Never Lower Your Guard

Leaning into his chair, Kei released a held in breath. The man was free. The air he took in and let out was that of a free man. Four months in prison, here he was now. Back to where he belonged. To all that mattered to him: his ship, and his work. For now, he privately grinned down as he watched the planet beginning to get farther away. Kei waited, taking it all in. He never knew this day would have happened so soon. In this fashion, as well, with style.

Without warning, sirens blew into the side of his ear. Kei wasn’t expecting to have something go wrong now. Tapping the side of his hull he flipped on a communicator to the bridge. He shouted into it, “Viss, what do we got? Bogies?”

His first mate replied with a series of grumbling hisses. TIE Fighters. Well, Kei thought, they had to show up at some point. He pushed the communicator down, “Alright, I’ll deal with them. You start running those Hyperspace codes. I’ll keep them busy.” Kei didn’t find any other way to put it. Even though both of the guns were on either sides of the port-starboard sections of the ship, the two guns had the ability to swivel in several directions. With only getting half of the ship covered, they may have a bit of trouble.

Kei did what he did best: kept to his word. Charging up the laser cannons, he fired up his radar screen and saw a squadron of six riding in. Chewing the side of his lip thoughtfully, Kei keyed the communicator, “Roll us around! I want to aim up.”

Viss didn’t respond and flipped the side of his ship at a ninety degree angle. With Kei’s turret on top, the squadron was, currently, flying directly for his manned position. They wouldn’t act like this for long. TIE fighters were the backbone of the Imperial Navy. Anyone who is crazy enough to fly in a manned “Eyeball”, as they’re referred to as, without any level of shielding or a hyperdrive unit was the kind of crazy Imperial fanatics had to be.

Waiting, he watched as they moved in as wave. It reminded Kei of a form of birds. One on the spear tip of the group, removing the aim pressure from the rest as each one flew on either side of the leader creating a sharp ‘V’. As they approached the ship, they began to disarrange from formation and veered around the ship. They moved similar to a Nexu’s prowl before jumping to kill its prey like most predators. This prey had sharp teeth.

One of the pilots had already gotten cocky. Flying too close to Kei’s side, he sent out a burst of laser bolts and watched as the ship’s wing blew up into shrapnel. Within seconds, the cockpit of the ship burst into flame. Kei didn’t have time to take in the beautiful spray that the exploded TIE fighter provided. Switching over to his left side, he let out another volley of fire. Kei caught less luck with this pilot. Twirling under his barrage, the ship flew out of sight. On his radar he saw them all taking a turn, on the other side of the ship, the ship’s port side.

He thumbed the communicator on, “Viss, flip it around and keep the steady pace! I know you’ve almo-“ before he could finish his sentence, a blast of laser shots sounded from the other side. Confused, Kei looked behind himself. All he saw was the corridor the lead off to the lounge area. Though, straight ahead, past all the metal and their objects aboard, someone had been firing the turret, and Viss was on the bridge.

Pausing, Kei wanted to see what happened next. The shots fired out against the TIE fighters. They probably hadn’t expected another pilot to be inside the other turret. That fact caught him off guard; he didn’t expect Viss to get outside help. Returning to stare down at his radar, Kei noted that two fighters had been taken out. Three to go, and then they would have been home free.

Before the TIEs could make a third pass, Viss had hissed into the comm. Just after, he felt the rush of Hyperspace taking into effect and they launched forward to their next destination. It took Kei a moment to get use to the ship’s wobbling. Some asked how it handled in Hyperspace. She was sure old, but she for sure had earned her space legs.

Grabbing at a piece of wall to make sure he was good, Kei stepped into the corridor and slipped around the hallway into the lounge. The lounge was basic. Kei and Viss rarely had guests other than themselves. In the corner there was a pair of couches, comfortable enough for a set of six people to sit down. In the middle was a holotable. It gave Viss and Kei something to do in the middle of Hyperspace travel. Other than the lounge, and the kitchen that was off to the side nearby, there was very little space for recreational room. Kei and Viss had spent most of their time shipping cargo and making supply runs. That’s what most of the free space of the ship made up.

Viss clicked his way down the corridor from the cockpit. He caught a hold of Kei’s glance as he emerged from the entrance. “So,” the older man said, leaning against the wall as the Trandoshan entered the room. “Didn’t know we were taking on hired help lately, think he’ll make a better captain than I?” The walking lizard hissed loudly in retort.

Kei understood. It takes more than one person to fly this ship. Whoever helped, he’d have to thank. Yet, like any good man, he didn’t like strangers on his ship. Especially ones that he hadn’t personally invited, “If you say the person’s good. I’ll let it slide this time old friend.” Looking over to Viss, he smiled peacefully. “Besides, you still owe me for that time on Corellia. I told you that you should’ve stayed on the ship.”

With the concussion rifle slung over his back, the Trandoshan dismissed the man’s words with a shake of his claw. Hissing disdainfully, he walked over to one of the crates in the corner and sat down. Kei let out a small laugh. Viss rolled a claw of the back of his scaly neck and gave a few low rumbled clicks to Kei. “Hey! Don’t mock the hair; they had to make me look like everyone else. It was procedure.”

The Doshan clicked his sharp teeth together again, giving a low hiss. Kei knew a mocking “ooookay” when he heard it. Rolling his eyes, the man shifted his eyes to where the other gun was. Best time as ever to address that situation.

“Alright, so you’d you pick up?” Kei’s voice began to take a turn into a more serious tone. As much as he trusted Viss as his first mate, he still needed to know. The Doshan was quiet for a moment. Drumming his claws against the side of the metallic crate he sat on. Finally, he rolled a hiss for a few seconds with a sharp tongue twist. “Wait, wait, wait… Slow down…” Kei’s eyes began to grow a bit wide as he stared at his first mate.

“You didn’t?” Kei asked in a worried tone. It was the first time that he had been truly worried since the explosion at the prison. Viss confirmed what Kei had asked. The man ran a hand through his greased, short hair.

“I’m guessing the big wall of roughness just told you what’s going on?” Walking away from the direction of where the other gunner’s position was, a teenage framed youth stood against the wall. His dark blue eyes shined back against Kei, his light brown hair was skimmed down to nearly his skull. On either side of his shoulder blades was a slab of what appeared to be pieces of bone armor. Two small skulls of what once belonged to an ape-like creature.

Kei stared at the boy. “Are those baby Gundarks on your shoulders?” The man also noticed that this mysterious young man hung a pair of teeth around his neck. Both of the skulls’ had their teeth missing.

The youth grinned widely at the man. “You betcha dualities they are! Bagged ‘em just a few years ago, was one of my first hunts when I was with my papa.” The boy’s bluish eyes shined off a sign of pride from that statement. It had been something he earned. By the sizes of the skulls, they weren’t the biggest of prey. If it was true that he had bagged it when he was younger, it’s impressive nonetheless.

Kei didn’t let the boy see that. “Right. Because you just enjoy smelling like the backside of a Hutt.” Kei snapped at the youth, “Let’s get a few things straight. First, this is my ship, you do as I believe is needed. Second, whatever deal you made with my partner over here goes through. We’re going to look over it together. Don’t plan on getting too comfortable, little one, once I pay you what Viss owes you we’re dropping you off at the nearest Starport. Don’t think we’re going to prance around the galaxy to drop you off somewhere nice.”

The young man scuffed at Kei, “Kriff of you!” The boy shouted, astonishing Kei. Viss said nothing but letting off a small hiss. It was another chuckle. Obviously the overgrown lizard had been dealing with the youth for some time. Taking a guess on how he’d react to most things. “Let me tell you something: I came with your big wall of muscle over there, because I was able to give him the best deal this side of the galaxy.”

Kei looked over to Viss. The Trandoshan offered a nod. What’d the kid have? Turning back to the youth, he scowled. “What’d you offer him that made him not think twice about driving some brat around and trust him on a gun?”

The boy winked at the man. Removing a datapad from the back of his belt, he walked over to the captain and shined the holoprojecter near his feet. It was a map of a planet. Kei couldn’t think of where the planet was in the galaxy. “We’re going on a raid!”

Kei stared down at the planet, seeing an orbiting space station residing the planet’s atmosphere. His stomach sank as he saw the Imperial insignia on the side. Here they go again.

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