They head back through the sewers, Renn leading the way, retracing the route he took directly here from the landing facility. The astromech sloshes along behind him, and Renci keeps a watch on Siero, who is limping in the rear. The young Rodian studies Rita intensely in the dim light, but sometimes cabling and piping along the walls and ceiling catch her attention.
Their splashing steps are interrupted by the chime of a wrist comm going off. Renn goes to silence it, but when he sees who is calling, he answers instead, hissing quietly into the unit, “Ma, wot’re ya doin’ callin’ me? Canna this wait til I’m back in New Meen?”
“Oh, is it a bad time, lad? I’d a question about yer blue-haired friend. D’ya know how ta reach the nice lass that visits JT sometimes?” Kaylu’s tinny voice echoes down the passage. Renci was not intending to eavesdrop on the conversation, was just idly noting that Renn’s accent grows even thicker when he talks with his mother, but when she hears mention of JT, she wades up to Renn to listen better to what this is about.
“Aye, I’m on a job wit’ herself now. Which is why—”
“Dere’s someone tryin’ ta find JT and—”
Renci grabs Renn’s arm and yanks the wrist comm up to her mouth. “Where’s my Muffin!? Did something happen to JT? More than has already happened?”
Kaylu explains the game of comms that led her to call Renn. An older woman, an acquaintance of Kaylu’s event planner Fayce, has been trying to reach JT. Fayce talked with Kaylu about locating JT for this Elaiza woman. Apparently, JT had brought Fayce and Elaiza back together after years of the two friends being separated, which is why Elaiza was asking Fayce for help… and Fayce knows that Kaylu keeps a finger on the pulse of New Meen, so she asked Kaylu for help… but none of the members of Desert Rose Solutions are reachable right now, so Kaylu figured the next best approach would be to ask Renn, since he has been tangled up with DRS things for a while… Anyway, Fayce said Elaiza seemed worried about JT.
Renci asks if there is a way to reach Elaiza, and Kaylu provides the comm information that she got from Fayce. Still holding Renn’s wrist, Renci thanks Kaylu and then asks, “Did you want to speak to Renn?”
“Well, if’n m’ lad isna busy…”
Renn feels something snaking around his leg in the sludge below and quickly snatches his arm back from Renci. He has just enough time to say, “Talk ta ya later, Ma!” and close the connection before he is yanked under the water.
Renci jumps back from the frothing spot, startled, and a pair of narrow tentacles reaches up out of the filth, grabbing at her, too. They whack against her, knocking her about and covering her in sludge, but as she is already moving backward, she slips out of their grasp. Renci draws her blaster but instead of shooting does a spinning jump kick at the tentacle stretching out at her. Electricity from the boot ripples across it, and it spasms away from her.
“What’s happening?!” Siero cries, wading past Rita to reach Renci and then reeling back in fright as an eyestalk appears. “What is that?”
Renci reassures Siero, “There are a lot of dangerous creatures in the galaxy, Siero. This one, we can handle.”
Siero swallows and pulls out the gaffi stick. The eyestalk is looking at Renci, not her, so she hauls the weapon back to take a swing. It clangs into something along the wall, and then she slams it down on the beast with a thwack. Siero sees that the back of the gaffi stick is now bent and hurried tells Renci, “Don’t worry! I’ll fix it!” Tentacles come reaching up at her, but she fends them off with the weapon.
Rita buzzes and whirrs, grumbling about all the problems organics cause. The tunnel is too dim for their weak eyes to even see what they are doing. She revs up all her auxiliary systems, overloading whatever she feels it is safe to, and sends electricity arcing over her surface. The small astromech casts a faint light but does not move any closer to the conflict to provide much help to her escorts.
Renci launches another spinning kick, but the tentacles dodge out of the way. This lines them up nicely for Siero, and Renci offers advice, “Get ‘em in a pincer! Gotta keep it flanked. Choke up on the hold!” Siero adjusts her grip and swings again, hitting just the creature this time, not the walls.
Ahead of them, Renn resurfaces, wiping slime from his eyes and staggering to his feet, then backing farther up the passage. He brings the Czerka up to his shoulder and aims it low in front of him, shooting down into the water. The loud gunshot reverberates through the sewers. Thick tentacles slither around his ankles and reach up out of the water for him. He keeps backing away, unloading his rifle at the creature.
Rita screams binary curses at all the noise. These organics are supposed to be stealthily getting her out of here! She trundles closer to the mess of piping along the wall and tries to yank one down to spray coolant at the nearby creature, but she misjudges the maze of connections. Multiple pipes fold down on top of her, and the extreme cold freezes them to her chassis. Other gasses hiss out into tunnel, collecting along the ceiling.
Renn’s next shot goes clear through a tentacle, hitting the pipes in the wall behind it, sending sparks flying. They ignite the gas above, the flash of light clearly illuminating the dianoga tentacles reaching up out of the murky water. Renn sees that the one in front of him has gone completely still. Pieces of detached limbs float around him, and he turns his attention to the situation back down the tunnel.
What is clearly a smaller dianoga takes a whack back at Siero, but the blow glances off her. Renci tells her to take a swing and then back up out of the way. Once Siero is clear, Renci shoots at the dianoga around her, severing a tentacle with her blast. The other tentacles surge at her, wrapping around Renci’s leg. She lets loose another shot from her blaster. The dianoga releases her and pulls all of its remaining tentacles and its eyestalk below the water line.
Renn sees the water rippling as the smaller dianoga swims away, swiftly moving well past where Rita is stuck in the piping. “It’s runnin’; just let it go,” he says. He keeps an eye on the sludge around them as Renci and Siero try to detach Rita.
After much struggling, Renci pulls out a pipe cutter and simply slices the section of metal tube stuck to Rita’s chassis away from the rest of the piping. She tries to spin it as an augmentation, possibly a battle lance. The astromech turns toward her menacingly, and Renci puts her hands up defensively, “Not against me! We’re helping you.”
To that end, she and Renn discuss how best to proceed. They are all filthy from the scuffle in the sewer, Renn in particular soaked head-to-toe, and he is worried they will attract too much notice in the streets. Renci insists the starport is filthy all over but concedes that they should try to avoid being seen, rather than just act like they belong. They agree to prioritize getting above ground before anything worse comes out of the sludge around them. Before long, they find a grating. Renci climbs up and helps Siero through. As Renn lifts Rita and Renci grabs her from the other side, they continue to bat around ideas. Renci considers maybe disabling the tractor beam and admits that was what she did last time she had to get away from Smuggler’s Run.
Renn pulls himself up through the opening and gets to his feet, running a hand through his hair and then shaking the slime off it. Renci kept her footing down there, but she imagines she does not look much better.
“I don’ really like the idea of havin’ ta break inta another facility and then sneak ta the bay,” Renn says. He hesitates a moment, then continues, “But, if necessary, Mira could create a distraction fer us; she’s capable of gettin’ outta the ship on her own, she is.”
“And how would she would know to do that?” Renci asks. “Does she answer the ship comms?”
“She knows when I need her ta do something,” Renn replies.
Renci lets that go for now. “We’ll try just sneaking to the ship,” she tells him, as they squeeze past Siero and Rita in the narrow space. “It’ll be simpler than messing with anything else.”
He looks over at her. “Yer hair’s come undone.”
In the dim light of the alley, Renci can see that the dunk he took in the sewer has rinsed out the blond dye. Facing him, she replies, “So’s yours.”
From the front of the alley, they hear, “Been a long time sssince I’ve ssseen you.”
As they whirl around, Renn gives Rita a quick shove, sending her behind a crate so that she remains hidden. Half a dozen meters away stands a Trandoshan in a rumpled business suit.
“Niss’k, this doesn’t have to be complicated,” Renci warns.
“Niss’k, I didn’t expect to run into you here.” As his precise words overlap hers, Renn shoots Renci a glance, surprised that she has history with one of Teemo’s logistics operators.
“You have sssomething that belongsss to me,” the Trandoshan says.
He must’ve worked fer Thakba before takin’ a position with Teemo, Renn realizes. If that is the case, then Renn needs to control this situation before it becomes a problem. He roughly grabs Renci’s arm. “What, this? There’s a lot of buyers in this market,” he says, keeping his diction clear. “She’s only yours if you have enough figures to make it worth my while.” Renci does not tense under his hold, and he is relieved that she is willing to let him handle this. She tries to pull away a little, playing along, and he gives her a shake in response.
“I never exssspected you to turn bounty hunter.”
“You take profit where you can find it. I’m sure you understand that.”
“I’ve heard there’sss some ISssB poking around Ssskip 52. Friendsss of yoursss?”
Renn snorts. “The ISB is no one’s friend. But that’s neither here nor there.” He nods over at Renci. “She’s worth twenty thousand to the right person. What about you? What are you offering?”
Siero cannot believe what she is hearing. Renci has pretty much told her that Renn is not a real Rebel like she is, that he is just helping her out. Maybe it was a trap all along! She grips her gaffi stick tightly and tries to quietly step up closer to Renn.
Keeping a firm grip on Renci, Renn spins around to Siero. “And you, settle down. We’ll deal with you later!” But facing her and away from Niss’k, he mouths, It’ll be fine.
Siero steps back, lowering her weapon.
Renn turns back to Niss’k. “Apprentices,” he sighs. “So, I believe you were about to offer to make me a rich man?”
The Trandoshan shakes his head. “That’sss definitely too much for me to outbid,” Niss’k replies, “but perhapsss I could get sssome of thossse creditsss moving my way. You mussst’ve come in on that Jumpmassster, and Regusss the Sssecond—”
“The spaceport administrator?”
“Yesss, that isss what he callsss himssself. He isss tricky to deal with, but work isss work. I could help you if you help me. I don’t know if you heard, Teemo kind of fell apart. I’m ssscraping to get by here.”
“What exactly is your position in this spaceport? Do you have Regus the Second’s ear? I have some goods, other than this prize,” he shakes Renci again, “and I don’t want him to know that I’m moving it offworld. Not at the tax rates he is charging.”
“I can get you to the ssspaccceport and out of here without him knowing. I jussst need to make a little good on thisss debt. Sssay, two-fifty, now, in creditsss. No one elssse will need to know anything about it.”
Renn nods and shoves Renci at Siero. “Hold her,” he orders the Rodian, and then he heads down the alley to join Niss’k at the entrance.
“The beard isss a good look on you,” the Trandoshan comments, once Renn reaches him. “I’m sssurprisssed military regulationsss allow it, Lieutenant.”
“Rank has its privileges,” Renn replies. “It’s Captain now. And while we’re on the topic of me…” He gives Niss’k five hundred credits. “No one needs to know Renn Herkin was here. Some of Teemo’s associates did not get along with me so well.”
“Sssure, no one will hear it from me. Ssstay sssafe out there.”