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Speculative Investments

By: Knight

Word Count: 2291

A drop of sweat splashed on the screen of Meshar's datapad. It distorted a short list she had been given by dead drop weeks ago. The heat of the day was unbearable to the Duro, and it made Meshar wish Alliance intelligence had set up this meeting in a cooler part of Piroket. At the very least she regretted not bringing some kind of hat. She took her arm and tried to wipe the sweat off the screen. Without sleeves, her blue arm just smeared the sweat around and made things worse.

With a heavy sigh, she let her arms fall to her sides. At this point, she'd worked through all but one name on the list. Meshar should have left the datapad behind, she knew all the details by heart. Instead, she had forgotten her hat. Something that would have been much more useful under the cloudless sky. Meshar swung her pack around and shoved the pad into a little pouch inside.

With a hand to shield the glare from her eyes, Meshar tried to make out signs along the busy street:

Setëyl's Droid Shop. Nope.

Ithorian Take-away. No.

Trusty Tailor - Quick Alterations: Cheap! No.

Whier's. That's it.

Meshar shook her head and worked her way into the bar.

As she walked in, Meshar was pleased to find it was much more comfortable than out on the street.

Meshar walked to the bar that ran along the length of the building and found a stool. She set her pack down and sat down on the barstool. The bartender wandered over to her. "What'll you have?"

"How's the local ale?"

The bartender shrugged. "Got a regional brew that I'd say is better than the mass produced Corellian stuff."

"I'll take a pint."

The bartender nodded and turned away. He returned quickly, with a very full glass. Meshar slid credits across the bar-top and picked up the glass. She enjoyed the first long sip. Then, Meshar scanned the room for her contacts. Given that it was the middle of a scorching day, it was a bit of a surprise that there weren't many beings in the bar.

A couple others sat along the bar with Meshar. Nearby there was another being at a table enjoying a meal. Presumably there was a kitchen in the back of the bar, but Meshar hadn't noticed any menus. Along the opposite wall were a number of alcoves with tables. Only one was occupied.

Meshar wanted to smile. A pair of Theelin casually chatted, nursing a pair of drinks. These were her contacts. They didn't seem in a hurry, so neither would Meshar. She took another long sip. There was no need to rush into negotiations.

With drink in hand, Meshar stood and meandered around the tables to the Theelin's alcove. Meshar didn't say a word, just sat at a chair opposite the twins.

They gave her an appraising look. This meeting was scheduled. They expected her as much as Meshar expected them. The Sudos were not the least surprised a Duro sat at their table.

In unison they greeted Meshar. "Nice to finally meet you Meshar." Both their high and low voices overlaid each other perfectly. It created a mixture of dissonances and harmonies that Meshar didn't think should be possible. The effect unnerved her.

"I am Cel." Said the female Theelin.

"I am Ced." Said the male twin.

Meshar nodded. She knew who was who. Alliance intel had done a good job filling in the details about the twins and their operations. "Pleasure to finally meet you. I'm glad you finally agreed to meet."

"To be perfectly honest. Your rebellion didn't seem like it was worth the risk." Cel said.

Ced lifted his glass. "But we find ourselves expanding our clientele, and we hear that this rebellion has a pressing need and deep coffers."

Meshar couldn't help but lift a brow. "Pressing need? You may have to be a little more specific. Depending on the day and who you ask, that need could be just about anything."

Ced chuckled, "That you're growing fast and need people like us to help with a certain type of logistics."

"This kind of specialized skillset, we do hope you understand, comes at a premium price." Cel added.

Meshar narrowed her eyes, "Nothing more expensive than what you ask of your other clients I suspect. Not to mention you two haven't been on the scene all too long. I can remember when Greppek or Sand-Hawl were top billing around here."

The twins looked physically disgusted at the mention of the old smugglers. "You could have gone to Sand-Hawl before they got sloppy and caught by the Empire." Ced practically spat the name.

Cel sighed, "And Greppek got himself killed by crossing the Hutts."

"What we're saying is: they're the past. We are the future. One that's smarter than not just the Empire, but the competition as well." Ced smiled broadly. Pride beamed from his face.

Meshar took a sip from her pint. "What I heard from that was: The old geezers died or got pinched. That, good or not, you're all that's left." Meshar secretly enjoyed the moment Ced's pride turned to frustration. Even better, he seemed to lose a little of the cool the twins cultivated.

Ced shot back, "Hey, we've been taking on the same kind of jobs they did. We were right on par with them before they all stumbled. We're still around because we're smarter with our work."

"So you'd have no problem with the goods I need shipped then?" Meshar arched her brow again.

"Of course." Ced assured, "Though we've usually shied away from weapons."

"That going to be a problem?"

"Not if the credits are right." Cel said frankly.

"Though it's a big risk, you know? To haul weapons behind the Imperial's backs." Ced added. "If we're caught: it's a guaranteed trip to enslavement, or quick death. Like crossing Pikes. You don't get to do it twice."

"Is that going to be a problem?"

Ced slightly shook his head, "Easy to not cross Pikes and find work of your own. The Imperials are everywhere, but we've learned how to get around them."

Cel took a sip from her drink. "There's a reason why our goods are usually luxury items."

Meshar plucked a bit of info on the twins from the dossier she had read. "I suppose ryll and spice are luxuries?"

To their credit, the twins barely flinched. The drugs may not kill as directly as a few crates of blasters, but they did still cause death and suffering. The Sudos' moral high ground against smuggling guns was meaningless for these negotiations.

Cel took a long sip of her drink and looked to her brother.

Ced ran a hand along his horns, "I suppose you have us there. We aren't against running guns, but as we said..."

Ced trailed off. In a single moment, Cel and Ced's eyes narrowed and lost focus from Meshar. It felt like their eyes were looking right through her. The meeting had lost all importance. The only reasons Meshar could list in her head that could cause this interruption were not good.

Meshar shifted to get a view of the cause of the twin's concern. This also gave her a chance to get a hand near one of her concealed vibro-blades. With a blade close at hand Meshar felt prepared and calm.

Looming over her was a snarling man covered in large lumpy scars. They covered his bald head down to his shoulders. They covered his forearms and hands. Presumably, Meshar expected them to cover a good portion of the rest of the human that were mercifully covered by worn leathers.

To either side of the scar-covered man were a trio of -for lack of any better name for them- thugs of various shapes and species. The only thing they seemed to share was all of them openly brandished weapons.

"There you purple con-artists are. Not in your usual dens today. Did you know we'd be looking for you today? Avoiding me?" The scarred man's voice rumbled and started to rise. Impatient.

Ced's face hardly changed. "We do have a busy schedule today. Didn't even know you needed us today, Dells."

The scarred man named Dells let out a laugh. "Today. Yesterday. The day before that! You know I've been looking for you since you snagged those jobs from Bexal last week."

Meshar was amazed at how the human's eyes started to bulge. If his anger was any indication, she could guess as to why Bexal signed with the Sudos'.

Dells stepped closer to Meshar, "And this isn't the first time is it? You've been stealing work from us for months now. Bexal? Tulver? Red Street Gang?! You've been stealing all our work. Those were MY clients!"

Meshar watched a fleck of spit fly from Dells' mouth as he kept getting angrier.

Dells rounded on Meshar, as if just now realizing she was there. "And you Blue, didn't even bother to make an offer to Dells before coming to these two?!"

There was no answer Meshar could give that Dells would like. There was no bargain that the Alliance wanted with a short tempered crook. Silence was Meshar's best option. She could stay calm and let Dells make the first mistake.

That mistake came quicker than Meshar expected. Dells drew a blaster pistol and waved it from the twins to Meshar. Back and forth, as if uncertain who should be the first target.

"I am tired of this. This is going to end today! No more taking work that was rightfully mine!" Dells had lost it. However he had built his smuggling business, he clearly never figured out customer relations.

The blaster settled on Ced. Meshar settled on that moment to act. Both hands pulled out a small vibro-blade. She leaned forward and launched herself at Dells. With her right arm she knocked the blaster into the air, the left blade buried into Dells' gut. There was a howl, and Dells recoiled but held on to the blaster. Dells twisted his arm and lashed out to hit Meshar with the butt of the blaster.

Knocking the blaster up had left Meshar open. Meshar had expected the fight to go out of him. Dells seemed like the boastful type. The oaf wasn't about to go down though.

She blocked the hit with her face. Sparkling lights filled her vision. The blaster was a problem. She released her grip on the left blade, still stuck in Dells, and grabbed his gun arm. In her right hand, she flipped her blade to point up. With her left hand as a guide to where Dells' arm was, she sliced the blade upward through his inner forearm. The blaster dropped to the floor. Meshar twisted her arm so that the blade was horizontal and plunged it between a pair of ribs. Dells exhaled and finally fell to the floor on his side.

Sight still blurry, she chose the most foul Duro curse she could think of. Dells was only the first fight. Meshar needed her blades for the rest of The crew that had walked in with Dells. She dove to retrieve her vibroblades from what had been Dells.

Meshar stood, rearmed, at a better ready position. She shook her head, blinked, but couldn't see anything resembling Dells' crew. There was no one there. The other thugs had disappeared. Apparently they weren't as loyal to Dells as Meshar had originally thought. They were rightfully terrified of the Duro that had taken down Dells.

The twins gave Meshar a sly smile as she sat back down at their table. They ignored the aftermath behind them. Her head ached now, and it took every ounce of strength to focus on the twins. Her instincts screamed 'run', 'hide the body', ‘concussion', but the calm of the Sudos kept her in place.

"That was quite the feat. Such finesse." Ced seemed to swoon at Meshar's handiwork.

"And you've only just met us." Cel purred.

Cel leaned in closer, "You know you could have made the same kind of offer to Dells there?" Cel nodded back to the corpse being drug away to a room behind the bar. "He wouldn't have asked any questions so long as you had the credits."

Meshar looked from one Theelin to the other. "Unlike Dells, the Alliance figures you both won't sell us out at the first chance."

The twins merely shrugged.

"It is possible." Cel casually admitted.

"But it isn't really our style. Business dries up fast if you threaten or kill everyone around you. Being a bully really isn't much of a business plan." Ced frowned at the implication they were like Dells. "Dells? His kind just wants power. There's no deep vision."

"I think you just answered your own question."

Meshar's heart slowed, everything returned to normal. It finally dawned on her that in her lap still unsheathed, held her blades. Blades covered in Dells' drying blood. In protecting the Sudos from Dells, she realized she had won them over.

Cel pushed Meshar's pint closer to her. Then in unison, Cel and Ced lifted their own glasses. "To new clients! Let's have another round and discuss terms. Schedule some shipments. We have weapons to move for your rebellion." As one they took a deep drink.

"Actually," Meshar blinked, "I have much more than weapons for you." She set a bloody blade on the table and picked up her own drink. Meshar savored the taste. "First thing we need you to get past the Empire, is foodstuffs and medical supplies."

Meshar pressed her cold pint to the knot on her forehead. "We'll get to weapons soon enough."

The End