His feet resting on the console above the control yolk, Dax watched as the stars streaked by. Some beings found look out a viewport during hyperspace travel to be unsettling; the sense of speed implied by the passing stars was hard for some to handle. Dax, however, found it relaxing. Like most Duros, he had been born in space – the pollution on the planet below had forced the population to live above in orbital stations – and felt more comfortable in the void of space than on a solid planet’s surface. And now he owned a ship. He had been dreaming of owning a YT-2400 Corellian Freighter for longer than he could actually remember. He didn’t need to buy a new computer like Ein. He didn’t need a jetpack like Mawntie. Dax paused his thoughts for a moment while he tried to remember what Bialystock had purchased on Nal Hutta. Whatever it was, it could not compare to his spaceship.
The only concern Dax had was a proper name for his ship. The original owner had called her something in Huttese that roughly translated to the Juicy Slug. Not feeling that the name properly fit the ship’s personality, Dax wanted to change it something more appropriate. This stayed in the back of his mind while the others planned around him. They had intentions to continue the treasure hunting endeavor. Dax had no problem accompanying them; he loved having a reason to fly.
The proximity alerts began to sound. Dax swung his feet lazily to the deck, adjusted himself in the pilot’s seat – his seat, as he was the pilot of his own ship – and took the controls. The deceleration caused the streaks of stars to shrink back to specks. Within moments the viewport was filled with their destination. Mygeeto was classified as an industrialized planet. The Yuuzhan Vong had attacked the planet like most in the galaxy, but it was not left desolated like some. They were able to bounce back quicker than others, and the industrial centers resumed their activities.
As Dax cruised into orbit around the planet, Bialystock stuck his beaked face into the cockpit. “Are we there?” he asked. Dax merely pointed out the viewport. It would have been difficult to notice the planet from their vantage. “Oh, good,” the Ryn responded, sliding into the copilot’s chair. “Let me do the talking with the port authority.”
As if on cue, the com sparked to life. “This is Mygeeto port control. YT-2400 Freighter, please state you purpose.”
Bialystock winked at Dax before responding. “Port Authority, my companions and I are simply here on a vacation. We decided to tour the more habitable planets the galaxy has to offer and …”
“Very well, YT-2400,” the port authority answered, cutting him off. “Follow the beacon to Jygat, berth 82-C.”
Dax locked onto the beacon’s signal and broke orbit. He tightened his grip on the yolk as the ship rattled through the atmosphere. “Where did we need to land?” he asked casually, trying not to draw attention to the growing glow of the heat outside.
“About five hundred kilometers from where we’re actually landing,” Bialystock said, pouring over a navigation monitor.
The freighter gave a heavy rock before hitting the lower atmosphere and regaining a level course. “Better find us a transport station,” Dax mentioned.
The team of Ugnauts working in the shipyard swarmed over to the YT-2400 before the dust from the landing had even settled. Their short limbs made them seem an unlikely species to work on vessels, but Dax had seen Ugnauts strip an engine to the last bolt. This did not inspire complete confidence, however.
“She only takes premium fluids,” Dax said to the tallest Ugnaut – who only came up to his chest – and was wearing the cleanest uniform. The small porcine alien snorted a laugh. He replied in something that wasn’t Basic, but the inflections were placed for Dax to assume he was answering mockingly. “If I find anything wrong with her,” Dax said, leaning down to the Ugnaut’s level, “I’ll strap you to the outside while I test the inertial dampeners.” After only a day of ownership, Dax had already grown irreparably fond of the ship. She still needs a name, though, he thought.
Bialystock paid the Ugnauts, and Mawntie bought tickets for the mag-lift train that would take them to the industrial zone. Bialystock then spent the hour-long ride explaining his knowledge of the battle that had taken place there during the Clone Wars. Dax was not sure why the topic was relevant until the others started adding their opinions in. Apparently they were on Mygeeto to find clone trooper armor. The market, as the Ryn explained, was filled with collectors looking for clone trooper helmets and armor. Dax wondered if he needed to pay more attention to why he was being asked to fly to particular planets. He dismissed the idea almost as quickly as it had appeared; flying was flying, and the reason was not important.
When the train shuddered to a halt, they exited with the mass of blank-faced workers. Even Dax, who was only paying half-attention, could tell that they stuck out hear like a bantha on an asteroid. The locals were indifferent to this fact. They separated onto sidewalks and streets to head for various factories. A gray soot seemed to cover everything. The ashen snow gave the surrounding buildings an eerie quality, as if they had been pulled from the past. Dax imagined the place didn’t look much different sixty of so years ago when the Republic and Separatist forces battled it out for control of the system. Better to be above a planet than on it.
Mawntie led them through the walkways now. Some became more like catwalks or bridges. They extended over great chasms, cracked stone walls leading down to a relative darkness below. It seemed an odd place to build factories. Thinking on the history, it seemed an even worse place to fight a battle. Any damage that made was now repaired, the patchwork covered with the ash that hid all wounds. Dax, like the others, had grown tired of wiping it from his clothing and just let it settle. He could clean it back on the ship … back on his ship. The thought brought another smile to his face.
The Bothan brought them to a small alleyway. A view doors lined it. One even had a display window flush with the wall. As they made their way past in order to get inside, Dax noticed a pair of ghostly white helmets staring back at him in the display. He assumed this is why Mawntie had brought them to such a seemingly random location. Once inside, Dax realized it was an antique shop.
“Welcome!” cried an old human. He toddled out from behind the counter to meet them. Bialystock stepped forward with his practiced grin to shake the man’s hand. Dax, knowing where this would lead, ducked down an aisle. He found himself look at dolls from all around the galaxy. While it was probably never the real intention, the dolls were all terrifying in nature. He picked up one that was supposed to be a caricature of a Duros. The doll was hardly a mirror image. The blue that had once been the skin color was now faded to a mottled grey-green. The eyes – yes , it was true Duros had eyes larger than a standard humanoid’s – were far too big. Dax realized “eyes” was the wrong term. Only one of the red eyes remained inside. The other was missing, giving the doll an unsettling crater on the right side of its head. He put it back on the shelf and began to walk away. He avoided the dead-gazes of short-snouted Trandoshian dolls and Wookiee dolls that looked as though they suffered from mange.
In the next aisle over he was lost among old signs, some so faded they were merely sheets of durasteel. After that, he was looking at hydrospanners that could have been older than the Jedi Order. Without a target in mind, it was easy to drift from one aisle to the next. Eventually he bumped into Ein. The young human was examining what could have been the galaxy’s first datapad. “Oh, I’m supposed to be getting you,” Ein said, realizing why he had gone so far back into the store. “Bialystock got the helmets, and he has a lead on some armor.”
Dax nodded, trying to avoid admitting he had again forgotten why they had gone to Mygeeto in the first place. He followed Ein outside. Bialystock and Mawntie were walking ahead of them. The Ryn was holding the white helmets from the shop window. He seemed to be engaging himself – Mawntie was actively avoiding looking at Bialystock at this point – in a sort of puppet show with the helmets.
“And you, sir, look very lovely,” Bialystock said in a squeaky tone. “Why thank you!” he returned in his normal voice.
Had the Ryn been paying attention, he would have noticed the three Rodians that walked passed them toward the antique shop. Like Dax and his companions, these Rodians were an unusual sight for this area. They looked like spacers. Dax realized more than ever that he too was a spacer. What this meant, however, eluded him. Before, when he was trapped aboard the refugee station, he had a glamorous idea attached to spacers. They were free. They could do what they wanted when they wanted. But he could never establish if they were independent souls or a band of beings. Now that he had been in the galaxy at large, now that he had traveled with spacers, and now that he was one himself, Dax realized being a spacer was the same as being a refugee. It just didn’t matter. It didn’t determine who you were or what you were about. All it said what you lived on the fringes.
Their new destination was a tall, thin building nestled between a pair of towering factories. The sign above the door read “Retirement Home.” Dax thought this was a weird place for clones to retire after the war. Then it he realized that was ridiculous. The clones probably weren’t allowed to keep their armor after the war, anyway.
They took the stairs because the lifts were out of order. Many out-of-breath steps later, they walked door a skinny corridor, Bialystock glancing back and forth between a piece of flimsi and the room numbers. The stopped, double-checked what he was looking at, and proceeded to knock on the door. The four stood in the hallway for eternal seconds. Then the door – an antique itself as it opened on hinges – creaked open a crack. The cragged face of a Muun poked through.
“Yes?” he said, his voice liking escaping air.
“Good sir, we are collectors of antiques and we were …” Bialystock was cut off by the old Muun.
“Who sent you?”
“The owner of the antique shop a few blocks over mentioned that you might …”
“Old Sassafras? What did that son of Hutt tell you?”
Dax watched as Bialystock’s smile struggled to remain in place. “He mentioned you may have some clone trooper armor you would be willing to part with.”
“Sell,” the Ryn said bluntly.
The door closed abruptly. There was a jingle of locks, and the door reopened. The Muun, bent with age, shuffled out of the way to allow them access inside the apartment. It was small, and made smaller by the amount of garbage cluttering it up. Dax noticed that the garbage looked similar to what he had been viewing in the antique shop. Like before, he allowed himself to get lost in it, looking for nothing particular. Bialystock and the Muun were engaged in a lengthy conversation. Evidently the Muun had been saving his energy for this day, because he seemed to be wearing out the Ryn rather quickly. Dax decided to check one of the other rooms. It was also piled high with trinkets and trash.
A paw landed on his shoulder, causing Dax to spin around. “There are three sets of armor buried in here,” Mawntie said. “Help me look.” Ein was with him. The three began to dig through the collected mass of what the Muun referred to as antiques. Toppling a stack of old holodramas, Ein found the first set. Mawntie shifted a wormy cabinet on its end to find the second set. The third set was under a pile of shirts that featured the Bolo Ball champions from thirty years ago.
“My father and I collected those up right after the battle,” the Muun said. “He told me they would be worth something. He told me all investments need time.”
“And now they’re paying off,” Bialystock said, placing a stack of credit chips in his hand.
Burdened now with the sets of armor neatly stacked, they left the home to get back to the train. Bialystock led, having only to carry his helmets from the antique shop. He spoke to the group now instead of the helmets. “With what we collected here, we should be able to get at least three thousand credits on the open market.”
“Will that net us a profit with what you had to spend?” Ein asked, trying to see over the helmet on top of his bundle.
“Given our cost for this whole endeavor, we should still come out ahead,” Bialystock answered.
Dax noticed that Mawntie had stopped walking. He turned around, noticing why the Bothan had paused. Behind them were the three Rodians. One said something in a language Dax did not understand. Apparently Mawntie did. Instantly he dropped his armor and reached for his weapon.
If someone had recorded the next eight seconds, perhaps a play-by-play could have been created. Had there been analysts to look over the data, droids to compile the movements in microseconds, perhaps it could have been determine who shot whom first. But it was a firefight, plain and simple. In eight seconds, Dax and the others dropped what they were carrying. They drew their blasters from holsters. The pair of Rodians behind the lead pulled blaster rifles from under the ponchos they wore. Between the seven participants, no more than ten shots were fired. At the end, the three Rodians lay on the ground. Mawntie was clutching his right arm, and Dax was trying to keep weight off his left leg. They stumbled quickly back to the train, boarded with the oblivious workers, and rode in silence back to the spaceport.
The cargo bay of the YT-2400 was spacious enough to carry a landspeeder. Dax wasn’t sure if there was actually a way to get a landspeeder aboard, but if he could, he would have space for it. Placing the collected armor in the hold only seemed to make it appear larger. While Dax was staring at this, Bialystock approached. “Imagine, someday we’ll have this place filled with treasure.”
Dax nodded at the comment. He didn’t care for treasure. He didn’t care for adventure. He didn’t even really care about the blaster burn stinging his leg. All he cared about was flying, and now he had a ship.