Sorry for the very, very long break from this story. As life tends to get in the way of writing for fun, this had to take a backseat for a while. What with Covid and the marking of final exams, I now have some more time to update some of my stories. We'll see how far we manage to get this time.

A special thanks to those who have been supporting me all this time:

Jinx, nothingheretosee, allenfan, waterlillypad, jy24, Darke13, My Own Creed, Lonely Athena, Ryuakilover, Cutiepie120048, Darkpathway, addenza, BeccaRomano, .soul, HikamiTZ, Spacekaptainkatsura, and molotovmullet.

You guys have no idea how much I love you. Your support is what keeps me coming back to this.

Chapter 17 - A Source of Energy

Linalee woke up disoriented — something was wrong. She lay on her cot for a moment, trying to pinpoint what was bothering her.

She heard the low hum of the ship's power dropping. Following just seconds behind, the dim ambience that always filled her room with a gentle glow flickered and suddenly went out — plunging her room in darkness.

As she pondered whether this was something that warranted getting out of her warm cot, a sudden metallic thump echoed on the hull of the ship right next to her legs.

"What the..." Linalee muttered as she swung her legs over the side of her bed and slowly made her way toward the door, stumbling only once, over some mysterious stool that somehow happened to be in her way.

As she neared the exit ramp she could hear shouting coming from outside, followed by the shot of a blaster. Rushing out she suddenly froze at the edge of the metallic ramp, standing stock still as she blankly gazed at the scene spread out before her.

There were things flying around, gray, leathery things with wide wings. They spanned about three feet in length, and upon closer inspection she could see that each had a strange suction-like mouth with a circle of teeth around it. Recoiling from the unpleasant appearance, she took a startled step back.

"What are you doing? Are you planning to just stand there and watch? Shoot something!" Chome's frustrated voice echoed off the walls of the strange cave that they had decided to hide out in.

Linalee caught the blaster that the red-head had thrown at her, and aimed it at one of the creatures that was plastered against the hull of the ship no more than four feet away from her.

"Not at the ship!" Lavi's panicked voice easily carried from where he stood several meters off to the left. He then rolled out of the way as one of the creatures avoided a shot from his blaster and then nosedived at him.

"What are they doing?" Linalee asked, as she angled the blaster sideways at the immobile creature next to her, so that the shot went straight through the 'wing' of the creature and toward a cave wall - rather than through the hull that it was attached to.

"Siphoning off power. They're mynocks. They live off energy, and ships happen to be one of their favourite food sources." Lavi's reply was a bit muffled by the sound of blaster shots as he intercepted two of the pests on their way toward his ship.

Unnoticed by Linalee, as she made her way further into the cave to help create a perimeter around the ship, one of the mynocks that had detached itself from the cave wall came silently floating up behind her. Before she had a chance to turn around and spot it, the creature had latched onto her leg with its strange, roundly shaped toothy maw.

Her pained cry echoed off the cavern walls, causing Lavi to jerk his head back to see if she was okay. Linalee, who just a moment ago had been standing upright and doing fine, was currently swaying on her feet, as she weakly tried to hit the mynoch with the butt of her blaster rifle. Her movements were slow and uncoordinated, and even her balance seemed to be getting worse.

Before Lavi had a chance to react, he heard another startled yell, but this one was more masculine.

Allen had stumbled down the ramp as he tried batting a creature off his head by flailing at it with both hands - one gloved, the other wrapped in a bandage. His innocence had not activated, and so the arm that usually did great damage in battle was next to useless in this state.

As Allen's bandaged arm came into contact with the mynock, the creature let out a piercing shriek and latched onto the appendage instantaneously. Releasing a shocked cry of pain, Allen tried to pry it off, but to no avail. A split second later, another mynock swooped down and tried to latch onto something at his belt.

His clearly visible distress caught Chome's attention when she happened to look over in Allen's direction. She couldn't help the smile that slowly spread across her face, forming into a definite smirk. Noticing Chome glancing his way, Allen called out for assistance — only to have her turn away, pretending as if nothing had happened.

"Help him!" A familiar voice shouted.

Shooting a quick glance at Lavi, Chome grimaced upon seeing him jerk his head in Allen's direction, while he himself ran over to Linalee's swaying figure.

"Hang on," the bounty hunter said upon reaching her and slinging her arm over his shoulders. Then, with a rapid motion he unsheathed a viroblade and deftly stabbed it sideways into the mynock, which was entirely focused on Linalee's leg. The piercing shriek partly deafened everyone, but without showing a hint of hesitation Lavi jammed the blade in deeper and then quickly sliced through the flesh in an outward motion, resulting in nearly splitting the creature in half. The mynock's shrieking immediately ceased.

As this was going on, Chome had made her way over to Allen, and then proceeded to lift her blaster until it pointed straight at the mynock wrapped around his arm. Allen's eyes widened comically in proportion to Chome's predatory grin. Then the teenager's eyes started to droop and he stumbled a bit forward. Rolling her eyes, Chome strode over and rammed the blaster down onto his arm so hard that the mynock dropped onto the ground unconscious. Allen's arm fared no better — it fell limply to his side, completely numb from the blow. The kid soon followed, dropping like a bag of rocks onto the ground. Not phased in the least, Chome turned to the mynock at Allen's waist, and simply rammed her blaster into the creature with so much force that there was no doubt about it now being dead. She kicked the creature away from the boy, grabbed his leg, and then proceeded to drag him toward the ship, smirking every so often when his head came into contact with an uneven surface.

"Shouldn't you pick him up before the kid suffers from a concussion?" Lavi's voice drifted over from where he was carrying his own burden. Linalee's head hung limply over the crook of his arm, face pale and eyelids at half-mast.

Glancing back, Chome lifted an eyebrow. "Don't tell me how to rescue people, worry about your own precious damsel instead." Seeing Lavi about to say something, she continued, "By the way, don't mynocks usually feed off energy, like they did with the ship? Why did they attack these two?"

Lavi paused for a moment, then looked down at Linalee's leg and Allen's bandaged arm. "I have an idea as to what may have attracted the Mynocks — energy-wise. As to why I was not attacked, I don't carry my innocence on me anymore... I've always believed that it causes more problems than it's worth - this goes to show I was right."

The remaining mynocks in the cavern opted for observing the retreating figures from a safer distance. For some reason they no longer felt hungry.

And there it is - chapter 17!

Give a shout out, and let me know who is actually still reading this. I hope I did not lose my devoted readers - you guys were such troopers.

- Rampant Id