It had been 10 years since we last spoke. The call from Meri’ta was as unexpected as the news she had to share. Our friend, Andrew Urahl, had been murdered.

According to Meri’ta, the police on Atmos didn’t have much to share, and aside from the bulletin she had seen on the evening news, she knew nothing. She had called Maitai and Kacella before me. It looks like the old gang was getting back together to pay our respects to one of the finest pilots we had ever served with.

We used to be members of The Republic Irregulars, an infantry squadron made up of different alien races to assist The Republic during the Clone Wars. We saw our fair share of combat and, given how the war ended, we were all happy to put that part of our life behind us. It’s probably the reason we hadn’t spoken with each other in so long.

The transport docked and I stepped foot onto the monstrously large spaceport of Port Noir. I saw Meri’ta instantly. Her yellow lekku and dower expression always managed to command your attention. I really wasn’t proud of how I had spent the last decade and hoped that we wouldn’t have time to catch up. I’m sure if she pressed the issue, I’d crumble and tell my life story. She had that effect on people.

Luckily, she didn’t seem interested in what we’d been up to. We had more pressing matters to address. We met up with Maitai and Kacella to go over what we knew so far – which was pretty much nothing. Andrew’s body had been found a few days ago in a particularly unsavory part of town known as The Vents. With nothing to go on, we decided it would be best to split up and cover as many bases as possible.

I volunteered to go to the The Vents and investigate the scene of the crime, Meri’ta and Maitai went to the Halls of Justice to see if they could access the police report, and Kacella headed to the Morgue, where Andrew’s body had been sent.


The driver of the speeder-taxi that picked me up was as friendly as you’d expect from someone who was trying to coax a tip out of his fare. His friendly demeanor quickly changed when we got to the slums and I asked him if he could stick around for a few minutes. He flipped into business mode and gouged me on the price. He seemed pretty surprised when I forked over the credits without thinking. I wasn’t interested in getting stranded here and it looked like the type of place that cabs steered clear of.

It was easy to see where Andrew had been found. There was an obvious stain on the concrete surrounded by shattered glass. The glass was concentrated around the area where the body was found, but a trail of it actually extended away, towards a row of run-down apartment buildings. None of the vagrants milling about seemed to care that I was here and I decided that, if anyone was willing to spill their guts for a few credits, it was this lot.

“Credits for anyone who can tell me what happened here!” I yelled. A blurry-eyed gaggle e of filthy bums staggered in my direction. “What are you selling?” one of them asked. Another one cut him off, “Let’s make a deal! I’ll take ten of your finest!” Before I could even respond, yet another crowded in, “Skooma? You’ve got skooma? I’ll take whatever you’ve got!”

I realized my mistake before the fourth bum could add his incoherent rambling to the proceedings and backed away from them all into the nearest building I could find. They all stared at me, crazed, silent, and disheartened that I had nothing to offer. One by one, they started to wander off back to their hovels.

I looked around and realized I was standing in a hallway, directly in front of a door to an apartment unit. I could still see the trail of glass outside that had led me here. Whoever’s behind this door is sure to be more coherent than the rabble outside. After a few seconds of knocking, the door cracked open. “Go away, I don’t have anything worth stealing”, the alien inside croaked at me. I suppose, when a masked Kel Dor with a power hammer strapped to his back knocks on your door in this town, it’s to steal something. I’m almost positive it’s impossible to sound friendly through the voice modulator in my mask, but I tried my best. “I just want to know what happened here a few nights ago, I’m not here to steal anything”.

I must have been convincing, because he cracked the door a bit and we spoke for a few minutes. All he could tell me was that he had heard a loud crash, followed by what sounded like failing grav-drives. It seemed like Andrew had fallen from something flying over the area. The broken glass would certainly account for a window or even a mid-air collision. I thanked him and headed back outside to see if my cab was still waiting.

Sure enough, he was gone. But from the looks of things, I wasn’t going to have any trouble getting back to town. Down the alley, a police speeder touched down and two of Atmos’ finest hopped out and started making their way towards me. I  tapped my comms earpiece, “I’m at the crime scene and a couple of cops just got here”.

 


The cops were a couple hundred feet away, but I could hear them yelling at me as they approached, “You can’t be out here buddy! This isn’t any of your business!” I wasn’t in any hurry to talk to them, so I made my way over to the edge of the alley to unhook my hammer and lean it against the wall. As soon as I reached to take it off my back though, both of the peace officers reached for their blasters.

They must have already been heading this way, because just then, I saw a taxi land behind them and Meri’ta and Maitai stepped out. Meri’ta noticed exactly what was happening and acted fast. She started yelling at the top of her lungs, “Hey!, Stop! That man just took my purse!” while pointing down an alley near her. Both of the cops turned to see who was making the commotion. After a split-second of contemplation, they decided that the well dressed Twi’lek was more important than the scruffy Kel Dor with a power hammer – go figure. One of them broke off and headed back towards her and Maitai. The other kept his hand on his blaster, glancing back and forth between my hammer and me.

Maitai passed both cops and walked up to me. I explained everything I’d discovered and told her I had a funny feeling about these cops. It seemed like they came here specifically to stop me from snooping around. She told me that they got roadblocked at the Hall of Justice too. No one there was able to share any information about this case. That clinched it for me. These were dirty cops and someone in the Halls had made Andrew’s murder disappear.

The cop that had walked back to talk with Meri’ta yelled for his partner to head over. I waited for him to turn before I reached to pick up my hammer. Maitai noticed what I was planning and put her hand on my chest, “no, not now, these guys don’t know anything, they’re just following orders”. I stopped for a moment and thought about it, she was probably right. I swung the hammer back into its sling and we both headed towards Meri’ta.

She was talking fast. Pointing down an alley and panicking about her missing purse – the two cops didn’t know what to do. It was already a part of town that they didn’t want to be in, but here was this well-spoken, well dressed Twi’lek demanding that they help her. It was, understandably, a situation they were not familiar with. I guess their training kicked in because they started to handle everything by the book. One of them pulled out a data-pad to start taking her information while the other disappeared down the alley to search for the would-be assailant.

The cop that stayed behind took all the fake information Meri’ta could throw at him before moving to the passenger side of his speeder to use a computer system mounted to the dash. We pulled her aside and told her that we should get out of here. There wasn’t anything else to see here and we certainly didn’t want things to escalate with these cops. She sidled over to the officer and started to tell him to forget about everything and to not worry about it. Rattling off a litany of reasons she had to leave, “It’s just money, I have plenty of that, and I really have someplace to be. The mugger is probably long gone and your time is far more valuable than this. It really is dangerous out here”, she went on and on. The cop looked exhausted and confused – she really did a number on him.  I guess it was better than getting hit by a power hammer though.

 


We hopped in the cab Maitai and Meri’ta came in and left just in time to see the second cop walk out of the alley he had gone running down. He stopped walking and watched us fly off, looking just as bewildered as his partner.

We headed to the morgue to meet up with Kacella. It was located in a part of town known as The Medical District – a name given to it by the locals due to how many drug dealers had set up shop there. We were starting to get a better idea of what kind of city this was. We were probably going to have to break some of the extremely flexible rules on this planet to get the answers we were looking for. We radio’d Kacella to see if she was having better luck than we were. No such luck though. Her voice crackled through my earpiece, “Andrew’s body is missing”.

 


TO BE CONTINUED

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