"Get up, son. It’s time to go."
“Yes, buir,” replied T’jark sleepily.
Today was the day. Today would be the start of T’jark’s life as a true warrior. No longer would he be a ge’verd, little warrior. He would go to his first battle, with his father, just as his father had done before him. It was the same for all his forefathers when they were eight years old. And now that he was eight it was his turn. He would be a warrior, but he was a Mandalorian.
His father. Bereelial Barlara. He wanted so much to make his father proud. His father was a great man, a strong man, a man who loved him and taught him all that he knew. None the less, he expected perfection. He was the greatest warrior the Barlara clan had ever known. T’jark had always tried to reach the expectations of his father, but rarely achieved them, despite his hard work. And because of that, he had failed himself. He had to be the best. He had to be as good as his buir. He would not, could not, accept any less.
T’jark began training three years ago…
“Get up son,” called Bereelial.
“Yes, buir,” answered T’jark, who just the day before was a tender four years old.
“It’s your birthday today isn’t it, son?” asked Bereelial questioningly.
“Yes, buir. You know it is”
“Of course I do, ad’ika. Are you ready?”
“Ready? Ready for what father?”
“Learn what father?
“To learn how to think, how to fight, to shoot, to react, tactics and movement. How to be a warrior. You have to know how to survive. Especially now, son, with the war going on.” Replied Bereelial sharply. He didn’t like many questions.
“Oh. Yes, buir,” replied T’jark. He wasn’t quite sure he knew what buir was talking about, but he had always wanted to be a warrior. To be like [/I]jatne’buir, Bereelial. Everyone loved buir. He was the best and T’jark knew it. He also knew that his father was just as good as the mand’alor, Jaster Mereel, even though the lad had never seen him. War was here though. T’jark had heard about the Death Watch. They were a group of mandalorians who wanted to be bad, as far as T’jark could understand. He didn’t know why they were fighting their brothers; all mandalorians were brothers. Why couldn’t they just be like buir? Everyone wanted to be like buir.[/FONT][/COLOR][/SIZE]
[FONT=Calibri]“Hurry up, son!” Shouted Bereelial from outside. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Yes, buir!” Cried T’jark, as he hurriedly got dressed. Today would be fun. Today, he would learn to be like daddy. Today, he would learn to be the best of the best…[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“C’mon, son. I have a present for you,” called Bereelial.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Coming father!” [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]The thought occurred to T’jark that it must be his beskar’gam, his mandalorian armor, crafted from a special metal that only mandalorians knew how to forge, beskar was nearly indestructible. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]What else could it be? thought T’jark. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Especially considering what day it was. T’jark hurried into the main room of his house. He lived in a simple home with his father. They had nothing fancy or grand, just things that were efficient and useful. His mother had died many years ago. T’jark didn’t even know how she died. Bereelial didn’t talk about it. He had asked once.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Buir? What happened to momma?” [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]It was the only time he had ever seen his father cry. Bereelial didn’t answer. T’jark decided it must have been terrible. He didn’t think about it either. It was too hard and painful, all the horrible things that could have happened to her. Besides, he hardly knew his mother, and having such a great father, sometimes, he even forgot he had a mother.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Alright, son, we have to hurry. We have to meet up with the rest of the mando’ade that are going before they leave,” said Bereelial. T’jark sensed a kind of excitement in his father, something he rarely saw in him. He saw it sometimes when he went stalking the beasts of Mandalore out in the wilderness. T’jark loved the hunt. He was an excellent stalker and a master at remaining unseen while hunting, even at times surprising his father with his ability for stealth. It happened to be one of few things in which he met his father’s expectations, surpassed them in fact. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]His father removed a plastoid container from behind his chair. T’jark had known it was there of course, it wasn’t much of a hiding spot and T’jark was exceptionally observant. But Bereelial had known that T’jark would never try and peek at its contents. Ba’buir would know, as he always knew, and the wrath that T’jark would face would have no bounds, he knew that as well. T’jark learned discipline early in his training.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Push. Now!” Shouted Bereelial.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] T’jark had failed yet again to accomplish his objective. He’d failed so many times now, he wasn’t even sure what he was trying to accomplish. T’jark dropped down and started doing push-ups. His arms ached. He’d done more push-ups than he could count, more push-ups than he thought he could ever do. He fell down exhausted.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Get up!” yelled Bereelial. “Get up and finish!”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]He couldn’t, he couldn’t fail again. He pushed. He pushed so hard he thought his arms would implode.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Down! Up! Push up! You’re not done yet!” Screamed Bereelial.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark was about to collapse he could feel it. He pushed. He pushed as hard as he could. He wasn’t moving. He could feel his arms shaking, feel the muscles and sinews pulling and tearing. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark collapsed. He inhaled sharply. He hadn’t been breathing. He let the tears of pain roll from his eyes.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“That’s enough, ad’ika,” his father whispered. Bereelial bent low and lifted T’jark into his arms, cradling him like the young child he was. “You did good, son, you did good.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark left his thoughts and returned to the here and now. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Open it, ad’ika,” whispered Bereelial.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Bereelial only ever called him ad’ike when he wanted T’jark to know something. T’jark now knew what it was. He figured it out that painful day only a few years ago. His father called him ad’ika when he wanted to say, I love you. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Thank you, buir,” said T’jark. Bereelial really was the best father.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark reached down to lift the lid from the container to see the gift his father had given him. The low light pierced the darkness of the container and revealed the solemn face that he had seen his father don on many occasions. A mandalorian war helmet. His mandalorian war helmet, to be precise. That familiar T-visor had a peculiar way of capturing every emotion, from anger, to sadness.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“I painted it with the color scheme that you always drew, on the pictures of you in armor,” said Bereelial quietly. “The rest of your armor is in there as well.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark stared in awe.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]It was green. A flat olive drab accented with red and silver and a touch of gold. The helmet was beautiful. More beautiful than anything that T’jark remembered in his short life. It was magnificent. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Put it on, son,” said Bereelial ever quieter. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark had never seen his father this way before. He didn’t know what to think. He took his helmet in both hands, in that ritual that he’d watched his father perform ever since he could remember. As he lowered it over his head, the emotion he felt was nothing like he’d ever felt before. He felt suddenly powerful, excited, and revitalized. Just before the lip passed over his eyes, he looked sideways at his father, and somehow thought he saw a single tear roll down his father’s cheek. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]The helmet was dark for a moment. And then, it burst into light. Scrolling images and information filed and loaded in front of him. He had used simulators before, that showed what a heads up display looked like and how it worked, but this was still different. This was real. T’jark looked over at his father. He looked as stern and composed as he always did; the tear must have been a figment of his imagination and he didn’t know why he would have imagined that.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“It looks good. How does it feel, ad’ika?” questioned Bereelial.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“It feels amazing, buir. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, besides your verpine rifles, of course.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]His father let out a booming laugh, “Good to know, son. I’m proud of you, ad’ika.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Now that felt good. T’jark felt himself burst with pride. His father rarely gave out compliments, so his father being proud of him, was a dream come true.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Alright, quit dawdling,” said Bereelial. “Get changed and let’s go.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] T’jark ran back to his room and got changed as quickly as possible. The armor was perfect. It fit like nothing else and had a weight to it that gave courage to men at the thought of the protection it offered. He ran back to the main room and saw his father waiting in the doorway, now dressed in his beskar’gam too. His father’s armor was peculiar. It was made from beskar that had a distinctive bronze color and his father decided not to paint it at all. It was an intimidating sight. “You look like Death itself, ad’ike.” T’jark let a huge smile cross his face. His father was in a good mood today. That was the second compliment this morning.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] They reached the spaceport at Keldabe a little ahead of schedule, so Bereelial took T’jark into town to get a treat. They walked up to a little store at the end of a crowded street and strolled in. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Bereelial, you chakkar, why don’t you visit anymore?” asked the store owner sternly, bending over the counter. She was a taller woman, with braided blonde hair, sharp chin, and high cheek bones. She wore silvery purple leg armor and a brown sleeveless tunic.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“She’va, su’cuy gar?” asked Bereelial, crooked smile appearing on his face. T’jark knew that his father liked She’va and he was pretty certain that she liked him too. Why didn’t they just get together? He didn’t understand. They were good for each other. She’va’s playful banter put Bereelial in a good mood and Bereelial’s restrained nature kept She’va from getting too rambunctious. They were always happy when T’jark saw them together. “Just stopping in to get a little something for the boy here.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“You mean you didn’t come all the way to Keldabe just to see me?” She’va asked, feigning offense, melodramatically placing her hand against her chest and letting out a little whimper, winking at T’jark. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“All right, She’va, you win. Give the lad some uj cake and I’ll come over there and show you how much I’ve missed you.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Father really was in a good mood. He must be excited for the job ahead. She’va brought out the cake and punched Bereelial in the arm, making him chuckle and shove her back, almost spilling the contents of the plate.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]The cake was delicious, sticky and sweet. It sat heavily on your tongue and left you feeling satisfied and happy. His father and She’va sat talking quietly in the corner. T’jark had no idea what they were talking about. Probably about the job they were about to do. A few minutes later Bereelial came over to get T’jark. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Alright, son, time to go.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Hey, T’jark!” called She’va. “Good luck, and look after your old man will you?”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark laughed and said,” Ok, She’va, I will.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Good. Good bye, Bereelial,” cooed She’va.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Bereelial didn’t answer. He just shook his head with a false frown on his face and mock disapproving.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Bereelial and T’jark walked back to the speeder. “I want to marry her when we come back.” Bereelial looked at T’jark. “Is that ok with you?”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Of course it is!” shouted T’jark, genuinely pleased. He’d been hoping they would get married for a while now. Bereelial was defiantly ba’buir and T’jark wasn’t sure he actually needed a mother, but he thought that his father might need a wife. He really liked She’va too. She was always good to them.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] There were a lot more mando’ade at the platform when they arrived. Most all of them with their beskar painted with the new ranking colors and patterns of Mandalorian Protectors and Super-commandos, during this time of war. Most of these he did not recognize. T’jark had recognized a few of the other mandalorians though, a couple of them were Bereelial’s buddies and men he’d worked with before. He didn’t really know them, so when Bereelial went off to meet them he didn’t mind. He was watching his father greet his friends by grasping them firmly by the forearms, a traditional handshake among mando’ade, when an intimidating armored figure stepped in front of him.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Su’cuy ge’verd,” greeted the masked warrior.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Hello, sir,” replied T’jark.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“You’re a little young aren’t you?”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“No, sir. I’m eight years and here with my buir.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“You are, are you?” asked the man in the gray armor, highlighted with a red very similar to his own, sounding slightly amused. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Yes, sir, and my father is Bereelial,” said T’jark, anything but amused.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Is he now? Your father is a great warrior. He’ll be indispensable during this operation,” stated the man in the gray and red.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“He’s the best,” T’jark said flatly, “Better than the mand’alor,” he said, full of unassailable pride in his father’s reputation.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]The man in the gray and red armor chuckled quietly, almost to himself, “I’m sure he is ad’ika.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]And then the man strode off, red cape bobbing with each step, flanked by a monstrous man in the same gray armor, but accented with blue. Bereelial headed back towards T’jark.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Ol’ Jaster didn’t try to recruit you into the Protectors did he?” asked Bereelial humorously.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark gaped. He couldn’t believe what he had just said. And he had said it to the mand’alor. Well at least now he knew.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“It’s alright, son. He’s a good guy,” laughed Bereelial.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] His father was a mercenary, hired by Jaster, to help in the operation on Korda 6. T’jark went to the briefing room, but couldn’t hear or see anything while Jaster and Montross, his second, the man in gray and blue armor, gave the operational procedures. He’d be with buir anyways. It sounded fairly simple from what his father explained to him. They were going to Korda 6 on a rescue mission, where some troops were stranded by local forces who were trying to take over or something like that, he wasn’t sure on the exact details. They’d be inserted near the rendezvous point to rescue the soldiers, by way of Meteor-class drop ships that were produced by Madalmotors. As T’jark looked at it, he decided it was a rather ugly ship, in fact, he thought most of the mandalorian ships were ugly. Bereelial assured him that these drop ships have served the mandalorians well for many years and that he should be proud to be using the same ships that his grandfather’s father used to fly. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] T’jark was sitting in his quarters with his father, watching him clean his rifle. It was a beautiful thing, his father’s verpine rifle. T’jark loved it. His father let him use it when they went hunting. It was impressive, sleek, and deadly. It was almost more a piece of art than a weapon. T’jark preferred them to blasters, which weren’t very stealthy. His father also carried a saber. The saber stood in stark contrast to Bereelial’s verpine rifle. The bes’kad was brutal, savage, and unappealing. Bereelial was a master with his saber and won quite a few tournaments for it. T’jark liked knives more than swords. His father had given him a beskar knife for his sixth birthday, and taught him to fight with it. T’jark had become very adept at knife fighting and rivaled his father within a few years.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Son, I want you to use one of my rifles today. It’s your first battle and you’ve always been better with the verpines than blasters. Plus, you’re my son, and you’ll have the best that I can give you,” said Bereelial suddenly.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Yes, son. You need to be able to perform your best.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“I’ll take care of it, I promise,” said T’jark.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Bereelial grinned, “I know you will ad’ika.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] T’jark sat back supremely satisfied. His father had given him his beskar’gam, two compliments, told him he wanted to get married, and now was letting him use his verpine rifle for his first battle. This truly was the best day of T’jark’s life.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] “Get up, son. It’s time to go.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark had drifted off to sleep during the hyperspace travel. He’d been in hyperspace very few times, but it always seemed to make him very sleepy. Maybe it was because time and space seemed to get all mixed up. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]They had just left hyperspace and were orbiting Korda 6. It wouldn’t be long now. They’d get together with their company leaders and load into the drop ships. T’jark decided that he’d just follow jatne’buir, it’s not like they were going to be separated anyways. Where ever Bereelial went T’jark would go too.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]They boarding sirens sounded and Bereelial and T’jark headed towards the hanger bay. They were assigned to Montross , Vertigo Squad, since they were to be the strike force. Bereelial was the best of the best so he had been placed with them, and since T’jark went where ever Bereelial went, he was going too. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark felt the adrenaline begin to rise. It was a familiar sensation that started icy cold in his extremities and grew hot as it reached his core. He felt more alert and ready to fight. They began boarding. He sat down next to Bereelial and another warrior T’jark didn’t know sat next to him.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Strap yourself in, son,” said Bereelial calmly.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Bereelial was always calmest right before the fighting started. T’jark was feeling slightly on edge, considering that he was about to go into a battle, which was something that he’d never done before.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“It’s alright, ad’ika. Just breathe. It’ll be ok, you’ll do fine,” Bereelial reassured him.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]The ship was silent. Nobody talked and nobody moved. The silence was unnerving, but then T’jark began to take long deep breaths, and he slowly began to relax. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] The engines began to whine as the ship shuddered as it entered atmosphere. Soon, they’d be on the ground, hopefully the fight would go smoothly. Intelligence said that the locals weren’t heavily armed, so T’jark hoped that he’d be able to make it through without getting hurt or something. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]All of the sudden the ship was hit by something, anti-air fire, and it sent a tremor through the ship. He heard a few shouts coming from the pilots in the cockpit and then the warning alarm sounded.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]They were going to crash. He felt the ship begin to accelerate as it started to fall. They were falling.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]No, no, no, thought T’jark. This can’t be happening.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]He reached out and grabbed his father’s hand. Bereelial said nothing, just squeezed it tight. T’jark felt himself panicking. They were going to crash and there was nothing anyone could do about it. There was more shouting from the pilots. T’jark readied himself for the crash as the pilots yelled, “Brace yourselves!” T’jark squeezed Bereelial’s hand even harder. A new alarm sounded announcing that they were approaching the ground too rapidly.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark was suddenly slammed sideways into the mandalorian next to him and felt his father’s weight slam into him on the other side. They were being shaken inside the bay the way a strill shakes its prey in its mammoth jaws. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark felt so helpless and so scared. He had no idea how they had survived from falling so high. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Move, move, move!” shouted the deck officer as soon as the bay doors opened. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]A hail of blaster fire ripped into the first few mandalorians who disembarked. Bereelial grabbed T’jark and ran. As they ran past their falling comrades, T’jark could hear the sizzling and popping of the superheated armor and he ran faster. Beskar might never shatter, but if it took too much fire, the heat from the blaster bolts could cook it until it seared through flesh.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]They jumped into a trench that was not far from where they had crashed. It was only then that T’jark noticed all the shouting in his helmet comlink. He had drowned it out, being so scared that all he could think about was running. Now he heard shouts of officers giving orders and men shouting positions and enemy troop strengths. They were also reporting casualties. I wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be easy. In and out, and back home by tomorrow.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]He heard his father’s voice and turned to look for him.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]He was standing ten meters off returning fire to an enemy emplacement on a ridge overlooking their position. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“T’jark! Get over here and fire on this bunker!” his father shouted[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark ran over and began to fire with his father’s verpine. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]He lined up an enemy firing a heavy repeating blaster at a group of mandalorians, and fired.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]He watched through his scope as the enemy soldier’s head snapped back making him faire wildly as he fell.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]It was only then when he noticed who or what they were actually fighting. They were hominoids, about two meters tall, a simian species, with black and brown fur. He saw another and fired, and another. There were a lot more of them than anyone guessed there would be. He stopped to reload.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“T’jark!” his father shouted, “It’s time to go, son.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Yes, buir!” cried T’jark.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]With that, Bereelial scrambled over the embankment and rushed towards the enemy emplacement, laser fire spilling out from every side, zipping through the air, waiting to disperse its energy into waiting flesh and metal. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri] T’jark could see other mandalorians from Vertigo Squad, who had jet packs, begin an aerial assault on the emplacement.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]They were running up the hill now, firing in every direction, at anything that even looked like it had a weapon. There was no time for second guesses now. This mission had gone horribly wrong. They were fighting now for their own selves. Word had come down that this was a trap. An ambush set up by the Death Watch.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]An explosion up ahead caught T’jark’s attention for a fraction of a second.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Grenade!” Bereelial shouted.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]T’jark flung himself to the ground and covered his head when a deafening blast shook him.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]He couldn’t hear right and the shock had disoriented. He saw movement to his left and shot, falling backwards to the ground. He hit the ground hard. T’jark looked to his right before attempting to get up and cried out when he saw the visor of a mandalorian warrior staring over at him.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]It was familiar. It was blackened by an explosion, but T’jark recognized the bronze helmet.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Buir? Buir!? Father!” screamed T’jark. [/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]He rushed up to aid his father. How did this happen? This can’t be happening.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Father, father, answer me!” he cried.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Bereelial said nothing, he lay motionless, perfectly still, body crumpled like a rag doll that had been thrown across a room. T‘jark felt a lump rising in his throat. He was going to vomit. He tore off his helmet and began to heave. He knelt down and looked back at his father’s ragged body.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]“Help! Help, please!” shouted T’jark. It can’t be this way. This can’t be happening.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]No one came. They had called off the assault. No one would come to rescue them.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Then he saw movement somewhere behind him. He turned his head to see several figures dressed in mandalorian armor. [/FONT]
Thank the gods of Mandalore, “Help us please!”
The soldiers drew closer and T’jark noticed that their helmets were different. They were strange, like none he’d ever seen any mandalorian wear. Death Watch. T’jark grabbed the weapon closest to him, his father’s bes’kad, and his helmet, and stood to defend ba’buir. As the Death Watch came closer, they raised their weapons.
“Put down the saber, kid,” called one of the soldiers.
“No,” threatened T’jark. “I am my father’s son. I am a warrior like my father before me, and I will not give in.”
The soldiers surrounded him. Weapons, not aimed to kill, T’jark noticed. They wanted to take him alive, because they thought they could. They would sell him or use him as a slave, T’jark knew. They began circling him, taunting him. In a burst of speed T’jark lashed out with his father’s saber. He swung frantically, with an animal intensity that increased his strength and speed. The saber caught one man in the helmet with a loud shearing noise. The blade could cut through metal like it could through a sheet of flimsi. The others jumped at him. T’jark rolled clear brining up the saber again in an upward swing, catching another soldier in the chest; he left the saber there, in the man’s breast hoping that he would die slowly and painfully. He sprinted off into the woods, the other soldiers racing behind. The battle seemed to have ended as quickly as it began, and now, the whole moon seemed to be empty. T’jark led his pursuers farther into the forest. As he ran he thought of his fallen father, the once proud warrior, his beloved ba’buir, and let himself be engulfed with hate. Hate for those who had lead his father to his doom. Hate for the pain and heartbreak that T’jark must endure alone, stranded on this moon. Hate for those who threatened to take away his honor and proud ancestry, to turn him into a slave. He loathed the Death Watch, and all those who would bear its ideals. He would have his revenge upon those who had taken from him his only strength, and left him with nothing. He would start with these soldiers seven soldiers, including the two he had recently dispatched.
He was stalking them. They followed him through the forest for around an hour, and he had gotten them completely lost. T’jark wasn’t sure why they had been willing to spend so much energy to track him down. He didn’t care. It didn’t matter. All that mattered now was survival. The Death Watch soldiers that had been chasing him now seemed to have finally given up, after having decided they were hopelessly lost. They weren’t very good at avoiding observation. Neither were they skilled at evasion. T’jark pondered for a moment at why he felt like this was his ground. They were the ones who were the occupying force, but T’jark felt that they were the ones in enemy territory. He was on the hunt. Ready to kill, as easily as he had killed the beasts of Mandalore with his buir. But Bereelial wasn’t here.
Nor would he ever be there again.
T’jark pushed the thought aside as he noticed that one of the soldiers had fallen a little behind and out of the sight of his comrades. From his observation point about fifty meters from his targets and up a tree, he decided to move in for the first kill. The terrain was mostly flat in the heavily wooded forest, with many large bushes and small trees, but was lacking in underbrush. This would make it both easier in ways and harder in others. Large bushes were easy to conceal one’s self in, but the lack of underbrush made it particularly hard to move around in unnoticed. But the lack of underbrush made it much easier to move silently through the forest. The sun was setting. That would make it even easier. Dusk was one of the easiest times to stalk. The sunlight glanced off plants and stones in strange ways, making it much easier to blend in with your surroundings. And soon, it would be dark. The best time to hunt humans. He scampered down the tree dropping the last meter or so behind a bush. He flanked around keeping the sun to his back, so that he would be harder to spot. The sun would cast larger shadows if he stood or got too close to his enemy, so he kept low and close to other objects that would catch his shadow. The soldier walked nonchalantly along, most likely talking to his buddies on the comlink, but maybe not. He could be alone in that helmet of his, comlink off, satisfied to know that his mates were only a few meters away.
That would be grand, thought T’jark.
He didn’t want to alert them all to the fact that something was fallowing them. He wanted to kill them one by one. It was personal, so he was going to make it personal. He was close to the soldier now. The man’s armor was purple and green; he had a blaster slung across his back and one at his side. He had stopped at was rummaging through his pockets, looking for something. He pulled something out of one and took off his helmet.
It must be food, thought T’jark.
It was the man took a bite and sighed. He rolled his shoulders and stretched, clearly oblivious to the danger that waited only ten meters off. The man had black or dark brown hair, shorn close to his head in a simple buzz cut. His skin was tanned and weathered. T’jark decided that he was close to the age of his father, late thirties. The man began walking again, strolling casually as he ate. T’jark crept ever closer.
How should I kill him? Thought T’jark.
It would be difficult to get much closer without being spotted, and he didn’t have his father’s verpine, he had dropped it at his father’s side. There were quite a few long, relatively straight sticks on some of the smaller trees.
His father taught him how to use one, both for hand-to-hand and short range throwing. T’jark liked the more primitive weapons. They took strength and speed, agility and knowhow. Anyone could use a blaster. He made his way over to the straightest one he could see, one with good length as well, and sliced it off with his beskar knife. It had a good weight to it.
He moved behind a large bush and began stripping the bark in thin strips from off the branch. He used them to tie his knife to one end. He began to stalk again, luckily the man hadn’t gone too far, he had replaced his helmet and stopped to relieve himself. T’jark used this opportunity to move closer. He was maybe ten meters from him now. He would not dishonor himself by killing him in a moment like that. T’jark crept closer, hurrying a little so as to get as close as possible using this new cover. He was close now, only five meters off. The man stopped and began to put his belts and armor back on. He had to strike now. He poised himself to throw. He leaned back on his right foot and threw with his whole body, aimed at the man’s back. A second of after the spear left his had he bolted towards the man, ready to finish him off. The spear struck home. No sound issued from the helmet of the soldier.
At least his mates wouldn’t hear him that way.
The man fell on his side, hands cupped open around the blade protruding from his stomach, in a weird way, and it looked as if he was offering it back to T’jark. T’jark accepted this offering, snapped the knife off the shaft and shoved it into the soft area under the man’s helmet. He didn’t move. Blood was running down T’jark’s gloves. He relished it. He relished the justice, he relished the vengeance. He let his hate consume him once again as he began to track the rest of his prey, moving back into the woodland as the sun went down over the far way mountains.
The four other members of the Death Watch squad had finally noticed their missing member about fifteen minutes later. Pretty poor awareness, decided T’jark. They had doubled back to look for him long after T’jark had pulled back to his previous observation point. He had pulled the shaft out of the body, cleaned it up, and shoved it into a large bush. It was totally dark now, except for the numerous stars. T’jark was watching them through his heat sensitive macro binoculars. He’d grown used to using them. His father had taught him to use them while hunting back home. They were no longer a challenge to use at night. T’jark took a moment to take in his surroundings. There weren’t as many life forms as he’d expected. The battle earlier must have caused them to steer clear of the area for the night, but there were still a few birds around, or something. It is still difficult to tell species through heat signatures, especially if you weren’t familiar with that locations indigenous species, but you could tell their genus and basic anatomy from it. A nice bright white where the most heat exudes from, usually the organs, and red for the parts having the most blood vessels in them. Reptiles always appeared slightly darker. They were milling around apparently looking to find out what had killed him. They began to spread out to search the immediate area.
Here we go, thought T’jark.
They would be much easier to take one by one. He would have to kill them quickly and silently. That’s what he was best at. He waited for the soldier coming his way to get closer to his position before climbing down out of his tree. Luckily, they were using spotlights. Visible light deadened your night vision substantially, leaving the areas outside of the light’s beam impossibly black. And not being able to see around yourself made you scared, especially when one of your mates just got killed without you knowing. The soldier crept closer. He was scared. T’jark could tell by the way he was franticly pointing the light. T’jark watched him come closer, not but five meters away. T’jark quietly moved up to a large tree that would conceal his outline, directly in the path of the soldier. You tended not to notice things coming straight at you. It’s a sub-conscious thing. T’jark wasn’t sure why. Maybe it didn’t make sense to the animal part of hominoid brains considering the way that most predatory animals hunt by circling their prey. T’jark could hear the footsteps getting louder. His adrenaline began to seep back into his muscles and brain, alerting him to the closing threat. T’jark crouched, concealing himself more between the large roots. There was a crack of twigs. A shuffle of leaves. Silence. He man had stopped directly next to the tree T’jark was hiding behind. T’jark switched off his heat visor and watched the light beam travel across the surrounding trees. It stopped on a bush right past T’jark. The man walked slowly towards the bush. He must have noticed something in the bushes. He stepped past T’jark. His heart was racing. The man walked a meter past T’jark and stopped in front of the bush. T’jark watched him peering into it, trying to see what it concealed. T’jark stood, silently. An explosion of movement made the man jump.
“Osik! Shabla birds,” cursed the man.
At that moment, the moment when one is most distracted, after it appeared that the danger had passed, T’jark struck. T’jark shoved his knife up into the man’s left armpit, blade slashing through the major arteries, and then ripped the knife out and rammed it into the man’s back, twisting it into the spinal column, making the man collapse. The man gasped only once during the attack. He would die slowly, bleeding out from the lacerated arteries. T’jark couldn’t have him screaming as he would be sure to do, so he knelt over the body, pressed his knife to the man’s larynx and shoved. There was a gurgling noise as the man began to choke on blood. T’jark turned off the man’s spot light and retreated to begin hunting his next target.
T’jark moved as quickly as possible without making much noise to hunt down the rest of his prey. There were only three left and they would certainly regroup after the last casualty. The man in front of him was listening to his comlink, weapon lowered, unaware of the present danger. T’jark watched and waited for the man to move out, but he stood his ground, waiting.
Maybe he’s the squad leader and the rest of them are coming to him.
That would be fine. He could use him as a distraction to catch the other two. This would probably be the simplest kill, but the most difficult to pull off. There weren’t very many bushes close to the man, other than the lone tree he was standing under, the closest one about eight meters off. T’jark would have to rush him from behind or the side to take him out. T’jark crept up to the closest bush. The man was still talking on his comm, probably yelling at his troops to hurry up, that he didn’t want to stick around. T’jark positioned himself off to the man’s left, preparing to charge him. He waited for the man to respond to the next message. He began pointing a finger at the ground in a clear get-over-here-now gesture, and T’jark exploded forward. The man was still gesturing when T’jark rammed his blade across the man’s trachea. He didn’t stop running. He practically ran up the tree the man was standing under. He hurried higher into the branches. The man was thrashing, trying to breath, trying to scream, as his comrades came running to the scene. One man jumped down to administer first-aid, but it was defiantly too late. Cutting through the trachea didn’t leave much to be mended. The other man stood on the opposite side, watching. They were standing directly under T’jark now. The soldier trying to administer first-aid pulled off his helmet and shouted for the other man to give him some light. T’jark leaned over the crouched man, determined the distance and fell from the tree like a shriek-hawk, stretching forth his talons to administer death to those below. He landed on the crouched man’s shoulders which drove him into the ground, and in the same movement, leapt across the dying man to the other soldier too startled to react, and shoved his knife downward into the man’s neck. It stuck there. T’jark tugged it free, turned back around, and felt a strong impact against the back of his head. He went tumbling, falling on his face. He rolled over to jump up and felt a searing pain in his stomach. Burning. He felt like he was on fire. The pain was excruciating, like nothing he’d ever felt. He felt himself grow weak, unable to move. Unable to fight. He grew faint, dark clouds filling his mind. He saw the soldier stand over him. And he was gone. T’jark drifted into nothingness, broken and alone.
or? or? :thumbupor? or?