BY THE time Bothans were finished flooding through the door there were a dozen of them, again, with their blaster rifles pointed directly at me. It looked like the same group which had greeted me on “level 16,” actually. It was quite impressive to me how much effort was being put into capturing a small-time bounty hunter (me).
I must have made a very favorable impression on Melan.
Without even waiting for them to instruct me to do so, I raised my hands. I knew the command would be coming in short order anyhow. As I looked around for a possible escape from my predicament, I suddenly realized that I had no idea where Muehlenkha had gone. He had been standing right beside me a second ago. There were a couple of ventilation units on the roof. I surmised he was hiding behind one of those units. Or he had jumped off the roof, but I doubted that for obvious reasons. Somehow, he must have known they were coming. And didn’t say anything.
For a moment, I stood still with my hands high while staring at the small army before me, and they at me. Before a word could be said by either side, a small object – I could not discern what it was – came flying from behind the ventilation unit closest to the door.
One of the guards saw it, too. “Grenade!” one of the guards shouted frantically.
The object hit the ground at the epicenter of the group of Bothans, and then a blindingly bright light and deafening sound erupted from the object.
I had reflexively closed my eyes and turned my head before the object had landed. I had a good idea what it was before it detonated. After a handful of seconds, I slowly turned back and opened my eyes. To my utter shock, and very much to my delight, all but two of the Bothans were laying on the roof, unconscious.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Muehlenkha emerge from behind the very same ventilation unit that the object – a stun grenade, I brilliantly deduced – had come from.
The two remaining conscious guards were slowly picking themselves up from the roof. I needed to incapacitate them. A stun bolt only had a range of roughly four meters, and I was debating whether I had time to make to make it within four meters of the guards before they were up and able to defend themselves. I ultimately decided it was risky to try it so I headed for the cover of one of the rooftop ventilation units and, using hand signals, instructed Muehlenkha to do the same.
Once I had reached cover, I reluctantly switched my blaster rifle from stun to normal. I would rather stun these guards than injure or possibly kill them, but my options were becoming limited.
I peeked out from the right side of the ventilation unit and spied the two Bothan guards. They were attempting to awaken their unconscious companions. I took aim at the guards and said, “Stand down!” I commanded. “I don’t want there to be bloodshed.”
The duo of Bothans immediately faced my direction upon hearing my voice and began raising their rifles simultaneously.
So much for avoiding bloodshed.
I ducked back behind the ventilation unit just as blaster bolts started whizzing through the very space my head had been a moment ago.
“Don’t kill them, Muehlenkha!” I shouted. I knew that with their attention on me, both Bothans had exposed themselves to Muehlenkha. I heard additional blaster fire and then a loud, painful scream. I peeked over the top of the ventilation unit and saw that one of the Bothans had fallen, presumably to Muehlenkha’s blaster, and the other was firing in Muehlenkha’s general direction.
I quickly brought my blaster rifle to bear on the remaining Bothan guard and carefully aimed for his left leg. I took an extra second or two to line up my shot, then gently squeezed the trigger.
A single, scarlet energy bolt emerged from the muzzle of my blaster and zeroed in on my intended target.
The bolt struck the inside of the Bothan’s left shin. He fell to the rooftop and dropped his rifle concurrently. The rifle made a clattering noise as it hit the roof and the Bothan continuously yelped in pain. His hands went to his shin as he rolled around on the rooftop.
I emerged from cover and ran quickly over to the guard. I switched my blaster rifle back to stun mode and pumped a stun bolt into the injured guard. I also hit the guard that Muehlenkha had taken out with a stun bolt for good measure.
Muehlenkha approached me from his hiding spot on the other side of the roof.
“What the…..how….” I stupidly stammered. “How did you know they were coming?”
“I heard it from the other comlink you were carrying, Afcuyo Fraden. You were talking to Staphon and the volume was turned down low. You must not have heard it.”
“Well, that’s great, but how ‘bout a heads up next time?” I spat.
“I apologize, Afcuyo Fraden. I am still getting acclimated to your human deficiencies. I had assumed you had heard,” Muehlenkha humbly offered. “I will endeavor to warn you in the future.”
I was about to go off on Muehlenkha when the thunderous roar of sublight engines drowned out all other sound. We both looked up to see the Titan descending towards us. Staphon nimbly dropped the Titan down to about a meter above the rooftop with the boarding ramp already lowered. Both Muehlenkha and I made for the safety of my ship. Once inside, I directed Muehlenkha to man one of the turrets on the off-chance that combat became inevitable. I headed straight for the cockpit. By the time I reached the cockpit, Staphon had already piloted the Titan to the edge of Bothawui’s atmosphere.
I quickly strapped into the copilot’s seat and checked the sensors to ensure we weren’t being pursued. “Sensors are clear. I guess they had other things to worry about.”
“Maybe,” Staphon agreed. “But my luck is never that good, young man. You better plot us a course so we can get out of here as fast as we can.”
“I’m on it.” I advised him while my fingers danced across the navicomputer’s console. I hastily plotted a course for Rodia. Seconds later I had them locked in. “Coordinates are set. Punch it.”
Through the viewport, the stars elongated as the Imminent Titan blasted into the safety of hyperspace.
Now that danger lay behind my companions and I, I pondered our next move. Aside from a few trips I made with Staphon before, I had never really worked in the galaxy at large. To date, every bounty I’d hunted had been on either Nar Shaddaa or Nal Hutta. So, naturally, I’d not built a network of contacts outside of the Hutt home world. But, Staphon probably had.
“What’s up, young Afcuyo?” came Staphon’s enthusiastic yet idiotic response.
Ugh, I shuddered. Though I’d known Staphon for years and was mostly used to the way he talked, it still annoyed me from time to time. I managed to conceal my disdain before asking the following question: “Do you have any contacts on Rodia? I don’t even know where to begin looking for him.”
Staphon thought briefly before answering. “Well, a bounty hunter I used to know had an uncle that ran a casino in Equator City. We could always try him,” Staphon suggested helpfully.
“That’ll hafta do, I guess. I wouldn’t even begin to know where to look or even who to ask.”
“Well, Avaro is the young man’s name. A Rodian. I’ll look on the holonet real quick to see what the name of his casino is, cause I can’t remember it at all.”
“You betchya, young man.” Staphon said, flashing that dumb grin he always had when he called someone young. I chuckled to myself and left the cockpit. The navicomputer estimated the trip to Rodia would take roughly 18 hours, so I decided that it was time to catch up on some much needed sleep.
I headed to my quarters and flopped onto my bed. I was asleep within seconds.