Under the canopy of the jungles treetops, a figure lay unconscious within an open cage. What little light may have been cast down from the star-filled night sky was sacrificed to the dense leaves. The jungle was teeming with life, hunters stalking their midnight prey. The trumpeting screech of a nearby avian creature pierced the silence of the grove, shattering the hold that sleep had on the unconscious man. His eyes jerked open as he gasped in fright and quickly jumped to his feet.
Gathering his wits and steadying himself, Aiden Lee Deshra inspected his wooded surroundings. The metallic cage he had awakened in was wide open as if he had been released. He tried to remember how he came to be here, however, his concentration fell flat. He could remember only being contacted by his superiors within the Inquisitorious about a meeting he was requested to attend. But after that, nothing.
Stressed, and feeling a bit of self-derision, he ran his right hand through his hair and down the back of his neck. His fingers grazed something rough on his exposed skin, and he inspected the foreign feeling as best as he could. It felt like three small scabs covering what may have been puncture wounds.
A loud snapping noise in the trees behind him rang out in the quiet night. The Human was shaken free from his concentration. While not trained in long-term wilderness survival, he knew the feeling of danger when he felt it. Checking over himself, he was relieved to feel the familiar metallic hilts of his two lightsabers in their individual locations. Weapons on hand, it was time to leave the safety of the area and find a way out of the jungle.
Upon exiting his cage, Aiden took inventory of his surroundings. The first thing he noticed was a small red symbol painted on the cage door. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember whose insignia it was. There was something familiar about it though.
The second thing that the Balance Adherent noticed were the multitude of other cages in the area. They had been hidden up in the trees and all around him. Like his, all of the cage doors were open, meaning he was most likely not alone. This didn’t make him any less nervous about his current situation. How could it? He didn't know who the others were, or worse, who had taken them. The best thing Aiden thought he could do was to move and find any form of communications to get his butt off this world. He still had his own plans to complete.
Pushing through the compact bushes and maze-like trees, Aiden found himself lucky that the luminescent flora around him gave off enough light for him to see his way. If it wasn’t for his current situation, he might have taken a moment to truly soak in the beauty of the world around him. Unfortunately, not knowing where he was or why he was there led him to take matters more seriously and put survival before appreciation of nature’s art.
After about an hour of walking through the dense jungle brush, Aiden had found the cold night air piercing through his robes. The slight wind that billowed through the leaves nipped at him as well, its cooling breeze chilling to his exposed flesh. The jungle at night was not the warmest of areas, and he needed to find some shelter.
Eyes focused on his surroundings, the Gray Jedi looked high and low for a decent shelter for the night. Whatever the purpose was for his being in this jungle, he knew it would become apparent soon. He’d prefer the chance to be rested and safe through the night before dealing with it. As he moved aside a bunched up section of branches, he found himself staring at what looked like a small cave. A faint red-orange glow from inside caused him to consider that there was already someone in there. As much as he’d prefer to save his energy, if a fight was coming his survival would be paramount.
A low growling behind him broke him of his thoughts. Reaching out with the Force, Aiden was able to sense life behind him, approaching slowly and methodically. He was being hunted by what sounded like a carnivore of some kind. Taking hold of his curved hilt, Aiden calmed his mind and waited, and his thumb caressed the ignition switch. The beast behind him leaped. With a screech, a silvery blade extended from the hilt and the Arconan twisted in his spot. His blade arced across the beast's torso, slicing through like butter and bisecting it into two halves.
Aiden looked upon the scaled corpse. He didn't know much about the fauna of the region, but the heavily-scaled creature did not seem like it belonged in a jungle. It was as out of place as he was. Things were slowly falling into place for the Inquisitor. Deep in thought, Aiden’s senses went back into high alert as a figure approached from behind him. Twisting around again and swiping his blade at the new potential threat, he found himself having to look up to meet the willowy gray face of a Kaminoian.
Silver and violet blades clashed as the towering figure gripped his activated dual-blade saber. The black durasteel elongated hilt fit seamlessly into his grip and he held himself with the confidence of a seasoned veteran. Aiden vaguely recalled who it was that stood before him. While they’d never personally met, the new Combat Master Archenksov had a reputation about him. Not taking the chance to be put down by the figure who worked closely with the Voice, Aiden attacked.
Years of training showed as Aiden moved with a swift fluidity that only a master of Makashi could. His strikes came effortlessly and with deadly precision as he assaulted Arch’s weakest points. A true duelist, unrelenting, the Human’s refined movements were difficult to track and his in depth focus made his strikes appear that much more elegant.
Archenksov was a master in his own right. His defensive movements showed a tempered hold as he moved side to side, parrying the silver blade with casual effort. Aiden found the defensive positioning rather deceptive. He would strike out with his blade but his opponent would counter in an unexpected way. Arch seemed completely relaxed in his fighting, which brought a small smile to Aiden’s face. This was fun for him, and he needed that after the day he’s had.
Finally, the Kaminoian spoke. “You are well versed with your lightsaber, now perhaps we can end this before I have to teach you a real lesson.”
“So that’s why you brought me here?” Aiden asked, bewildered by the Combat Master’s statement. “A lesson from the great Archenksov? I should be so lucky.”
“What are you on about?” Arch asked with a hint of confusion to his words. “I didn’t bring you here.”
“I’ve dealt with lies from the Inquisitorious before. I won’t make that mistake twice,” the Arconan returned as he prepared to strike. “And I won’t be going down without a fight!”
“What are you talking— ”
Aiden rushed his “supposed enemy” and let loose with a smooth and refined series of attacks. Not to be outdone, Arch met each strike and countered with a haphazard series of blocks and counters. As the Kaminoian stole the offensive, Aiden matched him with well-timed parries and quickened riposts.
“Can we be serious for a moment?” Arch asked as he blocked a strike aimed at his chest.
“We have nothing to discuss. I will not be ended by the Voice’s command!” Aiden answered ducking away from swipe that, while not lethal, would have taken him out of commision. This surprised him. He couldn’t understand why Archenksov hadn’t gone for the kill. For a brief moment, the Human’s concentration broke.
Noticing Aiden lose a bit of his overall focus, Arch decided that enough was enough. Imbuing his body with the mystical energies of the Force, he waited for the right moment. Aiden swung slightly wide, exposing his left foot. The Kaminoian swiped his left leg towards the exposed ankle and tripped the Human to the ground before aiming his lightsaber at his neck. The Arconan could only seeth in disbelief.
“Would you desist? We are both in very real danger here, Deshra. We’ll need each other to stay alive long enough to get off this rock.”
Aiden gave the Combat Master a hard glare and kept his saber at the ready. Archenksov sighed as he turned off his own lightsaber and put it away. He released his captive and held out a long wispy arm, motioning for the Human to take his hand. Calming his mind, Aiden thought over the situation. The Combat Master could have killed him, but he didn’t. While this could be a trap, he sensed no ill will towards him. Hesitantly, he disengaged his blade and took the offered hand.
“What do you know that I don’t?” Aiden asked as he brushed off dirt from his robes.
“First things first, let’s get to the cave before my fire goes out. And to answer your question, we’re the newest attraction in a Trandoshan game reserve.”