The white lines shortened and the spaceport known as Port Nowhere appeared in front of them. Barak put the freighter into hover mode and sat back. The idea of being caged in space had never sat with his hunter instincts. If his former Jedi friends had taught him anything it was never to get cornered. Plus the risk of capture meant the total loss of his Jagganath Points and falling out of favour with the Scorekeeper. Yet here he was, flying one metal trap into another metal trap. The girl was sat idly playing with her mother’s blaster.
“Soft thing, there’s something I want you to know”, the Trandoshan rasped.
Sjani looked up at him quizzically.
“What’s that?”, she asked.
The Trandoshan, took a breath and then began.
“No doubt, your mother taught you that attack is the best form of defence?”, to which Sjani just nodded.
“Why d’you ask?”
“That idea is fine for an adult like your mother who has fought her whole life. But small soft things need more than that. I see you as kin now, clans folk, fellow hunter.”
“You kinda see me as a Dad don’t you?”, that phrase was both difficult and comforting in equal measure. I still don’t know who my father is, or where he is., she pondered. Barak continued.
“I am not your father, but I see you as Daughter. Must protect you.”
“What are you suggesting?”
Barak stood, ensured shields were fully operational and attack scanners were active. He beckoned Sjani to follow him. The girl stood, retightened her belt and pushed her ruffled hair away from her face. She couldn’t wait for a hot shower at Port Nowhere and food which wasn’t out of a ration pack.
Barak went into his locker and pulled out a spare electrostaff. He held it out to Sjani.
“Was grandfather’s. Hunted much prey with this.”
Sjani took it from him. It felt comfortingly heavy in her hands but found it awkward to handle.
“It’s as long as I am tall, Barak.” Sjani protested.
“Not all prey will shoot from a distance, soft thing. If you can shoot and kill before creature is in your face, then good. Not always possible.”, he pointed out.
“Fair play. So how do I use this?”, she asked.
A few hours later, both sporting bruises and cuts, Sjani slumped down against the wall, tired. But she had finally got some of her frustration out of her system.
“Okay, now I really need a shower.”, she laughed
Barak’s eyes had a glint in them.
“Now you are ready. Blaster for distance, staff for in-face prey. Now you can defend yourself.”
“Honour is mine, tiny Hunter.”
Sjani dragged herself to her feet, affixed the electrostaff to her back and checked her blaster was secured on her belt.
“I think we have a delivery to make,” she stated.
“Yes we do, then we need a plan to get Dana back”
A few moments later, they were docked in a spare hanger and headed first to the Cantina for some hot food and the rest rooms for the shower they both desperately needed. Feeling fresher, they regrouped at the Cantina and ordered a couple of drinks. Once they were happy they were not being watched, Barak lifted his comm device and punched in a secure channel. A purple-skinned Rodian appeared on the channel.
“Yousa late, my boss isssa getting impatient.”, he said, arms folded.
“Had Republic interference, had to evade to avoid notice,” Barak explained
“Do yousa have the goods?”
“If you have the credits, we have the goods.”, the Trandoshan replied
“Come to hangar 306, my boss isssa waiting. Do not displeasa him”
At that, the comm signal was cut off. Barak downed his drink. Sjani put out a hand onto his arm.
“Barak, the crate that was taken by the Republic”, she hissed.
The Trandosan winked.
“I took copy of datapad. One of our contacts can find and slice original. Part of plan”
Sjani let out a breath of relief and with that they headed to hangar 306.
They had one of the courier droids bring in the unmarked crates from their freighter. Sjani sat atop one of them with her legs crossed and watched the transaction take place. Tribulla the Hutt had come especially to check the quality of the materials being offered.
“Your partner is becoming an exceptional supplier, my Trandoshan friend. These Alderaanian fabrics will do wonders to the luxury of my new Palace on Nar Shadaa.”
“They and the gems are yours, Hutt. Now the agreed fee.”, Barak demanded
“All in good time. First, what of the Republic interference.”
Barak unsheatheed his own electrostaff and banged one end in anger on the floor, creating a dent in the Durasteel.
“Captured, honour deprived. I need a favour.”
“Favours are not cheap in our line of work, Trandoshan. Favours must be paid for.”
“I understand. What is the price?”
Sjani noted that haggling with a Hutt was always a pointless endeavour. But she listened anyway.
The Rodian took Barak’s datapad from him and used his own encryption key to find the copy.
“I see,” Tribulla drawled, “You did not cover your tracks enough to protect the privacy of your client?”
With that a few bodyguards appeared, rifles pointing at Barak. Sjani stood, unhooked her own electrostaff and moved to Barak’s side. That amused the Hutt.
“Ha, ha, ha. The little girl is a bold one.”
“You have to be, when the whole universe is against you. My mother got captured to save your skin. Now help us, or don’t. But don’t make my life harder than it is.”
That took Tribulla back. Sjani heard the safety click off one of the bodyguard’s rifles and swifly swung her staff around knocking it out his hands. Kicking it away from him, she pointed one of the barbed ends at the disarmed bodyguard.
“We came to do business Hutt, now do business and we all leave.” she demanded.
“So much of your mother in you, little girl”, the Hutt stated condescendingly, “But you are right. Guards, put your guns down.”
An awkward silence ensued.
“Fine, my Rodian friend can erase your other datapad, for, say, twenty-five percent less in fees for these goods.”, he stated his terms
“C’mon Tribulla, it’s a 5 minute job for him, that’s worth a ten percent deduction. So how about we say twenty per cent. That should be enough.”, Sjani kept her eyes fixed on the Hutt.
“Very well, I don’t want to lose your skills and you don’t want to lose your head.”
The credits were transferred, which Barak triple-checked then locked his account. Being in the presence of an expert slicer, meant trust was at a premium. They needed allies, or at least, a lack of enemies if their rescue attempt was going to succeed. But the first puzzle piece was now in play.
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