“Five minutes to drop zone,” the pilots voice was calm and distorted through the speakers in the back of the drop ship. Maelous sat in the hold of the ship idly checking his gear one last time. Vibroblade, glow rods, rations, climbing gear, three stimpaks of bacta, a surgical kit, a dozen fire rods, water purification and two filled canteens, and a tarp and rope for shelter. The Guardian felt the ship buck as they began to enter the atmosphere of Aeotheran.
He closed the bag and slung it onto his back with it’s attached jump pack and stood. Looking down at the holopad mounted into his armored glove, “One minute,” he mumbled to himself as his eyes scanned the scars around his elbow. The injury had been severe. Most of the muscle had been ripped away exposing the bone, or what was left of it. The bacta treatments had allowed it to heal quick enough, though he had requested that they be stopped to allow the scars to remain.
“Approaching drop zone,” the pilots voice cracked through the speakers as Maelous moved toward the opening ramp watching the sea of trees appear below. He held the handle near the ramp, his other hand resting on the hilt of his armory saber He waited, the wind pushing his long beard away from his face. He took several steps back and and readied himself.
His legs were already carrying him forward as the pilot gave the order to jump, he ran down the open hold of the ship and flung himself out of the opening at the rear. The gravity of Aeotheran gripped him in free fall as he looked at the altimeter on his holopad.
Five Hundred meters. The muscles in his body relaxed as his body rocketed toward the ground. The clearing below racing up to meet him. Four Hundred meters. Closing his eyes, the falling man turned his body over in a flip. Three Hundred meters. There was no point worrying about what he did, at this point death would be instantaneous. Two Hundred meters. The rockets in the jump back strapped to the Sith’s back kicked on setting his form upright and began to slow is decent. One hundred meters. He sighed absently now that the thrill of freefall was gone, all the risk had been taken out of it by the automated system strapped to his back. His feet touched ground and the jets on the jump pack went quiet.
The sun was bright, having just risen a few hours prior it now beat down on his shaved head. Closing his eyes once more he knelt down into the high grass and reached out with the Force. The jungle around him lit up like a night on Coruscant. Every inch of the place reeked of life, some small and insignificant, some large and monstrous. He pushed further reaching as far as he could through the unknown area. At the very edge he felt it, a faint hint of dark side energy off to the east. He stood slowly and pulled up the map on his wrist. The extraction point was in the same general direction. A dark grin passed over his face as he began walking toward the line of trees in front of him, “Happy hunting,” he mumbled to himself as the thrill of the hunt consumed him.
Unknown Location, Jungles of Aeotheran
Time passed slowly in the near unbearable heat of the jungle. He pulled up the time on his holopad and sighed. Only an hour had passed since he set foot on Aeotheran, but it felt like the day was nearly over. Sweat dripped into his eyes as he pushed himself over a fallen tree. He blinked to clear the sting from his eyes. The Dark Side energy he felt was no closer than when he started. If it was indeed his target it was moving. He let his thoughts wander. Images of Susevfi began to fill his mind, it’s barren surface a stark contrast to the lush growth he now moved through.
Memories of his Jensaarai Master began to filter into his mind as he stepped through a stagnant puddle. Master Sol Wariv had been the instrument that carved him into the man that he was today. His thoughts on the Light and Dark sides of the Force had all come from Wariv. The Jensaarai had been different than other Force sensitive orders, and Maelous had created his first lightsaber at a very young age under his old master's watchful eye. The Guardian grinned recalling the praise he had received from the elder. Being one of the youngest of the order to have created a lightsaber had been one of the proudest moments of his young life, and one of the last he would feel for many years.
A loud cracking sound snapped the journeyman from his reminiscing, a few short moments later there was a solid thud. He listened intently his mind racing at the possible dangers he could face out here on his own. He could sense something, a great presence behind him in the jungle. He looked back in the direction he had come but saw nothing. If he failed this mission it was because he was too weak, and not worthy to go any further, he knew this. He scanned his surrounding doing a complete turn, he saw nothing. “Get a hold of yourself.” He said, “No sense building it up, won't change anything.” The looming sense of danger passed after a few short moments. He took a deep breath and calmed himself as his stomach began to grumble; he decided now was as good a time as any for lunch. He found a stump and sat down.
Maelous unwrapped the ration bar and took a bite. It tasted like a mixture of sawdust and durasteel, but he swallowed it anyway. He looked down at the map on his wrist again, while taking another bite. He had made good distance on his eastbound trek. Better than he had expected in the sweltering heat. He took another bite of the half gone ration bar and absently swatted a mosquito buzzing near his ear, as he read over the information he had downloaded about the Tuk’ata.
After finishing his so called meal, the bearded man sat cross legged on the stump and meditated, drawing on the Force to revitalize him. He let it flow through him allowing him to remain aware of the movement of life around him. He could feel something moving in from behind him again. He sat motionless as it drew closer, the tension in his muscles growing as it closed in. The Guardian’s eye shot open as he rolled out of the way, he heard the sickening thud as the the attack struck the stump he had been perched on seconds before. He came to his feet with ease, amory saber in hand igniting it as he spun to face the aggressor.
The great serpentine beast rose up, about two and a half meters, in front of him. It’s dull red eyes watching, it’s tongue flicked out once and it shot forward at him again. He dove to the side, still assessing the opponent. He rolled and came back up on his feet facing the predator. He watched it for a moment, the giant five meter snake, rose up again, swayed in the same manner, then sprang forward at him once more. He merely sidestepped this time, bringing the crimson blade of his saber up from under the serpent with a familiar sizzle as it cut and cauterized flesh.
Maelous pulled the pack onto his back and tightened the straps as the body of the serpent twitched on the ground. The final nerve impulses still firing within the two separated pieces. He contemplated carving it up and taking some of the meat, but immediately dismissed the thought when he noticed the black sludge seeping from its now still mouth. The meat could be toxic in such a creature, and if it wasn’t it probably tasted worse than the ration bars he had with him.
Hours had passed and the temperature was starting to drop as the suns began to descend. There was about an hour before night set in and he needed to find a suitable point to stop and make camp. He had felt the great presence several more times throughout the day and could not help but feel he was being stalked by something.
He trudged on moving in between the trees, the muscles in his legs begging for rest as he had not stopped his walk since the wilderbeast attacked him. His eyes peered ahead through the darkening jungle. He kept marching, “Just a little further,” he reassured himself, “let the Force guide me.”
He pushed on giving an old oath that he committed to memory new life with his breath, “There is no peace; there is anger.” He knew this all too well, anger guided him most of his life. It had aided him many times fueling his link to the Dark Side and giving him an advantage that others could not posses. “There is no fear; there is power.” This is also something he lived by, there was no fear in his mind. This no doubt gave him power, over himself and those that would forever be trapped by fear. He had on more than one occasion used it to cripple his enemies. There was more to it for him though. He had lofty goals of what he would one day become and he could not fear that power, self doubt, or fear of his own failure would only leave him wanting. “There is no death; there is immortality.” Through his deeds he would no doubt be honored throughout history, watching from some other place once his physical shell had long been dust.
“There is no weakness; there is the Dark Side,” He said has he stopped his movement. His head tilted back as he looked at the rocky cliff face he had reached. It wasn’t some great magnificent height, no more than thirty meters, an easy enough climb by all accounts. To his left was a cave, a weary grin crossed his face, the Dark Side had indeed guided him, his resolve had paid off.
He pulled a glow rod from his pack, lighting the near dark area around him. Tossing the green stick into the cave, he was able to see the back clearly. He went to work gathering wood and had a fire going before the last light of the dual suns vanished from the sky.
Unknown Location, Jungles of Aeotheran
The larger of the two stars that Aeotheran orbited was halfway over the horizon as Maelous evaluated the best possible way to scale the rock face in his path. He had not slept during the night, only going into a deep meditative state. The great presence had loomed in the distance all night, not moving on until the light of dawn. He believed the fire was the only thing that had kept him from having to face this stalker that night.
There were numerous holes and grooves in the stone face, so he set to work beginning his climb. He reached for a hand hold and pulled himself up, his foot slipping onto an outcropping of rock. He made slow and deliberate movements, making sure each grip and foothold was steady before pulling himself further. He had no desire to fall after making it half way, so he made sure the risk was as minimal as possible.
He rolled over onto the top of the cliff and took a deep breath before rising to his feet. His right arm was bloody from a near fall he had around twenty meter mark. His foot had slipped and he had slid along the rock face tearing away some skin just above his armored glove. The damage was minor so he decided to not waste the time or resources treating it..
He looked around the area above his camp, the ground was strewn with bones, some of which seemed rather fresh. He knelt down to examine a few of them and caught sight some tracks to his left. His eyes widened and he pulled up the details of the Tuk’ata on his armor mounted holopad. He flipped through the data until he found what he was looking. The tracks in front of him matched the one he viewed on the screen.
Still crouching he moved around finding more of the tracks on the ground. He followed them until he found them leading away from the area to the north east. Slowly he began to plod along beside them making sure to keep them to his left so he wouldn’t damage or lose them. They meandered through the trees of the jungle with no real specific intent.
He had been following the tracks for about an hour, he felt the presence once again, distant, but nonetheless there. He didn’t stop to see what happened he just continued moving. He was reaching his target and had no patients for the creature the lurked behind him.
A soft mist of rain started to fall and the former Jensaarai began to quicken his pace. He couldn’t let the tracks fade. He pushed himself, drawing the Force into his body he increased his speed. He continued to push himself faster as the rain came down with greater intensity, until he was in a full out run. The Guardian allowed his mind to shift, letting all thoughts of himself fall away as he navigated through the trees with preternatural efficiency. He became the thing that he fought so hard to hide around others, the predator that lurked at the deepest part of his mind.
Instinct took hold as he slid under a fallen tree without slowing his stride, carnage and blood the only thing on his mind. The Guardian bust through the tree line and slid to a stop at the edge of a downward slope. He spotted them almost instantly; three Tuk’ata by the small stream that ran through the center of the gully. He dropped to his belly and peered over the edge. They lounged near the edge of the stream, lapping up water and resting. He could sense the presence of a fourth beast nearby but out of view. It was not the same as the great presence that had been stalking him; it felt much the same as the Tuk’ata only larger and seething with the Dark Side. If it was indeed the same species that was the specimen he was meant to use.
Maelous low crawled along the edge of the gully moving into a better position. He brought himself into a crouch and pulled his armory saber from his belt. The Guardian remained low while he calculated. He set his sights on the nearest Tuk’ata, breathed deeply, and leapt high into the sky. Igniting his saber on the descent path the tip of the glowing crimson blade penetrated at the base of the beast’s skull as he landed. The Tuk’ata toppled over on its side as the man spun around to face the charge of the other two beasts.
He stood his ground, soaked from the rain, crouched in an attack posture. He side stepped the first as it lunged at him. The humming blade sliding into the mouth of the beast, splitting the jaw and severing the top half of its head away from the rest of it’s body, splashing blood and brain matter across the upper parts of the journeyman’s body. The attack of the second causes Maelous to jump, as its claws swung at his face. The blade of his lightsaber came and across his field of view, cutting the digits off the offending paw.
The beast screeched in pain, and with it Maelous heard the howl of the fourth larger beast in response. He could feel it now moving toward him.. The weight of the Tuk’ata came down on the bloody paw causing it to stumble, the Guardian did not hesitate to use the opportunity to end its cries of pain.
The Sith readied himself as the large Tuk’ata came around the corner upstream from his position. It roared as it galloped toward him with a speed Maelous had not expected. He crouched again this time forcing his legs down to try and leap over the charging aggressor. He knew the timing was wrong the moment he left the ground, his foot caught on one of the horns sending him spinning and causing him to lose his grip on the lightsaber.
His body crashed into the rocky stream, his right shoulder taking most of the impact. He quickly got up on one knee, his right hand grabbing a handful of wet stones, his eyes locating the lost saber off to his left. The Tuk’ata charged at him once more. The bearded man stood throwing the fistful of rocks at the beast using the Force to propel them forward with great speed. They struck the large head of the animal causing it to flinch and turn away for a moment. Maelous bolted straight for his weapon, scooping it up and wheeling around just in time to be struck by the bony skull of the beast, losing his saber once again.
He was driven back, his feet sliding in the mud, until he was pinned against the wall of the gully. The Tuk’ata backed up a few inches and rammed forward again bruising his ribs. Once again, calling on the Force to mask the pain and amplify his strength, the Guardian balled both of his fists and drove them forward into the eyes of the beast as it tried to ram him into the wall a third time, the combined force bursting them. The vitreous humour spraying over his arms as the blind beast reared back howling in pain.
Maelous moved to the side and located his lightsaber. He picked it up, one hand holding his ribs, and stood watching the animal as it thrashed on the ground. What great power it possessed he thought, it would make a worthy component to his own lightsaber. Slowly he walked back over toward the enraged sightless creature. The Jensaarai exile ignited the blade of his saber, the sound seeming to still its victim. He brought it down quickly removing its head cleanly from its neck.
The Guardian let the blade of the laser scalpel slip into the flesh of the large Tuk’ata, the skin and muscle separating easily. Each slice was deliberate removing specific sections of flesh to allow him access to the spine of the create that laid dead before him. He breathed slowly, both to keep his hand steady and to reduce the pain from his ribs, slicing deeper with each stroke of the blade, finally reaching the bone below.
Maelous wiped sweat from his brow and narrowed his eyes as he located the section at the base of the spine. At almost eight centimeters long and five centimeters wide it would make a fine piece for his saber. The blade of the laser scalpel slid in between the pelvis and the vertebrae severing the spinal cord. He moved the blade and did the same with the other side before wiggling the bone free.
He carried it to the stream that carved its path through the land and washed the blood and gore from its surface, pulling the nerve from inside. He held the bone up at eye level and examined it, turning it over in his hand. It was a beautiful piece and he could feel the Dark Side of the Force pulsing within it even after it was removed. He slipped it into a small, hard pouch on his belt reserved for the item. With a little alchemy it would help make a formidable weapons, he thought, the beginning to his rise in power.
He scanned the area as he pulled a stimpak from his the bag on his back, pressed it against his leg, and released the bacta into his bloodstream. Maelous could feel it going to work almost instantly as his body began to show the first signs of fatigue. Locating a small alcove in the rocky face of the gully, he went to work gathering some wood for a fire.
The bearded man climbed and built a fire. He leaned back against the stone and ate a ration bar, it still tasted horrible, but he was glad to have something in his stomach. The day wasn’t even half over but he knew he couldn’t fight off sleep. He reached out with the last of his strength as he finished his meal, but could not feel the great presence that had stalked him in the jungle. He relaxed for a moment, and soon slipped into sleep.
Gully, Jungles of Aeotheran
Maelous again woke with the rising sun, his body ached from the abuse from the day before, but after inspection the large bruise that should have covered his abdomen was nowhere to be found. He stood up and began the climb back up into the jungle; leaving the corpses of the fallen Tuk’ata to the carrion birds that had already started to pick at them.
He reached the top and stood at the edge as he checked the map on his wrist mounted holopad. He was only fifty-four kilometers from the extraction point he would make it with an hour to spare. He began walking deeper into the jungle almost instantly feeling that large presence once again, he knew it was only a matter of time.
The Guardian grinned to himself as he stepped into clearing, the thing that had been stalking him for the last three days had not attacked as he had expected it to, though it did not leave him for a moment this time and was still with him now. He checked the time, and was surprised to see he only had another fifteen minutes before the dropship picked him up. Weary from the hike, he made his way to a boulder sticking up from the ground and sat down. He pulled the comlink from his back and placed it in his ear and waited. He stared out away from the tree line at cliff about seventy meters in front of him.
He stood as he heard the engines of the ship as it approached. He keyed in a code on his holopad and heard a beep in his ear acknowledging that communication was established. “Trail Breaker this is Exile. Ready for extraction. Over.”
“Exile this is Trail Breaker. ETA five minutes. Over.” the pilot came back. Maelous sighed a little, he’d be glad to get back to the temple and be done with the jungle. He shifted his weight and tilted his head toward the sound of the engines when the ground under his feet shook. “Trail Breaker, we may have a problem,” he said as he eyed the tree line. He could feel the presence growing closer and pounding on the ground took on a quick, steady rhythm as the ship came into view over head and went to land behind him.
Maelous heard the motors for the legs of the ship kick in as the beast broke through the trees with a roar. He heard the engines kick on as the ship lifted back into the air a second before he turned and began to run. “Rancor!” He yelled at the top of his lungs as legs carried him toward the cliff.
Instinctively, the Force flooded his body propelling him forward. He could sense it gaining on him. His voice was loud, but steady in the pilots ear, “Head to the cliff!” He felt the claw coming in and sprang up and out of its way as it passed through the space he had just occupied. The ex-Jensaarai pushed harder trying to outrun the roaring behemoth on his heels. The edge of the cliff growing closer.
“Sir?” The pilot came back his voice unsure of the order.
“Just do it!” Maelous yelled and darted around another boulder and ducked rancor’s other massive hand swooped over his head.
He thought back to a time he had always tried to forget, and time only one other now knew about. He let his memories turn toward the anger and pain of his home world. The rush of Dark Side energy pushed him forward a little faster as he reached the edge of the cliff and jumped at the now open hold of the drop ship.
The Sith overshot the leap and crashed down into the back of the ship, sliding into the wall with a thud. He sat up and shook his head hearing the rancor’s scream one last time as the door closed in front of him. He stood and stepped into the cockpit and, covered in mud and gore, slumped into the seat next to the pilot.
“Where to sir?” the pilot asked.
Maelous pulled the bone from his pouch and held it up in front of him examining it intently.
“Take me home,” he mumbled, “now.”
Contract 018: Complete
Debriefing: Maelous was able to survive the jungle, and salvaged a piece of Tuk'ata vertibre as instructed.
This is actually hard to grade. On it's own, I actually enjoyed this piece. There are so many things in here that make me happy (as a reader and judge) that it sucks that I have to point out the things that took away from my enjoyment of the story.
What you have here is a fine, well rounded story. It is very well written, and the plot evolves organically around Maelous' journey. It is straight forward, but not boring. You took the assignment and gave it life. You created obstacles for your character to overcome. You wrote your character believably, and never once did I feel like you were writing him doing something outside of his abilities. These are the things that make a decent story great.
However, on the technical level, there were a few things that just took me out of it. Some of your syntax, at times, was just off. You would put punctuation where it wasn't needed, and omit in places where it actually was needed.
Maelous pulled the pack onto his back and tightened the straps as the body of the serpent twitched on the ground. The final nerve impulses still firing within the two separated pieces.
You got caught in a tense trap here. If you are going to break it up into two sentences, you need to change the line to read as: The final impulses of the nerve continued to fire with the two separated pieces.
Or: Maelous pulled the pack onto his back and tightened the straps. The body of the serpent twitched on the ground, its final nerve-impulses continuing to flail despite being severed into two pieces.
Something like that.
His right arm was bloody from a near fall he had around twenty meter mark.
There isn't anything really wrong here (though there could be) it just made me read it twice to make sure I wasn't missing something. You are referencing when he fell from climbing, but the second half makes me think that he encounters the injury during his free fall, not when he hit the ground. I don't have a reference for the twenty meter mark, I guess. The fact that I'm sitting here trying to figure this out means that you've taken me out of the story. Things like this are what subtly enhance your work by leaps and bounds.
His right arm was bloodied from hitting a jagged piece of rock when he had fallen while climbing.
Or something like that.
He side stepped the first as it lunged at him. The humming blade sliding into the mouth of the beast, splitting the jaw and severing the top half of its head away from the rest of it’s body, splashing blood and brain matter across the upper parts of the journeyman’s body.
This turns into a run-on sentence. And the tense issue at the top made me stop in my tracks immediately. Try: The humming blade slid into the mouth of the beast, splitting the jaw. The top half of the creatures head severed away from the rest of its body, blood and brain matter splashing all over the Journeyman's body.
Lastly, there is some formatting tweaks that would really help. I know you typed this out probably in word pad or gdocs, but spacing is a big deal for me as a reader, so i take it into count when I'm grading something.
He pushed on giving an old oath that he committed to memory new life with his breath, “There is no peace; there is anger.” He knew this all too well, anger guided him most of his life.
Space it out. Use italics. He's reciting his code here. It loses a lot of its meaning when it's all just one paragraph to me.
I will finish by saying that for all of that, I still really enjoyed the story. The only reason I'm grading it as I am, is because all of these things could have been very easily spotted by having someone look over what you wrote. Even the BEST writers in the club get their work proof read. I've been here for 4 years and I will not post ANYTHING written in character without at least one person looking it over.
In the absence of that, try my favorite trick: read it back to yourself, out loud. When you say the words you wrote, you'll be surprised how easily you realize you messed something up.
Regardless, this more than qualifies for your MAA assignment. This is a great piece of fiction, and your masters and Clan should be proud to have you as a member. I look forward to watching you progress in the club, as both a writer and a member. See you on the battlefield
A-Class = 1
" Contract = 3
Total = 4