A little holiday present for our friends in the Cantina.
By Darth Lex
, from a plot bunny
by TKeira LeaAnd a title inspired by Chandrila Surprise.
****************Shortly after Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse...Beachside Surprise
The Parting Gift
cut through the atmosphere as effortlessly as it traversed the vacuum of space. Something in the back of Jaina’s consciousness told her that the rest of their vacation simply couldn’t be nearly as smooth and uneventful. But she pushed it aside. They needed this time away, and she was going to enjoy every minute of it.
, this is Bolis Island Control. Kindly shift your approach to vector one-six-niner.”
At the same time, two voices replied, “Control –”
Jaina clamped her mouth closed so quickly her teeth clacked.
“– this is Woolly Wampa
,” Jag continued, raising an eyebrow at her. “Acknowledged.”
She waited for him to close the comm line, then said, “Sorry. I forgot it was your turn to be in charge.”
He shook his head. “It’s my
ship. We shouldn’t be taking turns in the first place.”
“As long as you keep picking ridiculous aliases, your judgment on matters of ship command will continue to be called into question.”
“What’s wrong with Woolly Wampa
When he didn’t laugh, she looked over at him. “Wait. That’s a serious question?”
She laughed. “Sometimes, Jagged Fel, you really do still have an alien mind from a faraway land.”
“It’s what makes me so enticing.”
“That,” she said, “and your ass.”
Finally he laughed too, and they chuckled at each other all the way into the luxury resort’s hangar bay. The Parting Gift
had barely settled on its landing gear and they were already halfway through the powerdown checklist. Working in tandem, they had it finished little more than a minute later. Before she rose, Jaina happened to glance down at the armrest of her seat.
“I thought you said all the damage had been repaired?”
Jag leaned over from his seat and peered down too. “Oh, it was. That’s new.”
“You let the chomping demons
–” His nickname for Iz and Skiz. “– back on board?”
“I had no choice,” he said, running his fingers along the armrest. “I was given a top secret assignment by a Jedi Master.”
“By top secret you mean babysitting.”
Jag offered only a well-practiced inscrutable politician’s face. “This time there’s no smell, at least.”
She sniffed the air. “Now that you mention it –”
Grinning mischievously, Jaina rubbed her palm along his arm. “If the captain insists.”
“He does.” Jag stood up and offered her his hand. “Shall we?”
“Let the vacationing commence,” she declared. Jaina linked her fingers in his grasp and let him guide her out of the cockpit.
As the fog of slumber slowly dissipated, Jag allowed himself to soak in the sure-to-be-brief experience of total relaxation. The gentle breeze. The murmur of the ocean waves against the sandy beach. The quiet trill of a shore bird. The soft hiss of the sanisteam beyond the open ‘fresher door.
Opening his eyes, he took in the brightly colored furnishings of their rented cabana, painted warm hues by the glow of dawn seeping past the billowing sheers. Before he could even think about moving to get up, the sanisteam cut off. So he waited.
A minute later Jaina emerged from the ‘fresher. Her damp skin glistened in the sunlight, nearly bare except for the shimmering gold fabric of her bikini. Flashing him a broad smile, she reached for the maroon sarong draped from the top of the bedpost and drew it around herself.
“Hmph,” he declared, shoving himself up to sitting.
She looked at him innocently. “What?”
“I much preferred the unobstructed view.”
“I bet.” She winked. “Patience, my dear.”
He maintained his scowl. “I don’t see why. I’m no Jedi.”
“True. But you are
a husband. Which still puts the matter out of your control.”
“So it seems.” He swung his legs over the side of the bed and rubbed his feet on the cool polished wood of the floor. “I imagine my wardrobe is, as well?”
“Today, anyway.” She pointed to the chair beside him. “That’s yours.”
The wide-brimmed straw hat looked like it belonged on a Gungan eopie herder, and the wildly colored shirt with designs of tropical flora could only have come from the leftover costumes of some terrible holodrama. He stared at her. “It’s hideous.”
She smiled. “It’s a disguise.”
“It’s a hideous disguise.”
“Not my problem.”
A few minutes later, sitting on their outdoor patio slicing up his breakfast, Jag decided that as long as he didn’t look in a mirror, he could pretend he wasn’t wearing this horrifying attire. “So,” he said, “what are we doing first today?”
He looked at her. “What?”
“Slouch,” she said, her mouth half full of fruit. “The disguise won’t work if you’re sitting there at military attention like some stuck-up Imperial.”
a stuck-up Imperial. At least according to your father.”
“Try it. You might like it.”
He did his best, but he just couldn’t manage to contort himself that way. What was the point in trying to relax on vacation if he had to keep focusing on forcing bad posture? It hardly seemed worth it. But he made the effort for Jaina’s sake, even if he was probably doing a pretty poor job.
Watching the seabirds dance on the updrafts, Jaina’s gaze kept wandering to something further down the beach. Finally, Jag couldn’t keep quiet.
“What do you see?”
He cleared his throat.
“Well…” She shook her head, then pointed. “It almost looks like a beached whale.”
Jag squinted into the fiercely bright distance of the beach. It did… Then he recognized the shape. “No, it’s a Hutt.”
“Don’t you think?”
“What would a Hutt be doing here?”
She peered for a long moment, then looked at him. “I think you’re right.”
“I usually am.”
She swatted his shoulder. “Don’t get cocky.”
He flashed a sly grin. “Too late.”
The cacophony of shouting and blasterfire cut through the air, and their eyes immediately flew back to the distant Hutt. The monstrous slug was flapping one stumpy arm and flailing its tapered tail in a practically comedic amount of panic. Three humanoids stood close by, training their blasters toward the tree-lined pathway running behind the long row of cabanas. Just when Jag thought the situation was nothing but some overly sensitive bodyguards, more laser bolts whizzed out from hidden shooters, narrowly missing the Hutt and launching plumes of sand into the air where they struck the ground.
Jaina glanced back at Jag. “Authorities finally caught up with him?”
“I’d expect stun bolts for an arrest.”
“True. Bounty hunters, maybe.”
She watched the firefight a few seconds longer. “He does seem to be holding something close with that other arm, don’t you think?”
“That’s what it looks like.”
“We have to do something.”
“Actually, we don’t.”
She frowned. “We can’t just let them kill him.”
“Sure we can.”
He ticked off the points on his fingers. “It’s a Hutt. With bodyguards, who will either successfully accomplish their jobs or fail in the attempt. Hutts are not our friends. And we’re on vacation.”
Her lightsaber hilt rocketed from the table near the door and spun end over end in the air until it slapped into Jaina’s palm. “Vacation or not, I’m still a Jedi.”
Jag sighed, pushed up from the chair, and took two long strides over to the table. Hefting his blaster into his hand, he turned around to see Jaina already running toward the firefight.
Over her shoulder she called, “Are you joining me, or not?”
“Guess the vacation is over,” he muttered, and broke into a run after her.
The Hutt saw her coming, and even before Jaina had activated her lightsaber he was bellowing with a panicked warble quite unbecoming for the typical bravado of his species. Her Huttese was a little rusty, but the desperate pleas for help were clear in any language.
Her violet blade ignited, swatting away a pair of blaster bolts fired right at her from behind a tree on the far side of the closest cabana. The Hutt’s bodyguards fired back at multiple locations, their pattern of crossfire clearly displaying well-honed teamwork. Anyone with protection like that was expecting trouble. And, it seemed, not without reason.
Deflecting another shot back toward its shooter, she called over her shoulder to the closest bodyguard, a Nikto. “Who’s shooting?”
“Kidnappers,” he grunted.
Only then did Jaina finally notice what the Hutt was clutching close to his body with the arm that wasn’t flailing – a Huttlet. For all she knew, the Hutt had this attack coming. If she determined that he did, then Jaina probably would be perfectly content to follow Jag’s original advice and leave him to his fate. But regardless of species or heritage, no child deserved to be ripped from its parents for ransom, leverage, or worse.
“Here,” he called back over the din of the firefight, even as he sidestepped quickly toward her.
“Get the Huttlet out of here.”
He reached her side just in time to say, “The what?”
Ducking one shot and batting another into the sand, Jaina pointed with her free hand.
Jag squeezed off three quick shots at the cabana doorway where one of the attackers was hiding, then surged over to the Hutt in several long strides. Jaina couldn’t hear the exchange between them, but a few seconds later Jag was back at her side, Huttlet tucked under one arm.
“First baby Barabels,” he said. “Now a baby Hutt. Who would have thought an Imperial Head of State could fall so far so fast?”
“If you’d rather –” Jaina batted away a bolt.
The Huttlet picked that moment to unleash a very audible and very putrid burst of flatulence.
Jag grimaced. “Did I say I wanted kids? I’ve reconsidered.”
Jaina blocked another pair of shots from the doorway. “I wouldn’t have thought you could be deterred so easily.”
“You’d better deal with that,” he said, indicating the doorway with the point of his blaster. “And I’d better abscond with this Hutt before they do.”
“Good plan.” Jaina made a run toward the cabana doorway to deal with the shooter.
Jag bounded up stone steps and burst through the soaring archway into the ornate marble-floored lobby. While a dozen milling guests stared, he hurried over to one of the immaculately attired resort attendants.
“Call security immediately,” he barked. “The guest in cabana 123 is under attack.”
The attendant tapped the comm device perched over his left ear and whispered a hushed code, then snapped a small datapad from a belt clip. After only a moment, though, he looked up at Jag again. “What number did you say?”
The attendant frowned. “Well, it must be one of the nearby ones.”
“No,” Jag said, trying to keep his voice cool, “it’s 123. I’m certain.”
“Perhaps you misread in all of the excitement, sir. There is no guest staying in that cabana.”
By the time she reached the doorway, the Rodian gunman was already leaping headlong through one of the open windows to escape the cabana. For a moment Jaina wondered if he’d left a grenade or detonator behind, but she saw nothing on the floor during the instant she passed through the room before springing out the window after him.
She landed cleanly on her feet, blade ready. The Rodian was running around the cabana’s corner, back in the direction of the Hutt. Two strides into her pursuit, her instincts told her to duck. She continued her forward momentum with a roll that returned her to her feet in position to deflect a blaster bolt directly into the shoulder of its Twi’lek shooter. Scanning the trees for more attackers, she spun on a heel and returned to the chase.
Rounding the corner, she charged into the middle of a firefight. Her lightsaber danced before her, shielding her from blaster bolts fired by both the kidnappers and the bodyguards.
Wait. That wasn’t right.
Her ears might have been overwhelmed by the thrumming of her weapon, the sharp retorts of blasters, and the hissing ping of deflections from her energy blade, but her eyes had no trouble assessing the battle. And she had no doubt that now everyone
was shooting at her.
,” she hissed. “I hate
With a moment’s assist from the Force, Jaina sped across the sand to the nearest assailants, a Defel and the Rodian. A whirling strike from her blade cut the Defel’s rifle in half and sent the Rodian’s pistol sailing away through the air with his hand still attached. Completing a circuit of her torso, the lightsaber batted away two more laserbolts headed for her back.
She spun, considering her options, and leaped straight up in the air just in time. Centimeters below her feet, a stun net passed cleanly through the air where she had just been standing – and thoroughly wrapped itself around the corpulent mass of the Hutt. The beast gave an ear-splitting howl as the incandescent energy flickered across its slimy skin, then abruptly fell silent.
“Thanks for the help,” she muttered on her way down, right before she kicked out to both sides to smash her two heels right into the heads of the Defel and Rodian.
Her bare feet hit the sand a second before their unconscious forms. Gripping her hilt in both hands, Jaina weaved the blade through a defensive pattern that swatted away four shots at once.
It was 123, all right. It was also a trap.
“Tell them to bring their heavy weapons,” Jag said. “This could get ugly.”
He took a step toward the attendant. “Tell them now, or your people are going to get themselves killed out there.”
“Sir!” The datapad in the attendant’s hands was shaking. “You’re scaring the other guests.”
“I apologize for that. But I imagine they’ll become even more scared if I have to forcibly extract that comm from your ear to give the order myself, won’t they?”
The man swallowed hard. Then he gave the instruction over the comm line and clipped the datapad back to his belt.
The attendant managed a nod. “Uh… What now?”
“Stay here where it’s safe. Oh, and take this.” Jag held out the Huttlet in both hands, mere centimeters from the attendant’s chest. When the man hesitated, he added, “Now, please.”
The attendant blinked, then reached for the miniature Hutt. He did an admirable job of nearly keeping his disgust off his face. “But – but – what am I supposed to do with… it?”
Jag shrugged. “Not my problem.”
The next second he was charging back out the archway, running full bore back toward the beach.
Whoever had ambushed her, Jaina decided, hadn’t skimped on the budget. What had originally looked like three bodyguards against a handful of kidnappers was really closer to twenty mercenaries. Four were missing hands or arms, four more were knocked unconscious by kicks or the butt of her lightsaber, and three were soundly asleep in the tangles of a second stun net she had redirected with the Force. After darting behind a tree, then the cabana, she was now back in more exposed position on the beach side.
Well, there was one bit of cover out here. Assuming they wouldn’t gun down one of their own team members just to get to her.
Jaina figured her best option was to find out.
Sprinting across the sand, she jumped. Mid-air she twisted, swatted away a blaster bolt, and aimed her feet just behind the Hutt.
Finally she’d read the situation right, and the blaster fire stopped while the mercenaries schemed their next move. Taking a second to catch her breath, she realized the thick outer cord of the stun net had wrapped around the Hutt’s enormous throat, and the excessive drool seeping from his mouth wasn’t from slumber but suffocation. Tempting as it was… With a quick flick of her wrist, the tip of her lightsaber sliced effortlessly through the cord at the back of his head, and its two severed pieces slid to the sand.
The Hutt roared, arms flailing as he sucked in air. Then someone called out in Huttese, loudly.
The second it took Jaina to realize he’d said “she’s behind you!” was a second too long. The Hutt’s enormous tail knocked her clean off her feet, depositing her backside on the sand and forcing her to shut down her blade to avoid slicing up herself with it as she fell. Before she could ignite it again, the Hutt was thrashing his tail at her like a frantic child’s manic attempts to squash an intruding bug. Jaina rolled left, then right, then left again, her attention solely focused on avoiding a bone-shattering collision with the enormous appendage.
Three thumping misses later, the Hutt finally made a mistake. Hefting his tail, he looked back over his shoulder to try to improve his aim. That instant’s delay was all the time Jaina needed to slam both her palms outward to full extension, driving a massive pulse of kinetic energy in the Force. Accompanied by an eruption of sand, the Hutt launched into the air.
If she hadn’t been in the middle of a fight for her life, Jaina would have laughed at the comedic spectacle of the shrieking Hutt’s brief globular flight through the air until he smashed unceremoniously through the thin walls of the cabana, bringing the entire structure down around him.
Kicking down with her feet, Jaina propelled herself into a backflip that brought her upright with ignited lightsaber at the ready. Good thing, too, because apparently the mercenaries’ patience had run out. A half dozen of them were approaching her together, spread apart in a wide arc that would lay down a pattern of crossfire that would be incredibly difficult to defend against. Of course she could change those odds quickly with a Force-powered run, and retake control of the terrain by –
The sharp screech of a blaster shot cut the air, and one of the mercs dropped to the sand, howling as he clutched at the back of his leg with both hands. The next shot struck the Bith in the unprotected upper arm, rendering the entire limb useless. The third bolt hit the Zeltron in the shoulder with such force that it spun her completely around before she hit the sand.
Quick glances was all it took for the last three mercenaries to turn and run, their three wounded compatriots hobbling after them.
“I was wondering,” Jag said as he walked out from behind a tree, “if you were going to leave any of them for me.”
Her blade hissed back into its hilt, and she met him halfway. “You didn’t shoot to kill.”
“I thought you said you were no Jedi.”
He shrugged. “You’re a bad influence.”
She smiled. “Something like that.”
Shouts and thumping boots heralded the arrival of a squad of seven security guards bearing blaster rifles and riot shields. For a moment Jaina thought Jag might actually slap an open palm against his forehead, but he composed himself and turned to face them.
“Six of them fled in that direction,” he barked, pointing sharply with the barrel of his blaster pistol. “Three are injured, and the other three probably won’t be looking to put up a fight.”
The lead guard spoke into his helmet comm, something about “lock down” and “launch.”
Jag tucked his pistol back in the back of his pants, then indicated a group of guards with a waggle of his hand. “You five go catch them. The Hutt’s out cold, so we’ll stay here and secure –”
Jaina stopped listening and turned to gaze out over the ocean. The morning sun danced on the gentle waves breaking on the beach, and a trio of curious shore birds were hesitantly making their way closer to see what all the mayhem had been about. She clasped her hands behind her back and closed her eyes, letting the Force flow through her.
She opened her eyes again when Jag touched her shoulder. It seemed like hours, but the sun hadn’t moved in the sky. “You do realize,” she said, shifting around to face him, “that you’re not actually in a position to be giving orders to those poor men, right?”
“Somebody had to.”
“They have a squad captain.”
“Yes, but he was out of his depth on this one.”
Jaina decided against asking how he could possibly have known that before he’d started issuing commands like he was still leading the Empire. Instead she said, “Hey! What happened to your shirt?”
His eyebrow raised. “You seem to have lost your sarong.”
“Don’t change the subject, dear.”
“I couldn’t expect to be taken seriously wearing something that ludicrous.”
“See, again we’re back around to –”
He silenced her with a fingertip to her lips. “You said it was my turn to be in charge on this vacation. And I take my commitments very
She kissed his fingertip, then took his hand in hers. “You, Jagged Fel, never cease to amaze me. Or amuse me.” She grinned broadly at him. “Besides, I’ll just buy you a new one.”
“Oh, no,” Jag growled, “you most certainly will not.” Then he swooped her up in his arms before she even had a chance to stop him. Jaina never even considered resisting, and let her head rest against his chest and he carried her back up the beach toward their cabana.
****************Merry Christmas, Everybody!
"Okay, if you're going to question the importance of an actor's signature on a plastic helmet from a movie based on a comic book, then all of our lives have no meaning." ~ The Big Bang Theory