NAR SHADDAA: NOIR #1 BLUSH RESPONSE Siblings Cazran and Cleonara Farr fought for years in the Mandalorian Wars. Mandalore the Ultimate sent his armies of Neo Crusaders across the Outer Rim, where they attacked and conquered worlds. The brother and sister warred side by side against the forces of the Galactic Republic, piloting Basilisk fighters in space and smoky skies. On war-torn grounds they gunned down or blew up enemies with a sporty lust. But Cazran lost his arm and an eye in the Battle of Dxun. And their formerly glorious campaign was losing to the Republic! The siblings fled the war. Years later on Nar Shaddaa, Cazran Farr and his wife Abigail Wudruf are private detectives, decoding mysteries left behind by the scum of the galaxy. . . - - - - - - - - - Special Thanks to Admiral Volshe and Ewok Poet - - - - - - - - - ONE A guard blew a blood bubble from his mouth as he grunted his last breath, lying on the carpet of the manor living room amid overturned chairs and dining table, wood splinters, and pieces of broken figurines. Light periodically crescendoed in rows across the walls, showing scorch marks. Three men held a meeting in an almost black corner. Clovis Gronwe, dressed in pajama pants and slippers, faced the other two. He had thick oily hair on his scalp, mutton-chops framing his face, and curly peach fuzz on his chest. A different guard leaned forward with his right arm hooked around the throat of the third man, Rasmus, who was on his knees. His left hand pressed a blaster pistol to the captured's temple. Rasmus had earned a few cuts, a broken nose, and busted lip during his fight with the dead guard. Right now he found himself clear of mind and pumped for action. Having a blaster to your head helped you feel alive. He held onto the buff arm at his throat and stared up at the crime lord. "He stole Irene from me." Clovis' voice wavered, same as his footing. Rasmus would prefer to be beaten than have to sit and watch this man break down to tears. "But he wants more? He wants me dead?" "You hired a detective to follow her." "He came up empty-handed." The crime lord tugged at his facial hair. "She visited her friends, her favorite cafe." He turned his back on them and started to pace the room, muttering about wanting to drink a hole into his gut. "Whatta load. He spotted your sweet wife with my employer." "Should I shoot him?" The guard tightened his hold on Rasmus' neck. The hitman chuckled while trying to pull the arm away from his throat. "He'll send more. May as well shoot your boss and be done with this mess." Clovis stopped and squinted out the window. "We could peel off his face, send it to that reptile. Scare him ****less." But he was only thinking aloud. The guard groaned and rotated his hips a few times. "Hurt to stand for long?" "You're gonna be hurting worse." "Right." Clovis looked at Rasmus. "I bet you're single. You're all a bunch of bachelors over there at his base, aren't you? Who'd dare work for him and keep a favorite frak buddy?" He stepped for the two men again. "Make up your friggin mind what you'll do to me." Rasmus let his arms sag. He could tell by the way his captor constantly shifted that he was in pain and losing patience. About time to act. "I'm tired of smelling this shaved wampa's BO." The guard head-butted the top of Rasmus' head. Rasmus grabbed the guard's arm and shoved off the floor with both feet, doing a front roll that sent the man over him and smashing into Clovis. Both of them fell back and landed by the dead body. The guard tried to climb to his feet, cursing. Clovis held his midsection and whimpered. Rasmus got up on all fours, feeling rather drunk from the hit on the head, and reached for a stray chair leg on the floor. The guard raised his blaster and aimed. The hitman threw the blunt instrument. PEW! SMACK! Rasmus had one good arm left. He ran for his temporarily stunned enemy, taking up a shard of glass. The guard was aiming for a second shot --- when Rasmus stabbed him in the throat. He had bent down and wrapped his fingers around the blaster when something hard came down on the back of his head. He fell on his injured shoulder. That was going to hurt later. Even now pain warped his vision. A blurry figure whose name he had forgotten brandished a club and yelled from a great distance away. Rasmus took shaky aim at the phantom and pulled the trigger. - - - Inside the captain quarters of a clunky light freighter orbiting Nar Shaddaa, a comm device atop a table beeped. A net-mesh cot swung lazily when its two occupants stirred. Cazran stretched, groaned, and sat up on an elbow. He brushed long, partly-dreadlocked blonde hair from his face. . . a face gruff 'n handsome, his sister had once told him, to the agreement of his wife. Abigail, the red-headed woman in her late twenties who lay on the captain's naked torso, bundled herself tighter in the comforter. "What?" Caz spoke into the comm device clutched in his cybernetic hand. In fact, his entire right arm was machine inside jointed armor plates. "Talk low, girl's trying to sleep." "Risto Lachlen here. How's you doing, old friend?" "I'd be doing well, if some sleazebag Toydarian had let me sleep. What's up?" Caz slid a hand under the comforter and ran his rough palm up and down his wife's side, appreciating her curves. Abigail kissed his chest, wrapped her smooth leg about both of his. "We gots a bit of a problem." There came a pause, filled by the thrum of Risto's hyperactive wings. "I assume by we you mean you, and whatever it is is important enough to contact me directly." Caz was long accustomed to these conversations in the mornings, used to people from his past dropping heavy news on him when he woke with a hang-over from a long night of frakking and drinking. "Our colleague 'n comrade Clovis is dead. Murdered. Some crap-shoveler killed our blood brotha." Caz stared at the ceiling for a few seconds, waiting for a sense of loss to sink in. To see if he could still feel for anyone in his former circle of bounty hunters. He felt... that hang-over. Clovis was dead, but so what? He entertained the Toydarian, though, maybe out of a sense of obligation or to see if further developments could trigger his sentimentality. "I'm sorry." "Please, Cazran, come to estate 'fore the Cartel contaminate the investigation. Cops in the Hutts' pockets will take their time, since the victim's human. We owe it to our old friend, 'eh?" Lachlen was an information broker, strongly associated with Gronwe's clan of thieves. The Toydarian had his finances and rep at risk til he solved this case. But if he found the killer, he'd be in for a promotion among criminals. Mess with Lachlen's business partners, you mess with him, supposedly. "This had better pay well." "Oh, it will! How's a hundred thousand credits sound?" Caz clicked off the comm, tossed it on the table, and continued staring at the ceiling. His wife's waking would his signal to rise as well. An hour later, Abi sat up and rubbed her eyes. "Where are the pills? Serious headache." The couple dragged arse out of the cot, downed pills, then did small talk while dressing, he in a tank-top and pants with many pouches, and her in a matching top albeit feminine and short shorts. Their boots were of the same combat design. She tied her hair into a ponytail. He tossed her her gloves with the fingers cut off, and her bandanna. She put those on and walked to him, pecking a sloppy kiss to his lips. "Ready, babe." He told her what he knew of Gronwe and the upcoming mission and they jetted their ship for the Smuggler's Moon.