Empire's Edge: Unexpected

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“You know how to fix a ship?” Stella asked, hand on her cocked hip. Dev stood behind her, arms folded and one brow raised, as though he were sizing up the bounty hunter. They made and interesting pair. She was small, dark, and firey. While he was tall and light, with an icy countenance that almost made distrustful of him.

“I’m a decent mechanic.” Gale shrugged, “Grew up fixing speeders. It was one of the courses I took in training” he stared back at the captain and first mate for a moment before sighing in exasperation. “Look, do you want my help or not?” A wide smile cracked across Stella’s face for the first time since Gale had met her.

“That’s perfect!” she squeaked. Behind her, Dev gave a low rumble in his chest, causing Stella to turn around. Standing on her tiptoes so she could whisper something in his ear. A smirk flashed across Dev’s face, and he nodded before taking his seat in the co-pilot’s chair. Stella crossed the room to where Gale stood, just inside the doorway, and handed him the bag of tools she had gathered before leading the way out of the ship.

“So. Any ideas if what could be the problem?” Gale asked

“Well, I’m pretty sure the electrical systems are fried, but I can fix that later.” Stella said, looking over her shoulder, “I think something has jammed the landing gear though, and that’s our first priority. Dev isn’t exactly handy, or really a great pilot. That’s why he’s got me. The only problem is, I’m not an amazing mechanic. I can fly a ship through most anything you throw at me, but ask me to fix the damn thing and I can only get so far.” She stopped and banged on the half ajar opening that housed the landing gear.

“Well, in that case-” Gale said grabbing the opening and swinging himself in. “Let me see what I can do.” he crawled inside and began to look around. “Well, I found one thing we’re going to need to fix. The power coupling that is connected to the landing gear is fused.” He started to hum as he crawled through the guts of the ship. “Can you pass me the laser cutter?” he asked poking his head back out of the opening. Stella passed him the required tool, a pensive look on her face.

She thought back to her earlier conversation with Dev. The more she thought about it the more it nagged at the back of her mind, and she began to gnaw on her bottom lip.

“Stella?” Gale said, trying to get her attention.

“Yeah?” she jumped, as if coming out of a trance, and glanced up at the head now peering out of the landing gear slats.

“Wrench 81, if you please.” Gale said.

Stella nodded, distractedly and picked up the wrench. She was just about to place it in his outstretched hand when she jerked it back and looked up at him, an almost annoyed look on her face, “What’s your angle?” she asked, obviously very tense, and somewhat confused.

“Currently, 180 degrees.” Gale said, confused.

“Don’t be a smart ass.” she snapped, “You know what I mean.”

“Actually, I don’t. My angle as far as what? Helping fix the ship?” Gale asked.

“Your angle,” Stella said exasperated, “as in why you’re being so nice. There’s no reason for you to help me, or Dev, unless you want something. So what do you want? What is your angle?”

“Didn’t we just have this discussion a few days ago?” he asked, rolling his eyes, “I treat people with respect, because it’s what we all want. If I help you one day maybe you can help me the next. You never know what the people around you can help you with. As far as what I want though,“Gale said sliding out of the opening and standing in front of Stella, a slight smile on his face. “I’d really like that wrench.” Stella made to hand it to him again, but pulled back a second time, pointing it at him instead.

“You don’t really expect me to believe that do you?” she laughed “Nobody really works like that. People do things for people because they want something in return. Nobody is kind just for the sake of carma. Dev treats me well because he needs a pilot, Brayden because he wants to keep a job, and any clients we deal with because they need the ship that we fly.” She paused and looked at him, hands on her hips, and breathing slightly heavy from talking so fast, “But you, I can’t figure you out. You spout all this respect crap, but you don’t need our ship. You’re a bounty hunter, so you’ve probably got plenty of contacts. You don’t need a job, and you don’t have anything you want transported. So what is it you really want?”

“What do I want?” Gale repeated. “More than anything? I want to race speeders. But that’s not in the cards. So right now, what I want is that wrench.” he held out a hand and beckoned with his fingers.

Stella rolled her eyes, but stood her ground “Not until you fess up.”

“What more can I say, Stella?” he groaned, rubbing the back of his neck in frustration, “I was raised with a belief that every single being deserves respect. The only person who can take that away from you, is yourself. Not a taskmaster, not a slaver. You are the only person who decides whether or not you deserve respect. I can’t change what people want, or why they do things, Stella.” he pointed to himself. “But I can control myself. How I treat people. I decide why I respect people. No one decides that for me. Not the empire, not Bortalli, Nobody. That’s my angle. Take it how you want, but, there it is.” Stella gave him a quizzical look, but held out the wrench, before sitting cross legged in the sand, while Gale climbed back into the guts of the ship, humming the same tune as before.

“So you race speeders?” She called through the crack, trying to break the tension.

“Yeah, I used to. Mostly on Bortalli, but I got sponsored for a race on Raxis once.” Gale called back.

“Oh?” Stella was intrigued, “Which one? I used to live on Raxis.”

“The Eye.” Gale answered. “I actually won, but life had a different direction to take me. I got to race against Galesar Orion’s racer though, so not a bad first and last race.” a loud bang came from inside. Sella knew she should make sure he was okay, but the words wouldn’t come out. “I’m ok.” Gale finally called, before continuing his story “He had stayed in front of me the whole time. He almost slammed me into the wall a few times. But about 400 yards from the finish I flew my speeder under his. I knew I had a 50-50 chance that he would either keep going full force, possibly sending us both to the ground, or pull up and let off his speed.” he paused, and jumped down again, wiping his hands on the rag Stella had brought out with them. “He let off the throttle just enough to give me the lead, but he couldn’t recover. Some people said it was crazy but so is slamming other racers into the wall.” Gale said

Stella stared at him, he had oil smeared on his face, and had taken off his armor so that he only wore his shirt sleeves. Standing under the ship, looking like this, she remembered the speeder pilot that had made her heart skip a beat over a year ago. She remembered the race he talked about, and could hear the roaring crowd as she sat in Galesar Orion’s private box. Watching the racers zoom around the track. It was the biggest race of the year, and Master Galesar had a lot of money placed on his own racer, a pilot by the name of Davies who he had taught himself. He was meaner than Galesar liked, but he flew well and that was all that mattered.

Stella was just about to congratulate her master on his winning, when the most unexpected thing happened. The racer behind Davies dived down, and rolled to the side, directly under Davies causing him to pull up in order to avoid crashing. Stella watched in aw as the rookie pilot went on to win the entire race, losing her master quite a bit of money, and sending Stella’s mind whirling. She had never seen something so crazy, or so amazing, in her life. Once the race had ended she had turned to her master and asked if she could meet that racer. “I’ll see what I can do little one.” he had said.

They had gone to the box of the racer’s sponsor that same day, an absolutely horrific Corri mafia boss, and asked if it would be possible to meet with the racer. “He is,” the Corri hissed, “unavailable. He’s left. I must say though, Mister Orion. Your little slave looks absolutely delicious.” Master Galesar had given the Corri a reproachful look, and lead Stella away, saying that they would try again another day. Sadly, however, that day never came. Galesar Orion died two days later from a massive heart attack, leaving Stella only two things, 5,000 credits and her slave papers, which he had signed over to her. Three days later, Stella had found employment on the Crimson Falcon, and put nearly every penny into savings.

Now, here she stood. In front of the racer she had wanted to meet all that time ago. Stella felt her stomach flutter as she stood there, open mouthed and staring, unable to take her eyes off of Gale.

“Anyway, the landing gear’s fixed.” he said, but Stella didn’t seem to be listening, “Stella?” Gale asked. “You ok?”

“Huh?” Stella started, her mind befuddled, “Yeah, I’m- I gotta- um- I think I hear Dev calling me so-” she turned, hitting her head on a low hanging bar “Coming Dev!” holding her head, she ran up the ramp and into the ship; where she found Dev in the lounge, talking to Brayden.

“Dev,” she said, still clutching her aching head, “can I see you on the bridge please?”

“I’m a little busy at the moment Stella.” Dev said.

“Dev,” her voice held a slightly more pleading note, “Now please?” Dev looked at her then at Brayden.

“If you’ll excuse me.” Dev said following Stella into the bridge. Just as the door closed, a very confused Gale came up the ramp, and into the lounge.

“Hey Brayden” Gale said grabbing a glass of water. “What’s up with Dev?”

Brayden shook his head a shrugged. “I dunno, you fix the ship though?”

“Yeah, we should at least be able to get to a spaceport.” Gale told him.

“Great. Well, you wanna play a game of cards?” Brayden asked, holding up a deck.

“Sure, but let me go rinse off first.” Gale said putting the glass down and heading to the lavatory. After cleaning himself off for the most part he walked back into the lounge. “Deal me in, Strider.”

The two spent the next hour or so playing cards, until Dev walked into the lounge, looking flustered, but relaxed. “What are we playing?” he asked, flopping down on the couch. Banging could be heard coming from the engine room, telling them that Stella had begun working on the electrical systems to get the ship up and running again.

“Poker,” Brayden said, without looking up, “You want in?” Dev nodded and sat down next to Gale, while Brayden dealt him a hand.

“So, what did you need Stella for, Dev?” Gale asked, looking at his hand.

“Nothing.” Dev said, raising an eyebrow and looking sideways at Gale, “She needed me for something. Why?”

“We were finishing up the landing gear and she said you called her back in.” Gale explained.

“Well, I didn’t.” Dev said, matter of factly, “She does weird stuff like that though. I wouldn’t think anything of it.”

“I’ll take your word for it.” Gale muttered, focusing on the game.

After about an hour, Stella came out of the engine room, wiping her hands on an oily rag. “Well, we should be good to go, at least until we can find a spaceport.” The men all muttered some form of ‘okay’ and Stella rolled her eyes, retreating to the bridge. A few minutes later they could hear the ship roaring to life, and felt it take off flying shakily to the nearest port.

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