Please upgrade your browser for the best possible experience.

Chrome Firefox Internet Explorer
×

Couriers of the Monkey-Lizards

billyrayjoebob's Avatar


billyrayjoebob
12.14.2011 , 08:32 AM | #1
Reposting this in the hopes of someone actually reading it.

Prologue – The Blue Gunmetal Man

Drills spun, saws whirred and the man screamed agony. Even through the anesthetics and kolto medication coursing through his veins. He endured such pain! It writhed through him, like a parasitic serpent, supping on his lifeblood, dining on the utterly unique agony of having metal seared and stitched into his flesh! But it would be worth it, the man reminded himself. He would be even stronger than before – a raving Juggernaut! Unstoppable, relentless and pitiless! His roars encompassed the room, though if they were born of some ******* urge of pain or from the thought of his future victories, even the man could not say.

And like that, it was over. The man could not say how much time had passed, yet all the pain had disappeared – no, not disappeared, scattered, as if driven by fear. His Master stood over him, yellow irises set in a hooded, scarred and worn Pureblood face, as unpitying as he knew they would be. “Awake,” the Sith said, not a question but a statement, an acknowledgment of the man’s conscious presence. “You will not fail again.” Yet another statement, its implied threat all too clear for one who had spent years under the scrutiny of those merciless eyes. “Rise, Darth Vershrik. You will not cost me more.”

The pain returned, though halved, and Vershrik rose from the operating table – and saw his own form reflected. Where half of his skin had been red, blistered and wholly burnt before, now it was covered, every inch of it, in gunmetal durasteel. It seemed he actually had died, for Vershrik did not recognize the twisted face of this blue gunmetal man. Perhaps that was for the best, he thought, as he donned a simple black cloak. Thus Vershrik was reborn, for the hunt, lunatic will sutured to enveloping hate and steel. And he would hunt.

Chapter 1 - Route A-97 to Sith Space

Five Months Later

Endless space between lords of sin and intrigue, that’s what Thorwer had called it – the hyperspace lane they had followed between Kowak and their Middle-Man’s outpost near Empire controlled space, a world called Naordor. Endless was right. The journey took two days each way, not counting the simple time it took to offload the “exotic” fauna of Kowak, not counting the possibility of Sith patrols which Oric was still altogether to wary of, not counting the possibility that Gemry the Middle-Man would be unhappy with the delivery and would try to “negotiate”.

The first time Middle-Man had tried, Thorwer had simply pinned him with a glare and reminded him their employer was a Hutt. The implied threat seemed to lose effect with repetition, and with each time they did nothing about his attempts at undercutting, the Middle-Man was simply emboldened. It was also possible the Middle-Man simply discounted the threat of two lone mercenaries so far from the reach of a Hutt, not thinking there could be more of them.

But, it was more likely the Middle-Man was just too stupid for his health.

Settled in Mother’s pilot chair sipping on some Corellian whiskey, his blonde hair typically unruly, his blue eyes lusting after sleep, black hide-bound boots resting on the co-pilot’s chair, Oric had nothing but time to reflect on anything and everything as his slight but muscled frame was wrapped in his “modified” brown leather flight jacket about him. Though it was his watch for the night, Oric did not have his jade-hued bracers on – they made his prosthetic pinky fingers uncomfortable for whatever reason, something he’d ask Doctor Caspar about the next time they were on Corellia. He worried it could factor in to his gun-slinging, but he was loath to admit this to his comrades.

According to Ahneta, Golga the Hutt has had enough of the Middle-Man’s nonsense. His job is to simply distribute to their Sith clients, nothing more. If he needs reminding of this fact, then Bad Thor just needs to make an appearance. If the Middle-Man were to still try to cheat a Hutt, well… Oric tried not to think about that. He might feel pangs of sympathy and do something unforgivably stupid, like not do as he was paid to do. Due to the complication of replacing someone so highly placed with such incredible connections as to smuggle certain items without too much scrutiny, Golga understandably wants the Jexxels to do anything and everything possible to not need to have him replaced.

Such was life when working for a Hutt.

“Oric?” an old Corellian voice said, like sandpaper over cobblestones – a symptom of his incessant need to have a cigarette after every meal, with every alcoholic beverage, after waking up and before sleeping. Thorwer “Bad Thor” Baden stood in the entryway to Mother’s cockpit, standing at his usual imposing height with his vertical red and white jumpsuit on with the moniker of the Jexxel on his left breast. “What time is it?”

“A quarter till, last time I checked. Why’re you up anyways, Thorwer? Thought you and your wife needed some…ya know.” Oric finished with a sly wink, always preferring the gentlemanly art of sexual intimation.

“One,” Thor began, obviously irritated already. “You know its Captain, Thor or Baden, I hate Thorwer.” Oric nodded in response with an obviously fake look of apology. “Two, you know better than to speak of Anne like that.” This actually did make him feel somewhat apologetic. If she considered you family, she was better than any mother in the galaxy – and so making sex jokes of your own mother is rather inappropriate.

“Oh, it was just a joke Thor,” the young Jexxel started to say, but the Jexxel Captain’s look was taking no excuses. “Right, right, sorry, Captain. You know I’d never disrespect Anne.” The giant of a man seemed content, shoving Oric’s feet out of the way as he took the co-pilot’s chair. “That’s what I like to hear, boy. Anything of note happen?” Bemused by losing his footstool and rebellious, Oric planted his feet on the console directly facing the viewport. “Well, a few hours ago there was a pink stretchy line thing. It was kinda noteworthy. But I didn’t make a note! Crap!” The Jexxel pounded his fist into his open hand, an embellished expression of self-reproach. “Okay, I get it boy, you’re funny,” Thorwer sardonically muttered as he stood back up to leave. “Just pay attention, we’re about due for the next course change. Mother here doesn’t like to be late for her appointments, you hear me?” He thought he heard a garbled “********” as Thorwer left down the gangway to the lounge.

“Yeah, yeah,” Oric mumbled, feeling henpecked. Not a moment later they reverted back to real-space. Oric wasn’t really anywhere near on the level of Thorwer’s piloting abilities, but he could do this at least – the Captain had made damned sure of that.

A sound like a hammer on an anvil, and the ship went spiraling out of control, dashing him against the console and into unconsciousness. Oric’s last thought was to bemoan the fate of his surely shattered glass of whiskey.

---

Klaxons blaring were the third things Oric’s senses recognized, the first being the incredible agony that was the inside of his skull, and the second being Maal’s open-handed slaps repeatedly wracking his cheeks. “What-“ Slap. “Stop-“ Slap. “STOP!”
“Oh, void, Oric, sorry, it took a lot and and, I uh, kinda got carried away.” Maal’s pale hands had left his cheeks with what seemed to be permanent impressions – at least the Chev wasn’t in his usually outlandish outfits. It seemed he had jumped straight out of bed, still in his oddly understated undergarments. Even if he still had his ridiculous moustache, tattoos and earrings everywhere.

“Uh, yeah, uh, Oric we’re under attack…,” Maal stuttered out, Oric, having recently received a head wound, was predictably slow to respond.

“Oh. Well. Is everyone okay?” The Jexxel could honestly not think of anything he cared about outside of the realm of his skull, but it seemed important to ask. Even through the pain, rules of conduct must be abided. Apparently.

“Sssorta?” was the Chev’s confused response. “They’re boarding us right now.” Then Anne was with them, throwing Maal his battered blaster rifle and Oric his gun belt, modifying her own marksman’s rifle immediately after. As she was standing in a simple robe that was almost too small for her, her fiery red hair hanging close to the small of her back, her green eyes alight with alarm and concern, the Jexxel’s First Mate looked like something out of some saucy space holo, maybe even regal with her towering above everyone else aboard. “You awake, dear?”

“Boarding?” was Oric’s mannish witty reply to the both of them.

“Yes. They caught us in between course changes. Seems they knew we were coming, dear.” Some panic flared, but Anne seemed to immediately know what he was thinking, placating him with a hand on his chest. “No, they’re not Sith. They say they work for some rival Hutt. They want the monkey-lizards, among other things.” Despite the very real and very imminent possibility of being boarded and killed, this actually did calm Oric down. “Thank the Force,” as he strapped on his gun belt. “If they aren’t Sith, they can’t do space magic!” Inexplicably heartened by this random supposition, the young Jexxel followed Maal and Anne into the lounge bordering the airlock – after finding his glass of whiskey perfectly intact, with only a minimum of the contents missing resting on his chair. Not one to tempt fate, Oric quickly downed the last of it before joining them, savoring the liquid warmth which subdued his tension.

They looked quite the odd team, two of them in their sleeping wear carrying rifles, one in his normal wear buckling on a belt with two Dead Eye pistols in them and finally Thorwer, in his full red and white trooper armor with micro filament of durasteel, his enormous heavy repeating cannon propped on an overturned container, flanking the airlock. He soon raised a gloved finger in front of his helmet’s faceplate, making a shushing noise. “We told them we surrender. Don’t give away the surprise!” Thor always seemed most intimidating when he was like this. Not for the dense armor, the heavy weaponry or his sheer size, but for the fact he seemed to enjoy the idea of what was about to happen so thoroughly.

“Whatever you say, honey,” Anne said nonchalantly as she joined her husband’s side, her own rifle similarly propped up. Oric and Maal set up on the opposite flank’s barricade, likewise setting up as the older two Jexxels had. Somewhere, he thought he heard the treads of T1D and what was likely a series of robotic expletives about having to repair his perfect ship while these disgusting organics shot at it and inside it and leaked the most organic things all over it! As Oric and Maal tried to fight grins, Thor took the time to explain the plan: Tidy would open the airlock and then lead the hopefully unsuspecting “guests” out of the threshold, where the Jexxels would promptly catch them in a crossfire that would, with any luck, be very short and entirely one-sided.

From the sound of it, Tidy did not like this plan at all…

While he was blacked out, the other Jexxels must have set up these makeshift barricades in the side corridors that flanked the airlock. Oric must admit, even with their hastened construction, they had been well placed. The corridors inside of Mother, which ran perpendicular to the lounge, snaked so that if the boarders tried to use the threshold as cover to attack Thor and Anne they’d be totally exposed to the younger Jexxels. Even if they advanced into the lounge area, the cover there was very scant. It consisted of two couches and a very short table, while they would still have their own very high, rather dense cover which intersected with the lounge further down the corridors from the airlock. A more perfect crossfire situation Oric did not know of.

An ominous clamp. A sound like a giant breathing – hissing. A very angry voice on the other side of the door, demanding it opens up. The Jexxel’s red and white astromech trundled forward, warbling and beeping very unflattering things about Thor. “Just open the damned thing, Tidy!” Thor’s static voice bit out angrily. Though grumbling, Tidy assented, and the door opened. Quickly but, somehow not panicked, the droid rushed into the lounge, then turned and looked into the airlock as if waiting. “It’s ‘bout damned time! Kriffing mercs..,” the Weequay voice grumbled as it trod through the opening carrying an unremarkable pistol, followed closely by two flanking Twi’leks hefting scatterguns.

A static shout and Thor’s repeating cannon began scorching red holes into the yellow twi’lek closest to his side, severing a lekku clean, his cannon pounding thunder and judgment through the corridors of their Mother. The Weequay and the surviving Twi’lek, this one red naturally as opposed to being recently made this artificially, ducked into cover. The Twi’lek dove right, into the lounge, the Weequay back into the airlock’s threshold, pressing himself up against the wall while blindly firing his pistol around the corner. Oric didn’t give the alien a chance to reconsider, drew and fired – the sound of rasping leather followed closely by a wrathful whisper, then the sight of his body going rigid from the impact. He expected the Weequay to fall, his body rigid after the bolt had entered his temple – anything but stand there, as if pinned by his head to the wall, legs askew and twitching.

Possibly maddened with fear, the other Twi’lek must have realized the hopelessness of his situation and tried to jump back into the airlock and to the relative safety of his ship – an attempt cut down by the bark of Anne’s rifle, which caught him in mid-air and sent him skidding nearly all the way towards Oric and Maal’s barricade. The boarding party had been ill-prepared and had fallen for whatever ruse Thor and Anne had cooked up, all of them felled within a minute of attempting to board. It took Oric a second to realize Maal hadn’t fired a single shot, so fast he and the older Jexxels had been.

Dropping his heavy repeater cannon, Thor disappeared into his and Anne’s quarters further down the corridor for a moment, reappearing with a light repeating cannon. He stepped over the body of the first gunned down Twi’lek, looked to Oric and growled an order to Tidy to “Tidy up” and dispose of the bodies.

The little droid almost went berserk, from the sound of it, its treads whirring as it hurtled at Thorwer – a plethora of warbles, chirrups and beeps assailed everyone’s ears until Anne appeared from behind her husband, her face serene and smiling, cooing at the droid to please do as the Jexxel Captain asked. After a moment of low, frustrated beeps, the astromech seemed to relent, and began dragging the bodies towards the airlock on the opposite side of the ship. Tidy reminded Oric of nothing so much as a crotchety old man, continuously dealing with the random whims of “youngsters”.

“C’mon!” Thor shouted at the threshold of the airlock, his helmet continuing to distort his voice as he threw the Weequay’s body away from the wall.

“’C’mon’ what?” Oric called back, his body expressing his perplexed state, his head still throbbing. “We just done for them, we can get outta here now.”

“Just c’mon!” Thor roared. The younger Jexxel could almost see his face twisting with impatience, and when Thor got impatient he got angry, and when he got angry, well, that was a whole other can of worms that Oric did not want to be opening. So, he followed. Maal and Anne would obviously stay behind, being the only two without any kind of gear on aside from their weapons. Further in, Thor finally relented and explained that he wanted to see who had let the other Hutt in on their little secret – namely, who had known where they would be and when they would be there. Having little choice but to agree after seeing the sense – after all, whoever set this up could do so again and have the next people far more prepared – Oric followed the Jexxel Captain.

Though the craft that had boarded them could carry little more than the three people that had boarded them, Oric and Thor entered carefully. That is, Thor threw in three flash grenades before Oric dive-rolled into a corner farthest from the airlock, quickly righting himself and scanning for any threats, both pistols drawn and covering two different angles simultaneously. But it was all for naught, as there was no one – the ship was significantly smaller than Mother, Oric noted, as a small compartment with two bunks to the side of a slightly larger lounging area were the only amenities aside from the cockpit, which was directly visible from the airlock. “Clear,” the Jexxel called to his Captain, holstering his weapons.

From the airlock’s threshold, Thorwer seemed content, able to see what Oric could and relaxed his grip on the light repeating cannon. So the search began, looking for something. Thor seemed to know exactly what he was looking for, as he stubbornly insisted, but Oric most certainly did not – so he just sat down on the pilot’s couch, and stared at space. Oh-ho, what’s this? The young Jexxel thought upon discovering a datapad with a rather saucy set of pictures involving the yellow Twi’lek and what Oric presumed was his human girlfriend. Scandalous! After fully taking in the few pictures the Twi’lek had on that one file, he began sorting through the other files to hopefully find another instance – when he found one file marked as: VELGU; JOB SEVEN; ROUTE A-97 TO SITH SPACE. Rather stunned by how simply he had found this, Oric made sure to read it before telling the Captain.

Most Esteemed Velgu the Hutt,

I, Gemry, ever your servant and loyal to your mighty Cartel, have included the coordinates necessary to complete our business transaction. There are often only two of them, so one with your mighty empire should find no trouble in dispatching legitimate businessmen that are more than capable of handling the situation.

Ever your servant,

Gemry the Middle-Man


“Yeah uh, Thorwer?” Oric called, extending the datapad. Thorwer, though masked by his helmet, was obviously curious and cautious all at once. After a brief moment of reading, Thorwer looked at Oric in what must have been disgust and said, “This stuff’ll rot your brain, boy.” And tossed the item back to him, which Oric nearly fumbled in catching such was his confusion. Looking down, he realized he must have thumbed back to the scandalous pictures. “No, wait! Not that!” The young Jexxel nearly leapt out of his chair in his haste to show the Captain the file and that he was not a pervert. A few moments of confused, hurried explanation and the pair made their way back to their Mother, Thor obviously fuming under his helmet.

“Well?” was the unified reply of Anne and Maal as Oric and Thor exited the airlock.

“We continue on,” Thor replied stoically, handing his wife the datapad, Maal reading around her shoulder.

A confused question followed Thor back to his quarters as he shed his armor, voiced by his wife.

“What does this **** have to do with anything?”

billyrayjoebob's Avatar


billyrayjoebob
12.14.2011 , 08:33 AM | #2
Chapter 2 – Naordor and Gemry

A little less than a day later, Mother was breaking into the atmosphere of Naordor, a temperate agricultural planet, and where Gemry the Middle-Man’s outpost was located. Flickers of orange fire framed the viewport briefly, sounding like nothing more than simple, angry wind to Oric’s ears as he downed the last swallow of his brandy. He had to have something to dull his rage, and this was all they’d allow him. Thorwer’s face was still set into a scowl as he sat in the pilot’s chair, making the lines at the edge of his eyes even more pronounced, likely to convince himself he was even more heated than Oric about this betrayal. Not that Gemry was anything other than pond scum, he was an entirely despicable person, but still, nothing hurts quite like betrayal. Nothing enrages – nothing requires more of a reckoning.

Though the world was sparsely inhabited and was largely free of any government oversight – an exceptional rarity during these times of cold war, especially for a planet so close to the Core – they weren’t going to go in guns blazing. Anne, after a great deal of calming her husband, had convinced him to wring what information he could out of the little turncoat. Then the Jexxel Captain could have his way with Gemry. Decked in his vertically striped red and white armor over his already giant frame as he was, though, Oric had difficulty believing Gemry simply wouldn’t run at the sight of them armed, armored and, simply alive.

Oric would soon find out, however, as Thorwer set Mother down in the verdant grasslands surrounding the Middle-Man’s outpost with a final, solid vibration as the landing struts kissed earth.

“Thor,” Anne called, as he rose from his seat and began buckling on his helmet. “Remember what we discussed, okay? I trust you to keep your word since you won’t let me come.”

“Have I ever broken my word to you, Ahneta?” the Captain bit out, distorted once more, letting his temper get the best of him. The hurt look on her face said it all, and caused him to pause, sigh and mutter an apology. It had been decided on the last legs of the trip to Naordor that only Oric and Thor would go, as had been the tradition before. Ahneta and Zanatos would act as an ace in the hole. Besides, they would have their communicators should anything occur that the two could not handle alone. Together, the two Jexxels trudged to the exit ramp, where Maal waited, now fully clothed in flamboyance, with their weapons. “Anne wants me to go over it with you guys again,” the Chev Jexxel said apologetically as he handed them their weapons – Oric’s pistols and Thor’s heavy repeater cannon. Thor’s growl made Oric think of something leonine. Maal’s second apology made him think of an offended canine.

Oric definitely shared Thor’s anger, in fact Oric’s anger likely eclipsed the Jexxel Captain’s own, but Thorwer was not focused. He was snapping at every little thing. One of the worst things to have at your back is a snappish man with an enormous weapon. “Right!” Oric shouted and clapped loudly and suddenly, calming Thor, by oddly enough, annoying him. “So, we’re supposed to be like, ‘Oh snap man! You didn’t think we’d be alive did’ya!’” The Jexxel had to congratulate himself, his gesticulations actually seemed genuine even if his words had failed utterly. “No, no,” Maal replied, fighting back an exasperated grin. “You’re supposed to turn on your comlinks if you think things are about to go bad, and then make up something to say that has the word ‘Jexxel’ in it. Even you can’t kark this up, Oric.”

Such votes of confidence were Oric’s daily rite among the other Jexxels. He deserved it, he knew – past mistakes, past follies. Still, like any man who feels constantly harassed, Oric cannot help but feel bitter and, of course, angry. This particular instance was no exception, and he weathered it like any other: by plastering a grin to his face and asking the Chev if his unusual clothing choices were a mating ritual to attract potential mates – of the same sex. Long suffering jokes between the two, lifelong friends who had known one another through thick, thin and everything in between. An act Thor was long tired of even without his atypically short fuse for the day. “Yeah, yeah, Oric’s incompetent, you’re gay, what the hell ever, let’s go.” Almost bodily shoving Maal out of his way, Thor trudged down Mother’s loading ramp, his armor-enhanced frame causing the ramp to bend under his weight with every other step.

He shook his old friend’s hand as he buckled on his holsters, then followed his Captain across the pasture towards the unwelcome looking trading post – so small it didn’t even have its own port for incoming ships, instead relying on the surrounding valley as an interstellar parking lot. For Oric, this was the best part of the trip, the walk from the ship to the outpost, not for the peace, but for the intangible beauty of Naordor. The smell was instantly relaxing; the temperature was always just right with the sun simply warming and not suffocating, the valley bowed and curved for as far as the eye could see, and all the eye could see was green. Oric had grown up on Coruscant, a place with almost no wildlife or naturally occurring vegetation – thus his wonder of it was born when he visited Naordor and worlds that were kin to it. Thor, having grown up on an agrarian world, seemed entirely immune to it any time they set down on a planet of this type. This time, though, Oric could understand the Captain’s lack of interest as their path bent and broke the back of the grass.

The outpost was almost another world, a row of steel geometries housing a veritable bevy of people winding in and between the buildings. The hum, bustle and stench of the place overpowered the surrounding vista, stifling him and bringing Oric back to cold reality, Thor still as unaffected as he was before. Finding the administrative building, the two Jexxels strolled through – though not without incident. An over-enthusiastic guard attempted to make Thor leave his weapon at the door, to which the Captain replied by hitting the man with said gun. The sound of the impact made everyone in the room wince and one woman even cried aloud, shrill and sudden. For some reason that was beyond Oric, the armored Thor began to jog down the side hall which led to Gemry’s warehouse office, as if fleeing any possible retribution.

Fearing the Jexxel Captain’s excitement would get the better of him in the heat of the moment, Oric called out to him to stop his sudden rush. “Chill. OUT. If you charge in there like that, you think anything good’s gonna happen? CHILL.” For a tense moment, Oric worried that Thor would charge in anyway, heedless of any negative consequences. But at last, his shoulders and head slacked, and the Jexxel Captain entered the Middle-Man’s warehouse.

The sound of the door opening had surprised Oric on some level – some part of him must have expected Gemry to try anything to keep them away, including locking a simple wooden door. On the other side, he had expected a firing squad, but no – just the utterly baffled face of Gemry the Middle-Man greeted them, the many shelved enormity of his warehouse in the background, along with a stuttering “h-h-o..hello!” The Middle-Man rushed over to clap Thor on the back, with the largest, most fake smile, eyes as large as saucers and made deep with fear and confusion. It was odd, seeing such a tall, dark-skinned and impressively built fellow such as Gemry look at someone else with those eyes. “Hello to you too, Gemry. Remember Golga?” A gauntleted fist shot out, catching the Middle-Man square in the nose. A wet, crunching noise and the six-foot-something muscled man was writhing on the ground; nose clutched as if he were trying to hold it together, blood coloring his dark beard darker.

“He doesn’t like it when his people – HIS PEOPLE – get shot at. He doesn’t like it when some middle-men start trying to renegotiate contracts and deals while in the middle of it. And you know something,” a low growl was distorted by the helmet’s speakers, which Oric realized was a chuckle. “I especially dislike it when some random thugs board my ship and get it shot up. Especially when they were sent by the same gosh darned man that we’ve been so annoyed with already.” Gemry’s attempts to scramble away were cut off when Thor stomped on his knee – hard. More wet crunching. More agonized screams.

“Nuh uh uh.” Thor un-slung his cannon – aimed it at the man’s arm. “Now. You’re going to tell us who the kriff Velgu the Hutt is. You’re going to do this, because you like having that arm. Then you’re going to politely call Golga the Hutt, apologize for any – and I mean any, even possible perceived kriffing insults – and halve all of your prices.”

The Middle-Man had been numbly nodding along, agreeing silently, until the last, when he looked about to shout in protest before a boot – Oric’s – caught him in the chin. “OH!” Oric shouting, a grin forming on his face as he warmed to the idea of rending pain into every fiber of this man’s skin. “You’re feeling generous, and want your prices down to a quarter of what they were?” A low laugh, this from the younger Jexxel as well as Gemry spit porcelain teeth. “Alright! Pleash! Don’t hurt me!”
And over the next hour, Gemry told all he knew as the Jexxel Captain lit a cigarette, rushing every detail, as if Thor’s beatings were held at bay by rapidity. He told of how, three months past, he had been approached by a woman – a Rattataki woman – and told that he would be paid incredible sums of money to tell her where Golga’s operation is. Since he had not known, he offered to have them – the Jexxels – tracked, which would eventually lead them to wherever Golga is. Apparently, Velgu had become impatient, and ordered his men to ambush their ship in mid-transit. From Mother, they would have retraced the Jexxel crew’s path from the navigational computers. Gemry swore he had no idea who or where this Velgu the Hutt was, he had only communicated through the Rattataki woman and various holonet calls. The only thing he knew was that, yes, Velgu was definitely a Hutt.

“And the woman?” Oric piped up, curious.

Whether from blood loss, pain or renewed fear, Oric could not say, but the dark man paled. “She has some bad mojo, man. You don’t even know. You can’t. She would be here, and then not, and then out the door without moving. And the way she would look at you, like she was really seeing you, ya know… I don’t get it man, I’ve met some bad people, but she…I’m more scared of her than you.”

Oric thought he heard Thor mutter something about kriffing idiots being pains in the kriffing *** as he stamped out his cigarette and put his helmet back on. “So where’s this money, then, eh? This ludicrous sum they promised you?”

“What money?” he replied, suddenly stock still as his eyes darted.

“Gemry… by the Void, we have no patience for your nonsense right now,” Oric sighed. “You looked straight at it. You are in the wrong business.” As the younger Jexxel made his way to the three pairs of briefcases the Middle-Man had glanced at, he heard more crunching as Thor stomped on the man’s hand that had shot out. Another pealing scream. “You said you wouldn’t hurt me!”

“I never said any such thing. Nor did I even imply it. You are a fool. Now,” Thor’s distorted voice said, hefting the bloodied, beaten and worst of all, whining, Gemry up onto a desk. “Call Golga.” As Oric hefted five of the cases, handing two off to Thor, and felt the weighty promise of what was within, he felt his anger inexplicably vanish. “Well, Gemry, thanks for the cash, we’ll be back for the rest. If we have to visit you again, it will be significantly more pleasant, I assure you.” Baleful dark eyes followed him and Thor as they exited the warehouse with a final order from the Captain to call Golga the Hutt, “Oh, and Gemry? If I find out you didn’t call? Well, I’ll be back. Even if Golga doesn’t pay me to do it, I will be back for the simple principle of the thing. Industry standards have to be kept at a set level.”

---

Broken, bloodied and lying on a desk as one of his warehouse workers, Alec, attended to him, Gemry cursed and screamed in frustration as kolto patches and antiseptic medications were administered. Between the curses and screams, though, came a single demand: “Ow, you kriffing idiot! Bring me the comlink before you kill me!” As his command was obeyed, Gemry noticed a pearlescent object next to his resting hand: a tooth – his own. He cursed again, swatting the tooth away. Those damned fools! His knee was broken – shattered! Gemry would likely walk with a limp for the rest of his life!

Then, finally, the idiot worker that had gone to fetch the device returned, with a stupidly blank stare on his face. “Go get a real doctor, you kriffing idiot!” Alec promptly turned and obeyed, his idiot gaze thankfully turned in another direction as he left. Keying in the correct code, the single from his comlink bounced, from the relay down the street of his warehouse to one several miles further north, then to yet another on the western continent – then a tone, indicating a connection, and Gemry spoke: “Februus, boy… you’ve got a job to do.”

---

Three Weeks Earlier

The hunt had led him for so long, had hounded him like a founding truth of the universe, as if he was born to it – Vershrik existed, thus he must hunt. The Chiss Sith had followed every lead that he could think of for the past five months, from the past-owners of the Chev that had been in Oric’s rescuer – dead – to the make and model of the Jexxel’s ship – which was uniquely made apparently. But finally…

Finally, his quarry had made a careless misstep.

On Corellia, there was a sawbones surgeon – not a unique trait in and of itself on such a densely populated planet. But this sawbones specialized in the replacement of digits for over thirty different races, from Rodian to Wookie. About five and a half months ago, Vershrik’s sources uncovered that a ship licensed to a “Bad Thor” had made entry to the world and paid for the replacement of two digits – two. Human. Pinkies. Like the sound of twigs snapping underfoot, Vershrik had been drawn.

He would find the Doctor Caspar. He would rip answers from his writhing and battered soul. And Vershrik would hunt.

---

He sniffed. He panted. He scratched at the bars which held him, shaking, howling, roaring hatred. He was Lowraccor! Mightiest of Wookie-kind, most savage of all beasts! He would be no pet to some smooth-skinned fool! Shaking, howling, roaring rage! “<I will tear you!>” the Wookie cried in vain, for even had they the ears, the doctor – nor his captor that had brought him here for treatment – understood his language. “<I will claw and bite you!>” He strained, he bent and…even pleaded. “<You shame me! Let me go!>”

Even after time, it seemed, could the savage be made tame. “What’s his problem?” the sawbones asked. “Is it something that needs treating, like Wookie rabies or some such?”

“Hell if I know, he came like that, always violent. I haven’t been able to let the bugger out of his cage; he’s so violent all the time.” Sighing, Lowraccor’s captor continued. “Nah, he broke his hand or some such trying to get out of the cage – again! – last night. Heard you were the guy for this kinda thing.”

Nodding, the doctor peered into the cage – from a wisely safe distance – and replied, “Yeah, I help with this kinda thing,” an expression of resigned melancholy etching his face.

billyrayjoebob's Avatar


billyrayjoebob
12.14.2011 , 08:34 AM | #3
Chapter Three – Flight From Naordor

Present Day

Oric was always a little sad to leave Naordor – the scenery was so breathtaking, it felt like he was betraying something intrinsic by not constantly gazing on it. But, they had a job to do, mainly getting back to Golga. He was never sad to be done with their work on the planet, however, as he was invariably the one chosen to drive their rickety loader through the mud and grass and deal with Gemry again – this time in a fouler mood. But he would soon be in a worse one: back at the ship, he and Thor had called Golga’s head assistant, Donegal. And to their utter lack of surprise, the Middle-Man had not contacted Golga or Donegal about anything. More disappointed than anything, Oric was sent back to chaperone him as he called before they left.

Of course, Gemry was belligerent, swaddled in casts and kolto patches as he was. As an implied threat, Oric pulled back his jacket, revealing one of his Dead-Eye pistols. “Someone once told me…a human can be shot in many, many places without dying.”

Huffing and puffing, the Middle-Man became suddenly compliant, keying in a few commands to his terminal and bringing up a holographic display of Donegal’s head. “Gemry,” the rakish looking man said as way of greeting. “I was told to expect a call from you. You look rather sour.” Oric held back a rather unmanly giggle at this, since Donegal’s mouth always looked like it was sucking on lemons. Donegal seemed to have picked up on this over the holonet, and arched one of his very thin eyebrows over his slanted bluish-grey eyes. “As I was saying…,”

“Yes, as you were saying, your men here assaulted me and-,” Oric wasn’t having any of that, so he kicked Gemry’s leg out from under him, causing renewed hollers of pain.

“Oh, look at that, he started to do something stupid and he fell over from it, all of the stupid, oh by the Force, it’s everywhere!”

Another paper-thin brow arched. “Gemry, our mutual friend-,” by this he meant Thorwer “-has already told
myself and the illustrious Golga about your misdeeds. We will be expecting an adjustment – in my master’s favor, of course – in your prices.” His head turned towards something off-screen momentarily, as if receiving further instructions. “And you are to pay the Jexxel’s a compensation fee for the damage done to their ship by your little… ambition.” What was going on? Golga was never this generous.

At last Gemry picked himself off the floor, roaring again, “Wait, wait, wait, they already took a ‘compensation’ fee!”

One more arched brow.

“Did they, now?” The blue-grey eyes turned to regard Oric, questioning. “Well, the money that Volga paid him…we found it… and… there was three-hundred thousand… -,” as Donegal’s head once more turned to take instruction, “-aw crap.”

It was odd, seeing the disembodied head constantly turning to look at, what was to him, a distant wall with stacked crates and seemingly listening to it. But it was even worse seeing his mildly wrinkled face turn back towards the young Jexxel and command: “You will take the bare minimum from what you found to repair your ship. The rest – you will bring it to us.”
With a defeated sigh and a muttered “okay”, Oric left the warehouse and began trudging back to Mother. As he was driving the rusty loader back to the ship, however, he saw a trio of speeders come soaring in and land just outside the warehouse.

Nearly a dozen armed men piled out, while three of them – they looked to be in Mandalorian armor – went in to the
warehouse itself, where a hobbling and angry-looking Middle-Man joined them, pointing and gesticulating at Oric. Oh that’s not good. Then one of the Mandalorians pointed at a clustered group of the men that had piled out of the speeder, then pointed at Oric. Definitely not good. One of them then hefted a large, metal tube-like item. What the hell! A distant cough and Oric was running away with the briefcase from the loader, scrambling, tripping – concussive waves slammed him to the ground, pulling the air from his lungs. Groaning on the ground, he did a quick check of himself – nothing pierced, nothing broken, though his ribs felt a little sore from the concussion.

“******es!” he screamed out, probably a bad idea – the loader was engulfed in flames, they likely would have thought him dead before he had let them know otherwise. He scrambled back to his feet, continued running – a random scarlet shot colored the air above and to his right as he ducked into an alley, pulling out one of his pistols and comlink. The pistol’s comforting weight held him as he called into his comlink awkwardly, balancing it with the briefcase in his offhand, “Anne? Thor? Anyone? Gemry’s gone full dick mode!” Then, remembering that they had set up a code phrase, he shouted into the receiver, “Jexxels are never alone!” A silhouette darkened the alley entrance for a split second before Oric’s pistol barked, and then he fled.

---

Three Weeks Earlier

At first, the Chiss had assumed he would have had to avoid any Corellian security, possibly even kill many to achieve his goals. But he had slipped through largely unnoticed save for the occasional pedestrian that noticed the gleam of his gunmetal skin. It had even aided him, intimidating those underworld fools that he had brought his own brand of interrogation to into giving him the location of the doctor rather effortlessly. And here he was, lightning, thunder and rain obliterating the world.

Spaceport District, seven-eight-nine-nine-three-seven, storage lot four, warehouse B – a place of stagnant, sterile and some other rather unique smells made more so for being wet.

He had found the Doctor Caspar.

The Jexxel scent had led here originally, but for some time now the Sith had been led by the Force, drawn to a maelstrom of fury and wrath encompassed in a single living frame! It had drawn him as surely as a moth to a flame! And oh, Vershrik would bathe in this tempest, let it toss and turn him! Even its outermost limits made his battered body feel whole and renewed! Focus! Discipline! Screamed the specter of his Master, railing at him for allowing himself to fall into the same failings as the false Sith – the enveloping of hate, fear and rage to the exclusion of any intellect or simple reason.

And he would focus – hunt.

As his metal-encased foot slapped duracrete, echoing through the seemingly abandoned lot, Vershrik stalked to the warehouse. Inside, he could feel something through the torrent of hate and rage. In the eye of the maelstrom seemed to be something else…smaller though it was, the Chiss felt it recognizable – Jedi? Could it be possible that they had stumbled upon his Master’s plot?

Even thinking it, Vershrik dismissed it immediately – why would they care if they had? They had an entire Empire to deal with on top of their so-called “peacekeeping” duties. No, no… this little Jedi was here for something else. With a modicum of effort, Vershrik disabled the lock on the door with the Force, and pushed it open in the same way. Inside, he found something odd – a slightly portly, gray-haired old man in dusty white linens and cracked glasses – the Doctor Caspar, he presumed – leaning away from the luminescent blade of an adolescent human – the Jedi, or more likely Padawan. To their right was a caged white-furred Wookie, roaring, raving and frothing at the mouth – to Vershrik’s surprise, the eye of the storm seemed to be centered on it. Near the cage, another human lay in two pieces, his halves cauterized – seemingly from the lightsaber being held at Caspar’s chest.

“The Doctor Caspar, I presume?” Vershrik’s remade voice scratched out, as if being raked over graters before finally issuing from his mouth.

His blade still poised over the frightened Caspar’s chest, the Jedi eyed Vershrik out of the corner of his eye, sweat or the slickness of the rain coating him – his Padawan braid laid over his shoulder similarly soaked. “What, are you another slaver?” Anger – curious. Ah, Vershrik thought in revelation. The anomaly of the Wookie must be overriding his meager training, coupled with his biased views of slavers…yes. Even I am having difficulty maintaining composure…

“A kind of one,” the Sith replied reflexively, knowing full well that all were slaves before one of his might.

Finally turning to fully regard him, the Padawan stalked towards him, snarling, “What, are you stupid? Don’t you see what’s going on here? I’m a freaking Jed-“ his words were cut off by the gunmetal arm snatching his throat, crushing his throat and snapping his neck in one overwhelming movement.

As the lightsaber was extinguished by the now lifeless fingers and he let the corpse fall, Vershrik responded: “You were no Jedi.” Focus! Discipline!

Fool! The hunter cursed at himself. The Wookie, though seemingly calmed by the murder of the Padawan, had been influencing his mind – overwriting his most intrinsic disciplines without him even noticing. He would have killed the Padawan regardless, but allowing him to get that close with a lit lightsaber! Fool!

“Are…are you going to kill me?” an old man’s voice whimpered from the other side of the mostly-empty warehouse, still pressing himself against his desk as if to avoid the now-absent lightsaber.

“Ah, yes, the Doctor Caspar,” Vershrik muttered, as if just remembering he was there. Thunder crashed again, as if to highlight his next words.

“Possibly. That depends on you.” Over the next hour, Darth Vershrik extracted every notable bit of information he could from the Doctor Caspar – as much as he could through the blubbering and pleading – until finally the Doctor Caspar let slip the name of a planet that Mr. Corvus called him from repeatedly - Naordor. At the end of the hour, the Chiss was finally satisfied and sank his scarlet blade into the Doctor Caspar’s heart – a quick death, at least.

At last, at last, at last, Vershrik turned to the pearlescent Wookie, which stared at him from his hunched position inside the cage – still exuding an aura of ******* brutality from its undignified predicament. The thing seemed entranced by the Chiss, as if he were the lodestone for the Wookie’s eyes – his soul. “You,” his renewed voice grated again. “What do you wish in this galaxy, Wookie?”

“<I am the most savage of all Kashyyyk!>” the beast declared, somehow managing to look majestic in its cage, roaring hatred and rage at all things. “<Mightiest of all Wookie-kind! I will allow no shame! I will bear proof! I am Lowraccor!>” And then, Darth Vershrik understood. The ability of this simple Wookie to bear such strength in the Force, its ravening rage…

The beast was insane.

He was kin.

“Most Savage Lowraccor… if you come with me, if you would be my Hound… I will give you your proof. I will make you most savage… of all kind.” Again, the Wookie’s eyes seemed to be pulled to the Sith like filings to a lodestone, and for a time they stood like that. Then, in wordless assent, Vershrik cut the lock on the cage, and Hunter and Hound continued the hunt.

And they would hunt.

---

“Oh…oh, Jude…,” the veiled woman nearly sobbed, rushing to the collapsed and broken youth lying prostrate on the ground. Cradling his lifeless body in her arms, the Miralukan Jedi Master sobbed from her sightless eyes, murmuring, “I told you you’d die if you went out tonight, you young fool. The gunmetal man…”

---

Present Day

He had long since lost feeling in his feet, the only reason Oric knew they were still attached to his legs was because of the leathery slap they created on the pavement through his boots. His fingers were stiff as the dead from gripping his twin pistols and firing sporadic shots at the pursuing thugs. “Don’t you guys have anything better to do?!” the Jexxel called out in between hurried gasps, lungs burning for the effort. Maybe he should cut back on the whiskey.

No matter how much he ran, though, he couldn’t seem to make it back to the ship; he knew exactly why. They were hemming him in, preventing his return to the ship and the other Jexxels. The Middle-Man’s outpost was not so large that it would have taken this long to return, with or without the loader. This was how he came to be pinned down inside of a doorway with the briefcase set down next to him, two Mandalorians chipping and burning away his meager cover as a third advanced from the opposite direction. It wasn’t that he didn’t know about it, it was that he could do nothing about it. The door was locked and, of course, made of thick steel. The universe could be cruel. And it seemed his earlier call had gone unanswered, in fact the communicator appeared to be dead, emitting only a low-pitched, static sound. No help there.

Suddenly the deluge of weapon’s fire seemed to cease momentarily – a mistake on their part, as Oric quickly capitalized and dove out towards the one that had been advancing from his rear, catching the Mandalorian in the chest and driving him to the ground. A vicious elbow drove into his back when the two connected, almost causing him to lose his grip, but not enough to make him forget what he was doing. Keeping the Mandalorian between himself and the other two gunmen at the end of the alley was his primary goal – not getting shot, essentially.

Fortunately, he had remembered to strap on his jade vambraces before leaving the ship for Gemry’s warehouse.

He quickly drew the hidden combat knife from inside his left vambrace, stabbed in one movement – a savage movement that left the blade lodged in the Mandalorian’s unarmored throat, gurgling and struggling with the blade. Before the man could fall and present Oric as a target, however, the Jexxel quickly charged into his falling body once again while drawing the pistol he hadn’t lost in the initial scuffle, roaring. Before he could do anything, the two had opened fire, multiple impacts against his recently acquired body shield staggering him, the heat transferring through the body in some places and burning Oric. He gritted his teeth and pressed on, charging, the pistol he had not dropped angled around the Mandalorian’s heated corpse, barking like a faithful hound – it bit one of the gunmen in the knee, flash-heating the kneecap. The other it mauled in the throat and shoulder, leaving him to a painful, slow death.

At the end of the alley, Oric finally tripped, dropping the dead Mandalorian and himself on the gunmen, his voice hoarse, his body aching from the brief yet brutal brawl. For a moment, all the Jexxel could do was lie there in the random alley, panting heavily as all of the soreness began to accumulate – his ribs, burns through the Mandalorian’s armor, his stiff hands…his feet just now deciding they should feel again, and feel awful. Then a shout brought him back from his self-pity – someone at the end of the alley where the armored Mandalorian had come from. Rising quickly, he dashed to the doorway with the briefcase and his other pistol lost in the brawl, holstering it and grabbing the briefcase. Silver lightning shot new energy into his beleaguered body, shooting him out of the alley as he blindly fired behind him to discourage pursuit, twisting and pulling the knife free from the armored Mandalorian’s throat as he went.

Again, his feet soon became unfeeling things that he simply knew were there by the sounds they made when they slapped pavement. His breath came in ragged gasps, clawing and burning the inside of his lungs, begging him to stop, to roll over, to die. Almost! A promise to the weary limbs and besieged soul. We’re almost there! An urging until his mind became too transfixed on the verdant fields, Mother’s abstract shape a beacon of hope, of salvation, for him to even think. Slap, slap, slap and it felt to Oric he would never be safe.

Then something fast, large and white blocked his path, causing him to come to a stumbling halt, so worn that he the thought to raise his weapon did not even encounter his practical mind. Then it turned – it was a Wookie. Imposingly tall, even for one of its kind, and near-naked save for a small belt at its waist, a metal cylinder at the left hip. Eyes fever bright, mouth wide with a hissing snarl, then a roar that buffeted Oric, down to his knees, utterly conquering every sense he had, drowning him with pure ******* rag! He dropped the briefcase and his gun to shield his ears, to dam the tide of roaring fury that threatened to overwhelm all sense – physical and mental! It seemed to go on for eternity, making him small, feel as if he were about to vomit until –

It ceased.

Shocked into idiocy by the sheer power behind the bellow, it took Oric a moment to realize it had stopped, and then for him to stop simply swaying on his knees, clutching his ears, holding shut tight his eyes.

He opened his eyes, and saw a veiled woman in blue wielding violet incandescence against the red of the white Wookie. Sparks leapt whenever light met light, hissing, creating temporary glares like the sun off of polished metal, the scent of sulfur. She dodged and parried where the monster battered and crushed, the thing fighting with a savagery beyond anything Oric had ever witnessed, her with a finesse he had only heard of in tales of her kind – the Jedi he knew she must be. Still not comprehending the entirety of what was going on, the Jexxel knew one thing: that thing would kill him if it could.
Retrieving his blaster from the ground, he shot off four consecutive shots into its flank in rapid order, scarlet streaks burning white fur.

It screamed in renewed fury, but more in agony, as Oric saw it turn to regard him and bellow its wrath again – only to be cut off by the veiled Jedi, her blue robes swirling in rhythm with her violet saber, batting at his defenses with lightning quickness. Oric would have advised the use of ranged weaponry or at least artillery against that Wookie, but he knew convincing space magic wizards that there was a viable option outside of lightsabers was impossible.

Then the young Jexxel stopped caring about the Wookie, the random Jedi, the Mandalorians, Hutts and Gemry.

A man, not much taller than Oric, swathed in black robes stood at the edge of the outpost, where grass met molded steel. A man holding a head by its hair in his left blue hand, his azure glowing blade in his right, metallic hand. But what drew Oric’s gaze was the man’s face: the face of the mysterious Sith that had tortured and broken him not six months prior. Yet it was not his face – gunmetal steel covered the entire right side of his body.

“Mr. Corvus,” it rasped with something like religious bliss – again, the voice of the Chiss and yet not his voice, his eyes as feverishly bright as the snow-furred Wookie, though now rimmed in sorcerous gold – the Sith took a step forward – Oric scrambled back, began to run – a giant’s hand squashed him to the earth face-first. “No no no, Mr. Corvus…,” his voice grated out once more. “I have already hunted you to this end of the galaxy…I am in no mood to chase you to another!” His pinkies burned anew, as if freshly liberated from his hands. Panic, base, animal panic scrawled through his mind, pounding through his limbs, urging him to fight, to run, to do anything!

Yet the giant was merciless and unmoving, even as the Sith stalked towards his ensnared prey. Oric just managed to turn on his back, and throw one of his six combat knives, which was pitifully deflected by the Sith’s metallic skin, and only increased the pressure by which he was held down. “Yesss… you see, Mr. Corvus… that anger, that raw fear that you seem to tap into within a moment’s notice…,” he took a deep breath, and spread his arms as if lifting something much larger than himself. “It gives my kind such STRENGTH!” A speeder flew into view, and then crashed in the distance – he craned his head and saw four of Gemry’s hired bounty hunter team just before the speeder collided directly with the lead most one, right before all disappeared in a cacophony of erupting flame.

In that moment, the blue-clad Jedi was there, wave after wave of rocks the size of Oric’s skull rocketing into the Sith, pummeling the blue gunmetal man back from the defenseless Jexxel, forcing him to defend himself with both his lightsaber – and the Force. Finally, Oric felt the pressure gradually lessen, until it all evaporated. Rolling to his gun and the briefcase, the Jexxel quickly jumped up and began running once more for Mother, absolute terror pumping his legs as a frustrated roar followed him from the Chiss, fleeing past the Wookie with no feet and one missing hand. Oric needed no incentive to run, but when he saw the Wookie still conscious and trying to chase him when it had cauterized stumps for feet, that helped.

He collapsed shortly from the outpost, falling to the soft grass in a heap near a tree, the briefcase tumbling away. Something in his pocket seemed to be very important to that smart part of Oric’s brain, the part that governed all of his logical decisions. The part that had been completely drowned out until this very moment. “The comlink…,” he moaned, forcing himself to roll over to fumble in his pocket and retrieve the device. Thumbing the activator he noticed there was no more static, popping sound and then, he breathed, “Captain…Maal…Anne…I’m kriffing tired, come get me. Oh, right, something… about Jexxels.” His vision began to fade, the sunny, somewhat clouded sky slowly being replace by the blackness his mind was forcing on his consciousness – until a boot found its way into his sore ribs, banishing the darkness from his sight.

“You karking piece of filth!” a voice roared from behind a red and gold Mandalorian helmet, as it sent another foot into his now-even-more-sore ribs. “I brought twelve men – twelve! – when that dick called, promising good money for an easy job – kill these two mercs, get a hundred grand in creds, get the hell out. Simple. Easy.” A punch hammered into his chest, driving what little air was in there out, making Oric sputter and cough. “But no! No! You killed four of my men, then there’s suddenly kriffing Wookies and Jedi and the…crap, the…the angry Jedi! That freakin’ cyborg angry Jedi – Sith! That’s what they’re called! – throws a freaking SPEEDER and kills ANOTHER four!” Another hammering blow from the Mandalorian – another staccato of coughs from Oric.

“Trained Mando’ad! Decades of hard won experience! And they’re all dead!”

Then a slight chuckle from someone standing behind him, “Well, Februus, you’re not at least.” A sigh, from Februus, Oric would have guessed – then his own slight chuckle.

“There is that, isn’t there. Get the briefcase. We’re taking all of it, to hell with Gemry.” At this, the men following Februus cheered, while the unnamed one that had commented earlier retrieved the briefcase. “Well, Oric, it was interesting knowing you.” All Oric could do was groan as the man pulled out his hand blaster and aimed it at the young Jexxel’s face.

“Really? Right here? In the face, too? I thought Mandalorians were supposed to be all honorable and crap.”

Another sigh and Oric inwardly smiled as Februus directed one of his men to restrain him as the Mandalorian helped him up.

Oric’s smile deepened until it appeared on his face. Drawing the same knife he had killed the other Mandalorian with, Oric stabbed it into Februus’ wrist at the joint, eliciting a roar of pain and anger from him as his now nerveless hand dropped his gun. Diving into the next nearest bounty hunter, he brought a quick knee into the man’s gut, and then spun with a fist already flying to the next man.

Yet the third caught him, hitting him over the head with the briefcase, staggering him until Februus kicked him in the back and down to the ground. Oric tried to scramble back to his feet, but only succeeded in turning onto his back as the one he had kneed in the gut now stood over him, both feet planted on the Jexxel’s wrists, a pistol gripped tight in both hands and pointed down at his face. His finger tightened on the trigger. Well, I tried…, Oric thought resignedly.

Scarlet flashed, and the weight on top of him was thrown back.

With a surprised grunt, the young Jexxel realized this was not because he had been shot in the face, but that his would-be executioner had been struck in the chest by a blaster bolt.

“Stay down, Oric!” the incredibly welcome voice of Zanatos Maal called out as more scarlet flashes followed, striking another of the bounty hunters down while Februus and the last one carrying the briefcase sought cover behind the tree and a nearby boulder. Retrieving his pistols, he added to the staccato gunfire Maal was laying against the tree, which to his immediate pleasure was quickly joined by the familiar and rapid whump whump whump fire of Thor’s heavy repeating cannon, and the coughing whisper of Anne’s marksman’s rifle.

Rolling out from under the other Jexxel’s covering fire, Oric darted up and raced to their position where he saw the Captain upright, in full armor, hefting his cannon and unloading on the tree, quickly whittling the bark down and causing small fires in and around it. Maal was next to Thor in his dazzling golden armor, the two of them using the curve of the hill as cover as they were attempting to keep the Mandalorian and the bounty hunter suppressed – until finally Anne’s marksman’s rifle coughed again, striking the bounty hunter dead as he had leaned out of cover to return fire. Oric heard a loud curse as the Mandalorian dived to the tree his last comrade had hidden behind, and retrieved the briefcase, just barely dodging another shot from Anne’s rifle.

“You know, you kriffing Jexxels are a LOT more trouble than you’re worth!” Oric and the other Jexxels heard right before a gout of flame enveloped the tree and a spherical device rolled around it. No time for thought, just simple instinct – and that instinct screamed down. After the initial explosion and concussive wave, Oric was up again, next to Anne he realized, who was still in her camouflage netting. He was relieved to find her, as well as Maal and Thor, not torn to bits or on fire. Of Februus, there was only the sign of a man some five-hundred meters away and growing, treading the sky with a jetpack as fast as he could – and by the glint it created from the sunlight, the young Jexxel realized he had the briefcase.

Finally, Oric let himself collapse – for good this time, he hoped – and breathe out: “I have had one kriffing hell of a day.”

“Well there isn’t any time to explain, my boy!” Thor shouted as he lifted the exhausted Jexxel over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, his gun being carried by Maal.

“What, why? Just let me sleep for a minute for the love of the F--,” he stopped complaining immediately, as he saw the reason. The Sith was there, the gunmetal Sith was sprinting at incredible speeds from the direction of the outpost. “Shoot it! Shoot it! Shoot it!” Oric breathed, eyes transfixed, fear forcing what little breath he had out in pants, though he kept mouthing the words.

“Can’t, son,” he heard Thor say to him in between hurried pants while running. “Maal and me are out of ammo, and you’re crazy if you think I’m gonna let my wife stay behind to fight that guy alone.”

So they ran, thankfully not far until they made it to Mother’s boarding ramp, where Thor quickly threw Oric down next to the entrance and shouted to Maal, “Get us the kriff out of here, boy! We’ll discourage the fierfek from boarding!”

As Maal rushed to obey, and the engines hummed to life, Anne’s rifle coughed while Thor ran to retrieve more ammo from the onboard armory for his heavy repeating cannon. For a moment, Oric didn’t realize he had joined Anne in her volleys – animal fear and rage driving him again, though this time his hands were actually able to obey. Anne’s shots were neatly deflected time and again, or caught on the Sith’s metal-skinned arm – neither slowed the hunter down. Oric’s own shots fell far short, however – not for lack of accuracy, but for lack of range in his weapons. The Chiss was still well over two thousand yards from Mother, so Oric logically knew he was wasting his shots – but the primal fear he held for this man, the all-encompassing terror overrode it, tore logic down from its perch and stomped on its skull until it stopped screaming so that it could.

Then he knew the Sith was smiling, was staring him directly in the eyes from that distance, and he knew this in a place beyond knowing. He could just see the smiling whites of the Chiss, his hunter and own personal demon.

“Why won’t he just kriffing die?!” Oric screamed in futility, continuing to depress the trigger long after its last shot had gone, while to his side he could see Anne becoming visibly nervous as all of her shots were completely on-target yet none of them were doing a thing as he deflected, dodged or just plain took the shots.

Just six-hundred yards away, now.

Then Thor was at the entrance, with new blaster packs for everyone. Oric and Anne quickly reloaded, and then in unison, the three Jexxels opened fire, twin pistols barking, cannon blasting, rifle coughing. The Sith dove, blocked, leapt and ran, dodging and deflecting it all – but his progress had stopped.

And finally, Mother woke, and began to climb away, as her ramp slid shut.

“Oric Corvus!” A shout which paralyzed the young Jexxel, erupting from the rasping new voice of his hunter. “I am Darth Vershrik, and I will hunt!”

Then the ramp was closed, and Oric sat transfixed, staring through durasteel and metal to the planet below, shaking, until Thor said the most sensible thing he’d heard all day.

“You look like you could use a drink or three, boy.”

---

Well that's it for this leg of the story. I hope everyone that read it enjoyed it, feel free to call me a moron or *******.

But nothing else, though, because that is my limit.