Howie sighed. Being stuck at gunpoint was nothing new to him, but this was just ridiculous. He guessed that these guys were out of work mercenaries, as anybody official would have just taken him into custody. If he made the wrong move, he was dead.
“You see,” the handler said, “We can’t have you blab our dirty little secrets. If word got out as to what we’ve been doing, it would look bad for the Republic.”
Quite frankly, Howie was beyond caring. Being this close to your own death made everything else seem a tad trivial.
“Galactic security, huh,” he grunted, “The more things change, the more they stay the same. The empire never really cared about its grunts either.”
“Don’t compare us to them!”
“Why not? I’ve killed enough of them to know that they’re not all that different.”
“We didn’t blow up entire planets.”
“No, but we’ve done stuff as bad as.”
“Enough talk. Kill him.”
Alright, Howie thought, This is it. I really am dead this time.
“Hey, what the hell’s going on up here!” a voice shouted. This was followed by a scream and the sound of shattering glass. It was a waitress. It wasn’t much, but it was all the distraction Howie needed. Drawing his blaster, he dived for the edge of the balcony. He fired a couple of shots blindly behind him as he went. Whether he hit anything or not was irrelevant. Survival was the key now. Luckily, he had only been one story up.
He landing, hearing a sickening crunching noise and rolled forward, landing badly on his belly. Quickly rolling onto his back, he fired three more shots towards the balcony, hoping that he didn’t hit the waitress. The mercs began firing as he scrambled to his feet. It was then he realised the pain in his right ankle. It was at least sprained, if not broken outright. He’d worry about that later. The adrenaline pumping through him was keeping him going. He turned and began running as best as his injured leg would allow. Shots rang out. He was guessing that these out of work mercenaries hadn’t had any target practice for quite some time. Wouldn’t surprise him if a couple of them were ex-Stormtroopers.
He rounded the corner. He guessed he had maybe ninety seconds before they caught up with him. No time to stop. He hadn’t quite worked out the plan yet. Going to the local authorities was completely out of the question. If he was captured or killed, then the New Republic government could easily deny he existed being officially dead. He assumed that his pursuers could come up with a convincing story as to why they were pursuing him. In places like this, bounty hunters could still make a living tracking dangerous criminals. Going back to the safehouse was definately out, as that would be the first place they’d look.
Get off world then. The spaceport would be busy too. He could blend into the crowd and stow away on a ship and get somewhere safe. All he had to do was get across the city.
“There he is!”
Two of the fleeter-footed mercs has rounded the corner. Howie dived for cover and fired off a shot. There couldn’t have been many shots left in his powerpack and he’d not been able to recharge his spares. He checked the charge indicator. Four shots. Not nearly enough. What now? Surrender wasn’t an option and the moment he left his cover, they’d cut him down. He fired off another shot to try and buy some time.
Then it dawned on him. His lightsabre. He hadn’t used it for so long, but always kept it charged. He tugged it from his belt and ignited the blade. The dark green glow of this elegant weapon felt comforting. It had been too long. Far too long.
He stepped out from behind the wall. The mercs fired. Howie’s blade deflected shots as he advanced. He noticed that he was moving far too quickly for someone with an injured ankle. Was it possible? Was the force his to command again? His first strike took one merc’s blaster’s barrel off. The second took his partner’s right arm off at the elbow.
No more messing about. It was time to move. Howie turned and began running as the rest of the mercs caught up with their comrades. He spotted a large crowd of people and extinguished his blade. Dissappearing into the throng, he realised he had made his way to the market. This was good. He could lose himself in here. He spotted a stall and hastily bought a long coat and a hat. Slipping the new garments on, he spotted his pursuers forcing their way through the crowd, waving blasters in the air. Oddly enough, few people actually heeded. Howie always found it strange the way people thought that if they ignored a problem that it would go away. Slipping through the crowd, he made his way to the spaceport.
Getting aboard a ship hadn’t been all that difficult. Due to mounds of recently established health and safety regulations that required checks on pieces of equipment that were rarely, if ever used (and even when they were, didn’t exactly perform life saving functions), the crews of most of the ships were quite distracted.
Howie had no idea where he was going. The plan was to go somewhere randomly and work out what to do from there. He slipped aboard a freighter carrying military supplies with ease. Luckily, he found a crate containing powerpacks compatible with his blaster, so he helped himself to a few of them. He hid himself in the darkest corner he could find until the crew had finished loading. When the ship began to take off, he curled himself up and went to sleep.
He was awoken several hours later from a dream about a womp rat that spoke with the voice of a Wookiee to a thud. He was thrown across the cargo bay and narrowly avoided giving himself a concussion. If Howie was any judge, that was what qualified as a bad landing. The bay doors opened and immediately, Howie heard cursing and arguing.
“…….Violation of section 6, article 17b of the Xenen Health and Safety Act!” One voice shouted, “If the Admiral gets word of this, you’ll lose your licence.”
“Not my problem, pen pusher,” a second, calmer voice replied, “You’re the one who didn’t clear the landing pad properly. My ship could have been destroyed.”
Howie smiled. This was typical of a situation he remembered from long ago. He’d seen plenty of arguments between pilots and air traffic controllers before. Usually, though, it was X-Wing jocks playing pranks. Flybys, scanner slicing and comm messages were the norm. He remembered seeing a pilot get so frustrated with the way one air traffic controller was treating his squadron, that he’d spiked his caff with laxatives.
Wait a second. Did he just say Xenen?
Of all the ships to stow away on, he had found the one that was going to Xenen. Could it be? Were they still here after all these years?
Slipping past the argument, he looked out at the scenery. He could clearly see the Shay Memorial. So it was true. He laughed. He knew this wasn’t luck or coincidence. He had long since stopped believing in those. The Force had guided him back here.
“And what the hell are you doing on my landing pad?!” the air traffic control officer shouted at him, “You’re presently in violation of….”
“Yeah, I know,” Howie smirked, “Health and Safety. Is this because I’m not wearing a hard hat?”
This riled the officer more. Clearly, his job as the base’s health and safety officer made him feel more important than he actually was. He cleared his throat. “No, it’s because you have no authority to be on the landing pad.”
“I see. And what if I were to tell you that I have more authority to be here than you do, Captain.”
“Don’t toy with me,” the officer snarled through grated teeth, “I know for a fact that you have no authority here. If you did, I’d know who you were. In fact, I see you as nothing more than a space bum with a penchant for stowing away on cargo freighters. Don’t think I didn’t see you disembark.”
“Look,” Howie said, “I don’t have time for this. Call up someone who’s not just a glorified desk jockey and tell them that Major Harm is not dead and is reporting in.”
“I see,” the officer sighed, and reached for his comlink. “Yeah, duty officer. Yeah, I’ve got some nut on the landing pad. Claims to be a Major Harm. Oh, I see.”
“They’re sending somebody down to talk to you. Even if you are who you say you are, then you’ll have to be verified.”
A few minutes later, two soldiers arrived to escort him to the duty officer.