"Is it done?"
Red One's hologram flickered as he spoke. Masked and impassive, his face betrayed no emotion but Gannar could hear the tension in his voice. This was their biggest action to date and, unless he missed his guess, only the start of something much bigger. Gannar chose his next words carefully, phrasing things in as neutral a tone as possible.
"Yes, sir. The two mercenaries you requested have been dispatched using the special vehicles as you directed."
"Have there been any delays?"
Gannar's brow furrowed. Did Red One have other informants in the Tatooine base? How could he have known about the alien woman or the missing operative? Red One's question was a leading one; perhaps he did not actually know but was merely fishing. Time to be diplomatic again, and perhaps do a bit of fishing on his own.
"Nothing significant, sir. Were you concerned about something?"
The helmed figure shifted in its glowing blue and white image. "Then you have no personnel unaccounted for?"
Blast it; he did know. But why this verbal game? Red One not just directly asking him about the technician and the other bounty hunter could only mean that he didn't trust whatever answers he might get. That meant that at some level, Red One didn't trust him.
Gannar clenched his jaw. After all this time, all these tests of loyalty, his place in the Scarlet Wake was still tenuous?! Surely he'd proven himself. Surely the leader of the Wake, assuming Red One really was the highest authority in the group, trusted him by now. Perhaps these were just precautions.
Surely that was it. Red One was just being cautious. Only one way to find out, though. Gannar took a deep breath and did something he'd never done to his superior before; he lied.
"Yes, sir. Every member of the Tatooine chapter of the Scarlet Wake is present and accounted for here. Our only two outstanding are on assignment, ensuring the success of your objectives involving Operation Planetfall."
There was a long pause. Did Red One believe him?
"One last thing, Red Two."
Gannar breathed a sigh of relief. There was no mistrust in the leader's tone of voice.
The image flickered and changed to a schematic of the massive Ithorian vessel in orbit over Tatooine - the target of Planetfall. Two red dots glimmered into view over the ship's station-keeping thrusters. "Primary explosives have been placed already, yes?"
Gannar nodded, speaking affirmatively.
"Yes, sir. Primary charges were set before the vessel left its last port of call. The secondary charge inside the ship's bio-dome was set up yesterday and slaved to a remote detonator. You should have the code with you, sir."
The image returned to Red One, his blank steel face nodding slightly.
"Correct. And the two operatives you sent to oversee the successful detonation of the primary charges have not been informed about the secondary device?"
Gannar smiled, pleased that all was returning to normal.
"Indeed, Red One. They have no advanced warning, as per your instructions. They will be caught in the secondary charge's blast radius and destroyed along with the target."
Inwardly, Gannar considered this a waste. Even if the Wake needed bodies to blame the attack on for alibi reasons, why had it been necessary to sacrifice two priceless pieces of technology with them? Perhaps there really was more going on here than just taking out a few million aliens.
"You have everything in order, Red Two. The Scarlet Wake commends your efforts."
Gannar beamed. No matter what this mission was a prelude to, he was sure now that his place in it was secured. From here, his good service could get him moved to Red One's location and put in charge of a larger part of the Wake. There was still so much to do, so many aliens to do away with and power centers to destabilize. The future was looking very bright.
"Thank you, my lord. Your orders?"
Red One's image showed the masked figure pushing a small button on the console at his right hand. A set of six lights illuminated above the button, one vanishing almost immediately.
"No further orders, Red Two. You may stand down."
A second glow went dark, leaving only four.
"Stand down? Sir? What do you mean?"
Half the lights were out now.
"The Tatooine chapter is no longer required."
Two glowing lights remained, even as the image of Red One started to fade.
"But... what are we supposed to do now, sir? What about us?"
All the lights were gone except for one.
"Your sacrifice will be remembered."
The last light disappeared and with it, so did Red One's transmission.
Gannarsen had been right about one thing.
His future, both seconds of it, was very, very bright...