Livin' on the Edge
Out of the Frying Pan
It had been 10 years since Xenia Calabria woke up in the dirty holding cell of a smuggler’s ship on her way to Tatooine. But here she was, a prisoner in a holding cell on ship bound for…well, who knew?
She kept her distance from the giant pig sitting on the bench against the wall. She had nothing against Gamorreans, and this one seemed nice enough, but she knew the piggies tended to like it rough, or maybe it was just that their idea of not-rough tended to be at the wrong end of the spectrum.
Blondie, on the other hand, she kept close at hand. The girl was grinding her teeth, clenching and unclenching her fists, and just generally taking the whole incarceration thing with less than perfect grace. Xenia could empathize, even if she had a very different way of handling the stress.
She caught the Rodian boy staring at her, and decided to shift her hips just enough to give him a perfect view of her inner thigh. She could recognize the blush response and quickened heart rate of the males of a dozen different species, and with Radians is was the musky scent that grew stronger when they were aroused. She turned her head and made eye contact with his enormous orbs. She held his gaze for a few seconds. Yes, he could prove useful to her when the time came.
“Well, Doc,” she began, “I didn’t reckon on seeing you twice in as many weeks. And not under these circumstances.”
The medical droid — she thought of him as Doc or Laser, although she knew he had a longer alphanumeric designation — floated nearby, spinning so as to orient one of his many antennae in her direction.
“Indeed. The odds of our both being on this ship and in this cell at the same time are roughly—“
“Doc,” she interrupted, “never tell me the odds.” She laughed quietly.
“If it is the granularity of my information that you find disturbing, I am happy to offer data with less…specificity.”
“Let’s just say we’re a long way from the House of 1000 Sighs,” she replied.
“Actually,” the droid replied, “based on time we’ve spent in hyperspace already, I estimate that we are some 22 million…hmmm…ah…that is to say…we are…quite a long way from the pleasure house where you are employed as a highly profitable courtesan.”
“Aw, Doc. You say the nicest things.”
“And you,” he replied, “are remarkably lively for someone allegedly killed in an Illerium blast that took at the entire 14th floor of the House of 1000 Sighs.”
“Yeah, about that…”
Immediately, Xenia noticed three things about the Stormtroopers at the other end of the hall: (1) they had all spent the first seconds looking at each other, as if to confirm that is where they should be and what they should be doing; (2) they hadn’t bothered to take cover or turn sideways so as to present a slimmer target, which meant they were either badly trained or not especially worried about a rag-tag group of escaped prisoner with no armor and few weapons; and (3) two of them wore ill-fitting armor and two more were missing at least one of the straps that normally held the armor in place, again pointing either to a lack of training or insufficient time to prepare for their current assignment.
Poorly trained. Insufficiently prepared. Imperfectly coordinated. Great news all around, because if they weren't a well-oiled team of Stormtroopers acting as one, then they were just five men. And if there was one thing Xenia knew how to do, it was to get men (even five of them) to do what she wanted.
“Wait,” she called as she allowed herself to escape the delicious confines of her halter top. “You wouldn’t hurt a helpless girl, would you?”
Two of the men were clearly stunned by her gambit, and a third took off his helmet, got down on one knee, and reached out to her.
Well, she thought to herself as the piggie charged forward waving a nasty-looking vibro-axe, this is going about as well as could be hoped.
Where is the rest of the crew, she thought to herself as they ran toward the bridge. And who were those boys, playing at being Stormtroopers? And why would this Mandalorian break us out of the brig only to lead us to the command center of the ship, where he would immediately be outnumbered and outgunned by a group of criminals with no allegiance to him?
She wanted to ask Laser, even if it meant hearing the odds of their imminent demise to the thirteenth decimal place.
But before she could get his attention, they rounded a corner and found themselves on the expansive bridge of The Bastion.
A man, clearly the captain, stood with his back to them, hands clasped behind his back. The “power stance” she called it. Some actor, somewhere, back in the depths of time, had stood this way in a vid — his back to his enemies, full of casual disdain in order to demonstrate just who was in control — and ever since then, men had been trying it on for size in situations like these.
Things were about to get out of control. They would get out of control fast and she would be lucky to survive. OK. Time to seize the initiative…
Laying in a bunk on the stolen freighter, hurtling through hyperspace towards the frozen world of Hoth, Xenia considered her options. Doc knew who she was and that she was still alive, and she had to assume he was still a creature of the Hutts. Decent fellow, as droids went, but one didn’t make it as far as he had in that organization without a healthy sense of self-preservation. So, she had to assume that if it came to it, he would rat her out. And, in any event, a woman of her … stature … tended to stick out no matter where she went.
So much for pretending to be dead. Nope. Keeping her head down wasn’t really an option. What, then? The answer was simple, if not easy. Leverage. She needed bargaining power. She needed to be worth more alive than dead, if not to Durga then to someone as powerful or, perhaps, more so.
She had a ship. She had a crew. Blondie was great with her blasters and could obviously drive the boat like a pro. Piggie was the muscle. Doc…well, he was Doc, wasn’t he? Who knew just how many skills and … talents .. he might have up his jacks. And the kid. He was green (she laughed to herself at the pun) but might prove useful. Or he might not be around that long. No matter. Even the lowly pawn could take out a king under the right circumstances.
Yes. She had resources. She had a chance. She had … opportunity. And the freedom, however temporary, to pursue it.