“Keeping Up Appearances”
The doors to the small cantina opened, admitting the harsh light of...
- Story by Simon H. Lee
- Estimated reading time: 4 minutes (857 words)
The doors to the small cantina opened, admitting the harsh light of a Tatooine double moon to wash over the cramped entranceway. A man stepped down into the darkness and immediately headed for the bar, casting nervous glances at the insignificant dive's few other customers.
"What'll you have?" asked the bartender, a tall, stern-faced man in an oversized tunic. Speaking made the myriad scars on the bartenders's face animate in an entirely disconcerting manner.
The man nodded toward a large flask behind the bartender. "Novanian grog."
"Got it," said the bartender, who reached behind him for the grog and a stein. "You seem a bit nervous," he observed, setting the stein firmly in front of the man, who immediately reached for it and took a swig.
The man shot a suspicious look at the bartender, his gray eyes slitting slightly. "And?"
"Nothing, nothing. Just noticing." The bartender studiously scrubbed at a spot on the bar.
"Oh, well, I suppose it can't hurt to tell ya--everyone's going to know about this pretty soon." The man swiped at his closely-cropped dark hair and drank some more of the foul-smelling grog.
"Please do," the bartender requested. "Not much else going on around here," he said, indicating the bar's other customers, most of which were already drunk to a stupor.
"Yeah..." The man took a deep draught of the grog and grinned. "It's so silly, too."
"Jabba. Jabba the Hutt. He's got his fat little fingers in all these little schemes everywhere, it's a wonder that he has any idea how much he's pulling in from 'em." The man jerked a thumb at himself. "That's why he hired *me*."
"Interesting," the bartender said. "And what exactly did you do for the big tub o' lard?"
The man laughed. "Yeah, that's what I thought of him too. Nah, I kept Jabba's books straight, make sure the Impies don't catch too much of a scent--not that Jabba doesn't have them paid off real good already--but hey, how much do I get paid? Not very damn much."
The bartender nodded. "Let me guess...you had yourself a little 'pay raise', right?"
"Oh yeah. Real slick, too. Just a couple percent off a few of Jabba's money laundering schemes, and *boom*, I'm plush with credits." He shook his head, a little more unsteadily now with the effects of the grog sinking in. "Shoulda been more careful, though. I think Jabba found out, but he hasn't done anything to me yet, right? I'm not some Rancor snack. And I don't plan to end up one."
The bartender smiled knowingly. "Skippin' out, aren't you? Don't blame you for wanting to leave this sand dune."
"If I needed a reason..." The man twirled the stein around on the ring of condensation it was dripping onto the bar top. "And I know you can help me...You work here, you must know about Yeffek's little arrangement with me, right, pal?"
The bartender nodded. "Yeah, me and the boss, we had a nice long talk when I was hired so I'd know about all of 'is little deals. He told me what to do. Just give me a name, and I'll check in back."
"I'm Usor Bani."
"Got it." The bartender opened a little door behind the bar and walked into the back storeroom, then looked at a pair of datapads hung up side-by-side on the wall, one very old and smudged with innumerable food stains, the other one much newer. After rummaging through the drawers of a desk in back, he came back out a minute later holding a data card.
"Here's your card," he told the man.
"Thanks. My ship's leaving in...unhh." The man passed out.
The bartender caught the stein as the man's slide onto the bar knocked it off the side. He looked around at the other customers, none of which appeared to be especially ambulatory...or conscious. He stepped around the bar and hauled the unconscious man into the back room. He very efficiently slapped a restraining harness onto him and then dumped the man into the open supports of a small force cage. A moment later the cage was active and humming with the energy of its enclosure field.
The bartender opened the door of another room set in the left wall of the storeroom. A large and very unconscious Quarren, the regular bartender, was neatly trussed and concealed under a tarp in the corner. He checked on the state of the Quarren's unconsciousness before continuing with his work.
That was far too easy, the man thought. Jabba--that fool--is going to try to negotiate the bounty down... He pulled out a small silver sphere from the right hip pouch of his armor, then replaced it. Hmm. Maybe it's time to leave Tatooine for a while, maybe see if there are any other jobs out there...interesting study of technique, this, but too easy.
The man opened a closet in back, shucking the loose, baggy tunic that he had been wearing as he did so, revealing an impressive amount of body armor. From the closet, the man added heavy arm vambraces and a jet pack to his suit. Finally, he withdrew the sinister helmet of a Mandalore warrior and slipped it on over his head.
Got to keep up appearances, Boba Fett thought.
Updated July 28, 2015
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