***Imperial T4 Shuttle Blackthorn, en route to the planet's surface***
Captain Vassyl lazily eyed the gleaming hulls of the Black Lances squadron as they danced about the shuttle convey. Their ionic screech had kept Doren alert as multiple Sentinel and T4 shuttlecraft bore down through the upper atmosphere of Aivis and towards its marsh-covered surface. "Another insufferable mud-hole", Vassyl mused to himself, "it will take an age to scrub the filth out of my boots". Unkind memories of Endor and Kashyyyk flooded Doren's memory, and he did his best to push the conditions of the strange world towards the back of his mind. Aivis, a satellite that had remained static in the face of time. Yes, its heritage was one of deceit and mystery.
Several millennium ago, during a stellar collapse in the Denarii system, the planet in question had been forced out of orbit, left to wander in an bunker of deadspace until it was eventually rediscovered during the days of the Old Republic. Interestingly, it was the stocky Xexto that moved first to colonize the land untouched by time, and quickly discovered its seemingly unending veins of precious ores. As soon as word reached the senate's ears, the Republic made a mad dash to seize the system for "government projects"; the Xexto proved more tenacious than expected, at violently opposed galactic bureaucracy, digging trenches and tunnels that went deep into the planet's crust.
Funding proved a consistent issue for the quadramanual miners, but the Clone Wars provided an excellent alternative by way of the Separatists. When the New Order rose, the Empire caught the Republic's slack, and the conflict escalated into a state of total war. The Xexto reached out to the Rebellion, the Hutts, and several other shady benefactors for economic support- only to renege on their word when it was convenient to do so. It was a cross-generational struggle that just continued to take with little to give. In recent years, the Empire had tried to pull out and leave the isolationist Xexto to their own devices, but the objections of infamous Moff Durron of Bonadan had forced the military's reluctant hand.
And so, their efforts renewed by the higher powers, the Imperial war machine stood firm in the grime of the Aivin marshes once more. Vassyl could practically feel the tension in the works as the Blackthorn sped through the cloudy lower atmosphere, and hailed Fort Veers for landing clearance. The titanic, triple-plated durasteel fortress had been named in honor of the famed Imperial general, who made significant gains on Aivis during the short time he was stationed there. Its hulking black exterior was as foreboding as it was impressive, and Doren turned away from the viewport and back towards the interior of the passenger cabin, directed his gaze on his various companions.
The first to seize his attention was the demure sight of Ensign Sarela Malkova. Admittedly, the well-traveled Sephi was amidst a trial period within the Imperial Medicorps- but for the sake of rank and file, honorary titles were put in place to ease logistics. For his part, Vassyl could not help but grin at her composure. Though the young woman had been running the paces for a good week or so, her military uniform betrayed no signs of fraying, and might as well have been fresh from its packaging. While Storm Medics and physicians employed by the Army wore bulkier armor, Naval Non-Comms sported the same uniforms as technical crewman: a loose-fitting gray jumpsuit, lighter than the command olive drab, and a crisp black cap.
It was a smart look for Doren's aspiring colleague, and one that would help to enhance her authority outside of the military. Still, as quickly as Vassyl's complexion lightened, it soon curled into a tight-lipped grimace. This was no vacation, nor was it was it the comforting haven of Jaemus. Though the away team would be a good distance away from the engagement parallel, this would prove to be the silver-haired initiate's first taste of the violence born of war. Though some might view it as a rite of passage, Vassyl had hoped for a tamer introduction to warfare. Aivis was known for its guerillas and do-or-die resistance, and the figure count for the wounded was nothing to sneeze at. Sustained safety was of tantamount concern.
Thankfully, to Vassyl's greater relief, their pilgrimage planet-side had yet to see any form of trouble. The Captain was further consoled by the presence of Ensign Jom Etro, whose praiseworthy skills Doren had experienced first hand over the course of a daring mission deep behind enemy lines. As a token of good faith and gratitude, Vassyl had requested the upcoming pilot take the helm of his premier shuttle for the duration of their visit- as a means to diversify his practical expertise. At the same time, the Captain assumed the zip craft facilities and other naval production lines nestled beside might be of interest to the prospective flying ace. Indeed, with any luck, this assignment would prove educational for both of Doren's younger wards.
After what seemed like a bleak, disquieting eternity, the main air traffic tower provided the shuttle with its landing clearance, and bade it to roost on platform three. Several large sentinel transports would follow suit shortly thereafter, and comprise the largest supply run of Vassyl's career. Whether or not the Captain condoned the fool's errand of a struggle was better left to his private thoughts, though his posture had its usual, treacherous cues of disgust. For all intents and purposes, it was a simple drop-off: but in spite of his meditations Vassyl could not dissipate the nervous knot in his stomach. "Do make haste with the landing cycle Mister Etro", Doren cautioned, "They aren't likely to keep the base shield open for long".