THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2412
JRO CITY, GRUSHKA
ZEBULON SECTOR (THE COREWARD FRONTIER)
Most people arriving at Tan Sai Ch'tor Spaceport noticed one
thing about Jro City before all others: It was -hot-. When a person,
especially a member of a species evolved in Standard conditions,
emerged from the climate-controlled coolness of a spacecraft, the heat
and accompanying humidity weren't like being smacked in the face so
much as grabbed by the throat. Travelers newly arrived in Jro City had
been known to just keel over on the tarmac from the shock of it all.
Though he also noticed the heat - he was, after all, only
human - it was of secondary concern to Leonard Hutchins as he stepped
from the Hydrargyrum's ramp to the tarmac of Tan Sai Ch'tor. His
connection to the Force had been whispering to the back of his mind
since he and his partner M'yl'ya Kyn'o'bi had arrived in the system,
and now that they were actually on the ground just outside the
capital, the whispers became murmurs. He stood for a few moments
looking off into the distance, at the green hills just visible in the
tropical haze beyond the tall duracrete defense wall surrounding the
spaceport, his face thoughtful.
"Noyyj'ttat," Emmy grumbled as she stepped down beside him.
"If it was any hotter here they'd have to issue environment suits at
Customs. ... Len?"
Len gazed thoughtfully at the far hills for a moment longer,
then said, as if to no one in particular, "This planet is troubled. I
sense a great deal of conflict."
Emmy frowned. "I don't feel anything," she said, sounding a
trifle miffed at the universe. Then, trying to turn it into a joke,
she added, "Are you sure you're using that thing correctly?"
Len was too preoccupied to take her up on the offered straight
line; he had his eyes closed now, as if trying to zero in on the
source of the disturbance he had sensed.
There came an odd howling noise from overhead, low at first
but growing in intensity.
"Down!" Emmy cried, dive-tackling Leonard and bearing them
both to the tarmac. A moment later, the hangar across the way
exploded in flames, sending bits of tin siding and plastiform flying
in all directions.
The two Jedi lay where they'd fallen for a moment, letting the
rain of debris settle; then they lifted their heads and looked around
at what had suddenly become a scene of chaos. Uniformed soldiers,
jumpsuited spaceport personnel, and a few startled-looking civilians
ran this way and that; from further up the hardstand a firefighting
vehicle rolled out of its bay and made for the burning wreckage of the
"No, you're right - I sense it too," Emmy said dryly as she
got to her feet and pulled Len up.
A Grushkan in the uniform of the colonial government's
indigenous police force ran up to them. He was a shortish, reptilian
semi-humanoid - to Len's eye, he looked strikingly like a male of the
Tau Ceti Race - with yellowish scales and large, strikingly green
eyes. His uniform, obviously designed by someone with a more human
design sense, made him look almost comically like someone's oversize
pet dressed up in a costume, though the holstered blaster pistol at
his side was serious enough.
"We are under missile attack," the officer told them. "The
spaceport will be closed. If you are going to raise ship, I suggest
you do it now."
"But we've just arrived," Emmy told him.
"Oh. Ehm." The officer thought for a second. "Actually,
that changes my advice very little. Grushka is not a place for
tourists just now."
"We're not tourists," Len said. "We're here looking for
The Grushkan nodded. "Ah, I understand. You have a friend or
loved one who has been caught up in our troubles. In that case you
had better come with me to the terminal. It would be foolish to
remain in the open."
As the two Jedi followed the officer toward the terminal
building, which looked less like a spaceport terminal and more like
some kind of military command bunker, Len asked him if there were any
safer parking spaces available.
"I'd hate for something to happen to my ship," he said. "I'm
happy to pay any parking fees, of course."
"The hardened revetments are for the use of the colonial
authority," the officer said, but then surprised Len by going on, "I
will have your vessel placed in one of them and tell anyone who asks
that it belongs to the Regional Governor. It looks expensive enough.
No one will question it."
So saying, he keyed the commbadge pinned to his uniform and
reeled off what sounded like instructions in a choppy language with a
lot of hard-bitten consonants.
Len raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that likely to get you into
some trouble if it's found out?" he asked.
The Grushkan made a dismissive gesture. "Za'kest to the
colonial authority's parking regulations," he said. "Such a fine
vessel. It would be a shame to let the kest'za rebels blow it up."
"Well, that's very kind of you, Officer... "
"Sergeant. Taa Kloym," the Grushkan said. "At your service."
"I'm Len Hutchins," Len said, "and this is M'yl'ya Kyn'o'bi."
By this point they had entered the terminal building and were
negotiating a rather depressingly decorated corridor toward the
central concourse. "We're looking for a man who was last heard of at
this spaceport on the fifth of last month. He made a call from a pay
"Human?" Kloym asked.
"Yes," Len said. "About fifty, grey hair, rather stout."
"Wearing robes like yours?"
Len hadn't thought of this. "I suppose so," he said. "I
didn't see him myself."
Kloym nodded. "I remember him. He stops by, oh, two or three
times a year. I cannot think of his name right now. He always says
he is a researcher for the Hitchhiker's Guide, but that and fifty
parrakk will get you a large klorva at Bukstaa's." The officer took a
moment to toss a friendly skeptical glance over his shoulder at Len.
"I suppose you two work for the Guide as well."
"Well, no," Len said.
Before he went on, Emmy added, "We're with the Consolidated
"Ahh," said Kloym, winking one big green eye at her. "Well,
that is a different story." He stopped at a double sliding door,
tabbed a control, and stepped into the office it revealed, gesturing.
"Have a seat and make yourselves comfortable," he said. "It will take
me a minute to run you up some visas. I do not suppose you have any,
"I'm afraid not," Emmy said regretfully. "Out here on the
Frontier they tend to do more harm than good."
Kloym opened his mouth for a moment - the mannerism was the
Race equivalent of a laugh, and Len supposed it was the same for
Grushkans. The officer clearly didn't believe Emmy's line about being
wire-service reporters, but he just as clearly didn't care.
"What's going on around here, anyway?" he asked. "Nobody told
us anything about missile attacks on the spaceport back at
Kloym climbed up into a curious perchlike chair behind his
desk and started tapping the keys of his dataterminal with long-clawed
"Oh, your standard indigenous civil war," he said offhandedly.
"The Stresk Brotherhood seek to overthrow the colonial authority; the
colonial authority seeks to assert its lawful dominion over all the
people of Grushka... and so it goes." He shrugged.
"You seem awfully laid-back about it," Len mused.
"We Grushkaani are always fighting over something," Kloym said.
"If it were not the fate of the colonials, it would be mining rights
in the Vstekka Hills or fishing concessions in the Gulf of Dekabb. Or
simply redscales against yellowscales. We fight amongst ourselves.
It is what we do." He opened his mouth in another silent laugh.
"Personally, I think it is the heat." The officer typed for a few
more seconds; in the background there came the muffled boom of another
missile explosion. "Mind you," he added, "before the humans came,
our struggles tended not to involve quite so many -exploding- things."
Neither Len nor Emmy seemed to have anything to say to that,
and it didn't appear that Kloym really expected a reply anyway. He
finished typing, waited for one of the devices on his desk to spit out
a couple of plastic chits, and handed them over.
"There you are," he said. "Your presence is now as legal as
anything gets on Grushka. And now let me give you a few items of
practical advice. Do not loiter in marketplaces; the resistance likes
to bomb them. Do not linger outside restaurants and hotels; same
reason. Do not look a redscale in the eyes; he will take this as a
challenge for possession of his mate. Also, it is best to avoid
conversation with the Colonial Marines if possible. They are very
unhappy here and are generally quite willing to file objections to
overly curious passers-by with the butts of their rifles." He rubbed
his chin thoughtfully for a few moments, then said, "I guess that is
about it. Good luck in your search. I would tell you to enjoy your
stay on Grushka, but I believe humans cannot do this."