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Compared to humans, the anatomical structure of the Barlok race is built to survive extreme climates, both hot and cold, due to their complex cardiovascular system

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Compared to humans, the anatomical structure of the Barlok race is built to survive extreme climates, both hot and cold, due to their complex cardiovascular system. Their six chambered heart and network of veins act as a built in temperature control system; slowing blood flow in warm climates to prevent overheating and dehydration through perspiration or speeding it up in cold climates to keep external limbs comfortable and in peak condition. This system is thrown out of harmony in life threatening situations, when the body is in danger, the heart can maintain a sustained high pulse, flooding the Barlok with Krismo, a chemical akin to human adrenaline which heightens their senses and survival instincts. In the Krismo state a Barlok can abstain from sustenance and sleep for days, relying on nutrients stored in their multi chambered stomachs to keep them in fighting condition.

--The Data Files of Macbeth Pembrooke

Thrack's heart kicked into overdrive the moment he spotted the nameless planet on the Mutineer's screen. It hadn't slowed its furious pace in the hours he spent slogging through the planet's lush undergrowth, Agnellus's arms wrapped around his neck. His normally calculating mind spiraled out of control. His instincts screamed danger at every turn. Sweat soaked his fur; his body temperature ratcheted up so high he began to steam.

The Nisseri child didn't complain as she clung to him, a raft in the flood of greenery surrounding them. She hadn't released her hold on him from the moment he plucked her from the harness. One not both, a terrible choice, one made for him. Thrack paused, and planted an arm against one of the massive tree trunks thrusting through the mess of low growth. His thoughts rioted, the grim line of choices made through a perilous life performed a balancing act in his conscience. This was not the first time such an obscene choice was forced into his hands, save one, not both. Choose one life over another, their souls haunt you forever. Not the first time, not the first innocent life, but...

As long as he lived, he would remember those burning, determined eyes. Compared to humans, Barloks were built for survival; Thrack knew he could sustain far more punishing conditions than their precariously built bodies, constructed of easily crushed bones and paper thin skin. His superior once called them sacks of tissue and meat. Humans were a species acutely aware of their fragility, they encased themselves in armor, and created weapons to counteract their weaknesses. So fragile, but they kept surprising him.

Agnellus's hand cupped the side of his head. He focused his lower eyes on her wide grey ones, stark in her young face.

"Daphine," she said, stumbling over the human's name. Her firm voice jerked him out of his repetitive thoughts.

"Yes," he said, his large eyes focused along the track of decimated greenery they followed, no end in sight. Thrack pushed forward. Regrets continued their useless plod through his head.

He should have seized the controls from the human as soon as he saw this planet looming in the distance. How had they veered so far off course? The Mutineer's systems weren't to blame, it concerned their launch point. The Nisseri ship was in far worse disrepair than he originally thought. Without Daphne's serendipitous arrival, he wouldn't have made it to Keyos no matter how hard he pushed those degraded engines. The shock of his drinking companion rolling into the room was nothing compared to the display of her lethal skills. Their escape went without a hitch thanks to her sharp aim, lulling him into a treacherous overconfidence. If he'd checked the charts himself he would have noticed the danger in time. Instead, they'd stumbled into the thick of it, the human unprepared and unaware. He was such a fool, wasted precious seconds to gape in disbelief. By the time he recovered his wits the mines exploded around them.

Daphne was confused, unable to see what hit them, unable to wrestle the Mutineer free from the planet's extensive pull. There was nothing Thrack could do but damage control, to pull every trick he knew in an attempt to slow their descent. He ignored the outer pieces of the Mutineer that snapped off, and managed to gain ground, enough to ensure a brutal impact but a survivable one. Metal screamed, wrenched apart. He turned at the sound, a beat of dread hammered in time to his pulse. He lunged to catch the edge of the panel as it peeled away from the ship. His muscles bunched, strained, the metal sliced open all four of his palms. It was too much, he couldn't maintain this hold for long. He lifted two eyes to his terrible choice.

Daphne and Agnellus were plastered in their harnesses against the loosened panel, pinned by gravity, by the same vicious pull that tore apart the ship. He could spare one arm to yank a harness free, one , not both, before the pull overwhelmed him. All four eyes focused on the two females, two innocents, two creatures who could not sustain damage like a Barlok.

Daphne gripped one of his wrists, tugged on it. He could not fathom where she found the strength to lift her arm but he gave in, let her guide him, to make the choice for him. Why not save her? She was more than a passing drinking companion now, from the moment she entered the engine room, and saved his lives. Two human females saved him in the space of hours, earned his Honorbind. He failed the first, his scales were out of balance. She guided his hand to Agnellus's harness.

He looked at the human, committed her face, this face, to memory. It was a ritual of closure among dying Barlok warriors, to study their final expression to tell their family what to expect when their fallen one stood before Metoch, the Judge, God of Fate and Honor. She nodded to him. He ripped Agnellus free, and lifted her to safety. He knew it was futile, but he reached for the human. He had to try. The panel fell free the moment he shifted his grip, and took Daphne with it. Two eyes stayed riveted on the panel, watched it topple through the air, end over end.

"Balance her scales," he growled, "A sacrifice like this is worthy of the slightest chance." Metoch must have listened. The panel hit the ground with the human facing up, momentum cutting a path through the growth. It was up to her will to live now. He had to believe that. No matter what the force of the fall and the speed of her impact told him.

Thrack shifted his focus, calibrated their descent. The loss of mass and ship's power left him no method to correct their course. He looked through the torn hull of the ship, gauged their chances and jumped. Agnellus made a startled gasp and tucked herself into his chest. He kept once arm wrapped around her, and flung out the rest of his limbs to catch the passing branches. The first worsened the injuries to his hands and dislocated his upper shoulder before the wood snapped from the pressure. The next few held seconds longer each time, it allowed him to control their fall. Thirty feet from the ground, he used a buckling branch to swing them sideways, and dug the claws of his feet into the tree to slide down.

The landing jarred his bones, but his injuries were minor. They would heal fast as long he remained in Krismo, which wouldn't be difficult since the environment sunk its teeth into his nerves. His Nisseri companion was rattled but intact. The human...

It was his fault they were here, on a world whose named was stripped from the star charts and records of multiple races. A nameless planet his people were taught as youths to avoid, so feared they put a colony all the way out on Keyos, nudged against Pathosian territory, to guard it. The now Mercenary ruled Keyos still kept watch, some duties transcended a change of regime. He knew the dangers both on the planet and around it. The Barlok placed the mines in orbit to dissuade the curious traveler. Curiosity is what created this dangerous world, where Humans once tried and failed to make their home.

Agnellus dropped her arms from his neck, and shimmied out of his hold. She raced to a dented metal panel, buried in foliage. Between his constant scan of their surroundings and his circling thoughts, the Nisseri child spotted it before he did.

"Daphine, Daphine," The little girl dug through the mound of greenery. Thrack crouched beside her, his senses on high alert. Something was wrong here. He ears strained, but he heard no heartbeat, no breath, strained or otherwise. He scented human blood in trace amounts, and something else, something that made his fur stand on end. Thrack debated if he should pull Agnellus away before she uncovered a corpse and run for high ground, when she stopped, and stared up at him.

Thrack leaned over her and picked up the ends of the empty harness, not torn, but cut clean through.

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