Star Wars The Old Republic Fatal Allianc

THE LIGHT STAR cruiser looked deceptively insignificant against the backdrop of the galaxy. To the keen eye of a pirate, however, it displayed several desirable qualities: no Imperial or Republic markings; only moderate weaponry and shielding; a crew compartment barely large enough to hold a dozen people; no escort or accompanying vessels.

“It’s your choice, Captain,” hissed a guttural voice into Jet Nebula’s ear. “But don’t take too long about it. Our friend here isn’t going to sit still forever.”

The smuggler calling himself “Jet Nebula” enjoyed keeping his first mate on tenterhooks. He harbored no ill feelings about the mutiny in and of itself. The moment the Auriga Fire stumbled across something really valuable, a takeover attempt had been inevitable. He had hired Shinqo knowing exactly that and lost barely a minute’s sleep since. Dealing with scum was part of the job.

He didn’t like needless violence, though. The snub nose of a blaster digging into Jet’s side was pure overkill.

“Well?” Shinqo prompted him in Rodese as he pretended to dither.

“Keep your shirt on,” Jet said in mock-protest. “We only interdicted them a minute ago. It’s way too soon to plot another jump.”

“Just don’t take any chances,” Shinqo said, emphasizing his point with another jab of the blaster. “And be glad we don’t want your ship, as well.”

Something heavy creaked to Jet’s right. The boxy shape of Clunker swayed into view, dented and dusty, photoreceptors glowing bright. Jet shook his head minutely, and the droid backed out of sight again.

“Don’t make me ask twice,” Shinqo said.

“All right, then.” Jet took the captain’s seat and punched the comm active. “Since you put it so nicely, let’s see who these guys are before we steal the hide off their backs.”

The star cruiser’s running lights blinked and flickered against the black. Its systems were still settling after their sudden wrench from hyperspace, but Jet felt sure the comm was working by now. All ears aboard would be straining to hear what the rugged ship hanging off their bows had to say.

He resorted to short, simple phrases that had served him well enough in the past: “You’re nicked, my beauty. Stand by for boarding.”

“Negative” came the immediate reply. Male, brusque, and human, most likely. “We do not recognize your authority.”

That was a new one. “Who in their right mind would invest any authority in the likes of us?”

“You’re a privateer. You work for the Republic.”

“Now, that simply isn’t true.” Not anymore, anyway, Jet thought. “We’re humble grifters of an independent set, and you happen to have stumbled across our patch. Submit easily, and I’ll see that my bloodthirsty first mate doesn’t blast you all on sight.”

“That won’t happen. We’re on a diplomatic mission.”

“To whom? From where? If I had a credit for every time someone tried that line, you wouldn’t be talking to me now.”

There was a long pause. “All right, then. What will it cost for you to let us go?”

Jet looked at Shinqo, who was calling the shots. Shinqo’s true employers were the Hutts, and sometimes a bribe was worth as much as booty, after the cartels took their cut.

The Rodian shook his head.

“You’re clear out of luck, mate,” Jet told the person on the other end of the comm. “Best vent those air locks, smartish. We’re coming in and don’t want to scuff the merchandise any more than we have to.”

The star cruiser had nothing to say to that.

Shinqo barked into a communicator as Jet brought the sublights into play. “Fekk, Gelss, get ready for action.”

The two Sullustans were part of Shinqo’s treacherous lot, and Jet wouldn’t mind if they paid the price for