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On 11/2/2022 at 5:50 PM, Wyvernfall said:

The entire night sky erupted in shocking blue light against the purple starlit sky, a ball of expanding blue lightning filled energy crackled as the missile detonated in an ever-growing expanse of destructive ionic energy. An ion torpedo, mind you, Rru had no idea what it was; but it sure looked dangerous, in a beautiful flay your flesh from your bones sort of way. Had he not know the thing came from the launcher in his hands, the Tusken would have been quick to attribute it to the supernatural. Leaping back to his feet, Rru squinted at the bright crackling explosion. Hoisting the now-unknown empty weapon above his head he let loose a joyous war cry, challenging any who might dare try and take them on! They were not dead yet, not by a long shot. The Tusken had wanted and the spirits had spoken, in electrified beautiful and deadly judgment. Boy had they spoken!

 

I smiled as I heard the tusken roar, an echo of the roar of the explosion he'd just created.

 

Someone was having a good time.

 

I had to wonder if he knew he'd just launched an ion torpedo, something designed to disable, not destroy. Of course, that was for starships. As I stared at the crackling light where the brute had been standing a moment ago, I supposed that to flesh and blood the distinction didn't matter.

 

Then I saw the brute lumber out of the smoke and dust. Its skin was blackened ash, its limbs curled and locked in place like an arthritic old man, and its face was twisted into a permanent rictus scream. A wheezing sound that might have been cries of pain or laughter rasped out of its throat, and the sizzling of fat could be faintly heard. Where its eyes had been, traces of blue lightning played across congealing, sizzling jelly.

 

It should have been dead.

 

I hate this place.

 

I sprinted forward. Somehow, the thing could tell I was coming, even though its face looked like some narcotic-saturated art student's postmodern thesis. It twisted towards me, its warped body moving slower than before, skin flaking away like a morbid snowfall with each movement. The thing was dying, it was just being stubborn about admitting it. Give it a minute or two, and this monster would fall to pieces. Problem was that it would reach the building before that, and there was no sense making the tusken waste another round...assuming there was another round to waste.

 

I didn't waste words on the creature. I'm honestly not sure if it could hear anyway. But it definitely knew where I was, as it lumbered towards me with its shoulder lowered in a parody of a tackle. My guess was its arms didn't exactly work anymore after having every nerve fried and the muscles tightened to the tensile consistency of steel cords. I dropped to the ground and rolled to the side, letting the massive thing run past. It turned on its heel more nimbly than should have been physically possible, and brought its foot down towards my back. Only my enhancements saved me, as caught the descending foot with my hands and feet, bracing my body against the ground. Grunting as my ribcage felt like it was flattening out, I shifted the monster's kick to the side, where it cratered into the ground. I brought my arm up, and drove my clenched fist into his knee. With a sickening crunch, the warped, thickened bone shattered.

 

The next few moments couldn't be called a fight. I took the thing apart, bit by bit, blow by blow, until the crumpled and broken body was twitching on the ground, somehow still alive.

 

"Alright...one down." Maybe this hadn't been the best idea.

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Even as the brute was torn apart, it struggled to fight back. Even as it crumpled underneath its own weight, no longer supported by sturdy bones and muscle, it crawled and moaned in an attempt to kill its attacker. Only when Zeris finally let up did it finally give in to the coldness of death. 

 

The Zabrack who was limping forward through the trail that the brute blazed stopped. Her face twisted slightly into a smile. Taking some form of perverse delight in the brute’s death, she couldn’t help but find some pleasure in the brutes agony before its doom. It had attempted its best. Now it was time for the horde. 

 

The Zabrack turned to the small horde behind her. Of all the hordes on the planet, this one was pretty small in comparison.  54 souls of dock workers, pilots, mechanics, and other beings captured with infection. The infection drove them, as it drove her. They were little more than melted skin and charred bones, but the infection drove them. And the infection would grow, even with each death. 

 

Fire wrapped upwards from her hands around her arms and over her body as she shrieked. Her horned crown glowed with red embers as the heat intensified. The horde grew agitated and restless with the heat that the Zabrack, her ladyship, generated.  A fireball erupted from her body, spreading outwards consuming the others. Like the brute, the horde enjoyed the pain of the flame. Wild instincts kicked in, and they charged forward past their leader, through the flames, towards where the brute had fallen. 

 

Kiv scrambled to find that piece of metal he had kicked earlier. He cursed himself for not recognizing what it was before. Then again, why would he stop to think that he had found ammunition for some kind of modified launcher? Kiv however squealed with glee when he found the ammo. 

 

“Oooh, you a good jawa kiv old boy” Kiv told himself as he scrambled back up the steps. “No one says that enough do they, but you a good jawa, yes sir…”

 

Bursting back onto the roof area, Kiv stopped. 

 

“What the burning sands big cousin, that thing was loaded? Eyes, was that thing loaded?”

 

>Affirmative sir. One ion torpedo has been launched.<

 

Kiv nearly dropped the ammo in shock. “Ion!?! You crazy big cousi er, lone raider?!?  That be the bad of bad things you could use!”

 

Kiv raced over and started smacking the Tusken’s side with his free hand while holding the ammo under his arm. “That stuff make things like Eyes dead! And our pilot’s arms useless! She already carrying me, you want to carry her with me on her?” 

 

>Sir, we got more incoming< Eyes noted. In the distance the glow of moving, flaming bodies could be seen. Without the debris blocking their path, they were moving much faster than the group originally had. 

 

“Eeek! This bad idea, I don’t like this…” Kiv held up he ammo to the Tusken to take. “Eyes, you find escape route, yes? We need to find escape route before too late…”

 

>Affirmative< Eyes took off straight upwards, and began to scan the environment around him. The landscape, was mostly rubble, but between the ruins Eyes began to see patterns.

 

>hmmm…< Eyes stopped in thought. >sir, i believe that map we found may correspond with our current location. Plotting out possible routes. standby< 

 

“Hurry up you flying bolt ball!” Kiv turned and cupped his hands towards Zeris. "Lady, I plotting escape route. You carry me again when plotted, yes? No die now please, you got strong legs" 

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Rru turned from the approaching horde as the Jawa nearly crashed into him. Hastily the shorter being tried to shove the projectile into his arms. Tusken culture was many things, most known among them was a revision of technology, living in the ways of their ancestors. What should have been obvious, but was often overlooked, was the Tusken affinity for weapons, even firearms. So even if Rru was not entirely sure what he had just shot. The Jawa babbled franticly about it messing up the mechanical abominations his companions came to depend on. He raised an eyebrow inquisitively behind his shroud. Maybe this was not the time for such a thing.

 

The hulking abomination slammed into the ground with a thunderous crash that Rru felt the tremors of beneath his feet. He shoved the torpedo away, back into Kiv’s arms. The Tusken was surprised Zeris had handled the thing alone. So much for his theory of betreyal. He felt ashamed that he had thought such a thing. It burned his cheeks with embarrassment. He should have known better, even if she had give  herself over to the shackles of technology she still was redeemable. As the horde alighted, literally and figuratively beyond her, Rru shook his head.

 

The problem with slug throwers, even more so than blasters, was ammunition. It was limited. It was heavy. A quick recap indicated limited supplies of both the incendiary rounds from Kiv as well as his standard Tusken-honed sniper rounds. Not near enough to handle the advancing tribe of . . . things. Besides, they were already on fire. They seemed to like it. What a strange world.

 

As Eyes shot upward, the Jawa did what he seemed second best at. After scrounging and stealing, this particular specimen seemed keen on squealing like a rat in a trap. Rru took the launcher and forcefully shoved it alongside the torpedo into Kiv’s arms. Before Kiv could

protest too much Rru grabbed the Jawa by the waist and hefted him up to eye level. “Make yourself useful, cousin,” he snarled; after all didn’t Kiv keep calling Rru his big cousin? Now mind you, useful to a Jawa and useful to a Tusken might be two different extremes. This was no better conceptualizer then when Rru heartily hefted the Jawa, launcher and torpedo over the edge of the rooftop towards the closing horde. Useful, in this context, was pretty obvious, fighting, or at the least cannon fodder to buy time for the blasted boloball of a droid to find an escape.

 

Rru did not wait to see how the Jawa landed. Shrugging his rifle across his shoulder and chest with his bandolier , he launched himself forward. The ancestral voices of generations of Tusken warriors urged him forward. Their eyes saw what his did not, their disembodied spirits hastened his movements and carried him on a nonexistent gale. Somersaulting  forward like a bullet from a gun, Rru landed in a puff of sand and dust, well beyond the Jawa, between his teo companions, glinting beskar gaderffi held loosely in his hands glinting against the moonlight. It would have been a sight to see, had he remained there; but the Tusken was already on the move. With a snarling war whoop to draw the attention of the inferno’d horde, Rru charged. The force, his ancestors, surged around him, empowering the desert warrior with superhuman reactions, speed, and perceptions.

 

A trail of dust plumed into the air behind the Tusken as he closed with the horde. The first zombie he met, he drove the pointed end of his gaderffi into the beast’s gut. In a single fluid motion, he brought thr flanged clubbed head of the weapon up and around to slam it into the abomination’s face. Meanwhile, the pointed end tore a furrow through the flesh of the zombie, ripping a massive gash in it’s gut as it exited and the club end slammed into the zombie’s head with a sickening and solid crunch as blood spurted everywhere. Rru did not stop, however; his momentum carrying him forward. Launching into a carwheel over top of the zombie, the club freed itself with a sickening sucking sound. Rru brought the bent end of his traditional weapon down atop the head of the next zombie, collapsing the skull and compressing the spine unnaturally beneath the weight and momentum of the beskar as he landed on his knees. The zombie toppled to the side as Rru’s weapon swung out at ground level carching the ankles of several closing flaming monsters and pulling their feet from under them.

 

As the zombies fell to the ground, Rru leapt up, his rough sand-filled robes swirling about him in a plume of dust and dirt. He lunged forward and with the skill of a butcher let out a gutteral cry as he drove the speared end into the downed monsters time and time again, each time eliciting a gout of blood and sucking wounds that clawed in vain at the metal rod of destruction. And still they came.

 

Rru looked  up as even more zombie’s advanced. He could feel the heat that came from their sizzling bodies. The flames licked the night and flickered in ghostly off of the Tusken’s goggled and weapons. Clothed in black, he was a specter of destruction and the voices of his ancestors not only carried him, but whispered in the ears of his foes telling of their coming doom.

 

As the zombies charged, Rru spun, seeing Zeris entering the fray, her mechanized limbs a dervish of destruction all their own. Driving forward, Rru stabbed his gaffi stick forward. It smashed in the front and out the back of the beast’s skull and still Rru drove forward, his weapon sliding through the skull as he held the crooked end by the flange. He drove the spear into a second zombie’s flaming head and then a third, stopping only as he ran out of spit upon which to skewer his attackers.

 

Then he ripped the gaderffi out, filling the air with aerosolized blood, bits of brain matter, and bone. Rru roared defiantly, more of a beast than man as he spun, his gaderffi caving in the cranium of the attacker to his right. Meanwhile, he grabbed the rifle slung over his shoulder and slammed the butt of it into neck the attacker on his left, dropping to his knees as he felt for the trigger. And as the ancients whispered, Rru pulled the trigger. An incendiary round fired from the weapon back behind Rru, towards a column of zombies that had given chase to the Jawa. Rru did not even have to look as the round found it’s mark in the chest of another zombie and erupted in a thermal explosion of destruction that turned flesh to ash and blackened and cracked the bones that remained.


Spinning around, Rru snarled ready for whoever came next.

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I had the biggest, dumbest, craziest grin plastered over my face.

 

Not because of the fight. No, fighting things like this that didn't know when to die was always somewhere between the experience of spending hours scouring particulate buildup with an old rag and the experience of carrying around a thermal detonator with a faulty trigger. You never knew for sure when one of these monsters was down for good, and you never knew just when one was going to lurch your way for one last surprise. Not knowing if you killed the thing you just turned your back to was stressful as heck. The fire probably wasn't helping either. And while I hadn't spotted Oka Geb among them, that didn't necessarily mean he wasn't here, given how warped they all were.

 

No, I was smiling because of the tusken.

 

The tusken...Rru...was special.

 

I didn't know what it was in particular. Maybe he was a prodigy. Maybe he wasn't your typical humanoid-adjacent species under those robes. Maybe he was enhanced. Heck, maybe he was one of those Force users! But watching him fight, it was clear there was something more than mortal about him. Call it speed, precision, grace, whatever. So many beings out there had the spirit to fight, but couldn't wield their clumsy bodies to match. This, however...this was that savage instinct fully realized. Body and spirit in sync.

 

It was like watching a sunrise through a stained glass window, and I enjoyed every second of it.

 

Then I was among the monsters, and my attention shifted to my own work. This was work, for me at least. I didn't fight with ferocity. I didn't fight with passion. My strength was in skill, in the literal millions of drills I'd performed over my life. It was in an understanding of combat so meticulous that I'd have rivaled any scientist on knowing the minutia of my chosen subject. I'd fought so many, and so many of those fights hadn't even begun to tap into the true potential I'd worked and sacrificed so much to achieve. 

 

And these creatures...they weren't worthy of me either.

 

They were dangerous, but not in the way I craved. They were a screaming mob, an unnatural disaster given legs and hands to tear you apart. Killing them was a job of endurance and keeping a calm head for me.

 

But Rru...now that would be a fight.

 

My grin almost split my face as my fists did their jobs. Like jackhammers, they drove into body after body, shattering spines, splattering heads, and pulverizing joints. Each blow was a statement as unyielding as the rotation of the planet.

 

Alright, bad example.

 

Then I saw her. The Zabrak, the one hanging back. She was something special too. Even monsters had queens.

 

"Tusken!" I called, pointing to the Zabrak. "The woman is the leader!"

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“Utini!!” Kiv shrieked as he flew over the building's ledge onto the ground below. "You crazy Krayt lover! You trying to..." 

 

A growl interrupted Kiv's cursing. Turning, Kiv barely ducked underneath the animalistic swipe of one of the monsters. Being the Jawa he was, he took off for the doorway back inside the building, only to be greeted with the fact that the building had been automatically locked from the inside for protection against monsters.

 

"No no no no!" Kiv shrieked as he banged on the door frantically having neither the time nor patience to utilize his jawa skills at bypassing the security system. Kiv glanced behind him as three zombie like things, fire licking exposed bones on their arms, shambled forward, hoping to tear the rodent apart. 

 

"Eeek! Stay back!" Kiv shouted as he pulled his ion pistol and fired it. its energy harmlessly fizzled against the flesh of the monsters as they continued forward. "Stay back! Me no like this!"

 

The leading zombie lunged forward. Kiv fell to his knees and scrambled forward, tripping the zombie face-first into the metal door. 

 

The other two reached for the Jawa, grabbing at cloth and robes. Had he been wearing anything else, the infection would've claimed the Jawa right then and there. But with the bulky coverings, Kiv found himself momentarily safe enough to pull his knife and stab one of the monsters in the Achille's tendon, tripping into the other. The two fell over each other like clowns at the space fair as Kiv picked himself up and ran for where the weapon layed on the ground.  

 

As the horde fought the three beings, their clumsy, animalistic swiping and bitings no matched for the two skilled warriors and the fortunate of the rodent, their lady watched, her melted lips twisting into a sadistic smile. Such prizes would be great for the infection. Such beings would feed the infection, and spread it to new prizes. A horde lost was nothing, for all death fed the infection.  

 

She took several steps forward, her gracefulness only betrayed by the slight limp in her left side. The two were taking out much in the horde, and more might be necessary soon. 

 

"Tusken! The woman is the leader!" the female warrior called out. 

 

Her Ladyship tilted her head slightly to the companion, the warrior with the stick. Some pale semblance of sentience recognized the calling out, and reacted instinctively against such strategy. Raising a black, burnt finger, a stream of fire spewed from her arms towards the direction of Tusken. But instead of striking the warrior, the flames hit a corpse that the warrior had already struck down. 

 

The steam of fire, hitting their target, consumed the body and without warning, burst with the fury of a firestorm. Flames and body parts exploded in all directions as the superheated body sublimated entirely with the sound of a boom.

 

“Utinni!" Kiv shouted again over the explosion as he quickly tried to load the weapon. It was large, much to large to use normally, but at this range, it would be hard to miss.

 

Oooh, you in trouble now you stinky…” Kiv commented as he aimed the weapon. He half-wondered if firing this close would harm the others, but if it killed the enemy, then he could escape…

 

>Sir, aim the weapon 38 degrees…< Eyes beeped as he flew directly in the way, startling Kiv greatly into nearly dropping the equipment.

 

“Gah! Shut it Eyes, you find exit yet?” Kiv fumbled with the weapon, trying to bat the small droid away. 

 

>Affirmative. There is a wall that, if you aim that weapon properly, will provide a means of escape<

 

“Really?”

 

>Affirmative. The wall is blocking an entrance to what appears to be an old water canal. From there, according to the map we found, we have a roadway we can utilize.<

 

Kiv looked at the Zabrack, who was approaching the corpse of the Brute. It was a hard but quick debate between whether following his droid’s instinct, or his own. The droid had come up with a possible escape route. But striking the Zabrack at this distance would theoretically kill it. But given the distance between her and Kiv’s companions, the explosion could harm them as well, not to mention his own fuzzy hide. 

 

“You better be good Eyes, or I melt you down and make new eyes!” Kiv commented as he aimed the weapon in the direction Eyes dictated. Once aimed, Kiv pulled the trigger and sent the explosive ammo flying across the vast distance towards its unseen target. 

 

The shot sent the Jawa flying onto his rear. Kiv moaned at the pain that struck his rear after he landed as well as the pain in his chest from the weapon's backfire. However, now was not the time for complaining. He dropped the weapon and took off in the direction his ammo was shot. It was a short open area, littered with pieces of scrap and dead grass and patches of dirt. 

 

“Hey! We go now! Kiv know way!” Even as Kiv shouted, two of the three zombies gave pursuit, not willing to let their prey get away, 

 

Her Ladyship ignored the Jawa who scrambled away from her eyesight. She was nearing the Brute now. Raising a finger, she was producing a steady stream of fire at the bloodied corpse. Its fat and muscles would burn long and bright before it exploded. And the smoke would be immense for all to see.  The infection would have these beings, one way or another. 

Edited by Klu Kiv

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The next approaching zombie had it’s head entirely removed from what had been it’s neck in a bloody spray of flaming goo and superheated blood. It would have been a clean cut, had it been made with a lightsaber. As it had been done with a beskar forged gaderffi however, it was efficient, albeit gruesome. Rru did not stop to consider this; however, as he spun about again to take on another surging trio of attackers. A spear to a knee, twisted to blow the joint entirely while sweeping the zombie’s other leg, fluidly carried into a reverse thrust of the flanged club end of the weapon into his companion’s chest. The sickening sound of crushed bones into rotted flesh was only accentuated by the sucking sound the wound made as Rru rripped the weapon clean, dropping low and spinning the barrel of his cycler outwards tripping the third before leaping forward like a predatory beast. Letting the rifle hang off his shoulder and with gsffi in one hand, Rru quickly drew his stone blade and gouged the third zombie’s eyes from it’s head before looking up at the shout from their pilot. He really needed to learn her name. She had done wonders in a fight so far. Maybe it was part of her curse, just like those amalgamated limbs. He did not have time to think on that; however, not in the midst of battle. He was content to have her on his side. When she pointed, his eyes followed. No language was needed for that sort of communication. Leaders always seemed to distinguish themselves, especially those who were too cowardly to join the fight, sending their underlings in their place.

 

With a war whoop, Rru leapt forward intent on fulfilling another old Tusken tradition. Find the biggest and baddest thing on the field of play and take it out. Apparently the ancestors had not been satisfied by the other behemoth’s he had fell this day. The urged him forward, but then just as suddenly, as the gout of

flame spewed from the witch’s hand, they urged him to drop. Rru had lived too long with the spirits to hesitate or even question and his leap forward propelled him face first into the soil. It was then the zombie he had just beheaded exploded in a wave of heat and a spray of boiling juices. Decidedly an unpleasant way to go he assessed. Even more unpleasant to get bathed in the aerosolized spray. Pulling himself to a crouch, Rru eyed the fire witch. He had heard of them before and they were not to be trifled with. At

least he had his own demon, he noted as Zeris barrelled through the horde like some sort of sand monster drunk on bad hubba gourds, albeit minus the two extra arms.

 

Another explosion rocked the battlefield and this one Rru recognized. That was a mechanical explosion, an offworlder’s weapon. Perhaps the Jawa had found some use after all. All he needed was a push, literally; although, judging by his screaming, that had probably been an accident too.

 

Slipping his knife back in his waistband, Rru grabbed his gaffi and broke into a crouching run. He swung the steely beskar, smashing shins, knees, and more than a couple heads before he cleared the bulk of the crowd of flaming monsters. The work of the witch he recognized. Like a sandy vortex he slid under clumsy blows and seemed to fold around others unnaturally in the flash of an eye until

he made it close enough to Zeris. He jerked his head at the smoldering gap that the Jawa had blown in the, thankfully, dry canal wall. “Time to go.” He bellowed, his ears still ringing from the exploding zombie corpse. Looking from the hole

to the flame spewing zombie-demon-witch, he hooked his gaffi in it’s apportioned loop and dug a large round from his bandolier. Shrugging the worn leather strap from his shoulder, he began to run towards the entrance.

 

Like clockwork, he pulled the bolt back and ejected the spent casing from his cycler. Even on the run, the actions were smooth, borne from a lifetime of practice; albeit that was mostly in hunting more mortal foes or their cursed machines; but the premise was the same. Sliding the next round into the weapon, he locked the bolt forward diving for cover near the rubble from the blown hole. Clutching his rifle, Rru peered around the boulder

for his comrades, bringing the witch into sight. Even across the battlefield, with the ancestral guidance of his forefathers, Rru was confident he could take the shot; whet that would do, would be anyone’s guess.

 

He settled the reticule on the woman’s head. It seemed the surest way to end her; afterall, the other zombies seemed to go down when their head ceased to exist. His finger settled on the trigger. Slowly, the Tusken inhaled, staring down the sites of his weapon, lining up the shot. He exhaled, putting pressure on the trigger when he heard yet another cry from

Kiv. Out of the corner of his eye, Rru saw the little rodent pursued by two much larger flaming abominations. Swivelling, he leveled the rifle at the two and fired. The shot echoed in the din of the battlefield as the massive slug tore into the chest of the first zombie behind the Jawa, erupting from it’s back in a fount of blood, guts, and flaming putrified organs before it tore into the second; dropping them both in heaps on the ground.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As if getting clotheslined by a rope attached to two speeder bikes, the explosion from the corpse sent me flying. Endless hours of training turned my tumble into a roll, and by some miraculous happenstance I'd been facing away from the corpse when the explosion hit. The vaporized gore blew my coat flat against my body, but didn't touch my skin. I tumbled across the ground before flowing back up to my feet in a single, smooth, practiced motion.

 

Come on monster, I thought, heart pounding in my ears. Give me more.

On 11/17/2022 at 12:17 AM, Wyvernfall said:

Slipping his knife back in his waistband, Rru grabbed his gaffi and broke into a crouching run. He swung the steely beskar, smashing shins, knees, and more than a couple heads before he cleared the bulk of the crowd of flaming monsters. The work of the witch he recognized. Like a sandy vortex he slid under clumsy blows and seemed to fold around others unnaturally in the flash of an eye until he made it close enough to Zeris. He jerked his head at the smoldering gap that the Jawa had blown in the, thankfully, dry canal wall. “Time to go.” He bellowed, his ears still ringing from the exploding zombie corpse. Looking from the hole to the flame spewing zombie-demon-witch, he hooked his gaffi in it’s apportioned loop and dug a large round from his bandolier. Shrugging the worn leather strap from his shoulder, he began to run towards the entrance.

 

I growled, like actually growled a little, deep in my throat. I doubted the tusken heard it, which was fortunate. He already gave me enough strange looks without adding more reasons. It sounded like the little jawa had found us an escape route, and if Rru was leaving, then so should I. But my blood was up. These things hadn't given me what I was looking for, but by hell they were going to.

 

Instead of running, I pressed forward. It was stupid. I know it was stupid. I knew it when I did it that it was stupid. But I'm kind of stupid. I drove my fist into another body, then another, and another. Crunches, pops, and wet tearing sounds were my rewards, but nothing else. These things weren't afraid of me. I wasn't even sure if there was much in there to begin with. I wasn't driving them back. I wasn't defeating them. I wasn't killing them. There wasn't anything to kill! Just bodies. Horrible, twisted bodies hovering somewhere between alive and dead.

 

I shouted in frustration, and turned to the leader.

 

Its face was pulled into twisted smile. There was something in that one, I was sure. There was a mind in there, and a malice. It wanted us, and I knew I could get my kicks by taking that away from it. I imagined myself, weaving through fire, driving my fists home into its gut, its legs, its chest, and finally its head. It'd be kriffing glorious.

 

I took a step forward.

 

Then, for no reason I could rightly figure beyond my subconscious finally wrestling the controls of my mind away from my bloodthirsty brainstem for a second, I suddenly could smell something awful. It had been there the whole time, and I'd been dimly aware of it, but only now did it come into full focus. It smelled foul, like an animal that had been dying for days mixed with a chemical spill. It made me want to retch, and deep in my mind that stench finally got across what I'd been ignoring this whole time.

 

These things were sick. And they could get me sick.

 

I gritted my teeth, screamed in frustration, then turned and ran away. My durasteel legs ate up the distance, flinging me across the wastes like a charging varactyl.

 

I caught up to the tusken just as he fired his cycler.

 

"Let's go!"

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The spray of blood from the things chasing Kiv rained on the Jawa’s hood like mud during a sand storm. Adrenaline pumping, Kiv didn’t notice as much. At the moment, all that mattered was keeping his legs going until he could find a hiding spot. The way of the rodent was simple. Run and hide and avoid. He would’ve continued doing the latter if it hadn’t been for the Tusken. 

 

As Zeris ran and escaped the considerably smaller horde, her ladyship came to the corpse of the brute. Smiling, she put both hands over the bloated corpse and let a stream of white fire escape her arms and begin to consume the body. Heated to plasma-esque temperatures, the body bubbled underneath its skin before suddenly bursting open like an exposed sore. 

 

White gasses escaped the body and plumed upwards into the air. Like a twisted beacon, the smoke could be seen for miles around. What was worse was as the winds began to pick up in the higher altitudes, the smoke’s odd, distinct smell would lure all sorts of monsters to the spot. 

 

Her ladyship turned and shambled towards where the rest of her horde had given pursuit. It did not matter if her horde died now. The infection would spread when other hordes would arrive. 

 

The rest of the small horde had broken into a sprint, knowing their opportunity to spread the infection was becoming less likely. All they needed was a solid grasp. A single bite. A tiny scratch, and these beings would join them. 

 

The dry canal proved useful for the group. Being paved and solid, footsteps were easy here. However, that benefit soon became pointless as the ground suddenly shook under their feet and the roar of a giant wave was heard. 

 

“Eeep!” Kiv shrieked as he felt the running water of tidal proportions flow towards them. Eyes confirmed his fear. A crashing wave of water was flowing down the once empty canal. Kiv glanced backwards and saw the remaining members of the horde still giving chase, with her ladyship at the back.

 

“Ack! Think stupid think!” Kiv beat his head over and over in pure panic. “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to…”

 

Kiv stopped as he spotted something. His heart skipped several beats as he ran to one of the sides of the canal. An out of place metal plate along the space where the floor of the canal connected with the wall. Too big to be a simple panel, the Jawa’s mechanical savvy eye recognised a doorway when he saw one. 

 

“Open up, open up!” Kiv shouted as he banged on the plate once before feeling around for a place where he could slice his way in. All he needed was a few wires and the door would open up. True the water would still flow in, but that would be a problem after he got inside. 

 

When the door opened up and a metal gloved hand reached out, Kiv didn’t have a chance to react. 

 

“Get in! Now!” A voice from inside commanded as it pulled the shrieking Kiv into the unknown.  

 

The next moment when Kiv opened his eyes, he had to squint. In front of him, a blinding spotlight, silhouetting the numerous figures holding blaster rifles and swords. Kiv held his hands up in surrender as he tried to gather his senses. Next to him, near the open entrance, a figure encased from head to foot in metal armor awaited his companions to quickly make a choice. On the strangers back was a large vibro blade, decorated with numerous writings in a variety of languages Kiv did not recognise. 

 

"You! Are you infected?" one of the silouetted figures asked, gesturing with its rifle. "Have you been touched by any of the Howlers?" 

 

"Eeek! Cousin! Please help!" Kiv whimpered as he covered his face with his arms in fright. 

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“Let’s go.” @Zeris Mons growled as she rushed past. A few moments later, @Klu Kiv followed suit, a horde of shambling flaming monsters completed the onslaught. Hefting his rifle upwards, Rru cleared the spent casing and inserted a fresh round. Looking up at the horde, Rru jumped to his feet to hurry after the others. He knew it then. He knew it now. The ancestors whispered, urging him to fight against the very instinct that boiled in the man’s blood. This was not a fight they were going to win. The smoke. When its tendrils clawed at the cloudless sky back home, it meant armored reinforcements were usually on their way, hellbent on murdering anyone they perceived as a native of Tatooine. What that meant here was anyone’s guess. On a world like this, given the trio’s brief experiences, it was not going to be friendly.

 

Like a blur, Rru charged after the others; intent on getting away, even if it meant someone had to carry the smelly Jawa. That did not occur; however, the ground began to quake, bits of chipped stone rattling  against the cobbled ground. The roar of water behind them drew Rru’s attention. Over the heads of the flaming zombie horde a wall of frothing black water roared into view. Rru’s body tensed. Of all the enemies and all the challenges he had faced, this was a new one. Water was a rarity on his homeworld, a sacred one at that. To have it tumbling towards them with bone crushing power was nearly inconceivable and Rru stopped, standing there slack jawed in shock.

 

He may have stood there until he was overcome had it not been for the blathering of Kiv. It was becoming a mind-grating thing, but it was enough to pull the Tusken Raider’s mind back to reality just in time to see Kiv get yanked below ground by a mechanical hand. Not another one . . .
 

Run. The ancestors urged him and Rru responded on instinct. The steep walls of the canal channeled the zombies and the water directly towards the three offworlders. They might be able to outrun the horde. The water was a different story. Zeris and Rru, maybe. Augmented as they were, they could hope to flee; but the Jawa. Always the Jawa. There was little escape and the Jawa had been taken.

 

The force grew around Rru, he bent his knees and leapt.  Arcing high into the air, unnaturally high, Rru somersaulted and came to land atop the canal. He spun around as the water began to consume the horde. They did not even flinch. 


Over the roar, the Jawa’s screeching scream carried. He was in trouble, again. Rru sighed as his shoulders slumped. Zeris was still in the canal and his only known ride off the cursed world. Kiv was, Rru swallowed before he could think it, almost family. He would be no better if he left a cowardly son of Tatoo to die on this damned world. The ancestors whispered, their spirits curling about the firm wraps about Rru’s arms and robes.

 

Exhaling in a I’m-going-to-regret-this-type of sigh, Rru doge off the lip of the canal straight toward Zeris. He tackled the cybernetic warrior through the opened hatch, his foot catching the handled and slamming it shut behind them as they clattered to the floor, and atop the Jawa with a crash.

 

Rru tried to roll gracefully out of the pile up, but it was anything but as he flopped to the floor, his foot brushing against the armored toes of one of the men silhouetted by the near blinding bright light. It was such a contrast to the dull world above. Rru tensed, his hands moving slightly prepared to spring from the ground listening for the spirit’s guiding urges leaving the talking to the jabbering rodent or the spacefaring malefactor.

 

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