Little Pieces, Little Futures Author: Mechalich Timeframe: 22? BBY Characters: Suu Lawquane Genre: Drama Notes: this is my entry for the Minor Roulette challenge, featuring Suu Lawquane. This story contains spoilers for TCWs02e10 'The Deserter.' Summary: After barely surviving a Separatist attack, Suu Lawquance must dispose of the leftovers. Little Pieces, Little Futures Saleucami Sulorine sector Outer Rim Territories She piled the metal pieces into the truck by herself. Their forms were many, from tiny shards to whole humanoid frames marked by a single bolt-hole. The process was slow, and hard. It strained her body to haul the heavy machines, even with eopies to help. Cut wanted to help of course, always caring despite his injuries, but she'd ordered him to rest and recover. The children too, it had almost come to shouting before they'd been convinced to stay with their father. She loved them for their effort, but she would not have them handling the bodies of shattered droids. It wasn't right. There was no way to load the pod the droids had landed in, as distracting as it was to see lying in the fields. It was far too heavy for the battered speeder to carry or drag anyway. When Cut was healed they would gather the nearby families and smash it up for scrap. They'd say it landed empty. Suu was sure everyone would be happy to believe that. An escape pod was an escape pod, no one would ask too many questions, but the droids were different. Commando units, they would be recognized. Republic soldiers would come, asking questions, and then they'd take her husband away. She shook her head as she thought about it, loading up the last of the droids. No, she wouldn't let them. The droids had to disappear. Cut wanted to throw them into the pond, let them sink to the bottom and be forgotten. She understood his choice, his motives. It was the safest move, no one would ever come looking. Suu wouldn't do it. She couldn't do it. “Droids are money,” she'd said. “We need the money, for the children. I won't throw it away.” They'd argued, fiercely, all morning. Her ears burned, remembering, but she'd convinced him. She'd take the droids away today, and sell them. They'd put the money away, to save for Jek and Shaeeah's school fees, so that if they wanted, they wouldn't have to be farmers. Imagining her children dressed for school sent a warm glow flooding through her limbs. It was a good dream, and the least of what her family was owed by the Separatists now. But first she had to sell the droids to someone who wouldn't ask questions. The speeder truck was old, battered, and slow, especially when loaded, but the engine still ran clean. Though afternoon turned to evening on the way she eventually made it to town. Applying the term town to the little settlement would have been generous anywhere other than the Outer Rim. There were fewer than twenty buildings, only a dozen resident families. Whatever the size, the place held all the essentials: junkyard, scrapyard, general store, the towering storage bins of the grain merchant's cooperative, and a bar. Her cargo was securely bound under a tarp and packed with straw from the harvest, hidden away from casual observation and weak scanners. Suu left the truck in the grain merchant's lot, where the labor droids would keep eyes on it. Giving the tarp a final grim look, she turned and headed for the bar; quietly hoping. It was a small place, a long pole barn with great fans to purge the summer heat on each end. The drinks were kept cool by a deep cellar, though few of the farmers cared much for how the foul local brews tasted. They came to watch scratchy holos of sports broadcasts, leer at the waitresses, and above all, drown their cares in alcohol. Cut couldn't come to town much, his face might be recognized. Suu knew he didn't consider it a loss, and found that a blessing. A pack of battered landspeeders was parked in jumbled disarray around the back in the rough weeds. Suu flitted among them quickly, heart in her throat. So far, luck was with her, there were two she didn't recognize. She needed a stranger to buy her droids. Nervous in a way she'd never been in town before, Suu pushed in past the curtain. Inside, the air was filled with noise. Loud, heavy bass thumping filled the air, the favored musical choice of Lrank, an aging Weequay with a tendency to get drunk and pretend he could dance. Suu turned to the characteristic corner and sure enough, there he was, dreadlocks thrashing back and forth as he gyrated completely out of time to the beat. A colorful band of youths, Wroonian and Twi'lek youngsters from nearby farms, stood by and launched a barrage of catcalls at the oblivious drunkard. At the other end of the bar a band of older men screamed and cheered at the holo of a shockball match playing along the wall. Suu couldn't resist letting out a little whoop herself when she saw the score - The Pride of Ryloth was taking the Royal Alderaanians to the woodshed. She refused to be distracted, however, and quickly took a spot at the low, faded pre-fab bar, tapping her nails against the peeling anti-stain sealant. The sports fans, the Weequay, the youths, all were locals. So were the two families trying to enjoy a post-harvest dinner at booths near the door. Old friends both, Suu offered a quick wave. To her left the bar held old lady Assik, a bitter Twi'Lek spinster, and further down Zhe-Jrees, a young Gran widower who came all the time because he didn't like being alone. To her right was a pale Wroonian, a young man wearing a tall hat and finely pressed clothes. A square, hard-sided case rested up against the base of his stool, and his left pocket bulged widely, betraying the presence of a datapad with a projection display. Salesman, Suu snapped her right hand dismissively. He wouldn't serve as a buyer, not running on tightly metered corporate expenses. That left one pair. Suu saw them out of the corner of her eye, almost missing them at first, since they'd pulled table and chairs well into the shadows down past Lrank's impromptu dance session. One was human, female by the shape of the hips, but wrapped in brown cloth that hooded her scalp and covered her face up to the eyes. Next to her companion, she appeared all but invisible. Seated with his back to the wall, a long tail sliding out behind his chair, was a massive alien. Not especially tall, Suu guessed he was shorter than Cut, the creature must have weighed one hundred and fifty kilos, not counting the tail. He was hairless, stocky, and terrifically ugly. Hairless, with a rough skull, tiny pupils in the center of massive shaded sockets, and a mouth that tore across the face, with irregular teeth on both sides – as if someone had carved the rubbery flesh with a knife like a scare festival gourd. The arms edged in clawed nails, colored a shabby orange. Rolls of flesh covered the whole body, and each breath made this coating of fat jiggle. Despite the raw revulsion this image triggered upon her aesthetically attuned Twi'lek sensibilities, Suu did not discount the creature. Being with Cut she'd learned how dangerous beings moved, how they carried themselves. Beneath the fat, this creature had all that readiness, and she'd seen enough bar brawls to know that a man who could throw his weight properly was not to be discounted. The sharp red eyes caught her observation, and Suu blanched slightly when the alien met her gaze. She turned away, but not too quickly. She could not afford to offend the strange pair. They were her best chance for buyers. A moment later she heard the big alien get up, overturning the flimsy chair. It was audible even over everything else. Suu did not turn, but by the way the salesman to her right bent away slightly, she knew the alien was approaching her. She felt the breathing first, thick and heavy, blasted sharply through short nostrils in a fashion she'd never heard before. The ring of a credit chit onto the bar that followed was very familiar. “Barkeep,” the alien's voice was raw and guttural, slithering through the saliva pooled in its gaping maw. “A round of what this pretty Twi'lek wants.” The bartender, a Gran, shrugged. “It's your money, but she's married.” Suu offered the three-eyed master of the house a generous smile for this bit of gallantry. “Don't care, beauty deserves rewards,” the heavyset alien slurred. “Is my mag-na-ni-mity.” He said the last word very slowly, so everyone could here, and sounded very pleased to have avoided mangling the pronunciation. “You are most generous,” Suu tipped up the glass of sparkling wine to the alien when it arrived. “Ha!” the laugh that came from that mouth turned every head in the bar. It was the stuff of nightmares. Hideous dreams where things from the darkness came to eat little children. I will be strong, Suu told herself. For my children, for Jek and Shaeeah. “Gen-er-rous me?” the alien laughed again, raising up both hands. “A good joke, yes funny!” he spun about, taking in the rest of the bar. “Funny! Funny no?” Nervous peals of forced laughter broke out. Under the cover of this verbal terror, the alien slurred something low and quick, so only Suu could hear. Difficult to parse, she played it over and over again for a whole minute. “If you have business, meet partner outside.” As the laughter died away the alien ambled back over to his seat, falling silent again. The rest of the patrons quickly turned away, hoping to forget. Suu nursed the gifted drink carefully, glancing back as irregularly as she could manage. Minutes passed. Lrank got tired and slumped down into his chair. The shockball match ended, the Alderaanians just falling short in a furious late comeback. As the broadcast shifted to the news, the masked woman quietly slipped her seat and left. Forcing her breathing steady, Suu waited as long as she dared, downed the rest of her wine in a long pull, and strode out the door. The lady in brown was waiting, leaning up against the corner of the building. She motioned for Suu to join her with a quick hand gesture. Carefully, not willing to get too close, and making sure she could run back inside, Suu stepped over. The human, her face with piercing green eyes, made no comment on this caution. She waited until Suu was close, and then spoke in a low whisper. “You are a farmer, Twi'lek, but unlike the others you came to this watering hole with a purpose. When you looked at us, my partner saw you had found it.” “Who is your partner?” Suu cursed herself for asking, but the question burst out from her. “Nokra Nakra,” the woman never blinked. “But you meant what is he. A Swokes Swokes is your answer. Not many around here, but you farmers were right to be frightened, for their kind are formidable opponents.” “Are you soldiers?” Suu prayed it was not so. Soldiers were likely mercenaries for the Separatists. “For the right price, we might be,” the shrouded woman shrugged. “Is that what you seek?” “I'm looking to sell, not to buy,” Suu answered, trying to be evasive, wishing she'd been able to practice on someone other than farmers. “You do not mean crops, obviously,” the reply was immediate. “Are your wares here?” Suu said nothing, not willing to reveal the truth, but it did not work. “Over there then,” green eyes turned to grain merchant's. “I am not opposed to trade,” she whispered. “Show me.” There was no going back, Suu realized. Fear warred with hope inside her. Terror of this strange woman, but hope for the future, for her family. So she walked over, and, fearlessly as she could, ripped back the tarp. “Commando droids,” the voice from behind the mask breathed. There was something in the response that betrayed expectation, something Suu was able to catch. “You knew!” she accused. “You were looking for them!” The other woman stood her ground unflinching. “We tracked escape pod discharges from the battle above and triangulated the trajectories. The Force is with us, it seems,” she amended. “I expected B1s, these are worth ten times as much. How did you acquire them?” “The pod was damaged, it broke up on re-entry,” Cut had schooled her to use that explanation. It was believable, if only just. Watching the emerald orbs before her, Suu did not think the woman fooled. “New, each commando droid is worth almost twenty thousand on the Black Market,” the woman quickly listed figures. “In pieces, perhaps five. As found salvage I will give you a finder's fee of ten percent for each.” “Twenty-five,” Suu responded instantly. Haggling drove away her fear in a flash. “Twelve.” “Twenty.” “Fifteen, and not a credit more,” green eyes hardened and it was revealed as a final offer. “Done,” Suu agreed. “But only in cash.” “Of course,” the woman reached to her belt. It started as an innocent motion to bring for credits, but the hand came up with the unmistakable gleam of metal. Suu turned to run, but too late. The cold edge of the vibroshiv pressed up against her midriff. She stiffened, frozen in place by fear. “Why farmer? Why try to sell?” the woman hissed, her voice carrying menace and an underlying current of rage. “Why not dump them? You had to know this could happen. I could gut you here and now. Nokra would eat your body. No one would ever prove anything. Tell me, why should I pay for what I could simply take?” “My children,” Suu whispered, tears dropping from her eyes. She closed them, but she could not banish the though of never seeing them, holding them, again. “I wanted money for my children. So they could go to school, so they could do whatever they wanted, so that they never, ever have to worry that a failed harvest might mean they lose the land!” The world was silent. Suddenly, Suu felt something cold and metallic press into her right hand. Gloved fingers pushed it down, until the little pile of pieces had been placed there. A human hand, warm beneath fabric, grasped hers tightly. “Fifteen percent of five thousand is seven hundred and fifty. Twenty droids in the truck. Fifteen thousand in total.” “Why?” Suu could barely believe it. “Goods parents deserve rewards,” the masked woman said cryptically. “Is my mag-na-ni-mity.” She pushed the stunned Twi'lek away. “Go,” she hissed. “Stay at the bar until after midnight. Nokra and I will handle the transloading. And none of this ever happened.” “Yes, of course,” Suu cradled the credits close, wanting to look back but still afraid. “Thank you.” She whispered. Only silence answered her. In the morning Suu drove the empty truck home, credits tapped to her thighs. She felt joyous, but strangely sad, and could not shake a sense of wrong that she did not know the woman's name. Memories were already blurring, and there was nothing there but a pair of green eyes and a pudgy hideous alien. She wondered, as the sun rose in the distance, if they made Swokes Swokes toys. It seemed like it would be right to buy one for Jek and Shaeeah. It would do well, until she was ready to tell them the story.