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Kal Vonnar

What Stays in the Cantina

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Kal Vonnar    2

Nar Shaddaa

Elona, 3629 BBY

 

Kal took another sip of his Juma Juice. It had been too long since he played Pazaak. The feel of the card deck was great. Oh, how he wished things hadn't been so drastic! Karter was no longer his employer and Kal wasn't returning to Alderaan soon enough, not with everyone on his case over there. He sighed, knowing he would have to face trial eventually.

 

He looked around the cantina. The lights were dim, except for above the tables. All sorts of aliens, creatures, and humans wandered to and fro about the cantina. Like him, they were eager to talk or play cards. He shuffled his deck, in hopes of finding someone who would play a game with him. Anyone!

 

"Ah!" Kal grunted, annoyed. "This is great! I lose employment and must now seek another ship!" He asked the bartender aloud, "Say, bartender, how about another drink?!"

 

"You've had one too many, Kal!" The bartender said, annoyed. "You don't deserve another drink!"

 

"I don't deserve--" Kal stood up, advancing towards the bar table in a comedic stance. "Hey, hey, hey! Have I steered you wrong? I ordered a nice drink and hopefully, I'll get to play a nice game of Pazaak. Is that really too much to ask?" He pressed his hand against his chest, showing remorse in the best possible way.

 

"You're still too drunk, Kal!" The bartender said, more annoyed. "Now, seeing as you're a paying customer, I'm going to have to ask you to keep quiet. Otherwise, I'll kick you out of my cantina, before you can say 'The Gizka are here!'"

 

Kal raised his hands, retreating to his table. "Alright! You got me, bartender. I'll be quiet. I'll be as still as a grophet on a really bad day!" He sat down, staring at his empty glass in shame. He really wanted another drink, but sadly that wasn't about to happen. He sighed, wondering who he could talk to now that would understand how he was feeling.

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Nar Shaddaa. The classiest of places. Stell hadn't been to the Smugglers' Moon in years. Not since before she'd joined the military, which was... hell, a long while ago. Right after she had gotten into a fight with her mother, an actual fight, with fists and blood and screaming, a fight that ended with her locked in the airlock of a freighter, sobbing, phlegm and blood all over her face and fear in her eyes. Her mother had left her there for three hours. Longest three hours of Stell's life. She had been almost certain her mother would space her, all the way until the door had come open and her mother had come over the intercom, telling her to take the shuttle and get the hell away. 

 

So she'd bounced around a bit. Not for long, but long enough. They'd been near Hutt Space when her mother had thrown her out, so Nar Shaddaa had been the obvious first stop. Stell had lived in the Corellian quarter for about a month, working as a diner waitress, before getting offworld. Hadn't been the best time of her life.

 

So why was she here now, sitting in a cantina in the anus of the galaxy, pouring great quantities of alcohol into her body? 

 

Just because. Pretty much it. After that fiasco at the party on Dantooine, when one of the Peacekeepers had assaulted a Jedi, and another Jedi had stepped out of line... yeah, when she had a couple days' leave for debauchery, it was best to do that offworld. No Jedi to morally police everyone, no Jun to disappoint, no way to really get busted down. And if some pile of poodoo got handsy, like that Peacekeeper at that party, she could just shoot him like he deserved. Wasn't any law around here aside from the Hutts. 

 

It was day two of her stay. It was cantina three of the night. It was drink five at the cantina. She'd lost the nice (if a bit dim) Twi'lek from earlier, as well as the charming Zeltron female who'd brought her out in the first place. Just had to make new friends, that was it. Of course, on the Smuggler's Moon, new friends were a dangerous proposition.  

 

"Another one." she said, slapping a palm on the bar. A human male slid up next to her, rakish smile on his ratlike face. "And one for me- and put whatever this little lady's drinking on my tab." he said, nasal voice assaulting her ears. 

 

Stell looked at him, quirking an eyebrow. "Little lady?"  She wasn't a lady. She was a damn pilot, and she'd vaped skraggers twenty times better than this borrat. And little"You callin' me short?"

 

Stell Chevric was not the tallest of women. She was not a little person, either. Wasn't quite a Twi'lek dancing girl. She didn't mind that. But her height? Maybe that hit a nerve. She drew herself up, hands curling into fists, half stepping off the stool. She might not be as tall as this rodent, but she sure as hell was stronger. And she had a blaster- her Merr-Sonn pilot's compact on her hip- while he didn't. All of these things appeared to impress themselves on the hapless ratface who had dared to attempt to buy her a drink. 

 

He turned and walked away, casually. 

 

She returned to her seat. The bartender had given her another mug of Gizer while she'd been occupied by Ratface. And now he was cutting some guy off. Loud guy, with a pazaak deck. Apparently he had had enough.

 

Stell picked up her mug, drained in one long pull, put it back down, and decided that she had had enough, as well. At least for this cantina. Maybe pazaak would be a good idea. Maybe pazaak with a drunk barve would be a lot easier and more profitable. She stood up on shaky legs and realized that there were two things wrong with that. Number one: she was also drunk. Number two: she actually barely knew how to play pazaak.

 

Whatever. Who really cared? 

 

Adjusting her tank top, Stell lurched her way over to the guy, heavy field boots thudding on the floor. "Hey, you wanna show me how to play pazaak?" she asked, a hand going up to scratch at the base of her ponytail. 

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Kal Vonnar    2

Kal looked up. He was surprised to see someone talking to him! A young woman, too! Well, what was the worst that could happen to him after Karter fired him? He smiled a toothy smile at the woman, keen on getting her attention.

 

He felt sure he would regret this in the morning, but why not?

 

"Sure. I'd love to help you out!" Kal said, passing around the cards. He asked, out of curiosity, "So, where are you heading after Nar Shaddaa? I need a ship. I wouldn't mind crashing in your ship for a time. What do you say, miss?"

 

This was ridiculous! What was he doing?! Him, talking to her? She might chase after him or worse, pull out a blaster and start shooting at him! If he was lucky, he wouldn't try flirting with her, let alone flattery... wait. What was he doing? He was a smuggler, for crying out loud! Didn't women love smugglers?

 

He smiled again, trying to get her attention. So far, he wasn't sure how well his plan worked, but hey! It was a start.

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He was too damn enthusiastic. How old was this kid? Too kriffin' young for Nar Shaddaa, at least. Or at least seemed like it, with his weirdly earnest attitude. "Help her out". Skraggin' idiot. But an earnest idiot was better than an earnest creep. "Back to Dantooine." she said, sliding into a seat at his table. It was nice not having to keep a proud military bearing at all times; she slouched luxuriously, enjoying it. "And unless you fancy squeezin' in an Aurek cockpit, you won't be "crashing" in there. Thing's built for one, though. Wouldn't recommend it. You might be a little fragger, but even so..."

 

Little. Kriff, now she was doing it. He was even her height- maybe even a slight bit taller. Below human male average, though. "You don't call me "miss", neither. You call me Stell, or Lieutenant, if that's the sort of thing you're into." But he didn't seem the type. Some guys, though...

 

Force, he had a weird smile on his face now. And he was looking at her... expectantly? Was that what it was?

 

Was he trying to hit on her? If so, he needed some practice. She ignored it, snatching the cards he'd dealt out and leaning back, putting her booted feet up on the table. They were... cards. Yeah. She didn't know really what to do with them- pazaak was, as far as she knew, a bit more complex than most games she knew how to play. Although, honestly, she'd probably been taught pazaak about eighteen times while intoxicated. Didn't remember a damn thing. Would probably be the same after this time. Who knew, though? Maybe something would stay. 

 

"So what do we do with these?"

Edited by Stell Chevric
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Kal Vonnar    2

Kal's brow furrowed. It wasn't the first time someone spoke harshly to him. He remembered Karter acting a bit pushy towards him, too. Was Kal sobering up a little? His instincts chimed in the second this young woman spoke to him like this. Didn't she know anything about manners?

 

"Wow!" Kal said, feeling his senses return. "I was only trying to be polite! I'm not even from Nar Shaddaa!"

 

He couldn't stand this. He hadn't been a smuggler that long and already he was getting beat up for it. Maybe he should head back to Alderaan and face his trial. That would be the responsible thing to do. Then he wouldn't have to concern himself anymore with ruffians and the like. Of course, what was he thinking? Going back would mean he would have to fess up to that arranged marriage or worse! How would the people of Alderaan react to seeing him like this?

 

He would have to come up with something and fast. Maybe boarding a ship wouldn't be so bad.

 

"Well, the object of the game is to reach 20 points. Don't go over and you should be fine. The minus sign subtracts the number of points you have in your deck. The plus sign adds points to your score. There are three sets per game and the higher score wins." Kal said, trying to be helpful. The last thing he wanted to do was offend anyone else... wow. He really was new to the smuggler's joint. Maybe this wasn't the best job for him after all.

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Stell shrugged, looking through her cards. "Politeness only gets you so far. Nobody's from Nar Shaddaa, either. You just end up here. It's like a bad diner." And that was like... thirty percent nonsense. People were from Nar Shaddaa. But they were either poor as shit, or doing pretty well in the Hutt service industry. Because nobody wanted to stay on Nar Shaddaa without significant monetary incentive. What did this kid even do? His protestations made it very clear that he certainly was not from Nar Shaddaa, and that he probably didn't spend too much time here, or at least not in the rougher parts of the place. Who knew, though? 

 

Probably better not to. People's stories on the Smuggler's Moon tended to be a bit weird. Kid might be a serial killer in hiding, or like... a sexual predator or some poodoo like that. Or just some naive young man who saw too many holodramas and decided that an outlaw's life would be a good time. Ultimately, it didn't really matter. None of her business, unless he got weird. But then again, this was Nar Shaddaa, so if he did, she was allowed to just shoot him. 

 

Well, kinda allowed. So long as he wasn't under anyone big's protection. Nar Shaddaa was weird. Hutts were odd. That was sorta what it boiled down to.

 

Stell realized she'd spaced out, staring into the middle distance past the kid's head. She had put a lot of alcohol into herself. Blinking rapidly, she refocused, glancing down to her cards again. "Okay, okay. So... twenty points. Negatives are negative. Positives are positive. The kriff you mean by a set?"

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Kal Vonnar    2

"That's not what I was taught." Kal said, knowing better than to pick a fight with this lady. Given the way she spoke, Kal had this feeling he was getting nowhere with her. Since when did politeness not mean anything? Of course, he had to remember where he was. Nar Shaddaa: the one place where everyone was either a brute, a smuggler, or just didn't know any better.

 

He sighed, finding it painful to even think about what anyone would do if he said the wrong thing again, acted like a jerk, or mouthed off. Was it fair that he had to act different? The truth was, and even he could admit it to himself, he thought that being a smuggler meant something. Meant something? What good did it get him into? He already betrayed his family, he couldn't help but wonder why Karter ditched him in the way he did. Now, he was screwed.

 

Life as a smuggler was a lot harder than it looked, and he jumped into it all too soon, thinking he knew what he was doing. Thinking the smuggler's life would be a grand dream! He had never been more wrong--

 

Oh, right! The game! He looked at Stell as if he had seen a ghost. Frankly, he was on the verge of seeing one himself. "Yes. Well, a set is like rounds. Play for three rounds and if you've win all three, you win the game!" He sat back, feeling sick to his stomach. So much for playing this game!

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Stell didn't say anything about his supposed teaching. In her opinion, teaching didn't matter too much without experience. Felt kinda hypocritical to think that, given her time on Prefsbelt and Anaxes, but she'd known plenty of pilots who'd been taught by the best and been vaped thirty seconds into their first dogfights. It happened. So she trusted her eyes and her ears and her own damn experience over anything someone else told her. 

 

Maybe that was why she didn't get on as well as she probably could with the Jedi. Their whole thing was kinda predicated on faith in the Force. She'd never been much for faith.

 

Set was a round. Three sets, you win. Sounded fair. Except the kid looked like he was gonna vomit. Not because he was drunk- at least, it didn't seem like that. Kriff, was he like... sad? What was going on there? Maybe he'd had something other than alcohol, as well. The pilot dropped her feet down off the table, scooting back instinctively to put a bit more space between them. "Stang, kid, you okay?" she asked, scrutinizing his face, trying to figure out what in the seven hells was going on. 

 

Had she hurt his feelings or something? Damn, he was in the wrong place if she had. Couldn't be fragile out here.

 

Suppose we all learn that at different times, though...

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Kal Vonnar    2

Kal looked up, wondering if his emotions had shown across his face. He must have looked silly, but then it didn't help everyone's expectations of him. A smuggler, yes, but at what cost? What did it take for him to realize this wasn't the right career choice? He couldn't have been the first person to back out of the smuggler's joint. But then, would anyone understand what he went through to get here?

 

Kal looked at Stell, keeping his composure for the first time. "Oh!" He huffed, frustrated. "All I wanted to do, to be, was to get away from Alderaan. Too many expectations, too much hassle to get everything right." He admitted, "Then I wished to become a smuggler and learned the hard way... or so I thought." He slumped in his chair. "This isn't the right job for me. Oh, what am I going to do?!" He clasped his hand against his forehead. He wouldn't normally talk like this, would he? He wondered that. Hopefully, he sobered up a little to remember what went on here.

 

He looked up, smiling. "I guess that's too much to ask, isn't it?"

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Fair enough. Alderaan seemed like it'd suck. But expectations and pressure to get things right? Sounded like exactly what Stell had signed up for in the military, even if the Peacekeepers were a little lax on discipline compared to the Republic Navy. Sounded like life in general, unless one was living in a basement expecting one's mother to handle all the real-life stuff. 

 

The poor kid. How old was he? Definitely, as she'd thought, too damn young for Nar Shaddaa. Well, he was up the wrong turbolift if he was asking her for advice. Stell wasn't necessarily very good at handling things like that. Her idea of getting away from a bad life situation was enlisting in the Republic Navy, spending several years in academies, and pretty much just giving up all independent choice aside from maybe a week at a time. 

 

Force. I'm not on Nar Shaddaa to get depressed...

 

Stell looked around for a server droid. There was one trundling right by them; she snapped her fingers at it. "Hey. Hey! Get me a Gizer ale. And a Corellian rum." Clearly, if she was thinking these things, she wasn't drunk enough. The droid wheedled in the affirmative and continued on its way. The pilot returned her attention to the young smuggler across from her, tapping the cards in her hand on the table. "I don't know, kid. Stang, not like it's hard to find stuff to do. Big kriffin' galaxy out there." Yeah, she was no good at advice stuff. Couldn't exactly lecture him about the dangers of smuggling, and how he ran a good chance of getting shot at by someone like her, plus had a damn sight better chance at getting shot at by angrier people with bigger, more illegal cannons. 

 

Well, she could probably help. But he didn't look too much like Peacekeeper material. Didn't pay well, after all. And if he had outstanding warrants and all, it'd be annoying to have to clear all that up. But they needed people. She could say something...

 

"I mean, Jedi Peacekeepers are always recruiting... if you're a smuggler, bet you can fly a starship, and we're short on pilots." Since when was she helpful? "But like... it don't pay well. And you gotta work with Jedi. There's a lot of poodoo out there, too. Sure if you want something else legit, you could find it. Or something else not so legit. But that's a bit dangerous." Look at her, the fighter pilot, cautioning someone against danger. Luckily, the droid came back with her drinks; she snatched up the rum and threw it back, grateful for the opportunity to burn all that poodoo out of her mind with alcohol. 

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Kal Vonnar    2

Kal looked up. He hadn't expected another drink. Maybe the bartender was right. Maybe he was too drunk and didn't need anymore. Still, he'd accept the offer. Anything to get him off this planet and away from the gangsters. To trust the Jedi was something new. He didn't think he'd be back to the royalty and what not.

 

Maybe smuggling for the Jedi Peacekeepers was a good idea...

 

"I'd like to take that job." Kal suggested, intrigued. "If it gets me off this backwater planet, then I've done my job. So yeah, I'll take you up on that offer." He said, smiling at her kindly. Yup, he was too drunk to think otherwise. Hopefully, he remembered this in the morning. If not, then he could find work elsewhere. "I suppose I am a smuggler then." He said, calmly.

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