Chasing the Angels

Takes place immediately after the Battle of Yavin
Tales and stories set during the events of Episodes 4-6...

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TalRaimi
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Chasing the Angels

Post by TalRaimi » Sun Jul 19, 2009 7:54 am

The sound of Swoop engines rolled across the desert plain. Thunder without lightning. The scent of oil, smoke and grease, drifted through the night air; familiar smells, their presence strangely reassuring. Malakai Koda surveyed the small group of swoop racers that had gathered this summers evening and found that he was less than impressed. Of the dozen or so other racers he reckoned only one or two of them could pose him with a serious threat. The rest of them, a mix of swoop gang rejects and young kids with more money than sense were no match. Where was the challenge?

“Easy money,” he muttered from his perch atop his modified Flare-S Swoop.

“Don’t get cocky,” a disapproving voice floated out of the darkness.

Mal swivelled in his seat to see a pair of red eyes materialise from out of the night. “It’s only cockiness if I loose.” he grinned at the towering Duros.

The tall, gaunt alien shook his head. “Leaving aside the inaccuracy of that statement for a moment, I bet a number of your opponents took one look at your bike and are feeling similarly confident.”

Mal scowled, taking a moment to glance down at his mount. While the Flare-S was one of the fastest racing swoops currently in production, it was true to say that his had seen better days. She was rust stained, her paint peeled almost down to the metal, with more than a dozen dents and dings across her chassis. However that didn’t stop her from being fast.

“More fool them if they underestimate me,” he said sullenly.

“Irony is not your strong suit is it?” the Duros shook his head in exasperation.

“Ha, ha,” Mal glared at his friend. “So is the pep talk over now, Zev?”

Zevren Baal let out a heavy sigh. It was something Mal had noticed he seemed to do a lot while around him. “The pep talk, as you so put it, is over. I merely came to wish you good luck and tell you that I have placed the bet as you instructed me.”

“Thank you,” Mal said sincerely. “You put anything down this time?”

Zev signalled a negative. He never gambled. Ever.

“No? You weren’t even tempted? Easy money.”

“As you’ve already said,” Zev pointed out. “However I prefer not to gamble on anything but a sure thing.”

“Ain’t no such thing,” Mal drawled.

Zev smiled. “Exactly.”

Mal gave him an evil look and was about to say something more when from over the rumble of swoop engines and the chatter of spectators a new sound reached his ears. It was another swoop engine, higher pitched than most of those already gathered. He glanced enquiringly to Zev but the Duros merely shrugged, all tonight’s competitors were already here.

Mal glanced out into the night. In the distance the lights of the spaceport glimmered. While Kharos was just another backwater Outer Rim world, Swoop Racing was still technically illegal. That said, as long as the races took place outside the local authorities jurisdiction then they didn’t interfere. And since said jurisdiction tended to end just outside the city limits, the Swoop Racers had plenty of room to race.

Three makeshift tracks had taken shape around the city-spaceport of Solan, each hidden from casual view by the rocky terrain that sheltered the city, each track’s location a closely guarded secret among the swoop racing community.

Slowly the engine noise grew until first one and then another of the swoop jockeys noticed. Suddenly the hum of conversation died and the noise of a dozen engines faded to a gentle rumble. As all eyes stared out into the night a single headlight suddenly pierced the darkness as the mystery swoop appeared from around a squat rocky outcropping. The rider gunned the engine, suddenly accelerating towards the artificial lights that marked the entrance to the makeshift ‘pits.’

Mal watched as the swoop sped towards him, it was sleeker than his Flare-S; the rider was hunching over the fuel tank rather than leaning back in the seat. For a second he thought the rider might not stop and his stomach suffered a momentary lurch, but as if on cue the swoop’s engine died and the airbrakes slammed on brining the rider to a halt less than a meter away from him.

He turned to Zev. “Competition’s here.”

“Are you happy now?” the Duros asked.

Mal returned his attention to the Swoop Rider; it was a women. “Oh yeah.”

“So who does a girl have to speak to around here to get herself a race?” the rider asked.

The first thing Mal noticed about her was her voice. Well all right, maybe not the first thing. Even in the dark her eyes stood out, they were like two sparking cobalt stones holding court above a pair of high cheekbones and framed by hair that Mal imagined must be the colour of the honey in daylight. Her voice however was what really made her stand out and while Mal was no expert on accents, her’s was defiantly not local. Her voice was rich and melodious, with not a syllable out of place.

“Now what makes you think we’re here for a race?” Mal gave her his best lopsided smile; the one he’d practised in the mirror since someone had once commented it was charming. “The Empire’s banned swoop racing on Kharos.”

“Such a benevolent group, the Empire,” the girl’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “I wonder, do you think they do it for our safety or is it just one more thing they can’t control?”

Well if I didn’t like her before I sure do now, Mal thought. Our girl here, is sure no fan of the Empire.

“Now, do be a dear and answer my question,” she smiled at him sweetly.

Damn, even though I know that smile’s as fake as a Tatooine snowstorm it sure is enticing. “Well since you asked so nicely I think we could accommodate you…”

“Koda!” a stern voice cut through the night. “That aint’ your call to make!”

Mal twisted in his saddle to see a leathery-faced Klatooinan approaching on foot. “So whose call is it?” he asked innocently. “Yours?”

Klatooinan faces were hard to read at the best of times, as far as Mal was concerned they always seemed to look angry, however Baris Trell was looking angrier than usual. Which given the circumstances was hardly surprising. Trell was a rare thing among his species; he was a Klatooinan with ambition. Trell’s race as a whole had been bread into servitude by the Hutts and after generations of this they knew little else, there were however exceptions, Trell being just so.

“Well I sure didn’t see you setting up tonight’s little meeting?” Trell pointed out. “So yeah, it’s my decision.”

Although tempted, Mal decided not to argue the point. Baris Trell was not an enemy Mal wanted to make; or rather he didn’t want to make a bigger enemy of him than he already had. The Klatooinan with ambition had looked to the Hutts for his inspiration, he didn’t want to serve the Hutts, he wanted to be one; and given the way Trell’s fortunes had been going lately, that was a distinct possibility. While not the biggest gang around, Trell’s was gaining power and influence with each passing day. Soon enough Mal would have to really start watching his step around the Klatooinan.

“Fair enough,” Mal reluctantly conceded the point, although he couldn’t resist adding a barb. “Although if I were you I’m not sure I’d want to race against her either. Look at her Swoop, I’m guessing it must be ex military?”

“You guess right,” the girl gave him a wink before turning to address Trell, “So how about it, are you afraid to race a tiny little human girl?”

By now a crowd had formed around the three riders. It was a fact not lost on Trell. He glanced from the girl to her bike and then to Mal. He did not look happy. “Fine,” he growled, “You got the credits you can race.”

“How much?” the girl asked.

“Two hundred.”

She raised a questioning eyebrow. “I heard it was a hundred.”

Trell leaned forward and glared menacingly at her. “You heard wrong.”

“I don’t have the extra hundred.”

The Klatooinan’s face creased up into what Mal guessed was a cruel smile. “Then you don’t race.”

“I’ll stake her.”

All eyes turned to Mal. He hadn’t been able to help himself, people like Trell had a way of winding him up, small-minded beings that liked to lord their supposed position over others. Besides, everyone here knew the entry fee was indeed a hundred. If Trell wanted to play then Mal was happy to oblige.

For several seconds the hulking alien glowered at Mal. “You got the cash on you?” he finally asked. His voice was like ice.

“Nope,” Mal admitted, “But you know I’m good for it, and these people want to race.” Mal glanced to the other racers who thankfully mumbled their agreement.

Again Trell was slow in responding. “I’m supposed to take your word?”

“Come on Baris, I’ve been racing around here almost as long as you have. Have I ever skipped out on a debt? Besides, you know where I work. I’m not stupid enough not to pay up.”

Mal held his breath. He was effectively challenging Trell’s reputation. If he decided he wanted the money up front he’d loose a lot of face here, worse though would be if the rumour spread to the other gangs around the city. “Okay, she can race,” the Klatooinan reluctantly agreed. “But you better pay up.”

“You’ll get your credits,” Mal reassured him. “So, are we racing or what?”

Trell nodded then pointedly turned his back on Mal and addressed the rest of the crowd. “Fire em up, we start in five minutes!”

As Trell and the assembled onlookers began to drift away Mal was left alone with the mysterious girl. “You can thank me later,” he grinned at her.

“I didn’t request your help,” she told him tartly.

Mal’s smile didn’t falter. “And yet you got it all the same.”

Hands on her hips - her very shapely hips - she asked him. “So what do you want from me?”

“Well, we could start with your name?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“No?” Mal didn’t hide his surprise.

“No,” she repeated, “Not unless you beat me out on the track.”

Well she’s got a lot of spirit, I’ll give her that. Mal made a show of considering what she’d said, not that he seemed to have much choice, “Well I guess I can wait a quarter arn or so.”

Her blue eyes pinned him in place, but Mal couldn’t help notice the beginnings of a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “Don’t get cocky.”

“It’s only cocky if he looses,” Zev’s voice interrupted before Mal had a chance to say anything, “Apparently.”

“Well then,” she touched a control on her Swoop to brining the engine to life once more, “I guess we’ll find out if you’re as good a swoop jockey as your ego thinks you are. Until later then…”

With Zev by his side Mal watched as she guided her Swoop over to the start line. He’d wanted to win this race to start with but now the stakes were even higher, he had to find out her name. He glanced up at his friend, a big lopsided grin on his face. “I think I’m going to enjoy this race.”

The Duros’s face remained impassive. “I’m glad one of us will.”
'Would you do it with me, heal the scars and change the stars?'

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Re: Chasing the Angels

Post by TalRaimi » Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:44 pm

As the thirteen Swoop bikes lined up on the start, Mal felt the familiar rush of fear and excitement begin to course through his veins. It was a feeling unlike any other he’d experienced, the mix of speed and danger, coupled with his own desire to win got his blood pumping like nothing else. It was a rush he wasn’t ashamed to admit he was addicted to. Unfortunately as with most addictions it wasn’t cheap and almost every spare credit he had got ploughed into fixing up and improving his Swoop.

From beneath his scratched grey helmet his brown eyes glanced down the line of racers. Trell looked at him briefly, no doubt glowering at him from under his own black racing helm, but Mal’s eyes skimmed over him and instead lingered on the figure in the red helmet at the far end. The girl’s head never moved, her eyes fixed on the track ahead.

This is going to be fun.

Pulling his attention away from the girl he began to focus on his own race. Ahead of him a long straight led into a series of tight twisting corners before climbing up through a series of rocky curves. With the bikes lined up side by side it would be a straight drag race into the first corner, one Mal was confident of winning.

As a luminous blue skinned Twi’lek girl carrying a large flag that glowed almost as brightly as her skin, took position at the side of the track, far enough away that all the Swoop Jockey’s could see her, Mal began to rev his engine. He felt the bike shudder in response, felt the shudder run through his body, and smiled. She raised the flag high and he leaned back in the Flare-S’s seat, revved the engine again and waited. The Twi’girl held the flag motionless for several heartbeats and Mal found he could count each one, and then as if he were watching in slow motion he saw the flag lowered.

With a twist of his right wrist he opened the throttle fully and the Flare-S blasted off the line, kicking up a fountain of dirt and girt in her wake. The acceleration pressed Mal back in his seat, the engine roared, and the spray of dust from the twelve other Swoops momentarily blinded him as he surged forward. After two hundred meters he glanced over, eyes widening to see that he was not alone. He’d expected to see the girl’s Swoop, one look was all it had taken to convince him it was fast, but the larger Flare-P Swoop of Baris Trell was a surprise.

Damn. Looks like the son of a Bantha’s made some modifications since we last raced!

Thankful that his helmet hid his grimace, Mal watched the dials as his Swoop kept accelerating, willing it to go faster but as the seconds passed and the first corner began to loom large it became apparent that all three Swoops were evenly matched.

So it all comes down to nerve. Who has the stones to brake the latest?

Mal hurtled towards the first corner, the ground around him a blur as he sped through the night. A pair of low light glowrods illuminated the corner, a tight left-hander which formed a choke point. It was possible to squeeze two bikes through abreast, but whoever had the outside line would come out the best as the next corner was a quick right-hander; and right now that person was Mal.

Of course it’s not an issue if I time this right.

As the jagged desert rocks that marked the corner rushed to meet him Mal caught a flash of movement in his peripheral vision.

First one to blink. Now what about the other?

He waited a heartbeat. Then another.

Frell!

Mal hit the brakes, bracing himself as the Swoop rapidly decelerated, doing its best in the process to throw him from his seat. A large lump of metal sailed past him before breaking a heartbeat later and as Mal yanked the Swoop hard over to the left he found himself tailing the girl’s sleek ex-military swoop into the first corner.

Double Frell!

As the swoop came out of the first corner he gunned the throttle, trying to slip by the girl on the inside but she had already moved across onto the racing line to block him and all he succeeded in doing was having to brake earlier than needed to avoid running into her. As she accelerated away into a wide sweeping left turn she glanced briefly back over her shoulder and Mal would have put money she was grinning behind her helmet.

We got a long way to go darlin, don’t get cocky!

Mal twisted the throttle and roared after her, not daring a glance behind him. ‘Rather like life, the race is out in front of you,’ he’d once been told, ‘not behind you.’ Those words were the one and only piece of useful advice his father had ever given him, and as much as he disliked the old man, those words still rang true to this day.

The next two corners flew by; the rocky walls that marked the track were indistinct blurs half hidden by the night. The Glowrods and Swoop lights giving the riders barely enough time to see the turns coming up. Racing at night carried it’s own thrill, it’s own special danger, it heightened the senses as well as the adrenalin. Only the brave and the foolish raced at night and the line separating the two was measured in victory.

Two more sweeping corners and a flat out left hander led into the long back straight and by the time the girl’s swoop emerged onto it Mal was right behind her. He’d been riding this track ever since they’d first dug up half the desert to form it and his superior knowledge had cut the girl’s lead to almost nothing. As he pulled out alongside her he could feel his Swoop’s engine straining, growling it’s defiance as its nose inched ahead.

Unable to help himself he looked left and found he was looking straight into the girl’s crystal blue eyes. For a moment he froze, captured by her gaze, then the Swoop hit a bump and the repulsorfield jolted him back to reality.

Note to self, don’t get lost in her eyes. You might never get out.

Race first, flirt later, he decided as the pair of them surged towards the end of the back straight with Mal narrowly in front. It was almost a repeat of the first corner. This time though his narrow lead was enough and he had the satisfaction of jamming his Swoop in front of her. Half a dozen corners later and he crossed the line in first place.

One lap down. Eleven to go.
'Would you do it with me, heal the scars and change the stars?'

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Re: Chasing the Angels

Post by Arkov Bane » Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:26 pm

Where's the rest?
No greater an honor there is than to lay down my life for my Brother.

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