Surface of Agua’tah
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Aul replied. He was happy to be paired with an experienced fighter, because practice in the training hall and life-and-death combat were two entirely different beasts. He didn’t have to have a lot of experience to know that out here, death was a real possibility.
The human turned back to the scanner, determined to make it work.
Tasha looked around at the clearing they were in. They stood in a clearing at the center of a dense tropical forest. In one direction, through about ten meters of light tree coverage, was a beach. White breakers crashing off shore every few seconds muffled the sounds of their conversation to anyone out of a short earshot. In the other direction was a dense forest. Though they landed in broad daylight, the thick canopy above let in only a few small beams of light.
“Stupid piece of junk, I knew I shouldn’t have let Darkblade borrow it,” Aul cursed to himself quietly as he threw the scanner back into his pack. Standing up, he looked around and took in the beauty of the landscape, finally allowing it to calm his nerves. He breathed in the clean, unpolluted air and wondered what sort of interesting lifeforms had sprung up on this nutrient-rich planet. Aul made a mental note to return here, during a more peaceful time, to take a solo scientific retreat and collect some samples.
“Hey, wake up,” the sapphire-skinned Twi’lek snapped at the daydreaming human. Tasha shook her head with a small smile and continued, “There will be time for study later. We have a mission. Check your pack and weapons and help me assess our perimeter.”
Aul Celsus checked that he had his medical and portable science supplies, datapad and explosive charges. His vibroblade was over his right shoulder and lightsaber clipped on the left side of his belt. His DC-17 blaster was holstered on his right. Aul stood and covered his head with his dark gray cloak, shading his eyes from the sunlight to get a clearer view of his surroundings. Crouching low, he quickly and silently made his way to the other side of the clearing about fifteen meters distance away. The tall, lush grass covered much of his body, ending at his shoulders.
When he reached the other end of the mostly round clearing, Aul and Tasha were positioned as if at opposite points of a circle. When Aul let out a small chirp, imitating a bird, Tasha chirped twice back and the teammates walked carefully and observantly around the clearing in a clock-wise direction. Every few feet they placed a holocam that logged positions back to Aul’s datapad. The recordings would provide notice if their ship was approached in their absence, and would allow them to establish a secure base of operations as they prepared for their approach of the hydroponics facility. When they had reached their initial positions, they waited a moment. Aul chirped three times to denote no disturbance of their sensors and the two Sadowans made their way back to the center of the clearing.
“Good, at least we’re alone for now,” Tasha said with a look of determination.
Aul was, for some reason, at ease with Tasha leading the way. He wasn’t interested in the recent politics of who is, or isn’t, an “undesireable” in the Brotherhood, because the Force that bound them all was so much greater. But, nonetheless, he was a member of a society that cared about such things, and so he had learned to watch his back. He couldn’t shake the feeling of mistrust around the Naga Sadow complex before they embarked on this mission. But now, with only nature and Tasha around, he felt safe; not because she wasn’t skeptical of his loyalties – that was clear – but because he could sense no malice towards him or towards the living, in general. He found that a Sith, a true seeker of power and supremacy, absolutely radiated negativity that often overwhelmed Aul’s presence. When Darkblade allowed himself to fully reveal his Dark Jedi tendencies, Aul found it difficult to be around. With Tasha, he felt calm and focus.
“Hey, Tasha, just so you kn-”
Before Aul could finish his sentence, a massive explosion shook the island. Aul quickly calculated where the location took place and determined it was about 500 meters to the north of their location.
“No time, let’s go,” Tasha commanded and rushed into the forest.