Vong War Annals – “Black ops” 4.17.2009

           It was just another job.
           That’s what he told himself every time they sent him in. He’d been doing this for many years now. Many more years than he’d been able to count. It wasn’t as if he had much choice either. Officially, he was dead. Officially, the pile of junk he had once called his ship had exploded upon takeoff, blasting him into his component atoms. A faulty power coil, the official investigation had determined. A terrible tragedy.
          Problem was, he was very much alive.
          He sometimes wished he really had been killed when they blew up his ship. Ugly, slow and malfunction prone as that small freighter had been, it represented what little innocence he had left in his life. And the bastards blew it to pieces. Just to “officially” kill him so they could use him for their own purposes.
          He had forgotten how many years it had been since NRI had recruited him for their black ops program. Not that he’d been given a lot of choice. They’d threatened the woman he loved (and she’d died anyway. Routine patrol. Frag grenade. Terrible tragedy. Military funeral. Not that he’d been allowed to attend, being officially dead and all), threatened him and threatened whatever was left. But the truth was, once he’d started, he’d been unable to stop. It was all he had left.
          He stared into the mirror. The years since his “death” had not been kind to him. His hairline had begun to recede and there were some grey hairs appearing at his temples. His face looked more weathered, as if each wrinkle represented every person he killed. And killing was something he had done plenty of. Even after the truce with the Imperial Remnant had been declared, his superiors kept sending him in to “keep tabs”.
          He turned the cold tap on and rinsed his face. It was no good in his eyes. He still saw the face of a killer stare back at him. Worse still, he could still see the faces of those he had killed, even if the majority of them wore stormtrooper helmets. Even now, the ghosts of his past still haunted him.
          He shook his head rapidly. No time to worry about that. His handler wanted to see him today. That was fine by him. He would tell that arrogant pile of bantha dung that he was done. Finished. No more blood on his hands. He wanted out of the black ops game. A bad feeling came over him, like a wave of nausea.
          Strange. He had not tapped into the Force for a long time.
          True, he still always kept his lightsabre close by out of habit, but it had been a long time since the Force had called out to him and longer still since he’d ignited that dark green blade. Most likely his subconscious had cut him off due to the nature of his work in order to prevent him falling to the Dark Side.
          Whatever the case, as of today, Howdern Harm was out of the black ops business.

           Howie sat at his usual table on the balcony of the usual cantina where he met his handler. He’d been on this armpit of a world for a year now. He was, frankly, sick and tired of it. He ordered his usual order from the waiter and looked out onto the street. Luckily, it was the middle of the day, so there were no glitbiters out to mug tourists. All in all, it was pretty safe.
          A man dressed in casual, loose fitting clothing sat across from him. Howie recognised his contact immediately. The pompous git tried to look like “a man of the people” every time. And every time he managed to look like he was trying way too hard. This time, it appeared he had pierced one of his ears and was wearing what any idiot could tell was a cheap piece of glass trying to be passed off as a diamond. Then again, on this world, that was apparently fashionable.
           Before he could say the redundant and unnecessary code phrase, Howie waved his hand.
           “That’s not necessary,” he smiled, “Not been for a long time.”
           “I see,” the man sighed, “But procedure dictates…”
           Howie tuned out at this stage. When you’re under this much cover, you forget what the book looks like. If New Republic Intelligence ever threw the book at Howdern Harm, he wouldn’t even know what they were hitting him with. Not that they would, what with him being officially dead and all.
          “…every meeting,” the man finished, “I have new orders for you.”
           “Forget it,” Howie said
           “What?”
           “I said ‘Forget it’. I’m done. Through. Finito. No more.”
           “What?”
           “Didn’t you understand me, you incompetent, overzealous gimboid? I said I’m done. No more black ops. No more suicidal missions infiltrating facilities belonging to people we’re at peace with. No more bluffing my way in doors and out ventilation shafts. No more. I just want out. Don’t care what to or where, just off this rock.”
           The man paused. He looked at his datapad, then back at Howie.
           “Well,” he smiled, “Isn’t that a shame?”
           Howie heard the unmistakable sound of at least a dozen blasters being cocked behind him.

– Howie

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