Pursuit (part one)

Here it is, folks, my 200th blog! To celebrate, here’s the first part of my latest foray into writing Star Wars short stories! 


 

The setting sun cast the city in a rich golden colour, as former senator Giddean Danu switched off the comm unit. So that’s that, he thought to himself. Since Palpatine had dispossessed him of his authority, Danu had been seeking ways to exact his revenge. The news that one of the self-styled Emperor’s Advisors was leaving the centre of the web had prompted Danu to contact Vrandil once again, with a request that Lord Verpalion be eliminated.

Taking these steps against the Empire wouldn’t bring back his old life, Danu realised, but he carried them out nevertheless. His experiences during the end of the Republic had hardened him, and made him vengeful. Seeing his fellow senators murdered had been a particularly traumatic experience, and he swore to hurt Palpatine as he had been hurt.

Perhaps one day things would improve, but Danu no longer knew who he could trust from his old life. Former colleagues in the now-Imperial Senate still debated the injustices of the Empire, but such debates never went on for long. Twice, he had thought about approaching Mon Mothma, who had been active at the end of the War in seeking out opposition to Palpatine’s continued tenure as Chancellor, but he had stopped himself at the last minute. Palpatine had agents everywhere, after all, just poised ready to root out treason and sedition. What if Mon Mothma had been bought off, and worked to expose enemies of the state?

No, Danu thought it best to work alone. Using the contacts from his family’s business for corporate warfare, he had established a relatively productive relationship with the Koorivar, Vrandil, who he had engaged to wreak a modest wave of sabotage throughout the Thanium Worlds, most recently on the jungle planet of Felucia. Vrandil certainly had his uses, that was for sure.

Turning his back on the viewport, Danu reactivated the comm as he decided to use the second piece of information he had recently acquired, and make contact with one of the Gossam aides to former Commerce Guild president Shu Mai.

Strange times make for strange bedfellows, he thought.

***

Rando was exhausted. It felt like everything had gone wrong on this one. A small-time industrial sabotage, that’s what Vrandil had told him. Instead, he was being chased by the Imperials, his ship impounded. Fortunately, an old friend had been passing through the system on semi-legitimate business, and he had managed to score a ride off-planet with him.

He mused on the loss of his ship for an unnaturally long time. Big Blue wasn’t anything special, of course, but it had been his ship, all the same. These days, it was a pretty big deal for a guy like him to have a ship. Most folks back home were trapped there, thinking a speeder was the height of the big-time. Not one for long periods of musing, Rando nevertheless felt the loss keenly. He’d thought about talking to Vrandil about it, perhaps securing the loan of something the Koorivar might have before he could get another. He owes me that, at least. Eventually, however, he’d decided to just go with the flow, and take jobs wherever he could until he had the credits to replace it.

The clatter of boots on deck brought Rando back to reality.

“Just made hyperspace, my friend, so you can stop looking so glum!” came the voice accompanying the boots.

Rando looked over with a half-sardonic expression. “I always look like this.”

Mazzic scratched at the side of his face for a moment. “So, how hot is the water this time? You in some local trouble, or something bigger?”

“Local, I think. Job went sour, had my ship impounded, but I dunno if it’s anything bigger.”

“It sure looked bigger, from where I was standing.” Mazzic checked some readouts on the opposite wall.

Rando shook his head slowly. “Industrial sabotage, that’s what I was signed on for.” My specialty, he wanted to add, but thought better of it.

“Uh-huh.” Mazzic propped his boots up on the console in the lounge, and folded his arms. “So, where to?”

Rando thought for a moment. “Not sure, if I’m honest. Murkhana too far out of your way?” he added, hopeful.

Mazzic’s bark of laughter was answer enough. “Murkhana? What the gfersh do you want to go there for?!”

“My boss lives there. Some kinda business man or something. Pay’s good, though.”

“You still gonna keep blowing stuff up, then?” Mazzic shook his head ruefully. “You should get into the easy work. You’re sneaky, Rando, you’d make a great smuggler.”

Rando blew out his breath. “I like seeing stuff blow up, what can I say? Smuggling’s just not for me, I guess.”

“Well, listen, I need to lie low for a while, so we’re headed for the nearest shadowport. Call your boss, see what he’s got for you, and we’ll see what we can do from there. Okay?”

“Cheers, Mazzic, I owe you one.”

“This makes us even, Rando. Don’t sweat it.”

***

The nearest shadowport turned out to be Point Nadir. Officially a comet with the unassuming label of Resh-9376, centuries ago it was turned into a hideaway for a Corellian pirate, but more recently had come under Hutt control. Mazzic had come across the location early in his career, and always made sure to keep the position of the comet plotted, in case he needed to evade Imperial pursuit – like now. While few could claim to be fans of the Hutts, the fact remained that they were among the most influential groups in the galactic fringe, and no self-respecting smuggler could really afford to avoid business with them. Not if he wanted to make the big money.

As for Rando, well he didn’t care who he worked for, so long as he got to blow stuff up.

Mazzic had been cleared by Traffic Control, and had landed his ship in the Tethers area of Fische’s Cove, a huge cavern named after the pirate who first called the comet home. After paying a Houk thug the customary bribe, the two set off into the Arcade, what passed for an entertainment district within the confines of a comet.

The two entered Lucky’s Casino in the hope of getting food that wouldn’t kill them, Mazzic heading straight for the bar while Rando went for a look around. The explosives expert had an almost child-like wonder about him whenever he found himself outside of his relative comfort zone, as if seeing the galaxy for the first time. He passed by the sabacc tables, not really knowing how to play the game, and briefly watched a Rodian and a Devaronian engaged in a lively game of horansi, before moving back to the bar to join Mazzic.

“Here,” the smuggler pushed a tankard towards him. “I might have a heads-up on a job that’ll get me off this pebble.” Mazzic picked up a couple of the berries that were on offer around the bar, looked at them dubiously for a moment, then thought better of it and returned them to the dish. “You had any thoughts on where you’re going next?”

Rando sniffed cautiously at the tankard Mazzic had offered, and took a tentative sip before replying. It turned out to be a decent shasa ale, at least. “Nothing solid, no. Don’t know who’s running around here, to see if there’s any work going. You say it was the Hutts?”

Mazzic looked warningly at the other before replying in a low voice. “The Hutts are only nominally in charge. Last time I was here, there were a whole bunch of organizations trying to take control of this joint. Try not to be conspicuous when you look, okay?” He took a gulp of his own ale. “There could still be some pretty nasty guys around here…”

“’Nasty guys’? I hope you ain’t including me in that, you old pirate.” The voice coming from behind Mazzic was strangely accented, though definitely Outer-Rim. Mazzic turned slowly to face the newcomer, his hand drifting from the bar as he did so, but stopped well short of the blaster it had been moving towards.

“Well I never… When did they release you from hell, Chac?”

“Good to see you haven’t lost your old charm, Mazzic.” Rando shifted slightly in his seat, and finally saw the newcomer as a tall, blue-skinned, red-eyed Duros. “I’m fine, by the way, thanks for asking. Take more than a blaster bolt in the stomach to finish me off, I can tell ya.” He slapped Mazzic on the shoulder before moving closer to the bar. “Who’s your friend?”

“This here’s Rando, best explosives guy in the business. He’s an artist with a detonator, lemme tell ya. Rando, this is Chac, a fellow smuggler that just might make the big time one day, but I don’t hold out much hope.”

Chac threw a look at Mazzic before nodding politely to Rando. “You’re not looking for work, by any chance, are you?”

“Just finalising a deal, then I’m outta here. You don’t need an explosives man, do you?”

Chac looked at Rando as if appraising him. “Well, I don’t, of course, but I keep my ear to the ground, in a manner of speaking, and I could point you in the direction of some very profitable work, if the price is right…?” The Duro’s voice had a strange, almost buzzing quality that had a vaguely soporific effect for Rando.

“What’s the job?” he asked, taking another gulp of the shasa ale as nonchalantly as possible.

“A little bit of commercial rivalry, someone wants to take a competitor down a peg or two. I’m sure you’d have no problems, if you’re the artist young Mazzic here makes you out to be…” Chac was almost hypnotic with that voice.

Without many options open to him, Rando nodded assent as he put the tankard down. “Sure, why not?”

“Excellent. I’m headed over there myself for another job, if you’re about finished here…?” Chac invited.

Rando nodded once to Mazzic. “See you later, I guess. Thanks for the ale.”

***

Zietta the Hutt undulated around the circular audience chamber, impatient for the tedium to be over. The nominal head of the Anjiliac Clan on Point Nadir since the assassination of her cousin, Zietta had ever since maintained a wariness of these audiences with smugglers and mercenaries. Once the latest round of contracts had been doled out, she planned to retire to her chambers for a snack, possibly a nap. She was in the prime of her life, and needed to maintain her corpulence as a show of her importance.

The Rodian bounty hunter bowed low, and turned on his heel before leaving the chamber. Rude, Zietta thought.  Tis Dolan was already tapping at her datapad for the next contract, however, so Zietta let it pass.

“Demolitions,” the Wroonian enunciated curtly.

A grubby-looking human male stepped forward, with short, greasy hair and a generally unkempt appearance. Zietta looked disdainfully through her heavily-lidded eyes before returning her attention to the shadows across the chamber. It wasn’t so long ago that Tirello had been killed, and while Tis Dolan had assured her no harm would come to her now she was head of the Clan, Zietta nevertheless felt exposed with so many other beings in the room. She noted six Houk guardsmen close by, their hulking arms clutching force pikes across their chests, beady eyes staring balefully from beneath scaly brows, and forced herself to relax.

“…payment for the job is 1500 credits, payable only on successful completion…” Tis Dolan was saying. Zietta felt herself lucky to have such a competent aide, allowing the Hutt to indulge herself with more meaningful pastimes while on the comet.

The grubby-looking human male nodded his head, and accepted a datacard with the coordinates of the job. He nodded his head and also turned to leave. Will these lesser beings never learn respect? Zietta wondered, as she once again glanced around the room to confirm the guards’ presence.

A Devaronian stepped forward to accept a smuggling job…

***

“Are you nuts?”

Rando was taken aback by Mazzic’s tone. “Whaddaya mean?”

“Accepting a job without any payment upfront? From the Hutts? You must be insane!”

Rando thought about it for a minute. “I know the Hutts are a bit seedy…” he began.

“’Seedy’?” Mazzic let out a bark of sarcastic laughter.

“But they’re businesspeople,” Rando finished, as if that settled the issue.

Mazzic wiped his hand across his forehead. “You must be nuts,” he said again, calmer this time. “Rando, you need to learn to negotiate.” They were back on Mazzic’s ship, the captain once again with his legs propped on the console. “So what’s the job?”

Rando looked back at his datapad, giving it a slight tap to wake it up. “Warehouse demolition, over on Nar Shaddaa. Seems pretty straightforward, anyway.”

“Uh-huh,” Mazzic came over to look at the particulars. “Need a ride?”

“You wouldn’t be offering, would you?” Rando asked, hopeful.

“Well, my job went sour, so I’m free if you wanna cut me in on the deal.”

Rando scrolled through the rest of the document. “I can do better than that.”

Mazzic turned to look at him. “Go on…”

“See here, the warehouse they want me to blow up? It’s in the Corellian Sector. I spent some time there once, learning the trade and whatnot. This warehouse is owned by Besadii, it’s a spice store.”

Mazzic looked thoughtful for a moment. I don’t wanna get caught in some kinda Hutt war, but that’d be a heck of a lotta spice in there… Out loud, he said, “So you think we should empty out the warehouse before blowing it? Assuming there’s anything in there?”

“Says here it’s full. I’ve heard rumours of Besadii stockpiling spice, hoping to drive up the market price, that’s probably why these guys want it blown.”

“Since when do you know anything about anything? Besides blowing stuff up, of course?”

Rando gave an awkward smile. “Well, I keep an ear open, I hear things, you know?”

Mazzic snorted with amusement. “You are a sneaky fish, you know that?!” He shook his head.

“Why does everyone always think I don’t know more than how to blow stuff up?!”

***

The man running from the scene appeared to be the pilot of the ship Big Blue, whose registry details match those of the ship that evaded Imperial patrols over Felucia six months ago. This ship has since been impounded by customs officials. Upon searching the ship, officials discovered items consistent with a demolitionist. The man is therefore to be detained for questioning about the incidents on Felucia and Lianna upon arrest…

Captain Faise had read the report twice, and felt no less angry the second time than the first. The elusive criminal responsible for the deaths of his stormtroopers on Felucia had resurfaced, this time in an attack on one of the Emperor’s Inner Circle. Intelligence seemed in no doubt that this person was a rebel, and could possibly lead to the discovery of a major cell, if not more.

The Dauntless had been given the singular privilege of his capture, something that Faise was looking forward to immensely. He called up the Lianna report again, and skim-read the details of the criminal’s pursuit through the city. His evasion of pursuit was linked to the departure of a Kuat Drive Yards freighter, though the report was a little hazy as to the connection. That it was mentioned at all was worth pursuing, however, so he logged the reference in the ship’s computer, for the duty officer to be aware.

The comm unit buzzed, briefly startling the captain. “Faise here.”

“Captain, we’ve received a report from an informant on Nar Shaddaa. It seems the demolitionist has been seen on the Smugglers’ Moon.”

“Is the source reliable?” The Empire had informants everywhere, though some were little more than con artists.

“It’s the same source that led to the capture of the Duros weapons smuggler by Captain Pomeran, sir.”

Interesting. “Very well. Thank you, Ensign. Have navigation plot our course immediately. Faise out.”

I have you now…


 

To be continued – soon!

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