...and the smell...
The room was yet again giant, just as he remembered, with the far end wall curving inwards as opposed to the straight walls on the inside of the building.
Only his most trusted lackeys surrounded him now. Fancifully dressed types with that sick look in their eyes like they were thinking of every possible way to screw you over. There were more dancers performing for Morda whilst he ate live Gorg from a clear jar filled with water too, presumably imported from Tatooine. The light was dim, the air hazy with smoke that clogged up your nostrils and a lively Jizz band played some music to drown out the wailing in the previous room.
Sheejo had already walked to the centre of the room with his piggy scum but Astor couldn’t help but stare at the band. They were a good looking bunch, all girls, just how Morda liked it.
“Astor, again, get here before I throw a Gorg at you!” he spoke in Huttese.
“Astor Cassen, his magnificence requests that you come closer, all the better to see you with.” Morda’s translator, a very old 4-LOM, spoke up with quite a clattery voice.
“Oh but I can see Morda perfectly from here,” Astor smiled, all sarcasm hidden in his voice, but he came closer anyhow. “Morda,” he bowed slightly, taking his hat off for him.
“Always one for humor, stupid human, it’s about time you got here.” Morda growled. The droid looked at Morda, and you could see its tiny computer whirring as he toned down the sentence.
“Most bountiful Morda is glad that you have arrived.”
Astor always ended up looking at the droid instead of Morda, out of habit, but now he turned his full attention to the Hutt. “Really though.” It still pissed him off that Gamorreans of all things had been sent to get him. “Morda you sendin’ these pirate goons to come fetch me? How have I offended you?” he shook his head.
“Bah! Straight to my point without realising it. You two legged freaks were always slow.” And he practically tore his next Gorg into pieces before crunching violently. Juices and blood dribbled down his mouth.
“His worshipfulness claims that—“ it took a while for the droid to reconfigure this one “—there is a problem.”
“’There is a problem’ eh?” he sneered at the droid. “Well?” Astor held out his arms, pacing the centre of the room. “Go on, oh great one?”
“Best to get this over with Morda, these humans are known to be temperamental and impatient,” Bebi commented as a whisper. But Astor still caught it. A fair judgement but it did rankle him. “Who really cares about him anyway?”
Morda squinted as he stared at Astor now. As if seeing how he could handle the news.
“See, human, you moan and complain about the manner of your summons, but how else am I suppose to get a hold of you.”
“The most hono—“
“—3 years it’s been! Three!”
“As I was sayi—“
“Not a single visit, not even a holocommunication. I paid for you; I took you in when you were nothing more than spacer scum floating around the Galaxy. Thanks to me your reputation is bigger than your ego. And the thanks I get?” He paused for a moment, anger full on his face. The droid was too scared to speak. “Nothing...” he finally spoke.
“Erm... his excellency deems it a grievous offence that you have not contacted him in so long.” But Astor’s attention was only for Morda now.
“I told you, I wanted some time to establish my own name, no ties, no connections, before I came back to help you out. We agreed to this. You can’t go back now.” Astor took his hat off again, closed his eyes and ran his hand through his hair before dumping it back on. He took a step towards the slug. “Look if you want me to do a job—“
“Bah!” Morda roared “A job?” he laughed then. And Astor didn’t like that one bit. “No, Astor. It saddens me that you have become so distant. It saddens me that my time spent on you was a waste. I brought you here to tell you that my protection over you is ended now.”
“Your what?” the droid had been about to speak, but then looked startled as Astor answered. Even Morda looked confused before realising he had understood every word. Astor had always hidden his knowledge of Huttese from Morda, as well as most other people when it was necessary. It gave him an upper hand. But now he spoke out of his own anger. “You mean all this time you’ve been protecting me?” He didn’t even realise his hand was clenched around the blaster on the inside of his coat.
Morda regained his composure. “That’s right. I warned all my associates not to harm you or try to swindle you. I made all your fences give you the best deals. I even bribed officials when you got too hot in an area. But that’s over now, and now I expect you to pay docking fees if you ever want to visit my worlds.”
“You slimy piece of filth—!”
“You’ll want to watch your tone around the almighty Morda, human.”
“Shut your poisonous little mouth Bebi, everyone knows you’re so far up Morda’s ass you can see through his eyes.” The twi-lek’s own eyes almost glowed a brighter red as he held up his arms, trying to physically swat away the insult.
“Mind your words, you’re lucky I haven't asked Sheejo here to take that pretty head off you too. You owe me a great deal smuggler, and you can begin with money. I want 50000 credits.”
“You think I just carry that kinda money on me? Running a ship is expensive business y’know.”
“Even so, I want that money, or things will get a little more deadly.”
“Look Morda, don’t be a fool, you’re losing a great friend here by doing this. Take this...” Astor chucked his recently acquired bag of credits towards Bebi, who looked inside and showed it to Morda. “...as a token of my gratitude, and let’s forget all this.” As much as it hurt is pride to think he’d never really been on his own, it hurt him even more to lose Morda as an ally, or worse, make him an enemy. You do not want to cross blasters with a Hutt.
“Would that I could, but you have offended me, publicly, and the shame of it cannot be ignored.” Morda shook his head. “I will give you a chance to redeem yourself, in time, once you have earned my trust again. Now leave” All sorts of feelings ran through Astor, but all he could do was frown deeply, nod, and leave the room.
He would carry on. That’s what he did. He’d suffered worse, much worse. He would continue with the four jobs he already had planned, continue with his normal plan and pay Morda the minute he could. He was horrified to know that the most prominent feeling was fear. 50000 credits was no laughing matter. That might take him a year or more to earn, and Morda wasn’t exactly easy on the interest either. And he'd really wanted to upgrade Sorrow's shield generator too. Astor had been hoping the next few jobs would pay for that and leave enough to start saving up for better engines.
Astor heard a cough behind him. He turned around.
“Greetings again, Astor.” Ogell bowed. He didn’t look best pleased either.
“Morda’s been stewing on this for 3 years. Don’t take it too personally.” Astor wasn’t used to Ogell trying to console him. “Now that he has seen you, I imagine he’ll remember what an asset you were. Nobody would throw away the potential he could make with you without a very good reason.”
“Thanks Ogell but I don’t care for inspirational speeches, and the like, too much.”
“Even so, I was instructed to inform you that there is a shuttle waiting to take you back to Nar Shaddaa.”'
Once back in his ship, everything felt better; Sorrow had that effect, ironically. Astor took a few minutes to look through the recordings that had gathered in his pockets. And it didn’t take long to start formulating a plan.
So it would go like this. First he would travel to Manaan and take the Kolto from some greedy Selkath, then onwards to Corellia where he would steal some Corellian spiced ale from a Mag-Lev train, sell the Kolto which would be distributed to the Outer Rim. After that Astor would go to Coruscant, sell the ale, give the box to this imposter, look for more smuggling jobs in the underworld there, and then finally return to the Y’Toub system where he would take the caged grabworm to Dedra the Hutt’s menagerie on Nar Shaddaa. Overall that should make 40000 credits. If he was especially lucky and managed to swindle a little more moolah, 50000 credits.
Huh... luck. Astor had always considered himself lucky, but maybe not, if what the fat Hutt Slug said was true. Yet it wouldn’t surprise him if it were some ploy for a little extra money or show of power.
“T5,” Astor called over the intercom. T5s where a relatively old make, a remake of the T-series from the days of the Old Old Republic. There were a series of whirs in reply, “quit whining, I know you’re working on the Hyperdrive but I need your help.” After a very rude line of binary, the intercom switched off and the sound of wheels could be heard coming towards him. More bleeps and flashes. “Oi, I’ll turn you into scrap if you carry on, where are your manners?” He would have carried on but he realised he was arguing with a droid. “Look, just—play the recording.” There was a sad little whir from the Droid and the hologram appeared.
“If you’re seeing this, I’ve probably gone, but remember, for the short time I knew you; you were a son to me. You gave this old man happiness once more. So take these words to heart. There is always hope, even when things look dark, there is always hope. Goodbye. May the for—“
“—turn it off now.” The hologram flickered away. “Thanks.”
A warbling beep sounded, the droid version of an eye rolling. And with one more, rude parting remark, the T5 rolled away.
This day was giving him a headache. Besides, he could sit here moping forever but he had another job to do.
Astor smacked a button on a side wall of the cockpit. It stayed red for a moment, then glowed green. He smiled before grabbing a stool from the ship’s kitchen and placing it next to the entrance ramp. One quick look behind him showed it had worked. “Transport for hire” glowed out from a holographic projection on the side of the ship and above that the words Spear of Sorrow. He loved his YV-929. Some said it was boxy an ugly ship but Astor said stuff you to those people, in a less polite way. She’d gotten him through many scrapes. More than that, the old gal had been given him by a great man.
His thoughts were interrupted by a cough. The surprise lasted a second before he bounded to his feet, all animation and showmanship.
“Well hello there m’am,” he tipped his hat towards the female human. “If you’re looking for a ship to take you anywhere in the whole Galaxy, then look no further than this ship right here. She’s fast, well protected, well armed and full of character. And for the low price of two—“
“She looks a little boxy, a little...” the woman’s nose crinkled. “ugly.”
“And all for the low, low price of ten thousand credits!”
“Ten thousand credits?” her eyes widened. He hoped to whatever God’s may exist that she would say no. “Well that’s a little extortionate, mind, but if it’s as safe as you make out, I don’t see why not.”
“Wonderful, I promise she won’t let ya down.”
“I should hope not,” the woman sniffed. “When are you planning to leave? And where exactly is she heading? I plan to go to Coruscant if you are willing to travel that far.”
“I’m headed for Coruscant myself. And we leave at sunset, so you can get one last look of this pretty little rock before you leave.” He added with a small hint of sarcasm.
“Charming.” She muttered, and proceeded to haul her luggage inside.
A further hour or so went by before another potential passenger stopped by, a Nautolean, deeply green skinned with blue stripes on his tentacles.
“I wish for passage to Coruscant, I will pay well.” What was it with Coruscant? “And I will pay now.”
“Welcome aboard!” that was the great thing about working legal jobs, credits were surefire. Sure they might haggle, but at least you knew you’d get the money. “Make yourself comfortable, we’ll leave in a few hours.” The Nautolean nodded. Not once did he smile, he said nothing else and did nothing else but hand over a stack of credits and step onto the ship. He was an odd, mysterious fella.
Nobody else showed up. The sun started to fall. Astor was about to leave when a man stepped up to him.