Life on Bagath had been wonderful for Crick.
The verpine ex-Jedi had received a fair share of death threats, burnt effigies, and more - true enough. But the solar radiation was nice, and there weren't a lot of bothersome, stray electromagnetic frequencies.
Crick had been away from other verpine a long time - knowing all too full and well the dangers of being in a hive - long enough to have dropped the "he" that had been forced into his frame by the lack of males in the home hive.
"He" had picked it back up again to give the humans - oh, and most of the locals were humans - something to reference him with, other than swear words.
It was a strange thing. You started letting other people call you "him," and then you were doing it yourself, before long.
But here he was safe from danger. He tended a nerf herd, came to town every few months, traded for a few necessities and got out of town before blaster fire was exchanged.
He'd been safe for years. That was new. Every other home Crick found himself in was reduced to ash, vapor, or a series of massacres. He had always escaped, mainly because when others would fight or rally or defend the queen, he would run.
He was an excellent runner. He didn't use a speeder, or kybuck, or varactyl, like most of the local nerf herders. He didn't need to and he couldn't afford one. He couldn't afford a lawyer, either, which was why, when he found himself in front of the Justice of the Court over nerf-rustling charges, he was sentenced to a trial by combat rather than asked to present his case.
"I suppose it's too late to, uh, talk this out?" Crick asked.
The judge, Sa Kiram, a large, dried out mon calamari who'd gotten the post due to an accident with a dianoga, handed Crick a single-shot blaster. Crick briefly considered using it on the mon-cal before he noticed the bailiffs - men brandishing fully automatic weaponry and lounging about in a way that suggested a severe need to blast something sentient.
"Take ten paces and fire." Sa Kirim said in a voice that seemed like it was coming through a mouthful of gravel. "The last man standing possesses the aforementioned nerf."
Crick started walking. The nerf were his. He'd implanted each and every one of them with a subdermal RFID chip just to avoid this sort of nasty business. Gorak, the burly, scarred human who was about to turn and fire upon him, had convinced the local slaughterhouse owner to tell the authorities that the nerf belonged to Gorak.
Gorak planned to sell them quickly to an offworlder after blasting Crick.
Crick wished that he had his lightsaber-cane. A single shot? It seemed almost worth trying to block!
He reached out with the force, and got nothing other than some odd coloration in his field of view.
"Eight, nine, ten!" The judge stopped short.
Crick turned and fired first - his reflexes were pretty impressive.
His aim, on the other hand, was impressive only to people who are impressed by watching a legion of stormtroopers miss a man-sized target at ten meters.
"Heh heh." Gorak laughed to himself. The crowd roared with chants. They wanted verpine blood on the floor, and Crick wanted to disappoint them.
Gorak took a careful aim just as Crick jerked to the side. His chitinous exoskeleton seared a bit as the bolt struck, burning the sleek, bone-like covering, but doing no real damage.
The crowd shouted for blood and a couple of more self-determined bigots lept out onto the Floor of Justice, which was conveniently covered in sawdust for easy cleanup.
Except for one corner.
"Hold on, hold on!" Judge Kirim shouted into the air as one of the bailiffs shot a scraggly settler in the back of the knee. "This here is a floor of Justice, not a lynching tree!"
Crick knew where the lynching tree was.
"In the case of a trial by combat, if the offending party is wounded while the offended party is not, then the offending party shall be subjected to a trial by ordeal. This is the law!" Kirim shouted.
"Die-agh-oh-nah!" The crowd started to chant. A lot of them were drunk, so it took a few tries. "Die-agh-oh-nah! Die-agh-oh-nah!"
"Do you want justice?!" Kirim shouted over the amplifier. "Do you want freedom?" He asked for no apparent reason. "Do you want to see the...."
There was a pause for drama and Crick enjoyed it because it was a few more seconds of life.
The crowd roared approval. Or murder, from Crick's point of view. The jedi hadn't taught him much before the massacre, but he'd learned a few very interesting things about point of view.
"Then choose your weapon, Hezveth "Crick" Aza'bat!" Kirim shouted. He sounded more and more like an over-the-top announcer at a gladiatorial match than a judge, which, Crick had to admit, was quite fitting and honest.
"Dianoga. Dianoga." Crick mumbled to himself. The crowd (and the Mon Cal judge) had been pronouncing it incorrectly, as they did with most words in Basic. "Wicked beast. Seven eyes. One tentacle. Just cut off the tentacle and avoid the eyes. Right. No problem." He was fairly certain he remembered that from the Jedi Archive.
"I choose my shepard staff." Crick said. He tried to sound humble but sounded like someone with a trick up his sleeve. He didn't have sleeves, but he did have a lightsaber fastened into the body of the staff.
"Very well!" The judge-executioner-announcer said. "Should you die..." He sounded quite sarcastic. "...your nerf will go to Gorak!"
Crick took his ground near the grate where all the sawdust fell through into a murky pit.
"Only one man has survived the diagona!" The mon-cal said, mangling the pronunciation as much as the dianoga had mangled men. "Will Crick be the second? Only one thing is certain! Justice WILL BE SERVED!"
The crowd was eating it out of his hand. For some of them it would be the only meal of the week that wasn't moonshine or sawdust.
The door sprung open and the noise was incredible. Crick tried to relax, focus on the force, but as usual it did nothing but blur his vision and show him horrific visions of the future where he was surrounded on all sides by the sort of flesh that digested things.
An eye poked up through the oily haze of the water. Crick saw it.
A tentacle lashed forward and Crick snapped the lightsaber into action on the tip of his staff. He swung it downward as the tentacle snaked for him, and chopped it off, neatly. It fell onto the sawdust and writhed around.
The crowd gasped at the lightsaber. For a brief moment all that could be heard in the cavernous Hall of Justice was the hum of the weapon.
Crick raised his hands in triumph. "Yes! Yes!" he gloated. "My nerf! My herd! My..."
One of the other six tentacles Crick did not think existed grabbed him by both legs and hauled him underwater. The lightsaber cane clacked against the sawdust floor and shut off. The crowd went wild.
"I guess it was seven tentacles and one eye." Crick thought, as the firm arm hauled him towards a gaping maw. "Not seven eyes and one tentacle. That doesn't even make sense!"
The teeth closed behind him, and the gullet sucked at him, hauling him down. He was not particularly glad that he had not been cut in half or drowned. He could, apparently, hold his breath for quite some time, if he had to.
Which he did.
Peristalsis dragged him deeper. Thick mucous covered the way back up. His air was running out.
Crick had run from a lot of things, but somehow, he knew, this was the end.
The muscles grew thicker. The mucous followed suit.
Then, an eruption of heat and acid rushed around him, he felt himself carried upward, out - and then, he was free!
Free! He swam for the surface, hauled himself onto the disgusting sawdust. It stuck to him, stuck to the vile bile, the mucous and stomach acids.
The dianoga floated up behind him, thrashing for a few moments. Then, it sank. The judge looked at him, great big mon-cal eyes gone wide.
"That explains why he didn't eat me!" The mon-cal said. "He's allergic to shellfish."
Kirim regained his composure quickly, though.
"The winner of the trial by ordeal is the man known as Crick!" He bellowed.
Gorak came running. "What? Wait, what?!"
Crick raised his lightsaber cane high to a slow and regretful applause.
"You are hereby given the herd of nerf!" Kirim said. "but your crime will not go unpunished! You must be... exiled."
"Good." Crick thought to himself, before counting the nerf.
"Great." He sighed. "Any bidders?" He shouted over the rising din.
Gorak rubbed fingers together. "Ship's comin', bug-man. Comin' to take these nerf away."
Crowded into the herd of nerf, Crick sighed against a dingy, shit-stained bulkhead as the cargo transport plied through the void of space and headed for a world with few nerf or vegetarians.
"Captain, we've got a bit of an issue." The navigator said. Crick held his hands in his head, though that didn't help the ship-ful of radio waves from tingling his antenna.
"Looks like an asteroid on the scopes."
Crick felt it out there, cold and heavy and moving thousands of kilometers each second. The metal in it howled with radio waves as it passed through the ionosphere of the planet below.
"Uh, come in Bagath central. Come in." The navigator said.
There was a terrible orange glow. A white flash that blinded both pilot and navigator and thankfully did not cause the nerf to stampede.
"I can't see! I can't pilot! Where are we going?"
There were screams.
Crick was used to that.
"Get up here, buggy! Someone's gotta fly this thing!" The pilot shouted.
Piloting was not something that Crick knew how to do.
Oh well. How hard could it be?
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