In the latest installment of Mark Wooden’s “Star Wars” fanfiction, Jedi Nile Chinelo locates the wife of her murdered contact. Back at the hangar, smugglers Corana and Piani deal with a Hutt mercenary and hangar security droids.
The ship was a Legate-class courier, too small to be a freighter but with more space than a fighter.
Corana had owned the ship from back when she and her family of smugglers had lived on their asteroid colony on Bandomeer some fifteen years ago.
The Pantoran loved the ship for its modular interior design, making it easy to switch things between hauling cargo or passengers.
For now, the ship was mostly cargo space, with three small rooms for each of its live-in passengers and a larger community living area.
Approaching the Bevryder, Nile drew her commlink and hailed Corana and Piani on their encrypted channel.
Neither of them answered.
Despite the hardships she faced, Nile didn’t think too much of it. Normally the smugglers would wait for her at the spaceport bar. Bars are noisy places. She had wished the two would stay on the ship.
This wasn’t a social visit, after all.
The thought brought her back to the contact the inquisitor had murdered.
Now at the ship, Nile punched in the access code to lower the Bevryder’s gangplank. As it lowered, she thought of her contact. He’d said his wife had tried to talk him out of helping the Alliance.
In the end, she’d been right to fear the relationship.
Now her husband was gone.
The Imperials would spin the story, so the Alliance seemed solely at fault. No word of the inquisitor’s heinous action would find mention. The wife would hate the Alliance for taking him from her and spread that hatred to others.
This was the never-ending battle of hearts and minds the Rebel Alliance faced. Nile feared they could easily lose that battle, despite the number of lives saved from the Empire’s evil by her actions and others like her.
There was still a way to win that battle here.
Nile could find the contact’s wife and explain the truth.
Once onboard the Bevryder, Nile moved to the community living area. She immediately uploaded the contact’s data to the ship’s computer.
When her allies arrived, the team was to fly to deep space and rendezvous with their Alliance handler Drilon to exchange the data in person.
It would be too risky to transmit it now, with Teth’s Imperial presence monitoring all communications.
Even if encrypted, they could trace the origin and termination points of the transmission, locating both the Alliance and the Bevryder.
With her main objective complete, Nile changed into dry clothing. She eventually returned to the ship’s computer.
The Jedi pulled up the data she’d received on the contact. It wasn’t much: a photo, the recognition sequence to authenticate his identity and an address at which to meet him.
Nile used Bevryder’s computer to access the local computer network. There was no slicing involved; network access was free, and Nile was looking in the public domain.
Once on the network, she dug deeper into the contact’s identity. Starting at the swoop shop, she was able to come up with a name — Marz Way.
From there, Nile dug into the network’s administration pages. She found Way’s wife, Miri, through marriage records. That page also listed occupations. Miri Way worked at hangar control.
Nile sat back in her chair. She tried Corana and Piani on the commlink but received no callback. Her instincts told her to go to the bar, find them and get off the planet.
But Nile knew the two smugglers as competent and, in the end, dedicated to the Alliance cause.
With the constant pressure of supporting that cause, it wouldn’t hurt to allow them a few more moments to relax before the next storm of trouble.
If something happened to Nile, the Alliance data was now on the ship. She was no longer needed. Hangar control was just five minutes away.
Back in the enclosed hangar, the sound of engine thrust interrupted the conversation between the smugglers, the mercenary, and the security droids.
All eyes turned to the Princess’s Claw as the ship lifted from the ground. Hydraulics drew in the ship’s landing gear.
“That ship cannot leave the hangar until we have completed our investigation,” the lead security droid said in his painfully monotonous tone.
“My boss wants to talk to them!” Corana and Piani heard from the Rodian’s merc. He got halfway to the rising ship before he realized being closer to it wasn’t going to stop it.
The Rodian and his team worked for Ungror the Hutt. The Princess’s Claw had cargo on board that Ungror thought belonged to him — six teenaged girls.
Ungror was probably running an extortion scam. Surprisingly, it was Corana and Piani’s long-time nemesis, a slaver named Cragen, who had rescued the girls.
Now he was making a getaway that these droids could easily derail.
“They wouldn’t lift off if they weren’t already cleared,” Corana said.
The security droid remained silent. The Pantoran smuggler swallowed hard. Her partner’s hand slowly moved toward her vibrorapier.
“That makes sense,” the droid said. “But no one has cleared you to leave. I need to check that blaster at your side.”
Corana gently took Piani by the arm and turned her so their backs were to the droids. In front of them, the merc reached for his commlink. They walked toward him.
“This could go south very fast,” Piani said.
“Which is why I want you to handle the merc,” Corana whispered. “I’ll take the droids.”
“You’re getting into firing range, aren’t you?”
“Halt!” the droid said. “I need to heck your blaster!”
Piani dashed toward the mercenary.
Corana turned back to the droids. She drew her blaster and said, “This one?”
A blaster bolt shot from Corana’s gun and directly into the lead security droid’s chest. The droid stumbled backward, bashing into one of its companions.
In nearly the same instant, Piani drew her vibrorapier and stabbed at the merc. She pierced the arm that held the commlink. The merc’s hand opened; the commlink fell to the ground.
The merc glared at Piani. She shrugged. “Be thankful,” she said. “I was aiming at your heart.”
A loud clang announced the unlocking of the bolts holding the hangar’s external door closed. More hydraulics pulled the doors aside. The sound of the falling rain became more prevalent within the hangar.
“Message to control,” the lead droid said. “Potential —”
Another blaster bolt from Corana’s gun blew off the lead droid’s head.
The other two droids held up their left arms. Light blaster pistols popped up from their forearms and bared down on Corana.
Behind the Pantoran smuggler, her Twi’lek partner lunged at the merc with her blade. The merc sidestepped her weapon and threw a punch at her.
Piani stepped around the swing, putting herself in position for a thrust that pierced the merc’s thick clothing.
He grunted before falling to the ground.
Corana took hits from the remaining droids’ blasters. Hearing her partner’s yell from the pain, Piani looked to her.
The gunslinging smuggler stumbled to a knee but returned fire on the droids. Her blaster bolt ripped through one droid. Shrapnel from the droid crashed into the one next to it, throwing off its aim.
Another well-aimed shot took out the remaining droid.
Piani moved to Corana’s side and helped her to her feet. “Nice shooting,” she said.
Corana looked back at the bleeding merc. “Nice stabbing,” she said. “Now can we get to the Bevryder?”
Piani looked after the Princess’s Claw. Corana followed the Twi’lek’s gaze. The ship moved smoothly out of the hangar and into the rain outside.
“We can go,” Piani said. “But that bastard Cragen better keep his word.”
To be continued on September 20th!
Like the story so far? Be sure to also check out Mark’s original writing, the “Shadowdance” urban fantasy series!