QI’RA: Chapter Five

Intrusion

Ventra Dune knelt on the edge of a cliff, the world before her reddened by the goggles’ tint that she was wearing.

“I hate this planet,” she grumbled.

“This planet” she was speaking of was Symtora; a bleak place with flatlands of grey stone, vaulting caverns and sheer cliffs that fell into steep canyons and roiling oceans. What vegetation that could be found grew deep in the caverns where the underground rivers ran freely. Above ground, there was nothing but grey land and the sky that for some reason was always filled with storm clouds.

Beside her knelt Nienye, Qi’ra’s top lieutenant. He was a tall man with unblemished skin the color of charcoal and striking green eyes that were native to his people from Takodana. His head was close-shaven and his face was beardless, allowing his sheer beauty to shine freely. Ventra Dune wasn’t one to get flustered over men but he definitely was a looker.

He was clad in a sleeveless black top revealing the toned muscles in his arms with matching pants and boots. A tan leather strap slung close-fittingly across his body was covered in grenades, knives, and what looked like throwing darts. On his hips, he had two blasters holstered snugly. And beside him, driven into the ground, was a spear. Its pointed head, crafted from a golden material streaked with white lines that when in use turned blue, subtly thrummed with energy.

Hearing her words he smirked. “And what makes you hate this planet, Ventra?”

She scowled, pointing at the bleak landscape surrounding them. “Look at this place. There’s nothing here!”

His smirk widened. “What do you mean there’s nothing here? We’ve been sent here to steal the Yartish Jewels, jewels so rare they sell for 20,000,000 credits per jewel. And they’re native to this planet.”

“There still aren’t any trees,” she muttered.

He shook his head, turning his attention to the small fortress emerging from the very stone sitting on a cliff across the way in the shallow ravine. It was barricaded by a single but intimidatingly thick stone wall.

“I don’t see any guards,” he announced.

Ventra Dune raised her blaster, looking into its scanner which could see through obstructions. Immediately she saw the dozens of heat signatures moving about within the fortress.

“Yeah, that place is loaded. Guards everywhere.”

Nienye rolled his neck. “No matter. We can take them easily enough.”

She looked at him, her eyebrow raised at his confidence. “Pretty boy, these are the Yartish Jewels we’re talking about here. Hundreds of others have tried and not been able to. It’s not going to be easy.”

He smiled at her. “We’ll see about that.”

She shrugged. “Okay, we’ll see.”

She raised the blaster once more, aiming at the fortress’s walls. She changed the setting on the blaster to send forth a grappling hook. She shot at the wall before pinning the rope at her end to the ground. She turned to Nienye.

“After you, pretty boy.”

Yanking his spear from the stone he grabbed the rope and slid toward the fortress. Ventra followed after him, a grenade in her hand and her double-barreled blaster on her back. Nienye dropped down behind the wall. Ventra smiled as she heard blaster fire resound through the air. Easy, huh?

When she dropped down after him she was expecting to find a fight. Instead, Nienye stood in the midst of seven fallen guards and it looked like he hadn’t even broken a sweat. Her eyes widened.

“How?” she asked, stunned. “I wasn’t even that far behind you.”

He grinned. “Easy.”

She shook her head, belting her grenade and unholstering her blaster. “Well then, if it’s so easy, I’m following you into the fortress.”

He twirled his spear. “With pleasure.”

They ran toward the stone fortress, unfazed by its imposing presence and the legacy that filled it with mystery. For centuries it had been home to four of the infamous Yartish Jewels. Many had tried to steal the precious items and no one had been able to. The leader of Crimson Dawn, Qi’ra, knew the ability to brag that Crimson Dawn had been the Crime Syndicate to steal the infamous jewels would make Crimson Dawn the most respected crime syndicate in the galaxy. And that meant more credits for everybody.

Ventra Dune was flattered to be considered skilled (and smart) enough to embark on such a perilous venture but she was ready to upgrade her resumé. And with the reward–2,000,000 credits, which would be paid if the jewels were obtained, Ventra Dune understood that this job could very well be her last. She could finally retire. Head to Naboo and live in one of those lake houses that her friend had always been talking about. But first, she had to survive.

As they drew closer to the entrance of the fortress Nienye unlatched a grenade from his belt. He armed it and threw it at the door. In seconds it detonated, blowing a massive chunk into the fortress’s only entrance. Stones and debris rained upon them as they hurried into the citadel.

A second later, blaster fire filled the front hall. Ventra Dune slowed, raising her blaster to shoot anything that moved but Nienye kept moving forward toward the enemy fire.

“What do you think you’re doing?!” she yelled.

He didn’t respond, instead electing to twirl his spear in a circle before his body. The electric energy humming from the spear blurred into a protective shield that blocked all oncoming projectiles like the Jedi’s lightsabers in the days of old. Ventra Dune watched slack-jawed as he continued forward, using the energy shield to press his advance before reaching his attackers and becoming an offensive force to be reckoned with.

He twirled and spun, his spear lashing out at his red-and-white armored enemies like an extension of his arm, taking down opponent after opponent with every strike. When one final attacker tried to make a run for it he simply twirled his spear in hand and slung it at the fleeing man with perfect precision. The force of the impact was so strong the spear drove the man back and impaled him into the wall where he slumped, dead.

Unholstering one of his blasters, Nienye turned to look at Ventra Dune who was still standing slack-jawed at the end of the hall.

“Am I going to do all the fighting or are you going to help out?” he asked.

She approached him. “I’m trying to but you’re killing everybody before I get the chance,” she responded.

“Then you take the lead.”

She nudged him forward. “Oh no, you’re the one with the spear-shield thingy. I’ll just follow you.”

He chuckled, yanking the spear out of the man’s limp body and letting the dead man crumple to the floor. “Next stop, the jewels.”

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