I threw my cards down on the table. "I give up. Sabacc's just not my game." I pushed my meagre supply of credits over to Dran, whose pile was only slightly more substantial than mine. "Enjoy. Even though we know they'll eventually end up in Cubber's pocket."
Cubber chuckled as he eyed up his dwindling competition for the evening. "Just us men left now. I don't like taking credits from a lady."
"Oh, come on!" I scoffed. "You like taking creds from anyone: ladies, invalids and infants!" I rose from my chair, amused by the look of pride on the chief mechanic's face. "I'm going round to DownTime for a drink."
"Meeting anyone nice?" asked Dran, feigning innocence.
"My brother might be there." My brother, Verce Myslif, was an A-wing pilot in General Crespin's Blue Squadron, who were also stationed on Folor Base. Of course I was going to see Verce. If Wedge happened to be there, well that was just a bonus. I waved goodnight to the rest of the mechanics as I headed out of the tiny room that looked out onto the hangar, and in return they shouted both greetings and insults for me to pass onto my brother, and derisive warnings about the effects of too much alcohol.
I shivered as I walked along the corridor. The area round the hangar was constantly chilly due to heat escaping through the magcon field, but the temperature become more comfortable as I neared DownTime.
I was scrabbling around in the pockets of my flight suit, searching for my chrono, when I barged round a corner in the narrow corridor straight into someone's chest. In my peripheral vision I saw a red glow in the upper regions of the colleague of the chest I had walked into.
"Verce?" I asked, thinking that the glow was my brother's mechanical eye that he had earned in his previous mission, due to his bacta allergy.
I took a proper look at the two men, and blushed a fierce scarlet when I realised my mistake.
The taller of the two, the one with the mechanical eye embedded in a prosthetic shell covering half of his face, tilted my head up by crooking a finger underneath my chin. "The poor girl. You've concussed her with that chest of yours," he said to his companion with a wry grin.
The other man's silky emerald eyes were wide with mock terror. "Don't press charges," he pleaded. "My record couldn't cope with yet another beautiful woman taking me to court for harrassment!"
I smirked at the compliment skilfully woven into the banter, and smoothed down my mussed auburn hair as I apologised. "I'm sorry, I thought you were my brother. I didn't know there was anyone on the base with a headpiece matching Verce's."
The cyborg elbowed his friend in the ribs. "Did you hear that? Someone's stealing my sympathy routine. Now I only have my sparkling personality to attract the women," he sighed.
"You could always walk into them. It seems to work for me!" He offered me his hand. "Garik Loran. This is-"
"Ton Phanan: pilot, wit, and superior intellect."
I shook hands with both of them, giving my name, and I realised why those green eyes had seemed so familiar despite the creepy pale scar snaking past them. "The Face, huh? I always thought you were a far better actor than Tetran Cowall."
Phanan sighed again. "Obviously I need fame as well as a sparkling personality."
Loran's scar crinkled as he grinned. "You have good taste. Where are you headed?"
"DownTime," I replied. "I need a drink after osing so badly at sabacc."
" Courtesy dictates that we should accompany you, in case of any nasty side effects from Face's chest assault, but, alas, we must go and spend our evening in the simulators," said Phanan ruefully.
Loran checked his chrono. "We should get going. It was nice meeting you, Chavrin. We'll buy you a drink if we see you around in DownTime."
"You mean we'll argue over who gets to buy her a drink first."
I bade the two pilots goodnight and continued to DownTime, Loran's laughter echoing through the cut-stone corridors of the former mining colony. As I entered the cantina, a large chamber hewn from the lunar rock, I saw Verce sitting at a table near the right-hand wall. The feeble light supplied by the holoprojectors and neon drinks advertisements wasn't sufficient for me to identify my brother's companions until I neared the table.
He was sitting with Commander Antilles and General Solo. Perfect.
To be continued...
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