"I used to bulls-eye womp-rats in my T-16 back home." - Luke Skywalker, A New Hope
For a moment, the air was full of noise. The echoes of blaster shot seemed to bounce off the canyon walls, ricocheting over the rim, the sound setting off little trickles of loose rock that clacked and clamored down into the dry creek bed far below. One gleeful yell and then an excited "Gotcha" followed, warring with each other as the discordant clamor reverberated in the ravine.
It was a very good day and Luke Skywalker was enjoying every minute of it.
Grinning madly, he leaned back against the rock face and let out a happy sigh. He had been shooting at septspiders all morning, and even he had to admit that there was quite a collection of dead bodies spattered among the stone shards, all black filth and guts where the poisonous arachnids had met their end. Snickering in delight, he craned his neck forward over the rim's edge for just one more look at the carnage before settling back down again.
Well, he thought, at least it was all in a good cause. Disgusting bugs. He chuckled again. They deserve to die. But who'd have thought that it could also feel so damn good? He settled into the warm hollow of rock and let the last vestiges of bloody pleasure wash over him. So damn good.
Luke loved to kill things; he had for a very long time. In fact, he'd been doing it since he was a little boy. It seemed funny now, but then it took him by surprise, that aching pleasure.
He had been maybe six or seven, just a kid. He was already manipulating things, floating stuff when no one was looking, playing tricks on the rotten bullies at school, making people do things and say things and only he knew why. He had a lot of fun with it at first, but after a while, he got bored. It didn't take much effort and he wanted more, somehow. But when Aunt Beru found a huge Quit'le beetle in the garage and he killed it for her, he realized just what that something more was.
Killing things felt good. Real good.
He had never had sex, never even kissed a girl in all his fifteen years but he imagined that the little pleasure pops that skittered over his skin whenever he felt something die was a lot like sex. Or maybe even better.
Of course, it really depended on what he was killing and how. Little bugs were like quick bursts of cold whenever he smashed them with his boot heel, but if he roasted them over an open fire or tossed them into the fusion cooker, he would feel brilliant jolts of pain-pleasure for seconds afterwards. He liked to do that a lot.
However, he also found that larger animals were even more intense in their death-throes, sending the agony of their final moments directly into his brain. Minutes, sometimes hours, would go by as he rode that incredible bubbling ecstasy and when it was over, he always wanted more. So much more.
He had to admit that the power and the lust to destroy were almost overwhelming at times. He did have to be careful though. He knew that Aunt Beru wouldn't be happy to hear of his .... hobby and Uncle Owen might even send him away. So he hid it well, learning over the years just how far he could go and not get caught at such things.
But on days like today, however, he was free to do whatever he wanted. His guardians were both away in Anchorhead and he had the whole day to himself. To kill just about anything he could find.
Not humans, of course, at least not yet. Human deaths were always investigated and the murderers hunted down and destroyed and that didn't sound like fun at all. But in a few years, he'd be able to join the Imperial Academy. They would be glad to have someone with his skills. Tracking down and killing the enemies of the Empire sounded so noble. He would certainly be able to get away with torturing prisoners, and if they happened to die an agonizing death, so much the better.
For now, however, he would have to be content with septspiders and womp-rats and the occasional Tusken Raider. No Jawas, though. Aunt Beru thought they were cute and that was enough for him.
A sharp clatter of stone against stone brought Luke up short. Apparently, the metallic scent of spilt spider blood had attracted visitors and that was just what he had been waiting for. Grabbing his blaster, he snaked carefully to the edge and peered over the rim into the ravine below.
There, on the canyon floor, a swarm of womp-rats was feeding on the remains of his handiwork. A couple of the larger adults were snarling at each other, fighting over one of the bigger pieces of spider leg while a few of the juveniles were scampering in and out of the carnage and pulling away little bits of gut and skin. The hand-sized septspiders were a delicacy to the rats - the arachnid's poisonous fangs usually meant death to any who approached, but their flesh was prized even among humans.
Off to one side, the pack leader was standing guard. The adult male must have been fairly old; his fur was grey-streaked, the tip of his tail broken off. But the obvious intelligence showed through. His snout pointed in Luke's direction and the black eyes were staring straight into his.
Still gorging on liquefied flesh, the younger ones tumbled and fought over the feast; their enthusiastic squeals and playful growls echoed off the canyon walls but the steady gaze of the leader never wavered. He seemed to realize that Luke had brought this bounty to his clan and he bowed his head slowly in tribute.
Luke couldn't believe it. Womp-rats were semi-sentient to be sure, but this one, this leader of the pack, was smarter than he had expected. It was almost as if he was hoping that Luke would deliver more food, more septspider bounty to his clan - as if the male approved of his actions and wanted him to kill again. For the good of all.
Luke was certainly ready to oblige.
Laughing out loud, listening to the clamor of his delight skitter over the rocks and back-canyon walls, he sat back up and took careful aim and sent a bolt of pure energy right into the womp-rat leader's skull.
Brains and bone and gore spewed out in a glorious roiling cloud of ruin, bits of grey fur and one ear pitching high into the air and falling away behind the riot of terrified animals. Trapped in the stone box of the ravine, the rats tried to scamper away and escape.
Luke was too fast for them. He had time for several more shots, dealing carnage and black death, scattering bodies so beautifully across the landscape. And then it was quiet and the clan was only a bloody memory.
For half a heartbeat, there was nothing but silence and the delicious knife-edged anticipation of paradise until, at long last, it rolled over him, the prismatic explosion of pleasure-pain that ate into his soul. It just felt so good. The agonizing deaths of those around him drove him into ecstasy, red shards cutting through the pain and releasing him into white boundless rapture.
It was so damn glorious.
But it didn't last long enough, not long enough.
Eventually, Luke came back into himself, panting, tired but almost satiated with the pleasure of those small deaths. It was good, but it could be better, so much better and he knew how.
For below him on the canyon floor, among the scattered remains of his latest kills, was a young krayt dragon, gnawing away at the bones of the dead.
And Luke still had his blaster.
It was going to be a very good day indeed.
Original cover by Diane Kovalcin. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.