11 years ago
The blaster tore a hole in the wall he was hiding behind. This was no good. Not only were there two of them, they also were able shooters. Den Ramuz threw his damaged blaster one way and with his remaining blaster tucked in his belt, he dove for cover the other way. The barrage behind him told him that it had worked, but if he didn’t get away fast, he would surely die in the lowliest low of the slums on Nar Shaddaa. He slid down a low embankment, landing in the open sewer of a nearby factory. If he survived, he would not care, but the sludge sliding into his clothes made it hard for him. He failed to climb up, and swearing, continued wading south towards where the sewer led into a large pipe. The overhang seemed to offer means of getting out of the smelly river.
A bolt of blaster fire sent the sludge splashing around him. Damned! They were relentless. He didn’t blame them, he had after all offed the person they had sworn to protect. He returned fire, and barely managed to hoist himself up and out as a new barrage of blaster fire hit the overhang. He kept his head down, trying to figure out some way to counter their advantage. A sound nearby startled him. He was just about to fire in that direction when he saw what was making the noise. A young girl of about 8 was hiding close to where he hid. He could see she was frightened, but she had, despite that, tried to get to an object that lay on the ground a couple of meters in front of her. He could see it was a bag of some sort. He suddenly knew what he could do to even the odds. Smiling to the young girl, he fired close to the bag, making it jump closer to her. She smiled back, uncertainly, and made a run for it.
Just as she cleared the small wall she was hiding behind, his adversaries fired at her. This was his chance. Quickly, he knelt, aimed and fired, killing one of the bodyguards with a nicely placed shot. The other bodyguard swore loudly, shifting his aim quickly. A lucky shot tore Den Ramuz’s blaster out of his hand. It landed close to the young girl who had miraculously managed to avoid getting hit. She was clutching the bag in her arms, her head down on the ground. As if not seeing anything might make it all go away. Den Ramuz swore. He was dead. If he made a run for the blaster, he would surely be shot. If he stayed, the remaining bodyguard would circle him until he could shoot him. Den tried to pry loose a rebar sticking out of the low wall in front of him, but it was too well set. He heard a snicker. The bodyguard was already there, slowly making his way towards the blaster lying in the gravel. He had Den covered with a vicious looking blaster, and his face was its match.
“Den Ramuz, I might have known it was you that was behind this. Too bad you were the lousier shot of us.” He kicked the blaster away, and it landed close to the young girl.
She looked up just as it bounced on the ground in front of her, and made a startled gasp. The bodyguard quickly turned towards her and fired. The shots tore a hole in the bag and her trouser, and just as the blaster hit the ground again, she grabbed, turned and fired it in one motion. The shot hit the bodyguard dead center. Already dead, he toppled backwards and fell into the sludge.
* * *
“Are you the parent of this girl?” Den Ramuz smiled at the young woman in front of him. She was young, but a hard life had made its mark on her face. She nodded reluctantly as her eyes focused on the girl standing next to him. His left hand held the young girl by her shoulder, and he could see fear in her mother’s eyes. The door hung on its frame by sheer luck, and the surrounding wall seemed like it was running out of it. The house was barely a shed, but still, someone had planted flowers in front of the house.
“If she has gotten herself into trouble, we are not to…” her mother began, but was quickly interrupted by Den.
“I would like to hire her from you, what do you say to a thousand credits a year until she is 18?” Den Ramuz produced a credit chip between his fingers, as if by magic.
To the young mothers credit, she opened her mouth to protest, but Den Ramuz was determined not to budge. He doubled the amount with the flick of a hand, and tearfully, the mother accepted.
* * *
Ten years ago
The young girl had talents, there was no doubt about it, but as far as Cray was concerned, she was not the best he had seen. True, her reflexes bordered on inhuman, and yes, she had both good eyes and eye to hand coordination, she was agile and very enduring, but she was normal in all other aspects of physical exercise. Her strength was below what he had hoped for, and she was even worse at fighting hand to hand. His fellow teacher, Mrs. Riubal, reported good language skills, but average intelligence. The only thing she remarked on favourably, was her cunning. The girl had street smarts and seemed able to adapt quickly. Why the boss had picked just her was anyone's guess, but Cray had a hunch that she was being groomed for bodyguard duty, or possibly as a covert assassin. Not the first he had educated, but certainly not the best.
* * *
Six years ago
Den Ramuz was pleased. His competitor, the Rodian named Rilon Raasj was angry; livid even. He had come to the bargaining table, believing Den Ramuz was about to surrender, but instead, had been asked to give up his territory. It was unheard of, as he was the boss of a larger gang, but Den Ramuz seemed oblivious to this. To add to insult, he had only brought with him one companion, and even worse, it was a young girl dressed in a demure white frock, obviously his concubine or slave. Her white hair and coy demeanour was easy to judge.
Rilon on the other hand, had brought with him his best hitman as a bodyguard, a large Trandoshan named Hsz. Den Ramuz was still smiling, but when Rilon was finished with him, he would never smile again. Rilon smiled himself then and starting chuckling. He was about to signal his companion to end the charade when the young girl levelled her previously unarmed hands and shot Hsz between his eyes. His smile froze, and suddenly his world turned upside down.
* * *
A year ago
Den Ramuz was a proud man. He gave the keys to the slightly old ship to Leahndra and watched her eyes glitter with happiness. She was like a daughter to him, and seeing her happy was almost as good as seeing his empire expand. He had given her a set of contacts he trusted, and with time, he hoped she would pay off as a trustworthy captain of contraband. He needed people to trust, and though she was not the only one, she was his first choice. After all, all she knew was his version of the universe. It payed to think of the long run, and grooming his crew had been his best move among many. He already had new bodyguards lined up, chief among them a young human named Ritter, and he felt it safe to give Leahndra her reward. He also felt safe in the knowledge that it would pay off further ahead. Loyalty was strong in her.
A month ago
The shaggy old rust bucket clonked onto the landing platform, hissing and creaking. The dusty Starport was temporarily enveloped in a small sandstorm as the ageing starship settled awkwardly on five of six landing gears. Talbot shielded his eyes on reflex, forgetting he had on a helmet that both shielded his eyes and covered his face.
That someone would travel in that iron coffin was beyond him, but then again, people would do a lot just to survive. His mark was on the ship, and his employer had paid him a lot to make sure that the target would regret surviving the trip. Even though he had received limited information on the contract, in fact, all he had was the name; Captain Leah, it would probably be apparent who the target was, once he saw who was in the ancient vessel.
There were only a few people aboard, a man in an imposing armour, probably more worth than the ship, an old protocol robot and two women. The man was, perhaps obviously, the captain of the ship, and Talbot was pretty certain he was the mark. He was a tall, dark skinned man, heavy built and with a fierce scowl on what little of his face he could see through the open visor. A large white moustache covered almost all of his mouth. The women were almost the exact opposites of each other. One was a tall, statuesque dark haired woman with plenty of curves in the right places and stern but finely chiselled features. Seemingly cold and hot at the same time. The second, a smaller woman, slender without the same curves, tanned but with almost white hair and an open, pretty enough face, looked warmer, but was definitely not in the same league as her taller companion.
Talbot was impressed, the tall woman looked like a supermodel, but there was no mistaking the serious armament she carried in a professional manner. He knew the target had two bodyguards, but he had underestimated their professionalism when he had seen the ship. No matter. He grinned, flipping on the communication jammer he had hidden nearby. No guards for the first five minutes. It always helped to tip the odds in ones favour. He hoisted the rifle onto the barrel in front of him, took aim and squeezed the trigger, gently but firm.
The shot tore a hole in the tall woman's armour, searing the edges, passing through her without a tremour. She slumped to the ground like a doll, as if someone had clipped her threads. Taking aim again quickly, he fired another shot at the other bodyguard, but the small woman had disappeared behind some barrels. He pushed a button on his armour, making a previously set explosive go off right in front of the hidden woman. He chuckled as the barrels exploded in shards of twisted metal. No one could survive that. A barrage of blaster fire hit the barrel he was hiding behind, and he knew that the target had opened up on him. The shots was dangerously close, and he wondered briefly how a captain of an old freighter had gotten to be a crack shot. Weren't they just old pilots?
It wouldn't matter though, Talbot always got his mark. Grinning again, he flipped another switch on his bracer. A flash of light preceded the heavy thump of another explosive charge going off right at the place the man was hiding. The mark flew a few yards onto his back, his armour smoking from several holes perforating it. Hopefully, the face wouldn't be ruined, so that he could get his reward.
Talbot ran over to the smoking remains of his target, keeping his rifle aimed at him at all times. It looked like the helmet was whole, and, cradling his high performance sniper rifle, he hunched down and flipped the visor open. Using his scanner, he quickly ran it over the face. It would come up with the name in minutes, and with the help of his VidCam image recorder, he would record it, with the face, as proof. He knew he had little time, but not exactly how much. The name of the face was...wrong.
The blaster shot turned Talbot's helmet into a crackling can of fireworks as it sliced clean through it. His body lay on the ground, twitching, seemingly unaware that the top had blown and flown. The white haired woman came out from under the chassis of a nearby freight hauler, her face and clothes covered in soot and scratches.
* * *
“Miss, are you all right?” The silvery protocol robot came sliding over to her, what passed as a worried look on its visage.
Leahndra of Katma spat at the corpse by her feet, brushing her hair, wet with blood and sweat, out of her blackened face with the sleeve of her left arm.
“I'm fine” She croaked, throat thick with smoke and dust.
Turning towards her former companions in turn, she lowered her head briefly, shaking it sadly. Leahndra holstered her blaster as soon as she saw Starport Security arrive, but she kept her eyes open. She hadn't gotten along with her two bodyguards on the brief journey they had been on, but she had appreciated their skills and expertise.
It was not hard to see that their assailant was a pro. Not many else would have managed this much carnage alone. It was also clear that he had had lots of resources. The communications was still jammed, and she had seen what the preset charges had done. What baffled her, was why he had tried to take a photo of Pilo, her newly hired bodyguard. It dawned on her, slowly, that she had not been betrayed by someone close to her, or they would have known what she looked like, or even that she was a she, but obviously by someone that knew something about her mission and possibly her last name.
Suddenly her legs buckled and she fell to her hands and knees, as nausea washed over her. Leahndra's muscles trembled as the adrenaline left her body. She swore, more a mutter than a shout, mouth sour tasting and raw. Leahndra stood up, shakily, warily, and walked towards the head of Security just arriving at the scene.
“Captain...?” the head of Security was a sneering male Chiss, his blue skin almost purple, and Leahndra didn't like the look of him one bit.
“Miss Andra, bodyguard to Captain Leah over there” she coughed, cursing the dust for making a poor impression.
“I am Super Intendant Ih'pied” he bowed ever so slightly, a sly grin on his face. “Bodyguard?” he peered at her, snickering “Looks like you aren't anymore”.
Fighting the urge to blast him down, Leahndra instead opted to bend slightly, grasping her lower thighs with her hands as she counted to ten. At least it hid her face.
“So, this woman over here, she is this...Captain Leah?” Ih'pied sauntered quietly over to the dead woman Leahndra knew as Rachel Tobu, and kicked at her heel.
She nodded, still grasping her thighs, desperate to hide her blazing anger.
“Well, we had better haul you into HQ and find out if you had anything to do with this” Ih'Pied casually placed his right hand on his blaster. Too casual.
Leahndra eyed him, noticing how his colleagues had encircled her while she spoke to him. Clever. Very clever.
“Sure, or...I can tell my employer that you went outside your jurisdiction to stop me from reporting in. I'm sure Madam Hutt will understand...or, maybe not” Leahndra smiled at him sweetly, but with sufficient sting to skewer a Rancor.
“I...yes, well...uh” Ih'pied seemed to lose some of his colour and confident posing. “Madam Hutt doesn't need to know this part, does she?”.
“It depends on the speed on how you help me along my way” Leahndra grinned at him, with all the warmth of a dead corpse on Hoth.
* * *
It had been a bluff, and it could have gone wrong if the officer had been working for Hutt. Luckily, he didn’t, and Leahndra was able to talk her way out of custody at the security office, using the same bluff for all it was worth. It didn’t change the fact that she was in dire straits. Her ship was falling apart, as she had to forego repairs for the last few months. It had not been from lack of trying to get the funds for repairs, but following the death of her former boss at the hands of the rival gang called Raasj (called the Rash by everyone else), she had lost almost all her contacts. Having a network of contacts was especially important when you smuggled contraband, as you at least knew who you could barely trust, as opposed to knowing nothing at all. Her contacts had pulled out of every deal made, fearing the crime syndicate that had made the extremely hostile takeover. Leahndra was aware that she had a mark on herself too, but felt reasonably sure that she could outrun them if she could get a new source of income. It was even possible that they only considered her a loose end; that they would be happy if she paid them the ransom they had put on her head, but she wasn’t betting her life on it.
Using her only remaining contact, she managed to lure out some information about a likely place to make new contacts. A club called the Ufora in the Red Light District, was the nexus of shady deals, and it was her next destination.