One of Thousands
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Kirkwall/The Free Marches
Current Game: Dragon Age II
[KOTOR Fic] Nasha Doroga ili Shosse ("Our Way or the Highway")
(Author's Note: Part 8 in the "Vremya" series. May it more than satisfy!)
A sheet of cold, soapy water hit me in the face. "Basta", clutching my wash-pail, stared down at me, her face suffused with concern. "Tysyacha?"
I moaned slightly, trying to look around me in the heat and haze of Tatooine, and discovered that I'd collapsed on the steps I'd been trying to scrub. I felt flushed and sticky all over. My mind swam. I didn't try to stand; it was all I could do to prop myself up on my elbows and shake my wet head like a kath hound caught out in the rain. Of course, there was no rain here, but the simile would suffice. "What happened?" I asked Basta. "Did I fall asleep?"
"It was heatstroke," she replied matter-of-factly. "You've been out here too long. Come on. Let me get you inside for a minute, and we can both have a light snack and short break. I've been tending the gardens all this time, but as soon as I saw your eyes roll into the back of your head, I knew something was wrong." She helped me to stand, and I felt as if my whole body were jelly. "Careful..." Step by step, Tysy Dvyx. Put one foot in front of the other--that's it. We ascended the fifteen steps that (I was relieved to find) looked far cleaner than before, entering the Czerka headquarters.
"What is this?" asked Geeda Dern, the Rodian female who manned the small supply shop inside. "You two not on break! I don't want to seem cruel, but Manager Dillan will throw you out on steps if not back at work soon. Go."
"Please, Geeda," said Basta humbly. "Tysyacha here collapsed on the same steps she's cleaned for two hours, trying to do as good a job as she can. I don't know about you, but I appreciate such a hard worker, who cares more about Czerka's image than her own health at times." She smiled, and despite her patronizing tone, all I could do in my daze was nod my head. "We only want some light refreshments and two tumblers of water. Surely..."
"All right, all right. Here. Go in back room, and I'll have a droid tend you." Even though it was hard to tell with Rodians, I was almost sure Geeda grinned. "Shoo, shoo. Manager Dillan not coming, as far as I can tell."
"Manager Dillan", to my complete surprise, had been a former officer at the government station of Khoonda on Dantooine. Apparently, Dillan hadn't remembered who I was, even after I'd helped her and Administrator Terena Adare fend off a bunch of mercenaries who'd been trying to take over the planet. So much the better for me--if Dillan didn't know I was "the Exile", she could hardly alert her less-pristine foremen to my presence and identity. I knew Czerka Corp. was entwined with the Exchange through and through, as did Rodion and Basta. However, when it came to earning credits, we all took whatever work we could get. If that meant Czerka, it'd be Czerka, as far fewer companies were taking on "fresh meat" with absolutely no references.
The serving droid that waited upon us reminded me of T3-M4, back on the still-damaged Ebon Hawk, and I smiled tenderly at it. It tweedled back.
"So tell me," said Basta, "why did you try to shrug off heatstroke signs?"
"I was sure I was stronger than that," I replied, "or at least trying to act like it. The thing is, I had this strange dream, if you could call it a dream, while I was unconscious." I told Basta about Krov'yu Rakhtin--the ghost--and what he'd said to me. The older woman, after listening intently, shook her head.
"There is no such person," she said, "at least not in the Jedi Archives. Also, this ghost of yours seems to be quite powerful. Any disciple of Yuthura Ban's at the now-defunct Sith Academy would have caught someone's attention, even after twenty-eight years of self-exile. Thirdly, there is no record of someone living halfway between the material world and that of the Force, as you've described Rakhtin. Strange, this is, but undoubtedly a hallucination brought on by your heatstroke. Drink." She scooted a tumbler toward me.
I did so, gulping quickly, letting the rush of cold water pour down my throat. Disappointed as I was that Basta didn't believe what I'd "seen" was real, I was also half-relieved that I could ignore this unsettling vision of mine.
The door nearby slid open, and "Manager Dillan", hands on hips, glared at us.
"I didn't say you were on break. You think you can just wander off, ignore your jobs, and wolf down our snacks any time you feel like it? You're wrong."
"I'm sorry," I said, mumbling and putting down my savory wafer. "It's just that I had heatstroke, and Basta helped me get indoors. We figured we needed water and a little food. Any time now, I'll be feeling better. I already am."
"Say, Tys," replied Dillan coolly, "the steps look great, but you forgot one little thing. Polishing. After this little unscheduled respite, I'd appreciate it if you coated them twice. They haven't been scrubbed and shined in a while."
"Tysyacha. Get out the wax. Also, I've been talking to some of my foremen down at the mines, when they've been on a legal break. There's a rumor going around that someone who looked like you killed someone--or should I say, someones?--who worked back on Eriadu. These corpses were former acquaintances of my foremen, and I'm sad to say I'm beginning to believe the rumor. You're a very hard worker, Ms. Dvyx, but you yourself could use a little cleansing. Not just in body, mind you. I'm thinking 50 credits off your wages would do for now, to soothe my bosses' grief over their friends."
My mouth fell open. "I--!" Without thinking, I reached into the pocket of my damp work uniform. "Here's fifty credits. I'm sorry, Manager Dillan. It won't--"
"Happen again?" A slow and knowing smile spread across her face. "I hope not." She turned to leave, and then pointed at Basta. "Basta. How dare you ignore so many weeds in our gardens. I suggest you be competent next time. Remember, here at Czerka Corp, it's our way or the highway. Dillan out!"
Once the door slid closed, Basta leaned forward and hissed, "Why did you do that? I'm almost one-hundred percent sure you knew what Dillan was doing, Tysy!" Then a puzzled frown crossed her face. "Wait. She could be lying, and simply trying to cheat you out of the fair wages you've more than earned."
"You would be one-hundred percent correct," I said sadly. "Also, the rumor is true, and I didn't want to kill my own boss, so what else could I have done? Used a Jedi mind trick? I don't play those games, Basta, and I have to admit I prefer exchanging credits for lives. If blackmail prevents hostile attacks upon us or other people, so be it."
"How many Exchange thugs did you kill?"
"Two. They were thugs, yes, but in my mind, they were still sentients as well. I feel guilty about what I've done, and there's no need for me to go racking up a higher personal body count than I have right now." Seeing my shame, I thought Basta would let this drop, but she did not. She stared.
"Ya--ubila--dvyx chelovek." I killed two. Wasn't confession enough?
"We have to get out of here. I don't care if we're poor as dirt for the rest of the journey. This won't do. As soon as you're done polishing the steps and collecting your garnered wages, we're finding Rodion and leaving. Does he know?" I nodded, and Basta almost sunk to the floor in frustration. "Knowing Mandalorians, he was probably part of it. The instigator, if you don't mind my saying. You both should have known better than to cross the Exchange, but perhaps you were only unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." Basta took my arm, and I let her. We went out again to the heat and work.
Last edited by Tysyacha; 05-24-2008 at 08:00 PM.