Scoundrel's Luck

Meltdown

[instrumental]

Posted by zero

Previously, on Scoundrel’s Luck Online…

Ren stayed to watch the ship while Kenzi, Vula, De’ker, and ABE went to investigate the Meltdown Café. Following up on a tip from Talan Vigil’s logs, they located Shandrize Ihali, a slightly maimed twi’lek with a scowl and a flamethrower. De kept an eye on a man in black clothing who seemed a little too interested in their quarry, who was engaged in observing a zabrak at a sabaac table. When Kenzi attempted to strike up a conversation with her, she scowled and asked him what side he was on, unholstering a heavy blaster…

“Game’s over, Uei,” Shandrize declared loudly, aiming the weapon at the zabrak. The patrons in the line of fire scattered. Kenzi sucked a breath in through his teeth, but dared not make a move. The zabrak, Uei, narrowed his eyes at Shandrize, but remained still. “Hands up where I can see them,” the twi’lek prompted, but her target simply sneered.

>>He is reaching for something, Mistress Hitori<< ABE reported to Vula softly.

“Nooo,” she wailed, “Not again!” Vula made a break for the exit, clumsily pulling out her own blaster. The crush of the crowd attempting to avoid the ensuing firefight slowed her progress considerably.

Shandrize fired a blast and Uei jumped back from the sabaac table, holding his right hand in pain as the report of the blaster echoed in the rapidly clearing bar. Kenzi pulled his blaster free and also aimed it at the zabrak. “Whatever you’re doing, don’t.”

Uei hesitated a moment, sparing the Corellian a confused glance. “Don’t mess in the business of your betters, boy.”

“How else am I gonna better myself?” Kenzi returned.

Taking advantage of chaos, De tossed the contents of his alcoholic beverage at the man in black, narrowly missing his face. His target sputtered and jumped back in surprise, snarling, “What do you think you’re doing, punk?”

“Smiling,” De smiled, as the MIB rounded on him with a vibroknuckler. The Alderaanian barely dodged the swing, and it sliced a neat line in Kenzi’s jacket. More blaster fire erupted as the fighting continued.

. . .

Ren grew more concerned as he continued reading what he’d found out about Shandrize Ihali. Suddenly the comm crackled to life, and ABE’s mechanical voice announced, >>Fighting has begun.<<

“Good luck?” he offered helplessly.

He stood and moved towards the exit, collecting B1-CV as he went. He handed the patchwork droid a blaster rifle. “Bone, lock up behind me and don’t let anyone you don’t know in.” The little droid chirped an affirmative.

The bothan took off at a jog, seeking signs that would guide him to local transportation. He knew he was likely too far away to affect the outcome of whatever was happening, but he was damned if he wasn’t going to try.

He had just hailed a droid-driven cab when his comm erupted in Vula’s screams. “REN REN REN REN! OH GOD, REN!” she cried, gasping with sobs.

“What’s wrong?” he responded, exuding a calm he did not feel.

“REN, I WANNA GO HOOOME! REEENNN!”

“Stay with Kenzi. Keep your head down. I’m on my way.”

“NO… I CAN’T… HE’S FIGHTING… NOT STAYING HERE… I’M NOT… GOING BACK… THEY CAN’T MAKE ME… GO BACK!”

“Damn it, Vula. I can’t help you if I don’t know where you are!”

The comm went dead, and Ren leapt into the back of the cab, quickly rattling off the coordinates of the Meltdown Café. He estimated it would take him a little over a minute to arrive. Anything could happen in that time.

He opened a channel to ABE and said, “What the hell is going on down there? Are you with Vula?”

>>Mistress Hitori is attempting to exit the front door of the café, sir.<<

“Follow her, damn you!”

>>Affirmati-<< the medical droid’s voice cut out with the sound of an explosion. Ren’s eyes widened, and his fur rippled in fear.

. . .

Uei brandished his blaster at Shandrize. “Bitch!” he yelled, pulling a bloody hand from his coat and with a casual insolence lobbed a rounded object at her.

“Get DOWN!” she cried out, diving behind a table to the side.

“Oh, Hell,” Kenzi breathed.

A small explosion rocked the room, and chunks of permacrete rained down on everyone inside. ABE was hit by the full force of the blast, but at least he found himself nearer to Vula. Everyone else was struck by rebounding debris.

Shandrize leaped up from the wreckage and charged Uei, kicking him squarely in the face. He went limp, and she was on him in a moment, binding his wrists and kicking his prone form once more for good measure. De dropped the man in black, and the Alderaanian likewise bound him. ABE caught up to Vula just outside the door.

“I suppose we should be getting out of here,” Kenzi announced to his crew and Shandrize. The maimed twi’lek picked the unconscious Uei up with one arm by the binders and dragged him toward the door.

“Do you want this one too, Sha?” De asked in Ryl.

Shandrize nods in response. “Come on. Bring him, too.”

Kenzi moved to help De with his burden, thumbing his comlink. “Ren, we’re moving. Will contact you again when we’ve found a spot to hole up.” To the bartender he says, “Sorry about the mess.”

When they got outside, Vula was flailing about, trying to escape ABE, who had her by the belt. “ABE, NO! THEY WILL TAKE ME BACK! I CAN’T GO BACK! LET ME GO! I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK TO THAT PLACE AGAIN!” she screamed, before breaking down in sobs again.

>>Mistress, we will NOT let them take you,<< the droid tried to assure her.

Shandrize winced sympathetically at Vula’s outburst, then motioned for everyone to follow her. “Are we going far,” Kenzi asked.

“Not far. Two blocks, then down,” she replied shortly.

A shrill whistle pierced the relative silence in the aftermath of the firefight, and it drew everyone’s eyes to an approaching cab. “Anyone need a lift?” Ren asked from the back.

ABE released Vula, who sprinted across to the cab shouting, “REEENNN!!!”

Ren caught her as she barreled into the cab. “I gotcha,” he said softly.

Shandrize looked from the bothan to Kenzi. “One of yours?”

“He is, yes.”

“Smart.” She changed directions, heading for the taxi, and everyone followed. The “prisoners” were tossed unceremoniously in the floor of the vehicle, and ABE attached to the back.

Vula looked up at Ren with fear in her eyes, gripping his fur with tight fists. “I wanna go back to the ship, please,” she all but whimpered.

Kenzi seemed to notice his mechanic’s distress for the first time. Shandrize’s eyes softened. “He will not hurt you,” she said to Vula in their native tongue. “If he tries, I will kill him with my bare hands.” The terrified twi’lek did not reply.

Ren tried not to wince at the pressure of his pulled fur, his face rippling with the effort. He looked between Shandrize and Kenzi. “Ship might not make a terrible place to lay low.”

“Anywhere is good,” Shandrize said. “But first, around the corner and change cabs. Lots of eyes.” De took that as a cue and began looking around for anyone watching the cab too closely.

Ren nodded. “Jeeves, you heard the lady.” The droid obediently pulled away.

. . .

ABE applied his medical programming to stabilizing the unconscious and bound men. About a block from the starport, Shandrize motioned for the second cab to stop. “We’ve got mending to do and questions in need of answers,” Kenzi said to her.

“I am sure you do,” she replied. “But this is not a good time. These two need to be…disposed of.”

De gestured at the man in black. “Do you need this guy alive?”

She nodded. “That one is more dangerous than he looks. Dump him out here. I will take him. You would not want his friends to find him. He has…powerful friends.” De complied, and then she continued with a grin, “But then, I do as well.” She hopped from the speeder.

“You must be Vigil,” she said to Kenzi. “I will be in touch.”

“All right,” he said warily.

She motioned to the two unconscious men. “Thank you,” she said, patting Kenzi on the back. “You did good, kid.”

He buckled a little under the unexpected gesture. “Uh, thanks. Hopefully this’ll all make more sense later on.”

“I don’t think it ever makes sense, Ken,” De said with a wink.

“Oh, it will,” Ren breathed.

Shandrize gave the bothan an appraising look, then picked up the men’s binders and keyed up a comlink. A droid swooped around from behind some crates and picked them up. “It will,” she said, handing Kenzi a datachip. “Comms. Wait three days, then call. Piggyback it and scramble it.” De tipped a short salute in her direction, and she reciprocated before exchanging a nod with Kenzi. Then she followed after the droid, disappearing around the edge of the starport.

“I’ll make sure we’re not being followed,” De said, exiting the cab. “Y’all head back; I’ll see you there in three minutes.”

Kenzi turned to Ren. “Do you know how to piggyback and scramble…this?” he asked, holding up the datachip.

The bothan instructed the driver-droid to continue to the ship. “Not at all, but…” he nodded to ABE.

“Good, good. Long’s somebody does…” Ren nodded again, looking down at the shaking twi’lek with a frown. “If you don’t mind, Vula,” Kenzi said, calmly and politely, “when we get back, you can tell us what happened back there.”

Vula shook her head furiously in the negative, and Ren’s facial fur rippled in frustration. His tone a bit more serious, Kenzi persisted, “Is it going to happen again?”

The twi’lek shrugged. “Please, let’s just go back the ship…”

The way was clear all the way back to the ship. They found Bone taking his guard duties Very Seriously; he was pacing back and forth in front of the ship. He settled down at Ren’s command, and Kenzi debriefed the makeshift battle droid.

De’ker approached the ship from another direction. “We’re clear. No one paid us much mind. This IS a rough place.”

Kenzi nodded. “Nobody came sniffing around the ship either. Bone says he could defend us all if it came to that,” he said with a smile, patting the droid affectionately.

“Think we’ll need to stay on planet to use these comms?” Ren wondered aloud.

“I have an encrypted long range comm. It could reach space from the ground. It’s just old,” De said. A moment later, he produced a brick of a comm unit from one of his many pockets.

“WOW.” Kenzi goggled.

“Maybe we can piggyback the datachip on that,” Ren suggested. “If…that’s what that means.”

“I think piggyback means that you send it on the same channel as someone else, using them as a carrier. I don’t know how to do that, but I have heard of it.”

Ren nodded. “We’ll figure it out. Anyway. All aboard. I’ve got more information about Shandrize I think you’re going to want to see.”

“Yes, please,” Kenzi said, running a hand through his hair. “I’d certainly like to know why she has a price on her head.”

“Heh. You say that now…” Ren muttered darkly, helping Vula aboard. The Corellian aimed a nervous glance at the bothan. De walked up the ramp, dripping blood, and ABE insisted that he be allowed to treat the Alderaanian’s wounds immediately. Bone returned to guarding the closed ramp, his demeanor still very serious.

. . .

Ren got Vula settled into a comfortable seat with a warm drink. The twi’lek pulled her knees up to her chest. After his injuries had been seen to, De headed to the galley to make drinks for everyone else. Once everyone had gathered, Ren tapped a few buttons on the console, and a dossier style document appeared onscreen. Kenzi moved to where he could see the image and still keep an eye on Vula.

The following information appeared on the vidscreen:

Shandrize Ihali

  • Wanted dead by the Empire for terrorism; Exercise extreme caution
  • Responsible for the deaths of over three full squadrons of stormtroopers
  • Sabotaged a TIE facility
  • Kidnapped a shuttle full of Imperial engineers

Kenzi’s eyebrows made a break for the top of his head as he read. De entered with a tray, glanced at the screen, and smiled really widely. “I like her better already,” he said as he handed out drinks.

An icon indicating that the document continued caused Kenzi to exclaim incredulously, “There’s MORE?”

  • Known bounty hunter and vigilante
  • Known connections to several extremist anti-Imperial groups
  • Current bounty from the empire stands at 325,000 credits

“So… Yea,” Ren said needlessly.

“I may have made a huge mistake,” Kenzi said.

“Eh. You’ve both blown up TIE fighters. She’s just been doing it longer. And so we’re in over our heads. At least now we know we’re in over our heads.”

De shrugged. “Okay… so what? She was friends with Talan, right? And the Re…” he paused, correcting himself. “The Imperials don’t like her…” He turned to address Ren. “Have you looked us up on that thing yet? I bet we’re not much rosier, though I doubt we’re worth as much.”

Kenzi looked from De to Ren. “Good question, actually. Because you know she will.”

“I have not,” Ren said.

“And if she hates the Re… The Imperials as much as it says she does, she won’t turn us in to them,” De concluded.

Ren nods in agreement. “If our actions against the Empire – however inadvertent – show up in our Holonet profiles, that can only paint us in a positive light as far as this woman is concerned.”

“Too right,” Kenzi acknowledged.

“So. We still have a crate of her thermal detonators in the hold. That were bound for…” the bothan checks his datapad. “…Ord Ibanna.”

“When were they due?” De asked.

“When Talan still had the ship,” Ren answered, checking the pad again. “Roughly two months ago.”

“Oh,” Kenzi said.

Ren pulled up the ship log that showed the delivery schedule, then took a seat beside Vula and placed his arm across the back of her chair, not quite touching her. “That’s what I managed to piece together while you guys were starting a bar fight.”

“We didn’t start it,” De frowned.

Kenzi took a seat at the console. “Let me see if Uncle Talan had any notes about the destination. I’d like to know if they’re the sort to be mad about late deliveries. Be nice if they knew we were coming, and not him… Would help to avoid confusion.” He browsed through several screens in silence.

“Interesting. It just says ‘Resistance. Take themselves v. seriously. Reckless but good kids.’ Nothing about a missing crate, or a joking aside about keeping some for himself.” De shot him a sidelong glance at that. Kenzi turned, “Vula, how far is it to Ord Ibanna? Could we get there and back in three days?”

Vula looked up from her drink, confused. “Huh?” He repeated the question. “Yea. Yea, I think we can,” she replied distractedly. She shook her head and put on a fake smile.

“Never a dull day,” De commented.

“Maybe the excitement will die down a bit while we’re gone,” Kenzi said. “Of course, we didn’t get to look into bounties on those Trandos. Or did we?” he asked the group.

“We didn’t, no,” Ren supplied.

“This is a paying job, ain’t it?” De wanted to know.

“Does the log say if Talan got paid in advance for the…package?” Ren asked.

Kenzi checked, then shook his head. “Nope. COD. It doesn’t say how much, though. Just something in his code, which I can’t figure out yet. Hell, getting paid for these detonators might be worth it just to help me crack this code.”

Ren nodded with a slight smile in De’s direction. “Well. Could be worse, then. Assuming the Resistance isn’t over.”

“Sha ain’t dead, so I figure it’s prolly still going,” De smirked. Ren shrugged, conceding the point.

“If you all feel up to it, I’ll go ahead and send a message to this Resistance, try to smooth things out for our arrival.”

“I’m fit,” Ren said, glancing surreptitiously at Vula.

“I’m good,” Vula insisted, putting on a brave face. De smiled and nodded.

“All right. Let’s patch ourselves up and see if this fish will bite,” said the Corellian. “Oh. I suppose everyone wants to be paid at some point.”

Ren shrugged. “As soon as you stop feeding me and we stop anyplace with decent shopping opportunities.”

“Aye,” De said. “It’d be nice, though we’d have to be in port to use it. And not being shot at.”

“I’d like to set some of our funds aside for future expenses, but we can divvy up the rest as needed. Say, two thousand credits for the ship’s account?”

“How much does it cost to fuel her up from empty?” De wanted to know and Ren rattled off the estimates. “We should keep twice that in the ship account.”

“Money invested in the ship not-blowing-up and/or being stolen is well spent,” the bothan agreed.

Kenzi shrugged and looked at Ren. “You also never know when you need a hold full of wheat. ‘Cos if there’s anything y’all,” and the word sounded awkward coming out of his mouth, “need, or that the ship needs, we can take care of it while we wait for the Resistance to reply.”

>>I am currently out of first aid kits.<< ABE reported across the ship’s comm.

“I’d like to get a speeder,” De said, and Ren nodded emphatically.

“So would I. It would save on cab fare. Speaking of which, do I fill out a Purchase Order form, or..?”

Ignoring the bothan’s banter, Kenzi said, “Since that’s something that benefits us all, let’s take that off the top. Agreed?” Everyone did.

“Drinks…” Vula suggested. “Strong drinks. Please me up some. I’m going to clean up, if that’s okay,” she finished meekly.

“Sure, Vula,” Kenzi said.

Ren patted her shoulder as she stood, and she flinched at the touch. She tried to play it off by smiling at him, but no one was fooled. She turned and walked swiftly out of the room.

“All right,” Kenzi said. “De, you and Ren find us a speeder. I trust your judgment. Meanwhile, I’ll get us some stimpacks and booze. Try not to spend more than, say, five thousand. We’ve got ten thousand nine.”

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Elenore zero

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