When they land, H’Vas returns the vehicle to the rental agency . . .

The rental agency is owned by a Toydarian who goes by the name of Villitus. The winged creature buzzes around the returned land-speeder complaining loudly about the sand damage to the engine intakes and the deep scratches in the hull.

“This unit was in good shape when I rented it to you yesterday,” he whines, toting up numbers of a small hand held computer. “Now it’s junk.

“You owe me . . . 735 credits, plus Imperial tax, plus local sales tax, plus off-worlder transaction tax. Let’s just call it an even 1,000 and I’m going easy on you.” He motions into the shadows of the repair shop behind the rental agency store front and an old Wookie steps forward, looming menacingly over the human as Villitus shows him the bill.

“Nice try, flutter boy,” growled H’Vas as he stood his ground against the approaching Wookie. “That crate was a hundred years old when I rented it yesterday, and if it had been serviced properly it would never have scraped bottom in the sand. I’ll pay you the fifty creds I owe you and another twenty for the damage. That’s it.

“And if you want Grandop here to get a kick on the ‘nads for being an ass, I’ll throw that in for free.”

He might have grown up on a farm world, but shysters came in all races and sizes. The Wookie looked old, and the young man had no intention of being bullied.

Villitus buzzes with what sounds like anger, but turns out to be laughter.

“That ‘old’ Wookie could kick the crap out of five of you on a bad day,” he manages to squeeze out eventually, “but you’ve got guts boy, I’ll give you that.”

He hovers over the land speeder, his insect wings buzzing and iridescent in the strong sunlight. A mobile computer in his hands clicks and whirrs once or twice.

“Yes, I though so,” he says at last. “You were out at Jabba’s palace last night.

“Tell me why and if I like the answer, I’ll let you slide on the damage for an even 100 credits.

“Otherwise you and the Wookie can set to — I’ll just take what I want from your body.”

The Wookie roars his approval at this suggestion raising a hairy arm the size of H’Vas’s leg. Old or not he is over twice the mass of the human.

H’Vas considers the offer and looks the Wookie over. Despite the claim that the old Wookie could beat the crap out of him, he thinks he could take him in fight — but is it worth the risk? One bit of bad luck and the big hairy guy could break one of his legs, even kill him. And he has no love of Jabba — though a lot of fear about betraying him.

“The Hutt hired me to work on a merchant ship for him,” he blurts out. “My family has a debt I need to pay. He’s sending us to the Corporate Sector specifically and I suspect he has spies in the crew. Though I’m not one of them. Just a spacer, me.”

His heart thumps with fear at the thin line he is treading — the kernel of the truth, but a deliberate mis-direction. And the bit about the spies? The more he thinks about that, the more certain he is that he has probably spoken the truth without realizing it. He knows nothing about that others or their motives.

The Toydarian hovers on buzzing wings looking H’Vas directly in the eye as he stumbles out his tale. For long moments he digests what the human has said, while the Wookie makes low growls in its massive chest.

“The Corporate Sector, huh?” Villitus says at last. “Wonder what the old bastard has cooking up there?”

Abruptly the tension is broken and the little creature flies away.

“Pay the bill, boy. One hundred credits. Boonwatti will swipe your chip,” he adds over his shoulder. “And good luck out there.”

The Wookie holds out his hand for H’Vas’s credit chip.

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