Ask Star Wars: Broken Balance

Catbert

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"Hello, Spike." Was that it? Was that everything that Rami had to say after what he had done? Betraying the Republic. Helping the Separatist counter-attack. Leading Risha astray. Murdering Huck and beating down Wily within an inch of his life. On the way to Rami's position, Spike had been working himself up, so that when the time would come, he wouldn't hesitate. Yet all he got from Rami was a simple "Hello"; as if him and the clones hadn't been trying to kill each other for the past few hours. Or maybe that smug drek-face is just full of himself! No doubt he's proud of his last gambit. Of all the good soldiers he killed in the last attack. And of being able to get away with it.

"General," the Clone replied after a pause rather slowly slowly, with audible animosity in his voice. Meanwhile, the 9 troopers in teal-trimmed armor—those who were with the Captain when he got the coordinates—spread out, encircling the two men. Spike stood close to the edge of the circle, with Rami in the center. Unlike the Jedi, the troopers had DC-15 rifles and carbines in their hands; all the weapons were aimed at the cloaked figure.

The only one seemingly unarmed was Spike; his DC-17 hand blasters were still holstered. It just made no sense drawing them. If a fight erupted there and then, Spike knew that he was a goner either way; Rami would almost certainly try to take the Captain with him to the grave. But there was no way the Jedi would walk out of the circle alive. In fact, every moment Spike didn't draw his weapons increased his chances for survival. The nearby search parties were converging on their location. And Dour had also dispatched a LAAT/i gunship with almost a full platoon on board. A retinue worthy of a general.

For a few moments, the situation resembled a silent standoff. Captain Spike peered at his former General through the visor of his helmet. They could let it last until reinforcements arrived; but Spike had a question that had been eating at him for the last few hours. He asked it in the same straight-to-the-point manner as before: "Where is Commander Sjiara?"

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Rami could sense the anger in Spike's voice as he addressed him, and couldn't help but snort in amusement. That was rich. The clones betrayed them, tried to shoot them in the back, and they had the audacity to be angry about it? His head turned as he watched the other troopers form a circle around him, training their weapons on him. He still kept his arms crossed as he shivered from the cold, not reaching for his lightsaber. At least they weren't shooting yet. That actually worked in his favor. The longer they were focused on him the further Risha could get away. And if he kept stalling long enough R4 just might come in for a timely rescue.

He looked back at Spike as the captain spoke to him once more, asking after his Padawan. Rami's grin immediately withered away, his face becoming unreadable as his eyes bored into the clone's very core. "Safe from you." He replied plainly. "Is that disappointing? Did you want to murder her yourself? Like you murdered the rest of us?" There was no anger in Rami's voice this time. Perhaps it was because he had already resigned himself to death, but his tone was calm, empty. He just wanted to understand. "How successful was your little coup? Are they all dead? Did you kill the children too?" Regardless of how Spike reacted the other clones seemed set in stone as they kept their weapons aimed at him. The wind was picking up even more, Rami's cloak flapping violently in the wind and his face partially obscured by his hood. But he never broke eye contact with Spike.

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Of course the General wouldn't reveal where his Padawan was. But the Captain just had to try. Even though he was upset by not being able to carry out the order, Spike also felt... relief? Perhaps he wouldn't be the one who'd have to shoot Risha after all. The anger he had been building up subsided to a point. Yet the Clone continued peering at Rami through his helmet's visor, not breaking eye contact. "Good," Spike finally sighed, and that comment was rather sincere.

Then the Jedi's question followed. Of course, Rami wouldn't understand what Spike was going through. Only a Clone would. Was he really chastising them for following orders? Besides, everything was on the need-to-know basis. So the Captain just shrugged, gaining confidence with every word he said: "Yeah, very good. As for the whole thing and how it went... No idea. It ain't a coup, General. Just a legitimate order which we have to carry out." With that, he drew the two pistols from the holsters. He didn't hurry; the Jedi's reflexes were better than his anyway, so Rami would kill him if he wanted. But the mission would be completed either way by his subordinates. Maybe Spike would've even preferred that way to having to execute the Terellian himself.

"Sorry, sir," the Clone Captain aimed his blaster pistols at the General. "Perhaps the kid will be more lucky." There was nothing more to be said. The Clone would take one last look at his commanding officer before pulling the trigger.

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Rami's eyes narrowed at Spike's response. A legitimate order? Surely he couldn't believe that. As the clone drew his pistols and aimed them at him the Jedi slowly raised his hands and pulled back his hood. He wasn't going to fight back. He was going to look the captain straight in the eye and force him to personally carry out the order he seemed so certain was lawful. In the distance the sound of an approaching LAAT gunship could be heard, but Rami paid it no mind, he'd probably be dead before it got there.

"I'm curious for your opinion Spike." He said. "What exactly could the Jedi have done to warrant their total extermination? Don't think about the order. Think about the reason behind it. Why did we all need to die? And who would want such a thing?" Something about how all the clones had been behaving, so completely out of character, it told him he wasn't walking out of this alive. He wasn't going to convince them to willingly let him go. But if he could at least sow some seeds of doubt, make the clones question why they had to do this. He'd be content. "You're not a droid Spike." He remined the captain with a small smile. "I hope you remember that before you cease to be useful to your owners."

The gunship was almost there. Rami stood his ground and turned his chin up, wanting to die with some dignity. But then out of nowhere a volley of green lasers erupted from the whiteout, and the gunship went up in flames. The shockwave threw several of the clones around him to the ground, the rest turning towards the explosion in confusion. Even Rami looked up in surprise. As the LAAT came crashing down the clones ran and shouted to take cover. Rami watched as Risha's yellow Aethersprite roared past overhead, then wrapped around and came in again, unleashing another volley of fire into the ground and blasting away half of Spike's squad in a single pass.

Rami didn't let the opportunity escape. Amidst the chaos he used the Force to augment his strength, leaping up and onto the side of the starfighter. As R4 opened the canopy the Terrelian took one last look at the clones below, focusing in on the captain he had served with since the beginning of the war. There was genuine remorse and pain in his eyes now. So much death. Why did it have to be this way? Without saying a word he turned and climbed into the cockpit of the Aetherprite, took control, and flew away. He didn't waste any time in hitting the afterburners. In a fighter like this they'd never catch up to him with the head start he had. Rami just looked forward solemnly as Risha's astromech beeped joyously to see he was alright. "Thanks R4... Good to see you too..." He replied quietly.

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Rami's questions made the Captain hesitate. But not for the reasons the Jedi might've thought. Reasons behind the order? That was above Spike's pay grade, and partly above his very upbringing. Being a cog in the giant military machine of the Republic was easy. Definitely easier than questioning why the machine spins; or even worse, why you were put into that machine without being asked for consent. Pretty much like a droid. After all, would they have allowed Spike to quit if he expressed the desire to settle down?

The Captain had considered it back in the day, but dismissed such thoughts as harmful. Wondering what could've been and why was ultimately detrimental, as Commander Dour would say. Spike rarely had reasons to revisit those thoughts... until he was ordered to kill Rami and Risha. Perhaps that is why the Clone and the Jedi were even talking at that point. Rami's last remark though... It hit home. Again, not in the way Rami intended. It evoked the emotions long hidden away. Not a droid, huh? "The Jedi and the Republic sure make me feel like one," Spike blurted out as his finger squeezed the trigger... And then the explosion above sent the Captain tumbling to the ground, his shot going widely off target.

What happened next was a blur. Spike's ears were ringing, another explosion and blaster barrage followed. He must've been yelling "OPEN FIRE!", but he couldn't even hear himself. It didn't matter; only the orders did. When the Captain recovered and got on his feet again, he was met with a gruesome sight of the aftermath. Some of his squadmates were on the ground. Most of his squad were on the ground, motionless and in unnatural poses. The smoldering remains of the LAAT gunship with reinforcements was burning nearby. And Rami Vaan was nowhere to be seen. Spike couldn't blame the Jedi for trying to save his own skin... but at least Rami had made it clear where he stood.

...​

"Dour, the Jedi have escaped. They got their own starfighters." The Commander had been expecting something along those lines, but still disappointed. If Spike's squad couldn't deal with the Jedi, then the only remaining option was overwhelming numbers. Luckily, the Clones still controlled the situation. "Understood. We'll track their ships and find them. Their interceptors don't have hyperdrives, so they won't leave the system."

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Rami Vaan
Knight of the Jedi Order
Surface of Charros IV
Ten Days after Order 66

Rami always hoped he would live to see the end of the war, this just wasn't what he had in mind. As he and R4 scraped by hiding out in the dark alleys and underground sewers of the Xi Charrian capital, they heard whispers of galactic events through the disgruntled residents. The Republic was gone, replaced by a new Galactic Empire, with the former Chancellor Palpatine as it's undisputed ruler for life. The Jedi Order had been supposedly exterminated, the great temple on Coruscant reduced to rubble. The newly organized Imperial military had settled in on the former Separatist worlds, now subjecting them to a brutal occupation.

Charros IV was no exception. The 615th Strike Battalion, the men Rami had so proudly led into battle after battle, were now under the command of some core world filth named Moff Kroan. He treated the Xi Charrians like nothing more than animals, restricting their rights heavily and putting them to work building the Empire's new starships. His most controversial move was to seize control of their cathedral factories, tearing down any of the Xi Charrians holy icons and replacing them with idols to the new Emperor. The Xi Charrians didn't like that one bit, and responded with constant demonstrations, both peaceful and violent. In the cases of both Kroan responded with immediate military crackdowns. Hundreds had died in the space of a week.

And Risha was still nowhere to be found. Rami had tried to find her, but was limited in what he could do. The population of the capital was almost entirely Xi Charrian, so it was extremely difficult for him to blend in. He mostly got by on the charity of smugglers in the spaceports who still considered themselves citizens of the true Republic. Many of them offered to take him off world with them. He was a wanted man, and with the growing unrest it was only a matter of time before the entire planet was blockaded. They spoke of rebel elements organizing, they said a Jedi would be both a great ally and symbol to rally behind. Rami denied them every time. He couldn't leave without Risha. If that meant staying here until the clones found him, then so be it.

When he saw the Xi Charrian rebels fighting against the Imperial garrison a part of him wanted to join them, help them organize a proper resistance. But he couldn't bare the thought of bringing more harm to his former troops, no matter what they had done. Every night the image of Huck flashed through his mind, and the clones killed in R4's rescue. He found himself weeping over the loss of the people now subjugating innocents. How had everything gone so horrifically wrong?

Every day that passed the Jedi continued to come apart at the seams. His hair unkempt and face unshaven, eyes dead. Could he even call himself a Jedi anymore? The Order was gone, and he had sullied himself by giving in to the temptations of the dark side. What more was there to live for? Was Risha even still alive?

On this day Rami found himself in the marketplace near the spaceport. It was the only place he could go to get food where it was common to see non-Xi Charrian aliens. He had exchanged his Jedi robes for more common spacer's attire, and his lightsaber for a blaster pistol. His Jedi weapon now resided within R4, unseen by the masses. The Terrelian stood before a fruit stand, the Xi Charrian vendor looming over him with a suspicious glare. It was still strange to the Jedi to see these insectoid aliens that looked almost identical to the vulture droids he had fought from his Actis. Just exchange the grey steel for more earthly colored carapaces and dress them up in some clothes. Droids in clothes, the thought made him chuckle to himself.

"Buy or leave!" The vendor hissed in broken Basic, clearly getting annoyed with his idling. Rami simply nodded and picked up a few things before reaching into his pocket and pulling out some credits. Again the bug hissed in displeasure. "No Republic credits! No good!" Rami looked up at the vendor in surprise.

"What do you mean no good? They were good enough for you two days ago." The Terellian argued. The Xi Charrian shook her head.

"Useless now, no one taking them. Imperial or leave!" Rami threw the fruit back in her face and turned to storm off in a huff, ignoring her hissing insults. Well, he wouldn't be doing business with her anymore. How long before he had to resort to thievery to get by? He was a Jedi Knight, he shouldn't be living like this.

His thoughts were interrupted as he spotted a squad of clone troopers making their way into the market and grabbing random people. "Random check!" Their sergeant stated gruffly. "Identification now!" Rami cursed under his breath and pulled down his hood, turning and trying to push his way into the crowd. His face was well known to the clones, even those who never served directly under him. If he was spotted this could get very ugly very fast.

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If Risha was anywhere to be found, it would be in the capital. That was the nearest city to the factory, and that's where Rami had ordered R3 to bring his wounded Cathar Padawan. Finding the blue and red ETA-2 on the outskirts of the city wouldn't take longer than a couple of hours. Of course, Risha wasn't there. It was a good sign though; it meant that R3 had carried out his job.

It's contacting R3 that would prove problematic. Asking for Risha's location over the comlink wasn't safe; the Clones would be monitoring all communications. The Padawan's location was best discussed in person. That's why the astromech suggested specifying a rendez-vous point instead. Unfortunately, the transmission was cut short. The message ended abruptly at:

// Ok, Rami. I'll see you at... //

The reason of the message being cut short was undoubtedly the arrival of the Valiant. The Acclamator-class vessel, once commanded by Risha, was now hovering over the Xi Charrian capital and jamming all comms. The Clones had tracked the Jedi starfighters, to the capital, but they wouldn't be able to track the astromechs or the Jedi that way. However, despite this minor advantage Rami had, things only got worse from there. The ClS droid armies were deactivated by an order coming from Separatist command on Mustafar. The Clones were left unopposed and declared martial law in the capital, searching desperately for the former Jedi General.

The silver lining was that Risha was safe; R3 had the time to confirm as much. Even Rami would sometimes sense a familiar presence as he wandered through the outskirts of the city. Of course, such trips would be risky; there was always a chance of getting noticed by the Clones. Like on that particular day, when Rami decided to quarrel with an insectoid vendor. Which ultimately drew the attention of the troopers inspecting the market. "Hey, you there!" a Clone clearly called out, clearly pointing at Rami from the distance. "Hold it, I'll need your ID." The trooper didn't seem or feel hostile yet. For him, it was just another day's work; check anyone who didn't look like a local Xi Charrian.

There was still some distance between Rami and the patrol though. He could feign that he hadn't heard the call and try to blend in with the crowd. He could also make a run for it or play along. That is, if he didn't have something better in mind... But the further Rami would try to push into the crowd, the more agitated and suspicious the Clones would become.
 

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Rami pretended he hadn't heard the clone, his back facing the squad as he pushed his way further into the throng of spacers and citizens. "Hey!" The clone shouted, growing angrier as he stormed after the Jedi, shoving people out of his way. "I'm talking to you! Stop right there!" Rami tried to squeeze between two people but the clone managed to grab hold of his wrist and yank him back. Despite the Jedi's best efforts he reflexively glanced back at the clone, and the trooper froze as he recognized him. "It's him!" He shouted as he let go of Rami's wrist and called back to the other members of his squad. "It's the Jedi!" He started to raise his rifle, they were all still under orders to execute the former general on sight. Acting quickly Rami released a Force push that knocked the trooper and several of the people around him over before making a break for it.

"Open fire! Take him down!" The sergeant shouted. Rami was horrified as the clones raised their weapons and fired blindly into the crowd, killing several innocent bystanders in the volley. They hit Rami too, the Jedi going down with a pained cry as a blaster bolt tore through his side. The marketplace erupted in a panic, residents screaming in terror and fleeing in all directions. The clones ignored them, closing in on Rami and continuing to fire without restraint. The Jedi scrambled to his feet and ran while clutching his side, taking another glancing blast to the thigh as he ran. Behind him he could hear the sergeant speaking into his comlink. "This is CT-6188. Rami Vaan has been spotted in Sector 12. Requesting backup."

Rami kept limping on desperately, spotting an alleyway up ahead. The clones continued to fire, though their aim was marred by the chaos they had created. Still, they would slaughter their way through the obstacles soon enough. Blaster bolts peppered the walls as Rami made it to the alley, and with a grunt he called upon the Force once more, collapsing another vendor's stand in front of the alley after he slipped through. The clones made it to the alley and immediately started tearing through the debris. One trooper took one last shot at him, but Rami managed to round a corner in time to escape.

This was still far from over. That blockage would only give him a few seconds head start, and he was bleeding profusely from his side. Rami ignored the pain and kept moving, exiting the alley into a new street and quickly disappearing in the crowd. He would be easier to spot with his injury and his visible limp, but it wasn't all bad. The clone squad's little display of collateral damage wasn't going over well with the natives. It seemed yet another riot was fomenting. Rami dreaded the loss of life it would surely bring, but knew it was also his only hope of getting to safety.

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The Clones were nothing if not committed to fulfill their orders. A mere mention of the Jedi, and every trooper around knew what he had to do. Gunfire erupted, with little concern for bystanders and civilian casualties. The Clones could afford that, for they outgunned the Jedi or who'd get in their way. That was changing though. Angry shouts; a local shoved aside; a scruffy-looking spacer firing back at the Clones after seeing his friend gunned down. And there you have it: a few subtle nudges, and suddenly the Empire had another riot on their hands.

Behind him, Rami could hear the clones going through the debris. Then something changed. In all the commotion, the Terellian probably wouldn't hear that the tide was turning. As he gained distance from the area, he'd only hear bits and pieces. "Hey, stand back, or we'll..." A soft thud. Sound of duraplast tumbling on concrete. Lone blaster shots, followed by loud alien screeches and roars. The voice of a trooper almost drowned in that noise: "... need reinforcements, now!"

Even though Rami was gaining distance from the site, the Clones knew where he was. They'd soon bring reinforcements and lock down the district. The Terellian would have to hurry if he wanted to escape the area. However, as fate or the Force would have it, that wouldn't be the most notable event of the day. As the former General made his way through the crowd, trying to blend in, he'd hear a familiar tune coming from a familiar droid:

// General Vaan? //

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Rami closed his eyes and kept moving as he heard the fighting breaking out. More clones would be dead soon. More civilians too. They'd form a mob and march on the checkpoints and outposts just as he'd seen them do a few times already. They'd get slaughtered, but that only ever seemed to make them angrier. Why couldn't it all just stop?

He stopped dead in his tracks as he heard the familiar mechanical chirp of an astromech droid. Looking around frantically Rami's eyes fell upon the little blue and red droid. "R3!" He shouted, a smile immediately returning to his face, even as the pain of his wounds stabbed at him. He limped over to the astromech and fell to one knee. He could have hugged him he was so happy. "Boy am I glad to see you!" He laughed, and patted the droid's head with his hand, only to bring it away leaving a bloody stain. Rami glanced at his hand and back to his wound, before looking at R3 again. "Where's Risha?"

R3 started beeping out his answer quite urgently, but Rami's attention was drawn away as he heard more shouting further down the road. Another squad of clones was on the way. No, two or three squads, and they weren't messing around. They were on a microphone shouting at the crowd to disperse and firing their blasters into the air. The citizens were working up their courage though and pulling together, shouting and throwing things at the incoming brigade. Rami looked back to R3, his face growing serious again. "No, hold that thought, we need to get out of here before they lock down the district." R3 was trying to tell him something but Rami ignored him, standing up and rushing in the opposite direction.

As he passed an unattended clothing stand he grabbed some fancy looking fabrics and kept moving, taking the time to wrap them around his waist as makeshift bandages. He managed to stem the bleeding, though it didn't help much with the pain. He'd need proper medical assistance eventually, but at least he had staved off death for the time being. So long as he didn't exert himself too much anyway. He continued to weave through the crowd and in and out of tight alleyways, trying to make his way out of the area without drawing any more attention. All the while R3 followed closely behind, begging the Jedi to listen.

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The blue-and-red droid was all eager to chitter in reply: // General! You need to come with me. // In fact, that was the only thing that the wayward machine could tell him so far. Not that Rami would listen anyway. He had more urgent concerns to deal with. That being multiple Clone squads on the lookout for the Jedi. If R3 wanted to carry out his task, he didn't really have any choice but to follow his master and hope to convince him.

As the duo attempted to evade the Clones by hiding in the crowd, R3 desperately tried to keep up. Although he was faster than a wounded Jedi, he had to drive around the sentients as opposed to slipping by them. // I was told to bring you somewhere. It's a place nearby. // The droid was so keen to fulfill his programming that his processor didn't seem to give any tacts to Rami's current state.

Meanwhile, the Clones were finding out that they had other concerns apart from Rami. "We've got uprising in sector 7!" one of the troopers, with Captain markings on his armor announced to the arriving squads; oblivious to Rami's presence in the crowd nearby. "A suspected Jedi has been sighted here in the market, and at the spaceport. Spread out and lock down the area!"

For now, the Terrelian has managed to evade the immediate attention of the Clones. But Rami needed to make a choice. He knew that soon the clones would deploy riot control vessels and lock down the district. Escaping the district was probably the wisest and safest choice. But if what R3 was telling was anything to go by, it wanted to take Rami to a place in the same district. Infiltrating it at a later date could prove problematic...

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Rami continued to keep his head down as he moved, trying his best to blend in with the crowd. Though it pained him greatly he struggled to stand up straight and walk with a regular gait. Showing the effect of his wounds would only draw the eyes of his pursuers. R3 kept beeping away as he followed the Jedi, and Rami finally took the time to listen to what the little droid had to say. He couldn't help but feel something was off though, like his astromech was behaving differently somehow.

"Risha's here?" He asked pointedly as he stopped to glance down at the droid. "Where? What's her condition?" Seeing the clones approaching he turned his head so they wouldn't be able to see his face, and overheard what they were saying. It seemed the riots were escalating quickly. Perhaps to the city-wide level. If he stayed where he was he might end up stuck here. And that wasn't particularly appealing. He badly wanted to follow along with R3, but recent events had left him more paranoid. He had a bad feeling about this new development, and it brought a deep frown to his face.

"I'm in a bad state right now buddy, I need to get some aid." He told R3. "Can you take a message to her? We can meet somewhere else later." Time was running out and he would be trapped in the district soon. Hopefully he could start a communication with Risha through the droid and then meet with her properly once things calmed down. Then again, depending how R3 reacted to his request, he would know whether or not his gut instinct was correct.

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R3 patiently followed his injured master through the streets, intent on getting the point across. Finally, the Terellian paid the droid some attention; in turn, the astromech was happy to oblige him and answer any questions... Except that he couldn't say much. His reply about Risha's condition and location was simply: // Unknown. Much of my data was encrypted to prevent from falling into the enemy hands. //

Rami's mention of his injuries evoked a concerned chirp from the astromech, almost bringing the old R3 back: // Understood. If your injuries prove too bad, I won't be able to fulfill my primary directive of bringing you to the meeting point. That's undesirable. // The next question, however, resulted in another: // Unknown. Much of my data was encrypted to prevent from falling into the enemy hands. //

Except that this time, droid added: // My primary directive is to find General Vaan and lead him to the destination. As a precaution, I cannot proceed to the destination without him. But I can meet General Vaan later at a place of his choosing to bring him to the destination. // After that, the droid remained silent; his photo-receptor focused on the wounded Terrelian, and vocabulator silent. It awaited Rami's decision, whatever it would be.

Meanwhile, shooting mixed with shouting came from the adjacent streets, forcing the nearby Clones to divert their attention to the new threat. Rami had a perfect opportunity to slip away from the district, get some medical attention, and come back later. That is, if he'd be able to slip into the district after the riot.

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