Be careful what you gamble for!


Selona 11 10BBY, Mos Espa, Tatooine

Ellona was feeling pleased with herself. On this, her first flight aboard a starship, she'd earned a share of the profits before making planetfall. Oh, fine, planetfall was on this dump called ... what was it ... Tatooine, and the share was some grubby-looking crystals no-one else had wanted. But hey, not bad first time out, and things had got better after that.

Always a bit of a gambler, she'd got into a game of sabbac in a local bar, here in Mos Espa, and put the uninspiring crystals up as a stake. Rather to her surprise, they'd attracted a lot of attention. People had bet heavily, and just for once, the cards had all run her way.

Before she was quite sure what was happening, she found she had won every spacedog's dream - a ship of her own! Oh, sure, the Evangeline was a battered old YT-1300 scow customized into something unsafe by a blind Jawa, pretty much dumped in Mos Eisley because its' drives were shot and no crew would sign on to fly on it, but who cared? It was a ship; her ship!

So she was pretty jaunty that afternoon as she dropped into the Bzarnno-bar. Like most places on Tatooine, it was hot, sandy, extremely brown, and crammed with assorted people. The cafe and bar were upstairs, over an open-sided market area thronged with more people, so the noise was unbelieveable. The food was pretty odd, too, spicy and unfamilar, but that didn't bother her at all.

What did eventually bother her was the appearance of four hefty humans around her table. Armed, and looking quite inclined to use their weapons, they loomed unpleasantly around her table as she stopped eating and looked up.

"Give us the crystals, now!" was the opening piece of conversation, and things went downhill from there. Unconvinced by her declaration that she hadn't got them any more, they prodded her up and out of the bar.

Hustled downstairs, she was disarmed and bundled into a heavy speeder, which then snaked its' way through the grubby streets of Mos Espa to a nondescript building, and marched inside.

Seated behind a desk was a tall Trandoshan, flanked by two more rent-a-blaster thugs. When Ellona was shoved into a chair in front of him, he eyed her for a few minutes and then made some notes on a datapad. She relaxed a little. At least it wasn't the Hutts....

"Let's make this easy," he said at last. "Give me the crystals, and everything will be fine." Ellona shook her head. "I keep telling you people," she replied, "I don't have them any more. I gambled them away; they weren't all that special to look at after all."

The Trandoshan sat back. "Do you know who I am?" he said. "I am Gazdar." Ellona shrugged. "Never heard of you, sorry," she said casually. He seemed unpeturbed. "Probably not. You just dropped out of the sky after all. Well, flygirl, I'm willing to give you a little job. Get them back, get them to me, get to live." Ellona looked into his peculiar eyes and considered. "All right," she conceded. After all, there must be a thousand ways to get out of this.

Gazdar gestured, and his thugs escorted Ellona out of the building and into the street. "Hey, no lift home?" she asked, as the door slid shut.

A few minutes walking saw her beginning to reach parts of Espa that she recognized. Turning a corner, she came on a scene of interest; half-a-dozen burly humans confronting one single unarmed youth, around her own age by the look of him. One of the thugs menacing him looked familiar, and she realized that these were Gazdar's men. All had lethal weapons drawn, and it was clear the youth was going to be dead in a few seconds.

Ellona stepped up behind him, drew her blaster, set it to stun, and shot him down. The thugs looked up, startled, and she flashed them a dazzling smile. "I'll take him off your hands," she declared. After a moment's thought, the ruffians agreed to this, and made off, leaving her with the stunned man.

Back at her lodgings, she dumped the stunned youth onto her couch and got her breath back. Then she searched him. He had a few coins, some odds and ends, and a bag with some of the most peculiar spare parts she'd ever seen.

Unable to make sense of them, she bagged them back up and set to waking him up.

Twenty minutes later, he recovered, and almost before he was conscious he was searching frantically for something. Spotting his bag, he asked tensely if Ellona would give it back to him. She did so, and he swiftly checked the contents.

They introduced themselves, and she discovered he was called Rubicon, and had no particular agenda - other than that he wanted the Adegan crystals, which Dirnam the rhodian had stolen from him.... She sighed. This was getting worrying; apparently everyone wanted these blasted things except her. Comparing notes, it seemed that the most likely place to find the crystals was either with the rhodian or with Gazdar, who would probably track the unfortunate gambler down very quickly.

"Well, let's get some sleep, and we can start planning in the morning," suggested Rubicon, and he bedded down on the couch and was asleep in seconds.