Smuggler’s Blues – Part 3

Smuggling is 90 percent mind numbing boredom and ten percent terror. The ten percent part usually comes in some backwater spaceport as some local version of whatever pass for a drug sniffing bothan, …usually.

But not this time.

Having landed near a warehouse in Drelliad she found it to be much like a Justicar prison on a Saturday night – it was easy to get stuck in one but once you are there it was difficult to get out. Between Ord Mantell’s twin moons overhead and the explosions on the horizon, Tajqa found it easy to make her way to the edge of the Drelliad Spaceport. There she saw the gun emplacements that Corso Riggs was talking about. Easily three stories high they looked more like missile launchers than anti-aircraft cannons. They looked as if they could take down her light freighter from orbit, let alone upon takeoff. The massive cannons where indeed a marvel of modern engineering. But as all good smugglers knew, the more advance and complex the technology, the easier it was for something to go wrong. And unless Tajqa made sure something went wrong with the targeting computer, she was never going to get off this war torn rock.

As she neared the gun emplacement she could see sentries pacing on the far side of what appeared to be a haphazardly placed razor wire fence. Using a monocular that Corso had given her she studied the guards through the intermittent flashes of light caused by the distant explosions. They were carrying what appeared to be archaic slug throwing full-auto weapons, not dressed in any sort of a uniform. It appeared that the separatist in this case where not well armed mercenaries but just some dock worker who had just about enough to pick up a gun and do something about it. Which, as far as Tajqa was concerned, made them all the more dangerous despite their lack of anything approaching professionalism. A mercenary was only a paid thug. It was like hiring the school yard bully when you were a kid – they would only fight as far as they felt their pay, or lack thereof, justified. But a rebel with any sort of a cause? That was different and dangerous. A rebel, especially one pissed off enough to pick up a gun, would fight to the death…yours, his, or both. It didn’t matter. What is more, poorly armed with archaic equipment or not, a bow and arrow that hit it’s mark could kill you just as easily as a sniper with a high powered blaster rifle.

After a vain attempt to time the explosions, Tajqa just waited for a lull and ran for the edge of the razor wire. Reaching into her boot she found the vibroknife stiletto that was her last line of defense. As she grasped the blade the ultrasonic generator began to hum, vibrating the knife. If the razor wire was electrified she would know in an instant. Despite the handle being insulated the blade was made of cortosis weave. Which meant that while it was made to resist light sabers and slip past personal shields, it also a superconductor – the practical upshot of which was that the electricity would connect with the blade’s energy cell resulting in an explosion that would take her arm off long before she could be electrocuted. She hesitated for a moment. It wasn’t like she had much of an option; when she landed her freighter all she expected to have to do was drop off the guns and take off again. She hadn’t exactly came equipped for breaking into military compounds.

The knife cut through the wire fence with ease.

Cutting through just enough of the fence to crawl under, she waited for the sentry to turn the corner of the building upon which the cannons where permanently mounted.. When her chance came, Tajqa tore across the courtyard and threw herself against the wall. Edging along the wall, she reached the corner the guard had rounded a few minutes before. A quick glance told her that the doorway was located about 15 meters from the corner. She waited for the guard to round the next corner and edged toward the doorway. Whether or not she came equipped for breaking in to gun emplacements, there was one thing that a Tajqa always came equipped for and that was picking a lock. It took her about 30 seconds and she was inside.

The far wall was line with main frame computers and stations for two technicians. The rest of the facility held living facilities for what she presumed must have been the Republic military technicians stationed here before they were forcibly retired. The problem Taqa faced now was disabling the targeting computer and doing so without attracting attention. What is more, she had to disable it in a way that was not going to be easy to fix. Oh she had used guns before. Her ship had its own blaster cannons. But being able to use something and knowing how it was constructed, and thus disable it, was something altogether different. She could try just cutting wires, hoping she would cut the right one just by chance. If she was wrong, when she tried to take off from the spaceport it would be a very short trip.

She stood there a moment considering what to do.

“Oh the hell with it,” she said aloud. Crouching behind what appeared to be a gun locker she drew her blaster and open fire at the far wall. A few well aimed shots had both the desired effect, and the expected result – the same blaster fire that had destroyed the targeting computer would bring the sentries running. A moment later the door to the control room flew open and she found herself face to face with the same sentry she had managed to avoid earlier. He with the side of his body toward the interior of the room. Sweeping the room with the rifle, he saw Tajqa and instantly his personal shield snapped into existence, causing the guard to shimmer slightly. It appeared that either the rebel or the Republic soldier he had retired where better equipped than Taj thought. What is more, now she knew why the guards where equipped with old slug throwing weapons. The personal shield would make blasters, the common weapon of choice, totally ineffective, but still enabling bullets to penetrate the shield…

…and vibroknives.

…It was the reason that cortosis metal was woven into vibroknives in the first place. It allowed them to easily slice through personal shields.

An instant later the guard was dead on the floor of the control room and Tajqa was running for the gap she had cut in the razor wire. It’s one thing to fire on someone in self defense; that same situation had presented itself in more than one backwater cantina. But this was different. This was the first time she had to fire on someone for just doing their job. As she crawled under the wire and ran in the direction of her ship it occurred to her that more than once someone’s last words must have been “it’s just a job.”

About Julie Whitefeather

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