Saturday, May 20, 2006

SWG FanFic

Peeling off the sodden, peaty smelling clothes and lowering his bruised frame into the tub of hot, scented water ken' ath closed his eyes and reflected on the day.

It had started well, a wandering herd of bantha had decided to graze on the hillside below the ranger station. That had drawn in enough hide and meat to cover his repair bills for the week and had allowed him to shake out the cobwebs in his head from spending too long away from the hunt.

His neighbours, both young scouts, had joined him while the local doc gave everyone the once over and administered a few homebrewed medicines that helped give the hunters the edge over their prey. They agreed to drop off some meat on their return and headed out to where some ronto had been sighted earlier.

The twin suns were just above the east horizon meaning they had time to walk to the hunting grounds before the full glare of the midday sun turned Tatooines sandwastes to one massive griddle, searing any bare flesh with intense heat. Both of the younger members of the patrol whinged about being made to walk, but the old Ranger just laughed, asking if they really wanted to frighten off the animals. Maybe they were too weak to hunt? Perhaps they should have stayed back and helped decorate the new guild hall with the rest of the Watchmen?

The scouts followed on, sullenly measuring out the day step by gridging step, amazed at the older man's ability to just trot along without seeming to tire, never stumbling, and barely leaving a mark behind.

About 5km south west of Mos Espa the Ranger drew them up, knelt and inspected some tracks in the sand. Bootmarks, military pattern treads. Fresh, clear marks, not used to walking. Nearby scorching on the scrub told the rest of the story. "Imperial shuttle. Troopers, patrol strength, two non-coms" the Ranger mumbled, almost to himself. A few yards further ahead lay the remains of a man. Dressed in city clothes, a rough robe pulled over his face, nearby a pack lay ripped open, it's contents already slipping into the sands.

"Don't know what this guys business was, but they've dropped his body out here to be found...." he said, looking carefully around for any other clues. "Don't touch anything, move back a bit and lets go round the long way"

The youngest scout stared at the corpse, flyblown, burnt by the sun. "But we should bury him?" "No lad, that's what they're looking for, who comes out here to recover him and give him a funeral. Now, move. Fast."

They beat double time, back about 100 metres, then worked their way in towards the rock face. "In here..." the Ranger shot forward and into a narrow gap in the rocks. His two apprentices followed without question. Back in the dunes a dark shape lifted up from its hiding place, bleeped and whirred, extended folding legs to stabilise the weight of its body and began moving towards their hiding place. "Probot. I knew they'd have left one or more out here. Stay down"

The Ranger moved to the opening in the rock, dropped to one knee and slipped a heavy military blaster from the oilcloth that protected it from the sand. Tipping his body forward he assumed the prone firing position, brought the rifle to his cheek, aimed, and fired in one smooth movement. Almost as soon as it's head cleared the smaill ridge at the edge of the dunefield, the probot shuddered, a shower of sparks erupting from the camera mount on one side of its chassis and, almost simultaneously, the thin plating on the opposite side blew out, scattering circuit boards and cabling across the sand. "Keep down...." hissed the ranger as the scouts began to press forward. The explosion shattered what was left of the silence as a large anti-tamper charge ripped the probot into a thousand angry flying shards. "Hopefully it didn't get a long look at us, but we better get a shift on. Up the way, over the rocks. NOW!"

Popping up from the prone position, stowing his rifle and beginning to scrabble up the rockface, the Ranger seemed to work as efficiently as the machine he'd just destroyed. The scouts followed, with less grace, but youthful muscles managed to keep the pace up. Over the ridge of the cliff, and already they were sprinting over the plateau, dodging rocks and crevasses, watchful for the shape of descending Lambda shuttles.

Forced up onto higher ground than had been his intention the Ranger knew that they would be exposed, not only to the full glare of the suns, but to the eyes of anyone looking out over the flat plateau. The best way to avoid detection and the building heat would be to drop into the crevasses, work their way across the plain as best they could. This would mean following the direction of these natural trenches back and forth and that could mean taking twice as long to cross, but better to err on the safe side. For now.

After an hour of backbreaking crouched running, ducking in and out of shadows, scrabbling over rocks and avoiding the various small creatures that hunted down here for any scrap of food that’d been blown in from the surrounding desert they stopped for a brief rest.

A small stove was produced from a backpack, water was boiled and some leaves from the local kuafu shrub were dropped in to make a strong, reddish brown tea. A reversible sheet, sand coloured on one side, greyish brown and green on the other, was stretched across the width of the trench to give a little cover from the buzzing white light of the day though it did little to stop the actual heat.

“Keep a look out up top lad” Ken’ said in a low voice and one of the scouts shimmied up to the edge of the sheeting and peered out over the dirt wastes. The other scout busied himself pouring tea, adding some strong bantha milk and a few spices to mask the milks sour taste. “Food fit for a soldier” the old Ranger mumbled in thanks as the steaming mug of hot t’chai was handed to him. Two further servings were poured and the scouts took up position on either side of the trench, sipping, watching, wondering.

Mid-day was not the time to be stuck out on the Mesric Plateau. Not when both suns beat down in full summer heat from a clear blue sky. The ranger party kept still in the shade, quietly watchful, listening for anything that disturbed the natural sound of the desert.

As the suns moved from the highest quarter of their progress and the air ceased to sear bare skin the Ranger and his two scouts broke camp, and began picking their way through the crevasses towards the hills south of Mos Eisley.

The quiet of the desert was shattered by the sudden explosion. A fireball formed in the air above the desert and the party hit the ground as fast as they could. A wave of heat rolled across the sand, hitting the hillside and setting off a chain of echoes. A new probot droid hit the sand with an almighty thud, lay motionless for a few seconds, then, as legs pushed down from it’s underside, lifted and hovered a few metres above the surface.

Even as they watched it scan the horizon they knew it had been called down from orbit, either by a bounty hunter or by Imperial forces. The sound of a vehicle nearby answered that. A bounty hunter. The speeder shot out from the shadows, stopped by the probot while a figure stepped out of the hovering vehicle, walked to the droid, tapped some information into a datapad and then scurried back to the speeder and drove away from the droid, directly towards the rangers party.

No comments: