Too close, Barrett scolded himself as he wiped the blood from his brow. The thick cat had dug two of its claws only a few centimeters from his right eye on it's last pass.
Stupid old man, you move at this pace and you'll be dead as the boy.
The sergeant didn't even glance at the body of Jamar, pushed to the three meter high dirt walls of the pit, decay beginning to bloat the stomach. Barrett didn't have to, he could smell it.
Besides which, he'd seen corpses before. Told you so, he thought with a smile, then darted in.
The Meodask he was fighting was the largest yet, a fully blooded female, not some whelp looking for glory like the others that had come before.
She wasn't as tall as the males, but still had a full head on him.
Barrett ducked under her left swing, claws extended for his face, then shoved out of his crouch with all the force his thick legs could generate, elbow pointed at the throat.
It saw his attack though, trying to jump backward. The move turned out to be only partially affective, it hit with less force, but the repositioning landed it into her teeth.The blow hit hard.
Barrett felt the fangs dig into his flesh, then the needle like shards as they shattered do the same. The old Mandalorian didn't wasn't anytime celebrating his first real damage dealt though.
There was no time for celebration, only for winning. As her head snapped back, Barrett spun low, sweeping her feet. Still dazed from the impromptu dental exam, she fell flat.
The sergeant was on her in less than a second, raining fist and elbows into her shallow eye sockets and bridge of her flat nose.
He didn't know if the red he was seeing was a rage haze, his face's wound, or her blood splatter in his eyes. He didn't care. This was what Barrett was for. This was his reason to live.
Then, he was on his back, pain in his side. He glanced up at the large cat man who had kicked him. One of the guards of his "cell" the cave at the other end of the pit.
They'd never stopped him before, or intervened in any way. Meodask don't care who fights or who dies. He thought, more puzzled than angry.
Maybe they're just tired of me killing them, and are going to rip me apart all together now. Gee that'd be something.
But no, he realized as they growled and pointed their staffs at the cave's wooden slab of a door. They weren't done having him fight for entertainment yet.
Makes sense, this is the biggest crowd I've had all week. Further examination of the pit gave him his answer. The female was dead, they'd stopped him from brutalizing a corpse is all.
They would burn or bury or eat her depending on pride tradition. More than we get, apparently. He spared a glance toward Jamar.
Too bad it wasn't the other one, he sighed That Koroni was the quiet one. As he walked past the newest corpse, Barrett reached down and ripped her necklace off.
It was a long thing, covered in some predator's teeth. Teeth, he saw, the size of his whole hand. One of the two guards growled a deep and throaty warning at him. "I killed her," he spat at it.
"I keep the trophy. That's how it's done with you kriffin cat men right?" There was no reply. The Meodask didn't even speak on this planet.
The Jedi had said they talked with the force, whatever that meant.
So Barrett threw the culmination of tooth, claw, and twine around his neck as a visual representation of his intent, and walked to the cave.
There was a long moment of the remaining guard at the mouth of the cave and Barrett simply stared at each other, hatred recognizing hatred.
Then the guard turned into the cave and walked the few meters inside to the door. The barricade.
The cave narrowed sharply from the three meter wide hole to a space barely over a meter, with a slat of twine tied wood as a makeshift door, with a waist high boulder set up against it.
Muscles straining under the fur, the Meodask bared its sharp teeth and grunted. The stone flipped end over end, just far enough to move the door.
Barrett had to turn sideway to fit in the natural crevasse. After a half meter of curses and wiggling, he made it through to the cool and foul chamber beyond.
The only light spilled in from cracks above the heads of the remaining crew, and what little shone from behind him.
It was retch inducing, the stench of the waste they'd all been offering up into the lowest, and thankfully, furthest back portion. As his eyes adjusted he could see the three remaining crew.
Harpon, Tama, and Jamal sat against one wall, backs to the rough stone. "And our champion returns." Harpon said, with no trace of sarcasm.
"And thank your gods for that," Barrett said, keeping the mockery in his voice. "Or you'd be laying out there with the boy. And your girl."
The Mandalorian left a pause between the two victims, to let his captain feel the full weight of his words. He did. Harpon's breath hitched a little.
Jamal's head snapped upright to glare at him. Tama, had been staring up at him with the same blank and empty look she always had. She was the least battered out of the three.
When they had been surrounded, she and Barrett had been the last to go down. Barrett, with a net tied to a counterweight, ripping him off his feet, then dropping him in the slow moving river.
Her, with a steady barrage of stone hurled from slings. The armor spared her most the trauma.
It had still taken the use of the force to stop the sergeant from firing his flamethrower and rockets, once the Meodask had hauled him back to land.
After that, it was business as usual for the cat men. Strip them, tie them, bring them to the pit. One by one they fought.
Harpon first, breaking the young pups leg,
but getting beaten down so bad he couldn't do anything more than scream and blubber like a child when Mei got her head cracked against the stone walls of the pit. Jamal had jumped down next.
The Koroni had sunk his thumbs all the way through Mei's killer's eye sockets. But not before getting his thighs and arms lacerated deeply.
Then Jamar, who had made the foolish mistake of underestimating the Meodask capability to use the force. He had been whipped from wall to wall.
The cat pup wasn't powerful enough to kill him with the blows, but a dazed Koroni's throat tears open just as easily as any other's.
Tama had avenged her dead kin with a ferocity Barrett had respected. She used the bone of some long rotted victim in the pit to gouge out the pup's esophagus. A throat for a throat.
It was beautiful, she had moved so quick the pup hadn't had a chance to draw on its force talents. Tama may have been the first to kill one of the pride, but not the last.
Barrett had stomped his enemies spine between the shoulders, then the head. Over and over again, reveling in the wails of its kin. The sergeant's next fight had been then and there.
An older pup, but with none of the trophies or piercing of a blooded and breeding male, had leapt at him from atop the pit.
He fed the back of its neck the same bone tank had used, elbowing it until the sharp edge popped out the other side. The old warrior had garnished the attention of the pride then.
Nearly everyday he'd fought now. Each time harder than the last. And it would get worse, he remembered. It only ever gets worse."I know," Harpon said, defeat in his voice.
"I know I wouldn't have lasted this long. I barely made it out of the first round." His eyes went distant with pain. "And I know that this is my fault. this whole plan, you were against it.
Warned me against it. Their deaths are squarely on my shoulders. I know that." Barrett grinned, he felt no sympathy for his captain. Fool plans had disastrous outcomes, it was obvious.
Water is wet, it gets bright after dawn. Harpon killed his crew. "Yeah?" He said, not hiding the sneer in his voice. "Well that one I fought today? No pup like the rest of them. Full blooded hunter. A real warrior cat man. Or catwoman, I guess, whatever. And I don't got a whole lot of those types of fights left in me."
Barrett looked down at himself. The under suit he wore was more rag than suit now. And the lacerations across his hip and thigh shone right through, as well as the punctures across his left peck and shoulder. He would heal, with a few more scars and a few more war stories, with no one worth telling them to.
"So you're intention is what," the captain asked, lifting his hands then dropping them in defeat.
"To remind me of my failure before we all die one by one? Because that's petty Barrett, even for you. And needless, at that." Barrett had started taking the large teeth off of his trophy for examination.
They weren't particularly sharp, but had a solid point and the sided were serrated. Made to puncture, he thought with approval, then saw through the meat. "Needless?" He asked,
not bothering to look up from his eye's fixation. "To remind me," Harpon sighed out. "It's needless to remind me of my failures. I haven't forgotten them."