The Slave Traders of Tatooine
Original Star Wars Fan Fiction by "Free Trader"

Part II: Heaven Ain't Close in a Place Like This

Cause heaven ain't close in a place like this
I said heaven ain't close in a place like this
Bring it back down, bring it back down tonight
Never thought I'd let a rumor ruin my moonlight
-"Somebody Told Me" by The Killers

Drolen Narlig watched with mild amusement as Grus strapped on his blaster and clipped the short whip that Ral had given him to his belt before donning on his long, black duster. He didn’t bother to button up the long coat, allowing it to trail behind him as he walked like a black cloak. He hadn’t shaved in two days and the resulting heavy shadow on his face completed the effect.

“You look bad,” Drolen remarked. “I’d hate to meet you alone in a dark alley.”

“That’s the idea,” Grus replied. “If people in Mos Espa really think I’m a slave trader, then I might as well look the part.”

“I think you look very dashing, my Master,” Jo’hara said with what sounded like genuine adoration in her voice. For once Grus didn’t get on to the Twi’lek about calling him “Master”. He intended to take her along as window dressing on his trip to the slave market, and her usually annoying tendency to wait on him hand and foot would actually come in handy under the circumstances.

“Everybody ready? Then let’s go to work,” Grus said as he punched the button that opened the main cargo bay doors on the Ruptured Duck’s starboard side. The inner pressure doors parted with a hiss as the outer hatch swung down to become a loading ramp. Grus stepped into the blinding light of Tatooine’s twin suns, pausing briefly at the end of the ramp to don his sunglasses. Drolen walked beside him and Jo’hara dutifully brought up the rear.

“Have a nice day at the orifice, honey!” Skeezix squawked after them.

“We really have to do something about that,” Grus muttered under his breath.

“Do what? The last time you tried to ‘fix’ him he said everything in rhyme for a week,” Drolen remarked.

“Yeah, that was pretty bad,” Grus admitted as they made their away between the rows of maintenance bays and out of one of the spaceport’s little used back gates. The way to the slave market that Grus chose was much shorter than the main road, but followed the narrow alleys through the slums of old Mos Espa. This was actually the preferred route for slave traders bringing their merchandise from the port to the market and back, but wasn’t one to be traveled if you weren’t “packing heat”. Still, the locals generally left you alone if you looked like you belonged, and slave traders and smugglers were frequent, welcomed customers of the seedy dives and whole-in-the-wall cantinas that comprised the bulk of the businesses here. Sounds or aromas escaping from open doorways were often the only clues to what lie in the inky blackness beyond the thresholds, although one particular establishment had a tinny sounding speaker above the door that was blaring a painfully distorted version of some popular Core World hit. Grus noted that the lyrics were ironically appropriate to the setting: Heaven ain’t close in a place like this.

“NARLIG!” shouted an unfamiliar and definitely unfriendly sounding voice from behind them. Grus whirled and saw four blaster-toting beings standing menacingly in the alley behind them. Their leader, a bug-eyed, pug-faced, sombrero-wearing canine who was barely as tall as Grus’ knee, raised his paw in a fist and angrily shook it at them. Judging from the half-empty bottle of whiskey in his other paw, he was probably under the influence if not outright intoxicated.

“You got some nerve showing up here again, Narlig!” the drunken diminutive dog growled. “You think I was just gonna let you slide on all those credits you owe me?”

“Oh frell!” Drolen cursed. “It’s Chompa the Mutt!”

“Who?” Grus asked.

“The loanshark I owe 6000 credits to,” Drolen explained.

“It’s 12,000 now, Narlig!” Chompa yapped in response to Drolen’s explanation. “And if you ain’t got it on you then I’ll just have to take it out of your scrawny flea-bitten hide!”

“Ah, can’t we all discuss this peaceably over a few drinks?” Grus interjected.

“No!” Chompa barked.

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Grus sighed as he looked at Drolen. The Nalroni glanced down at Grus’ blaster then back at Chompa and his pals. The next moment, they’d both drawn their blasters and were diving for cover as they fired. Grus shoved Jo’hara into the open doorway below the speaker and started to dive in after her. Unfortunately, the door slammed shut in his face and a volley of blaster fire from Chompa’s goons pinned him in the narrow landing. Luckily for Grus, only one of Chompa’s goons was a decent shot and Chompa was too busy waving his fist and barking orders to get any shots off. Unfortunately ‘squid face’ was doing a good job of keeping Grus pinned in the doorway and Drolen couldn’t get a clear shot at him from behind his cover. The situation was compounded by the annoying speaker above the doorway which was now blaring something that sounded like, “You’ve lost that loving feeling.”

“Somebody shut that frellin’ thing off!” Grus shouted in frustration.

In an absurd moment, everyone stopped shooting. ‘Squid-face’ looked first at the young red-haired human to his right and then at the Rodian on his left, shrugged, and then blew away the offending speaker with a bolt from his heavy blaster pistol.

“Thanks!” shouted Grus.

“Uh, no problem,” gurgled ‘squid-face’. Then the blaster fight resumed.

“This is gettin’ old!” Drolen shouted from the other side of the alley.

“Any ideas?” Grus shouted back.

“Yeah, remember Aduba-3?”

“Gotcha. On three, okay? One, two . . .”

“THREE!” Drolen shouted as he rolled into the street, his blaster firing rapidly down the alley. At the same moment Grus stepped from the doorway, took careful aim and fired, hitting the now distracted ‘squid face’ squarely in his chest. Drolen stopped rolling and nailed the Rodian. Finding he was suddenly alone and outgunned, the young red-haired human turned and fled down the alley leaving Chompa frothing at the mouth and howling with rage. The pint-sized pug tried to draw his oversized blaster, but couldn’t get it out of its holster.

“Give it up, Chompa!” Drolen shouted as he regained his footing.

“No way you sorry sonofa bitch!” Chompa snarled as he furiously jerked at his stubborn blaster. Then there was a loud pop and the notorious Chompa the Mutt lay motionless in the dust with a gaping hole in his belly.

“Huh, would look at that. He shot himself!” Drolen exclaimed.

“Are you alright, my Master?” Jo’hara asked as she ran to Grus’ side from the now re-opened doorway below the still smoking speaker.

“I’ve never been alright, but I’ll live,” Grus chuckled as he holstered his blaster.

“What the frell was that?” Drolen asked Grus. “I thought we were doing Aduba-3?”

“That was Aduba-3,” Grus answered.

“No frellin’ way, Grus. You were supposed to shoot the Rodian and I was supposed to shoot ‘squid face’.

“Hey, does it really matter? The good guys won and your buddy Chompa’s on his way to the big dog pound in the sky.”

“Maybe, but I better get some character points for this scene.”

“Whatever . . .”


The above story includes terminology and concepts from the "Gor" series of science fiction novels by John Norman. STAR WARS is TM and © 1996 by Lucasfilm Ltd. Any use of copyrighted material or trademarks anywhere in this story should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. This original story is the intellectual property of Free Trader and is intended for personal, non-commercial entertainment only.

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