WE LANDED at the starport in Equator City without incident. By the time we were ready to disembark, I had formed some semblance of a plan in my head. I figured, rather astutely if I say so myself, that if Rendar had come to Rodia he had either landed at the starport in Equator City or the one in Iskaayuma being that those were the only two on the planet. So there was a 50/50 chance that the Outrider was docked in this very starport. I sent Muehlenkha to search the starport for Rendar’s vessel with instructions to place a homing beacon on the starship, while Staphon and I would head on over to the Flip of the Credit casino, which, per the holonet, was owned by Avaro Sookcool, Staphon’s contact.
Staphon and I were able to flag down a taxi, and luckily the driver knew exactly where the casino was located. It turns out we could have walked. The casino was located only a few hundred meters from the starport. From the outside, the casino appeared beaten down and unkept, but maybe Rodian standards were more lax than human standards. I had never seen anything so decrepit on Corellia, or even Nar Shaddaa for that matter.
Armed with no other choice, we reluctantly entered. We stopped at the hostess station and asked the Rodian hostess – I assumed it was a hostess, it was hard to tell Rodian males from Rodian females – and asked her (or him) if it was possible to speak to Avaro.
“Avaro very busy,” the Rodian spat in very broken basic. “What you want?”
Staphon and I glanced at each other both silently daring the other to mock the horrible, horrible basic this being was speaking. Exhibiting exceptional restraint, we refrained from doing so. Staphon nodded imperceptibly toward me, indicating that he wished to do the talking. I obviously relented, as I was so far out of my element I couldn’t tell what was what.
Staphon turned to the Rodian. “We’re looking for some information and we’re hoping Avaro would be able to help us out. Tell him an old friend of Greedo’s would like to speak with him.”
An old friend of Greedo’s?
That was information that Staphon had never shared with me and I wondered why, but now was neither the time nor place to discuss it. The Rodian, obviously recognizing the name of Avaro’s deceased nephew, asked no more questions and started chattering into a comlink in what I could only assume was Rodian.
After a moment, an indecipherable reply blared out of the Rodian’s comlink. She (he?) looked toward Staphon and very bluntly asked, “What your name?”
The Rodian blabbered some more in her (his?) native tongue with Staphon’s name being lobbed into the cacophony. The Rodian turned her (his?) back to them so they could not hear the response. I found that somewhat amusing since we had no idea what in the hell they were saying anyway. She (he?) spun around seconds later and said, “You wait here. Someone get you.”
“Thank you very much,” Staphon said.
At least he didn’t call her “young Rodian.
Staphon turned to me after the encounter and shrugged his shoulders, “That was easier than I thought it would be.”
“Yeah, I agree. Perhaps we should be on guard,” I suggested.
The other shook his head. “Nah, Avaro won’t want to cause a scene. It’s bad for business,” Staphon reasoned dismissively.
I considered that, and it made sense. I rarely see a side of Staphon that makes sense. On the other hand I had never really worked with him like this before. Staphon would always give me tips and teach me about the way the galaxy worked, but we had never really worked a bounty together. We had made many smuggling trips together, but nothing of consequence had ever happened on them.
“You’re probably right, but it won’t hurt to be ready for anything either.” I opined.
Staphon shrugged. “Whatever you say, young man.”
I rolled my eyes. I then turned my attention to the casino at large, and tried to keep a surreptitious eye out for anything out of the ordinary. Of course, having never been inside a casino, or Rodia for that matter, I had no idea what “out of the ordinary” might constitute. As I looked about the casino, I noticed it wasn’t too large of a building. It looked even more derelict inside than outside. Then I finally noticed the smell. It was. . .unpleasant, to say the least. The casino was mostly filled with sabacc and other assorted card games, however there were some Dejarik tables and some other games I didn’t recognize in a small corner of the casino. There was also a small area where you could bet on podracing and swoop races. I may have been mistaken, but I swore I also saw an area where bets on how long it would take the Empire to quash the Rebellion could be placed.
It was then that my gaze was drawn to a trio of stern-looking Rodians approaching Staphon and I. I nudged Staphon with my elbow and nodded toward the trio after I had gotten Staphon’s attention.
We turned to face the trio when they had finally arrived. “You are Staphon D’yar?” the Rodian in the middle asked. Apparently Rodians in general spoke basic deficiently, and I was finished trying to figure out the gender of Rodians.
Perhaps that’s something Avaro could have his patrons bet on, I mused.
“I am,” Staphon replied.
“You will follow us.” he commanded. These Rodians all displayed an amazing lack of personality, I had noticed. They were like cyborgs without the cool, robotic parts.
“Sure,” Staphon conceded.
We both started to follow the Rodians when the center Rodian spun quickly and placed his hand on my chest. I almost reflexively grabbed the Rodian’s hand, but wittily deduced that would be counterproductive.
Gesturing toward Staphon, the Rodian said, “Not you. Only him.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but Staphon stepped between the Rodian and I. Facing me, he calmly soothed, “It’s okay, young man. I’ll go talk to him. You wait here for me; I’ll be back in a minute.”
Raising an eyebrow in concern, I asked, “You sure?”
That trademarked cocky grin spread across Staphon’s face before saying, “You betchya, young Afcuyo. I’ve been around the block a few times. I can handle myself, but I don’t think it’ll come to that.”
The Rodian that was seemingly in charge added, “No harm come him. Avaro infamous man. We not let just anyone to see him.”
“Fine,” I reluctantly agreed. “I guess I’ll just stay out here and play some games.” I had never gambled before so at least I could experience something new while involuntarily abandoning one of my closest friends.
“First 50 credits on us,” the Rodian said, then flipped me a 50 credit chip. To Staphon, the Rodian said, “You follow us now.”
“Sure thing, young man.” Staphon turned toward me and shot me a sly wink before following the Rodians toward the back of the casino where Avaro allegedly waited.
I decided to use the 50 credits the gruff Rodian had given me since I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my time. I headed over to bet on the swoop races since I hadn’t the slightest idea how to play sabacc, dejarik, or any of the other games they had. I found a terminal where I could make a bet. I decided to look for the racer with the longest odds to win as he would have the biggest payoff and, hey, it wasn’t my money. I placed the 50 credits on a racer named Torr Nupp, who had the lowest odds of all racers in tomorrow’s swoop race. Torr Nupp sounded like a decidedly appropriate name for a racer who was expected to finish last.
Perhaps he races drunk?
I ensured I entered my comlink code into the entry on the off-chance that I won. I seriously doubted I would be around next week when the race actually took place.
Once my bet had been placed, I looked around the casino for something else to occupy my time. Nothing of interest struck my fancy so I found a holoprojector in an isolated area of the casino which happened to be showing galactic news. Most of the program was anti-rebellion propaganda, which disinterested me. I knew what the rebellion fought for (who didn’t?) and I didn’t much care for the Empire, but I was just looking out for number one. Ultimately, no matter which side ended up winning I would be still on the wrong side of the law, so it was all the same to me. Plus, I lived in Hutt space so the outcome didn’t affect me one way or the other.
While lost in my thoughts, someone tapped my shoulder. “We can go now, young Afcuyo.”
I turned and found Staphon there awaiting me. “That was quick. Well?” I demanded.
“He didn’t know anything. Said that he’d had some interesting visitors lately, and wouldn’t elaborate, but none of them were Dash Rendar.”
“Well, sithspit. I guess we had back to the Titan and hope that Muehlenkha had better luck than we did.”
“Yeah, that about sums it up, young man,” Staphon concurred.
We left the dank and dungy casino and decided to walk back to the starport. We found Muehlenkha at the technical station in the cockpit upon returning. “Hey, Muehlenkha, have any luck? We sure didn’t,” I said dejectedly.
“As a matter of fact, Afcuyo Fraden, I was able to locate the Outrider.” the Noghri announced.
I perked up instantly and began firing off inquiries like I had an automatic weapon full of them. “What?! You did? Where is it? Why didn’t you call me on my comlink?”
When I had finally finished he answered, “It is currently in hyperspace, Afcuyo Fraden. I found the ship relatively quickly, but since you had given no further instructions I placed the homing beacon upon it and just observed the ship. I saw Rendar board the ship just hours ago. I came here quickly after it launched and saw that it had already entered hyperspace by the time I returned here. I haven’t been able to determine his destination as of yet. He is traveling along the Corellian Run. With so many planets along that route I didn’t want to inconvenience you with no news of value to report.”
I sighed. “Muehlenkha, the fact that he was here and is gone is valuable news in of itself,” I told him. “Capturing him is our primary purpose now. Nothing else matters.”
“I apologize, Afcuyo Fraden, I didn’t want to disturb you if you happened to be in a delicate situation.”
I shook my head. “Forget it. Will we be able to track him if we go to hyperspace or will we have to wait until he stops before we leave?” I questioned.
“We will still be able to track him while in hyperspace, Afcuyo Fraden,” Muehlenkha affirmed.
“Good. Let’s haul tail. I want him to feel my breath on the back of his neck.” I plopped down in the pilot’s chair and began to strap myself in.
Staphon took the copilot’s chair. “What course should I set, young man?”
“The Corellian Run ends at Corellia, right?”
“You betchya,” he affirmed.
“Well, set course for Corellia then,” I instructed. “If we need to stop and adjust our course then we’ll stop and adjust.”
Staphon busied himself at the navicomputer, while I completed the pre-flight checklist. Moments later, the Imminent Titan was airborne and heading for the vast emptiness of space. Staphon had coordinates to Corellia locked in by the time we exited atmosphere, and it was only a couple of additional minutes until we cleared Rodia’s gravity well and entered hyperspace.