A Drunk with a Lightsaber
Nic’s eyes suddenly widened, his pupils dilated as light rushed into them, and he stared up into the ceiling lying on the cold metal floor of the vault. Groaning, he looked down his body and saw the stranger kneeling over him, her hands pressed firmly over the saber wound. The pain he felt before loosing consciousness was disappearing rapidly.
“There,” the woman said, removing her hands. The burn marks were gone. Standing slowly, Nic reached for his pistol and aimed it at the strange woman.
“Is this how you treat all the people who save your life?” she asked turning her masked face towards Nic.
“Well considering you’re the one who tried to kill me, I feel it’s prudent,” he answered.
“Tried?” the woman asked softly. She laughed. “No, I killed you.”
“Well, that just makes me want to shoot you even more,” Nic snapped.
“We both know you won’t do that,” the stranger said, standing slowly. “After all, I did revive you. I’m only interested in talking at any rate. Your life is safe enough.”
Nic considered this and then placed the blaster back in his holster. “Then talk,” he ordered.
“It’s a personal matter, really,” she began. “For years upon years I have looked after my family, but...”
“Years upon years?” Nic interrupted. “You sound pretty young to me.”
“That matters very little,” she snapped impatiently. “Jana Vincent. I am entrusting her safety to you.”
“Family, eh?” Nic said doubtfully. “Alright, so you want me to protect Jana. And if I don’t?”
“You will,” the woman answered, turning to walk away. “You will, for it’ll gain you what you seek more than anything.”
“What would that be?” Nic asked hesitantly.
“Retribution for your Sin, Nic White,” the woman answered before she walked into
the shadows at the back of the room without turning around. She seemed to disappear into the darkness at the back of the room. Nic was stunned by her last comment; the woman obviously knew a lot about him... but how?
“Carmen,” he said aloud. That’s the only way this stranger could know about Nic’s
Jana was getting anxious waiting outside the vault door; she heard no noise coming from inside the room that concerned her even more. She had tried several times to break the locking code and get in, but it was pointless. The codes had been disabled from the inside.
Slowly, the door began to lift. Unsure of what to expect, Jana drew her gun and
Aimed it through the doorway, waiting for a good view of whatever was behind the door. When she saw Nic was standing there with Betsy slung over his shoulder, her look went from concern to relief to annoyance, all in less than a second.
“So are you going to shoot me for locking you out,” Nic observed, tapping her gun away.
“I should,” Jana retorted, holstering her gun. “Who was that?”
Nic considered the question and looked back into the shadows where the strange woman had disappeared. Then, smiling and shrugging, he turned back to Jana.
“Nobody,” he answered, glancing back into the vault. “Nobody at all... just a drunk... with a Lightsaber or two.” He chuckled. “Lets get th...”
A flashing red light and a loud noisy siren suddenly interrupted Nic, something or someone had tripped the casino’s alarm system.
“This can’t be good,” Nic said looking around the room for another way out. Jana nodded her agreement and began to look along the shelves in this storeroom. When her eyes fell on a repulsorlift stretcher, an idea formed in her head. Turning to Nic, she hesitated. He saw her look.
“I’m not sure I like that look,” he said. Jana decided it would be best not to explain her idea.
“Nic,” she said, “I have a plan but, you may not like it.”
“Now I really don’t like that look,” he observed. “What’s your idea, now?”
“Well, I’m not sure I’ve got the time to explain,” Jana answered. “Best if I just get started, don’t you think?”
“I may regret this,” he muttered. “Just... just do what you have to.”
Nodding, Jana drew her pistol and fired a blast into Nic’s leg. A look of pure shock flooded Nic’s face and he slowly tilted his head down to look at his wound. For what seemed like several minutes, he stared at it.
“You shot me in the leg,” Nic said in a surprisingly calm voice.
“Well, I did say you wouldn’t like it,” Jana reminded him.
“I’m not crazy about it,” Nic agreed, grimacing. He stared at Jana for a second and then pointed accusingly. “You shot me in the leg.”
“Have a better idea of how to get out?” Jana snapped irritably.
“One that involves me walking would be nice,” Nic retorted. His voice rose into a high-pitched whine and his eyes started watering. “You shot me in the leg!”
“Oh, what, are you gonna cry now?” Jana retorted.
“You. Shot. Me. In. The. Leg!” Nic explained, emphasizing each and every word.
“I’m well aware of that, Nic,” Jana growled, annoyed with Nic’s repetition.
“YOUSHOTMEINTHELEG!” Nic screamed, his words running together into one word.
Jana put a hand over her eyes. “Oh, I wish I didn’t do it now.”
“You’re not the only one,” Nic hissed, grinding his teeth.
Jana shook her head and grabbed the stretcher and activated the repulsorlift and it hovered about one and a half meters from the ground. Nic limped over to the stretcher and laid down on it. Jana shrugged and began to push the stretcher out of the room and toward the casino’s back door. As Jana was still wearing her casino staff uniform, she managed to walk by the security guards and other casino employees without causing any suspicion.
Carmen’s was bustling as it always did, which made Carmen happy; the busy front put on by the cantina was always useful to hide her real business activities. She was sitting in her office going over the recent figures from her Hutt smuggling deals, a large smile streaked across her face. She had filled seven of her ships with Spice and made a large amount of credits.
As she sat looking at the datapad, a strange noise from outside the room startled her. It resembled the noise of something being thrown against the wall near the door into the office, a noise Carmen had heard before, a noise she never liked. This was suddenly followed by the noise of man groaning in pain and the sound of a blaster being fired on the stun setting. Carman stood up from her throne-like chair and stared at the door.
The door slowly opened and Carmen felt a wave of fear engulf her; her guards had always been able to protect her, but it seemed they’d been compromised. Her eyes were dry from fear and she squeezed them shut. As her eyes opened she saw a figure in the now fully opened door. As her eyes focused, she sighed in relief; she knew that stance.
“Nice to see you again, Nic,” she said, smiling. Nic stood there for a second before turning to Jana who had her blaster resting on a guard’s neck. Nodding Nic stepped into the room and closed the door behind him so he could speak with Carmen in private.
“Give me just one reason why I shouldn’t riddle you with holes where you stand,” Nic threatened, his pistol aimed at the crime lord. “You set me up.”
“If it’s any consolation, I didn’t want to do it, Nic,” Carmen told him. “But I’m afraid I had no choice.”
“No choice?” Nic laughed sharply. “Explain.”
“This woman came to me about a month ago,” Carmen answered. “She had enough information on me to bring down every business I have. She gave me an ultimatum; call you in and set up the job or she would hand the data over to the authorities.”
Nic lowered his pistol and holstered it as Carmen sat back down in her chair, inviting Nic to take a seat in front of the desk. He walked over and sat down.
“So who was she?” Nic asked, curious to know more about the stranger who killed him and then brought him back to life.
“I wish I knew,” Carmen answered. “She wore a mask all but once... but even the picture I scanned into several databases from that one time turned up nothing. You probably know more than I do. What happened when you met her?”
“Well it ended up with me bein’ shot in the leg,” Nic grumbled. I’ve spent the last couple hours with my leg in bacta.”
“Well I can see you’re fine now... you beat up my guards,” Carmen said, “but I did you wrong. I want to make it up it to you. I have an actual job if you’re interested?” She pulled a datapad out of a drawer and handed it to Nic. He looked at it and a grin came to his face.
“I’m listnin’,” he said.
“As you can see, a Hutt by the name of Bursa has recently purchased some experimental tech from the black market,” Carmen explained. “It is a cloaking device... and I want you to... liberate it for me.”
“Sounds dangerous...” Nic observed. “Should be a laugh. I’ll do it.”
A small sub-light shuttle traveled high in the sky of the large swampy world of Nal Hutta. Diving down, it came to a small metallic platform in the middle of a jungle and landed in the centre, lowering a loading ramp near the rear. Nic and Jana stepped out of the shuttle and onto the platform, both examining their surroundings and finding only mud and swamp water before a thick gas obstructed the view after a few meters.
“So this is Nal Hutta,” Jana announced dryly, grimacing.
“Yep,” Nic agreed, “this is the Hutt home world.”
“Doesn’t Nal Hutta mean ‘Glorious Jewel’?” Jana wondered. Nic nodded.
“Yeah,” he answered. “Do you think it’s some kind of ironic humor?”
“I’d say it’s likely, but Hutts aren’t known for their humor,” Jana said, sniffing the air and nearly gagging. “What is that smell?”
“The planet,” Nic replied calmly. “Smells like a Hutt, don’t it? C’mon.”
Nic and Jana moved forward as the shuttle took off behind them, leaving the platform behind and coming to a metal walkway. They were heading towards the palace of Bursa the Hutt. As they walked, Nic stepped carelessly and felt something soft squelch under his foot. He looked down and realized he’d stepped in some kind of green slime.
“For the love of…” Nic snapped irritably, lifting his foot out of the slime gingerly. Jana laughed and tugged at his arm and they continued walking on the walkways over the swamps that covered the planet’s surface. They walked roughly a klik through the swampy forest before they came across the large place made from a black rock. Nic took out the datapad Carmen had given him and studied it for a few seconds. Then, he looked back up at the palace and turned to Jana.
“There’s a side door that’s unguarded?” Nic wondered.
“Unguarded,” Jana said uncertainly. “Are you sure? Hutts aren’t exactly known for being trusting.”
Nic didn’t reply, choosing instead to walk slowly toward the side door indicated by the datapad. Jana stood uncertainly for a few seconds and then followed. As they got closer, they began to sneak around walking slowly and quietly and drew their guns.
“Now!” Nic yelled, opening the door. Both mercenaries rushed in, stopping suddenly a meter inside the room. The room was filled with various thug guards, including six Gammorreans and a couple of Weequay. The crowd of aliens turned and faced Nic and Jana, staring at them for a moment before drawing their weapons.
Nic stared at he crowd then looked back at the datapad.
“Oh,” he said, nodding. “This is the wrong door.”
“I don’t know, Nic,” Jana retorted angrily. “Looks like that Weequay might be fascinated with you...”
Nic was thrown onto a rocky floor, his hands tied behind his back, and his guns and jacket removed. He landed face first, which earned him a small gash on the forehead. Grumbling, he turned around and saw Jana struggling against a couple of Gammorreans who were trying to shove her through the metal doorway. As her arms were also tied, there was little she could do to keep from being pushed in. The door was slammed behind her and she kicked it in frustration. Nic managed to pick himself up and began observing his surroundings.
The room was reasonably large, about four times the height of Nic, and seemed to be circular. It was made completely or rock with the exception of the metal door Nic and Jana were thrown through and a large gate the opposite side. The only light was coming through a small hole in the ceiling.
Jana stood staring at Nic for a few seconds obviously pondering the events that led to her current situation.
“You have got to stop taking jobs from that woman,” she sighed.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Nic said, still examining the room. “You know, this is the weirdest cell I’ve ever been in... and I’ve been in several. I’ve never seen one with a high ceiling and a massive gate before.”
“Nic it’s not a cell,” Jana said, glancing around the room. “It’s a feeding pit.”
“A feeding pit?” Nic asked, slightly confused.
“The general purpose is to feed something,” Jana answered, giving Nic an odd stare.
“Well I’d prefer a mess hall, I think,” Nic said, still unaware of what this room was intended for.
“You don’t know much about Hutts, do you?” Jana groaned. “Nic, I hate to break this to you but we aren’t being given food... we are the food.”
“We’re food?” Nic exclaimed, startled at the thought of becoming a meal. “For What?”
A loud roar came from behind the gate. Nic stared. “What the hell was that?”
“I’d guess that’s what’ll be eating us,” Jana answered. “And from the sounds of it, we’re not much more than a snack... We need to get out of here.”
“Really?” Nic said sarcastically. “I’m thinking it would be so much fun to sit here and be a snack to whatever that thing is.” He rolled his eyes. “And how do you intend for us to be escaping? It seems to have escaped your notice that we’re tired up.”
“Nic, you know that knife you keep concealed incase we ever get captured and put in a situation where said knife might be handy?” Jana asked calmly.
“Yeah,” Nic agreed. “What about it?” Jana merely stared at him until he understood. “Ohhhh, I can cut our hands free.”
“Now he gets it,” Jana muttered. “Another minute more and we’d be lunch.”
Nic knelt and bent backward, grabbing his knife out of his left boot. Standing again, he cut the fabric that bound his hands. It took time, but he managed it. Then, he cut through the cloth binding Jana’s hands. She rubbed her wrists then looked around the room.
“I think I’ve found an escape,” she said, looking up.
“As long as it doesn’t involve you shooting me, I’m all for it,” Nic told her. Jana sighed and stared at him.
“Is there a chance that I’ll live this down?” she wondered.
“I sincerely doubt it,” Nic answered. “So what’s the plan? Explain it fully, please.”
“We need to climb up and get out through that hole,” Jana answered, pointing to the hole in the ceiling.
“What?” Nic exclaimed, staring up at the hole. “We’re never going to be able to climb up there! I almost think your ‘shoot Nic’ plan was better.”
“If I had a gun, maybe I’d do it again,” Jana snapped. “Shoot you, and get out myself while the beast is distracted with you!”
The large gate on the opposite side of the room began to rise, drawing their attention. Behind it, a large creature with leathery skin and long, sharp claws roared again and smashed its claws against the gate. Though neither of the two mercenaries had seen one, they correctly identified the beast as a Rancor. They’d heard stories and descriptions from other mercenaries.
“On second thought, you’ve got a pretty good idea here, I think,” Nic said. “So, uh... I’ll race you!”
Jana didn’t need any further reason to chase Nic to the wall and begin climbing the rough surface. On the other side of the room, the gate continued to rise. The Rancor clawed impatiently at it. The mercenaries were about halfway up the wall when the gate was high enough for the beast to get through. Roaring, it approached the wall.
Jana was a little higher than Nic on the wall when the Rancor started swiping at them. With a determined yell, she leapt upward, barely catching the wall just out of the Rancor’s reach. Attracted to her yell, the beast tried to reach her just as she pulled herself up through the hole. Roaring angrily, the Rancor turned its attention to Nic.
“Uh, Jana?” Nic yelled as the Rancor slapped the wall right next to him. He slipped a little. “A little help maybe?”
Jana tossed something down at the Rancor, momentarily distracting it. In a moment, it was back on Nic. Again, it reached for him and he took his knife, jabbing it at the beast’s oncoming hand. The knife broke the skin and then snapped and the Rancor drew back, roaring angrily.
“Take my hand!” Jana called, reaching out to Nic. He did so and she helped him through the hole. Just as he made it through, the Rancor returned to the wall, trying to reach for him again. When it realized he was out of its reach, it roared angrily and began repeatedly smashing itself against the wall.
“Hope it dies that way,” Jana muttered. Nic gasped for breath and nodded, looking around the room they’d escaped into. It appeared to be some kind of clothing room. Women’s dresses and other types of clothing were scattered around the room. One shelf caught Nic’s eye; a slave girl’s clothing rested here. With a cheesy grin, Nic turned to Jana and found that she was looking at the same shelf. She glanced at him and caught his grin.
“Oh, hell no,” she snapped.
“I just worked out how we’re going to get the cloaking device and escape without being food for a Rancor,” Nic said with a cheesy grin.
“No way in...” Jana began and lapsed into Correllian, swearing and in other ways rejecting Nic’s idea.
“Come on,” Nic interrupted. “We’ve gone with your ideas twice. The first got me shot in the leg. The second almost made me Rancor’s snack. It’s my turn.”
“Rancor’s snack was your fault,” Jana protested. Nic’s cheesy grin remained. Jana stared helplessly from Nic to the shelf and back.
“I’m so going to regret this,” she grumbled.