Join Date: Jan 2004
Chapter 9: DY44's Advent
It had been three hours since Esnaw had official started the trek back to Bashunash. Seliqa and Wefive were trudging alongside the beast-riders, elevated above the forest canopy. They know hiked through a hilly region that distinctly stood out, if seen at the horizon. There was rudimentary path, yellow from overuse, on which the party marched. When Seliqa reached the top of the hill, barely a half a hundred feet above sea level, she could see the true extent of the path. It went down, only to reappear on another hill and then traveled east with the range. Seliqa’s eyes followed the path east. The path then went level for sometime, before rising and going north again, the direction the group was traveling. According to Esnaw, Bashunash was a few miles north-east to the northeastern tip of the range they were traveling on.
For the first time since their great escape, Seliqa could see the Captain’s facial features. The face that had been hidden behind a Clone mask for several hours had been revealed. Seliqa had hoped that he would look different from other clones. It was a mild expectation, which was squashed when she saw the Captain’s face like that of any ordinary clone. It was the same chocolate of Jango Fett, scarred and blemished. His face was grave, as if in regret, or as if he could foresee a great danger. His eyes were wary, constantly darting to check every movement. It wasn’t surprising, considering that the Captain was a veteran and had seen more than his share of combat. Even he was against it, his senses would be ever-watchful for traps, enemies and just about anything that was to threaten his survival. He marched almost militaristically.
Another hour passed and the party now trekked upon the sloping, winding path into the taller hills. They had passed the path’s turning east and then back north. The path was not only but a long ledge sticking out of a hill’s sharp surface. A constructed railing prevented injury, for most people at least. To the right was another hill, out of which some unusual trees had grown horizontally. Some had even taken support of the railing. The distance between the railing and the surface of the other hill was roughly two feet. And below lay a vast chasm, green and yellow, where nobody dared to look. After about half and hour, the riders lumbered down the hills, onto a plateau, roughly a hundred feet above the ground. It was, like the rest of Onderon, dense with vegetation. At the end of it, the path became more civilized and journeyed downwards, overlooking a large river, with a metal bridge across it. Before it was a large clearing.
When the first beast-rider arrived at the edge of the plateau, he called out to Esnaw. The latter ran up to him and looked out with binoculars. When the rest of the party regrouped, Esnaw turned back to Seliqa. “Well, Jedi. It appears you are in luck.” Seliqa took the binoculars she was offered and looked down the plateau, towards the bridge. The bridge was about three hundred feet long, and on it was hovering an airspeeder. It was a rather new build, long and with an optional canopy. Inside sat a pilot, unmasked and in beast-rider clothing. The airspeeder crossed the bridge and made it’s way to the top of the plateau in a few minutes. It levitated a good four feet above the ground and as Wefive reckoned, it was capable of flying upto a hundred feet in air, maybe more.
The airspeeder steered towards the riders as it slowed near them. Inside was the beast rider Esnaw and the scout had spotted. After making some end-engine adjustments, he jumped out and casually made his way to the party. He leaned back on his speeder and surveyed the team. It comprised of roughly 10-15 people.
“Forgot how to run speeders again?” he joked.
“Some mechanic” Esnaw replied, turning to one of party members, “apparently didn’t do a good job of fixing them up, after we were attacked by a herd of Falkachets.”
The pilot chuckled. “And the Jedi? You pick her up at a Jedi Survival Camp?”
“What? What do you mean?” asked Esnaw, confused.
The pilot chuckled again. “Been to Iziz yesterday. Clones shooting Jedi. Saw it with my own eyes. The clones said that it was none of my business, but looks like someone doesn’t like Jedi. And, there’s a lot of money to be made…” he said, looking at Seliqa with a smirk drawn out across his face.
“Shame on you, you traitor!” cried out Neiopa, “How dare you think of turning over a Jedi? Do you not know that we survive because of Jedi? How greedy can you get, Sadarr?”
“Yeah? Well, where were the Jedi when those droids bombed Nattoyan? They were obviously preaching at Coruscant while my parents, my sisters and my brothers were burned by their blasters. Where were you, Jedi?”
Seliqa stepped ahead before anyone could answer. “The Jedi are limited. We couldn’t be everywhere. I apologize for your loss, Sadarr, I…”
“How the hell do you even think of speaking my name? You don’t even know who I am. And now you apologize to me! What do you have to apologize for? The Jedi doesn’t care about us, the…”
Wefive lost his temper. His face twisted by rage, he strode angrily to Sadarr and getting hold of his throat, pushed him into the speeder. Overcome by surprise, Sadarr gawked and fell in without resistance. “The Jedi don’t care, do they? Well, I don’t care either. In fact, I wouldn’t care to see you die in agony here, today.” He shouted out to the bewildered Sadarr. Sadarr came to his senses and dodged Wefive’s punch and ramming him with his body, he threw Wefive off the speeder.
When Sadarr got to his feet, he was welcomed by a flurry of punches, before Wefive was jerked back by Seliqa’s command of the Force. Wefive got to his feet, but Seliqa was ahead of him. Sadarr, sore from his beating cried out enthusiastically and charged for Wefive, but was stopped by Seliqa, who used the Force to keep him from reaching either Wefive or herself. In a calm voice, she apologized.
“I am sorry for the behaviour of my companion. He is a rough man, and prefers urban centers to forests. He is a bounty hunter…”
“He ain’t no damned bounty hunter!” Sadarr retaliated. “He’s a clone! One of those independent thought ones, maybe. Just look at his face!”
“Well you’ve got no business with me, so let’s drop this!” Wefive yelled back.
Esnaw, who was watching the spectacle now stepped forward and consoled Sadarr, who, out of frustration shrugged him off and jumped back into his speeder. Esnaw leaned over his speeder. “Come on, Sadarr. He’s just a hothead. And we, well, we need your speeder.”
“What for?” Sadarr asked, sulkily switching on the engine.
“You can walk home tonight, enough speeding for one day. We have an injury in out party and we need to heal him up fast. We fear the worst…”
Sadarr didn’t reply, but his speeder hummed and rose. After some time, it dropped low again and with a sigh, Sadarr jumped out.
“I came here for some hunting. Any kills?”
“We’ve got raw Vanoe and Cannok skins. Come on, we’ll hunt some more and let the Jedi be on her way.”
Seliqa politely bowed as she received the speeder codes from Sadarr. It didn’t take long for Wefive to figure out that Seliqa wasn’t as innocent as she pretended to be. She had obviously used her tricks on Sadarr. Wefive hopped in and the speeder rose, before shooting out over the trees at four hundred miles an hour.
DY44 was known to do its job quickly and efficiently. The Team leader, Xydan had developed a code of operation in his team. With this code, the team would achieve it’s objectives by whatever means necessary, “knot the loose ends” and leave the battle in a breeze. Although it wasn’t against standard procedure, Xydan had instructed his team to maintain silence and speak only when necessary. The team often realized the actions they were undertaking without the need of speech. DY44 was a perfect epitome of the proverb “Actions speak louder than words”.
DY44’s Special Recon Starfighters, codenamed UR14’s dropped down the Onderon atmosphere and hurtled towards the forest canopy. These UR14 Starfighters had been developed at Kuat, and their blueprints had been designed off the new Jedi Starfighters. These UR14s were shaped like sharp, thin arrowheads and were slimmer than the older Jedi Starfighters. Like the Jedi Starfighters, they were equipped with vertical fins, larger than the Jedi crafts and curved concavely. To the rear was one ion drive engine, along with two boosters to give the URs speed that allowed the Recon to move in and out of battle zones swiftly.
The four UR14s dropped down into a forest clearing some fifty metres away from the crash site. Turning off the engines and turning on the shields, the four troopers got out of their starfighters and regrouped at one edge of the clearing. After some routine checks, the team advanced to the crash site. The crash had certainly taken down a number of trees with it. In a clear line behind the wrecked starfighters was a trail of broken and fallen trees. The starfighter itself was highly damaged and ruined. It’s canopy was open, with no glass. Having much recon experience, Xydan first climbed the three wings and started with the cockpit. As he had suspected, there were no glass shards anywhere, and the glass was not Vareutan Casshias, the glass that can dissolve in thin air with a simple button.
The rest of the team, after a brief search regrouped at Xydan’s location. Xydan’s theory, that the rebels had jumped ship before it crashed was plausible to all. They would obviously want to feign death and the not only the lack of bodies, but the lack of glass shards was pointing to the theory. Xydan also found it unusual that the RAS Bayonet, RAS Banshee and the RAS Deathbringer had not sent teams to search the base. Xydan suspected foul play on the side of the Commander, but he was in no position to question or counter the idea. Besides, his biological programming did not allow him to do so.
Their arrival and presence did not go unnoticed, however. Another beast rider clan was wandering nearby and had sent their scouts to check on the new crafts that had landed. One of the scouts stumbled into the crash site and watched the armoured men work on the craft. A second joined him soon. Once the inspection was done, the troopers descended and approached the beast-riders. The clones, with their specially decaled and modified armours, looked very intimidating. One of the riders even stepped back.
“State your name and business.” Spoke Xydan.
The beast-riders fumbled for words.
“We are… um, beast-riders and we’re here to, well, check the crash site.”
“What do you know about this crash?” Xydan curtly asked.
“Well, it happened yesterday, I think…”
“Yes, yesterday.” His companion assured.
“Any specific timing?” Xydan asked.
“Well, the afternoon, I think. Or was it evening?”
“What do you know of its pilot and the gunner?” Blade asked.
“What? Uh… no. It just crashed and we… came.”
“Took you long enough to reach here… if you saw the crash in daylight, yesterday.”
The beast-riders were getting nervous, at least physically.
“Go on, we won’t hurt you.” Xydan ensured.
“Look, we… should be going.”
“Yeah, we’ll miss the hunt.”
Xydan realized that he had used up the two.
“Clean up.” He commanded. The two beast riders stood dumbfounded.
Within seconds, they were brutally shot down multiple times. Their bodies were searched and buried a few feet underground, below a bush. All this was cleared up in a few minutes. Many would call this inhuman, or vicious, but for DY44, it was nothing but simply “knotting the loose ends”. DY44 cannot, in any case make their presence aware, especially locals who loved to gossip and spread news. No one could be trusted. Not even the DY44 teammates.