Alternative title: In Which Vesaniae Messes Around with Narrative Techniques and Attempts to Write Action.
Six – Occupational Hazards
Kaas City Spaceport, Dromund Kaas
Anak’ar lay flat in the ventilation shaft, surveying the hangar below through the scope of his sniper rifle. The Sith ship had arrived right on schedule. Now it was up to him and his partner to see to it that its passenger did not depart the hangar alive.
Thinking of his companion, he turned the scope towards where Jiila stood below, pretending to sort through a pile of crates. She had gained access to the hangar by disguising herself as a slave; the shock collar on her neck was a fake, loaded with explosives and designed to be used as an impromptu bomb.
Anak’ar looked at the ship again. The boarding ramp was slowly descending. In a few moments, the Sith would emerge, and he and Jiila would kill him. The two Rattataki had done similar work in the past. They hadn’t been told who their target was, only where to go. Anak’ar didn’t much care. Credits were credits, and while taking on Sith targets was risky, the profit was considerable.
He trained the rifle on the boarding ramp. The anticipation was always the hardest part. He ran through a series of breathing exercises to calm his nerves and steady his trigger finger. With luck, he would be able to down the Sith with a single shot.
Any minute now…
At last, a dark-armored figure strode down the ramp and started across the hangar. Anak’ar zoomed in on the Sith’s face with the scope and was somewhat startled to see a Sith Pureblood woman. Age was always difficult to tell with Sith, but Anak’ar guessed her to be in her late twenties. She had coppery-red skin, red hair and golden eyes. The distinctive ridges on her forehead and cheeks gave her a predatory look.
She was moving, but slowly. Anak’ar focused the targeting reticule for a headshot.
His comlink twittered softly.
“Ready when you are,” Jiila’s voice whispered into his earpiece.
“Taking the shot,” Anak’ar replied quietly.
The Sith woman was right in the crosshairs. He eased his finger over the trigger.
“No, wait!” Jiila hissed suddenly—too late. He’d already fired.
Focused as he was on his target, Anak’ar hadn’t seen the Imperial officer exit the ship behind the Sith. The man had hurried to catch up to his commander, then slowed alongside her—directly in Anak’ar’s line of fire.
The shot aimed at the Sith’s head took the officer in the shoulder. He dropped to the ground, and the Sith shouted something. Anak’ar swore and readjusted his aim. So much for a quick and clean kill.
The Sith drew two lightsabers, red blades blazing to life. She deflected Anak’ar’s next two shots with ease, sending the blaster bolts ricocheting away with casual flicks of her wrists.
He zoomed out hastily as she stepped out of his sights. He continued to fire, not bothering to be precise; he only needed to distract her. From his vantage point in the vent, he could see Jiila creeping up behind the Sith, taking cover behind a large spool of hose, explosive shock collar in hand. Even a lightsaber couldn’t block a bomb.
The Sith made a gesture in his direction, and the grating covering the vent started to rip free of the bolts that held it to the wall.
“Now, Jiila!” he muttered tersely into his headset.
Jiila glanced up at his hiding place. He saw her manipulate the switches on the disguised bomb.
The grate in front of him tore free of the wall and crashed to the ground.
Jiila finished arming the detonator and made ready to throw it.
An invisible hand plucked Anak’ar from the vent and dropped him. The floor rushed up to meet him. He screamed.
The Rattataki hit the ground hard and did not move again. A’tro nodded in satisfaction and extinguished her lightsabers, replacing the hilts on her belt. She turned to Quinn, who was slowly getting to his feet.
Abruptly, her danger sense flickered. She whirled around to see a Rattataki woman emerging from behind a coil of hose, her face twisted in rage. She was holding something that A’tro couldn’t see clearly, but what she guessed to be an explosive of some sort.
Reflexes taking over, A’tro gestured, reaching out with the Force. The device tore free of the woman’s hands to fly across the hangar. Before it had gone very far, it exploded into a spectacular fireball.
The Rattataki let out a shriek and threw herself at A’tro, pulling a vibroknife from under her shirt as she went.
The Sith’s Force-enhanced senses were reeling from the sound and shockwave generated by the explosion. She reached numbly for a lightsaber, too slowly.
Quinn stepped in front of her, blaster in hand. His first shot took the assassin in the leg, making her stumble. With a snarl, she lunged forward, knife held high. Quinn grabbed her wrist with his free hand and used the leverage granted by her wounded leg to force her to her knees. She struggled wildly, trying to break his hold on her arm. Using her other hand, she pulled out another knife and stabbed him in the side. Quinn staggered, then collapsed as the assassin jerked free of his grip.
A’tro’s earlier disorientation vanished in a rush of adrenaline. She took several quick steps towards the assassin, igniting both lightsabers. The Rattataki raised her knives, and A’tro neatly sliced off both her hands with a single stroke of a blade.
“I don’t suppose you’d care to tell me who sent you?” she asked. Cold rage seethed deep inside her, fueling her power.
“I don’t know!” the assassin gasped. “Didn’t see a face!”
“Was it a Sith?” A’tro demanded. With clinical precision, she drew the tip of her left saber across the woman’s torso, leaving a blackened furrow.
The Rattataki woman cried out in pain. “Yes,” she said hoarsely. “A Sith.”
“I thought as much,” A’tro concluded grimly. She stabbed both lightsabers through the woman’s torso, then used the Force to send her flying into the wall. Her body impacted the permacrete with a dull crunch and slid limply to the floor.
A’tro paid no heed. Returning her lightsabers to her belt, she dropped to her knees beside Quinn. His uniform was dark with blood, his eyes had fallen half-closed, and he was breathing shallowly.
She cursed softly under her breath. The hangar was empty—no doubt the assassins’ mysterious Sith employer had made arrangements for the security forces to be elsewhere.
She looked down at Quinn. The dark side pulsed softly in her veins, keeping panic at bay. First priority: stop him from bleeding to death. She unclasped her cloak and wadded it up, then pressed the fabric against the wound in his side with shaking hands.
Quinn’s eyelids fluttered. “Sorry to…require such…attention,” he whispered.
“Hush. Don’t try to talk,” she said briskly. “And it’s your own damn fault. I could have handled that.” She carefully prodded his shoulder wound, wincing as he let out an involuntary gasp of pain. It didn’t seem too bad; the heat of the shot had cauterized the edges, and it was only bleeding a little.
“Security seems to be conspicuously absent,” she said. “So I’m going to take you to the Alecto
’s medbay until I can find a real medic.”
Quinn gave a tiny nod.
A’tro took a deep breath to steady herself. She had the Force, but she was not particularly good with delicate work, and this was going to be tricky. She reached out and slid her arms around him. With a combination of the Force and her own muscle power, she stood up and half-levitated, half-dragged him over to the ship.
It was the most physical contact that she’d had with him in over six months, and it unsettled her so much that she nearly dropped him more than once. She managed to deposit him in the medbay, then stepped back hastily.
A’tro regarded Quinn’s still form. Her efforts to slow his bleeding had been largely successful, but his face was ashen and his eyes had drifted closed sometime during the trip back to the Alecto
. Was he still conscious?
She found herself remembering the last time she had looked down on him, with him utterly at her mercy. She felt a strange coldness seeping through her, accompanied by small, whispering thoughts that hovered at the edge of her awareness.
Why not just let him die? He would have done the same to you, once. It’s only fair.
She hesitated for a long moment.
Then she shook her head. “Sith don’t do fair,” she muttered, and reached for kolto.
Once Quinn seemed stable, she had to pause for a moment and refocus. Her medical training had been extremely limited, and most of what she had just done was based purely on her observations of Quinn’s own work. She’d had to remove his jacket and shirt, and even covered in blood the resulting view was somewhat…distracting.
She smacked her palm against her forehead, leaving a bloody smear. You’re a Sith, for crying out loud. Do not let your thoughts go in that direction. Have a little self-control, damn it!
She sneaked another look—just to make sure Quinn was doing all right, of course. Fortunately, she had sedated him prior to the proceedings. It would have been far too awkward with him awake.
A’tro shook her head. You’re a fool.
In an attempt to give herself something else to think about, she moved over to the holoterminal and entered Jaesa’s comm frequency.
Jaesa answered almost immediately. “Yes, master?”
“I’m at the spaceport,” A’tro said tersely. “There’s been an incident of sorts.”
Jaesa’s eyes widened as she took a good look at the older woman. “Master, you’re covered in blood!”
A’tro hadn’t even noticed. “It’s not mine,” she assured Jaesa. “But it would be very helpful if you could come to the spaceport straightaway…and bring a medic.”