Author's Note: All recognizable Star Wars characters and concepts belong to George Lucas. The author is making no money or other form of profit from this story (other than enjoying the chance to visit the Star Wars universe).
Many thanks and mounds of chocolate to my beta-reader Kaeli, for proofing this story in less than a month, despite large segments written in "Gunganese". A full Third Mounted Patrol cavalry salute to her!
No Good Deed
By Seldes Katne
Hidden amongst the forest undergrowth, two Gungans watched the company of droids move past.
"There's only the one armed vehicle," the heavyset scout told his companion. "The other two seem to be strictly for transport. Three dozen maccaneeks, with only hand-weapons."
"You're sure they're transporting our people?"
"Yes. They seem to have come across a small group of us, probably from one of the outlying settlements. My guess is that they're taking them to one of the places in which they're also holding the Naaboo." He glanced sideways at the other Gungan, a lean, grey-skinned member of the Otolla race named Tarpals.
Tarpals grimaced. The Naaboo weren't his concern. "They're heading into the Kintar region, aren't they? There's more forest than swamp in that area, if I remember right."
The other nodded. "I think so." He peered thoughtfully at the vehicles skimming the ground a cesta's cast away. "These maccaneeks are pretty far away from any of the areas inhabited by the Naaboo."
"That's all right. We'll use it to our advantage. Let's get the others." The two Gungans carefully eased their way through the forest growth, leaving the transport vehicles behind. A few minutes later they located their kaadu, the two-legged reptilian creatures that served as cavalry animals for the Gungans' Mounted Patrols, and rode to rejoin the rest of Tarpals's temporary command.
Nearly a full eight-days had passed since the invaders had arrived. The Gungans had known about the maccaneeks almost from the moment the first ships had landed. The huge transport vehicles that crashed through the forest, panicking the local wildlife and carving their own roads by pushing over every tree in their path, hadn't exactly been inconspicuous. The first report had been brought in by a most unlikely source -- the exiled Gungan Jar Jar Binks and his two Outsider companions, who were seeking transportation to the Naaboo city of Theed. Although Binks and the Outsiders had been sent on their way almost immediately, the reports of the mechanical army had continued to come in from the outlying settlements and hunting parties. While the army seemed to be concentrating their attention on the Naaboo, the human inhabitants of the planet, the Gungan population grew uneasy.
Tarpals had sent word to his superior officers, General Ceel and General Yoss, and activated the first groups of the Otoh Gunga militia. Every able-bodied Gungan received at least a minimal amount of military training, in preparation for emergencies such as natural disasters or attacks by creatures of the Abyss. Only a small number of Gungans served as career military, most of them as members of the Mounted Patrols. Three of the Patrols were permanently active; Tarpals's own command, the Third, served as the protectors and law enforcement officers of Otoh Gunga, the principle Gungan city, and its closest settlements.
Before the sun set on the first day of the invasion, Gungan scouts had been dispatched to the smaller settlements, carrying the news and beginning the task of alerting military reservists. Patrol members took up posts in the forests surrounding Lake Paonga. Within days of the first sightings of the invaders, a small fleet of underwater vehicles had entered Lake Paonga and struck at the city.
The underwater defenses that kept the large aquatic monsters out of Gungan territory had proven mostly ineffectual. The city's patrols, using artillery mounted on the lake bad and mid-sized bon-gho submarines, had held the invaders long enough to allow most of the populace to flee, and the Ruling Council had gone with them, escorted by most of the professional soldiers. The militiagungs, voluntary part time soldiers, had stayed behind to cover the last of the evacuees. The remainder of Tarpals's command had provided leadership and support. Then, gathering what was left of the defenders, Tarpals had order the final retreat, and the troops had pulled out of Lake Paonga.
At the surface the Gungans had met the larger land vehicles; the battle had given the maccaneeks time to call up reinforcements. The militiagungs had scattered, roughly a third of them meeting the captain at a prearranged rendezvous point; hard on their heels had come the droid army. Familiar with the swamplands, Tarpals had led his group in a strike on the enemy forces, providing a distraction to cover the main evacuation. The maccaneek land vehicles had proven much more susceptible to the Gungans' weapons; the blue energy buumas that could stun and paralyze living creatures apparently destroyed whatever powered the maccaneeks as well. The offensive move had surprised the maccaneeks and shattered their attack. Drawing the remains of the droid army after them, Tarpals's command had retreated into the forest before destroying the few maccaneek scouts that followed. The Gungans had effectively lost their enemies.
Now, nearly two days later, the group was circling back around in the direction of the Sacred Place, but it might be as long as an eight-days before they would be able to rejoin their people. Groups of maccaneeks still searched the forests and swamps for them.
The composition of the Gungan group was another complication. Many of them were militiagungs, with limited military experience. While all of them acknowledged Tarpals as the commanding officer, he knew none of them well. Worse, his second-in-command, Ven Artil, was among the missing. The naamana-rissah was now on his way to the Sacred Place, escorting the last of the Gungan leadership and other civilians. That had been necessary, but unfortunate. Artil served as the heart of the Third; Tarpals knew his people respected him, but they genuinely liked Artil, who had a flair for gaining confidences and working well with others.
Still, morale was good -- there were several extra kaadu, and three of the ungainly but powerful falumpasets, herd animals that looked like a cross between a horse and a dromedary. The group had hidden the light artillery the falumpasets normally pulled, although Tarpals doubted the maccaneeks would even recognize the weapon for what they were. Now the falumpasets served as pack animals.
Running across the maccaneek convoy had been a matter of luck. The scout who had noticed them, an Ankuran Gungan named Peskis, had actually been seeking edibles at the time. Unlike the heavy machinery that had pushed its way through the forest when the army first landed, the convoy had only one light tank, a prisoner transport, and a dozen maccaneeks riding either the transport vehicle or single-droid flyers. Tarpals's group consisted of two dozen mounted riders.
Raiding the convoy would not only free captives and give the Gungans a chance to strike back at the invaders, but would also be a valuable exercise in working together. If the convoy was carrying extra food or other supplies for the captives, so much the better.
The two Gungans rejoined the group, and the remainder of the riders gathered around them. Peskis's dark green armband proclaimed him as a member of the Desna patrol, which covered one of the smaller outlying settlements. Tarpals had never seen him before the emergency rendezvous, but he seemed to be middle-aged, and carried himself with a quiet self-confidence. The Captain assigned him two scouts, one carrying a message horn, and sent him to flank the convoy. The rest of the Gungans rode hard to pass the maccaneeks, and then spread themselves out among the trees ahead of the convoy and waited.
His kaadu crouched amidst a clump of low-growing brush, Tarpals listened as a low moaning sound echoed through the forest. The sound was similar to noises made by several animals, but Tarpals had served long enough in the military to recognize it as a signal horn call. From the notes and pauses, he knew that his three scouts had carefully and quietly destroyed four of the flying escorts. Tarpals glanced to his right; his hands moved in the signs of the chesna-recorr, the hand and finger language used by hunters and soldiers to speak to one another without making a sound. The rider, a Patrol member named Jenais, nodded and urged his kaadu to its feet. Motioning to four of the militiagungs, he led the way forward to set up an attack position from which to swing in and strike the convoy from the front.
The biggest threat was the tank, with its heavier gun. The Gungans hit the convoy from the rear first, concentrating fire on the maccaneeks riding the transports and the flyers. As the cannon swung around to blast the attackers, the second group of attackers swept in from the front; two of the riders leaped from their mounts onto the top of the tank. As one pried at the troop compartment lid, the second tossed a buuma into the narrow slit that served as the view port. With a muffled "flump!" the buuma exploded, and the tank sagged sideways, the cannon falling silent. Within a few minutes, the Gungans had dispatched the remainder of the maccaneeks, and the transports ground to a halt.
For a few moments the newly reformed group exchanged glances and peered at the motionless vehicles cautiously. Then grins and cheers broke out among most of the riders. Some of the veteran patrol members slapped the militiagungs on the backs and shoulders in congratulatory gestures. The first fight had been won.
"Let's get our people out of those things," Tarpals ordered his aide, Rell Iss Tonn. "Call in reserves." Rell Iss blew the "all clear" on his message horn. The two riders left to guard the extra mounts appeared a few minutes later, leading the animals at a run.
The Gungans quickly disposed of the door locks on the transport. A timid Gungan face appeared in the doorway of one transport; upon seeing his rescuers, he turned to the rest of the passengers. "Issen okeyday -- theysa oursan troops!"
"What's with the Bassic?" asked Rell Iss. Tarpals shook his head, equally puzzled. A moment later they got their answer. The newly freed Gungan swung down, followed by four more Gungans -- and then the face of a Naaboo appeared.
In addition to five Gungans, the patrol had rescued nearly a dozen humans – a rather heavy-set older female, a trio of adolescents, and a handful of children.
"Getten everyone outten there," Tarpals instructed his patrol, using the Gungan form of Bassic for the benefit of the humans. Scouts were already rigging saddles for the falumpasets, which could carry three or four small riders. "See if there's anything in those vehicles we can use," Tarpals instructed Peskis in High Gungan; the Ankuran motioned one of his scouts over to help him raid the transport.
Tarpals turned to the human woman, who tilted her head back to look up at him. "Yousan free to go," he told her. "My suggest yousan gettens 'way from here right 'long. The maccaneeks will comen to see what's happ'ned to theysan." He nodded at the wreckage of the convoy.
To his surprise, the woman's face took on a frightened look. "Go? Go where? We're in the middle of the wilderness -- there's no civilization anywhere near. We'll starve before we can reach any of our towns or cities."
Surith Herns, a corporal whose arm bore the dark blue armband of the Kintar settlement, leaned over to another Gungan and laughed. "Is she kidding?" he asked in High Gungan. "It's summer -- you can't go a stone's throw into the forest without tripping over something to eat. How have they survived all this time?"
His companion tilted her head to one side in the Gungan equivalent of a shrug. "Who knows? Maybe their food falls out of the skies and they just have to pick it up and eat it."
"We don't even know where the closest town is," the woman was saying. "Please, for the sake of the children, you have to help us."
"No, we don't," Herns muttered. "You're the ones the maccaneeks want, not us." Rell Iss turned in the saddle and frowned at him; Herns gazed evenly back at him.
Tarpals stared at the human for a moment; then with a jerk of his head, he motioned Herns over. "At one time, the nearest Naaboo settlement was in what they call the Tendesay foothills. Has that changed?"
Herns shook his head. "No, it's still there. They're going to have quite a walk to get there, though -- it's a good three-day ride."
Tarpals nodded, looking thoughtful, and Herns continued. "Captain, we need to get our people to the Sacred Place. This maccaneek army is still searching the woods for us. And the longer we stay here, the more likely it is that their reinforcements will arrive."
"We need to get moving," Tarpals agreed. He waved to Peskis, who trotted his kaadu over to join them. "Get all of the animals saddled. Let's see how many people we can fit on the three falumpasets." Peskis nodded and moved off, calling to his two scouts to help him.
"Captain --" Herns began, but Tarpals cut him off.
"We can't leave the Naaboo stranded here. Even our own children wouldn't survive long under the circumstances."
"If we leave the Naaboo here, the maccaneeks may well be content with rounding them back up," Herns protested. "This army is invading the Naaboo territory. If nothing else, these Naaboo will provide a distraction for the maccaneeks and give us time to get out of the area."
Tarpals looked him squarely in the eye. "I have no more sympathy for the Naaboo than you do, Corporal," here he sighed and shook his head, "but I also can't just ride out of here and leave a group of children behind. They've done nothing to deserve this. We can't abandon them any more than we could a group of our own young." He straightened up in the saddle and switched to Bassic. "Wesan tekkin' yousan as far as Tendesay. Theysa village there. After that, yousan on yoursa own."
The woman looked relieved, but the teen-aged boy's face held an expression of suspicion mixed with disgust. The younger children's faces held everything from excitement to fear. Most of them huddled close to the woman.
Riders pulled the extra kaadu into place, then brought the animals into crouching positions to make mounting them easier. The three Gungan adults each rode one of the animals, two of them sharing the saddle with a Gungan child -- if the children could be made to sit still. Unlike their human counterparts, the young Gungans considered it the height of excitement to be allowed to ride a kaadu. A mounted patrol rider led each of the kaadu -- the animals would allow civilians to ride, but not to steer.
"I think it might be best if I rode one of them," the human woman remarked, indicating the falumpasets. "You could put two of the children on with me." No longer a captive and more certain of at least the immediate future, the woman had taken charge of the human members of the group. She turned to the two adolescent females. "Do either of you know how to ride?"
Both girls nodded. "We can ride gualamas," one said, referring to the lean, horse-like animals that ran in herds in the grasslands and had been domesticated as riding animals for some of the Naboo, "although Yané is a better rider than I am."
"I've ridden tusk-cats, too," the second girl added. She looked dubiously at the falumpaset standing patiently. "But neither of them are this large."
"All right. Each of you take one of the animals. Yané, we'll put you on with two of the children, and Saché, you and Edvic take Melni with you. Do the best you can," the woman said. The adolescent boy seemed displeased with the arrangement, but said nothing.
Falumpasets, being less limber than kaadu, couldn't crouch or kneel to allow a rider to mount. Finally the woman, hampered by her long skirts, climbed up onto the side of one of the transports, stepped onto the animal's bent knee, and pulled herself up and into the saddle. The children were lifted up to her one at a time. Edvic looked as though he were going to protest, but finally followed the woman's example. The two adolescent girls were much more graceful, despite their own long skirts. Yané eyed her outfit critically. "We'll have to do something about this if we're going to spend much time riding."
The two riders who were leading the extra kaadu moved up to flank the falumpasets. Peskis and his fellow scout began handing up bundles to anyone who could help carry them. "Wesa don' know what's in dem, but better wesa tekkin' dem, just in case," Peskis remarked cheerfully. "B'sides, deysa don' need dem ennymore." He nodded to the wreckage of the droids. "Weapons too, Captain?" he asked in High Gungan.
"Yes. We might be able to figure out how to use them later." Tarpals turned to his command. "Herns and Orrin will move out ahead and scout the way for us. Vlenka and Jenais will guard the rear and cover our trail as best they can," he instructed. Then he switched to Bassic. "Wesa goin' to Splitrock. Iffen wesan attacked or sep'rated, Peskis and Orrin tekken the c'villians outten the fighten. Get thems 'way and hidden; wesa find yousan later. The resten ussan will leaden the maccaneeks 'way." He gestured forward. "Wesa goin'."