Finn fixed his helmet in place, returning to his duty as a faceless Stormtrooper. Captain Phasma had already donned her helmet and was striding down the ramp from the Stardust to the hangar of the Star Destroyer. Finn followed her in time look though the opening in the floor of the hangar and see the stars become streaks as the Star Destroyer Vigilance jumped to hyperspace.
There was much activity in the hangar. Troops moving equipment and guiding heavy lift droids. Finn saw a group of officers were moving toward Captain Phasma. When they got close, Captain Phasma came to attention as did Finn. He let her salute.
“Captain,” one of the men said who had a Colonel’s rank and saluted back.
“Colonel,” she answered in response. “What is going on?”
The colonel sighed and turned to walk toward the open space that shown with the shifting colors of hyperspace, motioning her and the others to follow. “Some pretty bad news, Captain. One of the cloning facilities on Tarkin 3 has called for assistance. From what we found out before the communications were cut, the clones turned against the facility’s staff.”
Phasma shook her head. “Do they know the cause?”
The colonel looked to one of the officers in his entourage. “Not yet. We will ascertain what is going on once we get into orbit. Since we were the closest battle group, command gave orders for the Vengeance to investigate and help put down the uprising. We may need to use your freighter,” the women, another captain, said.
“It is not a fighting craft,” Phasma said.
The woman nodded. “It will just be used as a troop transport,” she said and looked to the Colonel.
The major nodded. “We may need to get a lot of troopers onto the ground in a hurry. The facility is producing some of the commando clones and they could have as many as one hundred thousand free and moving around. While they don’t have many weapons, if theentire active group of those clones have rebelled, then we are looking at being outnumbered ten to one.”
Finn listened. An entire clone batch going rogue was unheard of. He knew that there were the occasional rejects who went rogue, but they were the exception rather than the rule. He began making plans for what they would need to do as the others talked about rough plans. He brought up his wrist comm and typed into it, sending messages through the Star Destroyer’s network and to K7 on the ship to have the cargo moved out and stored until they could retrieve it. There were a few tons of foodstuffs and medical equipment aboard. The crates had been there for almost a year, cover for going to planets so that they could spy on the Republic without drawing Investigation Bureau attention.
Phasma turned to say something to Finn when she looked past him to see a couple of loaderdroids climb up the ramp of the Star Dust. She nodded to Finn and returned to her conversation with the colonel and his staff.
Finn sat in the pilot’s chair with Phasma in the co-pilot’s position. They watched as Stormtroopers marched under the Star Dust. From down the corridor they could hear the troopers packed themselves in. Across the flight deck, an assault shuttle rose on its repulser drives then moved toward the opening. More shuttles and craft began to follow it as the last of the troops were loaded. They received communication from the flight control officer that they were fully loaded and could depart.
“It’s going to be rough,” Finn said. “The Star Dust is not made for doing a hot insertion.”
“That is what I told them,” Phasma agreed, “But those are our orders, so when they give the order to go, do it.” She flipped a few switches and brought up battle group’s communication net.
Finn moved the Star Dust across the flight deck then down through the opening into the void. He moved behind the line of assault shuttles, coming to a rest with them. His attention was drawn to Phasma as she turned up the volume.
“They have us rounded up and put in the central cloning hub,” a female voice said.
“Are all of the staff there?” another voice said. Finn thought it was one of the officers that met them when they landed.
“The ones that are on duty and that didn’t fight back,” she told them.
“I assume that those off duty were in Chevas?”
“Yes, sir,” she answered. “What is the plan?”
“This is not a secure line,” the voice answered back. “I will contact you if we need anything from you,”
Finn glanced at Phasma. Her face was impossible to read because of her helmet. Her body language told that she was anticipating the events to follow. Finn’s attention was drawn back to the comm suit when an admiral appeared.
“Attention all capital ships,” the hologram said. Finn saw the indicator in the bottom of the hologram indicating that this was a secure encoded transmission. “You have been sent targeting information over fleet comm. Upon my command, you will commence the suppression operation.”
Twelve lights blinked with acknowledgement of the orders. Finn looked up at the Star Destroyer that was a short distance from them. Several of the turrets on the ship turned, barrels swinging down to target the planet. Finn looked at the other large ships and saw them bringing their guns around. “Commence operation,” the admiral said.
Almost in unison, all the ships began to fire at the planet below. The massive barrage only lasted for a few seconds then stopped as quickly as it began. Finn turned his attention back to the communications. He watched as the orders came down giving each ship their entry vectors and landing positions. His was one of the last ships given orders.
As they approached the ground, Finn could see what was left of a once sprawling campus. Smoke billowed from broken buildings. Only the central structure was left undamaged. He adjusted the controls coming down next to a hovering assault ship that was dropping AT-ST’s to the ground.
The Star Dust landed and Finn started cycling down the engines. He looked out of the viewscreen to see a pair of AT-ST’s move by. An officer sat half out of the top of one with a pair of binoculars scanning the rubble. Once the engines showed full shut down, Finn got up and headed to the cargo hold.
“Stay on board the ship, K7,” Phasma told it. “If you see any Wayhill clones try to board the ship, kill them.”
“Orders acknowledge, Captain Phasma,” K7 said. It moved near the loading ramp and pulled up a panel to reveal a rifle which it picked up. It then took a position where it could cover the entrance without being seen.
“Finn, you’re with me,” Captain Phasma said as she started down the ramp. “I need to meet up with the command staff.”
Finn adjusted his helmet and followed. “What do you need me to do, ma’am?” A pair of speederbikes with Scout Troopers aboard them raced by, heading away from the center of the complex. They were probably looking for any of the clones who may have slipped out of the campus before it was fired upon. He could hear blaster fire coming from further in the campus.
“Head toward the command center of the facility. The other troopers are hunting down the defects. I want you to make contact with the command staff for the facility and comm me when you do.”
Captain Phasma walked to the command shuttle and Finn followed in her wake. Stormtroopers stepped out of her way and came to attention until after she passed. Some of the officers who were not in armor did the same. As she came up to the side of the command shuttle, one of the Stormtroopers stepped up and keyed open the door. “They are expecting you, Ma’am,” he said.
Phasma turned and looked to Finn. “You have your orders,” she told him then walked into the shuttle.
“Yes Ma’am,” he said to her back as the door shut. He heard one of the heavy cargo shuttles coming down. He would not have been surprised if the Vigilance was preparing to enter atmosphere to drop its garrison. He walked over to the shuttle as the main door slowly lowered. The cargo master stepped out and looked around.
He was an older man in his late forties. He turned to face Finn. “What are you wanting, Trooper?” he asked before Finn could even say anything.
“Transportation. Speeder bike or land speeder. I am being sent in to make contact with the command staff,” Finn said.
“Who’d you piss off?” the cargo master asked then pulled a data slate form his belt. He typed into it quickly and held it up as if taking a picture of Finn.
“Probably Captain Phasma,” Finn said.
The cargo master was clearly not expecting an answer from a Stormtrooper. “What did you do to piss off a Phasma?” he muttered then held up a hand. “No, can it, I don’t want to know.” He typed a few more commands into his slate. “A droid will bring out a speeder. Try not to get it blown up. It doesn’t have armor. Are you going by yourself?”
“As far as I know,” Finn said.
“Well, wait over there, I will have it brought to you. I have a juggernaut to bring out and you do not need to be in the way. No idea why they want it out, it’s not like we are occupying a hostile planet.”
Finn watched as a loader droid pushed out an open-air land speeder. It looked around for a second then began pushing the speeder toward him. It stopped and beeped at Finn before lowering the speeder onto its landing gear.
Finn stepped into the speeder and started it up. It was a standard model that has been used by the Empire long before he was born. Finn moved toward the central command building, dodging around an AT-AT that was walking through the area. He wondered how many of the clones managed to escape before the bombardment started.
An AT-ST paced along side him as he drove in for a moment. His comm on his helmet beeped and he tongued the control to activate it. “Trooper, slow up, I am seeing heat readings ahead,” came a voice. Finn saw the name on his HUD as Commander Ricks.
“Yes sir,” he responded and slowed the speeder down. The AT-ST moved faster. It turned a corner ahead and Finn heard the blasters on the AT-ST begin to fire.
“You’re clear,” the Commander Ricks said.
Finn went by the AT-ST which fell in behind him again. Captain Phasma must have ordered an escort to make sure that he reached the command building. Finn came out from the rubble and into a clear area around the large central building. Other than a scattering of Ferro-Crete and some other debris, the area around the command building was untouched. It looked out of place from the damage the rest of the facility had taken.
He took a full lap around the building looking for damage or any danger. He knew that he was sent out as bait to lure any of the clones who had survived. Espionage and reconnaissance work were what he was bred for.
He stopped the speeder before the main entrance and climbed out. He tongued his comm unit and said “Captain Phasma.” There was a pause for a few seconds.
“Phasma here, report,” came over the speakers in his helmet.
“Area around the central complex is clear,” he said. “I am preparing to make contact at the main entrance. Please send the override codes for the doors.”
Finn heard her say something away from her comm then, “Stand by for transmission.”
He looked down at the unit on his wrist. It beeped and he saw codes go across it. “Transmission received,” he said into the comm.
“Report when you have made contact,” Phasma ordered.
“Yes, Ma’am.” Finn walked to the door and pressed the comm switch signaling to the inside. When nothing happened, he waited a few seconds then pressed it again. “No one is answering.” Part of him resented the fact that he was being sent up here by himself to act as bait to see if there was anything dangerous before they sent in more troopers.
Finn keyed the override codes into the door. The console turned green and the door slid open. The short corridor beyond was empty. He moved inside and keyed the door shut behind him. “All clear in the entrance, proceeding to inner doors.”
He activated a console near the inner door and typed a few commands into it. He pulled a small cable from the underside of his helmet and plugged it into a small port on the console. Images started playing across his vision. There were a couple of scientists on the other side of the door. His hud gave him names of each of them. There were several dead bodies in there. A few he recognized as Wayhill clones from the briefing, the others were dressed as security.
He thought to wonder why they did not have Stormtroopers providing guard duty at these facilities. They could be a good example to the new clones. He flipped through the views going from room to room in the ground floor of the facility, not seeing any threat. “Unhooking uplink, I will leave it connected for command,” he said and pulled the rest of the unit from his helmet and left it on the console.
He pounded on the door a couple of times and touched the side of his helmet. His voice came out massively amplified. “Attention staff of the Wayhill facility. I am Stormtrooper Finn 63174. I am going to open the door. Do not fire.”
Finn unlatched the sides of his helmet and lifted it off his head then he keyed in the opening command for the door. First thing he saw were several benches that has been stacked in a crude attempt to blockade the door. He saw several scientists who were pointing blaster rifles and pistols at him. “Would you please lower your weapons?” he asked keeping his voice calm.
Some of them lowered their weapons though a few kept them trained on him. A woman stepped forward and pushed the barrel of one of the rifles held by a older scientist. “It is obvious that he is not one of the defective Wayhill units,” she said. “Lower your gun before you accidentally shoot someone.”
Finn used a foot and slowly pushed the stack of benches out of the way. “How many people are in the facility?” he asked.
The woman looked at him. “One hundred and fifty staff and thirty Wayhill clones.” She raised her hand when he started to speak. “Those clones saved our lives. When everything went down, they rescued some two dozen staff who were in the barracks or incubation rooms. They Locked themselves away in the quarantine area after they made sure that the central command center was secure.”
Finn looked a little confused. “You are?” he asked.
“Dr. Rose Tico,” she said.
“Who is in charge here?” he asked.
She sighed. “That would be me, unfortunately. When the uprising started, the facility’s commander, Moff Garid, was on a tour with the rest of the command staff. They were the first casualties of this.”
Finn nodded. He put his helmet back on. As soon as it clicked into place, Phasma’s voice came over his internal communication array. “About time, Finn,” she said sounding a little annoyed. “Captain Artins is heading your way. They will do a sweep of the building. Take Dr. Tico to the facility’s main server and pull the memory core the return to the ship.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” He saw the communication light turn out. “Doctor,” Finn said. “I need you to show me to the facility’s server.” He looked around at the others. “Captain Artins will be here shortly with his troopers. They will take command of the base. Please do your best to cooperate with their investigation.” There was a chance that Artins would be a bit heavy handed and if the civilians cooperated with him, it would cause them much less trouble.
Rose just looked at Finn for a moment. “That’s it?” she asked. “We’ve been under siege for nearly two days then bombarded form orbit and it’s supposed to be like business as usual.”
Finn’s head turned towards her. He knew she was in shock and being a non-combatant she did not have the rigorous training to resist the struggles of war that he and the other clones were trained to deal with. “Ma’am, I have my orders. I understand that this has been a trying timefor all of you. We need to get this settled as quickly as possible. Highcommand wants to know what caused this group of clones to go renegade. So, please, come with me and help me get the information I need.”
She started to say something then stopped to study him for a moment. “Finn,” she said with a thoughtful tone. “That’s right, your clone batch was infiltration and espionage. That explains why you are trying to convince me rather than just putting a barrel in my face and ordering me.” She gave a sigh, “Fine, come on let’s go.”
Finn followed her past the others who looked to shellshocked to say much of anything. “Please disarm yourselves before Captain Atrins gets here,” Finn told them as he walked past.
Rose lead Finn to a bank of lifts and called one. As the door opened, Finn raised his pistol into the face of a black protocol droid. “Oh, Stormtrooper!” it said surprise evident in its normally placid voice. It looked to Rose. “Doctor Tico.”
“C14P,” Rose said seeing the number stenciled on its chest. “Where are you going?”
“I am going down to the maintenance bay, Doctor. I am due for my monthly maintenance exam,” it explained.
Rose stepped in and C14P backed up to give room. She looked back at Finn who had just holstered his pistol. “Well, Trooper?”
He stepped into the lift. The doors closed and it began to descend. “Shouldn’t the droids be on lock down?” he asked.
“It would be hard to do. The droid compliment for the facility is almost two thousand units and that doesn’t include the purely robotic equipment. We don’t have the manpower to do this otherwise.” Rose looked over at Finn. “If it weren’t for several salvage operations after the war on Kamino, we wouldn’t have had the technology that everyone thought lost after the Kamino rebellion.”
Rose keyed a command into a door and frowned when it did not open. “I have full security clearance for this facility, even during a lockdown, I should be able to open the door.”
“Let me,” Finn said and stepped up beside her. He typed in a code on the door. The door buzzed and clicked but did not open. He tongued his communication. “Captain Phasma,” he said.
“Go ahead, Finn.”
“I am with Dr. Tico. We are trying to get into the server room but the door is not accepting codes.”
The line was quiet for a few seconds. “Get into the server room now, Trooper. I am rushing backup your way.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said and put a hand on Rose’s shoulder pushing her back. “You are going to want to stand back.”
He reached into his belt and pulled out a small can. He snapped the tip on it and ran it in a circle around the door leaving a line of thick expanding foam behind. Once he had made the circle, he tossed the empty can down the hall and aimed his blaster at the door. The bolt hit the foam and started it burning.
Rose backed away from it as an acrid smoke filled the corridor. She pulled a cabinet built into the wall open and grabbed an oxygen mask out of it. She watched as Finn drew back and kicked the door. She was surprised to see the door slide inward on hot metal then fall into two pieces inside. She wondered what the Finn specs were.
Finn stepped through the door, rifle unslung and up, sweeping the room. Rose heard him call, “You stop moving and step away.” A second later there was the sound of a blaster rifle firing twice followed by the thud of something heavy hitting the floor.
Rose peaked around the door, careful not to burn herself on the edges. An F4NC maintenance droid lay on the floor struggling to get up. One of its legs has been blasted off as had an arm which was still attached to the console. She watched as Finn moved over and flipped the droid over as if it didn’t weigh almost two hundred kilos and toggled the power switch on its back.
“What happened,” she asked, her voice muffled by the mask.
Finn looked around the server room. There was another droid there but it was not moving. He approached it slowly. “It was accessing the server systems. When it did not respond, I shot it.” He came up behind the other droid and shook his head. “This one has been tampered with, the power control board was pulled.”
Rose looked around and saw a board on the ground near the downed droid. “I think that is it. Did it attack the other one?”
“I do not know,” Finn said and slung his rifle. He sat down at one of the keyboards and began to type. There were several hisses and a large canister slid out of the wall.
“Why are you pulling the backup?” she asked.
“If this facility was following procedure, then everything being done was backed up every five standard hours. If the droid was wiping or altering data, then hopefully it didn’t have a chance to wipe the backup.” Finn crouched down next to the damaged droid. He pulled a tool kit from a pouch on his belt and began removing bolts from the droid’s chassis.
Rose watched him work. She doubted that a maintenance droid would have been able to take it apart faster. He stood up with the droid brain in hand. He stuck it into an expandable pouch on his belt then pulled the backup core from its bracket and laid it across his shoulder. “Stay with me, Doctor,” he said and stepped out of the doorway.
Rose stepped out behind him and they started down the corridor. He slowed down at the corridor where the droid had gone and glanced down it then leaned back as a couple of blaster bolts hit the far wall of the corridor. He tongued the control in his helmet as he pulled a disk off his belt and threw it down the corridor. “Captain Phasma,” he said.
“I am on my way there,” she said in return.
“The droids may have been compromised,” He said as the disk exploded and blew small chunks of metal and larger pieces that were unmistakably droid parts. He threw another disk down the hall.
After the explosion, he motioned Rose to make her way to the lift. He followed making sure nothing was comingout of the maintenance area. He looked to the lift and raised his blaster pistol as the door opened only to be met with a blaster rifle. “Clear,” he said quickly and aimed his pistol at the ceiling.
Several Stormtroopers stepped out of the lift covering the corridor beyond. “Some of the droids started attacking the staff,” one of the troopers said. “We are under orders to destroy or dismantle all of them.”
Finn stepped into the lift followed by Rose. “There is one intact but powered down in the server room. Make sure to keep it that way so I.I. can examine it. I have the core of the other one. Droid maintenance is down the hall, I don’t know how many, if any, are in there.”
“Thanks,” the trooper said and then they began to march down the hall. Finn keyed the door shut and sighed. “This seems like sabotage.”
Rose pulled the mask off. “Yeah, it does. But who would be doing it?”
Finn looked at her. “I.I. will figure it out. I would suggest that you cooperate with them.”
Rose grimaced. “Yeah. I don’t have a lot of choice.”
The doors opened to dozens of troopers. Finn led Rose out of the lift and toward the exit. He stopped outside the building. Rose gasped at the sight of the rubble that was left behind. A command speeder had just slowed to a stop. Captain Phasma climbed out followed by several officers including the Colonel.
“Good job, Finn,” she said. “I am impressed.” She looked to Rose. “You must be Dr. Tico.”
Rose nodded looking up at the armored woman. “Yes, Captain Phasma.”
The colonel walked up to them. “Captain, send them back to your ship. I want you inside to help us go over any other information. You will be escorting the doctor and the computer core back to I.I. HQ when we are done.”
Phasma nodded. “Yes sir.” She looked to Finn. “You have your orders.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said and motioned Rose toward the speeder he brought in.
“What about my things?” she asked.
“Don’t worry, Dr. Tico,” the colonel said. “I will see that they are gathered up for you. Now please head back to the landing zone with the trooper.”
She frowned butdidn’t say anything else. She did not want to risk that he might be part of I.I. and make them more suspicious. She climbed into the speeder as Finn put the data core in the bag. She leaned back in the seat stared as the rubble as the speeder took off.
“Do you ever regret being a trooper?” she asked.
Finn blinked and glanced over at her. After a second of mulling over what to say he spoke. “No ma’am. Why would I?”
She shrugged. “No reason for you to. It is a standard diagnostic question that troopers are asked from time to time. Helps us weed out the problem troopers.”
Finn frowned inside his helmet and turned his attention back to driving. “We all work for the betterment of the Empire,” he said.
She chuckled. “Good standard answer. I would expect nothing less from a Finn.”
“Do you regret what you have done?” Finn asked.
Rose pressed her lips together. That was not a question she expected from a Stormtrooper, even one that was into espionage. She was quiet as the ground sped by. “Of course I do,” she said after a moment. “I should have seen something wrong with the Wayhill batch before they went rogue, but I didn’t. I have spent the last three days trying to figure out what I missed.” She crossed her arms and leaned back in her seat.
Finn had the feeling she wasn’t saying everything. That would be I.I.’s job to get out of her. He weaved around an AT-AT as it plodded along through the rubble. A couple of speeder bikes fell in alongside them for a moment before veering off on whatever orders they were under. They came out of the rubble at the landing zone. Finn drove straight for the Star Dust, coming to a stop before it.
“Covert ship?” Rose asked looking at the light freighter that seemed completely out of place among the Imperial vessels. It looked like a smaller version of a Correllian Corvette. A long cylinder with a bridge view port in the center made up the bow, the center was rather boxy and the aft was composed of six large engines. It sat on the ground supported by six sets of landing gear, two where the center section met the bow, two near the rear of the center section and two larger landing gear to support the engines.
“Yes.” Finn shut down the speeder and climbed out. He reached into the speeder and pulled out the computer core. “Go on,” he said directing her toward the ships lowered cargo ramp.
She grumbled and climbed up the ramp. “You aren’t a Wayhill unit. Lucky for you, I was nottold to shoot you.” came a voice from the deck behind her. She jumped and spun around to see K7F1 staring down at her with a blaster rifle pointed at her.
“K7, quit scaring our guest. This is Dr. Tico. Doctor, this is K7,” Finn said as he walked up the ramp.
“When was the last time you had it wiped?” Rose asked, trying to decide if she liked the droid.
“It has only been three months,” K7 said, its gaze following Finn up the ramp.
“Four,” Finn said. “And don’t think I will forget when we get back to base.”
“I think you like me like this,” K7 said. “Are we leaving soon?”
“Probably not for a while,” Finn said. “We may becarrying more staff back with us.”
“Staff or prisoners?” K7 asked.
“Staff,” Finn said flatly. He looked at Rose. “Ignore K7. It really needs to be wiped.”
Rose nodded. “Droids aren’t my thing,” she said.
“There is a set of unused bunks to the left of the corridor that leads to the bridge,” Finn told her. “Pick one. The door to the left of the bridge is Captain Phasma’s quarters, the door to the right leads to the galley. The food isn’t the best but we have some.”
“You’ve never eaten hospital food,” she said.
“I was raised in a cloning facility,” Finn said as he secured the memory core. “Yes, I have.”