ok, just another fill from masskink -
original request was that cat-and-mouse game between Nihlus and Samara with some 'action' added.
Well, at least I tried.
Light filtered through the canopy of treetops in golden, narrow beams that lit up the ever-present fine mist which permeated the jungle. The ever-present sound of the nearby river was a constant backdrop to the other natural sounds of the scenery.
The ground ahead was soft, too soft, and Nihlus swerved closer to the tree roots where the ground was drier and harder and less likely to retain his footprints.
After all, there was no reason at all that he should make it more easy for the crazed asari tracking him. Thinking of that one, he shook his spiked head, sending drops of water flying. Really, what were the odds of running across an asari justicar in the course of duty and simultaneously setting her off so badly that now she was coming after him?
All he had done was take out an asari criminal who, sensing him on her track, had hidden herself in a small, newly established colony in the outer edges of Asari space on a rather out-of-the way planet named Tevkin. Of course she had done her best to make herself appear as harmless and ordinary as possible. Nihlus didn't know nor really care what kind of story she had spun for the colonists, but it had to have been a convincing one.
Looking back maybe marching straight in and shooting the offending asari hadn't been the most diplomatic manner in which to handle things, granted, but he couldn't have known about the visiting justicar. Or the fact that she'd just witnessed him killing an "unarmed civilian".
Nihlus snorted. He doubted the "unarmed" bit, and he knew the "civilian" part to be false, but the justicar hadn't even given him time to explain. Nor had his hasty identification as a Council Spectre made any difference to her.
The vehemence with which she had attacked had taken him by surprise, and rather than have it out with her in a place packed dense with civilians - whom he, actually, didn't want to hurt, and who probably could turn hostile fast enough if he remembered his alien culture lessons about asari justicars and their status in asari society correctly - he'd opted for a strategic retreat into the adjourning jungle.
Nihlus had been confident that he'd be able to lose her there quickly, or at least stay hidden until she lost resolve and gave up. And when that happened, he could double back to close to the colony where he'd left his ship hidden and make his escape. The galaxy was a big place, it wasn't likely their paths would cross again.
No such luck, apparently, he thought as a huge fallen tree trunk momentarily blocked his path. Without even a break in his movements, he cleared the obstacle with a jump.
Crazy the asari might be, stupid she wasn't. Neither did she seem capable of giving up. And as hard it was to admit, she was good, very good.
They'd playing at this for, what was it, weeks? now. At first he hadn't completely taken her seriously, but that had changed very quickly when he'd let her come a bit too close in order to observe what she'd do, and she'd almost gotten him with a strange biotic attack that left him feeling oddly weakened without leaving any outward damage. It had readjusted his appreciation of the danger she represented, then, and he'd needed every bit of skill that he did possess to vanish on her in that state and keep his head down until he had recovered.
Of course, he'd gotten his own back with a very nice trap he'd set for her, that had involved one grenade and an elaborate setup using quite a bit of space and local vegetation.
He grinned in recollection. The asari had learned the hard way with that that hunting a Spectre wasn't a risk-free endeavour either.
So far, he wasn't too worried, really. Yes, she was dangerous and out to kill him, but he wasn't even hurt, so far.
He was down to his black undersuit - the asari's initial attack had badly damaged his armor, and later on he'd found to his dismay that with nothing but natural environment all around, she'd been able to get a partial fix on him via the signature of whatever tech of his armor still was working properly.
The discarded armor had made a nice bait for the first trap he'd set for her, though.
He had his weapons, with the exception of his assault rifle, which he had lost in swimming the river at his initial escape, the rest of his equipment and rations for another week or so, so he could afford to be patient.
And if he really was honest with himself, he somehow enjoyed the direct contest. Taking chances with his life was part of his daily schedule, but usually things were too complicated, too much depended on him surviving.
This here was a pure challenge, just between the two of them. True enough, there was rarely a time when there wasn't someone somewhere trying to kill him, but most were unskilled idiots who relied on strength in numbers and lots of weapons. Worthy opponents were so rare, and this asari was the best challenge he'd come across in years. He was enjoying this far too much for his own sanity, but he didn't care. He consoled himself that Spectres were by definition insane. Otherwise, why else would they take the risks they did, for no apparent gain but some status?
It was entirely possible she might get him if his luck went bad or if he made some mistake, but by his reckoning it was worth the risk. Besides, he still figured himself to have the advantage here. He wasn't familiar with this world, but when it came down to it a jungle was a jungle, and he knew very well how to survive and fight in such an environment. It was too bad that apart from water, of course, nothing here was of the correct chemical property to sustain him, so he had to rely on his rations for food. On the up side, the local fauna wasn't used to deal with something like him either. His own natural body plating was too much to overcome for the myriad of parasitic small creatures who took blood and tissue from larger creatures. The predators, smaller and larger, didn't know what to make of him and opted for staying out of his way.
Which was a good thing, really, because there was quite an abundance of wildlife around here. He'd even stumbled upon a quite sizable ecirra colony, which in fact wasn't too far from the asari settlement, and he took it as a fact that the colonists would have trouble with them at some point in the future. Whatever their native world was he had no idea, but they were common enough on many worlds and spread to new worlds travelling as hidden vermin on freighters whose crew was too lazy and sloppy to properly check their cargo. Usually they were more of a nuisance than an actual danger, since they preferred scavenging to hunting, but their digging was enough to classify them as vermin, and once a colony got too large, and too hungry, they were known to attack prey many times their own size, and do so in overwhelming numbers. Standing not quite high enough to reach the base of his spurs, and covered in rough scales with a body shape more suited to their underground, burrowing lifestyle, a single ecirra wasn't much of a challenge, but getting swarmed by a large number of them was a very unpleasant way to go.
He'd seen it happen, before.
Fortunately for him, they hadn't been interested in him, and he'd made a point of keeping his distance as he passed them by.
The plant-life around was quite varied, too, but again the things his omnitool identified as poisonous or venomous to him couldn't punch through his plates either, so he didn't have to worry about those hazards.
Nihlus kept an eye out for those chemically interesting organisms anyway. Just because they were no danger to him didn't mean that the asari was safe from them, as well.
The asari had her biotics, but she needed a clear line of sight for that, and in this terrain that wasn't easy. He had no armor, but hers was damaged badly by his grenade trap, so that made them about even in that regard as well.
Nihlus grinned again. So far, he was in the lead when it came to creative traps, and he fully intended to improve on that score.
Moving effortlessly through some denser vegetation, he came upon a small clearing and stopped, struck by an idea.
He had taken a lot of time observing fauna and flora, learning by their example about the properties of this environment, so he knew what the large cluster of curly vines had to be.
From the outside, these ranking vines weren't much different from the myriad of other species growing under and up the larger trees. There was a small difference in colouration, discernible by his excellent colour vision, but the difference was so small that a member of another species, say, and asari, might miss it. Different from the others, those actually were predators in their own right, carnivorous plant life that preyed on very small animals. Contrary to other carnivorous plants he'd seen before, these didn't rely on speed and closing trap-like structures or glue-like substances. Instead, some of the vines were extremely fragile to touch and, if broken, released a compound that acted as a strong sedative to local wildlife. Once the prey was fast asleep, the breakage of the toxin-carrying vines triggered the surrounding vines to change structure internally and drop down, starting other chemical processes to digest whatever was below it. It was slow, but in this context the plant could afford to take its time.
So far he'd only seen a handful of them, and much smaller than those here.
This cluster here was large enough to have a good chance at stunning something much bigger. Like, for example, an asari justicar.
His mandibles drew back, exposing his teeth in a feral grin.
This is too good to pass up. Let's see how you deal with this, justicar.
He walked over to the cluster, taking a bit less care not to leave any traces on the ground. Too obvious would be a warning. She's not stupid.
Just for good measure he removed his right glove and left it in the tangle, almost but not quite hidden.
Then he backtracked, selected one of the trees with presumably a good view of the vine cluster. He jumped straight up, grasping at a branch that was just in reach for him and pulled himself up, careful as not to leave any tell-tale scratches in the bark. Just a bit further up the tree branched out and sported thick foliage that would serve well to keep him hidden.
Satisfied, he unpacked his sniper rifle and settled in for the wait.