Ask What a Homecoming

Natalie Hope

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It had been a long time since Natalie had been back on Ord Mantel. It hadn’t changed much at all, especially the capital. She’d always loved coming to the capital as a kid; it was always clean and peaceful aside from the bar fights. Not like the city she grew up in closer to the front lines with the Hutt insurgency. Dodging gangs, pirates, and terrorist bombings was a daily occurrence in the city she grew up in. After her brother had been killed in action in the Ord Mantel Defense Corps, her parents shipped her off to the Jedi and moved to the capital where it was safe. Natalie shook the thought of them away; she didn’t want to see them again- not now.

After the meeting on Tython led by Vanya, the two decided to start gathering strength and assets immediately. Natalie just so happened to know a planet willing to fight and die for a good cause, and had been doing precisely that for decades. So here they were, making their way through the space port after the Ord Mantel senator had sent a message asking where exactly the Jedi support that was promised in a previous diplomatic mission was.

The first stop of course, was the starport bar, where Natalie ordered the pair a couple of Ord Mantellian Bourbon shots. Normally one would sip the bourbon, but they were short on time. “Old saying we have here,” she said. “If you can’t fight ‘em drunk, don’t fight ‘em at all.” She would down her shot without so much as a cough, and if Vanya refused her shot, she’d take hers too. No one would be drunk from just one shot, but the loosing of nerves was immediate.

In short order they were on a military shuttle heading for the front line city. Natalie was in her combat oriented black tank top and jeans, lightsaber holstered at the small of her back. Her chestnut hair was tied in a pony tail in a rare showing of practicality from the scatter brained Knight. She was expecting a lot of aggressive negotiating, and it wouldn’t do to have her own hair getting in the way. Resting the back of her head on the headrest, Natalie took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

We’re landing in my hometown,” she said. “I wonder how flattened it is by now.” Just beyond her hometown would be the trenchworks dug by the Defense Corps, and beyond that the Hegal Ridgeline that formed the backbone of the insurgency defense. Trenches, mortars, repeater nests, and more than a few mines littered the ridgeline. With the limited funding Ord Mantell could muster, it was never really able to break it.

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Vanya was surprised that the first stop was... to a bar. She took the shot of alcohol and it burned her throat all the way down. She had wine on Dathomir, but that wasn't anything like this.

Vanya did cough.

Vanya was suited up in her regular Jedi garb, always expecting trouble wherever she went, hair braided back, and lightsaber hanging from her belt. She had brushed up on some of her more combat-oriented spells and she was... well, as ready as she was ever going to be.

How long has it been like this? she asked as she looked out the window at the leveled buildings. The whole planet looked like a warzone and even from up here, she could tell that almost everyone below carried weapons. They had to just to survive. It was practically a fashion accessory.

Is your hometown a spearhead for the war? she asked. She wasn't sure if they were just there to visit Natalie's family (if there even were any) or to strike a major blow. She could only hope that this place might become an anchor point for the New Jedi Crusade.

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Natalie was quiet for a long moment, hazel eyes fixed on the ceiling of the shuttle above her. She knew far more about Ord Mantell history than Jedi History, and in many cases the history of Jedi didn't even compare. Anyone that said Mandalorians were born and raised for war had never been to Ord Mantell, that much was for sure. "My hometown sits just below the ridge that is used by the cartels to fund the insurgency and terrorist groups. Their ships come down at night and offload weapons, people, and supplies. Then gangs, pirates, terrorist cells, and sometimes small armies infiltrate the city. They've never been able to hold it from the Defense Corps counter-attacks, but the Defense Corps has never had the funding to be able to stop the incoming supplies in the first place."

With a sigh and a stretch, Natalie straightened her posture in the seat, rubbing her thumbs into her palms without actually looking at Vanya. For the first time in a very long time, Natalie was actually nervous. The shot had certainly helped a little, but there was no amount of returning to this kind of childhood that sat right with her. It took more than a modicum of breathing technique to keep herself from shaking.

"Ord Mantell has been at war since before anyone alive today can remember. Back in the Old Republic era, it was basically a testing ground between the Republic and Empire militaries. A while back a Hutt started making a name for themselves, and Ord Mantellians took that pretty personally. Ever since, the Hutts have funnelled credits, manpower, and weapons into their little proxy war while Ord Mantellians fight for our way of life and survival," Natalie explained, pausing just long enough to shift her hazel gaze to Vanya. Her eyes were hardened as she readied herself for the fighting to come, helped by remembering what it had been like before.

"The Crusade needs an army. You'd be hard pressed to find one with more experience than the Ord Mantell Defense Corps," Natalie said, standing up and patting herself down with another deep breath. "We help them break the stalemate and kick the insurgency off the planet- we could ask them to jump into hell itself and they would do it for us." It was almsot time to land. They'd be meeting with the province commander, one Colonel Jasker. Natalie didn't need to read the stories about his leadership. He was one fo the best leaders Ord Mantell had, but in getting there he had to be ruthless.

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As soon as Vanya asked the question, she felt like she sensed... pain in Natalie. Or distress or something else comparable.

She listened closely as Natalie told the story. It was one that was laced with more emotion than she thought Natalie intended to show, but that was the nature of talking about your home, wasn't it? Vanya had her own wounds and longings that hadn't healed, and likely wouldn't for a long time.

She watched the way Natalie moved, fidgeting with her hands and looking at the floor. They'd worked together a couple of times now and could arguably be considered friends, but she had never really seen the woman like this before.

This place means a lot to you, she said, though this was as much statement as question.

We're going to kick the Cartel out, she said, offering a confident smile. Boot them right off this planet, she said. This was one of the things Vanya was actually good at.
 

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"I spent seventeen years of my life in this town. My brother was killed in action in that trench line," she said, jutting her chin toward the window that gave a clear view of the intricate earth works. It was a zig-zag of trench lines filled with Ord Mantell Defense Corps troopers, clad in blast vests and bristling with DC-15A blaster rifles. The day they got the news of her brother, Natalie had rushed out to the trench line, only to have to return to the relative safety of the town by the incoming blaster fire. It was not the Defense Corps' finest moment.

Natalie smiled at her friend's words of comfort and promise. Yeah, they were going to kick the Cartel out. She didn't know what a peaceful Ord Mantell would look like, but if putting an end to suffering wasn't what being a Jedi was all about, well, she didn't know what was. "Yeah," Natalie said finally. Now it was time to hope the coming battle wouldn't be the slog it had always promised to be. Maybe with their Jedi help, they've have a bit more of a chance.

When the shuttle landed, Natalie was first to step off. Hedal Ridge loomed overhead like a shadow of evil preying on everyone below it. Bunkers and earthworks snaked across the muddy terrain. The block around the landing pad had been leveled in the years of fighting, and which allowed the two Jedi to see just how dire the situation was on the front. A man in a green uniform and blast vest waved from the entrance of a bunker, and Natalie relayed the wave to Vanya. It was better if they didn't stay out in the open. They were well out of range from snipers on the ridge, but that didn't mean they wouldn't pop a shot or two with a laser cannon.

Once inside, the bunker opened up as if it had all the room in the world. Holo-screens lined the walls, and Defense Corps troopers of various species and sizes worked at terminals below them. In the center was a large holo-map of the area, and Colonel Jasker stood to one side of it, dull grey eyes fixed grimly on the two Jedi. "You must be the Jedi."

"We are. I'm Natalie, and this is Vanya," Natalie said, pointing to each of them respectively.

"I thought they'd send more than two."

"Well when we can fire ten rifles without even touching them, are we really just two?" Natalie shot back, tilting her head at the Colonel. He shrugged, conceding the quipping match before it got out of hand.

"You're from here." Natalie nodded. Her old house was just three blocks away. Colonel Jasker nodded and pointed to the map. "In front of you is Hedal Ridge. It's the backbone of the Hutt defense. There are two major heavy repeater emplacements dug into the rock face here, and here," he explained. "Only reasonable approach is up this valley between these two fingers, the emplacements have the whole valley locked down. They pin our soldiers down, then hit them with mobile artillery from a tunnel system higher up the ridge." He turned to Natalie, then to Vanya, eyeing her up and down. Natalie's fist tightened at her side, daring him to say anything about her lack of Ord Mantellianness. "To make things worse, theres an AA battery on top of the ridge. Anything we send to take out the emplacements, or the tunnel, gets shot out of the sky."

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I'm sorry, Vanya said as she heard about Natalie's brother. She had lost some of her Clan to the battle between Darth Andruil and the Empire on Dathomir. It wasn't quite the same as losing a direct brother, but it wasn't so different.

Vanya followed Natalie through the trenches as they exited the shuttle, and it... struck her as so foreign. She had been involved in some military operations on behalf of the Jedi and she had seen militaries before, but this was so much closer. Not only that, it was so different. It was mechanical and foreign, and she found herself almost missing the warrior culture of her people. Here the rancors and chirodactyl were replaced with the shuttles and tanks of the off-worlders. There was no listening to the Essence, only dominating the landscape.

And yet, there was so much information to be had here. They had screens on screens laid out of battle lines, positions, and enemy movements. Long range scopes and sensors told of the enemy's locations as surely as scrying. Or... almost as surely.

Her mind was pulled back to the task at hand as she heard her name during Natalie's introduction.

Natalie and the Colonel had their quipping match and Vanya just kind of... frowned. She looked grumpier than she was, but that was probably because she was feeling more nervous than she wanted to let on.

Vanya listened to the man's assessment and she understood why the Hutts had inflicted such high casualties. They had the strategically vastly superior position.

As she looked at the holoimages, though, one thing stood out to her.

So if someone can take out the AA guns, you can land behind the Hutt lines and there's no more choke point, she said. That was... correct.

You don't happen to know any super difficult to access ways that two Jedi could sneak past the front lines? she asked both the Colonel and Natalie. Sure, defenses like this were great for repelling armies, but two people or a special operations team sneaking behind lines by themselves... that was a whole different story. Keeping defenses tight enough to keep out Jedi was hard.

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Natalie Hope

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Natalie turned to Vanya with a shit-eating grin. Her friend didn't even need to explain any further for Natalie to know where she was headed with her line of thinking. Two Jedi were a whole lot harder to stop from sneaking passed defenses than a platoon of troopers. Take out the AA guns, and it was Broken Arrow all over the Hutt positions throughout the sector. The last big breakthrough Ord Mantell had in the war was when Natalie was just a little girl. The skies were filled with atmospheric attack craft. You could smell the burning Hutts for miles in every direction.

She turned back to the Colonel. Hedal Ridge had always been off limits to her growing up, so she didn't know any hidden pathways or anything. The Colonel looked like he did, however. "In an attempt to break the stalemate, we've been slowly hitting an area of the ridge with artillery during our usual bombardments," Colonel Jasker said. As if summoned by his words, the distance booms of artillery batteries firing echoed through the bunker walls. A moment later, what sounded like freight trains followed by ka-rumps of explosions along the ridge filled the air. Natalie looked up, a small smirk spreading across her lips. Every explosion of outgoing artillery was another insurgent gone. She wasn't alone, soldiers outside the bunker could be heard whooping and hollering as the shells rained down.

"We're carving a trail with the artillery- walking it right up to the summit of the ridge. It's still too steep for a platoon to go up by themselves, and sappers would make too much noise," the Colonel explained. Natalie turned to Vanya, the smirk from the artillery still on her lips, judging her reaction, then turned back to the Colonel.

"Show us," she said. The Colonel shrugged and snapped his fingers at a younger officer. The officer rushed over and manipulated the map to show the holo-map of the trail they were making. In real time they could see the explosions from the artillery exploding along it and along the rest of the ridge. There was a line of craters in the rock face, some areas being much more steep than others, from the base of the ridge to just under the summit. For a soldier, it would be hell to get up, for two Jedi that could use the Force? It was a fun obstacle course.

"As you can see-"

"We can manage that," Natalie asked, turning to Vanya again and cutting the Colonel off. They needed to manage that. Going up the valley was suicide, even for a Jedi; hopping from crater to crater along a cliff-face was about as good as it was going to get. They could even bring a rope out with them so that soldiers could come up behind them.

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Vanya looked at the map and then moved over to grab a pair of electrobinoculars to survey the area in question.

Looks easier to navigate than some of the mountains and jungles I've climbed on Dathomir, she said. The Nightsisters were a group not often well looked on after the previous Queen took over half the galaxy, but most people didn't even really know she was a Nightsister. Most people just saw her as a Sith.

Vanya was turning that view around! Or... well, actually no one knew who she was, but she would change it eventually!

We can do it, she said, lowering the binoculars and handing them back to one of the troopers.

We'll need to blow the AA guns somehow. Either with explosives or overloading them? she asked, not even sure if that was possible. It seemed like that was something possible, right?

I have no idea how to do that, she admitted bluntly after a moment before looking to Natalie to see if she knew how.
 

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The way Vanya moved and spoke, Natalie felt her breath hitch. There was no question of "if," it was just "how." Even without Natalie mentioning how important this was. A chance to end the war with the Hutt insurgency? A chance to have future generations have a volunteer only military instead of mandatory conscription? This was huge. If they pulled thi- No fuck that. WHEN they pulled this off, Ord Mantell could finally rest and collect itself. At the end, when Vanya's confident show of being able to handle the task faltered with not knowing how to blow up or overload AA guns, Natalie found her footing again, and pushed off the map table.

"I do. Give me some satchel charges or thermal detonators and those guns are toast," Natalie said. The Colonel shifted his dull grey gaze between the two, then shrugged.

"Very well." He snapped his fingers again, nodding to a different officer this time. They chirped an acknowledgement of the unspoken order and got to work, gathering what the two Jedi would need. Two satchel charges were handed to Natalie, the amount of explosives inside enough to blow both positions to kingdom come. Vanya was offered a thick, heavy rope. It wouldn't be needed, but if troops could start scaling the ridge as soon as possible their chances of success would be greater. "We'll be looking for the explosions. When I see them, get small. I'm hitting that ridge with everything Ord Mantell has."

"Got it," Natalie said, her hazel eyes on Vanya. They got this. This was aggressive negotiations at its finest, right? A few minutes later, making sure the equipment was ready, they were walking out of the bunker. Outside in the trench line again, Natalie spun around, throwing the satchel charges behind her on their slings around her shoulder, and threw her arms around Vanya. "Thank you for this." Her voice was nothing more than a squeek, but when Natalie pulled away there was no sign of her eyes glazing over or tearing up. There was no time for that; they had a war to win.

"You ready?"

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Vanya was glad that Natalie seemed to know what she was doing. The two of them were actually going to do this, weren't they? Maybe they'd actually pull this off!

Even amidst the excitement of that thought, Vanya couldn't break the thought that she had once begun having success on Bastion as well only to have it sacked. It seemed everywhere Vanya started to have success, bad things followed. Doubt began to gnaw at the back of her mind, and she tried to push it aside. This wasn't the time or place for that. Even if it was one step forward, two steps back, she wouldn't stop fighting.

Natalie was loaded up with explosives and they started heading through the trenches toward the front line. Blaster shots cracked by overhead and Vanya couldn't help but duck down out of reflex even though there was no chance of it actually hitting them.

Vanya was surprised when Natalie threw her arms around her, and she returned the hug to her friend. She could feel there were emotions welling up in the other woman, and she just gave a somber smile.

Of course, she said. The outpouring of thankfulness made her feel a little bit bad. A large part of the reason she had come was for the sake of helping raise an army. She felt a sudden wave of guilt that Natalie was likely to sense.

I... I'm glad we're able to help your home, she said, reminding herself that above it all there were people they were here to help.

Yes, let's go, she said, ducking low behind the remnant of the trenches and starting to half-crouch run to the first ditch she could find. It would be slow running from crater to crater and diving into the dirt. She could see some small movement up on the ridge but she held deadly still. Like hunting in the jungles of Dathomir, Vanya somehow actually felt comfortable here.

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Natalie ignored the sense of guilt she sensed from Vanya. There was no need to feel guilty. The duo were here to secure an army for the Crusaders. Just because it was Natalie's home didn't mean that overarching need disappeared. Their mission was the army; everything else was just the cherry on top. Despite her steely outward looking resolve, Natalie's stomach was doing somersaults. There were no quips or wise-cracks- not here. The realization that she was very much not okay with the state of her home made her wish she had just come sooner. Guess if she had done that, she wouldn't be alive to meet Vanya, Ezra, and the rest of them. She wouldn't be here now.

Moving through the trenches wasn't exactly new to Natalie, though she'd never done it personally. She'd watched from afar so many times as soldiers did it when she was younger. Keeping her head below the rim of the trench wasn't too hard at her height, but even so she kept her self in a half crouch while moving. The whizz and cracks of blaster bolts flying overhead became a melody to keep her feet moving at all costs. Soon they were in the first crater.

Glancing at Vanya, Natalie noticed the calm demeanor despite everything. While Natalie relied on staying below the lip of the crater, Vanya was relying on an almost uncanny stillness. Hard to believe they came from two wildly different lifestyles. Natalie turned back to the path ahead, eyeing the next crater. The ridge would start turning upwards towards the sky after it, making their climb all the more difficult- even without the enemy that was no doubt trying to keep eyes on everything.

Even with the artillery cover gone, they still had a few boulders, rocks, and ditches between each crater. Sometimes the craters merged together into a wide, shallow trench. Natalie peered over the edge of the crater slowly, hazel eyes searching the movement ahead, and satisfied that they wouldn't be seen, scrambled on her hands and knees across the open to a nearby boulder. No shots. She scrambled again, sliding down into the crater and, like she saw Vanya do before, freezing in place.

While she waited for Vanya, Natalie took deep breaths to calm her breathing. One crater at a time, Natalie. One crater at a time. Her hands clutched the satchels that had the explosives in it, careful not to damage the explosives or set them off. The satchels were the closest thing to a friend the two Jedi would have on this ridge until they knocked out those AA batteries.

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Yes, this was actually very familiar to her in a way. In her mind, she was back on Dathomir, stalking her prey before she struck. In many ways, the things in the jungle of Dathomir were more dangerous than the Cartel soldiers. Even after years of fighting, most of them couldn't match a rancor in threat or ferocity, and the Winged Spirit was Vanya's ally in this.

They leapt from crater to crater, sometimes taking cover behind a boulder or splintered tree stump and other times simply having to hug the dirt itself. The human eye was based largely on movement, and if your clothes were flamboyantly covered, you could often avoid being seen so long as you simply didn't move.

This slow advance up the slope continued for the better part of an hour. They were making progress, but it wasn't quick. Vanya could feel her nerves starting to wear as they approached the top, ready to be out of what was effectively a kill zone that they had been crawling through for the last hour.

Vanya managed to make the top of the ridge first, poking just the top of her head over the few blades of grass that still remained at the top. She felt... very exposed up here, but they were on that final stretch. The final stretch where she hoped the rug wasn't about to be pulled out from under her feet.

She saw several Cartel positions set up along the ridge line, though they were interspersed and dug in rather than covering the entirety. She also saw that most of them were focused on the area in the valley below where the enemy troops were gathered, rather than on the ridge itself where Vanya and Natalie were now arrived.

She dropped down below the ridge top again to speak in hushed tone to Natalie.

There's small outposts to the left and right of us, but there's a straight shot up the middle. If we crawl, I think we can make it to another artillery crater about twenty feet ahead and sneak from crater to crater from there, she said. Of course, if they got spotted, everything was going to break into sheer chaos.

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By the time Natalie caught up with Vanya, she was covered head to toe in mud. Seemed everywhere she went she ended up covered in mud- at least this time it was semi-purposefully. It was impossible to stay clean when crawling up the ridge with all the dirt and mud kicked up by the explosions. She kept low, but just high enough to see over the crater parapet. Her hazel eyes shifted from the outposts on the left and then to the right. They were relatively safe from the Cartel positions on the left. They were facing more toward the main approach up the ridge. It was the positions on the right that had her concerned.

Natalie slowly lowered herself back into the cover and concealment of the crater, turning her hazel gaze to Vanya. "Everything is facing the main draw," Natalie whispered, jutting her chin out toward their left. "We'll have to hug the right side of the ditch and move slowly. At least until we reach the crater." Natalie could blend in the mud as if she were born a rock with relative ease considering how covered she was in dirt and mud. At that point it would be more a question of when to move and when not to move. Most of the Cartel mercenaries would be using binoculars and scopes to see out to the main draw, not looking down at the ditch between their positions.

"I'll go first," Natalie said. She took a deep breath. "We got this." Did she say that for Vanya, or herself? With the adrenaline pumping her heart straight out of her chest, probably both. She peered over the edge again slowly, waiting for the right moment, The initial scramble out of the crater and into a prone position along the ditch was fast, but as soon as her stomach touched the ground the pace practically slowed to a halt. Her lightsaber hilt was in her right hand, just in case one of the positions on the left turned around. Twenty feet, that's all they needed.

Like a tortoise, Natalie moved slow and steady. One hand in front of the other, one inch at a time. She could feel the rocks beneath her scratching her stomach and ripping her jeans. Her elbows became numb with the amount of work they were doing against the ground. Footsteps from their right got closer, and Natalie froze in place, laying her head down into the dirt. A team of four Cartel mercenaries stepped out and crossed the ditch just in front of Natalie. One of them, a Weequay man, stepped on Natalie's left hand causing him to slip. He cursed but thankfully thought it was just the mud that covered the area.

Natalie on the other hand was biting back a scream of pain. The man's boot has scraped a good chunk of skin off the back of her hand. Tears welled up in her eyes, but she couldn't make a sound. Everything rode on this. Everything. As soon as they were passed and out of earshot of movement, Natalie started again, shoving the pain down until she slid into the next crater of safety. She grit her teeth, ripping a torn piece of her tank top around the midriff off and wrapping her shaking left hand with it. Mud and grit, the Mantellian way.

16/20 for crossing the 20ft without being noticed

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Vanya watched tensely as Natalie crossed the short distance to the next carter, every muscle stiffening as the Cartel soldiers got really close to stepping on Natalie, but didn't seem to see her.

She didn't actually know when she reached down to grab the lightsaber off of her belt but she was ready to spring to action if they noticed her partner. Then she held her breath without thinking about it until they passed on moments later.

Her teeth clenched down and she took deep breaths to steady herself as she saw Natalie make it to "safety." There was a serious argument to be made that this was the most dangerous moment of the whole mission.

Vanya climbed up next, snaking slowly along the ground as she crawled on her belly toward "safety."

Unlike Natalie, the patrol was now gone and her progress - while slow - was smooth (17/20) and she slid messily down into the crater, letting out a breath and grabbing Natalie's hand and giving it a squeeze in a "we made it" way.

She pointed forward next, leapfrogging toward the back lines of the enemy. I can't believe we made it, she said, not entirely sure they would make it for a time.

She slipped behind the remains of a tree and just... waited.

We should watch their patrols for a while. Try to figure out the best time to attack, she suggested. And give her heart a moment to slow down again.

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Natalie hadn't realized she was holding her breath for Vanya's crossing of no-man's land until Vanya slid into the crater with her. It seemed they were both surprised and excited they made it. "Well, most of us made it anyway," Natalie quipped, holding up her left hand that was now bandaged with part of a shirt. "Guy must have thought he slipped on mud." She had always had skin in the game when it came to Ord Mantell, but now it was official; Natalie had bled for her home planet.

She stayed in the small crater she had slid into, laying prone just below the lip so that she could see out of it without being seen herself. Vanya took up what had been a tree at one point. Now it was a splintered stump; the only green left on it was the dried remnants of some non-human blood. Was probably a trandoshan that got splattered by an artillery shell. Serves 'em right for coming to Ord Mantell to terrorize and subjegate.

"Yeah," Natalie agreed in a hushed tone, scanning their front. In front of them lay the anti-air batteries. They were large emplacements dug into the ground, and immovable. Two towers bristling with guns Natalie expected to see on ships not the ground. It was no wonder Mantellian air power couldn't do a damn thing about them. Just a near miss would wipe out a fighter's shields from the look of it.

The first tower was about fifty meters away, the second triple that distance on the opposite side. Satchel charges didn't have detonators, they were fuse detonated; that meant once they blew up one, they'd have to book it to the next without getting caught. Natalie kept her hazel eyes on the patrols that wandered around, trying to find a pattern. "Our explosives are fuse detonated, so we're going to have to blow up one then the other," she said, stealing a quick glance to Vanya.

"Sneak to the closest one, light the fuse, book it to the next? Can guarentee Defense Corps has aircraft on stand by waiting for that second explosion."

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Vanya was... wary of their plan, but they didn't have many other options. Or... maybe they had one. Vanya knew a few tricks that weren't available to the average Jedi or even Sith.

I might be able to get a jump on the second gun, she said. It would put her at risk to teleport out there alone and begin taking down the gun. Doing it by herself may not be wise, but it might still be better than trying to do it after the guns were already alerted by the explosion.

If I teleport over there, I can get to it before this gun as detonated and start clearing it out, she said. Very risky, and no doubt tiring for Vanya as well. The distance would be more draining than she'd like to admit.

She watched as Cartel soldiers came and went from both gun positions, and she counted at least a half dozen guards at each. She got the impression that a couple of the troops were just there to man the cannon rather than do actual gunfighting, but another half-dozen or so troops were moving in a patrol around the area and traveling between the guns.

Maybe we should hit the ones in transit before we move on the gun positions, she said.

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Natalie Hope

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Natalie almost forgot that they were in the middle of enemy territory when Vanya dropped "if I teleport." Her jaw hung slack. "You can teleport?" she asked, almost asking it at full volume before catching herself just in time to make it a whisper. Why couldn't Natalie teleport!? Uhg, the power of traditional Jedi was so boring! The power of teleportation, that's where the money was! It didn't matter now though, they were here, and Vanya's abilities would come in handy.

At Vanya's suggestion of taking out the patrol first, Natalie started looking for a flank. They could follow what had been a tree line to their right, moving from stump to stump in a half circle around the first gun. Take out the patrol, then it was a shorter teleport for Vanya and a short sprint for Natalie. She jerked her chin toward the splintered tree line.

"We can follow that to get around the first gun- move stump to stump," she said. "Hit the patrol, then split and hit both guns at the same time. Minimizes the amount of Force we'll have to use in case there's a fight." There's much point in waiting either. The opposite flank was directly in line with every forward facing blaster on the ridge to protect the guns. It was either straight in, teleport, or flanking to the right.

Natalie slowly started to move, creeping out of the crater she was in to a stump to the right of Vanya. Keeping her head on a swivel, and her eyes directed at anything that was an immediately threat to spotting her, she started moving stump to stump, pausing only when there were cartel soldiers glancing in their direction. Her lightsaber hilt found its way to her right hand, staying unlit unless she truly needed it.

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Vanya

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Er... yeah, she said as Natalie loudly blruted out in surprise. Yeah, not a common knowledge thing, she supposed, and not one she usually talked about a lot.

Vanya followed closely behind Natalie. Sure, there were Nightsister tricks that would have come in handy here, but Vanya was still trying to conserve as much of her energy as possible, and even then, she wasn't the most powerful Force-user in the galaxy by any means.

As she crept from stump to stump, things... seemed to be going okay. Most of the troops had their attention focused down the hill rather than behind their own lines, so while there were patrols, those patrols weren't really... expecting trouble.

The going was slow, though, and the sun had begun to creep behind the horizon by the time they actually made it all the way around. In some ways, that would be to their advantage, though the glow of their lightsabers might end up drawing some unwanted attention.

Hopefully they could strike quickly enough that no one would be the wiser. After all, Vanya still had her hunting knife if all else failed.

Eventually after an excruciatingly slow period, the two Jedi had managed to close to within fifteen meters of the guards.

It appeared to be a group of five all armed and patrolling but... not looking particularly alert. That sort of patrol pattern where there's no expectation of actually finding anything.

Vanya glanced back at Natalie and knew that things were about to get real.

She leapt from the shadows and activated her lightsaber when she was within a few feet, her saber moving like a flash to cut down the first two guards before they even knew what had happened... so far, so good.

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Natalie Hope

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Natalie and Vanya's eyes met for a brief moment before Vanya leapt out with her lightsaber igniting. Natalie was only a second behind her, sprinting across the darkness that only seemed darker now that a bright beam of light was waving around the guards. Natalie waited until the last moment, just as she broke into Vanya's light, to ignite her own lightsaber, immediately beheading one guard to her left before spinning the blade on her right, taking a few more steps in her sprint, and cutting through a fourth guard's torso.

The fifth guard was so surprised that they hesitated to even raise their blaster. Natalie reached out with her left hand, gripping the man with the Force and yanking him toward her. The man screamed the seven or so feet he flew through the air until Natalie's hand closed around his throat and her brilliant blue blade pierced his gut and exited between his shoulder blades. Natalie felt herself teeter on the edge of something. How long had she wanted to do that? Why did did it feel good to do that? Even as she stared into the man's terrified eyes, watching the light fade from them, she should have felt nothing, but there was a part of her that was happy. A part of her she purged immediately as she dropped the guard. The only fall happening today was of Hutt supremacy over Ord Mantell. Natalie was there to help the future generations of Mantellian children, not to enact revenge. It had never been about revenge. Even he wouldn't want her going down that route.

Natalie turned to Vanya, disengaging her lightsaber and tossing a satchel charge to Vanya. "Go! Pull the pin to light the fuse when you have it in place!" she called, not worrying about if she was heard. Anyone that didn't hear the snap-hiss of lightsabers, and the screams of the guards wouldn't hear her anyway. Natalie herself turned to the first gun and started a dead sprint to it. Her legs burned, as did her lungs. It had been a long day already, and she was tired, but Ord Mantell wasn't free until these guns were piles of rubble.

She found a ditch in the darkness that lead directly to the first gun and began to follow it, using the sides as cover. A Cartel soldier stepped out in front of her. The rodian was carrying a box in his hands and didn't see her. Natalie crashed into him, sending them both sprawling, but she was quicker to get up, igniting her lightsaber again as she stabbed it down into his chest. Her eyes fixed on the box he had been carrying, and realized that she was in a logitistics trench, not a ditch. Even better. There was just twenty or so yards left to go. Natalie got back to her feet, disengaging her lightsaber for light discipline and burst back into a sprint toward the first gun.

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Vanya

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Vanya was, for the moment, oblivious to the darkness that seemed to be tempting Natalie. She was far too preoccupied with not dying, but in short order the two women had finished off the patrol.

One bite at a time, she thought to herself. That was the key to winning a fight like this: taking it slow and steady and chopping it up into manageable pieces.

The fight was afoot now, and Natalie tossed her a satchel charge that Vanya caught, carrying it in hand toward the nearest gun.

May the Force be with you, she said. Even now, the words sometimes felt weird to her. As someone who had grown up with far different terminology, she had had to learn to adopt some of the wordage of the Jedi proper.

And with that it was off to the races.

Vanya made no further attempts at true stealth, carrying off at a sprint through the darkness toward the gun with her saber hilt still in hand.

She made it to the gun in short order and as she had hoped, it was mostly people who were there to manage the gun. Although they were all armed, they were hardly masters of combat.

She dropped the charge just outside and burst in with her lightsaber blazing. Flashes of blaster shots and batted bolts and within about thirty seconds the gun was subdued.

She planted the charge and started booking it back to Natalie. In a couple of minutes all chaos was going to break loose.

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