Disclaimer: It all belongs to George Lucas, I'm just allowing George the Leprechaun (my muse) to play in his sandbox
Title: Coward's Honor
Characters: Flynn (OC)
Summary: Quotation Roulette Challenge Viggie for Quote #149 - Cowards die many times before their deaths; / The valiant never taste of death but once. -- William Shakespeare (challenge issued at Flynn is an OC of mine from my "From Scratch" series about Jacen and Tenel Ka - this is a little viggie about what helped make Flynn who he is.
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
-- William Shakespeare
The sun disappeared now, with the coming of the night. No longer did orbital mirrors bring the far off rays to the planet's surface. No longer did those same mirrors help regulate the surface temperature. They were gone. Gone like the city that once graced the surface of Coruscant. Gone, like the name of the planet that was being changed.
He'd heard the name spoken in whispers only. Mostly among the shamed ones that had come to join the clans. Some of those shamed ones even spoke of their lives before they'd joined the humans. The stories they told were chilling. Tales of horror, or abuse and intimidation. Stories of unwilling sacrifice, of classes split by strength and greed.
Stories of death.
Death of loved ones, of a way of life and mostly, of hope.
To live with the Yuuzhan Vong shapers and warriors was to invite death. A dishonorable death that shamed the families and cast those who lost favor into hardship. A death without purpose, without pride and mostly, without renown. Regardless of their caste, the Yuuzhan Vong shamed ones did not desire death any more than a Wookie desires slavery. It was simply a fact of their existence and one they didn't feel they could change.
In the crumbling underbelly of the once proud planet, a young boy was growing into a man. A man who's head had been filled with stories of cruelties, deceptions and lies. A man who had watched the planet die, only to be reborn in an un-natural state. The planet was now a living thing, directed by a brain cultured by an alien race for no other reason than to make the planet more hospitable. But less habitable for the planet's indigenous creatures and cultures.
Gone were the sky scrapers that reached hundreds of stories into the air. In their place, trees and vines climbed wrecked walls. Water flowed into huge crevices, drowning those caught unaware. Moss and grass, unlike anything ever seen in the recorded memory of the planet, grew on every surface. Some plants were hostile, capturing those first cautious parties to investigate them.
But the boy learned quickly. He learned that the world he'd known was gone. Destroyed by aliens. A once proud metropolis was now reduced to rubble.
Yet, he didn't care. Gone were the streets where he'd scrounged and fought for scraps. Now, the strong survived. Banded together, the survivors of all races scrimped and saved, hoarding materials to be used for the greater good. Schools were created. Schools to teach about the new life on the planet, taught by men and women who'd lived to talk about their experiences planet side.
And a fighting school was developed. Tactics were created to fight the Yuuzhan Vong warriors who were starting to penetrate the upper levels of the expansive under city. Tactics which focused on hit and fade. And the code of the school was drilled into him.
To face a Yuuzhan Vong warrior in hand to hand combat was to meet death itself... and lose.
It had been proven time and time again when the cocky and brash met the alien warriors on equal ground, only to be slaughtered like mynocks. They'd been defenseless, their training inadequate for the brutality of the Yuuzhan Vong warrior. A few had been taken hostage, only to have been found sacrificed on the surface near the Yuuzhan Vong entry points. Warnings to those who would dare challenge their superiority.
It was among this that the young man grew into a fighter.
Hit and fade became a way of a life. A way of sustaining a populace with food, clean water, and medical supplies. Supplies so few and precious, many of the refugees fought amongst themselves for access to them. Access to pain-free ordeals, to proper help in times of pregnancy.
But few of the supplies made it to the general populace; instead they were hoarded for the battle the council of elders knew was to come. A battle that would be not long in coming, but long enough, the populace would be put on permanent alert.
And it was here where the young man first met, and accepted, his role...
The dull roar of cascading water was all that could be heard as the young man huddled soundlessly in the shadows of a half-ruined duracrete room. His companions were spread out beyond, forming the noose of a trap he would set into motion. A trap he'd not yet participated in and one he felt uncertain he could spring.
He took a deep breath raking one hand through short, ragged hair and slicking it away from his eyes. His hands shook with nerves, and nothing worked to stem it. He swallowed hard, his dark eyes narrowing on the Yuuzhan Vong entry point as he fought to keep his ragged breathing even. There was no movement yet, still too soon before dawn, too soon for the hunting parties to feel the thirst for easy prey and alien blood. Too soon for killing.
His lips twisted scornfully. It was never too soon for killing.
Several minutes passed and the shadow hiding him shifted slightly as the natural sun rose in the morning sky. A rock tumbled down the slick slope, heralding the arrival of the first warrior. He took a deep breath, feeling a sudden surge of adrenaline calm his shakes. This was what he had trained for. This was what he had worked for these last months. This was what he'd lived for.
His thoughts drifted suddenly to the young Yuuzhan Vong girl back at camp, the one who still had her nose, and bore fading marks of vicious beatings. She was younger than he by approximately two years, making her just shy of her fifteenth year and beyond his reach for the moment. But she was the light in his life, having been adopted by his aunt, the only real mother figure he'd ever had, and making him smile. She would be his wife one day and then he'd truly have a reason for living.
The thoughts were distracting, shifting his focus so much that he nearly missed the count of warriors. Two. Moving stealthily down into the man-made corridors and warrens. Pursing his lips, he whistled a low sound, carrying the count back to his party. He frowned, watching the warriors check first one possible direction and then another before choosing the direction away from the trap.
The Yuuzhan Vong were going the wrong way.
He began shaking again. This hadn't been covered in the plan! The Yuuzhan Vong were supposed to be predictable, going the easiest route to find the simpering humans! He panicked, standing suddenly just as the sun rose higher into the sky, eliminating the shadows everywhere except at the base. Silhouetted, he cried out in frustration.
But the sound echoed. Higher pitched and piercing, reverberating through the chamber and spinning the warriors around in surprise. They stared at him in shock, surprised one such as he could evade their carefully trained senses.
He froze in sudden fear, the anger draining away, making his legs feel leaden. He tried to move as the warriors shared a glance before advancing on him. The less mutilated of the two approached him confidently, his strides long, but there was a wariness in his eyes.
The young human didn't care. He felt gut chilling numbness spread through his stomach and limbs, rendering them useless to his commands. The blaster fell from unresponsive fingers, clattering on the floor.
The warrior's posture changed, sensing an easy kill.
A challenge from behind the warriors brought them around. Behind them was the ambush party, having come to his rescue, and he felt as if he would die of humiliation. He, Flynn, had frozen in a much anticipated and crucial duty. Anger began spreading through him as the humiliation sank in.
The eldest, most seasoned of their group pulling a slug thrower from his shoulder and sending them into the Yuuzhan Vong. The others pulled swords, the wife of the most seasoned stepping up to his back to watch it.
The warriors came in swinging, each picking a target.
The weakest were dispatched first, standing up to the warrior for little more then a few seconds. Then, almost as one, the warriors turned to the experienced one, and the older, more mutilated Yuuzhan Vong backed off.
Flynn watched, almost paralyzed, as the fight began in earnest. The woman, Nicha, fell back, covering the older, more seasoned Yuuzhan Vong warrior with her blaster. She aimed for his head, sighting carefully, to ensure he wouldn't interfere.
The scarred Yuuzhan Vong didn't spare her a look as he watched the two combatants circle each other.
The seasoned human warrior fought tenaciously, dirty, kicking out wherever he could reach to score hits. And score he did, his vibro-sword biting deep into gaps in the Yuuzhan Vong's living armor to draw blood. The young Yuuzhan Vong, unwilling to admit defeat as one arm hung loosely, swung wildly, only to have the sword rammed through his collar bone as it was exposed, his amphistaff held wide.
The human warrior smiled grimly as he pushed the dead alien off his sword, motioning for Nicha to grab Flynn and run.
Flynn's mind rebelled, even as Nicha complied. The older, more scarred Yuuzhan Vong warrior entered a combat stance as Nicha began dragging Flynn from the room. He found his legs, nearly tripping as they responded to his commands, his gaze locked on the battle behind him. The battle which had cost the lives of two in their party, thus far, in an effort to save him.
Flynn flushed with shame, feeling the guilt already eating at his brain as he was led from the room. Nicha was speaking to him, but he couldn't hear her words. He couldn't hear at all, lost in the mire of self-pity. And, as if in slow motion, he saw the veteran human fall. He saw the amphistaff arc in, going limp in mid flight as the human tried to block. Saw it fail as the head whipped around the blade and latched onto his face for half a second to pump poison into his veins.
And Nicha dropped him, scrambling forward, yelling something he still couldn't hear. She was blind with rage, her blaster firing at the back of the Yuuzhan Vong even as she dove for him.
And suddenly everything was clear, snapping into sharp focus. He saw Nicha barrel into the Yuuzhan Vong, screaming as her husband fell, the Amphistaff's poison racing through his veins. Nicha grabbed the warrior, jamming her blaster into his side and pulling the trigger repeatedly, crying out to her husband as she did. She begged him not to die on her; begged him to hold on so they could get the anti-venom.
And just as suddenly, she was thrown to the ground beside him, the warrior shaking her off like she was a bug. He removed a large knife from his hip, raising it to take her life.
Nicha spat at him, firing at him from point blank, full in the face.
And Flynn found his feet. He raced for his pack, diving for the heavy blaster without thinking, before regaining his balance. Adrenaline was coursing through him, lending him speed and strength where once fear had paralyzed him like a new-born babe. He sprinted across the small area as the warrior, even faceless, continued his plunge.
His blaster cocked, he was only a foot from the back of the alien's head when he pulled the trigger.
Nicha screamed as she was suddenly covered in gore, the triumphant note turning to anguish as she turned to scramble for the packs.
Her husband has stopped moving. Breathless, still, his sightless eyes stared at the ceiling of the cavern. The aphistaff's venom had worked quickly in the time it had taken to kill the warrior.
Flynn began to shake. This man had entered a battle he knew he couldn't win. This man had shown courage, when he'd had so much to lose. Flynn's gaze traveled to Nicha and he felt shame, soul wrenching pain, a he realized what his actions had cost her. Life, love; happiness. He had made her a widow.
He backed away, tripping and going down on his posterior. He was a coward. He had frozen where others wouldn't have. He had been unable to play his part and it had cost that courageous soul his life. He swallowed hard, blinking back tears he had no right to cry. He pushed himself to his feet and approached Nicha and the bodies of their team.
They would all get back to camp. Dead or alive, he would honor these brave souls for what they'd done for him. He would honor his leader's wife, ensuring that she lived, if for no other reason than whom she had been married to. He owed her. He owed them all. That little honor he would and could give.
And in that honor, perhaps he could regain his own.