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Thread: Star Wars: Tapestry, Volume III

  1. #46
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    There was a glaring flaw in Reil’s plan that he was only now realizing, as he paced the between the kitchen and the living room. There was nothing to do at Sunny’s place. It was a shack miles away from what could only loosely be described as a town, and its sole occupant for years was an aging fat man who spent his entire days sabotaging mechanical equipment and consuming narcotics. Well to be fair there was a puzzle, and a deck of cards, but frankly neither of those were appealing in the slightest. Growing up here, Reil had actually spent most of his free time in town, and Sunny had conveniently left with the only working speeder, in the middle of a steadily intensifying snowstorm. Cali looked as bored as Reil, as she was sitting in the living room with her vibro-blade out, and was using it to remove rocks from the treads on the bottoms of her combat boots.
    I should probably find something to keep her occupied. Reil mused, If she’s already playing with weapons, then there’s really nowhere to go but down when the cabin fever starts to get bad.


    Nothing really came to mind though. Reil supposed that now might be as good a time as any to bring up how he was going back to the Rebellion and was going to abandon her like Fi, Tey, her family, and basically everyone else she’d ever met. Why not squeeze every emotion laced, terribly dramatic, horribly personal screaming match all in one trip? That’s just efficiency that is. On the other hand, leaving it to the last minute was probably going to backfire horribly. In that Cali would probably fire blaster shots into his back.

    As Reil walked into the living room, he just knew this was going to end badly.
    “Uhhh, Cali, we should talk. Without you brandishing weapons.”


    Cali flicked the last rock out of the treads of her boots and put the blade away.
    “Are we going to talk about why you dragged me out to the ass end of the galaxy, and when we’re leaving?”


    Reil sat in a chair across from Cali.
    “Surprisingly, enough, yes. Yes we are.”


    “I’m all ears then.”

    Reil sighed and tried to figure out where to begin.
    “I came here to meet with a local gangster named Doyle. He runs a smuggling racket out of Twillingate, and he’s had dealings with the Rebellion in the past. I’m hoping that he can give me the location of his contact in the Rebellion, so I can join up again, and make my way back to my old unit.”


    Cali absorbed that.
    “So how did getting arrested, meeting your parents, drinking with your brother, fighting with your parents, and coming here in an unnecessarily uncomfortable fashion help you in furthering that plan?”


    Reil winced.
    “It didn’t so much. Curiously enough, I didn’t think we’d be arrested, and we were going to come her first, before the long night, then leave. But, we’re here now, and hopefully we’ll be meeting with Doyle soon. Then we leave.”


    Cali nodded pensively.
    “How are we leaving?”


    Reil shrugged.
    “On a ship. Any ship.”


    “If I recall correctly, taking ‘any ship’ got us arrested last time.”

    “What are the odds that it would happen a second time?”

    “Since now we’re wanted for violating our house arrest, probably pretty good.”

    “Touche’.” Reil inhaled, then exhaled, trying to brace himself for what came next, “When I go back to the Rebellion-”

    “There won’t be any place for me there.” Cali interrupted.

    “What?”

    “I’m not stupid Reil, I knew you wanted to go back to the Rebels already, that’s why we left Damon, remember? And I’ve got problems of my own without signing up for someone else’s war. So either the Rebellion accepts spectators aboard their vessels, or something’s gotta give.” Cali sighed, “Hell, I’ve been trying to talk to you about this since before we left for this frelling mudball, but you’d always avoid the question. So here we are.”

    Reil rubbed his eyes, suddenly feeling very tired.
    “Yeah, I guess we are. Listen, Cali, is there somewhere you’d like to go? Someone who you’d want to stay with, we could find your parents mayb-”


    “Don’t go.”

    “What?”

    “Don’t go back to the Rebels. Stay with me.”

    “And do what?”

    “Anything” Cali made a sweeping gesture with her arm, “Everything! You can fly, and I can shoot, we could do anything we wanted! We could be smugglers, or pirates, or bank robbers, or mercenaries. It doesn’t matter what!”

    “I don’t want to be a pirate or a merc or a bank robber. And neither should you! I mean, I guess this gets confused when we’ve been rolling into one crisis from the other but you’re a teenage girl. You should be in school, learning things for a job that doesn’t require frequent homicide. I didn’t kill Bartock so you could become a criminal; I did it to give you a chance at a normal life.”

    “Frack normal and frack you!” Cali shouted as she got to her feet. “You don’t get to be normal growing up as somebody’s property. You don’t get to go to school, get a nice job, live the good life after growing up getting beaten for breaking dishes, or spilling caf. You don’t settle down and raise a family after seeing your parents auctioned off and sold off world. I’m gutter trash from Tatooine, and the only way to change that is with blasters and credits, so don’t you frelling talk to me about normal!”

    For the first time it dawned on Reil how utterly unqualified to help Cali he was, and had been from the start. He remembered chiding Tey for being naive in wanting to free all of Bartok’s slaves, when they had no way of providing for them. If that was naive than his notion of looking after Cali by dragging her through more blood and killing was pathetically quaint.
    “I’m sorry.”


    Cali sat back down.
    “Don’t be sorry. You set me free. Be a smuggler, I notice you didn’t have a problem with that option.”


    Cali grinned, and it was infectious. Reil was smiling even as he shook his head.
    “Cali, I have to go back.”


    Cali’s face didn’t betray any emotion.
    “Why?”


    Reil struggled to respond.
    “I don’t really know why. . . But I do. It’s who I am: Flight Officer Zealos Reil. I can’t escape it.”
    Zealos Reil thought he was hot
    so he left the sim-pod cold
    on his eighth mission he got shot
    and that's all there is to be told.
    Draw your own conclusions rookies.

  2. #47
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    There was an awkward silence as for a few minutes, as they sat facing each other. Cali finally broke the stalemate by getting up out of her seat.
    “I should go then.”


    Reil was confused.
    “Wait, what?”


    Cali headed back into her room, and began bundling up her half of their possessions.
    “You don’t want me here, I won’t stay.”


    Reil got up.
    “What are you talking about?”


    “You just told me that you wanted me to go. I’m going.” Cali called from inside the room.

    Reil scowled.
    “I said nothing of the sort!”


    Cali poked her head out of the bedroom door with a glare.
    “Oh really? Then what did you mean when you said you were going back to the Rebellion, and you wanted me to leave?”


    Reil bit back his frustration.
    “I didn’t say I wanted you to leave.”


    “No.” Cali conceded as she returned to gathering her half of their luggage. “You just said you’re going back to the Rebellion, so you were going to stick me somewhere else.”

    Reil sighed.
    “I can’t keep you with me in the fleet. . .”


    “I am not a pet to be kept!” Cali spat.

    Outside the room Reil cringed. Smooth Zealos, real smooth.
    “I didn’t mean. . . It’s just that you can’t come with me to the Rebellion.”


    Cali emerged from the room with her clothes, and the bag of credits, and dumped them on a chair in the living room. Her fist was clenched in frustration, and spoke slowly.
    “I don’t want to go to the Rebellion, Zealos.”


    “Well what the frell do you want!?” Zealos kicked the chair in frustration, and then took a breath to calm down.

    Cali looked at Reil, and he noticed her eyes were watering.
    “You. I wanted to be with you.”


    Reil opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it. He didn’t have anything to say to that. Cali took a deep breath, and regained her composure.
    “But since you don’t want me around, I’ll just go somewhere else. I just need something to put my stuff in.”


    Reil found his voice.
    “That’s not fair Cali. . .”


    Cali fixed Reil with a very cold stare.
    “How so?”


    “It’s not that I don’t want you around. . . I. . .” Reil stumbled over his words, “I do. I want to stay, I wish I could stay, but I have to go back. I have to go back to the Rebellion, and-”

    “Stop! Just stop right there. You don’t have to go back to the rebellion. That’s a lie. And what’s worse is that it’s a lie for your benefit, not mine. You had a choice, between me and the Rebellion, and you didn’t choose me. And you know what? That’s fine, it’s your life; you do what you want. But what you don’t get to do is lie, and say you have to go back, and pretend like you didn’t make a choice. You chose, and you didn’t choose me.”

    That pretty much ended the debate. Cali found a duffel bag of sorts, and began stuff clothes into it. She put on her coat and was almost to the door before the absurdity of situation caught up to Reil.
    “Where are you going to go?”


    Cali shrugged.
    “In town for starters, and I don’t know from there.”


    Reil shook his head.
    “It’s forty below out there, dark, we’re several kilometers out, and the snow is knee deep. You can’t go out in that.”


    Cali remained defiant.
    “I’m not staying here.”


    Reil rubbed his temple.
    “You’ve kinda got nowhere else to go.”


    “I’ve got everywhere else to go! The only person I know for sure who doesn’t want me around is you, so I’m leaving!”

    Reil sighed.
    “Look, just stop all right? I will find you somewhere to stay, I don’t know, maybe set you with some kind of work, before I go. A factory, or a ranch or something.”


    “I’m not going to hang around, and pretend like this didn’t happen, until you find a convenient time and place to dump me. I don’t need someone like you to find me someplace to stay; I’ll be just fine, on my own.”

    Cali threw open the front door, and felt the icy wind tear right through her coat. Snow covered everything, and it was pitch black, except for where house lights on the road into town reflected off the snow. The sky was overcast, and Cali could barely make out the road. Cali stood in the doorway for a few more seconds, watched her breath mist in front of her, then shut the door. She round on Reil in fury.
    “Don’t. Say. Anything.”

    Cali shut herself in her room while Reil sat down and tried to feel less like scum.
    Zealos Reil thought he was hot
    so he left the sim-pod cold
    on his eighth mission he got shot
    and that's all there is to be told.
    Draw your own conclusions rookies.

  3. #48
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    Something was throbbing. A low, dull, throb that seemed to sear a nerve each time. Its unmistakable rhythm highlighted each contusion and every square in of swollen tissue, inexorably cutting through a fog of imperception.

    “. . . nothing serious, especially compared to some of the . . .”

    “. . . it just doesn’t match up, I told you . . .”

    The lights were an unforgiving, yellow-less glow, the air flat and sterile. The bed was neither comfortable nor stiff, the air just cold enough to be uncomfortable. The voices were precise, professional, and conceited.

    He knew exactly where he was.

    He coughed. The conversation stopped, right on cue, and was replaced with a flurry of hands and reassurances, gently ordering him to relax and to take it easy and to just answer a few simple questions. He warded off both with expert proficiency.

    “Yes, yes, thank you . . . No, I’m fine. Yeah, a nasty fight . . . Bacta cream, plenty of fluids and bed rest, I know . . .” He was seated now, and that was half the battle. He picked out the youngest of his ministers, a blond fellow in his early twenties. “This isn’t the first time I’ve been in a fight; can I go?” He stood as he said it.

    “Don’t you think you should stay just a bit longer, sir?” the yellow-haired man replied in a coddling voice, shooting a quick, questioning look to a Bothan who was obviously his superior. The alien quickly nodded, his fur rippling, and the younger man stood to block the exit, his hands held out. “Sit down, or you will be seated,” the hands said.

    The throbbing skipped, and then began to crescendo. “Please, I’d really like to go.” His voice was higher, more strained. Neither human nor Bothan moved. “It isn’t lawful to hold a patient against his wishes. I demand to be released.”

    “Not before I get some questions answered,” boomed an all-too familiar voice. He whirled around, and the throbbing stopped altogether for a second. “What the hell is going on, Luis?” asked Lt. Hayes, tossing a news article and medical diagnostic onto the bed. “And why are you dead?”

  4. #49
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    "Good morning!"

    Blue sky. White walls. Windows, windows. In the ceiling, all around.

    "Ten hours this morning in the City of the Clouds, Lon... and it's shaping up to be a beauty!"

    White sheet. Formality. The chamber was perfectly comfortable with or without it. Fi flung the sheet aside, stood, stretched in the morning sunlight.

    "...It certainly is, Lora! And speaking of beauty, allow me to introduce our next special guest on the program..."

    Twinkling holograms, blue, on the bedside table. Fi grinned, grabbed a pillow, and threw it at the pair.

    "...emerging holostar and honoured guest in our fair city..." the host went on, oblivious to the pillow that flew through him and his colleague, knocking a water glass from the table, where it shattered on the floor. "Jyllis Tromso!"

    "Wha?" the boy cried, alarmed at the sudden disturbance and wondering where the white sheet had gone. "'S'matter?"

    "Rise and shine, sunshine!" Fi sing-songed, grinning at the hapless young man. "Ten bells. You should have been at the office an hour ago!"

    She headed toward the kitchen, bare feet slapping happily against the immaculate white floor. There, bobbing in the morning sun, floated her tiny companion, largely silent but obviously enthusiastic.

    "Mace!" Fi cried, cuddling the tiny creature, "how about a little breakfast?"

    She set to work gathering the Fabool's morning meal, while the boy, clothing retrieved and mostly replaced, entered the kitchen.

    "Smells good," he remarked, nuzzling Fi's neck, his arms encircling her from behind. "Enough for me?"

    "It's not my breakfast, idiot!" Fi laughed, placing the dish in front of the Fabool, who floated down toward it eagerly. "Have your assistant bring you something."

    "I'd rather you bring me something," the boy replied, gently holding Fi's smooth form and turning her around to face him.

    Fi grabbed a koarfruit from a nearby bowl and bit into it, speaking around the dripping orange globe. "Plans."

    "Plans," the boy repeated.

    Fi shrugged.

    "Will I see you tonight?"

    Fi pulled the fruit from her mouth, chewed, smiled. "You might."

    He grinned, uncertainly. "Will you see me?"

    She smiled. "We'll see."

    He kissed her, tasting the koarfruit juice on her lips and chin, then made for the apartment's door, already calling up the morning's agenda on his datapad. Pausing momentarily in the doorway, he called back.

    "You love me!"

    "You love me!" Fi retorted as the door closed. Then she turned toward the great windows and their streaming sunlight, thought about retrieving some clothing of her own, but instead took a moment to pump her fist in the air and shout.

    "Woo!"
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 12-05-2011 at 07:59 PM.
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  5. #50
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    Cali heard Sunny and Reil arguing from inside her room. She could tell Reil was pacing back and forth, and heard a chair groan as Sunny settled into it.

    “I don’t know what to do with her. . .”

    “Don’t do anything; she doesn’t want you around anymore.”

    “I can’t just leave her here! Where will she go, what will she do?”

    “That’s not really your concern anymore, is it? You told her what was what, and she said she doesn’t want your help. This is really quite straightforward; I don’t see why you’re so slow with it.”

    “Oh frack you! Now I’m the bad guy? I don’t want to drag a teenage girl around into a war zone, and somehow that’s unreasonable?”

    “I don’t recall saying anything of the like. Rebellion ain’t a place for a young woman, mind you, you don’t have to go back there either.”

    “Don’t start with this, please? It’s not like it would even make a difference if I wasn’t going back to the Rebellion, I shouldn’t be running around with teenage girls in the first place! Ever since I met her, people have been shooting at her, trying to sell her back into slavery, trying to cut her hand off, or just shoot her some more, because that what people like to do apparently! And do you know what I did in response to all of this shooting and the like?! I bought her guns! I am clearly not a capable guardian, and should not be responsible for anybody’s welfare, let alone hers. . .”

    “Then how come you’re so damn fixated on finding her someplace to go? Frankly, now I don’t think you should be looking after her.”

    “I. . . just. . . You know what? You’re right. I said my piece, she said hers, I should just leave it at that.”

    There was the sound of a chair being dragged back, presumably as Reil sat down.
    “So, at least tell me everything went fine on your end.”

    “Doyle’s holding court in the back room of the McAllister hall tomorrow night. It’s on the same night as the Scouring festival though, so the place is gonna be packed, and you’ll have to dress the part or they won’t even let you in the front door. On the other hand, I hear they picked up a new band from High River, so once you’re finished making an ass out of you and me, you’ll have sommat to take your mind off of Doyle crushing rejection.”

    Reil sighed audibly.
    “I am so glad I can always count on your support. Do I have an appointment time?”

    “Nah, it’s an open sorta affair. Doye’ll see every petitioner in turn.”

    “If it’s an open affair, why did I even need you then?”

    “Oh, I’m sorry, are the free accommodations and critical information on when this is taking place not good enough for you? Well be sure to take it out of my tip.”

    “Yeah, yeah, fine I’m sorry. Look, with all that’s happened, I think I should spend the night someplace else; but do you think Cali could stay here for a bit after I’m gone? A couple weeks maybe? Just until she has enough to strike out on her own.”

    “Yeah, sure. Listen, Reil, take care of yourself out there, heya? You might not survive the next crash.”

    “I’ll be fine, just look out for Cali.”

    There was the sound of the front door opening, then shutting. Silence followed. Cali quietly exited her room, and found Sunny sitting in the kitchen alone, nursing a cold cup of Caf. She grabbed a cup out of one of the cupboards, and sat down beside him.
    “So Zealos is gone?”

    “Yep.” Sunny took a sip of the cold Caf, regretted it instantly, and set it back down. “I suppose you heard most of that particular exchange.”

    Cali arched an eyebrow.
    “I did. I hope it wasn’t for my benefit, ‘cause I’m not impressed.”

    “Despite whatever you might think of Reil, know this: I have better things to do with my time than to put on a farce for your benefit or his.”

    Cali reached for the pot of Caf, instead of replying, but Sunny grabbed it first.
    “I’ll make a fresh pot”, he explained as he went into the kitchen.

    Cali considered her next move carefully.
    “You know, you don’t have to put me up. I’ve still got some credits, enough probably to get. . . somewhere else. . .”

    “But probably not much further than that.” Sunny returned from the kitchen, letting the Caf brew in the kitchen. “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want, but I’m not kicking you out. This isn’t the best town for. . . anything really, but once the sun rises, the work’ll pick up again, and you can leave with some credits to keep you comfortable when you go elsewhere.”

    Cali considered this.
    “So, there’s no work right now?”

    Sunny shrugged.
    “This is a river town. Boats come with wheat and live stock from up the river heading down, and down river with farm equipment heading up. We’re just a way station for holding certain cargo, and a place for river drivers to rest up. The river’s frozen over, so there isn’t much work right now. It gets pretty lively when the sun’s up though.”

    “So how come there’s a gangster here, who can lead Reil back to the rebels?” Cali inquired.

    “Because this is a river town that large amounts of foodstuffs and equipment pass through. The Empire regulates trade strictly, so it’s difficult for people like the rebels to buy food legitimately. Doyle owns the docks, and maintains a private hanger that unscrupulous pilots rent space in. Occasionally, some food goes missing. Naturally, Doyle feels obligated to cover the cost of the corporations lost merchandise, and food mysteriously turns up on the black market.”

    “And the corporations don’t figure it out?”

    “Figure what out? All the grain the goes missing is replaced at retail value, and the grain that makes it through is worth more because of the shortened supply. I suspect that if Doyle could actually do more business, they’d encourage him to. But Twillingate isn’t exactly special. There are a lot of river towns on Taanab, and they all have private hangers.”

    Cali considered this.
    “That’s the lamest criminal syndicate ever. Of all time. This is like if Mos Eiesly had suburbs.”

    “I prefer it that way myself. Exciting crime is a lot more likely to get you killed.”
    Zealos Reil thought he was hot
    so he left the sim-pod cold
    on his eighth mission he got shot
    and that's all there is to be told.
    Draw your own conclusions rookies.

  6. #51
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    "Ladies and gentlebeings, The Blue Room and the Count Xun Orchestra are proud to present... the vocal stylings of miss Fiola Shaku."

    Strangely nervous, Fi stepped to the mic. It was odd to be onstage without a mandoviol in her hands. But Obar Mull's medical droid had weeks ago predicted that, due to her frozen extremities, Fi wouldn't play the mandoviol again. Thus far, the droid's prognosis had proven correct. Fi had so far regained enough manual dexterity to write her own name with a stylus, but it seemed that mandoviol playing could be permanently out. Maybe with practice, she could pull off the nalargon. Or the Ommni Box.

    But now, her voice was what she had. It was shaky, no doubt (weeks of crying had that effect), but Fiola was no longer focussing in that direction. She was looking only forward. Upward.

    The applause was polite, as the lights came up, but not disinterested. The Blue Room was an extremely upper-crust supper club, light-years from the kind of venues Moonbeam Levels used to play, even at the height of their popularity. In fact, no one employed at The Blue Room, including bandleader Count Xun, had even heard of Moonbeam Levels. It was only through the influence of Whatsisname, her new boyfriend, that Fi had been granted an audition. And thankfully, it had gone well.

    But the audition was over, and this was the real deal. Fi stood before the mic in a sparkling white dress (when had she last worn a dress? Fi didn't remember, but would have bet it had something to do with senior school), her dark brown hair done up high, and exuded a confidence she didn't feel. Unsure what to do with her hands, she grasped the mic stand as the Count Xun Orchestra began the first few bars of the old standard, 'It Was Always You'. Fi opened her mouth to sing.

    And just as quickly as it began, it was all over. Fi assumed she must have done well, as the applause was considerably more enthusiastic than it had been upon her introduction. She bowed, smiled, and did the things that one does. Then, as though in a dream, she found herself walking off the stage.

    "That was wonderful!" exclaimed Marce, the Sullustan stage manager. "The band was really into it, too," Marce went on, adjusting her headset, "you could feel it!"

    "Thanks, Marce!" Fi replied graciously, slapping hands with the girl and making her way backstage. Feeling electrified and slightly nauseous, she found her dressing room and entered, closing the door behind her.

    It was empty, which was strangely surprising. Even in Moonbeam Levels' heyday, Fi had always had to share a dressing room with several sweaty bandmembers. In truth she'd have preferred some here, as the silence in the chamber was deafening. There was a vanity with lights, a mirror, beauty products, and a chair. And Fi.

    She sat, thought about the stage she'd just left. Thought about her name, announced over the PA and printed on posters in the lobby. Fiola Shaku. If any Imperial officers were relaxing in The Blue Room tonight, they might certainly take an interest in that name. Fi didn't mind, really. The Empire could catch her again. They could lock her up, they could shoot her down. But as of this moment, Fi was alive. And she intended to do as much living as possible.

    For Tam.

    There were flowers on the dresser, and a bottle, cool and smooth. Champagne, courtesy of Whatsisname. Fi knew the boy's name, of course, could recall it when necessary. The boy who'd not only gotten her this audition, but who had also co-signed for the luxury apartment here on Cloud City, Bespin, that Fi never would have gotten otherwise. No matter; if tonight's reception was any indication, Fi was going to be financially and socially independent soon enough.

    Fi studied herself in the mirror; her face, her glamorous dress and hairstyle, and laughed. She'd been dead for weeks. So had Tam. But unlike Tam, she had the option to come back. And she meant to come back. For him. For Tam.

    Fi reached for the bottle of champagne, just as a knock sounded on her dressing room door.

    "Who is it?"

    "It's me," a voice replied, "I mean, me... Marce. There's someone to see you!"
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 12-08-2011 at 11:29 AM.
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  7. #52
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    High above Zonju V a YT-1930, the Dullahan, ascends towards the vacuum of space.

    "We have left the atmosphere of Zonju V, sir.", chimed TC-90, "Plotting course for the hyperspace jump to Corellia."

    Tach leaned back in the co-pilot chair, watching the silver droid work the navigation computer with an amused expression.

    "We will be able to jump in three minutes, sir."

    "Good.", Tach responded as he got up from the chair. He watched the planet slowly slip behind them through the transparasteel glass, "Think I'll check on our passengers and...". An incoming transmission alert rudely interrupted him.

    With a grumble he ordered the droid into the co-pilot seat and took the helm. A quick scan of the radar revealed a 3-Z light freighter on an intercept course. "Bennet. I was expecting you."

    He flipped on the vidscreen and was met with the face of a very angry, unshaven Corellian. "Hi chuba da naga, peedunky?", Tach asked with a sarcastic tone.

    "You son of a shag! You stole my contract!"

    This wasn't the first time Bennet lost a job to Tach. He had acquired several thanks to this incompetent smuggler before. This conversation would obviously not end well.

    "Hmm, no.. no I didn't. But I did pick up a contract from a client who had been waiting over a day for his courier to show up."

    A glance at the radar showed Bennet was still closing, almost in weapons range. Tach looked over to TC and nodded. It obediently left the bridge to ready the passengers for the trouble to come.

    "That was my contract, lumrunner, and you stole it from me! Now how are you plannin' to pay me back?"

    The smuggler feigned a moment of thought, idly stroking his chin. "You were the absent courier, weren't you? Did you get trashed on some cheap Renan Irongut and wake up with a rodian prostitute again?"

    And there it was. The look. The 'I'm going to kill you!' look he loved so much. Tach had become quite familiar with this look and its many variations. This day it's the steely-death glare, nostril's flaring and teeth tightly clenched behind the frame of an angry grimace coupled with a low growl look.

    "Jig time, Tach!"; transmission terminated.

    And this was the response Tach was used to, as well. He pushed the Dullahan into evasive manuevers, but not before a volley from Bennet's ship had its fun with the shields. Inside the vessel shook violently while the alarms began screaming for the pilot's attention; shield's were down to %60 already and some power couplings were not happy at all!

    "Frak! That sithspit got upgrades this time!" Keeping one hand on the controls Tach desperately kept the ship on a spiralling path as he activated the ship's com system with the other. "R3, squeeze some speed outta those engines! Now!"

    A series of frustrated beeps and chirps responded, but within two breaths the ship was accelerating to match its new top speed. It's a good thing, too, as Bennet's gunners seemed to start figuring out how to aim at a wildly moving target.

    Now it was the navigation computers turn to talk. She's ready to go, just as soon as they were clear of Zonju V. With a hard pull of the controls Tach forced the ship into as tight of a loop as possible. A risky move seemed to pay off and started putting some distance between the spacehoppers.

    Unfortunately, Bennet's gunners managed to line up the YT in their sites and opened fire. This time, they got lucky. The bolts from their laser cannons cut separate paths of destruction across the ship before they were out of range.

    Back on Dullahan the bridge was a picture of smoking and sparking chaos. Tach coughed and fanned the smoke from his view to look through the cockpit window's. Bennet's ship was coming about to close in for round three. And adding salt to the wound the systems status screens didn't have much hope to offer:

    Shields: Critical
    Navigational Computer: Communication Error
    Engines: Overheating - Emergency Shutdown Initiated
    Life Support: Nominal
    Hyperdrive: Unavailable
    Backup Hyperdrive: Available


    Tach brutally removed a maintenance panel and disconnected the navicomputer from the circuit. Then grabbed a nearby datapad and used a universal connector to plug it into the navicomputer circuit. Fired up the datapad, trudged through the security and menu's then ran an emergency override program.

    "Connecting... error!", chimed the program.

    Tach frustratingly pounded his fist against the computer panel and it objected with a shower of sparks.

    "Connected. Enter or say destination, please."

    "Grid coordinates K 18, planet Bespin.", he ordered.

    "Please wait while calculating route. Estimated time - 5 minutes.", it replied politely.

    He pulled a length of glossy silver wiring from his pocket and attached one end to an available port on the datapad. "I simply don't have that kind of time."

    //-//

    From Bennet's 3-Z it seemed he had won. Tach's ship was dying and he would finally be rid of this scumbag once and for all. He let himself smile, inflate with a bit of pride for once, even. In just a few moments that sleemo will be vaporized and he could finally climb his way out of the hurt vector Tach put him in. The mere thought of it started to make him chuckle.

    But the laughter was short lived as before he could close in the YT slipped into hyperspace and was gone.

  8. #53
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    The dressing room door opened, stage manager Marce shuffling awkwardly out of the way of Fi's caller. The caller, a young woman, stood in the doorway looking grand. She was tall, poised in a shimmering violet dress topped by loose curls of red hair cascading down about her shoulders. The woman's cosmetics and attire suggested the attention of at least one personal stylist, but her manner had the relaxed grace of an individual accustomed to working for a living. She lifted an alabaster hand toward Fi, and waggled several well-manicured fingers in greeting.

    "Hi!"

    "Hagh..." Fi began, struggling with the champagne bottle, "Hi?"

    The woman stiffened slightly, embarrassed. "I'm sorry," she explained, "I didn't mean to barge my way back here." She swept a lock of fiery hair from her face.

    "I'm Jyllis Tromso."

    "Jyllis..." Fi began, trying to recall the name. Then it hit her. "Oh, the actor!"

    The woman grinned, though obviously still feeling a little awkward. "You didn't recognize me?"

    "I've been hearing about you coming to Cloud City on the programs recently," Fi clarified, "but I've never seen you."

    "Really?" Jyllis asked, not offended, but genuinely interested. "I just won the Corusphere for Best Actress in Hedgemont Falls."

    Fi shrugged apologetically. "I... I haven't been out to the flicks in a while."

    Still standing in the dressing room doorway, Jyllis Tromso absorbed this information. "Well then, Ms. Shaku," she declared, "you've never heard of me, you're the lead singer and mandoviol player of Moonbeam Levels, and you're cracking a fresh bottle of champagne. Which means," she grinned, "you're my new best friend. May I come in?"

    Fi grinned back at the girl, and kicked a dressing chair into a welcoming position near her own.
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 12-17-2011 at 06:09 PM.
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  9. #54
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    The datapad, now sitting on the floor of the bridge, announced a successful arrival but its audience was absent. Instead he was sitting in the pilots chair, staring out at the planet Bespin while casually puffing on an ambrian cigarette. The drug had always helped abate the static in his head.

    Tach snuffed out the cigarette before taking the controls and directing the ship towards Bespin. Their time in the hyperspace jump was plenty enough for the engines to cool and get patched up to a 'reliable' status. But better safe than sorry seemed to be a good motto to follow at the moment, so he fired up the comm and called ahead to Cloud City. "Cloud City control, this is the Dullahan. Can you read me?"

    A prompt and professional male voice replied, "This is control, we read you, Dullahan. Go ahead."

    "I'm requesting a tow service as soon as I hit atmo. My ship got hit pretty hard by pirates and she may try to fall outta the sky. Can you guys provide the net?"

    "Understood.", responded the professional voice, "Follow the coordinates I'm sending you and our emergency team will be waiting. Follow their directions and you will brought in safely."

    "Heh, no nonsense. I understand. Thank you, control."

    "You're welcome, sir. Good luck."

    Tach switched off the comm and focused on getting the ship planetside safely. Entering the atmosphere had thankfully gone well; though a damaged power junction box, hanging onto the hull with distressed metal and willpower, lost the fight with physics. It neatly snapped off, ricocheted off the hull and dived into the clouds below.

    A few moments passed and as promised an emergency team of four tow vehicles had arrived. Each carefully manuevered into place and attached to the Dullahan with grapple arms. "Dullahan, cut your engines. We will take you in from here.", ordered a voice over the local emergency channel.

    Tach nodded to the lead ship and disengaged the engines. His vessel dipped a little as the tow ships took on the weight. Taking advantage of this free time Tach went ahead and transmitted his ship registration info. Unplanned stops like this had always caused a mess with Imperial customs paperwork. It'd been a good practice to start early.

    Now Cloud City was visible on the far horizon. There was still some time to wait so the smuggler took this opportunity to contact his client. He grabbed the datapad from the floor and plugged it into a spare comm interface. Clear current program, enter voiceprint code, activate encryption and connect to holonet channel... success!

    Tach pulled a portable holoprojector from his coat pocket and activated it. The image of a well dressed but angry bothan appeared. "Tach!", the holo growled, "I take it since you're calling me already there's been a problem."

    "You know it. Bennet took some offense to losing the contract and shot up my ship!", he emphasized with a sweep of his arm at his damaged bridge, "I'm going to be stuck in Cloud City for a while."

    "Skrag!", the holo-bothan covered his face with his hand, "Does he know you set him up again?"

    Tach beamed with some pride. "Nah, I don't think so. The guy is an umron. I set him up with plenty of H4b laced booze and he didn't remember a thing. The rodian in his bed was.. for fun." A chuckle escaped as he painted a mental picture of the scene.

    "Fine, fine. No need to go on.", the holoimage crossed his arms while glaring at Tach, "Is the cargo undamage."

    "Of course! The girls are just fine."

    "I don't care about them!", he stated heatedly then pointed at Tach for emphasis, "You know what cargo I'm talking about!"

    "Aww, now now, Noth. Twin Rutian's are very rare and valuable." Holo-Noth glared at Tach, so he dropped the subject. "Don't worry, your cargo is safely hidden and unharmed."

    "Good. Now don't waste anymore of my time. Fix the ship and get that cargo here fast!", Noth ordered and ended the transmission. Tach exhaled slowly and shook his head. Outside the ship Cloud City filled the viewport. They had arrived and were being gently lowered to an available maintenance pad. It was time to get ready. Tach packed several important items into a satchel before heading down to the access ramp.
    Last edited by Gibson8088; 12-19-2011 at 11:19 PM.

  10. #55
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    Hayes had a new office. Larger, more colorful, with two narrow floor-to-ceiling windows which framed his desk. He also was not a lieutenant any more, something the neat plaque proudly announced. Capt. Haynes. Captain of police over an entire sector of Junction City. The officer himself looked different, even after just eight months, more grey dotting his short-cropped hair and more lines around his eyes. But Hayes was still unmistakably himself, still perfectly recognizable, something which could not be said of his guest.

    The shorter man fidgeted ceaselessly, his stubble-covered lips pursing over and over again, but without a word escaping from them. He was wiry, but his skin hung a little loosely on him, especially under his grey-toned eyes. The jacket he wore was tattered and stained with liquor and specks of blood. He was . . . almost someone Hayes had known.

    But that man had died four months ago. Hayes had found the report when the doctor never returned back to his home.

    What have you done to yourself, Luis?

    Taking in a deep breath, the brawl-battered man addressed his host, his voice tremulous but methodical. “Anthan, I know this is probably the last thing you expected, seeing me again, and like this, and I’ll tell you, but right now I . . . I need to go.”

    Haynes coughed into his hand. “I wanna know what happened. Everything, from when you left.”

    The seated man responded with a mirthless laugh. “I couldn’t possibly tell you all that’s happened. But I will tell you,” he quickly added,” I just. . . I need to go. Now.”

    “Luis, my boys picked you up—what’s that face for?—they grabbed you from some drifter who dragged you away from a bar fight, and you expect me to just let you jive back out? What happened to you out there?”

    “I told you, I’ll explain everything, just let me finish—”

    “Finish what? Got another brawl to start? Luis, you—frell, you wince at your own name! You’re not leaving here until—”

    “It’s not me, Anthan!” He was standing now, his hands squeezed into fists at his side. “My friend he . . . it was one of the gangs, they nabbed him. Must have stunned him first, he was bleeding. I called security and we were about to—”

    Haynes put his hands on his guest’s shoulders and tried to ease him back into his chair. “You were in a bar, drinking, Luis.”

    “I know!” The thin man shouted, throwing off the officer’s hands and walking to one of the vertical windows. “I know, dammit,” he repeated, pounding his fist against the pane. “They weren’t going to arrive for another twenty minutes, and . . . I . . .” his voice faltered. “I didn’t care,” he choked out. “One drink, and then I would help the cops find him. But before then, I didn’t care.” Hugging his dirty jacket around him, he turned slowly to face his old friend, who stood watching, stony faced. “Help me, Anthan. Help me find him.”

  11. #56
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    Puppets

    The tension in the air was palpable as Doule stared across the Nexus Room in silence. Inquisitor Tremayne, standing between them, unobtrusively moved to one of the exits and said, “I’ll leave the two of you to become… reacquainted.”

    Even after he left, Doule had no words. When he last saw Tam Dawncaller, the boy had leapt into the blowing sands of a Ryloth heat storm and presumed lost. After that event, Doule had devoted his time to investigating the boy and his nature, but nothing he discovered gave any indication that Tam was actually in league with the Empire. Had this all been some kind of test?

    It was Tam who broke the silence. “You’re confused. You do remember me, don’t you? It hasn’t been so long since Ryloth.”

    “I do remember,” said Doule, searching for words to describe the maelstrom of uncertainty in his head. “It’s just that you were pronounced dead.”

    A wry, calculating smile insinuated itself on Tam’s once-boyish features. “That is for the best at this point. Knowledge of my existence has proven to be too much of a lightning rod in recent months. Perhaps now that rumors of my demise are spreading I may be able to find some peace.”

    Doule watched the boy turn to ascend the curved flight of stairs toward the upper catwalk of the nexus room. Tam’s steps were measured, contemplative, as if through his feet he was acquainting himself with the room. He finally reached the apex of the cylindrical room and pointed his eyes through the delicate machinery of the nexus sphere toward Doule. “This room is my station aboard the Inun; the tool of my trade and my prison. My place is locked away within the Empire, a spinning sprocket to drive its war machine.”

    “You were with the Empire all along? Why the escape on Ryloth, then?”

    “I didn’t understand my destiny then.” Tam continued walking, descending the room’s other stairs to complete his circuit around the room. “At the time my instinct was to flee, wading through hells much more dangerous than Ryloth to find freedom. Agents of the Empire have been pursuing me for some time now, and until now I never understood why. All I ever wanted was to be left alone, to pursue my own life…”

    For a moment the hard demeanor melted, and Tam once again looked like the frightened, vulnerable fourteen-year-old Doule remembered. But just as quickly the mask of dark confidence resituated itself and Tam was again that small but disconcerting figure that had entered the Nexus Room.

    Doule cleared his throat. “If I may ask, milord, are you a Jedi? Or a—what is it—a Sith?”

    Once again that complicated smile appeared. “That’s a very binary observation of the situation, Captain. I am not your lord, nor do I consider myself part of any one group of Force disciples. I want you to consider me your friend, Doule, or failing that, at least a compatriot. I’ve learned some interesting things about the galaxy and those that would claim it as their own. Many of them seek to use me for their own ends, like a tool in their hands.”

    “A puppet,” Doule interjected, not denying the similarity with his own feelings about his advancement and commission.

    “Yes,” said the boy, “yes, a puppet. I chose you for this position because I knew you would understand the sentiment. Tremayne and his ilk mean to use me to carve out their own piece of the galaxy, even to challenge the Emperor himself if it suits their whim, but I have no interest in such pursuits, nor do I suspect do you.”

    Doule took an involuntary step backward. The boy’s words—his very gaze—seemed to resonate with the captain’s emotions. Beneath the hard, darkened countenance was the same boy, looking for an opportunity to run away once and for all. “Tam,” he said, “I want to help you however I can, but I have no interest in the political maneuvering I see around me; plots that, if I may be so bold, could destroy the Empire I have given my word to serve.” He focused his attention back into those complicated, cold blue eyes and said, “If my commission aboard the Inun is to dutifully serve in defending Imperial worlds and citizens then I am proud to have been selected for the captaincy, but if my role in this squad is as a pawn to bring about the downfall of the Empire then I respectfully ask that you find someone else to participate in your operations.”

    Tam held the hard stare a moment longer, then a smile broke through, clear, genuine, and possessing a sense of satisfaction that Doule thought would now be alien to the boy’s tortured soul. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear…”

  12. #57
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    The first thing that hit Cali as she walked into the dance hall, was the warmth. Contrasted with the cold, dark outside, the hall was an oven, as furnaces roared and people mingled and danced. The next was the sound, a deafening roar as a hundred conversations, laughter and angry shouts, fought to drown out the band, their instruments twanging with a slow bluesy melody. Finally, she caught sight of the colours; reds and violets whirled together on the dance floor, as men in green suits chatted with women in blue gown by the buffet tables. As she struggled out of her coat, suddenly flush from the heat, Cali heard Sunny enter behind her. “Is it everything you imagined?”

    Cali took it all in for a moment.

    “It’s, uh, it’s actually pretty impressive.”

    Sunny grinned.

    “Well it ought to be, at least for your first time. After a while, they sorta loose their shine.”

    Cali handed her coat to coat check, and gave her pink dress one last look over before she joined the party. “Seems pretty shiny to me.”


    Sunny did likewise, and tried to smooth back his hair. “It’s an alright Shindig, of sorts. There were better years.”


    Cali cocked an eyebrow.
    “Right. So what’d the other years have that this don’t?”


    “Standards for one thing.” said a voice behind them. Coming in behind them was a middle aged man with dark black hair and a full beard. His hairline was just begging to recede, and the odd wisp of white speckled his beard, but he was tall and strong. “Mr. Delas, what brings you to our humble little gathering? You’ve never been much the social type.”

    Sunny grinned and extended his hand, which the bearded man did not take.
    “Well Doyle, it gets awful lonely out in my home; and the little miss had never seen a scouring festival before, and I figured that just wouldn’t do.”


    Doyle nodded.
    “That’s right, I heard your boy was back in town, and he brought a pretty thing with him. This is she I presume?”


    Cali butted in.
    “That’s right, Cali Bellum. I take it you’re the Doyle everybody goes to see?”


    Doyle grinned as he looked her over.
    “I suppose I must be. Well, as you pointed out, people are waiting to see me, so I must be going, but you and Mr. Delas have a good time now.”


    As he walked away, Cali stuck her tongue out at him, only to feel Sunny swat her for it.
    “Ow! What was that for?”


    Sunny frowned.
    “I drove you here on the condition that you’d behave. No stirring up trouble, no making a scene with Reil, no mocking powerful crime bosses. We aren’t even through the door, and you’re mucking up the deal. That, and sticking out your tongue is just juvenile.”


    They waded through the party, and for the most part were ignored. Sunny made a be-line to the buffet table, and Cali found it difficult to mingle with the rather tight-knit community. She was getting lots of strange looks and no invitations to dance, which she chalked up to being an outsider, and wound up sitting at the bar alone. The bar tender looked at her curiously, but didn’t bother asking her for ID when she ordered one of the cocktails.

    ************************************

    Reil was ushered into the small room in the back. As the door shut behind him, he noticed three figures seated at the other side of a big table, and single chair in front of him. He already knew who they were, but as he sat down, he still took stock of them. On the left was Leroy Brown, a pimp with a fondness for gambling, he was dressed obnoxiously, and his hands were practically encased in precious metals and stone, from all the rings he wore; he was all but ignoring Reil to stare daggers at the man on the far right. On the right was relative newcomer William McCoy, formerly known as Slim. He was true to his name, thin as a rake, but had a whip-like quality. McCoy was ignoring Brown, and staring intently at Reil. Doyle was in the middle, doing his best not to look bored.
    “Mr. Reil; I did not look to see you again, what with you going off to be a big-time pilot and all. How can I help you this evening?”


    “Hello Doyle. Frankly I did not look to be coming back but the circumstances have driven me here none the less. As for my needing to speak to you, I think you might prefer we did it in private.”

    Doyle smiled and gestured to his compatriots.
    “Zealos, these are my trusted business partners. You know them both, right?”


    Zealos nodded politely.
    “Mr. Brown I am familiar with, but I’m afraid I only know Mr. McCoy by reputation. I was more familiar with your predecessor, Jim Walker, when he was running the gambling hall. Is it true you cut him in a hundred places for hustling you?”


    McCoy grinned.
    “I also shot him in a couple more. I didn’t see the point in leaving that particular disagreement open for continued discussion. Anyway, Mr. Reil, whatever you have to say to Doyle, you can rest assured we have his full confidence.”


    Reil grinned back at him.
    “So did Jim Walker, but I digress. Well Doyle, since you asked I need your contacts to give me the location of the nearest Rebel fleet.”


    This wiped the smiles off everybody’s faces, and Reil spent the next few minutes outlining his situation, and explaining why Doyle should do this and Doyle weighed the arguments carefully before passing judgment.
    “No.”


    Reil blinked.
    “What do you mean no?”


    “I was under the impression the word is self explanatory. I will admit that coming up to me with a request like that is . . . bold to say the least, but I have no need of bold. No Zealos Reil, bold is not a quality I admire.”

    “The Rebellion will reward you for bringing me to them, I guarantee it.”

    “You are more liberal with their credits than they are, I assure you. I have dealt with many peoples on many worlds, and none of them ever feel the need to honour promises made by strangers.”

    Reil scrambled for a solution.
    “Then I’ll pay for the information.”


    “Dealing with the Alliance is a lucrative arrangement. If I sold you their location, even if you did turn out to be legit, they’d break our contract just on principal. Secrecy is sort of a binding clause in this arrangement. To make it worth my time, you’d have to be sitting on millions to make up for lost revenue, and if you had that kind of cash, you wouldn’t be coming to me, so no.”

    “There’s gotta be something I could do to-”

    Doyle leaned back in his chair, and made a serious face.
    “No. There’s nothing you can do. Frankly, even if you did have something Zealos, I don’t like you. I don’t like that you’re from out of town; I don’t like that you’re a wanted criminal hiding in my town; I really don’t like that your daddy is with the law. But most of all? I hate the fact that you’re an idiot, and would come down here on this night of celebration and waste my time. ”


    This broke the stoicism of the other two, with Leroy Brown just grinning, his smile revealing several golden teeth, and William Maccoy breaking down, and laughing outright. Reil got up to leave, seething with rage and frustration. Just as he reached the door, Doyle called out to him. Reil turned, for the faintest of moments hoping Doyle had changed his mind.
    “And Reil; enjoy the party.”


    The door shut in Reil’s face. Reil saw red, and was about to shout some invective through the door to Doyle, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see a middle aged woman in a fashionable dress standing behind him.
    “I apologise for my husband. Doyle wouldn’t recognize an opportunity if it hit him in the jaw.”

    Reil was in no mood to be mollified.
    “And you would?”


    “Yes, I imagine I would. What Doyle doesn’t realize is that we need someone like you. Even if he did he would never admit it, he’s too proud. I however, am quite practical. Walk with me, listen to this opportunity, and see if it does not raise your spirits.”

    Intrigued, Reil followed the woman as she walked away from the party.
    “And what would this opportunity be, Mrs. . ?” It occurred to Reil that he didn’t actually know Doyle’s last name. Actually, he wasn’t sure if many people knew his last name.


    “McGrath. But please, call me Meredith.”

    “All right, so why does Doyle need me?”

    “Because you’re an outsider.”

    “I grew up here. Sorta.”

    “And then you left, and no one even noticed. And soon you will leave again, and it will not trouble anyone here.”

    Reil frowned.
    “You have a funny way of making someone feel needed. . .”


    “Then let me explain. Life is very sedentary in this town, the locals don’t change, and even the people from elsewhere have been dealing in this town for so long that they are practically part of the landscape. But it appears fortune has a special place in her heart for both of us; because I can only lend my assistance to an outsider, and likewise only an outsider can be of use to me.”

    “Here comes the catch.”

    “There’s always a catch. Life would be boring if everyone had what they wanted; then I couldn’t dangle a prize in front of you and watch you leap through hoops to get it. But this task you won’t find so terribly unbearable. As a matter of fact, I dare say it would even be on your way. I want you to steal a ship.”

    Reil was immediately suspicious.
    “What kind of ship?”


    “The troublesome kind. A trader owed a sum of credits to both Maccoy and Brown, and used his ship as collateral, then skipped town. Brown went to collect, only to find Maccoy’s men already aboard. Certain words were exchanged, then certain blaster fire. Doyle has had to step in and confiscate the ship himself to halt anymore blood spilling, but he cannot hold it indefinitely.”

    “All this over one ship? The three of them own the whole damn spaceport.”

    “For what it’s worth, I’m told it’s a very nice ship; but that has little to do with it now. Men have died for it, so that means neither of the two buffoons can back down without looking weak. As long as there is that ship, there can be no peace, and without peace the delicate balance that runs our humble community will crumble. For those of us who have seen the rest of the galaxy, Twillingate is a meager thing, but these men are sad little kings of their sad little hills, and have never dreamed for more. And they would set the town alight before they ceded their small fraction of power. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but I made the foolish mistake of falling in love and marrying one of them.”

    “So you want me to steal a ship and then. . ?”

    “Leave. You will have made an enemy of Maccoy and Brown, and even Doyle, though he ought to kiss your feet for the service. Their influence wither’s and dies off world, but if you stay on Taanab, you will die.”

    Zealos grinned.
    “The wrath of these sad little kings is terrible indeed.”


    Her eyes narrowed.
    “More so their wives. If you bungle this job, or breathe a word of it to anyone, I assure you, the consequences will be more severe than you could imagine.”


    “I dunno, I can imagine quite a bit.”

    “Then put it to good use and come up with an imaginative way to steal the vessel. Else wise I might regret approaching you, and instead warn Doyle, so that his guards kill you in the attempt.”

    Reil shrugged.
    “I’ve been threatened before, and by much scarier women than you, I might add. So, if you’re done trying to frighten me, let’s talk payment.”


    She smiled coyly.
    “Payment? You get a ship.”


    Reil sighed. Here comes my first hoop and she hasn’t even dangled the prize.
    “Yeah, but I could steal any ol’ ship. Ones that’d be less hazardous to my health. You want me to steal a particular ship, and incur some fairly hostile sentiments. What are you going to give me, to entice me to steal your ship?”


    She smiled, which Reil took to mean that he had passed his first test.
    “I can provide to you the location of Doyle’s contact in the Rebellion. Or near enough that it makes no difference.”


    Reil balked.
    “Near enough?”


    She produced two data cards, and held out the first.
    “I have my own web of contacts. One of them is on Ord Mantell. Give him this, and he will provide you the location of your precious Rebellion.”


    Reil was skeptical.
    “And how do I find him?”


    She handed him the second data card.
    “These are the directions on how to find him, and how to approach him without getting shot. It’s encoded, but I made sure the nav-computer on the Concordia can access it.”


    “The what?”

    “The Concordia, your new ship.”
    Zealos Reil thought he was hot
    so he left the sim-pod cold
    on his eighth mission he got shot
    and that's all there is to be told.
    Draw your own conclusions rookies.

  13. #58
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    "I know!" Fi exclaimed in amusement, "It's like, 'yes, I'm who you think I am, so either say hello, or stop looking at me already!"

    "Totally," Jyllis Tromso agreed. "Or worse, they just walk up and take a holosnap of you, without even saying a word."

    "Ick! Do people really do that? I don't think I've ever had that happen before."

    "They do, and you're not missing anything. More?"

    "Yes please!"

    Fi watched as her new friend poured more of the champagne that her new boyfriend, Whatsisname, had had sent here to her dressing room. The bottle was large and heavy, causing the holostar difficulty in ensuring its contents all went into the glasses. A fair bit made its way onto the landscape of the dressing table, but that was alright - here at The Blue Room, there were people to take care of that sort of thing.

    Fi lifted the elegant champagne flute from the table, trying to hide the care that she was taking in doing so. The nerve damage in her fingers was still extensive, and she could barely feel the glass's surface against her fingertips. She didn't want to accidentally crush the glass by gripping it too hard.

    "But, Fiola..."

    "Call me Fi, Jyllis."

    "Deal. And call me Jyll."

    "Deal."

    "But Fi, whatever happened to the Levels? I mean, you guys were really getting popular there. Why did you break up?"

    "Oh, that," Fi sighed. "We didn't break up, not really. The other members got... stolen."

    Jyll stopped mid-sip, raising an eyebrow and speaking around her glass. "Stolen?"

    "Well," Fi explained, "It turned out our manager, Quorice, had been getting a lot of our financing through some pretty shady channels. Like, a Hutt."

    "Oh no."

    "Yeah. So when we found out what Quorice had been up to, and what kind of interest he'd accrued, we didn't want to pay it, 'cause we'd never signed any deal in the first place."

    "Right."

    "We all intended to meet with Graza's - Graza the Hutt's, that is - associates. Right here on Cloud City, as a matter of fact, since we were booked here, anyway. I came here later than the others, and when I got here, they were all just... gone."

    Jyll swallowed her champagne, swept some copper curls from her face, and began to fill their glasses once more. "But you didn't try to find them? Do something?"

    "What could I do?" Fi asked, sipping the bubbling liquid. "I was just a girl alone. I guess I was, I dunno... scared." Fi thought of the long months that had followed the dissolution of her band, Moonbeam Levels, and how radically her definition of the word 'scared' had since changed.

    "Scared?" Jyllis scoffed. "Honey, you're the girl who performed 'You're Not Allowed to Say No' at the Seven Rings Music Awards."

    Fi narrowly avoided spitting out her mouthful of champagne in laughter at the scandalous memory. "But that was different! That was just my career on the line. It's different when it's your neck." She considered. "A girl can always get a new career, but she can't get a new neck."

    "Wisdom!" Jyll agreed with a dazzling grin, and raised her champagne flute into the air. "To our necks... and may they stay where they're supposed to be for many years to come!"

    "I'll drink to that!" Fi agreed and raised her glass, as Jyllis Tromso thrust her own toward it.

    It was not a heavy impact. But given the delicacy with which Fi's desensitized fingers were holding her glass, it was all it took. The champagne flute was knocked out of her grip, bouncing in her lap and spilling the liquid all over the front of her sparkling white dress, where it fizzed merrily. Both of the young women screamed in surprise, Jyll's scream turning immediately into howls of laughter. In a moment Fi was laughing as well, tears of amusement and relief streaming down her face.

    It doesn't matter my fingers don't work quite right. It doesn't matter I can't play the mandoviol anymore. I have made a friend.

    Their laughter was interrupted by an urgent knocking on the dressing room door. "Who is it?" Jyll asked on Fi's behalf, the singer busily mopping up the spilled champagne with a cloth.

    "It's, uh, it's me. Marce."

    "Marce!" Fi called to the Sullustan stage manager. "Get in here and have a drink!"

    "I'm actually calling for Miss Tromso," the girl called through the door. "She has a visitor."

    "Oh, stars!" Jyll exclaimed, "My date!"

    The holostar leaped out of her seat, violet dress spinning dazzlingly around her, and opened the door. There stood a sour-faced, sharply-dressed man of some fifty years, looking uncomfortable. "Darling," the man spoke politely, uncertainly, "your dinner has gotten quite cold."

    "Helly!" Jyll exclaimed, turning back toward Fi, "dear, may I present my boyfriend, Helbert Strand."

    "Charmed," the man said.

    "Likewise!" Fi replied, taking a sip from her refilled glass.

    Presently another man was at the door, this one much younger than Strand, and much more handsome. "Fi," the young man called, "sorry for the delay. I was held up at the office."

    "No problem," Fi replied, sidling up to Whatsisname and wrapping an arm around his neck. "Jyllis, Helbert, this is..." she struggled for the name.

    The young man peered at her uncertainly. "Nox."

    Fi grinned in relief, giving him a friendly punch on the arm. "Just testing ya honey. This is Nox. Nox Wexler."

    Helbert Strand appraised Nox Wexler head to toe, as if deciding how best to carve him up for Lifeday meal. "Enchanted. And just what exactly is your game, dear boy?"

    Recognizing another gun, Nox grinned winningly at Strand and offered a hand, which the older man shook professionally. "Why, I'm a magician, good sir," he explained. "I take small sums of credits, and turn them into large ones."

    Strand smiled coolly. "Grand."

    "And you?"

    "Oh," the older man answered breezily, "my interests are many and varied, though at present it is tibanna gas that brings me to Cloud City."

    "I see. And naturally, the lovely and talented miss Jyllis Tromso needs no introduction." Nox bowed deeply, as the actress genuflected politely.

    Nox Wexler straightened, taking in the mostly-empty bottle on the dressing table and the front of Fi's soaked dress, "I take it you received the champagne?"

    Fi held up her hands in mock apology and shared a snicker with Jyll. "Outta fuel, sport. Shall we," she reached back into the dressing room door and clicked out the light, "make for greener pastures?"
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 01-14-2012 at 04:36 PM.
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    The airspeeder whistled smoothly between Cloud City's towering buildings, a speck of light and sound in the early morning blackness and quiet. Jyllis Tromso handled the rented vehicle like a pro as Fi looked on admiringly, while Helbert Strand and Nox Wexler, confined to the vehicle's almost nonexistent back seat and thoroughly emasculated, tried to make the best of it as their thighs pressed awkwardly against each others' in the confined space.

    "You're a pretty good driver!" Fi observed, as Jyllis brought the group around another hair-raising curve.

    "I love it," Jyllis said. "I can't get enough of moments like this."

    "I should take you for a ride in my ship sometime," Fi offered.

    "A ship!" Jyll gushed as she swerved to avoid a fellow late-night aerial motorist. "Stars, I'd kill for a ship of my own!"

    "But," Fi asked, puzzled, "surely you can afford one?"

    "Of course," Jyll answered, with no hint of pride or boasting. "But when I'm on a shoot, I can't drive myself anywhere, for insurance reasons. I have to be chauffeured around - even planetside. So I could buy a ship, but I could only fly it on my time off, which isn't so often."

    "Ah. Well, I'll be happy to take a turn chauffeuring for you!"

    Jyllis said nothing, but Fi could see her in the dim light the speeder's dashboard provided, grinning ear-to-ear.

    "I have to say," Nox Wexler offered from the cramped back seat, "I'm a big fan of your work, Ms. Tromso. I've seen all your holos."

    This caught Fi's attention, and she turned around to look quizzically at her boyfriend. As far as she had ever seen, the boy's definition of 'art' amounted to little more than a minimum six-figure business deal or a high-energy gravball match.

    "Oh yeah?" Jyllis Tromso replied immediately, a faint hint of challenge in her tone, "which one is your favourite?"

    Caught offguard, Nox did his best to fill in the blanks. "Uh... well, it's hard to choose, you know. I like them all. Especially the ones where you play really... you know... strong roles. I like the, uh, strong roles."

    Fi smirked, and flicked a switch in the rented speeder's dash. Presently, a clear partition raised itself between the front and back sections of the vehicle, soundproofing either side. "Sorry about that," she giggled, "I usually try to let him speak as little as possible."

    "No worries," Jyll laughed, "I get that all the time."

    Fi watched the city's many buildings fly past in the darkness, thought about asking a question, decided not to, and did anyway. "So," she began awkwardly, "what's the deal with your... 'boyfriend'?"

    "Helly?" Jyll asked. "What about him?"

    Fi giggled nervously. "Well for starters, he's old enough to be your Auntie!"

    Jyll cackled at Fi's choice of words. "Oh, Helbert's harmless. And no, he's not my boyfriend. It's just important for a man in his position to be seen with a woman from time to time."

    "I see. And what's in it for you?"

    "Honey," Jyll began as she brought the vehicle in to a stomach churning and clearly illegal dive, "it may surprise you, but Helbert Strand's an extremely well-connected fellow. In fact, he pretty frequently plays cards with the head of Holopolis Pictures."

    "Wow," Fi remarked, looking at her new friend in the darkness. "I guess business is business. 'No romance', right?"

    Jyll took a second to look away from the fast moving landscape, reached out to touch Fi's hand, and smiled wearily at her. "'No romance'."

    They flew on in silence for a moment.

    "Of course," Jyll continued, "I now must ask, what's up with sport-o back there? He doesn't strike me as your type."

    "He's not," Fi said immediately. "But he makes for a lovely distraction!"

    Jyll grinned that celebrity smile again. "'No romance'?"

    "'No romance'."

    Blinking lights erupted in the darkness behind them, gaining fast. "Blast!" Jyll hissed, "it's the law!"

    Fi flicked the switch to lower the partition between the speeder's front and back, revealing Helbert and Nox engaged in a lively discussion about the comings and goings of liquid currency. "Attention, passengers," Jyll announced in a mock-official tone, "it appears we've been invited to pull over by Cloud City's finest."

    "Fear not, darlings," Helbert Strand soothed them in his anything-but-soothing icy tones as he reached for his credchip, "I shall take care of this. If the population of Cloud City is a menu, you can be sure that its Wing Guard count among the appetizers."

    Jyll brought the rented speeder down onto the appointed landing pad as ordered, where a squad of the city's blue-clad guards were already gathering. Within moments the squad's captain was at her window, his fellows arrayed behind him and looking closely at all the vehicle's occupants, while the Wing Guard speeder, one of the burgundy twin-pod numbers, hovered nearby, just in case.

    "Alright, miss," the captain began by rote, "where's the f-"

    Jyllis Tromso grinned winningly at the startled official. "Was I going too fast, officer?"

    The captain huffed in surprise for a moment, doing his best to collect himself. "Ms. Tromso! I mean, it is you, Jyllis Tromso, from the pictures, isn't it?"

    Jyll batted her eyelashes dazzingly. "You recognize me?"

    "Miss," the captain gushed. "I'd recognize you anywhere. I've seen all your holos!"

    "Really?" Jyll replied in almost-but-not-quite modesty, "which one is your favourite?"

    "Lovers' Moon," the captain replied immediately. "I... I saw it six times."

    At this, Fi turned about in her seat, shooting Nox an amused and accusing look.

    "Listen, Miss Tromso," the captain began sheepishly, pulling a glossy photo of the actress from inside his uniform tunic, "I'm a little embarrassed but, I heard you were visiting here, and I just thought, on the off chance, if I saw you..."

    "You'd like an autograph?" Jyll smiled, taking the photo and grabbing a stylus from the vehicle's dash. "Who shall I make it out to?"

    The captain actually bounced a little in his excitement. "Rommin," he beamed, "Captain Rommin."

    The actress scrawled out the autograph. "Here you are Captain, and thank you for the compliment. Now did you need to talk to me, for some reason?"

    Captain Rommin huffed nervously as he took the photo back. "Well, you were flying a little fast, and not quite sticking to your lanes. Please take it easy, okay? We all want you to be safe."

    "Of course, officer," Jyll obliged, "and thanks again!"

    "Thank you, Miss Tromso!"

    And within moments, they were back in the air.

    Fi tried to make sense of what had just happened. "That..." she began ineffectually, "was pretty darned great."

    "Celebrity has its problems, as you know," Jyll explained, "but it certainly has its advantages."

    "I guess that's the difference between drama people and music people," Fi observed. "Try pulling that little maneuver as a musician, and you're likely to get yourself a body search and a night in the tank!"

    They all laughed (all but Helbert Strand, who did his best to put away his credchip without anyone noticing), as the speeder zoomed off into the gathering purple of early dawn.

    * * *

    "Would you look at that, Trask?" Captain Rommin beamed. "'To Captain Rommin - all my love, Jyllis Tromso'. In her own hand! My wife'll never believe it!"

    Lieutenant Trask smirked. "Your wife's gonna demand half of that, along with everything else."

    "Shut up, Trask."

    Lieutenant Trask laughed good naturedly, and walked off to an area away from the other guardsmen. Retrieving his comlink, he dialed quickly.

    "Trask, here. Yes. Yes. Positive ID. It's definitely her. Airlight-model speeder. Silver. Rented. Just tell him, okay? And make sure to tell him who called in with the tip. Trask. Yeah."

    Pocketing the comlink, Lieutenant Trask rejoined his squad on the landing platform.
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 01-21-2012 at 04:05 PM.
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