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Karter

In The Land Of The Barabel!

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Karter    126

Karter exited his personal quarters, immediately heading for the radiation suits. He had soon strapped it on, and the suit was baggy and heavy and it clung to him as he entered the cockpit. 

 

"Get ready, Vonnar," he said, getting into the co-pilots seat, prepared to help land it.

 

***

 

Barab 1.

 

Barab 1 was dark and stricken with heavy rainstorms when the Binding Spell touched down on a rainswept octagonal platform. There were no spaceports available. They had been given very specific instructions that they would be contacted by one of the locals with a flaregun.

 

Karter stepped out into the open, clad in his radiation suit, and looked around. The ground and local mountains looked charred and burnt, with steam rising up from the surface. The clouds above were black, filled with lightning.

 

He heard his radiation counter click but only slightly. They had landed just at the right time. The sun had set, and the radiation was at somewhat tolerable levels, but they had to be quick about this. They didn't need cancer. 

 

"Vonnar! I'm going to head out to meet the contact! Stay in the ship! Be prepared to fire its weapons!" he yelled to Vonnar as he left the vicinity of the ship. His ship, which he needed another man to fly as he was a bad pilot.

 

The raindrops fell thick on his head, and the crackle of thunder overhead distracted.

 

He saw the flare fly upward, hot and green. And he kept one of his blasters ready, because he wasn't a fool. He had never been to Barab 1 before.

 

He saw the Barabel in the shadows of a scorched boulder. He was clad in armor made of lizard hides. His scales were a dark green and his pale yellow eyes stared from the Darkness behind the rock.

 

"Kinda wet for a walk, huh?" Karter asked.

 

"You are the smuggler my clan requested?" The Alien, a man, asked in a hiss, an inherently predatory gaze setting him on edge.

 

"Yeah. We got your weapons. Come get 'em." 

 

"We can't take the weapons yet."

 

Karter paused. "Why the hell not?"

 

"My clan is currently locked in a territory negotiation. Hunting grounds and such," the alien answered silkily. "The ones who control my families coffers think they can negotiate their way out of the predicament we originally wanted the weapons for."

 

"How is that my problem?" Karter demanded angrily.

 

"We must convince my elders to break off negotiating and resume war. They have got cold feet. They need something to push them. You will help me, as your employer told me of your black magic."

 

"Great..." Karter snarled. He pulled out his comlink.

 

"We have a problem, Vonnar..."

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Kal Vonnar    2

Kal did as asked, even though this whole venture seemed pointless. How did he know if these Barab creatures were friendly or otherwise? Given their escape from Alderaan, Kal was lucky he and Karter didn't run into all sorts of danger. He already made a fool of himself before they came to Barab 1. What were the odds....

 

"We have a problem, Vonnar..." It was Karter on the comlink. Kal was quick to answer it.

 

"What problem?" Kal asked, determined to get this over with. "I thought we were here to deliver weapons, as agreed."

 

Great, Kal thought. If Karter couldn't live up to this bargain, then what were they still doing here? Kal had this funny feeling he was about to find out something bad and not good for him or Karter. Oh great. If only this plan wasn't meant for him to take risks or he'd be home on Alderaan now. He just hoped that Karter pulled through.

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Karter    126

Karter's fury was starting to simmer as he walked with the lizard alien back to his ship. Delays. Figures. He had hours to help get the fighting started so he could make the purchase.

 

Rejekk had probably known about this when he had been tasked with making this shipment. And a Dark Jedi willing to kill to get paid was a nice way of ensuring the delivery would get taken, one way or another.

 

A small part of him questioned the necessity but he quietly squashed it. If they didn't want a Dark Jedi here, they should have made up their minds and taken the delivery.

 

"Why'd they start getting cold feet now?" Karter asked with a snarl.

 

"This planet is dangerous as is without our clans being at each others throats. War would be unprofitable," the Barabel hissed.

 

"Unless you had an overwhelming advantage in weaponry. Than the other side could be wiped out pretty easily," Karter noted as he walked up the ramp. "So, who do I have to kill?"

 

"It would be best if you target our chieftain, Uldra Kixz," the Barabel answered. "He has arranged for a meeting in an ancient cave where sacred pacts are made. Disrupt it, there will be war, for certain."

 

"Wow, you want me to off your own boss. Cold Blooded."

 

"Rejekk claimed you would have no problem with this," the Barabel stated as it walked into the main hold.

 

"Oh, I don't, but still, I get the feeling this helps you a whole lot in particular."

 

The Alien paused, snake like eyes studying the Dark Jedi. "What of it?"

 

"I may need a...acquaintance here in the future. And as for you...you might need a killer down the road. So long as you keep quiet."

 

The Alien thought about it, looked at him again and then at Kal. "I suppose," he said after a moment. "Come. There is cave system full of merchants not far. My men will watch your landing site. Most life and culture takes place underground due to intense radiation during the day," the Barabel said. "Whatever either of you do, don't apologize. My people consider apologies insulting. You could start a fight. Don't go being a nerfherder either, but do not apologize," the Barabel warned.

 

Karter turned to Vonnar. "This is what you have to watch out for. Our problem is that the clan we are supposed to deliver weapons to decided to try negotiating at the last minute. We are going to derail those negotiations so they will want to pay for the weapons once more. Now, I want you to follow my lead, keep quiet, and be ready to kill," Karter warned Kal.

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Kal Vonnar    2

"I'm sorry?" Kal asked, both as an apology and asking a question. Well, he did agree to kill, but he had obligations towards what he was killing. He understood if there were droids. That was different. But this job was as dirty as they come. So this was one thing Karter did: missions that outright killed bosses without remorse or without cause. Surely he would have to find a way to use his own skills and take care of his own mission, before Karter suspected what he was up to. Good thing he was clever.

 

"I'm sorry," Kal announced, doing his best to annoy both Karter and the Alien. He got good at it, smiling as he went. "I'm sorry. I do apologize but what exactly are we doing. I'm at a loss for words." It wasn't the best plan, but hey! He was doing something about it. He needed new jokes.

 

Then again, were the Alien and Karter annoyed enough? Maybe he should try harder. No, joking usually comes from the heart. Don't put too much force into it and neither look like an idiot while doing it. Well, he was already behaving like one. Oh, how he couldn't wait to - nope. No. Stick with the plan. That was the only way he could - no. He was putting himself in a dreadful state.

 

"I'M SORRY!" He screamed at the top of his lungs. Good. Good. Maybe he would win an award for his efforts at jokes and annoyance factor. Oh well. Back to the drawing board.

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Karter    126

The Demon appeared out the corner of his eye, its red eyes glistening in the darkness of the ship.

 

"Smack him," she said. "Smack. Him." 

 

Karter badly wanted to ring Vonnar's neck. However he needed the pilot not to despise him. It wouldn't do to have your one underling plotting revenge at an inoppertune moment. Vonnar was skittish about this whole business as it was, working for a Dark Jedi.

 

The Demon looked at him, knowing full well what he was thinking. "Oh dear. That...is cruel. You sure?"

 

"I'm sure," Karter answered, staring right at Vonnar with the mild, almost-amusement of a sandpanther before it leapt.

 

"I'm sure you are sorry, Mr. Vonnar," Karter clarified. Two could play this kriffed-up little game of pazaak the boy had initiated. Besides, Karter was bored on the ship and as a child he had taken great pleasure in putting someone like Kal through the occasional head-game. Kept his mind sharp.

 

"This runt trying to get cut, or something?" the Barabel asked. "He'll get you both cut if he does that in the wrong place here."

 

"He doesn't want to get cut. He's just an ass. Pay him no mind," Karter said. "This market we are going to...what does it sell?"

 

"Ore mostly. From deep. My tribe has mining interests there. Its part of the dispute," the Barabel answered.

 

"What kinda ore?"

 

"Precious metals. Occasionally we get ore from the surface also."

 

"Whats in the surface ore?"

 

"Ingots. Crystal Ingots," the alien answered tersely. "I doubt there is much you would find useful there. Follow me," the Barabel ordered.

 

Karter followed, expecting Kal to be not far behind.

 

***

 

The trek through the rain had been relatively quick, following the Barabel as he acted like a guide, leading through a burnt, scorched canyon of rock. He saw strange insects coming out from cocoons...most life had to be nocturnal, given the radiation. He heard the howls of larger beasts in the distance as he traveled in the radiation suit. Until finally they had reached a crack in the ground, with a built in stone staircase. They had headed down and after an uncomfortable, quiet ride down a long, dark turbolift, they had stepped into the vast underground cavern where he saw dozens, hundreds of Barabel, carting ore about, hawking prices for geodes full of valuable stones from a great podium set in the center. Every merchant's stand not only had ore, but silks, fibers, and strange smells from strange food.

 

The Contact, who had told Karter along the way that his name was Fuduxa Kixz lead to a private cabin in what looked to be a small, open air mess area in the great cavern which seemed to stretch for kilometers in any direction.

 

The cabin was darkened, lit only in strips by wood slats on the windows. Fuduxa sat down inviting Karter to take a seat. He did so, and waited to listen to the Barabel's plan.

 

"The Cave that is hosting this meeting is called the Sanctum of Scorched Blood. My clans rivals, the Uliuz, managed to convince the chieftain to back down and negotiate."

 

"Why just your chieftain? I could easily hit your rivals also," Karter suggested.

 

"The reason I want only my chieftain killed is because it will make the more reactionary members of my clan demand immediate vengeance...they will pay for your weapons gladly. Plus, this kind of plotting is a little more subtle than what the locals are used to. If they think the Uliuz violated a truce made in good faith with treachery, it will isolate the Uliuz, making it easier to wipe them all out. You and your associate will be well compensated in addition to the payment for the weapons."

 

"How much?" 

 

"Fifty thousand for Uldra's death."

 

"Seventy thousand. I'm working on a time constraint here," Karter demanded. "He'll die, trust me."

 

The Barabel frowned. "Seventy...it is."

 

"Great. Now, how much security are we talking?"

 

"The clan's strongest hunters and warriors will be there," the Barabel answered, his wide, lizard visage flicking his tongue reflexively, tasting the air.

 

"Point the way and then stay out of it. When does the meeting start, precisely?"

 

"Two and a half hours," Fuduxa answered.

 

"Just barely enough time to clear orbit," Karter grumbled. 

 

"The cave is three kilometers to the north on the surface. I cannot be seen leading you. You must find a way there and then find a way to get in."

 

"Its a good thing I have a lackey..." Karter trailed, turning to Kal with a smile. "Mr. Vonnar! It seems your antics may have a use here!"

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Kal Vonnar    2

Kal huffed a deep sigh of regret. Truly, he was doing it to annoy Karter, but still, he understood the risks well enough. Sure, he could put his idiotic skills to the test. It was what he did best, even under these circumstances. But to pull them off on purpose - a smile creased on his face. Well, if he couldn't annoy just Karter and see what the Dark Jedi was up to, what his story was, then this was just as good.

 

A few lizards wouldn't be too big of a hassle.

 

Still, he needed to play it cool. He could do this. He just needed the right motivation - a hologram of a candle! He could wail his sorrows with a tiny candle, a tiny speck that would show he wasn't too absorbed in his own mischief making. Oh, if only his parents and family were here to see him now.

 

"Ow! Flame hot," he said, sounding precisely like a two year old. Well, even his family knew he was a little over the top sometimes. How was this any better? He smiled at Karter, sounding a bit more mature for himself. "What do I have to do?" he said, playfully. He could live up to his own bargain, at that... but this was better. Annoying Karter was his number one job.

 

And yet, on the inside, was what he was doing the right thing? His parents wanted him to track down Karter and steer him towards the Light Side. He couldn't do it. He ran away for a reason. Now he was on his own. He needed to behave like it and stick with being a smuggler, or he would certainly lose everything.

Edited by Kal Vonnar
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Karter    126

"You will be useful in distracting the locals. Most particularly, you will be useful in creating a distraction for the people guarding that meeting in the cave. Fuduxa, we got any large, hostile predators we can...irritate?" Karter asked with an evil grin that went ear to ear.

 

"The cave has a nearby swamp. A Durgolosk inhabits it but it generally stays away. They are fearsome predators. Immensely hostile. They kill everything they come across. You would have to irritate it greatly for it to pursue you to the cave site, which is heavily guarded by my clan's men."

 

"Excellent!" Karter said enthusiastically, eyes widening in delight even as they went a sulphur color. That'll be perfect. Hey, uh, say I accidentally ice some of your boys in the process...it won't hurt my bottom line too bad I trust? After all, I came here expecting to make a delivery, not an assassination. And you've left me a tight window to work with, after all."

 

Fuduxa hissed in displeasure. "While I will be cross if you butcher too many, I can overlook one or three."

 

"How will I know which one is the guy you want dead?"

 

"He will have a crescent shaped knife slung across his wasteband. He is taller than you, possesses great strength. Scales are dark green. He will be fast. And bold. Kill him quickly and from behind, before he overwhelms you."

 

Karter smiled. "Very well then. Oh, um...what's a Durgolosk?"

 

"A large, six legged, six eyed predator with fifteen centimeter long knife like teeth and extreme hostility. A humanoid-eater."

 

"This is right up you alley!" Karter said to Kal. "You piss that Durgolosk off, get it to chase you to the camp, and then try and find a place to hide inside...if you can avoid capture. Or on spot execution."

 

"The downpours are bad in the area leading up to the meeting site. Flash floods may occur in the many rifts and crevaces on your journey there. And avoid any local fauna. Most of it is dangerous. Don't eat anything," Fuduxa warned. "Some of the hunting parties are hostile to offworlders. Trust no one. Avoid all contact.

 

"Give us a map and we are good to go," Karter told the toothy Barabel.

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Kal Vonnar    2

Kal looked up as if he had come out of a dream. What had happened to him since Alderaan? He acted like an idiot, but he remembered having some spine to take care of himself. First, his parents were ordering him around, making him find Karter. Now that he was with Karter, he was getting the same reaction. He needed to stand up for himself, or else risk being a lackey for life and he didn't want that. He would have to think fast in this case.

 

"And what if they attack?" Kal asked, concerned. "If this plan fails. I can stun easily, but given all my misgivings that I made, I somehow feel like this is going to fail."

 

Good. He was voicing his opinions. He wasn't going to let anyone stand in his way again, not even Karter. Even though he was his employee, he knew he would have to stand up for himself. Even now, that was the best idea.

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Karter    126

"If they attack, don't be stupid. Hide. Run. They'll be too busy focused on that Durgolosk anyway. I'll make sure you clear the space, then I go in, kill that chief, and we get our money. Any one gives us trouble...they'll wish they hadn't."

 

Karter rose up as Fuduxa handed him a small holoprojector that contained map coordinates. 

 

"Look, its not that complicated, Vonnar. We take a long, not-relaxing stroll through severe downpour, go into a swamp with a vicious predator. We antagonize said Predator. Said predator chases you to the meeting site, where they'll be too busy trying to kill the Durgolosk to shoot you. Blah blah, lightsabers. Blah blah dead chief. Profit. Couldn't be simpler. You won't really be doing anything except running for your life. And besides, if there is anything you should be good at, its running for your life!" Karter said to his employee jovially. "I'll be with you the whole way, Mr. Vonnar. 

 

He was telling the truth on that. He needed Kal alive. Kal was his pilot. It was only the necessity of breaking him in to danger and stress that forced his current action. Vonnar would be useless if he was not exposed to danger. It would let Karter know what Kal excelled at. And what required improvement.

 

So far, Kal had demonstrated he wasn't stupid. He asked questions, did not leap blindly, but Karter would be surprised if Kal took no initiative during this.

 

This was as much a test of Kal's ability to function under rapidly changing and unknown variables as it was making money. Karter wasn't sure Kal would pass it. But hey, he had been surprised before.

 

"If you are to go, you must go now. Move quickly, but carefully," Fuduxa warned.

 

Karter began walking out, heading for the surface. He kept a steady pace so Kal could follow.

 

If nothing, else, the stroll there would give them a chance for taking in the scenery.

 

Spoiler

Put us en route in your next post.

 

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Kal Vonnar    2

In all honesty, he would have been better off at Alderaan. But that time was past. Now, he needed to prove himself to Karter, another not so easy task. What made it worse was the whole 'believe in yourself' aspect. Honestly, Kal needed a life of his own and he didn't need it with his family. They wanted to use them. He'd get them back for it. They made him nearly suffer through an arranged marriage... well, there was no point in returning to Alderaan now. He was his own man, not his family's man. That much was clear from the start.

 

Kal watched and waited as they moved out towards the swamp. So far, nothing bad. Did he really have to run and hide? Shouldn't he prove himself to be in the action? He wouldn't take out Jedi, for the sole purpose of keeping them alive and he might curse himself if he did such a thing. But these guys? These aliens? Well, there was no telling what they'd do to him. That was a fact.

 

At last, they arrived. Kal moved out into position. The swamp was so mucky and red, nothing compared to what he'd seen on Alderaan. That terrain was beautiful, but he felt sure there were other planets out there that were just as beautiful. This swampy area... well, he'd take another planet another day.

 

"Hey! What are you doing?" It was the alien's captain. How convenient.

 

"I'm sorry, but... BLAST!" He didn't want to act stupid. Why then did he say 'blast' for? "Whoops. Time to head back!"

 

He careened towards a hiding spot. Well, Karter could do the rest from here, couldn't he?

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Karter    126

The rain pounded endlessly. 

 

The slog through rough, rocky terrain was bad enough. But the way the rain pounded relentlessly on his radiation suit was maddening. The night was nothing but thunder, and flashes of lightning over a cloud filled sky. He couldn't tell whether what locals he had met were simply curious about him and the boy who was clearly out of his element or wanted to kill them both. If Fuduxa was an example, they were a hard people to read, and harder to intimidate. This might be harder than he thought but he needed that payment. The bottom made a man desperate.

 

Kal so far had impressed him with the level of insanity he was willing to tolerate at a given moment. That was a good survival trait if practiced in the right doses. A poor one if indulged too often.

 

After a long trek through a barren scorchscape they came across a swamp, just as the Barabel had said. He was already in a full Force Cloak when Kal was spotted by the Captain, who had apparently been making an unexpected excursion into the swamp area to sweep for threats, immediately sounded the alarm by screaming into his comlink.

 

Karter drew his lightsaber, and decloaked when the Barabel noticed raindrops falling on a humanoid shaped shimmer and started firing a blaster rifle.

 

He slipped into his form one stance, still not confident enough in form three or six to try and employ them fully. He MIGHT get away with Soresu, given his experience on Deralia with it, but for now he stuck with what he knew. It was a trying task to know the form of Uno. It was simple, but that belied a deadliness in that simplicity.

 

Form one had proven itself too many times for him to doubt it.

 

The crude, chopping, blocky swipe that batted away two bolts aimed at his chest as he charged went wild into the air. The blade soon reached an arm and both legs, and the Barabel went screaming as he dropped to the rocky, sharp terrain.

 

He heard the roar of a beast in the distance of the swamp, which showed red trees and flowers growing out of water constantly splashed by rain. He spotted cocoon like pods on som of them.

 

"Kal!" He called out, running as he sensed the approaching Durgolosk. He spotted the rocky spire leading to the cave in the distance. "The Durgolosk is coming! Don't let it catch you.

 

In the distant flashes, he saw the multilegged, sharp toothed monstrosity roar. Its giant but somehow slender frame onky adding to its threatening nature. Nature had clearly never intended it to be anyone's buddy. The roar sounded like a bad power coupling smothered by a pillow and turned up on a microphone. And when it spotted him it immediately charged. He charged the Force into his legs and took off running.

 

"Kal! Its supposed to be chasing YOU NOT ME!" Karter shouted angrily, annoyed that Kal had somehow switched places with him. How had the boy done that? Con him?

 

God, was he that sloppy?

 

The Durgolosk's heavy, multilegged frame waded through the swamp with frightening speed. Karter was cursing Kal as he ran for the spire, the snapping jaws of the beast he had disturbed right behind him.

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Kal Vonnar    2

Kal breathed in and out, in and out. So far, so good. Well, he convinced the Captain to come to Karter. So, he did fulfill that part of the deal. What he didn't get was why Karter wanted to make him his lackey, instead of facing his own battles? Now, he had to save his life? This was more than he could bear. His parents should never have decided that it was his duty to search for Karter, of all people.

 

A good stunning might do these creatures some good. Moving from his hiding spot, Kal targeted the creatures and stunned each one. The effort worked, but at what price? Now some of the creatures were staring at him. He didn't have a choice. He would have to run.

 

"They're all yours!" Kal shouted to his employer. If he had to play his game, then he would do it by his rules.

 

He shot down a few creatures, alerting the others. There were too many of them.

 

BLAST!

 

The creatures were down. How? He looked at his hands. Had he done this before? What sort of trick was this? He needed to get back to the ship, right away, even if that meant saving Karter's life as well.

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Karter    126

Karter had encountered unpleasant fauna in the Galaxy before. It was an unfortunate consequence of his lifestyle. The Nexu on deralia, the sand demons of Tattooine, that...man...in that basement on Arkania. A rancor or two. 

 

But he had rarely encountered a creature so monstrous. For one, given the glimpses out the corner of his eye, the six legged creature combined the worst of all worlds. 

 

It didn't move like a normal heavy predator. Its movement was more reminiscent of a large spider scurrying towards shelter in a hot desert. Or in this case, prey. The disturbing part was that in spite of how desperately he was running due to its incredible pace, its legs seemed to fall slowly, out of sync with the rushing ground under its legs.

 

The Barabel's perimeter guard had run the second they spotted it coming their way, forgetting all about him for the moment. He would have cloaked himself with the Force, but that required more concentration than he could summon running for his life.

 

Something flitted past him almost hitting his ear. The corner of his eye caught it, a barbed tentacle coming from the pair of short arms on a towering brown and white torso that ended in a six eyed head and too many long sharp teeth.

 

Vonnar hadn't just made Karter look like a fool, he had done it without any effort. Maybe he leaned toward long cons.

 

In spite of the horrible beast chasing him to that rocky tower in the rain across a scorched landscape, the thought that he had misjudged Kal, and that his employee was gonna be laughing at his corpse as he took his ship one of these days, made Karter resolve never to take his eye off the ex-nobleman again. He'd known plenty of rich people when he worked the upper Coronet beat. Many were clods, but their ruthlessness in many cases had put even the most cutthroat criminals in the blue sector to shame.

 

He heard firing, Kal shouting, but could not make it out in the rain. Karter wondered whether or not he should purchase a Durgolosk to have it chase Vonnar just because.

 

The whip-cracks of the tentacles through the air shook him back to focus, and he spotted a large crack in the earth about his size--

 

The Force screamed a warning and his red blade came up, deflecting a bolt as he dove into the crevace, shoving his saber into the rock as he dropped to slow the descent downward, just barely getting clear of the tentacles as he fell, his saber suddenly cutting through air as he ran out of rock.

 

He landed hard, saber tumbling out of his hand, yelled as he felt something in his knee rattle. He rolled onto the ground, clutching his leg in pain, feeling for breaks, fractures, though in truth he couldn't tell from his adrenaline and the fact he had just averted death by tentacle dominated a good deal of his thought process.

 

He heard it roar, saw its tentacles search from the top of the opening to the lip of its bottom. He crawled to his saber, hearing it roar. But then there was blaster fire. Not Kal. Someone else. The Barabel were rallying.

 

He looked around him. Looked like a natural cavity in the ground, a fissure leading into it. He wasn't sure he could get out again. Not on his own.

 

He grasped at the Dark Side, forcing it to obey him, clutched it tight in his mental hand as he made it extend his perceptions, through the earth. Through the ground. As he had been taught in a sense on Tattooine.

 

The sensation of drowning in sand had never been forgotten. Buried alive had been a special form of torture, and he used that despair and fear to seep into the earth, feel loose rocks and sand, feel for disturbances that might give away other things about this cavity.

 

A tug in his mind through the ground put his focus on a cavity wall. He tapped it. Didn't sound stable. Or thick. This led to somewhere.

 

Limping, Karter walked over to it, shoving a red blade into it. The saber would get through the rock, but it was still a lot of rock. He actually had a little bit of trouble. More than he should have, even given the fact it was rock. He thought about this planet's conditions and wondered of the daytime exposure to such high levels of energy and radiation had not somehow made the ground more tolerant to high energy sources. Wouldn't be the same effect as cortosis, but it was an interesting possibility. Than again, he was no scientist.

 

As he finished cutting, a glimmer caught his eye.

 

It jutted out, lit by faint light on its tip through a small rock. He went over, and picked it up. It looked like some sort of ore deposit, broken off from somewhere. It ended in a sharp point, the crystal tip jutted out of the other end in a dip. He checked the interior of the cavity. It didn't look like it came from here. He looked at the crevice. It might have fallen from the surface.

 

Prone to curiosity in spite of his situation, he slipped the stone into a pouch on his radiation suit and refocused on the hole he had cut.

 

His hands jutted out, and he focused his hatred on the cut portion. His frustration at his set back making it shift out slowly but surely. The strain was not so bad as it would have been had he not been well versed in telekinesis by this point. Uno's doing. She had stressed to him early on the importance of practical telekinesis and its multipurpose use. Not just for offense but to get past barriers otherwise insurmountable. She had been especially keen to stress that tiny objects could be as useful as large ones in the right circumstances.

 

The strain grew as it finally cleared of the hole he cut. He dropped it, and looked beyond. It was a natural cavern, not too high or wide, but stretching into the distance. He spotted what looked to be trible markings.

 

And then he heard shouting. He looked at the piece he had cut away and spotted parts of a wall. That place had been sealed off.

 

He saw shadows, shouting. He concentrated, fighting past the pain and going into a Force Shroud. His experience with being shot by the Mandalorian had given him greater ability to focus past pain to use the Force, to feed on it, in fact. Stoking all the bottled frustration at having been brought into this squabble, he commanded the Force to cover him, blending him into the shadow and light itself, until he disappeared from view. Gone. Not like it had been with the cloak, but gone. Vanished.

 

Barabel in heavy plated armor stormed the cavity, silent. They carried what looked like slugthrower machine guns. Looked off world. Czerka stuff, likely.

 

It occurred to him that Barabel was an untapped resource. Smugglers must be making a killing bringing stuff here. There was no real republic presence...the radiation and the heat and the vicious predators made keeping a force here impractical.

 

One could do a lot of things with the lack of an occupying military force. He began to consider the possibility of this place as a hide-out as he watched them search for him. 

 

Kal was going to polish the whole damned engine room when this was over.

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Kal Vonnar    2

Kal shot down another creature. Wait. Shot? He looked at his blaster. It was on kill. He thought he set it to stun. How did that happen? He looked up. The Barabel were angry, now more at him because he killed one of their own. He would have to make a beeline and save Karter. There was no time to waste.

 

BLAST! BLAST! BLAST!

 

The creatures were down one by one. Hey. He was getting good at this.

 

More were coming. He moved in to kill more of those creatures. Stunning just wasn't good now. Don't let them touch me! He told himself. Of course he wouldn't let that happen. He pinned down another creature and shot it, too. Finally, all the creatures were down. He was free to find Karter, but where was he? Where did he go?

 

Was he at the cave? He could sense it somehow. Karter was in trouble. Forgetting about the ship, he ran as hard as his legs could carry him. Seething pain ached inside his thighs and his ankles, but he had to keep running. His employer needed him. He reached the cave at last. There was the Captain. He could do this. Just aim at the right spot and....

 

BLAST!

 

The Captain was down and out. Now to see to Karter.

 

For a moment, Kal nearly took in the losses. Just for a moment. He couldn't let the weight of the loss creep into his heart. Not yet anyway.

 

"Are you all right?" Kal asked, concern dwelling in his eyes.

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Karter    126

The Barabel moved through the small cavern, weapons trained everywhere. One was looking up the chasm he had fallen through, rain streaking down it.

 

They weren't stupid. He didn't understand their language, but he knew they knew he hadn't gotten past them. He saw how tense they were. They were waiting for him to attack.

 

He was hidden completely, but he realized that they had positioned themselves at specific points around the cavern, each point giving them a good angle of fire. He moved slowly among them, focused on maintaining his advantage. He took out the sonic blaster, moving into position. He held it in front of him, clipping his saber to his belt by feeling it out. 

He opened fire pointing from a position like he had done against the Mandalorian, a point shooting technique he had gotten better with since. 

 

The sonic bolts were set to stun. He was trying to be clean about this, as he really hadn't come to kill any but this chieftain. That said, he wouldn't lose sleep if one more than necessary bought it.

 

The sonic bolt hit one in the face and he sprinted out of the trajectory of return fire, snapping off a shot at another face, ducking under a burst of fire from behind him.

 

He fired. He missed. The Barabel returned fire and Karter yelled as one of the bullets grazed his leg, he decloaked, barely rolled out of the way from the second burst, firing back and forcing the remaining two to dodge the bolts, though Karter managed to hit one in the head, even as bullets whizzed over him.

 

But one was still left, and he barely managed to go into a Force cloak and roll before the bullets would have taken his head off. He prepared to draw another bead just as the Barabel whipped his machine gun into position.

 

But that was when the shot hit from behind. The Barabel dropped. Karter stared.

 

"Vonnar? How in the hell did you find me?" Karter grunted. Vonnar must have gotten in when the Barabel and he had faced off and neither of them had noticed in the chaos. When Vonnar asked if he was alright, Karter struggled up, grunting.

 

"I'll live," he replied, wincing as he stood on his leg. It was bleeding heavily.

 

He grunted in pain, hand clenching into a fist. He had been trying to push himself, struggling to push his command of the Dark Side to the next step, trying to replicate what he had witnessed his would-be mentor on Tattooine achieve in their first duel.

 

He was full of fury and rage at how his day had gone, and the wound wasn't doing him any favors. He gripped the Dark Side tightly and forced it to flood the bullet wound with all of his might, pushing as much as his hate for his true enemy would allow.

 

There was nothing for a few seconds. Then the wound begin to hiss and burn. He clenched his jaw, the pain immense.

 

The wound continued to hiss and smoke, bolstered by fury, until it finally begin to fuse shut, burning and hissing. He continued to strain, dropping to one knee until finally the wound had burned and fused shut. Draining one of the guards would have restored the wound but the warning about its addictive effects had made him very cautious as to its employment. 

 

He rose, still holding the sonic blaster.

 

He was unsure what approach to take. Should he try for a more defensive approach or go full assault? He ruled out defensive. Machine guns would ignore the lightsaber. 

 

Offense then.

 

He looked at one of the fallen's machine guns. He picked it up. It was a light model, meant for mobile use. The barrel was of average length, with what looked to be an open bolt, drum-fed design set in polymer black furniture with a ringed sight system. He grasped it, noting it was made for larger hands but he could adjust. The caliber looked to be 5.56x45. 

 

"Mr. Vonnar," he grunted. "I think we might have to disappoint Fuduxa a little."

 

He turned to the tunnel leading deeper into the facility.

 

"Probably shoring up defence," he muttered. "The chieftain is somewhere at the top of this tower which apparently has a rather large auxiliary facility underneath. One Fuduxa neglected to mention," he grumbled, irritated. "We need to play this smart. Obviously, we are out numbered. So here is what we are gonna do. They are gonna try and get him out of here soon. We need to get through whatever is beyond us quickly now. That means offence. We spare some we spare some. But, don't go crying over split Barabel," he joked, marching forward.

 

He heard shuffling and opened fire on two red and green armored Barabel Warriors. They dropped as the armor piercing rounds penetrated their tough hide.

 

Another burst of fire from his gun tore through the head of another armored warrior as he cleared out into what looked like a wide open workshop for black smithing. Forges and smithing equipment hung from great racks and great assembly tables for hand made armor lay in the middle, circular and silvery. Smoke was channeled out through special vents in the rock itself.

 

The workers were gone. Green and red armored guards, hiding behind hastily set up metal barricades opened fire as soon as he came out.

 

He ducked, diving behind a droid work bench and heard the metal bullets whiz over him, some impacting against thick cover which only protected him so much. Going through too much sensory imput to process the burning pain his leg was still in, Karter shut it out, focusing all his will on the Dark Side. He disappeared, the light and Force bending around him until he had disappeared. He shot up, running towards a different cover, a clay forge. Not good. Sixteen men. All armed with assault rifles and machine guns. Good cover too.

 

He let his gun point at the ground while he decloaked and peeked from cover. He was close to the barricade, but they had broken up, searching the room for him.

 

He snapped to a hip fire position and sprayed the area in front of him. Three went down. He cloaked and sprinted and ducked away from returning fire, getting behind a knocked over metal table. The roar of gunfire was so loud his ears rang.

 

He saw one trying to flank him and he burst fired, hitting the Barabel in the chest.

 

Where the hell was Kal?

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