Rendezvous on Kafrene

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Slowly awareness returned.

Renn blinked his eyes against the bright light. Slowly the glare receded and transformed into the grey dura-steel ceiling above him. He eased up onto an elbow and glanced around. He lay in a bunk in a small cabin. The walls and floor were non-descript metal just like the ceiling. He had spent enough time in space to know immediately he was aboard a ship in flight. The room was almost silent but for the quiet rumbling of power conduits behind the walls. He pushed the blanket covering him aside and got to his feet. His clothes had been replaced and he was now wearing a dark green flight suit bearing no insignia. He sat on the edge of the bed and ran his hands through his hair as he tried to gather his thoughts.

Renn could remember the prison barge. The desperate fight with the slaver guards and following the Weequay with the scarred face. The last he remembered was the explosion, the pain in his legs, the shuttle landing ramp… and then nothing. He pushed himself to his feet and felt the lingering pain in his legs from the exploding grenade. He reached down and traced the outline of bacta patches on his legs thorough his clothing. The pain was still there but was nothing like it had been.

Cautiously Renn stood and moved to the door. He tried the door release and was surpised when it slid open, revealing the narrow corridor beyond. A second later a head popped into view above him. It’s small dark eyes glared at Renn over the end of its long snout.
“Ah, you up human. Yous follow me.” The Dugg swung down from the piping along the corridor ceiling.  He beckoned with one of his smaller grasping arms and then scuttled off along the corridor.

Renn followed the alien tentatively down the narrow well lit corridor. As he walked slowly on stiff Legs Renn regarded his surroundings. The ship appeared to be of an older design but was clean and well maintained with a vaguely Corellian design. They arrived at a turbo lift and the Dug beckoned Renn in.

“What ship is this” Renn asked as the turbo lift doors closed.

“You see”. The dugg laughed ominously to himself but said no more. Their turbo lift journey was brief and then they were out into another corridor. The Dugg motioned to the ornately designed blast doors in front of them. “You go in human." Renn glanced around but there was no one else in sight. The Dugg motioned to the doors again a predatory smirk splitting his long face. Renn shrugged to himself and stepped forward.

The doors slid silently open and he stepped into a large well lit chamber with an oversized circular table in the centre. At the far side of the table sat a brown furred Gotal in a high backed chair. He glanced up from the data pad he was reading. Big brown eyes took in the Human smuggler.

“Take a seat Mr Haythorn. I hope you are feeling better.” The Gotal put down the data pad and rested his large clawed hands on the table. Renn slipped into the nearest of the large, plushly upholstered seats.

“Yes much better. Thank you for your help.” He decided not to react to the Gotals use of his real name. The alien was testing him, trying to gauge his response. He glanced around, his curiosity piqued.  The room was unlike anything he had seen of this ship so far. It was like something out of a holodrama. The furnishing and finish were antique in style, probably of a similar vintage to the rest of the ship but much more luxurious.

"Consider it repayment of a debt. My associate tells me you saved his life on that prison barge."
Renn shrugged. “ I was just trying to stay alive. From what I saw your 'associate' can take care of himself."
"Very modest. Nevertheless your assistance is appreciated. Schenk wanted to thank you personally but he had to leave on an urgent errand."
Errand? That weequay was a mercenary and trained killer. Renn could only guess at the sort of errands he would be running.

"I'm very grateful, if you could just drop me at the next spaceport I'll be on my way and let you get back to your business." The Gotals noseless face was a stoic mask which gave nothing away. The alien sat forward and pushed the datapad across the smooth table top.

"I'm curious how a former Imperial Officer from a respectable merchant family ended up on a slave barge in such a disreputable sector of space." Renn glanced down at the data pad display and saw his Imperial academy mughshot. He picked up the pad and scrolled through. The information was extensive and accurate; his military service record, his parents business portfolio as well as the bounty the Bravious Syndicate had put on his head. Twenty thousand credits, Renn didn'nt know wether to be scared or flattered. He took his time reading the pad, aware of the Gotals eyes on him. He didn't want to give the alien the satisfaction of seeing his concern.

"174th squadron." Renn slid the Datapad back across the table and stood trying to appear stronger than his shaky legs felt. Enough of these games. So it was the bounty they were after? That amount probably wouldn't pay the support costs for this ship for a month but there was no accounting for beings greed. Ten years of flying the rim had taught Renn to appreciate the worst in people and to understand that out here, nothing was ever free. He was alone and wounded but he would'nt be intimidated. "It was the 174th squadron I flew with not the 164th."
The Gotals mouth broke into a smile. "I'll have to have words with my slicer." The alien stood and walked around the table. He was tall for his species, over 2 meteres including his prominent head cones. "I apologise for the intrusion but like you said we are all just trying to stay alive. I find being well informed makes staying alive considerably easier. I like to know who I’m bringing aboard my ship.” He held out a large clawed hand. "I am Ja’vigg Toth, my ship is the Antara." Renn took the preoffered hand.

"Nice ship you have here. Don't see many of these old Consular class cruisers still flying." He was rewarded with glint in the aliens eyes which told him he had guessed correctly.

"Thats because their owners have all gone bankrupt." Toth gave a gravelly laugh.

"They just don't make them like this anymore." Renn was genuinely excited. These cruisers were icons of the Old Republic era. As a child he had a model of one hanging from his bedroom ceiling.

"Neither do they make spare parts". The Gotal shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose I'm just old fashioned. I have a weakness for rare and expensive items." Toth took Renn by the shoulder and motioned him towards the door. "You should rest and your Bacta patches will need renewed soon." He looked the the smaller human in the eye. "I am a merchant not a bounty hunter and you are a guest aboard my ship. We are currently enroute to Kafrene. You can get a transport from there to Bastion or wherever you are going." The doors slid open unbidden and the Dugg stood there apparently not having moved since Renn entered the room. "Bruk here will take you back to the med bay." Renn nodded to Toth and then followed Bruk back into the turbo lift.




 

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"Seventeen hundred and thats final!" Renn chopped the air infront of him to highlight the point.

"Ok, this I can do. But only because I like you." The rotund little Toydarian hovering in front of Renn gave a laugh. His dark little eyes watching the human closely. "You pay  me now and we will leave in 3 standard units yes?" Renn gave a theatrical laugh of his own.

"Which galaxy are you living in Mizka?" Renn waved the wad of paper credits under the aliens large drooping nose. "Half now, and half when we get to Malastare, thats the deal."

"That is not how business is done on Kafrene my friend." The Toydarian motioned to the hangar bay around them where several freighters and transports were loading and unloading cargo. Dozens of crewmembers and droids bustled about moving cargo, effecting repairs or refuelling.

Renn slipped the money back in his pocket and made to move off towards another Freighter parked nearby. "Maybe I'll go find out how those Aqualish over there like to do business." Mizka buzzed round in front of him. The palms of his grubby little hands out in a placating gesture.

"Lets not be hasty my friend." Renn caught a waft of pungent body odour and tried to keep his face straight. The prospect of spending  several days locked in the confined space of a light freighter with Mizka was not appealing but there was no way he could afford any of the other ships here. Mizka drew closer in a conspiratorial gesture. "I know these Quarra, they are thieves and Ryll pirates.You don't want to do business with beings like this. Lot of bad characters around here." Renn turned away and brought his hand up to his head as if he was weighing his options. The Aqualish continued to unload their ship. There was 6 of them, which seemed a lot for a light freighter. Most poor freighter captains kept crew numbers down to save costs. They all wore long coats buttoned shut. Renn gave a big theatrical sigh. The truth was he had no other options.

"I don't know, maybe I'll just try my luck at the casinos. Maybe I'll win enough for a starliner ticket off this rock."

“You insult me. I'm just a poor freighter captain trying to make a living.”

After parting ways with Ja'vigg Toth and his crew Renn had  made his way to the entertainment district. He  had spotted the Toydarian earlier that afternoon in one of the low class tapcafe/casinos that lined the streets around the space port. The diminutive alien had been playing sabacc and losing badly. A heated conversation with a Gamorrean had revealled that Captain Mizka was in serious debt.

"Half now and half when we get there. Final offer." Renn flicked his thumb through the wad of credits.

"Ok, deal." Mizka all but snatched the money out of Renns hand and it disappeared into one of the several pockets of his worn spacers vest. "I have to finish loading. I see you back here." The Toydarian buzzed off back in the direction of the casino. Off to settle a debt or create new ones, Renn didn't know.

Renn gave Mizka's old Correlian transport one more glance and then with a sigh headed for the space port exit. The grubby little freighter was nothing like the ship he had spent the last few days aboard.  The Antara, the personal ship of the Gotal Ja'vigg Toth. Renn was still trying to understand his experiences with the Anatara and its crew. He had been treated very well, his wounds tended and been given new clothes. Toth was an enigmatic character and Renn wondered exactly what sort of merchandise the 'Merchant' dealt in and what exactly he and his crew were doing in a place like the ring of Kafrene? Well he would never know and it was likely for the best. Time to find a decent Bantha steak. Something told him he would'nt have much of an appetite for the next few days.

Renn headed out of the spaceport, back into the busy narrow streets of the settlement proper. A left turn would take him towards the Tusken style steak house he had noticed earlier. He spotted the group of Aqualish as they headed down a narrow street in the opposite direction. The six aliens stuck closley together, a close knit unit cutting through the gaggle of refugees, spacers, drunks and beggars that made up the rest of the pedestrian traffic. There was something wrong about them. Renn didn't know what it was but his curiosity was piqued. He had plenty time before the ship left. Just so long as he made sure he was back at the spaceport early so Mizka didn't leave without him. Renn turned right and followed as the group of aliens began to merge with the bustling crowds.

He tried  to convince himself the bad feeling in his stomach was just hunger.

 
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