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Korriban Nights: Chapter III

Chapter III

Mari Kryptos had a lot of things on her mind as she entered the turbolift. Most of these things revolved around crime.

She worked for an up-and-coming street-boss in the central hub. He was just beginning to expand into some new turf, and this had resulted in the usual growth pains: decapitations, explosions, kidnappings. It was a delicate time to be a fixer in the organization. More than a little dangerous.

Mari shifted the polybag with her newly-purchased Chocoplume Decadence flavo-ice into her off hand as she punched in the code for her level. This was the riskiest point of her daily trip home. She wrapped her fingers gently around the hold-out blaster tucked in her pocket. It wouldn’t be much good for a real firefight, but it would burn a fist-sized hole through someone at close range.

You could never be too safe these days. if it wasn’t the competition out to get you it was some random fuel-head or sex pervert. Dangerous times.

The lift opened to reveal an empty hallway. Mari hurried to her door. She could never decide whether the extra security measures she had installed at the apartment were a good idea or not. On the one hand, it was a state-of-the-art system — one of the best you could get on Ord Mantell, on the other, it kept her exposed and waiting in the hallway longer.

The door opened and she slipped inside, shutting and re-securing it behind her. Safe. Finally she could relax and enjoy a night — alone with a purportedly health-conscious dessert.

She emptied her pockets on the table and began to walk to the kitchen. Hopefully there was a clean spoon left.

As she passed the entertainment room she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, an armored figure sitting on her couch in the semi-dark. The meaning of this apparition hit her two steps later and she screamed.

She thrust her hand into her pocket. Empty — the blaster, where was it?! As Mari raced back to the table the mysterious figure intercepted her. One arm snaked around her waist and hoisted her off the ground, while a hand wrapped itself over her mouth.

“Mari, it’s me! Slaine.”

After she had stopped crying they had both sat down. Mari would glance at her hand from time to time. It still shook.

Slaine looked around the room — a poster with an Ewok swinging from a branch with the message “Hang In There!”, stuffed Ewoks in various sizes (boys and girls kept on different ends of the couch), a porcelain Ewok village rested on the corner of her desk.

“So.” Slaine wasn’t sure where to begin. Calming people down wasn’t his forte. “You like Ewoks?”

“Yeah. I think they’re cute… not in a racist way or anything.”

“Yeah, er… No. I didn’t think it was a racism thing.”

“Good. It’s not. I just like them.”

“Right.”

“Slaine, there is a contract out for you. It came through today. What’s going on? Where’s S1VR-4RM?”

Mari was a fixer. She got things done. Sometimes someone died.

People would come to her looking to have things arranged and she would put them in touch with the right individuals. She had been the one who had put S1VR-4RM in contact with the clients who had killed him.

“They wanted ‘4RM specifically?” asked Slaine as he licked more Chocoplume Decadence off the spoon.

“No. Not specifically. They wanted a droid. I didn’t tell them that he had a partner. I figured it wouldn’t matter and you guys could use the money.”

“What do you know about them?”

“Nothing beyond the information I gave ‘4RM. They seemed clean. I don’t know… maybe too clean, but this is all in hind-sight.”

“Yeah. Didn’t help S1VR-4RM much.”

The contract on Slaine had come through the same channels. This was an open contract, though. Anyone who could provide proof of death could claim it. The reward was generous. Slaine decided that if he was going to have a monetary value attached to his life at least this wasn’t embarrassing.

He handed Mari a heavy blaster which she needed both hands to hold.

“If anyone knocks on the door, kill him. I’m going to use your shower.”

He dropped the now-empty flavo-ice bucket on the floor and walked off with the spoon still in his mouth.

The drone of the sonic-shower drowned out Slaine’s gasps as he tried to extricate himself from his armor. Though he had “field-repaired” his shoulder he wouldn’t want to do much with it any time soon. He just hoped he had that sort of luxury.

He thought about the girl outside and wondered if he had been right in trusting her. It wouldn’t be the first time he had made a mistake but his instincts told him she wouldn’t betray him.

Slaine remembered when he had first met Mari. She had been little more than orphan street trash. He had been the one to help her get cleaned up and he even got her a job with a local strong-arm — she had moved up beyond that on her own, but still, she owed him.

Maybe it was old-fashioned but in a world where everyone is out to kill or rob you, you need to have one person to trust. Otherwise you go crazy. And Mari was a damn-sight better-looking than S1VR-4RM had been.

Mari heard the shower switch off. Slaine’s voice came through the door.

“Do you have any clothes that would fit me?”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Slaine examined his gear with a critical eye. Even if it hadn’t been so battered he wasn’t sure if he had the strength to pull it on. And, he was probably far more conspicuous in full bounty hunter armor than he would be in street clothes. He picked up his jumpsuit — charred, torn and blood-soaked. No go.

Mari knocked gently on the door.

“I’ve got something, but I’m not sure if it’s your style.”

“I’m not going to a fashion shoot. Just leave them at the door.”

A minute later Slaine stepped into the kitchen. Mari had to put her hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter.

“Is this a joke?” he asked.

“It’s the only stuff I had that might fit you.”

Slaine examined himself again in the reflective surface of the freezerator.

He was wearing a pair of skin-tight Zebrephant-Stripe spandi-tights which revealed more about him than his medical records ever could. He modestly attempted to tug down the shirt — nightshirt, really — she had given him. It was pale yellow with a happy Ewok shouting something in one of the Rim languages.

“It brings out your eyes.”

“Give me that blaster.”

“What’s wrong with that one?”

Slaine blushed and pulled vigorously at the front of the shirt again.

* * *

The streets were full of people and Slaine tried to blend into the crowd. He had added a pair of swoop goggles to complete his disguise and he looked… well, he knew what he looked like — a freak.

He had sent Mari off to meet one her contacts, a slicer who asked no questions if the money was right.

Most of the faces in the crowd studiously ignored him, though he got a few encouraging winks. A few blocks away from his own apartment he made a quick turn down a side alley. He waited in the dark for a few minutes before continuing on.

He was heading for a safe-drop S1VR-4RM had set up. As far as Slaine could tell he was now the only person who knew of its existence.

He began to head into the more dangerous areas of the Ord Mantell undercity. The only people he saw now were street kids, addicts, demobbed droids. He got a lot of looks here, but so did the vaguely blaster-shaped thing he carried with him under one of Mari’s towels.

He let himself down an open grating gently, trying not to strain his already-delicate shoulder. The shapes of desperate people of all species were crouched on either side of the vents wearing nothing more than rags.

Slaine draped the towel around his neck and held the blaster openly. There wasn’t anything in the way of law here to be concerned about anyway.

Music came drifting from up ahead. Along the tunnel wall appeared decorations: cloths, blankets, ribbons. A large bald man with a chained Bullpith beside him guarded a door. He looked Slaine up and down and sneered.

“We’re not hiring.”

“Great. I’m not applying.”

Baldy didn’t seem impressed by the blaster. Neither did the Bullpith which began to growl.

Slaine brought out a datacard and held it towards Baldy.

“I’ve got a compartment here.”

The Red Lady was perhaps the most vile flophouse on Ord Mantell. Whatever perversion of circuitry had caused S1VR-4RM to store their extra gear here was beyond Slaine’s understanding. Vermin and disease hung to the wall like a fine varnish.

He climbed down a small ladder into a sublevel, really just a storage space, divided into closet-sized rooms.

Rumor had it that some of these compartments housed the decaying remains of some of the city’s most famous crime bosses. Gagging on the air, Slaine could believe it.

He entered a code and a thin door swung open towards him. The light gleamed off the polished metal of assorted laser-carbines, droid parts and various implements of destruction.

Slaine smiled unconsciously.

Back on the streets he adjusted the weight of the large cylindrical parcel he wore across his back. Pulling up the hood of his new longcoat, a wave of positive emotion regarding his late partner swept over him. S1VR-4RM may not have been much of a conversationalist but he had an understanding of man’s fashion unusual in an assassin droid. In all the bags in the storage unit there had been no tights and no Ewoks.

But S1VR-4RM was dead, or deactivated, or whatever happened to droids — and at this rate Slaine would be next. It wouldn’t be long before someone, maybe a lot of someones, tried to collect on that bounty. Ord Mantell was getting too hot to hang around… but he had one or two things to tie up before he left.

“Slaine! Hey, Slaine!”

The voice echoed down the busy street. Slaine tensed imperceptibly when he heard it, but he didn’t turn and he didn’t slow down.

“Slaine! Stop. I want to talk to you.”

Oncoming pedestrian traffic was staring at something over his shoulder. They began to clear out of the way. He kept walking

“I said, ‘stop’!”

Slaine reached out and seized passing Weequay. He spun around, using the startled alien as a shield while he slung out his sawn-off blaster carbine from under his coat.

The Weequay struggled for an instant but a hot blaster bolt struck him in the chest. Slaine began firing even before he had a good look at his target — stray shots hitting some in the crowd and sending the others scattering for cover.

It was Vansenn — not the world’s greatest bounty hunter, but not its worst either. He preferred a two-fisted style of heavy blaster firing, the impact of which shook Slaine right through the Weequay’s body.

Vansenn was armored and, perhaps feeling this gave him enough advantage over his enemy, did not seek cover.

Slaine shoved the Weequay, now literally dead weight, forward and dove through a shop window, throwing glass and holiday displays everywhere.

Slaine groaned as he rolled across the mess on the floor. Vansenn was firing intermittently into the shop. It would only be a matter of time before he decided it would be worth expending a grenade on the job.

“Hey, Vansenn!”

“What?!”

“I want to make a deal.”

Slaine tried to worm his way to an overturned desk. He dragged the long parcel he had taken from the storage unit with him. If he could keep this idiot talking maybe he would have a chance.

“I got money, Vansenn. Lots of money. That contract that’s out on me is nothing!”

A laugh came from outside the shop. Not far from the window now.

“Seems like plenty of money to me.”

“It’s nothing! Chump change! I ripped off the Z-Score Casino! That’s why they are after me! I’ll give you half.”

Slaine could almost hear the sound of greed spinning the gears in Vansenn’s tiny brain.

“Are you for real?”

Slaine unwrapped the long cylinder, exposing a deep black tube. He manipulated its underside and swung down three tripod legs.

“I’m for real, Vansenn. We can be rich, both of us.”

The ion-cannon purred when he powered it on. Using the table for cover he took aim at the shattered window.

“You know what, Slaine?!”

“What?”

Vansenn stepped in front of the window and levelled his twin blasters.

“I think you’re full of –”

The cone of energy that erupted from the front of the ion-cannon tore through most of the remaining storefront and instantly incinerated Vansenn. A sizable section of the carry-out across the street was destroyed along with all the windows in that building. A thick cloud of ozone wafted from the cooling muzzle of the cannon.

Slaine gently blew the acrid curls of smoke from the barrel and smiled.

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