The Resolve is slowly drawn toward Skip 3 and then down through a long tunnel. An airlock spins open and blue light shimmers around the Jumpmaster as it crosses a force field into an enormous pressurized cavern in which a small city has been built rather than carved. Siero stands in the cockpit not touching anything, but oohing and aahing at the whole process. Renn sits there, arms folded, chair spun around to face Renci, listening to her story.
“After I left my homeworld, I looked for the farthest I could possibly go. Smugglers Run is the last stop up the Corellian Run, pretty much the opposite side of the galaxy. That’s where I went. That’s where a lot of desperate people go. And desperate people are exploitable. I was looking to even a score with the Empire. Someone else was just looking to make me do some dirty work. One of Thakba the Hutt’s goons convinced me he was with the Rebellion, and I needed to just take down someone who owed him money. At the time, I didn’t question why the Rebellion would be loaning out money to criminals or hiring random thugs to do work. When I found the person who owed the Hutt money, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just shake someone down. Particularly when it was an astromech droid.”
“An astromech droid owed a Hutt money?” Renn asks, incredulous.
“Yeah… he was really into astrogation charts. He was Remi, R3-M1.”
“WHOA! You know a droid?” Siero gapes at Renci.
“I met Remi on Skip 52, but Skip 3 is where we finally managed to escape. Thakba’s goons weren’t happy, and they were definitely coming after us. As far as I know, she, or her goon, still runs this joint. It was a while ago, but… not a nice place. I’ve been to Tatooine; it’s rough, but you can buy a drink. Not this place, though.”
“How long ago are we talkin’? Are people goin’ to recognize ya?”
“Nine years ago? Ten?” She flips through her wallet and pulls out a picture of herself with her family where she is a teenager, probably Siero’s age. “In some ways, I wouldn’t recognize me.”
Renn holds a hand out for the picture, looks it and her over, and suggests they apply some makeup. He heads through the common area back to the cargo hold and emerges shortly with a disguise kit.
“We should probably do you, too,” Renci tells him, joining him in the common area. “You used to do work for a Hutt, didn’t you?”
Renn replies, “I did things fer Teemo now and then, same as everyone else.”
“I never worked for Teemo,” Renci counters.
“And yu’ll never have ta.”
“Is he dead?”
“Good as. Kash and her crew set Jabba on him.”
Renn sets out a mirror and starts going through the makeup, trying to decide how to make Renci look less… practical. Renci grabs some hair dye from the kit and tells Renn to stay still and she will apply it. It is a basic dye that he can just wash out when this is all over. He gives her a chance but keeps an eye on the mirror as she begins spraying and brushing. After a bit he snatches the materials from her hands. “Yer just as bad at this as JT.”
“When did JT try to dye your hair?” she asks.
“No, with her it was makeup.”
“On Gesaril… I got pretty badly bruised, and I was headed back ta… work. JT tried ta cover it up with makeup, and she did a really bad job.”
“Well, she’s more used to chassis,” Renci says.
Renn tells Renci to replace her ponytail with something more outlandish while he finishes converting himself to a blond, including his beard and eyebrows. She shakes out her hair and then pulls it up into two meatball-shaped buns toward the front of her head, one per side with some locks flowing down out of each. Renn washes his hands and then carefully puts in brown contact lenses. He turns to Renci with makeup in hand, and she says, “Not bad.”
“Yer turn,” he replies and then goes to work on her face. Eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, rouge… “Now, imagine if someone is supposed ta make yer neck look normal, like ya have no’ just had yer windpipe crushed, and this is what it looks like.” He turns the mirror around to show Renci her face.
“Is that normal on any planet?” she demands.
“Ixtlar.” She looks at him blankly. “It’s a posh Core world, not a desert, so I’m no’ surprised if ya have no’ been there.”
“So… high society. And you’ll be my driver.”
“So I will just talk like this, then?” he asks, enunciating all the words clearly, his intonation leveled out, all trace of Seregar gone.
“That sounds so weird,” Renci says.
Renn snorts. “That is the same thing my fellow officers said about my native accent back in the beginning,” he articulates. “That is one of the reasons why I learned to speak ‘properly’.”
Renci shakes her head. “No, if you’re working class, you’re good sounding like you’re from the Rim. And people from your former job wouldn’t expect that.”
“Aye, yu’ve a point there. That suits me just fine, it does.”
Renci turns to Siero. “You’ll be my attendant.”
Renn quickly clarifies that. “Don’ talk ta anyone if’n ya can avoid it. These types of people will be able ta see through yer lies.”
Siero looks nervous. “But what about you guys?”
“We’ve gone through the briefings and training and have a lot of experience with this,” Renci explains. “We just want you to watch and learn.”
“I know this isn’t what you wanted to sign up for, but sometimes the galaxy throws a gust of wind at you.”
Renn looks Renci up and down. “Yer clothes are no’ right. Come with me.” He leads her into his room and opens a tall crate in the corner that contains some women’s clothing, predominantly black. “Choose something of Kash’s ta look less outdoorsy.” Renci frowns at some of the articles but selects a long flowing sweater.
Renn assembles the Czerka and slings it over his shoulder. Renci may have said driver, but bodyguard is what he is going for. “Are ya bringin’ the sword?” he asks, hoping she is savvy enough to give the right answer.
“No, just the blaster.” Renci hands a gaffi stick to Siero and tells her to take a few swings with it to make sure she can handle herself. The teenager brandishes it convincingly, having learned the importance of fending off wild animals on her home world.
Renn gives Siero a stim applicator. “Hopefully nothing will happen, but if something does, and ya get hurt, this’ll help.”
Siero widens her eyes a little, but she takes it. “It’s good to be prepared, that’s what Renci says.”
Renci nods. “And remember, you need to take care of this equipment and return it in good working order.”
Renn rolls his eyes. Renci sounds like a kriffing quartermaster. The last thing they need is for the poor kid to hesitate because she does not want to damage a bloody gaffi stick. “Use it if ya need ta,” he tells Siero seriously.
There is a clang as someone bangs on the underside of the ramp.
“My attendant should get that,” Renci declares jauntily, looking to Siero. Then, with less panache, “Oh… I guess we’ll need names.”
“Darren Beamwalker,” Renn offers without hesitation.
“Didn’t know you already had a fake name,” Renci says.
“D’ya think yer the first woman based on Ryloth that I’ve needed ta pretend ta be a bodyguard fer?” Renn has been mixed up with DRS longer than Renci has.
“Right. I’ll be Zanna Sooz. Siero, you can be Scarlett.”
Renn steps over to the controls for the ramp but pauses, considering. Finally, he reaches a decision. “Mira, stay here and watch the ship, and let me know if anything happens. But fer now, hide.” The kiros bird flies up onto the raised mattress.
“Hey, open up!” They hear more pounding.
Renn hits the switch to lower the ramp and begins to descend it even as it moves down. No one is getting on this ship without getting past him. Siero rushes to follow. “What can I do for you?” she asks helpfully.
Below the Jumpmaster, a Nautolan in elaborate robes waits, flanked by flunkies of various species. And Renci was worried that she looks ridiculous, Renn thinks. A Weequay has a blaster rifle raised above her head, ready to clank into the ship’s underbelly again.
The Nautolan responds to Siero haughtily, “Mmmm, yes, your… vessel transmitted an incorrect verification code. Therefore we will have to do a most thorough search so we can make sure you’re not a threat to our spaceport. We will, of course, provide a, mmmm, suitable place for you to wait.”
Siero gulps audibly. Renn folds his arms, standing in the middle of the ramp. “Aye, sure, Scarlett can go wait in t’other room with ya. But there’s no way yer goin’ on this ship by yerself.”
“Very well… accompany us if you wish. I don’t care where you wait. But I assure you that our holding cells… mmmm… waiting rooms are quite sufficient.”
“Zanna,” Renn calls over his shoulder, “they’re goin’ ta search the ship. I’m goin’ ta watch them.”
Renci waltzes down the ramp past Renn, beckoning Siero to accompany her. “Oh, how drole. Do try to be finished by the time we’re back from our errands.” As Renci breezes past the administrator with Siero in tow, his minions step in around them. “Oh! I get my own security at the spaceport? How delightful!” she crows. “Please lead me to your finest astrogator.”
The ruffians look over at the administrator for guidance. He waves his hand. “Yes, yes, keep them under watch, while I see to this, mmmm, investigation.”