Re: The FifthDerian pulled one of the knives out of the back of the seat and spun it back and forth in his hand. The small blade danced by its handle across the back of his hand, spun around to the palm and began to spin on its handle, balanced on the raised part between Derian's palm and fingers. He twisted his wrist and the knife pivoted in his hand and disappeared up his sleeve. "I see you've had a chance to play around with those wrist straps I gave you," Derian said, sitting down at the table again. "I don't suppose it would help matters any to tell you that I'm impressed."
The waitress dropped three drinks on the table and Derian looked across to Jerin. "You want anything?" He waited for a moment, allowing her to fume at him. He turned toward the waitress and dropped another handful of money on the tray. "Guess we're good for now sweetheart," Derian said, smacking her on the thigh as she walked away.
Derian pulled the other knife out of the cushion of the booth, walked it down his fingers and then stirred one of his drinks with it. He reached down to pick up the glass and the knife vanished out of his hand. He tipped the glass back and drained the entire contents at a drought. "I thought you were dead Jerin," Derian said at last, all playfulness gone from his voice. "After we all tried to run from Bespin, the 'Wind got caught up by one of the imperials in the area. The sent us on a suicide run in a desparate attempt to quell a revolutionary Moff."
He drew another one of his glasses over to him and stirred it lightly with his finger. "They opened up on us the minute we broke atmo," Derian said, his eyes faraway, reliving events long passed. "I put everything I had into the emergency maneuvers, but there was just too much enemy fire. The blasts ripped the shields apart, tore the hull to shreds. I ended up putting her down rough and ugly, all over a hill side."
Derian took one of his hands away from the glass and wiped at his eyes. "Wind is gone Jerin. Everyone you knew who was on it when we left Bespin. They're all dead. Some of them hung on for days; Ney'la was cogent for nearly a week before she succumb to her wounds. They're all dead but me." He drained the second drink nearly as quickly as he did the first. "I heard rumors that the lot of the old crew was killed. Something about a rogue Star Destroyer and a huge battle in space…" he trailed off.
"Anyway, I'm on the hunt, tracking down whomever it was that set us up to get captured by the Imperials. And after I'm done with them, I'm going after the Imperials that sent us on that suicide mission. Vengeance, pure and simple. Vengeance…"
He seemed to come back to himself all at once. "My apologies Jerin. Where are my manners? Please, tell me what you have been up to these days." He leaned back into the booth and swallowed half of the drink in one go.
Re: The FifthJerin stared at Derian. "You're crazy," she said softly. "You're crazy," she repeated, having regained her voice. "What have I been doing? For the last six years I've been keeping out of trouble, that's what. No Imperials, no hutts, just above board hauling shavvit on Chaos. And if you had half the intelligence I remember you having, you'd be keeping your head down, too. You think you can win after what happened? Vengeance?" Jerin shook her head. "You and me, we're lucky to be alive. But you run after old enemies, blasters blazing and mostly drunk," Jerin shoved one of the the empty glasses toward him disdainfully, "and you won't be for much longer. I have somewhere to be," she said, standing. "Vengeance," she snorted again, and left without another word.
The twi'lek was waiting for her when she arrived at the docks. Jerin tried to shake off her anger as she approached. Fatigue was setting in again already. "Ready?" Jerin asked.
Hirani nodded, and Jerin began leading her around a circuitous paths of the Nar Shaddaa catwalks. Several minutes in, Hirani piped up. "Didn't we come this way earlier?"
"Yeah," said Jerin. "I was checking something. We're being followed. There's a rodian behind us- red jacket. You know him?"
Hirani glanced behind, "Yes."
"Yes. And he's on a communicator now."
"Shavvit," Jerin swore, flicking her left wrist before remembering she'd 'returned' Derian's blades. Pulling a backup from her boot, she activated the blade, turned, and let fly. The blade buried itself in the Rodian's neck, but Jerin didn't wait to watch the grand finale. "I hope whoever he was talking to isn't close by- come on!"
In a rush, Jerin and Hirani delved deeper into the sublevels, Hirani eventually following Jerin into what appeared to be a dead end walk abutting two buildings. At this level the buildings looked vacant- a fire escape on the left building stopped abruptly a floor and a half up the wall from where they were standing. Beneath that sat a dumpster.
"We're going up the escape," Jerin explained as she clambered on top of the dumpster. "There's a safe house up there." Jerin wrangled her way from the dumpster to the fire-escape, then turned to help Hirani do the same. "It's not the Ritz, but we can get some sleep without worrying about anyone coming after you," Jerin explained. Or me worrying about you doing something to me or my ship, she added mentally.
As they climbed, Jerin grabbed her comm from a pocket and flicked a few switches. "Alema, this is Jerin. I'm about to get to the window with a runner. Would you kindly make sure they Vorykk doesn't shoot us?" She turned aside a moment, "He's security," she explained to Hirani, who nodded. "Thanks," she flicked the device off and pocketed it, stopping in front of a window about six floors up. It looked completely dark, but right after Jerin tapped at it flew open, blinding the two of them with a spotlight.
Jerin threw her arm up to shield her eyes. "Frell, Vorykk! It's just us!" The light dimmed, and hands reached out to help them inside.
Xiann found herself in what had once been the office of a very affluent Nar Shaddaa citizen. Though most of the trappings were now gone, there remained a large desk, which now held a caf maker and plastic mugs, a hearth with a gas heater burning, and a few large, leather chairs. Wood cupboards lined the back wall, and a bank of lockers had been set up by the window.
"You know the drill, Jerin. Weapons in the locker." A young man Xiann could only assume was Vorykk opened one of the locker doors. "You, too, ma'am," he said to Xiann.
"Go ahead and put your case in there, too, Hirani. It'll be safe," Jerin said as she deposited a few blasters and blades into the locker and stepped back, allowing to Vorykk to close the door.
He stood next to Jerin, smiled, and leaned close to her ear. "That wasn't all of them. I should search you," he muttered.
"Try, and I'll introduce you to all kinds of hurt," Jerin muttered back through a smile and clenched teeth.
"Maybe some other time," he moved to close Xiann's locker, which held one small blaster sitting on top of the case.
Jerin rolled her eyes. Vorykk was harmless, but she wasn't in the mood for banter. She started introductions as she made toward the caf on the desk. "Hirani, this is Vorykk. Vorykk, Hirani. And where's Alema?"
"I'm here," a pale-green skinned twi'lek stepped though the doorway into the office. "Who is our guest?"
"Hirani, this is Alema," Jerin gestured to the newly arrived twi'lek. "She runs the place."
"Hello, Hirani," Alema said, "and welcome. You are safe here."
"Yes, vashna. Thank you."
Alema laughed. "No need for that," she said, "Just call me Alema."
"If you're sure," Hirani replied.
"Right," Jerin said, tipping two sophs from her palm to her mouth, then washing them down with a gulp of caf. "Enough being polite. Time for getting some sleep in. Everything still in the same place, Alema?"
"Yes, Jerin. Go ahead," the twi'lek smiled.
Jerin waved for Hirani to follow her, and led her out of the office into a lobby. It was chilly and dim, with two lifts boarded over and a number of dead potted plants. "The 'fresher," Jerin said pointing. "And here," she made her way to a storage closet and opened it, "are the blankets." She grabbed two, and plopped one into Hirani's arms. "And, for you… earplugs." She dropped a small plastic bag on top of the blanket.
"Some of our room mates probably snore," Jerin said, already leading the way to another room. "Any cot that isn't taken is fair game," she said, then opened the door.
It was a large room, empty except for a few heaters and several cots laid out in two rows. "Sweet dreams," Jerin whispered.
Jerin's watch alarm woke her five hours later. She silenced it, and made her way quietly out of the room. Though still tired, Jerin felt considerably better than the day before. She smiled and waved at Alema before ducking out the window onto the fire escape.
"So, Stelton. Any work for me today?" she asked over her comm.
"Yeah. Where the hell are you? We've been worried sick!"
"I'm out. Worried?"
"I've been having calls about you today already, Puck. The Coruscant yard called to complain about your parking job."
"Oh, yeah. That. They gave my spot away before my time slot was up. What was I supposed to do?"
"Look, I'm not saying it's not hilarious that you left two other ships with less than a meter of clearance, but let's try not to piss off the clients?"
"I'll see what I can do, Stelton. Next?"
"The hutt's people have called. They're furious. They're saying not all the cargo they put on board made it to the yard."
"That's because one of the crates was confiscated."
"There's no customs data trail for confiscation, Jerin."
"It wasn't taken by customs. It was taken by intelligence." This was greeted by silence from Stelton. "Hello?"
"I really wish you'd tell me what's going on, Jerin."
"Nothing is going on, Stelton."
"Ah, yes. That must be why I got a third, anonymous message from Coruscant saying 'They're after Puck.'"
It was Jerin's turn to be silent a while. Then, "and you mention this last?"
"I was seeing if I could build up to it and make you tell me what's happening."
"It's probably just someone's idea of a prank, right? Don't worry about it. What's the job?"
Stelton sighed, "We're loading Chaos up for a haul to Tatooine, now."
"Great. I'll be there in less than an hour," Jerin said, and flicked off her comm.
Re: The FifthDerian untangled himself from the arms and lekku of the Twi'lek who had been serving him drinks at the bar the night before. He sat up on the edge of the bed and rubbed his face with his hands. The Twi'lek stirred slightly and placed a hand on his back. "So soon?" she asked, her voice thick with sleep.
Derian stood up, the woman's hand sliding down his back as he did so. "I'm afraid so," he said absently as he pulled on his pants. He pulled his shirt on and buttoned up the front. After putting on his boots, he pulled the suspenders of his pants up over his shoulders and strapped on his guns, the belts criss-crossing his hips. He produced the knives that Jerin had thrown at him the night before and secured them into a pair of forearm straps and then pulled his sleeves down over them. He reached into one of the pockets of his duster and produced a set of keys on a ring hung from the end of a long chain. He secured the chain around his neck and pulled the duster on over the rest.
He turned to regard the Twi'lek sleeping on the bed. She was lying on her side, her head in one hand, propped up on her elbow. "Planning on coming back anytime soon?"
"Not rightly sure," Derian smiled. "But if I do, I'll be sure to look for you. Assuming you're ok with that."
She just smiled and rolled over the other way. Derian opened the door to the room and walked out into the hallway. He ran down a few flights of stairs and exited the front of the building. He leaned forward to light a deathstick and was rewarded with a meaty thud as a fist connected with the side of his face. His ears started ringing as the sidewalk started to swim in front of him. Then, all at once, the street was rushing up to meet him and everything went to black.
Derian opened one eye and surveyed his surroundings. Two things became immediately clear. Number one, is that he was in a hangar bay somewhere. Number two, is that he was about to lose consciousness again. His eyes focused on the fist just in time to make out what it was before it connected with his face again.
"- quite how you want to go about it," a voice said from somewhere nearby. Derian's head continued to spin as he tried to focus on something, anything nearby that would give him some sort of bearings. "Besides, we can't figure out what he knows if he never regains consciousness."
"I reckon," Derian said, gathering himself enough to spit a bright wad of crimson on the floor, "that I have something you boys want."
"You are very observant Mr. Tai'pek," a loud voice said from nearby.
"Captain," Derian replied.
"It's Captain Tai'pek; and could you please keep your voice down?"
There was a rough laugh and Derian was able to focus on a squat figure in a floating chair nearby. The chair hovered to the other side of him and the squat figure leaned over and looked at him, its face turning sideways. "Captain?" It made a scene of looking around. "I don't see any ship that belongs to you here Captain. I should know, the vast majority of them belong to me." A smile showed several rows of stubby, blackened teeth. "But what I do see, is a washed-up smuggler kneeling, bruised and bleeding, on the deck of my hangar. Looking, might I add, rather haggard. Do you think you can enlighten me as to why that is Mr. Tai'pek?"
"Captain," Derian correct him again. The squat figure nodded to someone Derian couldn't see. A sharp pain shot through the back of his head as a large fist collided with the base of his skull.
"Is that your only response?"
Derian spat another wad of blood onto the deck, mixing with the first. "No, but as long as you keep getting it wrong, I suppose I'm going to have to keep reminding you."
The figure floated closer, the horrible teeth mere inches from Derian's face. "What do you want?"
"I want you to tell me who set my people and I up on Bespin."
The eyes flitted from side to side, as if looking to make sure there wasn't someone unexpected nearby. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Derian laughed, blood dribbling down his chin. "I've actually never learned your name." The squat figure snorted at him. "But even though I don't know your name, I can still tell that you're lying. Not a smart thing to be doing."
This time it was the figure in the chair that laughed. "And how is that? You are being held in place by two men twice your size and there is another one behind you with a blaster. So, I think you will be listening to me now."
Derian laughed and let his head hang forward, his muscles relaxing in the hands of the men holding him. Each one had a hand on his forearm, another pressing on his arm near the shoulders. In one motion he brought one foot up beneath him, planted it and twisted his shoulders. He reversed the grip on his captors and pulled them in opposite directions. The two men collided with each other dropped cold to the deck. The man behind with the blaster extended it to fire. Derian stepped backward and turned, his elbow connecting with the blaster and his other hand coming around, colliding with the forearm. Derian felt the bone collapse beneath the pressure from his hand and pulled the blaster out of the limp hand as the man fell at his feet.
Derian took a step forward and leveled the blaster into the squat being's face. "Now, this is what's going to happen," he said, trying to disguise the fact that he was having a hard time aiming the weapon properly. "I'm going to ask you a few questions and you're going to answer them. Telling me the truth will get you out of here. Lies will get you shot. Do you understand me?"
The creature seemed to shrink into the chair. "I understand."
"Who set up the crew of the Astral Wind on Bespin?"
"I swear to you, I do not know."
A scream pierced the air as Derian discharged the weapon, a bolt blackening the figure's hand. Derian narrowed his eyes.
"Fine, fine! I helped set it up, but I mostly worked through middlemen, I don't know who the primary players were."
Derian flexed his finger slightly, but didn't fire the weapon. "Now that wasn't so hard, was it? Now, for the rest of my questions…"
Re: The FifthIt took Xiann most of the night to even begin to relax.
The scene outside had her worried. This is what being too close to someone does. You get emotional. You get sloppy. You miss details. She should have known Marak wouldn't be there alone or without some way to call in backup. She was mad at herself, and wondered how many more of them knew to look for her, now. And to get someone else tangled up in this mess- Xiann made a noise of disgust and rolled over, clutching the blanket to her. It smelled clean.
Jerin was fast asleep- the drugs had obviously done their work. Xiann was relieved- the more alert the woman stayed, the higher the odds of avoiding another scene. Speaking of, Xiann… she chided herself mentally. She began breathing deeply and closed her eyes, trying to let the dim quiet do its work.
Something woke Xiann, and looking around at the empty room, she couldn't figure out what. Seems she'd outslept everyone. Sitting up, she fastened her belt and put her jewelry back on. She automatically checked for her weapons, before remembering that most of them had been taken. She shook her head to clear it. Before going back into the main room, she looked around. There was one other room like this one, and a small 'fresher.
"Can I help you find something?" Alema's voice came from behind her, and she turned to find the other twi'lek with her arms full of blankets.
Xiann's lekku curled in embarrassment behind her back. "Uh, no," she replied hastily. "Just looking around." She paused awkwardly. Alema just looked amused. "Arni'soyacho." Thank you very much. "You have created something good, here," Xiann finally finished.
Alema seemed to know what she meant, and smiled broadly. "Koahiko, Hirani." She looked at Xiann for a moment as if assessing her. "Come, have some caf."
Xiann cursed mentally. The woman made her nervous. She liked her, but she definitely made her nervous. Alema obviously had a lot of practice figuring people out. Xiann followed her into the office.
"Where's Jerin?" She asked, taking the cup of caf as it was handed to her. Alema gestured silently to an open window nearby. Xiann could hear her voice, but couldn't make out anything distinct. Sounded like she was having a low and tense conversation with someone. When Jerin climbed back through the window, she looked decidedly distracted.
"Everything okay?" Xiann asked anxiously.
"Hmm?" Jerin grunted, looking up. "Oh. Yeah, just got some cargo. We're heading out."
"You're sure?" Alema inquired. At a nod from Jerin, she hugged the small human. "Be safe," she said. Jerin nodded again, smiled slightly, and then led Xiann towards the lockers. "Make sure you have everything, you're not coming back here any time soon."
As if Xiann needed a reminder. Caf was finished, belongings and weapons collected.
"You're clear, didn't see that anyone followed you here," Vorykk rumbled after them. He stood in the doorway with one of his big guns anyway. He watched as they let themselves down the fire escape and made their way down the narrow alley in the dim morning light. It was already starting to mist again.
"Well, let's see what needs taking to Tatooine. Besides you."
"Tatooine?" Xiann repeated, not thrilled with the idea.
"Well, you have to admit, no one goes there without a reason," Jerin pointed out, turning towards the space port.
Xiann kept an eye out behind them and to either side as they walked. "Hoping not to give them one," she muttered under her breath.
Re: The FifthJerin pulled her jacket tighter around her against the cold and lead Xiann on a circuitous route up from the sublevels of Nar Shaddaa. As they walked, she tried to decide which theory explaining what Stelton had told her was the least paranoid. Most likely Horran was trying to mess with her head- get her to try something stupid to give him an excuse to haul her back in.
But what if it was an anonymous person with and honest tip? Jerin shook her head to clear it. No. All her friends- Correction: almost all her friends- were dead. And Derain would be too hung over to get up early enough to pull a stunt like that. Probably. Jerin's brow furrowed. Force, I hope he doesn't know where I work.
The pair continued on in silence, neither having much to say or any inclination for small talk. Jerin stopped at a storefront whose sign lettering had been scrubbed off by weather years ago. With some effort, Jerin oppened the door, then glared at it a moment before stepping over the threshold. An "Um," from Hirani made her stop.
"Yeah?" Jerin said, turning to face the twi'lek.
"I- I thought we'd be going to your ship," Hirani ventured.
Jerin cast her eyes at the front, then back to her companion again. "My boss's office is three floors up," Jerin explained. "There's a lift," Jerin stepped aside in the entryway to allow Hirani to see. "You can wait down here. I just need to pick up the manifest and check in."
Hirani nodded slowly, and entered the dim corridor. Jerin nudged the door to close with her foot, then kicked it the rest of the way when it stuck. "Stelton keeps saying he'll fix that," Jerin tried to put Hirani at ease as she called the lift. Hirani only nodded. Maybe this twi'lek really was a runaway slave. Still, something about her made Jerin uncomfortable, and it bothered Jerin that she couldn't put her finger on what it was.
The ride up was silent, and the lift doors opened to reveal a much more cheerful room than the one they'd left, despite its not being in any better repair. The red paper was peeling from the walls and the carpet was worn, but the room was light and warm and smelled of caf.
"'Ey!" a deep voice rang out. "Look what trash rolled in off the street!" A bothan appeared from nowhere and gave Jerin a playful punch on the arm. His manner changed abruptly when he spotted her companion. "Oh, excuse me, ma'am!" He swept into an elaborate bow, forcing Jerin to jump out of the way of his arms. "Jerin!" He scolded, "Why didn't you warn me we were having company? I would have dusted!"
Jerin gave a meaningful look at Kursku's desk, which was beginning to rival their boss's. "Right." Jerin decided to get to the point, "Kursku, Hirani. Hirani, Kursku. Stelton in?"
"Yep." Kursku answered. His tone became more serious. "You'd better go talk with him."
Jerin nodded. "Alright, Hirani. If this clown gets too annoying, give a yell, and I'll come put him out of his misery for you. Kursku, behave."
Kursku looked affronted. "I am always a gentleman!"
Jerin snorted and disappeared into the neighboring office. From their side of the door, all Xiann and Kursku could hear were muffled voices in a tense exchange. Several minutes later, Jerin emerged with an annoyed look on her face and motioned to Hirani to follow her out. "Kursku, come with us. And bring Suzy." The bothan let out a chuckle of delight and fell into step behind them.
"Is everything okay?" Hirani asked once they were back out in the mist.
"Probably," Jerin said. "Though I might not have gotten to your Rodian pal in time, last night."
"It sounds like there might be company waiting for us at the landing bay."
"I'm so sorry," Hirani began, "about all this trouble-"
"It's fine, right?" Jerin cut her off abruptly.
"Don't worry about it," Kursku put in more gently on Jerin's behalf. "The two of us, we like a good dust up every now and again. Besides, just about the stupidest place to stand in the universe is between our Jerin and her ship!"
Re: The Fifth"… right." Xiann finished in a small voice. Mother Kika'lekki, am I EVER sorry. She had been playing Hirani scared and nervous, and at this point the part wasn't at all difficult.
As they got closer to the bay area that Jerin's ship was located in, Xiann's stomach knotted exponentially. Kalesh's men wanted her alive, and they wanted information. They would try talking first. And talking was something she emphatically didn't want done in front of Jerin and her backup, here.
"Service entrance door," Kursku said quietly, flicking a finger in the appropriate direction.
The only real hope she had was to lead the conversation from the start. Either that, or find a way to keep them from talking at all.
As they approached the side entrance to the landing bay, the street remained empty. It was early morning yet on a fairly miserable day, and foot traffic in the port was at a minimum. The bothan frowned. "No lookouts. That's odd." Kursku held out a hand to gesture them to stay back and quiet, and then looked around the corner of the service entrance door, cautiously, his large gun at the ready. He glanced back over at them. "Three," he rasped. "Standing around in front of the landing ramp." He glanced again. "Might be more, can't tell."
Jerin scowled in both thought and unhappiness for a moment as she readied her weapons.
Kursku made it back to them. "Suzy and I can take them, Jerin," he hissed.
Jerin shook her head and murmured, "Don't be stupid, Kursku. There's got to be more of them."
Xiann fingered her compact blaster, knowing how unequal it was to the situation at hand. Jerin was right, there would be at least a couple more hidden somewhere. "They want me," she whispered. "What if I went out to talk to them, as a distraction?"
"Right," Jerin muttered. "And what's to keep them from shooting you, runaway?"
Xiann opened her mouth, and closed it. She couldn't exactly tell them she had important information that Kalesh would want to pry out of her. Slowly.
Kursku shot her an appraising and questioning glance. The bothan was a quick study.
The twi'lek shook her head instead, as though she hadn't thought of that.
"Right," Kursku finally whispered. "That leaves one option." He hefted his gun and got back to his feet, heading back towards the entrance.
Jerin let out a sigh and followed him, beckoning Hirani. "Stay behind us," she hissed.
Jerin and Kurksu stepped out, Jerin slightly behind the big bothan. "I think you all have the wrong bay," she called out. "This is my ship."
"Pretty sure we don't," replied a large human, hefting his own gun and turning around. "Where's the twi'lek?" One of the man's companions spoke quietly into a com at his ear.
"Aaah," he watched as Xiann stepped into the bay behind them. "Xiann."
Three more beings stepped through the front entrance to the bay. On that note, Kurksu and Jerin opened fire.
Xiann cursed mentally at herself for not waiting a few seconds longer to follow them, and pointed her blaster at the nearest target and pulled the trigger. Now I probably have explaining to do.
Re: The FifthDerian's combat boots hit the duracrete almost simultaneously. Using the force of his descent to coil himself into position, he launched himself into an attack. The heel of his right hand shot up into the nose of one attacker. He struck out with the other, catching an attacker along the temple with the edge of his hand. As they fell, he kicked forward with his right foot, sending the third thug sprawling forward as he simultaneously drew his guns from beneath the folds of his duster. He took two strides forward and planted his foot in the small of the back of the man he had kicked. He used the momentum to propel himself into a somersault through the air.
Arms spread out to either side, he fired a volley of blaster fire, trying to pin down some additional reinforcements behind objects in the hangar. He landed and immediately dropped to one knee, still firing. "Jerin," he said, smiling amidst the chaos. "Your talent for attracting gunfire is something bordering on miraculous."
Despite the smile, Derian looked as though he had just emerged from the wrong end of a blender. He was bleeding from multiple wounds on his face and one of his eyes appeared swollen nearly shut. He stood up and spun around, laying down suppressing fire the way he had entered from. Now that he was standing up, Jerin noticed that one of his legs sported a heavy brace from about mid-thigh to the top of his calf.
"So," Derian said between blaster volleys. "Any suggestions about getting the frell out of this chun'tswa?"
Re: The Fifth"Funny," Jerin said through gritted teeth, "I don't remember inviting you to this chun'tswa in the first place. Besides, this isn't my party. It's hers." Jerin tilted her head to indicate Xiann, who was nearby giving as much account of herself as she could with one small blaster.
"Pretty," Derian commented casually, as he and Jerin laid down another volley of blaster fire as Kursku made an approach to their enemies' cover.
"Hands off, Derian."
Jerin made a noncommittal grunt which was drowned out by Suzy's barrage against the discarded cargo pallets shielding Kaylesh's thugs. They broke off in multiple directions as their cover was reduced to splinters. Derian pursued one breakaway group, as Jerin teamed up with Kursku against the other. The blaster in her right hand added some additional fire to Suzy's, with additional back-up from Xiann. Blade after blade appeared in Jerin's left hand, only to be sent through the air to the bodies of the attackers.
As the last rodian of their group fell to a combined effort from Kursku, Jerin, and Xiann, Jerin turned to see if Derian needed any help. She watched as he rose up from a kneeling position, arms outstretched in opposite directions- the blaster in his left hand brought down another rodian, while his right hand delivered her old blade in between the ribs of the final human. He stood stock-still for a moment, glancing around and listening, then holstered his weapons in one swift movement.
"You need to leave before more of them show up," Kursku's rumbling voice summed up the situation as the four gathered near the ramp of Chaos. Jerin breathed through her mouth to try to avoid the stench of scorched flesh.
"Right," Jerin said. "And so do you. You'd better beat feet out of here, Kursku. Hirani-" Jerin jerked her thumb toward the ramp. The twi'lek proceeded hesitantly and stopped halfway up; Kursku didn't move.
"Sure you don't need any help?" the bothan asked, looking skeptically at Jerin's companions.
"What do you mean?" Derian answered him, throwing an arm over Jerin's shoulders. She found herself supporting much more of his weight than she anticipated. "She's got me, doesn't she?"
"It'll be fine, Kursku," Jerin shook the bothan's hand. "Go on." She proceeded up the ramp, allowing Derian to use her discreetly for support. "Punch the ramp up, Hirani," Jerin tossed over her shoulder as she led them into the depths of the ship. They turned through an open doorway into an empty secondary cargo bay. In what appeared to be a futile act of frustration, Jerin kicked the wall near the door.
To Xiann's surprise, a couch seat folded out of the wall and clicked into place. Derian squinted at it with his good eye.
"So. We're safe now," he observed.
"Good. If anyone needs me, I'll be inspecting these floor panels," he said, and promptly collapsed on to the deck.
Jerin stood and stared at Derian with an incredulous look. "Force," she finally said. "This is crazy. Help me get him on the couch, will you?"
The two women struggled briefly lifting the dead weight off the floor, and Jerin did her best to secure him with the seat belts despite their being designed to accommodate sitting passengers. After checking his pulse and breathing, Jerin decided any further attention could wait.
Jerin silently waved for Hirani to follow her, and the two women walked together in silence. In the cockpit, Jerin produced a similar small seat from the back wall. "Strap in," she instructed the twi'lek tersely. "We're getting the frell out of here."
Jerin gently navigated the ship up from the midlevels of the Smuggler's Moon, simultaneously punching in coordinates to the nav computer. Deeper landing bays were harder to get to, but they were also cheaper, which Stelton approved of. Within minutes they were clear of the gravity well and made a smooth transition into hyperspace. Jerin only barely decided against the temptation to give her passengers a very turbulent ride.
"Right," Jerin said, unbuckling the belt and spinning her chair to face her conscious passenger. "Xiann. Why don't you come with me and explain what just happened while I try to patch up an idiot?"
Re: The FifthXiann flinched before she could stop herself. Jerin's clear grey eyes stared into hers, and Xiann swallowed at the obvious anger she saw there.
Frell. Not too far out of character anyway. Hm. What IS my character?
Jerin stalked out of the cockpit and back towards the cavernous cargo area that made up most of her ship. Xiann sat for a moment, trying to overcome her nerves. She had known this was going to happen, Jerin was too sharp not to have caught it. Now, she had a decision to make. How much of the truth to tell?
Well, time to come up with something ELSE for her to buy into.
The exact truth wasn't an option. We'll just steer a little closer in that direction, Xiann decided. The twi'lek sighed mentally, remembering where this had gotten her last time, but sometimes marks were too smart to buy into anything out of the black. Taking a deep breath, she followed Jerin to the fold out bench in the cargo area.
Make it bad, Xiann. It's going to have to be, to explain that frotzing party back in the bay.
She approached Jerin from behind. The small pilot was attempting to pull off Derian's shirt to see the extent of the damage. "Lift at the shoulders", Xiann suggested, and quickly stepped forward to make quick, practiced work out of undressing the unconscious man to the point they could see how many wounds he had. As she finished, Jerin stepped away to rummage through some crates, evidently looking for her med kit. She could feel the other woman watching her as she returned.
"I wouldn't have gotten very far using my real name," Xiann finally ventured in a calm tone. She risked a sidelong glance at Jerin and took a wet cloth from the med kit and began cleaning up blood.
Jerin gave her a grudging nod as she opened bacta patches. "That much is obvious, from the attention you got." She raised an eyebrow, obviously waiting to hear an explanation.
"What's his name?" Xiann nodded to the unconscious form she was dabbing blood off of.
"Derian." Jerin replied shortly. She slapped a batch patch over one of the few open wounds Derian had. For the most part, he was badly bruised, and it looked like he was going to be stiff all over for a while. A good portion of the damage was to his head, which didn't look half so bad once they got the blood cleaned up. "Stop stalling."
Xiann chewed on her lower lip and ordered her thoughts for a second. She really needed Jerin to believe her if she wanted to get any farther than Tatooine.
"Look," she began haltingly. "Do chonda." I fold. "I didn't lie to you, so far as it goes. I just didn't tell you everything." She looked up and met Jerin's eyes to see how that was going over. "And I'm sorry about that, but I honestly thought it would keep you safer if you didn't know." Xiann had a hard time reading the stony glare, but she thought it might be softening a bit. "I have information they want," she finished.
Jerin crossed her arms, then uncrossed them, then reached down to pick up the debris from patching up Derian. "Must be pretty important information. How would a slave like you get it?"
Xiann shrugged. "I was a favorite. Of one of Terrak's right hand men, Marak. He was fond of talking, and fond of keeping me with him all the time." She let a frown come over her face, and stared at the bulkhead. "Sometimes I'm sure he thought of me more as a nonna than a slave. Terrak indulged him, didn't see any harm, I guess."
Xiann didn't see any reason to hide Marak, he wasn't well known enough to trigger any recognition. The story, so far, was essentially the truth- she'd just switched Terrak with Kalesh, and glossed over the fact that she'd entered the scene as hired help rather than a slave.
"Terrak was off planet, and one of his contacts sent a message saying they wanted to meet- that they had something interesting. He'd left Marak in charge, so Marak invited them to Nar Shadda." Xiann was winging it now, and kept her voice level with an effort. "Marak decided that since he was on home turf, and Terrak's always a fan of stupid plans," she let disgust tinge her voice, "he would ambush them. Kill them, take the info. Get it for free. Score big points with the boss, or something." She shook her head.
"He got them to give him the information on a datapad, he gave them the creds, they were killed on the way out. Except Marak forgot to consider the fact that they might have backup." She shook her head and sat down. "Backup showed up, found all their men dead, and killed Marak and his men. They missed me, since I wasn't trying to kill them, and took shelter under the table. Took the datapad and their credits and left. Obviously, they won't be dealing with Terrak any time soon."
She looked up to find Jerin watching her with an odd look on her face. "And how do you have this information, again?"
"I was sitting with Marak. I saw the datapad while he checked the information to make sure it was good."
Jerin's mouth closed abruptly, and she looked thoughtful. "How did Terrak figure you have the information?"
Xiann frowned and allowed herself to look upset. "I made a mistake. I knew I'd never have a better time to take off, things were turned over and stirred up, and Terrak wasn't around to fix it. I tried to get a friend to go with me." She swallowed hard. This was cutting closer to the truth than she really wanted it to, but at least she didn't have to try for emotion. "I told her, when trying to convince her we could make it, that I had information- that maybe we could get money for it. Maybe we could get out of this life. She was so scared. Too scared to leave. Terrak must have gotten it out of her."
Xiann sat down hard on the end of the bench Derian was lying on, and let the full impact of the last few days hit her. She hadn't had a moment to let it all wash over her, really, and now was as appropriate a moment as she was going to get. She closed her eyes briefly before pulling herself together.
"I didn't mean to bring all this down on you, too," she finished quietly. "I just didn't know what else to do. I got in over my head." Xiann finished that with real emotion- it was definitely the truth this time.
Re: The FifthJerin frowned. Xiann's explanation of what had brought her here bore some striking resemblances to Jerin's own complicated escape from slavery. Her owner had taken a stupid job, gotten himself killed, and Jerin had been left holding the bag- in this case, a ship full of stolen Imperial weaponry. Jerin had met Derian early in the subsequent fallout, while running from the hutt who had commissioned the job and the Empire, who, unsurprisingly, wanted their stuff back.
No compelling reason to help Jerin existed, but the man she and Xiann were currently wiping blood off of had done so anyway. At the time, Jerin hadn't been completely honest with him, either. After all, how could she be sure that he wouldn't turn her in?
Of course, he hadn't. He and the rest of their companions had kept her safe at great personal risk, only gradually wheedling the truth from her.
Jerin did not care for the symmetry of this situation.
Force! Jerin thought again, rubbing her forehead with the back of her wrist to avoid getting blood on her face. And then it hit her. The feeling, the unease she'd been unable to pin down through the fog of her own exhaustion was the gut instinct she'd acquired against being "reassured" by force users. Exactly what Xiann was doing while telling her unfortunate tale.
Altruism be damned! All Jerin wanted was to be away from this twi'lek as soon as possible. She decided that without knowing the extent of Xiann's abilities or what had really happened, it would be best to play dumb and pretend to buy the story. Jerin hoped she could be convincing enough.
"Hey," Jerin began. It came out awkwardly, but comforting strangers wasn't one of Jerin's strengths anyway. "You're safe now, right? And don't feel bad- this isn't the first time I've run into trouble getting runaways out. I mean, why do you think I ask how deep of shavvit you're in in the first place?" Jerin smiled at Xiann and got a weak smile in return. "I'm sure it's been a rough few days for you. We've got about four hours til we land. If you turn right out of here, the third door on the left is the 'fresher. You could have a shower, get the blood off your hands, and then I'll see if I can scrounge something for breakfast. How about it?"
Xiann nodded and rose. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you. I-" Jerin held up a hand to halt any further gratitude. Noticing them, Xiann asked, "Would you like to go wash your hands, first?"
Jerin examined her hands; the blood was drying and beginning to make them itch. She shrugged. "It can wait. I mean, I'd like to stay with him for a while," she gestured toward Derian.
Xiann gave him another look, then turned back to Jerin. "I'll be back soon," she said quietly, and turned to go.
"No rush," Jerin assured her, and took the space at the end of the bench Xiann had just vacated. Once Jerin heard the sound of the 'fresher door, she leaned against the seat back and let out a long sigh. What a mess! And speaking of messes…
Jerin looked at Derian again from the corners of her eyes. He was a mess. Not just a recent mess, either, but a series of older messes as well. His torso and arms were exposed, as well as his right leg from the knee down- Jerin hadn't wanted to deal with the brace on his left leg, and the only obvious bleeding was from the right, so she and Xiann had simply rolled up his pant leg. Years ago on the Astral Wind, Jerin had, on occasion, seen Derian shirtless. Even then it was evident he had been well marred, but there did seem to be a disproportionately large number of more recent scars.
Jerin thought back to what he'd told her about his ship going down. The crash had killed everyone else on board, so it stood to reason that it had done a number on him, too. Jerin pulled her feet up and sat cross-legged, facing Derian. She herself bore the hallmark of Imperial interrogation. I can't blame that on him, she told herself. He doesn't even know. Doesn't need to know. Jerin closed her eyes tight and took a few deep breaths. He's gone crazy, and he's going to get himself killed. Getting involved will just kill me, too.
Opening her eyes, Jerin noticed goosebumps appearing on Derian's arms. She quickly got to her feet, jogged back to her quarters, and tore the blanket off her bunk. She wasn't sure how much blood he had lost; the last thing she needed was for him to go into shock.
Derian's eyes blinked open as she pulled the blanket over him. "Hi," he said in a tired voice.
"Hi. Go back to sleep." Jerin stepped back to see if the blanket needed adjustment anywhere.
"If you insist," Derian muttered.
"Smart-ass," Jerin murmured.
"I heard that."
"Just go back to sleep, right?" Jerin shook her head and left to check on Xiann, since she heard the 'fresher door again.
"Hey," Jerin said, slipping past her in the doorway. She began scrubbing her hands in the sink, and spoke to Xiann through the open door. "Hungry?" She knew it had been a long time since they had eaten, but was somewhat uncertain about twi'lek metabolism. Besides, it was time to act concerned and friendly.
"Yes, a bit," Xiann confessed.
Jerin conscientiously dried her hands on the towel hanging next to the sink for that purpose, rather than wiping them dry on her pants. Keeping up appearances for the company.
"Only the best here at chez Chaos," Jerin grinned, going to her quarters just one door down. Xiann gave a tentative smile as Jerin rummaged around in a few desk drawers. "Here!" Jerin said, holding up some foil packages triumphantly. "Breakfast bars! They involve, um," she glanced down at the package, "wholesome fruits and grains. How can you turn that down?"
"I can't," Xiann laughed. Jerin tossed one to Xiann and pocketed another to give Derian later. The remainder went back in the drawer. Even if she did get sophs from Xiann, food funds would still be tight. Jerin decided to wait til she was hungrier.
Xiann ate the bar as they returned to the secondary cargo hold. For whatever reason, Jerin didn't want to leave Derian alone. She took a seat on the floor, allowing Xiann the spot on the end of the couch.
"So," Jerin said, "here's the deal. Getting you to Tatooine is all I can do for you. I'm pretty much flat broke, right now. Do you think you snagged enough stuff to sell to get you by for a while?"
Re: The FifthXiann felt as though the weight of an entire planet had been lifted off her shoulders.
As she stepped into the 'fresher, she grinned to herself, not bothering to hide her pointed smile since there was no one to see it. It was the first time she finally felt she'd hit the target with Jerin. Xiann had no idea what she'd said that hit so close to home, but Jerin's shaken reaction, combined with her attempt at sympathy, told volumes.
Hopefully the twi'lek could keep a good thing going.
It felt amazingly good to be clean. Xiann realized, as she washed, how much blood she had on her- and the smile slipped from her face as she realized how much death she'd been involved with in the last couple of days. She caught herself scrubbing more vigorously, and made herself stop. She let the 'fresher run a moment longer before taking a deep breath and stepping out.
Guess I won't be going back to Nar Shadda in this lifetime.
Xiann stared at herself in the 'fresher mirror. Her dusky purple lekku twined around her shoulders for a moment, and the twi'lek shrugged them off in an irritated fashion. She scowled at herself in the mirror for a moment before regaining her composure. She didn't have time for self pity at the moment. Xiann knew she was lucky to be traveling in the company of humans, who wouldn't have the skill to see her true self reflected in the involuntary gestures of her lekku.
Muttering to herself, she pulled on her jumpsuit. It was a shame she didn't have anything clean to change into, but that could be remedied later. As soon as I can find a secure way to access that account.
As she hit the 'fresher door, Xiann could hear quiet, indistinct voices. So: mystery man, Derian, was awake. Jerin came towards her, and she smiled at the other woman, letting her in. She watched as Jerin washed her hands up to the elbow, and thought back to the incredible number of injuries she'd noticed when undressing Derian- both recent and old. Given his rather audacious entrance, she wasn't surprised he looked like he'd been in one end of a meat grinder and out the other, but it spoke of a few important things- most notably, the ability to stay alive. People like him were two things: Dangerous, and Useful. It remained to be seen yet if useful outweighed dangerous.
She watched Jerin as the woman walked her thought getting food, smiling and making appropriate responses. She let herself warm up a bit, figuring they were on easier terms now. She noticed that Jerin, however, remained… cautious. She said all the right things, but she wouldn't eat, and was very deliberate.
Xiann gave a little internal sigh. Perhaps the story had hit TOO close to home, and the human was paranoid about consequences now.
When Jerin sat the twi'lek down to talk, Xiann knew for a fact.
"So, here's the deal. Getting you to Tatooine is all I can do for you. I'm pretty much flat broke, right now. Do you think you snagged enough stuff to sell to get you by for a while?"
Jerin's being broke was not a surprise, but Xiann was disappointed she wouldn't be allowed to stick around, and she didn't bother to conceal it. "You- " she paused a moment, letting Jerin make what she would of her disappointment, before looking away.
"Look, I've got the rest of your payment," she began, getting up and going over to where she'd dropped the case. She pulled out the sophs, and pretended to consider the rest of the contents of the case for a moment before bringing it all back to Jerin. "I could probably make things work for a little while." Xiann didn't want to overdo it- she had a feeling Jerin would appreciate a stiff upper lip more than tears. She handed the sophs to Jerin.
Jerin looked at the pile in her hands for a moment. "This is more than I thought-."
"Koahiko." Xiann interrupted. "Least I could do, considering all the trouble I've caused," Xiann shrugged, and flicked a lekku to emphasize. Wasn't like sophs were worth much on the market anyway- aside from the incredible amount of danger, this was a fairly cheap exit strategy so far.
Jerin awkwardly rubbed the back of her neck a moment. "Well, look- it'll take a bit after we land to get my cargo sorted. You're welcome to stick around until I take off, if you need to. Take a nap. Get the lay of the land."
Xiann had been to Mos Eisley more than once, and wasn't thrilled to be going back. But the offer was well meant. "Arni'soyacho," she said, thanking Jerin sincerely.
Jerin just kept looking uncomfortable. They had a couple more hours to kill, and Xiann decided she'd better do something to break the ice. She glanced over at the sleeping form next to them. "So, you two know each other." It wasn't a question.
"We- uh- yeah, for a while."
Xiann smiled to herself, amused. "I have a hard time believing he'd go to those kinds of lengths for just anyone, but…" she trailed off with a throaty chuckle, looking at the bandages across his forehead. "Considering," she gestured with a lekku to encompass the extent of his injuries, "maybe I'm wrong about that." She looked back at Jerin sidelong, to gauge her reaction.
Jerin shrugged uncomfortably. "Like I said, we go back a -ways."
Xiann didn't press further, seeing the unspoken "I owe him one" in the look on Jerin's face. "Fair enough." She studied the man's face for a moment. "Think he'll be okay?"
Jerin instantly eased up a bit. "Yeah, he already woke up briefly. Hopefully he'll rejoin the land of the living soon here. He's durable."
Xiann smiled to herself. Useful. "That'd be good, I'd like to say thanks before I leave."
Re: The Fifth"You could just say it now," Derian said, not opening his eyes.
"You were supposed to stay asleep," Jerin reprimanded him.
"I'm supposed to do a lot of things," he replied, still not moving much. "Doesn't mean any of them actually come to pass." The corner of his mouth twitched up into what was unmistakably a half-smile. "Got anything to eat on board this flying luh-suh heap?"
"You are one ungrateful son of a bitch," Jerin replied, handing him the breakfast bar.
Without looking at her, he took it gently and proceeded to unwrap it, still without opening his eyes. "That much is certain, my dear," he said, the smile never wavering from his lips. "That much is definitely certain." He unwrapped the breakfast bar and bit into it, chewing almost thoughtfully. "Seems as though I might owe you one Puck."
He couldn't see Jerin since his eyes were closed, but he could sense her shuffling a bit nearby. He took another bite of the breakfast bar and swallowed it down. "Course, that's if we're only counting today." He broke out into a broad grin again. "Got anything to drink?"
"There is no way on any world spinning that I'm giving you a drop of alcohol," Jerin replied.
"Was worth a try," he said, not quite under his breath. "I've learned something Jerin. Something supremely important that I think you need to hear."
"Can't wait to hear this one."
Derian opened his eyes and turned half onto his side so he could look her dead in the face. "The 'Wind is still kicking," he said, his face deathly serious. "I need your help Jerin. I can get her back, patch her up, carry on my own quest for revenge without having to drag you along with me. But first I need to rescue her from being scrapped completely." He closed his eyes again, but remained turned. "Up to you Puck. I could really use your hand on this one. We've got just enough time that you could unload your cargo on Tatooine and then make a bolt for the scrapping yards."
He swallowed back the concern that he could feel creeping into his voice. He would have Jerin's assistance, or he would steal someone else's ship at Mos Eisley. He didn't particularly care which, but one way or another he was getting to what remained of his ship. No matter what the cost might be.
Re: The FifthJerin gave the man a look of pure incredulity. "Shavvit, Derian. You're in no condition to save a frelling droid, much less a ship. Don't know what you're flyin' high on, but I want some." Jerin gave a strained laugh and added, "Not really, Xiann." A poor attempt at a joke. "Man's out of his brain."
"Maybe," he allowed in a level voice. "But I'll do this with or without your help. And you know it." Derian was still twisted to face her, Jerin noticed. That had to hurt.
Completely out of his brain.
Jerin swallowed. Or, at least, she tried. Her mouth had gone dry. "Moshet divreh b'maqom? Linu isha." Do you want to discuss this here? We have company.
"Mizaka'ar?" Who cares? he shot back.
Jerin cast a glance at Xiann, who had a look of curiosity on her face, and wondered if she understood them. Jerin wasn't about to relate her misgivings without knowing for sure. She sighed and ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. "Look, Derian. You've taken a lot hits to the head. You haven't had time to think this through!"
"Correction," he replied, finally lying back down. "I've had seven years to think this through."
For several moments, there were no sounds but those of the ship running.
Jerin desperately wanted to tell him to take a flying leap, but.
But she owed him. More than was repaid by simply not leaving him passed out in the open on Nar Shaddaa. Nothing she could pay off with a few drinks, either.
Jerin was certain that Derian would get himself killed, but at least she could help put that off for a later day- preferably one where he was very, very far away from her.
"Damn you," she finally concluded out loud.
"So, you'll help then?" his rapid return to irreverence was infuriating.
"Yes. You knew I would when you asked, you bastard," Jerin growled, and stormed out the door.
Re: The FifthDerian lay on the bench with his eyes closed. He waited expectantly for the shift in the cushion that would accompany the Twi'lek's departure from the area, but was slightly surprised to find that she did not move. He inhaled deeply for a moment, picking up the scent of her, seeing if there was anything more there than what he would have expected.
"So what's your story purple lady?" Derian asked quietly. His eyes were still closed but he could feel her shift at the other end of the bench as she reacted to his voice.
"Sorry?" she replied.
"Oh, you don't have to give me the long, drawn-out version. Hell, you don't even have to give me the truth," the corner of his mouth twitched again. "Conversation just helps take my mind off the itch as my skin knits itself back together. Of course, Jerin might take offense if she comes back and hears us talking. I'm supposed to be resting you know." He felt the bench shift slightly as the Twi'lek laughed.
Derian took in a breath and exhaled slowly and calmly. If the Twi'lek decided to talk to him, it would be the first real conversation he'd had in months. All the other speaking had been down the barrel of a blaster. It felt good to just talk to someone without the threat of imminent violence. He turned his neck slightly and the vertebrae made a loud popping noise as he did so, which made him smile.
Re: The FifthXiann raised an eyebrow at Derian, but couldn't help her own lips twitching up into a smile. She thought about that a moment and gave a short mental sigh. Definitely bears watching. He knows exactly how charming he is.
There was something else about him she couldn't quite put her finger on.
Xiann had decided to stay here rather than follow Jerin to the cockpit. For one thing, Jerin wasn't thrilled with her presence at the moment, and for two, Xiann needed to figure out a way to get off Tatooine. She was hopeful that Derian might be the ticket, but the longer she observed him the more nervous she became about the possibility of having to spend much time around him.
"You're all grown up, I imagine you get to choose your own level of punishment."
He didn't reply to that, other than smiling again. After a pause, Xiann frowned slightly and pitched her voice to wry amusement. "I'm a twi'lek, don't we all have the same story?"
Derian squinted over at her out of one eye briefly before closing it again against the light, and made an amused sound. "Variations on, maybe."
"Mmm," Xiann murmured neutrally. "Well," she finally allowed. "It's not like it's a secret. Jerin could tell you." She shrugged. "Certainly starts off like most tales- I was a favored slave. Ended when the guy in charge messed up and got himself and most everyone else killed. I managed to avoid being killed, and being in the right place at the right time, saw some information I probably shouldn't have. With everyone else who knew that info seriously pissed off or dead, I figured it might end up valuable." Xiann found herself gesturing appropriately with her lekku, even though the man's eyes were closed.
She studied him as she talked. He had a good build for a human. Tall, and muscular, but not too muscular to be quick on his feet. His gear, scattered around on the crates around them, was well used, but also well loved. Considering the shape he was in, his gear actually looked pretty decently cared for.
"Decided to take off while everything was getting sorted out. Doubt I ever would've gotten a better chance." Xiann kept her voice easy and relaxed, but she could feel muscles in her shoulders stayed tense. The twi'lek hoped she could figure out what about him set her so on edge before he decided to be up and alert.
"And by the way," she murmured, keeping her voice low, "since I didn't get a chance earlier- Arni'soyacho." Thank you very much. "You have very good timing," she finished warmly. "I was worried for a few minutes there that your friends would pay for my carelessness while escaping."
Re: The Fifth"Koahiko," Derian replied. "One enki to another, to another."
"So, what's your story?"
"I'm not sure we have enough time left on this flight to even begin to tell my story."
"That's ok, it can be a beginning then."
Derian raised his head, opened one eye, and looked at the Twi'lek at the other end of the bench. He sniffed a bit, almost as if he were trying to clear his nose. "I see," he said after a moments consideration. He lowered his head back down to the bench. "My ship is floating in an orbital scrap heap getting ready to be thrown into the melting pot to be reduced to slag for use in the creation of brand new vessels. I intend to deliver her from this fate, fix her up, and then deliver those that put her in such a condition from the universe." He smiled slightly as he felt the twi'lek's weight shift at the other end of the bench. "You don't seem to have any real great desire to end up on Tattooine. The crime lords that have taken over in the absence of power left by the old hutt are even worse on Twi'leks than Jabba and his legendary appetites."
With an effort Derian sat up. Blood oozed slightly from a couple of the gashes on his head but no longer flowed freely. He swung his legs around so that he was sitting upright on the bench and scooted over near the Twi'lek. Close enough for a quiet conversation, but far enough away not to make her feel uncomfortable.
"Listen, I am going after my ship. Should I lay hands on her, I intend to return to the life I had before it was stolen from me in the death throes of the Galactic Empire. You help me get there and my first order of business will be getting you wherever you want to end up just as soon as she's running again."
He stood up and stretched his back, the vertebrae popping all along his spine. He turned his neck to either side with a satisfying crunch. "All this laying down is going to make me soft," he griped quietly. He turned to look at the Twi'lek. "So, what do you say? Thrilling heroics with me or taking your chances on the dustball. Or do you need to think about it some more?"
Re: The FifthXiann swallowed hard, and kept her face turned down while she thought furiously.
Derian's casual use of every day Ryl had taken her aback. It was obvious that he'd spent a good deal of time around another twi'lek. What was more, she was certain that he was well aware he'd dropped the hint. Until she knew how much he recognized, she would have to be more careful. Xiann kept her lekku as still as she could manage. Let him read how nervous I am, just don't let him get anything else.
Even more interesting, he'd picked up on her subtle hint at continuing their acquaintance far more quickly than she'd expected him to.
It all added up to a very challenging relationship. It was very unfortunate that Xiann enjoyed nothing more than a challenge.
Finally, she had to ask. "What makes you think I'll be any use?" She glanced over at him.
Derian met her eyes for a moment, a small smile on his face. "Call it a hunch. And you're here, aren't you? Besides, it's obvious you know how to use a blaster." He shrugged. "I can use all the help I can get."
"Jerin won't be happy about this, you know."
Derian laughed quietly. "Whatever. She's already pissed off. You'll notice that hasn't stopped her yet."
Xiann pulled a wry face. "Yeah, but she actually likes you. Me, not so much."
"Trust me, she didn't like me much at first either," Derian murmured, looking amused. "Done trying to talk me out of it yet?"
It wasn't him she was trying to talk out of things. Unfortunately, Xiann was having a very hard time resisting the temptation of a ticket to anywhere. Who was she kidding? That was only a small part of the reason: Who knew what opportunities might come to light? It wasn't like that account of creds was going anywhere any time soon. Can't resist getting into trouble, can you? This is stupid, Xiann. Dangerous is rapidly outweighing Useful. Self preservation. Can't spend those creds if you end up dead.
"Look, I know you were trying to give me the short version, but-" she hesitated again. "Who exactly are we going up against, here?"
Re: The FifthDerian sat back down on the bench, a little closer this time. However, he wasn't even looking at the Twi'lek sitting next to him, he was looking down at his hands. He looked at his palms for a few moments, then turned them over and looked at the backs, his eyes far away.
"I'm not even really sure anymore. My crew and I were sold out to the Galactic Empire on Bespin near the end of the war. We were sent on a suicide mission to overthrow a local Moff who had ideas of separatism and decided to claim half a planet as his own. The ship was sabotaged in mid-mission by the Imperials who sent us out there. That's all I know at the moment. I'm working on getting closer, but it's a strange network of tenuous connections and back-alley rendezvous. And with the subsequent collapse of the Empire, I doubt any of these people are of much importance anymore."
He put his face in his hands for a moment, reliving the crash in clips and phrases. An explosion, a scream, the horrible shaking of impact. He squeezed his eyes tight, as if this would shut out the memories that had sprung, unbidden into his brain. He took his hands away and sniffled slightly. "So, depending on what they've done with themselves since, it could be that they're all nobodies. Or they could all be dead already; I can't believe the sorts of sell-outs that would do such a thing would survive long in the turmoil of a collapsing government. However, the universe has a funny way of turning things around on you."
He looked over at her finally, his eyes shining a bit more in the low lighting than they had been before. He smiled.
Re: The FifthXiann chewed on her full lower lip as the man next to her got himself back under control. The Empire. Well, what was left of it, anyway. Xiann had no love for them, few aliens would. They weren't much worse than petty criminals, these days. So the job shouldn't be much more risk than usual. She could feel her willpower crumbling.
"So, depending on what they've done with themselves since, it could be that they're all nobodies. Or they could all be dead already; I can't believe the sorts of sell-outs that would do such a thing would survive long in the turmoil of a collapsing government. However, the universe has a funny way of turning things around on you."
At the present moment, the Imperial remnant wasn't what concerned her. If the story was true, she didn't have to try hard to put a sympathetic look on her face as Derian looked over at her and smiled.
If it's true, the man's been through a lot.
Xiann was a con artist. She had pulled tears on other beings before. The thing that bothered her most right now was that she honestly couldn't make out if Derian's emotional distress was genuine, or if he was laying it on thick to get the sympathies of a pretty girl.
He was inches away, and she couldn't get a read on him. Xiann frowned internally, wondering why things weren't falling into place. It was uncomfortably like running into herself playing her own game.
She looked into Derian's eyes for a long moment, and with a small smile, nodded once. "If you think I can help, your offer's a good one. I'm on board, providing Jerin doesn't run me off." She hesitated a moment before putting a hand over his and pressing it. "If you're ship's still out there, we'll find it," she said brightly, hoping to sound like someone a bit uncomfortable with his display of emotion who was attempting to change the mood of the room.
She unfolded from her seat next to him, but before she could turn to face him, she heard an exasperated sigh from the doorway. "Damnit, Derian!" Came Jerin's voice from the cockpit. "Never satistified with the trouble you've already got, are you?" The other woman stood in the doorway to the cargo area, giving Xiann a dark look.
Xiann smiled and gestured towards Derian with a lekku. "Look at him." Jerin reluctantly glanced over towards the injured man. "Don't you think he better have all the help he can get?"
Derian smiled indulgently at Jerin.
Let him use his powers on her for a bit, Xiann thought wryly.
Re: The FifthJerin's gaze shifted from Derian's smile to the twi'lek and then back again. "Yeah," she said flatly. "Derian needs help."
Needs your help, Xiann, like he needs another hole in the head, Jerin thought to herself. She moved closer to Derian to examine some of the more recent ones, and pressed on a patch that had come loose. "You gonna' rest, or are you just going to bleed all over my ship?" she asked him with a hint of a smile.
"I was thinking your cargo bay could use redecorating," Derian quipped.
"Do that, and I'll redecorate you," Jerin returned, her hand balled into a fist. Then she became serious again and leaned in to adjust another bandage. "Hya loh hakkam b'zoat," This is a bad idea, she said to him in a low voice, glancing momentarily at Xiann. "But have it your way."
Jerin took a step back and folded her arms. "We should be to Tatooine soon," she addressed both of them. "Since both of you seem to have people who'd like you more dead than not, keep yourselves scarce. I don't want those people getting any funny ideas about me. Xiann," Jerin nodded to the twi'lek, "Tatooine will be your last chance to bail. Just so you know, spending too much time around us could be hazardous to your health."
Xiann gave a small smile and shrugged; Jerin sighed internally. It didn't seem likely that the twi'lek would decide to get lost. "That's everything, except-" Jerin began rummaging through some crates behind her. She produced two plastic bottles full of an offensively orange liquid and tossed one to each of her companions.
"What's this?" Xiann asked as she caught it.
"Juice," Jerin answered.
"Juice?" Derain said, disdain clear in his voice.
"Juice. You lost a lot of blood, Derian. Just drink it, right? And start scheming how were going to get the Wind free."
Jerin shot Derian an annoyed look before leaving. She allowed herself a sigh as she made her way to the cockpit. In the last day, Jerin's past had had the gall to board her ship. Twice. She still felt angry at Derian, but the addition of Xiann to their plans also made her feel protective of him. Jerin slid into her seat and considered this. Ordinarily, Derian was capable of taking care of himself, but he no longer seemed like ordinary Derian. And Force only knew what Xiann was after.
Jerin shook her head to clear it, and brought the Chaos smoothly out of hyperspace. Tatooine appeared on the viewscreen, as parched as ever. Jerin decided to worry about force using twi'leks and bantha-crazy humans later. Right now, she had a delivery to make.