Through the claustrophobic bustle of the streets of Coruscant ambled the lean and shapely figure of an alarmingly attractive young woman with a casual smirk on her very satisfied face. Cool grey eyes with their distinct black flecks flashed about the darkened whirlpool of activity, illuminated by the various iridescent bar signs, soft dull street lighting and the lamps of numerous passing vehicles. Ever so pleased with herself, the young woman sauntered with a surprising air of grace, yet did not betray the carefree arrogance of her complete demeanor. She turned many a head of course, and in her typical fashion, thumbed her nose at all of them as she kept going. That is before the plump frame of a human male emerged hastily from amid the crowd and knocked into her with enough force to shove her backwards slightly. Her face contorted immediately as her head snapped towards him angrily. "Hey watch the hands" she snapped. Before she could go any further with her verbal retaliation, the man's face flickered
towards her, battered and busted, a bit of blood spraying with every
heavy, wheezy breath. Parka recoiled in disgust, but the man grabbed
one of her hands and before she could protest, slapped something in
it. "Don't let them have this" Cade Frost murmured, eyeing her groggily before shifting away. Ready to damn near toss the item to the ground and go about her way, Parka's piercing gaze lifted to a flurry somewhere further down the street. A handful of the Empire's white-armored soldiers were shoving their way through the masses. In the time it took Parka to glance back to the stranger, he was gone, leaving her absently in charge of a disk of sorts. Her good mood evaporated as she resumed her pace, a bit of colorful language escaping a pair of flawless tiers to accompany the scowl she was doing her best to conceal.
Within minutes, she was seated at a table across from an aged space-goer, his aged human face gnarled and scarred, a testimony to the decades he spent thoroughly submerged in the shadier side of the law...and the repercussions therein. He fixed her with a near toothless grin. Parka didn't bother to look up. "Take a picture old man. It lasts longer" she retorted. He grinned and continued on. "Girly if you're nearly as sharp as your tongue, then this should be easy for you" he replied.
Their voices lowered and they took to talking business. It was a relatively simple assignment for a couple thousand credits, but it was her living none the less. As the deal took form and the conversation came to close, the old spacer's dull, listless eyes shifted to the disk she'd carelessly chucked on the table in front of her. His smile seemed to wan slightly as he took on a more apprehensive tone. "That's...an interesting acquisition" he commented, and for the first time Parka took the effort to actually examine the disk, assuming the old man's uneasiness was a result of the Imperial logo on the disk's casing. One of her bare shoulders shrugged. "Whatever. We done?" she asked, sitting up and plucking the disk off the table top. The old man's eyes lifted to her, remaining motionless. "See you in a few days girly" he remarked, and Parka all but sneered at the mere challenge. And then she was gone.
A detour en route to her ship landed her at one of the many large libraries in the city. A quick glance about to secure some privacy, and Parka fished out the disk to take it for a proverbial test drive. File after file, she dug through the information, most of it meaning little to her. She was pulled from the transient study by a male's voice behind her. "Excuse me..." Parka jumped slightly before turning and found a young man in a uniform watching the screen of her terminal intently. In a fraction of a second, Parka ejected the disk and smiled. "Oh sorry, were you waiting for this?" She finished, out of her chair in a heartbeat and moving. The young man reached towards her but she shrugged and flashed a charming grin. "Science project. You know how it is..." and hastened to the entrance.
In the safety of her ship, Parka worked the communications console until the boyish features of a redheaded human male appeared. "Wow. To what do I owe the pleasure..?" he began. Parka ran a hand over her forehead. "You'll be getting it in a few. I need to know what this is" Parka replied, uploading a few files. The kid on the other side grinned. "Alright! Sending me some dirty pictures?". Parka leaned back in her chair and waited, one side of her mouth lifting in a smirk. "Oh yeah baby. Just the way you like it..." There was a silence on the other end as the young man began to shift through the sample of files. Parka watched his face through the screen, the wide grin slipping gradually into stunned disbelief. "Well?" she prodded. The young man's eyes bore into the screen with a singular intensity that made her uneasy. "Where did you get this?" he asked slowly. Parka scratched at the back of her head casually. "Some guy on the street practically threw it at me. I can't make heads or tails out of it myself..." she began but the sound of his voice cut her off. "Uh...this..." he opened his mouth a few more times but remained silent before sending her a response. "This is over my head. Contact this man. Give this to him and get the hell out of dodge for a while" he explained. Parka looked unimpressed. "No. I have a job and only a few days to get it done. I don't have time for this" she shot back. "Also, you may want to avoid the Imps" the young man continued. Parka's mouth hung open in mild irritation.
"I don't have time for this
crap. I really don't" she answered. "Show the contact these files. He'll know what to do with them. I can't touch this. Sorry. You're on your own" her counterpart answered, and with that, he abruptly cut the communiqué and disappeared without so much as a good bye. "Oh what the
fuck" Parka's language was hideous for a matter of moments while she read the contact's name. Derek Atio. "I don't believe this. I don't have time for this
shit" she grumbled out loud to herself while
scouring the contact information provided. Otherwise beautiful features were compressed in agitation but she punched in the information anyway, bitching out loud to the empty air inside the cockpit as she waited.
The Aldera spaceport shimmered brilliantly, illuminated by the moonlight. The bustling hub of transit was filled with row after row of the latest in starship designs. Perfectly cared for, their paint appeared to be new and a rust mark was nowhere to be seen. It was a ship enthusiast's dream. However, in one of the rows a small transport stood out among the pack. From it's appearance you could tell the ship was older than anyone young enough to retain their pilot's license. The years had not been kind. The craft was strewn with impact marks from space debris and had not received a hull cleaning since the formation of the Empire. The external features clearly were not factory installed. Some pieces were too small, while others seemed oversized and 'wedged' in to place. Many of the access panels were open revealing a patchwork series of power cables that somehow managed to keep this ship running.
Beneath this unremarkable craft, Derek Atio lay on a roll board examining one of the superfluous conduit junctions that routinely broke down. A portly fellow in his early forties, he seemed to be in his element. His face, which seemed to have faired better over the years than his ship, looked as if he had shaved just before getting to work. His clothes were neat and seemed to be tailored to
fit his body. He, like the ship, was also out of place. It was clear that he was no average spacer, as he seemed to pay
particular attention to how he presented himself. It was as if he had spent years of his life "required" to be presentable. He tilted his head to the left as his eyes focused in on the conduit. He prepared to raise the hydrospanner to make an adjustment and finish one of what would be many repairs this day.
The docking bay number matched, but Parka couldn't believe the overly taxed piece of garbage that sat on the tarmac. Her eyes damn near rolled out of her head as she exhaled deeply, completely put out by this largely unnecessary side trip she'd been sent on. Begrudgingly, she stalked towards the craft, eyeing the grease monkey underneath it. The sound of heels clicking against the flooring grew louder until a pair of small elegant feet with a perfect pedicure and a pair of silver strappy sandals with a two inch heel appeared below the ship and came to a halt. Atop the feet was a slender pair of bare legs, rising up into a black miniskirt that descended to mid thigh level. Atop the large black belt with silver circles on it sitting around her hips was a trimmed midriff, bare except for a belly chain. Beyond that was a short cropped silver camisole with spaghetti straps, arching gracefully over slender shoulders. Parka's hands rested on her hips as she exhaled audibly to make her presence known. "You there...low-level mechanic..." she addressed him solidly.
Derek turned his attention towards the sound of the footsteps and the voice that soon followed, while attempting to simultaneously continue with his makeshift repair job. His eyes narrowed a bit as all he could get a glimpse of from his position beneath the transport was the best pair of legs he had ever seen. "Looks like my day just got a lot more interesting," he thought to himself. Unfortunately, as his mind drifted from his maintenance to the young lady his hydrospanner slipped from his grasp and punctured a hydraulic line. The sound of a mechanic *hiss* could be heard as the hydraulic fluid shot from the ruptured line all over his face, covering him in a black, grease-like substance. His lips curled down from a pleased smile into a neutral "why me" expression. A frustrated sigh escaped his lips as he placed his hands upon the ground and pushed himself out from underneath the ship. When he finally emerged, he rose quickly to his feet and made two casual bushes of his hands upon his pants to dust himself off. He raised his right hand up across his soiled face and wiped the area around his eyes clean with the sleeve of his shirt. He smiled at her proudly, as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred. "I'm not the 'low-level' mechanic, Miss," he explained in a polite tone of voice, "I'm the Captain of this ship!"
Parka regarded him in bewilderment. She forced a very transparent smile "And what a ship she is..." she replied sarcastically. Whisking away the banter, her expression flattened back out. She was a tremendous piece of work herself. Around each bicep was a thick silver arm band. On her neck, a black velveteen-like choker. Silver rings adorned each finger as well as white electrical tape between the two joints of each digit. Naturally she was stunning, as she had her long abandoned heritage to thank for that. "I'm looking for someone named Derke" she mumbled.
"Derek," he corrected her as a trickle of hydraulic fluid ran down the tip of nose and hung there for a moment before plummeting to the ground below. "What can I do for you?" he asked as he studied the young girl more carefully, trying to determine whether or not she looked familiar. He tilted his head to the right as he examined her face more closely ... while she was very attractive, she did not look the least bit familiar, but of course that did not rule out a drunken encounter.
As the stranger moved closer, Parka withdrew slightly with an obvious frown. "Um...YOU?" She recomposed herself and mumbled with a grim expression. "I've been sent to you with something you should see."
"Ah hah," Derek immediately thought to himself as he began to put together the pieces of the puzzle in his head. It all made sense to him now ... she had to be a stripper sent here by one of his associates. His lips curled upward into a wide smile as he had a laugh at the situation. "Who sent you?" he asked her, not expecting her to reveal any information. "Alright," he said as he leaned against the ship, "Off with the clothes."
A deep scowl flashed across her face, simply appalled, and swung her right hand towards his face for a solid smack across the left cheek. "Excuse me?!" she shouted. The smaller woman bristled but waited for him to continue to dig his own grave.
Derek's face was snapped to the right as she smacked him, splattering some of the remaining fluid off his face and onto the ship. The expose flesh beneath reddened quickly as the blood rushed to the surface, but it did not bleed. He turned his face back towards her, raising his own hand to gently rub the area she smacked. "Touchy," he said more to himself than her, "...you mean you're not a stripper?"
She smirked. "As if you could ever afford something that looks this good" she shrugged casually.
Derek rolled his eyes at the woman's insult and decided it was best to avoid going any further down this road and get to the matter at hand. "You said you had something to show me?" Derek asked her in a sincere tone, returning to a fully upright position.
"If you're not too busy" she answered, eyes momentarily shifting to the ship and the various tools that lay about beneath it.
Derek's eyes slanted down to the increasing puddle of hydraulic fluid pooling beneath the ship from his earlier accident. He stepped forward slightly in a vein effort to block her line of sight. He folded his arms in front of him and returned his focus to her. "No..." he said with a slight smile, "Not busy at all."
"Lead the way" she said, stepping to the side and gazing at him expectantly.
Derek nodded to her silently and strode the short distance to the front
of the ship where the ramp leading to the transport's interior
compartments. He walked up the ramp slowly and immediately turned around and headed
for the passenger compartment. The compartment was once a luxurious diplomatic suite, but was now nothing more than a cramped spaceborne rec
room. The once spacious compartment had been reduced in size to allow for greater cargo capacity. The luxurious furniture long gone and replaced only with
uncomfortable seats, stained, and riddled with tares in the fabric. There were various displays and the required gaming table. It served it's purpose ... to provide a brief break for those souls unlucky enough to be assigned. He looked over his shoulder to see if she managed to follow him the short distance they had traveled. He found his usual seat in a corner sofa and turned his attention to her, waiting to see what this was all about. "Please don't try and steal anything," he informed her, "It's bolted down quite securely."
"You're safe. . .for the moment" she responded plainly. A quick grope down the front of her top and she produced the disk in question. She held it out towards him. "Here."
Noting the location she kept her valuables Derek couldn't help but once
again wonder whether or not this woman was a stripper. He reached out
and took the disk from her and examined the exterior casing. "What is
this?" he asked her, his eyes locked on the device and not her, "Where'd
you get it who sent you to find me?"
"Someone gave it to me. I can't tell you how I found you. I'm sure you can appreciate the need to lay low" she said taking a seat wherever one was available, brushing the dirty old cushion off in vein before sitting down.
By now the thought that his could be some sort of a trap ran through Derek's mind. People did not just 'find him' and bring him information like this. As far as he knew, his involvement with the Rebellion had gone virtually undetected over the past year. Had one of his former colleagues been caught and informed on him? This was a real possibility as he was more than familiar with the Empire's methods of persuasion. Finally, he stopped examining the disk and returned his attention to the young woman, "Can you at least tell me who you are?" he asked her, unconvinced.
"Parka" she said, leaning back and kicking her legs out in front of her, crossing them at the ankle and folding her hands in her lap.
"Like the coat?" Derek asked her as he leaned back comfortably in his chair, flipping the disk over back and forth in his left hand as he studied the woman.
She forced a sugary sweet smile. "Are you done?"
Derek turned to the small,
minimally functioning terminal that flickered on a barely visible screen next to where he was seated. He gave a final glance over towards the woman before inserting the disk into the machine, which it began to load onto the screen.
The information therein was largely of moderate level confidentiality. It wasn't drastic and life altering like the
Executioner's blueprints, but certainly some handy bits for the rebellion. Parka settled in, fishing about until she produced a single cigarra. "Got a light?"
Suddenly, but somewhat expectedly, the information faded from view and the screen turned blue. "Damn it," Derek said in frustration as he slapped the side of the terminal. He removed the disk from the drive and examined it more closely ... it appeared to be fine. He held the inputs up to his mouth and blew on it several times, utilizing an old trick he had learned as a child. Reinserting the disk into the terminal the data slowly reappeared on the terminal. "That got it," he said proudly as he
turned to her, "There's one in the emergency ration kit below your seat." His attention quickly returned to the terminal.
Parka sat up, feet returning to the floor as she leaned down, her left hand disappearing in the shadow beneath the chair. She found what she was looking for and fired the cigarra up before taking a long soothing breath for it.
Derek tilted his head in her direction, as he hunched over the terminal intently. "You sure you can't tell me where you got this?" he asked her again, hoping for more information."
"Someone on the street gave it to me. Don't know any more than that" she said, taking another deep draw of the cigarra.
Apparently finishing his initial survey of the material, Derek turned back into his seat and was once again facing her. He looked over her from head to toe once again. He was attracted to her and this was clouding his judgment. "Any idea what's on here?" he asked her, trying to get a better grasp on the situation
"I flipped through it. Not entirely sure what all of it is" she shrugged. "Mean anything to you? Cuz if you don't want it, I could probably get a couple credits on the open market for it."
"How many other people have seen this?" Derek asked, continuing his seemingly innocuous probe for additional information.
"Only one. Why?" Parka's grey eyes moved from the glowing red tip of her cigarra to Derek's face.
"People who advertise this kind of information usually don't live long," Derek explained to her, having dealt with situations like this in the past. "I'm not sure how you came by this, but there's people I need to show," he continued, "Unfortunately ... I can't let you go until that's done."
Parka's eyes widened momentarily. "Look no offense, you got your disk, and I've got to go. I'm behind schedule because of this little detour as it is" she protested.
"I'm afraid that just won't be possible," Derek said firmly, but without any inclination of direct hostility. He rose from his seat and held his hands out in front of him in a reassuring "settle down" gesture, "This won't take long. It's for your own protection."
Parka's head shook, flustered, before pulling deeply on the cigarra, the cherry at the end of it emblazoning for a moment. When she exhaled, she did so out of her nose before tossing her cigarra to the ground and putting a foot down on it to kill the embers.
"If you cooperate this won't take long at all," Derek said in a reassuring a tone as he attempted to get a handle on the situation. "This needs to be authenticated and analyzed by experts," he explained, doubting she'd care.
"Fine. I'll just hang out here" she answered, slouching down in her seat lazily.
Derek slipped the disk out of the terminal into his palm, quickly pocketing it. As he walked towards the exit of the compartment he stopped in front of her and tried to reassure her further, "Won't take me long. Make yourself at home." After a final smile he stepped through the compartment into the main corridor. He stopped, turned around and accessed a wall panel. Working over the terminal he activated the door mechanism. Instantly, a thick durasteel door, originally designed to protect the passengers, dropped between them, sealing the compartment. A further activating of the secure locking mechanism completed the procedure. Quite proud of himself he smiled and turned towards the ship's ramp to debark.
Parka's eyes fixed on the retreating form and the subsequent door that replaced it.
Great she though idly before kicking her feet up to the edge of the table. Leaning back her eyes closed as she waited to be cleared to leave.
One long drawn breath and the smoldering end of her cigarra glowed orange and burned further up the length of the stogie. She semi-reclined where she sat, sandaled feet propped up on the nearest flat surface, arms up with her hands behind her head, "lifting" her already supple form to create near-perfect half circles rising out of the top hem of her camisole. She held the breath in for a moment before exhaling just as deeply through her nose, the smoke filtering out of her nostrils in shifty grey ribbons.
Bored to tears, Parka's grey eyes flickered around the room lazily, looking about in feigned interest. With that, she let her feet drop to the floor panels, sat up and picked up one of any number of items lying around and began to scratch away at the surface of the table. Preoccupying herself with a tediously hapless project, she parted her lips slightly so as not to drop her cigarra and took another long drag.
A mere two hours and forty-seven minutes later, Derek made the short walk back up the transport's ramp and headed towards the doorway of the compartment where he had sealed Parka. Having concluded his meeting with the higher-ups who were more likely to comprehend the nature of the information on the disk than he, he was not looking forward to his next conversation with the young woman.
Derek paused by the door's control panel for a moment and sighed. "Better get this over with," he said quietly to himself as he deactivated the locking mechanism and unsealed the door. With a *hiss* of hydraulic pressure gasses releasing the door opened giving him access. Forcing a smile onto his face he stepped forward into the compartment and quickly found where she had situated herself. Coming to a stop several feet in front of her, he addressed her in a positive tone, "Now that wasn't so long, was it?"
She glanced up from where she was willfully scratching her name into the table top and managed a smart grin. "Oh sure it was delightful. I helped myself to your porn collection and a couple of the cold ales" she said. A couple more measured drags and she leaned back once more, her black flecked eyes settling on Derek intently. "Can I go?"
Derek squirmed noticeably, the level of discomfort he was feeling inside clearly visible on the outside. "I'm afraid it's become a bit more complicated," he began to explain to her slowly and calmly to avoid arousing any sense of alarm, "I really think you should stay with us until we can get a better handle on the situation."
Finishing her cigarra and dropping into the floor, she put a sandal over it and ground it into the paneling to extinguish it. "I'm touched but I assure you I'm a big girl. I don't play for any side. I have other...venues that preoccupy my time and talents" she replied after releasing the last bit of smoke from the side of her mouth.
Derek swallowed slowly, realizing that it would be extremely difficult to change this young woman's mind. Reluctantly, he tried to better explain the situation, "There's more too it than that. The contact who sent you to me was abducted. There must have been a tracking signature in the file in case it ever fell into the 'wrong' hands. It's possible the Empire is already looking for you."
Parka's seemingly continuous arrogance waned for a moment at the mention of her friend, but she brushed it away. It could easily have been a load of bantha crap. She regrouped her thoughts and got to her feet. "Not really worried. I'm not involved. Hell, you're lucky I bothered to find you at all" she answered with a slight shrug.
Derek's false smile faded away from his face and his tone quickly became more serious, "I'm afraid you are involved now ... and there's a good chance the Empire knows it too. That can only mean trouble."
"I'm sure I'll get by" she replied without missing a beat. "You've been a great host Derek. Good luck with whatever it is you do" she shifted to the door, offering a mock salute and a first class smile as she went.
"Wait!" Derek exclaimed, following quickly behind her as she headed out of the compartment. "At least let me give you some credits to help you get a head start and as a token of appreciation," he told her, thinking quickly on his feet.
Parka easily found her way to the ramp. She stopped and looked at him oddly before shaking her head and resuming a surprisingly patient half smile. "Not necessary. Besides, you've got that leak to fix..."
"I've got a maintenance crew coming to give me a hand," Derek explained to her reassuringly. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a credit chip. Studying it in the palm of his hand for a moment he reached out his hand to offer it. Looking at her, he smiled kindly and softly nodded his head. "Please take it," he told her.
Her eyes remained on his face, unwavering in her resolve. "I can't. Personal reasons, but thanks." Parka reciprocated the reverent nod and for the first time seemed genuine amid her usual impatience and quirkiness. "Take care" she offered thoughtfully before starting down the ramp with a brisk bounce in her step.
"If you don't take it," Derek continued as he followed her down the ramp, "I'll feel terrible having kept you locked up for several hours. It would clear my conscience and allow me to feel a lot better about the situation. Please ... take it."
Parka drew to a halt, turning slightly to gaze over her left shoulder at the persistent fellow. Her gaze dropped to the chip for a moment before flickering back to his face. "Don't worry about it. We all get what we want here. I don't need to be compensated over this."
"I insist," Derek said, taking a step closer towards her and again extending his hand with the credit chip towards her, "It's not much anyway. Just treat yourself to a meal. It's not a handout ... it's a 'thank you'."
Parka's lips pursed, almost into a frown. Finally she retrieved the chip slowly from his hand. "Thanks" she said, clearly unhappy with it, but willing to satisfy his request, she went along.
Derek raised the index and middle finger of his right hand to his eyebrow, giving her a casual salute as she walked off. Derek turned around and looked at his transport, which by now had an enormous pool of hydraulic fluid beneath it. With the excitement of Parka's disc he had totally ignored the problem and by now the entire ship had been drained. "Now where was I," he muttered to himself as he crouched down next to the craft and peered underneath for a closer inspection.
In short order, Parka was comfortable back in the pilot's seat of her precious
Pepper Spray, programming the coordinates for her assignment into the nav
computer and plotting out her course of action. She didn't feel
completely comfortable until the points of starlight in her viewport
became lines, rocketing off to parts unknown to carry out some job "acquiring" goods. Her arrival came without event, and brandishing clothes more suitable for the task at hand, Parka eyed the metropolis that lay before her. Somewhere amid the glitter of lights that was the city was the museum where her coveted prize sat on exhibit. For her little zip into high society, she chose a long black dress, completely strapless and backless, and long slits up either thigh shed more light on the stunning figure she was gifted with. Confidently, she headed towards the target in question, unconcerned with the potential for success or likewise failure for this little snatch-and-grab.
Parka was moving quickly, a flat rectangular object wrapped in cloth tucked beneath one arm. It would not take the security long to come across her crafty handiwork, and there was no reason to hang around and wait for the repercussions to come find her. With her precious cargo secured safely, Parka lifted up her skirt slightly, drawing the slit a bit closer to her hips to reveal the thick band around her right thigh that held in place a flat pocket containing various implements of theft and burglary.
Another quick rummage through one of her knee-high shiny black boots and a few more tools emerged. Satisfied with the outcome, Parka began to gather her things and prep her ship for take off.
From the shadows, Kerrie Kiley watched Parka prep her ship through the targeting goggles atop her helmet and decided it was time to make her move. Appearing as a Human female in her mid-to-late twenties, her short, diminutive height and body frame made her seem harmless. However, this was far from the case. Rather than wearing her uniform, she was wearing a suit of flexible armorweave that snugly conformed to her well-kept physique. As black as the dark side
of the moon her attire had allowed her to remain unseen ... to this point. "Nice ship," she said loud enough to be heard as she took a few steps out of the shadows towards Parka. "I don't think. I've seen one quite like it." Her head tilted to the side on an angle as she studied the situation ... her eyes more on the woman that on the ship. Her hands were held on each of her hips as she came to a stop several feet from her in a somewhat arrogant stance as she waited for a reply.
If Parka was startled, she masked it well. From where she stood with one booted foot propped up on the ramp and her skirt hitched up as she removed pieces of hidden equipment, she froze, turning her head slowly to take in the newcomer. She let her foot fall to the ground and faced the woman head on, a belligerent smile on her face. "Yes, she *is* a piece of work, isn't she."
Kerrie's eyes darted to the ship for a moment and then instantly returned to the young woman. "So the ship is yours then?" she asked, just to make sure, "Or are you stealing this too tonight?" A slight smirk appeared on her cold mimicked lips as she wiggled the fingers on both of her hands.
"Oh she's definitely mine. And I choose to think of this as repo work" Parka replied. In a moment, the playfulness had begun to fade. "I'm sure you're a great conversationalist and all, but I've got to go. Busy girl" Parka cooed evenly.
A bitchy smirk appeared upon her mimicked face as her right hand quickly grabbed hold of the blaster pistol kept in a holster just below her hand. It only took an instant before she drew the weapon and level it with the woman's midsection. "Make time ... Miss Pepper," she sneered at the woman, her smirk widening as she made clear she knew exactly whom she was dealing with.
Parka rubbed her chin for a moment. "I knew this would happen" she frowned shaking her head. "They always told me to be careful. You beat out fat ugly girls at those junior pageants and they just go all postal. Figures."
"Cute," Kerrie said as she stared down her target. Lowering the blaster slightly to the right her index finger curled around the trigger and unleashed a bolt of red energy at the woman's left knee.
Nothing short of pure agony escaped Parka's lips. Buckled under the pain and weight shift, her hands gripped her leg above the wound as if she could physically contain the burn from traveling any further from the entry point. Her teeth gritted to quell the reaction further, she reached for the edge of the ramp to assist in getting back to her feet, leaning heavily on the ramp both to do so, as well as remain. Her strange eyes glittered wildly towards her assailant, the makings of a sneer evident across her features. "Good job. You can pull a trigger."
"I believe you have something that belongs to me," Kerrie said in a commanding tone. She took a step forward towards the woman, raising the weapon again slightly to line up with her mid-section. "Hand it over and I might let you go," the same bitchy smirk returning to her face.
Parka shrugged. "Well ok...if you insist." She tossed the newly acquired painting towards the woman's feet. "I don't mind. I can re-steal it" she folded her arms across her chest, not worried about the set back.
Kerrie casually stepped aside as the painting impacted the durasteel of the landing platform they were standing on, careful not to lose her aim on the woman. "Cute," she said in a condescending tone, "Trying for the other knee." She took another step towards the woman, "You know what I'm here for. Give it up."
"Sorry. I don't swing that way" Parka replied coolly.
Kerrie lowered the blaster pistol in the other direction this time. Once again her index finger curled gently back against the trigger, unleashing another bolt of energy at the other knee. "I warned you," she said in a cold, demeaning tone.
Again Parka hit the ground with an outcry even louder then the first. She shook a bit, fighting off the anguish and shock with a surprising big of success. It took a moment for her to resettle her breathing and recompose herself, to the best of her abilities given the circumstances. From her place on the cold landing pad, she leaned back against the ramp, her ship sitting silently and sans emotion as its dedicated pilot suffered. Strained eyes rose to the woman but she said nothing. A measured gaze watched in silence but she didn't volunteer anything.
Kerrie raised her blaster pistol until it was lined up with the woman's head. "I'm going to ask you one last time," Kerrie said in a commanding, forceful, tone taking another step forward, "Where is the disk?"
Parka's face slipped as if she'd been smacked. "What?" For the first time in the course of the encounter, she bothered to really look at the woman, filtering through her mind to identify who she may be.
"Last chance, Miss Pepper," Kerrie barked down towards her wounded prey, "Where is the disk?"
Parka shrugged, but this time, the exhaustion of her mental stand-off with the immense pain in her legs was taking its told, and her bare shoulders hardly lifted at all. "I don't know where it is. I left it behind" she muttered in a low tone.
"Very funny, Miss Pepper," Kerrie said as she once again sneered down at the woman, "I hope you enjoyed your last joke."
Out of the darkness a blue bolt of energy shot towards Kerrie's head. Having been too preoccupied with Parka she never even saw it coming. The stun bolt knocked her out cold before she even hit the ground. Falling like a sack of Corellian potatoes, her unconscious body made a dull *thud* as it impacted the durasteel plating as it shimmered back into the naturally grey-skinned reptile-like Clawdite form
that many found grotesque.
The sound of boots running from the distance soon followed as Derek Atio arrived on the scene, holding a blaster carbine in his right hand. His naturally instinct was to first confirm that he had downed his opponent, but once sure he quickly rushed towards Parka's side. He knelt next to her and looked her over. A concerned look upon his face he threw a glance over towards the alien body before turning back to Parka, "Can you walk?"
Parka's expression was locked into one of stupor. When she recovered, she narrowed her eyes slightly, looking from the downed woman to the familiar face of Derek Atio. "Not that I'm ungrateful...but what the hell are you doing here? And what the hell is that?" she fussed, throwing a nod towards the humanoid.
"No time to explain how I got here," Derek said with a coy smile, "Just be glad you took that credit chip." He looked over his should again at the unconscious alien, "Shape-shifter by the looks of it." He turned his attention back to her, "I told you were in danger ... now let's get out of here ... can you walk?"
"No" Parka managed as she made a futile effort to get herself up. Instead, she leaned forward and using her body weight transfer from arm to arm, she dragged herself past the shape-shifter's body to reclaim the painting she had tossed towards her. "Can't leave without this" she grunted between breaths as she plucked it up and briefly checked it over for damage.
Derek slung the carbine over his shoulder and reached out with his right hand to try and help the woman stand up so that he could help her to his ship. "Come on ... come on ... you're wasting time," he chided her impatiently.
She scowled at him. "Thanks for your help. I mean it. But I have things to take care of, and this is one of them" she answered solidly. "Take *her* with you. She wants your disk anyway" she motioned to the shape shifter.
"She's the least of your troubles," Derek explained grimly, "The Empire has issued a warrant for your arrest. You're a wanted 'man' now. You've got no place left to go. They know you. They know your ship. Don't make the same mistake twice."
Portrait under one arm, Parka inched her way back to the ramp of her ship. "Thanks for the heads up. I won't. I'll lay low after I deliver this" she assured him, working her way up the ramp.
"Your ship is ID'd," Derek explained as he continued towards her, "You'll never make it out of the system. There are already Imperial ships in the system. We don't have time for this. Your only way off this planet is with me."
At the top of the ramp, Parka was working diligently to get herself back inside. "I am NOT involved" she yelled from the open hatch, agitated to say the least and treating her imagination to what it would be like to collapse into the pilot's chair and get some rest on the way home.
"Yes. You've said that," Derek said in an exasperated voice, "And it got you shot twice. Are you looking to get shot a third time? I stuck my neck out to come out here and save your ass. I'm not going to let you go and get it blown off. Let me get you to my ship so we can get out of here ... while we still can."
For that, Parka laughed out loud. "Sorry pal. I don't leave my ship behind" she chuckled as the hysteria subsided. She took to securing the painting carefully.
"How do you think she found you?" Derek asked her, taking a couple of step towards her, "Even if you make it past the Imperial ships waiting out there they'll be waiting for you the moment you arrive at your next port of call. Don't be stupid."
"I'll be fine thanks. You forget who you're talking to. I've made it my profession to avoid the authorities. I can handle it" she nodded authoritatively.
"We're not talking about some local security force," Derek explained. He looked away from her and turned his attention to the downed reptile, "Is *that* something you've handled before? Because that's what you're up against this time. The wrong kind of people want you in the worst possible way."
"I've dealt with the Empire before" Parka snapped. "Besides, what's in it for you? Why exactly are you here? You've got your disk" Parka called over her shoulder as she continued to drag herself to the cockpit, grateful that the journey was nearly over.
"I want a clear conscience," Derek told her in a sincere tone, the familiar smile returning to his face. "If you don't listen to me this time there'll be no way I can assist you again ... after this incident they're going to come after you with everything they've got."
Parka took a few moments to breathe deeply before reaching for the arm rests of her chair. Her face red from the exertion, she pulled herself by sheer will and a last bit of raw strength into her pilot's chair before nearly collapsing of fatigue. When her breathing steadied, her eyes opened and she turned to look over at him. "I'm flattered. I don't think this will be an issue. I don't have your disk, nor do I know its location. I am worthless to them" Parka concluded, getting her ship ready to leave.
"Then they will kill you just because you saw it," Derek told her truthfully, "these kind of people do not leave loose ends laying around."
"They won't catch me" Parka shrugged, her hands working over the bulkheads diligently. "If it makes you feel better, tied up that sack of crap outside and throw her in here. I never pass up a get-out-of-jail-free card when it's offered."
"They already caught you, Parka," Derek said, continuing his warning in a more cautionary tone, "It won't take much to do it again."
"I wasn't exactly exercising caution either" she replied. With her ship warmed and ready, Parka turned to gaze at him. "Thank you. I appreciate what you've done. I really do. I'll be fine. You'll never see me again, and neither will they" she assured him.
"You're making a big mistake, Parka," Derek said in a disappointed tone. He stepped away from the ship to give her room to take off without him being blown away. "You're caught up in a series of events beyond your control and as much as you don't want to be involved ... you most certainly are."
She smiled, knowing the best places in the galaxy to hide that were well beyond the scope of Imperial reach. From the viewport of the cockpit, she lifted a few fingers to wave at him before the craft's engines came to life with the throttle engaged, lifting it off the ground.
Derek walked over towards the downed alien, whom he incorrectly assumed was a bounty hunter. With his foot he kicked her blaster pistol across the deck plating and over the edge of the platform, falling into oblivion. "I should do the same to you," he muttered under his breath before heading back toward his ship.
Parka Pepper sat hunched over and suppressed, concealed with a long hooded cloak. Amid the myriad other life forms present, she was hardly noticeable. Her head lowered, she was well below any radar for the moment, her identity a mystery and unimportant. Having abandoned her ship in Hapes, she traveled via mass transport, a face among millions moving in and out, their activity hardly noticed by the authorities. Having barely escaped both the Empire and nearly betrayed at the hands of her own, Parka felt an emptiness saturate her soul beyond anything she'd felt in a long time. As the transport entered the atmosphere around Alderaan, the droids overseeing the travel accommodations announced their eminent arrival, and Parka's defeated posture straightened slightly in anticipation. As the pillar of beings exited the massive ship, Parka took a moment to pause and gaze about, marking this as her second trip to Alderaan. With a vague recollection of where she was headed, she set off for the port where she'd encountered Derek Atio for the first time.
Derek Atio stood next to his delapadated transport in Aldera's Royal Spaceport. He looked tired, buthis attire and physical appearance remained unchanged. Next to him was a Treadwell droid that was examining one of the starship's interface terminals. The droid's head swiveled to look at the pilot and responded with a series of beeps and whirls. Derek shook his head in slight frustration and took a step back from the ship. He then turned to look at the droid and addressed it sternly, "No. No. We tried that hours ago." He reached out for the ship right his right arm and braced himself, too tired to even stand. He sighed as he hunched over slightly, wondering how he got talked into this assignment.
Twenty minutes from the time she set foot off the terminal, Parka drew closer upon the familiar face, or backside, of the individual in question. She drew to a halt about two meters behind him and stood motionless. "You jinxed me" she said flatly, lifting her covered head.
Derek was startled by the sudden voice, particularly the familiar voice of Parka Pepper, whom he had incorrectly feared had been captured or worse by now. He pushed himself off the hull of the transport and spun around on his heels to look her over. He was surprised by her
in cognito appearance, as she had previously worn outfits that left little to the imagination. "Still in one piece I take it?" Derek asked her, a warm smile forming upon his face.
"Barely..." she answered. She was silent for a moment, regarding him with eyes that were near dead, a worn-down stare acquired as a result of too many close calls, too much abuse and not nearly enough of her normally abundant good fortune.
Derek looked her over more closely and became concerned with her weakened appearance. "Would you like to come aboard and rest?" he asked her, the concern on his face obvious.
The monstrous blow to her ego was nearly more devastating then the string of events that had thrown her into a tailspin and seen her end up back where she started only days prior. "I..." she silenced herself and simply nodded, unwilling to argue and at a loss for sarcastic comebacks or smartass jeers.
Derek nodded silently and proceeded around the hull of the transport. He made the short walk up the ramp to the inner passageways of the ships. He proceeded into the passenger compartment that he had made use of last time, which was still in a state of clutter and disrepair. He stood in one the northwest corner of the room, waiting for Parka to arrive. He was glad she was safe, but at the same time realized the Empire would soon be after him too.
Parka followed obediently. She said little, and her face shed even less light on her current frame of mind. For reasons she couldn't explain, the faint familiarity of the ship offered even if only the slightest bit of comfort. It might prove to be a place where she could gather her thoughts, still sorely devastated that the Empire had been granted access to the Hapan borders. That one fractal technicality had altered the course of what could of been a successful escape from the Empire and a respite in the hidden confines of her home system while she waited for the waters to settle before reemergence. It was a defeat Parka had no way of anticipating, and one that came as a particularly hard blow. She stood where she was, waiting for him to direct her to any flat surface where she could gratefully put down in peace.
Derek scanned the room with his eyes for a couple of moments. It wasn't much, but it was all he had to offer so it would have to do. "Make yourself comfortable," he said to her with a slight chuckle, "or at least as comfortable as you can given this dump." He cleared some old documents off one of the sofa, shuffled them for a few moments, and eventually dumped them on the floor. "I've been meaning to fix up the place," he told her, his face reddening with embarrassment, "...really."
Without a word spoken, Parka shifted to the sofa, dropping onto it lethargically and immediately leaning over to stretch out. It would be the first bit of solitude and silence she'd had in days. Her eyelids dropped instantly, huddling up beneath the cloak and getting comfortable. With only bacta patches at her disposal, she had desperately self-treated the blast wounds in her legs, but her efforts were not faring well. The semi charred holes were sore and red, laden with infection, and had caused a shifting fever. Various minor bumps and bruises from her hard work avoiding capture were the least of her troubles, but added to the festering agony and exhaustion that seemed to engulf her. With nothing to say, Parka allowed herself to sink into the silence and soft cushions of the lounge couch.
"Do I need to ask what happened?" Derek said quietly, remaining upright in the corner. His eyes ran over her body and realized she needed medical attention, but public hospitals would not exactly be the safest place for someone like her.
Without so much as moving, a lazy response came from her lips, half muffled by the cushions on which she lay. "I'm fine. I just need sleep."
"Alright," Derek said quietly as he walked towards the exit of the compartment. "You look like you could use the rest," he said, glancing over towards her with a kind smile. He deactivated the light's in the compartment by accessing a control panel on the wall. "Goodnight," he said as he stepped out of the compartment and headed towards the cockpit.
What seemed a small eternity rolled by before Parka's silvery grey eyes drifted open slowly. Taking her time to come around, she rolled from her side onto her back, savoring the way the cushions felt. It had been the best sleep she'd gotten in days and the feeling was invigorating to say the least. She stared for a long while at the ceiling paneling of the ship, lost in thought and still reluctant to get up just yet. It was dark and quiet, completely settling to frayed nerves.
Finally taking the effort to do so, Parka drew one knee after another up to her chest, untying her lace-up boots and chucking each to the floor casually with a *thud*. She curled her toes tightly, letting them crack and savor the fresh air, even beneath her socks.
"She's awake," Derek thought to himself as he knelt in the hallway using his arc welder on a power conduit. "I'd better check on her," he said to himself as deactivated the welder and stood back up. He reached his left hand up to his head and took the protective goggles off his eyes and moved them over his head. Walking forward he stopped at the door for a moment and prepared to enter. He stopped for a moment thinking better of just 'walking in' on a woman. He raised his left hand to the door and knocked twice, signaling his impending arrival. After waiting a moment he activated the door control panel and stepped inside the compartment.
From her comfortable perch, Parka's head shifted to the side to take him in without comment. She could only imagine what time it was, and by some miracle, her gracious host had allowed her to soak up her afternoon doing nothing.
"How did you sleep?," Derek asked her as he found a seat opposite her on the other side of the room. He slid off his welding gloves and tossed them onto the table. His hand was soon upon his head grabbing the strap of his goggles and without much care they too were soon carelessly done away with.
As content as she was to recline, she felt obligated at least to sit up. Pushing herself up, she repositioned her seat to lean against the sofa arm for support, eyes settling on him evenly. "Very well. I can't believe you let me."
"I kept myself busy," Derek said as he looked around the dilapidated compartment disappointedly, "There's always work to be done around here." He raised his eyebrows as if to say "Oh well" before getting back to the matter at hand. "We really should discuss your situation..." he began in an awkward tone.
Parka let the silence linger, her eyes still boring into him mercilessly. "I have no place to go. The Empire was permitted into Hapes to follow me, some how." Parka shook her head, almost sadly, despite her age old departure from that way of life. "I don't know what else to do" she admitted dejectedly.
"I tried to warn you the extent they'd go to find you," Derek explained in a quiet, dejected tone. He leaned back in his chair and folded his hands across his lap, thinking the situation over in his head. The only option was a dangerous one. "There are people sympathetic to your situation," he explained, being careful not to go into any great details, "If you want ... you could join with those people and they'd help you."
"Do what? Run forever?" One corner of her mouth dipped even more so to create the makings of a frown. "I'm tired" she admitted.
Derek tried to ease her tensions with a smile. "The galaxy has changed many times," he told, sounding surprisingly upbeat, "It will change again. You will not have to run forever." He paused to stand up from his seat and began to walk over towards her. He sat down on the edge of the sofa she had been laying on, and patted her knee reassuringly, "Running is not so bad ... as long as you know where you're going."
For a second her eyes widened and her face registered nothing short of anguish. She brushed at his hand to remove it from her leg, though it had already hit her wound and sent the sharp pain racing up her thigh. As the pain ebbed, she relaxed again and collapsed across the cushions again to recuperate. When she was done, she sat up again. "Don't do that again" she instructed clearly.
Derek withdrew his hand from her leg quickly. He groaned audibly, noticing that has reassuring knee pat had actually been right on top of her covered wound. "Sorry about that," he told her in a sympathetic tone. "But," he continued more upbeat, "My point still stands."
Parka squirmed beneath the discomfort before getting to her feet. "It'll be fine. I'm going to get some fresh air and have a smoke" she mumbled, tugging off the long cloak from around her shoulders. As usual, she was in some skimpy number stylish and flirty. Her bare feet padded off towards the ship's entrance, gliding down the ramp softly and looking about in mild curiosity while she fished around her person for her pack of smokes. With a false sense of security, she lit up her cigarra, taking a long deep draw on it before exhaling, letting the very act calm her nerves.
Derek remained seated on the edge of the sofa for several moments. He raised his right hand to his ear and scratched it for a moment. He shook his head at the thoughts running through his head. Finally, he stood up and walked the short distance to the ship's ramp. He took several steps down the ramp, but remained on it. "I have deliveries to make," he explained to her, "We've got to decide what to do with you." He looked her over carefully ... she certainly would improve the aesthetic quality of his work environment. "I could use a hand running this piece of junk," he said quietly, a nervous tremble in his voice. "Know anyone on the run and out of options?" he asked her, as a small grin appeared on his lips, "I hear people like that work cheap."
With her back to him still, Parka savored a few more relaxing drags of her cigarra before turning slightly to lock on to him with her strange grey and black eyes. "Deliveries huh?" It took only a matter of minutes for Parka to finish her smoke. With her nerves back in order, she pinched the lit end of the cigarra with her thumb and index finger, snuffing it out before tossing it away carelessly. "Guess I don't have a choice do I?"
"You must do what you think is right of course..." Derek told her, a Coruscanti twang to his voice. He narrowed his eyebrows for a moment and tilted his head up, as if confused. He shook his head and then smiled at her. "There are out of the way worlds where I could drop you off with likeminded individuals where you'll be safe," he explained, "I just thought you might rather 'do something'."
Parka was glum, despite efforts to be casual. Finally, her shoulders lifted and fell in resignation. "Oh what the hell" she grumbled. Her eyes lifted to his face and she gave him an artificial grin. "OK, fearless leader...lead on.."
"I'm glad you decided to sign on," Derek said as he headed back up into the ship. "The mop is in a locker in the rear passageway," he told her, with a soft chuckle as he settled into the cockpit.
Parka's expression left nothing to the imagination. It was a congestion of utter confusion and being simultaneously flabbergasted. "Whatever that is..." she retorted, shifting through the ship and eyeballing the sloppy appearance. Winding her way back to the couch she'd taken refuge on, she picked up a random piece of reading material laying around to keep herself preoccupied for the trip ahead.