FORTY-THREE hours into our trek to Ord Mantell, Muehlenkha, who had kept a close vigil on the homing beacon signal, informed me that Rendar had not stopped at Ord Mantell, and had still not changed course.
The three of us could not fathom where else the rogue smuggler might be heading, so we stuck to our original plan. Six hours later, I was informed by Muehlenkha that the Outrider had appeared to settle on a destination: Ord Biniir. I had never heard of it, and consulted the holonet to find what information I could about this obscure planet.
There wasn’t much information I could glean from the holonet. Ord Biniir, according to what I’d found, was a planet which served as a military outpost during the height of the Galactic Republic. The Empire maintained the military outpost, and kept a garrison there. The planet had recently been the location of two skirmishes between the Empire and the Alliance. The rebels had taken the planet, albeit for a short duration, and the Empire retook the outpost not long thereafter. Ord Biniir was also a popular location for podracing.
I relayed my findings to Staphon along with my bewilderment with Rendar’s destination of choice.
Staphon scratched his head before answering. “Don’t have a clue, young man. Maybe he wants to bet on the races. Or maybe he’s going into hiding. Maybe he had something to do with Xizor’s palace being destroyed.”
“Maybe,” I agreed. “I’d be hiding too if I had just destroyed the leader of Black Sun’s castle.”
“How do you wanna play it?” Staphon asked me.
“Let’s plot a course change. I would think he’s gonna lay low for a while after what he’s been through,” I said.
“You’re the boss, young man.”
Once again we dropped out of hyperspace to alter our course. In only a handful of seconds we had the coordinates for Ord Biniir plotted into the navicomputer and we returned to hyperspace.
Forty-eight hours later, I disengaged the hyperdrive of the Imminent Titan. We emerged from hyperspace just shy of Ord Biniir’s gravity well. During that time the Outrider did not leave Ord Biniir. At least, if the homing beacon was still working it hadn’t.
Though the information I had obtained from the holonet indicated that the Empire occupied the Old Republic’s military base here that appeared to be the singular thing the Empire occupied. There was no sign of the Imperial Navy, and whoever was chirping at me through the ship’s com unit from the starport below was definitely not an Imperial. Either that or he was the most undisciplined soldier in the Empire. It was an extremely unprofessional greeting if I had ever heard one.
I negotiated a docking fee with the being representing the starport and, using the starport’s beacon, expertly guided the Titan to the starport where I docked my vessel.
As a group, we decided that Staphon would stay with the ship. He would work on updating the security system on the Titan so that we would no longer have to leave someone behind to guard the ship. As Muehlenkha and I descended the boarding ramp, we found a Duros awaiting us.
“Welcome to Ord Biniir,” the dome-headed alien greeted us. “There is a 50 credit docking fee.”
I handed him the credits. “Do you know if there is a ship docked here called the Outrider?” I asked.
The Duros shook his head. “We don’t keep track of ship names. Bad for business.”
Business? What business?
Befuddled, I asked, “What business is that?”
This, in turn, befuddled the Duros. “Are you not here for the podracing? That’s big business here. Everything revolves around podracing here. Most customers prefer to stay anonymous.”
Oh. That business.
I nodded as if I actually cared what the Duros had just told me. “I’m actually here to meet someone.”
The Duros suddenly turned suspicious. “I hope you’re not bringing trouble with you.”
This actually made I laugh out loud. “Trouble seems to find me whether I want it to or not,” I explained to him. And that was true enough. “I don’t intend to cause any, if that’s what you’re asking.” And that was a total lie. If I find Rendar there will definitely be trouble.
The Duros slowly nodded, but clearly didn’t believe me. “Follow the main road out of the starport. There you will find the local cantina where races are arranged and bets are made. All races are held in the canyons.”
“Ah, built-in race tracks, huh?” I asked.
“Something like that,” he answered, still eyeing me suspiciously. “Do you have any other questions which I may answer for you?” Translation: Go away. You’re getting on my nerves.
“No. Thank you for your assistance.” With that, Muehlenkha – who had donned his Jawa disguise – and I left the starport and traversed the main thoroughfare in search of the cantina the “helpful” Duros had indicated was there.
There really wasn’t much to see on Ord Biniir, at least nothing that I had found of interest. There were a handful of shops, mostly related to podracing in some form or another. There were dealers that sold podracers and then there were parts shops where you could find mechanisms to upgrade your racer or just buy replacement parts. I saw a couple of restaurants, also. And there were trees. Literally everywhere. Off on the horizon I could see a tall superstructure with multiple turrets strategically placed about the top. There was also a tower adjacent to it, also with a large turret atop its summit. I astutely – as always – deduced that this was the old military outpost left by the Galactic Republic that was currently occupied by the Empire. Curiously, I had seen no Imperial patrols. I was pondering what that may or may not mean when Muehlenkha interrupted my thoughts.
“Excuse me, Afcuyo Fraden, but I believe this to be the cantina we are searching for,” the reptilian alien said as he gestured with his left hand towards a ramshackle structure with an antiquated marquee sign above its decrepit entrance that read: Racer’s Lounge.
I turned towards the dilapidated duracrete structure, and concurred with my friend that this is probably the place we were looking for.
I silently studied this pathetic excuse for a cantina momentarily while collecting my thoughts. I decided the best way to take Rendar, if he was in there, was to engage him hand-to-hand. The dossier provided by Jabba indicated that Rendar was an expert marksman with a blaster so I definitely had no desire to get into a fire fight with him. Hand-to-hand did not appear to be Rendar’s forte, though the dossier also said that Rendar had attended the Imperial Academy for some time and he would more than likely have received some hand-to-hand combat training while there. At least, I assumed so.
Looking towards Muehlenkha, I said, “Let’s just walk right up to him nonchalantly and grab him. He has no idea we’re looking for him and everyone else probably thinks he’s dead.”
Muehlenkha nodded in agreement. We approached the rickety cantina cautiously. I was beginning to get that tingling sensation in my extremities that I always experience right before a scrap.
Something’s gonna go down in there, I just know it.
It took the door sensor a handful seconds to register that we were there. It apparently worked as well as this decrepit place looked. When the door finally opened, making a cacophony of noises no door should ever make, we entered. At first glance, this cantina looked eerily similar to the Mos Eisley cantina, and every other cantina I had ever been in for that matter, although that number could be counted on both hands. There were booths lined against the walls on both sides of the room. The bar extended out into the middle of the room and was rounded at the end.
Perhaps cantina architects were not in high demand, I thought. Or just not all that creative.
My friend and I proceeded through the entry lobby and descended the stairs into the main floor of the cantina. I slowly scanned the room, looking for Rendar. Or potential trouble.
I noticed the bartender looking at me a bit longer than I thought was necessary and then watched as the bartender turned to a patron sitting at the bar. The patron had long, wavy red hair and had his back turned to me. The bar tender said something to the patron, who then spun around quickly, with a blaster pistol in hand, and snapped off a shot at me, and in quick succession, at Muehlenkha.
Luckily, my Stava training kicked in. I had actually started to move when the man who fired at me had started to spin around. I speedily tilted my head to the left as the blaster bolt sailed by my head, missing only by inches. The bolt actually singed a couple of my hairs. I could actually smell some of my hairs burning.
I had reflexively reached for my own blaster when I heard a voice call out, “I wouldn’t do that, kid.”
I focused on the speaker, the same man who had just fired at me. He was tall and lean, with red hair, green eyes and pale skin. I quickly spared a glance to check on Muehlenkha and found that he had managed to dodge his assassination attempt as well.
“Those were some nifty moves you both have there. I rarely miss,” the man said coldly. I shifted my focus back to the speaker, whom I finally recognized. It was Dash Rendar. “Why are you looking for me and how did you find me?” Dash inquired with a hard edge in his voice.
I didn’t see any reason to beat around the bush, at least, not for the first question. I most definitely wasn’t giving up the answer to the second. I inhaled deeply, and prepared to speak to my quarry as I always do: in an arrogant Imperial tone. “To answer your first question, I’m here to collect you. As to the second, well, I’m afraid I can’t share that secret with you. ”
“Collect me?” Rendar laughed. “You and what army, kid? Do you know what you’re up against?”
“Do you?” I replied defiantly.
Dash regarded me. “Yeah, I think I do. You’re obviously an amateur. You did nothing to ensure the Duros would keep his mouth shut after you asked him if I was docked here. You had no idea I was in here or our situation might be reversed. So tell me kid, who put a bounty on me?”
That caught me off guard. I shakily exuded a confidence I didn’t necessarily feel. “Oh, please. Do you truly believe I would divulge that information? Even were I to tell you, you’re still walking out of here with me.”
Dash cockily grinned. “Is that so, kid? So it’s a live bounty, eh?”
I immediately realized my error and felt foolish for having given that away. Dash now knew that I was not there to kill him, and that could work to his advantage. My silent berating of myself must have been evident on my face because Dash then pressed his advantage. “See, kid? Amateur. And seriously, kid, a Jawa? What’s wrong, couldn’t you afford an Ugnaught?”
Dash looked to the right and imperceptively nodded. Two trandoshans that I hadn’t even noticed slowly vacated their booth and approached me menacingly. I looked at Muehlenkha. After we had made eye contact we both knew what we had to do. I turned back toward Dash, who had raised his blaster. “You may be fast, kid, but I’m willing to bet my trigger finger is faster.”
The bartender then entered the conversation, giving Muehlenkha and I the opening we needed. “Come on, can’t you do this outside?”
This distracted Dash just enough for us to make our move. Muehlenkha sprang into action first. Faster than the eye could see, Muehlenkha whipped out a Vrakolian Spin-blade, and with a flick of his nimble wrist the Vrakolian Spin-blade went speeding towards Dash.
All the trandoshans could do was watch in stunned amazement as the projectile zeroed in on Dash. Just two seconds after Muehlenkha had cast the spin-blade at Rendar – the same time it had taken Dash to turn his attention to the bartender and back – the spin-blade struck Rendar’s blaster, knocking it from his hand and sending it scattering along the floor. The trandoshans suddenly seemed unsure how to proceed. Rendar had lost the upper-hand and they appeared to be wondering if they were getting paid enough to fight against sentients who had abilities that surpassed their own.
While they pondered, I purloined that decision from them.
I had immediately noticed that the trandoshans had their attention on Rendar, and I seized the opportunity. I charged the two reptilians whilst simultaneously unclipping my pilfered stun baton from my belt. The trandoshan closest to me finally noticed my charge by the time I had closed to two meters. I finished closing as the lizard-like biped turned to face me and assumed a fighting stance. Behind him, the other trandoshan snapped out of his daze and began to reach for his blaster.
The trandoshan closest to me obviously didn’t realize what type of weapon I was wielding, otherwise he might never have let me close on him. I swung the baton in a high, overhead arc aimed at the trandoshan’s head. The trandoshan put his left arm up to block the strike, which he successfully blocked, nonetheless the stun baton made contact with him he still crumpled to the floor.
The second trandoshan had stepped back while drawing his blaster, and was bringing it to bear on me. The trandoshan was too far away for me to hit him with the stun baton, but his blaster was not. I made an attempt to knock the blaster away using the stun baton, which was only partially successful. I hacked at the blaster with my melee weapon, and was able to make contact with the trandoshan’s blaster, but the trandoshan had an iron grip on the blaster and the blaster remained in his grasp. I actually lost control of the stun baton and it flew out of my hand, landing somewhere beyond my peripheral vision. Luckily for me, the electric charge from my stun baton traveled through the blaster, shocking the trandoshan and forcing him to involuntarily drop it.
We were now equally unarmed. I stepped in towards the trandoshan. The trandoshan threw a wild roundhouse at me with his right hand. I stepped inside the punch while simultaneously pivoting counter-clockwise. With both hands, I caught the trandoshan’s arm just above the wrist. Finishing my move, I used my body’s leverage to throw the trandoshan over my shoulder. The trandoshan completely flipped and landed hard on his rear-end. The trandoshan’s hands immediately went to his backside while he howled in pain. I then knocked him unconscious with a quick snap kick to the side of the head.
My two opponents incapacitated, I turned to see what was going on behind me. It appeared that other patrons of the cantina had jumped to Dash’s defense, and had all been incapacitated by Muehlenkha. There was a pile of bodies scattered around the area Muehlenkha occupied. I saw that Muehlenkha was looking right back at me, a concerned look on his face. We presently realized that the other was okay, then turned to where Dash had stood before the ruckus had started to find that he was nowhere to be found.
It was I who spoke first. “He has to be heading to his ship.”
Muehlenkha nodded in agreement. “That is his only logical tactic, Afcuyo Fraden.”
We bolted for the exit. I found and retrieved my stun baton before parting. We hurriedly headed back to the starport with as much speed as we could muster. When we were just outside of the starport, the Outrider blasted out of the starport and headed towards the horizon.