Part 15: In which messages multiply
“How's the new job going?” Even without the holo image Risha would have remembered the deep gravelly voice.
“Redsike. Been a while since you last helped Nok out.”
“Nice you remembered me, but that ain't an answer.”
“It's going well enough. The Captain allows me pretty free rein to keep this place running.” She shrugged. “Makes a change from Nok, he always wanted to manage everything himself.”
“And you get to order everyone around, right? I remember you just loved doing that.” He grinned, not very nicely.
She scowled. “I had the right. The Captain recognised that.”
“The Captain … yeah, that's actually why I'm calling. Got a job. Think she might be just the one to help. If what I've heard is right.”
“And how exactly would I know what you've heard? She doesn't like cold calling, Red.”
“Why d'you think I came to you first? You can tell her I'm for real. This ain't a scam, Risha. You know me, I don't mess around.”
“True enough, you certainly dealt with a couple of our problems.” She scowled again. “Nok never liked relying on others too much, it risks things getting known.”
“And I could make a few things known, if there's a need. Sure you get my meaning.”
“Blackmail? You've a fine nerve trying that on, Redsike. There's more than a few things I could share too, don't think Nok didn't do a full background search on you before he did any hiring.”
He chuckled, amused. “Share away, Risha. Just let me talk to the Captain, ok? That's all I want.”
“I'll think about it.”
“Think fast, I'll be docking at Nowhere inside an hour.” The line went dead.
Cademuir’s expression as she looked at Risha was a mixture of interest and resigned acceptance. “Another one of your secrets, Risha? How far round the galaxy is this one goin' to take me? You plottin' to get me out of here so you can take over for real?”
“Well, it hadn't crossed my mind, but now you mention it ….”
“With your sulks and princess-preenin' and favourites this place'd be in civil war inside a month. If you ain't got the sense to see that ...” Cademuir shrugged.
Risha's normally petulant expression intensified. “Whatever you think of me, Port Nowhere runs better under me than it ever did before.”
“That's because no-one was runnin' it properly before, it just happened. But whatever, tell me what this bounty hunter wants.”
“I don't know what he wants, other than he thinks you can help him with a job. If he's asking for help, it's a big one, probably lots of credits involved.”
Cademuir’s interest sharpened, as Risha had known it would at the mention of credits. “I suppose it can't do any harm to talk.”
“If there's a payoff, I want a share in it.”
“I'm makin' no promises. Let's see what he wants, first.”
The tall Human and small Ratattaki's expressions were surprisingly similar as they sized one another up from opposite ends of the meeting table. Redsike saw someone exactly matching the description that Deuchar had given him. Cademuir saw someone hard-bitten, tough, competent, and extremely dangerous.
“Bounty hunter, hmm? I'd never have guessed.” She grinned sarcastically.
“Well,” he drawled, “I'd never have thought about you bein' a top secret imperial cipher agent, neither.”
She had both her pistols trained on him before he could blink. “Explain, now!”
Half of him admired the speed of her draw, the other half was thinking, “Got her.”
“I said, explain!” Cademuir’s pistols hadn't wavered. Redsike didn't know for sure, but strongly suspected that her foot was hovering inches away from a call button on the floor, certainly something he expected she would have set up.
“Easy now”, he spoke peaceably as he raised his empty hands. “I'm not here to expose you, just got a message is all.”
She shook her head and smiled grimly. “I ain't who you think I am.”
“Oh? So why're you reacting to it? I come here, find someone looking just the way I got described to me, and who jumps out of her skin as soon as I say anything. If you didn't know anything about cipher agents, you'd have just looked at me blank like.”
Cademuir sighed. “All right, I ain't goin' to lie, I ain't Cipher Nine but I'm her sister. If you mean any harm to her, you'll not get to her through me, that's a promise. Fact, you won't even be leavin' this room 'cept feet first.”
That pretty much confirmed that there was a call button of some kind. She might be good with her guns, but she'd surely not think she could do a solo takedown of a bounty hunter who'd already survived a couple of decades.
“Sister, hmm?” He pondered on that. She knew the designation was Cipher Nine, so she genuinely knew who he was talking about, if it wasn't her. “Can you prove that? This could be a masterpiece of a cover story.” He waved his hand around, meaning Port Nowhere.
“I've got Corso, Risha, Bowdaar, Akaavi, Guss, they've been with me long enough, they know who I am.”
He fingered the triangular jewels set along the angle of his jaw. “All right, suppose I'm convinced … can you get a message to her?”
“Depends what it is. Like I said, you mean any harm to her, I won't be the one who gives her to you.”
“Maybe this'd be better comin' straight from the source. See, there's this free trader I know, name of Deuchar, Zabrak workin' the Core Worlds, you can check her out. Her brothers need to get hold of Cipher Nine because of a big feckup by some important Sith. That's it in a nutshell, needs a lot more explaining. How about I get them here and they can tell you themselves?”
“I ain't gettin' involved in Sith stuff, you think I'm crazy?”
“That's why you gotta hear 'em out. It makes sense, in a crazy Sith sort of way. Duke convinced me it's important, guess she could do the same for you.”
Cademuir nodded slowly. “All right, bring 'em in, we'll talk. But no promises. And any mention of me bein' Cipher Nine's sister and you'll have every other hunter in the galaxy after you.”