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thinking, scheming, cunning

New Opportunities

For what felt like the hundredth time that day, Ronin tensed his muscles and moved up from his crouching position, the sizable crate balanced between himself and the bulky Whipid standing on the opposite side. If Odric was feeling half of the fatigue Ronin was, he wasn’t showing it.

“You’d think a shipment this big,” Ronin grunted between gasps as he and Odric slid it onto the Varactyl’s cargo lift. “Not to mention heavy, would be worth a bit more.” Odric muttered an agreement.

“At least Kriggle gave us a job,” Odric pointed out. “I thought things were gonna pick up.” He and Ronin moved to the next crate. Seven still sat around them, scattered about the pad.

“They were,” Ronin said, crouching again. “Nothing’s ever guaranteed. You know that.”

“I think we both do,” Odric said with a hint of regret. “Weren’t we going to get the antigrav unit fixed?” he asked, quickly changing the subject.

Ronin tensed as they picked up another crate. “Fuel comes first.”

“Speaking of, shouldn’t Tarph be back by now?” Odric asked. Ronin groaned, only partially from the load. Vinalinn would have vouched for the kid until Bothawui’s sun went nova. She had, in fact, been the one to recommend him before she left. Even he had to admit that the young Bothan had a gift for slicing and other general computer work, but he too frequently seemed to be more trouble than his skills were worth. Or maybe it was just that he was excessively annoying. Ronin couldn’t help but wonder sometimes if Vina had put him forward as one last parting shot at him.

“Yeah, he should,” Ronin answered as they loaded the latest crate. As if on cue, a cheerful voice traveled from the bay’s main entrance.

“How’s it going, Grans?” Tarph asked with an oblivious smile and he bobbed into the area, walking toward the ship as if he didn’t have a care in the galaxy.

“Did you get the fuel?” Ronin replied, ignoring the Bothan’s pitiful attempt at a barb. Tarph feigned hurt feelings.

“Boss, you know me. Of course; it’ll be here first thing in the morning,” he said as he leaned on one of the crate stacks.

Ronin’s eyes jumped back and forth from the Bothan to the crates and back. “Tomorrow? You’re joking, right? We need to leave tonight!”

This only gained him only a shrug from the Bothan. “I did what I could with what you gave me. Can’t expect miracles every time. I think we were lucky to get what we did. It’s good quality fuel for what we’re paying.”

Ronin’s eyes bored into Tarph, but the Bothan’s attention was elsewhere. “And how extensively did you look for a supplier?” he asked. Again Tarph merely shrugged.

“You know,” he offered tentatively. “If we had a few more credits, this wouldn’t even be a problem.” Ronin and Odric exchange irritated glances as they took another create.

“Again, Tarph… we’re not bounty hunters. We never were… bounty hunters… and we’ll never be… bounty hunters,” Ronin said between breaths.

Tarph sighed. “Ah, come on, Cappy,” he whined. “There’s a whole set of new ones that’d keep us good for a while. And they don’t even look that hard. Couple of debtors in the Mid Rim. Thief on Tatooine. Little crime boss on Ylesia. A smuggler from Sullust-“

Ronin snorted. “Ah, a smuggler, one of our own. Great suggestion.”

“Yeah? Well, those are just the little ones. We get a big one, we could be set for a while. We could do what we want.” Tarph barely muttered the next phrase. “Like one of the Exchange’s.” Both Odric and Ronin turned their heads sharply to Tarph, the weight of the crate between them momentarily forgotten as they turned to the kid. For his part, Tarph’s fur was rippling with anxiety.

“Are you insane, Tarph? I’ve told you before, we don’t deal with them! Not ever. Trust me, trust us you don’t want to owe them a thing. Not one thing.” Odric, as usual, just grunted an affirmation.

Tarph, however, continued to press the issue, somewhat more meekly than before. “I’m just saying we get one of those, things’d be good.” He just never lets things drop, Ronin though. It was something the kid did far too often in his opinion. Tarph went on. “Plenty of choices there, too. Politicians, Hutts, bigger debtors….” He trailed off as he raised his head, his fur-ringed face brightened by a wide grin. “There’s even one for Jedi right now.” Ronin and Odric stopped abruptly, dropping their crate hard on the conveniently nearby cargo lift.

“What was that?” Odric asked.

“Jedi. Any Jedi. That Exchange boss on Nar Shaddaa, you know the one, Goto?” Both nodded. Few who ventured into Hutt space hadn’t heard of the infamous Exchange boss. He had transformed the Smuggler’s Moon’s former insignificant regime from out of Nal Hutta’s shadow to something formidable, to be truly feared. “Yeah, he’s looking for any Jedi out there. Bounty says it doesn’t matter which, just a Jedi. Offering an unforcely sum of credits for whoever can do it.”

“Really?” Ronin asked, now as speechless as Odric. Apparently, Tarph hadn’t noticed the change in his colleagues’ demeanors.

“I know, right? Pretty crazy. I figured it’s kind of a long shot for him. When was the last time you saw a Jedi? Heard about one? I figure they’re all gone. If anyone gets them to come out, though, it’d be him. What he’d want with the Jedi, though, who knows? Good luck to Goto and all, but if I were him, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.”

Ronin and Odric exchanged a look. “You never know kid,” Ronin said, sounding more casual than he felt. “Just when you think they’re gone for good, they’ll probably pop up to cause the latest galactic-sized mess.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Tarph said with another shrug. He looked at the remaining crates as if seeing them for the first time. “Hey, you guys need help loading these?”

Ronin waved him off. “Nah, Tarph, you should head inside. Get some rest. After all, you’ll need to be up early for that fuel delivery.”

And he and Odric would need to talk.



December 2007

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