Brenum was staring at the console monitor in the Clan Kandera bunker, as was everyone else, watching the progress bar; it was barely moving at all. It seemed to Knarf he kept leaning more forward every now and then, inching his eyes closer to the monitor screen.
‘It’s not giving us anything!’ Brenum shouted, kicking the console.
‘Easy, there,’ said Knarf, putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder. ‘It’ll take time.’
‘We don’t have time,’ Brenum said in a hushed voice.
‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ asked Fane. ‘Relsor won’t hurt her. Trust in your love.’
Brenum closed his eyes. Knarf could feel some sympathy. He looked over at Shadie. ‘What time did Talyc say he’d be out of his meeting with Mandalore?’
‘Right about now,’ said Shadie.
‘Go and join him at the tavern,’ said Knarf. He motioned Brenum. ‘We’ll stay and run a few more diagnostics before joining you. But this thing will take a while, so I’m not expecting to get anything tonight.’
Shadie nodded, as she and Fane left the bunker.
‘What was it you told me once?’ said Knarf. ‘Something about breathing?’ Brenum chuckled. ‘Here, help me run a few scans on this part of the tracker, make sure we haven’t missed anything. All this info will start to make sense once the bulk of the main part completes its full scan and gives us data we can actually read.’
Brenum nodded and got to the task. Knarf tried to give him his most comforting smile, but he knew the feeling too well to know it wouldn’t change anything.
* * *
Talyc sat at a table in the tavern, waiting for his friends to arrive. He looked up and saw a familiar face. He felt surprised, his heart skipping a beat, recalling when he’d last seen the bounty hunter; a tall lean and pale grey Rattataki with a few face tattoos continuing along his neck. Talyc thought he’d never see the day when the two would meet again. The Rattataki man turned his way and his eyes went wide with recognition. He walked to Talyc’s table and sat down.
‘In the flesh,’ replied the clan leader.
‘My, my, it’s been a long time.’ The Rattataki grinned.
‘Only about ten years,’ said Talyc. He bit his lower lip, unsure what to call the man, friend wouldn’t quite describe it. They clasped hands. ‘It’s good to see you, Vax. What are you doing all the way here on Mandalore? Thought you didn’t want in on the Mando life.’
‘Well, pulling off old bounties is starting to get old, you know,’ said Vax. ‘I ran into an old contact of mine and I got an offer to join a clan on Mandalore. Figured I’d give that a try.’
‘A shame you didn’t run into to me sooner,’ said Talyc, ‘I’d’ve offered you a place in Clan Kandera.’
‘Bah, we’d have gotten to our old tricks and not been able to get our tasks done. Probably best we don’t work together, fewer distractions.’ Vax winked. Talyc blushed. ‘Although, those were fun times.’
‘They were,’ said Talyc. ‘I have fond memories.’ Vax’s greyish skin turned a pink hue as he smiled. ‘Though I’ve moved on,’ Talyc added. If Vax was still anything like Talyc knew him to be, he was prone to a lot of flirting, so he wanted him to know about Fane, to avoid any awkwardness.
‘Well, yeah, I hear you’ve landed yourself a handsome young Jedi,’ said Vax. ‘Hope he keeps you safe.’
‘On the most part,’ said Talyc. Both he and Vax laughed.
‘Listen, Talyc,’ Vax said with a bit of a more serious air, ‘I’m sorry I disappeared on you the way I did. You deserved better. I just… Mandalore wasn’t for me back then and I just didn’t know how to tell you.’
‘Don’t worry about it,’ said Talyc, understanding Vax’s need for closure. ‘I’d figured as much. After wallowing, of course.’ Talyc didn’t want to lie, but he had pushed the memories from his mind a long time ago. Vax had broken his heart, but that was history now. ‘We’re good.’
Vax perked up. ‘Yeah?’
Talyc nodded. ‘So who’s the lucky clan?’ he said, changing the subject.
‘Clan Dargoza,’ said Vax, ‘with Clan Leader Wapita.’ Talyc winced. ‘What?’
‘Oh,’ said Vax. At that moment, Wapita and other members of Clan Dargoza entered the tavern. ‘Well, this is awkward. Doesn’t have to be.’ Vax waved them to come by. Wapita scowled but aproached and stood near the table. ‘You know Talyc, he’s an old friend.’ Wapita didn’t answer. ‘I see no reason why two rival clans can’t sit together and have a drink.’ Vax waved at the waitress to come by. ‘A round of your best Tarisian ale for all my friends.’
‘You haven’t changed much,’ said Talyc.
‘Oh, more than you know,’ Vax chuckled.
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