The spaceport administrator’s thugs escort Renci and Siero to The Gator, a cantina that has seen better days. Along the way, the women get the flavor of Skip 3. It is a shadowport, but the economy is not doing well. At the cantina, Renci settles her escort with a tableful of drinks and takes a place at the bar with her protege. She asks the bartender about the navishops in the area, and the B10 model service droid tells her that a lot of Hutt business has moved on, so many shops have closed.
“You look like you’re dropping a few sparks there, too, friend,” Renci replies, abandoning her uppercrust guise.
B10-4, poorly maintained, agrees. “Business has been better.” Two of its ten arms hang limply at its side while the rest clean a couple glasses, reach for bottles, pour drinks.
“We could maybe help each other out here,” she offers. “We do some maintenance on you in exchange for information on where I could find some good star charts, or at least you tell me where the astromechs hang out these days.” Should not have said ‘these days’, Renci chastises herself. She quickly continues, “My assistant and I can work—” She turns and finds Siero accepting a drink from another one of B10-4’s arms. Renci yanks it away from the teenager. “—right now as you tell us. You ever worked on a B10 unit before, Scarlett?”
“I’ve never even seen a droid!” Siero gushes. “Well, maybe not since I was three. I think I remember seeing some when I was little, before we moved.”
Renci tries to keep a straight face. This is not going to instill confidence in the B10 unit. But as she turns back to the droid, she sees it nodding agreeably. One of the arms pauses, rag in hand, and gestures for the women to come back around the counter. Renci and Siero clean off rust and swap out a few basic parts, then oil the joints. “There, ten working arms again. Now you can bartend like you’re supposed to. Or… whatever else you want to do.” That’s what JT is always saying.
“Thank you. This is most helpful. Now, as agreed… there are some astromech droids who weren’t willing to sign onto any of the Hutt ships. They probably have information about a year out of date. But that is the best you are likely to find.” With a newly reactivated hand, it scribbles down directions to the astromechs’ hideout and passes them to Renci.
“What is the current Hutt situation here?” Renci asks quietly.
“When Jabba took over a lot of Teemo’s business, that diverted his attention more to Tatooine and less to Smuggler’s Run. But there’s still plenty of Hutt hangers-on around here. Thakba has been flexing her muscles, moving in on more skips.”
Renci slips B10-4 a small stack of credits, and the B10 unit takes each one with a different hand. “Can you give them a little show?” she asks, nodding towards the table where the spaceport lackeys are running low on alcohol. The droid tries flipping the cred chips around, but it is still getting used to the improved dexterity. “Maybe some drinks?” Renci suggests. B10-4 fills a few pitchers and heads over to the table to refill glasses.
Renci grabs Siero by the collar and puts her finger to her lips. “Shhh.” They slip out of the cantina and head down the street, turning down an alley. “And that’s how you lose a tail,” Renci instructs. “Always know your exits. Now, I need you to keep a lookout for those guys while I hunt down this location. Stay close.”
Siero nods firmly. “So look for them and look for tech.”
“Let me know if you see those thugs. For the tech, just keep a running list in your head.” Renci looks at the sheet of directions. “Oh, geez, I hope this isn’t right.”
* * *
Renn stands on the ramp of the Resolve. The sumptuously dressed Nautolan gestures at the three hooligans who still remain with him. “These are my… mmmm…. customs officials.”
“Call them whatever ya want ta make yerself feel better.”
The administrator bristles. “I will be respected in my spaceport! Now… do you have anything to declare?”
“D’ya have a list of prohibited items?”
“Then I have nothing ta declare.”
“Oh, you have no goods?” the Nautolan asks, beginning to move up the ramp. Renn allows him as far as the cargo hold. The doors to engineering and the common area are both shut. The administrator looks around the room at the few crates and ficus trees.
“We’ve no saleable goods, just our belongings.”
The Nautolan pokes at the dirt in one of the pots, muttering to himself, and then spins rapidly, shooting off a question at Renn. “And you have no dianogas here? We cannot allow them to infest our spaceport.”
“No, no dianogas.”
“Then what are in these… mmmm… boxes!” He throws open the corner crate triumphantly, revealing several outfits.
“As I said, our belongings.”
The administrator turns away from Renn, addressing… no one at all. “The fool! Does he think he can get away with this? All goods are taxed in my spaceport!”
Kriff… pretentious by itself, I can handle, but daft? “Look, I can see I misjudged ya…” Renn offers conciliatorily. “If’n this is about tax, just write up a bill and the lass will pay it when she gets back. Otherwise, if’n this is just a show, we can pay whatever basic fee ya have and let others know what t’expect from ya here.”
The Nautolan swipes through his datapad, nodding to himself, not even looking at the screens, and assigns a value of a thousand credits for the unspecified goods in this “freighter”.
“What exactly d’ya want me ta tell other people about Skip 3?” Renn asks, incredulous. “A thousand credits, really? This is a scoutin’ ship, not a freighter.”
“Mmmm, very well, nine hundred credits will cover the taxes for this freighter.”
“Fine, but yer givin’ me a receipt.” It is the Rebellion’s money, after all, not his or Renci’s. And he does not like wasting time with this loon when he could be helping her deal with more important things on this seedy rock.
* * *
The maintenance level under the streets is a cluttered, slimy mess. Renci and Siero duck to avoid conduits and ducts as they splash through sewage. No one would look for astromechs down here, Renci thinks. At the cantina, she had been starting to get hungry for dinner, but no longer. Behind her, she hears Siero skid on the slime and then gasp in pain. She turns back and sees the teen trying to pull her right leg up. It has sunk down much further than where Renci had believed the floor to be. She helps Siero get free.
The Rodian takes another step and wobbles, throwing a hand out to a wall to steady herself. “Is this what the stim shots are for?”
Renci shakes her head. “No, I need to take a real look at that, but this is not a good place to conduct a medical examination. For now, we’ll just try to take it slow and careful.”
They continue to slog along, and when they turn the last corner, they find Renn waiting for them in the location Renci had given him over comms.
“D’ya want this now or later?”
Renci lets out an exasperated sigh and snatches the document from him. “I’ll take it now; we’ll talk about it later.”
“Everything go fine? Where’s yer escort?”
“They’re having a few drinks. And you? I gather there were fees. You handle the spaceport administrator all right?”
“He’s a bit daft. It’s hard ta know how far ya can push a person like that. And we still have ta leave, so… the fees.”
Renci nods and raps on the door at the end of the passage. A slot opens up at hip level, and they hear a string of binary. “We’re here for some charts,” she says. “I’m a friend of B10-4.” They hear more whirring, but it still sounds uncertain. “And… I’m a friend of Remi’s, too.” The latch releases with an audible click, and the door opens inward. They bend down and duck inside the cramped space, where they find half a dozen astromech droids of various makes and models, some siphoning energy off the grid, others polishing each other or using their probes to scrape off rust. Siero gawks at everything, while Renci negotiates for the information they need.
The only astromech with charts covering the Gaulus, Hunnovers, and Instrop sectors is the sassy R1-T4. She can tell that these organics are desperate and refuses to sell the charts outright, offering instead to plot the course for them, which will require that they take her with them.
“It’d like to compute the jump for myself,” Renci says. She is looking to build a secret Rebel base; she has not even let Renn see where exactly they were going.
“Well, that’s unfortunate for you since you don’t have the charts. Leaving now is convenient for me, but I can always outlive my debtors,” displays across Rita’s little screen.
“Fine,” Renci agrees. “I got Remi off this rock; I can get you off it, too.”
“You can record as much data as you want while we do the jump and make your own charts from that,” Rita offers, “but my charts are my own.”