In the midst of the Clone Wars' final days that torched the galaxy, there were few places of refuge that citizens of the planets of war could escape from either a Republic or Separatist invasion, or worse, being in the middle of the crossfire of warfare between the two giants. Luckily, there was one moon in the Outer Rim that neither Republic nor Separatist were interested in, Nar Shaddaa. On Nar Shaddaa, there was no government to keep order among the inhabitants, it was under a power struggle between the Hutt Clans, the Pyke Syndicate, and the Black Sun. There were other criminal organizations that dwelled on Nar Shaddaa, but no one dared crossed this axis of crime. The moon had no actual resources of value of itself, considering whatever was on the planet was drained or mined centuries ago, but that wasn’t a concern for the criminal underworld since they received all of their supplies off planet. The reason that the criminal underworld was homed in on Nar Shaddaa was because of its history, Nar Shaddaa had been the “hot spot” for smuggling for thousands of years, it was even known as “the armpit of the galaxy” by most lifeforms in that system. That being said, it was also the best place to hide; while there were also decent locations in the galaxy to hide from the authorities such as level 1313 on Coruscant, this was the one location in the entire galaxy that the authorities from the Republic or Confederacy would not waste their time searching for someone, that’s because they believed that whoever was desperate enough to hide on a filth world such as Nar Shaddaa was already serving their sentence in some form. While Nar Shaddaa was policed by local law enforcement from the criminal underworld, they were as crooked as an officer could be, they were extremely easy to bribe and held no moral compass other than whatever would lead to their own personal benefit, the only person you could depend on was yourself.
“Aye Kha! Get up! You’re gonna be late to deliver the packages to Oke if you don’t leave soon!”, an old basalisk yelled up the stairs to the “good for nothing” zabrak living in his attic.
“Ok, Ok, I’m up Gramps!”, the young man yelled back to the old basalisk. Kha knew he was right, he needed to get going and fast, the Pikes did not tolerate failure. So Kha threw himself from his bed and then proceeded to groom himself as quickly as he could. Kha lived in the attic of Gramps’ apartment, normally an apartment wouldn’t have an attic, however, Gramps’ apartment was on the highest floor of the apartment complex so it had a few extra perks. The apartment was small, however, it was a simple one bedroom apartment with one bathroom and a small kitchen with an even smaller living room; that’s why Kha was living in the attic, there just simply wasn’t any room.
“Kha, I gotta leave to open up the diner now. I’d give you a ride to Oke’s but my tank is nearly on empty and I gotta hand out payroll today. Make sure to lock up when you leave!”, Gramps yelled to Kha as he was walking out the door. He was not looking forward to handing out payroll today, the diner was just barely making ends meet without having to pay his staff, luckily, however, he only had five employees, two of which were droids.
“I’ve got it, Gramps! And no worries about the ride, I’ll use my speeder.”, Kha said as he was buffing his horns as best as he could while also brushing his teeth and rushing to throw on some clothes, he wasn’t a master at multitasking though. There weren’t that many zabraks on Nar Shaddaa, mainly because most of them lived on Irodonia, the zabrak home world, and never really sought out to leave their home world. Kha however, left his home world before he could actually remember it since he was a mere toddler at the time.
Kha then rushed down the stair towards the kitchen counter where he noticed that Gramps had made him a lunch to take with him. That’s one of the things that Kha loved about Gramps, he was always made sure you were fed, even if he was running low on food, he’d sacrifice it to make sure his friends weren’t famished. Kha then grabbed his lunch sack and ran out the door, locked it, and then again ran to his speeder after making it down the stairway. His speeder definitely wasn’t high quality, he picked it up at a local auction that the Hutt Clan held where the original owner was murdered while sitting on it by local bounty hunters. That didn’t bother Kha though, all he cared about was whether or not it ran, and fortunately it did, barely. It was blue with a rustic shade and had modded twin blasters on the front tips, Kha thought that would make him look “tougher”, all it seemed to scare off were any chances of getting respect from professional smugglers and bounty hunters. “Come on! Please work!”, Kha chanted repeatedly as he kept kicking the ignition. If Kha was late, or worse, unable to deliver the packages, he knew the consequences all too well, the Pykes did not tolerate failures or excuses. Frantically, Kha kicked the ignition even harder, making him look like a madman. “Yes!”, Kha cheered as the speeder finally started, then without giving the engine anytime to warm up, Kha zoomed off to Oke’s hideout.
Oke lived across town on the outskirts of the city, this was considered to be “the ghetto” of Nar Shaddaa by the locals if such a place could exist. Kha finally made it, but unfortunately used up almost all of his speeder’s fuel, and there wasn’t anywhere in sight to fill up his tank. Kha pulled up his speeder to Oke’s hideout, he made sure to park it a shady spot so that it would be less likely to be damaged or stolen. “Oke! I’m here! It’s Kha, open up!”, Kha said as he was pounding on Oke’s front door. And I thought I lived in a dump, Kha thought to himself. Oke’s hideout was made up of several shipping pods that we soldered together to form a giant square, Oke thought that it was the perfect hideout since no one would suspect that someone would live in such a thing, fortunately, he was right. The pods also reeked of rotten food because there was dumpster right next to the pods and it looked as if the pods hadn’t been washed down in years when in reality all of the muck and grime had accumulated in only weeks. Oke just couldn’t waste that much water on a regular basis, plus, it only smelled on the outside. “Oke open up! I don’t have all day man!”, Kha yelled at the door, hoping to get a response. Then finally, Kha could he someone walking towards the door, very awkwardly.
“Alright, alright! Just hold your horses, I’m coming!”, Oke grunted from the inside of one of his pods. Kha could hear him hovelling around the inside of his hideout, the sounds of his stomps echoed to the outside. The stomping drove closer and closer to the door until the lock on the door shifted making a sharp grinding noise as the rusty lock mechanism maneuvered into the new position. The door was about ten feet long and four feet wide, and was made of cortosis, which made the door itself worth more than almost a full-size starship; luckily, the door was so disgustingly covered muck that the metal wasn’t even recognizable, plus the main population of Nar Shaddaa didn’t even know what cortosis looked like. Oke had to push the door open with great force due to its massive size and incredible weight. Finally managing to push the door open, Oke slightly stumbled and let out a large gasp of air, considering that the door weighed several hundred pounds, Kha couldn’t judge him.
“You alright buddy?”, Kha asked Oke, knowing already that he was fine, he simply wanted Oke to reassure his status. As the door opened all the way, Kha reached towards his backpack to bring out the packages, but then Oke grabbed Kha’s arm before he could reach into his pack.
“Not out here you idiot! The last thing I need to have are the gangs seeing this stuff, just follow me inside.”, Oke told Kha as the only things that were sticking outside the door were Oke’s antennapalps. Oke was a balosar that looked as if he was middle aged despite being only a few years older than Kha. Kha had no idea what were in the packages but apparently, whatever they were, they were worth a lot. They walked through one of the pods towards Oke’s “lab” in the back pod of his hideout. Kha walked especially slow for Oke since Oke had two very weak cybernetic leg implants. From his kneecaps, all the way down to his feet, Oke had replaced his legs with cybernetics; this was because his original legs and feet were burnt off in a raid by one of the local gangs, they pinned him down in an alleyway and poured rhydonium on them and lit them on fire, all because he didn’t pay their protection fee while he was living in that district.
“Hey Oke, how come you don’t just melt your door down and use that as a new pair of legs?”, Kha asked. He knew that Oke’s current legs were worn out and were starting to become defective and only had a matter of time until they completely shut down. His current legs were made of mainly scrap metal soldered together, Nar Shaddaa didn’t offer the greatest medical care and Oke also didn’t have the biggest wallet, he had to take whatever was available within his reach, he was just lucky to be alive at all.
“You do realize that door is made of Cortosis right?”, Oke said to Kha condescendingly. He dismissed that idea the moment the words left Kha’s mouth. “I mean if I wanted to paint a giant target on my back then why not? Let’s just smelt the door!”, Oke said once again in a condescending tone. “That door alone could buy me a ship! If I were to make a new pair of legs with them, what’s there to stop a gang from shooting a blaster between my eyes take my legs to smelt them down? Nothing, kid. You’ve still got a lot to learn about the criminal underworld.”, Oke said to Kha. He was trying to talk down to him, but Oke new a lot more of “common sense” on Nar Shaddaa. “It would also take a lot of heat to melt that door down, that’s something I don’t have. This metal is strong enough to resist lightsaber blades.” That peeked Kha’s curiosity.
“Wow, really? How come the Separatist army or the crime syndicates don’t use that as weapons against the Jedi?”, Kha asked. He was very curious to find out the reasoning behind no one using this metal as a weapon. If it was used against the Jedi, that seriously change the tide of the war against the Jedi and the Republic. What if you could make a droid out of cortosis, or a battle suit, or better yet, a lightsaber? Kha thought to himself, this metal almost seemed invincible.
“Well there are many reasons kid, for one, it’s almost impossible to find,” Oke told the young man. That instantly popped the inflating balloons of ideas that Kha was coming up within his mind. However, at the same time Kha suspected that was the reason for the metal not being used, otherwise, it just seemed too good to be true.
“Well, what happened to it? There’s got to be more out in the galaxy than that door, right?”, Kha asked the balosar. He wanted to be optimistic, if they could find more of that metal, they’d be as rich as Hutts.
“There wasn’t a lot of it to begin with kid. That stuff is harder to find than mandalorian iron. This stuff was being used all the way back in the Old Republic and was rare to find even then. I’m sure there’s more out there in the galaxy, but it could cost too much to find and mine, it’s just not that practical.”
“Ok, then where did you get that door?”
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”
“Yeah ok Oke, you’re real funny. You’re joking, right?”
“No.”, Oke said in a serious tone. He wasn’t kidding, that door wasn’t easy to find and he wasn’t about to reveal how he got it to his local courier.
“Ok then...”, Kha said quietly to Oke, if it was that much of a secret, it was probably for the best that he didn’t know the history behind that thing, it just wasn’t worth it. He knew Oke couldn’t beat him in a one-on-one match, but on Nar Shaddaa, it wasn’t that expensive to hire a gun to do the job for you, and Kha didn’t want to put anyone in danger, especially his landlord. As they walked along the pod, they finally made it to Oke’s “lab”. “Anyways, where should I put the packages?”, Kha asked while looking at Oke’s lab equipment. It was full of bunsen burners, beakers, and test tubes. It was like walking into a rainbow, there were all full of a variety of vibrant colors all throughout the lab, all sorts of chemicals and concoctions that Oke made. The colors were mesmerizing for Kha, then Oke had to pull him away for he was completely hypnotized.
“Hey kid look away!”, Oke said as he jerked Kha’s arm, forcing him to look away from the beakers and test tubes. Kha then fully gained his consciousness, unaware of what had even happened.
“What was that?”, Kha asked a bit frantically, I was very difficult for him to lose control of himself, especially to chemicals. Whatever these chemicals were, they made him breathe heavily and cough extensively, he also couldn’t feel his hands for a few seconds there. Whatever that stuff was, Kha wanted to have nothing to do with it ever again.
“I’m making death sticks, and what you’ve just brought me is the final ingredient. Now give it here!”, Oke demanded to the zabrak.
“Alright, jeez here, take it! What do you even plan doing with these dea--“, Kha cut himself off before finishing the question. He knew the answer was just going to be if I told you I’d have to kill you again, so he decided there was no point in asking any more questions.
“Let me guess, you were gonna ask what I planned on doing with these death sticks?”
“What gave it away?“, Kha said sarcastically. Of course Oke knew, Kha practically said the entire sentence before he cut himself off when he almost finished saying “death sticks”.
“Well, that I can tell you. I’m sending these bad boys to my cousin to sell for me. There’s not enough business here for me to make living selling them, so I send them to my cousin who lives on Coruscant. There’s a much bigger market there and he can sell twice the amount of death sticks in the Uscru Entertainment District at the local nightclubs than I ever could on all of Nar Shaddaa. He’s quite good at it, I practically own that market on Coruscant.“, Oke said in a bragging manner. He was indeed proud of his work, even if It was making illegal spices and then selling them to the naïve fools who didn’t know any better.
“Well if you’re making so much money and business is doing good, why do you still live in this dump?“, Kha asked him. Kha was curious as to why someone would want to stay in such a wretched “home” when he could live somewhere nicer, or least in an actual house. While Kha was curious to find that answer, he also recognized that he was probably on Nar Shaddaa for similar reasons as himself.
“One, this is not a dump, this is a fortified hideout that keeps me from getting a blaster shot in my back, we can’t all live in a Hutt palace with armored guards!” Oke was seriously insulted, he had put up with quite a bit of Kha’s soft-insults, but now his patience was starting to wear thin. “And two, I’m on this trash dump of a moon for the same reason you, no one will look for me on Nar Shaddaa. This is a place to get lost, not found; I can manufacture whatever I want and I won’t have to worry about the local law enforcement. The only concern that I have to be aware of is any competition and gangs that would want to steal from or hurt me. That’s not something I need to worry about though because I have A FORTIFIED HIDEOUT WITH A FREAKING FRONT DOOR MADE OF CORTOSIS. You understanding any of this kid?“, Oke said condescendingly to Kha. They both knew that Kha had overstayed his welcome at this point, and that it was probably time for the Zabrak to get back to work and return to the Pikes.
“Well, I think I better head on out, I need to report to the Pykes soon. If I’m not back to report in two hours…yeah let’s just say I don’t want to be late.“, Kha said in a very somber tone. He knew the consequences of what would happen if he failed the Pykes, he knew all too well. He’s seen those that failed their assignment or even failed to report in, they generally ended up either dead, severely burnt or scarred, or even worse, missing limbs. Just thought of one of those punishments made Kha shiver. Oke didn’t blame the zabrak either, out of all of the crime syndicates, the Pykes were the most unforgiving. Kha hurried to gather his things, but before he started to walk towards the door, Oke grabbed his arm firmly. That surprised Kha, and it definitely startled him.
“Listen kid, if you ever want to get in on this business, you know who to call.“, Oke said jokingly, he was just messing with Kha. He knew that Kha had no interest in this type of career, but Oke didn’t want to entirely scare off Kha. He knew that he was rough around the edges, and that his profession wasn’t ideal, and that was one of the many reasons why he didn’t have very many friends; but he seemed to take a liking the Kha, he was friendly and seemed to genuinely care about people, which was a rare trait to find in people on Nar Shaddaa.
“Oh, I think I’m good man.“, Kha chuckled. He picked up the vibes that Oke was giving off, he just wanted a friend. Sure, they were decent acquaintances, Kha was always dropping off supplies at Oke’s hideout, but they had never really hung out before; and to be honest, Kha didn’t have very many friends either, they weren’t easy to find in these times. “But if I know someone who looking to get in the market for death sticks, you’ll be the first to know Oke”, Kha said jokingly. And with that being said, Kha left the hideout, closed the door with Oke locking it behind him, got on his speeder and sped off to the Pikes’ base.
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