[VOICE] Choose Your Own Adventure - Cassandra, Kaira, Fang
The crash had been short but violent. The wreckage lay strewn about the soft underbelly of the dense forest. It was nothing short of a miracle, or rather their training, that they were still alive. Battered and bruised, maybe even hurt, but alive. The forest was thick though, which was partly why their predicament was all the worse. Between the nearly 100m canopy and the turbulent atmospheric anomalies that had gripped their ship in the first place, sending a distress signal out was nearly impossible. It could be done if perhaps if there were only one issue, but never as long as both continued to exist.
There was a ridge, far off in the distance. Perhaps from there they could send their message, free of interference from the foliage. They only had four days though to reach that ridge before the follow up mission departed. After that, there would be no hope for rescue. They would have to push through the thick of the wild, in an alien and unfamiliar environment, surrounded by Force knew what. Survival was their goal, but it would not come without a fight.
With a soft groan, Guinevere Deschain opened her eyes and immediately became aware of several points of pain sprinkled about her body. The rushed memories of the crash came flooding back a second or so later. She vaguely remembered the sight of breaking through the clouds only to see the towering trees rushing up at them. She had strapped herself into the pilot's chair with crash webbing and braced for the worst, all the while still doing her best to pull the Ghtroc 720 freighter out of the uncontrollable dive that the ship had been forced into.
That first impact had been the worst, one that had flipped the Gamera into its port side. The next impact had helped right the freighter, but it had knocked out Kaira Rohana, Guinevere's co-pilot and fellow Jedi. Seconds later, when the ship had slammed into the forest's floor, Deschain had been blindsided by some hard, flying object and rendered unconscious. Now it felt as if her head was about to go supernova.
Looking down toward her feet, Guinevere saw a hydrospanner she had been using earlier in the flight. Assuming that to be the cause of the feeling in her head, the young Hapan sighed and unstrapped herself from the seat. After shoving aside the webbing and looking out of the ship's transparisteel canopy, she began using her fingers to probe her ribs and other sore areas. Thankfully, it seemed as though she was mostly sore from being tossed against the crash webbing. She placed a hand on her right temple and immersed herself in the Force, summoning what meager healing energies she could to ease her discomfort.
Her self-examination over with, Guinevere assured herself that her lightsaber was still hooked onto her belt and started to head toward the aft compartments. Kaira had not been in her co-pilot's seat, and the third member of their group, a Dark Jedi named Cassandra El'Sin, was missing as well. Though the three had a mission to finish, simple survival had suddenly rushed to the top of Guinevere's list. The first step in accomplishing this new, more important task was to find the other two women.
A soft whimper came from the woman that at one time had been in the ship's co-pilot's seat of the ship. She now lay just outside the cockpit in the ship's lounge on the floor. Kaira was barely aware of where she was, let alone her injuries. A voice rang in her head as the pain became the main focus of her mind. "Kaira, are you alright?"
She knew who that voice belonged to. Kaira tried to think, but the pain was just too much as she groaned once more. With the help of the Force, however, she started to take control of the pain even if she was not fully aware of what was going on around her. As she got the pain somewhat under control, her eyes opened and squinted at the light.
"No," was the response she gave though gritted teeth.
Guinevere knelt beside the Rollmaster and assessed the Human's injuries. "Kaira, you have a pretty nasty head injury. You probably want to try and heal that first. I also think your right arm is broken. Do you feel pain anywhere else?"
It took a second for Kaira to reach into her own body to feel where the pain was the strongest. Guinevere's words were correct; her head and arm hurt, but there were other injuries. As she did her own evaluation she took in a deep breath. "Right arm, head, right ankle," she again pushed out of her lips though clenched teeth.
The young Hapan nodded, acknowledging Kaira's words. "We have to move, Kaira. Could you walk if I find you a crutch?"
"Not yet. Head needs time."
It was all she could get out as her eyes shut tight once more, only this time it was not because of her injury. It was due to the Force power she used to heal herself with. The power needed to heal her head wound was a drain on her, but it had to be done. She needed her head clear if she hoped to survive at all. Kaira was sure that all the Force power that she used wouldn't go unnoticed by the other two with her, wherever Cassandra was. They would be able to judge just how long it might take before Kaira would be able to move on her own power. It wouldn't be one-hundred percent, but it would no longer be a threat to her life.
As the young woman awoke from a painful slumber, blackness was all she could see whilst fighting off agony that flooded through her every nerve. Something was stopping her as she tried to move, which made her feel more than pinned or paralyzed. With her senses coming back to her, she could feel the cold floor beneath her, a high pitched ringing all around and the smell of smoke. With the bitter taste of rancid blood filling her mouth, all that was left was her vision. But it remained dark, making a deep sense of anxiety flood the Sith's mind. Feeling a pounding in her head, Cassandra tried to call out for help but her voice was just garbled.
Everything still felt like a blank, how she got here, why her body was killing, why she couldn't see. There were a few holes in her memory, mainly from a blinding light to a huge crashing noise. The Arconan tried her best to draw into the Force, and then slowly her vision was aided. It was different than looking through her eyes, but this was all she had as a weak blurred image of her surroundings became clear. She was in the lounge port of the 720 freighter, where the place looked as if it had been thrown upside down. A panel had pinned her down, but as she could see, it wasn't difficult to budge it aside.
"Kaira, Guinevere . . . anyone!"
The Battlemaster screamed as she curled her bruised body into a ball, but there was no answer from her Jedi companions. Still blinded, and putting most of concentration into "Force Sight", Cassandra tried her best to stand. She moved slowly and carefully as she tried to make her way towards the cockpit, stumbling here and there as she took each footstep. But as she came to the ladder well, the Sith was startled to find a vast connection of branches breaking through the ship's hull. It tore through the ship with ease with the crash, but now separated Cassandra from the last place she could remember the Jedi were.
Still blinded and in pain, the Sith bellowed out the names of the Jedi, hoping for some type of answer.
Cassandra heard the lightsaber flare to life a split second before the blue blade tore through the battered branches before her. When the wood collapsed to the deck, the Arconan stared into the goggled visage of Guinevere, that maddeningly-cheerful but still formidable Hapan.
"Are you hurt?" Guinevere asked, her voice tired but still expressing a baffling amount of concern for the Dark Jedi. With a foot, she idly nudged at the shredded durasteel panel that Cassandra had previously been under.
Cassandra grunted a quick negative and moved with heavy steps past the Jedi, her body feeling like one huge bruise. "Are you and Kaira alright?"
"I'm fine," Deschain responded, quickly powering down her weapon and moving to the Human's side should she require assistance, "Kaira seems to have got the worst of it. Could you please go outside and cut a crutch for her? There should be a branch or sapling or something that you can use."
The Arconan nodded, but her eyes went wide when she put a hand to her belt. "My lightsaber! It's gone!"
A small musical laugh cut through the instinctive mistrust and anger that rose in Cassandra. The disarming sound was followed up by the ignition of a lightsaber. Dim red shadows came to life on Guinevere's white skin, and the ruddy light illuminated her smile. "It must have come loose during the crash," the Hapan said in a casual tone. She tilted her head and looked at the blade for a second, her expression thoughtful despite the goggles obscuring her eyes.
"Can I have it back?" Cassandra asked, one hand extended and the other resting on her hip. Though she tried to seem casual, El'sin knew that she was at something of a disadvantage. Though a dull ache thrummed just beneath every bit of her skin, the Arconan felt ready to defend herself. Still, though she truly did not know what the Jedi was going to do, the Human was not surprised when Deschain thumbed the saber off and handed it back.
"Alright," Guinevere said, her voice indicating a shifting of gears, "Now, unless you need anything else, Kaira could use your help. I left her against a tree just to starboard. I'll be in here getting what we can carry. I don't think this ship will be lifting off anytime soon."
Though it rankled her a bit to take orders from a Jedi, Cassandra could not dispute the logic in the Hapan's words. With a nod that would have to suffice, El'sin turned on her heel and made her way out of the wrecked ship.
Leaves rustled in the chilly breeze above Kaira as she started to come to. The chill in the air seem to hang there as if to warn the group that night was just around the corner. Her head hurt a lot but she knew she needed to stay awake. The blood was no longer a problem as Kaira had used the Force to heal the wound. Her arm and leg hurt as well but over time she would be able to heal those.
As she lay there, she looked around slowly to see where she was. The last thing she remembered was that she was on the ship. Now she was on the forest floor and the wind had given her quite the chill. Next time she would remember to dress a bit warmer. There was a disturbance in the bushes beside her. She didn't worry because she knew it was the Sith of the group, Cassandra. She would know that woman almost anywhere.
Kaira watched as the Dark Jedi almost walked right into the tree that the Archpriest was leaning up against. She snickered under her breath at Cassandra. "Hey, watch where you're going there. If I didn't know any better, I would think you got clumsier."
The Arconan let out a deep sigh. "I would if I could, Kaira. It seems my eyesight got a bit messed up in the crash. I'm using the Force to see but I still have some trouble. Guinevere said you needed some help."
Kaira was not sure she wanted help for a woman that couldn't see. "Yeah, I think my right arm is broken and my right ankle is sprained pretty badly. Where is Guin anyway?"
Just then she heard another sound, a dull metallic one. The sight of the other Jedi woman walking out of the crashed ship made Kaira smile. It was good to know they had all survived. "I am right here, Kaira, " Guinevere said, carrying a small pack on her back, "I had to get our supplies. Now I think we have a shot to survive."
'We have supplies. Well, that's good,' Kaira thought. It was nice to know that her fellow housemate had taken charge. Cassandra did not seem to be in any shape to take charge anyway. "Well, what is the plan then?" Kaira asked the others.
All Kaira knew was that she was in no shape to lead this group. With her injuries, she would be lucky to fight off a fly let alone anything else. It seemed as if their mission was doomed. The Archpriest wondered if the other team would make it where they did not. Rohana grimaced in discomfort as she moved her arm just a fraction of an inch. The pain that shot through made her want to pass out once more, but she fought to stay conscious.
Even with her poor vision, the Sith could clearly see that her injured friend was in no state to move. As for herself, Cassandra could feel the stress of her body though a deluge of fatigue. To be honest, she had no time for adventure as she knew that the group needed rest. As she looked up into the twilight sky, her blindness had eased enough for her to see the odd star in the approaching night sky. It was the perfect setting for serenity, but the consequences of the day hardly made it feel like it.
"Oh my god, get it off me!" Kaira suddenly screamed, making both her companions jump with shock.
A large centipede had crawled its way around the trunk of the tree until its head and half its body was over the Sentinel's chest. Its legs were pressed against her quickly rising torso as she took fast, panicked breaths. As she looked at its curved, mutilated back Kaira wore a look of pure anxiety and fear. Guinevere smirked as she smoothly kicked it off; she was careful enough to simply clip it with the tip of her boot and send it flying to the floor. Cassandra, slightly startled, gasped as she followed its arc. Guinevere glanced at the Sith, saw the Human's distressed expression, and raised an eyebrow in silent inquiry.
"I have seen this type of mutilation before," Cassandra said, "It was back in Plagueis when we attacked Sigil 2. It's Yorik-Coral. Damn, it looks to be infested with the stuff!"
"Are you saying that the Yuuzhan Vong are here?" the Hapan demanded, with her voice raised with concern.
It was the first time they had a chance to stare into the forest around them, and just like on Sigil 2, the wildlife had a reflection of Vong forming. Instead of looking alive and growing however, the coral looked as if it was dying, and the plants weren't green or colorful.
"Err Ladies, did you just forget about me? Or is there something more important out there!?"
Both Human and Hapan glared at Kaira, and it was the first time since the mission began that the Sith squared up to both the Jedi. From the shadows of the trees came a robed figure followed by two wolves; they were built of blackness, exactly like the way an Arconan wraith should be. The wraiths crowded around the Sith's old friend, with the Human-shaped one lifting her to her feet before acting as some type of support for the injured Rollmaster.
"The plan for now, ladies, is moving. We are sitting ducks out here, especially if the Vong are truly here."
"Kaira, how are you holding up?" Guinevere asked as she used the back of her forearm to wipe sweat away from her brow. Even at night, the forest was warm and thick with humidity.
"I'm fine," the woman in question answered, her words just slightly clipped by her lingering injuries and subsequent exertion. She was still propped up by Cassandra's wraith, but her face was pale and waxy whenever a stray moonbeam caught her face.
After getting their bearings and figuring out where the ridge was, the trio of women had walked for hours through the forest's thick foliage. They had found a stream and filled their canteens, and that water, purified by the purification tablets Guinevere had loaded into the Gamera before embarking, had kept them hydrated. They had yet to eat, but the small pack that Guinevere carried held several ration packs.
Eating and drinking was the least of their worries, though. Though the lingering signs of Vongforming were either dead and decayed or close to it, the thought of being confronted by the Yuuzhan Vong was something that set the battered women on edge. Maintaining the edge and alertness for hours was just as draining as trekking through the forest was.
Before Guinevere could resume putting one foot in front the other, a movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. It was just a twitch of the foliage, and a blur caught in the green, white, and black filter that her goggles provided. Had she been at home on New Tython, the Hapan would have thought it was little more than some small night predator. Here, however, Guinevere paused and took her lightsaber's hilt in hand.
"Either of you see anything out of the ordinary?" she called back to the other two woman.
"No," Kaira immediately replied.
Cassandra, her vision nearly back to normal, had been walking rear guard since the three had left the ship. She glanced about her before answering. "No, did you?"
"Not sure," Deschain answered, turning a slow circle while her companions caught up, "I don't sense anything."
Despite having to rely on one of Cassandra's wraiths for support, Kaira still managed to smile in the darkness at the younger Jedi. "If the Yuuzhan Vong really are out here," the Rollmaster said, "You won't sense them coming. I take it you have never fought them?"
"No, I haven't," Guinevere replied, glancing back at Kaira is astonishment. There was a tremor of fear in her voice; the thought of something existing outside of the Force was not new to anyone carrying a lightsaber, but dealing with such creatures was another matter.
Cassandra open her mouth to speak, but a twitch in the brush to her right caught everyone's attention. Lightsabers blazed to life, and the three women drew closer together along with the wraiths.
"I have a bad feeling about this," Guinevere said in a low voice.
Kaira smiled to herself as the Force rippled around the creature that bounded out of the bushes. It was a small rabbit-like creature. All the ladies let out a nervous sigh of relief as they saw the animal and felt tits small Force presence. The wraith that was next to her seemed to still be uneasy. It wasn't until Guinevere turned to look around them that they knew how much trouble they were in.
There behind them stood a voxyn, one of the creatures that the Yuuzhan Vong had bred. This one, however, looked sickly but it was still very dangerous for them all. "Be careful!" Kaira screamed as the creature charged at Guinevere. Despite the woman's superior agility, she only had time to throw up her arms and deflect the leaping attack. The voxyn still her Guinevere hard enough that it threw her off of her feet and onto the uneven ground. The force of the two impacts knocked the goggles off of her face.
Cassandra didn't wait for the Voxyn to turn; she went right after it as it attacked Guinevere. This gave her a shot at its back. "Kaira, distract."
The Archpriest nodded as she turned her saber on. With the help of the Force, she managed to move on her own power but she knew it would not last for more than a few minutes. She charged the Voxyn creature head on, and that seemed to keep its attention away from Cassandra's attack from behind.
It was not long, however, before her ankle gave out from under her weight after only a few steps. This left her vulnerable. The Voxyn saw this and brought its tail around to swipe at Kaira's left side. Just as it was about to hit her, one of Cassandra's wolf wraiths was there. The tail hit the wraith and stunned it, but it gave Kaira enough time to leap away on her good leg and just out of reach of the Voxyn.
In the next instant, Cassandra dismissed the wraiths and sent her saber through the Voxyn tail. The large tail flopped to the ground, and the Sith saw that this creature could be taken down. In pain, the Voxyn screeched with a sonic blast that blasted into the forest next to Guinevere. The Hapan, however, had just scrambled blindly away from the sounds of combat and out of the reach of the creature.
Now that the tail was gone, Cassandra moved to try to kill the Voxyn. If faced her and growled. A bit worse for wear, Guinevere joined the fight. Both women dodged shots of acid spit sent at them, though Deschain could only respond to its body language. It became clear that the already-sick Voxyn was tiring, however. The creature could not keep up with the Jedi's movements. Both woman saw this as a way to make their move. They split up with the Dark Jedi going to the left and the Jedi going to the right. The Voxyn honed in on Cassandra and left its right flank open to the Hapan's attack.
The young Jedi made the most of this opportunity and used the Force to aid her. Suddenly moving with greater speed, Guinevere ripped her lightsaber down through the neck of the Voxyn. The creature had moved just enough that the blow did not kill it right away. As the creature turned away from Cassandra to attack the Jedi, the Sith made her move and stabbed into the left side of the creature.
Kaira smiled as she watched the two women work as a team. On her good foot, she hopped over as the creature dropped to the ground. She sent her own lightsaber though the creature's heart. The final stroke was quick and merciful; Kaira did not want the creature to suffer needlessly.
"Morning is upon us, and we need to move. This place isn't safe, and if there are Vong here, we have just killed their watch dog," Kaira said as she looked at the corpse.
"Anyone see where my goggles are?" Guinevere asked.
On the horizon, the star was just about to rise. They had no idea that they were being watched through the whole battle. They were being studied to understand their skills. The Yuuzhan Vong watching from just outside their view knew it would only be a matter of time before the Force users were as dead as the voxyn.
As the young Battlemaster started to walk away, there was a sudden crack beneath her feet. Almost startling herself as she looked down, Cassandra smirked as her boot stood mighty over the Jedi’s shattered goggles. She even had the guts to push down on her foot harder, as it was like personal rivalry here being a Sith. But after all, that was just her child side coming out to play and as she finally picked them up, the lenses were certainly a wreck.
“Hey Guin, I found your goggles…looks like they got a bit smashed up in the fight, but it’s no harm with the sun coming up”
Whilst calling out to the Jedi, she felt high in herself after throwing the Sentinel’s goggles to her. However, Guinevere was quick to toss them aside, before storming off in her own stuck up attitude.
“Alright love, no need to get your knickers in twist” Cassandra chuckled as she said those words sarcastically.
Kaira was quick to gently slap the Sith on the shoulder to shut her up, but it hardly hit with any strength in her condition. Her old friend whined as she tried to walk again, painfully, she managed to limp her way behind her Jedi companion. The Arconan only longed to at least aide again with her wraiths, but the short incursion and her weakened state had taken them away for now. It didn’t help that she tried to concentrate more on not getting hit by acid, rather than three different individuals. Deciding that it would be best to follow her old friend, Cassandra hoped that Kaira wouldn’t trip over and injure herself anymore. The three companions took off on the trails through the forest again, oblivious to a small non-sentient bug following them.
* * *
They had spent the rest of the morning strolling through the shadows of trees and the dying Vong plant life. With the sun burning in the sky to the point of almost being noon, the three women could feel the heat of day bearing on them. Luckily however, the ridge upon the horizon had gotten much closer, and the trek to the top was a struggle for all of them. It didn’t occur to them until they were out in the open that the whole thing was a huge forming of Yorik-Coral. It was massive; enough to form one of the mighty Vong ships, but it was gray and lifeless.
“Come on Jedi, we should be able to get a distress signal out from here!” The Battlemaster shouted as look down into a valley of trees and wildlife.
“Thank god, some rest at last… seriously, my leg is killing me” Kaira said as she dropped to the floor and stroked her ankle.
Guinevere wanted to reply, but she was stunned as this hideous being approached them from the shadows. It was almost hunched over by a mutilation growing from its back, and its face was pale and skull like. As it grinned, she could see fangs that were stained a bitter yellow, but they still resembled the likes of being blood thirsty. The creature clasped a long snake like spear, with a tip that had a venomous jaw like head.
“Jeedai…it has been quite some time seeing another living soul after being exiled here”
“Stay back you bloody monster”
The Sith stormed in front of the two members of Odan Urr, her saber was already blazing to life with her quick movements.
“I am Shaper Zork tel and you Jeedai, you hurt my forest!”
Standing behind Cassandra's left shoulder, Guinevere took a good look at the first Yuuzhan Vong she had seen in person. He was stooped, and though Deschain's experience with the species was nearly non-existent, she thought he looked old and somehow malnourished. Her lightsaber hummed in her hand like an impatient dog straining at its leash, but the Hapan stayed her hand when a bit of brush on her left shivered.
With a growl, another of the voxyn sprang from the foliage and came to its master's side. For just a second, it prowled the ground before the bent Yuuzhan Vong. It opened its mouth and seemed about to scream, but a fist-sized rock suddenly flew in from the side. The Force-propelled stone slammed into the voxyn's maw and knocked it off balance.
"No you don't!" Kaira said from behind Guinevere.
Angered, the voxyn shook off the blow and charged at its nearest adversary. Cassandra just barely dodged away from the swift beast and got in a quick, shallow slash at its ribs. Guinevere attempted to remove its tail in a mirror image of the earlier battle, but the voxyn swished its tail away from the attack and attempted a stab at Cassandra's thigh. The Sith raised her lightsaber and kept the tail's barb at bay, but its seemingly-random darting movements kept her from mounting an attack.
Meanwhile, Zork Tel rushed forward and swung his amphistaff at Guinevere's back. The living weapon was intercepted a glowing purple blade, and the shaper turned his head to look into the determined green eyes of Kaira Rohana. He smiled into those eyes and twitched one of his hands. In response to that signal, the amphistaff went limp and curved around the Rollmaster's lightsaber. It opened its mouth to snap at her, to rend the flesh of her face.
Unfortunately for the creature and its master, Kaira had sent out a telepathic call to El'Sin. Temporarily leaving Guinevere and the voxyn to duel, Cassandra spun and brought her crimson blade down through the shaper's wrists. His hands severed, Zork could only watched as Kaira powered down her saber and let the coiled amphistaff fall to the ground. While the Sith took a step and punted the fallen weapon down the hill, Kaira reignited her lightsaber and shoved it through the chest of the maimed shaper.
Behind them, the voxyn attempted to swipe its right forepaw at Guinevere's left shin, but the Jedi easily danced away from the attack. She attempted to return the favor and take off its flailing tail, but the voxyn appeared to have learned from the flesh would that Cassandra had scored into its flesh.
"Guin, roll right!" Kaira yelled, and the Jedi did so. Before the voxyn could adjust and continue its attack, Cassandra and Rohana physically hurled the dying Vong's body into the beast. The two extragalactic beings tumbled in a heap, one that the voxyn tried to disentangle itself from, but a red lightsaber and a purple lightsaber impaled it. A blue blade flashed and removed its tail before the beast could lash out in its death throes.
All three stood over the tangle pile, lightsabers in hand, and watched Zork Tel struggle to free himself from the voxyn's corpse. He stared up at the women with undisguised hatred, but Cassandra lashed out with her weapon once more and removed his head. Guinevere and Kaira glanced at the Sith, but she merely shrugged.
"I really don't care what he had to say," Cassandra said, "Now, let's get that signal out."