871 ABY

Flanked by her team on either side of her, the troopers quietly swept the area in search of their opposition. It was already dusk and they needed to make progress before nightfall. In spite of their tactical equipment which would enable them to work through the night, no one was exactly eager on doing so, nor were they ecstatic about spending the night out in the cold. However, they were equally as keen not to lose the training exercise. It didn't have the same stakes as a real mission but they wouldn't be let off without punishment either if they failed. Then they really would be spending the night out in the cold.

Silently, the trooper beside her commanded the group's attention with hand gestures signalling the direction and course of action that they should take. Once the instruction was acknowledged, the group separated to cover more ground but remained within sight of at least the nearest two troopers. They were the latest class of special forces. Highly trained but inexperienced in a real battle scenario. This was the closest they would get to a mission before they graduated, through opposition against their comrades who were equally as trained and deadly, as they would soon prove.

Katja held a hand up, gesturing for the others to halt. There was an eerie stillness around them but it wasn't still enough. The quiet sound of leaves rustling above was loud enough to be noticeable but too unnatural to be the result of wind. Instinctively, she raised her weapon skywards and fired towards the trooper who took cover behind the tree trunk where the bolt impacted. The potency of the weapons they had been issued was much lesser than those they practised marksmanship with. To save killing an entire cohort in training, the bolts could only produce a welt upon contact with skin, but it was enough discomfort to want to avoid getting caught in crossfire.

The forest erupted with light from the exchanging blasterfire that followed as several of the ambushers jumped down to the ground to meet their attackers. Rather than take evasive action, she marched towards her opponent, holstering her own weapon as she did to free both hands to try and pry the blaster from the hands of the other trooper. In the struggle, she was hit by a bolt in the upper left torso but managed to gain control of the weapon and slam it upwards into the other trooper's chin, stunning him. With both disarmed, she swept a leg from beneath him and toppled him before pinning him to the ground.

"You're dead, Javik!" He accused her as he struggled to free an arm which he used to try and push her off but she maintained control for now. "No, I'm not!" She denied, pinning his arm. "That shot would've killed you." He reiterated. She looked at the scorch mark on her armour while still fighting for control. "No. I could take that shot." She remained adamant that she was not out of the training exercise yet.

"You'd have bled to death before you could even call for a medic if it didn't outright kill you." He continued, gathering enough strength to roll over and pin her. "You don't know that." She replied. "Are you that desperate to win that you're willing to cheat?" He responded. "I'm not cheating. I could take the hit." She stubbornly continued but before either could get another word in, the weight of him was off her and she was pulled up onto her feet, face-to-face with their commander.

"Would you two quit bickering?" He barked at the pair. "Adler, if she disagrees with a hit then just give her another one she can't dispute." He pointed an accusatory finger at the trooper before turning his attention to the instigator. "And Javik..." He drew a blaster and shot her in the chest in one swift move. The bolt was still not powerful enough to penetrate the armour but the kinetic energy sent her stumbling back a few steps. "You're out. Care to dispute?" He asked but she shook her head after a moment, startled by the move. "No, sir."

"Get down and stay down until I say this is over." He commanded, pointing at the ground. She lowered herself to sit on the ground but was met with a boot pushing her down onto her back. "And take an anatomy class. That first shot would've been fatal." He told her. "Yes, sir." She dutifully replied before falling into silence with only the sound of her own breathing.