((AWW I miss Sathik now.))
Demarq shuddered against the splinters of wood that blew past his face, and hugged his knees closer. For the last several hours he'd been here in the forest, squatting in a copse of trees, lost in thought. Eyes, faces, lips crossed his mind's vision and stayed, swirling, bringing back pains that he had kept locked away all this time in Gerba's dungeon. Now that they were back, the haunting resumed. It was only a matter of time before he slipped back into his coma-like state of apathy to block out the pain.
Assuming he lasted much longer, that is. Which, given the small army of droids closing in on his position, guns blazing, was anything but a sure thing.
The droids had appeared a few moments ago, and had been attacked immediately by something lurking in the trees. The creature (it had turned out to be a Mandalorian, armed with a Verpine shattergun) had destroyed three of the ten droids before making a run for it, leaving seven to patrol the area and, inevitably, stumble on Demarq's hiding place. Assuming he was armed (a faulty assumption, but a good one nevertheless), the droids had fired at him from a distance, felling tree after tree in their single-minded attack. They marched forward slowly but inexorably, and it remained to be seen whether they would fell the large tree he was using as cover, or march all the way over to him first.
He still had time. He could survive. But that required motion, and motion required a presence of mind.
Your fault she's dead your Duchess is dead she's gone it's you traitor idiot greedy stupid failed you failed to protect it's over it's done there's nothing you can do nothing left for you just let go let them take you-
Demarq resurfaced from his thoughts and gasped for air, a drowning man breaking the surface of the water. He leaped to his feet, ignoring the faint feeling from the sudden change in altitude. Another shot from the droids sent charred splinters flying past his vision, and his heart skipped a beat. The events he had observed without seeing for the past seconds flowed back to him, and panic rose in his throat.
Calm down, damn you. You've been in tighter scrapes than this.
He had, at that. There was one time a particularly clever rival pirate had gotten his hands on a gravity well projector, and set it up along a trade route commonly used by supply ships headed for the Outer Rim. The Duchess had been ripped out of hyperspace directly in the other ship's line of fire. They would have been done for, if another transport ship hadn't gotten fallen into the same trap and appeared mid-firefight. Demarq had been able to use the new arrival as cover, and its added firepower, though slight, was enough to turn the tables in his favor. He killed the pirate and looted the now-crippled ship that had saved his life. Because hey, free loot.
There was a reason people said Demarq Halloran's luck was sometimes supernatural.
Your luck ran out the second you crossed Gerba. There'll be no transport ship this time. You're a dead man, you just have to realize it.
There was a crack, and time stopped.
Here's what happened.
1) The droids' volley of shots finally succeeded in felling the tree Demarq was standing behind, leaving him completely exposed.
2) The droids registered, in the subroutines inhabiting the back of their positronic brains, that he was unarmed, and therefore not a threat. If they could feel disappointment, they would have.
3) A group of mercenaries, recently entered and spoiling for a fight, stumbled on their one-sided battle, and opened fire on the droids.
The droids turned and faced their new threat that ranked significantly higher than the weaponless pirate standing before them.
For a full second Demarq still thought he was dead. For another second he whooped and hollered inside his own mind about the return of his good luck. In the third second, with the soundtrack of screams from the mercs who clearly did not know what they were getting into, he bolted.
Normally, it would be considered wise to run as far away from the droids as quickly as possible. Demarq, however, looped a bit, running perpendicular to the line of sight the droids had with him and arcing around to run out of the woods. This path brought him by the droids felled initially by the Mandalorian, allowing him to reach down and scoop up a severed arm. Then he booked it, running south and hoping fervently the screams of his saviors didn't stop until he was well out of range.
He didn't stop until he reached the perimeter to the battledome, half-way between the woods he had just exited and the city he was now facing. He saw the turrets train on him, but figured he was safe at his current proximity. He dropped the severed droid arm and slumped to the ground, rubbing his aching legs.
Now that the adrenaline was leaving his system, he felt the waves of despair threaten to engulf him yet again. In protest, he grasped the discarded droid's arm, and caught a glimpse of the wiring that extruded rudely from it.
Any decent pirate has experience with forcibly rewiring electronics. After a ship-to-ship fight has left the pirate's prey crippled, a second battle has to be conducted: the close-quarters fight with the crew, onboard their ship. This is generally the most thrilling part because it gives the opponent a chance to show its claws. The fight is on their terms, on their home turf. They have the most to lose. In all likelihood, they have the greater numbers. For a pirate, it's a fight unlike any other: the opponent has every advantage.
Unfortunately, the majority of shipping ships don't carry an army of space marines with them. Generally there are pilots on the crew, for obvious reasons, and mechanics. Once the pilots have lost in their arena, the more creative mechanics do their best to halt the oncoming pirates with obstacles like locked doors, sabotaged access ports, and the occasional trap. For this reason any effective pirate has to be able to bypass the odd blast door, unless he wants to spend a fortune in explosives.
The droid arm was disturbingly simple to modify. A simple bridge here, a switch fashioned from part of his belt buckle, and Demarq was able to rig a crude trigger. He wanted badly to test it, but dared not to while close to the perimeter turrets. Any discharge of fire would probably make him a target.
More important than the actual making of the weapon, the process of rewiring the appendage kept his mind off the depression that kept insisting to take over. The rational process of mapping the circuits and reattaching the wires suppressed the emotions, cleared his head, and let him think. It was refreshing; for the past day, when he hadn't been lost in a vortex of black feelings, he'd been high on adrenaline and fighting for his life. This moment was blissfully peaceful in comparison.
So now he had a weapon, but he was not a particularly good shot, and his jury-rigged solution was not nearly as good as a simple trigger on a normal gun. With no armor and only second-hand weapons, he wouldn't last a minute in this bloodbath. He needed someone considerably more deadly than he to deal with everything that out there to kill the prisoners in general, and him in particular. He was a captain, and more than anything, he needed a crew.
A smile came to his lips as he remembered his last few hours in Gerba's prison. He had witnessed several fights, and only one individual he had seen had gotten out alive. He recalled with morbid pleasure the brutal death by cell-door-slamming that had sprayed him with blood that still covered his clothes now. He wasn't normally such a sadist, but this had implications that made him grin despite the mess.
The loser had been a Whipid with a vibroaxe; the winner, an unarmed Trandoshan named Nossk. Neither had noticed Demarq sitting in the corner of the cell, lost in his personal pit of despair, but his unseeing eyes had recorded it all.
Step one in screw-building: get the biggest, baddest, stupidest hulk you can find, and make him yours. Amazing what a little brute force does for potential converts, not to mention your own survival.
This Trandoshan was exactly what he needed. Of course, there was no guarantee the brute would still be alive, but something in his gut just told him he was. Demarq had learned a long time ago to trust that feeling.
A roar broke the relative silence about him, a gurgling, hissing sound that was clearly from some kind of humanoid, yet had to have bestial origins. Demarq's smile widened further (had there been any observers, he surely would have been taken to be a crazy man. Though, hey, given his recent mental track record, who's to say he wasn't?); his quarry was alive, and better yet, in the nearby city.
Shouldering the modified droid arm and feeling a surge of confidence well up from inside him, the pirate set off to attempt to bring the most fearsome creature he had ever met into an less-than advantageous alliance in a free-for-all bloodbath. Despite the odds, he couldn't get the smile off his face.
I'm back, baby! Legendary space pirate Demarq Halloran's epic rise from the ashes begins now; this'll be a day the galaxy remembers!
((So yeah, Scifi, I'm comin' for you. best be ready, foo.))
GPI: Fondly regard crustacean