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The Welcome Wagon

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After destroying the tank droid, General Surik decided they'd rest for awhile at the underground base. No need to rush to the polar plateau, after all; her ship, however it had gotten there, wasn't going to be leaving any time soon. The old woman at the crash site was hiking her way here now the way was clear, and they could all use a little time to recuperate. The marksman, Atton, drank a bottle of water and two nearly-expired protein bars, and then curled up in a corner to get some sleep. Bao-Dur felt for him. Guy had the look of several long, lean years, and the last push had been brutal.

Bao-Dur wasn't feeling so fresh himself, but all the years of war, first against the Mandalorians and then against Revan, had taught him the necessity of pacing himself. He'd been living in the rough for weeks, picking off mercenaries in ones and twos, whittling down their forces, and even if the General hadn't shown up like a flaming gift from above, he could have kept his guerrilla campaign going for quite a while. Still. It was good to have some help that he hadn't had to build himself.

"Hungry?" the General asked, holding out what looked like a Czerka-issued MRE. Bao-dur grimaced, but took it anyway. He'd eaten worse things over the years, even if he couldn't think of them off-hand. The next few moments were quiet, save for the rustling of the wrappers and the distinct snap of the chemical heating elements activating. There weren't any tables or chairs, but there were plenty of shipping crates to sit on, so Bao-dur did, angling himself towards the corridor that went towards the base exit. No reason to get sloppy, even if they had cleaned out the the place on the way in.

The General hesitated a moment before sitting on another crate, a small, nearly imperceptible frown on her face as she poked at the reconstituted meat product in the tray. Bao-Dur sympathised: this stuff was even worse than the krill-rations they'd had to eat when they'd been retaking Dxun.

"Is it just me, or does this stuff look even worse than the old krill-rations we used to eat?" she asked, wrinkling her nose.

"It's not just you," Bao-Dur said with a low chuckle. "this stuff is pretty terrible."

She quirked a quick smile at him before taking a deep breath and eating a piece. Bao-Dur paused for a moment, watching the brief expression of disgust cross her face before being overtaken by the resigned expression of someone who knows that they're at the end of their rope, nutritionally speaking. He chuckled again before turning to his own horrible mystery meat paste. Terrible, as expected, but Bao-dur wasn't going to turn down free food. He just kept chewing and swallowing, and soon enough, he was done.

"Force, you must have a stomach of durasteel to eat it that quickly," the General said in amazement. "I'm still working on my second bite!"

"The key," Bao-Dur advised as he stood up and popped his back, "is to hold your breath and do the minimum chewing necessary to enable swallowing. That way you don't actually have to taste it much between bites."

She grimaced at him, before determinedly taking a deep breath and another bite, and Bao-Dur was struck anew at how time had changed her. It wasn't that she looked terribly aged or ill-used by the years, or even that she'd obviously lived through some hard times in the decade since the end of the Mandalorian Wars; so had they all, and Bao-dur had the fancy arm to prove it. it was just that his inner image of her had always remained a memory of the intensely energetic, almost preternaturally vital presence she'd been at the head of the Sixth Army, and now... she wasn't.

It felt strange to look at a legend, and see only a woman making horrible faces as she ate.

Suddenly, she swore before spitting something out into her free hand. Bao-Dur felt his eyebrow raise almost despite himelf, and walked a little closer to her as she gagged and tossed the half-eaten tray of food down on the ground. Bao-Dur stood next to her as she opened her palm, and they both looked at the object she'd spit out for a long moment.

"How wonderful," she said, deadpan. "It's a tiny bone."

"Can you imagine?" Bao-Dur chortled, grinning like a loon. "General Meetra Surik, hero of the Mandalorian Wars, choking to death on a fish bone!"

The general didn't quite smile at Bao-Dur before tossing the bone into the tray and wiping her hand off on her jacket. "You have no idea if this is a fish bone. I think I'll pass on Czerka rations from now on. Force knows I won't give them the satisfaction of choking to death, not after all this," she stated, gesturing at the remains of the tanker droid.

"Think of it as a welcome," Bao-Dur suggested light-heartedly.

"A welcome to what?" she questioned skeptically, hands on hips.

"A welcome to the Telos Restoration Project, of course! My fuel source just blew up, the Senate is threatening to cut my funding, and Czerka is using my work as a cover for their looting free-for-all," he said dryly, only half-joking. "The food trying to kill us is right in-line with the way my year has been going."

General Surik just looks up at him for one long moment, something awful and solemn on her face. But that passes quickly, and she grins at him before slapping him lightly on the bicep.

"Your fuel source just blew up, the Senate is threatening to cut your funding, and Czerka is using your work as a cover for their looting free-for alll," she agrees. "But look on the bright side: you've got me on your side now."

"Oh? I don't recall recruiting you," he said seriously, playing along.

"Sure you do: It was just yesterday, about 10 klicks from here. You rescued my friends and me from a burning shuttle," the General smirked. "But it's been a busy day, I understand, so let me summarize my skills in relation to your needs: I'm highly experienced in coordinating fire teams, excellent at project management, and my former employer consistently rated me in the top 1% in logistics and supp-"

"Yeah, yeah," Bao-Dur laughed. "I was there the first time around, I know what you can do."

"Well?" she said expectantly. "Does that mean I'm hired?"

"Well, how can I say no to such an elite resume? So let me give you my official welcome to the Telos Restoration Project," he said, and quick as he could rapped her on the forehead with his right hand. "Welcome to the team; we're glad to have you aboard! I must warn you, our salary is a finely calibrated mix of fire fights, assassinations, and swearing, with the occasional day of industrial sabotage to round it out. Our end goal? The resurrection of a dead planet. When can you start?"

"How about yesterday?" she retorted, and put his organic hand into an incredibly painful joint lock. As Bao-Dur swore, Atton raised his head and blinked at them before grumbling something irritated and vile in their general direction. The other man then turned and faced the wall before pulling his jacket up around his head, apparently settling back down to sleep. The General released Bao-Dur from the joint lock, and they both exaggeratedly crept away from their sleeping companion, Bao-dur idly rotating his wrist.

"So tell me: is he always like that?" Bao-Dur questioned in a low tone as they walked away. "I mean, I know it's been a long day, but I don't think I've seen that guy smile yet."

"Nah," The General replied, smug as a Tarisian feathered dog hunting gizka. "Sometimes he's even worse."