note: Carter is @parttimedragon’s Agent and they’ve been kind enough to let me use them for this. Poor, poor Carter.
The capital of an interstellar backwater, the city had a name, but no one on planet bothered to use it. You were either from the Slum, the City or Away. The buildings were old and crumbling, the weather shit, and worst of all, the damn thing was filled with political agitators.
Perched on the hillside overlooking the Slum, Siff watched rain pound down onto anyone who was unlucky enough to get caught out in the downpour. Anyone else, that was. She’d been there for an hour or so, watching for any sign of her Mark through the scope of her rifle. So far there had been nothing. The contract had been clear. Look for the man with the thermal marker on his shoulder. But there was no one out on the street, no man, no thermal marker. There was only the constant rain that had begun to seep through her jacket to soak her layers below.
At least it wasn’t snow, she tried to tell herself, adjusting her position against the hard rock under her. It was cold. She was cold.
This assignment sucks. She made a mental note to ask for more money next time. Or try, anyways. She wasn’t exactly in a position to bargain directly with the customers. Not yet. A few more jobs done right, and she’d be on her way towards the nicer contracts. Like Alderaan, or… other… nice planets that she’d heard of once.
Hell. Right now she almost missed Jakku. Almost.
Snapping to attention, she adjusted the rifle’s butt against her shoulder and sighted down the scope. Through it she could see two men exit one of the cleaner bars the Slum had on offer. The shorter patted the taller one on the back, and the infrared marker glowed to life, stuck to the tall man’s jacket. The short man faced her, his scarred face doing it’s best to blink away rain. He might have been a fighter once, but the shorter, scarred man looked soft around the edges now. He pressed something into the taller man’s hand, then looked up towards the hillside.
Nope. Abort. Siff caught the tall man’s shoulders turn before she rolled behind a rock for cover. Her heart was thudding loudly, and she held her breath, waiting for some sort of shout to rise up from the streets below. When none came, she dismantled the rifle and rolled it up into her pack. Plan A was gone thanks to the impatience of the scarred man, and now she was onto plan… whatever plan number that meant the one where she had to go down into the Slum’s streets herself. Something that she’d managed to avoid so far.
Scarf up and goggles down, the mercenary picked her way through the streets and tried not to think about what was squishing underfoot. This was a Hutt planet. At best it was something that washed down from the City higher up the slope of hill opposite to the one Siff had been camping out on.
The easiest place to start would be the bar the Mark had left. Someone might have overheard where he was going, or where the man was staying. It would come out of her earnings, but without greasing a few palms or tentacles, she wasn’t going to have any earnings to speak of.
Siff ducked under the low entry way, and jogged up the few steps to the main entrance of the- she stopped. This… this was not a bar like the kind back home. At least not like one she’d ever have been allowed into.
There were cages hung from the ceiling with girls dancing in them, and through the blue smoke in the air Siff saw the watery toad-eyes of the local Hutt watching the club’s patron’s. Or girls. Or…the one tentacle being whose pronouns Siff was unsure of.
Shrinking into herself, Siff shook off the worst of the rain, and headed for the bar. Best case scenario, the bartender had a lead. Worst, she would head back out into the rain. Either way, the goggles and the scarf were staying on thank you very much. Already she could feel her cheeks getting hot at the ‘dancing’, and Siff tried not to look too closely at the girls or the Hutt as she hurried towards the bar.
Oh Siff, this will be so perfect for your first solo job, the merc snarked to herself. Just take out some two bit smuggler. Hawk the cargo to the nearest fence and there’s the profit.
Of course there would be more to the job. It smelled like a double cross, and Siff was prepared for that. She just wasn’t prepared to be trying to flag down a bartender in a Hutt den.
“One drink minimum.” the bartender said when he noticed her.
“I just have a que-”
“One drink,” he repeated. “Miminum.“
Siff grit her teeth. Fine.
“Whatever’s cheap and won’t kill me.” She pulled out a few credits and dropped them onto the bar. “There was a man here, smuggler that maybe looks a little too clean. Blue eyes, dark hair, human. You know where he’s staying?” The bar tender nodded, palmed the credits and tucked them into his apron. Siff waited.
“Answers cost two drinks.”
“Fine,” she said, biting back the angry words she’d much rather be paying him in. She took out a second handful of credits and held them out. “Two drinks of whatever is cheap but won’t kill me.”
The bartender nodded and held out his hand. Siff dropped the credits into his dirty palm and crossed her arms, waiting for the drinks. Whatever the bartender poured into the glasses looked mostly like some kind of wine. Tugging down the scarf she knocked back the first glass, swallowing hard against the burn that was already crawling up her nostrils.
“So,” she said, swallowing the cough her body was desperate to let out. “Where’s he staying?”
Taking the second shot before she’d left the club hadn’t been one of Siff’s smarter ideas. But the Bartender had been waiting until she finished to answer her and now here she was, crouched in front of the lock panel on what she hoped was the Mark’s ship. It certainly looked like the kind of ship someone disreputable would fly. Large cargo space, strong engines, moderate fire power but if Siff was the one working on it she’d have cut cargo space for upping the engines.
“Focus, damnit.” She muttered under her breath. She twisted the screwdriver lodged in the panel and smiled as she heard the ‘fzzt’ that told her she’d shorted the circuit. The door hissed open, letting dim orange light spill out into the landing pad where it was parked.
Drinks or no drinks, Siff was going to get paid.
Ducking under the door, she shed the drenched poncho and tucked it into a hollow between support struts and the doorway. Better not to leave a trail of dripping water if she could avoid it, even if her boots were soaked through and would leave footprints… Siff debated internally about the boots for a moment before wiping them on the dry side of the poncho to minimize the puddles she’d leave behind.
Creeping forward, Siff bit her lip and tried to control the thudding heart that seemed to be deafening. What was in those drinks anyways? Another night, when she wasn’t working, she’d have to find out and buy herself a bottle.
The dim lighting of the ship brightened as Siff reached what looked like the main bunk room. The cot had been made with what might have been militaristic neatness, though a small ripple suggested someone had been sitting on it recently. The magazine laying next to a half-full bottle of spirits was still open to a page with twi’lek girls sprawled over a very… very handsome chiss male.
“I thought someone would show up,” a voice said behind her. “Put your hands up and to the back of your head. If you play this right, you might survive the night.”
“Why…” Siff asked, slowly moving her hands to the back of her head. “Why is it always Twi’leks? I don’t get it. Is, is it a head-tentacle thing?”
She turned, glancing between the triangle her arm made. The man had a blaster out, and he was definitely her Mark. 100%. Well, the drinks had been worth the information at least.
“W-what?” he said, cheeks turning a bit pink. “I don’t- don’t change the subject.”
“Can I sit down?” Siff asked, the room was wavering a bit. “I need to sit down.”
“No, I’m the one-”
But she already had turned and sat on the cot. Giggling, she put a gloved finger to her lips, over the scarf. Ugh, the scarf still smelled like the damn bar. She tugged it off and slipped the goggles back to perch on her head. Even in the low light, she could see him clearly. Well. Mostly clearly, the alcohol in her system was making the world a little fuzzier and happier than it normally was.
“You know what’s stupid?” She said with a sigh. He was staring at her funny. Trying to scowl but also not turn more red at the realisation that the mercenary was sitting on his bed, next to the picture of the man surrounded by twi’leks. “Like, besides drinking before a job? Why are you staring at me?” she asked, squinting back. “Is it because…” she looked at the magazine next to her, then back at the man. “I’m Chiss?” A midnight blue eyebrow arched up over the drink-flush cheeks. “See, now this is weird,“ she said, rubbing at her eyes. Red eyes. “You made this weird with your magazine.”
“You made this weird,” he muttered. “Are you supposed to rob me? Kill me?”
“I was,” Siff said a bit too cheerily. “Kill you, I mean. Well, both. But I realised that they were just going to double cross me and keep whatever’s on your ship so I thought I’d make you an offer, Captain.” She saluted, messily. “We’ve got about ten, fifteen minutes before they show up. Enough time for me to set the charges off.” She pressed the back of her fist to her mouth to stifle a hiccup.
“The ones I set on the landing pad an hour ago. In case you tried to kill me,” Siff said, opening her hand to show a small blinking detonator. “So, we should probably take off soon.”
Outside, the crack of a small explosive drew their attention.
“I would,” the man said through grit teeth. “But you broke my door.”
“Yeah, I can fix it,” she said, waving her detonator hand at him. “Just start the engines up. I was short on mines.” Another crack sounded, and Siff stood up with a wobble. “Well that was the last one. We gotta go now buddy.” Patting the human on the shoulder on the way by, and using him to steady herself, Siff headed for the broken door.
“You only brought two mines?!” He asked behind her.
“Yeah, your bounty advance wouldn’t cover more, okay? Less chat more take off please.”