Here's chapter 4, it's got a bit of comedy and begins to reveal Nic's past. It also has an important peice of plot for the whole Merc Crew Verse.
Chapter 4: Secrets
One year later...
Nic White and Jana Vincent sat in the cantina near the Mos Eisley
Spaceport. They had been on the backwater world of Tatooine for two months after having found work with the local Hutt crime lord, Jabba. Normally, Nic and Jana would have stayed clear of the Hutts but he was paying them a lot of money to do something they enjoyed; making imperial troops look like fools. All they had to do was cause a distraction away from the town to keep the local garrison occupied long enougth for smuggling vessels to land, unload, and depart.
Though she had been on Tatooine for the last two months Jana had seen more of the galaxy over the past year than she had in the rest of her life. After they arrived on Bespin they got work on Nar Shaddaa. From there, they went to Wayland, Coulag, Manaan, Ryloth, Sullust, back to Nar Shaddaa, and finally to Tatooine.
Nic and Jana decided it was time to move on. They made a nice pile of credits from Jabba the Hutt and were planning on taking the
next passenger freighter back to Nar Shaddaa. While they waited for it, they sat at a table near the wall of the cantina, drinks in front of them. They made a conscious effort to find out of the way tables to sit when eating or drinking; as mercenaries they had made plenty of friends, but more beings considered them enemies.
Since Nic had met Jana he often found himself in barroom brawls for varying reasons, which was another reason they found tables where they were less likely to be disturbed. Jana wrinkled her nose at her drink while Nic read from the cantina's food menu.
"Why do they even bother having a menu every place sells the same three meals?" Nic complained still studying the menu.
"To make you ask questions," Jana retorted, grimacing as she took another drink. "I can't believe they call this stuff Corellian Ale... it tastes like bantha excrement."
"How would you know what..." Nic started. Then he shook his head. "No, no... I don't want to know."
Jana smirked, but it faded as a blur of red light flashed past their eyes. Nic paused for a few seconds, still looking down at his menu with a confused look on his face. Then, he slowly turned his head to the right, where the blur had gone. There, he noticed a sizzling hole in the wall.
"Is someone shooting at us?" Nic asked calmly as he turned to look at Jana in front of him. She was turned toward her right, looking at where the energy blur came from.
"It would seem so," she answered without changing her focus from a man standing in front on a Rodian and Twi'lek. They were all holding blaster pistols they'd aimed at the two mercenaries. As Jana watched, the Human slowly adjusted his aim, targeting Nic's head.
Without thinking Jana dived over the table and pushed Nic, as they fell the
man pulled the trigger causing a Blaster shot to fly over Jana's back. Nic fell out of his chair and slid back ward landing on his back with Jana on top of him. Quickly, Jana pushed herself up and looked around.
"Well, well," Nic chuckled, amused, "I don't think we've ever been in this position before..."
"What are you talking about?" Jana demanded, glancing down at him. "People shoot at us all time!"
"I meant you lying on top of me," Nic replied with a grin.
"Don't get used to it," Jana snapped, getting up. "This is hardly the time or the place for innuendo."
As if to emphasize her point, another blaster shot hit the ground a foot away from Nic's face.
"They're still shooting us," Nic said, obviously starting to take the
situation more seriously.
"You just noticed?" Jana retorted dryly. She kicked the table over, giving them a little cover against the oncoming fire. Without answering, Nic pulled 'Betsy' out of his bag. Jana took her pistol from her holster and turned to Nic.
"What have you done this time?" she yelled into his ear.
"Y'know, it's not always my fault!" Nic retorted. "You tick off just as many people as I do..." He snorted. "You and your 'I warned you'."
Jana laughed at his poor imitation of her voice. "Well I do
warn them... you don't. You just go around hustling every piece of scum in
"That may be," Nic agreed, "but I still think it's your fault!"
He peered around the edge of the table to get a look at their attackers and quickly turned back, embarrassed. Suddenly, the gun fire stopped.
"Nic White!" the Human yelled. "I want my money back!"
"Told you it was your fault," Jana grinned. Nic rolled his eyes.
"OK," he sighed. "Fine... perhaps it could quite possibly be a little bit my fault... this time."
Jana sighed. "Just shoot the Rodian, why dontcha?" They rose together and fired. Nic's weapon launched several small shots of energy that spread out like a shotgun blast. Most of them slammed into the Rodian, killing him instantly. Jana's shot hit the Twi'lek in the forehead and he tumbled backward into a lifeless heap.
With his backup dead and two weapons aimed at him, the Human dropped his weapon and put his hands up
"No need for shooting," he protested. Nic glanced at his gun and noticed a scratch where the finish had been scorched off. His eyes narrowed.
"Oh," he growled, moving closer, "you better apologise to Betsy for scratching her or this world becomes your grave site."
The man nodded quickly and turned to Jana, who had come to stand next to Nic.
"Ok, ok, I'm sorry," he said quickly, staring into Jana's eyes as if pleading for mercy. Jana rolled her eyes.
"I said Betsy!" Nic yelled, shaking the gun in the man's face. "Not Jana... Betsy!"
Startled, the man looked from the gun to Nic and then to Jana.
"Is he... serious?
" he asked hesitantly. Jana smiled and nodded.
"Indeed he is," she agreed. "You'd best do it... I'm sure he'll shoot you with good ol' Betsy if you don't."
"Sorry... Gun," the man grumbled. Nic was not satisfied and shook Betsy in the man's face again.
"By name," he demanded. The man glanced again at Jana and sighed. He mumbled his apology and Nic slapped him.
"So the whole place can hear," he snapped. Now very annoyed the man glanced around.
" he yelled. Then, to Nic, he said, "There. Are you happy? You've just taken away my last shreds of self-respect, White." He swore. "Leave me alone!"
Nic nodded and Jana stepped forward.
"There," she said pleasantly. She smashed her pistol into the thug's head and he slumped to the ground. "Now we're all happy."
Satisfied, Nic and Jana casually walked out of the cantina. The freighter to Nar Shaddaa had arrived.
The Journey to Nar Shaddaa was short and uninteresting. The Hutt freighter that Nic and Jana took was comfortable but by no means luxurious. They arrived in the Corellian district of the smugglers moon and quickly took to the streets heading, for a cantina.
Carmen's was a small cantina compared to most in the galaxy but still
attracted a large clientele due to its entertainment and atmosphere. Nic and Jana came here on word from an old contact that there would be some good work for them.
The door to Carmen's slid open smoothly, allowing the two freelance mercenaries to enter. Nic looked around the bar, noting that it was full and extremely busy. There was a band in one corner and three Twi'lek slave girls dancing on a podium in the center of the room. Most of the customers were staring at the female dancers.
Nic turned his head and saw a young blond woman standing in front of him. Seemingly without provocation, she smiled and slapped his cheek.
"Damn you Nic White!" she snapped.
"Gem," Nic greeted, rubbing his cheek. "How are you?"
"Great," she retorted, "but no thanks to you."
"Oh, c'mon," Nic protested. "We caused the distraction like you asked."
"On the wrong day," she pointed out.
"Yeah," Nic admitted, "but that was Jana's fault." He jerked a thumb in Jana's direction and she rolled her eyes.
"It was not!" she objected. With a snort, she went on. "He's been trying to blame me for everything recently." She shrugged and slapped Nic on the back of the head.
"What a jerk," Gem said nodding.
"Hey, hey, hey, hey!" Nic complained. "What's with all this blame? You never paid us. No harm, no foul."
"I was shot... five times!" Gem snapped.
"That all?" Nic teased. "I get shot all the time, don't I, Short Stuff?"
"He really does," Jana answered, chuckling. "People don't seem to like him that much."
"I'm one of them," Gem growled, her anger growing.
"Come now, Gem," a voice called from the crowd. "Nic and his friend haven't come all this way to be shouted at, I'm sure."
A woman in her thirties made her way through the crowd toward the three arguing patrons, a smile on her face. She wore an elegant gown, which would not be expected in this part of the galaxy. Her features were attractive and hair was set up in twirled buns on both sides of her head (which was the most recent style out of Alderaan).
"Sorry, Carmen," Gem grumbled, turning to the approaching woman. Then, she turned and left the cantina.
"I'm glad you could make it," Carmen told Nic, still smiling.
"Your comm made it sound urgent," Nic answered, looking a little annoyed. "You don't seem to be in mortal danger."
"I'm not, but I thought it best to make you think that," Carmen answered evenly. "You wouldn't have come otherwise, I don't think."
"You'd be right in thinking that," Nic grumbled. "Now, I'm gonna leave."
He turned for the door and motioned for Jana to do the same.
Now that you're here," Carmen called after them. Nic turned as Carmen continued. "It is important we speak."
"Fine," Nic said. He turned to follow Carmen. She looked at Jana, who had moved to follow them.
"Alone, Nic," Carmen said.
"Jana's been with me for a year, Carmen," Nic objected. "I don't do stuff without her."
"I assure you, you will be safe," Carmen insisted. "Alone, Nic."
"Yeah, I ain't worried about myself," Nic grumbled.
"Your friend will also be fine here," Carmen said. "Alone."
"Yeah, I ain't worried about her either," Nic answered uncertainly.
"Then what's the problem?" Carmen headed for a door near the back of the cantina. Nic looked down at Jana and nodded, signaling that he thought it would be fine.
Jana shrugged and walked to the bar. There, she ordered a drink from the service droid and stood quietly, slowly sipping her drink. It didn't take long for one drunken patron to walk up beside her and begin staring. She glared at him for a moment before doing her best to ignore him.
"What's a pretty little thing like you doing in a place like this?" the drunk slurred. Jana gave him an icy smile.
"Waiting for a friend," she answered coldly. He didn't budge and she snapped, "I like to wait alone."
"Lonely though, yeah?" the drunk asked. Before Jana could answer, he went on. "Why don't you come with me?"
Jana shook her head and stared up into his eyes.
"I think not," she answered. He frowned.
"I could make you," he said, only partially joking.
"I could hurt you," Jana warned, completely serious.
Nic stepped into Carmen's large office on the second floor of the cantina. With the expensive red cloth covering the windows, the bright paintings in gold frames, the statutes, and the large desk at the center of the room, the office looked as if it may have been stolen from the Senate Building on Coruscant. Behind the desk, Carmen's chair looked more like a throne, made from expensive and shiny golden metal with jewels and gem stones embedded into it.
Carmen walked over to a small cabinet at the side of the room and took a bottle and two short glasses from it. She poured a light blue liquid from the bottle in to the glasses and handed one to Nic. He accepted it and swirled the liquid in the glass, sniffing it before taking a sip.
"Kaminoan Whiskey," he observed. Carmen nodded, causing Nic to frown. "Now what did I do to deserve such a rare, expensive, and let's not forget very, very illegal beverage?" Quickly downing the rest of the drink, he added, "Or what am I going to do?"
"Straight to business as always," Carmen sighed. "Come now, Nic. Can't we talk about the good old days?" She gestured for him to have a seat.
"I don't remember them being so good," Nic remarked as he sat down.
"That's not what you were saying when you shared my bed," Carmen reminded him seductively. "So why don't you come back? Be my 'guard' again?"
"No," Nic barked, tempted to stand and leave again. "I've moved on from being a 'guard' for rich women that want nothing more than a body."
"Still running then, are you Nic?" Carmen observed. Nic shrugged.
"Everyone's running from something," he said.
"Yes, of course," Carmen agreed. "But, Nic? You're running from something you can't ever escape... yourself."
Carmen stood and came around the desk to sit on Nic's lap. He was slightly surprised, but said nothing as she leaned forward, staring into his eyes.
"We should be together, Nic," she whispered. "You know things about me no one else knows and I know things about you no one else knows." She moved her mouth close to Nic's ear and whispered, "I know what you did... I know who you really are."
Carmen moved her head back and smiled seductively at him, but with a look of disgust, he pushed her away.
"You said it was important for us to talk," he said, clearly annoyed with his host.
"Straight to business, as usual," Carmen sighed, picking herself up from the floor where Nic had shoved her. Readjusting her dress, she moved over to her desk and picked up a datapad.
"I thought this might interest you," she said, tossing the datapad to Nic. He stared at it. The datapad showed an image of an Imperial officer. The officer was a human male with dark blond hair. The title said 'Lieutenant Kriss Raikellii'. Nic looked at the pad with extreme disappointment.
"Thanks for letting me know," Nic said, handing the datapad back. Carmen nodded.
"Now to the job," she said. "There's a vault hidden in a casino. The vault belongs to the Imperial Moff in charge of Hutt space. It's where he keeps all the money from his backhanded deals. I've got the codes to get in and I know for a fact that there are only two guards defending it."
"So you want me to break in, steal everything and bring it to you," Nic said. Carmen shook her head.
"Two guards," she said. "That tells me it's a two-man job... so you and your friend downstairs are both hired." She stared at him. "If
you think you're up to it."
"We can handle this," Nic reassured her. She nodded.
"Good," she said. "Once the job is done, bring me back forty percent. Keep the rest."
"That's a joke," Nic retorted. " You get twenty."
"Twenty-five," Carmen bartered holding out another datapad. "Lowest I'll go."
"Now that's a deal," Nic agreed standing and taking the datapad. "These codes better be good."
"Trust me, they're good," Carmen answered. Nic shook his head.
"Stopped trusting you long time ago," he muttered. With that, he turned and walked out the room and down the stairs. Carmen watched him leave and smiled to herself. As Nic went out of sight and the door
closed behind him, a woman came up behind Carmen, seemingly from nowhere. Carmen turned slightly, taking in the appearance of this newcomer.
She was short, likely an inch shorter than Nic's friend, Carmen decided. Her hair and eyes were matching dark brown and her hair hung in a long braid that reached her waist. She was thin, but in their first confrontation, Carmen had learned not to underestimate small people.
"There," she said. "I've set it up. Care to tell me now he's so important?"
"What makes you think it's him
I'm interested in?" the other woman asked with a slight smile.
Nic continued down to the bottom of the stairs and opened the door to the main bar area of the cantina and was shocked by what he saw. Debris was lying around everywhere and any patrons remaining were either unconscious, dead, or groaning in pain. The dancing girls in the middle where also shocked, staring at their surroundings in fear.
Nic's focus quickly changed to the only standing person in the middle of the debris; Jana. Nic gave Jana an annoyed look and shook his head in disappointment. Jana turned shook her head.
"Don't go giving me looks, Nic White," she retorted. "They can never say I didn't warn them."
With a sigh, Nic flicked his eyes in the air and walked out of the bar. Jana trailed behind him, all the while grumbling about drunks in bars.
Nic and Jana were sitting at a Sabbacc table in the middle of the Golden Krayt Dragon Casino. Neither Jana nor Nic were paying much attention to the game as they weren't here to gamble... they were here to work. The data Carmen had given them directed them straight to the vault area near the back of the casino. 'Employees only' was written over the walkway to get in. Three of the casino's guards stood outside the doorway to this entrance.
"I thought there were only suppose to be two guards," Jana whispered, pretending to look at her card hand.
"There probably are around the vault," Nic answered, "but that's just the casino's employee area." He placed a small bet in the pot. "We need to get past them before we even get near the vault."
"And how are we suppose to do that?" Jana wanted to know. Nic glanced over at her.
First, put two credit chips in the pot," he said. Jana shot him a confused look.
"What?" she asked, her voice a little louder than before. Nic sighed.
"It's your ante," he replied, trying to remind her of what they were doing to cover up their real reason for being there. Jana nodded, picked up the chips, and threw them in the pot.
"I just saw one female waitress go into the bathroom," Nic whispered. "She's about your height and build."
"Hooray for short people," Jana chuckled and left the table, heading for the humanoid women's washroom. A few moments later, Jana stepped out of the washroom wearing the casino's waitress uniform. Nic stood up and walked over to her.
"She was an ameteur," Jana grumbled. "No fight."
Nic chuckled and led the way over to a door. Here, Jana stopped him.
"How do you intend to get in?" she asked, "and more importantly, how will we get our guns past the guards?"
"I have an idea on that," Nic answered, looking over at a garbage cart.
Jana walked up to the guards, pushing the garbage cart. She smiled at
one of the guards as he opened the door for her.
"Thank you," she said, passing through the doorway and into the corridor on the other side. As she walked, a casino employee carrying a small waste bin saw her and shifted his course to intersect.
"Garbage cart," he mumbled. "Good." With that, he tipped his bin, emptying it into the cart. Jana stifled a laugh as he moved on. She came to the end of the corridor and opened the door there which led into a storage cupboard.
"It's clear," she said. The cart wobbled a bit before Nic's head emerged from within, covered with the rubbish from the employee's bin. The bin must have become kitchen as there were bits of food and packaging hanging from his head. Jana laughed at the sight, but Nic was not amused.
"I couldn't exactly stop him," Jana giggled. "It was a trash cart, genious."
"You could've warned me," Nic grumbled. "Had my mouth open an' all." He shook his head. "Let's just get on with this."
Nic got himself out of the cart fully and tossed Jana's gun and holster to her. She caught it and tied it around her waist. Nic then looked around the room until he saw a switch panel on the back wall. Wiping the garbage from his head, he walked over to the panel and got the datapad from his pocket and studied it for a second. Looking back at the panel, he pushed switches in a sequence that was indicated on the pad.
For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then, the wall began to lift slowly. Two Stormtroopers were behind it and, as soon as they saw who was on the other side, they reached for their rifles. Nic and Jana were too fast. Neither trooper was even able to touch his rifle before energy blasted through their armor, killing them.
"Easy as pie," Nic said, grinning. "Let's get the creds."
Jana moved into the room and cracked open the nearest crate. Her eyes sparkled as she took in what was inside.
"There must be a hundred thousand credits in this one crate alone!" she exclaimed. Then, she frowned. "So how are we gonna get this out of..."
She was suddenly interrupted by a loud bang from the other end of the room. Nic and Jana turned to look and saw a masked being, thin and small in stature and wearing thick dark robes to obscure form.
"What do you think, Jana?" Nic asked. "Little boy or woman of your size?"
"I'll save you the trouble and just speak so you can hear," the stranger said in a distinctly female voice. Jana frowned.
"You sound familiar," she said quietly. The stranger shrugged.
"That matters not," she said. "You're trespassing."
"That we are," Nic agreed. "It's what we do."
"It's what you
do," the stranger corrected. "Leave now."
"No," Nic challenged, aiming Betsy at the stranger. "What's your next move?"
Two lightsabers appeared in the stranger's hands and were ignited, purple and green. "Your move, Mercenary."
"Jana," Nic said quietly. "I suggest we run."
They turned and did exactly that, hurrying for the entrance. But the stranger was faster. Despite her thick, flowing robes, she was still catching up to them. Nic fell slightly behind as they came to the door and, just after Jana ran through Nic hit the emergency seal. The door slammed shut, sealing Nic and the stranger off from Jana.
"Nic!" Jana screamed. "No!"
But it was too late...
"That was brave of you," the stranger observed. "Brave, but foolish. Jana may have given you the help you could use to defeat me."
"I don't need help," Nic said bravely. The stranger laughed.
"Yes, Nic White," she said. "Yes, you do."
Taking a step back, he fired Betsy at the stranger and for the first time ever, Betsy failed Nic. The stranger deflected all of the blasts of energy with her lightsabers.
"You don't stand a chance," she said coolly. Then, before Nic could react, she was right in front of him. Despite her lack of height, the stranger managed to shove Nic back against the wall and her purple saber was thrust forward, catching him in the gut. Grunting, Nic leaned heavily against the wall.
"Well," he gasped, dropping Betsy and clutching at his stomach. "That's... quite... unpleasant..."
He collapsed and his senses began to fade. Just before his senses went completely black, he heard the stranger make a final comment.
"You truly have no idea," she murmured. Then, Nic White's world faded to nothing.