Different Paths

It’s another Star Wars short story! Read Part 1: Chasing Shadows here!


The citadel loomed large in the viewport as Rando brought his ship into the compound. Every time he made this run, he found himself vaguely uneasy, but the credits were just too good to pass up. Maybe soon, he’d score enough to make a living elsewhere in the galaxy… maybe the next time…

There’s always a next time, he thought wryly, as he eased in the repulsorlifts to settle his ship down on the landing pad.

Rando was one of those rare breeds of criminals who didn’t really have an opinion on the course he had plotted for his life. An explosives and demolitions expert, he had drifted through the galactic fringe for years now, selling his skills for the simple pleasure he got from blowing things up. He didn’t think of the destruction and pain he caused as right or wrong – all he knew was that he liked doing it. If people would pay him to do it, then all the better.

And Vrandil paid well, that was for sure.

The landing cycle complete, Rando powered down the engines and eased himself out of the pilot seat. His ship, a trusty Starmite-class freighter he had named Big Blue in a wonderfully uninspired moment after the hull colouring – faded now, of course – creaked slightly as the engines cooled. Locking his blaster in the small safe just behind the pilot seat, he headed for the hatch and Vrandil.

***

Vrandil was a patient man. A Koorivar, his greatest life ambition was the collection of power through money. During the Clone Wars, his ambitions had been frustrated when Passel Argente had sent the species into disrepute through his ties to the Confederacy, and following the establishment of the Empire, virtually all Koorivar had fled the galaxy for the Corporate Sector. His legitimate business in ruins, and his ambitions crumbled, Vrandil had fallen back on some less savoury contacts to begin anew, albeit in the shadows. He now headed a modest network of saboteurs and assassins, allowing himself some vengeance against the Empire that had brought him so low. While he didn’t consider himself a rebel, he nevertheless accepted any contract against the Empire, though usually confined his erasure activities to the corporate world. Thanks to lucrative contracts with Corellian Engineering and Cybot Galactica, Vrandil had regained some of his former prestige.

Vengeance was frowned upon in Koorivar society as ‘unprofitable’, but that didn’t matter to Vrandil. Where was Koorivar society now, anyway? Trampled into the gutters, thanks to the Empire.

He still maintained his citadel on Murkhana in Auril Sector, far enough away from the prying eyes of Coruscant, but close enough to the Perlemian. It made sense to stay. The planet wasn’t what it used to be, of course. The thriving centre of commerce, a powerhouse of Republic fiscal might, it was now a shell of its former self. Nobody would bother him, thinking all the Koorivar had left. Vrandil’s own citadel was largely mothballed, one or two rooms being kept in use while the echoing corridors were left to gather dust. But Vrandil liked it that way, it kept business associates off-balance. Even those rooms he did use were kept in a dim gloom. The whole place had the feel of a house that had been carefully abandoned, which was in some ways a metaphor for Vrandil’s own life.

Right now, the echoing steps coming from the central corridor could only mean one thing: Rando has come for his money. Without staff as such, Vrandil ran his organisation by hiring freelancers when the job needed doing, and while some people were marginally passable, some were downright nauseating. Rando was a middling sort. He was just odd, a bit of a loner from what he knew of him. No denying that he got the job done, but there was something vaguely unsettling to Vrandil, whose years of dealing with a wide variety of species had given him some insight into behaviour. He had subcontracted demolitions experts since starting his new life who had a certain insanity to them, and some who were cooly professional. Rando was just dispassionate, almost disinterested in his chosen line of work. Vrandil found it disturbing, as it made dealing with him difficult. For a species accustomed to reading body language to gain leverage in any situation, the Koorivar found himself floundering whenever he used Rando. But there was no denying his skill.

Presently, the slightly dishevelled, slightly unkempt human came into the gloom of what could be called Vrandil’s audience chamber, and snapped the Koorivar out of his meditations.

“Rando, welcome back”, he got up from his couch in a smooth, fluid movement, preferring to look at his employees on the level. “I hear great things following your work on Felucia.” He smiled at the other man, his thick, greenish-purple, rubbery lips parting to reveal his black, pointed teeth.

Rando looked unfazed. “Thank you, Mr V. Have you got my money?”

“It is in the case to your left”, he gestured to the metal box that sat in a thin beam of light coming through the shades over the windows. “As we agreed, eight thousand in hard currency.” Vrandil thought he would never get used to having to deal in real, physical money after his years spent with credit transfers.

Rando punched the release on the polished cubirian case and cast his eyes over the credits inside. “I thought we’d agreed on twenty thousand for this job?” he asked, not looking at Vrandil.

The Koorivar wondered how far he could push the other. “Eighteen, Rando, you remember that I’m sure? Ten in advance, and eight with the successful completion.” He stroked his hands carefully, eyeing the demolitions expert as if he were about to himself explode.

Apparently, he wasn’t. “Oh, okay then.” Rando closed the case, apparently satisfied. “Can I keep the case?” he asked as he picked it up.

“Of course, I can always get another.”

Rando nodded shortly, almost as if to himself. “Let me know if you have any other jobs, won’t you?”

“You’ll be my first contact, Rando, don’t worry about that.” That smile again.

Rando nodded once again. “Right then, I’ll see you, then.” He turned and left. Vrandil watched him leave on the security monitor, unable to quite believe he’d managed to short the explosives expert on yet another job.

***

Former Senator Giddean Danu sat back at his desk with grim satisfaction. The Koorivar had kept his word, and the Imperials had been ambushed on Felucia. While official figures were difficult to discern, the official news networks had at least reported this act of sabotage, which Danu hoped meant it had hurt them badly. They’ve obviously bought the reports of Gossam rebels, and this will only help to back that up, he thought. He steepled his fingers under his chin in reflection. Of course, having actual Gossam allies would be a great boon. It might be worthwhile investigating. He knew that overtures had been made to the Neimoidians, though he did not know the outcome yet.

Giddean Danu was fundamentally opposed to violent action. Having been the senator for Kuat since before the Clone Wars, he had always striven to find a diplomatic solution, no matter how frustrating things had gotten during the war. But then Palpatine had declared himself Emperor, and everything had changed. Danu had been a signatory on the Petition of Two-Thousand, whose aim had been to force the Chancellor to rescind his emergency powers – for all the good that did. He had initially feared for his life in the wake of the New Order, as many of his colleagues who had also signed it were killed in mysterious circumstances. However, Bail Organa and Mon Mothma seemed to have made it through unscathed. Indeed, Mon Mothma seemed to have become emboldened by that, and had developed into something of a firebrand within the senate.

As for Danu, the pressure had been too much. The appointment of Thichis Kuras as Moff for the Kuati Sector had been the final straw. It wasn’t enough that Kuras was a member of a lesser family than Danu, but the entire position of Moff had undermined any authority Danu had as senator. In complete exasperation, Danu had resigned his office and retired to his family’s holdings, where he had eventually resolved to fight against a political system that he felt was laughing at him. He kept up with political news from the re-named Imperial Center, and from his contacts with fellow senators Organa and Bana Breemu he learnt of the growing resistance to the Imperial yoke. It hadn’t taken much to find someone in his family’s starship manufacturing company with the contacts that led him to Vrandil.

Danu puffed out his breath in a resigned sigh. Gone were the days of his political conservatism. Palpatine had made him a radical – a lawbreaker. Like billions of beings across the galaxy, the Emperor had turned Danu’s life upside-down, and in the process, he had changed as a person. Time to get on with it, he thought to himself.

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