Articles

Professional Balance

In Uncategorized on 2008-03-19 by Kyle Maxwell

Part 1

Joron eased back the throttle as he approached the Tatooine station. There wasn’t much in the way of patrol or enforcement up here, but he’d had a few close calls and didn’t want to end up having to buy another new ship or worse. His comm crackled as freighter traffic, legitimate and not so much, maneuvered into the landing station.

“Station, this is *static*lmet, requesting emer*static* vector, over.”

That didn’t sound good. He leaned forward in his seat, fiddling with the gain and trying to get a better read on the broadcast.

“Negative, emergency caller, you are breaking up. Retransmit, over.”

Good, it wasn’t just him. The weary pilot kept adjusting the comm settings to possibly hear a little better… there.

“Repeat, station, this is Digital Helmet, requesting emergency landing vector. We are inbound and declaring an in-flight emergency.”

Hmm, that could be interesting, he thought quietly to himself. Mechanical problem, or something a little more exciting? Here in the Outer Rim, there was always a chance somebody would want what you had and would be willing to kill you for it, even just to check. There hadn’t been too many reports of pirate activity here of late, but you never knew…

“Digital Helmet, this is Tatooine Station. You are cleared directly into Mos Espa Starport. All other traffic, maintain present vectors until otherwise instructed.”

Joron snickered, but complied. No point in causing trouble unless there was at least some kind of reason for it. He glanced over his display screens until the stricken freighter was located. It was the only one bending orbit at the moment, so it was easy to pick out. The vector was changing raggedly, clearly indicating that the thruster controls were out, or that the thrusters themselves were sputtering. Almost without thinking, he started a tracking program to see if he could back-calculate to their source. If this was the first they’d adjusted orbit, he could check to see if their previous course intercepted a jump point or some other smaller station in the system…

…wait. Two other ships were breaking out of their current vectors, and sure enough, they stabilized on intercepts to the freighter. No business of his; he didn’t have any skin in the game.

“Contacts Besh-Four and Besh-Twelve, this is Tatooine Station. Return to your prior vectors or declare your intentions.”

No response. Starting to be even more interesting. Always something happening up here…

“Contacts Besh-Four and Besh-Twelve, this is Tatooine Station. The in-flight emergency is under the protection of His Excellency Jabba the Hutt. Do not attempt to…”

The broadcast broke off as the two contacts opened fire on the ship. Shields flared as blaster fire poured into it, and it began to attempt to dodge and weave, but whatever had caused its current emergency left it as quite a vulnerable target.

“Tatooine Station to all ships in the vicinity. Jabba will be offering his standard bounties for information or apprehension of the crews of Besh-Four and Besh-Twelve. Traffic may resume normal vectors.”

Joron quickly shook his head as he reached into the small cooler behind his seat. Hunting bounties wasn’t his gig; why go looking for a fight? Too much risk, not enough reward. However, clearly there was something on that freighter. The beeping of his navicomputer grabbed his attention and he glanced over the scrolling output. They’d come in from a jump point, no local station to investigate. Probability was that they’d jumped in from Naboo or that direction, so not much of interest there.

Tracking, though, showed the ship breaking up in the atmosphere, falling towards the desert floor kilometers below. It had managed to almost adjust its vector to Mos Espa, but… not quite. The wreckage would be west of there, maybe northwest.

He might not be a bounty hunter, but he sure wasn’t above taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune. If he could get there before Jabba’s thugs did, get whatever remained, and get out before anyone knew he was there, well then that might be a few extra credits. Joron grinned to himself, rippling the scars on his face, and throttled up. Just before requesting a landing vector, he fired off a quick encrypted message to some friends. In case he didn’t get there first, he wanted to be sure to get out of there vertically.

Part 2

“What are we doing here?”

A reasonable question, Joron supposed. He’d called a few friends to a house in Mos Espa before heading out to investigate, but evidently an Imperial squad had set up a check point nearby after he’d already arrived. No matter to him, his warrants were clear, but from the looks he was getting clearly not everyone was as comfortable as he was.

The old smuggler grinned and laid out the plan. He wanted to find that shipwreck, and though he didn’t know much more than the general direction, he figured he could find out for a price. Joron glanced at the ragtag group of smugglers and other family members once more before finally heading outside to his waiting cargo skiff.

T’aliara didn’t want to jump in for some reason; she was dead set on following in her swoop. No question, she was the moodiest of the bunch… no, that wasn’t right. She was just the most independent of all of them, frequently disappearing for months at a time and showing up later demanding to know why he hadn’t come looking for her. One of these days, he’d show her what it meant when he went looking for a Twi’lek…

He gunned the engine hard towards a small Jawa outpost just on the edges of town. Hopefully the engine roar would drown out the incessant griping of his former “significant other”. Hotari just couldn’t let go and blamed him for all the ills in her world, second-guessing his every move.

The skiff settled back down in the repulsor field as they pulled up to the small creatures. Joron and T’aliara approached, outwardly friendly but inwardly dreading the stink and the often-painful bartering. The flash of a few credits and suddenly he did know a little something, but not much. The Jawa’s boss, another stinky native named Nolar Fre’li, had talked about a new place to scavenge for parts. Joron groaned when he was informed that Nolar was back at the large Jawa fortress to the west, perhaps the single greatest concentration of flies on the whole planet.

As the cargo skiff strained up into the mountains, Joron became aware of an awful lot of suspicious glances. Evidently, Hotari’d been telling them something or other about him and they looked none too happy. All those ideas about “commitment” and “faithfulness”… right. That was going to bite him in the * for a long time.

As the skiff made its way around a sandcrawler, he peered through the dusty haze at a figure somewhat taller than the rest. Not a lot, but enough. Was that a girl? Here? What could she possibly be… oh. That’s right. She looked real familiar. He’d met her in Wayfar some time ago… wracked his brain to remember. She was not bad to look at, but so young not even this scoundrel was going to indulge.

“Hey, you! Cutie! You followin’ me?”

“No… Joron? Is that you? Clearly, you are following me, and I do not appreciate it.”

Tins. That was it. She was a nut. “Look, I’m here on business, so just stay back and let me work, okay?” As the others — K’enshin, Li, Theis — poured out of the skiff, he couldn’t help but notice the grins and pointing fingers. Once again, his reputation would be strengthened by something he wasn’t even doing. Namely, the girl.

As he kept talking to her, ignoring the catcalls, it became clear that not only was she there for the same reason he was, she’d tried and failed to get anything from the Jawas. Joron grinned down at Tins and shook his head. “Watch the master work.”

Joron strolled across the square to the area where he’d been told Nolar would be waiting. No, he didn’t have weapons to sell to them, and… no ESPECIALLY not ones Jabba didn’t know about. The Nar Shaddaa native shuddered at the thought of consequences from crossing a Hutt deep in his own territory. He’d been beat to hell once already for that and didn’t care to repeat it.

Finally, the flash of credits did the trick again, that and a magseal detector he had stashed away. Wasn’t that useful, but the little guys squealed and dove on it once he handed it over. Nolar pointed to the north and indicated some distance in their crazy little language. Joron reached up to rub the back of his neck while he converted; math was definitely not what he’d studied, growing up in those cantinas. Three kilometers, more or less. Yeah, the ship was there, but they hadn’t gone to scavenge it up yet. When Joron asked why, the crafty Jawa just giggled and shook his head. He’d just have to find out himself.

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