Renci and Renn step through the doorway and out of the temple. A ship hovers above, but people are not rappelling down from it, they are flying down via jetpacks. “Oh, no, this is even worse,” Renci exclaims.
“Why? Are no’ these yer people? Canna ya deal with them?” Renn asks.
“You don’t understand my people. We’re very clannish. And I’m the last of my clan, so they—” she gestures above at the Mandalorians in the sky, “—are not going to be friendly. Let’s make a dash for the treeline.”
Renci takes off at a run, sprinting through the field of waist-high grass. A stream of fire comes down right in front of her, and she skids to a halt. “Warriors of Fire!” The grass burns around her in a ring. Looking up, she sees a Mandalorian hovering above, tongues of flame licking his armor from within and without.
“Clan Spartan,” he scoffs, “what are you doing here? Haven’t you messed up enough places already?”
“No, I’ve still got to mess up your face. Oh wait, already did.”
He flips up his visor, revealing his many scars. “Looks like you’ve lost everyone you’re responsible for all over again,” he mocks.
“I’ll be responsible for kicking your ass!” Renci shouts. She launches up into the sky, rocketing on her jumpboots. Once opposite him, she tries a kick. While that might work fine with a jetpack on, her boots are what actually keep her in the air. Trying to kick with them sends her for a loop, and her opponent brings his gauntleted fist right down on her, smashing it into her head.
He grabs her, shaking her, rattling her. “What’s wrong with you, mate?” he demands.
She laughs at him. “I’m not just a warrior; I’m a soldier. I come prepared.” She pulls out a small emergency fire extinguisher from her utility belt and sprays him, putting out his precious flames, including his jetpack. His extra weight is too much for the jumpboots to handle, and they both fall hard to the ground.
Renci rolls away from her opponent and gets unsteadily to her feet. The meadow continues to burn all around her, and in the distance, she sees buildings aflame. Mandalorian buildings. The Warrior of Fire laughs at her.
“You know what?” she says to him. “I don’t have to deal with you. You’re not my responsibility.” She takes a sip of cool, refreshing water from her eopiebak and launches into the sky, flying away on her boots.
* * *
Outside the vine-covered ziggurat, a small blue and purple bird flies lazy circles, looking in all directions and beyond them for things that might interest her human. Renn seems particularly keen to know about the open-sided ship approaching. It is full of bipeds strapping on tack. While the ship stays aloft, they lower themselves like spiders down to the cleared space around the base of the building.
A few of them bring guns up into ready position and start to head in one direction, but a woman yells at them, “No, we’re not going that way. The monitor was tripped on the other side. No need to have a repeat of what happened to Turbo.” Mira has never seen a woman like this before, sort of a bipedal version of Natasha. The sand panther is all right as far as felines go, and Renn’s Togruta usually keeps her in check if she eyes Mira too closely.
The other men and women listen to her and follow her orders. Some have backpacks with shovels attached, others have sensors like Renn’s new human is always waving about. They nod at the Natasha-woman, saying, “Right-o, Dr. Pramine,” and “Sure, Dr. Pramine.” One of them, some sort of bipedal frog, says to the man next to him, “Yeah, man, you were really lucky that lightning hit him instead of you.”
“Yes, it was luck,” the other biped, also green, replies coolly. Mira recognizes this type of person. He is a Twi’lek, like so many on Ryloth.
The Natasha-woman orders some of her people to have charges ready, and Mira wonders if they can make their own lightning. She will keep watch, but she will not get too close, just in case.
* * *
Renci groans and brings her hand up to her aching head, surprised to find a cold compress there.
“Don’ try ta sit up too fast,” Renn cautions. “Ya smacked yer head pretty hard.”
“Been hanging around you too much,” Renci replies. She cracks her eyes open and sees Renn looking down at her, concerned. “You all right?”
“Aye.” He nods with a small, reserved smile. Whatever it was—dream, nightmare, or Force vision—it left him feeling like he is finally on the right path. “Aye, I am.”
Renci starts to get up, and he helps ease her to sitting. “We need to get out of here. So, forward or backward?” she asks.
“Well, here’s the situation outside, from Mira. Some folks are at the entrance we came in, a dozen or so. They repelled down from a beat-up old Low Altitude Assault Transport. They’ve got weapons and plenty of gear. They look like they’re here for the long haul, and the woman in charge is actin’ like she knows this place ta some degree.”
“Maybe instead of marching through these rooms, these torture chambers, we should look for ventilation or maintenance shafts,” Renci suggests. “There’s got to be something like that, given all the tech woven into these traps.”
“I think it’s a good idea…” Renn hesitates a moment but then owns up to his fears. “I’ll just need ya ta help me keep it together if’n it gets too tight.”
“We can make it together,” Renci assures him.
“And I really should check that over more thoroughly,” he says, gesturing at her head.
“Do you think there’s time?”
“Ya didna see the speed with which ya hit the ceilin’.”
“No, I felt it. But this isn’t a safe place to stay.”
“We canna be trailin’ blood everywhere we go,” Renn counters. Renci submits to some bandaging and picks up the quiescent BB unit. As they exit the room, Renn hears her muttering to herself about warriors of fire.