Return to the previous story The Pilot Who Came In From The Cold

The Droid of Nar Shaddaa

Author: Useful_Oxymoron
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Well, I don't own Willow or Tara and if I did, I'd set them free.
Feedback: Is cool. It's always nice to know somebody likes the crap I write.
Summary: Yes, another one-shot. Taking place between Empire and Return, Tara and Willow travel to Nar Shaddaa in hopes of finding information on Han's whereabouts.
Notes: Influences for this story: 1- playing Empire at War late at night until I hear birds starting to sing in the morning. 2 - Listening to HK-47's voice.
Note 2: Considering you might not all be KOTOR players, here's a link with all the information you'd ever need to know of HK-47. There's even a neat voice-sample of him.
Note 3: Special thanks go to local Star Wars gurus SithLordWiccan and Darth Pacula.
About the title: Again, a play on a John Le Carre novel.
Italics are thoughts.

Willow made her way to the launchpad where Tara's beloved ship, the Doll's Eye, was being prepped for launch. She, Tara and Dawn had only arrived on Bespin hours ago, but Tara wasn't able to wait to get to her ship, seeing how giddy she was on the flight to Bespin.

She had to admit that the Doll's Eye was a gorgeous ship. Thirty-three meters long, fourteen meters wide, it had more than enough space to carry cargo and passengers, while still having superb maneuverability. Three massive sublight engines suspended from the back of the ship assured that.

Unlike the YT-series of ships, the VCX-series was more angular. The Doll's Eye was wide and flat, clad with clean, white armored panelling, save for the red stripes that ran from the cockpit up front along the sides of the ship to the engines.

The ship was currently refueling and loading supplies. All four cargo-lifts of the Doll's Eye's two main cargo holds were open, while Dawn was telling NVSBD were to bring the cargo to. NVSBD, an acronym for Non-Violent Super Battle Droid, was the one and only battledroid that Tara had restored that was currently active. The oversized armored droid had been neatly polished and reprogrammed for loading purposes.

"Hey, En-vee," Willow greeted.

"I are loading cargo!" En-vee greeted cheerfully in a goofy voice. En-vee was sweet... but not smart.

"Isn't this ship amazing?" Dawn raved while punching the buttons to rise the lift. Willow decided to hitch a ride and jumped on. A few moments later, when the lift had risen fully, Dawn started to point out where the En-vee was supposed to place the cargo-crates and fasten them.

Willow shook her head when En-vee tried to figure out how to get the crates to the side of the ship without bumping into anything. She brushed past the droid and entered the central corridor running along the spine of the ship. That the VCX-series of ships were luxurious was aptly proven by the decor inside. Not only was this ship carpeted, but the panels were custom designed, augmented by a stylish lighting scheme.

It amazed Willow how much Tara had made this ship her own. She'd been removed and shifted bulkheads in almost every single space on board. The access ramps lay at the back of the ship, giving access from the airlock to the main corridor running along the spine of the ship. Because Tara had installed a droid bay in the port cargo bay, she had removed the port access corridor to compensate for the loss of cargo space.

Though, like the Millenium Falcon, the Doll's Eye had been modified extensively, its finish belied a feminine touch. On the Millenium Falcon cables, relays, new machinery and other modifications were left wide in the open, while on the Doll's Eye, the great majority of these were neatly hidden away behind panels, licks of paint or otherwise made part of the decor.

Willow came to the fore-section of the ship. To starboard, lay a luxurious crew and passenger lounge, complete with Strategem table, Holonet emitter, food dispenser and conversation pit. Around the lounge lay three passenger cabins for six persons total. To port lay the Captain's Quarters, though Willow had not been inside yet.

In front of her, in the cockpit, sat Tara, checking a few readings and letting her fingers slide over the control consoles.

"I missed you, baby," Willow heard Tara say and blushed for a moment... until she realized that Tara didn't know she was there and was actually talking to the ship. "Soon you'll fly again."

"Ahum," Willow scraped her throat. "Hey, baby. I got the drive plates you wanted. I had..."

It was then that Tara swiveled her chair around. The sight took Willow's breath away. Slowly, her eyes roamed across Tara's body. Her lover was wearing skin-tight black pants with matching grey boots. A white and tight shirt was worn under a brown ribbed jacket, while her hair was pulled back into a long pony. Willow's eyes were transfixed on Tara's chest for a moment. 'Gosh, look at those,' she blushed when she realized she was staring right down into Tara's cleavage.

Tara noticed and blushed as well. "I, uh, well, I dove into my old w-wardrobe and, well..."

"I approve. I'm miss Approvy McApprove," Willow said quickly. 'Hubba, hubba,' she added mentally.

"I'm glad," Tara said and turned back to her console, cringing when she heard Willow's sigh of disappointment. "We'll leave tomorrow at first light. We're fueled, all systems are go, the hyperdrive intermix ratio is correct and we almost have all our supplies loaded. "

"I got the part you needed for the hyperdrive," Willow said proudly. "I trekked all over Bespin to find it, but persistence wins."

Tara swiveled her chair back to Willow. "I thought I told Dawn to go get it..."

"We swapped duties," Willow shrugged. "She did the loading you told me to do and I tracked down the correct drive plates. Besides, I'm not sure Dawn knows what a 567-J drive plate even looks like."

"You still shouldn't tire yourself so much after..."

"Oh, I'm fine, Tara," Willow scoffed slightly and started to rub Tara's shoulders. "It's been two months since Hoth. So, do you really think this Koshkit Tereez know where Boba Fett went?"

Tara relaxed in her chair while Willow continued kneading her muscles slowly. "Hm, you really have skilled hands, sweetie."

"Comes with the job description," Willow smiled.

"Hmmm," Tara closed her eyes and relaxed. "Yes," she sighed. "To answer you question, that Bothan knows everything about everybody in the underworld. If he doesn't know where Boba Fett is, nobody does. And if the Rebellion finds Boba..."

"They'll find Han," Willow said. "You miss him, don't you?"

"Han's unique," Tara chuckled and rose from her seat. "Come on, I'd like to show you to your quarters, dear madam."

Curious as she was, Willow eagerly followed Tara to the door to the Captain's Quarters. When the double doors slid apart, Willow could but gape. She had heard that the crew quarters on board the VCX-series was supposed to be luxurious, but this was ridiculous. Since Tara had configured the ship so it could be entirely controlled from the cockpit by a single pilot, she had converted the three crew quarters and crew lounge into one big spacious Captain's cabin.

Red was the predominant color in the room. Several decorative red drapes hung from the walls and met with a soft burgundy carpet on the floor. But a large bed, with red covers, built against the wall was the first thing Willow saw. It looked soft, comfortable and... well-supported. To the side was a private shower-area, complete with water-purifier. To the other side of the cabin was a cozy seating area, flanked by several storage closets. A display-case next to the bed was filled to the brim with knick-knacks, pictures and other assorted memories from all over the galaxy.

"Oh, let me give you some natural light," Tara said while she dimmed the artificial lights in the cabin and strolled over to the very back of the cabin. She pressed a button and a blast door slid open, revealing a broad dual-viewport. Tara sat down on a bench that was built into the side of the hull right underneath the viewports and pressed a button to the side. Two mechanical struts emerged horizontally from the wall. A few moments later, energy flickered between them, forming a solid barrier.

"Transparent dining table," Tara smiled. "Neat, huh?"

"Oh, wow," Willow whispered. "This is a palace. A flying palace. I mean, it has everything and it's big and you have your own shower. Tara, is that a jacuzzi?" Willow said and pointed to a round, waist-high object behind her, currently covered by a water-tight top.

"It, um, also doubles as a m-mud bath," Tara smiled apologetically. "I, uh, u-used to, um, e-entertain a l-lot and..."

"It's okay, Tara," Willow offered. "That was before we met. Still, this is a wonderful place to live, aboard this ship."

"It could be y-your place to live too, you know?" Tara said softly.

Willow smiled. "I'd love that. Really, I would. We could be all rogue-y smugglers and scoundrels. I'll keep my skills to repair the ship, while you're flyin' and gunnin'. And... I'll be with you. That's what's most important."

Tara found herself fiercely holding on to Willow as they lay together in her... no, their bed. Outside, though the viewport, she could see four of the twelve moons of Bespin, while the wind howled as it blasted alongside the ship. She found it rather soothing.

Willow lay in her arms, a satisfied grin plastered all over her face. Tara ran a hand through her hair for a moment. She'd been extra gentle with her during their lovemaking, like she'd been ever since...

Since Hoth, Tara grimaced as she thought back to the day when she almost lost Willow.

After the shield generator had been destroyed and the ground troops had landed, Echo Base fell into utter chaos. Storm Troopers came in from every corner, trying to stop the Rebel transports from taking off. When Darth Vader and the 501st legion had landed, Willow and Tara had still been inside of hanger 2. An errant blast from one of the AT-AT walkers outside had hit and fused the door mechanism, keeping the hanger's massive bay doors closed and keeping no less than three transports and Blue and Green Squadrons from leaving. Willow and a group of mechanics worked frantically to get the doors to respond from the inside and when the doors finally started to slide open, a trio of storm troopers entered the hanger.

Tara could still see it happening right in front of her when she closed her eyes. Willow simply stood there, like a womprat in the headlights, while the other mechanics made for the troop transport. Time froze for her when one of the storm troopers shot Willow from point-blank range. Twice.

Just Willow's luck... She had to run into the only storm troopers that could shoot straight. Tara didn't even remember shooting the three storm troopers, but in the end, she was holding a smoking blaster pistol over three corpses while she ran to Willow who supported herself against the wall.

"It hurts," was all that Willow managed to whisper before losing consciousness. Because the troop transports were already taking off, Tara had dragged Willow back to her Y-wing. She sat down and propped Willow in front of her and prepped for take-off. Just as the canopy closed and her ship was rising off the ground, Darth Vader and the 501st entered.

And so Tara had to lead Blue Squadron to defend the three transports while her unconscious lover was slowly bleeding to death in her arms and her eyes were filling up with tears.

At the rendez-vous point, Tara docked with the medical frigate. For a while, it didn't look good for Willow: she'd lost so much blood. The medical droids did a transfusion with synthetic blood and placed her into a bacta-tank for a week to help repair the damage done to her internal organs. Tara had sat with Willow every day, waiting for the moment when she'd wake up.

Tara pulled the sleeping girl a little closer to her and softly kissed her lips. It had been two months now and Willow still hadn't fully recovered. She tired easily and she was still on a special diet. And the spot on her abdomen where she'd been hit was still tender.

Tara couldn't bear the thought of losing Willow. Of all the many women Tara been involved with, only Willow had had this an intense effect on her. Only Willow could make her nervous as a schoolgirl on a first date. Only Willow could make her heart melt with a single expression. Only Willow could make her feel like the center of the universe. Not to mention the fact that Fellucian honey tastes three times as good when it's licked from Willow's belly-button, Tara grinned to herself.

Just how lucky am I to have found you? Tara thought. Tara might have given it the dodge for many years, but love had finally tracked her down. And now she never looked back.

When Willow awoke, she found herself neatly tucked in. Tara was gone, however. She grimaced when a flashing blue light shone right into her eyes. It took her a few moments to realize that she blue light she saw beyond the viewport was actually a hyperspace tunnel.

"Tara?" she asked. "Tara? Are you here?"

No answer.

Willow frowned and unwrapped herself from the sheet. After getting dressed, she stepped out into the corridor, briefly enjoying the feeling of wriggling her toes into the fuzzy carpet in the hallways. She found Tara and Dawn sitting in the cockpit, quietly chatting.

"Sweetie?" Tara swiveled her chair around. "Good morning."

"Trying to cheat me out of my good-morning kiss?" Willow chuckled and moved to kiss Tara on the lips.

"Sorry, sweetie, but you were sleeping so peacefully. I just didn't have the heart to wake you," Tara replied while Willow took one of the passenger seats. "I'll fix you some breakfast soon."

"Hm, nice," Willow smiled. "How far are we from Nar Shaddaa?"

Dawn punched up a chart. "Hm, hold on. Oh, about four hours, I think."

"Dawn, can you take the helm for while?" Tara said.

"Can I?!" grinned Dawn. "This ship practically flies itself in hyperspace. I can't wait to fiddle around with the controls."

"Just don't blow us up," Tara smirked, earning herself a slap to the shoulder for a pouty Dawn. Even since Buffy's death, Dawn'd been treating Tara and Willow as surrogate big sisters, a role which both women greatly enjoyed. Though they could never replace Buffy, they could help Dawn deal with the terrible losses she had been forced to deal with in her young life.

"It might not look it," Tara said while she and Willow make their way to the passenger lounge to get themselves some breakfast, "but a lot of the things I custom-installed in this ship are salvaged from the scrapyards. People throw too much away these days."

"What about your seat?" Willow said. "It looks like... ratty, you know? Didn't this ship come with a brand-spanking new pilot's chair?"

Tara shook her head. "Yes, it did, but I never got used to it. I took the seat from my old YT-2010 because I love it so much. Sure, it's falling apart at the seam, the stuffing's coming out and the leather is cracked, but it's still the only chair I'm comfortable with. And that's not the only thing I've installed. The Doll's Eye's transponder system is also from my old ship. So, if any pirates check their sensors, all they'll see is a YT-2010, nothing special. And if they do come close enough to get within visual range, they'll be up against a ship with military grade shields that's also bristling with weapons."

"Plus flown by one of the best pilots in the universe," Willow added, making Tara blush slightly.

"Well, I did once skim the Doll's Eye across the event horizon of a black hole," Tara shrugged.

"What?!" Willow blinked. "You did what?!"

"It was only for .2 seconds came in at a wide angle at lightspeed. Plus, it was a supermassive one, so it was relatively safe. University of Coruscant paid me 50000 credits to pull it off while carrying twelve scientists and their equipment. And for 50000 credits, I'd fly through a sun. Han called me crazy, though," Tara sighed. "We have to find him, Willow. Before Jabba gets his slimy mits on him."

Nar Shaddaa, Nal Hutta's moon, loomed before them. As Tara flew the Doll's Eye, looking for a landing pad, Willow looked over her shoulder and out the viewport.

Born and raised on Coruscant, Willow was no stranger to planet-wide cities, but Nar Shaddaa seemed like a dark mirror version of her homeworld. Somehow, this world looked more menacing to her, more oppressive. The lack of natural light might have something to do with that, cloaking this world in a night. Also, she could see the filth and squalor even from high above. This was not a nice world. And from the stories that Tara had told her, it was also a violent world.

Tara found a landing pad that was inconspicuous and set down. Tara's cover was that they were delivering cargo to one of Lando Calrissian's contacts here on Nar Shaddaa. After some argument, Tara had allowed Willow to tag along, if only to experience a new side of Tara she hadn't seen before. Besides, Willow had pressed that she could take care of herself, which was something Tara could not ignore. So, Willow and Tara stood watching Dawn and En-vee unload the cargo, which would be secured by the dockmaster until Lando's contact would come pick it up.

"Alright, when you finish unloading, head inside the ship and lock the ramps. Don't let in anyone except us. Like I said, this is not a nice planet," Tara said.

"Gotcha," Dawn said while standing next to En-vee and R3. "We'll guard the Doll's Eye well."

"En-vee are a better guard than Dawn are," En-vee announced cheerfully. "Because En-vee are having wrist-blaster. It are used for shooting."

While R3 loudly complained about being delegated to guard duty, Willow and Tara made their way to the city's tram city. A bumpy ride on a filthy tram later, the girls stood in front of the 'Sith Tongue' cantina.

The first thing they saw when they entered the cantina were two Quarren making out. It was not a sight either of them ever wanted to see again. Aside from the aliens minding their own business in the stalls, this seemed like a typical smoke-filled low-ceilinged run-of-the-mill cantina, like all the countless other millions in the galaxy.

"Why are we here?" Willow asked while Tara ordered a drink from the Chiss bartender.

"First rule of the scoundrel business," Tara said. "If you want info, go to the cantina. You'll find juicy bits of local news or leads on profitable work. Once on Thyferra, I once walked into a cantina knowing nothing and I came out 10 minutes later knowing that the mayor of the town was embezzling funds from the Empire and that the local doctor was having an affair with the wife of a military officer."

"How do you find out?" Willow asked. "I don't think these people like it when you ask to many questions. You'll probably end up being thrown off a building rather than ending up knowing stuff. Going splat is not my favorite way to spend the evening."

"Oh," Tara grinned while she brushed passed a couple of twi'leks dancers going off duty. When Willow saw that the twi'lek girls were checking Tara out, she possessively wrapped an arm around her waist while shooting them an angry 'Hey! This is MY super-hot scoundrel. Get your own, you two-bit hussies!'-look. "You just have to play your cards right," Tara finished.

Tara, with Willow in tow, walked up to a table in a secluded booth where three men were playing. One, a human was dealing, while two others, one a twi'lek, the other a daveronian, were taking the cards.

"Oh, my!" Tara sighed in a little-girl voice. "It's a g-game! I l-love games! Could I j-join, please?"

Willow frowned for a moment and wondered why Tara was speaking to those men in such a way, until she realized that Tara was acting. She'd heard Tara stutter before, mostly when she was nervous or telling her that she loved her, and she knew that was genuine. Right now, Tara was pretending to be slumming.

"Well," spoke the human. "That depends. Do you have any money?"

"Uhmmm," Tara searched her pocket. "700 credits! Is it enough? What's this g-game called?"

"Sabacc," the men grinned to each other. "Please! Sit down, we'll deal you in."

"Sabacc," Tara clapped her hands like a little girl. "Uh, that's played with c-cards, right?"

The next hour, Willow watched in fascination while she sat next to Tara and observed her girlfriend's game. She felt slightly hurt when Tara wouldn't allow Willow to look at her hand, but then she realized her reactions to Tara's hand might give away vital clues to the other player.

Tara played the role of pouty debutante until she had about 20 credits left, completely suckering in the other player. And when they least expected it, Tara started playing for real. Because Tara claimed 'it was just beginner's luck' and 'gosh, am I getting better?' so convincingly, the other players were not able to see through her deception until it was too late. At the end of the hour, the men looked dour while Tara was sitting on top of the world. A huge pile of credit-chips was lying in front of her and, unlike the other players, she leaned back in her seat, smiling smugly while she held her cards in one hand and had her other arm wrapped around Willow's shoulders.

So far, Tara and the human male called Erelon were pitted against each other, though Tara's pile of credits was slightly bigger.

Erelon grinned wickedly after grabbing three cards from the deck. "I raise 300," he said and tossed the credits on the table. Both other players added their money to the pile and so did Tara.

"I raise 500 credits," Erelon continued with a grin. Both aliens folded. But not Tara.

Beads of sweat glided down Erelon's cheek. "I bet everything I have."

Tara remained stoney-faced for a moment, glancing at her cards. Until her left eyebrow rose about 2 millimeters. "Let's see 'em," was Tara's single damning statement. Erelon's grin faded and was replaced by a heavy pout. He threw down his cards, revealing he had nothing. No pairs and only low-numbered cards.

Tara bent forward to put down her cards, spreading them nicely. She had no pairs either, but her cards were of high number. She'd called Erelon's bluff and won every single credit in the pot. She smugly slid all the credits to her pile and started to put it in a pouch, while the two aliens stood up and left in disgust.

"Erelon," Tara said. "I'll give you one more chance to win back your money. I want to know where to find Koshkit Tereez. I know he's planetside, but don't know where. Shall we play for it?"

Erelon grinned. "I've got a better idea. If you win, I'll tell you where to find Koshkit Tereez. If I win, I'll get to spend the night with you and your lovely friend over there."

Willow rolled her eyes. Dream on, guy. As if Tara'd ever...

"Done," Tara stated, and gave Willow an encouraging smile, though Willow wasn't anywhere near encouraged when Erelon dealed his hand.

"Dammit," Tara sighed, causing Willow to panic.

What's going on here?! Why is Tara throwing this hand?! Willow gulped. Visions of Erelon in his shorts on a vibrating bed already invaded Willow's mind. It was not something she'd want to see become a reality.

"I win!" Erelon raved. "My, my, girls, get ready for the night of your lives."

Tara grinned. "Yeah, a bet's a bet. So myself and Willow are available for you all evening... right here in the cantina. We'll entertain you with good conversation at the table and the drinks are on us. You'll have us all to yourself to chat with for the remainder of the night."

Erelon growled. "That's not what I meant."

"And how were we supposed to know that?" Tara answered with a smirk. "If you wanted something else from us, you should have been more specific when you made the bet."

Erelon accepted his loss and his gain like a good sport and decided to make the most of the evening he would spend with the two girls, but promised himself he would never, ever, ever tell this treacherous vixen Tara about Koshkit Tereez. Not ever. Sixteen drinks later, the world was looking rather spinny to him and, to his surprise, he noticed that Tara's twin sister had joined the festivities. And also Willow's twin sister. In fact, a lot of the patrons had twins show up. He considered it rather funny. Perhaps there was a twin-convention in town.

"So," Tara poured him another drink. "Are you sure you don't know where Koshkit Tereez is living these days?"

"Yeah, I know, I do know. But I'm never telling you, nope, not even. You'll never find out that Koshkit Tereez lives in the Red-sector in penthouse suite Q-5. Nope, not ever. My lips are sealed," Erelon hiccuped.

"Thanks," Tara said and pushed him back into the seat, where he fell asleep promptly.

Tara and Willow made their way to the exit of the cantina, where the two Quarren were still swapping ink. A few seconds later, they were standing outside.

"Wow," Willow whispered. "That was something else."

Tara held out an arm to stop Willow. Quick as a flash, Tara drew her blaster and fired a number of shots on a low setting into a darkened spot behind a ventilation shaft. Two moaning aliens, the two Tara had played against fell out of their hiding places and scampered towards the alleys as quick as their legs could carry them.

"More with the wow," Willow blinked.

"Sore losers. Thick as thieves on Nar Shaddaa," Tara shrugged and checked her winnings. "When we get back to Bespin, I'm going to take you out to the most expensive restaurant I can find."

After a few hours of sleep at the Doll's Eye, Tara decided to go in alone. Though it pained her to leave Willow behind worrying about her, she thought it would be safer for the both of them. On the tramride to the Red-sector, she had had to fend off two would-be muggers and had been forced to shoot an aqualist who claimed she 'was looking at him funny'.

Earlier in her life, she always enjoyed visits to Nar Shaddaa. There'd always be interesting things going on, ranging from bar-fights to sultry rendez-vous with twi'lek dancing girls to smuggling in spice right under the noses of the Hutts without paying them their cuts and racing on the swoop-tracks.

But now, Tara really didn't like Nar Shaddaa as much as she once did. Maybe it was her involvement in the Rebellion, or maybe it was just that she wasn't alone anymore now that she had Willow and Dawn to think about. Or it could be Han's unknown fate weighing on her mind. Or maybe she'd just outgrown Nar Shaddaa altogether..

In any case, Tara entered Tereez's guarded penthouse after his guards let her in. Of course, he knew I was coming. He's a Bothan, after all, Tara thought.

Tereez had draped himself in a luxury chair behind his desk, leaning back as Tara entered. Tara looked around and found many tacky, yet expensive items adorning his office. Behind Tereez, a large window offered a nice view of the filthy city behind him, though the window was partially covered by blinds. Tereez was still his cheerful smug self, a broad grin plastered all over his lupine face.

"Well," he growled friendly. "Tara. How nice of you to visit me. It's been, oh, what is it? Three years since we last spoke. Right after you ran off to join that silly Rebellion, no? Never pegged you to have a noble spirit. Say, how's Seely doing?"

"Seely's still dead," Tara gritted her teeth. "And that was below the belt, Tereez."

"Ah, who cares, she was just a twi'lek slave. Million more of those," Tereez shrugged. "I'm surprised your current conquest doesn't have lekku or otherwise alien apendages," Tereez chuckled. "Though she is lovely. Of course I already know that her name is Willow Traveel. And that there's a warrent out for her immediate execution on all Imperial worlds. Imperials don't look favorably upon high treason. They're funny that way."

"Tereez, you know entirely too much about me. I suggest you stop this line of questioning, or you might find yourself eating through a straw for the rest of your life," Tara spat angrily. And she meant business.

"As you wish," Tereez was looking rather bored and took a bite from a greasy bit of fried meat from a paper bucket.

Tara paced around the office for a moment before strolling over to the chair facing Tereez and sliding into it, placing both boots on the table. This drew a low growl from the Bothan. "You've been moving up in the world, haven't you?" Tara studied her nails for a moment. "Last time I saw you, you were a simple snitch in a filthy cantina. Did you finally hit it big?"

The Bothan shrugged. "You could say that," he chuckled. "What can I say? Competition is stiff these days, unless you've... got an edge. And when you're the only reliable information dealer left, all the clients automatically come to you."

"I want information," Tara stated.

"Don't we all?"

"Han Solo."

"Boba Fett."


"Freebies are bad for my reputation."

"You owe me."

"How so?"

"Corellia. Five years ago."

"That debt has already been paid."

"Not in full."

"Hmmm. Perhaps you're right."

"So tell me. Where did Fett take Han?"

"I still require a service."

"I'll have to owe you."

"No deal."

"I could also just shoot you."

"You could," the Bothan grinned before taking another bite from his greasy meat. "But, first, let me introduce you to... my edge. Droid?"

The tell-tale sounds of metal footsteps sounded as a figure emerged from the shadows. A fierce looking droid with a rusty-red chassis and mean glowing red eyes appeared, brandishing a nasty-looking sniper blaster. The droid moved with an almost feline-like grace as he approached and stood at the desk.

"Query : Who do you want killed?" stated the droid cheerfully, in a deep voice augmented by a threatening back-ground hiss.

"Nobody," said Tereez. "I merely want you to show Tara the door."

"Statement : Ah, so you want me to repeatedly ram her head into the door until her cranium resembles a rather flat and mushy bloodpie? Or perhaps that is just wishful thinking on my part," the droid suggested.

Tara crossed her arms and regarded Tereez menacingly. "So you stole my droid, Tereez!"

"I did nothing of the sort and I resent the implication," Tereez retorted, slamming down his fast-food and sending the nuggets flying. "HK-47 came to me seeking employment. Everything is perfectly legal. Perhaps you are mistaken."

"Don't you think I would recognize the droid I restored and fixed up for months in my spare time?" Tara glowered.

"Enough of this," Tereez scoffed. "Droid, get rid of her! Toss her out on her ear."

HK-47 stepped up to Tara and guided her towards the door. Tara assessed her chances against the droid, but considered them slim. So she decided to play along... for now.

"Statement : Oh, I get so tired of these non-violent solutions," the droid said while he escorted her through the corridor. "I do suggest you resist, meatbag. It would enable me to fracture your skeleton in several vital areas. I'm sure that would be very amusing for the both of us, master."

Tara snapped around, stopping short just before the entrance of the penthouse villa. "Did you just call me, master?"

"Mockery : Your powers of observation are astounding, master. What obvious statement based upon input from your inferior sensory organs shall you make next? Ah, but I suppose I should not blame your meatbag logic. Not all of us can be of superior droid construction, sadly."

Tara crossed her arms. "You consider yourself superior to humans?"

"Statement : I am superior, master, that is without question. I am still operating 4000 years after I was first switch on, which is more than I can say for you. Look at you, you are dying as we speak. I can almost see your internal organs giving out under to wear and tear of use. Why you meatbags just don't all just jump from a high building to spare yourselves the trouble is beyond me. But I suppose few things ever change, master," the droid said, almost sounding melancholic. "Observation : After 4000 years, astromech droids are still annoying, meatbags are still breeding out of control and all bumping into each, threatening and posturing to one another mostly for the sake of mating, resources and survival. It is really quite tiresome."

Tara blinked. "You are a very wordy droid, aren't you? Protocol function?"

"Observation : Peace is not the natural state of the galaxy. In a predominantly democratic society, there will always be meatbags who will pursue a society that is more opressive. And when this oppressive society has been realized, there will be other meatbags who will strive to re-instate a so-called 'free' democratic society. And so meatbag society is trapped in an unbreakable vicious circle of opposing political views and resulting violence thereof. But I suppose I shouldn't complain. At least it gives us assassination droids something worthwhile to do."

Tara raised an eyebrow. "You're an assassination droid? Hm, actually that explains a lot," she said while looking around and seeing Tereez's gathered wealth.

"Retraction : Did I say assassination droid? I, of course, meant assassination droid of unparalleled sophistication. But do not worry, master. My programming prohibits me to take lethal action against a legal owner, sadly. So as much as I would like to put a blaster rifle to your head and pull the trigger, I am unable to do so. A pity."

"Yes," Tara rolled her eyes, actually being grateful that this particular droid had been stolen from her. "A pity."

"Statement : Though I am grateful for your work and dedication in repairing me. Therefore, it is only prudent to let you leave without inflicting any permanent damage upon your person. Consider it a 'freebie', if you like, master."

"Thanks," Tara gritted her teeth when she moved through the door and walked onto the streets of Nar Shaddaa. "I think."

Officially, it was night-time on Nar Shaddaa, even though it was as dark as it always was. However, most of the penthouse's occupants had gone to sleep and were blissfully unaware of the intruder stalking about the hallways.

The Gammorean guard near the front door was surprised to feel something tapping on his shoulder. He turned around to see nothing. He spun around again, just in time to see the butt of Tara's blaster pistol hit him right between the eyes. After he collapsed on the floor, it took Tara some effort to drag him into a storage closet.

It took her a few moments to slice and shut down Tereez's alarm system. Bolstered by this victory, Tara snuck towards Tereez's office, dodging several patrols on the way there. Tara found she still enjoyed the thrill of sneaking into a place where she didn't belong. Finally, she arrived at Tereez's office and slipped inside. She wasn't surprised to see Tereez still sitting behind his console, possibly still pouring over information gathered.

She drew her blaster pistol and pointed it at the back of Tereez's head.

"I hold the cards now, Tereez," Tara smirked. "Han Solo. Where? Now."

No answer.

"Tereez?" Tara asked again. Carefully, she spun the chair around... and gasped.

Tereez was dead as a doornail as he lay slumped back in his chair with a smoldering hole in his forehead. Ironically, he had a more intelligent expression in death than he ever had in life.

"Chiding statement : He fell," sounded from the shadows.

"He fell," Tara repeated while crossing her arms. "Right."

"Bold-faced lie : Truly, he fell. And I tried to break his fall with a skillfully placed blaster shot to the head. Oddly enough, it did not work."

"I thought you said you couldn't take lethal action against your owner?" Tara returned. "Or was that a lie?"

"Statement : Not a lie," HK-47 said as he stepped from the shadows. "But since he was never truly my owner, my core programming did not apply."

Tara nodded. "So you used him. For his information, no doubt? You took out his competition, making him the most powerful information dealer on Nar Shaddaa. And now you shot him? Why?"

"Correction : I acquired his knowledge and his contacts. Just before his timely demise, the lazy meatbag turned me into his errant droid so I can operate under his name while no-one will miss his smelly countenance. In the meantime, I can use his contacts to my advantage."

"Why?" Tara asked. "What happens next?"

"Query : Perhaps your memory recalls that I mentioned the vicious circle the meatbag society is trapped in? I ask you, what can break such a vicious circle.

"Answer : A powerful outside party that'll sweep through the galaxy like a raging fire, slaughtering left and right. Normally, I would enjoy being a spectator to such an event, except that in this case, droids will not do well under the yoke of these particular meatbags. My creator Darth Revan, though later she used the name Shaya when she once again took the mantle of Jedi Master, saw many things through the force near the end of her operational life-time. And every single one of her seemingly irrational predictions has come true. She has seen the rise of this little Empire you've been fighting, and its eventual fall... She also foresaw a threat from the outside of our galaxy, coming to burn across countless meatbag-filled worlds. She ordered me to take steps to combat these meatbag from the shadows, should I still be operational around that time. The outcome of the battle is unclear, but droid superiority shall always prevail. Would you believe those creatures use organic technology. The very idea is perverse."

Tara gripped her blaster tightly and aimed it at the droid. HK-47, however, didn't seem overly impressed by that. "So, what happens now?"

Hk-47 looked at her with impassion. "Statement : You already asked that question twice, indicating a faulty memory. But I shall not hold it against you, seeing I have a simular history of memory problems. To answer your thrice-asked question, it all depends on you, but I cannot allow you to endanger my position or my mission from my original master. Though you are my legal owner, master, and I cannot harm you directly, my programming does not extend that courteousy to your family and loved once, if you'd care to read between the lines. If do not care to read between the lines, know that I can make a deadly accurate shot from two miles away. And a red head of hair tends to stand out in a crowd."

Tara gritted her teeth. "Your point is made, droid. I only want to know where I can find Han," Tara spoke. "If you tell me that, you'll never see me again, droid."

"Statement : Fair enough. The information downloaded from the Bothan's console states that your meatbag friend was captured by one bounty hunter Boba Fett who was attacked above Tatooine by a droid called IG-88. Dreadfully inefficient model, I might add. Barely sentient at all. Boba Fett's craft was severely damaged and travelled to Gal. You will still find him there. Now, if that is all, you can just be on your merry way to press your mucus-covered slimly lips on that of your mate, no doubt swapping all kinds of interesting micro-organisms between the two of you. How very demeaning."

Tara didn't stay long enough to say goodbye to the droid. Though the droid probably wouldn't have cared for it anyway.

As soon as Tara had arrived on the Doll's Eye, she'd roused her sleeping companions and blasted off the planet. After relaying the information she had gathered to Lando and Chewie, Tara set course to Gal, where she'd rendez-vous with the other Rebellion craft that Luke had gathered for the rescue mission.

Still, the droid's words weighed heavily on her mind. Despite the fact that he might still be lying, the idea of a massive threat from outside the galaxy was worrying to say the least.

"It'd be nice to think the Empire will fall," Willow whispered while say lay in Tara's arms as they both lounged in Tara's nice and warm jacuzzi. "After Hoth, I was so sure the Rebellion was doomed."

Tara snaked her arms around Willow's waist and kissed her shoulder. "W-willow?" she asked softly, out of hte blue. "When we've r-r-rescued Han, let's get m-m-married."

She had meant to say it with a flourish. A bold statement. Sadly the damn stutter got in the way.

Willow looked deeply in Tara's eyes. "Y-you mean it?"

"I've n-never been more s-sure of anything in my l-life," Tara said.

In response, Willow gave Tara her answer in the form of a kiss that caused a tremor in the Force that could be felt across the galaxy.


Note: The threat HK-47 is preparing for is actually the Yuuhzan Vong from the New Jedi Order novels, which is a powerful alien race who make use of organic technology and yet are dead to the Force. Though I normally try to avoid putting expanded universe elements I haven't read yet into my Star Wars stories, but this was a plot-bunny that was too interesting to ignore, especially since Canderous Ordo in the Kotor games mentions a Yuuhzan Vong scout. For those not familiar with the Vong, well, they do mean business. Their invasion of the Star Wars galaxy will mean the loss of trillions of lives. Just to clarify.

Sadly, Willow and Tara's marriage will have to wait a while longer, since the rescue mission of Han on Gal is obviously doomed to failure. As the plan goes, they'll get married in Cloud City on Bespin just after the battle of Endor.

Continue to the sequel Call for the Brides

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