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View Full Version : [Fic] Family of choice 2: Gathering the clans


machievelli
01-29-2009, 12:37 AM
The world looks better through the bottom of a glass, Kez thought. He shot back the whiskey in his glass, then set it down. By now the bartender knew exactly what to do. He poured it full again and found some where else to be.

Six years, Kez mused. Six years from General of the Mando’a, to drunk. His descent had been paralleled by his entire race. The Mando’a had been so close to defeating the Republic, a Besu’lik taking down a Fort’hros, the premier predator of Mando’yaim against the largest and most deadly herbivore.

Then the Jettiise, the damnable Jedi had entered the war. In less than four years they had turned the smooth advance first into a stalemate, then into a panicked retreat before tactics that smacked of sheer brilliance.

Revan.

He sneered at the name. A woman, no, from reports a girl, had turned victory into not only defeat but stunning defeat. She had not only done that; she had shamed the entire race, taken their honor as their newly minted Mand’alor. Worse yet, she had died without returning it. He drained the glass, glaring at it until it was filled again.

“Hey Mandalorian!” He felt a hand slam down on the pauldron of his armor. Perhaps the person had meant to say more, but an iron hard elbow snapped back, and the man’s words died as his diaphragm struggled to even allow him to draw breath. Kez turned, smoothly grasping the man under the arm to stop his fall, his own fist snapping back.

“Just stand there a second, Di’kut.“ He snarled. Then the fist snapped forward, the man falling back with a shattered jaw. Kez felt absurdly pleased. Even half in the bag he could take this Tsad droten scum with one hand.

He turned looking at the ten men moving toward him. That leaves me only one for them…. He considered. “Fierfeck.”

The men moved toward him, faces hard. Well it would be fun while it lasted.

A cough came from the door, then a shrill girl’s voice shouted, “Hey, catch!” One of the men near it turned, then instinctively grabbed the small silver ball that flew at him. He felt something give, then his eyes widened as he saw the Mandalorian armor on the two people standing by the door. The smaller one was bouncing on her toes like a demented puppet, the other drawing a weapon the man knew very well, a Mandalorian carbine.

“Wouldn’t let go if I were you, the grip safety activated when you caught it.” The girl’s voice came from the bouncy one. “I’d sit down with my hand on the table if I were you.” The young woman chirped. “That bomb has a ten second delay before the trembler switch activates. Then if it shifts position it goes off.” The man stared at it, then sat as if a puppet with cut strings.

The other figure sighed. The other men hadn’t been paying attention so far. Can’t have that. The barrel of the ‘room broom’ as Republic intelligence called it lifted, and half a dozen bolts of fire ripped into the ceiling. The men dived for cover. Obviously ex-soldiers.

“Now we aren’t going to start any unpleasantness, are we?” The voice was a furry alto, definitely a woman. The barrel of her weapon dropped to aim at the men before her. “I think all of you should sit down and have a drink. Here, I’ll even pay for a round.”

She walked past the prone men, setting a handful of credit chips on the bar. “One round of ale, barkeep.” She looked toward the man still sitting, sweating as he stared at the ball in his hand. “Best deliver his. Seems he can’t stand up right now.” She looked at the man in Mandalorian armor. “Coming Verd?”

Kez heard a sharp tone under the words. He remembered training cadre officers with that tone… right before they came down like a hammer on someone who wasn’t making the grade. “Of course, ad'ika.”

The pair walked through the silent group. All three turned toward the door.

“Uh…” The girl looked back at the man sweating bullets at the table.

Her voice sounded like she was trying desperately to keep from laughing. “A cold shower might help, if the bartender can supply it.” She said cryptically. Then they were gone.

*****

“What was that supposed to mean?” the older woman asked as they walked hurriedly. Kez and simply marked them as old and young because of they way they acted. The slimmer woman acted like a kid.

“Well if the grenade gets wet, the grip safety resets. But I knew I was going to leave it, so the bursting charge will go off on impact-”

There was a thump from the tapcafe behind them followed by screaming.

“That wasn’t loud enough for a grenade.” The older woman commented.

“Of course not Ba’buir. I didn’t want to kill anyone with the prototype after all.”

“So what did you use?” The woman asked in a quelling tone.

“Just twenty grams of cataclysm-ite and fifty of Spasmaka.”

“Spasmaka!” Kez stared at the younger woman. “That causes…” He bit down on his tongue. The chemical was used in riot control gas for humans. It caused horrible debilitating nausea until the antidote, simple drinking water, was ingested. But of course most police organizations didn’t tell the average citizen what that antidote was.

He suddenly pictured that di’kut back there. The bartender throwing, oh, a pitcher of water on him. The safety resetting, and the now free person throwing it in fury against a wall…

He clutched his sides, fighting the spasm of wild laughter. The older woman looked at him curiously. He explained between gasps as he tried unsuccessfully to restrain his laughter. She paused in her steady walk, then grabbed her own sides. The smaller woman stopped, looking at them. Of course as the author of this joke, she couldn’t laugh with them.

*****

The ship was an old Fire-Ray blast-boat of Corellian design with extra weapons turrets mounted. The older woman pressed a button on her gauntlet, and the ramp hissed down the engines thrumming to life. “Coming Verd?” She asked.

He nodded sharply, and all three marched up the ramp. There was a rack by the ramp, and the older woman safed her weapon and put it on the rack. The girl did the same. As Kez racked his weapon the pair took off their helmets.

He had been right. The older woman’s gray hair had been braided in the old style used before the war, the braids then pinned up to make an additional pad below the helmet. The younger had cut her hair so short it was almost shaved. They both looked at him expectantly, and he removed his own helmet. He knew what his face looked like, a life of battle and not ducking as quick as he might had made it a roadmap of scars. He smiled.

“Marisa.”

The older woman scratched her scalp. “Long time no see, Kez.” She sighed. “I’m getting too old for this.”

“Like I’m a child?” He replied with a lazy grin. “Why did you rescue me?”


“Canderous sent me for you.”
His smile vanished. “So the old war hound wants me to what, command some mob boss’ bodyguard?” He sighed. “Listen thanks for the rescue, I’ll return the favor some day. But I can hear a bottle of whiskey calling my name and I have to answer.”

“First we’re going to talk, and I need you sober for this.” Marisa held out a capsule. “Here.”

“Sober-all?” He snorted. I am not-”

The girl grinned and there was a puff. He felt something hit him, the needle penetrating the body stocking at one of the joints. He started to spin, but suddenly the sober-all hit. He fell to his knees, gasping as the drug scavenged the alcohol from his blood and cells.

Not without side affects. The capsule had medicines in it as well to ease muscle strain headache and nausea. The shot; pure sober-all A, had no such amenities. Kez began projectile vomiting, his head feeling like someone had taken a two kilo hammer to it, and every muscle spasmed simultaneously. He kept vomiting, even though only yellow bile was all that came up.

Then he collapsed into his own filth. As he passed out, he heard the girl.

“I told you, Ba’buir. Pay up.”

CommanderQ
01-29-2009, 01:08 AM
Kandosii Vode!:D Very excellent beginning to Family of Choice 2! You have once again aced the Mandalorian culture and characteristics! I look forward to the next part! Post soon!:D

JAvatar80
01-29-2009, 03:16 PM
Woo! More Machi Goodness! *dances madly, bouncing on the balls of feet*

Great start, Mach. I can't wait for this to continue. :)

Tysyacha
01-29-2009, 06:30 PM
You have, once again, proven the Mandalorians to be my favorite Star Wars alien race! :)

machievelli
02-05-2009, 03:20 PM
Kez gasped as hot water splashed on his face, pouring in runnels down his body. He knew he was naked, unless his armor had sprung a leak on every centimeter.

He struck out, and a hand caught his wrist, a wall slamming into his face with bruising force. “You will deal with this like a Mando’a,” a female voice hissed, and something that felt like a wire brush began scrubbing his back. He might have tried to strike again but whoever this was wasn’t affected by Sober-all. The last effects of it were to make you drowsy and weak as a cub. For all he knew the woman was the younger of the two; in his condition even a child could have beaten him.

A hand caught him, spun him around, and the wire brush seemed to start at his forehead and work it’s way down. Another unfortunate side effect was it made the nerves in the skin extremely sensitive. The only thing keeping him standing was the wall of the fresher and one hand of the woman. Then he screamed as the water went from boiling to icy cold.

“You’re such an ad’ika.” The woman said even though her teeth were chattering. “Take it like a man.” He didn’t protest as she shoved him from the fresher and he collapsed on the deck. A towel made out of sandpaper fell on his head, and a pair of hands began roughly drying his head. Then another pair with yet another towel began at his feet.

Finally they stopped rubbing his skin with sandpaper. A heavy rough cloth bundle hit him in the face. “Get dressed.”

He pulled the coveralls on, the fabric feeling like rough weaved burlap. He was alone in the fresher, clear headed for the first time in months. He didn’t like the feeling.

He stormed into the galley. The young woman was in a coverall like his, busy at the heating unit.

“Where is she?” He demanded.

The girl looked at him, and shook her head. “It was your choice, Ba’Buir. But no!” She spun, and he found himself backing away hastily as she stormed toward him. “We could have let you take the pill, but you had to be some like some old Besu’lik standing your ground so I had to give you a shot instead. If you had been sensible you wouldn’t have made a mess I had to clean up, you could have taken a shower on your own and everything.” She shuddered. “I’m going to have nightmares about that.”

“Why?”

She looked at him, a steely glint in her eyes. “Listen you old Di’kut I am as happy as the next woman to have a nice warm chunk of man cuddle up to me. But I prefer them less wrinkled.

“Now, oh so important Kez, you are going to sit down, eat your meal, and keep your thoughts to yourself until my Ba’buir talks to you. Are we clear on this?” He nodded numbly. “Park it there.”

She slid a plate of eggs, fried meat slivered and fried tubers and pancakes in front of him. A cup of caf was set down as he began to eat. The girl returned to the heating unit.

Marisa came down the passageway, pulling out a chair as the girl slid a plate over in front of her. “What about yours, Zakal?”

“I always take care of my elders first.” The girl replied piously.

“So well trained.” Marisa replied sarcastically.

“After all at your age someone has to cook. Neither of you has the strength stamina nor memory to stand here preparing anything beyond mush.”

Kez had been sipping, and now sputtered, the hot beverage spraying as he coughed. “Definitely raised by you.” He gasped.

“Yes I think she has turned out well.” Marisa commented. “But since I taught her how to cook, she also learned my ascerbic style when cooking.”

“I had noticed.” Kez pushed the plate away.

The woman crossed her arms, looking at the man she had called brother in the tapcafe. “You have fallen far, Al’verde. Can you climb back out?” She leaned her head to the side. “For the return of your honor?”

“If we still had honor.”

The woman said. “Manda’lor returned it.”

“She’s dead.”

“No, she returned and gave us back our honor. My older brother has been named her successor.” Marisa locked his gaze. “Are you ready for orders?” The woman asked.

Kez looked at her. Marisa had always been dependable, her farmlands were only fifty kilometers from his back home, and she had been ready to help her neighbors. She would not have suddenly become power mad like the last Mand’alor. “Give me a chance.”

She nodded “We have a stop we have to make on Kessida. Another of the scattered is there. Once we have contacted him we’ll get you a ship to return to Mando’yaim. When you get there, you are to prepare for orders.

“Chu!”

Marisa stood nodded, then went back to the control room.

The girl set her own plate on the table, took her seat, and pointedly looked at him. “You’re going to clean the mess up this time.”


*****

The trip was long enough for Kez to get frustrated. Like any Mando’a there were things to do. He worked on his weapons, dismantling and cleaning the old Verpine projectile pistol, cleaning his armor, sharpening his Beskad. With that done he began to exercise. He had been fit before, but for several years he had not worked out as he should, and he found himself unable to do even the simplest exercises without puffing like a blotter fish out of water. He spent he never knew how many days collapsing into bed at the end of every ship day.

Finally he heard a chime, and went to the control room. Marisa was in the pilot seat, adjusting the thrusters for maximum control. The planet was a wide swath of blue ocean. Ahead was a darker portion, land. The port of Navar rested in a sheltered bay, home to ships of space as well as those that sailed the ocean.

The blast boat settled as gently as down onto the pad, and Marisa flipped the switches that shut down the engines. “Kez, prepare.”

The man moved back to the hold, pulling on his armor and holstering his pistol. The rifle felt so comfortable as he checked the action, then set the safety.
Zakal joined him, already in her armor. The girl moved to a cabinet where dozens of her little grenades rested in their own niches. She tapped her lip, then picked out a half dozen, setting them in slots on her gauntlet.

“More of your imobilizers?”

“Oh I have grenades for every occasion.” She replied. “Lethal, non-lethal, stun, smoke you name it.” She picked out another one and flipped it toward him. “Catch!”

He ducked. As he did a small gas jet fired, and it hit him in the back of the head.

“Even ones you would never expect.”

“Who taught you how to do this?” He asked, tossing it back.

The girl caught it, setting it back in the slot. “Actually I learned it from stories. Did you know the Zakal I am named for? Negotiator and once head of Intelligence?”

“Very well.”

She was always tinkering, a laser pointer that was a weapon, a holo recording data pad made from cannibalized parts. I grew up with Ba’buir’s stories of her. I always liked to tinker so when I was old enough, she let me have my head in designing things.” She shrugged grinning. “But my favorite things are ones that go boom.”

“Trouble.” Marisa came from forward. “I located Leco. He’s been condemned to death by Garba Slon, a local mob boss.”

“When is the execution?” Kez asked.

“The parasite doesn’t believe in executions. He stages a man hunt instead. That is scheduled for dawn tomorrow.”

“Orders?”

Marisa smiled. “I’ve always felt sympathy for the prey in a hunt. I say we add ourselves to it.”

JAvatar80
02-05-2009, 06:51 PM
Dun Dun Duuuunnnnnn......I already feel bad for the mob boss' members Mach.

Excellent chapter, and I'm glad it's up. I was about to poke this thread to bump it just so it wouldn't get lost. :D I'm really looking forward to this manhunt.

CommanderQ
02-05-2009, 07:35 PM
Very excellent Chap, Mach!! We must know what happens next, you have left it open for an awesome fight scene!!:D

Excellent work and post soon!

machievelli
02-06-2009, 06:12 PM
Leco looked at the manacles that bound him after Garba’s men dragged him from his cell. It was a show of respect in a way, because Leco had been nicknamed kyr'am K'uur, Silent death. A scout of great renown during the wars, he had long lost track of how many men had died at his hands or blade.

He had expected to die eventually, no Mando’a was foolish enough to forget that death was going to happen to everyone. But he expected to die in battle, or on a scouting mission. He expected stories to be told of his death long after he was dust. Perhaps they would still.

But what kind of glory do you gain from being killed because you loved the wrong woman?

He had been hired not as a normal bodyguard, but as one who scouted locations where Garba was going. So far by his own estimate he had stopped five assassination attempts this last year. Of course if they do not happen, how do you prove they were intended?

That left him time enough to spend in the compound. To relax, to train, to fall in love

Anis was attractive to be sure. No one bought a slave dancing girl if she wasn’t pleasing to the eye and supple. He had seen her dance that first time months ago, and her almond eyes had caught his as she turned. He had thought it was merely what you might expect of a well trained dancer, to catch and entice but mean nothing beyond it.

But another night, as she danced, she had caught his eye again. This time he sensed more; a pleasure that he himself observed her. Again he thought it was not but skill, but one evening when she had danced and a new Twi’lek girl had followed hard after Anis had walked to him, taking his cup and sipping.

Bad idea; because he had been drinking Tihaar that night. A drink that was an acquired taste that few not of Mando’yaim were willing to acquire. He had thumped her back when she choked on that drink, then gently promised to have something softer if she ever supped upon his cup again. The look in her eyes that night had suggested that she would drink of his cup again, and the next time, it had been un-distilled blood wine. A much gentler drink.

This she had enjoyed as they watched the Twi’lek woman gimbal before her owner.

It had started small; like an avalanche, and like that disaster had grown all out of proportion. Leco had found a woman after his own heart. A woman of sweet manner who listened to him, held him in secret as they had tasted first lips, then love.

That had surprised him. He had loved married; and lost, his first love Cina before Anis had been born. He had never expected to feel that rush of emotion again, but when she had offered her lips he had fallen as surely as a darted Besu’lik, and when she had come to his bed, he had been reborn.

But she was a slave. She had no right to offer what by law belonged to another.

Was it less than a week ago that she came crying because she was with child? Leco had done the honorable thing. He had gone to Garba, asking that he free her.

But Garba did not sell any of his slaves, nor did he free them. The only way to leave his service was in death. The old man had screamed for guards, and only then realized what he had held so lightly. Seven of the twenty guards were now food for worms and half of the survivors had spent days in the kolto tanks.

So he was to die. He had been given pants boots shirt and vest from his gear, and brought here.

Garba stood beside his personal lengthened land speeder, carrying a rifle. There were a dozen friends with him.

Leco snorted. Friends. Hangers on, boot lickers, crooked politicians, all derived their position from Garba. They made a martial sight there, at least to their own eyes. They would have soiled themselves if they had seen a Phalanx landing first hand. He looked at them all coolly.

“Well my little Mandalorian, ready to die?” Garba asked.

“We are always ready. Whether giving or receiving death.”

The fat man sneered. “We know who will gain death today.” He motioned, and one of his guard drew a knife. With an expert throw he planted it in a tree ten meters away. “Your weapon.”

“How…fair.” Leco commented blandly. He walked to the tree, pulling the knife free. Not a vibroblade or a beskad. Just a 20cm hunting knife you could pick up in any market for perhaps three or four credits.

“You have one hour then the hunt begins. If you attempt to attack us now you will die now.” All of the weapons were aimed at him. Behind the ‘hunters’ a guard held a heavy blaster cannon on him as well.

Leco took off running.

*****

While it might have looked like a panicked flight, Leco had been in similar situations without number through his wartime service. Not every scout ended with you merely going out then returning. He had a plan that would make sure the hunters regretted their sport.

He headed toward the hills north of the compound at a smooth kilometer eating jog. Mentally counting. At 30 minutes he was four kilometers from his starting point in a straight line, though he had covered nine doing it, doglegging left then right, even backtracking half a kilometer.

Only now did he begin to prepare the first of many traps he expected to make today. Not much to work with. Maybe he should wait until he scored a kill?

A twig snapped, and he spun. For a long moment, he didn’t see anything. Then a part of bushes seemed to move. He raised the knife to throw but a hand came up. Mando’a patrol sign.

Wait. The camouflage field shut down and a man in Mando’a armor was standing there. He reached up taking off his helmet. “It’s been a while, Leco.”

“Kez?” Leco wanted to smile, but Kez had fallen far since he was a General. “Did Garba hire you to kill me?”

“No. We’ve come to join the hunt on your side.” He motioned and two other sections of bush resolved into two other figures, both female.

The smaller one tapped her helmet. “First we need to lose the knife. It’s got a homing beacon in it.”

“Of course it does.” Leco flipped it up to catch by the point, and threw it up into the crotch of a tree nearby. “But I’m not going to throw away my bait. When they come someone is going to have to climb that tree.”

“That was your whole plan?” The girl asked in a shocked voice.

“Every plan starts at one point and grows from there.” He replied.

“He sounds like you, Ba’buir.”

“Old habits die hard the other woman said. She pulled part of climbing line in her left gauntlet. “I expect we don’t need anything that goes boom yet. We don’t want them to know they are outnumbered.”

*****

“There, fifty meters ahead, and ten up.” The bodyguard said. The two hunters gripped their rifles tightly as they moved forward. The bodyguard watched his scanner as they approached. The tree was a forest giant over a hundred meters high. Something about the type of trees in this grove bothered him. Calibas, if he remembered correctly. There were animals known to live in those trees… What was it?

“There, I saw a glint of metal.” The crooked politician commented. Raf Dorn, a judge in the local court. He snugged his rifle into his shoulder, flipping on the laser sight.

Wait… Calibas, anything that transmitted on the infrared spectrum… The bodyguard suddenly remembered and opened his mouth-

The projectiles ripped into the bole of the tree. The bodyguard, showing more sense than you might expect turned and ran.

He almost survived.

For a long moment, nothing happened, then a cloud seemed to form between the hunters and the tree. Then like a lightning bolt the cloud dived at the two men.

They were called Kurevis wasps. The largest was only a bit more than 100mm long, the width of a human hand. Their stingers were not that large either, maybe 15 centimeters, long enough to penetrate humanoid skin. Single wasps were not that dangerous, but there were thousands of them and firing bullets into their nest was not a way to endear them to you.

Actually, when judging for stupid ways to die, firing into a Kurevis nest was right up there with deciding to practice Rancor dentistry.

The men tried to run, not that a human could outrun Kurevis. It’s well known in the medical databanks that five stings were enough to kill the average human.

The seven or eight thousand times they were stung was a severe case of overkill. Even the bodyguard suffered over fifty. A good safe distance away, Leco smiled,
watching the wasps begin to wander back toward the nest. “No matter how large you are, even the smallest enemy can kill you.”

JAvatar80
02-06-2009, 08:01 PM
oooooooh...bad death numba 1. I was hoping for more, mach, but this is great. :D It actually made my (so far) bad day so much better. :) I hope for more carnage, maybe with some boom soon. ;)

The only thing I noticed that may be a mistake, was when you described Leco's gear given to him for the hunt. You didn't separate the list of his clothing, and it seemed a little run-on. BUT, it's been years since I've taken an English course, and it might be grammatically correct...I dunno. Just felt like a run-on a little bit to me.

Otherwise...great job. *bounces hoping for boom soon*

machievelli
02-06-2009, 08:10 PM
actually the clothing was an afterthought. As for boom there will be plenty of boom before they blow this pop stand

machievelli
03-05-2009, 10:00 PM
“Not good.” Leco picked up one of the rifles. “Seya Copa M&C projectile rifles, local constabulary issue.” He could detect three confused looks. “The local militia and constabulary aren’t what you would call intelligent, or well trained. Odds are in a riot the weapons you hand them would end up in the hands of rioters. So they installed interrupter circuits.” He charged the weapon, aiming it at the body of one of the hunters. Even as his finger pulled, there was the hum of the igniter, but no blast. “You aim it at a constable or militia trooper and it will not let you fire. But anything else is fair game.”

“How did they get those?” The girl asked.

“Did I mention that one of the hunters is the local Militia commander?”

“Let me get this straight, the weapons won’t fire on them, but will on us?” The girl asked. Leco nodded. She took off her helmet, grinning. “Give me that.” She pointed at the rifle. As he passed it over confused, the girl drew out her tool kit. “Ba’Buir, we need that blade back.” She waved at the tree. “And we need to find the other hunters.”

“How do we do that?” Kez asked.

“There is either a standard transmitter in the knife hilt, or a transponder. If it’s a transmitter, we can’t find them easily, but if it’s a transponder, we can.” She looked around at the blank faces. “A transmitter sends a signal all the time, while a transponder has to be pinged by a signal. If they ping it, we can detect where they are by triangulation.”

“Then why do we need the knife?” Marisa asked.

Zakal grinned looking at Leco. “I don’t see why we have to throw away the bait. All we need is an animal that is easily spooked and not too bright.”

“Put it on Kez then.” Leco retorted.

“Hey, I’m not the professional scout.”

“She said ‘easily spooked and not too bright’, that fits you.”

“Why you sloppy excuse for a warrior-”

“You overbearing loud mouthed-”

“Running your mouths is not getting the blade down here.” Marisa snapped.

“I’m working here!” Zakal snarled. “All of you, go away before I get upset.”

The elders moved away. Marisa used her line thrower, and gently hoisted herself up into the tree. Leco had told her the wasps were violent only if they felt threatened; but she gave a sigh of relief as her feet touched the ground again.

Zakal was still working when the two men returned with a Zaggator. A medium sized herbivore about chest high at the shoulder, it struggled against the lines they had used to bind it.

“There!” Zakal finished with the last rifle. “Now hand me the knife.”

“What did you do?” Kez asked.

She picked up the rifle, aiming it at a tree. When she pulled the trigger they again heard the igniter, but no shot. “Reset the interrupter is what I did. Now it will only fire if one of the chips that activates it is in front of it.

“We need to tie two of them one on either side of the animal, aimed forward at about fifteen degrees to either side of center. The other should be on it‘s back aimed right down the line of it‘s spine.” Then she took her tools including a loupe, and began to work on the knife. After a moment she said “Gotcha.”

The man and woman in armor saw five distinct signals separated by about 30 degrees except for one gap in the semicircle to their right. It was moving slowly toward them, fading, then flashing into life again as one of the transmitters signaled, causing the transponder to signal.

“Impatient aren’t they?” Marisa said rhetorically. “So we sweep them up then we‘ll get to the ship-”

“I have to go back to Garba’s lair.” Leco retorted. “My child and the woman that will bear that child are slaves to that monster.”

Zakal looked at Marisa, then sighed. “It can’t ever be easy.”

*****

“Sixty meters.” The bodyguard reported. “Running toward us very fast.”

The two men aimed their rifles, then lifted them as the zaggator thundered into the clearing. It turned, frantically but as it did the guns attached to it’s back fired, one of the hunters screaming as it blew a fist sized hole in him.

If anything the zaggator spun more rapidly, and as it did the gun aimed down it’s spine blew away both the last hunter in this team, and mortally wounded the bodyguard as it ran away.

*****

“One group down maybe dead.” Zakal commented. She had put two of her spark igniters on either side of the animal’s head near the ears after testing to see if they caused it to flinch. Now she flicked first one then another, the animal on her HUD turning to face another hunter team.

*****

“He’s running right at us!” The hunter cried, the rifle snuggling into his shoulder. He held off firing as the zaggator came into view. A bullet blew through his head as it passed. The zaggator spun frantically, the tail gun blasting into the body guard, then it was gone again.

*****

“If you see him coming don’t fire!” A frantic voice called. “He’s rigged the rifles to a zaggator, and if you expose yourself, you’re dead!”

“All teams, fall back to the vehicles.” A sharper voice snapped. Zakal looked to Leco who nodded. Garba.

“Here’s where we start doing it the right way.” Kez commented. He drew the rocket propelled grenade from his backpack, slotting it on the muzzle of his rifle, then ejecting the round, and inserting a magazine of blanks. On the other edge of the clearing, Marisa mirrored his actions.

Zakal focused on her sensors, hands automatically switching to the anti-air grenades. “Warning, three vehicles inbound.”

“Grandparents, eggs, sucking.” Marisa commented.

“Corrected.” Zakal replied. She aimed. The enemy should be… there!

She had already released half a breath, her finger tightening as a land speeder came into view. The trigger breaking surprised her as it should, the rocket lancing upward, then diving to plunge down into the crew compartment. The speeder exploded, smashing into the ground a hundred meters distant, and she spun. Another had come over the crest, but it was already a ball of flame collapsing into a tree before hitting the ground.

The last speeder came over the hill, catching fire from four rifles simultaneously. It bored in for several seconds, then almost negligently fell forward, pin wheeling in a riotous destructive spin.

“Garba?” Kez demanded.

“He wouldn’t risk his skin.” Lecos rasped.

Zakal snorted as she watched the fourth speeder, which had not approached them, running toward the city. “Called him right.” She murmured. “What’s the plan Ba’Buir?”

“We go in, rescue our Vode An’s woman and baby, and everyone who gets in our way dies.” Marisa told her.

“Stupid question.” Zakal snorted.

“Very.” Kez retorted.
*****

Garba glared at what was left of his guards and the three hunters that had survived the debacle. Pathetic. Two dozen men, and this was all that was left? “Very well, if this little man wants a war, we’ll give him one! Toro!” He glared at the senior guard. “Go into the city. Take the largest transport we have. I want every man that can handle a weapon. Tell them the one who brings me Leco’s head gets a kilo of spice. The one who brings him to me alive gets five kilos!”

The smuggler snorted as he considered. Lecos was a sneak. A well trained and efficient sneak mind you, but still a sneak. He would try to slip in and rescue the woman. When he did…

*****

Zakal listened to the harangue that Toro was giving the men at the cantina. Ba’buir could sure pick ‘em. She took off her helmet, then moved casually toward the forward end of the lifter. She didn’t bother to check the position for Ba’buir or Kez. She had her own assignment.

*****

Only a dozen. Toro sighed. Well, a dozen maniacs against one foolish Mando’a. It sounded like even odds to him. He ushered the men into the cargo bay, then went forward. He climbed into the pilot’s compartment and the vehicle lifted.

*****

Garba set the sensors on the entrances. The old native temple was constructed with thick stone against the heat and all it had needed was the blast doors and four anti-aircraft cannon to make it impregnable. There were four ways in, all but one designed for personnel, the other for speeders. Hidden guns covered the entry halls, so even if someone got in he would still be under fire for ten meters or more. He didn’t have enough men to cover all four, so he had to depend on the sensors. Like a spider in an invisible web, he waited.

He saw movement near the door to the south. Leco slid from the brush there, moving to the door. He knelt, popping the security panel. He worked for a moment, and the door opened. Yes…

Anis lay in her bed. She had been locked in the room since Leco had been taken, and when Garba returned from the abortive hunt she had felt a spark of hope. He wasn’t dead. He had escaped, and she knew he’d come for her. It was the only thing she had to hold on to.

The door clicked, and opened quietly. Leco signaled for silence as he entered. She leaped into his arms, and they hugged as if they had not seen each other in years. His hands, hardened from years of war were as gentle as her mother’s. “It’s all right, Anis; come on.” He slid the rifle he carried on it’s strap to the fore. “Stay behind me, love. Your life, and our child’s life is worth more than my own.”

*****

“Enroute with with a dozen mercenaries, sir.” Toro reported.

“Is that all?” Garba sounded stunned. “With what I offered-”

“Sir, it may be three years, but they remember the Mandalorians. Even telling them there was only one didn’t help.”

“Cowards.” The words was hissed. “Bring them in.”

“Yes sir.” Toro ended the call, then tensed as a blade touched his throat.

“Is there a passcode to open the door?” A female voice with a Mando’a accent asked. “Think before you answer, because I will have this at your throat until we get inside; and if there is, I will have several seconds to make you regret a lie.”

He shook his head. A hand caught his neck, and he was slammed to the deck. Binders caught his wrists, then he was lifted painfully by them to kneel beside the seat as she took control. The blade, a Mandalorian Beskad, rested on the back of his neck.

“If you lied, the vehicle will slam forward. The blade is razor sharp, so it will continue moving thanks to inertia, and end up touching your adam’s apple from the inside when we stop.” She commented maneuvering with only one hand. He shook his head frantically. She looked at him, the helmet turning mere centimeters. “I do so love the truthful. What is the code? And when must it be input?”

He told her, and she relaxed. “Remember to be truthful or silent dealing with us.” She commented as the compound approached. “It’s better to be silent than lie.” Then she input the code. Ahead of them the doors to the vehicle entrance yawned open. “I would lie down if I were you.”

*****

Leco stopped as he was crossing the room. Anis stopped when his arm slapped out. Garba stepped from the shadows, his remaining ten men behind him along with the three failed hunters. The smuggler sneered at his enemy. “Any last words, Leco?” He asked.

“How about duck?” As he said it, Leco caught the girl by the shoulder, pushing her to the floor.

machievelli
03-16-2009, 08:37 PM
Outside, Zakal could now see the entire garage now. The inner walls were half a meter thick stone slabs. She grinned tonguing her com unit. “Now’s a good time, Ba’buir.”

On top of the hover lifter Merisa lifted her arm, a blade lancing forward. She punched down, the blade penetrating the alloy roof as if it were a pie. She cut in a semi circle then Kez punched it down, dropping the grenades in. panic fire ripped through the roof, bullets ricocheting off the beskar’gam armor.

The grenades went off, shredding the mercenaries in the enclosed space. Zakal slammed down the accelerator as she heard the explosions behind her. She could see the room where Leco was trapped, two heat sources close together, a dozen or more a few meters away. She couldn’t accelerate any faster. She hit the air horn, the siren screaming as she aimed at the section where they stood. The men spun to stare at the wall giving Leco several additional seconds. The lifter was suddenly there, and she jammed her arms hard outward as it hit the wall at over one hundred kilometers an hour, her arms acting as impromptu shock absorbers as the armor locked tight.

The wall didn’t have a chance. The blocks shattered into shrapnel. The guards went down as it ripped through their ranks followed by the nose of the lifter.

It would have been interesting to watch, Leco considered. But he was laying flat, covering Anis. Chunks of stone bounced off his back, and behind him he could hear the grinding as the repulsor lift died. Instinctively he rolled, taking the screaming girl with him as the hover lifter scrapped over where they had been and shuddered to a stop.

A rifle barked, and one of the Hunters spun into the wall, collapsing. Kez rolled off the lifter, brushing dust from his visor. “Think we can go now?”

Leco rolled to his feet, scanning the shredded bodies where the lifter sat. It took only seconds. “Garba isn’t here.” He snarled.

Zakal sighed, setting her sensors to probe. “There’s always something.” She read the schematics with years of experience; albeit not as many years as Ba‘Buir. The hall branched three ways, they branched again a few tens of meters on, making a dozen different paths.

No problem. She slid her hand to the second row on her armor, mentally counting. Damn, four short. She palmed four of the standard grenades, running forward, She keyed three, and threw, one straight ahead, one left and right.

She ducked as the fragmentation grenades blasted. Then she keyed three of the grenades in her second tier, flinging them to her right, then again with the next three, throwing them to her left. Even as they flew, she ran toward the end of the hall directly ahead.

When she reached the end of the hall, she keyed another regular frag, throwing it down the hall even as she keyed the next three of her specials. Hell roared down there, and she turned.

The specials looked like small missiles, as they should considering the design. She flung them one by one. The first shot down the hall, spun to follow the corridor ahead, as did the one behind it, and the next.

The first grenade shot down the hall, and at the intersection, exploded, shredding anyone stupid enough to use it as a firebase. The one that followed used it’s jets to spin, then ran down the next hall to reach it’s own immolation.

Trails her HUD happened to track. Three different tracks, each running down the next hall with precision and ignorant suicide. All but one exploded in vain, but Zakal grinned as one of them caught a terrified look on Garba’s face before the explosion blew him into the next life.

*****

“Garba’s dead.” She purred.

“Wait.” Ba’buir took out a scanner, running it over Anis. “Fierfekk!” She snarled. “Zakal, ship here now!”

“On it.” The girl replied. The woman collapsed, and Merissa caught her.

*****

The Fire-Ray blast-boat landed, and Merissa carried her up the ramp. “Full med system, stat!” She screamed. Leco followed, but she brushed him aside as the system kick in. The Di’Kut had fixed a failsafe, and she felt the system first detect it then set the parameters you will not kill one of ours, you di’kut she wanted to scream. On her screen she saw the code, and her blood ran cold. Could she stop it?

It wasn’t a matter of could. It was a matter of telling the man who loved her she had failed. No option.

Merissa hit the button, and a moment later, read ; lock accepted. She gasped, then hit. “Lock, permanent.’ she sighed as it was accepted.

*****

Anis opened her eyes. She couldn’t understand, but she saw the loving eyes of her child’s father. “Oh, my love.”

“My love, and mother of my line.” He replied. She went back to sleep, not understanding the wording

Kado Sunrider
03-17-2009, 07:03 PM
Nice chapter Mach. :)

Beautifully written and as always, an interesting read. Keep it up. I've been enjoying this story since the beginning. ;)

machievelli
03-27-2009, 06:02 PM
They had wanted to get another ship, and thanks to the sudden demise of Garba, there were six sitting at the field temporarily ownerless.

So they ‘procured’ some of them. After all is it theft if the owner is dead? He couldn’t call the constables.

Never mind.

Merisa looked them over. Like most smuggler‘s ships, the ships were deceptive in appearance. One of them was a long sinuous flying wing with an arcing tail like a scorpion that looked like a rich man’s toy. Zakal fell in love with it. “I want that one.” She said before the others even had a chance to consider.

“That toy?” Kez sneered. “It looks cute, but does it have any teeth?”

The ‘toy’ proved to have a good set of teeth. There were four hidden cannon on the wings that would turn through 360 degrees, covering every arc. Her shields were weak, but Zakal was already muttering as she pulled covers to get at the generators. Merisa and the others left, looking over the others. One was a flat disc a lot like the ship her Brother had flown in last, and Leco chose it. Kez chose one as stark as the beskad he wore. Merisa returned to the Fire ray. No one bothered them. Though there were only four of them, the name Mandalorian was still something to chill the blood of the average Republic citizen.

Several hours passed, and Merisa growled. She walked down the ramp, storming across to the ship Zakal had chosen. The girl was nowhere to be-

There was the sound of arcing electricity, followed by several seconds of invective. “Oh, you’re going to be that way are you?” Zakal snarled. A hand came out of an open panel, pawing through a tool box. She found a ball peen hammer, and drew it back out of sight. There was pounding, and she flung it back out. “That’ll teach you, you Hutt designed piece of garbage.”

“Some time today, Zakal.” Merisa shouted. As if her words were the key the lights in the passageway brightened, and Zakal slid from the panel like a baby being born.

“Some di’kut cross wired the shields and the life support system along with connecting it directly to the main power feed.” She said, wiping her hands on a rag. “Direct power feed for the shields made sense, but why life support?“ She asked rhetorically. “Wouldn’t have even figured it out if the blasted heating unit hadn’t exploded when I was trying to make tea!” She looked up, then grinned. “Everything’s ready to go now. What do you think, Ba’buir? Probably one of the fastest ships in the quadrant.”

Merisa looked around. The design suggested it was a Mon Cal design, right down to sections that were gasketed for more air pressure and liquid. “What are you going to name it Zakal?”

“I don’t know yet. Though I’m tending toward Poivrgin.”

“Fishhook?” Merisa laughed. “Well I’ll admit with that tail it does look like one.”

Five hours later, all four lifted off and fell into a finger four formation. The Fire Ray and Poivrgin waggled their wings, then banked headed toward the core. The other two headed toward Mandalore.

*****

“Ba’Buir, you are leading me into a life of crime.” Zakal grumped.

Merisa looked at her, then at the glasses of ale on the table. “Why do you say that, ad’ika?”

“How many teenaged women do you know who spent their lives learning how to break into prisons?”

“More than you might think.”

“As if that makes me feel better.”

They looked toward the long ceramacrete wall. Merisa had to admit Corellians knew how to build a prison. This wall surrounded a kilometer square series of buildings, with no openings in that smooth surface. The only way in was by air, and the defenses would stop a coordinated attack as if it were a vital government target. From what she had seen, the Planetary defense center was only slightly better protected.

How Jaski had ended up in there was a minor consideration. How to get him out looked well nigh impossible.

“I don’t think we can do this.” Merisa sighed. “As much as Vod wants to free him, I think he may have to be disappointed.”

“Really?” The girl slowly drained her mug, holding it up before flipping it to sit upside down. “Why is that?”

Merisa looked at her askance. “Let’s see if we’re working from the same diagram.” She lifted her hand fingers extended. “Walls of ceramacrete a meter thick,” her thumb folded. “no way in except by air, with fully meshed long and short ranged defenses against unauthorized entry.” The little finger folded. “A garrison of just under 2,000 full time guards with fully interlocking fields of fire worthy of a firebase.” The ring finger folded. “Inner walls on the buildings only half a meter thick, but all of the entry points are covered by defensive fire or are sheathed in collapsed metal armor worthy of a bank vault.” Middle finger folded.

“How do you know how thick a bank vault should be?”

“If you don‘t know, you can‘t testify.” Merisa looked at the single finger. “Last, which of the fifty buildings inside is our quarry in? All visitors go to building seven, right inside the west entry court. We could spend an hour in there trying to find him.” Now her fist was in the air. “So Vod loses.”

“My dear older relative, you’re looking at it wrong. Let’s take them in order.” She put her own fist in the air, flipping her thumb out. “Walls matter only if you’re going to go through them, though having the enemy think you are going to will help with item two.” She lifted her index finger. “If you’re not going in by air, the defenses are worthless.” Middle finger. “It isn’t the size of the garrison. You and I both know the smallest enemy can kill you if it attacks in the right way.” ring finger, “Same with building walls. If you don’t need to go through them, they are incidental.” Little finger. “And building seven is set in a specific place, and none of these di’kut have considered the best way in. Something that will change when we’re done.” She smiled as the waitress set down the next frosty mug. Her shift from basic to Mando’a when her ring finger popped up was smooth. She picked up the mug, and sipped. “If it weren’t so sweet, this gal would be good at home.”

“They make some like it in the southern provinces.” Merisa commented. “I just like the dark beer better.”

“Maybe you need a change of pace, Ba’buir.”

“All right little genius; you explain how we’re supposed to pull this off.”

*****

“Visitor bus seven reporting.” The driver reported. “Seventeen visitors coming in.” This was the third flight of the day for the driver, and he was glad it was almost over. His eyes rested on the girl with a buzz cut in a summer dress carrying a basket.

He’d heard her speaking to the guard at the visitor’s embarkation center. The hair cut and accent said Mando’a, but the airhead expression and slow movement of her jaw as she chewed gum made him think maybe the Mandalorians had been lucky during the wars. She didn’t look bright enough to lace her own boots.

Still they had tested the contents of the basket. Three bottles of Mandalorian black beer, a small container of cookies made from natural ingredients from that system, some candy. No metal, poison or electronics.

The flier settled down on the pad, and the guard’s interest heightened. Attempts had been made to break in before; hijacking the bus, changing transponders so an assault shuttle would read as a bus, even a suborbital attack coming in like a meteor. All had been stopped. There had not been a successful attempt since the prison had been built a millennia before.

Yet the visitors filed out, accepting yet another search as they entered building center. The girl was eighth, and her vapid expression had not changed as the basket was searched yet again. The guard shifted the contents into a metallic box, but even that did not reach the girl’s brain.

“What do you think?” The head of security asked. The guard ran the chemical analysis from the air in the sealed room.

“Got it. She’s on spice.” The guard checked the analysis. “Looks like Come Along.”

The head frowned. The spice wasn’t common. It was usually used by bounty hunters. One dose in something you were drinking made you compliant. The bounty hunter could suggest something, and you would think it was an excellent idea.

It had also been used as a date rape drug for the same reason.

But why… Suddenly he grinned. “Probably has a possessive boyfriend. Keep her on this, and she wouldn’t even think of straying. Not bright enough.” He shrugged. “But we can’t let her carry it inside. What do you think?”

“The gum, sir. A light dose would not even be noticed by the victim.” The head nodded, tabooing his com link. The guard at the entry lifted his, raising a hand. “You have to leave the gum here.”

The girl looked at him in confusion, then pulled the wad from her cheek. The guard laughed, taking it. “The rest too.” The girl merely nodded, handing over the small metal box

She was escorted down the hall to the open common room, seated at a table and left alone. Cameras recorded everything, and analysts used to checking for duplicity watched not only her but every guest.

Jaski was just one of fifty prisoners escorted in. He was led to the table, and looked at the girl. His eyebrow quirked, then he pulled out the chair. “All right, Ad’ika, I don’t know you, so why are you visiting?”

The girl looked up, and her eyes brightened. “I’m related to an old friend, Ba’buir.” She said gleefully. “Canderous Ordo is my grandmother’s brother.” She Her tone was breathless. “He told me that since I was visiting friends I should bring you some things you‘re grand niece Sela had made.” She reached down, looking confused that the basket was now a metal box. “Some candy, beer and Fragis root cookies.” She was concentrating on what she had brought, repeating it as if rote.

Jaski wanted to flinch. Fragis root had a sharp bitter flavor children tended to enjoy, but adults found it revolting. “That was nice of both of them. What news do you have of home?”

The girl began to go through all of his family, an extended list that took all of the remaining time. He only hoped the guards that listened to the recording were as bored as he was.

*****

The girl walked, her basket over her arm, from the visitor’s center in Cornet. An air speeder dropped, and she climbed in. Merisa handed Zakal a bottle. “Drink this.” She ordered.

“All right.” The girl opened the bottle, her nostrils wrinkling at the smell. “This smells horrible.”

“Drink it, Zakal.”

The girl shrugged, sipping. The taste was vile, and she wanted to throw the bottle away. But Merisa glared at her. “All of it.”

Obediently she drank. The bottle felt chill in her hand, and suddenly she flung it aside. She cursed fluently for almost four minutes, pounding Merisa’s shoulder with a fist. Then she stopped. She fell against the door boneless.

“Oh that is horrid.” She gasped finally.

“It was your idea.” Merisa pointed out equably. “You repeated everything like we programmed?”

Zakal reviewed her memory, still sharp though she would have been unable to tell anyone inside the prison. It was like reading a script after the movie was over. She knew she had repeated every bit of what Merisa had worked into the family report. But she had done it under the influence of the drugged gum she had been chewing for over three hours now.

“Then we only have to wait.”

Kado Sunrider
03-28-2009, 09:28 PM
excellent work. Oh boy I can't wait till they get back to Canderous!

One small error...

She Her tone was breathless.

Third to last paragraph in the 4th section. :)

Thanks for the interesting read!

Darth_Yuthura
04-01-2009, 06:53 PM
Read

machievelli
04-02-2009, 12:58 AM
Read
a comment on how I've been marking the threads I review?

Darth_Yuthura
04-02-2009, 07:05 AM
a comment on how I've been marking the threads I review?

More like mimicking, I'd say.

machievelli
04-24-2009, 02:07 AM
Merisa and Zakal paced through the crowd. The Corellians were rather blasé about having Mandalorians on their planet. Of course, they would have had to conquer Coruscant before attacking the race of gamblers, so that was not surprising. She paused, buying cones of freshly puffed grain hot from the fires, and turned to her grand-niece. The girl was moving in what could only be called ‘patrol stalk’. The movements of a warrior on patrol expecting an attack.

“Zakal.” She held out the cone of grain, smiling as Zakal approached, taking the offered cone. When she spoke again, it was Mando’a in a harsh whisper. “If you don’t stop sneaking like an idiot, I will knock you out, have you delivered back to the ship and finish this job by myself.”

The girl flinched, then took the cone, and popped some of the grains into her mouth. “Ba-buir, what must I do?”

“Stop acting like a scout in no man’s land.” She hissed. “Act like a Mando’a girl on a world she is not comfortable with.”

“Ah.” The girl looked about; no longer a scout, but someone checking her surroundings as a young Mando‘a might. Merisa nodded to herself.

They traversed the market, wandering toward the alley-way they needed.

“Trouble, Ba-buir.” The girl crumpled the paper of the cone, tossing it into the trash. “Di’kut behind us.”

“Oh?” Merisa looked back. Three toughs, or what thought they were tough. Facing someone pretending to be Mando’a, they might have had a chance.

Against two trained warriors, they had no chance at all.

“Middle and left is mine.” Merisa ordered.

“Ba-buir perhaps as the younger I should take middle and right-”

“Eggs, grandparents, sucking.” She snapped in reply.

“Very well.” Zakal sighed.

They continued down the alley toward the manhole they needed. Behind them the gang members closed.

“Jii!” The older woman said, she turned artfully, as if noticing their pursuers for the first time, then turned to face them. The girl turned, the same look of surprise on her face.

“Yes?” Merisa asked, her Mando’a accent heavy.

The leader sneered. “Yeah, like you’re really Mandalorian.” He snarled. A blade snapped from his hand. “All of your money now!”

Merisa backed away, even as Zakal moved a bit forward. It was a standard ploy, the one attacking had chosen his target, and would follow, ignoring the other. As they passed, Zakal kicked, the knife flying, the man screaming as his wrist broke.

Zakal moved right, the man had put on electroshock brass knuckles, but had not anticipated her attack. She caught his wrist, then kicked, the foot slamming into his solar plexus with crushing force. His diaphragm spasmed, attempting to force breath into his lungs as her fist slammed into his head, ending any thought about breathing.

She spun. Ba-Buir had kicked the center man in the head, and he was going down, no longer worried about minor things like pain. She had spun as well, but the last man had a vibro-blade out, the metal whining in the legally required sound of warning.

“Ba-Buir-”

“Shut up, and deal with it. The older woman snarled.

Zakal snatched out a grenade, flinging it at the man. It stuck to his chest, then in loud unaccented Corellian said, ‘I am a thermal grenade! You have three seconds to clear the area!”

The man fell backward, the weapon forgotten frantically trying to pull the grenade off as it counted down. It had reached zero, and he squeezed his eyes closed. Zakal walked over to stand over him as the grenade gave off a loud voice saying, ‘Boom!’

The man opened his eyes. He lived long enough to see a fist coming at his forehead. Zakal looked at her with a quirked eyebrow.

“Not a word.” Merisa growled. She lifted the manhole, holding it as her grand-niece slid down, then followed, resetting the flat plate. They went down the ladder, then along the tunnel. It was fifteen kilometers to the perimeter of the prison, and they were there in less than half an hour. The machine lurked there like a waiting wolf.

They had rented a tunnel borer, a large laser tracked vehicle with liquid nitrogen tanks attached. It worked by firing the beams into the rock ahead of it, superheating the solid. Then blasts of liquid nitrogen were fired, the sudden shift in temperature shattering the rock into gravel which was then dragged aside by the spinning laser head before it repeated the process. To protect the operator, it had a shield worthy of a small warship. A well proven design.

Zakal had spent two days modifying the laser head and fittings. Instead of aiming straight ahead, it now aimed upward at the ceiling four meters above their heads and the redundant liquid nitrogen feed had been disconnected. She took the control seat, then brought up the scanner she had cobbled together. On the screen she saw a bright dot from the tracking dye that had been mixed into the food. She grinned, touching a control, the drilling head turning to focus on the dot. She began to program.

*****

Jaski sipped the bottle of Mando’a black beer, sighing. It had been four years since he’d drunk any, and it was a taste of home. He considered the long drawn out code these people had used. The mixture was in three parts. One of the candy, one of cookies, one of beer.

He took one of the cookies, nibbling on it. Did he need all of one? After all they were so bad. But a Warrior accepts what he must. He ate all of it. Then the opened the candy.

Of course the guards had to sample it. One guard had tried the candy, and immediately begin spitting. Pipalli is a spice that has been equated with rocket fuel, and therefore was not for everyone. Making candy from it was something only the Mando’a would do. The same with Fragis root, which to his own adult palate tasted like spiced mud. Only the beer was worth it and luck had delivered one bottle after the guards had sampled the other two into oblivion.

He sipped the last of it, setting the bottle down beside his bunk.

Now he understood why they had sent so much. What were the odds that every bit of the delivery would be sampled by one person?

*****

Zakal paused, looking at the screen with consternation, then irritation. “Problem.” Zakal reported. Merisa leaned over her shoulder. There were two signatures above them.

“Not a pretty problem.” Merisa commented, leaning against the console of the boring machine they had rented. They had to go tonight. The tracer chemicals mixed into the food and drink would pass through before dawn.

“How do I decide?” Zakal wanted to slam her fists on the console. “Fierfeck!”

“Calm.” Merisa said, rubbing the girl’s shoulder absently. “We have to take our chances. Watch them, Which doesn’t move that much?”

*****

It was taking too long. Jaski leapt to his feet, pacing angrily. They had brought his hopes up for what? To make him wait!

*****

“Movement on target 2.” Zakal snarled. Target 1 had been moving a lot, and she had almost decided when suddenly two started moving too! She started to recalibrate, then her eyes tightened. Target one had been in constant motion in an area of almost a hundred square meters. But target two… Less than ten square. As if pacing! She slewed the targeting caret onto the pacing man, setting it to a five meter circle. “Target acquired!” Her finger punched down on the button.

*****

Above the laser boring machine began to spin, and as it reached operating speed, it spat coherent fire into the ceiling of the tunnel. Each shot ripped a divot five centimeters square from the ceiling slicing into it like the serrations of a knife. The chunk of the first level fell, caught and shunted aside by the force field that protected the machine as the light ripped into the next. Water poured down from the sewer, flowing away over the force field as the lasers ripped into the next level.

It was like surgery, the scalpel of coherent light ripping loose the next section of flesh. The second section fell, caught, then was pulverized as the lasers spun again. Two more floors…

*****

Jaski paced back toward his bunk, then flinched as laser light punched up into the floor of his cell, one beam missing his foot by mere centimeters as it carved through. Then the firing stopped. Wait, he spun, he was in the center of a mostly unsupported floor! There was a sickening lurch, and one side of the round fragment began to fall along with the bunk. He rolled, feet hitting the now rapidly falling floor, then leaped forward, catching what remained of the solid structure. What Di’kut thought of this plan?

Below him he heard another burst from the laser, and the falling disc of floor shattered. He looked straight down 20 meters as the shattered wreckage flashed with light as it bounced aside. He could see a figure at the controls, then a grapnel caught beside him. There was a hum and the briik attached to it tightened. He looked at the woman as she came level, her arm wrapping around his waist.

“With this craziness I should have known it would be you, Ruus'alor.”

“Can’t leave a general in jail. Bad form.” Merisa demurred, triggering the reel to roll back out, dropping them through the shattered floors below.

The girl was shutting down the borer, then leaped to the ground. “That was great!” She cried, then turned running down the tunnel, her rifle aimed ahead.

Merisa shoved Jaski to follow, her own weapon aimed upward. A head stuck out far above, and she aimed and fired, parting his hair but not harming him. They moved rapidly, past the manhole they had used earlier, coming up three kilometers farther on.