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Friend or Foe episode 15: Bars and Beatings

The Captain and his crew landed on Tatooine. They found the contact given by their superior, but does he have any good information? Will they find what they were looking for? Find out in a new episode of Friend or Foe…

We entered the badly-lit room. No animated music or interesting people. It was a gruff-looking place, with different species huddled over their drinks, mumbling at one another. I heard mostly Huttese, with now and again a pissed of rant in Basic. The Rodian that had summoned us in, led us to the bar. He seemed to me to be the owner. He was mumbling in Huttese, but I could understand him.

“Blasted Bothan! Giving me as a contact to such low-level person. What was he in his blasted mind thinking?” He either didn’t think I could hear him, or understand him, or he didn’t care.

His complexion was now easier for me to see. Grey-green showed the Rodian’s age and one of his antennae had a cut in it. The big bug eyes were shifting skittishly; the Rodian was nervous about our presence. I looked at Arako’ant to see if she could sense anything off. She gave a reassuring nod. I kept speaking in Basic myself, feeling more comfortable with the language I was accustomed to. The Rodian switched back to his own language.

“Smart place, spy,” I said with a whispering voice to the Rodian.
A gruff laugh was my response. “Spy? Hardly. I just keep my ears on the down low what is going on here on Tatooine. And if I come across something important, I patch it through. I’m just a collector of information. Though, to be fair, through indirect channels the Republic did back the investment in this place…” I could almost hear the gears turning in his head. “Ah, blasted, maybe I am a spy.” The Rodian shook his head after this realization. Something about this man is rubbing me the wrong way, I noticed. “Now to the order of business, want do you want?” the Rodian demanded.

Arako’ant took charge again. “We need a ship,” she responded in fluid Huttese. “And we need to find an archeologist specialized in Tatooine history.”

The Rodian looked puzzled. “Tatooine history? This rock of sand has history? But that isn’t your most important business here, missy. Word gets around quick. The Empire has sent out a price on any piece of information on a ship that has escaped the Malastare system.” I flinched. Blasted, the Sith were faster than I had expected.

The Rodian saw my reaction, and quickly raised his hand: “Don’t tell me, so I will be able to deny in all honesty. I figured that was you, but as long as the words haven’t been said…”
Arako’ant nodded.

A gruff Wookiee shouted for the patron’s attention. The bartender excused himself in Huttese to pour a drink for the big haired sentient. I watched out of the corner of my eye as the Rodian chatted with his customer. The Wookiee chuckled richly after something our contact said. After the exchange,  the Rodian returned to the bar looking somewhat appeased. I knew enough about him to know I wouldn’t be able to read what happened from him, so I glanced at Arako’ant, figuring maybe her Force senses could tell her something. She had a curious look on her face. I adjusted slightly in my seat so she could whisper in my ear.

“Again more of a feeling of anticipation, then actual foresight,” she whispered. “That Wookiee knows something, or can at least help us.” She touched the elbow of the Rodian and asked in Huttese: “Who is that Wookie?”
“That walking carpet? He has arrived a few days ago on the planet with a friend of his. Not the nicest criminals around here, those two. Dangerous. I’d advise staying away.”

I turned my head again so I could catch a glance of the Wookiee. He had yellow teeth, his fur was uneven and dirty, had enough sand on him to make me think he’d been on Tatooine a few days. There was nothing deliberately suspicious about him, but my instincts were ringing all the warning bells. Something dangerous about it. And even though my Jedi friend was interested in investigating, I wasn’t.

I whispered to the Twi’lek woman that it was a no go. “We need to focus on what we need to do now. If the Force is truly as strong as you Jedi believe, we will meet him again, one way or another.”
I turned to the bartender again. “Where is the best place to buy a ship?” I asked.

The man thought for a moment. “Near the starport there is a trader – expensive but reliable, almost always legitimate. Lots of paper trail there, though. At the outskirts of the city there is a cheaper one, but the quality… well, you have to see for yourself. And there is also…”
Arako’ant interrupted. “We will investigate those. But more importantly, where would we find some local archeologists?”

“Ma’am, Tatooine is not a popular scholastic destination. Too many bookworms get killed by the heat, or the Raiders, or the kinds of people who come to this cantina, would you really expect to see an archeologist wandering around?” the Rodian said disdainfully. “Maybe the Hutts have one left? Or check the town hall – or at least, what passes for one around here.”
He started to mumble angrily again. Something about stupid outsiders and a lot of other profanities. He was beginning to irritate me.

I grabbed the tall Rodian by his neck collar and pulled his face close to mine. “If you don’t have the information, say so, but we did not come here to get insulted by you, spy.” I said with venom in my voice, making sure with every word he knew I was done with his rants. “I don’t have time for your anger. If you want to help the Republic win, stop nagging and give a straight answer. You know the right place to get a ship for us and our shipmates, and you probably have a good idea where we can at least find an archeologist or nudge us in the right direction. You are a bartender, you get both around and know a lot of people or at least they know you. So stop wasting our time.” I was a lot shorter than the bartender, but I knew his kind – spies and informers are not brawlers, and they do not like direct confrontation. Show a little backbone and they cave.

The man shrugged me off. “Fine. Damn it, I hate being in debt with Bothans. Tell your commander that this is the last time, I’m helping someone he sends me. Next time, I’m only sending information. No more contacts. Here is where you can look for the archaeologist. There is a dig site in the dunes about 50 clicks from here. The archaeologist is alone and is quite busy with researching some ancient dead race. I only met the archaeologist once, but buzz went around that what the research was about, was important.”

The man gave us some general direction and we contacted the others. Confirmations came in, and Iridom said that she found some hideouts for all the personnel in the abandoned hovels of the slave district. I radioed the foreman of the crew so that they knew where to go to as unseen as possible, keeping the snipers on guard duty. After everyone confirmed they understood the plan, Arako’ant and I headed back to the ship to meet up with the rest of the crew. The darkness gave us decent cover, but not enough. I saw from the corner of my eye that we were being followed. I tapped on the Twi’lek’s arm.

She whispered that she had sensed the shift in the Force. “Sith?”I asked worried. “No, but they are dangerous,” was her response and she even pulled her lightsaber out. I gripped the hilt of my blaster tighter.

A group of 10 thugs emerged from the dark, led by a mean, scruffy-looking human. His voice was broken and slurred – he’d been drinking heavily, it seemed.
“I know who you are,” he garbled, “I saw your ship land. Tha’ bounty will make me a pretty penny.” A lopsided sneer crossed his face.

I was drawing my weapon under my coat when I noticed Arako’ant had relaxed. Her lightsaber was still in her hand but she wasn’t preparing to use it. She waved her hand. “You don’t want to attack us.”
“No, I want too, Jedi,” said the man to us and laughed, evil in his voice. He gave me goose bumps. There was something terribly off about him, the way he spoke, his laugh… he was insane. Maybe the sun burned his mind out, but I did not like the idea of getting into this gunfight.

“Let’s not do this gentlemen,” I said. I tried to pull my blaster out slowly, but the men saw it and jumped wildly, pointing their blasters right at my chest. I froze again. This wasn’t looking good. I knew Arako’ant could handle herself, but the two of us against ten of them, still long odds.
“So I guess we’ve got a stalemate?” I said out loud. But at the moment I finished my sentence, I  heard a blaster bolt coming from behind the thugs. The one who had spoken to us fell down.

Another voice crossed the area, with daring and smugness. “Now who wants another shot in the face?”

To be continued…

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