A GROUP of Bothans clogged the hallway outside of the turbolift when the doors parted, and every last one of them had a blaster rifle pointed directly at me. There were 12 precisely. I know this because I counted them while I was picking my jaw up from the floor.
This was not good.
“Um, is this level 16?” I asked timidly.
“Put your hands in the air! Now!” commanded the foremost Bothan guard in response.
Alrighty then. This was definitely not good. I slowly raised my hands over my head. “Uh, I think perhaps I’m on the wrong floor,” I tried.
Just then another Bothan entered the hallway outside the turbolift from a room to the right. “Welcome to Bothawui, Mr. Fraden. My name is Moss Joran’ek. I’m a security captain for the Bothan Spynet. I will be your interrogator,” Joran’ek sumptuously announced.
Interrogator? How does this guy know my name?
With my hands still held high, I asked, “How do you know who I am and why do I need to be interrogated?”
“For starters, you’ve already successfully bribed the guard at the front entrance, but we both know your true purpose here,” he answered in an accusatory tone. “As to how I identified you, you were scanned and identified when you walked into the building.”
In disbelief that this Bothan could possibly know my intent I asked. “My true purpose? What do you know about my ‘true’ purpose?”
In a tone normally used when speaking to an argumentative child, Joran’ek said, “Please don’t insult me, Mr. Fraden. The Bothan Spynet is second to none. Did you really think you could come to Bothawui to assassinate someone without us knowing it?”
“If I actually came here to assassinate someone, then yes. But believe it or not assassination is not always on my itinerary,” I answered defiantly.
“Make no mistake, Mr. Fraden. I know what it is you do for Jabba the Hutt. Bounty hunters don’t come to Bothawui for a vacation. I also know you had an audience with Jabba before you left Tatooine. If you cooperate with me, I’ll be lenient in your punishment.”
I had had enough of this tiresome game. I didn’t know who this Bothan assumed I was here to kill or why he had made such an assumption, but I decided it was well past time for me to make my exit. As quickly as I could manage, I dove toward the side of the turbolift while hitting the down button on the turbolift control panel.
Outside in the hall, Joran’ek laughed regally. “You don’t think me stupid, do you?”
“Well, yes. But you’ve disappointed me,” I said with a sigh. I couldn’t see any other way out of this predicament. All I had was my blaster and thirteen-to-one odds. I’m pretty good in a scrap, but not quite that good.
Then I remembered I still had my comlink.
“I strongly urge you to step out with your hands were I can see them, Mr. Fraden,” Joran’ek warned, “I despise violence, but I am not averse to employing it.”
Before I stepped back into view, I switched my comlink on and placed it inside the crotch of my pants.
Not the most comfortable feeling in the world, but at least my friends will be able to track me.
Once my comlink was quite uncomfortably and firmly entrenched in my unmentionable region, I stepped out with my hands held high, praying that this Bothan commander wouldn’t have the foresight to scan me for electrical devices.
He didn’t. I breathed a silent sigh of relief as something finally went my way.
The foremost Bothan security guard approached me as I exited the turbolift. He relieved me of my blaster, and then proceeded to pat me down, searching for additional weapons. Having not patted down my crotch, where my comlink was securely concealed, he found nothing. When the guard was finished, I lowered my hands. The comlink had already begun to infringe upon my nether region. How very unpleasant.
“Very good. Thank you kindly for your cooperation,” Joran’ek pronounced. “Please,” he said, gesturing with his hand, “follow me.” He turned and walked toward the end of the hallway.
I shrugged, then followed. So, too, did the dozen Bothan guards.
I felt utterly lost during this journey through the network of hallways which Joran’ek led me. We went up stairs, down turbolifts, and through tunnels which lead to other buildings. After a while, I stopped trying to keep track and just hoped that wherever I was, Staphon and Muehlenkha could track me.
After trudging behind Joran’ek for what seemed like hours, we finally stopped in front of a large durasteel door. There was a small security device on the right hand panel of the door. Joran’ek entered a key sequence into the number pad on the device. Two seconds later, the door hissed and began to ascend.
Joran’ek stepped back and motioned toward the room with his left hand. “Please have a seat. I will be with you momentarily.”
Having no alternative, I walked into what appeared to be a standard Imperial interrogation room. At least, this is what they looked like in holovids. I had never been interrogated by Imperials. Yet.
Plain white walls surrounded the square room I was had entered. There was a rectangular white plasteel table in the center of the room surrounded by four plasteel chairs with padded seats. I sat in the chair furthest from the door. I searched the room meticulously for the cameras I was sure were there. I didn’t find them, but stuck my tongue out in every direction anyhow, just in case.
Moments later, Joran’ek entered the room followed by two armed guards. “Is there anything I can get you before we begin? A drink, perhaps?”
“Yes. I’d like a Corellian Ale and nerf steak, medium rare. What is the soup of the day?” I sardonically retorted.
“Your insolence will not be tolerated, Mr. Fraden, nor is it helpful to our situation,” Joran’ek icily snapped.
Here I was making friends again.
“Our situation? That’s laughable. I don’t even know what ‘our’ situation is.” I said in my loveable sarcastic voice. “I don’t suppose,” I continued, “that you’d be willing to explain to me why I’m being unreasonably detained.”
Joran‘ek sat down in the chair opposite of me. The guards slid to either side of him, holding their blaster rifles ready. “Patience, bounty hunter. All in due time. I will ask questions. You will answer them.”
My sarcasm continued to flow unchecked. “Oh, is that how an interrogation works? My bad. Please continue. You’re doing a wonderful job.”
Joran’ek regarded me disapprovingly. “Come, now. There’s no need to be discourteous. Tell me why Jabba wants Koth Melan dead.”
That took me completely by surprise. Of all the questions I imagined I might be asked, this question had not even appeared on my radar. I was suspicious that they might have surmised that I was after Dash and perhaps they wanted to protect Dash for some reason or another, but this was beyond my anticipation. I thought about it for a moment, and his assumption did have some logic to it. I am, after all, a bounty hunter and I did barge into this building asking for Melan. I then laughed at the irony of his question.
Surprised by my reaction to his query, Joran’ek asked, “You find this humorous?”
After my laughter had subsided I answered him. “Yes, I do. You really think I’m here to kill Melan?” I asked disbelievingly while wiping the tears my laughter had generated from my eyes.
“Correction: I know you are here to slay him,” Joran’ek rejoined.
This was not good. I don’t know how Joran’ek had arrived at his erroneous conclusion, but it didn’t bode well for me. As usual, however, I couldn’t contain my sarcasm to prevent myself from getting into further trouble. “Ah, yes. The ever omniscient Bothan Spynet must never be wrong. You say it is and it must be so.”
Joran’ek stared at me quizzically. He then sighed before saying, “Mockery will not help your situation.”
I barked out a short laugh. “Nothing will help my situation. You think I’m here to do something I’m not. Nothing I say will persuade you otherwise.”
“And what,” Joran’ek inquired, “would you have me believe your purpose on Bothawui to be?”
“I simply wanted to get some information from him I was informed he would have. Perhaps you could fetch him for me? I could then have the answer I seek and be rid of your . . ‘hospitality.’”
Joran’ek sighed again before asking. “What information do you seek from Melan?”
I shook my head. “My, you’re nosy. My questions are for Melan not some underling with an overrated opinion of how important he is.”
Joran’ek’s eyebrow rose imperceptibly, and his fur rippled. Lamentably, I didn’t know what that meant. “And why should Melan come and speak to you, an assassin plotting his demise?”
“Yes, I had forgotten. I’m here to kill Melan. Look how well my plan is working.” I said sardonically.
Joran’ek sighed again. I wondered how long his patience would last. “Must you be so obstinate?”
I smiled at this. “No, I don’t have to be, but I’ve decided to test your patience and see how far I can push before you snap.”
Joran’ek just raised an eyebrow and sighed. “I’ll report your answers to my superiors. Make yourself comfortable Mr. Fraden. I have a feeling you’ll be spending much time here.” Joran’ek then turned and strode from the room.
Yeah, I thought, like I can be comfortable with my comlink shoved in my underwear.