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Old 10-07-2005, 11:59 AM   #12
machievelli
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Beks

Danika

We threaded our way back to the Hidden Bek base. Everyone was there to greet us, and Gadon held up the swoop engine accelerator to a roaring cheer. He handed it to an Ithorian who immediately hurried off to install it.

“I was beginning to worry. My mechanics need time to install the accelerator, and the race is tomorrow morning.”

I had lost track of time, and was deathly tired. “I’ve fulfilled my end of the bargain, Gadon. All you have to do is your own part.”

“I’m a man of my word. I’ve already registered you as a Bek rider. And I’ve just decided that I’m going one better. Since you have to ride, I’m going to assign the bike with the prototype accelerator to you!”

“Gadon are you serious? We need our best ride on that bike in order to win!“ Zaedra cried. But her words rang false.

“Why are you doing this, Gadon? The truth, please.”

“Put that way, how can I refuse? The accelerator has never been tested, and we won’t have time now. The designer,” he waved after the Ithorian “tells me there is a chance it will explode if it overheats. I can’t ask one of my people to risk his life on a chance like that.

“If you can complete the course without getting killed, you win, and Bastila is free. If you fail?” He shrugged. “Bastila still goes free if one of our other riders wins.”

I shook my head, smiling slightly. “Sounds like you win either way.”

“You don’t rise to command a swoop gang without knowing all the angles.” He agreed.

“Danika-” Carth started to speak, but I held up my hand. I had already risked my life to save her once. “I agree.”

“You and your friend can stay here tonight. They’re going to work through the night to install the accelerator, so unfortunately, you won’t have time to practice. But I have good instincts. You have the lean look of a Swoop racer to me. Just relax, and we’ll take you to the track in the morning.”

I nodded, and wandered off. There was a cantina, and after getting something to eat and drink, I left. The noise and music was grating. I heard a voice in another room, and wandered toward it. Zaalbar was leaning against a box, and Mission was hovering like a persistent fly. “Big Z we have got to do something about your breath. I didn't want to say anything before but it’s worse than usual, which is hard to believe. In fact it has been pretty rancid since we rescued you from those Gamorreans. What did they feed you buddy?”

He sighed. “They didn’t Mission. I wasn’t a guest, I was a prisoner. As long as I lived to be sold, they didn’t seem to care.”

“That must have been horrible! I know how frustrated you get when you don’t have your eight square meals a day. I’m surprised you didn’t faint from hunger.”

He knew she was joking, but wasn’t in the mood to return the favor. “I did take a chunk out of one of them, but it tasted bad so I spat it out.”

“Ewww! No wonder your breath smells so bad! Considering the way Gamorreans smell, I don’t want to even imagine what they taste like! I’ll just have to get a toothbrush to clean those choppers of yours.”

He caught her arm when she started to stand. “Wookiees don’t brush their teeth, Mission. It just is not done. What other humiliations do you have in store for me? A comb?”

“Okay! Relax! Sheesh, try to make a helpful suggestion. I’d just suggest the next time you stay away from something smart enough to lock you in a cage.” She looked at her friend and I saw a devilish glint in her eyes. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re starting to look a little scruffy.”

“Scruffy!” He was indignant. “What are you suggesting! A bath?”

“No.” She waved her hands in negation. “I remember how well that went over the last time. But your fur is getting tangles, and the gray is starting to show through.”

“You’re making this up! I groom every day! My fur is NOT tangled, and I am not going gray!”

“Hey it’s not like it’s something I can’t fix! You know, a little trim, a splash of coloring, and you’ll be the best looking Wookiee on the planet! Maybe a nice suit of-”

“You do not trim a Wookiee! You do not color a Wookiee's fur. And you most certainly do not dress a Wookiee!”

“I know but you’ll start a trend! Designers will want to make just the right stuff to show off your fur-”

“Enough!”

“I think he looks fine.” They looked to me. “Zaalbar, how are you?”

“Tired, and there is still pain.” He said. “But a doctor in the Uppercity doesn’t care that I am a Wookiee.”

“Zelka Forn.”

“Yes. He put me in a Bacta tank for an hour or so, and I’m fine now.”

“Good. Tomorrow will be a busy day.”

“Yes. Maybe I should go down to the garage. Roomba is a good mechanic, and I know he designed that accelerator, but I think I know a way to tweak it a little more.”

“Don’t tweak it too much. I’m riding it.”

“Then my debt assures that I make sure it will work well.”

I waved to him, and found a place to lie down. The hum of the place gently put me to sleep.

She struck down the dark Jedi, and behind her I could see four or five others. All carried lightsabers, blue green violet and her own yellow made a rainbow of death. My vision turned to another figure. This one was robed, hooded, and wore a garish mask.

“You cannot win, Revan.” The woman said. Her opponent, undaunted by the odds, drew a lightsaber, the deep ruby red lighting the figure.

From here I could see beyond Revan. Leviathan was there, and suddenly all of her starboard batteries opened fire. The ship rocked, and a blast of energy speared through Revan.

Then suddenly I was laying down. The woman staggered forward on her hands and knees, staring at me for some reason.


I didn’t get much sleep that night. Every time I went back to sleep, the dream continued. The Jedi carrying Revan’s limp form, running frantically to an escape pod. Through the clearsteel I watched Behemoth erupt into fire, then explode. Shrapnel struck the pod, and one of the Jedi screamed that it would not punch out. No beacon, no way to discover where they were. The woman of my dreams calmed the others, then settled into a meditation seat. She closed her eyes.

Time passed. Then she heard something. She looked upward, and my view followed. A figure was outside the clearsteel in an EVA suit. The faceplate was silvered. The woman moved over, laying her hand against the plastic as if she could reach through and touch the figure outside-


I jerked awake as a hand touched my arm. Carth looked at me with worry on his face. Silently he handed me a cup of tea, and I drank it eagerly.

“What time is it?”

“Right before dawn. The Beks are moving the bikes out right now.”

I yawned and walked out into the riot of movement. Bikes, each marked in bright colors with the Bek’s insignia were being lifted with antigravity units and pushed through a door in the wall. Gadon was standing back. Obviously he had been through this often enough.

“He looked at me as I came up. “Here comes the philanthropist!”

“What?”

“We shipped a load of rakghoul antidote down to the Undercity thanks to you. It interrupted our schedule.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” He huffed. “If the Uppercity nobles had their way, all of my people would have been down there with them ages ago.” He smiled. “We help them when we can, but there usually isn’t much extra in our margin.”

“Hey Gadon, she coming?” A Bek shouted.

“You had better go. You can be disqualified if you show up late.”


Swoop Race Track

Swoop racing began long ago among the outlaw gangs. It was first started to keep the gangs from internecine war. The first bikes had been mere frameworks with rudimentary controls, engines and of all things, wheels. In cities the courses were usually sections of sewer pipes and culverts with ceramacrete walls which meant that if you missed a turn you slammed in. Without deflectors, that was lethal

But times changed. Small antigravs were developed. Grav plates to boost acceleration. Deflectors as well. Finally it reached where it was today. A course with grav plates and obstacles spread in a random fashion.

To no one’s surprise it caught on as a spectator sport. People are not so far from the blood sports of our ancestors. Entertainment networks vied to televise the races, and soon everyone who could watched enthralled. It was still a dangerous sport. Death wasn’t common but bad accidents were.

On the shuttle to the concourse, I watched the brief history a local entertainment network was running. I knew Gadon Thek had been blinded. What I hadn’t known was he had been injured afterward when the antigravs and deflectors had both failed catastrophically just as he reached the finish line. He had won his race, but it had been his last. His time of 30.91 seconds was still a local record.

The Concourse was above the track, and only racers officials and mechanics were allowed onto it. Even then maybe fifty people were there. Most were racers, an average of two from each of the major gangs, one each from the smaller. Twelve mechanics worked on their bikes in areas separated not only by tapes but also by glaring mechanics that watched to make sure there was no sabotage. It was rumored that Gadon’s accident had been sabotage, and these days we all knew who was blamed.

The Vulkars had four bikes with riders and mechanics. Brejik was pointed out to me. A tall slim young man, he glared toward the Bek’s enclosure

Roomba was working on a bike when I walked into the Bek‘s enclosure. He looked up, nodded, then made one last check before closing the hood over the engine compartment. “So you’re the one that is going to try out my baby. “ He said. “Don’t worry. Your friend Zaalbar and I were working on the accelerator for hours. Stability shouldn’t be a problem, I hope.” He walked over, and touched hands with me. “I’m told you’ve never done this before. You want me to run over the basics for you?” I nodded. He walked me over beside the bike, pulling up the windscreen so I got a good look. I would have to crouch, leaned forward, and hold two handles that controlled the maneuvering vanes. “All right, first thing to remember is try not to crash into any debris. The course is littered with obstacles. All swoops have dynamic deflector systems, so getting killed is not a problem with such minor impacts. But anything you run into is going to slow down your run.

“There are grav plates, and before your first run you won’t know where they are. If you hit one it will give you a jolt of speed, so hit them when you see them. But don’t go whipping across the track if you can avoid it. You lose speed making radical turns and you might put yourself out of position for the next series, understand?

“The accelerator makes the engine run a little hot so you have to watch your engine temperature gauge.” He pointed at a gauge on the panel. If it starts running hot you’ll hear a warning buzzer. Just change gears when you hear it, or when the needle reaches here,“ He touched a section of the bar graph, “and you’ll do fine.”

I took a deep shuddering breath. I had never done anything like this before, and was suddenly terrified. “All right, let’s start.”

“Hold your jets.” He said. “There is more you need to know. Racers go out on the track alone. They’ve started paired races in some places, even full races with everyone out at the same time in some places, but we’re traditionalists here. The times are tallied as they come up, and when the day is over, the best time wins.

“Normally a rider can do as many heats as he wants, but this engine might burn out. If it does, the bike is going to imitate a meteor and blow up. I think we can get four, maybe five runs out of it. So make your runs count. Gadon is depending on you. We’re all depending on you. If the Vulkars win, Brejik expects to get a lot of recruits out of this. If they win, the Beks are history.“

“I won’t let you down.“

He grunted. “It sounds like you’re are ready as you’re going to be. Go talk to the coordinator and get checked in. He’ll give you the time to beat and your number in the queue. I’ll check the bike after every run, and make any tweaks or adjustments it needs in between.“ He touched my hand again. The innate honesty of his race made him add. “Don’t worry. The accelerator probably won’t explode.”

The coordinator was a hassled Duros. He nodded to me, and signaled one of the Vulkars to go to the track. Then he turned to me. “You’re here to race, right? Now let me see. You’re riding for the Beks. I hope they do better than the last few races. I kinda like Gadon.” He nodded. “All right, you’re in. Ready for a heat?”

“Yes, I am.”

“All right, seven minutes. He looked up. “New time to beat is 38.43 seconds. A good time, but not the best I have seen. Have fun and try not to get yourself killed.”

“Killed?”

“Yes. We lost one racer today already. You know how you can adjust altitude?” He pulled back as if using reins to stop an animal. “Well one of the Twi-leks did that and hit the upper structure right between two pylons. Dynamic deflector systems can’t make your bike a meter shorter you know.”

I didn’t know and the conversation was bothering me. I walked back to the Bek enclosure, and slipped into a jumpsuit. Roomba nodded that he would watch my gear. I don’t know why, considering the friction recently, but everyone was as well armed as their muscles could handle. As I passed the Vulkars I had seen a cage with a woman standing there limply. There was a neural restraint collar around her neck, yet another legacy of slavers the Galaxy over. I walked toward her, and the Vulkar guarding the cage stepped between us. “No one talks to the prize.“ He growled.

“I wasn’t going to talk, just inspecting her.”

He growled again, but motioned me forward. I walked over, then stopped stunned. In my dreams since before I had arrived on the Endar Spire, I had seen who my mind took to be Kalendra. Then since I had been here on Taris, I had seen a Jedi fighting to defeat Revan.

This was that woman in the flesh. Bastila had been in my dreams!

“Danika Wordweaver. Report to the track.” I shook myself, and walked to the coordinator. He signaled me through a door, and I went down to the track. The bike was already there, and I climbed aboard. I flipped a switch, and the bike lifted into the air, floating a meter off the ground. Ahead of me was a series of lights, and I slowed my breathing, watching them The red light lit, then a few seconds later, the amber. My grip tightened, and my finger hooked over the trigger of the accelerator.

Green. I pulled the trigger, and the swoop bike smoothly accelerated. As it did, I saw the temperature gauge climb almost immediately into the red. A grav plate was coming up, and I shifted course as I loosened the trigger, setting it for the next gear. Then I passed the plate. There was a thump, and suddenly I grinned. It was like riding a Tirlat!

I looked along the course, and hit every grave plate I could. Each time, it slammed me forward faster. I saw immediately what the problem was with the accelerator. It needed the governor adjusted to set the gear ratio a bit lower.

I finished the race, and a time flashed on my helmet. I stared at it in shock. 38.01

Beks mobbed me as I climbed out of the racer. The bike was hoisted up, and loaded on a tram to take it to the start line.

Roomba bounced in glee. “Your first time and you beat the set time! They are going to tell stories about this race forever!” He froze. “Damn.”

“What? I looked up. The new time was 37.94.

“One of the Vulkars, Redros, beat your time.” He bent to the bike, opening the hood. I told him what I had thought, and he nodded, tinkering with it. After a time, he closed the hood. “Done.” I nodded, and headed back to the coordinator.

He looked at me. “For someone who has never done this, that was a respectable time.”

“My swoop is ready. What is the time to beat?” I asked.

He looked down, then up at the score board which I had ignored. “The Vulkars have set a time few could beat. Thirty even.”

I gulped. Gadon had set the previous course record at 30.91 at his accident. I couldn’t beat that time let alone the new one!

“You can forfeit, if you want.”

“No!” I almost shouted. “I have to race.”

“Then do you want to put yourself in the queue?”

“Yes.”

“All right. Eight minutes.”

I nodded and walked back to the Bek enclosure. Roomba merely huffed when he saw the time.

I sat there stunned until they called my name. There had been eight heats since I had noticed the new score, and no one had come even close. In fact the fatalities were now two, with three badly injured.

I went down to the track. The swoop was a Tirlat. How to use that? I remembered when Kalendra, the real Kalendra had ridden that first time.

I watched the lights, my brain running at hyper speed. The light counted down, and as the green flashed, I kissed, then released the accelerator. It punched me forward, but I took off in a deceptively slow glide. I angled to hit the first plate, then to the left sharply to catch the second.

I wasn’t swoop riding, I was tirlat riding.

The far right plate kicked me, and I moved the controls delicately, catching middle, then right, then right, then middle, and was honking over sharply to hit the series on the left and center.

The race was over too fast for me to even understand it. Beks grabbed me and held me aloft, shrieking in delight. I was confused until I saw the scoreboard.

28 even.

I went back to the concourse, but it was a foregone conclusion that I was the winner. That didn’t stop the Vulkars and others from trying. Most of the scores after mine didn’t even threaten beat the time set by Redros.

Finally they decided to call it a day. The next score after mine was 29.70, also by Redros. The coordinator called the racers together. “With a new track record of 28 seconds even, I give you the winner, Danika Wordweaver!”

I waved at them as I stood there. I had never done this before, and hoped to never have to do it again. But I had won.

“Through your skill, you have made yourself the premier swoop racer of the last two decades. Now to present the victory prizes, I give you Brejik, leader of the Black Vulkars.”

Brejik stepped forward. His face was working, and there was a tic under his left eye. He had seen all of his plans collapse because of me, and I was glad I was back in armor with my ritual brand. “Hear me!” He shouted. “Before I present this so-called champion with her prize, there is something that must be said. This rider cheated!”

There was a cry of dismay from the crowd. The coordinator merely looked on. “And how did she cheat?”

“The Beks brought a newly designed accelerator to the field without reporting it, and allowing others to examine it! I hereby withdraw the prize put forward by the Vulkars in protest!”

The coordinator looked at him. It’s usually hard to tell what a Duros is thinking, but this one was obviously disgusted. “The accelerator design was brought to the race committee three weeks before you stole it, Brejik. If your racer had used it to win, you would have argued against disqualification, as would any team that raced. As for the prize, you cannot withdraw it merely because you lost. It goes against our sacred traditions!”

“Your traditions mean nothing to me!” Brejik roared back. “I am the wave of the future, not some fool locked on the past! If I want to withdraw this woman, to kill her, or sell her on the slave market, I will do what I please!”

“I think I have a say in that, Brejik.” A voice I had heard before said. Bastila looked up, and her smile was cold.

“You can’t- It’s impossible! You wear a neural disruptor! How could you have worked past that?”

Her smile grew feral. “You underestimate the will of a Jedi, Brejik. A mistake you will not live to repeat!” She reached out, and the Vulkar that had been guarding her was slammed back hard enough to crack his skull. The collar fell from her neck as she moved her hand, and the door flung open. Then she bent to pick up the sword from the fallen Vulkar.

“Vulkars, to me!” Brejik shrieked. “Kill the woman, kill the racer. Kill them all!”

I drew, and killed the Vulkar that ran at me, then the melee became general.


Bastila Shan

I had freed myself after much work, but I was not yet safe. The problem I had to face was manifold. The gang had surprised me, and captured me after only a brief struggle. Someone had put the neural disruptor collar on me, and dragged me away.

Picture sitting in a chair, looking out a window in front of you, but your will is paralyzed. You cannot move only watch as life passes by. Thought of action is shunted aside before it reaches your muscles. You still breath eat and excrete because you don’t need to think about that, but you can‘t even complain about the quality of the food.

It had taken me a day to discover exactly how the damnable collar worked, then another to work my way around it. Only a Jedi could have done so. We work on so many levels in comparison to regular people that no one but the Sith had ever bothered to develop such a collar for us.

But once I was physically free, I would have yet another problem. I was being held in a pit, and only let out for feeding and cleaning. Someone had assumed I was important because even with the collar there were never fewer than five when I was removed, and usually more. I could have dispatched them, true, but I would still have been trapped in a building somewhere on Taris, with many more people between freedom and me.

I was a prize in a swoop race, that much I had learned. Then this morning they had been agitated. Someone had broken into their main base, and razed it. They mounted a guard worthy of a senator to assure this same enemy did not take me.

Ah, the swoop race then was my best chance. While I might still be wearing the collar, once the race was done, they would have to transport me again. That was when I would free myself, when the number of guards was scant, and the space enclosed. I didn’t know where I would be going, but I was sure I would find a way off the planet before Darth Malak found me.

But something had gone wrong. Brejik, that stupid little man had screamed that he would withdraw me. I was not going back to that hell!

“I think I have a say in that, Brejik.” I said. The look of shock and dismay on his face was priceless.

“You can’t- It’s impossible! You wear a neural disruptor! How could you have worked past that?”

“You underestimate the will of a Jedi, Brejik. A mistake you will not live to repeat!” I reached out using the force, caught the guard nearest to me, and savagely used that unseen grip to pull him toward me. I overdid it a bit. I used what I might have to shove a landspeeder away from me. The Vulkar slammed back into the cage, and collapsed dead. The door was child’s play, and I took the weapon from my first victim.

I immediately saw a problem. As a Jedi I had never handled a sword with a material blade before. It pulled forward in a disconcerting manner, and when I swung it, the swing went on for quite a distance. I would be little help.

Instead, I blocked frantically, and watched the woman that had won the race. She was an auburn haired mercenary from Echana, if her arms and armor were any indication. She waded into them, and I could see the edge of her mouth in a grin as she did. The spectators were running frantically, the Beks had charged in, and chaos was total. She was almost certainly one of those they say are wedded to the blade. In the midst of that swirl of steel, she danced the dance of death, and was its master. No one I had ever seen moved with such fluid and lethal grace. I despaired for the order for I felt the power of the force in her every move. What would she have been if we had found her first?
Brejik shoved his way through the press, his eyes lit by insanity. Any grasp he had on reality had been sundered, and now all he wanted was revenge.

“You’re mine!” He screamed, raising his sword.

Suddenly he stiffened, and looked at the blade that had transfixed him like a museum specimen. “Mine.” He whispered, then he jerked forward. The woman rider was behind him, kicking the body forward as she pulled the blade free. She looked up, then walked toward me.

I was stunned. It wasn’t possible! She couldn’t be here, fighting with such efficiency! Yet there she was.

I reacted poorly, I will admit. I lied through my teeth. I pointed at Brejik, and his henchmen now dead in windrows around us. Along with the Vulkar and five or six members of other gangs that had joined the fray on his side. But they had paid for that foolishness with their lives. “Maybe the Vulkars will think twice about trying to keep a Jedi prisoner! And as for you, if you think I am willingly going to be a prize in this farce-” I stopped, artfully pretending that I had just recognized her. “Wait, you were on the Endar Spire! Yes, I’m sure of it! How did a Republic soldier find herself racing for a common swoop gang?”

She shrugged, and smiled that damnable smile I remembered so well. “It is a long story.” Only the voice was different. Softer, more hesitant. As if she was embarrassed.

“Well we don’t have time for it right now. We have to get out of here before the Sith arrive to sort out this mess. Is there somewhere safe where we can go?”

Before she could answer, a Bek came running down the concourse. “The Sith were monitoring the swoop race! We have to get out of here now!”

“We have a safe place to go. I was going to take you there after I saved you from Brejik.” She said calmly.

“Saved me? Is that what you think happened? Is that why you entered this ridiculous race? Well as a rescue operation, this is one of the worse managed I have ever seen! In case you hadn’t noticed I had already freed myself. In fact all things considered, I think it would be fair to say that I saved you! Brejik and his gang would have left you for dead if I hadn‘t been here!”

She colored, and bit back a retort. “I think we can discuss this later. Carth is waiting for us.”

“Carth Onasi! I withdraw part of my complaint then. If Carth sent you, he must have had a better plan than something you created!” She merely shook her head. The Beks were ready to leave, and since she had ridden for them, they brought us with them.

Last edited by machievelli; 04-04-2006 at 02:01 PM. Reason: Addition of new work
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