"No! The *other* way!"
Wedge Antilles winced as the crate slipped from the repulsorlift hauler. The driver was new and none too adept at keeping the hauler properly balanced. Booster was going to have a fit.
The driver, a local man only a little older than Wedge, turned deathly pale as the rest of the loading crew jeered at him. He was clearly all too familiar with Booster Terrik's temper and clearly had no wish to run afoul of the towering smuggler. As the other men laughed and described which body parts the kid would lose first, one of Booster's crew, a squat older man named Janos, examined the crate.
"Knock it off, guys." Janos straightened and shrugged. "No damage, not even a scrape. Booster doesn't need to know." As the kid slumped in relief, Janos turned to the other loaders.
"Think you can handle the rest without me standing over you? Good." He walked over to Wedge and plucked the datapad out of the young man's hand. "Let these ground-bound mynocks finish this, kid. Let's go have a drink."
Wedge nodded, trying not to grin, and handed the datapad to the nearest loader. He'd been happy to help Booster out by monitoring the cargo, but they'd been at it for two hours and it was boring as hell. Wedge hadn't realized how much stuff Booster's ship, the Pulsar Skate, could hold. His own ship, the Coronet, had less than half the hold space, so Wedge was used to finishing quickly.
Wedge was proud of his ship. He liked to stand in the docking bay doorway, admiring its clean lines and fresh paint. OK, so it had a few dings and laser scoring, and looked more like a lopsided landspeeder than a spaceworthy ship, but it flew like a dream. And it was his.
And he'd trade it in a heartbeat for one more day...
The boy shook his head and roughly scrubbed at his eyes, hoping that Janos hadn't seen. His parents had only been gone for five months, and the pain was still fresh. They'd been killed when the fueling station they ran caught fire. Some pirates had taken off without unhooking and their thrusters ignited the fuel. Wedge's parents managed to get everyone else off the station, then detached it from the larger station. They saved everyone but themselves.
Their son was still grieving for them when he learned that the pirates set the fire deliberately, to stall the pursuing Corellian Security Force. Wedge borrowed an old Z-95 Headhunter from Booster and went after them. He hadn't expected to survive-- one fighter against a fully armed ship, and its ruthless crew-- and the overwhelming sense of rightness, of *justice,* that he felt afterwards quickly faded to a dull aching question- "Why?"
His parent's insurance, combined with the reward money for stopping the pilots, bought the Coronet from a retired spacer. Wedge only had one term left of his upper-division schooling, so he chose to leave the agricultural school and try his hand at shipping. Even though Booster was a smuggler, he had some legitimate contacts, and he passed those on to Wedge as often as he could. In fact, Wedge was due to head out on his first deep-space run in three day. He was going all the way to Tanaab; his first trip out-of-system.
Most of Booster's smuggler friends knew the young man as well; they gave him the few legal jobs they had and took him to spacer's bars so he could meet other pilots. Wedge was grateful for the consideration, but wondered how often Booster threatened to bust some heads if they didn't include `the kid.'
As Janos' airspeeder darted through the Coronet City traffic, Wedge pulled his long dark hair into a ponytail and pondered where they were going this time. These streets were familiar, but they couldn't be headed to...
Treasureship Row. Wedge gulped and tried not to look as young as he felt. He'd been down here once before, by himself, and was thoroughly grateful that he'd gotten out alive. Far from being the romantic haven for pirates and smugglers that he'd imagined, it was dingy and graffiti-covered, and the pirates and smugglers were dangerous, spoiling for a fight.
"Listen, Wedge." Janos killed the engine and turned in his seat. "There are some rules you gotta follow to keep out of trouble. One, don't look at anybody. They might think you're challenging them. Two, don't stare at the ground, either. They'll think you're an easy mark. Three, don't talk to anyone that I haven't introduced you to. Four, if anyone messes with you, just holler for me. Got it?"
Wedge wanted to protest that he could take care of himself, but changed his mind as two Weequay thugs walked by.
//Good rules. Sound rules. Rules that will keep my head attached to my shoulders. I like these rules.//
The sign over the cantina read "Vula's," and a smaller sign in the dusty window proclaimed, "Aliens Welcome." No wonder it look more prosperous than the surrounding taverns. The Diktat had taken on some of the Empire's policies toward non-humans, segregating their housing, imposing a curfew. They couldn't even be in the spaceport without a human chaperone. So a place like Vula's was bound to attract their patronage.
The interior was dark and loud, and Wedge blinked, trying to get his bearings. Someone touched his arm and he turned and found himself face to chest with an alien female. He looked away, eyes widening as he realized that none of her six breasts were entirely covered.
Janos clapped a hand on the boy's shoulder and steered him further into the dark. "One more thing-- try not to act like such a kid."
"Sorry," Wedge mumbled, "but she... she had... and they were just... right out there!"
"Yeah, you'll see a lot of that here." The older man nodded as he approached a large table. Four beings already sat there; two humans and a Quarren, all male, and a human female. Wedge felt his breath catch. He knew the woman; well, knew *of* her, anyway. She'd been three years of ahead of him at school. Wedge spent many adolescent hours drooling over her with his friends... at least until her brother, who was Wedge's age, overheard and threatened to beat them all bloody.
One of the men, in his thirties with hair cut so close that his scalp showed through, greeted Janos with a smile and a nod, and waved him in a chair.
"Only ten minutes late, Jan. That's your best time ever."
"Had a loading accident, Tosh. Go on, Wedge." Janos nodded at the woman. "You can sit next to Laeta; she won't bite."
"Much," the Quarren added, and the woman smiled.
"Don't worry, kid. I won't leave any permanent marks." Wedge grinned back as he took the chair to her right. "No, Rel there might..."
The Quarren and extended his hand across the table, almost spilling a half-full glass of some unnamed beverage. "Salutations, young human. I am Rel Granil; navigator, pilot, sharpshooter-"
"Blowhard..." Janos added helpfully.
"-underappreciated genius," Rel finished with a glare in the old man's direction. "And you are...?"
"Wedge Antilles." He shook the proffered hand. "Glad to meet you."
"So this is the famous Antilles!" The youngest, a blonde man in his mid-twenties, exclaimed, and shook Wedge's hand as well. "Booster speaks highly of you. And you know that Booster doesn't praise lightly."
"Thank you, sir."
The man waved his hand dismissively. "None of that. Call me Zresk."
"So you all work for Booster?" Wedge asked.
"All but Laeta," Janos answered. "She's a traitor. She left us to fly for that new guy, Talon Karrde."
"Karrde pays better," Laeta shrugged and sipped her drink.
"Hard to pay worse," Tosh grinned, flagging down a Rodian waitress. "Another Screamer, darlin'."
Janos got the same, and Wedge was tempted, but its foul smell and murky color convinced him to order lum.
"He doesn't mean that, honey," Zresk stopped the waitress. "Lum's for softies, kid."
"I'm having lum," Laeta smirked, "and I dare you to say that again."
"Don't pay any attention to her, Wedge. She's a girl."
"I hadn't noticed," Wedge said dryly. "Lum, please."
The waitress nodded and dashed away before the men could stop her again.
He'd lied, of course, and by his third glass of lum he'd noticed a lot more about Laeta. Like how her blue eyes sparkled at him when he made a joke, how her dark hair just brushed her shoulders, how her breast rubbed his arm when she reached behind him to smack Janos. His heart stopped when her hand brushed his thigh by accident, and he wished desperately that he weren't so young, weren't such a *kid,* so maybe she'd be interested.
"... so I had to explain to CorSec why I was out on the fire escape with my pants around my ankles!" Tosh laughed and drained his glass.
"And her husband never found out?" Wedge asked, wide-eyed.
"Nope. But I tell you, I steer clear of married p- I mean, women, these days." The older man glanced at Laeta.
"Please. Don't clean up on my account." She looked around at the empty mugs glasses. "Want another, Wedge?"
"I'll get this round." Wedge dug out his credpouch, feeling foolishly light-headed. Laeta smiled again, warming him to his toes, and he gave her a silly, sloppy grin.
"All right, kid," Zresk sat back, crossing his arms as he watched a pair of shapely female Zabrak walk by. "We've all spilled our guts; it's your turn."
The boy choked on a mouthful of warm lum. "Huh?"
"What's your wildest story? The best ride you've ever had?"
"I, uh... well..." Wedge felt himself blushing and glanced sideways at Laeta. To his great relief, she was trying to flag down the waitress
and paying him no mind.
"Iveneverdoneit," he blurted, then changed the subject. "So, who's seen those new Lambda-class shuttles?"
Rel the Quarren stared at him. "You're a *virgin*?"
Laeta turned back toward him and Wedge fought the urge to slide down into his seat.
"Big tough spacer's never gotten laid?" Tosh grinned, then leered at Laeta. "You help him out with that."
"Get bent." She lifted the drink that the waitress placed in front of her.
"Well, hell, kid. We can't let you go on that deep-space shipment now."
Wedge looked at Janos, who sat very solemnly next to him. "Why not?"
"We can't turn a kid loose in space all by himself. You need a man to do those jumps."
The youth relaxed. "Bantha poodoo."
"No, it's true." Zresk shrugged helplessly. "We've got to get you a woman."
Wedge's eyes flicked toward Laeta; she wasn't even looking at him. //Sithspit. Now she thinks I'm even *more* of a child. I don't have a shot in Kessel with her.//
Janos leaned across Wedge, pointing to someone standing in the corner.
"How about her?"
The woman he indicated had close-cropped dark hair and a tattoo on her exposed left breast. She was attractive in a harsh sort of way.
Wedge looked at his companions, not sure if they were joking or not. They seemed serious, so he looked the woman over carefully and shook his head.
"No? Well... what about that one?" Janos pointed again. "Twi'leks are very sensual. And that one in particular is... mmm... luscious."
Laeta snorted. "You've been with her?"
"Sure. She's popular with spacers."
Wedge tried to keep the astonishment off his face as he tugged at Janos' sleeve. "She's a... she's really a...?"
Laeta leaned over him and touched Janos' arm. "Don't set the kid up with a prostitute, Jan."
"Why not?" the older man asked as Wedge bristled, annoyed at the earnest tone of her voice. He wasn't a child; he was certainly old enough to be with anyone he chose... and why should she care if he chose a pleasure servant?
"Vula runs a good club;" Janos was saying, "they've all had their shots."
"How do you know which are and which aren't?" Wedge broke in.
"See that armband?" Zresk nodded toward the Twi'lek, who was leaning against the bar looking bored.
"Vula's girls wear bright blue. It means they're safe."
"It means she owns them," Laeta corrected.
"Slavery's illegal on Corellia," Tosh said.
"So's smuggling, but we still do it."
Wedge hardly heard her, his eyes were locked on a woman standing near the Twi'lek. Her blonde hair fell over her shoulders and down her back, hindered not at all by the jeweled headband she wore. She nibbled at her ruby-red lip and swayed slightly to the music that filled the air. Wedge guessed that she wasn't much older than himself, yet
she seemed full of knowledge, of things seen and done that he could only imagine. She wore a bright blue armband.
Zresk nudged Janos with his elbow and stood. Wedge looked down quickly and blushed, trying to calm his body's reaction to the nameless woman. He wondered if he'd have the same reaction if she wasn't a prostitute, a you-know-what, as his dorm mother used to say. He and his friends had spent a lot of time talking about women like that; well, women in all their forms, really, and fervently wished that they could meet one. Wedge imagined them as insatiable nymphomaniacs, wandering the streets looking for men to do.
"Remember, Wedge," Janos was speaking to him again, "don't *ever* pick up one who's not wearing a band that you know. Vula's is blue, Gardulla the Hutt's is red-- she has some real nice girls. Ar'kham's is black-- he stocks some real exotic ones."
"Sith, Janos! You talk about them like they're not even people!" Laeta sounded outraged.
Rel tapped his finger on the table, grabbing everyone's attention. "I think it's your lucky day, kid."
Zresk was deep in conversation with the blonde, bargaining, it looked like. Wedge couldn't keep the goofy grin from his face. He took another mouthful of lum and tapped his feet on the floor, not even trying to quell his jumping stomach. The woman looked over at him and seemed to size him up, then nodded and turned back to Zresk.
"Go on, kid." Janos slapped him on the shoulder. "She's waiting."
Indeed, the blonde was poised halfway up the stairs to the private rooms. Wedge scrambled out of his chair and practically threw himself across the smoky room toward her. She smirked at him.
"Are you ready for me?"
Wedge gulped and stared at her. "Y-yes, ma'am."
The woman laughed, a surprisingly pleasant sound, and continued up the stairs. The boy followed eagerly, staring at the way her backside bounced under her tight dress. His crotch tightened uncomfortably, and he wished for some object to hold in front of himself, but no one seemed to notice. //What's the big deal, anyway? We both know why I'm following her, nothing to be ashamed of. Gods, she's hot...//
Her room was second on the left. The soft light from a glowlamp spilled over the room. A bed, neatly made, butted up against the wall. An old-fashioned straight-backed chair stood against the opposite wall. There was nothing else in the room; no dresser, no closet, nothing to indicate that someone lived here. With a jolt, Wedge realized that this wasn't a room to live in. This was a room to fuck in.
The woman leaned back against the door, watching him with a small smile. If she noticed his tented trousers, she gave no sign of it. She tilted her head, golden hair falling over one shoulder.
"So." She stepped toward him, hips swaying. "You got a name?"
"Umm. That's a good name." She stopped less than an inch away from him an brushed her lips against his jaw. "Such a strong name."
Wedge stiffened as she ran her hands down his chest, tugging his shirt out of his trousers. He drew a deep, shuddering breath when she began to undo the buttons, kissing his skin as it was exposed inch by inch.
"I think your friend lied to me," the woman said, her mouth poised over his right pectoral.
"He said you've never had a woman." Her voice became husky, tickling something deep in Wedge's stomach. "That can't be true."
"Handsome man like you? Surely you've had more than you can count." He jumped as her tongue traced the first indention of his abdominal muscles.
"No... it's true." He spared a glance at the woman to see if she would laugh at him. She crouched in front of him, slowly outlining the muscles of his stomach with her tongue. She rolled her eyes up to look at him and smirked.
"Well. We shall have to remedy that." Wedge shuddered and felt an involuntary moan fall from his lips. He closed his eyes, letting his head fall back as the woman slowly moved down his body, running her fingers through the line of baby-fine hair that disappeared into his trousers. For a moment he felt suspended, as though the planet
had fallen out from under him, and he wondered if her weren't dreaming after all.
Wedge opened his eyes and looked down at her. Where her hair parted, he could see a tiny strip of darkness where her roots had grown out. That made him feel better. It meant that she was real.
Her hands were slowly unbuckling his belt, and he felt a sudden, familiar tightening in his groin. //No, no, not yet.// Wedge sucked air and counted backwards quickly, then relaxed as the feeling lessened. The woman made a small, contented sound as she kissed the soft flesh of his belly, and Wedge smiled to himself, glad that she seemed to be enjoying things. He sort of hoped that she wouldn't have to, you know, fake it or anything.
She made another small noise and Wedge sighed, stroking her soft blonde hair. "What's your name?" he asked quietly.
"Umm?" She rubbed her face against the fabric of his trousers as her fingers swiftly unfastened the closure. His hips bucked as her cheek brushed his hardness, and he roughly clutched at her shoulders for balance.
"Your name." His voice was harsher than he'd meant it to be, and the woman seemed a little uncertain when she looked up at him.
"It's whatever you want it to be, Wedge," she said softly, turning her head to kiss his hand.
The boy laughed nervously, then cried out as she began to stroke him through his trousers. He wanted to embrace her, to kiss her, but he wasn't sure how to make her stand up. And he sort of wanted her to stay right where she was.
"No, really," he said, absurdly trying to carry on this conversation even as his knees buckled and his head spun. "What's your name? I want to know."
The woman didn't look up this time. "My name," she said sullenly, "is whatever you want it to be." She placed another placating kiss to his stomach as her hands deftly lifted him free and pushed his clothing to the ground.
Wedge gasped when her hand closed around his throbbing erection. The woman made a small, appreciative noise, but to Wedge it sounded a bit forced. He felt suddenly, unexpectedly sorry for her, and patted her head awkwardly as she rubbed her cheek against his dripping member.
He swallowed hard, heart pounding as he watched her soft pink tongue darted out to taste him. He wanted her and wanted to stop her, wanted to bear her down to the bed and wanted to cover her up. The confused boy started to push her away, but her crimson lips engulfed the head of his cock and he found his hands tangling in her hair, gripping hard and pulling her against him.
He heard a muffled sound and wondered if she were choking, then forgot to care as her mouth worked on him and he shuddered, spilling into her mouth before he could stop himself. Wedge yelped and grabbed the edge of the bed for support, his head thrown back, eyes closed, savoring this instant of pleasure and guilt and lust and shame.
Gasping for air, he looked down to see the woman wipe her hand across her mouth and grimace slightly. The boy blushed and bit his lips, gently stroking her cheek. "I'm sorry," he whispered. Sorry for what, he wasn't sure. For coming too soon, maybe, or for coming at all and making her take it, or just for being there... maybe all of the above. He bent and started to pull up his pants.
"No." The woman stopped him, running her hand up his inner thigh. "It's all right, honey; your friend paid for the whole hour. We've got lots more time." She stood and started to unzip her dress. "Just lie back and relax, darlin', I'll show you what it's all about."
But he was already scrambling to pull his clothes together. Red-faced, he backed away, mumbling apologies as he fumbled at the door controls and fled.
Continued in Part Two