SW: A Dragoon's Bantha

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SlingBlade87's avatar

Literature Text

The scent of smoking dewback hide filtered through the scrubbers in Moshier's helmet as he pressed against his dead mount's flank. He still wasn't sure where the Sand People had come from. One moment the patrol had been following in the trail of the probe droid as it scanned the dunes and the next it was down and the rest of the squad was under fire. The other dewback rider in the squad had gone down first, and then Moshier had been dismounted by a shot to the leg.
The rest had happened so fast that Moshier wasn't even certain what had happened in what order. All he knew for sure was that he was the only remaining member of his squad still standing. He glanced down at the blasted greave where the raider's slug thrower had struck. He'd been lucky, it might have blown a chunk out of his armor but he still had the leg. Behind the dead dewback he could hear the snorting language of the Sand People as they moved around. He wasn't sure if they knew he was still alive or not.
One thing was certain, he couldn't just sit here and wait to find out. He had to move before they were on top of him with their kriffing sticks. All he had to defend himself with in hand to hand combat was his field tool, his armor and his blaster which could serve as a club in a pinch. Not an ideal situation. That thought made him chuckle a little. What was ideal about any of this? Unsure what else he could do, he popped up over the spine of his dewback and sighted on the nearest raider. Squeezing the trigger he blasted the raider in the chest and then ducked back down as the crack of the raiders' slugthrowers sounded.
He couldn't be sure how many Sand People were on the other side of the dewback but he'd seen two banthas. It was hard to miss the massive lumbering beasts. However that didn't tell him how many raiders there were. Not daring to pop up again along the dewback's spine, Moshier reached down into one of his belt pouches and produced a grenade. He keyed the activation stud and threw it up and over the dewback corpse. He heard the raiders shout in their coarse language and then the crunch of the grenade. He both heard the blast and felt the sand beneath him vibrate as he popped up again.
He squeezed the trigger of his E-11 blaster rifle, spraying a volley of blaster bolts at the raiders as they roared and fired back with their slugthrowers. Their fire was sporadic and poorly aimed though, they were still disoriented from the grenade blast. That was when Moshier spied the squad's repeater rifle laying in the sand just ahead of the dewback. It was a crazy move but he needed the firepower. Leaping over the dewback as he tossed aside his blaster rifle he sprinted through the sand, his boots sinking into the dunes before he dove and rolled.
Gripping the repeater he knelt in the dunes as the sand around him spouted with the slugs from the raiders. Moshier leveled the repeater rifle and squeezed the trigger. Bolts of energy spat out of the repeater's muzzle as he swept the dunes. The raiders fell under the fusillade of fire, roaring and bellowing as some of them rushed him in an attempt to close to hand to hand combat range. None of them made it however. Suddenly the repeater's energy reserves ran dry as the power cell emptied. Throwing aside the now useless weapon Moshier reached down and drew his repeating pistol, gripping it in a two-handed fashion as he scanned the dunes.
There was no movement. Inside his helmet he swallowed as he scanned the sand in front of him. His grenade had apparently detonated beneath one of the bantha's blowing open its guts and felling it instantly. The other bantha stood stoically nearby, its rider lying in the sand as Moshier got to his feet once more, his pistol still raised as he continued to scan the area. Taking a deep breath, Moshier holstered his sidearm and retrieved his rifle. A quick check confirmed that the raiders were all very much dead.
With that confirmed Moshier walked up the dune to where the probe droid had been felled. He examined it and confirmed the obvious. It's repulsorlift drive had been hit first. That was why it had gone down so easily He supposed the good news was that it had been disabled so swiftly that it hadn't had the chance to self-destruct. Popping out his utility tool he opened a panel and retrieved the droid's black box. Command would want to see the data from the ambush.
Leaving the battered droid where it lay, Moshier looked around at his fallen comrades. It had been a six man patrol. Two dragoons—including himself—and four troopers. He was the only one still standing. Worse yet both dewbacks were down and he was seventeen kilometers away from the base. He didn't like the idea of trekking alone across the desert wastes. He made several attempts to hail command but to no avail. A quick check of his helmet told him why, a stray slug had damaged his comlink.
Cursing his luck he considered his options for a moment before an idea occurred to him. He looked at the remaining bantha, still standing by its dead rider. Could he ride that thing? He didn't see why not, the Sand People managed it and Moshier was a rider himself. He moved towards the hulking bantha slowly, careful not to make any sudden movements as it looked at him with its large dark eyes.
“Come on,” he said quietly as he reached up and removed his helmet. “See? I'm not so bad. Can I get a ride?”
The bantha snorted, turning its massive head away from him and letting out a low moaning call as it lowered its head and nudged at its rider's corpse.
“He's dead.” Moshier said. “I need a hand, do you want to stay out here by yourself?”
The bantha moaned again, tossing its shaggy head back and forth, brandishing its horns warningly.
“Come on,” Moshier said as he reached out his hand to try and touch the bantha's flank.
That didn't work though as the shaggy creature suddenly bellowed and took off in a romping gallop away from Moshier who stood there watching it go across the dunes.
Taking a deep breath, Moshier sighed and put his helmet back on his head, feeling the welcome relief of his helmet's environmental systems. At least he couldn't feel the worst of the desert heat at any rate. He had to get going, it was already evening and who knew how far he could get before the twin suns finally set for the night. He gathered the supplies he could from his fallen comrades, trying again to reach base from another comlink unsuccessfuly before he set out with extra rations and water. He hadn't gone more than a kilometer when he realized he was being watched and followed. Turning he found the bantha standing atop the opposite dune watching him quietly.
Frowning inside his helmet, Moshier paused.
“Are you coming?” he asked.
The bantha of course didn't say anything and just stood there. After a moment more Moshier walked down the dune and up the opposite one. However when he reached the crest the bantha had moved off down the other slope and out of reach. He took a deep breath, trying to control his temper. He was tempted just to shoot the kriffing thing. He turned and set off again and after another klick or so he had that same tingling sensation and turned to find the bantha standing a dune away from him yet again. With a scowl he turned and continued on his way.
This continued for another hour or so before Moshier rounded on the bantha again angrily.
“Are you just going to follow me the whole kriffing way you stupid nerf?”
The bantha stood there silently and Moshier turned away in disgust. The twin suns were almost set beyond the dunes. He'd have to find a place to settle down for the night before it got too cold. As the suns set he found a krayt dragon skeleoton and made a small camp within its skull. He had no portable heater but his body sleeve beneath his armor kept him warm enough as the desert temperatures dropped. That was when something big came stomping up to the side of the krayt skull. Moshier grabbed his blaster rifle and leveled it at the looming shadow.
A low moaning call told him just what had wandered into his camp.
“Oh,” he muttered irritably as he recognized the sound of the bantha. “It's you.”
With a scowl he took out one of his ration bars—it had enough calories for the average human's daily intake—and after tearing off the wrapper her tossed it out into the gloom. He heard rather that saw the bantha eat the meal and a moment later he was aware of the hulking form of the bantha outside the skull once more as he listened to its chuffling.
“Well I'm glad you're amused.” he remarked as he leaned back against the bone and closed his eyes within his helmet.
The next morning he woke to find the bantha standing over him, its bulk blocking the sunlight as the twin suns rose up. Moshier sat there for a time in the sand as he ate his morning ration bar before tossing another to the bantha which ate it happily if quickly. While the bantha wolfed down the meager ration bar Moshier got ready to set out again. He had the whole day before him and the suns hadn't yet crept up to their peak yet. When he began walking again he found that the bantha was far closer to him than before and when he stopped it didn't run away. It was still wearing its rider's gear and Moshier had the thought again that perhaps the bantha could solve his problem of having to trek across the desert.
Approaching it once more, this time with another ration bar in his hand he let the bantha use its long dextrous tongue to pluck the ration bar from his hand and eat it. As it ate, Moshier crossed over to its flank, keeping his hand upon it the whole time. He took a hold of the saddlry and made to climb up. The bantha didn't move at first, but as soon as Moshier was in the saddle it snorted and charged off in a romping gallop. It was all Moshier could do to stay astride it as the bantha charged across the dunes heedless of his cursing commands.
This continued for several more minutes before the bantha finally calmed down and stopped charging about the sand dunes. Taking a breather and a drink of water both, Moshier glowered down at the bulky head before him.
“Are you going to cooperate now you shaggy nerf?”
Taking a hold of the reins, Moshier tried to urge the bantha forwards. After a moment, the great shaggy beast moved onwards across the rolling dunes. Moshier couldn't help but smile beneath his helmet. His trek wouldn't be quite so miserable after all. When he rode into sight of the Imperial garrison outpost the following day there was a collection of relief and surprise at the sight of one of the Emperor's Stormtroopers riding a bantha into the outpost. Despite the initial shock of his fellow troopers and commanders, Moshier declined being issued a new dewback, instead keeping the acquired bantha.
Though he was the only dragoon who rode a bantha on Tatooine's garrison, Moshier took a certain pride thereafter in riding his newfound mount. One advantage that the bantha granted him he realized was a higher field of view and he took great advantage that on patrols with his fellow troopers and dragoons. He also discovered that unlike the dewbacks he was used to that the bantha made an excellent companion, following him about the base dutifully like some sort of overgrown canid. The bantha made the unpleasantry of being stationed on Tatooine far more bearable he found, giving him a companionship he otherwise would have missed.
All in all, despite how they had met, Moshier didn't regret for a moment his new mount. When the Empire ultimately abandoned their garrisons on Tatooine he deserted, staying behind with his bantha.
This is something inspired by a wonderful piece done by Wildweasel339 who was kind enough to allow me to draw inspiration from their work.

Raiders by Wildweasel339

Hope you enjoy it.
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Crimsonight's avatar
Very amusing! I really enjoyed the scene with the raiders against the trooper, but the trek back to base was equally enjoyable. Despite the drastic change in tone, this story keeps a solid pace. Well done.
I especially liked how you had the trooper find refuge in a krayt dragon skull. That's a practical and very realistic solution in the deserts of Tatooine.