Laying face down in acrid muck, Siff debated the merits of just letting the swamp swallow her. In the mud there was no embarrassment or feelings of inadequacy. There was only dirt, rotting vegetable matter and worms. Yes, the swamp sounded pretty welcoming right now… but the job wasn’t over no matter how badly she’d mangled it.
Siff could hear her grandfather’s voice clear as she felt the muck on her face: ‘Get up. Don’t let them see you bleed. Don’t let them see you weak. Everyone expects you to fail. Don’t give them the satisfaction of being right.’ Crotchety old man, didn’t let her ever have a break, not even after he’d passed away.
Grunting, Siff pushed herself up back to her feet. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and focused on centring and balancing herself. At least the crash into water and mud had helped sober her up. Rookie mistake, drinking the bartender’s shots, one she should have known better than to make. There had definitely been //something/ in those drinks to get her that drunk that quickly. There was no way the drinks had been strong enough for the little amount she’d paid.
Someone had already been planning to get HER out of the way at that-
The air thrummed and dead branches of drowned trees rattled against each other as the junker fighter circled back into view over the treetops. Shit. They were checking if there were any survivors…
Siff didn’t hesitate this time. She tackled the Mark (he had a name, she reminded herself) back into the water. He was solid, broadly built, but Siff caught him off guard and she had more practice under her belt than her current predicament suggested. They landed with a splash, and he was already trying to shove her off as Siff kicked off the bank of dirt they’d been standing on to push them both deeper into the water and keep from surfacing as the fighter flew by.
Something –a fist– connected with Siff’s gut and the air she’d been holding escaped in a flurry of bubbles, eagerly replaced with swamp water so think it might as well have been porridge. Still she held on, wedging one foot against the bank and hooking the other around the man’s … something, it was too dark to see, but it felt like his waist, to hold him from surfacing.
We’re dead. Bye, fly away no- something warm and big brushed over her leg. Curious, like an arm without bones and Siff immediately reveresed direction. She could outsmart stupid Hutt hirelings but a swamp monster? No way. Shoving the man back towards the surface, Siff twisted to follow, kicking hard. Her lungs ached and she’d swallowed more swamp than she ever wanted to.
She broke the surface, coughing up some of the black water, already looking up to see if the fighter had left the area.
“What the f-” Carter shouted before the warm thing grabbed Siff by the leg and yanked her back under the water. Whatever Carter was cut off by bubbles and the feeling of being dragged deeper into the swampwater. Siff felt the temperature drop as the creature pulled her deeper. Reaching for the knife at her hip, Siff grabbed a handful of wet material and empty sheath. Right, she’d given that to Carter. Fuck. The other was in her boot and she had to get closer to the thing that held onto her in order to get it out.
Lungs startng to burn, she doubled over herself, yanking the secondary knife from her boot and felt ahead blindly for the limb that held onto her. It was fleshy and slimy, the muscle twitching under her hand as she found it. Whatever it was, this thing was about to share in the horrific day that Siff was having.
She buried the knife into the flesh to the hilt, and began to saw viciously. The thing holding onto her recoiled with a piercing series of clicks and thuds that Siff felt through the water more than she truly heard. It was gone, pulling her knife with it.
Siff took the loss, kicking hard towards the surface and warmer water.
She gasped, choking down air as her head broke the surface again. Wasting no time, Siff stroked hard for the bank where Carter stood, soaked and knife in hand. For a split second, the Chiss mercenary wondered if the blade was meant for her, but she realised that he was watching past her to the water she was swimming away from.
“Hurry,” he said, wading towards her. Dumbass. He should be staying out of the water. Still… Siff grabbed onto the hand he held out that was knifeless, and grunted as he hauled her up out of the water and past him. Stumbling onto the bank, Siff kept going, heading for the nearest tree that looked like it could hold the weight of some grown idiots.
She kept her hold on Carter’s arm, yanking him after her.
“Too big,” she choked out between gasps. “Knife’s not enough.” She only let go of him when she got to the tree, climbing up the gnarled trunk and limbs easily. It wasn’t exactly a fortified position, but it was out of the water and away from whatever that thing was. And the tree wasn’t dead, less likely to be rotted through that way, at least that’s what she was hoping as she twisted around to hold a hand down to Carter.
He took it, and Siff grunted as she pulled him up so he could grab a branch and start climbing up after her.
“Are all your assassinations this…” Carter asked once they were safely perched in the tree. He floundered for a word and wound up just pointing at the swamp below them. Siff, looked down to where angry ripples circled in the water, and hugged the tree trunk a little tighter.
“No,” she admitted. “Normally we’re in and out and the job’s done before people notice.” She still tasted swamp. Ugh.
“’We’?” Carter asked. “Where’s your backup? Please tell me they’re inbound with a ship to get us off this backwater.”
The half-laugh in Siff’s throat caught and burbled on a bit of water. SHe made a face, turning away from Carter to spit out the swampy bits before she bothered to answer.
“Gone. And no, sorry. No Cavalry’s coming in…” She bit her lip, looking up at the sky, then around at all the dead trees that surrounded them. “unless we make our own cavalry…”
Carter was scowling, but to be fair to him, his face had been like that since she’d met him. And He had every right to be grumpy. She’d half-kidnapped him, then they ended up ditching in a swamp and now they were treed by some tentacly thing.
“So, remember how I said I only had two mines?” Siff said, looking sheepishly over at Carter.
“…yes…” he said, one of his frowny eyebrows slowly lifted up.
“Yeah, I lied. Sort of.”