Amongst Stars: The Dawn Eclipse
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02.18.2013 , 12:13 AM |
Within the bowels of the sand crawler, the Captain lay motionless upon a metallic slab. The interior of the mobile outpost was dominated by brown metals and piles of seemingly organized scrap. The Captain had been removed from his flightsuit, resting unconsciously in his underwear. A sizable white bandage had been wrapped around much of his midsection. The areas of flesh not covered showed the perils of his previous occupation, numerous scars from cuts and scorches marking his torso. A series of tubes connected the man’s left wrist to a compact, unmarked reservoir that sat beside the slab.
The only movement in the cramped room came from its single, functioning inhabitant, a medical droid. The humanoid chassis was slow-moving, battered, and rusted, unfit for treating anyone under Republic safety guidelines. Its metallic feet scrapped against the floor as it approached the occupied slab, passing the deactivated chassis of the half-complete utility droids that lined the walls. Coming to a stop beside the Captain, the medical droid readied its right arm, an injector resting at its end in the place of a hand.
A prominent needle extended from the droid’s appendage and promptly inserted itself into the Captain’s upper arm. As the stimulant pumped through the Human’s body, it wasn’t long until he awoke. His exit from unconsciousness, however, wasn’t pleasant. His eyes shot open. His mouth did as well, letting out a gnarled yelp. His back arched and lifted before slamming back down upon the cold slab. He clutched at his midsection as pain slowly began to dominate his senses.
Looking around, the Captain was surrounded by unfamiliarity. Seeing the rustic droid looming over him baring a large needle, the Human’s more primal instincts began to take over. He immediately pivoted upon the slab and kicked the droid away with his naked foot. The droid stumbled backwards, collapsing into a pile of scrap a short distance away. The maneuver only exacerbated the man’s abdominal pain, and compounded it with one from his naked foot impacting against sturdy metal.
The Captain bent his leg’s over the edge of the slab, sitting up as he struggled to catch his breath. He tried to stand, his legs almost buckling under his weight. A few steps toward the exit, and the Captain found himself anchored. With a hearty growl, he removed the tubes that had been inserted into his wrist, prompting a quick spilling of medicinal fluids onto the floor. The medical droid still lay incapacitated in a pile of scrap, limbs slowly flailing, unable to find steady ground.
The Captain rushed toward the door with a groggy haste. Just before leaving he examined the room once more. Upon a nearby stack of containers, a gray longcoat had been carelessly tossed. Retrieving it, the Captain wrapped the coat around his half-naked body and slipped out of the room.
The hall outside differed little from the preceding chamber. Brown, rusted metals made up the entirety of the structure’s interior. The pathway was narrow and cramped, with little indication of where it was or where it lead. Slowly, the man crept along the passage, hand reaching out for support against the nearby wall.
The last thing you want to do on unfamiliar ground is panic. First, assess the situation. Where are you and who put you there? Every structure has clues to its designer and inhabitants. Republic and Imperial tech is instantly recognizable. Private manufacturers less so. But sometimes, unrecognizable means easily identifiable.
The Captain paused his already slow movement. Bracing himself against one of the many rustic pillars that lined the hallway, he looked back toward whence he came. He was still alone in the passage, the ruckus he caused apparently garnering no attention. He turned his attention to his front, noting every intricate detail readily available to him.
Sturdy design. Built for longevity and easily replaceable parts. Parts old and new fused together. All signs pointed to scavengers. And the only people willing to scavenge are the people who are unwilling or unable to leave. Dealing with indigenous peoples varies from planet to planet. For Tatooine, the consensus fell rather far from pleasantness.
With a grunt, the Captain removed himself from the pillar he was leaning against, his eyes set on the end of the hallway ahead. Forcing his bare feet forward, the Human had only the slightest idea of where he was heading. He was heeding an internal logic tempered by years of spacer knowhow, believing himself to be on a path away from the structure’s core.
However, one irksome detail continued to swirl in his head. With each step, with each steadying hand placed upon the nearby framework, he felt vibrations resonate through his spine. He had begun to attribute it to whatever chemicals were flowing through his veins, but that hypothesis would be disproven when he was thrown to the grated flooring after it offered a violent shake. The motion lasted only a moment, but as the Captain raised his head from the floor, his ears began to pick up the subtle noises of machines coming to life.
Spacers are a well-traveled people. Even if they spend their entire life on a single vessel, they pick up more than a few things regarding life in the galaxy. Doesn’t mean they can’t be thrown off every now and again. Like when one finds themselves stumbling through a mobile base that manages to trek across a planetary desert on treads.
The Captain scuffled through the sand crawler’s innards until he finally came across an opened bulkhead. Beyond the barrier stretched a large chamber, one face completely open to the outside world. The suns of Tatooine still hovered high above the planet’s surface, casting their intense light into what appeared to be the mobile structure’s cargo bay. The Human braced himself against the edge of the passageway, poking only as much of his head in as needed for a quick peak.
The floor of the cargo bay was populated with a number of large shipping containers, as well as a series of conveyor belts around its extremities. Looking up, the human saw metallic claws and electromagnetic cranes hover inactive over the chamber. In the desert beyond, small blurred figures moved amidst the sands, pouring in and out of a downed vessel. The very same Exchange vessel the Captain had crash landed in. As he focused on the scene, the images began to sharpen. Small humanoids in rough garb were carrying bits and pieces from the smoking wreckage. What caught the Human’s eye, however, was the detachment of scavengers dragging two bodies across the sand.
The Captain's body tensed as he tightly clenched his fists. He passed through the bulkhead and into the cargo bay with an injured haste, throwing caution to the wind. His feet ached as they stomped upon the metallic flooring. With exasperated breath, he lumbered past the numerous stacked containers. On the other side of the cargo bay, the sand crawler’s exterior wall had been deployed, folding outward and acting as a ramp to the sands below. As the Human neared the end of the chamber, he was halted by a sharp declaration in some unknown alien language. Turning to his side, the Captain saw a waist-high humanoid staring at him with piercing, golden glowing eyes. The figure’s face was an obscured blackness hidden beneath a ragged hood. In its hand, it held a small metallic device, arks of electricity pulsing from its tip.
The first thing to do when arriving on an unfamiliar planet, is to familiarize yourself with the local populace. On Tatooine, you have two indigenous peoples. Jawas. And Sand People. One is a group of relatively harmless traders. The other is a vicious group of marauders. Both scavengers. Both taking what they need from the desert. One would think they’d be instantly distinguishable, but when you’re operating with limited information and a system full of sub-standard adrenals, you can’t be expected to act with the greatest sense of tact. Instincts takes over. ‘Better safe than sorry’ starts running through your head over and over to the point of irritation.
The alien could only utter a single garbled syllable before it was interrupted by the Human driving his dirty, bruised foot into its veiled face. The scavenger stumbled backward, releasing a sharp yelp as it fell to the floor. The Captain continued his groggy charge down the sand crawler ramp and onto the sands below, the blistering hot particulate scorching his feet. Even under the harsh rays of the Tatooine suns, he could see clearly the scavengers stripping the fallen exchange vessel and searching his fallen comrades of valuables.
The first thing to leave the Captain’s mouth was an unintelligible exclamation. An amalgamate of intense hatred and disapproval without any sense of Basic dialogue. The hooded scavengers finally peeled their attention from their bounty to see the rampaging Human scuttling over the hot sands, waving his arms and belligerently shouting.
“Do not… touch them!” the Captain finally managed to articulate between heavy breaths. Nearing the pair of ragged aliens overlooking the nearest fallen comrade, the Human batted the scavengers away as he knelt by his departed friend’s side. Lero the Twi’lek. The Captain stared into his partner’s lifeless eyes as his own grew heavy. A sadness began to build, one that threatened to overcome his hardened countenance. After moment of silence, the Human reached beneath the neck of the Twi’lek’s flightsuit and retrieved a necklace, maneuvering the chain over its owner's head and lekku. Lifting himself from his friend’s side, he sought out Durn and did the same, taking a simplistic chain bearing a single tag from his neck.
As the Captain stood alone, he stared at the chains within his hand, each bearing its wearer's name and credentials. With a heavy sigh, he placed the tags into his longcoat’s chest pocket. Looking up, the Human saw the team of scavengers had halted their activities to amass around him. There was little emotion to detect from their faces, but the series of low-grade blasters directed toward him provided enough clarity. Slowly, the Captain raised his hands in surrender, and the aliens escorted him back to the sand crawler.
“Wow, I can’t believe it… you actually straight-up kicked a Jawa in the face?”
13 ATC. Anchorhead cantina.
Amongst the usual lowlifes present in any Tatooine establishment, two figures sat at the bar, half-engaged in conversation. One was garbed in a used set of utilitarian cloths beset by a heavy longcoat, elbows digging into the counter as he cupped a half-empty glass in his hand. The Captain.
The other was a female garbed in more mercenary attire. Heavy boots, cargo pants, combat jacket, swoop biker’s gloves. Her head went unadorned. A Zabrak. She had tanned skin with a series of thin lines tattooed upon her face, stretching and crisscrossing in a pattern select few knew the true meaning of. Atop her head were two rows of stubby horns, between which stretched a strip of dark brown hair that culminated in a ponytail.
Zera. Spacer. Mercenary. Founder of Zera’s Elite. Left Iridonia at the age of twelve, blaster in one hand, grenade in the other. Fifteen years later, she's still most comfortable with that arrangement.
Rather than sit, she leaned against the bar in a rather aloof manner, watching the Human slowly down his drink. She possessed a toned, athletic figure, somewhat hidden by her baggy clothing. She belonged to a trade similar to that of the Captain’s, one that required a deal of physical prowess. And yet she maintained a softness in her face, one accentuated by the enduring smile she possessed. The Captain meanwhile, maintained a face of stone, keeping his eyes glued to the wall beyond the bar with a stern glare as he took another sip of his drink.
“That’s really what you took away from that story?” the Captain asked in a low, gruff tone.
“Sorry. I’m not the best at… you know, consoling,” Zera said. She possessed a voice that matched the rest of her tomboyish manners. “So… Lero and Durn, huh? That’s a shame.”
“Tren too,” the Captain muttered, taking another sip.
“I know what you’re going through,” Zera admitted. “Lost my entire crew not too long ago. We were helping with the reconstruction effort on Taris. Pack of Rakghouls overwhelmed us. I’d be a goner too, but apparently I resisted the infection. Just had to deal with the scratches and copious blood loss.”
“Well, at least you weren’t betrayed by one of your own,” the Captain declared.
“Yeah… for some reason that doesn’t make it any easier,” Zera confessed, her smile waning. The Human tore his gaze from the distant wall, looking at the Zabrak and letting out a soft sigh.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” the Captain corrected himself. “They were more than just employees… they were family, weren’t they?”
“They were loud, obnoxious, stubborn, foolhardy… but yeah, they were family,” Zera stated, trying to keep her warm visage.
“Well, if you were looking to start a new one, you came to the wrong place,” the Captain offered. “I’ve looked for security work, volunteered to aid law enforcement, offered to train the locals in, whatever… nothing. Few years ago, lowlifes outnumbered the womp rats. Now it’s as if something’s come along and either killed them off or forced them into hiding.”
“I’ve noticed. Locals keep singing the praises of some heroes that recently swept through. Republic’s finest,” Zera proclaimed. “To tell you the truth, I was supposed to leave this miserable ball of sand a while ago… but decided to stay.”
“And why would you do that?”
“I heard the Dusk Eclipse was here. Remembered how Captain Rinn and I go way back. Thought he might have a place for me on his crew,” Zera explained.
Rinn let out a low, morbid chuckle. “I’m afraid that ship has sailed. Literally. With Arok at the helm, and everyone who was fine with leaving me to crash and burn in the desert following him.”
“I guess some families are more dysfunctional than others. Still, not all is lost.”
“Is that so?”
“You’re still alive, so that's something. And not only that, but the person who tried to kill you thinks you’re dead. I don’t know if you know this, but a half-alive-half-dead person can accomplish a lot in our business.”
“Our business? I hunted pirates for the Republic.”
“Technically, I was doing the same on Taris,” Zera declared. “Look, I know you like to think I go where the credits take me, but I’m not without my beliefs. Me and my men were genuinely trying to make a better place out of that world. Alone, neither of us can accomplish much of anything, and we surely can’t make a living off of it.”
“So what? We team up, without a ship, without a goal, without any foundation for an operation?”
“Come on. I didn’t lose everything on Taris. I still have some resources. And you still have some contacts. Believe me, there are plenty of people in the galaxy who would be happy to hear you’re alive. You can’t be content to just waste away on Tatooine, drowning your sorrows in some run down cantina,” Zera stated, looking up to see a world-weary bartender shooting her a harsh glare.
“And what would we do?” Rinn grumbled.
“Rebuild. New crew. New ship.”
“And then what?”
“Well, what did you want to do before you lost command of the Dusk Eclipse?” Zera asked.
Captain Rinn swirled the glass in his hand, eyeing what little liquid remained at its bottom. There was a chirp from across the bar that caught the attention of the few cantina inhabitants. As the room fell silent, the radio behind the bar sparked to life, a high-priority message sounding off.
“This is the Galactic East News Network with a priority alert,” a suave male voice announced. “We can confirm that top military officials within the Sith Empire have announced a formal declaration of war with the Galactic Republic, citing military incursions by the Republic and the unwarranted destruction of a valuable instrument in the Empire’s ongoing peacekeeping efforts. We here at the GENN promise to provide priority updates as they become available.”
Rinn and Zera locked eyes in silence as murmurs from the other patrons overtook the cantina.
“Well, how about now?” Zera asked, a forced enthusiasm hiding a newly acquired worry. Captain Rinn set his glass on the counter before lifting himself from his stool. Letting out a grunt from the brief pain in his abdomen, the Human straightened out and patted down his longcoat. Carefully, the removed a credit stick from his pocket and placed it next to his glass.
“Alright. Let’s go.”
War. No matter how brutal, how destructive, someone’s going to profit off of it. Might as well make sure that someone is you. And if you get the chance, try and do some good while you're still able to.
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