Rebel lasfire scorched his armor. Grenades pockmarked the already broken ground. The Mandalorian shouted something in his native tongue, slashing through the air on wings of flame. He cut down a handful of rebels. Bled them dry with his vibro-sword. Burned the rest to cinders. Jhen took up arms. Squeezed the trigger once. Twice. Bursts of red light came from in front of him. He didn't mind where they landed, so long as they landed. Connected with something softer than the stone around him. He could feel the pulse of the contact. It was a certain snap in the air. It felt crisp. Hot.
"For the Rebellion!"
A rebel ran up to him, grappling Jhen in the stomach area. He wouldn't let go, no matter how many times Jhen hit him with the butt of his rifle or shot him in the stomach with his pistol. This was his death grip. On his shoulder was a belt of grenades. All of them were primed.
Jhen lay across from the Mandalorian who led him here. His cybernetic leg was on the other side. It was basically a metal weight now. His arm and chest bled profusely. Burns were claiming much of his face and torso. He wasn't going to live for very much longer. The Mandalorian was already dead, claimed in the name of the death god he spouted on about. Jhen was an idiot to follow him, he thought, clutching his stomach. Ripples of napalm spat around him. Plasteel melted to his flesh.
The Imperial ships above him moved on. He reached up towards his head and folded his fingers against his brow.
Ulain Reth knew the value of war more than anyone. It was the purest form of exaltation of the Reaper, the Bloody-Handed Journeyer. His war-god Kad Ha'rangir looked down upon the Mandalorians with pride. Ulain had no doubt in his heart or mind that the fighting on Oristicon would only get worse and that was precisely what he wanted to achieve.
He had already killed his fair share of rebels in the name of the Empire and in the honor of his god. Death in battle was a death worthy of respect. These rebels he piled around him in mounds of corpses were to be ceremonially burned, so that Kad Ha'rangir could count them and add their tally to Ulain's own personal legend. He flicked his wrist-mounted flamethrower into action.
But there was a mission he hadn't yet achieved along these mountains. Pursuing rebel task forces looking to surround the stormtrooper legions would only give him passing glories. There were numerous camps dedicated to harvesting the Imperial wounded from the battlefield, perhaps to preserve them for a later death.
Death already claimed them in Ulain's mind. They were dead men, dead women, who only clung to life. They needed to be reminded that their lives and indeed Ulain's own ultimately didn't matter unless they perished in the greatest battle they could find. If Ulain had to choose, he would die in the shadow of the Sapphire City. That was where the Darths were amassing.
He went into the nearest camp to find recruits for such an undertaking.
Lorandis had left for the front lines at Jhen's urging. The young Private Brego only recently received the bionic leg implant he sorely needed. Tuning it required time that the battle didn't have. Rebels were constantly moving and shifting, drawing forces away to the Sapphire City. He wouldn't fight on Oristicon again. The fake leg drew only disgust from him.
"Look, you're in the wrong place if you're looking for recruits," he overheard Gelthrak shout. He wasn't a subtle man, if the amputations he handed out were any indication.
"Your purpose is to keep the dead alive until Kad Ha'rangir can find them again. That time is now,"
Jhen didn't know much about alien cultures, least of all what the man Gelthrak was arguing with was talking about. But when he locked gazes with that T-shaped visor his blood ran cold. It was as if his veins were being smothered in ice, and he couldn't look away.
"You, with the ghost limb. The drums of war are still beating in tune with your heart. Stand, and follow me,"
Jhen felt like he had to comply and, before he knew it, he was standing despite never meeting this man before. He hurriedly put his armor back on.
"You are ready to die a second time. Good."
"Damn Mandalorians. Private Brego, take your plate off and lay back down!" Gelthrak ordered.
Jhen took up his blaster, but didn't reply. He just followed the 'Mandalorian'. He would not fight on Oristicon again, but he knew where he would die.
"Hold him down!" apothecary Magus Gelthrak demanded, his bionic eye fixating on the patient.
They were in a rudimentary medical tent, surrounded by victims of the latest push into the tunnels. Most were silent, unconscious or shell-shocked. At worst some were already dead. Jhen was not one of those lucky few. Lorandis had gotten him to the med bay fast enough. Strayfer covered their retreat until reinforcements arrived to cut deeper into the system.
He was there, silent and grim, until Magus instructed him with a glare to grab the legs.
Jhen was going into shock. Brain death was minutes away with how much blood he was hemorrhaging from the crushed femoral artery in his leg. The other was salvageable. Lorandis was screaming for him to stop shaking.
Gelthrak shoved a blaster clip into Jhen's mouth to half-throttle the cries of pain. The main reason was he was low on anesthetic and bacta. He had plenty of juice in his cauterizing saw, however.
It was a quick surgery. Jhen snapped back to reality, that gruesome and horrid miasma of death. He smelled it in his throat. The blaster clip bent to the shape of his teeth as his muffled screams intermingled with Lorandis' own of pure and primal panic.
As quickly as the blade cut into his flesh, it was out, leaving a smouldering stump where his limb used to be. Jhen didn't know anything about it at the time. He was passed out to the rhythm of the blood transfusion dripping into his veins. He would live.
Lorandis fell to the ground, dazed.
"Alright get him off. Find a bunk somewhere and stay with him," Gelthrak basically just ordered Strayfer to do it. Lorandis wasn't much for helping at the moment. He watched as the Dark Trooper seemed to lay his best friend in the war inside an open grave framed with white linen.
He didn't say much at bedside.
Something about being an idiot for wanting to see the damned Dragoons, then a string of curse words.
It was quiet after that. As quiet as it could be through the palpable anguish around them.