds of metal under stress echoed throughout the ship, sending new fears into all of its passengers. If the joy ride didn’t stop any time soon, the pressure of the shockwave would tear the ship apart.

Colonel Veers clenched his eyes tight and gripped harder onto his restraints. Images of his family and his life flashed before him as he thought this would be his last flight through space. He didn’t want to go this way. He had his own death planned out for him, he wanted to die in retirement on some backwater world doing who knows what retired officers do or die in the glory of battle on the ground.

Not like this.

When he thought the shuttle was about to split apart, he felt himself shoved into his seat as if 4Gs were pressing against him, pinning his entire body in place. Then the creaking sounds of metal and the emergency wail of the collision alarm ceased abruptly.

It took him a moment to realize that the ride had stopped and longer to understand why he felt lighter than air.The inertial dampeners must be damaged. He concluded silently to himself and then out loud he said: “Everyone alright?”

His answers were several miserable groans.

Veers unhooked himself from his seat and floated freely out of it. Using the back of the chair as a push board, he flew for the cockpit to check on the pilots. Halting himself between the doorframe he could already see that one of the pilots had fainted and the other was holding his stomach groaning.

“Can this thing still fly?” He asked as soon as the conscious pilot pulled himself together. The pilot obediently began to do a systems check on the vessel. After what seemed like an eternity he came up with the answer.

It wasn’t one Veers was looking for.

“We can still fly, sir. But the hyperdrive has been damaged.” The pilot answered. “We’re stuck until the fleet arrives.” The pilot hesitated whatever he was going to add to the end of the sentence.

“What else?” Veers reluctantly asked.

“We also have been knocked off our original course straight for the jungle moon and life support is down to 40%.” The pilot answered again. “If the fleet doesn’t get here any time soon we’ll have to land on Yavin IV.”

“Full of Rebel terrorists that would gladly kill us or capture us.” Veers added diffidently. He was just about to leave the cockpit to check on the passengers when a light on the console in front of the co-pilot began demanding for someone’s attention. “What now?”

“Starfighters!” The pilot announced. “They are heading straight for us!”

“Get us out of here!” Veers ordered forcefully and only had enough time to push himself down into the seat behind the pilot before the man jerked the shuttle sharply away from the gas giant and directly for… “Where are you going?”

“We can’t go anywhere else but to the moon. Its our only chance, sir.”

Ruby red laser blasts silenced Veers complaint about going further into enemy territory. Again the Colonel found himself in another ride as the shuttle, without an inertial dampener, juked and jinked to avoid enemy fire. The jungle moon of Yavin grew larger as the pilot raced for safety.

An X-wing starfighter overshot the shuttlecraft and into the sights of the Imperial vessel. It turned sharply to port and came around for another pass, four ruby laser blasts impacted into the side of the shuttle. Knocking Veers into the side of his seat roughly.

“Can’t this thing go any faster?” Veers complained.

“I’m putting everything I can into it. Shields are down 68%.” The pilot informed out of habit then pulled the shuttle into a thirty-degree decent as soon as it began to enter the moon’s atmosphere. The starfighters relentlessly pursued them, hammering away at the rear shielding of the vessel.

Something in the back of the shuttle exploded and smoke began to fill the cabin. Veers coughed and choked on the filthy air and glanced up to stare out the viewscreen of the cockpit. Before them and rapidly approaching was the canopy of the jungle treetops.

Oh kriff!They were his last thoughts before the smoking vessel crashed to the surface.

Chapter III - Piranha Attack

Something like a cricket chirped in his right ear.Odd sound to hear on the Death Star.Colonel Veers thought and coughed a couple times.I should have that checked.He slowly opened his eyes and then shut them again as acrid smoked filled air stung them.

Another spasm of coughs and chokes racked at his lungs as he continued to breathe in the toxic fumes.Smoke?Veers tried to move but found something was holding his legs down. He opened his eyes and squinted to see where he was and what was holding him down.

Pale light filtered through the wreckage that was all around him. A gentle breeze temporarily cleared the air in front of him but it didn’t last long enough as much as he would have liked it too. Specks of dirt blew into his face and he coughed again.

“W…what happened?” His voice was hoarse and his mouth was dry. He tried to remember the last thing he was doing. Vague images of an enormous explosion and an X-wing flashed past his mental field of vision. And a single word seemed to annoyingly repeat in his mind.

Evacuate.

Then it all came back to him and Veers realized where he was. “Help!” He called out but his cry for help was only answered by the silence of the jungle forest outside. He took a look at his situation and was thankful that the shuttle wasn’t currently on fire. Though he didn’t know how long that would last.

He attempted to move his legs and found that the console of the cockpit had pinned them to the floor. He scowled as he wondered what happened to the pilot and copilot. But when he tried to free a leg, twisting his body in the process his face came face to face with the pilot’s.

He pulled back as far as his pinned legs would let him in shock and horror. The pilot’s face was marred with large bleeding gashes and tiny pieces of debris either from tree branches or the shattered viewscreen. If the pilot hadn’t worn the insignia that gave him his rank, Veers would not have known which of the two he was since his face was completely unrecognizable.

“Mother of skies.” He mumbled in half shock. Something dripped past his field of vision of his left eye and it took him a moment to notice the tickling sensation of something trickling down his forehead.

When he removed his hand from his scalp it was covered in red and very warm.I’m bleeding. I have to get out of here. Who knows what kind of predators this moon has.

The Colonel tested either of his legs to see if they were broken or in pain. The only thing he could feel was the pressure of the console weighing down on his limbs. Veers twisted and pulled gently until he had one leg free then carefully freed his remaining leg.

He coughed and choked again from the smoke a couple more times as he tried to push what looked like to be the stabilizer fin of the shuttle off of the gapping hole that use to be the viewscreen. The heavy metal budged a few centimeters and he was just about to give up when he gave his last push all he had and the fin slid off of the crushed nose of the shuttle. The fin crashed loudly to the ground and tilted wildly before coming back to bang against the shuttle nose.

Veers stumbled out of the ruined cockpit and into fresher air. Smoke gently rolled out of the rubble behind him in a northeasterly direction as he slowly stood atop of the wreckage and studied his surroundings.

Parts of the jungle had once been on fire but the heavy moisture in the air kept that fire from spreading to other parts of the jungle. To the east he could hear the trickling sound of water flowing.A river no doubt.

He could see through the pillars of smoke behind the shuttle the deep gouge the craft made when it crashed and slid across the earth. Bits and pieces of the shuttle were strewn all over the place; some even hung limply from tree branches.

“What a mess.” He sighed in frustration. Veers then took deep lung fulls of the fresh air, which caused him to cough a couple times from the stabbing pain he felt in his bruised ribs, before making his way down the side of the shuttle. He had to see if anyone else had survived the crash.

He was pulling away at a loose sheet of metal when he thought he heard someone moan inside. “Hello?” He called out. “Can you hear me?”

No response.

Veers pulled harder against the hull until he had a large enough opening for a man to slip through. “Hello?” He repeated as he slipped through. It was a tight squeeze and was forced to sacrifice his uniform jacket as it caught on a jagged edge and ripped. He didn’t care about that at the moment, the only thing that was on his mind was getting to the person he thought was still alive.

He made it through without any further problems and had to crouch in order to make his way to a human half buried beneath slabs of metal and seats. The human was a young male and Veers was saddened that such a young person had to die this way. The Colonel removed his fingers from the man's neck and lifted his gaze at the sound of a groan.

“Can you hear me?” He repeated. “If you can’t speak give me a sign that you can hear me, please.” He didn’t hear it at first but after a second he recognized the sound of someone tapping metal against metal.

Colonel Veers followed the sound until he found himself closer to the rear of the shuttle, or at least what would have been the rear. Earth had piled up inside the back and buried parts of the shuttle. The sound seemed to be coming from a portion of the shuttle that was half buried.

“I’m coming, just hold on!” He shouted and began digging away at the mound of dirt. Smoke once again began to fill the inside of the shuttle and it felt hotter than the smoke he breathed back at the cockpit. That only meant a fire was beginning to break out.

Veers coughed and wondered what kind of affect this was going to have on his lungs in the future as he continued to dig through the dirt until his fingers scraped up against metal and flesh.

He grabbed what was an arm with one hand and pulled at the metal with another. Occasionally he had to resume digging in order to move the slab. He continued at this task until he had a coughing face emerge.

“Are you alright?” Veers felt stupid asking that question when the man he just unburied had been buried and covered in dirt mixed blood.

“C…Colonel?” The man sputtered in a dazed voice. “W…what happened?”

“You’ll be alright…” He paused as he looked for the man’s rank but found his chest bare of the insignia. Instead he opted to repeat himself. “You’ll be alright.”

“I can’t feel anything, sir.” Veers frowned while he continued to unbury the Imperial.

“Explain.” He said and listened to the Imperial’s, whose name he would later learn was Lt. Pliskin, description of his injuries that he couldn’t feel.Paralysis, waist down. Veers concluded sadly after listening.

“Am I going to live, Colonel?” Pliskin asked in a tired voice.

Veers swallowed tightly. How was he supposed to tell him that he was or wasn’t going to make it? He wasn’t a doctor and hadn’t had the chance to see the Lieutenant’s complete injuries yet.

“It’s too early to tell.” Veers replied. “Come on, let’s get you out of here before we both die from smoke inhalation.” Veers pulled Pliskin from the pile by the shoulders back toward the hole he had made in the side of the shuttle. He had a difficult time trying to make it easy on the Lieutenant when it came to squeezing him through the hole, but he made it through without furthering more damage to his already battered body.

“What’s that sound?” Pliskin inquired and looked up to the sky.

“What sound?” Veers asked and cocked his head. He had feared the Rebels might send a party to see if anyone survived the crash, but he didn’t hear anything similar to an ion engine.

“It sounds like a buzz. Like a Stinger Fly.” Pliskin answered. Veers scowled and strained to listen. He could hear something far off in the distance that did resemble the sound of a Stinger Fly buzzing about its nest.

“I don’t know.” Veers sounded worried. He hoped it was nothing but being on a planet with animal life he was unaware of made him nervous. He wanted to get away from the wreckage as far as possibly, mostly though to avoid the Rebels than any predators that could be lurking about.

The Imperial Army officer lifted Pliskin into his arms and began walking away when the buzzing sound steadily grew louder and from the northeasterly direction.

“It’s getting closer.” Pliskin’s voice sounded frightened. Veers couldn’t blame him for it. He was also afraid. Afraid to find out what the source of the buzzing was. “I think we should get away from here.”

“Agreed.”

Veers was only able to walk a few paces when the first signs of the buzzing appeared at the edge of the crash site in the tree canopy. Small insect like creatures that reminded Veers of Sand Beetles began to swarm overhead and quickly descend for the shuttle.

“Piranha Beetles!” The Colonel exclaimed. He had heard about them back on Coruscant while watching a Biology channel. They traveled in swarms and ate anything that got in their way. They also had an olfactory sense a million times more sensitive than humans and therefore could smell the scent of blood miles away.

And we’re covered in it!Veers panicked as soon as he saw the swarm split in half, one half consuming the shuttle remains and the other half-approaching Pliskin and him. He didn’t hesitate like most men would have. As soon as he saw he was in danger he began to run away from the tiny predators, Pliskin in his arms.

“They’re gaining!” Pliskin informed, his voice completely filled with fear.

“Don’t remind me!” Veers exclaimed. The buzzing reminder was enough. He didn’t need Pliskin to tell him that they were right behind him and gaining. He hadn’t realized where he was going; there was no time to think about what to do, until he began splashing through a shallow river.

An idea hit him like a maglev train. “Hold your breath!” He ordered and took a deep breath before ducking beneath the surface of the water. The buzzing sound of the beetles was muffled beneath the surface and both Imperials could make out the dark swarm above them.

Veers hoped that the beetles didn't know how to swim otherwise he and Pliskin were good as dead. He also didn't know how long either of them could hold their breath underwater before the beetles gave up on them.

Then Pliskin began squeezing Veers’ shoulder hard. He was running out of air and so was Veers. Worse, some of the beetles, driven by the suicidal desire to reach them, began diving into the water after them.

Chapter IV - Another One Bites the Dust

Colonel Veers mentally sighed in relief when he discovered that the beetles were killing themselves. He and Pliskin were fortunate enough to have been too far below the surface of the water for the beetles to reach them. Through blurred vision, Veers could make out the swarm slowly dissipating into nothing as the carnivorous insects gave up on prey they had thought would be easy.

Once Veers was certain the predators were gone, both emerged from beneath the surface gasping for lung fulls of air. Colonel Veers then warily searched for any sign of the beetles but only heard the distant sound of their buzzing. He sighed in relief now that he was out of immediate danger.

Worried that the Piranha Beetles might return once he and Pliskin left the river; Veers decided that it would be safest to travel by water until he was certain that the things had left the area. He also did not want to be visible just in case the Rebels were looking for them.

Maximilian Veers glanced above him at the treetops, doubt clouding his judgment that the Rebels could see them through the thick canopy above. But he didn’t want to take the risk.

“We’ll rest here.” Veers told Pliskin after he found and moved to hide underneath a half rotten log sticking out from the bank and covered in algae and moss. The log would hide them from Rebel eyes and the water would wash away any scent of blood from them, therefore keeping the Piranha Beetles away.

“I don’t feel so good.” Pliskin complained and shivered. Veers’ eyes fell downward to stare at a streak of red liquid flowing down river before disappearing a couple meters away. He glanced at his own hands and saw red bloodstains that were not washed away, in the creases of the joints and palm print.

“Just hold on.” Veers encouraged, his voice sounding worried for the life of the Lieutenant. Carefully he settled Pliskin’s feet to the muddy ground of the river while he held onto him with one arm and wrapped one of the Lieutenant’s arms around his shoulders.

Veers could feel the injury beneath his arm and knew there was nothing he could do for him. Sometime during the crash Pliskin must have fallen on a steel beam that slashed into his back, severing his spinal cord and leaving behind a large gash.

“What is your name?” Veers asked, he wanted to keep the young officer awake. The Colonel thought that if he could last long enough for him to carry back to the shuttle, he could find a medical kit and patch up the injury as best he could. But he couldn’t do that now so long as the beetles remained devouring the remains of his comrades.

“Lieutenant Andrew Pliskin, sir.” He replied in a small and tired voice. His head dipped forward slightly and he caught himself in time to straighten.

“What were you doing on the Death Star?” Veers adjusted the Lieutenant so that Pliskin could lean against him more comfortably and lessen the pain he was no doubt feeling in his back above the severed spinal cord.

“I was...I was a technician in the...” Pliskin trailed off abruptly. Colonel Veers frowned and gently nudged the young man.

“Lieutenant?” He quietly called. His voice sounded uncertain. Alarms began to go off inside his head. He called more loudly next time. “Pliskin!” Veers’ free hand shot straight for the man’s pulse. “Wake up, please!” Colonel Veers pleaded, his voice quivering, as his fingers found nothing along the main artery in the neck.

“No.” Veers whispered in disbelief. He closed his eyes and rested his head against the rotting log, holding the limp form of Pliskin in his arms, and silently grieving that he had lost another colleague to the Rebellion.

Chapter V - Skulls & Bones

A mound of stone and a make shift tombstone were the only signs that Lieutenant Andrew Pliskin had ever existed. Colonel Maximilian Veers stood over the gravesite in solemn silence. It had been several hours since the Piranha Beetle attack and he had no fear of attracting their attention again anytime soon.

During that time he had waited in a river beneath a rotting log, holding onto the prone form of Pliskin and once he was certain the buzzing had completely ceased to be heard by human hearing, he emerged to bury the young man. He had painstakingly collected rocks and small boulders from the riverbank all around and carefully arranged the burial mound of a proud and heroic soldier of the Empire.

Colonel Veers' absentmindedly rubbed an emblem patch of the Empire between thumb and forefinger. A symbol that stood for the order of the New Order that had superseded the Old Republic. An emblem that held pride and honor for the Imperial war machine. Delicately he placed the patch onto the capstone of the grave and held it in place with a tiny rock.

“Lieutenant Andrew Pliskin, you have served your Emperor in more ways than one. You will not be forgotten, I swear it on my own honor.” Colonel Veers straightened his posture proudly, clicked his heels together and saluted to the lost Lieutenant.

He was now alone on a hostile world full of things that would want to eat him and traitors that would want to either kill or capture him. He was wet and cold and he felt like the first signs of hypothermia were setting in his bones.

And he had the galaxy’s worse migraine.

Veers rubbed his throbbing temple, grimaced and pulled away a bloodied hand. He had forgotten that he had been injured in the crash himself. His pained breathing reminded him of his bruised ribs, as if the revelation of his head injury had made him once again aware of his own body.

I need a medkit. He told himself and wondered if one had really survived the crash of the shuttle. Then he remembered about the others and a new sadness enveloped him as he realized no one could have survived the veracious hunger of the Piranha Beetles.

Colonel Veers slowly made his way back to the crash site all the while thinking about his colleagues and how many of them were alive when the carnivorous insects came down upon them. He shook his head of the vivid thoughts; he did not want to depress himself by continuing to live in the past.

But the smell of Death would not let it go by that easily.

As Veers approached closer to the remains of the shuttlecraft, the air around it reeked of death. He could feel it permeate through his flesh and down to his own bones. Veers shivered in response to the frigid atmosphere. He wanted to leave this area for more reasons than just the Rebels.

He had seen soldiers die in front of him. He had glimpsed at the agony of men who Death would not take quickly. He had seen and faced Death many times himself but nothing he had experienced in the past could prepare him for what he saw now as he crawled his way back inside the shuttle in search of a medical kit.

Skulls and bones greeted his return.

“Sithspawn.” He whispered in complete and terrifying horror as he stared at a slacked jaw skull staring out at him with eyeless sockets. He felt like he was in the middle of a horror holovid, no matter where he turned, he saw skeletons in tattered and torn uniforms. Some were missing their skulls; others’ were missing limbs and pieces of limbs and other parts.

Colonel Veers moved away from the skeletal remains of the pilot and bumped into something that gently rested on his right shoulder. Already terrified, he pulled away from the object that landed on his shoulder. The bones of a forearm clattered to the dirt covered plastisteel floor.

Veers completely forgot about the medical kit as he hastily scrambled his way out of the shuttle in fright. Never had he ever had to experience this in his entire career in the Imperial Army. Basic training had not and could not prepare him for the sights he saw back in the shuttle.

Chapter VI - Rebel Sighting

Colonel Maximilian Veers refused to return to the shuttle, even for a medical kit. He did not want to face the remains of his comrades or smell the stench that was no doubt by now hovering over the entire area. The past events had left him shaken, unusual for a man of his caliber.

Vigorously he dowsed his face in cold, river water to wash away the dried blood from his face and head, as well as the vivid images. The cold, unsanitary water stung at his wound sharply but he ignored it and preferred the annoyance to the visions that kept swimming before him.

Once he was certain that his head wound was clean, he pulled off his torn uniform jacket and began ripping away at it until he had thick and wide strips of cloth. Expertly he wrapped the wound with the strips until he looked like a tired, dirty, and wounded soldier from the Clone Wars holomovies, in his water reflection.

I am a tired, dirty, and wounded soldier.He laughed gloomily at his own rippling reflection. Veers sat back on the edge of the riverbank and just stared out into space. Only now did he have the time to finally fully grasp his hapless situation.

“Let me rephrase that, I am a tired, dirty, wounded,and stranded soldier.” He groaned at his hopelessness. Veers knew that the Imperial Fleet was coming, once it realized that the Death Star was no longer making or receiving any more communications. But the chances of the fleet finding him on a jungle covered and Rebel-infested planet was next to nil.

“Unless, I make my way to those stone monoliths I saw earlier. When the fleet arrives, the Rebels should be either gone or defeated.” He vaguely remembered getting a glimpse of a set of golden colored stone temples before the disastrous crash. Slowly he stood up and searched in all directions as to which way the structures were located.

He visualized the trajectory of the shuttle and which direction he remembered seeing the temples. Veers scowled in frustration when he realized he wasn’t absolutely certain as to which direction was right.

“Kriff it!” He hollered and kicked at the muddy riverbank, sending clods of mud into the gentle flowing river. After the brief spurt of his temper he slowly began to calm himself. “Take it easy, Maximilian, just stay with the...”

Then he heard it.

It was faint at first and then grew louder as it approached. At first, Colonel Veers thought the Piranha Beetles were returning and then he distinguished the distinct sound of an ion engine. The stranded Imperial began to run back toward the shuttle in hopes of a rescue, but after the first few meters he came to a dead stop. A new type of fear etched across his tired visage.

“Rebels.” He muttered as he turned and ran away from the crash site. He splashed his way across the river to the other side and into the tree line of the jungle. Veers tried to make himself smaller and unnoticeable by lying flat on his stomach.

He did not want to leave the area since he didn’t know which way the temples were located. His only chance of rescue was the hope that the Imperial fleet would spot the earthly scar of the crash from orbit.

The noisy craft slowly flew overhead, barely skimming the tree canopy, from the south-southwesterly direction. It was just about the same direction, which the Imperial shuttle had made it’s deadly crash from. Veers heart fluttered in both adrenaline-induced excitement and a new hope that he could be rescued sooner and easier than just staying around the downed craft.

The Rebel craft came into full view as it began its descent over the crash site. It was Veers realized, a stolen Imperial shuttle bearing the insignia of the Rebel Alliance. Unconsciously he pressed his body further into the moist dirt of the forest floor as he waited for the same craft to leave in conclusion that no one survived.

Then a new idea came to him. What if he could capture the shuttle and make his way back to Imperial held territory? He knew he might be branded a hero and survivor of a disastrous battle against the Rebel terrorists. He wondered what the Imperial Gold Cross would feel like around his neck.Probably just like every other medal I had received.

He made up his mind, he would try and steal the shuttle and in the process kill the Rebels that arrived with it. After all, he owed it to the millions of soldiers and civilian workers that died on the space station, including Lieutenant Pliskin.

Then as he moved to grab for his pistol, he found the leather holster empty of the DL-44 BlasTech. Veers dark blue eyes glanced to his side in dismay. Now how was he supposed to defeat the Rebel search party without a blaster?

“The tracks lead this way.” Someone said on the other side of the river just out of sight. Veers craned his neck to get a better view and spotted a group of three Rebels following something along the ground.

They’re following my footprints!

One member of the group pointed ahead and the Colonel held his breath as they briskly approached the grave of Lieutenant Pliskin. A blonde human picked up the emblem patch and flipped it over in his hand with scrutiny.

“Someone has survived.” He said to the others.

“But there were only one set of footprints?” Protested a younger Rebel in status quo orange flight suit of Rebel pilots. Veers snickered at the stupidity of the young man and wished all Rebels were just as incompetent.

“Then how do you explain a dead body buried underneath rocks?” The third member pointed out after removing several of the stones. Colonel Veers hissed at the audacity of the Rebels to disturb the grave of a dead man, especially that of an Imperial officer. “No way a dead man could bury himself like this.”

“Oh. You do have a point.” The young pilot admitted embarrassed by his own ignorance. Veers wondered how such an imbecile could make it to be a pilot.

“Look here.” The leader of the group pointed at a set of impressions in the ground. “The tracks lead back into the forest toward the shuttle.” The Rebel stood from his kneeling position and looked ahead, than pointed again. “And there, they return to the river.”

Veers heart raced as he realized the Rebels were tracking him. He grimaced at his own stupidity for leaving his tracks so easily visible. The three Rebels followed his trail to the embankment of the river, the leader knelt down and scooped up a handful of dirt and let it fall through his fingers.

“Our mystery survivor is injured and nearby. The blood here is still fresh.” The tracking Rebel stated for his companions, his gaze followed along the opposite tree line until both Veers’ and the Rebel’s eyes met.

It was only sheer will that prevented the Colonel from getting up and run from his hidden position. He softly let out his breath that he had forgotten he was holding as the Rebel turned away from the forest.

“The tracks end here. I’m going to cross to see if they start again on the other side.” Colonel Veers groaned in dismay as he watched the Rebel pace back and forth along side the riverbank in search of the trail.

“Find anything?” The young pilot inquired and the Rebel leader nodded, waving for them to join him on the other side.

“Yeah and I think he knows we’re here.” The Rebel replied and explained to his companions how the stride of the tracks was wider than the ones on the other side of the river, indicating that the owner was running.

The three Rebels straightened and each pulled their sidearm free of the holster.

Colonel Veers cautiously glanced around his surroundings and hoped his hiding spot hid him well. He did not need the Rebels to find him, even though it meant he would no longer be stranded on the mud ball of a planet. Seriously though, he would rather be captured than live the rest of his life here. At least his chances of escaping the Rebels were better than being rescued on a jungle covered, backwater, and piranha beetle infested planet.

The leader, the blonde, and the pilot began to make their way toward the Colonel’s position, unaware how close they were to the sole surviving Imperial.

Chapter VII - Die Rebel Die!

Colonel Veers held his breath as the blonde was nearly on top of him. If the Rebel came any closer, no matter how well he was hidden, Veers knew that the Rebel would discover someone was hiding. And that would be bad news for him. He did not want his cover blown so early, not until he made the first move anyway.

Veers waited patiently all the while his heart raced inside his chest. Vivid images from basic training came back at him at the most inappropriate time. He recalled doing something very similar in the forest terrain of Carida, something his instructors had called ‘The Breakdown’. It was a three-week exercise where new recruits were forced to put to test all the skills they had learned in the first six months of training. It put a lot of mental and physical strain on the recruit until they broke down.

A mock battle would be fought against experienced Imperial soldiers and voluntary civilians. The objective of the exercise was to not only survive but to defeat the enemy and apprehend the mock garrison they were holding. He had survived the battle and was one of ten cadets who had raised the Imperial flag at the base. Veers believed it had been the most exhilarating experience he had ever gone through.

The blonde Rebel turned his back to Veers. It was the moment he was waiting for. Without hesitating, Veers lunged out of his hidden spot on to the back of the Rebel. Both men fell toward the muddy ground of the Yavin jungle.

“Help!” Cried the Rebel as Veers pounded a fist repeatedly into the human’s face all the while he wrestled for the blaster. Colonel Veers could hear over the struggle the two other Rebels rushing through the forest to reach their fallen comrade.

Blonde smashed his own fist into Veers face, sending him sprawling onto his back. The Rebel than moved to tackle the fallen Imperial, but a red flash of light and a smoking hole in his chest a split second later stopped him dead in his tracks.

Colonel Veers scrambled to his feet, a smoking blaster in his right hand at his side, just in time as the other two Rebels emerged from the forest.

“Stop!” Cried the leader and fired a shot at the fleeing Colonel. The energy bolt sped past Veers, narrowly missing him by half a foot. By the time the Rebels began chasing after the Colonel, his uniform had allowed him to blend into the greenery, allowing him to disappear momentarily.

Long enough for him to take advantage and flank the two remaining Rebels.

“Where did he go?” The Rebel pilot inquired loud enough for anything to find him easily.Keep it up, foolish Rebel. Veers beckoned, smiling deviously as the pilot did as he silently commanded. “No way he could have disappeared that easily.”

“Shush, or he’ll find us.” Snapped the leader in a much quieter tone.

Veers inched his way quietly toward the group until he spotted the pilot.Turn your back.He pleaded and found himself to be lucky that fate was with him, for the Rebel pilot did turn his back to the Colonel. Maximilian Veers slowly stood from his position, blaster extended out and fired into the young pilot’s back.

Already the last remaining Rebel was turning just as his companion’s body began to fall to the ground. But he wasn’t fast enough to bring up his own blaster and return fire. He too joined his two dead comrades with a smoking hole in the middle of his skull.

Colonel Veers leaned against a fat tree trunk littered with protruding step-like fungi. He took several deep full breaths of the air. He sneezed at the smell of burnt ozone and flesh, or was it from the fungi behind him? He didn’t know but he still took steps to avoid the fungi just in case he actually was allergic to the organism.

Veers wanted to rest after the small firefight he had with the Rebels, but he knew he couldn’t stay around for very long. He didn’t know how many Rebels were in the shuttle and he certainly did not want to find out right away and on their terms. While he was searching through the pockets of the two Rebels, the comlink of the Rebel leader began to beep urgently for attention.

Veers slipped the leader’s jacket onto his own torso and pulled out the comlink. He flipped it over in his hand, still beeping, before deciding to throw it into the jungle. The stranded Imperial stole the blaster clips of the Rebels, a couple ration bars, and a tiny maglite before moving back toward the river and the Rebel shuttlecraft.

He still had to find a way to steal the shuttle.

Chapter VIII - Standoff

Colonel Veers crouched behind a gnarled dead tree and peered below the trunk through a crevasse that was dug into the earth by some burrowing creature that wanted to get past the trunk but couldn’t climb over and was too stupid to go around. It also gave him a good view of the Rebel shuttlecraft and that of the downed vessel half buried in the earth from the high-velocity impact.

He was badly outnumbered five to one and outgunned ten to one. Still, that didn’t persuade him from giving up and getting off of the rotting planet. He had faced greater numbers than the ones he was presented with now and still came out on top as the victor. Except, he also had support during those battles and resources to rely on.

Here, all he had was his own ingenuity and a blaster.

Veers had two choices currently presentable to him. He could use the protection of the rotting trunk and the small hole beneath to fire from and pick them off one by one all the while leaving himself vulnerable to flank attacks. Or he could fire off one or two shots then move deeper into the forest and flank the Rebels and come up from behind the wreckage allowing the Rebels to run for cover inside the shuttle.

Or he could act like the Corellians and charge into battle blindly with no plan except for a blaster blazing wildly. Veers snorted at that idea. He knew how that would end, with him dead. Veers recalled watching security footage of a Rebel terrorist getting separated from the others and chasing after two stormtroopers. A Wookiee had followed behind him and was lucky to not have been with his human companion. The charging Rebel had quickly retreated as he had bravely chased the stormtroopers when he found out a legion of troopers was waiting around the corner.

That moment made Veers smile broadly.

He had several plans formulated in his mind. None of them insured flawless victory and most of them were too much of a risk to his life.

“How hard can it be to take on five Rebels when you just took out three earlier?” Veers chastised himself quietly for his reluctance.Except all three were humans while these five are a mixed sort. The two Rebel humans inspecting the wreckage had a Wookiee tugging at the plastisteel that Veers had hours ago peeled away at to get to Lieutenant Pliskin.

A Twi’lek and a species Veers couldn’t identify were guarding the shuttle ramp and talking away idly with each other as if it was only another drill and nothing serious. Colonel Veers decided he would take out the two at the shuttle and make a break for it before the remaining three could react to him.

But that idea was washed away with a new development.

A sixth Rebel walked down the ramp to the two aliens and spoke to them in hushed tones. Veers could only guess as to what was being said, but he had a good idea they were talking about him. The Twi’lek lekkus twitched in agitation while the second seemed to stiffen in response to whatever the human was telling them.

The three Rebels at the wreckage came back, the Wookiee wrinkling its nose in disgust at the smell it had to endure, to listen in on what the sixth Rebel was telling. Then, to Veers alarm, they unholstered their blaster rifles while the two aliens and the sixth Rebel walked back into the shuttle.

What are they doing? Veers inquired, troubled. His worries rocketed toward the sky when the Wookiee began to sniff the air and moaned something to the humans. Veers knew what had happened; the giant furball had smelled the Colonel’s scent.

“Where?” The shorter Rebel to the Wookiee’s right inquired further. The Wookiee howled lowly and pointed in the general direction of the Imperial and to prove that something was hiding, the alien un-slung the giant bowcaster from his back and fired a green energy bolt.

The blast was short and dug into the dirt in front of the gnarled tree trunk. It splattered dirt down upon Colonel Veers who refused to flinch to the provoked attack. Another blast hit the tree trunk itself and splinters flew everywhere.

“There’s nothing there.” The short Rebel argued and the Wookiee howled in disagreement, shaking its chocolate furry head.

Colonel Veers pressed himself against the tree trunk and listened to the movements of the Rebels. They weren’t moving due to whatever the Wookiee had been telling them. Veers concluded they were hoping he would come out and reveal himself. He wasn’t that big of a fool as they thought he was.

Then the sound of the shuttle starting up alarmed him. His chance of escaping the planet was leaving the area. He had to somehow stop it from going anywhere.

But how? He questioned to himself.A mere blaster cannot bring down a shuttle that is designed to resist hand and rifle blaster fire. He didn’t know if the owners had closed the ramp yet. There was only one way he could find out.

He was about to peek underneath the log when another blast from the bowcaster kept him positioned up against the decaying organism. The Wookiee was certainly persistent about someone hiding behind it.

The high-pitched whine of the shuttle drowned out any other noise as it began to lift off from the ground. Veers pounded his fist into the earth beneath him in anger as his ride left rapidly over the tree tops back in the direction it had came. He only had one choice left to take now.

He would have to venture toward the temples.

But first, he had to get away from the party that the shuttle no doubt left behind to deal with him. That meant, getting out of sight if the Rebels had moved since the shuttle took off.

Veers began to shift his weight to stand up and run for the forest when a ruby blaster bolt whizzed past his temple narrowly missing by millimeters. The close proximity of the shot was near enough for him to feel the heat and singe the bandage he had wrapped around his skull.

The closeness of the shot would have been enough to freeze any normal being into place. But Veers was not a normal being, his training did not allow for Imperial soldiers to freeze in place when under attack. It enforced spontaneous reaction into its trainees and veterans. Instantaneous, Veers leaped to his feet and began running.

As soon as he revealed himself, blaster fire chased him and tried to trace his path ahead of him. But his training again enforced his path into a zigzag and unpredictable. It also made him return fire knowing that he had the slimmest chance of hitting any of the hostile force.

Veers dived into the trench the wrecked shuttle had created upon crashing, just as a salvo of blaster and bowcaster fire whizzed overhead. Breathing heavily, he raised his hand blaster over the edge and sent a reply without exposing himself. It was only meant to force the enemy to keep their heads down and not really do any damage. One out of a hundredth chance does that tactic ever actually hit a hostile.

Oh how Veers wished he had some grenades to throw at the Rebels. He even wished he had an entire legion of stormtroopers, Imperial walkers and Scout walkers, and a squadron of TIE bombers strafing the ground from overhead. He missed having all those resources and realized how much he took them for granted.

He had always thought he would have the Imperial war machine right behind him when he went into battle. He had never considered the idea of being stranded on a hostile world with only a blaster and himself to fight with. He never had realized how much he relied on the stormtroopers he led to keep him unharmed and breathing. How many of those stormtroopers relied on him to keep them alive long enough so they could live and fight another day.

“Funny how life can enlighten you of things you took for granted, at the strangest and most dangerous moments.” Veers laughed sardonically.

“Surrender, Imperial dog!” Yelled one of the Rebels as soon as the blaster fire had died down long enough for the message to be clearly given. “You are surrounded and outnumbered!”

No kriff. Colonel Veers' thoughts dripped with sarcasm. His dirt covered back pressed up against one side of the shoved dirt of the man-made gorge. His hands danced over the blaster as they switched the cartridge from empty to a full one. His blue eyes took in the remaining cartridge and he knew he wouldn’t last for very much longer once he ran out of ammunition. Sooner or later the Rebels will realize he was out of ammo and begin making their way toward his position.

“Surrender now and the Alliance will promise that no harm shall come to you!” The Rebel pleaded, his words marinated with deception and falsehood. Although Veers had no idea how the Rebels would treat him, he did know that once they found out his rank and how much authority he had they would press for whatever information his mind kept locked away. Even if that meant using torture, both physical and mental, to break him.

He didn’t want to find that out. He’d rather suffer on the planet than having to live with the guilt of betraying his Emperor and the New Order through an interrogation. His loyalty to the Empire came first over his own self-being. The Academy at Carida had taught and drilled that into him relentlessly until he either understood it or it became programmed into him.

He also did not want to have to go through the steps of an interrogation. He knew what it was like to witness an Imperial questioning session; Veers did not want to imagine what Rebel interrogations, with crude instruments and methods were like. Anything they did would be a lot rougher than what the Imperials could ever do. He had heard stories that the Rebels made Imperial interrogations look gentle in comparison.

Veers shuddered at the idea of savage and uncivilized criminals torturing his body and mind only for the knowledge he possessed and perhaps for their own sadistic twisted pleasure. He remembered seeing footage of Rebel insurgents uprising on some backwater world in the Outer Rim. Imperial officers and stormtroopers unfortunate enough to be in the path of the angry mob were either trampled to death, shot, or beaten to a pulp (sometimes resulting in death later).

“Come out! We know you can’t last forever on just one blaster!” The same Rebel hollered. Much as Veers loathes admitting it, the Rebel was right.

“Never!” He replied back and added three random and blind shots. He had no intentions of leaving his hiding spot. Veers let his gaze wander along his surroundings to see if there was anything useful in helping him against the Rebels. There was nothing except a few pieces of shrapnel the size of a door or smaller.

His intense blue eyes stared at the pieces of wreckage, then with the determination of an Imperial soldier bent on staying alive and defeating the enemy, he began digging away at a piece of metal with his blaster and hands until he had it unburied. The piece was only about two feet long and a foot and a half wide. And despite all the dirt and smoke stains, it still shone with a metallic sheen.

Perfect for a personal shield.

Blaster fire rang overhead as Veers pulled his jacket off and then his issued uniform shirt. He replaced the jacket back on his person and gripped the shield tightly with one hand and with his blaster-equipped hand he raised his shirt over the edge, careful to keep his shield out of sight, and began swinging it back and forth. The fabric of his shirt hid his blaster from sight.

“I’m coming out!” He hollered and tossed an empty clip a couple feet ahead of him in hopes to fool the Rebels in thinking that he had thrown away his blaster. “Hold your fire!”

“A wise choice Imperial!” The Rebel replied and Veers could hear them moving, most likely to accept theirprisoner. Someone needed to teach them a little bit more about wisdom and warfare. Veers intended on being that person to give that lesson.

The Colonel took a deep breath, tucked his shirt partly into his belt, and leapt over the edge of the trench with shield raised and blaster blazing. He caught the two human Rebels by surprise, one went down with a blast to his shoulder while the other ducked and rolled behind a tree. The Wookiee could not be seen anywhere but Veers did not pause to find out where the alien furball was.

The Imperial ran for the forest, his makeshift shield protecting him from the returning blaster fire. He could feel the impact of each shot and the metal was beginning to emit heat that it was absorbing. Then a shot from the bowcaster knocked him sideways. Veers staggered on his feet but kept himself upright and protected by the shield by miracle.

Once he was within the relative safety of the forest, he dumped the shield and began running harder. He didn’t pause to look over his shoulder and fire back or to see if the Rebels were coming after him. The only thing that told him of the Rebels’ status was the occasional shot of a blaster and a Wookiee howl as the alien took up the chase.

Veers dodged and ran around tree trunks and prickly bushes. Branches scrapped and tore at him as he fled from the crash site for the third time that day. The first time was to escape the piranha beetles, the second time was out of fear and the stench that reeked the area, and now he ran from it again to get away from the Rebels.

It just was not his day with that site.

A frustrated howl told Veers that the Wookiee was giving up the chase. He didn’t understand why but he really didn’t care. He wanted to get away from the Rebels. Another howl, this Veers understood, echoed behind him. Something, he realized, he must have done to get such a threat from the creature.

“I hope it never comes about.” Veers muttered as he pushed his way past several vines hanging from a limp tree. He never stopped running, not even after the Rebels had momentarily given up the chase. Not at least until night fell and the temperature began to drop did he stop to rest.

Colonel Veers walked another kilometer in the dimming light of dusk to find a suitable place to spend the night. He found a toppled tree that leaned up against a larger one. It was an ideal place to sleep. The massive trunk of the dead tree was just large enough to be a roof and dead vines from that tree drooped downward to about two feet above the ground, partially hiding anything inside from view.

Veers didn’t dare light a fire for fear of the Rebels discovering it from overhead. Instead, he curled up into a ball beneath a pile of fallen leaves and dead vines and scrunched his jacket closer around him and tried to sleep the night away.

The story continues...

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