Chapter 3: Arakh Krar

Aboard the Fensk

"Khįz. Ęrz kų phąn Asįr Krųy'lyą." ["Yes. This is Asir Kroy'lya,"] the Bothan snarled impatiently into the comm."Rąvų kų kųrn shpąs'rųym są ęnghęydzhą." [Requesting clearance to engage."]

Well, this is new, Arakh thought to himself, sitting in the passenger seat as he looked out the cockpit window.

["Asir Kro'lya? Captain Asir Kroy'lya? You. You are requesting clearance to engage?"] Ursi Ek'fon's voice asked incredulously, unable to believe her own ears.

The Fensk jumped out of hyperspace at the edge of the Tyrius System following Mok Tarkin's tracking beacon. With light and radar absorbing coating, Asir's Vigo Gunship would not have registered on Mok's sensors or any of the sensors of his accomplices. Mok and his accomplices, likely other members of the Outland Security Forces, had disabled a Rodian freighter and were about to board it.

["Yes!"] Asir yelped this time. ["Mok Tarkin—holy shtak! He is attacking a vessel belonging to a Republic world! Why would they be attacking the Rodians?!"]

["Captain,"] Ursi's voice said in a testy tone. ["These are not good people we have ordered you to terminate. This behaviour is not news to me. As for your question, Captain, the answer is classified."]

["Ma'am, Lime-Green agrees. We should engage them here,"] Asir snarled in protest. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at Arakh and put her hand on his lanky shoulder. You are going to be a good Defel and tell her engaging them in space right now is a good idea.

Arakh gulped nervously. ["Uh yeah… Uh. I agree."]

["Request denied!"] Ursi snarled sternly through the comm. ["You are to follow them into port and terminate them there. If your ship gets picked up on anyone's sensors during a pirate attack, the blowback would be enormous. Hang back, out of sensor range. Do not interfere."]

["Very well,"] Asir growled, her fur twirling unhappily.

In the distance, at the top of the freighter, the cargo hatch opened. Grain of some sort was blasted into the vacuum of space. A few humanoid figures could be seen, wiggling around amidst the cloud of grain.

["SHTAK!"] Asir yelped her fur flat. ["They are spacing the Rodians! They aren't even stealing the cargo, just killing everyone!"]

["You have your orders,"] Ursi growled cautiously. ["Hang back and terminate Mok Tarkin and his accomplices when they land."]

Arakh found himself troubled by this too. His snout clenched shut with worry as he watched the Rodians expire in the vacuum of space. The Tarkins, for whatever reason, did not seem to be actually interested in the ship's cargo. They seemed to be only interested in ruining the cargo and killing the terrorised occupants.

Must be a political statement of some sort, Arkakh thought as he exhaled slowly.

Asir sighed, tears in her eyes as she watched the murder unfold. ["Very well, ma'am. Asir out,"] she muttered, terminating the comm.

Within a minute, the four Scyk light fighters detached from the freighter's docking ports and joined the six Dunelizards circling the freighter like carrion birds. A moment later, the ten fighters jumped to hyperspace.

Arakh pounded on the dashboard in frustration. ["Great. Now we'll have to wait until they return to normal—Asir? What are you doing?"]

The Fensk drifted towards the delisting freighter, the grain, and the Rodian bodies.

["What are you doing Asir?"] Arakh repeated. ["We have our orders—"]

["GET D2-9 AND GET YOUR ASS TO THE KRIFFING AIRLOCK!"] Asir shrieked, snarling in fury.

Jumping slightly, the startled Defel hopped out of the passenger seat and ran as quickly as he could to the airlock two decks below.

o.o.o.o.o

["All right,"] Asir's said consolingly through the comm in Bothese. ["Thank you for your help Arakh."]

The Defel and the ship's medical droid stood outside the airlock, waiting.

Arakh held his hand on the transparisteel glass, looking out the open hatch into space. ["No problem,"] he growled. ["Anything I can do to help. I just hope we don't get into trouble for this."]

["You Arakh?"] Asir replied, ["you won't get into trouble for this. I might, but it's the right thing to do. Now, get ready!"]

Eight bodies amidst a cloud of grain drifted from space, pushed along gently by the Fensk's light tractor beam. The tractor beam released, allowing their momentum to continue carrying them.

There is no way any of them could be alive, Arakh thought to himself. They were in space for like… a minute.

Once the Rodians were safely in the airlock, the forcefield activated, and gravity turned on, causing them to plop sofltly on the ground, bits of grain bouncing everywhere. Air whooshed in, filling the airlock with atmosphere.

One of the eight bodies, a blue Rodian, began coughing, sputtering up a green substance. Arakh sprinted in, the medical droid D2-9 walking in slowly behind him.

"Can you hear me?!" Arakh gasped in shock, dropping to his knees next to the sputtering Rodian.

"Oh, get out of the way," D2-9 said, stopping down over the Rodian and scanning.

Arakh got up, stepped back into the hallway, and grabbed the gurney.

"We need to get him in bacta immediately!" D2-9 yelled in a robotic drone unnecessarily. Arakh was already picking the Rodian up and dropping him on the stretcher.

o.o.o.o.o

"Huh," Arakh muttered aloud, staring at the green-frilled blue-skinned lizard creature floating in the bacta. The Bothan snout respirator was a bit bulky for the Rodian's tiny thin snout, but the medical droid managed to set up a seal around it.

Once again, Arakh found himself pushing his furry hand up against the transparisteel. "Huh," he said again in fascination.

The Rodian seemed to have regained consciousness and was staring back at the Defel. Staring through the liquid.

Arakh began thinking of all of the possibilities; all of the possible uses for this strange sentient reptile. He does have some pretty nice muscles. Definitely would be nice to get some help moving crates for Asir. I wonder if he knows how to cook… Is he a he?

Suddenly, the orbital klaxon sounded off. We are in orbit? "Asir?" Arakh growled in alarm as he pressed the medical bay's comm button. "You didn't tell me we had tracked down Tarkin! I didn't feel the ship jump into hyperspace! I'm not ready—"

"—You silly Defel," Asir snorted. "We are returning the Rodian to his people."

"WHAT?!" Arakh snarled in fury. "I was just getting to like the idea of keeping him!"

o.o.o.o.o

"I cannot thank you Bothans enough for saving Qimzo Rol and recovering… our dead," said Vit Imep, dockmaster of Iskaayuma Spaceport.

"I am sorry for your loss," Asir said with a very un-Bothan bow. The green Rodian bowed back, touching his forehead to Asir's. His yellow and green frills bent gently against Asir's fur.

Well, this is weird, Arakh thought, frowning at the two. He looked around in every direction, taking in the mucky humid scenery. Even weirder that these Rodians think I am Bothan, the Defel thought to himself, scowling as he blinked his beady red eyes that lacked any visible white sclera.

The city of Iskaayuma was located beneath a massive transparent bubble-dome, a bit like the domes Arakh had seen once on Botha'ahir. Beyond the pointy blue-roofed skyscrapers, beyond the dome, was a foreboding swampy jungle. Green haze obscured the visibility beyond a few kilometres.

Rescue crews whisked the Rodian—the Rodian that Arakh was under the impression was to become a useful member of the crew—from the Bothan bacta tube into their own tube. The Rodian hoverpad carried Qimzo gently away towards an ambulance waiting on the spaceport apron.

Arakh's ears perked up in excitement when the dockmaster said something. "You two are welcome to stay as long as you want. We have been having problems with the Separatists pillaging our trade for some time. I am grateful—"

"—We really need to go," Asir stammered apologetically. "We were already in a previous engagement when—When this happened."

A tingle of worry momentarily afflicted the Defel. Yeah. We were! We might have just lost Mok Tarkin!

"Well at least let us refill your bacta!" Vit protested.

"Certainly!" Asir yipped brightly. "That is a huge help."

o.o.o.o.o

When Asir and Arakh returned to orbit, the tracking beacon was once again active.

["Kemal Station, Arakh, can you confirm?"]

["Confirmed,"] Arakh replied formally, looking down at the map on the terminal in front of him. ["Wait? A space—"]

["—We have a hit on Mok Tarkin's tracking beacon,] Asir muttered into the communication log, giving a status update to the Spynet. ["Jumping into the Arkanis Sector now."]

o.o.o.o.o

It turned out that Kemal Station was not a station. It was one of the more distant moons of the Tibanna gas giant Kemal.

For all of the year but summer, most of the moon was enshrouded in dense fog. The more temperate maritime areas of the lone continent were filled with thick forests of tall minty-smelling pine trees—caught in an eternal growing race to catch the best sunlight. The equatorial regions were mainly dense mucky swamps and jungles, filled with carnivorous plants and animals.

Fortunately for the Defel and the Bothan, Mok Tarkin did not like hot mucky jungle very much either.

As the Fensk landed on the spaceport apron of Paradise City, Arakh was preparing himself for an evening of assassination.

The tricky part for doing one's job while invisible was remaining invisible. To best accomplish this, the Defel was completely naked, as usual. While he could go invisible, or as Asir always put it, cloak himself with the Force, his flight-suit could not. All of his tools were made of transparisteel and had to be cleaned thoroughly.

He clipped his transparisteel belt around his waist. On it were a plethora of tools: a transparisteel scythe, a transparisteel bludgeon—perfect for smashing armour, and numerous transparisteel bits of wire and keys.

While Defels could sense each other's Force presences while invisible, Arakh's inorganic tools were as invisible to him as they were to anyone else. He had to memorise exactly where everything went on his belt.

Wearing a look of grim determination as he ran his thumb over the blunt end of his bludgeon, Arakh thought to himself: this is for that lizard… Whatever his name was. The Rodian guy I didn't get to keep!

["Arakh, can you hear me?"] Asir growled in Bothese from Arakh's earpiece.

Shtak! Where's my earpiece? Arakh panicked for a moment, running his large furry hand over his desk until he felt his transparisteel earpiece. He smiled as he clipped it onto his pointy ear. ["Yep. I can hear you."]

["Meet me by the rear ramp. I have surprise for you."]

o.o.o.o.o

Arakh smiled in anticipation as he arrived by the rear hatch. Not wanting to waste his energy, the Defel was still very much visible.

Asir stood by the rear exist, holding up her hands.

She wants… She wants to give me a hug?! Arakh thought. Oh, all right. He stooped down, hugging the tiny Bothan in his huge lanky arms.

His arms brushed something invisible as Asir snorted with laughter.

"Stop being silly!" she yipped, giggling uncontrollably.

"What? What is it?" Arakh asked, feeling the transparisteel shapes held in her hands. The tip felt kind of pointy, and the back rounder. The bottom was flat like a shoe. "Shoes?!" he snarled.

"Yes. Shoes," Asir growled cautiously. "Tarkin is in the cantina. I knew this was going to be an issue. I'll make it easy for you: I am ordering you to wear these shoes." The Bothan narrowed her gold-speckled purple eyes. I am giving you an order.

The Defel narrowed his beady red eyes back defiantly, a stern expression on his short snout.

Asir blinked, completely unamused. "The Spynet spent lots of Zav developing these to protect your feet. You are going to wear them. No drama, no ifs. It's an order. You are—"

—With a toothy feral grin, Arakh went cloak. The Defel vanished from before the Bothan's eyes.

"What do—KRIFF!" Asir yelped as the button for the rear hatch pressed. She reached angrily into the thin air and deliberately grabbed a tuff of fur in the centre of Arakh's back, obviously knowing exactly where he was.

Arakh winced in pain as she tugged hard. How does she always find me?! "Asir, calm down!" he snarled. "I think it's time I took charge for once. I am not gonna put some kriffing shoes on my feet when I do this."

The Bothan's fur stood up in fury. "YOU! IN CHARGE?!" Asir yelped hysterically.

"Yeah, sometimes—ugh!" Arakh groaned, reaching his lanky arm behind his back. Grabbing Asir's fist, he pressed his fat Defel thumb into the pressure point between Asir's thumb and pointer finger.

Letting of the Defel's fur, Asir yelped in pain as Arakh pushed into her hand.

"Sometimes, a Defel's gotta take charge, you know?" Arakh growled, his lumbering footsteps leaving her behind as he stepped down the ramp.

"THAT'S IT!" Asir yelped into the fog from the top of the ramp once she got her bearings. "YOU ARE SLEEPING ON THE COUCH FOR A WEEK YOU HEAR! A WHOLE WEEK!"

The empty fog swirled as the invisible Defel pushed through it. Reaching up for his ear, he pressed the transparisteel gadget, turning it on. ["Lime-Green is oscar mike,"] he growled defiantly. ["Waiting for instructions. Is everything clear out there Asir?"]

["Oh, you son of bitch!"] Asir yelped into his earpiece. ["I can't believe it! There is a chain of command you little kriff-head!]

Arakh winced. It's worth it, he told himself. I need to show these tiny little snarling Bothans who's boss, starting with Asir. You can do this. Show them how it's done. As he walked from the permacrete of the apron to the muddy footpaths beyond, he took a deep breaht of fresh minty air. Today is the first day I take charge of my life again! Next time if I wanna keep the Rodian—We keep the damn Rodian.

o.o.o.o.o

Asir needs me anyways, Arakh thought to himself as he walked alone between the short one-story buildings and huts. She wouldn't report me to her superiors and admit I have taken charge, he thought with a confident grin on his invisible snout. Me being in charge? It'll be the best thing that's ever happened to her.

["All right, Lime-Green in position outside the Baron's Standard,"] he whispered.

["Roger that,"] Asir sighed. ["You are still sleeping on the kriffing couch."]

["I do have my own room,"] Arakh whisper-growled as he stepped into the cantina. A few patrons turned and stared at the door seemingly opening on its own. ["Lime-Green going silent until further notice,"] he whispered as quietly as he could.

The cantina was dangerously crowded for an invisible Defel. Sniffing the air curiously, he walked forward, cautiously squeezing between the mostly human patrons.

One dark skinned human female waiter collided with his furry body, collapsing backwards with an "oof!" as beer spilt onto the floor.

Arakh winced in dread as a trickle of beer ran up to his foot. He continued on, squeezing past the group of humans who were now helping the waiter up, now leaving a faint footprint behind with every other step.

Finally, in an alcove in the back corner of the cantina, he saw his target amongst a group of nine humans and some sort of toothy, snouted, green lizard alien of some sort. Another lizard sweet. Maybe I can kill Tarkin and keep him, Arakh thought to himself, still dead set on keeping a sentient lizard.

He approached the alcove, transparisteel bludgeon in one hand, scythe in the other. As he took a step behind Mok Tarkin, the brown-haired human, dressed in a red leather ace pilot's jacket, was cracking a joke of some sort about "bringing a slingshot to a blaster fight."

All right, time to end you, he thought firmly.

The whole table, except for the Trandoshan, erupted with laughter as Mok put a fist to his own chest, demonstrating a weak blaster shot failing to penetrate.

The Trandoshan blinked, staring into the space behind Mok Tarkin.

Can he see me? Arakh wondered.

As if answering his question, the Trandoshan hissed furiously. "What are you?!" he gasped, blinking as he stared into the empty space behind Mok Tarkin.

"What… Excuse me?!" Mok yelled in affront. "You are interrupting my story!"

"There issss a colourless furry creature behind you," he hissed.

Definitely not keeping that lizard, the Defel thought, swinging his scythe into Mok Tarkin's neck.

What Arakh did not know is that, like all mammals, Defels give off quite a lot of heat. As near-Bothans, Defels had a body temperature hotter even than the human body. Trandoshans, who can see infrared, could see Defels clear as day. Their natural cloak was simply useless against them and many other reptilian species.

Mok Tarkin gave out a blood-curdling scream as Arakh swung his scythe down for a second blow.

The lizard gave off a bird-like caw as he pulled out a small blaster, pointing it directly at Arakh.

Being able to see me? Definitely a deal breaker, Arakh thought with an audible snarl as he swung his bludgeon down on the Trandoshan's hand. I don't want this lizard in my life! This is me-time. Well… I'm fine with Asir seeing me, but what type of weird lizard wants to see me naked?

The Trandoshan shrieked, hissing in pain as every bone in his clawed hand shattered under an invisible bludgeon. His dented pistol spun uselessly across the table.

One of Mok's human compatriots picked up a stool and screamed, swinging it wildly over the spot the bludgeon had come down on the Trandoshan's hand. The stool collided with the Trandoshan's head, knocking him out.

Collateral damage, Arakh thought to himself. That enough collateral damage? Nah. With a feral howl, the Defel thrust his scythe into the stool-wielder's guts. He then turned and swung the bloody transparisteel into another screaming human, and then another.

By the time Arakh withdrew from the massacre, all around, the cantina was quickly devolving into pandemonium. Patrons were screaming that a Sith spirit was attacking. Another was screaming about a shapeshifter. Amidst the screams, the sound of broken glass could be heard.

Arakh dried his blade on a handkerchief and walked to the door. Careful to stay behind the fleeing crowd. The clumsy human waiter he had bumped into earlier shrieked when she saw the bloody mess in the back alcove.

By the time Arakh reached the exit, the crowds had thinned. He took another step towards the door, then yelped, snarling and yelping into the air. Glass! Kriff me!

Defels were not like Bothans. Unlike Bothans, who would yelp indignantly at every little pain, it took quite a lot to make a Defel yelp. Arakh felt the worst pain he had ever felt—right on the bottom of his right foot. He hopped out the door on his left foot and jumped right onto another piece of grass. This one sliced deep into his heel.

Falling to his knees, he crawled desperately through the mist, his invisibility broken by a trail of blood. In a panic he began yelping for help into the comm. ["ASIR! I STEPPED ON GLASS! I NEED EXFIL NOW!"]

["Hide!"] Asir ordered. ["I'll be at your position in twenty minutes, stay concealed! Meditate! Relax! Whatever you do, stay in cloak."]

Following Asir's orders as best he could, Arakh crawled into the nearest bush. The thorny pine branches scratched his skin through his fur, but that pain was nothing like the pain he felt in his feet.

Sniffling, Arakh stared at the crowds gathering around the cantina. None of them seemed to have noticed him. Several emergency sirens blared in the distance, drawing nearer and nearer, no doubt responding to Arakh's little massacre.

o.o.o.o.o

["You? In charge?!"] Asir snarled as she pushed a seemingly empty gurney through the streets. The blanket at the end of the gurney had a lump where Arakh's big bandaged feet were tucked away.

["I am really sorry,"] Arakh croaked in a humiliated tone, voice vibrating whenever the gurney hit a pebble.

["When I order you to wear shoes, you will follow those orders."]

["Yes,"] Arakh growled. ["And thank you for saving me,"] he added in a more disarming tone.

["Don't mention it,"] Asir grunted. ["Thanks for getting rid of Mok Tarkin."]

o.o.o.o.o

Arakh now walked around the ship with cushiony big square surgical shoes. He lumbered up to the bedroom door after the medical droid dressed his wounds properly and opened it.

"I told you that you're sleeping on the couch for a week," Asir snarled, eyes flashing dangerously.

"But Asir I—ARGH" he snarled as a shoe bounced off his snout. He scowled, shaking his head as he walked to the opposite side of the ship, meandering clumsily on his surgical shoes through the halls. Stupid Bothan. I still have my own room.

Sleep on the couch, Arakh thought as he approached the other bedroom. Why would I sleep on the couch? He waved his hand in front of the sensor. The door did not open.

With a desperate snarl, the Defel waved his lanky arms up and down, reaching around the doorframe trying to find a way to force it open. He staggered to a hall comm. "Asir?!" he yelped in a panic. "My room won't open!"

"ON THE KRIFFING COUCH!" Asir snarled furiously.