I SPENT my time in isolation attempting to concoct an escape plan, but nothing came to me. The door could be opened by keypad only, and there were no other ways out of the room. I had no slicing skills so hacking the terminal was out of the question. There were no windows nor any vents. None that I could see, anyhow. I was truly stuck here.
After what felt like hours to me, but was probably only a handful of minutes, a different Bothan and two more armed security guards entered the room. The Bothan sat in the very chair that Joren’ak had just vacated moments ago. The guards flanked him on either side. The guard on his left had brown fur so with a stroke of creative genius I dubbed him Brown. The one on the right had black fur with white patches of fur mixed in, so I simply dubbed him Black.
Once seated, the Bothan studied me momentarily, as if sizing me up. Determined not to be intimidated, I stared directly back at him until he broke the silence.
“Greetings, M. Fraden. I am Koth Melan.” the Bothan said with a cold smile.
I flashed an artificial smile. “Well, well, well. Just the person I came here to see. I’m being unreasonably detained,” I replied with a cool edge to my voice.
“I think not,” Melan replied. “You can’t blame us for being overly cautious. After all, what would you do if a bounty hunter came into your office looking for you?” Melan inquired.
“Well, if I actually had an office I’d shoot him. Or her. But as you’re quite aware, I’m a bounty hunter. I expect to be a target.” I retorted. “You don’t have any death threats to worry about.”
Melan chuckled humorlessly. “We all have death threats to worry about in my line of business.”
“And what line of business is that?” I asked, genuinely curious.
Melan looked at me as if I were a child who had asked an imbecilic question. He seemed genuinely surprised by my question. “Why, I’m a Bothan spy of course.”
Many things suddenly made sense. I should have assumed Melan was a spy. The messenger droid he sent to Tatooine should have been a dead giveaway. A normal person would have used the holonet to communicate, but those communications can be monitored and compromised. There’s no way to monitor a messenger droid unless you physically intercept it.
“There’s always someone, “Melan continued, “who wants to kill us for what we know or are perceived to know.” Melan answered wistfully. “But enough about me. Let’s get back on topic, shall we? My associate tells me that you sought me out because you require information from me. Is this true or were you less than honest with my colleague?”
Here we go again.
“Yes, that’s all I came here for.” I replied.
“And what information do you think I possess that is of interest to you?”
“I have it on good authority that a human named Dash Rendar came to visit you recently,” I told him.
“What is your interest with Rendar?”
“Dash Rendar has a bounty on his head.”
“Oh? I was unaware of such a bounty.”
“Wow. You mean, there are things of which the Bothan Spynet is unaware?” My sarcasm never stays in hibernation for very long.
“I see my colleague was not exaggerating your penchant for sarcasm.”
Despite the situation, I laughed out loud. “I’m glad I made such a good impression on him.”
Melan seemed to lose himself deep in thought for a moment before saying, “Why would you assume that I would willing give up the information you seek?”
“What loyalty do you owe him?” I replied. “Rendar has no loyalties to you, the Empire, or the Rebellion. Why wouldn’t give me this information?”
“Rendar has,” Melan paused briefly, as if searching for the appropriate words to convey his thoughts, “provided useful favors for me recently.”
“So?” I know this not a profound or even an eloquent argument, but it was all I could think of at the moment.
“So I feel I owe it to him to hide his whereabouts from you and to advise him that he is being hunted. I don’t owe you anything.” Melan explained.
“I don’t suppose some credits would help change your mind?” I tried.
Melan actually chuckled. “M Fraden, offering a Bothan a bribe is how you ended up in your current predicament.”
“Hey, it was worth a shot,” I said.
“If there’s nothing else, I believe our conversation here is at an end,” Melan announced.
“Good. With you gone I can finally enjoy some intelligent conversation,” I said caustically.
Melan ignored the insult. He rose from his seat, spun 180 degrees, and headed for the door.
I decided that were I to act, the time was now. I had a feeling that once Melan left the room I would be out of chances to escape.
The guards stupidly allowed their gaze to follow Melan towards the door and I seized the opportunity. I quickly leaped from my chair and, using the table as a vault, sprung into a head-first dive over the two guards. Melan had just begun to turn around when I was upon him. With both hands, I shoved Melan into the door with all of my might.
Melan went flying into the wall as I tumbled to the floor. I was unable to see what happened to him afterwards as I had to turn my attention to the floor, which was rapidly approaching.
I stuck my hands out to help break my fall. I came down on my hands and knees. I quickly rolled left onto my back and saw Melan laying on the floor next to me. He was conscious, but barely.
I then turned my attention to the two guards. Brown was bringing his blaster rifle to bear on me while Black was stuck behind Brown and was momentarily out of the fight.
Fortuitously, Brown was within range of my feet. Just as he was lining up his shot, I was able to use my right foot to sweep his feet out from under him. His feet were swept forward and his hands, and the rifle, went flying backwards and a stun bolt spewed from the blaster rifle into the ceiling.
Brown landed on his rear and dropped the rifle and grunted in pain when his tailbone hit the floor. I sat up quickly and from my rear delivered a straight punch that landed below his left ear which knocked him to the floor.
Black, who I can only surmise was afraid he’d hit Brown in addition to me with a stun bolt, came for a melee attack. He stepped over Brown while swinging the butt of his blaster rifle at me. I was still sitting on the floor so I simply laid back. The butt of the blaster rifle missed me by mere millimeters.
Black had left me an avenue for attack. While laying on my back, I kicked up with my right foot while he was retracting the blaster rifle from his failed melee attack. My foot connected with the rifle as I had intended and sent the rifle flying from Black’s hands and into the wall behind me.
I vaulted to my feet and squared off with Black. Brown was picking himself up off the floor behind him.
I unleashed a side snap kick that connected with Black’s gut. I heard a loud “oomph” from the guard as my kick connected and couldn’t believe my luck when I saw Black trip over Brown. They both fell to the floor. It was all I could hope for. Seizing this opportunity, I ran to where the guards were frantically trying to get back on their feet. Black was on all fours when I kicked the side of his head, knocking him unconscious.
Looking right, I saw Brown had gotten to his knees with a rifle in hand and aimed right at me. Fortunately, the barrel of the rifle was within my arm’s reach and I was able to swat the end of the rifle away before a stun bolt erupted from the rifle’s muzzle and sailed harmlessly into the wall.
I grabbed the end of the rifle with both hands and tried, unsuccessfully, to yank it away from the guard. The guard had a fairly good grip on it so I decided to changed tactics and just let go of the rifle. Caught off guard by the sudden change in leverage, the guard fell onto his back. I was on him in an instant, pummeling the guard with lefts and rights. The guard curled himself into the fetal position to protect himself against the brutal onslaught. I took that opening to grab the guard’s stun baton from his belt. I struck the guard once with the baton and then the guard lay unconscious on the floor.
Wow! This thing is handy!
I sat on the floor for a minute, catching my breath and assessing the situation. I knew I needed to get moving because someone had surely heard those stun blasts. And for all I knew, somebody monitoring the cameras in here probably just watched me take all three of these guys out. I picked up one of the blaster rifles and made sure it was still set to stun. The last thing I wanted was murder charges from the Bothan government on my head. I clipped the stun baton to my belt. I then searched the guards for anything else they might have that might prove useful. The only thing my search yielded was some spare energy packs for my pilfered blaster rifle and a comlink. I decided to hang on to the comlink so I could monitor the Bothans’ chatter during my escape.
A knock at the door startled me. “Everything okay in there?” a voice came from a small speaker adjoined to the security pad. “Did you have to stun him?” It was Joran’ek.
I guess that means that there are no cameras in here otherwise he’d already know what’s going on. It appears that I stuck my tongue out at nothing.
I looked toward the door and saw Melan groggily getting to his feet. I quickly hopped up and strode over to him. I placed the muzzle of the blaster rifle directly against the side of Melan’s head. He obviously knew what was touching him because his eyes suddenly enlarged. They seemed like they might even pop out of his skull.
“Just so you know,” I told him in a hushed voice, “this rifle is no longer set to stun.” That was a lie, but he didn’t know that. “Tell him you stunned me and you need his help to pick me up off the floor.”
Melan nodded in acknowledgement. He then pressed a button on the security panel and spoke into the device. “Yes, we were forced to stun him. Can you assist me in picking him up? He incapacitated the guards.”
Nice touch, I thought.
“I’ll be in there momentarily.” Joran’ek promised.
I clobbered Melan over the head with the butt of the blaster rifle and watched as he crumpled to the floor. I then assumed a position next to the door. I pressed my back against the wall and waited for the door to open.
With a loud hiss, the door finally opened. I waited for Joran’ek to walk through the doorway. Much to my surprise, Joran’ek came tumbling through the door, landing face-first on the floor.
I stared at the fallen Bothan in disbelief.
What the. . .
When I finally looked up, I saw Muehlenkha standing in the doorway.
It’s about time.
“Took you long enough,” I growled.
“Apologies, Afcuyo Fraden.” Muehlenkha sullenly replied. “I had to wait for the cover of nightfall.”
“Oh. I knew that,” I said stupidly. I had completely forgotten everything Muehlenkha had told me on the Titan earlier. “So what’s the plan?”
“I have a fix on your position,” Staphon’s voice said through Muehlenkha’s comlink. “Head to the roof and I will come pick you up.”
I suddenly remembered where my comlink was. “Uh, excuse me,” I said pitifully while I reached into my crotch to pull out my comlink. Speaking into my comlink I said, “Sounds like a plan to me. But first, I think I have some questions for Mr. Melan.”
Muehlenkha and I picked Melan up off the floor and sat him in the closest chair. I grabbed a set of binders from each one of the unconscious guards and then used one set to cuff Melan to the chair. I clipped the other set of binders to my belt.
These might come in handy later.
I began slapping Melan across the face repeatedly until he awoke.
Melan groggily came to. “What in the name of. . .” he cried without finishing. His head and eyes darted back and forth as he came to realize his situation. “You won’t get away with this,” he fumed, anger consuming him.
“How cliché. I hear that often,” I mockingly told the Bothan. “I laugh at it now. Well, snicker, depending on the situation. Sometimes, I laugh on the inside if I’m really intimidated.”
“You’re insane.” Melan declared.
“I know,” I concurred with a slight chuckle. “It actually helps me do my job, though. Since you are obviously not going anywhere, though, why don’t you make life easier for all of us and just tell me where I can find Rendar.”
The Bothan studied me momentarily, his look suggesting disbelief in what he’d just heard. “You….you were telling the truth?” he asked.
“Uh, yeah,” I replied acerbically. “Before a few days ago I had no idea who you were. Today, I know who you are and I still don’t care. So, please, tell me where I can find Rendar so I can get out of here quickly and without having to hurt you.”
Melan contemplated his predicament momentarily. Finally, he said, “He has completed his task for us anyway, so there is not really any reason for me to care what you do with him. If he followed his instructions, he should be on Rodia currently, though I do not know how long he will be there. That is all I know.”
“Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.”
“Well you release me? I have a vitally important rendezvous to attend shortly.”
At that moment, Black started to stir. I noticed this out of the corner of my eye and placed the keys to the binders on the table. “Looks like he’ll be up in a minute,” I said while gesturing my head toward the awakening guard. “He can release you. Hopefully if we meet again it will be a more cordial experience,” I said while feigning a smile.
Looking at Muehlenkha, who had been standing in the doorway since we dragged Melan to his chair to prevent the door from closing, I said, “Let’s scram.”
“Quickly, Afcuyo Fraden,” Muehlenkha rasped, “There are stairs this way.” He gestured down the hallway to the right of the room they were currently in.
“Um, no turbolifts?” I inquired, incredulous.
“There are, Afcuyo Fraden, but once the Bothans discover what has happened here, shutting down the turbolifts will more than likely be the first thing they do.”
Muehlenkha was correct. I really wish I had the foresight he possessed. “Uh, yeah, I knew that.” I proceeded to follow my Noghri counterpart down the hallway towards the staircase he’d indicated was there.
We made it up the stairwell and to the roof without incident. I yanked my comlink from my utility belt and began to talk into it. “Staphon! We made it to the roof. Get us the hell out of here!”
Seconds later, Staphon responded, his voice strained. “You guys are gonna hafta make it quick! I just had to blast out of the spaceport. They apparently knew which ship was yours and were coming for it. It prolly won’t be long until I’m being chased.”
“Perfect. Just what we kriffing needed. Alright, lower the ramp and we’ll jump on.”
Moments later, the Titan came into view. Then entrance door to the roof hissed and raised. “Stop! Or I’ll shoot!” I heard a voice cry.
I spun around to see an endless river of Bothan guards streaming through the door.
This is not good.