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The Girl with the Jawa Tattoo


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Darth_Slaine
12.31.2011 , 01:30 AM | #1

The Girl with the Jawa Tattoo

Chapter I



Darth Bantheer sat motionless for a very long time. As I knelt before him, I watched the light shift as it dripped across his armor – rising and falling with each silent exhalation. I was very young then, only a boy of fifteen, and I had developed no defense against such pervading silence. My mind was bursting with unvoiced speculations. I bowed my head again, no longer able to wait.
“You sent for me, my lord.”

The old man opened his eyes and focused on me as if from a great distance.
“They tell me,” he began, as if taking up the thread of an existing conversation, “that you are a sensitive child. You have a gift of feeling.” He emphasized the last word and let it hang over the void.

Being a young fool, I smarted at both the reference to my sensitivity and to my childishness. “Sensitive” was a trait shared by too many corpses at the Sith Academy on Korriban.
“I do my best, my lord.”

He closed his eyes again and ran his tongue over his blackened and parched lips.
“Yes, we will see. I need a sensitive boy.”

I felt my face flush and my heart began to beat like a drum in my chest. I was not the same innocent that they had dragged crying to this forsaken planet. I had learned and it had cost me. I would be a Sith or I would die, but I would not submit. Not again. I would not allow it to happen again. The rage poured from me all the hotter because I was lying to myself. I would rather die…
But I always seemed to live.

“Child, you mistake my intentions. The passions of the body are dead to me.” He spread his arms wide as if to reveal the desiccated form beneath his silken robes. In the darkness, it did seem as if there was only space where his chest should be – a trick of the light. Black on black.

“I have summoned you for a special task. A task requiring your talent.” With a gesture of his hand, the red glow of the walls grew stronger. I could see large shapes, objects, arranged along the perimeter of the room.
“Go to them.”

I stood clumsily, caught between a need to show deference and a powerful urge to examine these shadow-puzzles. Floating slabs, they looked as though they were carved of some reflectionless stone. I extended my hand towards one and stifled a breath… Reaching out from the rock were five black frozen fingers.
“Carbonite,” whispered Darth Bantheer. “I have preserved them in carbonite.”

The impulse to stroke the frozen body, to caress the slightly opened lips or run my fingers along the fine cheekbones, was almost overpowering. I kept my hands by my side and scanned the room. There were eight of them.
“Originally I kept them for study, but now I feel as if they keep me company. I can feel them with me. Tell me, my sensitive child, can you feel them?

Just beyond his words I could hear the whispering of eight voices. I felt their watchful gazes upon me. I stood as if naked before them – nothing was held back, but I was not ashamed. For a moment it was like I was in a perfect communion with these dead souls. And they were extremely dead.
I swayed on my heels.
“Who are they?” I asked.
“Victims.”

Eight women. Eight souls frozen in space. Victims.
“There are only two kinds of people in the galaxy: victors and victims,” I said.
“Smart boy. What a good student of the Sith.” His words were warm but a turn of his lip belied his tone. “You have learned much of our dark catechism. But here we have eight victims and I wish for you to lead me to the ‘victor.’”
“My lord?”

I leaned forward. Her eyes were closed but no sleep ever looked so deep. Her fingers, her naked breasts, her knees and face, all rose above the surface of the block. Sinking or rising?

“These women were all murdered. Violently butchered.” He pointed to one. “Some have been dismembered, hacked apart. Others eviscerated. All by the same hand. I want to know who and why.”

I turned to face the old man. He read my unspoken question with barely a glance.
“You wonder why I should care? Why would a Sith lord care about another man’s leavings? Suffice it to say that I do care… and now, so shall you.”

“Yes, my lord.”
“Can you use a blaster pistol?”
“I am sure that I can, my lord.”
“You will travel to the planet Hutta, to a city there: Deshuar. You will travel under a false identity. It has been prepared for you. Leave your training sword here. You will take a vibroblade. You will leave tonight.”

I nervously folded my hands behind my back.
“As you please, my lord… but…”
“Yes?”
“What am I to do there?”
Darth Bantheer’s eyes gleamed, reflecting the red light.
“You will find the man who killed these women and you will bring him to me, alive or dead.”

I bowed my head quickly.
“It will be done as you have commanded, my lord. Might I know the target’s name?”
“In time, I hope so. Aside from the fact that he has committed these acts we know nothing about him.”

I staggered, I admit. I was not so adept yet at hiding my feelings.
“But, my lord, how then do we know it is even the same man? Eight dead women on Hutta…” I waved my hand as if wiping away some imaginary dust.

His voice came deep and hollow to me, “It is one man. I know it. All the murders took place in a fairly small area. All the victims were left posed – exposed, naked where they were sure to be seen. Each had a lock of hair cut off, and was mutilated in some way… with a lightsaber. It is one man. I can taste it.” He sneered as he ran his purplish tongue over his cracked teeth.
“A lightsaber, my lord? Might this man be a fellow Sith or even a Jedi? I understand their code forbids passion and has led to a high frequency of perversion among their number.”
“No. He is not either Sith or Jedi. The cut is ineptly performed. Even a Jedi would not be so… sloppy.”

Darth Bantheer rose and, in a practiced reciprocal motion, I knelt.
“All the information you will need is on this disc. Study it. My agent will meet you when you arrive on Hutta. You will not fail me.”
“No, my lord.”
He turned to leave but slowed as he neared the door.
Without directing his face towards me, he spoke. “Stay here with them. Speak to them. Listen.”
I nodded.

When he was gone, I stared at the eight blocks of carbonite. The buzzing in my head grew louder.
I peeled off one glove and closed my eyes. The black stone felt cold against my warm skin.
They spoke.

I listened.



Gestahlt's Avatar


Gestahlt
12.31.2011 , 08:30 AM | #2
I'm on vacation and my laptop sucks so I've gotten to come to the site and read. As always, you put together solid and succinct writing. It also helps that I have Girl that Played With Fire next to me, but still.

I know who did it. He's a fool.

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Darth_Slaine
12.31.2011 , 12:30 PM | #3
Quote: Originally Posted by Gestahlt View Post
I'm on vacation and my laptop sucks so I've gotten to come to the site and read. As always, you put together solid and succinct writing. It also helps that I have Girl that Played With Fire next to me, but still.
I believe you mean The Sith Who Played with Fire. It is my sequel.

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Darth_Slaine
01.01.2012 , 12:38 AM | #4


Chapter II



Inconvenient women. I powered-down the reader and closed my eyes. Eight women with really nothing to single them out from the ordinary, but now my own future, and quite probably my life, rested on my ability to find the man who had murdered them.

You will often find the inconvenient woman in storytelling. Generally in a story the hero is male and the women in his life will come in three varieties: mother, reward, temptress. The mother appears at the beginning as a necessary evil. The woman-as-reward is a princess to be rescued or a bride bestowed upon the hero as compensation for a trial. Temptresses are often evil and serve as a test of the hero’s character… though they are rarely the ultimate villain. True villains must be seen as equals to the hero, and are therefore men. Conflict is between fathers and sons, not sons and mothers.

Women are introduced into the plot to fill a role, and once the need for a woman is met, she becomes inconvenient. The mother of the hero, though she has previously shown a steely disposition and amazing strength of will (to reflect honorably on our man’s lineage), will die in childbirth. Rewards are forgotten as the hero sets out to his next conquest… though she will always keep a light in the window and whisper his name before she falls asleep. The temptress either succumbs to morality or mortality – in her business it comes down to much the same thing.

My own mother was an inconvenient woman. My father told me, when I was old enough to notice her absence, that she had died when I was a baby. Clearly she did not wish to impede my progress to heroism with her continued presence.

At fifteen, I did not have the mind of the killer, but I felt certain that on one thing the murderer and I agreed: these women were not important. They were merely stepping stones to something greater. For me, it was a rise in the esteem of Darth Bantheer, for him… that was his secret.

He had chosen his victims so that they would not be missed. Initially I had assumed, based on Hutta’s reputation, that the victims would be involved in some sort of illicit work. Why else, wondered this teenage boy, would a woman come to Hutta if not to work in the flesh trade?
But reading the short bios included with the medical details I found myself growing impressed. The victims were all engaged in making an “honest” living. A cleaner, a taxi stand operator, an exterminator… boring jobs. Jobs which, on Hutta, had no value. When your social system is based on vice, it is the virtuous who live on the fringes. Pimps, panderers and pushers all had the ears of the Hutts. Cleaning women could be replaced with droids if needed. Entertainers were valuable.

Of course there was no legal action taken on behalf of the victims. Hutta has no real police force. Crimes within the society are dealt with, as everything else, within a system of exchange. You offend me, I seek compensation. If you will not give me adequate compensation, I take my problem to a more powerful advocate. Sooner or later we reach a settlement. Anything can be solved at some point with an exchange of credits… as long as it has the backing of force somewhere in the shadows.

No one was seeking compensation for these women. No one really cared when they died. They were simply unremarkable specimens in a sea of interchangeable parts.

Interchangeable parts. I suppose we all represent a stock of interchangeable parts on some level. The victims certainly did. The killer removed a lock of hair in each instance – sliced cleanly away with a lightsaber. The lightsaber was also used to perform the coup de grâce… in this case a single thrust of the blade through the heart region. Marks on the wrist and ankles indicated that the victims were bound for a period leading up to death, and were probably restrained at the moment the blade tore through their bodies. It was suspected that the handle of the lightsaber was placed directly above where the killer thought the heart lay and then the blade was ignited. Such a method of execution required even less skill than driving the blade through the body and the lightsaber could be extinguished while in situ, thereby reducing damage to the surrounding area… initially, anyway.

It seemed clear from the postmortem wounds inflicted on the more recent victims that the manner of death was proving to be less and less satisfying, or perhaps his rage was growing. At any rate, he had developed a tendency to hack at the body, which, according to my files, might have been an attempt to reach “gratification.” Call me a bad Sith, but even today I fail to see what would be terribly gratifying about hacking up corpses.

The most recent victim was missing a section of shoulder. I wondered at that and, half-asleep, imagined that the shoulder might be a pleasant place to bite or kiss one’s victims. There was clearly a sexual element.

The victims had all been human. The specialists thought this meant the killer was human. Statistics indicated that this kind of murder is usually committed against members of a species or class that is felt most familiar.

All the bodies had been dumped in public places. “Exposed,” as Darth Bantheer had said. Posed lewdly but in ways that could be arranged quickly. The period of discard would have been a short window during which the killer was vulnerable. No doubt this excited him.

The timing of the killings seemed to follow no real pattern, or at least none that was readily apparent to the experts. Between the first known killing and the second was almost six standard months. Recently things had begun to accelerate, both timetable and savagery. There was only one month separating victims seven and eight.

Eight women. All dead. All meaningless. Clearly something sexual. I was dozing. I saw myself reaching out to the fingers that breached the surface of the carbonite. Cold. Hard. Our fingers intertwined.
I had never been intimate with a girl. My passion had not been unleashed… outside of pitiful private humiliations. My lips traced the line of her neck, resting in the frozen indentation between throat and shoulder. Beneath the black stone I could feel the thrum of blood in her jugular vein. But she was dead.

My eyes opened halfway. We would be landing shortly, announced the droid. I ran my tongue over the unyielding flesh of her breast. Was it wrong to feel such emotion over these interchangeable parts? Did it matter if they were attached to a corpse or a living woman, alive or dead… warm or frozen in stone?
I didn’t care about her personhood. I didn’t need a soul or personality. I wanted the shape of a woman. Just like the businessman beside me, surreptitiously watching a holo-dancer grind provocatively against the edge of his flip-reader. We just want the image. Just the parts. And he can’t find one that satisfies him, so he kills them.

When I stepped off the shuttle, a girl in reinforced flightpants caught my eye. With an amazing economy of movement she lurched herself from her resting place against the terminal wall. Her right upper arm was sleeved in a tattoo depicting a Jawa. Both the girl and the Jawa shared the same yellow eyes.
“Wulfyr?” she asked, though the question mark seemed more perfunctory than necessary.
“Yes,” I answered, and then, feeling disappointed in my disguise, I asked, “How did you know?”

“I just waited for the guy in the black hoodie.”



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Darth_Slaine
01.06.2012 , 01:34 AM | #5


Chapter III




I sat astride her chest with my knees further pinning her bound arms. Her screams were quite hoarse now and would not be audible over the wall-shaking electronic music. I reached down to stroke her cheek but she bit at me, and then, failing to catch my fingers, she spat. Sliding my hand up her skull, I grabbed a fistful of her hair and slammed her head against the floor. With my other hand, I grasped the hilt – cold and hard—at odds with the warmth and sweat that spread over her naked skin. I pressed the tube down over her breast, watched the flesh resist and display its natural elasticity.
Then I pushed the small button on the device and the blade went through her, through the floor and into the damp earth. She no longer screamed.

With a low groan I swung my legs out of the bed and grabbed my head. As the heavy bass of the dream music faded I was left with a blinding migraine. My body was clammy with sweat. For a moment I couldn’t be sure it was mine… and then I thought I might be sick.

“Awake? ‘Bout time. Get dressed – something’s happened.” The girl from last night, Hlemmur, stood in the doorway. Leaning again, perhaps to conserve energy for the spit-fire delivery of her words.
I snatched the blanket to my lap. Either the dream or a simple biological systems check had left me in an embarrassing situation.
Seeing my distress, she smiled and left.

A few minutes later, now fully dressed, I wandered stonefaced into what had once been the kitchen of the abandoned apartment we were using as a base. Though all the appliances had been torn out or destroyed long ago, we still waited in the room as if expecting food to appear from the non-existent oven.
“The dark lord rises… again.” Hlemmur’s voice was rough – husky. I suppose that is the word you use when discussing women’s voices and clothing for overweight boys. She had a tendency to growl when she spoke.
I did not give her the pleasure of seeing me blush.

She was holding a small mug with both hands. This morning she wore the same flightpants but she had switched her shirt for a heavier hooded tunic – apparently the garment’s previous owner had gotten into an argument with a Wookiee as the arms had been torn off. The faded words “Mandalorians Make the Best Moms” were written across her chest. Not that I was staring.
She wasn’t wearing a bra.

The lingering feeling of warm flesh against my skin carried from the dream. I hated being an adolescent male more at that moment than ever before in my life.

I focused my attention towards the Thermos on the table. Befitting my position as a Sith acolyte, I did not ask for permission to drink from it but proudly filled my own mug --yellow with a picture of a droid that appeared when the mug was warmed – and tossed back its contents.

I closed my eyes and focused on not retching. The thick black liquid formed a goo in my mouth.
Hlemmur nodded.
“Blaster oil is an acquired taste. I prefer to drink Thuma-juice.” Without moving her body she indicated by gaze alone a second container filled with a delightfully non-poisonous orange fluid.
I said nothing. Pretending to take a second sip, I surreptitiously dribbled the vile contents of my mouth back into the mug.

Hlemmur lifted a large blaster from the table.
“Probably as polished as you need to be anyway. Killing should be a dirty business.”
To divert attention from my foolishness and to steal her attention back from her blaster which she was now giving looks that would have been more fitting if bestowed on a lifemate, I pointed to the Jawa who slid over the slight flex of her bicep and asked “Where did you get your tattoo?”
“On my arm.”

Slapping my mug down, I rose to my full height, and though I was gawky from my most recent growth spurt, I was still half a head taller than she.
“Enough small talk,” I hissed. “You said something has happened.”
“Yeah, there was another murder. You slept through it.”

“When did it happen?”
“From what I can tell, a few hours ago. I picked it up on the ‘Net. Body’s gone already.”
“Where to?”
She shrugged, “Unclaimed body on Hutta? Probably part of the meat auction.”
I had never heard of a “meat auction” before and I hoped I never would again.
“We will need to examine the body.”
Holstering her blaster, she returned to her favorite position leaning against the counter.
“We’ve got a few hours. Wanna go down and see where it happened?”
“Of course.”
“Good. I’m driving.”

Hlemmur might have been a very good driver, but I was too busy trying to conceal my terror at the way she handled our speeder to form a reliable opinion. My knuckles were white as I clutched my flip-reader and pretended to scan the downloaded feeds.
After the third near-miss with a pedestrian, I gave up.

“How do you know Darth Bantheer?” I asked.
“He pays me.”
“To do what exactly?”
For an instant she took her eyes from the road to stare at me but said nothing.

When she had gone back to focusing on polishing her offensive driving skills I took the opportunity to study her. Her hair looked dirty – as if it had been stained and then purged but the naturally light color had not fully relinquished the dye. It gave her a grey and washed-out look. The style of her hair indicated the work of a self-trained hand, probably sitting in front of a mirror. All that could be said for it was that it would fit beneath a helmet.
Definitely not my type, I decided. There could be no romance between a Sith and a woman who wore torn sweat-tops. Anyway, she was at least ten years older than me – almost an eternity!
All of these thoughts heightened my embarrassment when I realized that I wanted to impress her. Do something that would shake that seemingly unflappable exterior. Show that I was a man – not just a boy.

The rational part of my mind felt this was all a product of my sheltered and disturbed upbringing. I had very little previous experience with women and I was at an age when they seemed of primary interest to me.
I had been in her company only twelve standard hours. This was a passing schoolboy crush. A temporary infatuation… if that. She was much too old. And sloppy.

She was quite beneath me. Darth Bantheer “pays” her? She was probably of the type that would do anything for money.
“Anything?”

Her words brought me up short. Could she read my mind?
“Anything in the feeds?” she clarified.

A few moments later we arrived at our destination. Hlemmur drove the speeder up over the open sewer and onto the pedestrian walk where she parked it.
“Over there.” She pointed towards a burned out building across from the taxi launch.

Keeping my hand on the hilt of my vibroblade, I pressed through the waves of foot traffic. Passers-by on their way to work… whatever that meant.
The ground was wet. It had been sprayed down. Who would do that on Hutta?

“Not much to see,” I sighed, surveying the scene. From what I had read the body had been dumped on the stoop in front of this vacant building. I moved to step inside the wreck of the place but caution mixed with a distrust of Huttese architecture prevented me. Probably apartments at one time. Gutted by a fire.

Hlemmur ran her finger over the wet ground and smelled it.
“Cleaning agents. Seems a bit much.”
She craned her head around as if looking for an explanation.
“Risky for him with all these people around,” I said.
“Not so many a few hours ago. Even Hutta sleeps sometime. Busy now though… lots of people to see the body.”
“Shaming?”
She said nothing and wiped her hands on her pants.

“You interested in the murder?” came a shout from across the street.
We both turned to see a small, shuffling fellow waving to us from what looked like a news stand. Above the little shack was a sign that read Calf Ear and had a glowing image of a fish.

We walked to him. I thought about the fish. I knew it was related to some religious sect that had made inroads in Huttspace. I couldn’t remember what it was called.
“I could tell you were interested in the murder. You were looking right at the place where she was spread.” He pressed his hand to his brow blocking an imaginary glare.

“You saw her then?” asked Hlemmur.
His face twitched or maybe it was a smile.
“Oh, yes. I came to open up and she was right there. Naked. Ahhh, but wicked is as wicked does.”

I was distracted by his stock of readers, data pads and throwaways. They were aligned on shelves much as you would see in any transit hub – including the more suggestive titles which were kept high up and of which only the top third was visible (something I did not expect to find on a planet renowned for its sleaziness), yet there were more black spots than usual. More titles were covered – seemingly at random. Some were standard galactic rumour rags but others were specialty media – on fitness or off-world tourism. It took me a few seconds to realize that what all the censored images had in common was women.
Collections with droids, ships or men stood proudly facing the customer. No women though, expect behind a dark screen. I wondered if this had something to do with the fish. I honestly could remember nothing about this sect – the universe is filled with so many.

Hlemmur spoke softly.
“’Wickedness’? Did you know the girl?”
Again came his nervous tick and grin.
“No. I didn’t know her, but what good girl would end up naked and abused in a place like this?”

I began to find the man sickening. As far as I could see, Hlemmur had not reacted at all.
She continued with her questions.
“Did you see anyone hanging around? Anyone unusual that might have seen something?”
“No. I got here and there she was. Then the man from Red Star came and took his pictures. Then they came for the body.”
Red Star?” I asked.

The man—Calf Ear, I suspected—ducked under his counter and drew out a datasheet that he made great show of averting his eyes from. On its cover a series of images of a murdered woman’s body taken at various angles and distances cycled eternally.
It was a city-wide gossip gloss. It had the scores for the latest turf-war (no doubt massaged in favor of the local boss), tips on the best places to waste your money and a section devoted, apparently, to lurid crimes. Huttese entertainment.

I bought a copy. Calf Ear smiled.
“Did you notice,” I asked, “who washed the steps?”
A nervous look passed over the vendor’s face.
“Not sure. Probably just anyone.”

Hlemmur’s eyes narrowed and I saw her hand drop to her blaster. I gestured for her patience.
“Are you quite sure? It could mean a lot to us… and we would reward you.”
He was set now. The shock had worn off.
“I saw nothing. Don’t remember.”

I stared into his eyes for a few seconds but gave up. There was something there but I felt threatening would be useless – he was clearly more afraid of whoever he had seen than he was of us.”
“I see,” I said and turned to leave.
“We’ll be back,” growled Hlemmur.

We had only gone a few feet when we heard him call.
“Girl! Hey, girl!”
Hlemmur turned, hand on her gun.
“Yeah?”
“Yasut loves you. God loves you.” He pointed to the fish.
Hlemmur smiled.
“Really? How big is his @#$%?”

His screams of fornicator, whore and temptress followed us back to the speeder.
“Wanna drop by the Red Star office?”
I nodded and thought again of the wet pavement where the body had lain. I severely doubted that cleanliness was next to godliness in this place.



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Darth_Slaine
01.15.2012 , 01:20 PM | #6
Chapter IV


The “offices” of Red Star were in an upscale part of town, meaning we only needed to step over three transients to get in. The reception droid greeted us and asked the nature of our business.
“Dismantling nosy droids. Your boss set up an appointment with me.”
The droid reviewed its holoscreens.
“I apologize. I see nothing in Mr. Huskar’s diary for—“
She cut the mechanical voice off in mid-sentence by loosening her blaster in its holster.
“Yeah. There might be a reason he didn’t tell you,” she added with a wink.

The droid's eyes began to burn bright with excess energy.
“Oh! Oh my! I see. Let me show you in to Mr. Huskar. I am sure this is a misunderstanding!”

When the seal to the private office opened, we pushed bodily past the droid, leaving it vacillating between apologies for its ineptitude and prayers to “the Maker.”

Huskar was as fat as I expected but younger. Somehow I had imagined him as one of those balding types with a Cigano-root puffing away in the corner of his mouth. He looked less like a news hawk and more like the type to poke through unsupervised undergarments at the GalactoMatic Laundroporium. Probably the two impulses are closely related.

“Who are you?” Even his voice was high… tinged with a bloated youthfulness.
“You the guy that runs this rag?” asked Hlemmur as she tossed the latest Red Star datasheet on his desk.
I took up my position not quite behind him but not fully in his line of vision. Taking a file from my companion’s drive, I leaned against the wall. It was time to settle in for some Good Sith/Bad Sith. but the universe knows there are no good Siths.

Huskar tried to play it cool. He straightened the flashing Red Star and smiled.
“Yes. This is my work. Today’s issue is selling very well.”
“Think it has anything to do with the cover?”

A frame focusing on a naked torso flitted over the reader. The torso of a corpse. The torso of a…
“Pretty girl.” Huskar smiled. “I wish they could all be like that. Most of the time it is some Evocii with his head split by a couple of kids for a laugh.”
“You wish all your corpses could be pretty girls, or all pretty girls were corpses?”

Huskar lurched forward in his chair.
“Hey, what is this—“
I slid my vibroblade a few inches out of its sheath. A soft unmistakable almost sub-sonic hum filled the silence.

Hlemmur braced her hands on the desk and leaned towards Huskar.
“Careful now. My friend doesn’t like quick movements. They make him nervous. Wouldn’t want him to do something we would all regret… though you might make your own front page.”
“What is it you people want?”

I watched as Hlemmur carefully slid into a guest chair. She draped her leg over the arm… this was both a show of rudeness and it kept her blaster in easy reach. I admired her style.

“To tell you the truth, Husky, we are interested in these killings. We represent the family of one of the girls.”
“That’s not possible. They had no families.... is what I heard anyway. No one cared about them. Throwaways.”
“You heard wrong, ‘cause here we are, my fat friend.” She waved her hands as if our presence encompassed the entire room. For Huskar, with a vibroblade behind him and blaster before him, maybe we did.

“If you want I can give you copies of the back issues. Red Star has been covering this since day one.” In spite of the danger that surrounded him his chest began to puff with pride. “I can tell you, unlike the trash our competitors push, Red Star is real news. Sure, we focus mostly on local stuff and you have to tart it up a bit to get people interested, but come on. That’s the business.”
“’Tart it up’, huh?”
“Sex sells.”
“Sex and death,” corrected Hlemmur.
They both stared at the cascading images of flesh and blood on the datasheet. Sex and death in a full-color spread.

“Who took the pictures?”
The spell of beauty destroyed was broken. Huskar looked up, once more all business.
“That’s what I’m talking about – my guy is a professional. Look at these shots! He is an artist. You won’t find that sort of thing anywhere else on Hutta.”
“Name.” One word in the imperative mood.
“Sure, sure. Tadsson. My best guy. Look at the eye on him. Not that he had to do much… right? It’s like this sort of thing is made for pictures. Beautiful. Wish they could all…” His words trailed off and he sat back in his seat.

“We are gonna need to get in contact with Tadsson. And we’ll take all the information you have on these murders. Articles, notes, whatever.”
Huskar raised his hand in protest but Hlemmur stared him down and no complaint left his throat.
He wet his tongue by wiggling it in the saliva-filled pouches of his overstuffed cheeks.
“Sure. Sure.”

“One last thing – and I want you to think real good about this—you ever seen this girl?”
Hlemmur held out a small holo image of a girl. She was young, couldn’t have been more than my age. Strands of her pale hair were pulling against the breeze and she was laughing.
Huskar stared long and hard.

“No. I’ve never seen her. Love to be introduced some day though.”

As we left the office, Huskar was searching his desk frantically for something to staunch the bleeding of his nose.
“Why did you hit him?” I asked.
“He was scum.”

We passed the reception droid and Hlemmur shot it the double finger-guns, once more reducing it to synthetic paroxysms of terror.
“Who was the girl in the holo, anyway?”
She said nothing and hopped in the speeder.

* * *

The smell alone told me we had arrived at the “meat auction.” Cadavers of various species in various states of disrepair were laid out in rows with incandescent lot numbers floating above them. In the dark gloom of the auction chamber I felt weak. For a moment I was overcome by the sensation that these numbers somehow represented the souls of the departed – fighting to fly but bound still to their moldering remains. A deep sadness – a mix of resignation and pain – emanated from the non-living participants of the auction.

“You okay?”

I straightened up.
“I’m fine. The stench is awful. What is this place?”
“Deshuar is Togru the Hutt’s territory. ‘Unclaimed’ bodies go to him. Leave it to a Hutt to figure out how to make money disposing of bodies.”

The auctioneer was a Twilek. He spoke very quickly and it took a few minutes of decoding to know what he was saying – by then the auction had moved on. After a bit I was able to recognize the bid calls. Many of the lots went to a short old man in a tattered enviro-suit. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness I was able to read the faded words Ezunt Bros. Spiced Meats across his back.
“Which do we want?”
“Don’t know. Better talk to the Appraiser.”

The Appraiser turned out to be an old-fashioned accounting droid – the sort you might see in old holo-vids. His legs were rusted to the floor but that didn’t seem to concern him. The dead of Deshuar would come to him sooner or later.
“Greetings. How may I serve you?”
“We’re interested in a body that came in this morning. Young woman. Victim of violence. Probably mutilated in some way.”
“Yes. Lot 33-H. A respectable amount of meat still left. Good hair and teeth as well – though we cannot break the lots apart, you understand. If you are interested in the mix-and-match lot, it will—“
“No. Thank you. That’s fine. You must have been the appraiser for other bodies that have come in like this. Young women. Violent deaths. Do you keep a record of that sort of thing?”
“My databases have recorded 13 similar cases in the past year. The first was –“

A shadow fell over the droid and it paused. We all turned to look at a large man. He was almost seven feet tall and over half as wide. His face was a mess of scar tissue, especially around the eyes. In the midst of a hundred small crisscrossing lines sat two cyber-optical lenses. Someone had taken his time removing this man’s vision.
“That’s enough, Appraiser!” he roared.

“Of course, Mr. Dannlix.” The droid turned its attention from us and went back to its tasks.
“Can I help you, pal?” asked Hlemmur.
The big man, Dannlix, shot us a grim smile.
“No. But maybe I can help you two. Offworlders don’t fare to well on Hutta when they get too far off the beaten-track. And this is about as far off as you can get.”
“I think we’ll be fine,” I said, trying my best to sound five years older.

Dannlix laughed.
“A kid and girl? Yeah, whatever. Friendly warning time – I hear you represent an outside… interest. If you want to get paid and stay healthy, I’d go back to them and say you could find anything worth crying over.”
“We’ll keep it in mind,” said Hlemmur in a voice that indicated the opposite.
“See that you do.”
For a second I watched myself in the reflection of his lenses. Then he turned and walked away toward the Ezunt Brothers representative.

“News travels fast on Hutta.”
I nodded.
“News is right. Must have been Huskar that told him. But why?”
“Dunno. We will sort him out later. Our lot is coming up.”

Most of the carcasses were going for between five and ten credits. I wondered if Darth Bantheer would be grateful when he saw how little I would use of my expense account.

“Lot 33-H,” began the auctioneer before sliding into a stream of auction-gibberish.
Hlemmur bid five credits. Ezunt Brothers bid ten. We bid fifteen. They bid twenty.

The auctioneer realized something was afoot. His eyes began to glow and his words got faster…
“Twenty-five? Do I—Twenty-five, the lady… Fifty, Cal Ezunt… Do I—One hundred credits, the lady! One hundred going—Two hundred from Mr. Cal Ezunt... five hundred! Lady bids five hundred! Do I—ONE THOUSAND!!! Mr. Cal Ezunt of Ezunt Brothers bids one thousand credits! One thousand going once – one thousand credits going twice—“
“Five thousand credits,” said Hlemmur.

The room was silent.

In the corner Dannlix fumed. Mr. Cal Ezunt looked at us. The Dannlix. Then the auctioneer who seemed to be holding his breath. Then, sadly, the old man shook his head and walked away.

“Lot 33-H is sold to the lady for five thousand credits!”

So much for coming in under budget.

A few people congratulated Hlemmur. A five thousand credit meat auction would go down in local lore.
One Rodian leaned over and whispered, “I would congratulate you but you seem to have earned the ire of Dannlix. He is Togru the Hutt’s favorite enforcer. You might wish to make your time on Hutta short.”

From across the room, again I saw my eyes reflected in unfeeling lenses.





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Gestahlt
01.17.2012 , 08:04 AM | #7
I've been neglecting reading any stories, but since I'm 50 and don't really have anything to do. It's time to catch up!

Chapter II:

I honestly didn't expect the story to start out this serious or well. Not that you don't write well, but I expect a certain degree of whimsicality that is absent the prose here, and I must admit you did a good job with it. Having read these stories I can see why the name is similar to the originals, but it doesn't read like a "parody", so much as a retelling with a personalized, Star Wars touch.

That's interesting to me because just yesterday someone was telling a "joke" in the OOC Channel that went like this: "What did the twi'lek [dancer] say to her client?" The answer was something lewd, but dealt nothing at all with Twi'leks. It was just adding the word "Twi'lek" to an existing joke and saying "heh, now it's Star Wars!" That's cheesy and dated; it lacks any real attempt to dig into the esoteric mess that is Star Wars lore and personalize it. My statement was "What did the twi'lek dancer say to her friend? Break a lek." This is that, it takes what we know "break a leg" and then makes it fit into Star Wars' terminology.

Very smart, very provocative.

The discourse on the roles of women also fits the trend of Steig Larsson's informative take on female roles in society. It certainly helps the reader (at least, me) begin to form my take on the characters in question. The investigator and the investigated. Switching the age roles between Hlemmur and the Sith (hurr) and Blomkvist and Salader is an interesting move, as well. It places a variance between your telling and the original story.

Chapter III:

Hlemmur's sweater is honest. His lewd observations are veracious. This is a young man, and unlike the young men people like to write, he acts as a young man would. Taken with odd inclinations toward sex.

And your word choice is pushing your Fan Friday Badge.

Chapter IV:

Quote:
A frame focusing on a naked torso flitted over the reader. The torso of a corpse. The torso of a…
“Pretty girl.” Huskar smiled. “I wish they could all be like that. Most of the time it is some Evocii with his head split by a couple of kids for a laugh.”
“You wish all your corpses could be pretty girls, or all pretty girls were corpses?”
This made me laugh in the smarmy kind of way. "A-ha."

I feel like I need to stretch before I do any serious writing again. The standard being set by the story is daunting. But I ain't scared.

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Kharnis
01.17.2012 , 11:45 AM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by Gestahlt View Post
I feel like I need to stretch before I do any serious writing again. The standard being set by the story is daunting. But I ain't scared.
Really? 'Cause I am. I'm actually going to have to pay attention to what I'm writing and not half-arse it now.
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Gestahlt
01.17.2012 , 11:47 AM | #9
Kharnis Tarly the Craven.

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Kharnis
01.17.2012 , 04:35 PM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by Gestahlt View Post
Kharnis Tarly the Craven.
That's "Kraven" with a "K," thank you very much. Sure, he may have been a pissant, and he had no redeeming personality qualities whatsoever, and he was a puppet for pretty much the entire movie. But, he was within touching distance of Kate Beckinsale in skin-tight leather and PVC, so that automatically makes his character someone to look up to.
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