Glis screeched in frustration, nearly slamming the front of her vehicle into the rear of the loader. The crates were right there, she could almost touch them. She glared over at Yuric riding shotgun.
“Where are any of your idiot friends when they’re needed!? We could have had them jumping aboard!”
“Are you cracked, Glis? That crap only works in the holos!”
“Well I don’t see you doing anything! Check the glove box,” she snapped.
Yuric opened the compartment and stared, a hand shakily reaching for the blaster pistol stashed within. “Why…”
“DO SOMETHING YOU USELESS MAN!”
”We are nearing the boulevard that connects the Rings, Miss Sroka, I suggest you keep your head down. Our pursuers will be able to overtake us!”
“Can you run them off the roadt, Strong?” Tali was white knuckled, grasping one of the handles used to aid in entering the vehicle.
”Easily, if not for our particular cargo, Madame! I fear too many shocks could cause things to end rather explosively!”
“Are you making jokes!? I didt not even know you couldt do that.”
”Time spent with Master Bleu has taught me that a sense of humor is vital to survival!”
The crago sled entered the wide, sweeping curve that would take them to the Capac Ring, accelerating with the aid of gravity. Glis and Yuric’s speeder quickly came around their aft, pulling along the driver side of the hauler. The pasty Human hung on to the side of the speeder, his other hand waving a blaster pistol wildly up at the Chiss. Strong was sitting as far back as his seat would allow him, an attempt to minimize his profile to the gun wielding man. He glanced out of the side of his vision to see Yuric’s conflicted features, with Glis alongside him, her shouts lost to the sound of the cargo sled’s engine.
Finally, a blast bolt zipped past the driving compartment, a flash of red that curled the paint on the hood. Strong wondered if it was meant to be a warning shot, one across the bow as the naval officers referred to it. The way his attacker was struggling to aim, he very much doubted it. They hit the apex of the curve down, turning back towards the city proper. The Arconans both took in the scene before them quietly, it wasn’t often Shadesworn or their associates took this method to move between the city levels.
Worker housing, little more than prefab tenements and apartments littered the area, taking up space between warehouses and processing plants. Smoke rose from more than a few sections, signs of the troubles that the people were suffering from. And they were driving a truck laden with thermal detonators into that, where people still lived and worked. Several more blaster bolts came from the bodyguard’s left, pinging against the metal and leaving scorch marks.
“Who taught you how to shoot!?”
“No one! I moved cargo at the spaceport for a living before everything started! Why did I let you convince me to join this uprising frakfest instead of going back up there for work!? The Citadel is bringing in relief supplies everyday, Glis, but you got me shooting at a truck full of karking detonators!” screamed Yuric, both from frustration and to be heard. Glis glared at him from the driver’s seat, obviously displeased with the sudden surge of independence from her lackey.
“Strong! Aheadt of us!” shouted Tali, eyes wide. The Chiss squinted to see through the haze of perpetual smoke, wondering if his companion had sensed something. His eyes widened and he slammed on the brakes, throwing the sled into a sideways slide over the street, nearly sideswiping Glis and Yuric in the process. Strong let out a long breath when the cargo hauler came to a stop, letting his head rest against the back of the compartment. Just outside his window were protestors marching, filling the road and looking just as surprised to see him as he was to see them.
They held signs, demanding a return to the old days, or better conditions. Food, more rations, power for their homes. They looked tired, hungry, dirty. Tali worried that Glis would try and turn this crowd against them as well, but sensed only rage from the Falleen as she parked her speeder.
“Mister Garmis, I believe we are about to have trouble once more,” she spoke with a tired sigh.
The Chiss didn’t respond verbally, pushing his door open and dropping to the street in one smooth movement. He walked around to the rear of the truck to find Yuric, blaster in shaking hand, waiting him. The man licked his lips and looked past the Arconan, at the crowd that had been forced to stop because of them.
“She, uh, Glis, she said if we, uh, if she can’t have the detonators, nobody can,” managed the man. His pasty features were paler than before, he looked as if he’d be sick. “She wants me to stop you from stopping her.”
“Get out of the truck you Schuttadel” screeched Glis, holding aloft the detonator Tali had thrown at her.
“Should have never given in to that urge,” muttered the Twi’lek, climbing slowly out of the sled, hands clearly visible.
Glis grinned wildly, her face flushed. Her eyes darted past the Citadel tart to see protestors milling about, braver ones coming to the edge of the cargo hauler to see what was going on. Good, an audience would make this more fulfilling.
“I’m taking that cargo, Citadel whore,” stated the Falleen. “Don’t try and stop me, or I’ll tear that baby right out of your guts.”
“I vill not let you have it. Andt you vill not touch me.” Tali stood resolute, shoulders squared, her hand wanting to pull the concealed lightsaber from its resting place. Letting someone like Glis get away with this many explosives would be disastrous for the entire city. She would not let the woman pass, no.
Glis gave her a glare that twisted into a fresh smile, “Fine. If I can’t have them, neither can you. I’ll just destroy the lot. And everyone will know it was a Citadel cargo sled that exploded down here in front of a crowd of peaceful protestors,” Glis spat the word peaceful out like it was poison. “That many detonators in this nice, tight packed place?” The Fallen turned slowly, looking up at the tenements that framed the street.
“Why, it could bring down all these buildings atop these poor, sad people,” Glis stuck out her lower lip, a faux pout. “Try explaining that one away, whore.”
”I do not wish to see these people hurt, Yuric, stand aside and allow me to stop your leader.”
“C…can’t do that, big man, she told me to stop you, she told…told me…” the Human still wasn’t looking at Strong, instead at the protestors. “Is she right? Is this gonna kill a lot of folks?”
”Most likely, yes,” stated the Chiss with a bluntness that came from the stressful situation. ”Please, stand aside and allow me to stop her!”
“How? You ain’t gonna reach her before she can throw it. Even you ain’t big enough to jump on the damn thing and keep it from doing what it does. Just vaporize you and blow up the sled, then bring these buildings down on folks.” Yuric spoke without seeing to realize what he was saying till he was done. “All these people…this isn’t what we wanted,” he whispered. “Just wanted things to get better, ya know? Then Glis showed up and…and…”
“Put down the detonator, Glis,” stated Tali, her words laden with the Force. The Falleen’s eyes began to glaze, before shaking it off.
“Witch,” she hissed, cocking her arm back to throw, thumb sliding the thermal detonator’s activation switch to armed. “Their lives are on your head tails!” Glis spat at her, tossing the flashing explosive in a wide arc towards the hover sled.
Not an instant later, a blaster shot rang out, and Glis looked shocked, unbelieving as smoke escaped her open mouth. The burning hole was in the upper center of her chest, just below the throat. To the side, a shaking Yuric dropped his blaster and sunk to his knees, screaming in futile anger and despair.
The explosive sailed overhead, the dull blood red light flashing on its side at a growing cadance. Shocked gasps and cries of alarm flushed through the protestors, a wave of panic sweeping over them as a handful realized their peril. Tali watched with eyes wide in horror, a small voice of obedience crying out to stop what she was about to do. But she couldn’t let this end in blood.
Eyes closed, she seemed to resign herself to her fate, standing still as the explosive descended on its inevitable arc. Yet the tip of her left lek twitched, the scarred end of her self-mutilated head-tail swaying up and to the side with a motion so slight that seeing it in the dark would have been almost impossible.
The thermal detonator descended, but slower, drifting ever so slightly away from the hover sled as if caught in some immaterial breeze. Though gripped by gravity, the grenade’s fall seemed to settle for but a moment, hanging precariously in a localized updraft like an oversized bumble bee.
The course correction was minor, and seemed to defy the laws of motion, but the results played out in strict accordance to the scriptures of celestial mechanics. Bouncing off a low-hanging bar sign, the grenade pinged upward with a metallic ring, reaching a safe altitude just as the miniaturized explosive blew.
The white-hot flash seared the retinas of anyone caught watching it, but a momentary blindness was not an explosive demise and this Tali could live with. The boom was loud enough to scatter the people, forcing the crowd to disperse in a panic as the fiery explosion lit up the night sky. The entire city block would be needing new window panes.
Strong cleared the distance to Tali in a few long strides, putting himself between her and Glis. Though the woman was dead, the instinct of protection did not leave the Chiss alone.
”Not quite the ending we wished, Miss Sroka, but less disastrous than the alternative,” managed Strong, sounding as if speaking caused him pain. **”I believe you’ll have to drive us back, as I seem to have caught some shrapnel with my back. Apologies for being bothersome.”**X
“O-of course, Strong, I…” Tali stuttered, looking over and seeing the upper sleeve of his shirt matted red with his own blood. “Ve needt to get that lookedt at.”
“Again, terribly sorry for the inconvenience, but perhaps there might be room for one more?”
She raised a questioning eyebrow, only to have the Chiss point his good hand at Yuric. “I believe a hero ought not to walk.”
She stared at him with a stupefied look, much mirrored by that of the pallid Human, before it melted into a warm smile. “Of course,” she agreed, turning towards Yuric. “Hey, needt a lift?”