We had come out of Hyperspace in the Mid Rim, near but not on the Corellian Way. I took the ship off autopilot and set course for the next hyperspace jump manually. The sub light trip to the next hyper-point would take us near Mimban, this was a fairly quiet region and I liked the calm, didn’t see the need for the auto pilot to be on all the time. I studied the star chart I had called up, just out of idle curiosity. It always amazed me how many worlds there were out there and how easy it was to get to them with Hyperdrive. I had often wondered what it had been like before hyperdrive.
I looked for Tatooine and found it, stuck out in the Outer Rim and felt a sudden pang of homesickness. Then I looked for Csilla and found it after some searching, all the way across the galaxy almost exactly opposite Tatooine in the region labelled Unknown Space. I wondered how long it would take this little ship to get all the way out there and what was beyond those borders. I was a little surprised to find it on the map at all and guessed the star Charts in the Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma‘s data banks were very up to date. There were some advantages to flying for the Empire.
I had spent a little time out in this region of space doing runs with my father and had always found it incredibly dull. Not much to see and little of interest going on. So it was quite a surprise when suddenly someone fired at us and the Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma came under attack. The ship rocked a second time as second blast hit us on the starboard side.
“Buggery sandrats!” I hissed strapping myself into the seat and getting the tactical computer online, reading one ship off our starboard aft. Our shields were holding as we were fired upon again. I spun port side and manoeuvered the ship to avoid yet another volley of fire. We were taking damage and that was surprising considering how jumped up the Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma was. The ship that was attacking us had a lot more fire power than she was supposed to. I scanned it and read only one life sign, human. The ship read as a normal YV-666 Corellian freighter but the name she was flying under made me grit my teeth. I knew that she would be able to out gun us because I had helped install those guns on her. I jammed the headset on and opened the frequency.
“Doxy Jane, Doxy Jane this is the Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma requesting you stand down weapons fire, repeat stand down weapons fire, over.” I said.
“Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma, this is the Doxy Jane. You have entered restricted space. You will lower your shields and prepare to be boarded.”
“Doxy Jane, say again, restricted space? On whose authority, over?”
“Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma, you have entered space controlled by the Razzer Consortium. All vessels passing through this territory are required to pay a travel tariff of forty percent of what ever cargo you are hauling. Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded. over.”
Razzer Consortium? I had never ever heard of that and from my time on Tatooine I thought I had pretty much heard of all the major and fairly minor pirate outfits that were around. I brought up the star chart again just to be sure. Bloody pirates.
“Doxy Jane, I see no such restrictions on my current star chart, over.”
The ship rocked again as the Doxy Jane fired another volley at us. Something started beeping madly on the main consol, our starboard thruster had taken a hit and I saw that another good shot like that would probably take our starboard shield generator out.
I was so caught up in trying to figure out how to solve this problem that I did not hear Thrawn enter the cockpit. I just about jumped out of my skin when I turned around and saw Thrawn leaning over my shoulder. His face so close to mine I could feel the warmth of his skin. He was about to ask what was going on but I put my finger to his lips and shushed him, worked both ways that trick. I had an open comm and I didn’t want the pilot of the Doxy Jane to know I had company just yet.
‘Pirates’ I mouthed. Thrawn nodded and backed off a bit.
“Doxy Jane, I am carrying nothing of value. I am transporting one passenger. I repeat, we have nothing of value onboard. Stand down weapons fire, over.” I said all the while Thrawn watched me. I had been through stuff like this before, especially when flying runs for Jabba the Hutt.
“Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma, perhaps you should get a better star map .You will prepare for boarding inspection and tariff payment.”
“Doxy Jane, who am I speaking to? I will not allow you onboard until I at least know who you are, over” I said.
“Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma, this is Captain Raz Drillon, Stand down shields and weapons and prepare to be boarded.”
I cut the comm for a moment and turned to Thrawn. “How long does it take you to get dressed in that Bone Trader disguise of yours?”
“Few moments.” He said. “What is going on?”
“He’s a pirate. I read only the one life form on the ship, but he’s faster, his shields are stronger and he out guns us. He’s already done some damage to the starboard thruster. He wants money, or cargo. He’s going to get a lot more than he bargained for.” I said. Thrawn just looked at me with one eye brow arched. I sighed. “Captain, I don’t have time to explain. From the first moment we met you have been telling me to trust you, now I am asking you. Trust me on this. I know this guy, and I sure know this ship. I don’t know where he came from or what he is doing out here but I can handle this. Can you go and change please?”
He hesitated for a fraction of a second then nodded. “Very well, Miss Gabriel.”
“Captain, keep an open comm. And, “I said, “be prepared for the unexpected, just in case I am wrong.”
He grinned. “Now you have piqued my curiosity.” He said as he vanished back aft.
I slowed the ship down a bit and checked over everything once again. Then drew a deep breath hoping I was right about this because if I wasn’t it could be ugly.
“Doxy Jane, this is Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma. I will agree to allow one person on board to comply with your, ah…, inspection regulations however if I read anything so much as a mouse bot on the scanner I will blow the dock are we clear on this?”
Raz Drillon laughed into the comm. It turned into a series of hacking coughs. “Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma, you’ve got guts girl, I will give you that. Prepare for port side dock.”
I shut the comm off and prepped for the ship to ship docking procedure. I grabbed a long sleeved shirt off the back of the chair and pulled it on. I did not want to give this guy any more of a show than necessary. I punched in the protocols and watched as we started the delicate ballet of in space docking. While that was going on I pulled up the schematic on the Doxy Jane, using some tricks Jyrki had taught me and I tapped into her computer via a back door. I was very familiar with not only this ship but her captain as well and now that familiarity would come in useful. Payback is a bitch, I thought nastily. I clicked the personal comm tool twice and got a double click back as an answer. Thrawn was listening in.
The docking procedure didn’t take long and I was at the airlock to greet Raz when he and he alone stepped onboard. I wondered how long it would take him to figure out who I was. I was pretty sure he would not really remember me but I had not forgotten him.
Raz Drillon had worked as a pilot with my father at our docking bay. Even as a kid I had not liked him much. Instinct and observation had made me wary of this man who laughed too loud and spat on the ground every chance he got. He was bullish, rude and mean. When I started to blossom from awkward kid into a teenaged girl, Raz’s attention suddenly turned to me. His long leering glances at my changing body did not go unnoticed by me and I began to avoid him like the plague. It was around this time that he bought the Doxy Jane from one of the junk dealers near by and used our facility to fix it up. Jyrki had just started working for us and since I spent almost all my free time with him, I also spent a lot of time working on the Doxy Jane as well, because while Raz was an okay pilot he was a terrible mechanic and didn’t have much of a clue about how the ship worked. Jyrki had done all the major reworking including a lot of the computer installations showing me everything every single step of the way. I probably knew more about the Doxy Jane than Raz did. Jyrki had made certain there were back doors into all the systems, not because he wanted to do anything illegal per say, but because he liked to have options. He had used Raz’s ship as a teaching tool for me. It had been quite an education.
I sighed and watched as the airlock door opened. There was that little wuff of air exchange that always happened because no matter how good you are the one to one mix is never perfect between ships and through the small airlock stepped the man who had tried very hard to rape me when I was younger.
That memory flooded back as Raz and the scent of him came through the doorway. I suppose that after watching me for so long he decided he would simply take by force what he couldn’t have freely. One evening after most of the pit crew and staff had gone home he had come back from the Cantina with a couple of his buddies to find me still working on one of the ships in dock. I didn’t like being alone with him at the best of times. I had sensed his intent right from the word go and that made me all the more scared. I had tried to play it cool and had gotten up from the ground, out from under the ship I was working on and tried to walk away from him and his friends.
I don’t remember who of them it was that grabbed me by the arms and backed me up to the nearest wall, but I do remember clearly what Raz did and the memory of it made me shudder. Three large men against one small teenaged girl, it wasn’t fair and even if one of them had not clamped his big sweaty hand over my mouth I had been too paralyzed with fear to scream anyway.
I had never been touched like that before, and I had never been undressed by or in front of strangers either. I absolutely dread to think about what would have happened had Jyrki not come back at that moment because he had forgotten something. And while most of what happened is still somehow, mercifully blurred I can still see Jyrki’s face as he took in the situation. I had been backed up against a wall being held by a man twice my size while two others grabbed, groped and tore at me and my clothes. For a split second our eyes locked and then Jyrki went into action. I had never seen anyone move so fast, and I suspect neither had Raz or his two friends. It was over in a matter of moments. Jyrki knelt down by Raz and whispered something in his ear. I never knew what Jyrki had said but despite being beaten half to death Raz cleared out of the docking bay as fast as he possibly could, leaving his two friends to be picked up by the local police.
I was huddled on the ground too scared to even be hysterical. Once Jyrki had established that I was okay, just very shaken up and numb. He wrapped me in his coat and had wanted to take me home. I had started to cry then, too ashamed to go home, scared my father would think that this had somehow been my fault. Not knowing what else to do he had taken me to his home nearby and fed me a good dose of Corellian brandy and given me clean clothes to wear. After I had calmed down and he had gotten the whole story out of me, was satisfied that Raz had not managed to fulfill his intent and that I was not hurt just badly shaken up, he took me home. I had made him promise not to say a word to anyone about it. Jyrki had not been happy about that and had tried to tell me that none of this was my fault, that I had done nothing to encourage such an outrage. But no matter what he said, I still felt tainted. It was a few days after that little episode that we had started our training sessions.
“Welcome aboard the Ahnkeli ’Su’udelma, Captain Drillon.” I said coldly as he stepped through the hatchway.
He sized me up and down and there was a flicker recognition in his eyes but he still had not figured it out yet.
“Nice ship, maybe I’ll just take her as payment.” He said. “Name’s kinda long though, isn’t it?”
I just shrugged. I had not named her and I didn’t even know what the name meant.
“You going to show me around, Captain…?” he asked searching for my name.
I gave him a look. “Not Captain, just a pilot doing her job.” I said. “I told you, I have a passenger and he will not be very happy when I have to explain why he will be arriving at his destination late.”
Raz looked at me with a puzzled expression and then recognition dawned on him. “I know you.” He said. “Ain’t you Kitga’ar Gabriel’s little girl. My, my, my, you all grown up.” He looked around the ship. “You all alone then or is Jyrki still playing the love sick, watchdog boyfriend?” He took a step towards me but I stayed my ground. The docking bay entrance was not that large and I didn’t want him inside the cargo bay or any other part of the ship.
“What is all this crap about tariffs then, Raz, you playing at pirate now? This part of space is free and clear and don’t tell me I need to update my star map, trust me it’s as up to date as it gets.”
He shrugged and grinned. “Man’s gotta make a living ain’t he.” He said.
“Life get a bit difficult for you after you tried to rape me then?” I asked, knowing full well that Jyrki had done some serious damage to Raz’s already piss poor reputation. Not only had he not been able to find work with most of the people who would even think about employing a pilot such as him but he had also been black listed from pretty much all the docking ports and landing bays that were out there. I do not know what it was Jyrki had told people but it had done its damage.
“Pah, was just having a little fun with you was all.” He said.
“Ah, well I hope it was worth it.” I said sweetly. “You and your two pals against a little girl, word gets around I guess.” I sighed and looked at my finger nails. “Get off my ship, Raz before I make sure you can’t even fly in free space without someone harassing you.”
He took another step towards me and growled “I don’t think so, you little ….” he didn’t have time to even finish his sentence before I dropped him. While he was on his knees I stepped behind him and in a hold that was among the first Jyrki had ever taught me I had his arm behind his back and shoved upwards in the most painful and unnatural position it could be in with out actually dislocating it. I shoved my knee deep into the middle of his back and he yelped with pain.
“You listen to me, you piece of bantha-poodoo. I am transporting a single passenger and I have nothing of value you want on this ship. If you do not get off this vessel now I will lock you up and turn you over to the Imperial authorities. Are we clear on this?”
Raz nodded and I let him stand up, then I let his arm go. He whipped out the blaster with his other hand before I even had time to move and shoved it in my face. This was the second time in as many days this had happened and I was so fed up of it.
“What’s to stop me from just shooting you now and taking your ship?” Raz sneered.
I caught movement from the corner of my eye and smiled. “Him.” I said motioning with my head to where Za’ar stood with his blaster pointed at Raz.
The momentary surprise was all I needed and I twisted Raz’s wrist making him drop the blaster and slammed my heel into the back of his knee. The grunt of pain he let out was satisfying. His gun, I kicked out of the way, even if I had wanted to use it I didn’t actually know how. I hated blasters and had made a point of never using one.
“I told you, I was transporting a passenger and I told you he would not be pleased by this little interruption. Now, get off my ship before I throw you in this airlock and then blow it.” I hissed in his ear.
Raz looked up at me then looked at the Bone Trader. His face was almost as white as the bone mask Za’ar wore. The outfit had had the desired shock effect. He struggled to get to his feet and limped through the hatchway. I watched as the airlock shut and then raced back up to the cockpit. I knew Raz would try to salvage what was left of his pride. Za’ar followed, the amulets about his neck sounding like tiny wind chimes as he moved.
I brought up the schematic I had called on earlier and punched in the back door code. It gave me the access I needed. Raz had neither changed the codes to his computers nor thought to have someone look for encoded access nodes. Thrawn stripped off the mask and watched me with interest as I typed in several sets of numbers. Each time I was asked to confirm and each time I hit yes.
“That is highly illegal, you know.” he said.
“I do know that and I don’t care.” I said finishing what I had started. “He’s had this coming a long time, and if I just let him leave he will have a go at us. As I said before he has bigger weapons and a better shield.” I added. I punched in the last of the codes and sent the sequence. “You can have me arrested for slicing when we get back on your ship.”
“You are a little scary sometimes.” He said.
“Then I guess we are evenly matched.” I retorted.
Thrawn just gave me one of those smiles that said everything and told me nothing.
I just shook my head and started up the engines and turned the ship around to watch the results of my work. Raz had begun a firing sequence but as soon as he did so, all of his systems began a systematic shut down. In a matter of moments his ship went dark. Nothing, except life support, worked. Two seconds after that, the ship began to send out a distress signal on an Imperial carrier. I was pretty sure he’d have some explaining to do when the local Imperial Patrol got out here. His ship was probably full of contraband. I could only imagine the panic going on over there on board the Doxy Jane. It made me smile.
“Now we can go.” I said and I set new hyperspace co ordinates into the nav computer.
Thrawn looked at me questioningly.
“We took damage to the starboard shield generator and thruster. I can’t fix that in space but I know a place where I can and no one will ask questions. This little trip of yours was supposed to be kept quiet right?” I sat back and watched as the stars elongated and space spun. Once again we were in hyperspace, but this time we were headed for Tatooine. In a few hours I would be home. Since the Captain had not argued with me, I guessed he understood the situation.
I got up and headed for the galley. I dug through the galley cupboard until I found the bottle of brandy and poured myself a shot while Thrawn removed most of the bone trader disguise and stood next to me. He took the glass out of my hand and sipped from it, from it before handing it back.
He said. “You did not tell me you were also a slicer.”
“I’m not.” I said. “But I helped refit that ship. I knew her engines, her codes and worst of all, her Captain. Which I suppose was lucky for us.”
“I take it from the conversation you had with Captain Drillon it was not a good relationship.” He said.
“No.” and I told him the whole story, plus or minus a few details. He listened without interruption and when I was finished I could tell he was angry for what happened by the way his jaw clenched.
“Jyrki?” he asked. “Was the one who…?”
“Yes.” I nodded cutting him off. “Jyrki Andando, he said he had forgotten his jacket or something. He worked as a mechanic for my father for some years. He was the one who taught me the trick with the ship codes. But he was never my boyfriend.” I said with a sigh. Thinking of Jyrki made me sad.
“No, but he was the one who broke your heart.” Thrawn said evenly making me look up at him. “It is there in your voice when you speak his name.”
“It was a long time ago.” I said flatly. “He saved my neck that day and showed me how to defend myself afterwards. He was a good mechanic and he taught me most of what I know about ships. He left to find work somewhere else. He was a bit of a drifter, never staying in one place too long. I got over it.” I shrugged.
Thrawn watched my face carefully. “I must remember never to hurt or slight you. You can be as unforgiving as the cold on my planet. You do not forget anything anyone has done to or for you, do you?”
It was my turn to arch an eyebrow but he was right. “I don’t forget, that is true.” I nodded. “But you are wrong about the not forgiving part.”
“Oh?” and that blue-black eyebrow arched in surprise.
“I forgive you for dragging me out here on this crazy mission.” I said finishing the brandy shot.
He laughed. I handed him the empty glass and nodded. “I need to sleep. Wake me up when we reach Tatooine.”
“As you wish.” He said with a slight smile. Then he added. “Miss Gabriel, what you did with that pirate, it was very well played.”
I looked him in the eyes for a moment and nodded. I suspected that compliments from Thrawn were very far and few between when it came to things like this. Tactics and strategy were his areas of expertise not mine. I lay down on the bunk and went out like a light and much to my surprise I did not dream.