The Missing Mechanic


Selona 17 10BBY, Rulhin's Repulsors, Mos Espa, Tatooine

The next day, Ellona turned up bright and early for her new job, leaving Rubicon to his own devices. The young would-be jedi settled in for a day's research into Rycar Rjerd and his organization interspersed with his force exercises.

On arriving at Rulhin's, she was immediately assigned to the first of the repair jobs that had come in. A Sartar-13 speeder, well-kept but old, generally OK to look at barring the fact that it was hovering peacefully upside down.

A short conversation with the owner revealed that he'd recently replaced the repulsorlifts himself. Everything seemed OK, but the speeder wouldn't right itself, and he couldn't work out why it was upside down. A few minutes' work was enough to discover that he'd connected the positive and negative power couplings up backwards. She reversed them, cleaned up the installation, re-engaged the power slowly and the vehicle revolved gracefully until it was the right way up.

The next job was already waiting. This was much simpler to look at; a stock XP-38 with copious smoke coming out of the rear decking. Confidently, Ellona delved inside, to discover all the insulation burned off the main power feeds from the energy cells to the lifters. Rather overconfidently, she started strapping them up, and had to leap clear as a huge spark leaped to the reel of tape from the power feeds, frying it completely. Slightly red-faced, she disconnected the power before finishing the job. She hoped Rulhin hadn't noticed, but no such luck; the canny boss was watching her all right.

Selona 18 10BBY, Rulhin's Repulsors, Mos Espa, Tatooine



The next day, her first job was an enclosed lander from a Bothan merchant ship, with rather unpleasant life-support problems. She was sure she'd worked out the problem - a malfunctioning control computer - and performed a brilliant job of replacing that component. Unfortunately she was wrong, and as she tested the system there was a rather expensive dusty explosion as the entire LS system burned itself out. Rulhin was not in the least impressed, and, still bellowing in rage, took over the job and ripped out the LS and replaced it. He calmed down a little at being able to find a second-hand system in his stock rather than having to pay hundreds for a new replacement, but was still glowering at Ellona as she started her last job. Thankfully, this was a straightforward one - a plain speeder, tilted at 45 degrees, needing its control system recalibrated. Thankfully, she jacked it into her datapad and let the machine do the work, sending the vehicle out fully operational after only five minutes.

There were no more customers left, and Rulhin started to shut up shop. The boss seemed even more out-of-sorts than his usual grumpy self, and as Ellona prepared to leave she found out why. Davin Krorie, the young mechanic who'd helped her on her first day, hadn't shown up for work since. "I don't pay people not to show up," rumbled Rulhin. He rummaged on his desk for a moment, then thrust a scrap of greasy paper into Ellona's hand. "Here's his address," he continued. "Stop by there on the way in tomorrow, and tell him if he's not with you when you arrive he can forget it; he's fired."

Selona 19 10BBY, Mynock Street, Mos Espa, Tatooine

The next morning, a bit groggy from the early start, Ellona trudged up the stairs to Davin Krorie's apartment. Why did he have to live on the third floor? she wondered. gumpily. Rubicon followed her, showing no signs of discomfort in the heat; she vaugely recalled him saying something about the force allowing him to control his body temperature. Seemed useful now. Gasping slightly, she stumbled up into the top hallway, and prepared to knock on the door.

Which wasn't there.

The area around the doorway into Davin's apartment was scattered with bits of thermoplast, and a couple of fragments still hung in the portal. Someone had smashed through this fairly recently. Ellona checked her blaster in its' holster, and gesturing Rubicon to stay put, soft-footed it through the short hallway beyond and peered around the corner.

Round the corner was the main living area of what was immediately recognizable as a bachelor gear-head's home. None too clean, bits and pieces of electromechanical equipment were scattered everywhere, as well as a hundred and one half-built gadgets. The place was probably a mess normally, but at the moment it looked ransacked. Or more likely, damaged in some sort of fight or struggle. Two arched windows provided light from one end, and a curtained arch presumably led to a bedroom. A large workbench was built along one wall, and a humaniform figure rested at one end.

The four arms were enough to mark it as a droid, even before one noticed that it was welded to the bench at the level of the solar plexus. After looking over it for a moment until she was sure it didn't have any weapons built in or to hand, she stepped into sight and walked across the apartment towards it.

Rubicon and Cuesticks - click it for larger image!

At the sound of her approach, the droid looked up and started. "Oh!" it said in a surprised and wary tone, " Who are you? What can I do for you?" Ellona's inital response was a little surly, coloured by her early morning. "We're looking for Krorie; do you know where he is?" The droid appeared troubled by this approach, and didn't want to answer. Ellona changed tack, and explained carefully that she was one of Davin's co-workers at Rulhin's and had come to see why he'd not come to work, as the boss was ready to go completely banthashit on him if he didn't show up. Gradually the droid realized that they were on the level.

"Pick up a chair, and sit down," it said in the end. "My designation is Q6 but Dav calls me Cuesticks." As Ellona and Rubicon sat down, Cuesticks began to explain what had happened.

Borka the Hutt

"The day before yesterday, four men came here. Humans, scruffy, but they claimed to work for Borka. Said my master was an escaped slave, that his implant had broken down. What rubbish! He argued and resisted, but Hutt law allows any licensed slave trader to detain and examine any suspected runaway. They beat him up and dragged him away. I know he's not a slave, mistress. If you're his friend you must know that too; will you try and find him and rescue him?"

Rubicon, who'd been on Tatooine longer than Ellona, leaned forward and filled her in on the background to this. Slavery was, of course, legal in the Empire, under Imperial Decree A-SL-4557.607.232, and especially for nonhumans. Here on Tatooine, the Hutts had added a new twist; 'respossession'. Any licensed slave trader could detain and check suspected escaped slaves, and ... somehow ... whenever they checked for a failed implant, surprisingly they would find one. Another slave was sold; another Hutt got a little richer. Borka the Hutt was just such a licensed trader.

Ellona sighed. Amongst the little she knew about Tatooine was the firm advice she'd had from her ex-captain; don't mess with the Hutts. But she could feel Rubicon's tension as he yearned to take up this quest to aid the wronged, and she couldn't forget Dav's good natured help that first day.

"We have other commitments," she warned, "but if we can manage it, we will try and find Dav." Cuesticks was delighted. "Thank you, thank you mistress," he said. Reaching above him he picked up a datapad and activated it. "I got a good look at the thugs," he said. "Here they are!" With a click, the datapad threw up a holographic image of the four down-at-heel humans menacing Dav Krorie. "And here's a better picture of my master." A portrait of Dav appeared. Deftly, Q6 transferred the data to Elonna's datapad.

Taking their leave of Q6, the pair seperated. Rubicon went off to buy himself a cheap commlink, so they could keep in touch. Ellona went on to work, not relishing telling Rulhin what she'd learned.

Selona 19 10BBY, Rulhin's Repulsors, Mos Espa, Tatooine

As she rather expected, Rulhin blew his top again when she didn't appear with Dav in tow. After she'd explained, it was clear that he didn't believe a word. "You're on a day rate," he said, "so if you want to have a day off - unpaid - and go and look for him that's up to you. I think you'll find he comes home when he sobers up; when he does you can tell him he's fired. Unless he does make it into work tomorrow."

Ellona hurried back outside and called Rubicon on his new commlink.

Selona 19 10BBY, Syler's Cafe, Mos Espa, Tatooine

Sitting at a corner table, with a public datanet terminal between them, the pair considered what they needed to know. Rubicon, who'd been doing some thinking, had remembered that Borka the Hutt was said to have a luxurious palace built in underground caves, ten miles or so outside Mos Espa. Their hearts sank; such a place would be a death-trap. Ellona turned to the data terminal.

What is your enquiry citizen? it responded in stilted Basic. Ellona lowered her voice. "What can you tell me about Borka the Hutt?" she asked quietly. The machine purred for a little and then produced a list of data items. "I have forty-seven references to Borka the Hutt; address details, Hutt clan afiliations, charitable contributions, registered premises...." Ellona stopped it. "Where would he carry out slave testing?" she asked. With a slightly miffed beep, the unit scrolled back up its' list to the Registered Premises entry, and displayed three addresses of Borka's slave markets; one in Bestine, one in Mos Eisley - and one on the east side of Mos Espa. "All these are licensed implant test stations," it said primly.

Selona 19 10BBY, Borka's Slave Market, Mos Espa, Tatooine

From the outside, the market was fairly daunting. A square, blocky building, it had a high arched gate leading in to what looked like a courtyard of some sort and guarded by two tough-looking humans with blasters. Attached to this building was an enclosure surrounded by a 20' wall and with security towers at the far corners. More guards were visible patrolling these. Local talk had provided the information that this was Borka's market as well as the slave excercise yard; a stage-like 'block' served to display the wares, and an enclosed walkway led back to the main building for slaves to be brought to the block for sale. A very secure entry gate allowed the public to enter the marketplace in a controlled fashion.

It looked a tough place to try and break someone out of....