Clidjitt carried the unconscious drug lord in his front arms. Shaak-Rom improvised a rugged splint out of the broken furniture and shreds of cloth to secure the otherwise dangling leg. They were on a time crunch before he woke up and was both abusive and in agony. “Let’s go.”
As far as they knew the safe house was empty, but they could have missed a guard, so even as they regressed quickly through the house Shaak-Rom and Andross kept their masers ready.
They caught up to Crimson, and Shaak-Rom darted a vindictive glance her way. Her dark eye make-up and sullen demeanor was unreadable. She had pulled the musty poncho back over her pale shoulders to protect her from the desert sun. Once back to the transport, on the heat-reflective pavement, they surveyed the damage.
The gate lay in twisted ruins, no dissimilar from the front end of the transport. “You took out double insurance?” Crimson asked.
“Yes,” Shaak-Rom answered curtly.
“Fine,” Crimson nodded, “Andross let’s get it moving!”
“Aye aye!” The MiPie hopped around to the driver’s side.
“Everyone else, get on.”
The crew had gathered around, a patchwork of races, dark sun goggles, and old clothes to shield them from the heat. On the ground were the five perimeter guards, piled carelessly together, unconscious. “What about these?” Cort asked, his whiskers twitching.
“Cuff ‘em, and chuck ‘em in the back. They’ll make a good appetizer for the main course.”
“You heard her,” Gator rumbled, “Let’s go.”
Gator, Jumondo, and Mog Mog each took a guard, and the remaining crew worked together to carry the rest around the back of the transport and load them onto the floor. Clidjitt piled Grula on top, and they all climbed in.
Back at the spaceport they hurried to more the criminals into the Boatman. Mercifully Grula remained unconscious. Shaak-Rom accompanied Clidjitt as they carried the drug lord up the loading ramp. The cool air of the Boatman’s interior greeted them like a splash of mountain steam. The sloshing environmental suit of the Duklagan medic greeted them at the top, as he came forward from his hiding place with a pleasant wave. “Oh hello! Welcome back! Is everyone all right?”
“No,” Shaak-Rom answered gruffly.
“Oh my!” the Duklagan’s gloved hand came to his reflective visor as though to cover his mouth.
“Broken arm and leg.”
The rest of the crew was crowding up the ramp carrying several other criminals.
“It must have been quite the struggle,” Braevel surmised examining the make-shift splints.
Shaak-Rom wasn’t in the mood for mincing words. “No. It happened after the fact. Crimson did it.”
“Is there a problem?” the cutting voice of the female cyborg sounded right behind him.
Shaak-Rom turned. “No ma’am.”
“It sounded like there was.” She was still cloaked, and sweat beads stood on her upper lip and nose from the blazing heat of their journey.
Shaak-Rom had faced the stoic Duka-masters of the Legacy Temple, brawlers from his Balankada training, and even the storm troopers of the Black Order. But insubordination among the tribes of Tulperion, questioning the tribal chief, meant one stood alone. Still, he would speak. He tempered his face to soldier neutral.
“The Pincho was unarmed and apprehended. You used unnecessary force.” He resisted the urge to call her sir or captain, which she hated, and finished only with a clenched jaw.
Crimson’s dark eyes searched his face. It took longer than he expected. And several explosive replies primed then fizzled beneath the surface of her grim visage. Her jaw finally worked sideways and she announced, “He ticked me off.”
There was potential for threat in her voice. Shaak-Rom’s eyebrows hardened, despite himself. His severed tendrils panged him. He formed his words slowly. “I will bleed, and even give my life for this crew, if we act in accordance with the Galactic Precinct’s mandates. But if we are criminals, I will leave this crew and take a different side.”
Crimson’s eyes flicked back and forth between his own red irises, gauging him. Then she saw his injury. She looked as though she was swallowing a large pill. “Noted.” The she nodded to his charred flesh. “Get that looked at.” Then she turned quickly and clanked through the cargo hold towards the cockpit.
Shaak-Rom turned back to Braevel. Clidjitt was still hovering there, holding the drug lord. Shaak-Rom couldn’t tell if Cort had purposefully waited for the encounter to end before hopping by and lifting the cargo ramp.
Braevel sputtered in his suit and finally chirped, “So! Ah! Would you like me to look at that?” He began rummaging through his med bag.
Suddenly weary, Shaak-Rom shuffled in his stone armor. “See to the other’s first; their wounds are worse.”
The Duklagan paused, an anti-sceptic spray poised in mid-air. “But—but your tendrils: they’re severed—” His gloved fingers literally twitched in indecision. “Ah, here! Take this.” He pressed the tool into the warrior’s hand. “It will numb the pain. I’ll… I’ll see to you presently. Once the prisoner is… cared for.”
He turned and sat on a crate near the door, propping his maser next to him. Braevel and Clidjitt moved away to the bunk compartments they reserved for field dressing wounds during a mission. Shaak-Rom winced as he tried to see his own injury, and wave of discomfort doused his stomach as he examined the burned, bloodied ends of his rightmost head-tendrils. He already could notice a lack of awareness on his right side. He couldn’t taste the air, or sense anything beyond his visual perception—nothing but burning, dull pain. It felt like a blind spot, or that someone had hooded his receptors on that side.
He sprayed the anti-sceptic over the cauterized ends of his tendrils, inhaling sharply at the cold; he could taste bitter medicinal flavor. At least he could feel that. He pried his eyes away for distraction and saw the space-gerbil was still there, watching him, his sun goggles shoved up over his furry, round ears.
Cort’s hands perched in from of his little chest, and his whiskers twitched. “You okay, Rom?”
Shaak-Rom leaned back against the bulkhead, his Gripon armor thunking dully against the metal. He nodded. He rapped his knuckles on the porous, rock chest-piece. “Glad to be alive.”
Cort nodded. His dark, rodent eyes watched him closely; then they examined his armor. “Cool suit.” Quietly he hopped away.
Shaak-Rom summoned another breath. Already the anti-sceptic was shrinking the pain at the end of his dreads. He clenched and unclenched his fist, thinking again of the Legacy Galaxy, and its pain. “I yet live, my sister.”