There were some things that needed to be told to the general public not because they were easy but because it was difficult. Because it was the least he could do to try and publically honour a Captain of the Rangers, a man who had laid down his life in defense of the people and their interests. Douglas Hudson was not a man who believed that dying for a cause made someone a hero; no, it was what the person had done during their life that made them a hero.
And Roland had been a hero.
“Today, we mark the passing of Ranger Captain Roland Rook. Captain Rook took his duties seriously and pushed himself hard; on this occasion he was pursuing leads in an area of space known for violent Sith activity.” He announced to the holonet projector with an expression firmly set into a stern, if slightly sad, frown, “To the end, he took the fight to those who would call us enemy, those who would stand between people and their freedoms.”
He shifted ever so slightly in place.
“To anyone who knew Captain Rook, his decision to continue to investigate and combat Sith aggression should come as no surprise; he fought in the attack on Coruscant prison, he answered the call to arms on Dathomir and he stood with his people on Mandalore.”
On the holo-display being broadcast through the Core and Inner Rim territories, stills of Roland were shown. Images of him assisting civilians and in action against criminals - always resplendent in his armor like a resolute guardian.
“Roland Rook was a hero and his passing will not be forgotten, it will not be forgiven and it will not discourage us from continuing to do our duty.”
The feed changed back to the Ranger Chief, sat at his desk with his face set. Chief Hudson wasn’t the kind of man to allow himself to fly off the handle. Internally he was grieving at the loss of a friend and a valued Ranger but he would not allow himself to show that to the public. He would grieve on his own time and he would assure the Galaxy and his Rangers with every second of time he had to make the broadcast.
“Our enemies in the criminal underworld and the Sith-held territories wish to break us but I say to you now that they have broken nothing. A great man has been lost, it is true, but the only way for them to truly succeed is for us to abandon what he stood for; the pursuit of justice and the defense of the innocent.” his folded hands tightened their grip on each other almost noticeably, “So I say to those who stand against law and order within our Galaxy; Roland Rook may be gone but what he stood for will never die.”
Chief Hudson began to wind down the announcement, closing with something he could see himself repeating time and time again in the coming weeks and months.
“We will remember Roland Rook and we shall not let him down.”
Bast sat reclined on her couch, dark circles under her dull eyes. The holonet news was never uplifting, but being up to date was a necessity for the Ranger. Eventually one became numb. There had been times she had seen half a man, blown apart, his left leg on the other side of the room. She had seen skulls ground to a bloody pulp, children weep over the mutilated, undignified bodies of their parents. Yet the Corellian could return to her quarters and flip on a holodrama and do paperwork without a second thought. All the moments she had not mourned the dead built up in her like a poison until one night she would feel too hot. The tears would come readily and heavily and she could not stop until she felt lightheaded. Then she would skip dinner, briefly look down from the balcony, and go to sleep.
This was not one of those nights. Not yet, at least. They had come more often since the outpost. She should have been over it, but she was not, and being too weak to protect her men, she was too proud to resign.
The sharp-looking anchor in the blue dress stepped aside on the flickering projection, replaced by the hardened face of a man: Chief Douglas Hudson. Bast had never met him in person, but she immediately sat straighter and listened attentively. Something was off, though. He typically gave speeches to boost morale. This time the man bore no encouraging smile. His lips were tight and he swallowed before beginning.
“Today, we mark the passing of Ranger Captain Roland Rook. Captain Rook took his duties seriously and pushed himself hard; on this occasion he was pursuing leads in an area of space known for violent Sith activity.”
She blinked. What?
The Chief continued in the customary fashion, celebrating his successes and sacrifice, calling for action. She had been to enough funerals of fallen comrades to know the gist. Something about it rang ingenuine. Did he even know the man? The only time she had seen the Hudson was at her cadet graduation, where he gave a brief speech before running off to a meeting. It felt as if her ribcage had shrunk, not allowing for full breaths. What gave him the right to sing these praises? What gave her the right to foster fury about it? She had hardly known The Captain. The former captain. The Ranger stepped away and the normal broadcast resumed. Bast shut off the holo projection with the flick of a switch.
Sitting with nothing but the silence of her own company, the woman felt something claw at the back of her throat. Captain Rook had run a training session with her, invited her to his party. For some odd reason, possibly religious, he refused to remove his helmet. He was a good man- had been a good man. As much as she wanted to grieve, simply for the release, the Lieutenant could not summon tears. Perhaps they would come a different day. She stared at the wall where the projection had been, trying to recall the images of the Mandalorian Ranger, the people’s hero, but they were fleeting. There was something that had left her from the time she had begun watching the holo-net news. Whatever it was left an empty, dark, still void in its place. She went to bed.
Following the news of Captain Rooks death, a personal hero of Rich's, he would immediately begin looking through various reports and sightings of the good Captain. The images he was looking at were of Rook sitting at the bar with a blue skinned woman, some Ranger party on Coruscant.. And the other, was of Captain Rook possibly wearing platform boots to add to his height and different armor, a person that was also referred to as Captain Rook. "Oh-ho... you clever bastard... Faking your own death to run away with the Blue Lady. Well played, Captain, well played. I'll go along with the ruse." Rich said with grin as he leaned back in his chair.
They were down deep. Down in the muck. Down so far that Corran was starting to wonder if he'd remember what a day cycle would look like when it was all over. For months they had been trudging through the underdark of Nar Shaddaa. Only coming up for air at rare periods of a time to rest and reorganize. Like some sort of deep-water aquatic mammal. But this would be their last delve into the depths. Ranger Darmus Onn and Lieutenant Velt had been the first to descend and set up a staging area. More like a camouflaged lean-to, but it was as close as they could get. With others making their way down, the younger ranger of the two made a silent signal he was going to take a break. Likely the last one he'd take before the raid started.
Not far from the kick-off point, a short path led to a duracrete pillar that come off its base a long, long time ago. It leaned against the rubble of what was once a water purification pump system. Damaged pipes jutted out with one leaking the tiniest stream of water into a puddle. Drip. Drip. It was here that Corran took a heat against the column and removed his helmet. Crimson looked back at him before setting it aside on the duracrete. The smallest sliver of blue light shone through the array of broken pipes and decayed, buried structures. It was artificial - most likely some hologram sign far above that still lived. Twinkling like moonlight.
Drip. Drip. The blond ranger rubbed his face with both hands to shake off mental cobwebs. He needed to be clear-headed before the mission. Any amount of fatigue could be fatal. Still, he needed to be ready to be called back up to the outpost. A gloved hand fished out his personal datapad. An alert was already there. Curious. Signal must still be making it down this far. Old holonet transmitters must still be active - long forgotten but still drawing power. Lieutenant Velt scooted his knees up to his chest and opened it. Drip. Drip.
Sky-blue eyes in the darkness scanned through the written message. It was an announcement from Chief Hudson. A transcript of a speech or one prepared before. Drip. Drip. The eyes followed each line carefully before freezing. A pause of emotion. But then they kept reading on. Drip. Captain Roland Rook was dead. How he died wasn't explain, but the Sith Slayer was gone. They had trained together, fought together, celebrated together, and even scouted the very pathway to the Sith base they were about to strike together. He was a hero. Corran had never even seen his face. "Captain," whispered a wounded voice, "Why didn't you come with us?"
Two tiny droplets disturbed the puddle, causing subtle ripples that bounced back and forth. But the broken pipe had stopped leaking. Corran rubbed his eyes with his sleeve. There would never be time for that. Mourning would not save Roland now. Only evening the odds. Gravel crackled as the the lieutenant rose to his feet. He steadied himself on the damaged, leaning pillar for a moment before picking up his helmet with two hands. He studied it for a moment. If he ever found the Mandalorian's armor - event a fragment - he would bury it on Mandalore. Even if that wasn't their custom, it felt right. The blood-red helmet slipped over the young man's head and quietly hissed as it sealed. "I'm heading back now," Lieutenant Velt reported in a stoic and monotoned voice, "Ready for mission kickoff."
Blue light shimmered into the debris-ridden alcove long after the young Sector Ranger had gone. Leaving behind only the oaths he made to himself and the puddle, now undisturbed.
Days off were something Poet rarely enjoyed nowadays. With Muse gone and their father back to doing his Jedi duties, the Ranger was left being doted by and taken care of by his Mum whenever he neglected to look out for himself.
Rest evaded him, and Poet spent the day trying to articulate his current thoughts on the 48 x 72 canvas in front of him. Smaller ones lined up behind the one before him, all painted with varying subjects ranging from the cityscape beyond his window to his family – his Dad included (he might have issues with the old man returning to the Jedi, but that didn't mean he loved his father less for it). The windows of his room were opened wide, allowing for air to circulate inside the room and to prevent himself from ending up hallucinating or passing out from the paints' fumes. So far he'd only achieved painting an approaching thunderstorm on the top half of the canvas. The empty space below was beginning to irritate him the longer he stared at it.
"Kriffing dumb brain," he snarled quietly to himself. Poet closed his eyes for a moment before he rose from his seat. A quick look out the window had him cursing. Night already? Paint-streaked hands nearly touched his face in exhaustion.
He wanted to sleep, but it was elusive. The half-Morellian stumbled out of his room and headed straight for the kitchen to fix himself a mug of caf. Probably a bad idea considering he wanted to sleep, but–
"Poet, honey?" his Mum's voice came from the living room. She sounded worried, and exhaustion packed itself in the back of his mind as he swiftly marched to where she was.
Did someone break in? But he'd installed additional security features on the front door the day Dad left–
"You– You need to see this."
The sight of Chief Hudson greeted him as he stepped into the living room, mug of coffee still in one hand. There was something off, something the man said earlier that Poet didn't catch but the young Ranger immediately froze at the Chief's next words.
“To the end, he took the fight to those who would call us enemy, those who would stand between people and their freedoms.”
Chief Douglas Hudson was speaking in past tense – who the kriff died this time?
“To anyone who knew Captain Rook, his decision to continue to investigate and combat Sith aggression should come as no surprise–"
Even the sound of shattering mug and his mother's worried voice flew over Poet's head as he listened to the Chief.
No. No, no, no, no...
Stills of the Mandalorian flashed on the screen while Chief Hudson continued to speak highly of and honor the captain. Poet might not have worked with the captain but Roland Rook was someone he admired, someone the half-Morellian aspired to be like one day. He might not have known the Mandalorian personally and was never around with much save for that social on Corsin, but the captain's death still hit pretty damn hard.
Captain Rook was a beacon of light among the Rangers, a man whose courage inspired his colleagues in their campaign against crime and the Sith. Now he was gone, the Chief's report leaving nary a clue as to who or what killed him. To say that the captain died– no, was killed in an area where violent Sith activity took place wouldn't be enough to pin the crime on the Sith themselves. And Poet hated it, despite being convinced in one way or another that one of those sick bastards had done it. That a huge possibility that a Sith had killed Captain Rook existed, it made Poet's blood boil with rage.
Why was it that good men died first?
"A great man has been lost–"
"No shit, you damn kriffer!" Poet raged at the holo, turning away from the screen in search of anything he could get his hands on, anything he could break. "Captain Rook isn't just a great man! Dumbass! He is–"
His mother rose from her seat and took his shaking hands in hers to stop him. The Ranger instinctively stilled, afraid to hurt her, and he willingly went into her embrace when she moved to wrap her arms around him.
"I'm so sorry, Poet," she whispered at him, one hand gently patting the back of his head. "Captain Rook is– was a great man, he didn't deserve what happened to him. I'm so sorry..."
Leaning down to bury his face on her shoulder, the half-Morellian's hands curled into fists at his sides. No, Captain Rook did not deserve what happened to him – not one bit. Not when he had made a difference and had tried to make the galaxy a better place for everyone. Not when he wanted to put a stop to the Sith and the crime families that tied themselves to that karking Order. Not when he could have saved more lives had he not been killed.
Why the hell was the galaxy unfair to good people who only wanted peace?