In honor of today being the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, and me being a massive nerd, today's post is Star Wars. I used to get together with other writers over the internet, and we'd write stories set in the universe. This is part of one of these, which unfortunately I had to abandon for lack of free time.
Somewhere in the Outer Rim, light years away from the nearest planet, a Preybird-class starfighter is docked with a much larger YV-929 bristling with weapons.
"This is all you brought me? Slugthrowers?" The weequay didn't look too pleased, even with his species' distinct lack of expressiveness. The pair of rodians behind him were easier to read; they were somewhere between annoyance and contempt. Kael Dynn's face was less telling; he didn't give the pirate the satisfaction of a reaction. "Don't waste my time; I've half a mind to raid your ship and leave you drifting", the weequay continued. Kael merely crossed his arms. He had no interest in intimidating the weequay; the heavily armoured twi'lek at his side served that purpose. Kael was simply growing impatient. "How many ships have you raided, Captain?" The weequay was obviously taken aback. "We're the Black Hole Gang, murglak! We've chewed up and spit out dozens of ships!" He was jabbing his finger at Kael now. The leather of his jacket crumpled audibly as his hand balled into a fist under the opposite arm. "Chewing them up’ means not much to chop or add to your fleet." The weequay stared at him, incredulous. Kael continued: "Blasters leave carbon scoring, and that’s if they don't tear through a ship's hull. Now slugs..." Kael reached into the crate, pulling out a scattergun. "Will either ricochet, leaving less damage on the hull, or flatten and fall to the ground harmlessly." He racked the scattergun's pump action mechanism and handed it to the weequay. The pirate took the weapon, frowning, and began turning it over, inspecting its mechanism. His expression, incredulous at first, slowly turned to realization and finally to malicious contempt. "You may be right, murglak." Suddenly, the scattergun was pointed at Kael, levelled at his belly. "But you're a moron, giving a pirate a weapon thinking he won't use it!" The weequay gave a hearty laugh as Kael let his hands fall to his sides. "Thanks for the slugthrowers." Click. Click click. The weequay turned the weapon over in surprise. "What did you..." It was all he could get out before Kael was on him, vibroblade punching through his throat. The pirate let out a gurgle as blood spurted from severed arteries. The scattergun clattered to the ground. The weequay's body followed.
Kael knelt to wipe his blade on the corpse's rough leathers. "People show you who they truly are when you put a weapon in their hands." He looked up from the dead weequay at the pair of rodians. Still reeling from shock, they hadn't made a move for their weapons. "Here's what's going to happen. These weapons are going to Lok, to their real buyers. You'll be taking them there. Qira here..." Kael jabbed a thumb back at the armoured twi'lek behind him. "Will go along with you, ensure everything goes smoothly. Questions?" The rodians looked to each other, clearly rattled. One squinted, serious, as the other shook his head, panicked. The squinter spun towards Kael, hand reaching for a blaster. It didn't even clear its holster before something exploded behind Kael and buried itself in the rodian's chest. He looked down at the still smoking blaster wound, then his eyes rolled back as he fell, blaster clattering as it dropped. Kael gave Qira a quick glance, and the twi'lek holstered her smoking weapon. Kael stood, and made his way to the downed rodian, sheathing his blade. Giving him a quick look over, he knelt and began unclasping the man’s holster. "Why?" The voice was shaky, nearly cracking. Kael turned to look at the last pirate. "Your ship's bigger than mine." He stood, and began fastening the dead pirate's holster at his waist. He then retrieved the dropped blaster. "And you get to live." Kael moved to the rodian, uncomfortably close. "Now go tell the rest of your crew the good news." The rodian held his gaze for a moment, then nearly tripped over his dead companion as he ran deeper into the ship.
"That could have gone better." The twi'lek said gruffly once the pirate was out of earshot. Kael turned to the armoured mass and holstered his new blaster.
"It could have gone worse. We're not dead."
"The day a two-bit pirate beats me to the draw is the day I deserve to die. We need labour. They don't tend to work very hard when they're corpses."
"If you can find the right words when there's a barrel levelled at you, feel free to chime in."
"I thought we wanted to be done with this. How can we be when your blade is faster than your tongue?"
Kael lay a hand on Qira's armoured shoulder. "Fighting's in my blood. At least now we're no one's weapon." Kael strode past the twi'lek towards the airlock. "And what are you going to tell her when she comes looking for her weapons?" Kael glanced over his shoulder.
"I reckon I'll let my blade do the talking. Get this crate to its buyers, keep the pirates in line. Bring them to Taris after the deal’s done."
Kael pushed a button, and air pushed past him as the airlock opened.
"See you on the other side."
Several hours later
Kael Dynn stirs as the navi-computer blares a warning; the starfighter’s return to realspace imminent. A few minutes pass before the Zabrak wakes, the ship’s systems still clamoring for his attention. “What do you want now?” He strains to reach the ship’s control, pulling himself closer. He pokes and prods at knobs and dials, blinking away his fatigue and his eyes are dragged to a small blue screen as it flashes. “Right.” With a sigh, Kael straightens himself, grabbing hold of the Preybird’s yoke. Sleep was hard to come by these days, not for lack of trying. The white streaks of stars revert to dots as the ship slows to sublight speed, a large grey globe filling the cockpit’s view. Where Coruscant shines with geometric cityscapes, the lights from its skyscrapers illuminating its night side, this planet bears only scars. Running across its surface are darkened lines, cut in places or stopping in craters. Taris made a poor sight to most, and few even entertained the idea of a trip here. But to Kael, it was something else. It was as close as he’d get to home.
Squeezing his arm past the cramped space behind the pilot’s chair, he withdraws a fist-sized datapad as he slowly guides the Glorious 1 closer to the planet. Settling into a high orbit, he flicks through the datapad’s screen with his thumb. “Next on the agenda....” He frowned. Great.
The advantage of a place like Taris; no one shows up unless they absolutely need to. Safe in the knowledge that the hunk of durasteel that had just left hyperspace carried his contact, Kael didn’t bother checking its transponder code. He still double checked his weapons before stowing his datapad and flipping on the ship’s short range comms. “Follow me to the surface and we’ll talk business.” No need for formalities in this field, Kael simply started his approach and prepared to hit atmo.
Bright trails of orange lit up the cockpit as the starfighter began its descent, the ship shuddering as it pierced through the planet’s upper atmosphere. The light ahead became blinding for several minutes, the ship shaking almost violently as it punched through the atmosphere. Then, friction eased, the heat subsided and the way became clear. Beyond the glass of the cockpit lay the planet of Taris. Once a sprawling city, the Coruscant of the Outer Rim, Taris now resembled nothing but a graveyard. Ruined skyscrapers jutted from her belly, their sides blown out yet somehow still standing. Crooked and jagged, they seemed to angrily stab at the sky, piercing through thick smog of a dark, sickly green. These skyscrapers irregularly clumped together, sometimes separated by craters reaching down dozens of stories.
As the Glorious 1 flew lower beneath the smog, the areas between and below the desolate cityscape began to sharpen, revealing scaffolds, vehicles and tarps at the mouth of some of the craters: corroded reminders of attempted reconstruction. Amongst these manmade obstructions sprouted some small signs of life, vegetation slowly twisting, clinging to vehicles and starting the long climb towards the sky. Kael took the ship into one of these craters, descending beyond the planet’s surface. The crater’s smoothness was sometimes interrupted by chunks of blasted ruin and durasteel supports protruding from its edges, sometimes finding purchase in the opposite “wall”. After a few hundred meters, the crater’s walls sloped outward, widening until it opened onto Taris’ lower city. Once completely enclosed by the cityscape above, the planet’s numerous craters now allowed whatever sunlight could pierce through the smog to reach this once dark place. Vegetation was much thicker here than on the surface. Where surface vegetation resembled vines and moss, Taris’ new Lower City boasted trees, these large gnarled things. Patches of grass popped up here and there, some of them even adorned by flowers and other plants.
The Glorious 1 weaved past several of these trees, flying over a large lake of liquid coolant before setting down next to a large, unremarkable duracrete structure. Kael quickly slipped on thick leather gloves and a respirator before popping the cockpit and waiting for his contact to land.