Word Count: 4333
[ Somewhere, sometime ]
Rain poured over the scene, making the world gray.
The corellian freighter hovered over the ground, starting to lift off from the planet. Guards rushed from the building and took up positions behind cover and aimed, firing at the ship. The freighter's ramp was lowered, allowing a single blue skinned male to stand upon it, gripping the pylon with one hand.
"Do it! You promised me!" a woman screamed at him as soldiers dragged her away.
His long, dark hair, usually tied in a bun, fell over his darkened face. His red eyes focused on the woman being dragged away. Blood flowed from a wound on his face, covering the entire right side, though because of his wet hair it was impossible to tell exactly where it was coming from. Gritting his teeth, he lifted his arm and trained his blaster pistol on her.
"Do it! You coward!" she screamed at him.
His stomach turned on itself and in that instant he wanted to vomit. He'd made the promise thinking he'd never have to make good on it. Should he break his word? Condemn her to what had awaited them before their attempted escape. Uninterested in giving him time to debate, the soldiers opened fire again, all of them shooting wide, but close enough to increase the pressure of his decision.
Behind him someone yelled, "Close the ramp! We have to get out of here before the Commander returns!"
"Do it! Please!" she screamed, fighting against her captors. They pulled her from the floor, each man holding the blue skinned female's arms, giving him a clean shot.
"Goodbye, Aasta," he said and squeezed the trigger. "I'll have to see it for you."
Lightning cracked open the sky with a thunderous cry. Moments later the freighter was gone and the soldiers retreated inside.
Rain continued to fall.
[ Landing Pad; Toseng; Present Day (4.10.2 ABY) ]
The old Wayfarer-class Medium Freighter looked like it should've been retired a decade ago, but the boxy ship deftly landed where it had been designated. The two X-Wings from Spectre Squadron that had escorted the Smokey Fortuna flew past, gaining altitude to continue their patrol. Meanwhile, the large ship finished it's landing procedures, blowing steam and excess gasses from it's exhaust ports.
Parked about a quarter kilometer outside the city, the devastation caused by the Battle of Toseng was clearly visible over the Capital. Tall buildings that had previously stood tall, defiantly stretching out towards the sky, were now either collapsed or riddled with holes. On the other side of the City the ruins of a crashed Star Destroyer were being picked apart by scavengers, while this side was home to a New Republic base and refugee camp which at this point seemed to hold thousands.
Slowly, the door to it's massive cargo bay began to crawl upwards, complaining over each centimeter it gave until stopping only a quarter of the way up; enough for a man to walk below without stooping over.
A single figure emerged from the cargo bay into Toseng's sunlight. With slow, confident steps he descended the ramp and stood for a moment, hands on his belt. Though his long, brown coat covered most of his body, he made no secret of the two blasters that hung on either side of his hips. Upon his head of jet-black hair he wore a wide brimmed hat, similar in color to his coat and round sunglasses to, for the most part, hide his eyes. The little skin he revealed (mostly his face and fingers) was a deep blue in color and he could easily pass for a pantoran if he so desired, and for the most part was just fine letting others assume he was.
From behind him emerged an R5-series Astromech. For what it was worth, the droid retained its original factory colors (mostly white with a green trim) but by this point the little being had seen enough action and been washed and shot enough times that the paint had mostly peeled off. As it came into view of the city it let out a long, sad electronic hoot, bemoaning the fate of the Capital.
As soon as the Astromech had exited the cargo bay door emitted an unreasonably loud "clang!" and began to lower itself again.
[ Ruins of Capital City ]
Wordlessly, the man advanced into the ruined City, astromech following closely behind.
The noon sun baked the half empty streets, populated more by rubble than by people. Most would be hidden in their homes or had congregated at the refugee camp nearby. Anyone the gunslinger or his astromech may run into here was bound to be dangerous, though he expected that whomever ran into him would ultimately have a much worse day.
It wasn't his first time on Toseng. In fact, he'd been here multiple times as it had been the home of a dear friend. There was a sense of tragedy to this place, of disbelief, he decided. A great and easily avoidable doom had overcome Toseng and it's people--even the planet itself--couldn't believe what had happened. Toseng had gone from an Imperial occupation to a New Republic one in the space of an hour. How could it have happened?
He wasn't sure, but the feeling of disgust that grew as he put more and more together was starting to transform into a cold hatred. Justice would be served.
After some time meandering the streets he reached his destination, the Capital Building or what was left of it. Finally, he found actual groups of people, not triples or pairs more interested in hurrying past or hiding in an alley, but actual congregations of five, six, even seven whole individuals. Granted, most were either members of what was left of Toseng's police force or members of the New Republic military, keeping the scene untouched for investigators.
A spark lit the cylindrical deathstick pressed amidst the gunslinger's lips, taking a drag and exhaling, summoning a thick cloud of milky smoke around himself. He watched from afar, from a rooftop half a block away. The whole top had been blown off the capitol building and the gunslinger could see right in. If he'd bothered to pull out his macrobinoculars he was sure he would've even been able to see the blood splatter.
Eventually the gunslinger dropped the deathstick and snuffed it out with his heel.
Minutes later the rooftop was empty once more.
[ Outer Rim; Nearly Twenty Years Ago ]
Deathsticks were just all about he had left.
It'd been a big score but he had big debt, too, and not just to his dealer. He had a debt to his body, the uncomfortable desire for spice, for deathsticks, for whiskey, for anything that would numb the pain. In the end it was the same, all he had left were deathsticks and his guns and this gutter.
He didn't remember when, but at some point he had vomited. He could see the chunks of the mystery-meat wrap that he'd eaten earlier drying on the banks of the sidewalk. Kark it. How was he supposed to remember that if he couldn't even remember how he'd gotten here? The last thing he remembered was getting off of that Wayfarer after completing the job. After that he'd gone to... Right, that explained it.
Rolling over onto his back, he allowed himself to lose himself in the experience; chills rolled along his back, making him arch his back and writhe on the ground, each sensation rolling over him like a wave. When he opened his eyes, everything pulsed, like if the very texture of the universe was alive and breathing. A huge grin appeared on his face. Oh yes, the best thing about Timutean Spice was the AfterKick, when the high returned for a prolonged round two. People walked past him, watching the blue skinned man with the burning red eyes slither on the ground and cackle to himself.
Prolonged or not, the AfterKick only lasted a few hours, and any bliss the drug had given him was immediately replaced with self-loathing and a desire for more. At least he still had Deathsticks! Trembling, he placed one in his lips. He opened the lighter and moments later a thick cloud of smoke enveloped the area.
That night it rained and he was thoroughly soaked. His death sticks were ruined and he was huddled between a dumpster and the wall in a dark alley. It was night again? Was it the same night? He couldn't remember. Every bone in his body screamed in pain. His lips were cracked. What was the last thing he'd eaten? It didn't matter.
He deserved to die.
He'd let Aasta down. He hadn't seen anything. He'd killed her for nothing. So he could come and die, a drug-addicted waste of oxygen. Another killer without a cause that no one would ever mourn. He wished he had at least one more Deathstick, just so he could steady his hand enough to do what he should've done a long time ago. Leaning there against the wall, next to a dumpster, he made a decision.
It was his weakness that saved him. His hand moved slowly towards his gun. Slow enough.
A voice broke through the barrier of his mind. He looked up and before him stood a tall Zabrak. Long red extensions flowed from his horned head, making him impossible to forget. Zabraks rarely had hair, preferring to shave their head, and even then there were some limits. Rori Brebor did away with those limits. A rebel in every sense of the word, there was nothing the man wouldn't defy with a smile, even impossible situations.
"Damn, Noah," Rori said, approaching the blue skinned male and kneeling next to him. He was grinning, "You look like shit, buddy."
The zabrak pushed away the dumpster. Noah groaned but Rori laughed it off.
"Shut up, you ass, I'm not leaving you out here to rot."
The Zabrak hoisted Noah up on one shoulder. He didn't carry him, at least not completely. Noah had to walk on his own feet. Rori was that way. He'd help you, but not do things for you. A good man.
In time, a good friend.
[ Alleyway; Ruins of Capital City; Toseng; Present Day ]
He noticed them long before they made their presence known.
Expecting that they were waiting for an opportunity, Noah decided to give them one. He stepped into an alleyway, the washed out R5 woefully following him into danger.
"Woh-wooaah..." it whined as Noah reached a dead end.
The Tosengi Sun had long ago abandoned it's post at high noon, slipping over the sky as it dove towards it's abode in the west, casting ever growing shadows. This alley was in one such shadow, cut off from light, cut off from sight. Their footsteps stopped about five meters behind him. Slowly he turned to see two humans, two zabrak, and a twi'lek blocking any avenue of escape. Good, the gunslinger thought to himself.
"You're trapped," said one of the Zabrak as they took a step towards Noah.
"That's far enough, kid," growled the cornered gunslinger. From underneath his jacket the tip of one of his weapons revealed itself, taking aim at the braver Zabrak.
The man put his hands up. "Come on! You really think you can outshoot all of us?"
Noah raised his brow in response. The quiet confidence gave the Zabrak enough pause to take a step back. "Look, all you have to do is give us your stuff."
His stuff? The oversimplification was mind boggling, but Noah could not blame him. He could not understand the true value of Noah's possessions. How could the mugger possibly know that Rori had given him the sunglasses on Noah's face or the very blaster trained on the Zabrak's heart? He owed everything he had to the man whom he'd only ever see again in dreams and memories, the man who had died for these people.
"In the name of someone dear to me, I'm giving you this chance," Noah warned his assailants.
"There's five of us, one of you," one of the ones in the back called out, the twi'lek.
"I"m the one with the blaster," he answered calmly.
Everyone went for their blasters but that's exactly what he'd intended. He'd given them their chance, now they would know fear. He squeezed the trigger five times in rapid succession, adjusting ever so slightly the barrel between shots. Five screams followed.
Noah stepped over the twitching bodies, leaving the alley with the R5 in tow. He'd spared their lives by keeping his blaster on stun, knocking them unconscious with five well-aimed shots. The truth was that it had been over before it even began.
Returning to the main street the gunslinger paused, weapons once again hidden beneath his long coat. He held his hat as a gust of wind rolled through the city like a lazy, invisible wave, kicking up dust from the scattered debris. With it the air carried a sound, the slap of a bass, the honk of a horn, dancing on jizzy tunes.
"I just don't get it," the white haired man at the other end of the bar murmured into his half filled mug of beer. Noah could tell he was a pilot because he was wearing a black flightsuit. His bomber jacket had a few patches with X-Wings on them. "All he had to do was stick with me."
He'd been rambling since Noah had gotten here. Having not caught the first party of the story, if it even was a story, the gunslinger was completely lost. The bartender seemed relieved at the distraction and welcomed both Noah and the R5 to take up a spot at the bar. He ordered the local whisky and had been nursing it for about ten minutes, just listening to the man go on and on.
"Stick with me, so I could keep an eye on him, not run, not not follow orders!" The man slammed his hand into the wood of the bar in frustration. "Sithspit, I should've followed him. I should've had his back, even if..."
"Come on, mate, there's no way you could've known," the bartender said, placing another mug of beer in front of the man.
"That's nerfshit," the pilot shot back. He took the half filled mug and drained it before reaching for the new one. "That's not a kriffin' excuse. He was my wingmate, you schutta, my kriffin wingmate! Kriffin depended on me! Not you! You don't know anything!"
He took the mug and threw it over the counter at the bartender, who was lucky enough to get out of the way in time.
"Hey! What the karkin' hell do you think you're doing!?" the bartender shouted at the drunk.
White-hair tried standing up off of his stool but he immediately lost his balance. Though he was forced to lean on the wall, he finally got up, just in time to raise a fist at the bartender, middle finger extended, "Kark yourself! I don't need your kriffin sympathy!"
He kicked a stool, shattering it's wooden leg, then another. He picked one up and smashed it over the top of the bar.
"You think I wont? You think I can't? Don't kark with me! Everyone kriffin dies or goes away, so get the kriff away from me, I'm not your kriffin friend!"
"You lunatic!" screamed the bartender as he ran around the bar and tried to tackle White-hair but the drunk was too agile, or maybe too unpredictable, and managed to dodge the bartender's first attempt.
The R5 at Noah's side gave a worried trill and swiveled it's head to look at Noah. With a heavy sigh, Noah picked up his drink, drained it, and headed over to White-hair. He put a hand on the bartender's shoulder and pushed him aside, putting himself between the two men.
"How about we calm down and take this outside, brother?"
"How about I shove one of these bar stools up your blue pantoran ass," White-hair replied. "Mind your own kriffin business!"
"You made this my business when you started to trash the bar," Noah's tone was low, like a feline's growl.
"Oh just kark off!"
White-hair threw himself at Noah, who dodged with ease, as he wasn't even close to as drunk as the pilot was. Noah saw an opening and lunged with one fist, connecting in the man's ribs. Grunting in pain, White-hair threw his elbow back just in time, clocking Noah across the jaw. Instantly his glasses went flying and he was seeing stars.
Noah saw the look of surprise on the drunk's face, "You're not Pantoran!"
Using that moment, Noah closed the distance, launching his fist as hard as he could into White-hair's face. The other man took it and his arms began to flail as he tried to grab hold of something-anything- to keep him on his feet, ultimately failing and flying into some spare chairs and to-go containers packed near the back of the establishment. Noah threw himself on top of the man, violently swinging his fists, hitting him hard as he could.
"Stop!" yelled a voice from the entrance.
Noah stopped and turned to see first a silhouette against the entrance that transformed into the beautiful visage of a dark skinned Human woman with frizzy hair tied back into a professional bun. Her expression was serious but Noah saw the compassion in her eyes.
"Please, stop," she said, once she had their attention, a little softer. "He's lost someone."
"Haven't we all?" Noah asked.
"I know... that's why... Sometimes we do stupid things because we we are feeling so hurt. Sometimes we do stupider things when we think its our fault."
Though she did her best to explain and he even believed her, Noah rolled his eyes and bent over to pick up the sunglasses he'd dropped, putting them on once more, as he left behind the man on the floor, who was curled up in a fetal position. It was only now that he realized what was happening. He sat up quickly, strangely angry. He glared at the woman who rushed over to try and help him.
As soon as she touched his arm he pulled away from her so openly that it made her take a step back and look away from him. Noah noticed that, after his initial reaction, he didn't look at her either when they spoke. They were close by and he couldn't help by over hear their overly tense conversation.
"I had it under control."
"No you didn't."
"I had them exactly where I wanted them."
"Beating the crap out of you?"
"I didn't ask for your help."
"Roy, can we not--"
"Who even asked you here in the first place?"
"Get away from me. I'm just a casualty waiting to happen right? That's what you said on Zeltros."
"That's not what I said! I meant that if you didn't get out soon-"
"I'd end up like Mustang?"
She didn't answer.
"I don't need your advice. Just stay away from me, Aru. You were right about not wanting to tell me you were here. Just... leave me alone."
"Roy..." she began but he was already gone, leaving her behind in the bar. With a heavy sigh, she returned to the bar and started trying to put the stools back together.
"They're broken, ma'am. I appreciate the help, but there's nothing to be done," the bartender said, having returned behind the bar again. "I thank you for what you did. You, uh, want something to drink? On the house."
"No, thank you, I'm back on duty in an hour," the woman answered. She must have noticed Noah watching her because she abruptly turned to him, "May I help you?"
Noah slowly shook his head.
"No, not really."
"Then why are you looking at me like that?"
For a long moment he didn't say anything but her eyes watched him with unwavering confidence. In the end, Noah let out a resigned sigh and downed what was left of his drink.
"It's nothing. Your kindness to that fella... Reminded me of someone I used to know who helped someone who didn't deserve it..."
[ Bar on Corellia; Nearly Fifteen Years Ago ]
"You know, Noah, lately I've been thinking a lot about home."
It was a cool summer evening at Kryshkat Villa. The Villa was a small establishment, capable of holding less than fifty total guests, on the equator of Corellia. After their latest job, Rori and Noah had more than enough money to spend on a luxury vacation while the Smoky Fortuna received a tune up. They occupied a spacious balcony with a small round table and two chairs.
Even at night Noah wore his sunglasses, hiding his red eyes away from inquisitive minds. They both wore shirts far too colorful and flowery for anyone of their business associates to take them seriously ever again, swim trunks, and flip-flops. Rori's long hair was un done, drying after a good rinse. As for what Rori had said, Noah didn't believe a word of it.
He was much more concentrated on making two more Corellian Hyrospanners. Instead, the blue skinned man let Rori talk as much as he wanted. This was the way it usually was, anyways. The way that Noah always imagined it would be. He'd be kriffin wrong but that's for another time.
"Do you ever?" Rori asked.
"Uhm, nope." It was nearly an automatic answer. Before he'd met Rori and joined him on the Fortuna all Noah had done was dwell in the past. He was in a good place now, thanks to Rori. "The Fortuna is my home."
"You don't think of your home planet at all?"
"No, why would I? They'd probably kill me if they saw me."
"I see." The Zabrak was quiet for a long while. In that time Noah finished their drinks and returned to the table, handing Rori one of them. Noah reclined in his chair and propped his feet up on the railing of the balcony.Finally, Rori spoke again, "My world. When I left... things weren't going very well for my people. I tried, at first, to be part of the resistance... but they only really did more harm than good. The... violence that I saw. I still have dreams about it. It was not the way. I think about it all the time."
"You didn't seem to have a problem when I blasted that trando that had you in cuffs last week," Noah challenged.
"That wasn't like this," Rori said, looking at Noah with the briefest of smiles. "That was survival. This... this was more like... hate. I had to get away before it burned me up. I ran away, I suppose. What do you think about that? Rori Brebor, the coward."
Noah wasn't sure what to say. Rori had done so much for him and he'd never brought these feelings up. Maybe he was serious. Maybe Noah should be worried. Wordlessly, Noah lit up a death stick and let the smoke billow out slowly from his mouth.
"I still think about it, though," Rori continued. "Going back."
"Why don't you?"
The Zabrak shook his head, his long dark hair swaying from side to side. "I'm not sure. I don't think I'm ready yet. There's still a lot I need to learn. I'm no help to Toseng if I don't know of a way to make things better without resorting to everyone killing each other out of hate." Rori let out a heavy frustrated sigh. He looked away from the horizon and back at Noah. "Maybe in a few years... maybe after I get you to quit those death sticks."
"That'll be never, then."
"I got you to drop the spice, I can get you to quit the death sticks."
Noah smirked, "You're welcome to stick around and try, my friend."
[ Cemetery; Ruins of Capital City; Toseng; Present Day ]
The statue looked nothing like the Rori Brebor he knew; gone was the long hair, the confident grin, the jacket he never seemed to take off. He looked like an old orator. Noah couldn't help but grin when he saw it. Rori probably would've hated it and loved it in equal measure.
Toseng's sun was slowly sinking into the horizon and most people had left the cemetery by the time that Noah arrived. It wasn't hard to find Rori's resting place either, considering how he was considered a hero to everyone on this planet.
He waited until everyone was gone before he approached the grave. Slowly he walked around it, around the statue and the countless flowers and offerings Toseng's people had left behind. Noah had brought nothing except himself. Even the R5 that followed him around like a puppy had stayed back, giving the blue-skinned man some space.
"Sithspit, Rori," Noah said after several minutes. "You were always my hero. You saved me, you know? It feels strange sharing that with everybody. I'm not sure if I like it, my friend."
Noah kneel and picked up some of the dirt with one hand and slowly let it sift through his fingers until nothing was left. With his free hand he pulled off his sunglasses, revealing the tears that had begun to run from his eyes. He wiped them with his jacket's sleeve and put the sunglasses back on.
"I don't like this at all," he said, his voice cracking ever so slightly. "I promise you that I'll find who did this... who robbed you of your dream, my friend. It's the least I could do after what you did for me. I promise you, Rori Brebor, I will find justice for you."