“I see you’re back,” Cathann called across the market. The man in question, who had introduced himself as Bani, spotted her at her stall, then looked around to see if he could make an escape. He gave into the inevitable and crossed, moving around the numerous people dotted around the stalls.
“And I see you’re persistent.” He smiled. “I don’t suppose….”
“There’s still no call for tea around here.” She said. “If you want to order it specially, I can probably talk to one of the importers, some of them are good at getting unique items.”
For a moment Obi-Wan was sorely tempted. “No, it’s not worth it.” It’s not like he had the credits to pay for it anyway. “How’s business been?”
“Little bit of this, little bit of that.” Cathann smiled, “It’s been pretty quiet today.”
“The whole place seems dead,” He observed looking around at the few customers around, “anything going on?”
“Nothing really,” She searched her mind “I guess some of the pirates are around, but that should make it busier really.”
“More variety anyway,” Cathann agreed, “Plus those Republic hooligans usually come in chasing them, so the market’ll be closed for a few days afterwards.”
Ah yes, Obi-Wan thought, those Republic hooligans. He wouldn’t know anything about that. For a moment he wondered what Anakin would have said, probably something snarky agreeing that would have gotten them both found out immediately.
He missed him.
That dammed smirk, the unsubtle remarks, the knowing in jokes that it was never the time for, the way-
No. Obi-Wan dragged himself back to the present. He’d get over it.
“We can only hope they’re not around this time.” He said politely.
“We can hope.” She agreed, far more emphatically.
Not that Obi-Wan was overly keen on the idea of Jedi around. Your average citizen of Lothal might not know him, but your average Jedi... He was of no delusion that most of the Order would recognise him on sight.
“You know what they say about hope.” He smiled, “It’s only foolish if you rely on it.”
Cathann looked at him for a moment then shook her head. “Where did you grow up Bani Book Wein?”
“Around the middle and outer rim mainly. Why?”
She shook her head again. “Who broke you?”
Obi-Wan didn’t know quite what to say to that.
“Doesn’t matter. Sooo… about those other items that I know you’re looking for.”
Obi-Wan paused for a moment, and checked no-one was listening behind them without moving. Then, in a quieter voice than he used so far, he said: “I’m pretty sure tea was the only item I enquired about. Although it’s getting to the point I’d take a half-way decent cup of caff.”
“On this planet?” Cathann asked sceptically. “I wouldn’t bank on it, and, well,” she spread her arms out gesturing to the stall in front of her full of caff products, and the market beyond.
“With the current clans, I’m not sure I’d bank at all.”
She made a small noise, like a tiny bantha, or perhaps an aborted snort. “Who can afford to bank anyway?”
“That is a good question.” Obi-Wan smiled, “A very good question indeed. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go see if there’s any work going.”
“Hey,” Obi-Wan backed away from the table towards where he could see a group of unfamiliar, but wealthy looking people. “I thought you said the pirates were in town.”
“I never said pirates.”
Obi-Wan smirked, and gave a jaunty wave before turning around to talk to the men. Who looked about as close to outstanding citizens of anywhere as Hondo Ohnaka. “Morning.”
“Mrng.” Came a varying chorus, a few of them glancing up from their tabacc. Obi-Wan looked around at the various rogues. Usual attire, although the varying states in luxury suggested either great disparities in levels of seniority, or a blend of different crews. Given the relaxed atmosphere, and general lack of fucks given, he suspected the latter. A few different species as well, most common on Lothal, and of course you often couldn’t tell with the humanoid, at least upon first impression.
One of them, a female Twi'lek, was wearing an incredible leather coat that Anakin would have- she was wearing a lovely leather coat, he corrected himself. Instead of focusing on his mental slip, Obi-Wan was subtly admiring the studwork on the shoulder when she spoke. “You looking for work? A way off this place?”
“I like Lothal fine,” Obi-Wan said, considering his wording. “It’s not too fond of me without money though.”
The Twi'lek pirate thought about it for a moment, then spat out the rest of her tabacc and ground it into the ground. “Eyassogo”
“Bani Book Wein, call me Bani.”
“Two days work, Three for engagement, Seven more upon completion.”
Obi-Wan nearly whistled. “What’s the catch?”
“Fancy flying and no questions asked.” Eyassogo said.
In theory, that sounded reasonable. And if he was force blind Obi-Wan would have agreed without hesitation. But that warning. The twang in the force that almost pulsed with a sense of mistrust. Something was wrong. She was either lying, or not telling the whole story, and it was the rest of it that was important. This was dangerous, this was fundamentally a bad idea.
“Sounds good.” Obi-Wan said. When had a lack of lightsabre, or a little danger, ever stopped him?
Eyassogo smiled at him. “That’s what they all say to start with.”
Obi-Wan swallowed the grin that threatened to appear. This sounded like fun.
A day and a couple of hours later he was reconsidering his opinion on what was considered fancy flying and what was the kind of stunt only Anakin would even try and pull.
Maybe Ahsoka. Those two had always been well matched. Well, Obi-Wan considered as he entered a dive a few degrees too steep to be considered safe, at least this was going to be interesting…
The wind whistled past the cockpit, unheard by the pilot, desperately trying to control the spin. What was? What? Huh? He had to? He- he – he
Obi-Wan forced a breath in, and held it for a count of nine before exhaling and seeking out with the force at the same time.
Three, two- Obi-Wan saw the chance and took it. He pulled the craft up and to the right resulting in several loud banging noises from behind him.
He paid no attention, all of his regular senses lost to the force as he pushed just enough that the craft groaned and creaked. Then, with some stuttering and a creaking sound that would alarm any sane pilot, the ship settled into a slow, steady, descent.
It was, of all things, a squeaking noise that brought Obi-Wan back into focus.
“KRIFF.” He muttered, glancing over his shoulder to see if the cargo looked more or less alright. He’d run a few blockades before, some with even more delicate cargo, but this one? What was on Lothal?
He was pretty sure some of the crates had split.
At least none of the power cells had overloaded. Hopefully that meant that the rest of the cargo was more or less alright. It’d have to be as Obi-Wan brought the ship in for a less than perfect, but technically passable landing.
The second the clutch was on Obi-Wan leapt out of his seat and went to inspect what the kriff had happened.
There was a sharp knocking on the other side of the loading ramp, interrupting the process.
That, Obi-Wan guessed, would be his employers. Somewhat reluctantly he opened the ramp, pushing his hair back as it revealed Eyassogo and a rather intimidatingly tall Wookie, even for the species. The wookie grinned, although fortunately not malevolently upon seeing that the pilot was alive. It still wasn’t the most settling sight. Presumably this was Eyassogo’s boss by the ornamentation clipped into his dark hair.
“I see why people stop calling it fun.” Obi-Wan greeted them.
Eyassogo laughed. “You made it though.”
“Well,” Obi-Wan gestured to the scattered and damaged crates. “Mostly.”
Eyassogo looked at her boss, they nodded. “You’re the first person to be able to make it through with even a partial cargo in two weeks. You’ve earned your money.”
“Bani was it?” The Wookie spoke for the first time.
“Follow us.” They led the way out of the ship onto a smooth, if scorched, grass plain. They turned to look back at the ship.
“Funny,” Obi-Wan considered. “The damage doesn’t look so bad from here.”
There was a loud groan and a clatter before one of the repulsors fell off landing on the ground with a reverberating wobble.
He watched it for a moment before adding: “That can probably be repaired right?” Then he turned away from the ship and determinedly ignored any subsequent crashes, bangs, or other signs of machinery falling apart. This was why flying was for droids.
Eyassogo and her boss exchanged a quick smirk before leading Obi-Wan over to the ridge. He peered over the edge. It was a long, sheer, way down. It has a pretty view, of the river down below, but it was not one he had any intention of seeing up close anytime soon.
Eyassogo walked up to the edge of the cliff, turned back around for a moment, then took a large step backwards. Given her steady progress downwards until she was out of sight Obi-Wan was somewhat relived to find a ladder built into the edge of the cliff upon closer inspection.
He followed her down, despite their mystery destination. The long sheer nature of the ladder made it impossible to see much other than sky and cliff face, and with the focus on him, he didn’t dare reach out specifically with the force.
Still, hand under hand, foot then foot became incredibly monotonous after a while and it was rather a surprise when Obi-Wan heard Eyassogo’s voice not from below, but from his right. “And step to the right.”
He glanced down to discover a thin ledge, thinner than the steps so far, reaching to the right. He tested it, gently. It seemed solid enough, providing he could keep his balance. And he’d never had a problem with that.
The ledge widened after a few metres, before turning a corner and becoming sufficiently broad that hugging the wall was no longer necessary. The stone walkway turned several more corners before widening even more and ending in….
“KRIFF.” Obi-Wan muttered noticing the giant stone cared arch, and the stone city carved into the three faces of the cave beyond.
“You want to know why they’re so desperate the barricade this planet Bani?” Eyassogo asked, grinning at his fascinated expression. “Welcome to the Smugglers’ Cave.”
“What sort of cave had a space port?” Obi-Wan asked, seeing a tiny shuttle leaving out of the fourth, almost completely open, side.
“This kind.” The boss said, pushing past them and through the stone archway heading down the stairs there.
“Come on Bani,” Eyassogo said, walking after him. “Let’s get you your seven, and then I’ll give you the grand tour.”
“Sounds good.” Obi-Wan followed her down the stairs, noting with interest the different levels that branched off, each held up by columns of seemingly uncarved rock that stretched far above his head. “How big is this place?”
“There’s room for a few thousand.” The smuggler said, ignoring Obi-Wan’s subtle attempts to check if there were any barriers along the side of the walkway. “But generally no more than a couple of hundred actually live here. It’s not quite Florrum, but we don’t get any Jedi down here either.”
“Hmm.” Technically that was still true. Although Obi-Wan did briefly wonder what Hondo would have made of all this.
Eyassogo turned down one of the sets of stairs before stepping onto a small platform outside one of the large stone buildings. “Come in, I’ll get the stuff.”
“Thanks.” Obi-Wan let the door close behind him. The room inside was large, clean and painted a sharp green colour. An odd choice, perhaps, for a smugglers lair, but at least it didn’t remind him of anywhere else. Or anyone else.
Ignoring his traitorous thoughts, Obi-Wan resumed assessing the room. It had a large desk dominating the space, with a large purple plant sitting next to it. Behind was several doors leading off to the rest of the building, and a secure cabinet, presumably holding the business information that wasn’t stored digitally.
“Here you go,” Eyassogo returned through the central door and tossed Obi-Wan a heavy bag. He opened it to see the familiar coinage inside. “There’s your seven. Now, sit down, and we’ll talk about further jobs.”
He hefted the bag, “Many thanks.” The seat was ever so slightly uncomfortable. It might have just been a bad choice, but somehow Obi-Wan suspected it was deliberate. Never make your clients, or your contract employees, too comfortable. “Can I ask about the ship, we did just leave it-“
“Its fine,” Eyassogo interrupted. “Boss got some people with a scavenger ship to go and deal with it. Not like the ship itself’s reparable, but it was barely holding together but the time it entered orbit. We’ve got the cargo, and that’s what mattered, so thanks.”
“Just wondering.” Obi-Wan had indeed been wondering if the cargo was worth anything at all.
“Sorry about how hot it got by the way, it wasn’t that bad according to the last recon, or else you’d have gotten hazard pay. You’d have got it anyway, but you also totalled the ship, and ‘twas your first job, so…”
“ ‘s alright. I’m relieved to be paid.” Maybe he could actually started helping people on this dammed rock.
Eyassogo flashed him a brief smile before rummaging around in the desk and pulling out a flexipad and a sheet of paper. She passed both over. “So, I don’t know if you’re interested in future employment with us, but if you’d like the option, this is a shush- sorry a non-disclosure agreement, both a copy for you to take away and one for us on the flexipad. If you want to read through those, make sure they’re the same, and what you’d be agreeing to.”
“Thanks,” Obi-Wan picked up the paper document, giving it a quick skim. The legalese was thick and fast. He glanced at the author’s name. “Import-Export specialist and Lawyer?”
“Just call me a smuggler, this place has its name for a reason.” Eyassogo said, flicking through some reading of her own. “But yes, the two are needed more often than you’d think.”
“hmm,” Obi-Wan began skimming the second document, checking it was the same as the first. As the smuggler-lawyer had said, it was a surprisingly standard document. Not that he’d had to sign a lot of them, Jedi had usually been exempt. “Alright, do you have a pen?” She passed him a pen and, after a brief final moment of deliberation, trying to see if the force pulled him one way or another without having the time or ability to slip into meditation, Obi-Wan signed both non-disclosure agreements.
He handed the flexiplast back to Eyassogo.
She skimmed through for a moment, checked he’d signed it, then put the plast away. “Right then, I guess it’s time to show you the rest of the operation, but first, do you want lunch?”