Friday, January 05, 2007

Red Awakenings

The small box was wrapped in a piece of old, crimson cloth. "What is it?"

Maya shrugged and sipped at her broth. "I have no idea. It was given to one of my girls while I was out here doctoring you."

Jeht nodded solemnly and examined it again without picking it up. There wasn't a lot of trust in him after his experiences and mysterious gifts sent him straight into extreme caution. "And you are sure it's supposed to be for me."

"That's what she said. One of our regulars gave it to her." A long noodle disappeared between her lips. Darrus tried to ignore how sensual that looked.

"Did she say anything else?"

A quick nod as Maya went back into her bowl with a spoon. "Actually, yes. She mentioned it was someone she's seen a lot since the bar reopened and that she thinks he can be trusted. Good guy, apparently."

Darrus narrows his devoid eyes and lifted the box, feeling its weight and being surprised at how heavy it was for such a tiny package. "Appearances can be deceiving."

That brought a chuckle from the former Rebel Officer turned barkeep. "I've noticed, Jedi."

Darrus hid most of his reaction to the gentle jibe but couldn't suppress a slight smile. "Point taken, but I've seen explosives smaller than this. The weight suggests a heavy compound, perhaps blastique or XJ-10."

"You know, Darrus," another noodle disappeared down her throat. "not everything on Tatooine is a trap. Would the Imperials still left here really try to kill you with a mini-bomb?"

He sighed. "Perhaps not. One way to find out, though." He reached on top of the box and pulled the cord tying it shut. The moment he did, Vaaro dove behind the old hut's nearest wall, covering his head with both hands. Darrus' smile grew wider.

Then he opened the parcel. The cloth, probably once part of a quality garment before it was cut to wrap the small box inside, fell away like flower petals. The container itself was metal and highly polished, reflecting Basic letters written on the underside of the fabric. Darrus pulled it off the box completely and read the note out loud.

"We could use a man like you. This will get you in to see us if you want to join up. -the man you saved."

Looking more than a little confused, Darrus cracked open the box, angling it away from the others just in case, his powers primed to try and absorb any blast that might occur. Explosions were the hardest form of energy to mitigate with the Force but no one was going to die again because of him. Not if he could help it.

The small container opened without incident. He looked inside and his confusion increased. "What the Kessel is this?" Showing the box to Maya and Vaaro, who was now bravely peeking out from between his long green fingers, he was dismayed to see the look on her face. "What?"

Maya reached over, took the box, and Reached back to toss it into the night furnace. Darrus caught her hand before she could. "Maya, what is it? What does it mean?"

She glared at him for a moment, then caught her temper and dropped the box. "I'm sorry. I forget that you aren't a local sometimes." As she sat down in the nearest chair, Darrus knelt and took the box back.

"It's all right, but what's so upsetting about a ring?" He opened it again and drew forth the item of contention. A steel band with a wide setting of red crystal, the finger cuff had a strange symbol engraved on the gem. "And who did I save?"

Quietly, Maya relayed the whole story of the bar fight with the Trandoshans to him. This was actually the second time she'd talked about this with Darrus, but he'd been very weak and out of sorts before. She wasn't surprised he didn't remember it.

"And that's one of their rings, Darrus. You saved a member of the Scarlet Wake and now they want to 'thank' you by letting you into their murdering little club." She took his wrist with an imploring look in her eyes. "Please, throw that thing into the sand. It's nothing but trouble. People are getting killed for wearing it. Killed, or doing the killing."

Darrus tilted his head down and kissed the backs of her fingers, a gesture Vaaro would have raised an eyebrow over if he had any.

"Won't the authorities do anything about this?"

Maya almost spat on the floor. "Authorities? The crime lords have their own affairs, the locals are either supporting the Wake or too afraid of them to do anything, and the Imperials won't lift a black-gloved finger to help because most of the victims are only aliens."

"What about this so-called Rebellion? They won, right? When will they get involved?"

She shook her head, surprised again that someone like Darrus could be so naive when it came to politics. "They are half a galaxy away and still fighting the retreating Imperials on a daily basis. It'll be a long time before their New Republic makes a dent of difference out here."

Darrus looked back at her, slowly understanding the extent of the problem. This place literally had no law. People did what they liked if they could enforce it or lived in the shadow of others who could. In an environment like this, the Scarlet Wake could go unchecked for years. Already had, apparently.

"So no one's going to try and stop them?"

She shook her head, pushing away what was left of her soup. "No one."

He nodded, pocketing the ring, and pulled her into a tight hug. "I didn't mean to spoil your appetite. Want to go for a walk?"

She nodded eagerly, standing up even as Vaaro was stealthing towards the rest of her meal. "I'd love it. Thank you, Darrus. I couldn't stand the thought of you having anything to do with the likes of them."

Jeht just nodded, said nothing, and headed out into the sands to think...


Zay said...

Must have noodles~!

Erisraven said...

Stylish little intro gift there. Someone backing the Scarlet Wake is a rich being...

Tarek said...

Well, we can clearly see that at some level, Darrus has yet to realize that the Clone Wars are over.

Makes perfect sense.

And that ring is going to be bad news for somebody... but who and how? :)