Here's the third instalment. Rock on
'A12 - 76'
The commercial space station, A12 - 76, was a haven of criminality in the outer rim. The station itself was little more than an outpost for a moderate shipping company, but its location, just off of the Hydian Way trade route quickly attracted the attention of smugglers and other illegitimate businesses in the galaxy as a place to hide and to get work. Refugee freighters also used this station as a stop over point when travelling through the outer rim as a re-fuelling and re-supplying point.
It was one such freighter that held Nic White and Jana Vincent. They would leave the freighter here, along with many of its other passengers. Jana had taken the time to get a little rest and, as the freighter docked with the external airlock of the station, she stretched and yawned.
"Had I known it would take three days in cramped conditions to get here, I may have reconsidered my impulse to come," she informed Nic, rubbing the sleepiness out of her eyes.
"If I knew you were going to complain the whole way, I wouldn't have let you come," Nic grumbled. At this, Jana had to laugh.
"So what now?" she asked. "We're here... you get to be Mr. Know-it-all and show me the work of a freelance mercenary."
"Oh, is that what I'm doing?" Nic chuckled. "Alright. There's a guy I did a job for a couple of months back, hangs out at the Port Cantina. So I guess we'll see if he's got something."
The Cantina wasn't far from where they'd left the freighter and they entered together, looking around, Jana for potential trouble, and Nic for his contact. The contact was nowhere to be seen, so Nic headed for the bar with Jana close behind.
The Cantina was quiet as it was early in the morning (station time). There were only a few sentients other than Nic and Jana in the entire place. Satisfied those that were there did not pose any serious threat, Jana turned to look at Nic.
"I'll have two Corellian ales," Nic told the lone barman. The barman nodded, poured the drinks, and placed them in front of Nic.
"Haven't had one of these since, I left home," Jana murmured, taking one of the glasses.
"Anything else?" the bartender wanted to know. Nic nodded.
"Yeah," Nic answered. "Where's Zeek? I'd like to see him."
"What for?" the bartender demanded.
"Business," Nic answered. "Looking for a job."
The bartender stared at Nic and Jana for several long seconds before jerking his head in the direction of a large door next to the bar.
"He's round back. You can go on through."
"Thanks," Nic said, sliding some credit chips across the bar. Turning to Jana, he said, "You never told me you're Corellian."
Drinking the rest of her ale, Jana smirked. "You never asked."
Chuckling, Nic finished off the rest of his drink. "C'mon, Short Stuff. We'll see if ol' Zeek's got something for us."
They went around the bar and through the door. This room was a small office, a desk standing near the back with two chairs in front of it for 'employees'. The room was filled with smoke coming from a cigar in the
hand of a large man. He was slightly obese with thin grey hair on his head and thick black hair on his upper lip. He stared at the two humans who had just entered his room and took another puff from his cigar.
"You know, those'll kill you," Nic commented. The large man chuckled.
"Well, they haven't yet," he answered, taking another draw from the cigar in his hand and looking over Nic very carefully. "Mr. White, ain't it?"
Nic shrugged. "Call me Nic. Everyone else does... so, I did a job for you a couple months back."
"Yes I remember," Zeek said, nodding slowly. "You do good work, boy."
Turning to Jana, he added, "But I didn't figure you for being the kind of man that works with people. So who's this?"
"This is Jana Vincent," Nic introduced. "She..."
"Well, hello Miss Vincent," Zeek interrupted. "I'm Samson Zeek, better known as just Zeek, and I own this station."
"And you operate from the Cantina?" Jana seemed amused, but shook his offered hand, though it was at least twice the size of hers. "Nice to meet you."
"I thought Betsy was the only women in your life," Zeek said, turning back to Nic. "Didn't you say that once when you worked for me before?" He nodded. "Yes, you did."
"Betsy?" Jana asked, curious. "Who's Betsy?"
"My gun," Nic answered. Jana stared at him, slightly surprised.
"You named your gun?" she said, smiling slightly in disbelief. Nic frowned and turned to face her.
"Yes, I named my gun," he replied. "And Betsy's never let me down. She always does what she's supposed to."
"You named it Betsy," Jana pressed, now convinced her new friend was slightly mentally impaired. Nic nodded slowly.
"Yes, I named it Betsy," he agreed. "Is there some kind of problem? No? Good."
"Boy must care about ol' Betsy to not even let you have a problem with it," Zeek said, laughing. He sat and motioned for Nic and Jana to do the same. They sat and Zeek put out his cigar.
"So what brings you both here?" Zeek asked, staring at them each in turn.
"We need some work," Nic answered bluntly. Zeek chuckled.
"Today's your lucky day," he said. "I need a couple of gunners for a gun ship escorting a Behmoth
freighter. Now, I know you do good work, Nic. I don't doubt your talents with a turret, but... well, the girl don't look like a fighter. Maybe she can engage in a bit of brow-wiping for ya, eh?"
He chuckled, but Jana frowned.
"Say anything like that again, you'll find out why I was one of the top graduates of the TCTA," she warned. Zeek chuckled and shook his head.
"That may well be," he said, "but it means nothing out here. We could put you in a fighting match, see who's tough and who's talk."
"I'll vouch for her," Nic interrupted just as Jana was about to accept. "In a bar on Coruscant, I saw her snap a thug's arm, then take down three of his friends."
"Sounds impressive," Zeek nodded. "Well, that'll have to do 'till we can see her in action. The freighter moves out in two hours. I'll pay you a thousand credits each. Should be less than two days' flight."
"What's the cargo?" Nic wanted to know. Zeek frowned thoughtfully for a moment. Then, he nodded.
"Just some new fighters Incom Corp invented,: he explained. "Bought by an ex-senator, but she wants to avoid any Imperial entanglements. So we need to avoid any Imp patrols. Unfortunately that means the freighter needs to travel in a straight line between here and Bespin."
"That leads through Skran territory," Nic said, frowning. Zeek nodded.
"Hence the gunship."
"Back up," Jana cut in. "Skran?"
"Space pirates," Nic answered. "The kind that take no prisoners."
"Hit hanger five," Zeek told them. "The gunship is already there."
Standing, Zeek extended his hand to Nic, who stood and shook hit. Then, he did the same to Jana.
"Good luck," he told them.
The mammoth sized Behmoth
freighter dropped out of hyperspace two-thirds of the way through its journey. A Soro-sub Gunship dropped out seconds later and flew close to the freighter it was guarding. The Gunship had four dual turrets on the port and starboard side of the ship.
Nic and Jana where the only two gunners employed by Zeek; the other six had been with the gunship from its launch. The journey had been quiet most of the way through, but now they had entered an area of space where hyperspace was impossible due to a gravitational anomaly caused by a nebula. This part of space was dangerous; this was pirate space, space through which the Imperials rarely ventured.
Nic sat in the small common area in the middle of the ship, playing a game of Pazzack with another gunner. The Rodian was a fair player, but Nic was better. Jana stood behind him, watching in silent disapproval. She had never found herself able to understand the reason behind gambling. Nic, on the other hand was a pro; he had been gambling since he was a boy on Naboo when he found he could always discover a player's tell.
By this point in the current game, he had already managed to find the Rodian's. They were on the third hand of the fifth game and the Rodian was up, Nic was hustling him. He dealt the cards and placed two chips in the pot.
"Ante up, Sneenar," Nic said. The Rodian looked at the cards he just
received and smiled (or what seemed to be a smile... it's always hard to tell on a Rodian), placing four credits in the pot. Nic met the Sneenar's ante, then dealt two more cards to each of the players. Nic had a six and a four; Sneenar had a two and a five.
Jana circled the table, observing each person's cards. Sneenar didn't like this.
"Eyes to yourself, Girlie," he hissed, clutching his cards to his chest. Jana smirked and returned to stand behind Nic. Nic dealt another card each to Sneenar and himself, bringing Nic to a total of 14 and Sneenar
totaled 12. Nic placed three more chips in the pot and Sneenar met Nic's ante, then raised it another three. Nic met it again and another two cards were dealt. Sneenar had a nineteen and Nic only had eighteen.
"Not so good after all, are you Nic?" Sneenar laughed reaching to take the credits from the pot.
"Not so fast," Nic interrupted, slapping the Rodian's hand away from the pot. "I'm better than you think," he went on, placing a plus two on the table, bringing his total to 20, winning back all his money plus a lot more. As Nic began to pile the credits into his pocket the co-pilot came running into the room.
"We have some serious incoming!" the co-pilot shouted running past. Jana watched him run past, a frown coming to her face.
"Time to work," she said, heading for the turrets. Nic and the Rodian followed after and Nic banged on the doors of the other five gunners' rooms as he ran past toward the rear port turret. He arrived and slid into his seat as Jana powered on the rear-central port turret and slipped her comm headset over her ears.
Nic activated his targeting computer and looked at the turrets sensors for an incoming ship count; fifteen fighters, two light gunboats, and a single boarding craft.
"Do I hear a targeting computer over there, Nic?" Jana taunted.
"Got a good bit of heat coming at us," Nic protested. "Don't start your crazy superiority complex now..."
"No targeting computer," Jana grinned. "See now I'm as good as I said I am."
Looking out from her turret without activating any of the targeting equipment, Jana caught sight of the first approaching fighters.
"Vincent, your targeting computer's offline," the lead gunner. "What's going on?"
"With all due respect, sir," Jana answered, "targeting computers are for cheaters. I do it all by sight... it's one of the things that made me top of my class at..."
"TCTA," the lead gunner interrupted. "You're that
"The one and only," Jana grinned. "Rely on skill and skill alone."
"Y'know you could probably take more of these guys out with the targeting computer," the leader pointed out.
"Sure, but where's the fun in that?" Jana chuckled.
"Alright, Vincent," the leader said. "I'll give you the benefit of the doubt as I've seen your scores from TCTA. I'll want to have a chat with you later maybe."
"Let's be focused now," Jana said. She said something else, but her voice was drowned out by the pilot's announcement.
"They'll be in weapons range in ten seconds," he informed them over the communications headphones. Nic used his computer to lock on to the nearest fighter and lined the turret up to insure a critical hit. Closer and closer the fighter got until it was finally in range. With a grin, Nic prepared his finger on the trigger and was about to shoot... when another bolt of energy from their gunship hit Nic's targeted fighter.
"Gotta be faster than that, White," Jana taunted.
good,' Nic thought as he quickly switched his focus to the following fighters that had broken off after the first
Nic began to fire a volley of lasers from the turret, his technique was
quick and inaccurate but he still managed to destroy two of the scattering fighters within seconds of each other. Checking his sensors , he saw the boarding ship heading towards the Behmoth
and he also noticed one of the light gunship trying to flank their starboard side.
"Turrets two, four and six target the boarding craft!" Nic called. "One, three, and five take down that gunship. Me and Jana can handle the fighters."
"I agree with that, White," the leader said, "but try suggesting and letting me give the orders."
Jana was being extremely precise with her shots, each one hitting its target directly. She was taking it slow, making each shot count. Within minutes she had destroyed half a dozen of the pirate fighters. There was one pilot who had skill, one pilot who would not be hit.
"Nic, I'll need a little help with this one," she growled. "Can't get more than a glancing blow."
"On it." Nic targeted the evasive fighter and started using his random shooting technique in the hope he would get at least one hit. No hits were scored and Jana was getting annoyed. She'd made a couple of shots, but the ellusive fighter managed to keep out of reach, pummelling the turrets. One exploded and Jana winced.
"This guy won't go down!" she yelled. "And he's taking us out. Not much time before we'll be no protection for the freighter."
"I have a plan," Nic answered. "I'm going to lead him to grid H-7." He hoped Jana would understand. She did and switched on her targeting computer for the first time during the fight, locating and targeting the currently empty H-7.
Nic began to shoot to the fighte'rs port side, causing the pilot to swerve starboard. He scattered shots all around the fighter, concentrating most on where he wanted the fighter to go and least on the path that would lead away from grid H-7. The pilot took the bait, swerving through Nic's shots and straight into Jana's targeting reticle. A second before the fighter arrived at H-7, Jana pulled the trigger, launching a barrage of bright green bolts. It was too late for the enemy fighter to adjust and he vanished in a ball of flame.
"Yes!" Jana hissed. "Gotcha, you gravel maggot!"
"Yeah Short Stuff," Nic chuckled. "That's the first time I've ever heard you swear... but don't get cocky. It ain't over let."
The two new friends targeted new fighters and, with Jana having left her targeting computer on, she destroyed three fighters in rapid succession. Soon, all fighters were destroyed and the other turret gunners had destroyed both the boarding craft and light gunship. The remaining gunship and fighters turned tale
and ran. Nic and Jana continued to attack until all the targets were out of range.
Nic switched off his targeting computer and grinned, leaning back in his chair. Seconds later, Jana came up behind him.
"Now that was fun," she chuckled. "So, what's next?"
"Well, Short Stuff," Nic said, getting up and turning to face her, "with our skills, who knows where we'll be in a year?"