He kept polishing one of the many dirty mugs, his shoe tapping impatiently on the duracrete floor, anxiously awaiting the end of his shift. “Just a little bit more, Kaster”, he was reassuring himself. He tried to keep his eyes on the mug, as though it was the most interesting thing he had ever seen; anything to avoid looking into the eyes of the two hulking men caught in a fight with one another.
This had been the sixteenth bar fight this week. “These hired goons always brought more trouble than anyone could handle” he thought to himself. Ever since Gnossa the Hutt decreed the urgent need of new recruits for his private military, these vermin had been swarming the streets of Nar Shaddaa even more than usual. The profile of these fresh recruits was mixed, but they were mostly from the lowest reaches of the society – from refugees, aliens, and commoners in search for fame and glory to pirates, murderers and generally – criminals. Gnossa’s private army would hire basically anyone, as long as they could hold a gun. Shooting it right wasn’t a priority, though; they would serve only as a living, breathing shield to protect the real-deal soldiers behind them. “That’s the way things always had worked around here” he shrugged, and kept on cleaning the stained glasses.
The tavern had been slowly clearing out. Half the visitors had rushed out at the first signs of the fight and the others were too drunk to either keep talking or have another round, so they had left the bar walking as if they were blindfolded and spun around for hours. The other patrons in the bar helped carry the two mercenaries out in the street. He couldn’t guess whether they ultimately fell from their drinks or the blows to their heads.
Only a handful of guest were left at the bar now. A group of Trandoshan mercenaries was at the table in the far right corner. They were rumbling on about the best ways to torture prisoners. As soon as one of them started talking about something he called a “finger sandwich” Kaster started rubbing the mug harder, so that the shrieking would silence the rest of the story.
The other patrons included a human couple caught up in an argument, a Twi’lek dancer performing for a Rodian mercenary, and a pair of Duros, leaning over their table whispering something in their native language. As the time passed, all except the Human couple and the Trandoshans had left the bar. Fifteen standard minutes before the closing time a middle-aged woman entered the bar. She had sharp facial features and wore her dark brown hair in a short ponytail, her posture worn out as if she had been a decade older than she really was. Behind her hovered a cleaning droid, rusted and worn out around the edges, reminding a lot of its master, freezing from time to time in its place before moving forwards on its original path. The two approached the bar.
“Rough night?” asked Evelyn, looking at the broken tables behind her.
“Mercenaries. Again.” responded Kaster through gritted teeth “And just when I thought this day could not get any worse. Or any longer!”
“Well, shoot!” the woman lowered her stare down to the surface of the bar “I was hoping to get home early tonight. But this mess won’t clean itself, I guess.” She raised her head again and cast a smile toward Kaster, a smile even she knew by any means could not seem sincere.
“C’mon you rust bucket, time to get to work!” she turned towards her droid and gave it a strong pat on its tattered, metallic surface. “Let’s finish this as soon as we can and get back home before the gangs start raiding the streets.”
The droid started piling up the debris from the tables and glasses that got in the way of the fight, still freezing from time to time. The woman cleaned the abandoned tables, covered in spilt ale and vomit. The human couple took this as a sign that it was high time to leave. Their argument not settled and their ale unfinished they packed up, paid Kaster and left.
The Trandoshans were reluctant to leave. Just as they were about to finish up and leave, the oldest one among them would start another story about his notorious adventures, the others looking at him with amazement and content.
“One more round here! Hey you!” shouted the Trandoshan.
“We’re closed. That was the last call. Finish up and leave, please!” Kaster replied. The old Trandoshan gave him a cold, piercing look and stepped up to the bar.
“Me and my companions here were caught up in a story.” he hissed “Do you wish to interrupt us?”
“I’m sorry, but we’re closed. I can’t serve you another one.”
The Trandoshan caught Kaster by his collar, and pulled his head to face his – the cold, piercing look shifted to an even more terrifying expression. Evelyn covered behind her droid, looking with terror at the mercenary.
“I think you don’t understand. I was telling a story. To tell a story I need drinks. And you are going to give me those drinks. Are we understood?”
“Yes, right away.” trembled Kaster.
Just as the Trandoshan was returning to his table, another figure entered the bar. His black and blue clothes were burnt, revealing his blistered, bloody skin beneath them. What once might have been a cloak was now nothing but a piece of scorched and torn linen. Only the top of the hood was still relatively unharmed, shadowing his bloody and filthy face. Waving a blaster pistol he held in one hand towards the Trandoshans; breathing heavily, through a hard cough he said: “Get out!” Just as the standing Trandoshan moved towards him, he revealed a thermal detonator in his other hand. “Now!” The mercenary, still not intimidated continued moving towards him. The newcomer pressed a button, and the grenade in his hand started blinking and emitting high-pitched noises in equal intervals. The Trandoshan hissed something to his companions in a language none of the humans understood, and the three Trandoshans left, giving the shady figure a grim, but slightly terrified look.
As soon as the group was out of sight the figure collapsed on the floor with a loud thud. The detonator he had previously held fell beside him and stopped beeping, and his blaster tumbled under one of the tables.
“He’s breathing, but barely!” said Evelyn, who had rushed towards him as soon as he fell.
“We must get someone to patch him up!” Kaster spoke, fear still in his voice.
“This time of night?” the woman turned towards Kaster “The first hospital opens in hours, and he might not have the time.”
“I have a friend!” Kaster remembered “She might be able to tend to his wounds, at least ’till the hospital opens. Quick, call an air taxi!”
The wounded man’s breath became heavier. He trembled and shuddered, his heart pounding out of his wounded chest. His ribs and skull fractured and every part of his body aching, he struggled to maintain his consciousness. Behind his closed eyes he could see a bright white light, closing in on him. Still feeling the spasms of his body, a series of images started flashing before him. They showed him, those he loved, those he hated, and those he abandoned. His heart started pounding even harder.
And then, all that was left was the darkness.