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The Beginnings of a Beautiful Friendship:
Four years ago; in a galaxy far, far away…
Just one month left in his 3-year tour of service on the Republic Supply Ship "Osprey", an Action IV Bulk Freighter out of Corellia, and Hashik had learned a lot. Captain Sifton, the Supply Officer in charge of the crew of eight, was one of those Republic navy men who - while having an upright moral standing on most things - was not averse to filling empty spaces in his cargo hold with the occasional "extra cargo". Which cargo never appeared on official navy manifests. After all, he wasn't going to be in the navy forever and he wanted his retirement to be comfortable. This activity surprised the young Hashik, Supply Rating Second Class, but he soon saw the logic in the activity. It wasn't really smuggling, as they never shipped illegal substances (the occasional controlled substance in cargo wasn't really illegal). "It just made good business sense," was what the supply petty officer, Ord Targat, used to say when he felt a need to justify the crew's activities. And everybody got a cut of the business. In Hashik's mind not a large one, but more than a Supply Rating Second Class's salary. It was a nice supplement.
They were just out of hyperspace in the Corellian system when the Togorian pirates hit them.
One more month of a nice quite life on the "Osprey" had turned into a three-month living hell on the "Crimson Fang". Hashik was one of three crewmen from the Osprey still alive. The freighter's escort pilots had been dealt with severely by the pirates in their attack. They were the lucky ones. Togorians were notorious for treating captives with vicious and evil means. Captain Sifton had been killed on the ship. Four others had been killed over the last two weeks either through slow and vile torture, or through vicious and petty reprisals for not showing the large lupine creatures what they felt a proper sense of deference… or some other trivial reason.
That only left Hashik, the supply petty officer Targat, and engineering mate first class Sian Nep, the "Osprey's" Sullustan engineer. Togorians were usually incapable of maintaining their own ships so they had kept these three alive. The "Crimson Fang", a Barloz-class medium freighter, was a piece of patchwork, slapped-together maintenance done by the various non-Togorian members of the crew. It was a marvel it ran at all.
H'sishi, a fierce Togorian that had been first mate previously, captained the ship. He had killed the original captain just after the pirates had secured the Republic freighter and its cargo. That was the rule amongst Togorians, survival (and rule) of the fittest. Now H'sishi and the remaining five Togorians, with their three Republic captives, were just leaving a hideaway on the Gluss'elta Archipelago on the Planet Kintan. During takeoff the stabilizers started showing a problem and one of the Togorian pirates started beating Nep and Targat while they were fixing it. The two captives were scrunched down in the underdeck crawlspace as the huge wolf-like alien stood over them, raining blows on them while they worked, breaking Targat's shoulder in the process.
The alien called for Hashik to come and replace his injured fellow but, as Hashik was extricating his friend from the hold, the faulty stabilizer caused the patchwork ship to suddenly list severely to port, throwing everybody who wasn't strapped in around the cabins and cargo area. The Sullustan engineer cracked his skull harshly against the stabilizer mounting and fell unconscious onto the deck plating. The Togorian pirate was flung against the bulkhead, a harsh snap signalling the cracking of his spine. Hashik, having pulled Targat half out of the hatch, had the wind knocked out of him as he was thrown against the deck plating, hanging onto his friend for dear life. The petty officer was unconscious, as Hashik's fall had wrenched him tightly against the maintenance hatch, giving him a sound blow to his midsection.
The "Crimson Fang" swerved sharply to the port side and plummeted toward the harsh desert, known as the Wannshock or Endless Wastes, of the landmass below. At the helm, H'sishi was insufficiently skilled to right the craft and the transport ship crashed into the dunes, skidding roughly along its port side before coming to rest nose first against a large cliff of sand and rock. It then toppled back onto its belly and sat there, a lifeless bird on a sandy beach.
Hashik's first thought when he awoke was that he was dead. The ship was silent and he was lying on his stomach. Targat was half out of the hatch, his broken shoulder lying at an odd angle to his body and blood seeping from his mouth. The Thalassian Security Collar about his neck looked dull and silent, almost as a mocking reminder that even in death he wasn't free. There was no sign of anyone else except the very obviously dead Togorian lying crumpled against the far bulkhead.
Slowly the silence gave way to a ringing in his ears and Hashik understood that he was simply regaining consciousness. The ship was stable, and seemed to by lying on its belly. He let go of the petty officer and shakily got to his feet. There was a large bruise and a small cut on his forehead that caused blood to seep down onto his face and he reached up a hand to groggily wipe it away.
Then his perception suddenly sharpened and his world came brilliantly into focus. Within the ship, from the direction of the cockpit, resounded a deafening roar. The sounds of a large something moving through the wreckage of the ship immediately followed. Hashik somehow knew that H'sishi had survived and was very upset.
The human looked around and, spying the dead Togorian against the bulkhead ran and picked up his scimitar. As he turned to face the hatch leading from to the cockpit, gripping the large scimitar in both hands, a thought suddenly entered his mind: 'What in all that's holy am I doing? I can't beat a Togorian at swordplay!'
Hashik turned and stumbled somewhat to the access corridor and hatch. Just as he heard the hiss and crunch of the broken hatch behind him open, he punched the access hatch button on launched himself out into the burning sun. As he crossed the threshold, his own security collar softly buzzed and a numbing pain shot through Hashik, driving him a couple of steps forward and dropping him to his knees.
He rolled over and as his vision began to once again fog over and lose focus he saw was H'sishi's large bulk heave itself disjointedly out of the hatch and land at his feet. The Togorian then stood up to his full eight-foot height, one arm hanging limp from his socket, one eye and that half of his face a bloody mess after being gashed against something sharp in the control area. H'sishi raised his huge scimitar in one muscled paw and his teeth were bared in a feral smile. Hashik's last conscious memories were of that smile, the sword about to descend and end his existence, and the Togorian pirate's words in a low growling voice: "At least none of you Republic scum will live to speak the tale of my failure."
Hashik never saw the blaster bolt that saved his life.
Wumdi M'Shento 'su' Nikto had been out hunting desert vermin for his Hutt master when he saw the ship crash. Seeing ships come and go from the caverns and hidey-holes of the archipelago was a normal sight. Seeing one crash on takeoff was a different story.
The scout shouldered his blaster rifle and loped in the direction of the crash site. As he topped the crest of a dune he was just in time to see a ragged-looking human tumble out of the access hatch of the scarlet-painted ship to fall to the desert sand. The redheaded spacer clutched his throat momentarily and fell to his knees, collapsing on the sand. A few seconds later a large, wolf-like alien carrying a large sword stumbled up to the hatch, leaned against it for a second with a limb that appeared to be hanging like a piece of limp sinew, and then launched itself out to tower over the prone human.
As the large alien raised its sword and growled something to the human at its feet, Wumdi didn't even pause for a second thought. His blaster rifle leapt to the crook of his shoulder and his finger pressed the trigger in one smooth motion. His shot caught the beast in his broad furry chest, dropping him flat on his back, the sword falling to one side from his lifeless paw.
Wumdi then stalked down the dunes to the ship and looked at the alien, then at the battered human lying on the desert sand. A security collar was about the man's neck, clearly indicating that this one was a captive of the larger alien. But he wore what appeared to be the remnants of a Republic navy uniform. A large bruise and a cut were on the redhead's forehead and the blood on his face was coated with the fine sand of the dunes.
Hashik's vision cleared somewhat and the shapeless blur of the sky and sun solidified a little. Within the mass of blur a shadowy figure began to emerge at the edge of his view. He lolled his head to one side and tried as hard as he could to focus on the figure. Two large black eyes peered at him out of a face that looked to be crafted of fine yellow-orange leather. The almost lipless mouth sat below a smooth expanse of the leathery skin where a nose would have appeared on a human.
Suddenly, two large hose-like appendages behind the alien's head flared slightly and he raised his head and looked at something beyond Hashik's view over the horizon.
Just as the human opened his eyes, Wumdi felt the sonic vibrations caused by the sandstorm. He looked up and saw the maelstrom approaching over the dunes. They would surely be caught in its wake and it wouldn't be good if they were. A Wannshock sandstorm could strip the flesh from a creature's bones if exposed long enough. Though the sandstorms rarely lasted long enough to do that, they lasted long enough to kill most average humanoids if they didn't find cover.
Wumdi looked back at the human. The man had lapsed into unconsciousness again. The Nikto bent and heaved the man onto his shoulder and then made his way to the hatch. He lurched and tossed the man up to the hatch and then climbed in after him. Dragging the unconscious man into the cargo hold and leaning him against a container, Wumdi then looked about. Some containers had slipped their tie-downs in the crash and were jumbled about. He saw another of the large aliens lying broken against the bulkhead.
As he explored the ship he found four other of the fierce beasts, all dead, and another human and a Sullustan, both alive but badly hurt and unconscious. He tossed the aliens out of the hatch and closed it just as the first swirls of the sandstorm crested the dune outside. He then turned his attention to the man he had first found.
He was sitting up, that much Hashik could confirm without opening his eyes. There was a pain in his side and his head throbbed like he'd been stepped on by a bantha. When he opened his eyes, he saw he was in the "Crimson Fang's" cargo hold propped up against a cargo container. Across from him sitting against the bulkhead was the tan leathery alien. The two glittering black pools of his eyes watched Hashik, while the lipless mouth chewed at some survival ration or some such. The alien smiled and extended a hand, holding out a protein bar to Hashik.
Hashik took the bar and unwrapped it. Then he looked at the alien again. "Do you speak basic?" he asked.
The near-lipless mouth broadened into a grin. "Certainly. Do you?"
Hashik chuckled a little. "Touché. May I ask what your name is?"
"Wumdi. I am of the M'Shento 'su' Nikto. I am indentured to Issulla the Hutt here on Kintan. Who are you, raggedy spacer?"
Hashik cocked his head slightly at the question and its pointed comment on his appearance. "I'm Hashik Kypro. And, yes," he continued as he looked down at the remnants of his uniform stained in blood, "I guess I am rather raggedy."
He looked back up at the Nikto. "I owe you my life, Wumdi. H'sishi would've surely killed me if you hadn't intervened somehow. Shot him?" he asked, glancing down to the blaster rifle at the Nikto's side. The Nikto nodded. "Well, I certainly hope to be able to repay the debt," he added as he looked about him, "But you can see I'm sort of between opportunities. What of the others on the ship?"
The Nikto took another bite of his ration bar and spoke around his chewing, "The beast-things are all dead. Their bodies are out being scoured by the sands as we speak. I found two other captives like you, both alive but badly in need of medical attention." He took another bite. "Those collars are to keep you in line, correct?" Hashik nodded. "Well, I don't think it would be a good idea to take you to my master with those things on."
Hashik stood up. "Well, let's find a toolkit and maybe I can do something about that."
He turned and began to make his way into the ship's other areas. "Oh. And Wumdi…" he asked over his shoulder.
"Yes?" replied the Nikto as he got up to follow the human.
"About that fighting with the Togorian?"
The redheaded man turned and looked over his shoulder, "Don't ever let me do that again."
Half an hour later the collars were off. And Hashik had only shocked himself once. He had no idea if he'd harmed his friends, as they were still unconscious. He then stood up and looked at the Nikto. "Well, that takes care of that." He turned to his saviour. "I wish the answer to YOUR problem was as easy to resolve."
Wumdi nodded. "Yes. But indenture to a Hutt is not as easy as slipping a lock on a security collar. Of course, if you can fly this scrap heap, you might be able to do anything." The Nikto looked about the ship. "How did this thing keep running?"
Hashik looked around as well. The cables ran everywhere and panels were patched together in numerous places. "I have no idea. Nep - he's the Sullustan - seemed to be able to work miracles. Are you familiar with transports?"
"A little," replied Wumdi as he poked at the operations panel to the cargo hold.
Hashik looked at the Nikto. Then he turned and, running a hand through his shock of red hair, he looked about the old Barloz. She was a good solid ship at the base of it all. She flew nicely. He had no idea what would happen to her when they returned to the navy. Then he had a thought. He was officially not in the navy anymore. Targat and Nep were long-timers but his term of service was up two months ago. Even if he went back he'd be a civilian.
His eyes squinted a little at the beginnings of an idea. "Wumdi, do you think the sandstorm is over by now?"
The Nikto turned to face the human. "It was over a half hour ago. Why?"
"I want to see what kind of damage the hull took in the crash." He pushed the button on the hatch. The sandstorm was indeed over and a new small dune lay outside, the remains of the Togorian pirates poking out of the bottom near where the ship's hull had sheltered them from the worst of it. Hashik stepped out and walked down the dune. He turned and looked at the reddish hull of the ship. Many panels had been torn off and the portside shoulder had taken some damage, but the sand hadn't damaged the hull as much as the jarring crash had damaged the occupants. He estimated that a few small jury-rigged repairs would get her flight-worthy at least. Then they'd be able to take his friends to medical help. Wumdi watched from the hatch. Hashik smiled up at him.
"She'll fly again after some small patchwork."
The Nikto shrugged slightly. "So? What then?"
"Well, we'll at least be able to take my friends to medical help. And I figure that I am no longer in the navy and so will need to find a new occupation. Why not captain of a ship?" Hashik turned to the Nikto, a small grin forming at the corner of his mouth. "What would you say to a partnership in a trading venture?"
The Nikto just gazed at the human with his steady black eyes. "You seem to forget that I am currently indentured to…"
Hashik held out his hands in a palm-down fashion meant to calm Wumdi. "Don't worry about that. I've got an angle."
A few days later, Wumdi and Hashik walked into the docking bay to see a bandaged Nep as the Sullustan, wearing a breathing mask, worked on repairing damage done to the portside docking sensors. Other boxes of spare parts and tools were being delivered to the docking bay. A rejuvenated Targat, his one arm in a sling, was on a catwalk over the ship also wearing a breathing mask as he sprayed the body of the ship removing the remains of its sandblasted red paint.
Wumdi turned to the human, "So, how did you know Issulla would go for it?"
"I didn't," said Hashik smiling. "I was betting on the Hutt seeing a better business opportunity when one fell in his lap. After all, buying out your indenture with the cargo the H'sishi was carrying just seemed like a good idea. And it left enough over to get basic repairs to the ship made so she's space worthy."
The Nikto shook his head. "A bold plan. Very smoothly done. But you told him I killed all the Togorians … and I didn't."
Hashik clapped his newfound friend on the shoulder, "Ah! But that was an easy sell. All I said was, 'Perhaps I can include these six fine Togorian scimitars to seal the deal on Wumdi's indenture. I figure they're worth about 3,000 Republic credits apiece and, after all, Wumdi was very instrumental in gaining them as loot from the kill.'" Hashik paused and looked at Wumdi. "You see, I actually only said 'kill', not 'kills'. So it was all his own doing if he interpreted that to mean you killed all six Togorians. I fully expect he also saw the value of being rid of these pirates, not to mention making a hefty profit on the cargo we sold him. Add to that the fact that he is getting rid of a potential problem in making a profit on a Nikto that - in Issulla's mind - could easily slay six big Togorians … not to mention a certain Hutt, if he ever had the mind to."
Wumdi shook his head again. "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. But you convinced me. You seem to have a keen eye for opportunity. I'm in." He turned to his new human friend. "I'm in. 50-50." The two shook hands and then turned to look at the ship.
"Wumdi, this looks like the start of a beautiful friendship."
The Sullustan waved Wumdi over to help him with the repairs. The Nikto and the Republic engineer were becoming fast friends over the fixing of the ship. Nep was amazed at how the Nikto seemed to be able to overcome some problems that he thought were beyond even his expertise. The Nikto was a natural.
Hashik looked at the ship. A small smile of satisfaction on his face. He had confirmed that he was released from navy service just yesterday. As well, he was receiving a bonus for returning his two navy buddies to the fold. Once repairs were done he was to return them to Coruscant for some R&R time after their harrowing ordeal. After that, he would try and turn a profit on a cargo he was negotiating for on Kintan. Issulla seemed to be interested in doing some more business, as long as Hashik displayed the correct amount of discretion regarding the transaction.
"You Kypro?" a voice from behind him caught his attention. He turned to see one of the Hutt's dockworkers, another Nikto, standing there with a datapad in hand. "You need to sign for the registration of the ship. Your fee is paid in full."
Hashik took the datapad and thumb-printed it. An electronic chip popped out as well as a small duraplast card with data in basic and binary inscribed on it.
He handed the datapad back to the dockworker who took it and looked at the ship. "She's turning out mighty nicely captain," he said bluntly. Then he turned and left.
Hashik smiled as he looked at the ship. "Yes, she is," he said aloud to himself. He turned and looked at the card in his hand and read the inscription: "The Osprey's Shadow, registered out of Kintan, Captain Hashik Kypro."