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Slicer's Tale

Up three levels from the flight training center on the massive Calamari cruiser Liberty was the chaotic haven called Ordnance Engineering. Here, arms and explosive devices were maintained and modified for special missions.

Although she was officially assigned to the bombing squadron, Buccaneer, Flight Officer Aradia "Slicer" Emerson was usually a fixture in OE during her off time. She relished the relaxation of stepping away from reality for a short time to delve into the zone of inventive imagination. While reviewing her flight clips of the morning exercises, she had left her faithful sidekick R2-T0 here to perform diagnostics on her latest modification--an ETD Super-Stealth Seeker. It was truly only a floating generic Remote with a detonator housed in its primary core, but the Chief in Engineering had a penchant for snappy titles regarding weaponry. She was now attempting to program it to operate by a hand-held frequency changer, but was stymied by its stubbornness.

"How's it going, Tonto?", Slicer asked, while searching the cluttered lab table for his vox decoder. He replied with a chittering chirp, followed by a range of hoots and tones. "Well, hold on while I get your decoder. I can't understand a word you're saying." She finally found it under a worthless paper schematic for an even more useless thing called "Tandy1000", whatever that was. She attached the small box to Tonto's outer hull, and plugged the four-prong jumper into the socket.

"I said that the primary diagnostics have revealed an inconsistency in the stability of the repulsorlift generators, as well as circuitry malfunctions in the main laser firing batteries on the external shell of the camouflaging material housing." So the thing didn't either float or fire, she deduced. Two steps backwards.

"Secondary or primary generator?" Slicer asked. She motioned him to follow as she exited the Engineering department, back towards the main turbolift.

"Each has its peculiar inconsistency according to initial calculations. Theoretically speaking, if one would analyze the logistical variables of modern remote design..." Slicer cut him off with a sharp "Enough!" Everyone on the Liberty who knew Tonto also knew that when he started with the "Theoretically speaking...." speech, quick action was necessary, or he'd talk the ears off a gundark. The pair exited the main turbolift and proceeded down the corridor towards the Lounge. Tonto stopped short, wheels squealing. "Where are we going?"

"Well, duh--we're going to the Lounge, my verbose companion." Tonto made a particularly humorous noise which Slicer interpreted as a groan. "I don't want to go there right now," he said, vox volume considerably lower. Slicer had to stoop over the small droid in order to hear him speak.

"Erratic is there--you always enjoy a good lube shot and a chat with Erratic. And Rooster is always very nice to you too," she reasoned.

"Mixer thinks that R2 droids are snotty. And Roo is away at flight training," he replied. Slicer pondered this for a long moment, knowing deep down that Mixer was probably right, but hesitant to hurt the little droid's feelings. She desperately needed a drink, so she had to think fast.

"I think they call that 'pilot' envy," she said, hoping that no passerby heard her. "He's just jealous that he can't be out there bombing frigates like us. Uhhh...but I wouldn't say that to him... he's probably feeling bad enough about it as it is." Tonto straightened up, his ocular light brightening considerably.

"Yes, I believe you are correct, Aradia." he said, rolling through the Lounge doors.

Slicer prepared herself for the barrage of white noise usually received from opening the hatchway into the Liberty's on-board cantina, but was surprised to find the dark room unusually quiet. At the bar sat two men in flightsuits, watching the smashball tournament on the holotube, engaging in small talk. Slicer recognized Raven, the leader of Buccaneer Squadron, and returned the cheery welcome he threw her way. As she approached the two, the second officer turned, offering a friendly smile.

"Well, I see you've finally decided to take me up on that chat!" said Lieutenant Andy Furlan, better known as Predator. Predator was assigned to the legendary Rogue Squadron, and was a notorious charmer of the ladies, a trait that several of the Rogue pilots were rumored to possess.

"Please, join us for a drink," invited Raven. "Predator was just speaking of buying another round." Slicer could tell by Predators' surprised look that he had spoken no such thing, but still, he quickly motioned for the bar-droid, Mixer, to fetch them all another round. Tonto gave a short little whimper, and rolled away towards the lubricant stand at the far end of the Lounge where Erratic was plugged in.

"Where is everyone today?" Slicer asked, glancing around the darkened room, dismayed at the dismal attendance.

"Since we upgraded the simulators I have assigned more flight training for Buccaneer." He offered her a seat between he and Predator, then looked to her skeptically. "Haven't you seen the schedule? It was posted this morning." Slicer had seen the schedule, all right, and it looked as if the Super Stealth Seeker would have to wait a few weeks. It wasn't an unpleasant inconvenience though. She already had enjoyed a turn in the new enhanced battle simulators, and was looking foreword to a few more rounds. Let the geeks in Engineering figure out the Seeker.

Mixer tapped his metal digits on the bar, impatient to get back to his inventory program. "I assume the two sirs will have another round of the same...what will you be drinking today, ma'am?" Slicer flinched noticeably at the word "ma'am", then gave Predator a sharp nudge to silence his muffled laughter.

"Any more grape Juri Juice?"

"Rooster ordered two cases, with you in mind." The droid reached back behind him with his third arm, to fetch the purple drink. Raven raised one eyebrow, wincing at the sight of the pulpy concoction.

"What the heck is Juri Juice, anyways?" Raven asked. "Shouldn't you be using a strainer on that, Mixer?" Mixer imitated an impatient snort, as if Raven really should have known better than to question his bartending abilities.

"Captain, you jest! All flavorable qualities would be lost! Strainer, indeed...." Mixer turned from the three pilots, muttering under his vox.

"What backwater cantina did you discover that dewback sweat in?" Predator watched with interest as Slicer took a measured sip.

"Belsavis. This 'dewback sweat' happened to save my life," said the attractive Buccaneer pilot.

Raven gave a lopsided grin, motioning towards Mixer. "Stick around, barkeep--looks like we're in for a tale...set us up again. On Predator's tab."

Slicer thought a moment and then began to tell the story, "I was scamming the bars down on Spaceport Row, looking for some funds to get back towards my home system of Stregha. I could've gotten some migrant work picking fruit from the hanging gardens, but hey, I just escaped from slave drudgery, which is a tale in itself. I wasn't about to get back into slavery voluntarily. Besides, a few of the escapees from the Chupacabra worked for the pickers, and we all tried to keep a distance from one another for fear of being discovered. The only one I kept in contact with was Diac Mion, the leader of the infamous slave revolt."

"There was word on the street that one of the visiting mercenaries had pulled a number on the local boss, Nublyk the Slyke. The Slyke put out a sizeable bounty on the guy's head, of course, so the Row was just crawling with eager cut-rate bounty hunters looking to make a quick score. I figured that by making myself a fixture at the cantinas, I could probably score a few credits by selling information, or get lucky enough to lift a purse, maybe even scam a game of two-card."

"One night on the town, in comes this lumbering slob, dragging his feet into the Smoking Jets where I happened to have set up shop for the evening. The guy looked primate enough as it was, but he truly acted the part by walking all drooped over--his knuckles just about touched the ground. He looked really whipped, eyes all glazed over, head hung down like a vornskyr with his tail cut off. What caught my attention though, was his outfit. It was a high-quality heavy hide, like nerf-hide, only far more exotic. And he's carrying an Ultra-Silent Dual Barrel Mark II Repeater Gun."

Predator grinned widely, picturing the scene. "If only Supply and Procurement could get us a few cases of those..."

Slicer sipped the last of her juri, which Mixer immediately refreshed. "Yeah, they're pretty rare. So my first thought was: Imperial Commando. But then he reaches into his pocket, and takes out a huge wad of scrip...then I knew he was a bounty hunter. And with the size of that bankroll, I also assumed that the Slyke had got his man. "

"The neanderthal orders himself an Ithorian Green, which I thought was a strange request, for a bounty hunter, then sits himself down at the bar taking a look around. I get a little cocky, and decide to take a stroll up to the bar for a better look."

"He gives me the once-over, and offers me a seat up next to him. He buys me some funny drink called a Sunburst some-thing-or-other, and comes right out and asks me if I'm 'the local action'. Of course I play the offended schoolgirl act, and he backs off a little. Then I move in with some small talk."

"Surely that's not tea you're drinking?" I say, trying to goad him a bit.

Slicer lowered her voice, doing, no doubt, a very bad impression of her intended mark. "Yeah, well I heard that drinkin' tea is good for fightin' off a cold. I was fine a few minutes ago, but now I ain't feelin' so good."

"Well, I'm thinking 'wonderful', isn't this just my luck? Not only is this guy grimy and slimy, but he's also virulent. But my greed took the upper hand, and I pressed onward, keeping him occupied while he stuffed himself full of fried womprat, and sucked down a half dozen Green teas. The night dragged on, and after every drink, he'd get paler and sicker. When I finally couldn't take another second of his monotone I broke into my nurturing mother routine--I offered to take him home to nurse off that horrible virus of his."

Raven laughed, slapping the bar. "Yeah, Slicer the nurse-maid. There's a sight worth seeing."

Slicer grinned. "So, of course this guy, sick though he is, thinks he's in for a little more than a Vapo-Rub. He stumbles off his barstool and follows me out of the cantina like a droid on auto-pilot. No offense, Mixer."

"None taken, I assure you." Mixer had heard enough of these silly pilot stories to not take any of them seriously. His job was to serve drinks, and nod his cranium at programmed intervals.

"He asks me how far it is to my house, because now that he's up and walking, he really doesn't feel too healthy, and needs to have a rest. I assure him that it's not too far."

"Belsavis is known for it's low visibility, especially at night, due to the hot springs nearby. Very misty. He obviously isn't in any condition to pay attention to where he's going, so I lead him down the path into the gardens, which is pretty hard to navigate even in the daylight."

"I, ah, 'inadvertently' trip him, and as I'm helping him up, I also help myself to his bank roll, and of course I disappear into the mists. I can hear the guy stumbling around in the gardens, calling out for me. Then my conscience kicks in, I just can't leave the sick slob like that. Least I can do is lead him to the infirmary, though he probably doesn't deserve that kind of generosity."

"I mysteriously appear again behind him. He was beside himself with joy that I hadn't gotten lost in the fogs. The guy grabs me right by the {censored}, and starts drooling all over me, leaving his grimy handprints all over my jumpsuit." Slicer stopped, gauging her audience. "Predator, you're about as red as a tomato..."

Raven looked over at him. "Yeah, you're pretty red. What's a tomato?"

Predator grinned, gulping down his drink. "It's a vitamin-based organic, found on some Outer Rim worlds. Mixer, set us up another." He turned back to Slicer, passing over a bowl of exotic bar mix that Rooster had prepared. "Ahem. Back to the tale..." Raven grinned at Predator's discomfiture.

"Needless to say, I lit outta there like a Bantha on fire. I head back towards the spaceport. I figure that I've got plenty now to book passage back home, plus a little mad money to buy myself a decent nerf-burger before I go. Problem is, it's pretty late, and in a backwater place like Belsavis, the spaceport does not handle traffic at night and is shut down until morning."

"My intentions were to find Diac, hide out until sunrise, then find us a ride off this steaming rock. I went back to my shelter, but no Diac. By this time, I'm starting to get a little woozy, myself. Whatever that slobbering Hutt had, I was going to be spending the next few days getting rid of it. I spent the next two hours on the streets, trying to find my little Saurin friend, but with the low visibility, I might as well have been looking for a tick on a Yuzzem. Finally, I gave up and headed back towards my hovel for a bit of rest."

"Next thing I know, I wake up in with a glaring headache. Diac is there with me, all frantic and out of sorts, babbling about something, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. I drifted in and out like this for quite some time."

"When I finally regained sanity again, there was a small old man standing near my bed. He had a glass filled with a murky orange liquid, which he offered me. I accepted, being terribly thirsty, and drank the most horrid mixture ever encountered by human taste receptors. Yet I felt stronger, almost immediately. By the end of the day, I was sitting up, and able to speak, yet I was far too weak to move about."

"Diac informed me that he had found me on the street near our digs, feverish and unconscious, five days ago. I told him about my glorious take from the bounty hunter, eager to see his reaction to our good fortune. He very sadly informed me that all of the money was gone...probably lifted by a fellow scrounger after I had passed out from the virus. He had brought me to Tye Lenol's house after hearing of his powerful healing abilities. Tye was known for his herbal remedies, which were regarded as ridiculous by scientific medics. But since we had no money for formal care, he turned to Mr. Lenol."

"During the course of my recovery, I got to know the old guy. He had lived on Belsavis all his long life, practicing the healing arts taught by his ancestors. Every day he would bring me a glass of that rancid stuff, and every day I would reluctantly close my eyes and drink it, pretending it was a spiced Correlian Ale. He told me that it was an herbal mixture passed down through generations of Lenol's, a powerful virus-killer."

"He informed me that the germie I had picked up from the bounty hunter was no normal virus. It was a rare bug inherant to Belsavis, which the natives had built up an immunity to. Most off-worlders have no natural defenses to it, and in the course of a few weeks of being in system, occasionally they pick it up. Usually, nobody sticks around that sweaty rock long enough to catch it."

"The natural immunity comes from a regular diet of juri-berries, which is one of the plants indigenous to Belsavis. Best way to build up a tolerance is a regular diet of anything extracted from juri, or have a medic innoculate your system with a heavy dose of a synthetic clone. That's why the Ithorian Green did nothing for the bounty hunter."

"And this 'rancid stuff' is the Juri-Juice that you're drinking right now?" Raven shook his head sadly. "I'll take my chances with Guardian and 2-1B first."

"No, Juri Juice was just the primary base of the elixir. By the time Diac found me, I was so far gone, even a straight juri intravenous couldn't bring me back. Tye wouldn't tell me the ingredients of the entire elixir, but the juri-berry base was essential to the treatment, due to its unusual qualities." Slicer looked down at the glass of intoxicant.

"Now I can't get enough of the stuff. I was surprised once leaving Belsavis to find that it's a common fixture in the local cantinas. Plus, it's available in about a hundred different flavors, so I never get bored with it. As a bonus, Tye also said that the fruit extract keeps the vitamin C content high, thus warding off future rogue viruses." Predator quickly glanced to Slicer, and opened his mouth to complain.

"Uhh.....no offense, Rogue10, " Slicer added with a giggle and a sparkle in her eyes. "Uh...I meant...vicious, not rogue...no, that didn't come out right... I mean..." Once again, Slicer had opened her mouth and inserted her combat boot.

"Oh, first you call me a virus, then you say I'm not vicious?" Predator pushed his empty glass away, climbing off his barstool, smirking. "Raven, if you don't mind, I'm going to take your Buccaneer down to the battle simulators to show her exactly how vicious a Rogue can be. Let's go, Bucc 8."

Raven grinned, signaling for another drink. "Good, she could use the practice."

Slicer turned to Raven, ready to protest, then thought the better of it, as Rogue 10 led her away from the bar towards her eventual simulated demise. He offered her his arm, showing his true nobility and charm. "You see, I am truly quite gentle," Predator added. "But as Rogue10, I am a whole other animal." Mixer turned from the bar, pointing towards the squat figure situated at the rear of the lounge. "Be sure to take your snotty R2 with you, as well! Silly pilot Tales..."