Smuggler’s Blues – Part 1

Tajqa hefted “tchin” over her right shoulder and shifted her feet into a more comfortable position on the otherwise cluttered control panel of the Corellian light freighter. “Tchin” was the name most Twil’ek gave to the right cone shaped “tail” that extended from the right side of the base of their skulls and hung down their back. But then Tajqa’Secura wasn’t like most Twi’lek. The twin tails, known collectively as “lekku” where at once the most prominent feature of her people and the one with which they held the most pride – where human men were wont to compare the size of more nether regions, Twi’lek men boasted about what hung down their backs. Oh Tajqa had named them alright. She called the left one Flopsy and the right one Mopsy. If they weren’t attached to the base of her skull she would have considered them a pain in the ass. In fact she would have lopped them off long ago if they didn’t contain part of her brain; and being prehensile (at least to a degree – a fact most humans didn’t realize) some words in her native language included their movement. The downside of all this was that if you had injured one of your twin tails and not had it replaced with a cybernetic implant, to another Twi’lek, it was as if you spoke with a strong, if not unusual, accent when speaking your native language.

She took another long sip of Caf and starred at the stars blurring past the windows in the front of the space ship. This was the boring part of being a smuggler. It was a trade which was often thought of as 70 percent boredom, 10 percent terror and 20 percent drunken stupor. At the moment she was nearly at the end of the 70 percent part as the ship approached the blue expanse of the planet called Ord Mantell.

They hadn’t even hit the planet’s atmosphere when the ship lurched like a starving man diving or a plate of turkey; in the process spilling the dark brew imported from her home planet Ryloth all over favorite button down white shirt.

“For crying out loud,” Tajqa yelped, “can’t you hold the ship steady?”

Beside her the ancient R-1 unit chirruped, emitting a sound that even those not acquainted with Robotics would understand as an apology. The R-1 unit was military surplus, about six feet talk and cylindrical. Sort of. The body of the robot was actually the shell from a Mark II reactor drone. It wasn’t something that the military did, nor something Tajqa did. The R-1 unit was just made that way. As a result it was slow, could barely move, and even if the ship took a nose dive into a mountain, the droid was likely to be the only thing to survive. As a result, Tajqa saw no reason not to permanently bolt it into the navigator’s position on the ship to relieve her of all such duties, allowing her to relax on the long voyage, while playing games of 5,920 questions with the little droid (a game the droid was incredibly good at).

As they hit Ord Mantells upper atmosphere, Tajqa chided the R-1 unit once again.

“Hold her steady old boy. Land the ship just outside that that warehouse in Drelliad village. Our contact will meet us there.”

The R-1 unit chirped an affirmative reply.

The fact of the matter was that the R-1 unit wasn’t actually “old” nor a “boy”. It was simply that Tajqa had a very strong penchant for anthropomorphism, and the R-1 unit had become her constant companion. True, the astromech unit had been reprogrammed for multi-jump hyperdrive navigation. But it had also been programmed with games and even included a library of music that would make most nightclub owner’s on Ord Mantell green with envy (an easy thing to do as most natives of the planet where green cat-like people to start with).

The R1 unit was perfectly capable of landing the ship of course, but Tajq tended not to trust much of anyone to begin with. “Trust your mother but cut the cards” was an expression she was wont to quote in many a space port cantina. And it wasn’t like the shipment wasn’t illegal (a fact which tended to both rile Taj’ and cut into her profits). The port authorities could have even inspect her bill of lading (a real one this time).

The only thing that was funny was the destination. Rather than landing at the spaceport, she was landing at a warehouse, in small village, just nearby. But credits were credits, even if they did come legally.

After a short an uneventful landing, Tajqa gave the R-1 unit the rest of the afternoon off to play chess with the maintenance droid. As she clambered out of the cockpit she saw two nervous looking humans approaching her ship. Tajqa considered this as she clomped through the hallways, her tall brown rycrit leather boots beating a cadence against the steel floors.

The two humans met her at the bottom of her ship’s boarding ramp. The thing about humans, is that with all the infinite diversity that comprised sentient beings throughout the galaxy, humans seemed about as vanilla as they come. She wouldn’t say they all looked alike to her; it’s just that they weren’t very interesting. She thought it must be the lack of brain tails that made them look somehow less intelligent. The only thing she could tell about these humans for sure was that they were nervous and seemed to be in a hurry.

“I’m Corso and this is Skavak” shouted the younger of the two, and then added, “We work for Viidu.”

But it wasn’t the fact they looked nervous that alarmed Tajqa, nor was it the fact that Corso was shouting – it was what he was shouting over

…gunfire.

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