The Short Fic Weekly Challenge Thread!
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12.13.2012 , 09:58 PM |
Apologies. Busy week, I am behind on reading and responding. I will get caught up, I promise!
For your consideration:
: As Time Goes By
: Shen/Rixik (Bounty Hunter)
There are four stories here spanning a long period of time. The first takes place after
. The second occurs after
A Great Day on Alderaan
, during Rixik’s fun weekend vacation. The third, shortly after
, and the last one after
Taking out the Trash
. The chronology should be clear from context, but I provided cues just in case it was not. Many,
thanks to Kabeone, Saintly Keeper of the Index!
Also, Rixik's Mako has
Spoilers for Bounty Hunter Act One.
Of the four vignettes comprising this piece, the first one contains potentially disturbing violence.
The big man pinned Shen against the wall, one broad hand on his throat. Not choking, not yet. His pinioned lekku held his head up. Pressure flashed irrelevant memories. The smell of cold, the color of gritty flakes in the sky. Icy slush on bare toes.
“Little thief,” growled the Zabrak, his horns sharpened to wicked points, “tryin’ to lift my blaster, eh?”
A blaster was one of the best things he could pinch. Not as good as an ID, but better than credsticks. Shen’s only answer was a sharp kick at the Zabrak’s groin. Which connected, sending rocket flares of pain up split toenails all the way to his spine.
Horns grunted then clucked his tongue in disapproval, “Not too bright, kicking a Mandy-iron codpiece.” His free hand fished for something in a utility pocket. The Twi’lek grabbed at the man’s steel arm. He might as well have been clawing at a structural support pillar.
The Zabrak brought up a thin, shiny blade. Not even a vibroblade. A plain, sharpened piece of metal. Light flashed off its keen edge, and even the Twi’lek’s inexperienced eye saw it wasn’t a makeshift weapon or tool. It was finely crafted for one purpose—cutting flesh. “Won’t be much of a thief without eyes, will you?” he hissed.
Shen’s blood went cold, colder than the phantom snow on his feet. He was hyperventilating, couldn’t tear his eyes from the cold silver blade closing with his face. The last thing he would ever see. He felt it cut into his cheek and pain exploded all out of proportion to the damage inflicted. The agonizing line crept inexorably up toward his left eye.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” A firm, clear voice.
Horns’ grip lessened and he turned slightly, “Nothin’,” he said. The bright shiny blade disappeared in his hand.
“Drop the kid.” Shen could see part of a humanoid behind Horns’ broad back. Well behind. Customs authority uniform. His stance suggested he held a blaster.
“He’s a pickpocket, you oughta arrest him,” Horns accused, “caught him red-handed.” Shen writhed in his grasp. He couldn’t get out more than a gurgle, but the Zabrak’s grip was getting slippery.
“Pickpockets aplenty, but the only one I see red-handed is you, buddy,” Blue-Uniform insisted, “How about you both come down to the office nice and quiet-like. You want to press charges against the kid, you can.”
Horns glared at the Twi’lek. Deciding whether it was worth the risk to draw on Blue-Uniform. All Shen wanted was away from this crazy bastard. He jammed his heel into the Zabrak’s hip. It pushed him off-balance. Shen twisted and slithered out of his slicked fingers. He dropped to the floor. Horns cursed, Blue-Uniform shouted something, Shen sprinted toward a small open space between two shipping containers. Blaster fire pattered after his feet. He pelted through the dark narrow passage, turn after turn, random and without plan. The sounds of shouting and arguing faded into the background, hidden in the background noise of the port machinery and activity.
He finally stopped, deep in the labyrinth of containers, wheezing and out of breath. His legs felt like lead and pain blossomed in his face with every pounding heartbeat. He doubled over at the waist, hands on his knees. Drops of blood pattered to the ground, bright red on the bland grey duracrete. He pressed one hand to the wound. His vision went white, agony stabbed through his cheek and he yanked his hand away with a curse.
He covered one eye with his hand, then the other. Still working. He still had two eyes. Two. Shen slumped to the floor, shivering uncontrollably. Kelka could have made him a new one out of droid parts and a food wrapper, but Kelka was long gone. What was it now, three ships back? Four?
With shaking, bloodied hands he pressed a crumpled fragment of kolto mesh on the incision, but it didn't want to stick. He gave up and let it drop. What the hell difference did it make? Couldn’t hide forever like this, couldn’t sneak past the guardstations like this. Face all cut up, blood everywhere, port authority on the lookout. Might as well wear a sign ‘arrest me now.’
He couldn’t stop shaking, even now, all run out.
this ride. They could find someone else to lift swag off portside crazies and scout for unsecured containers. He was going to find one for himself. Sneak inside and wait to be loaded on a ship. Any ship. Didn't give a damn where it was heading. Anywhere but here.
Soon as his hands were steady enough to fool the lock. He dug out the butt of a spice cig and popped the element, inhaled one long drag then shut it down. Held his breath as long as possible then let the smoke drift slowly from his nostrils. Huddled against the side of the shipping container until the shakes slowed.
"A duel? Really?" exclaimed the dusky-skinned Human woman. She squirmed closer to him and traced the scar on his cheek, "Was honor satisfied?" she asked.
Rixik wrapped an arm around her bare shoulder. The resort’s brochure touted the lounge as ‘a place for intimate conversation’. Read: dim enough for discreet hook-ups. His companion’s expensive butter yellow gown was already lower than it should be for propriety, and no one but himself and the server could tell, "Someone was, anyway," he said.
She giggled at the innuendo, "Would you be my champion?" she asked, "if my husband issued a challenge?"
"Depends. What's the going rate for champions these days?" he asked. She whispered in his ear. Rixik brushed her nose with his finger, "how much for that
being champion?" he murmured. He loved this planet.
"If my husband finds out, you'll have to be."
"So don’t tell him."
She giggled again, "You are disarmingly simple and direct. I like that in a man."
He reached for his drink and she handed him hers instead, "I'm empty," she wheedled, "buy me another?" She dragged her perfect, butter yellow painted nails down his cheek like claws. Tickling.
"There’s more of that back in my room if you’re interested," he said, fiddling with the laces on the dress' neckline.
“Which?” she asked, “Wine or scars?”
What the hell was is with women and scars? He ought to bottle it and sell it as an aphrodisiac. “Both, if you know where to look.”
Andalar keyed the Identagraph on Rixik's distinctive facial scar. Twi’lek lekku markings were unique as fingerprints, provided they weren’t overlaid with tattoos. His tracking program, however, worked best with Humans and near-Humans. It was primed for facial features, not lekku. Ones that did all had ties back to slave trading cartels. The best, ServantTrackR, only changed its name. All the internal interfaces still labeled targets as slaves. Andalar refused to support slavers in any way, shape, or form. He used Identagraph.
While the program combed through recent public monitors on the planets he’d selected, Andalar glanced at the flimsiplast sheet he'd wedged above the main computer. Rixik's likeness stared back at him. He half wondered how a guy so careful about his appearance got a scar like that.
Identagraph chiruuped and spat out sightings amounting to the entire population of Nar Shaddaa. Andalar looked at the mountain of scan results with a sense of simmering disgust. Scars were common in Rixik’s circles. Even limiting it to near perfect matches left a daunting number of potential sightings.
He started limiting the results. Rixik was careful to hide his appearance when he was on the chrono, so to speak. There was almost nothing work-related. He got one hit from several years back of him terrorizing the staff at an Alderannian resort. On closer inspection, even that episode looked more like entertainment, at least from Rixik’s perspective. He didn’t stand out from the crowd unless he wanted to.
He’d won the Great Hunt about the same time. Andalar declined to participate. Again. It violated his number-one rule: the option to decline any job for any reason. The prestige wasn’t worth compromising his principles. His reputation was secure enough, and the kind of people he contracted with appreciated integrity.
After sifting through the results, he did get a sense of his quarry, despite the dearth of truly useful reports. One thing was obvious. He managed to cram a lot of vice into his off-time. Liked booze, but wasn’t a drunk. Liked spice, but wasn’t a spicehead. He preferred females to males, Humans to his own species, and the darker colored variations of humanity at that. Andalar shrugged absently. Plenty of Human males had a thing for Lethan Twi’leks. Shouldn’t be too surprised a Twi’lek might go the other way. The little slicer he ran with was just his type. So was Sha’ra’zaed’s Human disguise. Could be useful, but Sha’ra’zaed’s aid came with a price.
He had a hunch this job was going to be both challenging and messy. His hunches were never wrong. Word in hunter circles put Rixik as relentless and deadly as the Eidolon was in his day, but he didn't have the sense to quit while he was ahead. Initial research suggested a gigolo with a number of easy-to-exploit weak spots. So. He had a guy who made a point of looking harmless right up until he ripped your head off. Kirya’s request for carbon-freezing was an additional complication.
Oh well. If he’d wanted a simple job, he’d have joined the military.
Rixik checked the biomonitor implant's transmission. Skadge was still alive. He'd injected it into the Houk's massive flank on the theory that when he got his *ss shot off, it would be by Andalar. Any trouble he got into before that shouldn't be lethal. He told Skadge it was a black-market nanotech colony. Then shot him up with a long acting local anesthetic to hide the fact that the veterinary implant was intended for animals bigger than Skadge.
So, on to problem number two. Andalar. Actually, Andalar comprised problems one through about seven. Rixik took threats to his continued survival seriously. No doubt he had others pursuing him, but Andalar was the only one concerning him right now. Rixik would take care of Kirya, something he should have done a while ago, or whoever Andalar was working for. If he had any sense, he'd quit once his payday dried up.
Rixik had a nagging feeling shaking Andalar wasn't going to be that simple. He had a rep for being thorough. And "honorable.” Not “the practical.” Not “the intelligent.” Not “the reasonable.” Honorable implied taking crazy risks for no gain. Rixik had a hard time with that idea.
Moving on to lower priorities. Gault. Gault’s sense of self-preservation rivaled his own. Better, maybe. Gault begged him for a job rather than get killed; Rixik would never make or accept such an offer from Andalar. He had no intention of being anyone’s servant or slave ever again. Gault, on the other hand, would desert him faster than kreetles leaving a ship approaching a singularity if he thought he was going down.
Farther down the list, Mako was making marriage noises again; he’d have to deal with that soon. And without pissing her off overmuch. Mako was still useful. Much better slicer than he was, he knew when he was outclassed. Which meant she could cause him all kinds of trouble if the relationship collapsed at the wrong time. Like now, for example.
So, no trouble. Maintain a confident front for Gault’s benefit, keep Mako in the dark about his old marriage, take care of not-yet-ex-wife, track down Andalar’s employer if it’s not said wife, get rid of Andalar, find another contract since he was blowing through his contingency funds quickly with all the other problems.
What was the old saying about juggling activated vibroswords? Easy to start, tricky to stop?
It made him think of a certain non-vibroblade. Rixik stroked the old scar on his cheek. Funny. The crazy Zabrak must have carved out a nerve or something. As much as it hurt when it was new, how long it took to finally heal, he didn't feel a thing anymore. Not a damn thing.
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