Star Wars Galaxies: Rand Dannar

Last worked on in 2010, this is story set in the Star Wars universe, but specifically the MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies. Although kind of complete, it does miss some key scenes that were planned and doesn't properly complete several story elements, Basically, it needs a tidy up and slight rewrite.


Rand Dannar stirred the pink liquid in his glass with his forefinger. He forgot what it was called, but it was from off-world somewhere; part of a payment for a job long ago. He carefully rested the glass on the plasteel handrail that surrounded his small private balcony and watched as the bright reflections of holo-signs danced around inside it. He sighed heavily and peered down at the streets below. A few people were coming and going, the evening was drawing in now, though you'd think it was night by the dark pall that hung over the city. The Talus sky was an even deeper shade of violet than usual. Rain was coming.

He rubbed his hands over his eyes and down his pitted face. It was too early to feel tired. He may not be as young as he once was, but this was ridiculous. Reaching out for his glass, he accidentally knocked it with his fingers and watched in resigned sorrow as it fell to the street far below, the liquid cartwheeling in a strange kind of dance as it escaped into the wide world. He stood there for a few minutes, thinking of Ellea, barely aware of the sound of traffic from the nearby starport.

Turning back to the door to his apartment he called inside, “Deedee, get out here will you.”

A faint beeping could be heard from the shadows and momentarily a small egg shaped DD3 droid came floating out of the doorway.

“I dropped my glass,” Dannar said to the droid, “Can you go fetch, those things don't grow on trees.”

The droid made a positive sounding blip. “Good girl,” said Dannar as the DD3 slowly descended into the city below. He wouldn't usually send the droid out on such menial tasks, but he was rather fond of that glass. He'd picked it up years ago on Corellia – an import from some other world, its twisted shape and double-layered construction made it looked like the liquid inside was floating, almost alive. It was a simple thing, but these days he had learned to hold on to the few things that gave him any sort of pleasure.

He was lost in thought watching a bulky cargo ship wobble its way into a docking bay made for a craft half its size when the DD3 popped up in front of him with a whistle of success. It retracted the small grappling arm as Dannar reached up and took the glass from it, then buzzed and floated back indoors. Dannar gave the glass a quick once-over. It was thankfully undamaged, if a little grimy from whatever it landed in at street level. He tipped it up to empty out any unwelcome fluids inside, thrust it deep into a pocket of his long coat, then and marched back inside his apartment, the door squeaking as it slid shut behind him.


* * *

His apartment was not large, nor particularly tidy. Tidiness is one of those unattainable luxuries when trying to cram all your worldly belongings into a comparatively small space. The dim yellow lights accentuated the darkness, rather than bringing clarity to the room. In a corner, the droid had plugged itself into wall mounted power terminal and sat there motionless, humming quietly as it recharged.

Just as Dannar was contemplating a nice long sleep, a chirping sound from his bedside comm unit broke the silence. Sitting on the bed, he leaned over and tapped at the button.

“Yeah?” he said gruffly.

“Rand, it's me.” a disembodied female voice declared over what sounded like a large gathering of either people or cattle, “Got a job for you here, nothing exciting but everything pays.”

He scratched the end of his nose for a moment then replied, “Everything pays. Will it keep for ten?”

“I'll make sure it doesn't get away.”

“All right, I'll be there shortly.”


* * *

Dannar walked slowly through the narrow streets of Nashal. “Slum” seemed too kind a word to describe his neighbourhood. Garbage littered the alleys, broken droid parts, leaking oil canisters, and other things that a man is best not taking an interest in. He pulled his long coat around him as the first few spots of rain began to fall.

People had started to emerge from their homes and shelters for the evening. More and more holo-ads flickered into life as he walked by, each desperately trying to be louder and brighter than the last to catch his attention among the steam of the building exhaust vents. It would take more that a little rain to dampen the crowds as the city slowly began to come to life like a Huf Dun giving a mighty yawn before setting out to feed.

He glanced quickly at the people as he passed them by. Some poor and honest, trying to scrape a living from roadside food stalls. Others young and foolish, swoop gang members or spice-heads who would pull a vibroblade on you as quick as look at you. It was not wise to make too much eye contact in this kind of district, but he was always alert and ready for anything. A respectable distance above him, the DD3 droid followed silently.

The main plaza in front of Nashal Starport was buzzing with life. There were many groups of people out despite the rain, some huddled near the ever-burning round brazier that served as a focal point for many (shady or otherwise) deals, but Dannar turned and headed past the small, low walled park area. It was more a square of dried grass than a park as such, but it was forever brightened up by the many traders that lined the edges, calling loudly to try and sell their exotic goods and apparently desirable souvenirs to any gullible tourists that passed them by. He kept his gaze downward as he made his way to the weathered building that was the local cantina.

Immediately on entering he was struck with the familiar warm odours of the establishment. The mixture of food, drink, varied alien life-forms and the strange gasses that some of them had to breathe made an interesting cocktail for his sense of smell. As usual, he took stock of the place before committing himself fully to the large bar area - after all you can never be too careful even in familiar surroundings.

He made his way slowly around the wall, giving half his concentration to a rather hypnotic dance that a Twi'lek couple were performing for the patrons. It was graceful yet strong, the glowsticks in their hands masterfully wielded to draw the eye to where the dancers desired. He stopped for a moment, then remembering why he was here made his way to the bar, sandwiching himself quietly between an Aqualish and a grumpy looking drunk with an ancient looking cybernetic arm, all bare metal and wires.

After a moment, he caught the bartender's eye – a short Rodian female with almost lilac skin. She shuffled over to him with what appeared to be a smile on her snout.

“Hi there beautiful,” Dannar said with a grin.

“Hello my friend,” she replied with a nod of her head, “A drink on the house.”

She placed a beaker in front of him. He thanked her and took it off to one of the quieter booths near the wall. He downed the liquid in a single gulp and turned the beaker over. Flipping a switch on the bottom, the underside of the beaker lit up with an image of a cloaked figure, sitting quietly at the opposite side of the cantina. He peered closely at it, fingering the tiny controls to move the viewpoint around and check for anything suspicious. The figure looked a little restless; he'd better move fast or he could lose the job.

Dannar returned the beaker to the Rodian and made his way around the bar to the table where the figure was sitting. He lay his hands on the back of an empty chair and waited until he was noticed.

“A man's work is never done,” he said.

“Please sit,” said a female voice from under the hood. Dannar thought it sounded nervous and this was confirmed by the shaking of the woman's hand as she gestured for him to take the seat opposite.

The woman was old; grey hair could be seen hiding the the shadows of the hood, her face was wrinkled, but she had a sense about her that didn't fit in with their surroundings. She had the air of someone from the money side of town – no wonder she was doing her very best not to be seen, even if Dannar thought it made her stand out more than ever. She was obviously an amateur at this kind of thing.

“I believe you are in need of some services I can offer?” asked Dannar as casually as he could manage.

“Well. Yes, I suppose so,” she replied, “I need – Well, I've never really asked for help from someone like you before.”

Dannar chose to ignore the probably unintended slight against his character. “So what do you need. Are you in some sort of trouble? You hardly look the type, but who knows what the rich get up to in their cosy five-bedroomed apartments eh?”

The woman seemed a little taken aback. “How do you...?”

“Let's just say I have a nose for money,” he said. “There are some here who would take offence at a woman from the money district mixing with the 'common man' over here. It's probably best we sort this out quickly.” There was a long-standing hatred between the two halves of Nashal. The money district was split from the main city by a river that ran through the middle and was accessible by two long bridges only. The two halves rarely mixed, and when they did, the Fed-Dubs, the local law enforcement, had to clean up the mess afterwards.

“How good are you at finding things Mr...?”


“Mr Dannar.”

“That all depends on what needs to be found.”

“I have lost something precious to me. You see, my husband passed away almost a year ago now. I kept many of my holos of him in our droid, many memories. Maybe I am just a silly old woman but I never thought to make copies.”

“Hold on a second,” interrupted Dannar. “Let me guess. You've come all the way over here to ask me to find a missing droid.”

“Well, yes, he-”

“I'm not a droid babysitter miss. If you've had your droid stolen, why not just go to the Fed-Dubs?”

“I tried. Believe me I tried. And do you know what? They laughed. I was told that they have increasing personnel problems and the last thing they have time for is to look for lost droids. Please Mr Dannar, it's not just a droid, it's a collection of memories which are very dear to me.”

The woman was almost close to tears and this softened Dannar's heart a little.

“I can pay you well, very well.” she said.

This softened his heart even more.

* * *

Walking back to his apartment, Dannar went back over the conversation in his mind. The price she quoted him was impressive. She must really want the droid badly, yet maybe that was merely pocket change to someone like her. One missing droid – one droid and he could finally get himself some decent living quarters, somewhere nice perhaps. Or maybe a ship, if only a small one. It had been a long time since he'd owned his own ship.

He tried to suppress the thought of all those credits coming his way and planned his next move. The woman had said that she owned some land to the south-east of the city, on which were some heavy duty mining facilities. Apparently, her husband struck it rich when he bought that land as it was over one of the planet's purest reserves of some sort of rare crystalline gemstone. Some people get all the luck. The wayward RA-7 droid was often sent out to maintain the large automatic harvesters so that was as good a place to start as any.

As he was lost in thought, he almost didn't hear the voice calling his name from across the plaza.

“Dannar! Rand Dannar!”

His brain shifted gear and he turned his head sharply to locate the source. A plump man, maybe a good fifteen years older than Dannar, dressed in a Fed-Dub uniform made his way through the now busy crowds, waving towards him in an unthreatening way.

“Lane? Is that you?” said Dannar as the man drew closer.

“It sure is!” beamed the man, stretching his arms out and giving Dannar a friendly hug.

“It's been, what, eight years?” said Dannar, “Did they transfer you here too?”

Lane couldn't help but look a little sour. “Yeah, the situation's not good in the capital. I've been here about a month, but how long this will last, well...” he sighed.

“What do you mean?”

“They're cutting back Rand. You know when an old guy like me gets transferred out of the capital, they are just prepping me for the chop. Things are bad. There are barely enough of us in Nashal to keep up with the paperwork, let alone police the place.” He looked around briefly. “One by one they are letting us go. Thinning our numbers. I bet you a bag of Durni tails that this is just a prelude to the Empire stepping in.”

“They wouldn't dare,” said Dannar, “The Federation is the law on Talus and Tralus, they wouldn't let the Imperials take over just like that.”

“Don't you count on it. The Empire has money, organisation and plenty of troops to spare. I bet the high and mighty in Dearic are just ready for a nice bag of credits to retire on before they let their power slip. But I must be off, I'm still on duty and don't want to tempt fate. I'm sure they're just looking for a reason to let me go.”

“Yeah, sound familiar?”

Lane grimaced a little, “The guys in your old division told me. I'm sorry. I hope things have picked up for you since.”

Dannar nodded. That was a discussion for another day. “Well, see you around Lane.”

“Will do. Don't let me catch you littering,” called Lane as he merged into the busy throng of people ahead.

Dannar glanced up to make sure his DD3 had not got bored and flown off home, then resumed the walk to his apartment, happier to see an old colleague, but a little more troubled at the news he brought.

* * *

He was going to rent a speeder to drive out to the harvesters, but the morning sun was bright and there was a freshness in the air after the rain of the previous night, so he decided to walk. It would do him good. It took about forty minutes to reach the harvesters – a double line of large machinery digging endlessly into the ground below. There were deep pits where some of them had been moved on their great repulsors and Dannar had to take care not to fall into one. There would be no getting out if he did.

After a quick search of the area, he found many standard repair and general maintenance droids skitting around, but no sign of the missing RA-7. He approached a large factory unit where an R5 droid was plugged into an information socket, no doubt monitoring the sealing and packing of the gemstone inside.

“Hey there little guy,” he said, kneeling down to what would be eye level for the droid. The R5 chimed something briefly at him as it span its head around slowly. Dannar beckoned his DD3 and it floated swiftly down to him.

“Open up the translator panel Deedee.” he said. A compartment in the DD3 slid open and a small viewscreen extended out of it.

“What was that again my friend?” Dannar asked the R5. It beeped again and a series of characters ran across the screen.

“No, it's alright. I have permission to be here from your owner.”

Another beep and whistle.

“Is that all you can say? At least tell me something about what you are mining here.”

The screen translated again.

“Nothing I didn't already know.”

Dannar gazed for a moment in thought. Being here was just routine, he was pretty sure the droid had either wandered off on its own or had been taken apart by local scavengers or spiced up bikers. But he had to go through the motions. You never know who was watching and he wanted to at least show that he was earning the money that was promised to him.

His train of thought was broken for a moment when the droid whistled at him again.

“Leave? What do you mean danger?” he asked.

Another beep.

“Oh radioactive. I'm sure there are only trace amounts out here, I doubt if I'm in any danger pal. Still, I'd probably better head back, I'm getting kinda hungry and it's a long walk.”

The DD3 retracted the viewscreen and floated back up above as Dannar pulled himself up and set off back to town.

* * *

The weather didn't hold. Within fifteen minutes of walking the skies clouded over and the rain attacked the soft ground like a million tiny blasters trying in vain to destroy a planet. This did nothing to improve Dannar's mood.

He managed to find a small rocky outcrop that provided a limited amount of protection, so he sat himself down and asked his droid to hang above him to at least keep some of the rain out of his face – a request that it obeyed, albeit with a rather disgruntled collection of whistles.

Dannar pulled out a bag from one of his deep pockets, extracted a few slabs of hard, greyish material, and began to chew on them thoughtfully. Sure, they weren't the tastiest things in the galaxy but they kept you going. His mind drifted back to the conversation he had with Lane, which invariably led him to start thinking about his own time as a Fed-Dub officer which just made him even more cranky. He hoped what Lane had told him about the Empire was not true. Corellia and its moons might not be the most utopian places to live, but with the Empire in control, things could only get worse.

He tried to drive this line of thought from his mind. It was a situation out of his hands anyway. Although wet and uncomfortable, he settled back against the rock and decided to have an afternoon snooze. Despite the rain's best effort to keep him awake, he finally drifted off into a world of uneasy dreams: a fast river that carried him into a darkness, biting animals that crawled over his back, death from a treasure that gave off a toxic green glow.

A few hours later he woke up. It was still raining, although it was lighter now and the rain was being swept around by the wind at an angle from which the protection of the outcrop was keeping him dry – fortunate really as his DD7 had placed itself on the ground next to him, shutting down to conserve power. He tapped the droid with his foot and it spluttered into life, quickly regaining its position above his head as though pretending it had been there the whole time.

Dannar would have usually made some kind of sarcastic comment at the droid, but he was preoccupied with an idea that his dreams had given him.

“Deedee,” he said, “That gemstone that was being mined at the plant, it was radioactive, yes?”

The droid floated down to eye level and beeped an affirmative.

“Do you think you could calibrate your scanners to pick up that specific type of radiation?”

There was a few seconds silence, then another positive sounding chirp. “Good girl,” Dannar remarked and stood up with a grunt. “Now let's get back and see what we can find.”

* * *

The clouds had lifted and the rain had finally given up; a deep pink light cast shadows from the tall buildings in Nashal as evening began to draw in. Rand Dannar scratched himself idly as he waited for his DD3 to perform another scan. It was slow going; the droid had a very limited range and its scanners were fairly primitive. Each scan took a few minutes, after which they moved on to the next location. So far they had no luck.

“Anything?” said Dannar as he carefully watched the movement of the people in the street. Being Fed-Dub trained, old habits died hard.

The droid gave a kind of grunting whistle. “Damn it all,” spat Dannar, “We could be here for days doing this. I need better equipment.” The droid seemed to descend slightly at this comment. “I'm sorry Deedee, I didn't mean it like that,” Dannar said, feeling a little guilty. “Come on, let's try by the bridge. There's still some daylight left.”

His feet starting to ache, Dannar sat himself on the large pot of one of the trees that stood like guardians at the entrance to the bridge. He was bored. This relentless searching was one of the reasons he didn't like missing persons cases, although at least with those he got to move around a little more. All he could do now was scan and wait, scan and wait. He was almost beginning to drop off to sleep again when the frantic chirping from the droid snapped him back to full consciousness.

“You found something?” he said. The droid lowered itself, doing a little spin in the process as if with sheer joy, and extended its small viewscreen. Dannar stared at it for a few moments: it was a crude plan of their current location in the city. In one corner was a very faint, almost imperceptible green haze.

“Ah, now I see it,” Dannar said as the droid boosted the contrast. “It's kind of faint but there is definitely something there. That's odd though. It seems to be coming from the money district; are you sure this map is the right way round?”

DD3 gave a noise that needed no translation.

“Alright, don't get your circuits all fired up. Let's check it out shall we?”

The bridge was almost empty as Dannar crossed it; there was little reason for the rich to come over to this side of the city, except when they needed to get to the starport. Occasionally gang members from the slums ventured over in hopes of some easy pickings, but security was much tighter and they soon discovered that they could be more productive where they belonged.

Dannar was by no means a crook, but the times that he had visited the money district certainly made him feel out of place, and he always had the creeping suspicion that he was being watched. This time was no different, but his mood was such that he gave it little thought.

The trail led him through a series of tight alleyways until he came to the rear of the Hotel Corellia; the most upmarket set of exclusive apartments where the city's mayor resided, taking up a whole floor of the building and enjoying a quite stunning view of his domain. But the back of the hotel was anything but upmarket; dirty pipes and conduits ran down the plascrete, an oily smelling steam poured from vents and there were several large containers full to the brim with garbage.

All this was nothing unusual for a hotel perhaps, but most hotels don't throw out radioactive restraining bolts, such as the one that Dannar now rolled between his fingers with interest. He gestured for his droid to come closer.

“Are you sure this is the stuff? I mean, you could not be mistaking this for another type of radiation could you?”

In response to this, the DD3 drifted slowly to the ground, its lights blinking out with the exception of a small red indicator which faded on and off. Dannar stared. And waited.

“Come on, don't be like that,” he said eventually. A small flap at the top of the droid flicked as it expelled some gas from its coolant system. Dannar had seen that before. “Sometimes I could swear you were almost human you know. Look, I'm going to check out the hotel for a minute, are you coming?”

The droid remained stubbornly on the ground. “Have it your way,” said Dannar, “It might only cause suspicion of you were with me anyway. Just...I don't know, hang around here or something and stay out of trouble while I'm gone.”

There was the faint sound of the DD3's optical sensor moving as Dannar retreated back into the alleyway and headed for the front of the hotel.

* * *

The lobby was quite extravagant; tall carved pillars reached up to a high ceiling where small holos projected images of the five planets in the Corellian System, occasionally zooming in to show a famous landmark, city or some indigenous fauna. There was a long, highly polished reception counter to the left and a quite striking purple carpet that flowed like a river to the greeting area beyond.

Dressed in his long coat and still a little damp, Dannar was attracting more than a few glances. He began to wonder what he was thinking coming in here, it was hardly likely that he'd be able to go unnoticed while he was checking the place out for any clues. He blamed it on fatigue, it had been a long day after all. But still, he was a professional (of sorts) and might as well try to take a look around while he was here.

As he tried to make his way towards the greeting area, he spotted one of the last people in the galaxy that he wanted to deal with. He was a tall, thin human; his black hair was slicked back and shined under the hotel lights, his dark red suit was trimmed with gold and he wore the badge of the mayor's staff. Aware that there was no way to avoid him, and eager to get the upper hand in this encounter from the beginning, Dannar strode forward quickly towards him.

“Standard Jones,” Dannar said, “Still polishing the Mayor's choobies? Are you using a cloth yet or has he still got you licking them clean with your tongue?”

“You may mock, Dannar,” he almost spat the name, “but let me tell you that the view from up here is much better than from that junk pile you inhabit.” Dannar grinned, his opening mark had obviously hit the spot enough to get Jones's feathers a little ruffled.

“Believe me Jones,” he replied, “The view looks pretty much the same from where I'm standing. At least the crooks on my side of town don't try and hide behind fancy clothes and tacky social gatherings.”

“You sound a little bitter there old friend,” quipped Jones, picking an imagined speck of dust from Dannar's weather-beaten coat, “But of course, you've not known what it's like to have money for a very, very long time. Maybe you would like a rematch? You could always pawn that delightfully quaint coat of yours.”

“It has sentimental value Jones, something that you know very little about I'm sure.”

“Of course. How could I forget. I bet you and your little droid spent many a cold evening wrapped in that coat together as you begged for scraps, before you returned empty handed to Ellea. Oh, what a heartwarming image.”

It was Dannar's turn to lose his cool. “Look here you slimy little toad,” he growled, “I've told you before that if you ever mentioned her name again, you'd be waking up with a blaster bolt in the back of your head.” He grasped Jones by the collar and pulled him close so they were almost nose to nose. “Now say it again Standard. Say it again.”

But in the security of his home turf, Standard Jones was unphased. He moved his head forward to whisper in Dannar's ear. “Ellea,” he said slowly.

Still holding Jones by the collar, Dannar thrust him out to arm's length and swung, the contact between fist and face making a satisfying thud as Standard Jones staggered backwards. Dannar's hand screamed with pain for a moment, but in his anger he barely noticed. He kept his fists raised, ready for Jones's counter attack, but it never came.

“Security!” Jones hollered, “Security! Arrest this man for assault on a city official!”

A couple of nearby guards started to run toward them, their blasters pulled out and ready. Cursing to himself, Dannar did the only thing he could; he ran as fast as his legs would take him to the entrance. There was a clamour from the hotel guests and staff as he leapt down the steps and he could hear Jones calling for the guards to open fire.

He turned left to get out of the line of sight and ran at top speed to one of the bridges nearby. As he sped across it, dodging left and right, bursts of blaster fire shot past him. The bridge was long, and if he kept running he was an easy target. Making a feint to the right, he quickly turned again and launched himself over the barrier, hitting the water below hard. He thought he could see a few flashes above his head as he struggled to surface.

He came up just under the bridge, the darkening sky casting enough shadow to keep him hidden from above. He heard a faint voice calling the guards back. It might have been Jones, he couldn't be sure. After a minute, he decided that the chase had ended and slowly swam to the opposite bank.

There he sat for a while on a small patch of muddy sand (it could hardly be called a beach) that lined the water in front of the pedestrian area. It was a little too close to one of the more dangerous areas of town, where a spiced-up swooper gang held sway, but he would not be followed here. At least it was quiet now, although the cold breeze turned to an icy chill as it dried the moisture from his face. As he grumbled to himself a faint buzzing could be heard from across the water. He peered into the darkness as a few small points of light grew brighter as they approached. Reaching the bank in front of him, the egg-shaped droid buzzed and lowered itself to the ground.

“Nice of you to join me,” said Rand sarcastically, “You know, sometimes I think you want me to get shot, Deedee.” He gave the droid a hard stare. It made a rasping sound but remained still. “Something's going on in there,” he nodded at the distant building, “And I bet a thousand creds that Jones and his boss are involved. But there's no way I'm getting back in there now.” The DD3 flickered into life again, the small viewscreen extending out as characters scrolled across it. Dannar read them.

“You've got to be kidding,” he said

* * *

Four storeys and rising, Dannar held on for dear life as he sat uncomfortably on the top of the little droid. “Are you sure you've got enough power for this?” he said through clenched teeth. The droid gave a hum that sounded frighteningly like “I don't know.”

On a normal day (if there ever was such a thing) he might wonder why he was doing this. But Jones had riled him up. He didn't want that slick bastard getting the better of him and was more than ready to upset the apple cart, if his instincts were right. All he needed was to get inside and snoop around.

The droid lurched for a moment, then continued to rise, it's small repulsors straining under the extra weight. Dannar glanced down and wished he hadn't. “There has to be a vent or balcony up here somewhere,” he said, switching his view to the less stressful direction of up. He was uncomfortably high now. Falling off was not an option.

“There,” he called, “That's the mayor's floor.” If he had the confidence to let go with one of his arms, he would have pointed at the approaching set of windows which, unlike the rest of the tower, were bordered with shining white plasteel. “Slow down. I think I see something.”

As the droid slowed, a small, dark rectangle on the wall became visible. Hoping it was a way inside, the DD9 manoeuvred carefully towards it. It was indeed a vent, as Dannar has hoped, but inside were two silent but very fast moving fans. He cursed under his breath. If he were on the ground he could probably have removed the cover and disabled the fans, but at this height that would be suicide. He was just about to order the droid to descend, when he noticed the lights suddenly come on from the wide window to his right.

“Move across Deedee,” he wispered and the droid shifted in the air until they reached the edge of the window. Carefully peering inside, he could see the plush office with the mayor pacing to and fro, talking to a tall man who was leaning against his desk. The man was in a dark grey uniform and either side of the door were guards in the hard white armour of the Empire.

“Stormtroopers!” Dannar hissed, “What's the mayor doing dealing with the Empire? I thought he was corrupt, but not that corrupt.” He could see the mayor gesturing but the glass was too thick to hear the conversation. “Move me back to the vent will you.”

The DD3 floated back again and Dannar did his best to balance himself against the wall as he pushed his ear up against the opening. The sound was choppy, affected by the spinning blades inside, but clear enough to make out.

“Mr Mayor,” said a voice, “I can appreciate your position of course, but you must in turn appreciate that my superiors expect certain results within a given timeframe.”

“Look, I'm doing you a favour here,” came the mayor's somewhat shaky voice, “You said yourself that you will never gain control of Corellia by use of force, and that this is the only way to do it.”

“Naturally, getting a sizeable proportion of the population addicted to spice will certainly make any resistance less likely,” said the voice, “After all, the easiest way to subdue a population is to make them weak, and once this particularly addictive recipe manages to spread itself wide enough...well, you get the picture I'm sure.”

“Yes, and I am doing everything you ask,” the mayor responded, “But I cannot produce it faster than I am now, you must believe me.”

“By my calculations you are only producing two-thirds of the volume that you are able,” said the Imperial, “I was naturally curious, so I had some of the product tested.”

“You...” the mayor stumbled over his words, “Tested? Why would you do that?” he laughed nervously.

“It seems, Mr Mayor, that your production process has reduced the purity of the product by almost fifty percent. The Empire takes a dim view of those who try to line their pockets at its expense. A very dim view indeed.”

“No! That's not it!” cried the mayor, now obviously distressed, “I would never do that. It's just...It's the spice. It's too effective. People were not just addicted, they were dying! This is still my city and I have a duty to the people. Killing them was never part of our agreement.”

“Every war has casualties, Mr Mayor.” the Imperial said. There was silence for a few seconds, then the sharp sound of a blaster, followed by a dull thud. Dannar shifted his weight away from the wall. “We have to get out of here now.” he said.

As soon as the words left his mouth there was a click and a blazing light illuminated the area of wall around him. DD3 span around and Dannar's heart sank. He was so intent on listening to the conversation that he had not noticed the Imperial gunship hovering behind him. He would have put his hands up but feared he would fall.

“Move away from the wall,” a voice bellowed over a loudspeaker. The droid floated out and in front of the wide window, the spotlight following every move. Inside the building, the Imperial officer turned from the body of the now ex-mayor to observe the spectacle. The loudspeaker boomed again. “Raise your hands and make no sudden moves.”

“You've got to be joking!” Rand shouted back, his eyes half closed from the dazzlingly bright spotlight trained upon him. But the loudspeaker persisted. “Raise your hands or we will be forced to open fire.”

Trying to keep his balance, he desperately fumbled in his deep pockets in the hope of finding something of use. His hand felt something hard. Could it be one of the thermal detonators he had acquired a few weeks ago? Sure, three of them had been duds so far but some chance was better than none. He grabbed onto it and started to raise his hands. As he did so, he glanced to the side to see...a glass. Not a detonator, a blaster or even a pocket knife, but it was a glass. The same glass that he had dropped from his balcony and had thrust into his pocket and forgotten.

“Can I never catch a break?” he said out loud, considering whether to ask the voice behind the loudspeaker if he had any Corellian brandy to spare. If he was going down, he might as well enjoy himself.

Obviously noticing than Dannar had something in his hands, the searchlight clicked and blazed with increased intensity. It was blinding, and it was the last straw. “Will you get that thing outta my face!” shouted Dannar and threw the glass towards the source of the light.

There was a clunk, followed by a grinding sound, a pop, a brief smell of smoke and a flash before all hell broke loose.

The gunship lurched and Dannar could see tongues of fire flickering out of a cooling vent on the port side. Barely a second later there was the muffled sound of an explosion. The ship started to shudder and one of the port-mounted cannons span wildly around, spitting laser fire towards the building. The bolts shooting past his face, Dannar slipped and started to fall off the droid. Grasping wildly, he managed to grab onto the DD3 with one hand and hung there, the window behind him exploding into a million shards as the gunship pilot fought to regain control.

“Deedee!” Rand shouted, “Get me inside.” The droid whisted as the lasers spattered the mayor's office and floated through the broken window, Dannar dropping and rolling for cover as he let go. The cannon was still firing wildly and he could see the bodies of the Imperials on the floor to his left, the stormtrooper armour riddled with holes.

There was another almightly boom and the lasers stopped. Like the death cry of a lonely Sharnaff, a loud creaking groan came from outside, and Dannar peered around the wall to see the gunship spinning towards the ground, flames and smoke billowing from its broken frame. Luckily, its wild trajectory was taking it outside the city bounds and within a few seconds the flash could be seen as it impacted on a hillside a mile or so away.

Dannar stood at the broken window looking out, the wind blowing the debris and papers in the office around him.

“Damn it.” he said, “I really liked that glass.”

* * *

Staying was not an option. There would be far too much heat on this one. Just because all the witnesses seemed to be technically dead now, Rand wasn't naive enough to think that his involvement would not be discovered. Everyone was moving in the opposite direction, all eager to try and see what was happening. The crash would have been heard throughout the city and it was unlikely that the stunt at the top of the building would have gone unnoticed either. All he could do was gather his stuff, try to steal a swoop and ride as fast as he could away from here. Unfortunately the luxury of owning a starship was beyond his means.

He managed to shove his way back to his apartment, moving up the narrow staircase with caution. The flickering lights in the corridors made strange shadows jump at him as he slowly moved forwards, his back to the wall. Reaching the corner before his apartment door he halted and listened. Crouching down, he peered around the wall, quickly pulling back as he saw a figure. It was sitting, its back against his door. Not the usual position for someone coming to arrest him.

Standing up, he quietly reached for an old pipe that was stuck among some garbage that was littering the passageway. Not an uncommon sight in these parts. He pulled at it carefully, but it did not give. Trusting his luck, he gave it a quick, sharp tug. The pipe came free, but so did the rest of the garbage as is clattered to the floor, the sound echoing loudly in the corridor.

With a pained expression and cursing silently to himself, Dannar backed up to the corner and held the pipe up, ready to strike when a hoarse voice called out.

“ that you?”

There was no mistaking the voice, although the tone was unusual. He strode around the corner, pipe firmly in hand. “Standard Jones,” he growled angrily, “what in-” He stopped as he saw Jones, slumped by his door, his face bruised and battered, his hands covered in blood as they clutched his gut.

“Get me inside,” croaked Jones, his face shockingly pale as he looked up, “Please.”

Unlocking his door, Dannar unceremoniously pulled Jones inside, wrestling him up onto his bed. He wasn't a cruel man, but he was running out of time. “Alright Jones,” he said, “What's going on, and make it quick.”

“Still holding a grudge,” Jones smiled weakly, “I remember when we were...friends.” He coughed, spots of blood spitting onto his hands.

“A lot has happened since then,” said Rand, pulling clothes from a drawer and shoving them into a bag.

“Listen, the have to stop him,” Jones said, “I've been investigating him, you know, undercover. He's making a deal with the Empire. They are having a meeting tonight...the hotel is crawling with Imperials. They...they found me spying on them...beat me up. I barely got away alive.”

“Well you don't need to worry about the mayor any more,” said Rand, “I attended that meeting and the only deal he's going to be making now is with the worms.”

“What?” said Jones, “What do you mean?”

“I mean he's dead,” replied Rand, “And I'm going to be dead too if I don't get out of here fast. Destroying an Imperial gunship while resisting arrest is rather frowned upon I believe.”

“That explosion?” coughed Jones, “That was you?” He winced and gripped his gut again as Dannar nodded. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a data disk. “I'm done for Rand,” he said, “Take this. Please, take this to the Rebellion.”

Dannar looked down at the disk for a moment then snatched it from his hand. “Ah what the hell,” he said, “It's not as if anyone else is gonna welcome me with open arms. I'll see what I can do.” He stopped packing his gear for a moment and looked down at Jones. “Wait until I've gone,” he said, “The comm is next to the bed. Call Agitoo at the cantina. She'll get you a doctor, and get you out of here unseen. Just tell her it's a favour for me.”

“Thank you,” Jones wheezed, “But it's too late for me. There is something else Rand, something you must know.”

Dannar looked down at Jones and slung two large bags onto his shoulders.

Jones smiled. “Ellea...Ellea is here.”

“Ellea!” Dannar exclaimed, his eyes wide.

Jones held out a key-card. “Take her..” he said, “Take her away from here.”

* * *

Sirens sounded in the distance as Dannar rushed through the crowds and into the starport, his head swimming with fear and anticipation. Behind him, the DD3 followed closely, sensors working overtime. He reached the door to docking bay 27. This was it. Punching in the code that Jones had given him, he watched the door slide open and stepped inside.

There she was. As beautiful as the day he last saw her. To most men she would just be a normal YKL-37R Nova Courier, but to Dannar, Ellea was a thing of beauty. Her sleek shape hid a multitude of customisations, her engines always tuned to perfection. He clicked a button on the key-card and the ramp slowly lowered. The memory of that sound gave him chills as he walked up into the ship.

“Ellea, my beauty,” he said, “I've missed you so much.”

And with a low hum, the ship lifted out of the docking bay and shot straight for the blackness of space, the pilot unaware of the cloaked figure that watched from the shadows below.