Star Wars - Love is a Warm Blaster - Unpublished

BOOK: Star Wars - Love is a Warm Blaster - Unpublished
5.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The clean-cut young man stepped out of Loose Cannon Arms, carrying a small package tucked under his arm. His nondescript face blended seamlessly in the crowd of people wandering one of Coruscant’s nearly endless shopping districts. No one even spared a second glance when he ducked into a small service alley and began speaking to the shadows. “He’s in there. You good to go?”

A quick check of the hold-out tucked away in her waistband told her the small blaster was fully charged. She knew the feeling well. Daniera Karmony took a calming breath, letting the tension slip from her body. She smiled brilliantly at Cabe. “Good to go.”

“The General’s counting on you.” Cabe paused and touched Daniera’s shoulder. “We all are. Just be careful. He used to be one of us, but nobody knows why the man left. Maybe not even Cracken. His service records are sealed at the highest levels.”

She nodded gravely and prepared to go shopping…

“Can I help you?”

Daniera looked up from the display of blaster carbines that stretched across the back wall of Loose Cannon Arms. The young woman’s gaze casually traversed rack after rack of glistening black weaponry and finally came to rest on the older man sitting behind the counter. The proprietor of the Cannon studied Daniera with a bemused little grin as he casually sipped from a steaming mug.

“Actually, I’m just looking around,” she said with a shrug. “Thanks anyway.” She studied him with a peripheral glance. On second thought, he didn’t seem advanced in age so much as spirit. His were eyes that had seen more than a lifetime’s worth. But there was also something else there… a glimmer even the heavy weight of time could not diminish.

The man nodded serenely. “Well, you just let me know if you

need anything, hon.” The grin contorted into something more akin to a smirk as he took another drink. “I proudly offer a 20 percent discount to nerfs.”

Daniera was staring at him now. “Excuse me?”

“Oh. Sorry. Nerfs… my preferred acronym for operatives of the New Republic Security Force.” He flashed a brilliant smile. “No offense intended, of course.”

“I have no idea what—” Daniera paused, then shook her head. “How did you know?”

“Don’t feel bad, sweets. It isn’t that obvious, unless you know what to look for.”

“Such as?”

“It’s bad business to give away trade secrets.” He put the mug down. “That’s why I sell customized weapons… and not the blueprints.”

Daniera leaned on the transparisteel counter. “Humor me.”

The man sighed with feigned reluctance for a moment. “Well, I don’t get many female browsers in here and the few who do come by usually get caught up with the junk in those cases,” he said, indicating the one she was leaning on. “Cutesy little palm blasters, hold-outs with pearl lacquer finish that fit comfortably in the handbag, that sort of thing.”

Daniera started to protest, but he cut her off before she could get out a single syllable. “That’s all fact by the way, free of sexist opinion. Anyway, you were eyeing the good stuff on the back wall, appreciating some of my better work, and that means you’re not a casual enthusiast. Then there’s that bulge in your jacket that,” he flashed the grin again, “assuming no odd physical abnormalities, looks to me just like a BlasTech CMP 489 pistol—flavor of the moment for New Republic Security.”

Daniera folded her arms across her chest. “You’re pretty good, but—”

He held up a hand. “You didn’t let me finish… however, you’re a bit too much of a looker for standard Security or even SpecForce, so my guess would be NR1. I know how that old bantha Cracken loves to throw folks a curve by utilizing attractive women…” After a final, triumphant sip from his mug, he added, “Well, at least when their mouths aren’t dangling open like that. Kind of subtracts from the enchantress equation.” He sat back in the chair and beamed. “So, any questions?”

After taking a moment to regain her composure she nodded. “Just one… what in the galaxy possessed the great M’Kyas Love to let his considerable talents go to waste appraising customers in a back-end weapon shop on Coruscant?”

“For your information, I only sell high-quality merchandise, and—” his eyes narrowed dangerously “—my custom creations sell for more credits than you’ve probably seen in your lifetime, girl.”

“You’d be surprised.”

“Well, now I know who you are and you know who I am.” He picked up his empty mug and started walking to the back of the store. “I dislike playing games with no wagering involved, so why don’t you just save us both some lifetime and tell me what you want.”

“Grandyl Grieve.”

To her credit, Daniera didn’t flinch as the mug hit the floor and shattered.

M’Kyas Love slowly turned back around to face her. With the touch of a button, the lumasign on his front door flashed from “open” to “closed.”

He slowly held out a hand, gesturing Daniera toward a back room.

“Let’s talk.”

“Grandyl Grieve. Now there’s a name I haven’t heard for a long time.” Love slid a steaming mug in front of Daniera and sat down beside her. “A fellow Latarzian and one of the deadliest assassins ever spawned by the Empire. Erroneously believed to be deceased many times over, he has the annoying habit of surviving certain doom. As I recall, he hasn’t been heard from since the Battle of Endor. That was quite a few years ago.”

Daniera cautiously took a sip of the proffered drink, decided she liked it and let the hot liquid warm her up. “Well, he’s back. Hired by an unknown Imperial party to assassinate key officials of the New Republic.” She returned the mug to its coaster with a resounding thump. “And so far he’s doing a marvelous job.”

Love leaned back in his chair. “Back after all this time, huh?” He shrugged. “I thought he’d retired.”

Daniera cocked an eyebrow. “You don’t seem too concerned by the news of his return.”

“Should I be?”

“As the story goes, it was your relentless pursuit that finally drove him underground. And since Grieve is apparently taking up old hobbies, don’t you think he’d love to take a shot at his arch-nemesis?”

“I think you’ve been watching too many holos, girl.”

“The reality is people are dying. Another senator was found murdered this morning. That makes four in less than two weeks. Each one more important than the last.”

“I thought the New Republic espoused equality,” he said with a chuckle.

“You know what I mean,” Daniera snapped, growing more irritated. “So far we’re snapping at shadows. No one even knows what the Sithspawn looks like.”

“I do.” He paused. “And that’s why you’re here.”

“There has only been one break so far. Our agents have uncovered the identity of Grieve’s next target: Chief of State Leia Organa Solo.” Daniera took a deep breath before continuing. “You got closer to this monster than anyone else. We need your help.”

He shook his head. “Grieve may not be retired, but I am. I’ve done more than my share of skip tracing, bounty hunting, private investigating, and sector rangering. I served my time in the nerfs and played superspy for General Cracken.” Love stood up, his eyes locked onto Daniera. “So you can go back and tell Cracken that my remaining years are going to be spent doing things that don’t involve being shot, tortured, or otherwise mauled.”

Daniera was silent for a long moment, then abruptly got to her feet. She was at the door in a few short strides, but paused briefly to regain eye contact with Love. “General Cracken thought you might refuse. He told me to give you this.” She slipped something into his hand and then walked toward the front door without another word.

Love reluctantly glanced down at the data chip, carefully running his fingers along the gleaming ridged surface. It had been erased. Cracken did love his irony, after all… “Wait.”

One hand on the door, Daniera looked at him over her shoulder.

He touched a finger to the wall and a secret panel slid away to reveal a recessed compartment. From inside Love removed a large replihide shoulder holster that cradled what was quite possibly the nastiest-Iooking heavy blaster pistol Daniera had ever seen. Surprisingly, its bulk slipped easily into place under Love’s left arm. He shrugged on a worn but expensive overcoat that easily concealed the huge weapon.

“Okay. I’m ready.”

It was Danlera’s turn to smirk. “For what?”

“I don’t know, hon,” he said, patting the bulge under his coat, “but with the mood I’m in right now it had better involve shooting a lot of people.”

BOOK: Star Wars - Love is a Warm Blaster - Unpublished
5.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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