Note: Whatever's on this page is probably because I'm working on it @ work, where I don't have access to e-mail or the main RS site. So nothing you see here is necessarily set in stone, and very much subject to change, yadda yadda, etc. etc.
(7 days prior to the Battle of Blerthmore)
"Prisoner 46221, step forward!" A guard clad in a dark gray uniform with the insignia of the Rebel Squadrons Task Force barked out from the entrayway to a uniform detention cell. Behind him were two more guards, similarly dressed, their hands resting warily upon blasters unclipped from their holsters.
"Vader's Heart, they really did give him a pardon!" Someone exclaimed from the milling crowd of bright orange clad prisoners arrayed haphazardly around the large, central area. This was mixed in with several other exclamations of shock and surprise.
"You're out, Count!" A tiny Chadra-Fan, looking ridiculous in a prison uniform cut for a being almost a meter taller than him, squeaked at the figure slowly rising next to him.
Prisoner 46221 rose to his feet slowly, turning down to look at the Chadra-Fan with a nod and a quick, sly smile. "Like I promised, Bini, I'll put in a call for you. You'll have a good lawyer for your appeal."
"I am in your debt, Count." The little Chadra-fan looked up at the taller man, genuinely appreciative, and extended a small, clawed hand. "I'll see you on the outside?"
"Of course," Prisoner 46221 took Bini's hand in a firm grip. "So long, Bini."
"So long to you too, Count!" Prisoner 46221 let go of the Chadra-Fan's hand and began walking toward the guards, exchanging nods with several inmates amid a chorus of "Goodbye Count!" "See you on the outside!" and other jailhouse promises. Stopping his little parade directly in front of the guard who'd called out his name, Prisoner 46221 extended both his hands, not bothering to conceal the smuik on his tiredface, covered in almost a week's worth of dark blond stubble.
"What's so funny, Prisoner 46221? Afraid you're going to miss your little girlfriend over there?" The lead guard asked, motioning to the Chadra-Fan sitting on a cot against the wall of the cell's common area as he securely fastened a set of binders to Prisoner 46221's outstretched wrists.
"No," the prisoner said dryly, dropping is bindered hands in front of him. "I was just thinking about how much I will enjoy the fact that by the end of the day, I'll outrank you by about 12 grades."
The guard said nothing, instead giving the Prisoner a rough rank on his binders that almost caused the taller man to fall. "Get in line!" He barked, roughly pushing the prisoner between the two other guards. Stepping through the portal, the prisoner and his escort left the cell, the gray durasteel door closing firmly behind them.
The office of the Fleet Commander of the Rebel Squadrons Task Force was fairly plain, clearly reflecting the tastes of its current occupant. There was nothing to suggest opulence, just the utilitarian tools of command, documents spread across a nondescript desk, an assortment of data pads stacked on a chair in the corner. Only a few pieces of artwork hung in the office, their spartan use of colors meshing well with the atmosphere of the room. Fleet Commander David Astoris-Trebonious sat amidst the minor hurricane of paperwork arrayed on his desk like several feet of snow. He looked down at his personal datapad and sighed. The meeting he was about to take had been on his schedule for almost a week now, and his sense of apprehension had been building steadily since then. A chime rang on his comm console, along the wall to the left side of the desk.
"Yes?" He asked, going through his notes for the meeting one final time.
"He is here, sir." A nondescript female voice announced.
"Very well, let him in," Dave sighed one last time, closing his note file and standing from his chair.
On cue, the office door smoothly opened, and in walked Prisoner 46221, surrounded in a triangle by the three grey-clad guards. "Prisoner 46221, reporting as ordered, sir!" Called the lead guard as all three popped a crisp salute.
"Thank you, Sergeant," Dave returned the salute and sat back down. "Take off his binders, and then the three of you are dismissed."
The lead guard paused for a second, a questioning look in his eye, before he turned to the prisoner, who again had both his hands outstretched. Quickly triggering the release on the binders, the guard stuck them back in his back pocket. Casting another threatening look at the prisoner, the guard turned precisely on his heel, exiting the office with his two assistants close behind.
"Thanks, Dave," the prisoner, still clad in his bright orange jumper said, looking down as he rubbed his wrists. "I was wondering-"
"Do not thank me, Petr. Do not think this amnesty you're being given is some sort of personal favor, or a result of your family's influence, or anything other than what it is, a last resort borne of need." Dave looked sternly at Prisoner 46221, also known as Ex-New Republic General Petr Tagge Margul. "There are many officers here who would just as soon let you rot in the brig for the rest of your life. You're only saved by the fact that you're more useful right now to the Republic on duty than in a cell."
"By 'many officers', sir, do you mean to include yourself?" Petr asked, still standing in the center of the FC's office.
"I'm very tempted to agree with them," the Fleet Commander rose forward slightly in his chair. "Petr, what in Vader's name were you thinking? If you'd been smuggling to Republic-allied groups, maybe Intel might have looked the other way. But no, never any sense of discretion for you. In the file I've been reading there's no less than eight confirmed shipments to groups overtly affiliated with the Remnant. So I say again, what were you thinking?"
"Good business sense, I suppose," Margul ran a hand through his blond hair, usually fairly light, was slightly darker, perhaps reflecting the few opportunities he had recently had for a proper shower. "Sell to one supplier only, they eventually come to think they can set a price. Sell to multiple sources, well, more competition, and hence, more profits."
"But that's just it," Dave sighed in frustration. "What do you care about profit? You've been set for life since the day you were born. You worked hard to get beyond your Imperial past, and in the last six or seven years you'd proved yourself to damn near everyone. What would possibly compel you to throw that all away? I mean, consider, what you did can certainly be construed as treason."
"If you thought I was a traitor, I wouldn't have a pardon," Margul's perpetual smile faded, replaced by a stern, business-like gaze.
"Don't be so certain about that," the Fleet Commander held up a finger in warning. "Do not underestimate the need we have these days. Anything in the Outer Rim, military or otherwise, is not exactly a budget priority for the Senate these days. We're short on everything, equipment and material, as always. But especially, veterans. Transfers, attrition, promotions, it's left us spread thin. Sure, we have a steady supply of personnel being sent in by Coruscant, but most of them are raw, very raw. Which is why you have your pardon. Your very conditioned pardon."
"The conditions," Margul said. "I was wondering about those."
"It's very simple, Petr, hopefully so simple that even you can't weasel your way around it. No monkey business. Nothing. No gambling, no smuggling alcohol onto ships for people. No favors. No shenanigans. Not a single activity that could even potentially be considered unethical. You are going to be a model officer, an example. And if you're not, you will go back in the brig. Where you will stay, for a much, much longer time than you are prepared to stay. There will be no 'breathing room', if you will. If you mess up, you back in. It's that simple."
"You know," Margul began, his grin returning. "You always had a way of ruining my fun. I guess I really gave you your chance this time."
"This is not a joke, Petr," Dave said gravely, reaching into his drawer for a document. "If you think our history, or your history with anyone else here, will keep you out of trouble, you're wrong. You've spent all your chits, Petr. It's important you understand that."
"If you say so, Dave. I mean, sir," Margul replied less than convincingly, his eyes casting around the room, averting looking directly at Dave.
"Well, if the past years have taught me anything, it's that I'm sure not going to get through to you. So we'll see what happens," Dave placed the documents on the table, clearing a small stack of personnel files from the middle of the desk. "You are going to be placed in command of Phalcun Squadron, with the IBG. I've made sure a lot of the greener pilots are concentrated there. You've also been given a few veterans to help speed things along. Including Trate Daxson."
"Trate came back?" Margul asked, genuinely surprised.
"See it as a sign of the times," Dave stood, pushing the documents to the edge of the desk toward Petr, who walked forward to look at them. "Intel knows he was involved in your little operations. There's not a thing either of you have ever done in which the other wasn't involved somehow. The only reason he's not standing here with you right now is because he was smart enough not to get caught. The last thing I want is to put you two back together, but I need these people trained fast, and for better or worse, it's clear you two work together pretty well."
"So I train them up, and then what?" Margul murmered, picking up the documents.
"Most likely, as soon as the squadron is deemed up to a sufficient level of training, you'll be replaced by a junior officer."
"Replaced?" Margul's brow furrowed as he set down the papers. "You want me to get a squadron up to flight, get these kids used to a certain style and operational tempo, and then just turn it over? That makes no sense, Dave."
"Well, I wouldn't want to do it if I thought I could trust you!" The exasperation in Dave's tone was clear. "But how can I conscionably give that to you? This pardon as it is barely happened."
"I see," Petr said flatly, gesturing at the documents on the edge of Dave's desk. "I assume I need to sign these?"
"Yes," Dave said, pushing a pen toward him and then warily leaning back in his chair, massaging his brow.
Petr leaned over, giving the papers a final once over. Dave tipped back in his chair a little further, his hand still on his brow. He had been afraid things would turn out like this. Petr was as sullen and defiant as ever. At the moment he almost wished he had just left him in the brig. There was no doubt there would be trouble on the horizon. Dave had no idea when, or what, it would be, but it was almost a dead certainty it would happen. Trouble seemed to follow Petr like an old, loyal nek hound, his faithful travelling companion.
"There, everything should be finished," Petr said, affixing his signature to the last page and dropping the pen back on the table. "So I assume I should report to the dock for transport?"
"There's a shuttle waiting for you. They'll fly you out to Phalcun."
"Very well," Petr looked at him a little coldly as he gave a perfunctory salute. "Well, I'll see you around, sir."
"Dismissed," Dave rose to return the salute, than sank back in his chair. Yes, he thought, this was prototypical Petr. He'd just been given a last chance, and again here he was, headed at flank speed for the edge. Dave watched as he turned away, walking purposefully toward the door. "Petr."
Margul stopped at the exit way, the door swishing open as he approached.
"Why did you leave?"
"I could explain it to you," Margul said, a hint of anger in his voice, perhaps something darker. "But I doubt you would understand. I doubt many here would understand." And with that he walked out, not giving Dave another chance to reply.
The next few days came to Margul in a blur. He traded in his prison orange for his blue uniform and flight suit. His old X-Wing, purchased with personal money and extensively modified, against standing RS doctrine, had been taken out of mothball storage, where it'd been placed after his disappearance. Trate had not yet arrived for assignment, something about the usual personnel and transport hold-ups. In his first few days, Margul barely got a chance to speak to any of his new squad members. They were still going through temporary manuevers with their temporary CO, and besides, he was fairly dreading having to do so. These men and women were raw recruits, fresh, enthusiastic, unwavering in their support of the Republic and the Squadrons. No doubt they, along with most of the fleet, had heard some second-hand version of Margul's story. He wasn't sure how, or if it was even possible, to gain their confidence. But he'd have to find a way, without confidence, he couldn't lead, and he couldn't train. Of course, he had different ideas than Dave about what this would mean. He had never intended to come back to the military. Those days, he had thought, were behind him. He had found, ironically, a much more "honest" profession, smuggling. But the reasons for his sudden departure remained closely guarded by him. Several old friends and comrades sent him mails, or tried to get him on the comm, but he did not take the calls, or write back. He didn't want to come back. He'd just wanted to disappear. And he certainly didn't want to have to try and explain things to people who'd used to look up to him, to trust him. Instead, he'd spent most of the last few days in his quarters, leaving only for meals, exercise and simulator time.
When the series of events that would be known as the Battle of Blerthmore hit, Margul was as unprepared as most. The IBG had been transferred to Tarsonis for shore leave, though Margul had opted to remain on ship. Phalcun's temporary CO had been transferred back out, and Petr was scheduled to take over following the end of shore leave. He had been awakened suddenly, in the early hours of the morning, by the blare of klaxons. The ship's captain had immediately taken the comm, gravely announcing that Blerthmore was under attack by a numerically superior Imperial force, and all forces were to be recalled immediately to their respective ships for immediate deployment. Margul had barely had time to clean up and get to the ready room. When he arrived on the flight deck, the members of Phalcun were already assembled in the hangar's corner. A bunch of kids, Margul had thought to himself, many of them looking understandably a little frightened. Trate had still not showed up. He had heard some rumor that Rahj Tharen had come looking for him, but again, he hadn't been answering his comm. He had relayed the orders given to him to his squad, then handed out designations. There was no point in learning everyone's names. For all he know, half of them would be dead by the end of the day.
Margul, and most of his squadron, managed to survive the day's events. They'd played their part in the push to reinforce Blerthmore. And he'd done his part in keeping Phalcun alive.