Starchaser

Chapter 1

Ryqik woke up early. Something seemed to compel him to move, to get out. He slipped out of bed and dressed quickly, taking no notice of the fact that the clothes were dirty. He padded out of his room and went along the short corridor to where his younger sister slept. He knocked softly on the door and got no response. He opened it, the door creaking softly on its decade old hinges.

He peered inside. Nakita was curled up and resembled a furry cushion on top of her bed. Evidently she had found it too warm to sleep under the covers. Light filtered through the window and fell on to her furry muzzle, highlighting the subtle greys and browns. Her ears twitched and he thought that she would wake up, but she continued having her adventures inside her world of dreams. Ryqik felt that he could watch his sister sleep forever, so peaceful she was! He didn't want to disturb her. The sudden need to get out of the house that woke him seemed to be fading away.

Silly, he told himself. Nothing could happen here.

Just as he was about to leave and head back to his room, the sudden need to get out pushed at his mind again. It was so strong that it scraped the inside of his skull.

He crept further inside the room until he was level with Nakita's head and clamped his hand-paw over her mouth and nose. She whimpered softly and sharp pain shot through his fingers as needle sharp teeth nipped him. He drew his hand back in surprise, like someone touching a pan that was too hot to be handled and let out a yip of pain.

"Kita!"

Nakita's orange-yellow eyes flicked open. Ryqik clamped his hand over her muzzle and gestured her to be quiet. He removed his hand and she whispered, "What is it?"

"We have to get out of here. Hurry, get dressed."

Nakita hissed at him, wondering what was so important that her brother would come into her room and wake her up like this.

"Go back to sleep, Ryqik!"

Nakita rolled over so that her back was to him and closed her eyes. The impulse to go was getting more urgent now.

"Kita we have to go. Now!" he snapped, sounding more angry than he intended, his feelings of dread seeping through into his voice.

Kita sighed, pushed her legs over the side of the bed and sleepily got to her feet. Nakita took a little more time over choosing something to wear than her brother had, partly because she wanted to frustrate her brother because he had woken her up when she was having a wonderful dream: of trees and wildflowers, somewhere more beautiful than where she was now, a place that she had never seen but deep inside knew it existed and one day would go there. The other reason was that she just assumed he'd woken her for another silly game of his, not that she didn't enjoy them but she just didn't appreciate getting woken up early in the morning for them! Ryqik waited impatiently. Part of him wanted to go and wake up his parents, but Nakita was taking such a long time already...there just wouldn't be enough time.

He breathed a sigh when she finally got dressed. She was just about to start looking for her favourite toy when Ryqik grabbed her arm, digging his claws in.

"Hey!"

Ryqik stepped over to the window and opened it. He clambered up onto the window sill and jumped down out the other side, landing with a thud on the ferrocreate. A few moments later, he heard the scrabble of claws as Nakita followed suit. He caught her smaller body as she jumped down and with his arm still wrapped about her waist, he led her into hiding behind a pile of rubble just as a repulsor lift truck showed up. Any thought of games and annoyance at being woken up fled Nakita's mind as it was replaced by an instinctive dread.

He felt her tremble in fear against him as a squad of Stormtroopers began piling out. A large Shistavanen male followed the Stormtroopers out of the vehicle and looked over in the direction of their hiding place. He sniffed the air a couple of times, detecting no scent and turned back to the Stormtrooper squad. She struggled against him.

"Mother and Father are still inside!"

It took all his strength to keep her from going back into the building.

"We can't do anything, Kita."

He clung on to her protectively and sensing he was right, Nakita sank back into him, still trembling in fear, hoping their parents would find a way out as the Stormtroopers filed inside. She felt like screaming as she heard blaster shots fired inside, but she didn't, knowing that if she uttered a sound now that they would be dead too.

***

The servo-motor of Kopek's mechanical arm whirred as he dropped his hand to his hip and drew his broadsword. He marched through the lounge ahead of the Stormtrooper squad and came up on Nykit standing in the doorway. He heard the soft padding of a running female heading down the corridor.

"There is nowhere to hide, traitor."

Nykit made no reply as he swung his sword at Kopek. The Shistavanen Warrior blocked it, steel clanging on steel as the sword blades met. Kopek's face creased in a snarl, his teeth glinting in the low lit corridor. A growl escaped Nykit's lips as he drew back his heavy blade and crossed swords with him again. A Stormtrooper tried to attack Nykit, only to have the Shistavanen bring the hilt of his sword smashing down on the helmet, shattering the man's skull. Kopek roared at the Stormtroopers to pursue Nykit's mate.

"This one is mine!"

The two Shistavanens circled each other like a pair of strutting wild animals. This time Kopek chose to take the offensive, charging forward, pressing his opponent up against the wall of the corridor. Nykit landed a kick in Kopek's midsection, pushing him back against the wall opposite before bring his blade up to intercept Kopek's next stroke. They broke apart almost immediately only to make contact again, testing both their strength against their own. Saliva dribbled from Nykit's mouth as he stared into the eyes of Kopek. He saw nothing but cruelty there and a desire to kill that would sicken even a predator. Somewhere in the maze of corridors there was the sound of shots being fired.

***

Lyet searched Ryqik's room desperately. She flung open the door to his wardrobe, used the Force to levitate the bed. Nothing. Ryqik was nowhere to be found. If she had just stopped to think, to calm herself as Shirak had taught her, then she would have found both her children and got away, but her panic made her thoughts irrational and erratic. She forgot the Jedi calming techniques her brother Shirak had taught her.

She was still searching the room when the first of the Stormtroopers appeared in the doorway. She dropped to the ground and rolled to avoid the first shot before coming lightly to her feet and activating her silver blade. It hummed and crackled as she swung it effectively through the air to block the next blaster shot and sent it ricocheting back at the trooper who had fired it.

She moved forward on nimble feet, deflecting the next shot fired at her before cutting through her next assailant. The corridor was clear of enemies now and she stepped over the bodies. Perhaps Ryqik had gone to Nakita's room and that was where she would find them both.

She encountered another pair of Stormtroopers on her way to her daughter's room, cutting them down without thought or feeling, her only concern getting to her children and protecting them from harm.

***

Nykit drew first blood, slashing Kopek across the chest with his blade. Kopek howled in pain and anger, swinging his sword with such force that it shattered both swords on impact. Kopek kicked with all his power at Nykit's midsection, knocking him to the ground. Before he could recover, Kopek drew his blaster set on full power and fired at point blank range a couple of times.

Fire washed over Nykit and he struggled to hold on to life. He tried drawing in a deep breath but his lungs wouldn't respond. He gargled as blood poured into his throat and dripped out of his mouth.

Kopek shot him once more for good measure, just to make sure that he was in fact, indeed, dead.

Joy flooded Kopek's bitter and twisted soul, though he would have loved to make his victim suffer a slower and more painful death. He growled in amusement as he went off in search of Nykit's mate.

***

Lyet howled in anguish when she discovered the absence of her children. Then she spotted the open window and the scent of her little ones leading up to it. Pain ripped through her mind as she felt her mate die. She lowered her head and closed her eyes to shut out the pain. Just as she made her mind up to leave, she felt fire sting her back.

She turned, anger making her strong. She lifted one Stormtrooper up off the floor with the Force and flung him with all her hatred against the wall.

Her pups were gone and her mate was dead and all because of these abominations. She had nothing left now accept her desire for vengeance.

She cut down the last of the Stormtroopers just as pain and grief over came her. Her knees lost all their power to support her body and she collapsed to the floor. She was not aware when Kopek entered the room behind her. He padded up behind her softly before seizing the scruff of her neck with his mechanical hand. His artificial fingers pinched the back of her neck. He tilted her head up as he drew his vibroblade, stabbing it into her neck as the base of her skull. Lyet died instantly, her body disappeared before his eyes leaving only a pile of clothes.

Mission accomplished.

***

Kopek sank down into the nerf hide covered pilot's seat of his ship, the Blooded Scimitar. He tore off the patch that covered his left eye and poked the holocam replacement with the index finger of his flesh hand. He had lost the eye in a fight as an adolescent when he was training to be an Archetype, a cast of elite warriors and hunters whose sole purpose was, in a historical sense, to protect the Senator of the Uvena System. It was Nykit who had been responsible for the loss of his eye. Part of him was satisfied that he had finally gotten his revenge for making him a freak. At the same time as the accident, it was also discovered that Kopek possessed a rare gene that gave him an allergy to bacta. The bacta that the doctors had used to treat him had almost killed him.

The last Senator of the Uvena System had betrayed the Republic during the Clone Wars and lost much of the loyalty of her protectors, the majority of which saw her fall from power as an opportunity for their own gain. Nykit had been one who had stuck by her and for that he deserved death. After much searching, Kopek had found his hideout and that of the Senator's daughter...

His arm he had lost in a fight with Shirak, another one of the traitors who had once been a member of the Jedi Order before he disappeared. Because of his allergy to bacta, Kopek had to have the rest of the arm amputated and replaced with a mechanical one.

In many ways, his enhancements made him more powerful. His mechanical eye allowed him to see light wavelengths that he wouldn't see with his real eye and his mechanical arm was twenty times more powerful than his flesh one. On the other hand, they also made him a freak, an oddity. This made social situations difficult for him as very few Shistavanens had mechanical enhancements. As for females, they tended to shy away from him. Not even his status as an Archetype gave him any advantages there.

His only purpose was to hunt the enemies of his brother, Za. Kopek's first assignment had been to kill Korta Sarc, the Alpha Premier of the Archetypes after the fall of the Uvena System to Republic forces in the early days of the Clone Wars. Kopek had succeeded in that but Za had lost out to Rivik who was now the Alpha Premier of the Archetypes and a suspected Rebel Sympathiser.

Kopek was bitter and violent, cruel and merciless. Not because he had set out to be like that, but because others treated him as inferior, as useless because of his affliction. They inflicted pain on him and he liked inflicting pain on others. It was the only thing that gave him any real satisfaction. When the world was bitter and brutal to you, isn't it only fair that you return those feelings by being bitter and brutal back?

***

It was a long time before Ryqik found the courage to emerge from the rubble and renter the building. Nakita had cried herself to sleep and he left her there. He didn't want her to see what had happened to their parents and he had to check to see if they were still alive. He peered cautiously inside the hall way. The scent of ozone, blood and death was strong and he swallowed his fear. He had to know. The lounge looked like a proton torpedo had hit it, broken furniture and other objects scattered everywhere. At least one thing was intact. A hologram of their family. He picked it up and wiped the grime and dust off it before pocketing it.

He found the blackened body of his father in the doorway to his parents' bedroom, his father's shattered broadsword still in his hand. But still, he had fought bravely, giving Ryqik's mother time to check on her children, to try to get them to safety. He passed the body, the sight and smell of it making him feel sick. He caught his mother's scent and found it led to Nakita's bedroom.

He discovered five dead Stormtroopers and a pile of clothes belonging to his mother but no body. Beside the pile of clothes, he found a chrome cylinder. He picked it up and depressed the button on the side and a silver shaft of light sprung from one end, passing through the remains of Nakita's bed.

He had heard enough of the Jedi to know what it was but part of him didn't want to believe it. His mother a Jedi? No Way!

He depressed the button again and the shaft disappeared. There was the scent of a strange male Shistavanen all about the house. Ryqik breathed it deep, committing the scent to memory. He had to get back to Nakita. He didn't want her to wake up scared and alone, thinking she'd lost him too. He did a quick search of the house and other than finding some crusty, nasty tasting survival rations and a warm blanket, he found nothing useful.

He threw up the contents of his stomach when he left the building, sinking down with his back pressed up against the wall while he recovered his faculties. He spat out the foul taste of bile, glad that Nakita hadn't seen what he had.

Nakita woke up when he re-entered their hiding place. Just one look at her brother told Nakita that their parents were gone. Ryqik offered her one of the rations.

"I'm not hungry, Ryqik." How could she eat at a time like this? Her stomach left hollow and empty inside, though strangely, she didn't feel like eating.

"LOOK YOU HAVE TO EAT!" Ryqik snarled at her, angry at the Stormtroopers, the strange Shistavanen, his parents for being dead and Nakita for being a stubborn little lupa.

Nakita let out a series of whines that got more high pitched with every second that passed. Ryqik inched over to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders until it passed, realising that she was just a pup. "I'm sorry, Kita."

When she recovered, Nakita realised that she was hungry and accepted one of the survival rations. After they had eaten, they curled up to sleep together under the blanket, body heat and the scent of their bodies keeping them warm and giving them comfort on their first night alone in the galaxy.

***

Kopek had to leave the Blooded Scimitar docked on the Imperial Star Destroyer, Dauntless that orbited Uvena III and make planetside in an Imperial Lander. Kopek would have much preferred to go down in his vessel - he hated the stares and whispered derogatory comments uttered by the Imperial drones, known as the Star Destroyer's deck officers.

A source of annoyance was that he had to share the passenger compartment with two Imperial officers, Commander Navunax and Commander Mellibai. Kopek had met the two commanders before on a few occasions, but didn't know them well.

Navunax was a young, efficient looking human (at he thought he gave that appearance.), with short cropped dark hair, in his late twenties. Think of arrogant, well-off desk monkey cum TIE Fighter Commander. Kopek doubted he would last five seconds in an Archetype training match.

Mellibai was older and beginning to grow a spare tyre around his stomach, the result of too much time sitting around at his desk on the Star Destroyer and not enough time out in the field. He had a missing finger on his right hand that suggested he was the officer in charge of ground forces and Kopek almost felt a kinship with the human because of it, which made his skin crawl. He sported a neatly trimmed beard and hair, both of which were beginning to grey.

Both, however, avoided conversation and Kopek was glad of that. It was bad enough that he had to share the cabin with them, never mind having to listen to their mewing of how great they were because they were Imperials.

After what seemed like an eternity, the Imperial Lander docked on a landing platform on the edge of the Government Sector of Terhan, the capital of Uvena III. Kopek was glad to get out of the confines of the Imperial Lander and out of the Military docking bay. There was a larger Spaceport that catered for commercial shipping and tourism (what little there was of it.), the Military docking bay was reserved for Imperial Personnel and VIPs.

The first thing Kopek noticed was that it was the middle of the day on that side of Uvena III.

To the north was his destination, The Hall of the Archetype Council. He would have to debrief the mission before his peers and the Imperial Governor, which he was so not looking forward to.

Terhan was composed of three main sectors. The government buildings, Including what was once the Senator's Palace, which was now, among other things, home to the Imperial Governor, serving as a retreat from the hustle of Uvena Prime, the real home of the Uvena System's Central Government and the Hall of the Archetype Council. These were raised above the rest of the city on a plateau like some ancient sleeping monster. Once the symbol of freedom and justice for the inhabitants of Uvena III and the rest of the System. Now, it was the heart of a corrupt and evil regime that had Uvena III in its grip. The greed and darkness of Palpatine had stretched far in the galaxy and like trees striped of leaves in winter months did hope barely cling to life.

In the centre of the government plaza, was a giant statue of Palpatine standing twelve metres high. Once, a statue of the Senator Mizet had stood in its place, next to a statue of the Jedi Master Raqak. But after their betrayal of Palpatine's New Order, the statues had been torn down and replaced by the one of Palpatine.

Most of the Archetypes lived in the palace, in the lower levels of its megalithic structure, but Kopek lived apart, on the border between the government sector and the trade sector. Most of the trade sector was run down now, the result of heavy taxation and the abolition of ship building on Uvena III, imposed as a way of subduing the Shistavanen opposition to the Empire. Some lucky individuals had gotten contracts for space exploration, searching for rebel settlements but after a few scouts had defected to the rebels, that activity was outlawed and even those who had gotten off the planet were out of employment.

The largest sector consisted of housing for the civilians and weapons factories for the Empire. There had once been the Uvenan University of Starship Engineering which had been responsible for the building of the Uvenan fleet, but the Empire had forced that to close and its students, researchers and professors were now forced to work for the Empire in the weapons factories.

Kopek reached the steps leading into the Hall of the Archetypes. He had walked there from the Military docking bay partly to delay his arrival at the Hall and partly because he didn't want to end up unfit like Mallibai.

As he made his way to the Council Chamber, he passed through corridors lined with wooden panelling and paintings depicting prominent Archetype warriors of the past.

Surprisingly, little had changed here since the latter days of the old Republic. But even among the Archetypes, the last vestige of the old ways had began to show signs of rot.

When he entered the Chamber, the Council, along with several Imperials had gathered. Governor Riyadah was sat in the centre of the round table that was shaped with the symbol of the Empire at the far end of the room. He was flanked by Captain Jed Darkfyre, the officer in charge of the Dauntless on his right. On his left was the grotesque obese figure of Laej, Riyadah's aide. Flanking each of these were Commander Navunax and Commander Mellibai, both of whom had gotten there before him because they had taken a speeder. Directly opposite Riyadah sat Rivik, the Alpha Premier of the Archetypes. At either side of him was seated the Senior Archetypes, Nidet and Kopek's brother, Za.

To make sure that the Archetypes behaved themselves, there were Stormtroopers to guard the Governor and his Officers.

"It is good of you to finally arrive, Archetype Kopek," Riyadah said.

"The mission was a success. Senator Mizet's daughter Lyet and the traitor Nykit are dead," Kopek reported.

"Where are the Stormtroopers that accompanied you on the mission?" Commander Mellibai asked.

"They died on the mission. You have so many of them that it wouldn't make much difference."

"You lost a whole squad of Stormtroopers to eliminate two aliens?" Laej asked, contempt in his voice. "This is what happens when you send an animal to do a man's job."

"Excuse me, Aide, but those men who accompanied Archetype Kopek are dead. It's not a matter of whether humans are better than Shistavanens, but who is the better warrior," Nidet said.

"Besides, Lyet was the spawn of a Jedi. A squad of your clones are nothing to them," Za said, on one of the rare occasions that he defended his brother. "Now that they are gone, there is no threat to our control of the Uvena System."

"Our control? Don't you mean the Empire's control?" Laej said, smugly. In spite of the fact that he was a mere Aide, he had a tendency to be conceited.

"You may have control of our System, human, but you lack the control of the Shistavanen soul...," Nidet retorted.

Rivik silenced her with a dark look. "We are not here to fight with our allies, Nidet."

Nidet flattened her ears against her skull. "Of course, Alpha Premier. Accept my apologies."

"Archetype Kopek, would you mind relating to us exactly what happened?" Governor Riyadah asked.

***

Night had fallen over the city of Terhan when Kopek left the Hall of the Archetype Council. As he left, he was torn between heading home or visiting one of the cantinas in the civilian sector. The cantinas seemed to be the only places that did well in the city. Everyone needed to forget their problems and the best way to do that was to drown themselves in alcohol. Kopek had to agree with them as he decided on the latter.

After spending the best part of twelve hours being interrogated by the Senior Archetypes and getting ridiculed for losing his whole Stormtrooper contingent by the Aide of the Imperial Governor for the Uvena System and its out lying sectors, Kopek needed to wind down.

Get into a couple of brawls, maybe and if he was really lucky find a female to spend sometime with. He walked to the cantina, making his way through the winding streets, thinking. He took pleasure in walking the streets at night. There were so few to stare at his mechanical arm. That was what people usually saw when they met him. They didn't see him as a warrior, only as a freak with a machine for a limb.

He entered his usual hunting ground, a cantina called the Drunken Ronto which was run by a human male with what seemed to be five or six beer bellies. Silly name, really but he didn't go for that. He liked the live band when they had one (emphasis on the word live: the band usually got smoked if they sucked) and the Lomin ale was excellent and inexpensive. The other reason why he liked the place was because it was frequented by bounty hunters, smugglers, mercenaries and the like. There was always something to keep him amused. Then there was the occasional Rebel, whom he just loved to dispatch because they were there. Rebels.

With his mechanical eye, he didn't need to stand at the top of the stairs for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Smoke from several intoxicants made grey trails in the air. On the far wall, a holoscreen played a tacky holodrama depicting a Jedi who had fallen in love with a princess from twenty years ago. No one was paying it much attention. Tacky holodrama aside, there was one final reason he liked to visit the Drunken Ronto.

There was her. That golden furred Shistavanen Wolfwoman. The authorities wanted her dead or captured alive because she was a smuggler and a suspected Rebel Sympathiser.

He wondered if she was there now as he wondered over to the bar. Most of the patrons moved to get out of his way. When he got to the bar and waited for his drink, he noticed the golden furred Shistavanen sat at a table in a corner talking with a known Rebel suspect.

As an Archetype, he was familiar with Rebel suspects.

He sipped his drink slowly, glancing every so often through the corner of his eye, to make sure she was still there.

***

Cyhen reconised Kopek as soon as he'd walked in. The mechanical arm and the fake eye gave him away. She didn't know him by name but by the fact that he had shown an interest in her previously and Cyhen's suspicions were only heightened when he got to the bar and looked in her direction.

"I think we shall have to leave this for another time," she said to her companion.

The human nodded his agreement.

"I'll contact you by the usual means," Cyhen told him as he stood up and left. Cyhen knew him only as Darkmoon, which was obviously a code name.

She stayed after her companion left, not wanting to appear paranoid and studied the cyborg in more detail. There was something about him that she found compelling, attractive even, but she sensed a brutal-ness about him. Not that she was a Jedi or Force sensitive in any way. She'd just had enough experience to know a psycho when she saw one.

She took note of the behaviour of the crowd about him. Humans and other species gave him a wide berth, unless they themselves were large and powerful and felt like they could take him on in a fight. Other Shistavanens avoided him too, not because they were afraid of him like the others, but because of his differences, notably his prosthetic arm. Most people aren't bad to begin with. Most have it forced upon them by their circumstances or because of being hurt in the past. Some rise above it, some don't and others have never known any different and so don't change.

Cyhen had no love for the Empire. During her childhood, her parents had been massacred by the Clone Army during the Clone Wars. Her "Uncle", an ageing Archetype who had trained her father, had raised her. When she was about fourteen, she returned home to find her uncle murdered and her home in ruins. She'd buried his body and planted a sapling on his grave that while in life he had grown from seeds gathered in the forest. She'd constructed a barrier around the grave to stop wild animals from damaging the sapling and left the ruins behind.

After a year doing what ever work she could to survive, she joined up with some mercenaries, learning the art of survival. When she turned sixteen, she became the lover of their leader, a male Shistavanen called Byak. The group disbanded after one of their members had betrayed them to a rival band. Byak had been killed and she inherited Byak's ship, the Starchaser.

Cyhen finished her reminiscing of the past and drained the last of her drink. She decided to leave then and draped the shapeless cloak over her head and shoulders as she left her seat.

***

From his place at the bar, Kopek noticed the golden furred female leave and a dark figure follow her. This tugged at his curiosity and he rose from his stool to follow her, leaving his glass half full. He kept a distance of ten metres between them.

Outside, the stars had been obscured by clouds and a light drizzle was falling from the sky, wetting the wiry guard hairs of his dark brown pelt. His mechanical eye picked up the small indents in the grit covered road left by the sharp claws of their feet. There were two distinct sets. A small set, obviously the golden furred female's and a larger set which indicated a male slightly smaller than himself. He sniffed the air and recognised the scent of one of the Archetypes. It was weak, the scent obscured by the drizzle and the invisible trail of pheromones left by the female.

It was Jahen, a young arrogant male whom Kopek couldn't stand at all. He smiled to himself as his hand moved to the disrupter holstered on his hip. Then he changed his mind and opted for his vibroblade. He couldn't risk hitting the golden furred female by accident.

He could find a use for her, perhaps even-

No, she'd never go with him.

He forced himself to focus on the task at hand.

***

Cyhen knew from the moment she stepped out of the cantina and into the night drizzle that she was being followed. The cloak protected her from the rain and she was glad of having the hindsight to bring it out with her. Mostly it was to disguise her unusual fur colour. Golden fur was not common among her species. It was mostly dark brown, black, dark grey or a combination of the colours. A pelt of only white fur was uncommon except in the regions close to the poles. Albinos were almost unheard of.

There were few walking the streets at this hour and the closeness of the buildings made her feel uneasy, like prey that knew it was being hunted and had no way of knowing from where the predator might strike.

She didn't head for the shoddy flat that over looked the the spaceport where her beautiful Starchaser was docked. To go there would be like inviting a Krayt Dragon home. She didn't want to be out of control of the situation and decided to choose the strike herself.

Her hand dropped to the blaster at her hip and she turned suddenly to fend off her pursuer. The large male reacted before she could fire, kicking the blaster from her hand with practised ease before knocking her forcefully to the ground.

Cyhen held her hand in pain as she watched death approach her. The large male hefted his broadsword and Cyhen closed her eyes, waiting for the blow to take her life, but it didn't come. She opened her eyes and her attacker lay dead to one side, killed by a vibroblade hurled at the base of his skull.

Standing over her was the male with the prosthetic arm and eye. The rain had begun to fall heavier now and fell in large, heavy drops that not even the cloak could protect her from. He held out his flesh paw to her, she took it and helped her to her feet.

"Thank you," she murmured as their eyes met. She looked away nervously.

"No problem," he knelt down in the rain to retrieve his vibroblade and then turned his disrupter on the body to destroy all evidence of his death.

"We'd better get out of this rain. My flat isn't far from here," Cyhen said.

The only evidence that anyone had actually been killed there was the blood that was washed away by the rain.

 

***

There wasn't much in Cyhen's flat accept things that made it liveable. She was away a lot and found little time to accumulate things that she didn't need for survival. In fact, her ship the Starchaser was more comfortable, but at least the ceiling didn't rain like it was doing now.

The poky kitchen opened out into the lounge area that consisted of a chair, a holovid and a table. The only other rooms were a bedroom and a bathroom. Cyhen had moved into the flat shortly after Byak was killed, leaving most of her possessions behind in the haste to find a place to live where her old enemies couldn't track her down.

From the floor where he sat, Kopek watched Cyhen who had changed into a tight fitting purple top and blue trousers make a warm drink to chase away the chills brought on by the rain. Kopek was draped in a blanket while his clothes dried on a radiator. Cyhen returned from the kitchen with a pair of steaming mugs of hot chocolate in her hands. Outside, the wind bashed droplets of rain so hard against the window that Kopek thought it would shatter. She passed one of the mugs to Kopek who took it with his flesh hand.

Cyhen set hers down on the table as she sat opposite him.

"It looks like the rain will be here for the night. You can stay here, if you wish."

Kopek nodded. Part of him wanted to go, but he forced himself to stay. He'd had enough of running away from things that might make him happy. Perhaps this was going to be a good night after all.

"Why did you save me?" Cyhen blurted out suddenly.

Kopek considered his answer. The most obvious and truthful one that came to mind was that he found her attractive and wanted to spend the night with her, but if he said that, she'd likely kick him in a very sensitive area and so wouldn't do. So he told her the first of his half truths.

"I couldn't let Jahen kill you. He was intruding in my sector and I couldn't allow that."

Cyhen looked at him confused. "I don't understand-"

"I'm an Archetype. So was he."

Cyhen nodded her understanding. "That's why you destroyed the body, correct?"

"Yes."

Cyhen regarded him sceptically for a moment. "I thought you were a bounty hunter," she said, trying to trap him. She'd been hunted by bounty hunters before and from what her uncle told her, Archetypes just didn't go round killing each other, but then that was before the Empire...

Kopek creased his lips to reveal his long canines in amusement. "In a way, my kind are."

Cyhen still didn't know what to make of him, but he had saved her life. Cyhen reached forward and deliberately ran her hand over his mechanical arm. It was cold to the touch. Kopek stared into her eyes. His prosthetics didn't repulse her.

Cyhen suddenly felt tired and she finished the rest of her drink.

"Sure you'll be alright out here tonight?" Cyhen asked him. She still felt shaken over the attack and felt she could do with the company of someone.

"I'll be fine, Cyhen," Kopek replied, cursing himself for his own stupidity.

"You know where to find me if you change your mind."

***

Cyhen lay awake for almost a hour waiting for Kopek to appear in the doorway. The sound of him snoring, a load rumbling sound mixed with the occasional growl reached her ears through the thin door. She sighed and turned over onto her side before finally dropping off to sleep alone.