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Fan Fiction: Drifting Wind
Posted: January 30th, 2018, 10:58 pm
Star Wars: Drifting Wind
The Galaxy has undergone tremendous change; the Republic is no more, replaced by the first Galactic Empire. For many beings on planets far from the Core Worlds, life goes on much as it had before. However, sometimes circumstances coalesce, cosmic tumblers click into place, and the seemingly random paths of individuals intersect to form new relationships and new alliances…
With a flash of light, a small space yacht exits hyperspace and approaches the planet of Dathomir. Ian Wamarnen sat in the pilot seat of the Drifting Wind. His partner, a Toydarian named Wingo, who usually mans the controls, was rattling around in the cargo hold preparing the gear for the coming excursion. From the common area, the gruff voice of their “client,” a Devaronian by the name of Turlock, rang out “Are we there yet? How soon can we make planet fall and begin the safari? I paid to hunt Rancor, not float around in space!”
Ian sighed, for a charter service which was supposed to provide relaxing diversions in the form of these Virtual Safaris; it seems that his clients were rarely “relaxed.” He thought back over the most recent trips, Vonskyr on Wayland, Wampas on Hoth, and now Rancors on Dathomir. He asked himself, “How come nobody wanted to track the beautiful flutterbys of Alderaan, or the softly singing Mattanes of Mon Calamari?” “Oh well,” he thought to himself, “we have to go wherever the client wants to go. After all, it’s his party and he’s paying for it.”
“We should be there within the current time cycle.” He called back to Turlock, “Wingo is getting the gear ready as we speak” Ian was co-owner of a charter business called “Virtual Safari,” where clients were taken on trips to exotic locales where they tracked and photographed animals in the wild. The skills used were identical to hunting and no telescopic or other long-range cameras were used. The trophy was a visual rendering of the animal, either a 2-D image or a 3-D vid-cube, which included highlights of the excursion. No shots were fired, and the hunted animals were not harmed.
Before long, the Wind was berthed in Dathomir’s main port city of Halfway, so named because it was half-way between the North Pole of the planet and its equator. The vast grasslands and temperate climate was perfect for the native Rancor, and the herbivores that were their prey. Ian drove a small speeder down the ramp from a storage compartment in the bottom of the Wind. The party would use the speeder to quickly reach the outskirts of the spaceport, and then hike the last couple of clicks through the Dathonian plains, to the Rancor nesting grounds.
During the hike, Ian briefed Turlock on the wild Rancor they would be tracking. He told the Devaronian that Rancors typically have very poor eyesight, with virtually no peripheral vision, so try to approach from the rear or sides of the creature. “However,” Ian continued, “be sure you approach the Rancor downwind because their poor vision is offset by an exceptional sense of smell. Also, it is mating season, so the males will be more aggressive than usual.”
“Well, that’s just wonderful news!” was Turlock’s sarcastic reply.
“Well, that’s to our benefit,” Ian replied. “All of the beasts are more active at this time for that same reason. As a result, we should have an easier time of finding some.” “Finally,” he added, “Rancors aren’t particularly quick, but they can be extremely dangerous in close quarters, so stay in the open, do not follow them into any caves or Baobob groves where there is less room to maneuver.”
It was near dark when they arrived at the edge of a large grassy steppe. “We can camp here for the night, and begin the hunt in the morning.” Turlock peered into the darkness around them “Is it safe?” He asked, jumping at the sound of leathery wings flapping above him.
“Absolutely safe!” said Wingo, who was setting up their tent for the night, “the beasties go to ground at night, and the Rancor are the only predator we have to worry about in these parts. Get some sleep, tomorrow promises to be a busy day.”
Re: Drifting Wind
Posted: January 30th, 2018, 11:18 pm
The next morning, Ian handed Turlock a motion vid and a still frame unit. Ian and Wingo were carrying matching sets. Each member of the party also had smaller automatic vidcams attached to the top of their wide brimmed hats. At the end of the trip, the footage from all of these will be edited together. They started off at dawn, heading into the wind as they set out across the grassy plain.
After a couple of hours, the system’s primary star had risen higher into the sky and warmed the ground around them. That’s when Turlock finally noticed a large, male Rancor skulking around the edge of a grove of Baobob trees. Wingo had pointed it out to Ian some time earlier, but of course it was always good for the client to make the “discovery.” “There he is!” shouted Turlock, and, ignoring Ian’s calls to wait, he ran ahead through the swaying grass towards the beast, vid unit in his hand. Unfortunately, in his haste, Turlock made a terrible mistake. He had been careful to approach the Rancor from behind, and he did slow down, crouching as he got closer. However, he did not notice that the wind had shifted, and was now hitting him squarely in the back.
Sniffing the air, the Rancor suddenly whirled around and spotted Turlock, who had raised his vid unit to his eyes to squeeze off a frame! With an ear-splitting roar, the beast charged at the Devaronian, who was now frozen in terror. Wingo pulled out his pha-lase rifle and fired a stun shot into the air to distract the Rancor. That gave Turlock a moment to recover and escape. Unfortunately, instead of running out into the open grass, Turlock ran directly into the grove of trees. The Rancor turned and followed him.
Wingo flew up above the trees to try to spot Turlock, while Ian followed the Rancor. He was already trying to send calming images to the beast, but wasn’t sure if the Rancor’s reptilian brain was advanced enough to pick up on what he was trying to do. He spotted Turlock, who had climbed up into a Baobob tree. Wingo was hovering over him attempting a rescue. The Rancor was sniffing around the base of the tree, trying to locate his elusive horned quarry.
At that point, Turlock lost his balance and fell from the tree, landing right on the back of the Rancor’s neck! “Oh, stang,” Ian muttered under his breath. He had never lost a client on a safari, and certainly did not want this to be the first time! He ran directly in front of the Rancor waving his arms to attract the beast’s attention. The Rancor paused a moment to assess this new threat, which gave Wingo enough time to swoop down and grab Turlock. The Toydarian’s wings were not strong enough to hold their combined weight for long, but he was able to drag the two of them down wind and out of the grove before crashing into the tall grass.
“Calm, calm, calm” was the mantra running through Ian’s mind as he extended one hand toward the Rancor. He was safely out of reach at the moment, and had his blaster drawn and set for stun. However, he realized that his Rancor research was incomplete. He had no idea what affect a stun blast would have on a creature this size, nor how long it would last. Luckily, the mantra of calm appeared to be working as the Rancor continued to peer thoughtfully at him, but did not strike. Suddenly, another inspiration hit Ian “Females at the water hole, females at the water hole…” he repeated. The Rancor made a rumbling noise deep within its chest, then let out another tremendous roar and charged directly at Ian!
Ian stumbled backwards, and then scrambled around the trunk of the nearest Baobob tree. His agility saved him as the Rancor swerved around the tree and headed out into the open field of grass, away from the grove, and, thankfully, away from where Wingo and Turlock had spiraled into the ground. Ian wasn’t sure if his ploy worked or not, because he knew that the water hole was in the opposite direction. Not that it mattered at the moment, what mattered was that Wingo and Turlock were okay.
He heard their voices arguing before he could see them in the grass. Turlock, nursing what appeared to be a sprained wrist, was chastising Wingo about the quality of his “rescue.” “Hey,” Wingo fired back, “would you rather still be clinging to that monster’s back? “ “Besides,” he continued, “if you had listened during the hike, and if you hadn’t stumbled upwind like a drunken Jawa, I wouldn’t have had to rescue you!”
“Excuse me,” Ian interjected, “either of you seen a large, angry, potato-head lizard thing staggering around here?” “C’mon, let’s get back to camp, check that wrist of yours and see what kind of footage we’ve got.”
Upon returning to camp, Ian tended to Turlock, who did indeed have a mild sprain, while Wingo was in the tent editing their footage together. By that evening, he had prepared a vid-cube, some still frames, and a 3-dimensional virtual trophy of the Rancor for Turlock to project onto the wall of his drinking establishment back on Devaron. The vid-cube did not include the screaming and running, and instead made it look like the brave and adventurous Turlock had deliberately jumped onto the creature’s back! Turlock smiled, showing off sharp pointed teeth, and nodded to Wingo and Ian. “You do good work; this is exactly what I had in mind. Wait until that scrub relative of mine, Darlock sees this. He will know that old Turlock can still handle himself!”
Re: Drifting Wind
Posted: January 30th, 2018, 11:19 pm
The next day, the Drifting Wind received clearance to leave Dathomir space. First, they would return Turlock to his ship in a space dock orbiting Corellia. After that, it was on to Coruscant to pick up their next client, a man by the name of Colen Gentoo. Gentoo was hiring them for a safari in search of Krayt Dragons on Tatooine. Ian wished that these charters would not lend themselves to such fuel consuming criss-crossing of the galaxy. He chuckled to himself at the thought. With a ship called the Drifting Wind, he could hardly expect to follow efficient pathways.
The long hyperspace jump afforded Ian the time to think back over how he came to be in this position. As soon as he was old enough to stowaway on a supply ship, he emigrated from the planet Kubindi. Kubindi was a small non-descript planet, whose inhabitants had used up most available resources and polluted the atmosphere. The environment remained inhabitable, if rather unpleasant. Ian’s parents could not afford to book passage for him off-world, and understood his need to get away. He had always intended to save up enough credits to go back for them, but everything had happened so fast.
Ian had left the supply ship at the next stop, a huge space station gambling mecca known only as “The Wheel.” Ian didn’t have many credits, but he needed something to settle his stomach after his bumpy stowaway adventure. He sat down at the first bar he came to and asked for something with bubbles. He remembered how lucky he was to have picked that particular bar; for it was there that he met Zhabini. Zhabini was an old, space wise gambler, who had, as he himself put it “spent more time traveling the space ways than on any particular planet.” He took an instant liking to Ian, seeing much of himself in the younger man. Zhabini too had left his planet at a young age, seeking fame, fortune and glory, and, as he put it, “One out of three ain’t bad.” The one was fortune; Zhabini had done very well for himself over the years.
As the hour grew late, and Zhabini’s tankard or some sort of ale grew more pungent, Ian told Zhabini about his idea for the Virtual Safari business. The older man was intrigued, but asked Ian “Why not just let the clients kill the beasts and be done with it? Why only obtain the visuals instead?”
Ian hesitated before he answered, he had always had an affinity for animals, they would always come when he called, even notoriously independent creatures like the Kowakian Monkey Lizard he’d had as a small child. The creature would ignore everyone else, but would come when Ian called it by the name he’d given it “Komoli.” The name came from the letters stenciled on the crate in which the creature had been delivered. He figured out later that those letters were to identify the contents of the crate, (KOwakian-MOnkey-LIzard) but to a literal minded 5 year old, “Komoli” it was. Even now, Ian could sometimes calm an upset animal, just by thinking calm, serene thoughts and somehow “directing them” at the animal, like the wild Rancor on Dathomir.
Getting back to Zhabini’s question, Ian thought carefully, trying to couch his response in terms of business, as opposed to any philosophical reasoning. “Well, there are a few reasons, all having to do with the profitability of the venture.
First, there is no need to pay any local planetary licensing fees, since we are not in fact “hunting” anything.
Second, since we’re only taking visuals, any endangered species remain fair game, increasing the catalog of subjects I can offer clients.
Third, I save on the additional expenses of cleaning, storing and preparing the beast as a trophy. We can give the client a 3-D vid cube that he can mount on his wall via a projection system so that it looks exactly like a hunting trophy. Furthermore, the client can regale friends and family with tales of his adventure, with visuals to support the story.
Trophy hunters aren’t doing this to feed their families, or to thin a herd of beasts that have grown too large for the local habitat. They are interested in proving to themselves, and showing off to others, that they are “superior” to the beasts they’ve bested. And finally, the beast will still be there when we bring the next client in on a similar excursion.”
Zhabini nodded in agreement, “that sounds good to me son.” “In fact,” he added sleepily, “it sounds so good that I want a piece of this action.” Ian fumbled for a reply, he had been hoping to possibly interest Zhabini in becoming a client, not a partner. After an awkward pause, Ian asked the old man what he meant.
“I mean, I want to help you launch this thing! Look, I’ve been pretty much established here on the Wheel for quite a while now. It’s outside pretty much all jurisdictions and that suits me just fine. Besides, I’ve got three different ships docked at various points on this crazy station, and if things really get hot, I only need one.”
The old man stopped, and took another draught from the steaming mug in front of him. “Here’s the deal, kid. Take the Drifting Wind, she’s a yacht. You can use it for your Virtual Safari thing, and I’ve got one less piece of property to pay berthing and guard fees on. You pay for your own fuel and maintenance fees, and check back in here with me at the Wheel four times a year. I get 15% of your charter revenue off the top, and I can call you back at any time should I need the ship, or want to take a safari of my own. You also have to use my driver; he’s a Toydarian, goes by Wingo. Great pilot, a crack shot with a Pha-lase rifle, and I trust him more than I trust you, on account of I’ve only just met you.”
Ian thought quickly, it sounded like a good deal, and besides, he hadn’t the money to secure any kind of vessel on his own, so to have this Drifting Wind fall into his lap was, well, miraculous. Finally, he said “It sounds too good to be true, sir.”
Zhabini responded, “It is too good to be true son! You’re taking advantage of an old man, but an old man who thinks he sees something in you. Besides, I could use a nice regular income, one that doesn’t rely on luck, or on my having to lift a finger. The Wind is berthed in Wheel Docking Bay 1138; I’ll tell Wingo to expect you in the morning.”
With that, the old man took Ian’s right hand in his own and shook it firmly, asking “Ok, young Ian, do we have an accord?”
“Yes, sir,” Ian replied
“Good night, then” slurred Zhabini sleepily as he dropped a few credits on the bar, oozed off the bar stool and carefully made his way out the door.
The next morning, Ian had expected to find that Zhabini had come to his senses, or simply passed out without mentioning anything to Wingo. However, the Toydarian was there to meet him in the docking bay. The first thing Wingo said after introducing himself, was to tell Ian that he would be handling all finances, ensuring that Zhabini received his fair share of the revenue. He also made it clear that his services as pilot would also have to be paid for before there were any “profits” for Ian. The terms seemed fair enough to Ian under the circumstances, the circumstances being that he hadn’t any choice.
That was almost three years ago. Over time, Ian and Wingo had forged a grudging friendship. Wingo still insisted on being paid up front, but he took a liking to the Virtual Safari business, and using his blue wings to hover over many a scene, took impressive, and profitable, aerial footage for their clients. Besides, they were pretty much stuck with each other now. About a year into their original arrangement, Zhabini disappeared from the Wheel. He met with them one final time on Nar Shaddaa, a moon orbiting the Hutt home world. At that meeting, he signed the Drifting Wind over to Ian and Wingo, with each having a 50% share. “I will contact you again in three months; mind you I still want my 15%.” Zhabini said with a smile.
Ian asked him why he was doing this. He replied, “In your names, this ship can’t be easily traced back to me. I’ve altered the historical records making it look like the ship was always in Wingo’s name, and he partnered with you when you started this whole safari thing last year.”
Ian put a hand on the old man’s forearm, “Are you in some kind of trouble? Come away with us.”
Zhabini smiled and shook his head, “No, son, nothing I can’t handle. Wait for my signal in three months time.” But that was the last either of them would ever see the old man. Rumors swirled that he was framed by Burba the Hutt, and disappeared. Ian knew that the old man was probably dead, but still looked for him in every port of call, hoping to find him sitting in a bar, drinking his favorite ale.
Re: Drifting Wind
Posted: January 30th, 2018, 11:20 pm
The beeping of the navicomputer and Wingo’s voice over the comm roused Ian from his reverie. “We’re coming out of hyperspace, cleared for Corellia orbit.” Almost non-stop since they left Dathomir, Turlock had been watching the vid-cube of his adventure, adding his own embellishment every time. Ian smiled; another satisfied customer. Turlock had his gear packed and was waiting by the airlock before they’d even come up along side his ship. The story of his battle with the Rancor had become even more epic with each subsequent narration, and Ian was sure than when Turlock told the tale to Darlock, it would be Turlock who saved Ian and Wingo from certain death. Turlock thanked Ian again, and tipped both him and Wingo rather handsomely. Apparently, owning a bar on Devaron was a lucrative business.
Soon enough, the Drifting Wind was underway again, back in hyperspace and on its way to Coruscant. Ian had rarely visited the planet, long the seat of power in the galaxy, both during the Republic Era, and now as the central planet of the first Galactic Empire. Ian never had gotten used to the planet’s new name of “Imperial City,” and still called it Coruscant out of habit. If he were honest with himself, he would admit that it always made him nervous to come here. Mostly, this was due to the disappearance of his parents, and the fairly solid rumor of Imperial involvement. However, coming here also brought back other rumors, of the legendary “Jedi-bendu,” and their mysterious “Force.”
Ian had noticed early in his life that sometimes, strange things would happen around him. Besides his ability to calm animals, he also excelled at sports through his excellent reflexes, almost as if he knew what would happen right before it did…which way the bahrimba sphere would bounce for example.
His parents noticed as well, and advised him to use these abilities to do good things, and to help people, but only in secret, in ways in which no one would notice and no one could link the good fortune back to him. This was soon after the Empire was established, and not long before he fled his home planet. The galaxy had become a more dangerous place than it had been before.
There was time, not even five years prior, when abilities such as Ian’s would not have been kept secret. Indeed, they would have been celebrated. His parents had told him stories of generations passed. When a child was found to have these abilities, the Jedi-bendu would come and test the child. If the abilities were found to be strong enough, the family would have to option of giving the child up for training to one day become a Jedi-bendu. It was often a difficult decision, for the child would leave his or her home planet, never to return. Even when the training was complete, only in very special cases were Jedi-bendu assigned to a planetary system familiar to them.
The family would receive updates once or twice every planetary cycle, letting them know about the progress of their child’s training, of their progression from youngling, to Padawan, through the trials to Knight, or even Master. There was great pride for a family when a member became a Jedi-Bendu. While it was difficult to lose contact with that individual, the family knew that their sacrifice was for the good of the galactic community as a whole, and that, as a Jedi-Bendu, their son or daughter could help many more beings than would have been possible had they stayed behind on Kubindi. Besides, Kubindi was not exactly the garden spot of the galaxy, and life as a Jedi-Bendu promised to be better than the hardscrabble life left behind.
All of that changed with the ascension of Emperor Palpatine. Ian’s family did not believe the news items which intimated that the vaunted Jedi-Bendu had attempted to overthrow the Republic. Sad confusion reigned as those few Kubindi families who boasted of Jedi-Bendu members, stopped getting any updates of their progress. Within a planetary cycle, soldiers with the Grand Army of the Republic swept out of the sky and fell upon those same families, all family members were tested, and this time anyone who passed the test left with the soldiers, never to return. At the time, Ian’s family was not targeted, as no family member before Ian had ever shown signs of these kinds of abilities, and Ian’s had remained secret.
Re: Drifting Wind
Posted: January 30th, 2018, 11:21 pm
The wail of the proximity alarm quickly pulled Ian out the past and into the present. He ran up to the cockpit to find Wingo swerving back and forth to avoid the ships and debris which filled the orbiting lanes around Coruscant. Muttering Todarian curse words under his breath, Wingo smoothly avoided everything and sent a comm signal to their client Gentoo. The reply came back garbled by static but could still be understood. “My ship is docked in orbit bay 94, look for the shuttle on your port side.” Sure enough, a small craft was approaching from the orbiting bay the man mentioned, flashing its lights in greeting.
When they opened the airlock, Colen Gentoo stepped through the door almost immediately, bumping his head slightly on the door as it rose. He wore desert battle fatigues and carried a large rucksack over one shoulder and a military style carbine laser rifle over the other. He handed the latter to Ian saying, in a low, slightly gravelly voice, “I understand we don’t get to use these. Please stow this with your weapons cache until the end of our safari, I wouldn’t want to be tempted to use it.” and he smiled, but Ian noticed that the smile did not touch his eyes.
“It was a charming enough smile,” Ian thought, “but was it genuine?” “And to hand over one’s weapon so easily was surely an expression of trust, but was it sincere?” Ian quickly put the thoughts out of his mind, as this wasn’t the first time he’d had a client who was so guarded, and the man did hand over his weapon. Nevertheless, something about this man didn’t feel right to Ian, but it was nothing he could put his finger on.
Ian showed Gentoo to the common area, then stowed the weapon as requested. Wingo was already in the cockpit setting the coordinates for Tatooine. Within moments, they were underway.
Tatooine was similar to Kubindi in one respect. Ian thought as the suns beat down and the wind whipped sand into this goggles and face filter, “it looks to be a nice place to leave.” They had made planet fall two days before, landing it a perfectly “charming” spaceport called Mos Eisley. It reminded Ian of Nar Shaddaa, where they last saw Zhabini, and was probably just as safe. He had heard about the Hutt presence on this planet as well, and wondered at a possible connection.
Ian, Wingo and Gentoo were riding in the same speeder that had taken Turlock the Devaronian into the Dathomir grasslands. This time, however, the speeder was having a much more difficult time. Sand was choking the vehicle’s filtration system as sure as it was those of its passengers. Wingo seemed impervious to the blowing sand, and Gentoo was using his empty rucksack as a sort of poncho to shield himself.
The team arrived at the Jundland Wastes at dusk, and quickly set up camp in anticipation of the dragon hunt the next day. Gentoo had obviously done his own prep work, and his knowledge of dragon habits, tendencies and preferred environments, rivaled Ian’s own. Given that the creatures were reptilian, Gentoo wanted to set out at sunrise the next morning, while the dragons were still groggily waking in their lairs, before the suns had time to warm their bodies into action. “Of course,” he added with that same eye-dodging smile, “taking pictures of a sleeping dragon is hardly sporting; we may have to wake them first!”
The next morning dawned still and quiet, as if the very sands were waiting for something to happen. The trio began carefully exploring the caves at the edge of the wastes, looking for a dragon lair. They searched for three hours without success, as the suns rose higher in the sky, and as the planet warmed beneath their feet.
Suddenly, Wingo fluttered out of an antechamber of the cave they were exploring. He hovered over Ian and Gentoo and whispered: “There’s a dragon nest down this tunnel just past the edge of the light, looks to be a female with about two dozen freshly laid eggs.”
At this, Gentoo’s eyes lit up! “Perfect! This is excellent news, more than I could have hoped for,” and with that he grabbed his empty rucksack and set off at a dead run.
Ian called after him to wait, “Stang, first Turlock and now this, why won’t anyone wait for...” At that point he noticed what was still lying on the ground where Gentoo had grabbed his rucksack. It was the motion-vid and still-cam that he had given him that morning. “Why would he leave those behind?” thought Ian, unless… “Wingo!” he shouted, “grab your rifle and follow me!”
Re: Drifting Wind
Posted: January 31st, 2018, 10:58 pm
The dragon’s howl reverberated throughout the chamber, threatening to bring the entire cave down on top of their heads. Ian and Wingo, dodging gravel and debris falling from the ceiling, rushed into the chamber to find Gentoo stuffing dragon eggs into his rucksack with one hand while waving what Ian could only describe as a laser sword at the enraged mother dragon with the other.
“Gentoo!” shouted Ian, “Stop what you are doing and step back! The dragon is only protecting her eggs; she will not pursue you if you back away!”
“Nonsense!” the man yelled back, an insane glee alight in his eyes, “do you have any idea how much these things are worth?!?!”
At that point, the mother dragon swung her tail around to strike at Gentoo, who dropped the rucksack, now filled with eggs, and slashed with the sword, severing the dragon’s tail. With a wail of pain and rage, the dragon lunged again, only to have the sword draw a thick, black line across her throat. Mortally wounded, the creature thrashed about for a few excruciating moments, then lay still.
Suddenly, golden sparks flew when Wingo, hovering above the scene, shot the sword out of Gentoo’s hand, sending the handle spinning into a corner of the cave. The man seemed unaffected, as he picked up the rucksack with that same hand, using the other to pull a small, ugly laser pistol out of his tunic pocket. “Thanks for leading me to the Promised Land, my friends!” He glanced at Ian, “I ask you again, do you know how much these things are worth?”
Ian gazed sadly back at the man, “On some worlds, fifty-thousand credits each, either as a rare delicacy, or as a rumored aphrodisiac.”
“Then you know why I have to do this,” Gentoo exclaimed, “Tier II injury pay for the GAR isn’t what it used to be, especially now that the Jedi are…”
At that instant a large shadow appeared behind Gentoo, and before he could turn around and level the pistol at this new threat, the arm holding the rucksack had dropped to the ground at his feet. It had been severed at the shoulder by a swipe of a dragon’s tail. More sparks flew from his shoulder as the man stared with wide eyes into the gaping maw of the male Krayt dragon looming over him. Gentoo fired one wild shot into the wall next to the creature, and then stumbled backward, tripping over the lumpy form of his rucksack. With another enraged roar, the dragon attacked!
Making quick work of Gentoo, the dragon then turned toward Ian and Wingo, unleashing another roar, which brought more debris from the ceiling. Ian and Wingo both slowly started backing away from the creature, but it continued to advance on them.
Wingo spoke to Ian in a low voice “I thought you said it would stay with the eggs.”
Ian responded through clenched teeth, “I said the Mother would stay with the eggs, I have no idea how a male dragon might react!”
At the same time, Ian was desperately sending calming thoughts at the creature “We are not your enemy, we are NOT your enemy” was the mantra inside Ian’s head. However, Ian had to wonder if he would believe a group of strangers who had just killed his mate and tried to steal his children.
The dragon then showed exactly how he would react by charging directly at Ian and Wingo, chasing them down a narrow, debris strewn corridor and trapping them in a smaller cave even farther back in the darkness.
“Well,” Wingo whispered, “it’s either him or us at this point isn’t it?” and aimed his rifle at the creature. At that instant, a low haunting call came from the main dragon lair. The dragon turned his head, and the rifle shot missed by a hairsbreadth, shattering rock behind the dragon.
In the darkness, the dragon noticed the muzzle flash and whipped his tail in response, the spiked tail caught Wingo in the side of the head and knocked him into a boulder sticking out of the cave wall, and he fell to the ground and remained still. Ian rushed to help his friend, but in his heart, he already knew that it was too late. Ian looked up at the dragon, and waited for the tail to lash out again, but then the low mournful wail came again from the main dragon lair. Ian was astonished, had the female dragon somehow survived? The dragon seemed confused as well, and slowly turned away from Ian to follow the strangely familiar call.
Ian as torn about what to do next; he knew that he should try and escape from the cave, but he did not want to leave his friend’s body behind. Finally, after hearing no sound for some time, he picked up Wingo, and slowly made his way back to the main dragon lair. There he found a man leaning against the cave wall next to what was left of Colen Gentoo. The body of the female dragon had not moved from earlier and there was no sign of either the eggs or of the male dragon.
Re: Drifting Wind
Posted: January 31st, 2018, 10:59 pm
Ian carefully placed Wingo’s body next to their supplies near the exit of the cave and approached the man. He looked to be a good twenty cycles older than Ian, but the young man figured the desert sun makes one look older. He wore tan and brown robes, and had reddish hair and a beard flecked with liberal amounts of grey. “What happened?” Ian asked. “Where is the dragon, and where are the eggs?” He wondered if the newcomer had already hidden the valuable contraband away for his own profit.
“Well,” the man replied, “when the father dragon returned to the cave, he noticed that about half of the eggs had survived the attack. He placed them carefully in a pouch in his abdomen, and left, presumably in search of a new lair where he can keep watch on the eggs until they hatch.”
“Who are you?” Ian continued, “And what sort of creature made that sound which distracted the dragon?”
The reply came with a wry grin, “You can call me Ben, and I’m the sort of creature who made that sound.” With that, he placed his hands over his mouth, and the low mournful wail filled the cave once more. “I could see that the dragon had you cornered, and had already felled your compatriot, so I mimicked the dragon call in hopes of distracting the creature. The ploy worked, and once the dragon saw that some of the eggs had survived, instinct kicked in and the creature forgot about you and sought to protect its offspring. I regret that I was too late to save your Toydarian friend.”
“So am I” Ian replied, “Thank you just the same for your assistance, or else I would have shared his fate.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Ben replied, staring at the young man intently, “I sensed that you were using calming techniques, on both yourself, and on the dragon. How long have you had this ability?”
Ian hesitated, not wanting to risk revealing anything to this stranger. “I’m not sure what you mean, I’m just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe.”
Ben’s face hardened for an instant at this phrasing, but soon softened into a relaxed smile, “Aren’t we all, my young friend, aren’t we all.”
Ian noticed that Ben was holding a number of documents which he assumed were taken from slowly stiffening corpse of his latest, and probably last, client. Ben noticed the camera equipment and the lack of big game hunting weaponry, and asked what type of safari was a “virtual safari?” He held up a brochure taken from Gentoo’s pocket.
Ian explained briefly about his business and how it was supposed to work. Ian explained that it just never felt right to kill for sport. Ben agreed and complimented him for his “respect for the living Force within all creatures.” His use of the word “Force” finally rang a bell with Ian. “Ben! You are one of the legendary Jedi-Bendu aren’t you?”
Ben replied with a shake of his head, “No, no, I’m simply an old desert hermit who enjoys solitude and meditation, when not saving off-worlders from local Krayt dragons.”
Ben then motioned toward the dragon lying near them, “what sort of weapon made this cauterized gash on the creature’s neck?” He asked, stooping to pick up the severed tail, “and this as well?”
Ian replied, “It was some sort of laser sword; Gentoo must have hidden it in his tunic. I wouldn’t have recognized it had I seen him with it. I’d never seen anything like it before. It landed over there, in the corner of the cave when Wingo,” his voice caught at the mention of his friend’s name, “when Wingo disarmed him.”
Ben strode into the corner and picked up the handle, gauged the heft of the unit, turned it on and inspected the greenish blade “I’m collecting too many of these things” he muttered under his breath. He then switched the blade off, and placed the handle in his robes with a sigh.
Ian gestured toward the papers in Ben’s hand. “And what of those, did they belong to Gentoo?”
Ben walked back over to Gentoo’s body and gazed down at the ruined, but familiar, face. “Yes, they did, I have here a log book, a safari itinerary, and a fascinating brochure advertising your business, but Colen Gentoo was not the man you thought he was. In fact, he wasn’t technically a ‘man’ at all.”
He gestured at the corpse. “This was a Generation Two Clone Trooper, serial number 111994 to be precise.”
Ian was astonished. “He was a clone?”
“Yes,” Ben replied, “and not a particularly good one. Generation Two was the first to be grown from a source other than the original donor. Once that donor was,” he paused, “no longer available, the Kaminoans used a first generation clone trooper as a new source. Understandably, when one makes a copy of a copy, the “image” is not as clear. This second generation of clones was clumsy.” He smiled, “perhaps not Jar-Jar clumsy, but definitely not graceful. They would tend to stumble, or not duck down quite far enough to clear a low overhang. They also weren’t particularly creative, hence this one’s chosen alias ‘Colen Gentoo = Clone Generation Two’” Ian made a face; it all seemed so obvious now.
Ben continued, “according to his log book, Gentoo lost his left arm during the assault on the,” he paused, “during the assault on the Jedi temple three years ago.” The arm was replaced with a mechanical unit, and he returned to active duty. Unfortunately, the added weight on his left side exacerbated his already suspect balance and steadiness. He was discharged from the GAR two years ago with a small injury stipend and has been traveling the galaxy working odd jobs ever since, but nothing for the past six months.” With that, Ben reached down and plucked the power supply from the trooper’s mechanical arm, commenting, “you never know when you’ll need one of these.”
“Desperation,” Ian said, “that’s what drove him to steal the eggs. He could live for a year on the proceeds of the sale of a just a few Krayt dragon eggs.”
Ben nodded, “hunger can drive even the most disciplined among us to a point when desperation and despair force them to do terrible things.” Ben’s eyes focused on a far away point and continued, “It could be hunger for food, for purpose, even for love, you’d be amazed at what one could be driven to do…” His eyes returned and focused on Ian, “Come,” he said, “my hut is not far from here, we can rest, have a meal, and tend to your speeder, it will never make the journey back to Mos Eisley with that level of dust contamination.”
Re: Drifting Wind
Posted: January 31st, 2018, 11:01 pm
Ben was right about the speeder; it was belching smoke, sand and dust by the time they arrived at the small mud hut stationed on the outskirts of the Jundland Wastes. The hut stood near the edge of a cliff overlooking a seemingly endless tide of sand dunes. Working together, it didn’t take long for Ian and Ben to clear the blockage, and Ian planned on heading into Mos Eisley the following morning.
A short while later, Ian found himself sitting at a small table, enjoying a meager, but flavorful meal with his host. He was grateful for the food and also for the companionship; he was not looking forward to loading Wingo’s body into the Wind and flying off alone. To keep the conversation going, he asked Ben again about what he said earlier about hunger driving desperation.
Ben thought a moment, and then said, “In the end, it all comes down to balance, be it food, or love, or power.”
The older man paused for a moment, and then continued, “With food, there are those who lack even basic nourishment, while at the same time there are gluttons who want for nothing, and endanger their very health through their excessive consumption.
With love, there are those who wander through one fruitless search after another, trying to find it. Others do find love, but are denied it, either by culture, or circumstances, or even by a flawed philosophy regarding attachment that attempts to deal in absolutes.
And finally, with power, Ben continued. The Republic was not without flaws. It was a bloated bureaucracy that couldn’t get out of its own way in its attempts to serve the people. But that was still always the goal, to serve the people. Even as corruption and apathy set in, whatever power was sought, for the most part, it was to be used to serve the people.
With the Empire, it is the exact opposite, all resources, natural, capital, personnel; all exist to serve the greater glory of the Empire. The Empire has no interest in serving the people, it is focused solely on its insatiable hunger for power and control, and its citizens are just another means to that end. Look at what happened to Clone 111994. At the moment he was no longer “useful” to the Empire, he was set adrift. And he may be one of the lucky ones. I have heard rumors of clone ‘recycling’ facilities, where older clones are being systematically destroyed. I’ve also heard that citizens of worlds near Kessel are being conscripted to work in the spice mines there or to serve in the Imperial Army itself, citizens from Honoghr and Kubindi…”
“Wait,” Ian interrupted him in a voice that was little more than a rasp, “Did you say Kubindi?”
“Yes, the Empire swept that world a few years ago for conscripts. As a matter of fact,” Ben pulled the tattered log book from his robes once more, “our friend Mr. Gentoo was part of that raid, look…”
But Ian did not even reach for the book, “So that was what happened” he said softly. He had heard rumors that shortly after his escape from Kubindi; the Empire had swept the planet, looking for “Force-sensitives” and Jedi sympathizers. The clone troopers were led by a tall mysterious figure in black armor. Ian had not heard from his parents since the raid. When he returned to Kubindi to look for them, he found their small hovel, completely empty. He recognized none of the people living in his old neighborhood, and they were unwilling to tell him anything. Either they were too scared to speak with him or they honestly didn’t know what happened. He searched for a while but hadn’t the time or resources to continue the search for very long. The disappearance of his parents had haunted him ever since. They had no special powers; they had no money or other resources that would make them a target. Were they taken, or did they escape? In either case, to where?
He turned to Ben with tears in his eyes, “I know you won’t admit it, but I say you ARE one of the legendary Jedi-Bendu, and you know more than you are telling about the Empire. My parents disappeared from Kubindi, probably as a result of this raid, and I need to know what you know and how I can find out if they are there on Kessel, and how to get them out.”
Ben looked at Ian sadly and said, “I am truly sorry to hear about your parents. I can’t tell you who or what, I am, and that is for your own protection as well as mine. However, I can put you in touch with someone who can help you find the information you are looking for, perhaps in a manner which will benefit more than just you and I.”
Ben suggested that Ian continue with his safari business, but with an ulterior motive, espionage against the Empire. “Head for the capital city on the planet of Alderaan,” Ben instructed him, “at the main port security desk, ask for Captain Agrawal, and tell him, and only him, that you are curious about available retirement communities for a relative you have off planet on Tatooine. Agrawal can set you up with a new partner, a Sullustan named Nien Numb.”
“Numb can work with you on your safaris, while also helping you track certain Imperial convoys, troop movements, and gun emplacements on the planets you visit. There are others who could pose as clients, wanting to hunt the energy spiders found in the spice mines of Kessel for example.” He said this with a nod of his head, knowing that Ian was eager to begin his search for his parents. “Oh, and the next time someone wants to track Vonskyrs on Wayland, keep an eye open, word is that there is a secret Imperial weapons depot there.”
Ian’s head was spinning. His parents, he finally had a clue of where to look for them. With the Wind his free and clear now, he could use it for whatever purpose he wished. He changed his mind about leaving in the morning, and decided to leave immediately. He shook hands with the older man. “Thanks, Ben…for everything.”
“You’re entirely welcome, my friend,” said Ben solemnly, “and may the Force be with you.”
Ian piloted the Drifting Wind out of the hot Tatooine atmosphere, and paused in orbit before laying in a coordinates for his hyperspace jump. He had already prepared Wingo’s body for burial in space. During the long hyperspace flights back and forth across the galaxy, Ian and Wingo had had plenty of time to discuss many different topics, including how they would want to be remembered. Neither had a family to be sent home to, so they agreed that their bodies would be jettisoned into hyperspace, that way their molecules would be scattered like grains of sand across the pathways of space that they both knew so well.
Having had more time to think about the alternatives, as well as about the risks involved, Ian’s confidence was wavering. “Should I try to make contact with the agent on Alderaan as Ben suggested?” Ian thought to himself, “or should I simply circle back to Coruscant or Corellia, and try to drum up another set of clients and carry on as I did before?”
“On the other hand,” he thought, “there may be an investigation into the disappearance of even a ‘retired’ Clone Trooper, as a client of ‘Virtual Safari, Ltd,’ on Tatooine.”
“In that case, it seems like the Empire will be looking for me anyway. Better to join the side I believe in and give them a good reason for doing so.” Besides, he wanted answers about his parent’s disappearance and this was the only lead he had.
Decision made, he plotted a course for Alderaan, wondering as he did so if he would have time to take some shots of some flutterbys while he was there.