STAR WARS: GALACTIC TALES – BETWEEN THE EMPIRE AND THE REBELLION 1.44

nik_avNik had definitely had better days. He had awakened to find a technician in his escape pod pulling out a control board to scavenge a junction link. His sudden squeal of annoyance had startled the maintenance man, but had also given away his position… which meant he’d probably need to find a new place to sleep to avoid security sweeps. Less than an hour later, he had a run in with a smuggler by the name of Jenks, who he’d done a couple of ‘procurement’ tasks for in the past.

Jenks considered himself a man of tastes, which is why he chose the Princess as a meeting place for so many of his exchanges. In truth, he was a thug who’d managed to hit enough scores to afford the good life now and again, and it was clear he thought the Jawa was beneath him… just a tool to be used and abused and barely paid for his efforts. Nik wasn’t happy to see him, because it meant a low-paying job just when the diminutive stowaway had almost pooled enough credits to buy passage off the luxury liner.

As it turned out, Jenks had a small run-in with an Imperial patrol during his last job and had burned out one of his deflector coils. It was an expensive part and Nik, it seemed, was going to acquire him a low-cost replacement. The trouble was, that wasn’t a part you stole from the ship you called home… especially if you didn’t want security to redouble their efforts to find you. Nik had just recently been put on their “mostly harmless” list, and didn’t want to move up in their assessment.

That meant stealing it off a visiting ship, and that was always risky. Nik knew the security of the Linathi Princess would lock him up and hand him over to the authorities… a tramp captain might just shoot him or drop him out of an airlock. Still, he also knew what Jenks would do if he failed, so discretion became the better part of cowardice. All of these thoughts, of course, were running through Nik’s head as he belly-crawled through the ceiling ducts of the Princess on his way to the yacht-docks.

The latest trouble, however, was the Nik had been up in the ceiling for hours. It wasn’t because of the size of the ship, though it was quite large. It was because, somewhere during his depressed reverie, he’d stopped paying attention and gotten hopelessly lost. He was certain, though, that he’d finally gotten close to his destination, and decided to risk popping out of the duct system and peeking through the ceiling. He found a repair hatch and popped his vibro-wrench out of his pocket and began working on the bolts holding the hatch in place.

Four bolts later, Nik crawled out of the duct and lit gently onto one of the cross-beams inside of the ceiling, just above the panels. He pulled a small magnetic clamp out of his haversack and locked it in place on the beam with a soft “clink”. Running a fair amount of line through the link, he took the coil in one hand and leaned forward, feet planted against the side of the beam, to reach a panel. The Jawa never really felt “short,” but times like this he definitely saw the benefit to height.

Reaching out with his small hand, he slid a finger under the panel and raised it slightly, hoping neither dust nor noise would give the action away. So few people ever looked “up” without reason. The stench of the room below assailed him immediately, so powerful that he almost let the panel fall back into place without care. It was… sweet and sugary and, in general, the type of thing that makes human females make loud, shrill noises of delight in congregating crowds. Yuck!

Worse than having to experience that stench, it meant that he was not only in the wrong place, he was on the opposite side of the ship! “Utinii!” he cursed, quietly as he assessed the situation. Jenks was going to have his hide if he didn’t get his act together. Slowly, he lowered the panel back into place and began to turn himself over so he could walk back up the beam. His foot came down on his robe… and burlap did not hold well against smooth steel.

Surprised by the sudden slip, his grip on the coil of rope loosened and Nik fell hard against the ceiling panel. It didn’t hold up to even his negligible weight, and he found himself plummeting into the room below. His hands scrambled for the rope, but never found purchase. With a painful wrenching tug, he reached the end of the rope. He raised his head to find himself dangling by the waist like a candy-filled Demarillan ‘pinata’ at some kid’s birthday party directly between, and slightly in front of, two heated slabs upon which lay two unclad near-human females, each being rubbed by a servant-Teevan male.

His glowing amber eyes met the gaze of the pink female, then her sparkly-haired counterpart, before rising the meet the stunned looks of the Teevan masseuses. With a deep sigh, he let out another curse, this one hard, shrill, and significantly louder than the last.”Utinii!”

Despite the fact that those talented Teevan’s had stopped massaging and were now looking properly shocked –muttering words that were impolite in the presence of ladies– Aidenne watched with more amusement than annoyance as the intruder dangled between the tables. “Such language…” Golden eyes taking on the familiar malicious spark, the Diva stretched out one mottled leg and nudged the Jawa with her foot, sending him into slow spin.

Nik waved his arms wildly, trying to stop the spin, but only succeeding in accelerating it. “Gunta!”the Jawa pronounced his a high-pitched tone as he continued his slightly-less-slow spin.

Pressing pink lips together, Tiila raised her head to the commotion. “Now… you don’t look like ship staff.” She tried to keep those lips still at the dangling creature. “There is generally much more to them…”

Gaze traveling lazily up the rope, the Theelin gave a small shrug. “Maybe he left the rest of him up there.”

She smirked at her companion’s comment. Aidenne was more and more appealing a partner as time passed. “Seems a little unprofessional to me.” She propped her chin in her palms and smiled at the miniature being.

Slowly, his spin began to wear down, and Nik looked back at the two women who seemed to be talking both to and about him simultaneously. That was the problem with near-humans, or humans for that matter: all the double-talk. “Nik i’ta,” he said, begrudgingly as he rotated to a halt. It was in that instant that he also noticed a Teevan in the background punching up Security. He started waving his arms in a discouraging gesture, then immediately began attempting to disconnect the clasp connecting his tether line to his belt.

“Ka tek ka’niik!” he shouted towards the Teevan as he flip-flopped helplessly in mid-air. Finally getting a hold of the magnetic caribiner, he let out a breathy sigh and muttered a soft, “Ni’ta.” before releasing the catch. Apparently, however, forethought was not the Jawa’s strong point… as he quickly belly-flopped onto the Spa floor. “Utinii!”

As the small brown robed being shook the daze from the fall from his senses a red boot lay before him. Slowly looking up the Jawa saw Krynn standing over him in his red armor, and his helmeted head quizzically tilted to one side as Bralor walked in past them both. The Chiss hadn’t seen something quite like the small glowing eyed creature before, but soon dismissed it as a threat. He stepped past the small creature walking slowly toward the diva.

Lips curled in that same satisfied smile, Aidenne looked past her bodyguard to the still worried looking Teevans. “As you can see, there’s no need for security. Relax, gentlemen.” Sitting up, only barely bothering to keep the towel around her spotted skin, she turned back to the Zeltron. “I imagine this means our time is up. Unless you’d prefer to stay and watch the floor show.”

Krynn stepped behind the diva and picked up a silken robe offering to help Aidenne off of the massage table. “Why thank you,” she murmured. Her wicked amber gaze moved over to the Mandalorian before accepting her robe with a shrug. “They’re always trying to clothe me,” she half pouted to Tiila. “But I imagine that someone should help our little friend from the ceiling to his feet. He seems… lost.”

Nik shot a quick look at the near-human female. His facial expression, hidden completely behind his facial coverings, spoke to no one but himself. Had they been visible, however, they would have seemed quite contensious. Lost? he thought. I know exactly where I am! His fists were moving towards his hips as he was forming the proper rant to contradict the female creature, but then he noticed the large, scary blue guy turning back towards him.

Krynn nodded before turning to the Jawa with a determined glare. He moved with swift brutality as he crossed the distance, and grabbed the creature by the back of his brown shroud and lifted him off the floor to it’s feet without hurting it. Then casually brushed the dust from his clothes and straightened the robes around it’s little body. Then when his inspection was done, he returned to the diva’s side folding his arms.

Following suit, Tiila sat from her table, pink legs dangling towards the floor. “That one always is efficient and thorough.” She smirked at her Theelin companion with unspoken insinuation. With a flick of her hand, cerulean waves tumbled over her shoulders. The part she had to play seemed so much easier than it had just a few hours before.

Draining the remainder of her glass and leaving the delicate crystal where she had just lain, Tiila hooked the bronze material that hung limply from the screen and slid it over her head and past her shoulders, letting gravity fall the slinky material to her thighs. She glanced at the Mandalorian mask for a second before turning to the Jawa. “And what of you then?”

Nik put his hands on his hips and looked at the Zeltron woman. What about me? he thought. He was beginning to feel mildly insulted, which was good because it seemed to overpower his incredible fear at having revealed himself to the ship in such a manner. No matter what happened, he wasn’t going to be able to stay on the Princess for long after this… they’d really be looking for him, now. Again, he was about to speak when he noticed a second newcomer… in some very familiar armor….

Behind that blacked out T-visor Bralor let his eyes linger on the way the silken cloth clung to the Zeltron woman’s pinked curves. In that brief moment, with a grin upon his lips, he was rather grateful for it’s cover. He may have been a soldier, and a Mandalorian one at that, but he was still a man. It was easy to tell how why she was so successful at what she did. She wouldn’t need the gifts of her Zeltron genetics, let alone any further engineering to persuade someone to see her side of things. That was just window dressing so to speak.

He looked down on their diminutive Jawa interloper. “You’re a long way from Tatooine,” he said, his helmet speaker clicking softly. “And I doubt the Linathi Princess generally makes frequent stops on cheap dustballs run by gangsters.”

Any thoughts Nik had to forming a creative or intelligent response died a quick, painful death upon being addressed by the armored man. He probably would have wet his robes had he not already done so when he fell through the ceiling. Instead, he just let out a long string of barely-coherent twitters that, roughly translated, came out to mean something like the following: {I uh didn’t mean to uh you see it was an acci– um please don’t kill me I didn’t touch your females I just, uh, live here on the ship and was um fixing a duct and please don’t kill me Mr. Fett I just fell by accident and uh didn’t well it was a…} at which point he completely lost his ability to speak and just let out a shrill”Utiniiiiiiiiiiiiii!” and began to look nervously towards the door.

“You don’t say…” There was a static hiss as the Mandalorian chuckled to himself. He ignored the jawa’s high-pitched panic and the case of mistaken identity. Bralor knew well enough where his stock had come from, all the clones did. He wasn’t above using the fear as an enthusiastic motivator. He knew how resourceful jawas could be. A stowaway jawa could prove to be a mosthandy tool in a job like this.

He looked back over his shoulder. “Don’t call your security,” he told the pair of teevans coolly. He crouched down, wrists draped over his knees, and looked the little scavenger in his glowing amber eyes. “We’ll take care of this… personally.” With those words, much to Nik’s surprise, he suddenly realized that he had not completely exhausted his ability to wet his robes… Thank the sands they were layered.

Aidenne rolled her eyes. She didn’t see the resemblance. Or, if she did, she certainly wouldn’t admit it. “Rangir! Mhi ganar borarir ba narir!” The Diva leaned back against the table, reminding her brotherabout the job at hand. “If we’re done here…” she added, switching back to Basic for effect.

Nik chittered out a quick agreement with the speckled near-human female and promptly began to cak towards where his cable was dangling from the ceiling. With the precision of an engineer, he began to calculate the possibility of jumping high enough to grab the line, coupled with the odds of climbing it fast enough to not get killed by the Mandalorian or the large, creepy blue guy. He ran through several scenarios in which he ended up shot, broken, charred, impaled, skewered, and, in one particularly gruesome possible future, disemboweled. Not a single scenario ended with him triumphantly cheering from a safe hiding place… so he decided to stand quietly and hope that the armored warrior simply forgot he was there.

Krynn watched the small creature as he came to each horrific eventuality watching it twitter it’s boney fingers as it eyed the rope. From behind the mask of his red armor he curled a small smile as it finally complied, and slipped the curved knife Aidenne have gifted him back into its hiding place. He stood for a moment blankly and then leaned down to the diva and asked as quietly as he could through his suit’s voicebox, “Why is he calling Bralor a ‘Fett’? Is that a title of valor on his world?”

The clone grinned a bit behind that mandalorian helmet. The scavenger had no idea how close to the truth he was. Technically he was a Fett. He looked up to the thin, mottled Theelin. “Urmankalar o’r ni, vod’ika.” It wasn’t an admonishment, just that cool clean Bralor, always thinking. As if she needed a reminder.

“Ures tionir,” she answered immediately, amber eyes cool and, mostly, calm.

Bralor gripped the jawa’s robes stood. The panicked Nik let out a shrill “Utiniiiiiiiiiiiiii!” as his feet left the ground and he found himself hanging parallel to the ground once more. In the commotion he didn’t notice the small tracer that stuck inside the side of his belt.

“Ladies,” he said with that tone of reverence. We need to get you back to your quarters.” He gave a small bow of the head, stepping back.

With a smirk, Aidenne took Krynn’s arm and began to lead him past the massage tables. “Ures has many titles.” It was as much of an explanation as she felt like giving at the moment. As they passed out the doors, the tiny Diva offered as much grace as she was capable of in her parting thoughts.”Despite the interruption, this was an acceptable experience. We may reccomend this establishement after all, providing they fix the ceiling.”

Bralor followed them out, his Jawa baggage struggling at the end of his arm. The group carried on away from the spa and away from the prying eyes that leaned out of the open doorway and to watch them with nervous interest. Around the corner the soldier stopped. “Alright.” The soldier unceremoniously let go of his hold on the Jawa. He crossed his arms and looked down on the brown pile of robes as the glowing eyes looked back up, reflected in that black visor. “No security.” He leaned forward. “You owe me one, Jawa.”

Nik flipped over onto his rump and backpedaled into a wall, staring up at the Mandalorian armor.”Utcha…,” he said, rubbing the shoulder that had hit the floor. There was no Jawa word for “thank you,” and he wasn’t sure just yet whether or not it was appropriate, since he wasn’t all that sure that his situation had improved. So, instead, he just lowered his eyes and asked, “Inta n’cho ti.” Jenks was gonna kill him….

“How long have you been stowed away on this vessel?” He reached into one of the pouches on his belt, his fingers catching a two way communicator. Any updates not on their schematics, any glitches – a sharp, knowledgeable jawa could fix a problem that might crop up for them quicker than some of the best splicers in the business.

“Ka no’tekii,” the diminutive creature exclaimed, defiantly, but as gloved hand reached into a pouch, he held his hands, palm-out, in front of him, turned his head so as to not see the blaster flash that was about to kill him, and shouted, “Ita no’tekii! Ita no’tekii!’ he retorted, “Uhta… ika miint k’sek… ika k’sitt,” he replied, clenching his teeth and bracing himself for the inevitable burning of high-particle energy.

When the inevitable burning of high-particle energy did not come, he released some of the tension in his shoulders, opened one eye, and carefully glanced up at the armored man to attempt to discern why he had not yet been vaporized. This day was turning out to be all manner of confusing.

“You probably know your way around its innards better than the engineering team.” Bralor was holding the communicator out to him. “I’m going to call you and ask you to do something for me.” He tossed the comm and the nervous Jawa bobbled it around a little before managing to get a hold on it and not drop and break it. In a surprisingly fluid motion, given the deftness of the catch, the creature slipped the commlink into one of his many pouches.

“Ka kiit?”the Jawa asked, staring up at the Mandalorian helmet in amazement. He was beginning to see the possibility of tomorrow actually coming… of course, he’d need to finish the job for Jenks somewhere along the line, but that was secondary to not getting cooked by the more immediately-dangerous man. Nik was nothing is not discerning in prioritizing his potential murderers.

Bralor turned, “Not unless you don’t answer that call.” With those final words, he lead the others away, leaving Nik behind.

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