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Old 07-07-2012, 10:46 AM   #2
machievelli
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Concordia

Slipstream came out of hyperspace with a burst of Chernekov radiation. Riyal shut down the hyperdrive motivator, looking at the planet and the huge moon before him. Manda'lor and Concordia, sometimes called the Concord Moon. He didn't know much about the worlds themselves, but like anyone who enjoyed history he knew about the Mandalorians! Two millennia ago they had been the bogeymen that mothers used to terrorize their children in submission.

He took out the case with the contact information in it. The case had two symbols on it. One was of a red bird with bifurcated wings. The other was a stylized rendition of it, looking like a dagger with the paired wings as the guard, the symbol of the Terakian Clan. He opened it, took out the chip, and fed it into the reader in the communications console, hitting the play button. Now how long-

“Ship signaling, identify yourself.” A harsh voice asked.

“Scout Slipstream from Naboo, Prince Riyal commanding."

For a long time, there was silence. “Follow the approach vector.” A course flashed up, and he fed it into the auto-navigation system. It look to be halfway around the-

There was a flash to his left, and a contact appeared on his sensor screen. Then his ship rocked as lasers blasted into her tail. He grabbed the stick, automatically negating the autopilot, jerking into a dive toward the moon. The Casawayans must have known what his father would do and had sent a ship to stop him. As he dived, he looked at the mass reading. Small, barely larger than his own ship. But armed, which he was not. He desperately maneuvered, slapping the communications console.

“Mayday, mayday. This is Slipstream. I am under attack. I repeat, I am under attack.” He stayed as close to the approach vector he had been given as he dodged fire.

“Understood.”

That's all? He growled. They're trying to kill me, and all you can say is understood? The navigational shield lit up as his ship hit atmosphere. More of the console lights were red than anything else, meaning serious damage. The ship was going to crash, there was no other landing option.

Slipstream, download the approach vector into a pad and eject from your ship now.”

“Are you out of your fracking mind?” He screamed.

“We can kill the attacker, but not if we have to shoot around you.” Came the calm reply. “You're going to come down only ten klicks out from our compound. Follow your instructions.”

Cursing in the languages he knew, he maneuvered, and at the same time, clicked a pad into the communications panel, and set it to record the vector. He needed three hands to do it, but succeeded somehow. Then he snatched the pad out, slapped it into a pocket, and leaned back, pulling the ejection ring between his legs The ejection system kicked him in the butt with what felt like fifteen Gs, and he blacked out for a second as the life pod shot up from his dying ship. For an instant he saw the battered ship flash past him, then it exploded, the debris scattering toward the planet below.

Something shot past him, a black ship following his own. It looped upward, rolling to come back after him. Then something flashed below, and a bolt of fire ripped the attacker into scrap which barely missed his lifepod.

All he could do for the next minutes was sit there like a crated cargo as the lifepod began the auto landing sequence. Then he was bounced around like a ball in the hands of a demented child learning a game requiring that you bounce it as hard as you can. He counted seven bounces before the pod finally came to rest.

He shook himself, then pulled the handle for the hatch. It protested, then slid upward and open. Grumbling and feeling very put upon, he stood, stretching his back. Then he looked around. He was in a forest. All he could see was trees in every direction, except for the shattered ones where his pod had plowed into them then bounced out to shatter still more on a zigzag course behind him for several hundred meters. Hot metal still fell out of the sky, and he ducked as something hit the ground a few meters away. Finally the metal rain stopped. Nothing but silence.

He staggered from the life pod, and only then remembered the survival pack. More sotto voce grumbling as he went back, retrieving it from under the command seat. Not much in it; a few ration bars and slip bottles of water, a rebreather mask for hostile environments, a knife and a sidearm. He put on the belt with the weapons, slipping the pack over his shoulder, then pulled out the pad. There was a red arrow, and he turned until he faced the way it pointed. That way.

The forest was tightly grown, but the branches were high enough that he only had to deal with the underbrush. It wasn't like he hadn't been in a forest before. It's just the Royal Forest Preserve near the capital of Theed had paved paths and drinking fountains along them. He was used to his wilderness being better organized.

As the wildlife finally decided all of the hullabaloo was over, they again reasserted themselves. There were calls, and grunting, a roaring sound and chittering. Some kind of arboreal monkey troop followed him for a hundred meters or so, complaining at him with shrieks and bellows.

He paused to take a sip of water, and that was when he noticed the stench of death. The air was still, so he must be approaching it. Something, or maybe many somethings had died, leaving behind a charnel reek. He didn't want to get any closer to whatever had caused that if he could avoid it. Yet the arrow pointed right into it.

He pulled out the rebreather. A full faced mask with a small hyper-compressed oxygen tank; with it on he could no longer smell the funk in the air. He'd walk a hundred meters more, then take it off to check before going on.

He walked on. The underbrush had been cleared away from here at some time in the past, and he made better time. He decided it had been a hundred meters, and started to reach for the mask when he heard a growl from ahead. Ten meters in front of him, something moved. It paced from the growth, and now he could see it. A red animal with brown stripes crouched there, tail lashing angrily. It had a wide head shaped like a spade, and more teeth than he might ever have imagined in a mouth that was wide enough to swallow his head. It stood even with his waist, and the claws that shredded the ground would be more than enough to kill him without those teeth.

He took a step back, matched by the animal. The growl had a clock like sound, going up and down like the ticking of a mechanical clock. He took another matched step. Whatever it was, it was hunting him! He considered his weapons, and discarded the idea. The knife would only irritate it, and he wasn't sure the pistol would kill it. He turned and ran. There was a howling sound, followed by a thumping sound as it leaped into pursuit.

He'd run only a few steps when someone came out of the brush ahead of him. He could see long white hair, a slim face, and he tripped as he saw the rifle the figure lifted to aim at him.

The crack of the weapon and the animal leaping on his back happened at the same instant. He was driven into the ground as the animal flipped over his back to land in a heap before his face. He could see the fury dying in those eyes. The back of head looked as if someone had opened the skull, put a small grenade in it, and stepped back smartly. He looked up past it.

The figure was a woman. She was wearing brown pantaloons and a rust colored shirt beneath a tight fitting vest. She looked at him for a long moment, then knelt, picking up the brass from her expended round. She expertly popped out the magazine, drew a fresh round from her belt, put it in the magazine, then reinserted it. The expended brass went into the slot where the fresh round had been. Now he could see that the vest had long rows of similar rounds. Then she sighed, walking over to kneel beside the body of the animal. She spoke softly, as if it were an old friend she had just killed as she stroked it's flank.

Riyal got up on his knees. “I don't know how to thank you-”

“Don't thank me.” She snapped, still stroking the dead animal.

“But-”

“This is not a matter for thanks.” She looked up, and gray eyes glared at him. “She died because you don't have the brains of a flatworm.” She stood, towering over him, ripping the rebreather off. Riyal almost choked on the smell. She held up the mask. “Anything with a functional brain would have avoided this area because of the stench. The Druhund leaves parts of her kills uneaten, scattering the body around where she intends to have her litter. The stench keeps scavengers and other predators away from her den while her young are still small.

“But you were too stupid to go around. Because of that, she died.” She stood, lifting the comlink at her wrist, speaking rapidly. The only word he recognized was Nabistte, Mandalorian for someone from Naboo. “I have called the clan. There will be an aircar here in a few minutes.”

Riyal stood, looking at the corpse. The guilt of causing an unnecessary death filled him. “Were would her den be?”

She looked at him as if he were speaking Huttese. “Why? Do you want to kill her kits as well?”

“What happens to her kits if she doesn't return?”

She gave him a look now that made him think he should be wearing a dunce cap. “She no longer feeds them, and they die of starvation.” She explained as if to a child.

“That is my fault. I will gather the kits and feed them until they can take care of themselves.”

“You will spend a year feeding her kits?”

“If I must.”

She sighed, then pointed behind him. “Follow her tracks back until they disappear. When they do, mark the path, look for the nearest tree, and circle it the same distance away looking for another trail. Druhund never come directly from their den when they have kits. They leap into a tree then to the ground in another direction so the enemy can't merely follow her back to her kits. I will be here.”

“You're not coming along?”

“No.” She looked at him for a long moment. “If you would do this, we will need something else.”

“What if the kits are half grown?”

“They will eat you, of course.” She replied levelly. He had the idea that she didn't care either way. He shook his head, walking down the trail. Behind him, the woman spoke into her comlink again.

It didn't take long. The Druhund had only come perhaps ten meters from where she had broken trail, and he found the other easily thanks to the instructions. He could hear a soft mewling sound, and found a hollow large enough for the animal to have slept with herself between the small forms further back. They were moving around blindly, their cries of hunger growing louder. He knelt, dumping out his pack. He took off his shirt, making a soft nest, and carefully lifted the four kits one by one into it. He had to do it one at a time. Though they were young each was larger than his two hands side by side. They squirmed, giving plaintive cries as he put the pack over both shoulders this time.

He reached the small clearing where he had been attacked, and looked at it with horror. The animal had been hoisted with a rope around it's neck, and the woman was carefully cutting it up with a vibroblade. Layers of plastic held the skin, the ribs cut first from the breast bone then cut in half and stacked to lay flat, and the legs chopped at the joints into manageable chunks. Except for the lungs and uterus, the entrails had been poured into a folding bucket.

“What are you doing?” He almost screamed.

She ignored his protest, walking over. She caught his shoulder, spinning him around to see his find. “From the look of them, there is perhaps two weeks before they will be able to eat meat as well as milk. We will need that-” she hooked a thumb at the remains, “-to feed them then.”

He felt something tugging at his pony tail, and heard a chuckle. “It seems one of them likes you.”

“Ha, ha.” he replied. “We have not exchanged names. I am Riyal, Prince of Naboo.”

“I am Taarna, of Clan Terakian.” He turned to face her. If anything, her face was colder than before. “I knew you were of Naboo. We've been wondering what place your line wished to conquer next. After all, the planet is now unified, thanks to our blood.”

“I don't understand.”

“Four and a half centuries of the pact. 'To defend' was what we were supposed to do. You forefathers, your 'kings' would push a neighbor until they attacked, and use us to conquer them. Land under your control now, watered with the blood of the thousands we once were, over and over.

“But with the planet under one ruler, we could not see a local enemy for you to face. So we waited for the next summons to end our long enslavement.”

“Again, I don't understand.”

“You don't need to, yet.” She looked up. The aircar comes.”

The vehicle circled, then came down in the clearing. The rear hatch opened, and two small children came down. The eldest, a girl of perhaps six glared at him, then spoke to Taarna. She replied, motioning to Riyal. “Kneel down so they can get two of the kits.”

He did as he was told, and the girl walked around him, lifting a kit from the pack. The boy, around five, he estimated reached in and took out another. Riyal glanced over his shoulder. Both children had ecstatic looks on their faces as they cuddled the kits, scratching the young animals ears or stomach as they cooed to them.

“Come, we don't have time to watch the grass grow.” Taarna walked over, taking out the remaining kits. “Here, your friend.” She said, thrusting one into his arms before taking the other as she walked toward the flyer. The pilot had come down and loaded the butchered remains. He followed them aboard. There were four seats facing each other, and each had what looked like an emergency medical IV bag, but filled with a bluish liquid, the tubes hanging down beside the seats to a small thumb clip that stopped the liquid from flowing out. Taarna and the children sat, laying their burdens over their knees only long enough to strap in, and he followed suit. Once they had, each took the tubes hanging down, set the ends in the kit's mouth, and released the clip. The kits they held immediately had something more important to do, sucking the tubes avidly.

“Nerf milk.” Taarna explained. “Are you going to feed her? Or merely tease her with the smell?” He took the tube as they had done, sticking the end into the kit's mouth and released the thumb clip. His burden began to suck, and he winced as the forepaws settled against his hand and began kneading, the needle claws burying themselves in his hand. Taarna shouted, and the ramp came up, the flyer lifting.


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile

Last edited by machievelli; 07-07-2012 at 07:55 PM. Reason: forgot about the remains!
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