Middle City Spaceport, Taris. Day 1
She slapped her large webbed hand on the durasteel counter to make the human snap back to reality and get to work. It was the same old reactions everywhere she went: people, humans and non-humans alike, just weren't used to seeing Mon Calamari outside a ship or other contained environment. Eevy Tolod reiterated her request more urgently.
"I need storage for my ship."
The man lazily typed on his terminal. "Large, medium size?"
The Barloz-class she'd salvaged from the Anoat sector was rather large for a medium freighter so she could go for the extra room if that wouldn’t place her on the surveillance grid. "Medium please."
"What's the cargo," the man yawned.
"No cargo I'm not here for business."
He eyed her suspiciously again and she refrained from rolling her eyes in exasperation, a habit she’d picked up from a mercenary she knew. Mon Calamari were not smugglers, they even loathed their kind and Eevy could use that to her advantage.
"There's a Quarren family party I'm invited to."
"Right." He finished typing commands on his machine then handed her a key card. "Hangar Beta-Three-Two on the second dock. That will be a five hundred credits deposit."
She reluctantly gave him a credit chip and hurried back to her landing pad with her blaster pistol in hand to check her ship for any intruders. The hatch had a securing lock and access code panel but she wasn’t taking another risk after losing her first ship in the past. Once she was sure to be alone in the craft she moved it to her assigned hangar, checking her chrono and took her T24 out in the open. She was just in time for the RV.
Taris was a busy place with lots of job opportunities. Eevy didn't complain about the over-population problem in the Middle City or the swoop gangs and thugs because at least she could appreciate the oceanic air near the coasts. She kept a window open to let the fresh sea breeze inside the airspeeder and maneuvered between imaginary lanes until she got to a sleazy place called the Brown Bolt themed on the generations of builders reconstructing the parts of Taris that were destroyed three millennia ago. Her eyes quickly sorted the regulars from the people she was looking for and that wasn't difficult since they were wearing full body armor.
Eevy walked in briskly turning her long cranium around to acknowledge her surroundings. Yes, she was a conspicuous fish-woman with a flight jacket and a blaster at her side. Coming up to her clients she was about to tell them that exact phrase before the one in green armor nodded to her.
"Right on time," he said making a point of knowing who she was.
Eevy sat at their booth still keeping a peripheral eye on the regulars staring at her now because she was in curious company. The couple wore almost identical outfits but the female one's was painted white and purple and they had their helmets placed on the tabletop. If they had weapons she couldn't see them - yet.
"Interesting uniform. It tells me two things: either you're running from something or you're chasing another. Both wouldn't surprise me."
"Aren't we all running from something?" Green philosophically said. "So I'm guessing Kal never showed you his true nature."
Kal Skirata was their common link. Eevy had worked a few times with him to salvage ships and vehicles around the Outer Rim, sometimes real estate rehabilitation was in her area of expertise provided the tools and resources. The man paid well and wasn't part of a mob, it was good for her business so she didn't mind working with Mandalorians.
"We never took the time to become that intimate if that's what you mean. You humans all look the same to me."
The man munched on warra nuts and stared idly towards the entrance. "Harsh, coming from a Mon Cal."
"I'm an old, bitter girl. But I know a good business opportunity when I see one. Your people seem to respect that as well so I'm willing to help with whatever you need during your stay."
He smiled and raised a bottle of ale to his lips. "And we'll gratefully reward you with the adequate currency."
The female who hadn't spoken yet impatiently drummed her fingers on the table. "We don't know for how long we'll be staying so that might be a problem for you."
"If better deals show up for me then you'll just get another guide," Eevy replied with her counseling voice. "It's a big city."
"Speaking of that, when can you show us to the lodging place?"
"Right now. I'm just waiting for your mate to finish eating his snack."
She playfully nudged her partner to the elbow and smiled to him suggestively.
"Let's go, mate."
It was rush hour when they hopped on the speeder and flew towards the coast where usually the richer inhabitants of the Middle City lived and worked. That was silly, Eevy thought. Because if she wanted security to protect her wealth she wouldn't buy an apartment that faced the winds and crashing waves of the oceans. But it was far enough from the Under City and the thieves of the low class districts. The one apartment Eevy found was in an old skyscraper building that got partially destroyed and its reconstruction came to a halt hundreds of years ago due to a budget cut. Now not even the elevators worked, thankfully for her legs they only needed to climb down three flights of stairs after landing on the roof of ruins.
"So this whole place is deserted?" said the man - she didn't feel like knowing his name yet - while chewing more warra nuts that he kept in a pocket.
"Only the higher floors as it's impossible to access them but there are a few families settled below. They keep to themselves."
They got to the third floor and Eevy grabbed a flashlight from her pack and lead the two visitors down a dark hallway. There was still a lot of dust and rubble left that nobody had cared enough to clean up.
"I only have one key card so don't lose it unless you get another door lock." Or if they blew it up. She hurriedly let them in and gave the key to the female and stood at the door while they inspected the room.
"Why do I get the feeling that you used to live here yourself," she inquired.
Eevy meddled with her thoughts for a moment. "It's a decent enough shelter for a few weeks' stay."
"Thank you," she nodded and extended her arm to shake hands but Eevy didn't join her. "I'm Runa and that's Bardan."
"Eevy," she eventually clasped hands with her, and the human didn't show reactions to her webbed, clawed, unsymmetrical fingers.
They heard the man's voice from somewhere inside the apartment. "Oya! We have a kitchen."
"I'll be on my way now. There's an airspeeder I have to recondition."
On her way back towards the spaceport she decided to take a longer route through the center plaza with its markets and entertainment for tourists. It was the midday rush but she didn't mind the slow skylanes and switched the local music broadcast on. As she bobbed her head to the beat she caught something shiny in the far right corner of her field of vision and she had to stop the T24 and turn around in her seat to look at it.
A humanoid figure in all white, brand new armor. He was joined by another in identical uniform and she watched them walk casually on the sidewalks, carrying black blaster rifles. Tarisian passerby's threw suspicious looks at them while walking away but the troopers seemed to ignore the locals. A series of honks and sirens pulled her out of her observation and she flew off looking more carefully to her sides and on the grounds below.
Eevy knew about the Empire alright, she just didn't expect them this far off from Coruscant so soon. And so if the Imperial Army was deployed on Taris what good would they bring to the already broken place and what could they collect besides maybe adding more taxes to the middle class workers? It was a question she'd have to ponder about later on. For now this was a factor she had to include in her security protocols. She took her airspeeder around the plaza and back to the docks.
At her not-so-surprised bafflement she was stopped at the entrance by an imperial soldier. That checkpoint wasn't there when she arrived, or maybe they didn't care for planetary arrivals, still she was a bit revolted.
"Good day, sir. May I see your identification please."
She cringed and pulled one of the cards from her jacket pocket, the one that claimed legal consultant as her profession.
"Oh, sorry ma'am. What is your destination?"
"I'm not going anywhere I just need to get something from my ship."
He paused to stare at something across the barrier. "Just one moment." He raised a black gloved hand at someone and hooked a finger to call them. "Apologies, ma'am, but we're going to have to escort you. A regular procedure."
She repressed a sigh and followed his instructions to park her airspeeder in a temporary vehicle lot. Discretely, taking her jacket off she disposed of her blaster pistol under the passenger's seat. When she got out she saw that the trooper had a colleague over to help.
"This is going to be a waste of time for you but, whatever." She headed on and they trailed her closely. She checked with her peripheral vision that none of them were aiming their blasters at her, or she would throw a fit. "Hangar Beta-Three-Two."
"Got it," the first one mechanically said.
It was a long walk on the tarmac but eventually they got to her freighter and she stopped before letting the hatch open.
"You can ask me now, what is a Mon Cal doing so far from home--"
"I think we're just about to find out," he interrupted.
Eevy blinked a few times with anxiety and pressed the key code in. It didn't matter if they saw her doing it since she could always reset it afterwards.
They followed her and the first trooper turned towards his comrade and lifted two fingers to his eyes and gestured in direction of the ship. Eevy knew they never realized that she could see them in her back and she concluded that the other trooper was a rookie.
They inspected the cargo hold, opened everything that could be opened and found nothing of interest. They didn't even mind the other T24 in full sight. The rookie peered inside but his instructor called him back. They proceeded to the cabins that were empty then her quarters and she controlled her behavior to make everything seem normal. On the other hand who could remain calm during a search?
Her heart jumped when the rookie picked up the flight journal from her desk.
"Leave that," said the other one.
"Not our job." He turned towards Eevy. "So apparently you sell legal counseling… What kind of lawyer needs a Barloz-class freighter for that?"
"This is not a freighter," she calmly replied. "It's my home."
He took a last look around and stopped a second longer at a Mon Calamari painting on her bedroom wall.
"My apologies then," he purred. He was a head well taller than her and she could smell his caf-scented breath threw his mask filters. "We're centering our investigation around large ships that may harbor fugitives."
"Oh, so that's what this is about."
"Not until you find who you're looking for."
She smiled to herself and she knew that was the reply he was expecting.
"Then I'm sure we can count on your cooperation in the future."
Eevy thought about something witty to say but sounding too relaxed was probably a mistake. She decided to nod in compliance and went to her closet to take spare clothing and got out in the passageway with a larger pack but didn't feel like explaining why.
"Where are you staying, ma'am?" the trooper asked while they escorted her back to her vehicle.
Eevy never really gave a second thought about how the Republic-to-Empire switch affected the soldiers and she assumed they just obeyed a different set of orders. They were clones, she knew that, but there was something drastically different about these two and she never remembered any clone troopers showing that much personality. This one in particular seemed concerned.
"At a hotel," she answered without lying. "May I ask a personal question, soldier?"
"I'll reply if I can."
"How old are you?"
There was a short silence. "Twenty-three, ma'am."
"Is that old for a human?"
She knew just enough to deduce that he was too young to be a first generation clone, and too old to come from a post-Empire batch, in terms of accelerated aging. That said, his investigating skills hinted to one possibility. He was ex-police.
"I've been around," he said thoughtfully.
They arrived at the parking lot where her airspeeder was left and she realized she'd forgotten to lock it.
"Thanks for your time," the sergeant said. "Have a nice stay."
"Alright, thank you."
She climbed in the speeder and watched him returning to his post at the checkpoint. Eevy felt mildly unnerved about the delay and tried to shoo her worries away for a moment. The sergeant was an ordinary man in a regulation armor that served as a uniform meant to induce terror to those whose conscience wasn't clean - but he was still a boy. She was used to braving authority since childhood, when her family had already planned her future as the daughter of renown artists; she joined the fleet and eventually deserted to become an outlaw. She was young then, but now she was reaching an age when risks weren't affordable. If she could maintain a contract for as long as she could then her retirement was just a few years ahead.
But now Taris was under Imperial control and what stood between her and her ship was an earnest military-converted detective agent ready to cuff her up at the first slip. She drove off the checkpoint and waved at him, more nervously than she intended and he waved back, tilting his head down to look at her through the window panes.