The Smuggler and the Princess

by DocDelray

First published

What should have been a routine cargo job quickly escalates into a race to survive. Join Rarity and the freelancer Simon Ortell as they run for their lives from bounty hunters, hired guns and other dangers of the galactic underworld.

Rarity had always been a pony with high aspirations to succeed. With the galaxy now open to her and her planet, being the best in Equestria just doesn't seem to stack up, compared to best in the galaxy. After a great deal of searching, she has found a shop off-world that is willing to sell her latest non-pony designs; the problem? She needs to find someone with a ship that can get them there.

Simon Ortell is your typical cargo hauler. Never staying in one place, always following the credits to his next job. With the current civil war kicking up in the Mandalorian Federation, he, like so many other freelancers, has been making quite a bit of credits off the conflict. Sick of getting shot at, he accepts what should be an easy job moving dresses, of all things. But after a call for help from an old "friend", things are about to get very complicated.

Join this unlikely pair as they run for their lives through the galactic underworld and find themselves the targets of hired guns, bounty hunters and assassins alike.

Set after the events of Of War and Friendship and during the events of On the Side.

Cover image by the lovely and talented QuiltasticInk


Streaks of crimson stained the empty blackness of space as bolts of energy cut back and forth between two vessels as one gave chase to the other. At the head of the chase was a YT-2400 Light Freighter. A semi circular ship built primarily for hauling cargo from one end of the galaxy to the other. Every one of its blaster cannons had been turned to return fire uselessly at their pursuers. The bolts of energy collided ineffectively against the shields of the far larger Imperial Star Destroyer. The wedge shaped war ship was slower than the transport, but its weapons were far more devastating. This fact was proven effectively as several massive energy bolts easily ripped past the shields of the smaller craft striking the top mounted turret.

Sparks filled the inside of the ship as it rocked violently. Over the warning alarms and much expected panic the death scream of the ill fated gunner could be heard as his turret became a brief fireball. Those still alive of the crew did everything they could to keep their ship in one piece as they used and abused their superior maneuverability to stay alive.

“Damned Imps,” The human at the pilot seat snarled over the sounds of sparking wires and explosions. “I thought you said this route would be clear of patrols, Serif.”

The Cathar he had addressed steadied himself against the back of the pilot’s chair. Though humanoid in many respects his species was far closer related to felines than anything else. His skin was covered in a light layer of dark grey fur with streaks of white intermingling throughout. Sharp golden eyes glared daggers at the empty void out in front of them as his mind clamored for a way out of this. Compared to the rest of his men he was far better dressed.

“Clearly they changed their patrol schedule to catch ships like ours off guard.” He snarled into his ear as he gripped the chair tightly. “How soon can you make the jump?”

“We’ll be clear of the gravity well in two minutes.”

“Make it sooner.” Serif cautioned him as yet another piece of the ship burst into a hail of sparks.

Tapping away at the controls in front of him, their pilot noticed something odd, “Hey boss, you sure about this jump, it takes us pretty far into Mandalorian space?”

“The Mandalorian Federation’s border with the Fel Empire is the closest safe haven we can run to right now.” Serif angrily pointed out to his subordinate. “Now, unless you want to explain to the Imperials why you decided to make a run for it when they ordered us to cut our engines, I suggest you make a jump to the coordinates given to you.”

With a worried sigh the pilot began making the last few entries into his equipment. “Here’s hoping we don’t explode as soon as we enter hyperspace!”

As the Star Destroyer’s gunnery crews zeroed in on the tiny maneuverable craft it suddenly shot off into the depths of space. Every surviving member of the crew held their breath as the pitch black of space was now replaced by a swirling tube of blue light. As the tension began to die down a collective sigh of relief arose from the spacers.

No longer preoccupied with the immediate threat of death, Serif’s attention now shifted solely to the new situation at hand. “What’s the damage to the ship?”

“We’ve lost the main turret and Gassix,” One of his men quickly answered, “On top of that we’re leaking fuel, there’s no way we’ll make it to the station like this.”

“What about the cargo?” Serif asked in a barely calm tone.

“Still secure sir.” He was quickly informed.

With that out of the way his gaze fell upon the pilot of the craft. “Now then, Varick, I’d like to know, why you decided to make a run for it when I told you to just do as the Imperials said.”

He shot his boss a wry grin as he continued to tap away at the controls, “You kidding me, after what you told me was in that crate? Stopping for the Imperials is the LAST thing I wanna do with THAT on my ship. Speaking of, it’s gonna cost a fat ton of credits to get’er fixed up, hope you got a plan for when we reach Mando space. Not too fond of showing up in bucket head central ya know.”

Serif began slipping on a pair of black gloves as he went on. “I was planning on scrapping her to maybe scrape together enough credits to salvage this whole operation.”

“Scrap’er, hah, flattered that you think we could get a few credits for what’s left of the old girl, but don’t you think that’s a decision for the owner of the ship?”

“Oh, I do.” Serif agreed as he rested a hand on his shoulder. “That’s why I’ll be taking her off your hands for you.”

Before anything else could be said, Serif quickly grabbed him by the back of his collar and slammed his head into the console. Dazed and confused, he put up very little resistance as Serif proceeded to force him head first into one of the blown out control panels. As the live wires connected with human flesh, lethal jolts of electricity shot through the man’s body. Serif felt very little of this, let alone any remorse, thanks to the lining of his gloves as he kept him held against the live wires. The cockpit quickly became filled with the stench of burnt flesh and hair as the body finally went limp and was allowed to drop to the ground.

Taking a deep breath, Serif began to slowly remove the now char encrusted gloves. “I’m sure you’re all a little put off by my sudden burst of anger on poor Varick. So let me try to explain things to you all. We are currently trying to earn an obscene amount of credits by going behind the back of Shuga the Hutt. However, if we are caught, if we raise one too many red flags, Shuga will know what we’re up to. I can guarantee you all that Varick’s death will seem like a MERCY compared to what that Hutt does to us all!”

There was an uneasy silence amongst the group of rogues until one underling spoke up. “So, how do we move the stuff now boss?”

“Like I told Varick, repairing the ship is a waste of credits.” Serif told them as he took over behind the controls of the ship. “But I know someone who can take care of this for us. Last I heard he was on his way to some rock the Bucket Heads went and planted a flag on. Think it’s called Gaia or something.”

A simple job

Just one more job, one more job and he’d be done with hauling cargo out here in the Mandalorian territories. At least that’s what Simon Ortell kept telling himself as he made the last few adjustments to his controls.
He was a human and well in his prime and possessing a light build that somehow just barely avoided being considered thin or lithe with slightly tanned skin. His jade orbs held a strong gleam of defiance that one end of the galaxy to the next had instilled in the young man. A head of deep black hair was kept short but seemed to be a constant state of controlled chaos. The young space jockey was clad in attire befitting someone who jaunted from planet to planet: light weight, weathered, and made for just about all manner of terrain. All this brought together by a fading long brown coat that had clearly seen far better days.

His eyes watched at seemingly endless tube of blue vacuum sped past the view port in front of him. He could feel the wear and tear on his senses starting to crash in on him. How long had he been out here picking up just about every job that came his way? It had only been a month, but it felt like years to him. Running from one world to the next, no questions asked.

Part of him was disgusted to admit this, but the current civil war between the current heads of the Mandalorian Federation and the terrorist sect Deathwatch had been good for business. War meant people needed things: guns, ammo, supplies. And despite the well oiled war machine that the Neo-Protectors were, sometimes it was easier and cheaper to just hire someone who had the guts and a ship to move these things for you.

Simon was certainly making credits hand over fist out here, but he was also getting a rather unwelcomed taste for actual combat. In the past month, Simon had dodged AA batteries, sniper fire, plotted a course between two capital ships as they tore one another apart, and even been shot. He was more than happy to have come across this current job.

With the war going on, every freighter jokey and cargo hauler from the core worlds to the outer rim was flocking in to make a quick stack of credits. To this end, a lot of low risk menial jobs where falling by the wayside and mostly being forced onto rookie pilots with no clout. Simon, however, had more than enough credits as of late and felt it was more than time to get out of Mandalorian space. He wasn’t about to let himself get greedy only to end up as debris just like he’d seen happen to so many others.

This latest job was certainly one of those easy, boring, cushy jobs that most would pass up on. It didn’t pay much beyond the minimum rate and there was really no risks or thrills to be had with it. One of those perfect jobs for someone to cut their teeth on and Simon’s best excuse to head someplace a bit more civilized, like Nar Shaddaa. Some local on a newly found world that the Mandos had picked up was looking to move some cargo to Nak Shinmor.

As the walls of hyperspace faded away, Simon was greeted with a sight he had come to find all too familiar. A large collection of Mandalorian warships scattered about the star system, centralizing mostly near the large space station orbiting what looked to be the only habitable planet.

“So, this is Gaia.” He muttered to himself. “Doesn’t look all that special from here.”

“Unidentified ship,” A gruff voice grated its way over the com. “This is Gaia Defense One, you will identify yourself and state your business.”

Rolling his eyes he took a calming half breath before replying. “This is Simon Ortell of the cargo vessel Meaningless Venture. I am currently en route to the planet surface to pick up a courier job. Request nearest available landing zone to the settlement of…” He quickly double checked the location of his client on the datapad sitting on his console, “Ponyville.”

There was a long pause before a new warmer and far more welcoming voice came across the com, “This is Summer Song of Equestrian Air Traffic Control, we have you marked now, Meaningless Venture. Please head to the indicated coordinates now.”

He had been warned ahead of time that the locals on Gaia were a bit “strange,” but he certainly wasn’t expecting such a friendly greeting from her. “Uh, roger that Summer Song, got the coordinates now, beginning my approach.”

“Thank you, Captain Ortell. Please enjoy your stay here in Equestria.”

Switching off his com, he could still taste the overt sweetness in the woman’s tone. After dealing with so many battle hardened warriors, impatient commanding officers, and trigger happy soldiers she had been a strange but welcome change of pace.

His train of thought would get little time to finish its path however, as the familiar beeping and whistles of his only companion sounded from behind. Glancing around the high back of the chair, Simon spied astromech droid known as R8-Z7. Like all of his line, he was stocky utility mech built to house and contain a vast array of tools and gadgets for nearly any situation while propelled along by treaded feet on either side of his cylindrical body and one treaded foot located underneath the main body. Topped off with the rounded dome head that was classic amongst the astromech design, Z7’s one dark green and gold paint job had long since started to fade over the years.

“Fine,” He answered the droid, “I’ll take the call in the main lounge. Take care of landing the ship, will ya Z7.”

The stocky droid whistled excitedly in reply to its master as he left the droid to the controls.

Beyond the short hallway leading away from the cockpit was the ship’s lounge. A fairly simple room lined with a few couches and seats built into the floor panels of the vessel. At the center of the room was a large rounded platform that displayed a holographic image of the planet and warships around it.

Taping the flashing button on the main console, the image was quickly replaced with that of someone Simon admittedly had not expected to see: a well groomed and dressed Cathar. “Serif Mallary,” Simon stated in his most civil tone possible, “Been a while.”

“C’mon now Simon, is that anyway to greet an old friend?” Serif asked in a hurt tone.

Simon could feel his blood starting to boil, how dare he play that card on him. “Friend or not, I told you before, I don’t do work for the Hutt Cartels.”

“I’m not calling you for a Hutt gig.” Serif replied quickly. “This is something personal alright. I hit a slight snag and you’re the only person I can trust that’s here in Mando territory. You know I wouldn’t say this unless I really meant it, but… damnit… I need your help, Simon.”

He wanted to cuss the mangy Cathar out for pulling at his loyalties like he was. Simon wished desperately that he was standing in front of him right now so he could maybe take a swing at him. But he had a point, Serif had always been too proud to ever ask for help for any reason. Even when they were part of the same shipping company, he would rather risk losing his ship, cargo, even his commission, so long as he did so without having to ask someone else for a hand.

“Alright, fine…” Simon lamented with an annoyed sigh, “I’ll at least hear what you have to say.”

“I hope you don’t mind, but I’d rather speak with you about this in person.” Serif pointed out cautiously. “Send me your coordinates, and I’ll see about meeting you there.”

“That’s fine,” now it was Simon with a hint of caution in his voice, “I’ll see you planet side.”

As the transmission cut out Simon couldn’t help but get that same nagging feeling he had the day he caught a sniper round with his shoulder. Last time he’d checked, Serif was a fairly popular and powerful member of Shugga the Hutt’s main forces. And yet here was running cargo like a common courier again. Not only that, but he wasn’t willing to talk business over the com and whatever he was moving was enough to get his ship banged up to the point where it couldn’t make the trip. Simon had a bad feeling about this.

Ponyville certainly wasn’t anything like what Simon had expected. Granted, since coming out here to find work the most locations he’d seen were warzones and military installations. This was the first time he’d seen a right proper town in a long time. And it was already starting to rub him the wrong way.

It wasn’t the locals. Despite being odd at first glance, they were nothing but friendly and welcoming towards the spacer as he trekked down their street. It was how clean and friendly everything around him was. Inwardly the freighter captain cringed at how everything about this place seemed designed to be disarming.

His gaze was met occasionally by the reminders of this being a world under Mandalore’s protection however. The few scant warriors wandering about the town sans armor and chatting up the locals. Every now and then spotting one of these pony things using what was undoubtedly alien technology to them. He even caught sight of a small humanoid child running through the streets playing with a group of their young. It was all so very heartwarming, he needed to get off this planet as soon as possible.

It didn’t take him long to locate the place he was looking for. He had found the majority of the town odd to begin with, but this current structure certainly was in a close second place with that building made to look like some kind of confection. Carousel Boutique, to call the building’s design flashy was an understatement. The brightly colored walls with a clearly frilly motif to the structure, even at a glance it certainly left an impression on someone. He wasn’t here to take in the architecture though.

As he entered the shop the tiny bell over the door announced his entry. The inside of the shop was just colorful as the outside. All around the main floor of the shop there were mock ponies clad in all manner of dresses and outfits. In the far corner a few humanoid mannequins were lined along the wall, dressed in similar fashions.

“Coooooooooooooming.” A soft voice called from the back of the store.

One of the horned breed of ponies he’d seen around the town quickly came prancing from the back room. Her coat was a peerless white, a mane of violet tresses that had been expertly curled fell about her shoulders matched by the similar styling of her tail. Deep blue eyes met his gaze shining with a strong sense of intelligence.

“Welcome to Carousel Boutique, where every garment is unique, chic, and magnifque.” She cooed happily. Upon seeing him she quickly began sizing him up. “Oh dear, you certainly came to me in the nick of time. That outfit is clearly in need of some drastic help.”

“I… wait, what?” This was not what Simon had been expecting, something that was becoming a theme on this planet. “What’s wrong with my clothes?”

“Oh darling, where to start,” she sighed in exasperation, “firstly you look as though you’ve bought nothing but off the rack at a thrift store. And my goodness, this coat is just atrocious.” A blue hued energy encased a portion of his coat and floated it up to show him the fraying edges at the hem. “This thing belongs in the trash, dear.”

Simon’s neutral expression quickly scrunched up in annoyance as he snatched the coat from her grasp. “I happen to like this coat.” He growled at her.

Rarity took a step back out of surprise by his reaction. “Oh, I’m sorry darling, but you have to agree the poor thing has seen far better days.”

This was quickly becoming frustrating for the spacer. “Look, I’m not here about updating my wardrobe. Are you the one who put out that job offer to move cargo to Nak Shinmor?”

A look of realization quickly entered her features before a touch of red bled through her cheeks. “Oh dear, how embarrassing. I am SO sorry about that darling. I had assumed you were a customer.” With a warm smile she offered her hoof to him. “I am Rarity, the owner of this shop and the one who posted the job.”

Simon was hesitant at first before finally taking her hoof firmly in his grasp and keeping his eyes locked tightly with hers. A good handshake is the most important part of a first impression, is what his old mentor used to tell him. “Simon Ortell; a pleasure, I’m sure.”

The talk of business and payment went by rather smoothly. After an hour the pair had reached a reasonable agreement before he made his exit from the boutique. Part of Simon’s heart leapt a bit as he realized that within a few hours he would light years away from the damnable Mandalorian sector. All he had to do now was meet up with Serif and get all of this cargo onto the Venture, and he’d be well on his way. He hated admitting it, but he could feel himself starting to smile from ear to ear.

Rarity felt as though she might start jumping for joy with a school filly squeal. After all the pain she and her friends had gone through since that fateful day in the Everfree Forest, things were going her way. Her human designs were starting to gain popularity amongst those visiting the planet, and now a shop not unlike her own had contacted her about selling her creations offworld.

Her dreams of being one of the most recognized designers in Equestria were quickly becoming dwarfed by far greater aspirations. No, one single nation on one single planet wasn’t good enough, not anymore, not after everything she’d seen and done. The best in Equestria felt too much like third place, Rarity was anything but the bronze medalist. Her vision was now settled on something far grander, she was going to become the most recognized fashion designer in the entire galaxy.

She could see it now, her face and her creations plastered across the stars themselves. Politicians, royals, and heads of state would all be wearing her meticulously crafted goods as they went from one important function to the next. Reporters from far and wide asking them that age old question, “Who are you wearing?” The answer sent shivers down her spine, “Rarity.”

All she needed to do was get the small cargo pod she had put together in the back of the shop and take it to the spaceport just outside of Ponyville. She approached the trunk sized metallic box with its electronic locks with a sense of reverence. This vessel contained her future as she knew it, her key to the fashion world of the galaxy itself. It had to be treated with care.

The soft blue aura of her magic gingerly encased the crate and began lifting it off the ground effortlessly. She floated the container in mid-air beside her as she happily pranced out the front door of her shop, flipping the closed sign over as she went. As she made her way down the main street of Ponyville, she couldn’t help but feel like her head was deep in the clouds as each step seemed to skip a bit.

Her trip to the now fully established spaceport was relatively short and completely uneventful. Once these dresses were where they needed to go though, it would all be more than worth it. She had been thinking on what she would do to celebrate this glorious day. Perhaps a trip to the spa, she would absolutely need to invite Mrs. Skirata considering she did so much to help Rarity even get this chance. Maybe Fluttershy could join them as well. Rarity had been dying to grill the Pegasus on her current relationship with that alien, Arkanna.

Her wandering mind, however, would prove to be quite the hindrance as she trotted her way through the automatic door leading to the hanger Simon had instructed her to meet him at.

Simon waited in hangar bay eight in the shadow of his ship. A Ghtroc 720 light freighter, it was an old model ship, but they had a reputation for being hardy and long lasting vessels. At first glance, many would akin the ship to being shaped very much like a flattened turtle. The main haul being a rounded body, two pairs of engines placed at the back and front much like legs, and the cockpit located at the end of a short neck. This particular one had been clearly modified and improved upon from its original factory standards quite a bit.

Just as Simon was about to lose his patience with Serif not showing up, the Cathar in question finally entered the hangar, accompanied by four well-armed men and a very large crate, sealed tightly with maglocks. Old friend or not, Simon couldn’t help but feel that Serif had a bit more security than what was needed. Four armed men were keeping a close watch over their employer and the sizable mystery-crate that required transport. In his head, Simon had begun breaking down his chances of survival if his “friend’s” bodyguards decided to blast him. The odds did not look good for him.

With a wide friendly smile, Serif closed the gap between himself and Ortell, “Simon! Hah, it’s good to see you in person, you shuttle-rat.”

Simon reasoned there was no reason not to be sociable as he returned the smile and embraced his old partner in crime. “Serif, I can see Hutt life is doing you good; must’ve put on twenty, thirty extra pounds?”

“Don’t even start that with me string bean.” He playfully cautioned him with a rough shove. “Trust me, it’s all muscle. ‘Sides, you’d have a bit more meat on your bones too if you’d taken Swifty’s job offer all those years ago.”

“Yeah, and look how things turned out for Swifty.” Simon reminded him.

“Past mistakes aside,” Serif pointed out, “we should get down to business. Would love nothing more than to catch up with you old buddy, but time is not something we can afford to waste on this one.”

“You know the rules, Serif,” Simon flatly stated, “half now, half on delivery; you don’t need to tell me what’s in the crate but I need to know where I’m going and who I’m meeting. And I work alone.”

“You were always the better businessman than me.” Serif stated with a grin. “Your contact is an Ubese by the name of Vrax, he’ll be waiting for you at StarForge Station in the Ado Sector.”

Simon flinched a bit at the mention of his contact. “Ubese; don’t tell me you’re getting into bed with those savages now.”

“Just the one, and he happens to do good work.” Serif reassured him with a pat on the back. “As for the credits, don’t worry about it, you know you’ll be well taken care of-”

The door to the side of the hangar bay suddenly slid open, causing dead silence to grip all those assembled. All eyes were on the alabaster Unicorn who happily trotted in on the conversation, completely engrossed in thought and humming a happy tune to herself. They all stood in quiet surprise as she confidently trotted along, completely oblivious to what was going on around her.

Rarity’s advance came to a sudden stop as the familiar sound of weapons and their safeties being taken off filled her ears. Her eyes darted about the room, finding weapon after weapon pointed at her. Most ponies and sentient life forms in general in this situation would understandably be on their knees, weeping and begging to be let go.

Rarity on the other hoof couldn’t help but mutter, “For the love of… not again.”

Serif brought his weapon to bear with Rarity’s right eye as he glared down at the pony. “Little girl, you just took a very wrong turn.”

“Yes well, it would appear so, good sir.” She said a cool and polite tone. “I was looking for hanger four, but I’m afraid I’m having such a hard time reading the intergalactic standard. You wouldn’t happen to know the way would you?”

He hadn’t known the pony very long, but already Simon was getting the feeling there was more to this Rarity girl than met the eye. Here she was, staring down a firing squad, and she wasn’t even blinking. He could’ve sworn it looked as though she was almost daring them to pull their triggers. Either way, he had to stop this before one of his employers killed the other.

Simon quickly clasped his hand over Serif’s weapon to point it towards the ground. “Whoa, are you nuts!?”

All eyes were now on him, not exactly something he wanted deep down, but then again, he didn’t want to see an innocent bystander get torn to shreds by blaster bolts. “Did you forget that we’re standing in the middle of a Mandalorian spaceport?” Simon snarled at the group. “You fire those in here and those bucket heads will storm in and mow us down before you get another shot off.”

“She’s a loose end, Simon!” Serif barked impatiently. “I don’t think you fully understand just how much is at risk here.”

Simon fought hard to keep his expression from changing, but it really did shock him just how much his old companion had changed in those years working for the Hutts. “I’ll take care of her.” Simon said in a deadpan tone.

Serif was clearly taken aback by this sudden shift in mood. Even Rarity seemed visibly shaken a bit by this sudden declaration as she took a step away from the human. This was probably about what she said about his coat.

“I’ll take her up with me,” Simon continued, “once we’re a good distance away from the planet, I’ll shove her out the airlock.”

Serif’s brow raised in curiosity. “That’s pretty cold-blooded; especially for you, Simon.”

“You don’t want loose ends, I don’t want to get shot by those Mando wackjobs, and we both want to make some credits.” Simon said, doing his best to simplify the situation. “This is pretty much the quickest and easiest way to deal with her.”

Rarity looked back and forth between the barrel of the blaster in her face, and the man saying he was going to throw her into the vacuum space. She quickly found her bravado starting to crumble away as she became slightly tempted to request the blaster bolt instead. At least that sounded like a far more pleasant death than the deathly grip of the void strangling her as she floated helplessly. Much to her horror, Serif relented to this offer.

“Alright then,” He gave a motion towards his men. “You two, get the crate loaded up, you, get some binders on her and toss her on the ship, we need to move fast.”

This certainly wasn’t what Simon had expected when he woke up this morning. Maybe getting shot at, maybe running from law enforcement, maybe sneaking weapons and illegal goods into certain areas of space or planets. But playing host to his newly acquired hostage, that wasn’t anywhere on the list.

As he went through the motions of prepping the ship for takeoff, he did everything he could to avoid looking over his shoulder. He made that mistake after they had left her still struggling bound and gagged form in one of the crew seats behind him. Those angry sapphires that seemed to just bore into his skull and rip into him, he knew they were there, he could feel them on the back of his head.

At least they were home free now. Once they jumped to hyperspace he would take her bindings off and explain the entire situation to her. Hopefully she wasn’t so mad that she’d decide not to pay him.

Serif watched as the Meaningless Venture lifted up into the sky before quickly shooting off into the distance. His eyes burned a critical stare along the ship’s path. That was too easy. Too convenient of Simon to just up and decide he’d kill someone. Especially like that.

“Get on the holo,” he commanded one of his goons, “tell Vrax the package is on its way.”

Off to a rough start

Hyperspace, scientists and eggheads would tell you that it’s an alternate state of existence that one could use to travel faster than light. Simon didn’t care about that or any of the technical jargon that went along with trying to explain how it all worked. All he cared about was that it did and now he and his “guest” were more or less home free.

Speaking of whom, Simon could still feel those eyes on the back of his head glaring a hole straight through him. Still, he couldn’t just ignore her for the entire trip, granted things would probably work out a lot easier if he did.

Rarity had stopped grunting and snarling her words through the gag that had been tied around her snout, the wasted effort was starting to make her throat sore anyways. She had given up on struggling against the bonds that held her as well. A pair of binders around her forelimbs kept them pinned behind her back while another set restricted the movement of her back legs.

Uncomfortably left in one of the crew chairs of the cockpit, all the indignant fashionista could do is glare daggers at the back of her host’s head while she awaited her fate. As the blackness of space quickly became replaced with a strange blue tunnel of light, it dawned on Rarity that she may not have to wait much longer.

Her eyes quickly darted about the cockpit for something she could use to her advantage. Computer consoles gave her no leverage, while she’d finally learned the ins and outs of using communication devices the use of higher functioning computers was far out of her breadth of knowledge. She caught glances of a short stocky metallic being rolling about the ship just beyond the cockpit whistling to itself. There was no way that thing could be of use to her, especially that far away. Finally was that over sized rag he called a jacket that seemed to be haphazardly hanging from a vacant chair, perhaps it could come in handy. Something beneath the jacket however was what truly caught her keen eyes for detail, a hint of something solid and metallic with a very familiar shape to it.

With a sigh of relief, Simon finally turned his chair to face the less than happy Unicorn slouched in the chair behind him. Cautiously he drew closer to her. His mind raced for a way to explain his actions and hopefully reassure her that things weren’t going to be playing out as he’d told Serif. This being a less than ideal social situation however made this more than a little hard. That look she was giving him didn’t make it any easier. It was like her eyes could probably melt carbonite.

“Okay, I know you're mad right now,” Simon said in a calm even tone, “but I promise I’m not going to hurt you.” Even he thought that clichéd line was forced.

Rarity let loose a stream of muffled grunts and noises that he could only guess were probably laced with one or two curses judging from the tone of them. “Okay, this isn’t helping, we need a dialogue to straighten this mess out.” Simon admitted with a sigh. “Now, if I take that gag off, do you promise to talk with me in a civil manner?”

With one last glare the captured Unicorn finally relented and nodded in agreement. Simon couldn’t help but smile a bit at her cooperation. He probably should have guessed she’d be a lot more willing talking things out after their first meeting. Kneeling down next to her he started undoing the rather roughly tied knot around the back of her head.

“Good, most people in your position would be more inclined to screaming their heads off.” Simon stated as he began removing the mouth restraint. “I think we got off on the wrong foot anyways.”

The gag finally out of her mouth, Rarity gave her jaw a few flexes to get the sore feeling worked out of the muscles. Her deep blues zeroed in on Simon’s eyes, they suddenly seemed unusually calm and welcoming after glaring so harshly at him for the past twenty minutes. Even more oddly out of place was that alarmingly soft smile she suddenly possessed.

“I agree completely, darling.” She stated in a far too honey sweet tone as she batted her eyes at him.

Simon stared at her in blank confusion as he tried to make sense of this odd woman. Unfortunately, before it could hit him, something else hit him even harder. With a swift motion Rarity reared her back legs into her stomach before launching them forwards into Simon’s unprotected stomach. With a gasp of pain, the human doubled over from the driving force of the blow as it tore into his gut.

The attack on her home town and the fight at the capital had taught Rarity quite a few lessons, first and foremost, the need to protect one’s self. Having befriended quite a few of the Mandalorians that have made their homes in and around Ponyville, the fashionista had learned quite a bit about how to defend herself.

Not wanting to lose the momentum of the situation, Rarity pulled her back legs as tightly against herself as she could. Her back buried into the chair behind her as she let her legs rocket outwards for another blow. Simon, having dropped to one knee from the first hit, now had his chest right in the path of the irate Unicorn’s second blow. As her hooves connected at full speed he felt as though his ribs buckle under the weight of the blow as he was knocked backwards into the control console behind him.

Rarity’s horn flashed a blue aura that quickly enveloped her restraints. Clearly none of her captors had read up on Unicorn magic, or Force, or whatever those galactic types had taken to calling it. Pouring quite of a bit of her magic into the binders, they quickly shattered under the pressure freeing her. Her aura quickly grabbed one more, very important item while the advantage was still hers.

Simon’s vision was blurry, but it didn’t take a genius to realize what just happened. Those hooves of hers and the strength behind them, it was like taking a full on ogre punch from an angry Wookie. He could feel pain burning through his chest with every labored breath after that last blow. Simon was sure she had at least bruised his ribs with that hit. As he scrambled to return to an upright position, his hand quickly flew to the trump card hidden in his boot lining.

His hand immediately shot towards the holdout blaster concealed in his boot. Simon was understandably very angry about taking a pair of hooves to his gut and chest, but he honestly didn’t want to kill her. He’d already seen that a weapon pointed at her seemed to get her compliance, so why not give it try himself? Before he could draw the small blaster though, a cold metallic feeling pressed into his temple.

Cautiously, Simon turned his gaze upwards to find his sidearm suspended in an aura of blue energy pointed right at him. Beyond that he found the steely gaze of a less than happy Rarity glaring at him from behind the weapon. His mind quickly leapt to the copilot’s chair where he had laid his jacket over top of his gun belt. Quietly he cursed himself and his own thoughtlessness for making such a rookie mistake. Simon knew he was completely to blame for this current turn of events. He had underestimated the fashion designer, a mistake he would not be making again.

Rarity held tightly to that feeling of adrenaline rushing through her veins, it was the only thing keeping her from dropping the blaster and curling up in a ball like Fluttershy. She was in control of this situation and she had to keep reminding herself of that.

“I do apologize for the roughness, darling.” She said in a calm even tone. “But I’m sure you understand my position at the moment. Now, if you would be so kind as to turn this vessel around and take me home, I would like to take my leave of your company and depart immediately.”

Simon wanted that holdout blaster in his hand all the more now. How dare she give him orders on HIS ship! As angry as he was, he quickly realized that he still had a few more cards to play.

“How about no,” Simon replied with a defiant glare as he stared her down.

The look on Rarity’s face told him everything he needed to know, she hadn’t expected this as his answer. “I don’t think you realize your current standing in this negotiation, I have the gun.”

“No, I don’t think you realize the standings, Princess.” He said in a mocking tone, “Let’s assume you pull that trigger and burn a hole through my head? Then, you can try and pilot this extremely complicated piece of machinery back to that dirt ball you call home, assuming you can find it in the overwhelming vastness of space that is. Then you can deal with Serif, you know, that guy who wanted to pop your pretty head off your shoulders. I’m sure he’d LOVE to see you again.”

Rarity felt herself trying to back away from the human as he rose to his feet and took a step towards her. The blaster suspended before her began to waver and shake as her will began to crumble bit by bit. She had only wanted to scare him into compliance, never really to shoot him. Her once cool exterior was starting to crumble and her supply of adrenalin was slowing to a halt.

Seeing his chance, Simon quickly swiped the pistol out of her grasp while snarling at her, “Now give me that thing before you hurt someone!” He quickly went about removing the power pack of the weapon as he continued his angry rant. “Take you home, do you know how stupid of an idea that is? Serif is still on your planet, are you trying to get yourself killed!? What do you think he’s going to do if he sees you again, let alone sees that cargo pod he left with us?”

Simon’s rant was about to continue on until he caught sight of something that brought him to a grinding halt. When he looked back at Rarity he saw the look of fear and worry on her face as he tore into her so carelessly. In the back of his mind, Simon began chastising himself. Of course she hit you and took your weapon, she’s scared! She’s in over her head and you yelling at her is not going to make the situation any better.

Biting back on his anger, Simon returned to the controls of the ship keeping the back of his chair to her. “Look, sorry about the whole kind of kidnapping thing, but at the time it was the only thing I could think of to get you out of there.” He said in a slightly more civil tone. “As soon as we get rid of Serif’s package, I’ll take care of your delivery and then get you home.”

Rarity stared at the back of his chair with a touch of shock at his sudden shift in emotion. “You… you’re still going to complete my delivery, but why?”

“I took your money and the job.” Simon stated flatly as he pretended to work the controls. “You and I entered into a contract that clearly states that I have to get your goods to Nak Shinmor. I always complete my contracts, Princess.”

A smile tugged at the edges of Rarity’s mouth as a glimmer of hope returned to her less than desirable situation. Quickly though, something entered her mind. “I am very appreciative of your kindness, Captain Ortell, but just how long do you think this trip will take?”

Simon glanced over his shoulder at her before going back to his work. “Should take about two days, maybe a few more depending on stops and any complications,”

Rarity’s jaw nearly hit the floor at this revelation. “Two days, is… is that an accurate assessment?”

Simon snickered a bit at her surprise. “I’ll take that to mean you haven’t spent much time out here.” He said with a nod towards the viewport. “Modern hyperdrive units can get you from one end of the galaxy to the next real easy. Just sit back, relax and you’ll be back in your shop in just a few days.”

His words made sense at least. Rarity hadn’t been as educated as Twilight when it came to scientific sort of things. She was smarter than your average Unicorn, in her humble opinion at least, but grasping the endless distances of space was more than a bit out of her realm.

“Quickly or not, Captain Ortell, we may still have a slight problem.” Rarity called to his attention. “You see, my friends and family will notice me missing very soon and I can guarantee you that they will do something about it.”

“Yeah, that could be a problem.” He said nonchalantly. “So what do you expect me to do about it?”

“Well, I assume that this vessel has some form of long range communication device aboard it.”

Simon could barely hold back the urge to laugh at her request as he turned his chair around to face her. “So, lemme get this straight, you knock me on my rear, pull my own blaster on me, and now you want to make a call? And just how stupid do you think I am?”

How indeed, Rarity mused inside her own head. “I don’t think you understand, darling. I happen to be a pony with connections that lead all the way to both Princess Celestia and the Mand’alor herself. My going missing so suddenly will not go unnoticed unless I let them know I’m fine. That is unless you’d rather take your chances with a Mandalorian Knight hunting you down to rescue me from your clutches.” She added with a smug grin.

Simon’s outlook quickly shifted to become a bit more serious as he looked her dead in the eye. “You’re bluffing.”

“I have no reason to lie to you, Captain Ortell,” Rarity pointed out to him as she examined one of her hooves. “I am completely at your mercy as of right now, so holding anything back that would be advantageous to me would be ill advised as of right now. And besides that, a lady, my dear Simon, does not deal in bluffs.”

Simon gritted his teeth as he fought back against his anger. Mandalorians were bad enough, but those Knights with their freaky Force powers were even worse. “Okay, fine, let’s say I believe you. How do I know you won’t trick me and call in some Mando hit squad once I let you have access to the holo-projector?”

“And how would I go about that?” Rarity asked with a look of growing annoyance. “I have no idea where you’re taking me let alone where we are right now. Believe it or not, darling, we may just have to learn to trust one another. Especially with how long we are to be spending time with each other.”

Simon found himself locked in an impossible staredown with the overly posh Unicorn. No matter how hard he glared into her deep blue orbs he couldn’t seem to force her to budge even an inch on the subject. Biting down hard to force himself not to resort to simply yelling his head off at her, he finally felt himself giving into her demands.

“Ugh, fine, Princess, I’ll get you into contact with your friends. But you double cross me and you’ll find yourself stranded on Tatooine.” He warned her.

Rarity gave an indignant snort at his comment as she turned her nose up at him. “Of all the nerve, really Captain Ortell, a lady does NOT go back on her word.”

She took a moment to glance around the cabin before asking, “Now then, since I will be spending some time aboard this vessel, I assume sleeping arrangements shall be made?”

“I don’t normally transport people,” Simon told her, “so the bunks have been pretty much turned into a storage closets. You can sleep in the common room for the time being.”

Rarity gave him a shocked, almost hurt, expression. “What, you can NOT be serious.” She scoffed at him. “You expect me to sleep out on the couch? Have you no concept on how to treat a lady?”

“Hey, I saved your life,” he was quick to remind her. “The least you could do is maybe be a little more grateful considering the situation!”

“Oh yes, I’m ever so very grateful to have been absconded with across the stars after having blasters pointed in my face yet again!”

“How was that my fault!? You’re the one who walked in on our deal!”

“And what is it we’re carrying?” Rarity asked with a sudden shift in mood to one far more calm and neutral.

Simon was clearly taken aback by her swift change in mood and the cold sternness in her gaze as she held his own in a vise grip. “I… No, no I’m not falling into that trap, Princess.” He snarled at her. “Look, you don’t need to know, and I sure as hell don’t want to know. First rule is to never look in the package.”

“So you have absolutely no idea what’s in that sealed crate?” Rarity asked with a hint of disbelief. “For all we know that thing could be a bomb or even-”

“I scanned it before bringing it aboard.” Simon cut her off, “There were no active electronics or any signs of explosive materials. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, Princess, I know better than to bring something like that aboard.”

His words brought her just a small fraction of comfort. True, he no doubt had experience that she lacked in the field of interstellar transportation and he’d come this far in life without getting himself killed. Even worse still, should she somehow wrench control of the vessel away from him, she had no idea how to pilot it let alone get back home to Equestria.

With a sigh of defeat, the Unicorn bowed her head to him. “Alright then Captain, I will defer to your judgment on the subject. However I will still require a place to rest.”

“We’ll take care of it after we get this holo-call out of the way.”

“And don’t forget Fluttershy, darling, please don’t forget to brush Opal’s coat, she gets soooo matted if it isn’t groomed regularly.” Rarity instructed the holographic image of her friend who had been frantically trying to take notes.

Simon leaned against the doorway keeping himself out of sight of the projector’s camera. For the past hour he’d monitored Rarity as she called what he assumed to be every damned resident of that village she came from. True enough though she’d kept her word and not once mentioned the incident at the spaceport or her technical kidnapping. Part of him wanted to believe she could be trusted because of this, but cynical spacer in him brought up no fewer than twelve moments where his trust had been betrayed, seven involving a pretty face.

As the image finally faded away with her final goodbyes, Simon let out a sigh of relief. “Alright, are we done calling every single person you know yet?”

Rarity glared at him inwardly while keeping on a pleasant face, it had only been three calls. “Not to worry, I just have one last call, darling, then we can be on our way.”

“By all means, not like these cross galactic calls cost me anything.” He grumbled as he watched her dial in the number.

After a few moments the image of what Simon could only describe as a miniature version of his guest appeared over the projector. The key differences being her hair and tail were mess of natural curls as opposed to Rarity’s stylized look.

“Sweetie Belle, I was hoping I would catch you.” Rarity proclaimed joyfully.

Simon did what he could to avoid eavesdropping on her conversation as she happily shared words with the tiny Unicorn. From what fragments made it his way, he’d learned that Sweetie Belle and Rarity were very close. They had gone on for what felt like an eternity talking about every little thing in the younger one’s life, school work, friends, something called Cutie Marks, and he could have sworn he heard something about a rocket powered sled. All Simon could really hear, though, was sounds of credits being sucked out of his pockets as the conversation went on and on. Then something caught his attention towards the end.

“Goodbye little sister, I love you.” Rarity said in a calm restrained tone to keep her emotions in check.

Simon glanced towards the posh Equestrian as she hesitantly ended the conversation. A pang of guilt entered him as he watched her stare sadly at the holo-projector where the image of her aforementioned sister had been. His jaw clenched as an all too familiar face and name entered his mind. How long had it been? No, he couldn’t let himself dwell on this, not now. Not when he had a job to complete and absolutely not in front of her. Simon quickly squashed those rampant feelings as Rarity turned around to face him, it wasn’t hard to spot the raging emotions behind those wide sapphires of hers.

A soft smile slipped over Rarity’s face as she trotted towards him, “Thank you Simon, I know those calls were no doubt expensive and I promise I’ll do whatever I can to pay you back.”

“Yeah well, it’s better than having them send a bunch of trigger happy bucketheads after us right?” He replied in a cold tone. “So, that’s all of them right?”

“Yes, my movements are accounted for now.” She assured him.

“Good, I don’t like complications to a job.” He stated flatly as he made towards the cockpit. “By the way,” He added with his back still to her, “been thinking. I guess I can put Z7 to work on clearing out one of the bunks, make it a bit more comfortable for you. Till then you can use my room.”

Coming to a full stop he quickly turned on his heel and brought himself eye level with her. “One rule, do NOT touch anything in there.”

Rarity suppressed a chuckle at his attempts to seem imposing and intimidating, “Of course darling. You shan’t find even a speck of dirt out of place upon your return.” A pleasant smile returned to her features as she trotted past him, “Now that we have that settled, all we need do now is take care of the issue of my lack of clothes.”

Simon could feel his eyebrow starting to twitch. “Pardon?”

“Well you can’t expect me to go traipsing around in public with people thinking I was naked.” Rarity said in a bemused tone.

“You mean you aren’t already?”

“It’s complicated dear.” She said with a wave her hoof. “Now, if you would be so kind as to provide me with a few supplies to work with I’ll be able to get to work immediately.”

Simon did what he could to massage the throbbing pain in his temple away. “For the love of… it’s just one thing after another with you isn’t it?” He grumbled in frustration. Something told him that this was going to be a VERY long trip.

Not so simple anymore

You could tell a lot about person by how they kept their bedroom; at least, that’s something Rarity had always believed. The living room could be spotless and tidy to save face for company, but their bedroom was a place just for them. It was a place where somepony could truly relax, surrounded by their loves and private passions. Simon’s room was certainly telling the mare quite a bit about him.

It was tidy to the point of being nearly spotless, something Rarity could certainly appreciate and respect. It was also very simplistic; a bed in the corner, a desk opposite the bed facing the wall, closet set up in another corner. There was nothing decorative, nothing to stylize the room, making it almost feel empty to her. The one thing that truly stood out about the room was that the wall on the far side of the room had been set up with lines of shelves, each one holding what looked to be long lines of electronic storage devices.

As she drew closer to examine them further, something upon the desk drew her attention. A photograph set in a simple, black frame sat upon the metallic surface. With a touch of blue aura, Rarity levitated the picture a bit closer to get a better look. She found herself staring Simon with a young woman who had her arm tightly looped around his neck in a headlock. The woman was clearly human, dark hair and shining green eyes with a scar on her left cheek, and looked to be rather strongly built. The location of the picture appeared to be a less than welcoming and rather dirty back alley. Run-down looking storefronts and grimy walls seemed to surround the pair, but despite all that they looked to be happy. She couldn’t stop herself from staring at it; he looked so content.

Rarity couldn’t help but dwell a bit on this mystery. The Simon she had seen thus far was a rather angry and, for lack of a better word, abrasive young man. This Simon in the photograph, however, was joyful and carefree. What could have happened between landing on Equestria and when this picture was taken, I wonder? Her musings were brought to a halt as the footsteps of her host echoed from the hallway outside.

Simon trudged his way into the room with a metallic box tucked under his arm. “Alright, you can use any of the clothes I’ve got here-” He froze midsentence when he saw her floating the picture beside her. “What’d I tell you about touching the stuff in here?”

Rarity glanced at the picture before quickly placing it back on the desk with a wide, embarrassed smile as a touch of red bled through her coat. “Oh, I’m very sorry, darling. I didn’t mean to overstep my boundaries.”

She couldn’t help but glance back at the photo before looking to her host. “So, who is that in the picture with you? You both look very happy together.”

Simon gave her a hard glare before setting the box of clothes on the bed. “You don’t need to know that.”

The air in the room had quickly become very thick and uncomfortable. Her eyes quickly darted to the wall of electronics; yes, that would do for an out. “I was actually curious about these things over here.” She stated with a motion of her hoof. “I am still more than a little fuzzy on any written language outside of my own. I was hoping you could tell me what all of these are. Books, perhaps?”She inquired with hopes that a quick change in subject just might help to improve the mood of the room a bit.

“Huh? Oh, uh, no; that’s actually my holo-vid collection.” He noticed a look of confusion in her eyes. “They’re recordings of performances, like a play you can just watch at anytime. I don’t suppose you’ve got something like that where you come from?”

Rarity nearly rolled her eyes at this question. “Oh, you mean movies. Well of course we do. We might not have space travel and are a bit behind the times on the subject of electronics, but we most certainly have such a thing as movies. Sadly though, Equestria’s fledgling movie industry has not been doing so well I’m afraid. It just hasn’t been picking up like so many had hoped.”

Simon had been hesitant for a moment, but eventually he started taking her bait. “You… got any favorites?”

A hint of a smile slipped across her muzzle at the small opening she’d been given. “Well, a personal favorite of mine is a film by the name of Fleurs d'amour, a beautiful tale of a love-struck Earth Pony farmer and the noble Pegasus she pines for.”

Simon let out a chuckle. “I should’ve figured you for a fan of romances.”

“And what kinds of performances interest you, Captain Ortell?” She asked in a happy tone.

With a light grin he glanced at the wall of storage devices. “Honestly, I kind of doubt I could narrow it down. Holo-vids of just about any kind are a bit of a passion of mine.”

Rarity gave a light hearted chuckle at this claim. “Considering how much is probably contained on each of those things, I would assume you have quite the diverse collection.”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that.” He stated with a hint of pride.

That tiny voice in the back of his head came rushing back to him. It quickly reminded him about letting his defenses down, about how only trouble ever follows when he trusts someone. Simon pulled himself back into his mental shell.

“I’ll let you get to your work.” He stated in a flat even tone as he made for the door.

Rarity watched the young man’s back as he walked away from her yet again. She still couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of sadness for the young man as she compared how he was now to the image in the photograph. Something else that plagued her curiosity was the identity of the woman he was with. Had something happened to her? An accident, or an incident perhaps?

Stop that Rarity, She chastised herself. In a few days time you’ll be back in Ponyville and he’ll have disappeared into the depths of space. Whatever it is or was, it doesn’t concern you. Don’t be such a blasted busy body.

With a ragged sigh she levitated the first thing she saw at the top of the box, giving the garment a scrutinizing eye. “Oh dear, somepony clearly has no eye for fashion.” She complained as she turned the dull, brown robe over in the air.

“Still, you have crafted masterpieces with far less before!” She cheered herself on as she began levitating the various garments from the box as she set about her work.

Nar Shaddaa, the gleaming moon of Nal Hutta. It has been known by a number of names throughout history, the Smuggler’s Moon and Little Coruscant being the most well-known. To Serif Mallary, it was simply home. The Cathar mobster loved this grimy and gritty city world. He loved the undying lights, the smog-choked atmosphere and the constant roar of speeders and ships overhead. These were sights and sounds of both civilization and progress.

Serif relaxed into the back seat of his air car as it cut a path through the upper levels of the planet-wide city. His mind ran through all the angles that were in play as of right now. His product was well on its way to Star Forge, which meant it was only a matter of hours before it was put into circulation. Soon Vrax would have this package and all the trouble Serif had gone through would be a thing of the past. Despite the setbacks from earlier, he had to say it was a good day.

As the car touched down on a landing pad, he stepped out and couldn’t help but grin at the massive tower in front of him. This was the base of operations for Shuga the Hutt and his organization. Unlike other Hutts, Shuga preferred a more businesslike approach to this lifestyle, as opposed to some opulent palace in the outer rim. Instead, he had a palace of the modern day: four hundred floors of office space and every single one of them dedicated to some aspect of his empire. Serif was going to take this empire for himself. It really was a good day.

Adjusting his suit jacket, he started towards the front doors of the massive sky scraper while flanked by his usual entourage: a collection of well-armed, well-trained and very well-dressed foot soldiers that stayed close to their boss’ side. This feeling of power only gave him even greater fantasies of his eventual rise from the bottom rung to the top of this world.

The elevator ride to the top floor had been a quick one, thanks to modern innovations in technology. Serif soon found himself stepping off alone into the penthouse suite of the massive tower. A long hallway and a cleanly-kept office led the Cathar to the rooftop garden of the Hutt gangster. The sweet scent of expensive and rare foliage and endangered flowers flooded his senses, some of which played havoc on his overly-sensitive sense of smell. At one point this area had been a massive, open patio overlooking the rest of the city. On a whim, however, Shuga had turned it into a greenhouse complete with artificial sunlight and the works.

It wasn’t too hard to find his Hutt employer. The hulking gastropod was taking care of some “business” in his beloved garden. A pair of burly guards kept a blubbering humanoid between them both as he begged over and over for mercy. Shuga showed no interest in his cries to be let loose as he continued to preen a vine of brightly colored flowers. A hungry grin slipped past Serif’s self control; he always enjoyed watching these things play out.

“Please, master Shuga, I can get the money! I swear it!” The ill-fated man pleaded.

Shuga gave him a bored glance before grumbling something in Huttese that his ever-present protocol droid quickly translated. “The mighty Shuga is disappointed with you, Lazz. He says he expected you to be far more careful when stealing from him.”

“I… I was desperate, Shuga…” He said in his defense. “My daughter needed that operation I told you about, and it was only a few hundred credits.”

Shuga gave his reply in an angry growl before it was translated. “His greatness says that even stealing one credit is a grievous insult to himself and his operation.” Another long growl in Huttese spilled out. “He says that every credit has been bought and paid for in the sweat and blood of every member of this organization.”

On an unseen cue, one of the guards pulled a blaster from inside his coat and jammed the barrel into the captive’s temple. This act caused him to lose control of his knees as tears began pouring from his eyes, and a long stream of pleadings for mercy escaped him. Before the trigger could be pulled, though, Shuga held his hand in the air, signaling his men to hold their fire. Turning to finally face his captive, Shuga drew closer as he spoke in a much more even tone.

“However, lord Shuga is not without his mercy.” The droid informed him. “He understands that a man will do just about anything to take care of his family. That is why the great and benevolent Shuga the Hutt is willing to let you keep your life.”

Falling to his hands and knees, the man crawled pathetically towards the towering Hutt as he wept uncontrollably. “Oh, thank you, thank you so much Lord Shuga, I-“

Shuga continued on quite sternly before he could continue. “The mighty Shuga will need you alive and well if you are to work off this great debt you have garnered with him.” His droid informed him. “He wants you to know that you needn’t worry about your family, either. They will all be doing their parts to pay off this most grievous debt.”

The pair of guards grabbed their prisoner by either arm as they began dragging him away as he kicked and screamed, begged and pleaded. All the Hutt did was wave this display off before returning his attention to his garden.

Having spent so much time working for the gangster had given Serif Mallary quite a few advantages and privileges. “«If you take up my real-estate any longer, Serif, I’ll start charging you rent.»” Like the chance to pick up Huttese.

“«I know better than to disturb you during your business, Boss. »” Serif replied casually as he drew closer to examine the Hutt’s latest work. “«Alderaanian Lilies, I can’t even begin to imagine what it took to get these. »”

“«Only the best for my garden, »” The Hutt replied proudly as he trimmed away the excess foliage. “«So, how did the run to break in the new pilot go? »”

“«Poorly. »” Serif spat out. “«The idiot tried to outrun a Star Destroyer, the ship was totaled and we lost one of our men. »”

“«The pilot? »”

“«Taken care of, »” was his cold reply.

Shuga shook head in disgust at this news. “«They just don’t make pilots like they used to. »” He stated sadly. “«I remember when spacers with real talent weren’t so blasted hard to find. It makes me tempted to bust you back down to deliveries just so you can show these kids how to fly. »”

“«Tempting, but I’ve become rather accustomed to my well earned position. »” Serif chuckled.

After some time, Serif was sent on his way with his latest pile of assignments from the Hutt. As he entered the elevator, he took some time to drink in the sprawling, planet-spanning city that lay before him through the glass walls of the tube. Leaning against the railing, a wide, hungry grin began to form as he toyed with thoughts of grandiose conquest. As of right now, a large portion of this city and the cartel’s power belonged to Shuga. That was going to change, very soon.

Simon tapped away at the controls of the ship as it made the next jump into hyperspace. Leaning back against the high back of his chair, he rubbed the dull pain in his temples away with a tired sigh. How long had he been out here, running from one system to the next? How long had it been since he left to make a quick profit off the Mandos and their war?

For a moment he let himself close his eyes and drift off into his thoughts. It felt like he’d been jumping from one world after another with little to no stops for rest beyond a few naps right here in the cockpit. The fatigue of it all was starting to wear on him. When he was done, he’d have to take a nice long rest, maybe a vacation. Maybe he’d head off to that Zeltron home world and get some sun, or go off to Corellia for a bit. In the end, he’d probably just find some quiet little rock, park the ship and take a long nap.

He was a long way off from that vacation though, a very long way off. There was still this current job for Serif, helping getting that loud mouth of a woman’s job finished and sending her home. After that he still had to find-

“Oh Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimooooooooooooon.” Rarity’s singsong voice sent him tumbling from his thoughts and landed him back in the cold grip of reality.

With a tired grunt, Simon forced himself to sit up as his eyes hesitantly forced themselves open. “Whaaaaaaaaaaat?” He replied in a mocking impersonation of her calling him.

“Could you please come to the lounge for a moment?” She requested.

Grumbling in annoyance, he forced himself out of the chair with the sound of his back popping into place. Growling a few curses under his breath, he found the lounge area of the ship darkened. Whatever it was that she wanted from him now had best be important; at least that’s what was going through his mind.

On the cue of his entry, Z7 quickly went about his assigned tasks. The lighting systems affixed to his bulbous dome of a head quickly kicked on creating a multicolored light show about the room. A preselected choice in music began to play, filling the air with a high octane thumping that exuded energy. The astromech couldn’t help but hop back and forth in time to the music, beeping excitedly.

Simon stared dumbfounded at his droid’s awkward actions until all the beams of light finally converged on one area as his passenger strode from one of the side rooms. Rarity beamed proudly as she strutted her way into the lounge clad in her newly crafted outfit. The fashionable mare now wore a dull grey vest overtop of a white button-up shirt that hung a bit loosely from her, while Rarity’s lower half was now clad in a rather form-fitting pair of dark brown pants. All of which had been taken in and altered as best she could with so little to work with, even with that fact she couldn’t help but take pride her work. In her mind she congratulated herself for yet another great creation.

With a smug smile, she proceeded to pace back and forth in front of the human as the droid’s makeshift spotlight followed her movements. She wasted no time in striking every pose in her book as she modeled her creation for him.

“So, what do you think?” She asked excitedly. “Not bad, considering my lack of supplies and the second-hoof materials I had to work from. I’d dare say it was a rousing success.” She stated with a toss of her mane for emphasis.

Simon stared at her with no shortage of confusion. He could feel that pain in his temples rushing back to him as his eye began to twitch and spasm. “That was, uh, neat, I guess.”

“Neat?” She said with a sad pout. “Well, I suppose if I had access to my equipment back home and a few of my better materials I could have really given these outfit some pop.”

A wide smile that gave Simon a bit of a shiver suddenly jumped upon her face. “OH! I could give your wardrobe a much needed upgrade, you know!”

Simon quickly stepped back with his hands up in defense. “Yeah, hey, uh, how about we shelve that one for another time, okay Princess?”

“Oh nonsense, darling,” She happily cooed as she started sizing him up. “Why, it’ll be no trouble at all, I’ll even give you a discount for the work-“

A loud beeping from the cockpit brought a thankful sigh to Simon’s lips as he quickly turned around. “Welp, about to drop out of hyperspace, better go take care of that so we don’t crash into anything.” Simon stated as he made for the cockpit. Under his breath, he thanked the timing on that alarm.

“My, you weren’t kidding when you said we’d be there quickly,” Rarity stated happily as she followed close behind him, “I’m curious about this first port of call. Why do they call it StarForge Station, after all?”

Simon glanced back at her with a smirk as he motioned her attention to the view port. “You’re about to see.”

Rarity’s eyes went wide and her jaw bounced off the floor as the blue tunnel of hyperspace was suddenly replaced with a vibrant smattering of colors. Simon couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at her slack jawed expression at what she was seeing. Swirling masses of gas and color roiled and shifted in front of her.

“They call it StarForge Nebula.” Simon informed his still amazed passenger as he angled the ship to reveal a mass of mismatched metal built into a massive chunk of rock. “And that is StarForge Station.”

As the Meaningless Venture made its way through the swirling clouds and pieces of debris that littered the area, Rarity sat in awe at the sheer size of this floating monolith before her. Twilight and Sweetie Belle had both told her about the station they had visited and could not help but feel skeptical at the time. When she had heard their stories, the mare simply wrote it off as exaggerations; after all, how could anything be THAT big? But now, here in front of her was something that looked more akin to a flying continent.

Drawing closer, she was now treated with the sights of what looked to be fleets of ships coming and going from the station. The majority of the ships looked to be around the same size as their own. Cargo ships coming and going from whatever jobs had brought them out this way. A few, however looked to be closer to those she had seen orbiting her own home planet.

The key difference with these ships and the ones used by the Mandalorians was that these looked to have been built from scrap. Rarity was anything but knowledgeable when it came to Star ships, but what she did have was a very keen eye for details. She could see as they passed by that were clear distinctions between one section of the ship’s hull to the next. She had to admit, despite the sorry shape of these ships, it took impressive ingenuity to make something like that out of other ships.

As the ship passed through the blue wall of energy into one of the docking bays, Rarity found herself hit with a strange shifting. Her legs gave out from her and sending her stumbling forwards. To her surprise however, rather than the cold metal of the floor, she found herself leaning into Simon’s arm. A touch of red seeped through her coat as she stared up into his jade orbs before he helped her regain her balance.

“Shift in the gravity field.” He told her as he helped her steady. “You get used to it after a while.”

“Yes well, that is very good to know. Thank you for your assistance, Simon.” Rarity said with a touch of embarrassment.

Grabbing his coat and gun, Simon made towards the cargo bay. “This won’t take long. As soon as I drop this crate off we’ll get your thing taken care of, then I’ll get you home.”

Rarity stayed close on his heels as he moved through the ship. “You can’t honestly expect me stay on the ship after being cooped up in here for almost a whole day.”

“Cooped up or not, I just want to get this whole mess over with. So you’re staying on the ship.” Simon told her sternly.

“But this stop could make for valuable research.” She pleaded while easily keeping pace. “All these species with so many kinds of clashing cultures and fashions, I can’t pass up this opportunity. This might not be the Canterlot Elite, but there is still much I could see and learn from one walk around this place.”

“Don’t care, not my problem.” Simon retorted with no shortage of annoyance. “If you’re a good girl, then maybe we’ll make a pit stop on the way home.” He added with no shortage of sarcasm. “Until then, I’d better not see you take one step off this vessel, are we clear?”

Rarity kept her eyes locked with his while mentally trying to overpower him. It quickly became clear there would be no budging him on this subject. “Alright then, Captain Ortell, you will not see me leave this ship.”

That seemed too easy. Simon had been ready for a shouting match over keeping her on the ship. “That’s more like it.” He said cautiously while unlatching the cargo crate from its restraints. “We get our work done and then maybe, MAYBE, we’ll make a pit stop someplace.”

“Sounds lovely,” Rarity cooed with a healthy dose of honey. “Well, best not to keep you.” She said with a smile while trotting away from him. “Do hurry back, darling; we don’t want to fall too far behind schedule after all.”

Simon gave himself a satisfied smile as she disappeared back inside the ship. “That’s a lot more like it.” He congratulated himself. Had he looked over his shoulder, however, he might have caught sight of a flash of blue light from within the lounge.

With the cargo crate hoisted over his shoulder, Simon made his way down the ramp from the ship’s hold and into the mostly empty hangar bay. A number of large shipping pods were stacked around the area while droids tended to their programmed business. From behind several of these pods, a group of armed aliens of various species appeared and took up positions. Simon’s attention immediately fell upon the short figure at the center of this gathering of mercenaries. Clad from head to toe in the environmentally sealed armor of the Ubese people.

“Ortell,” he said in a low raspy voice over his breathing mask’s voice box, “about time you got here.”

Simon glanced over the mercs before settling back on the one he assumed to be his contact. “Vrax, right? I didn’t know you were expecting me.”

“More than you know.” Vrax said to him with a touch of a growl.

Before anything else could be said between the pair a hail of blaster bolts filled the air between Simon and his buyers. Death was surely about to claim him when something slammed into his side, forcing him to tumble behind a wall of large shipping pods. Dumfounded and confused by everything that just happened, Simon quickly drew his blaster and looked around franticly as the sounds of energy bolts hitting his hiding place rang in his ears. Standing over top of him was what looked like a wall of shimmering water, ethereal and ghostlike, but from the weight on his chest he could tell it had form.

“Simon, are you alright?” The ghostly vision spoke in a voice he was becoming all too familiar with.

Simon’s eyes narrowed in on the shimmering form before everything clicked into place. “Rarity?”

Welcome to Starforge

Simon’s eyes narrowed on the shimmering form before everything clicked into place. “Rarity?”

Simon had seen and heard of some very strange things out here in the Outer Rim. He’d seen a drunk Jedi turn an entire cantina into one big dance troupe. He’d heard stories of a dirtball of a planet populated by back-woods hicks that apparently had some kind of super amazing treasure hidden somewhere on it. But this was something he was certain that no one, no matter how drunk or loaded up on Glitter Stim, would ever believe what he saw.

The liquid-like shimmer began to fall away, revealing the Unicorn in question standing over him. Her horn, which had been encased in a soft, shimmering blue, started to return to its normal white sheen. She forced a wide, toothy smile while his eyes went wide and jaw slacked.

“What in the… what are you doing here!?” Simon yelled at her.

One lucky blaster bolt managed to penetrate through the cargo container they had been hiding behind. Rarity could feel the blistering heat of the deadly projectile as it passed just inches from her back; with a surprised yelp, she buried herself tightly against Simon’s chest, trying to make herself a smaller target.

“Can we please save explanations for when we’re no longer being shot at!?” She yelled back over the sounds of their attackers firing away at them.

Simon pulled himself away from the frightened Equestrian to blindly fire a volley of his own blaster bolts back at Vrax and his men. Each shot sadly trailed off, missing all possible targets. However, it did have the satisfying effect of causing them to halt their advance on their position.

With this new opening in the fight, Simon quickly began sizing up their options as he looked the situation over. They could run for the ship? The path back is too open and it would be child’s play for them to mow the two down. Z7 could return fire from the ship? The only gun on the Venture was on the roof though, and couldn’t be angled down to hit them. Maybe fire on the roof above them? There was too high a risk of exposing this hangar bay to the vacuum if they did that. Maybe just keep blind firing and hope that one or two of them actually walks into one of his bolts? Now he was just being silly.

Hope however, returned to him as he spotted something they could use to their advantage. A grate overtop of a maintenance shaft, if they could get into that they could lose them in the maze of conduits and tunnels that ran through the station. The problem here, though, was the same as with getting back on the ship; one saving grace, though. It was closer and had a little more cover.

Rarity’s gaze followed his to the access grate and quickly understood his plan, as well as formulating one of her own. Her forehoof took him tightly by the arm to garner his attention for a moment. “Simon, I have an idea.”

Behind the breathing helmet, Vrax smirked with a strong sense of satisfaction. Everything was going to work out according to the plan: he’d soon have the crate, and those two would be dead. As an added bonus, he’d have a pretty new ship that could fetch him a welcomed pile of credits.

Speaking of credits, this firefight was wasting time and draining his wallet. “Enough of this game; lay down suppressive fire and move in. I want those two executed, NOW.”

As Vrax’s mercenaries followed their boss’ orders, Simon and his Equestrian companion darted out from behind the cargo container. The pair made a mad dash for the hangar exit through the hail of blaster fire. The Ubese began barking orders to mow them down, while quickly taking aim with his pistol and joining in on the slaughter.

The pair ran through the hail of blaster fire as bolts of energy sizzled past them. No longer willing to draw this conflict out however, Vrax took careful aim from behind his blaster. With cold confidence, he drew a bead on the quadruped running closely beside the human He gleefully hoped her corpse would fall at an angle to trip him up in mid stride as his finger eagerly squeezed the trigger and let fly a deadly projectile. With smug satisfaction, he watched as the energy bolt streaked through the air until it found its mark in the back of the four legger’s head.

His sense of victory, however, quickly turned to shock as the bolt passed through her skull and struck the wall ahead of her. Under normal circumstances this might mean that he had just caused quite a mess for some poor soul to clean up; this, however, was anything but normal. Vrax stared in disbelief at the back of her head which showed no signs of any kind of damage as she continued to run forwards.

Had he missed? No, there was no way he could have missed a shot like that. He knew he’d hit her, he just knew it. But if that was the case, then why was she still running at full speed? Why didn’t she have a burnt crater in the back of her skull?

While Vrax’s men didn’t seem to notice this odd occurrence, the Ubese quickly cycled his helmet’s HUD through various vision settings. There was no sign of them via the thermal setting; however, they showed up as various spectrums of light. He immediately assumed holograms, but that meant…

Vrax turned his attention over his shoulder and found Simon, the crate still hoisted onto his shoulder, and that four legged Thing making for the other side of the room. What’s more, there was a strange glow coming from the horn atop her head as a look of concentration scrunched up her face. Snarling several curses in his native tongue, he let fly a volley of bolts in their direction.

They were almost there. They were going to make it. These were the words Simon kept repeating to himself from within his head. As the pair closed in on the grate, a painful burning sensation tore through his shoulder and arm, causing him to lose his grip on the package. At the same time, several more energy bolts struck the floor around Rarity, bringing out a startled screech from the Unicorn as she tumbled to the ground.

The smuggler risked a glance over his shoulder to find Vrax and his men no longer chasing shadows and now fully focused on them. He then glanced to the crate; whatever was in there was worth enough to Vrax that he’d try to kill the guy bringing it to him. It was the source of all this trouble, but it had to be worth more than a few credits for all of this. Then his gaze settled on Rarity, who was struggling to get back to her hooves and continue on at a full gallop. Vrax and his men were closing in on them; he could grab both of them without getting shot.

Cursing under his breath, Simon scooped up the Unicorn with one arm while drawing his blaster with the free hand. Adrenalin and the desire to live drove the biting pain out of his mind and shoulder before he let fly a few blaster bolts. The projectiles struck true and decimated the grate, leaving a hole just big enough for the pair to dive through. His ears rang with the familiar sounds of blaster fire and the surprised shouts of the Unicorn in his arms. Just before leaping headlong into the maintenance shaft, he was suddenly aware of a squeezing pressure around his midsection.

Vrax snarled in frustration as they disappeared through the broken shaft. “Get down there and find those two, I want their corpses!”

While his hired guns took to hunting down the escaping pair, the Ubese’s attention fell upon the crate. Once his minions and mooks had cleared out, Vrax knelt down beside the box and entered the password into the electronic lock. The crate’s seal was broken with a loud hiss before he slowly opened it. Beneath his breath mask his jaw went fully slack as he took in what he was looking at. It was everything that Serif claimed it was and more. Quickly slamming the case shut and re-engaging the lock, Vrax made for the exit with his prize in tow. Now all he needed was to have that pair of loose ends tied up and the plan could truly get underway.

Simon and Rarity found themselves tumbling blindly through the darkness after making their daring escape. Before long, the pair found the solid metallic ground of the station’s dimly lit maintenance tunnels with the help of gravity. Through odd twists of fate and a touch of good luck, a pile of refuse at the bottom of the chute cushioned their impact. A cloud of dust and dirt was kicked up as they met the end of their destination rather abruptly.

The landing sent yet another tremor of pain through Simon’s body as he absorbed the brunt of the impact. This only served to worsen the pain in his arm from the grazing shot he’d taken while on the run. His mind began to clear alongside his vision until he became aware of Rarity’s frantic voice ringing in his ears. “Wha… what’s the matter?”

“I… I…” Her words came out in shaky frightened mess as she struggled to keep her control. “I was hit!”

Simon’s eyes quickly focused after hearing this, prompting him to move to her side to carefully examine her. “Ah jeez, where, where’d they get you Rarity?” Now it was his turn to sound frantic and scared. “It’ll be okay Rarity, just show me where they shot you.”

“Right here!” She blurted out in woe as one of her forehooves held up a portion of her curled mane. The violet strands had been marred and singed black as wisps of smoke drifted from the damaged follicles.

“What?” His tone had shifted to being low and even as he stared at her in deadpan disbelief.

Rarity’s lip quivered as she stared sadly at the damaged hair. “Out of all the worst things that could happen,” she sniffled as her eyes teared up at their edge, “this is THE! WORST! POSSIBLE! THING!” She blurted out with dramatic pause before fainting backwards into Simon’s chest.

Simon was having a hard time processing this. How was this the same girl from before? Back on Gaia, she faced down a room full of blasters pointed at her and didn’t even flinch. On his ship, she put him on his rear then held him at blaster point while demanding he take her home. And now here she was sobbing uncontrollably into his chest while lamenting over the state of her hairdo.

“Rarity,” It took every inch of his self control to keep himself yelling his head off at her. “How exactly is this an issue?”

“My perfect beauty has been marred!” She sobbed pitifully. “I’m a hideous gargoyle now, don’t look at me!” She cried out before hiding herself behind her forelimbs and burying into his chest again.

Simon’s patience had reached its limit. Cupping his hands on either side of Rarity’s face, he forced her to look him in the eye. “Listen to me, Princess, we do NOT have time for this!” He snarled at her. “Vrax and his goons are going to be coming down into these tunnels to find us and kill us, we have to-”

Simon stopped mid rant as something important dawned on him. His hands quickly fumbled about his jacket till finally producing a hand held comlink. “Zee, pick up!” From the built-in speaker of the small device came a cacophony of beeps and whistles. “Get the ship out of there and circle around the station.” He was answered with several more whistles from the other side of the line. “Don’t worry about that, I’ll contact you when it’s time for a pick up. We can’t afford to lose the ship to them.”

“Alright, that gives us at least some kind of an escape route.” Simon sighed in relief while slipping the com back into his pocket. It was then that he noticed the indignant glare that she was now giving him. “What is it now?”

“Oh nothing,” Rarity said with a hint of venom, “just thinking about how you could do with a little more sensitivity.”

Moving away from her human companion, Rarity took stock of their new location. Tubes and wires ran along the walls and ceilings as low grade light fixtures create long shadows and gave the place a tomb-like atmosphere. Looking herself over, she could feel her skin crawl after seeing all the dirt and grime that was clinging to her clothes and fur.

Simon rolled his eyes at her comment about his current attitude as he dusted himself off. “Look, Princess, we don’t have time for you to go through a nervous breakdown over a few split hairs.”

“Does this look like a few split hairs to you?!” Rarity exclaimed as she levitated the damaged section of her mane in frustration.

Though her teeth were bared and face set in a livid expression, Rarity couldn’t help but feel herself shaking and sobbing on the inside. It wasn’t just that her mane was ruined, it was the fact that here she was hundreds of light years from home, in a dark, dirty tunnel with a man who threatened at one point to launch her out an airlock. Making matters worse, once more there are blaster-toting aliens who want to turn her into a charred corpse on the grounds that she was in the room at the time. She had kept a brave face thus far but she could feel a few small cracks in her mask starting to form along the edges.

She could see from Simon’s gaze that he was a bit taken aback from her outburst. Taking a deep, calming breath she took control of her emotions. “I apologize, Captain Ortell; the stress must be getting to me. Once we get back to the ship and are safely away from here I will have to see about restyling my mane. Now then, shall we be off?”

Simon regained his composure after her small explosion. “Right, well, anyways, you’re going to have to hold off on the preening and prettying for a little while.”

Rarity raised her brow in curiosity, a worried chill crawling down her spine. “Simon, what are you planning?”

“Vrax still has that box and whatever’s inside it.” Simon pointed out as he started following the tunnel. “Not only that, but he didn’t pay me for it. He just broke Freelancer’s Law number One: deliver the cargo and get paid. Since I doubt he’ll be willing to discuss the contract he just violated, we’re just going to have to steal it back.”

Rarity easily kept pace beside him. “You cannot be serious, darling.” Her voice started to crack a bit with worry. “Maybe you failed to notice the large contingent of guns that were pointed at us mere moments ago, but I have my doubts we can hold our own against all of them. Besides that, from what I saw during the fight, you aren’t a very good shot with that thing.” She added with a gesture of her horn towards his pistol.

Simon gave her a sidelong glare as they continued through the tunnels at a brisk pace. “Shut up, I’m a decent shot when I need to be. Besides, last I checked, you WANTED to go around the station.”

“That was before we had armed brutes hunting us down.” Rarity was quick to counter. “Simon, just forget about this foalish vendetta of yours and let’s leave this place, please.”

He quickly looked away from her as those deep blue eyes locked with his. They were pleading and begging him to just walk away; that, combined with that pouting lip, made for a dangerous combination. A scowl firmly took root as he fought hard to will the growing red from his cheeks. Forget the Force, if the rest of her planet was like this, they could conquer the galaxy without firing a single shot.

“Rarity, we’re going to have to go through Vrax and his men at some point.” Simon calmly pointed out. “If we can get the box back while we’re at it, then that’s a bonus. Besides, I wouldn’t worry too much, Princess. I’ll keep you safe.”

With a weak smile she nodded in agreement. “Alright then, I suppose I don’t have much choice in the matter considering the limited options.” She admitted reluctantly. “At the least, I would like to vacate these dreadful tunnels.”

Time in the tunnels had passed at a crawl as Rarity and Simon navigated the dark, dingy underbelly of StarForge. The dim lighting on the maintenance tunnels combined with the ambient hum of generators and the echoes of a thousand voices from over head only helped to fuel the growing paranoia of the pair. Every sound in the darkness and movement from the corner of their collective vision caused them both to tense and slow their pace. They had narrowly escaped a few close calls as a few of Vrax’s mercenaries were still searching the shafts looking for them.

As a small sense of security started to settle on them both, Simon sought to kill some time and hopefully get a few answers. “So, mind telling me how you did all that stuff back at the ship?”

“Oh, you mean the invisibility and the mirror clones?” She asked him calmly. “Very simple applications of illusion magic, tricks of light and shadow, nothing overly impressive by anypony’s standards.” Glancing towards her companion, Rarity couldn’t help but notice the odd stare he was giving her now. “What?”

“I’d heard that a lot of your kind can use the Force and junk like that. But I’ve never heard of it being used like THAT.” He stated with no shortage of surprise in his voice.

“Like I said, it really wasn’t anything impressive.” She assured him. “Those parlor tricks are nothing compared to what my friend Twilight Sparkle can perform.”

A wry smile slipped past Simon’s defenses. “Just one surprise after another with you isn’t it?”

Before long, a growing glimmer in the darkness ahead of them finally gave way to a cascade of light from the level above them. At the bottom of a stairwell, a pool of artificial light cascaded down from the level above. Rarity’s heart leapt for joy at the sight of what could very well be their salvation. Instinctively she quickened her pace to reach the steps as quickly as she could. Her advance, however, was halted when a firm tug on the collar of her vest brought her to a stop.

“Whoa, what the heck do you think you’re doing?” Simon snarled at her.

“Leaving this dreadful dungeon, of course,” She answered back before freeing herself of his grip. “That was our plan, right?”

Simon pushed his way past her and cautiously inched towards the top of the stairs. “Vrax is bound to have some of his guys looking around the station for us in case we got past the guys in the tunnels.” He informed her.

Hugging tightly to the wall, he peeked out around the corner. They had reached the station’s market district at the heart of the facility. The stairwell he and Rarity were currently concealed within sat behind a pair of merchant stands, giving him ample cover to observe the area. Sure enough, he could see a pair of armed thugs trying their hardest to casually watch the crowds. A little further investigation turned up at least four others all spread out and armed to the teeth. Simon cast a glance at the less than intimidating pistol strapped to his hip. Perhaps Rarity had a point earlier when she pointed out the enemy’s superior firepower.

It was then that he spotted someone in the crowd. Vrax himself, marching across the promenade with his prize tucked under his arm. A confident smirk came to the smuggler’s face as he watched the Ubese enter a lift at the end of the hall.

Rarity made her way up beside Simon, catching sight of the vaguely humanoid figure before the metallic sliding doors closed behind him. “It would seem we managed to find that brute from the hangar.” She commented quietly. “I do hope you have a plan to get us from here all the way to the other side of that wide open area.”

“Why don’t we just try that illusion thingy you did before?”

“Invisibility takes a calm mind and concentration in order to bend light around one’s self and maintain the illusion.” Rarity replied reluctantly. “It takes even greater concentration when cloaking yourself and others. I don’t have the strength of will to prolong a spell like that for the two of us; I’m a fashion designer not a mage.”

Simon glanced about their alcove and the surrounding area for anything that they might be able to make use of. They didn’t have a lot of time before Vrax and the crate were too far out of reach. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something sitting on top of a supply crate behind one of the merchant stalls: a length of rope. This gave him an idea.

Grabbing it up, he quickly took a knee to get eye to eye with her. “Rarity, I need you take your clothes off and let me tie this around your neck.”

The fashionable Unicorn’s eyes went wide and her pupils shrank to mere dots at this proclamation. Surprised was one way to describe her mood, the other was…

Her hoof swiftly flew up and struck him across the face as harshly as her forelimb could provide.


“What in the hay is wrong with you?” She hissed at him while glaring daggers into his eyes. “Here we are skulking in the dark and running for our lives while you want to entertain some kind of FETISH!? I shudder to think the types of mares you are used to Captain Ortell, but I am a lady, not one of your back alley harlots.”

The side of his face throbbed and ached, that arm of hers was something else. His senses returned and his anger fueled all the more, Simon brought himself forehead to forehead and glare to glare with her. “First, keep your voice down unless you WANT to become a blaster-bolt riddled corpse.” His voice fought hard not to break into a yell. “Second, they’re looking for a human and a four legged alien, if we make you look like a pet, we might not set off any red flags out there. Oh, and for the record, don’t flatter yourself, Princess, you’re not my type.”

“I can only imagine what your type is.” She stated venomously. “Some cheap bar room floozy with no standards or self control and probably a few daddy issues.”

“Oh yeah, well she sounds a whole hell of a lot more approachable than some trumped up, high class snob who thinks she stands leagues above the rest of us.” Simon retorted. “Believe me Princess, I’ve dealt with your kind before.”

Rarity raised a brow at his curt response. “My kind?”

“Yeah, your kind,” His mouth was running on autopilot now, guided by anger. “Posh pretty girls who’ve spent their entire lives living comfortably off of Mommy and Daddy’s trust fund. I’m betting this is the closest you’ve ever come to the real world in your whole damn life.”

To his surprise, Rarity said nothing in return. No argument, no shouting, all she did was stare at him. An intense anger in her eyes, no words at all, but something about that stare felt like he was being torn apart from inside out.

The moment his mouth opened to say anything she quickly cut him off. “Are you quite finished?”

Nodding a yes to her the rope in his hand was telepathically yanked from his hand. “Then give me some blasted privacy.” She snarled at him.

“There is no way this is going to work.” Rarity grumbled under her breath.

With a great deal of reluctance, she had done as Simon instructed. The outfit she had been clad in had been removed and rolled up into a bundle that her companion now carried under his arm. A loosely tied rope hung around her neck in a makeshift leash and collar that he held from the other end.

“Just stay quiet and we shouldn’t draw too much attention to ourselves.” Simon whispered to her.

Rarity’s face was beat red as he forced herself to march forwards across the promenade. Her eyes nervously darted from one strange being to the next while she braced herself for when this “brilliant” plan fell into disarray. So far, at least, it seemed to be working as barely any of the market goers or merchants paid her any mind. Perhaps they might actually make it through this.

“I do hope you have more to this plan Simon.” Rarity said under her breath.

“Real simple,” he replied confidently, “we get to that console on the other side of market. I slice the system and look for a hanger with the tightest security. That’s our best bet to find Vrax.”

“And what makes you say that?”

“That much muscle and this much trouble to get what’s in that case? Oh yeah, he’s gotta have a ship just waiting to take off with a wall of goons to make sure it does.”

“Yes, we both know how amazing you are at reading others.”

Rarity had made no attempts to conceal the venom behind her words this time, causing Simon to flinch inwardly. She was mad, that much was obvious, but there wasn’t much he could do about that now. He gave a silent prayer that whatever drama was roiling beneath her surface would hold off until they were at least off the station.

“An interesting animal you have there, human.” An eager voice behind them chimed in.

Just when things were going so smoothly too, glancing over his shoulder he found the large, blackish-blue eyes and green, scaly skin of a Rodian. “Yeah, thanks.” Simon replied with a grunt.

“It is very unique and rare looking.” The alien continued his pestering. “I represent a very rich individual who happens to collect rare and unique creatures like this one. I am very certain he would pay handsomely for this one.”

As tempting as it was to sell her off and be done with this seemingly endless headache, he did happen to make a promise to her. “No thanks friend. You wouldn’t want her anyways, see she’s got a bad attitude, not to mention she’s pretty high maintenance.”

Rarity bit down on her lip with a glare fixed dead ahead to withhold her already growing anger. High maintenance he says, she thought to herself. When this is all over with I am giving him a piece of my mind. With a few choice words in a language she couldn’t understand, Simon managed to chase off the pestering green skin, much to her relief. This is quickly replaced when Simon ties her to one of the hand railings near the information kiosk.

Catching sight of the indignant look he was now getting, Simon quietly mutters to her. “It’s just to keep up appearances, alright?” He quickly defended his actions. “Keep an eye out for any trouble while I take care of this.”

Armed with his wits and a datapad, Simon plugged the device into the wall-mounted computer and began his assault on the station’s network. He had to admit, a security system designed by pirates and outlaws was a lot more impressive than any governmental or military design. Still, he managed to find the holes in the defenses. Simon swiftly sifted through the piles of data and information till he found exactly what he was looking for and a slightly added bonus.

With the camera controls under his command, he was able to find Vrax himself in route to his ship. A cocky smirk came across Simon’s face as a rather devious idea came to mind on how to slow his progress down by quite a bit. With a few taps on his keypad, the spacer watched with no shortage of glee as the massive blast doors in front of and behind the Ubese on the screen suddenly closed. He was trapped, step one was complete. A few more taps and the protocols for the door were changed around to make sure his head start would hopefully mean close to nothing now.

Vrax stared a hole in the massive blast doors now sealed shut in his way before his gaze shifted to a wall mounted camera. “Still alive, I see.”

Behind his visor, the Ubese couldn’t help but smirk from ear to ear. “Good, I was hoping the mercs would miss you, Ortell. It would be a shame if I didn’t get to kill you myself, after all.”

Vrax lifted the case up in the air so the camera could get a good look at it. “Would you like to know a little secret about what’s in here?”

Simon stared at the screen as he watched the Ubese holding up the case and tapping the front of it. “Too bad there’s no sound on these old style cameras, would really like to know if he’s mocking me or not.”

His contemplation gained very little ground when familiar protest sounded out beside him. “Unhand me you cur!”

Simon turned around in time to see Rarity slamming her rear hooves into the gut of the Rodian from before. The alien’s body went limp as he was sent several feet across the polished floor. Just as he was afraid of, a lot of eyes were now on them as Rarity continued to verbally assault the Rodian who was nursing his now sore midsection. Even worse, several of the mercenaries they were trying to avoid were now motioning and heading in their direction.

Running completely on impulse, Simon drew his pistol and began firing rounds off into the air over the crowded market place. All of this depended on the nature of his fellow outlaws and privateers being just as trigger happy as the next. To his delight, the gamble paid off. Chaos quickly broke out within the promenade as beings began rushing in all directions for cover. Some drew their own blasters and began shouting back and forth. Grinning happily with himself, he swiftly untied Rarity and released her from the leash. Before they scurried off, he turned his attention to the Rodian giving them both a confused stare.

Kneeling down to the alien, Simon looked him right in the eye and said. “I told you she’s got a bad attitude.”

Freed from her bonds, Rarity made a mad dash for the control panel of the elevator slamming her hoof into the button. At this moment in time, she didn’t care which direction it was headed just as long as it arrived and quickly. “Simon, we have to go!” She called out to him the moment one of the doors slid open.

Hearing her call out, Simon left the dumfounded alien on the ground. Given the riot he had started, he wasted no time in joining up with Rarity before the metal doors slid shut behind him.

Facing Vrax

With an angry grunt, Vrax yanked his hand away from the sparks bursting from the control panel of the blast door. His patience was wearing very thin, considering he was stopped by his prey’s little prank. However, it had given him ample motivation to dream up new and exciting ways to kill the pest as soon as he got his hands on him. The only problem now was just how to settle on ONE thing. Vrax could strangle him, a nice slow death with the added bonus of making his four legged friend watch him die. Or maybe he’d put them both in an air lock and launch them into the void; maybe he could make a few credits setting up bets on which one would pop from the decompression first.

A chirping from his helmet’s comlink dragged him out of his fun-filled fantasy land. “What is it?” He snapped at the caller.

“We spotted them in the market square, sir.” The voice of a henchman nervously answered him back. “But, uh, we ran into a small problem.”

“What sort of problem would that be, Ulmar?” Vrax asked him in a dangerous tone.

“A riot broke out across the market before we could move on them.” Was the quickly blurted out reply.

“Well, that’s very clever of you, Ortell.” Vrax commented as he tore a handful of wires from the wall-mounted controls. “Get the rest of the men out of the tunnels; I want every gun converging on the hangar. We’ll wait for him to come to us.”

After shutting off the com, Vrax gave the mass of metal blocking his way a long, hatful glare. No longer in the mood to play the Smuggler’s game, he produced a cylindrical object from his belt. Behind his mask, he eyed the trinket fondly as he remembered the day he took the trophy and its owner’s life. With a flip of a switch, a long grey blade of energy ignited from the hilt with an ambient hum. The Ubese plunged the weapon into the blast door, melting its way through the thick metal. He smirked at himself as he began cutting a hole to the other side; best trophy ever.

He had to hand it to Simon Ortell and his mystery friend. The pair was certainly full of surprises. Still, Vrax had every intention to end both their lives and was looking forward to it very much. Still, to have eluded him thus far, these two had to be something else.

Ambient, dull music flooded the cramped elevator from the speakers built into the walls, helping to drown out the sound of the motor lifting the metal box up and down the shaft. It also helped to fill the silence between Rarity and Simon as they stared straight ahead at the dirty metal doors. A childish grin sat on the humans face as he replayed the incident they just left behind themselves.

“C’mon,” He said as he nudged her side. “You have to admit, that was pretty awesome.”

“Simon, I’m going to need my clothes back.” Was the only answer she gave him as she kept her gaze riveted forward.

Rolling his eyes, Simon produced the bundled-up clothes from beneath his jacket, which were then quickly engulfed in a blue aura and wrenched away from him. “Can’t see why you’re so cranky, Princess. We just gave Vrax’s boys the slip for the second time today. It’s not because I saved your tail for the second time today, is it?” He teased her.

“Then I suppose it’ll be time for me to save yours again fairly soon.” She replied with a snort.

Simon shot her a deathly glare. “Excuse me, Princess, but from where I’m standing, your entire record is based around being in the wrong place at the right time.”

“And I’m sure you would’ve found a way out of that situation back in the hangar all on your own, darling.” Rarity bit back at him.

“Don’t you even start with me on that,” Simon snapped at her. “I had the entire situation under control!”

“Oh please,” Rarity exclaimed in annoyance, “If I hadn’t sneaked off the ship like I did, you’d be dead right now.”

“I said I had everything under control!” Simon shouted at her. “Besides that, you need me here more than I need you!”

“So being nearly gunned down by a whole band of brigands is under control, then?” Rarity asked him snidely.

“Yeah, well last time I checked, I know my way around this galaxy a whole hell of a lot better than you do.” Simon snarled at her. “So unless you want me to just leave you stranded on some back water hovel of a planet, you’d better start showing me a bit of respect.”

As the elevator doors opened, the redressed Unicorn briskly trotted out and away from her Human companion. “Make all the threats you want Simon, but I know you won’t ever make good on any of them.”

Not willing to let her walk off with the last word, he quickly pushed past the other Human and Twi’lek that had been waiting for the elevator in order to keep pace with her. “Oh yeah? And why is that exactly?”

“Because then you wouldn’t get paid.” She hissed back at him.

The confused pair of bystanders watched as the Unicorn and Human stormed off shouting back and forth at one another. Silence ruled them both until the human jabbed his elbow into his alien friend’s side. “Ya see that? That’s the reason I don’t ever wanna get married.”

The squabbling actually seemed to help time pass much faster for the pair as they navigated their way towards Vrax’s hanger. As they drew closer, Simon couldn’t help but smirk at the sight of one his sealed blast doors. It looked like Vrax’s team wasn’t very handy when it came to slicing.

“A dead end; a good thing you know your way around the galaxy, after all.” Rarity quipped.

“Relax, Princess, it’s one of the blast doors I sealed to slow down Vrax and his men.” Simon informed her as he tapped away at the control panel. “Fortunately for us, I happen to have the access codes to walk right through them.” With a loud clank and hiss, the thick metal wall began to separate and slowly open as all the safeties shut off. “You see that? Not a problem.”

As the doors slid apart, they could see they were at a three-way intersection, the path branching off clearly leading towards the hangar. They could also see the still-glowing hole that had been cut in the blast doors across from them, as well as the Ubese holding a lightsaber in one hand and the mystery box in the other. Time stood still as Simon, Rarity and Vrax stared one another down. The Ubese was the first to make a move as he flung the active energy blade at the pair. Simon and Rarity quickly dove in opposite directions from each other.

Rarity could feel the blistering heat of the weapon as it passed uncomfortably close to her face. Her mind quickly leapt back to Twilight’s account of being stabbed with one, and the mind numbing pain that it could cause. She watched in horror as it sliced through a part of her mane, ruining it all the more.

With the pair distracted and his hand free, Vrax drew his blaster pistol and began rapidly firing bolt after bolt to pin the pair down as he jogged around the corner to his waiting forces. “Get out there and take them alive if possible; I don’t want them dying until I’ve had my fun with them.” He barked to the nearest mercenary.

Simon drew his pistol as he rand to Rarity’s side. “You alright, Princess?”

“Y-yes, a bit singed but I’m alive.” She stated with a saddened glance at the further abuse her mane had suffered.

Neither of them was given much of a breather before a hail of blaster bolts struck the floor around them. Simon darted back towards the control panel for the door as he let loose a volley of return fire that seemed to go in completely random directions. Thankfully, they had the desired effect of forcing them to slow their advance. Punching a few keys, the door’s emergency shut sequence was kicked on and the thick metal door slid back into place.

“Doesn’t look like we’re going that way anymore,” Simon commented with an annoyed sigh. “We’ll have to double back, maybe find another route. Hopefully we’ve ticked Vrax off enough to stick around until we’re dead.”

As they turned the corner they found another group of mercenaries. Before they could brace their weapons, Simon let loose several bolts of energy in their direction to force them back around the corner. The pair moved back to the safety of the other side of the corner before a fresh smattering of blaster bolts began striking the walls and floors. To make matters worse, sparks began to shoot out from the door Simon had just sealed.

“They’re cutting through.” He snarled before firing a few more blind shots. “Rarity, if you have any kind of Force magic powers that can get us out of this, now is the time to use them!”

She looked back and forth between the sparking doorway and the constant streams of super-heated death running down the hallway. Her mind raced as she examined every inch of their tiny corner and picked apart every object they had at their disposal. Then one thing came to mind; it was a long shot, a very long and dangerous shot.

“Well, there is something we could try, but…” she said hesitantly, “there are a lot of factors that can go wrong with the spell.”

“Oh really, do tell.” Simon said impatiently as fired a few more rounds around the corner.

“It’s a very high level spell, Simon and I’ve only known one pony who can pull it off with ease.” She snipped back at him. “I’ve only just recently learned it, and only successfully cast it three times to go six feet. There is a good chance that if things go wrong, we could die.”

“Rarity, if we stay here, we WILL die.” Simon griped at her as a blaster bolt struck the corner of the wall near his face.

“You have a point; I’ll need some details, then, to make this work.” She stated as she began running Twilight’s magic lessons through her head. “I need to know in which direction we’re going to be moving, how thick these walls and doors are, as well as the chances of objects in our path of return.”

“Uh, the walls are real thick. This place is made to withstand barrages from entire fleets.” Simon exclaimed. “Probably a couple inches or so, the same with the doors.”

“I would prefer precise details!” Rarity stated in a panic.

“So would I; what are you about to do, and what did you mean by path of return?”

Glancing over her shoulder, Rarity could see the door was already starting to budge; the mercenaries on the other side would be through soon. To make matters worse, she could hear the advancing footsteps of the others beyond the bend in the hall. Desperation and a desire to live forced her to focus on the spell, regardless.

“It looks like I don’t have time for details, either.” Rarity cut him short as she tightly locked her hooves around his midsection.

Her face scrunched up in concentration while her eyes nailed themselves shut. A few beads of sweat began to roll down her face, and her horn started to glow a soft blue that only intensified and deepened the more she focused. Rarity cut the rest of the world out of her mind before going back to that open field where she and Twilight had been practicing. All of her friend’s words of wisdom and cautions came flooding back to her mind as she willed the spell into being all around her and Simon.

As Vrax entered the hangar, he took the added precaution to lock the door behind him. No sense in tempting fate, after all. Especially when he was this close to being both off of this dump of a station and done with that pair of annoyances. Then he would have ample time to relax and focus on the big picture. His advance halted, though, as a bright flash over his shoulder drew his attention. Grumbling a few choice words into his helmet, he set the case down on a nearby packing crate and resigned himself to the new task at hand.

In a bright flash of light and a loud pop, both Rarity and Simon manifested into existence. The pair tumbled violently through the air, still latched tightly to one another as they knocked over crates and shipping barrels alike in their path. Head over heel, they rolled until coming to an abrupt stop with Simon’s head smacking against a very heavy metal crate.

Groggy, sore and disoriented, the smuggler forced his eyes to stay open as he tried to force himself to sit up; his vision became blocked by strands of purple curls. The world started to slowly clear up for him, bringing weight on his chest into focus. Rarity was laying over-top of him unconscious, her face buried into the side of his neck and hair lying across his face. Her limbs clung tightly to him, bringing a light tint of red to the spacer’s cheeks.

With an annoyed grunt, Simon unceremoniously shoved her off of him while getting back up on shaky legs. His vision was clearing but was still blurry and out of focus; he gave his surroundings a quick once-over before checking himself. Everything seemed like it was still where it should be and from the look of it, the hangar was totally empty.

On the far wall he spotted the control panel for the hangar bay’s entrance. Thinking quickly, he tried to steady his shaky aim, the blaster swaying back and forth. When he finally drew a bead on it, he let fly several bolts of energy that reduced the controls to scorched slag.

“One problem out of the way…” Simon muttered with a tired grunt before grabbing his com link. “Zee, hey Zee pick up.” A few beeps and whistles came from the other side. “Lock on to this signal and swing around for a pick up.”

Nearly home free, now. That kept him moving on his shaky legs as he scanned the room from behind the sights of his pistol. He had to find Vrax, take the case back then get himself and Rarity on the ship and get out of here. With a pained grunt he trudged forwards, his pistol quickly shifting in the direction of every little sound and shadow. Simon’s heart raced with every step; he could feel those predatory eyes watching him.

“Captain Ortell,” The gravelly rasp of the Ubese came from his left. Quickly turning to face him, Simon’s arm was grasped tightly in a vice grip before the sharp pain of Vrax’s elbow slammed into his gut. Letting out a gasp of pain, Simon double over and was caught by an uppercut before his captured arm was twisted violently, sending his world into a rapid inversion, followed by the familiar feeling of the cold metal ground catching him.

Vrax took quite a bit of pleasure in watching the blindsided Human try to regain his wits and scurry away from him. “And here I was worried that my trigger-happy mercenaries were going to kill you.” He stated gleefully. “But here you are, delivered to me of your own free will; how very thoughtful of you both.”

To accentuate this, Vrax’s boot caught him under the ribs forcing him to roll away from the attack on reflex. Simon did all he could to get some distance from the Ubese gangster. His currently throbbing gut and still-pounding head made movement just a bit of a chore for him. Fumbling with a nearby storage drum, he managed to get back to his feet, despite his legs’ insistence that he stay down.

Vrax grinned from ear to ear as he watched his prey desperately scurry away from him. Glancing at his feet, he saw that the Human had carelessly dropped his pistol. Placing his boot on the weapon, he kicked it back towards him. “Go on, pick it up. I want you to at least feel like you died fighting. It’s the least I can do, after all.”

Simon looked between Vrax and the pistol a few times, very weary of the violent alien. His head immediately settled on the fact that he was probably going to need the weapon. Simon quickly grabbed the blaster and brought it up to level it with the Ubese. The weapon only made it halfway before it was stopped mid-swing by the gangster. Simon’s mind tried to pick apart how he could have closed the distance so fast, but this was stopped by a rapid succession of knuckles that slammed into his face from the enemy’s free hand. Vrax brought his assault to a close with a swift kick snapped into the smuggler’s chest that sent him smashing into a stack of empty barrels.

Laughing at the spectacle, Vrax tossed the pistol towards Simon. “C’mon, you can do better than that; try at least to shoot me, this time.”

Anger flared through Simon’s veins and drove his arm to snatch the weapon from the air as he quickly sat up. Once the welcoming weight of the pistol was in his hand, he wasted no time in firing several bolts from it. Any touch of hope that had filled him quickly vanished as Vrax was no longer in front of him.

In the space of a breath, the Ubese was once more on top of him. With a swift motion of his hand, Simon’s pistol was knocked across the room. Disarmed once more, his face impacted against Vrax’s knee, sending him to the ground with a trickle of blood running from his nose and lip. Simon’s vision continued to blur as the figure over him began pacing back and forth; the spacer began to consider his fate.

“How disappointing,” he grumbled at the Human, “I was hoping you’d last a little longer than this.” Vrax dropped one knee squarely on Simon’s chest to keep him pinned before drawing a knife from his belt. “I suppose I’ll just have to finish this sad display.”

Raising the weapon over his head, Vrax plunged the dagger towards Simon’s neck. The weapon never found flesh, though, as a blue aura encased it and yanked it from Vrax’s grip, flinging it into the ceiling where the expertly-sharpened blade stuck into the metal plating.

“Get away from him, you brute!” Rarity growled from behind the gangster.

Vrax watched as the glow around her horn spread to a number of the crates around the hangar and began to lift them into the air. “A Force-user,” he stated as he left Simon where he laid. “Now this should be a challenge.”

Her eyes narrowed into daggers on the Ubese who began stepping away from her companion. For a moment, the pair sized each other up and braced for the coming conflict. In a heartbeat, Vrax began the fight as he made a mad dash towards the mare. She was caught a bit off guard by how quickly he could move, considering he only had the two legs to propel him; she was not about to let him win, regardless. Setting off at a full gallop along the outskirts of the room, she began letting loose the collection of crates, barrels and various equipment she had levitated around herself.

Vrax ducked and dodged the incoming projectiles, narrowly avoiding them as he tried to keep pace with her. Unfortunately her four legs gave her the advantage on speed, keeping her well outside of his reach. His growing frustration pushed his body as he avoided her constant barrages. His target swiftly darted behind a large shipping container that suddenly became engulfed in that same blasted aura; the massive metal box took off like a freight train, rushing to meet the short humanoid.

With long, practiced motions, he used the hinges of the container’s door as foot holds and scrambled up the front of the large projectile. From there it was a simple task to scurry across the roof of the crate and become airborne. A sneer came to his face as he landed in front of the surprised Equestrian who’d lost the advantage of distance. To his surprise, her look of shock quickly shifted into one of smugness as her aura suddenly encased him, freezing the Ubese in a bubble of blue energy and suspending him.

Her victory was short-lived, as a strange shift in energies within the bubble caught her attention. Before she could react, Vrax’s hand punched through the energy sheath and slammed into Rarity’s chest. She gasped in pain as the sensation of the blow went from one end of her body to the next; the strength in her legs suddenly failed her as she stumbled backwards onto the ground.

Vrax’s raspy laugh scratched at her ears as he towered over her. “Your Force powers are impressive little girl, but useless against me. With my skills, I’ve killed Jedi and Imperial Knights alike. So I hope you’ve got something a bit better than tossing boxes at me.”

Rarity’s gaze went from Vrax to the blue energy field that separated them from the harshness of space, a smirk moving over her muzzle. “Who needs boxes? I’ve got a funny little robot.”

Before Vrax could question this statement, the hangar was filled with the sounds of engines and the deafening squeal of metal scraping against metal. Turning quickly he found Simon’s ship, roughly pushing its way into the hangar and roughly shoving his own vessel off to the side. The landing gear of the pushed ship gave way to the violent shift in weight, causing one to snap and topple a side of the ship into the deck.

The Meaningless Venture hovered a few feet off the floor of the hangar with the astromech R8-Z7 at the controls. Z7 gave a triumphant whistle as he angled the ship awkwardly into the landing bay; with a few twists of his control spike, he willed the main landing ramp of the ship to lower.

The surprises weren’t finished for Vrax and Rarity however, as a humanoid form crashed into the Ubese. Rarity sat up and quickly discerned her attacker’s new opponent. “Simon?!”

“Go, get to the ship!” He shouted at her as he tried to restrain the disproportionately strong alien.

With a great deal of reluctance, Rarity forced herself back on her hooves and took off at a full gallop towards the freighter. Venturing a glance back at her companion, she saw to her horror that Vrax had broken Simon’s hold and was once again on the war path against the human. She forced her legs to keep moving, trusting in his judgment. Turning back towards the ship, her sharp eyes caught sight of the case Vrax had been willing to kill both she and Simon for. Her blue aura quickly engulfed it and brought it in tow.

Simon backpedaled away from his opponent to gain a bit of breathing room from the Ubese’s constant assault. Every inch of his body was wracked with pain, but the surging adrenaline kept his knees from buckling on the spot. Playing defensively wasn’t getting him anywhere; he had to go on the offensive and at least try to give as good as he’d gotten.

Charging forward, he took a wild, arching swing at the alien with all the force his body could afford. Vrax easily knocked the blow aside and struck the Human under his ribs, knocking the air from his lungs. As Simon doubled over, he was greeted with an open palm that connected with the side of his face.

Rarity raced up the ramp of the ship, not wanting to slow her pace for even a moment. The mysterious case was unceremoniously tossed onto one of the empty seats of the lounge as she tore a path towards the cockpit, to be immediately greeted with a cacophony of beeps and whistles from the droid plugged into the console of the ship.

“Robot, we have to help your master.” She pleaded in a worried tone. All she was given was a long stream of nonsensical noises as the droid’s circular head rotated about at random intervals. “I… I don’t know what any of that means, but we have to do something; Simon doesn’t stand a chance against that monster!”

Once more another string of noises came from the droid. Rarity looked between it and the scene outside the cockpit, which only seemed to be getting worse. Simon did what he could to stay on his feet, despite his knees thinking otherwise. The majority of his blows, though, were knocked aside and answered in turn with a swift counter-blow from the murderous alien. With the one-sided fight and the goofy noises coming from the droid, her frustration continued to boil over until finally she lost all control.

“Blast it; I don’t understand what you’re saying! Just help him!” She yelled at the stocky metal being before slamming her hoof down on a nearby control panel.

Zee let out a shrill whine at her actions before a thick bolt of green energy shot forth from over-head. Rarity watched in horror as it flew across the room and struck a box that was affixed to the ceiling with a number of thick wires protruding from the sides. Sparks flew from the impact and only seemed to cause the droid to produce more panicked noises. A cold ball of ice formed in Rarity’s gut as she couldn’t help but feel she may have done something very wrong.

Vrax brought his hand back to unleash a final blow on the barely-standing smuggler when the roar of a ship’s cannon filled his ears. Both he and Simon stared on in horror as the massive bolt of green energy struck the generator unit that had been placed in the ceiling. They both followed the path of the wires which, to their horror, plugged into the force field that kept the hangar protected from the harshness of space.

They shared a look of dread as the energy field blinked out of existence and the atmosphere of the room began venting into the vacuum. Both scrambled to grab hold of something before they shared the same fate as the contents of the sealed hangar. Any kind of luck Vrax had been running on clearly ran out as a cargo box struck him in the gut, knocking him off his feet and sending him toppling into the void.

Simon watched with a touch of satisfaction as the alien vanished into the black. The beating he had taken and whatever Rarity had used to get himself and the Unicorn into the hangar had taken the strength from his muscles. His fingers held as tightly onto the metal grating of the floor as his arms would allow but he quickly began to lose his grip by the second.

One by one, his fingers lost their hold until he too was sent toppling towards the endless embrace. He closed his eyes and braced himself for what he hoped would be a quick end; to feel something, anything other than a cold, suffocating death. Only it didn’t come. Instead, his body was suddenly draped in a strange, tingling sensation as he felt himself being yanked towards something new.

Opening his eyes, he found his entire world had taken on a blue tint that seemed to cover everything around him. No wait, it wasn’t around the room; it was just around him! Furthermore, he was now being pulled towards the ship’s ramp where Rarity waited anxiously for him.

Rarity guided the airborne spacer towards herself and the ship. She kept herself anchored against the pull of the vacuum with a touch of magic around her hooves; her will and magical strength were pushed to their limits as she gave Simon one last, powerful tug towards her. Beads of sweat began to roll down her face as she pulled with all her power to keep him from sharing Vrax’s fate.

From the cockpit, R8-Z7 watched the entire thing play out while maintaining the level of the ship against the shifting gravity fields. The moment Simon was well inside the ship, the droid gave a squeal of victory before shutting and sealing the ramp as quickly as he could.

The Unicorn let out a gasp of shock as her magical pull was no longer fighting resistance but still pulling Simon towards her. She was quickly hit by the Human’s form, sending them both sprawling across the floor.

Rarity found herself upon her back with Simon looming over her, their bodies pressed against each other and their eyes locked onto one another’s. Within seconds, Rarity realized that his lips hovered dangerously close to her own. A deep red bled into her cheeks as she laid there, frozen in his stare. For a moment neither of them said a word, simply laying there in silence as their bodies decompressed from the harshness of their recent ordeal. It wasn’t until Z7 began squealing happily over the com link that either of them broke free of the moment.

Simon rolled himself onto his back with a haggard sigh. “Good job, Zee; now get us out of here.” A few more beeps and whistles chimed in response. “Take us to Lorn’s; let him know we’re going to need some patching up.”

With the influx of adrenaline starting to wear off, Simon’s body quickly became a mass of dead weight while pain jumped from one end of his body to the next. Blindly, he managed to find his savior’s shoulder to deliver a reassuring squeeze to it. “Hey, Rarity, thanks.”

Her mind was still in a haze until her heart beat returned to a normal rate and her head stopped throbbing from pushing her magical talents so hard. A pair of tired sapphires found the ragged human beside her and gave him a weak smile. “No problem, Simon.”

Vrax’s toppling through the emptiness of space played hell on his senses as he tried to find a way to steady himself. A small projectile shot out from a device strapped to his wrist, trailing a long cord behind. To his thanks, the projectile caught the side of the station and stopped his drifting. With a tap of his wrist mount, the cord began pulling him back towards solid ground. As he touched down and the gravlocks of his boots kicked in, he watched the Meaningless Venture make for the depths of space.

“Mister Vrax,” Oh Ulmar, such good timing. “Warning sirens have been going off throughout the station since we lost sight of the targets. Now control is saying the hangar’s been vented into space. Are you alright, sir?”

“I’m fine, Ulmar.” Vrax said with a touch of annoyance. “Though it seems Captain Ortell and his little friend have managed to slip away.”

His gaze drifted over the boxes floating through the void. A deep twinge of anger seeped into his bones as he realized that his package was amongst those pulled into space. What was in that case was irreplaceable and the crux of this entire plan.

“Ulmar,” he said with a strange sense of calm, “I want you to retrieve my trophy; it should be in that hall with you. Then you’re going to get us a ship; ours is a bit damaged at the moment. We’re going after the good Captain and his companion, and we are going to kill them.”

Patching up

The rain fell in sheets on the small city of Kadiak, one of many industrial settlements on the planet Orrikall, drenching the buildings and paved streets. If one was to go from the spaceport at the edge of the city and head west down Third Street, they would find a great number of back-alley shops selling any number of exotic and hard-to-find wares. One such shop was Lorn’s Lost Treasures, a simple looking establishment that advertised itself as an antique shop.

Lorn Velmarky, the owner and namesake of the shop, busied himself this dreadful evening with the annual inventory. He was a Sullustan that had beaten the odds of the Outer Rim and made it to a ripe old age. Lorn stood at an average height of around five and a half feet, and was vaguely humanoid in shape like others of his species, very large ears, large, solid black eyes and a bald scalp filled out the rest of it. His face was littered with all the signs of aging. Deep wrinkles dominated his features and heavy bags hung from beneath his eyes.

A rapping at the front door forced him to set aside his current work with a few grumbles under his breath. Making towards the front of his curio shop he tended to favor his left leg with a limp. Cracking open the door, his aging eyes found the drenched pair who darkened his doorstep at this late hour: Rarity stood beside the battered Simon, who used her surprisingly sturdy form to keep himself from falling to the ground.

The old Sullustan had to chuckle at the disheveled pair. “You kids certainly took your time getting here.” He motioned them through the door. “C’mon now, get in here before you catch a cold.”

Dry clothes, Rarity had never been quite so happy to be in a tacky oversized bathrobe in her life. The warm and fluffy material of the dull green robe melted the ice that had encased her bones and ran through her veins. On one of the couches, her companion was sitting back in the comfortable looking cushions of the seat. Clad in an old pair of loose-fitting dark pants, he was bruised, bandaged, and drifting between being lucid and half-asleep.

“Sorry ‘bout the mess.” Lorn’s gruff voice called from one of the adjoining rooms. “Simon failed to mention he was bringing a lady friend with ’im.”

Simon snorted at the mention of “friend” while rolling his eyes at the thought. “More like a burden.”

His biting comment was quickly retorted with a swift flick of her tail at one of his bruises. Grabbing the side of his face where he had been struck, the smuggler snarled a few curses under his breath. Before he could retaliate, their host entered the room with a platter loaded down with several glasses and a still-steaming kettle.

With a pleasant smile he began pouring them all a cup of piping hot liquid. “I just wish he’d at least told me you were…”

“A Pony?” She asked in an attempt to finish his sentence.

“So lovely.” Lorn corrected her with a roguish grin.

Blushing profusely, Rarity quickly looked off to the side. “Why, Mr. Velmarky, you are quite the flatterer.”

“I wouldn’t put much stock in it.” Simon cautioned her. “Ol’ Lorn is one of the galaxy’s most notorious con men.”

“Former con man,” Lorn quickly corrected the younger scoundrel, “as well as a once renowned thief, an unparalleled pilot, and one of the best freelancers this side of the Kessel Run,” he said proudly as he passed around the glasses of warm dark drink. “All of which is now very far behind me. This here is my life now.” Lorn said motioning to the knick knacks on the walls and the stacks or random items around them. “Selling off the treasures and junk I’ve collected up over the decades.”

“Some of which he even got legally.” Simon snidely pointed out.

The old Sullustan gave him a wide mischievous grin at the comment. “If the best investigators in both the GA and the Empire couldn’t prove that, neither can you kid.”

When their laughter died down, the aged spacer’s mood shifted to a more serious one. “Now then, which one’a you is gonna to tell me what happened out there?”

“What makes you think anything happened?” Simon quickly countered him. “Can’t one of your old protégé’s stop by for a visit?”

Lorn leveled his large dark eyes with Simon’s and stared through his flimsy excuse. “Ya show up at my front door beaten to a pulp, blaster holes in yer’ clothes, an’ smellin’ of ozone. If you weren’t in some kinda firefight then I’m a Hutt’s dancin’ girl.”

Rarity looked back and forth between Lorn and Simon. It was rather similar to watching her father scold Sweetie Belle for her constant chaotic hunt for a cutie mark. “There was a slight incident.” Rarity replied before taking a casual sip of her tea. “Nothing that Simon was unable to handle I can assure you. I would dare say Mr. Velmarky, you’ve taught him quite well.”

Simon stared in shock at the Unicorn’s words. This was the most opportune time to tear into him for all the indignities he’d put her through, but instead she was praising him. Was this some kind of mercy? No, Simon refused to believe that she was doing this out of the kindness of her heart. There was more to this, there was always more to these kinds of situations. He quickly reasoned that she was going to hold onto this until she needed to blackmail him or something.

Lorn focused his attention on the Unicorn taking up residency on the loveseat across from him. Mentally he tried to make her budge, show some kind of cracks in her claims of the young spacer’s competency. She met his gaze with confidence and ease, a cool and collected demeanor that refused to falter. A small smile returned to his lips as she proved harder to discern than he’d assumed at first glance.

“Please, call me Lorn m’dear,” he insisted.

Hot water, such a simple thing, can be so amazing. Rarity let out a joyful sigh as the heated liquid cascaded from the shower head. Her muscles relaxed, letting all the pain they’d held since the start of this chaos melt away. She mused a moment on the how the simple act of cleaning one’s self was much akin to shedding one’s troubles and burdens. If only the same could be said for her mind.

In her relaxed state, the floodgates of her mind began to crack. Images and moments started to blend and run free through her. Happy, joyful times with her friends and loved ones pushed their way to the front of her mind. Posing as her friend Applejack in order to show her sister how much she truly cared for her, risking life and limb alongside her friends to keep their homes and people safe. The memories and many more started to blend and shift becoming one long stream of coherent thought. One dark and horrible thought shouldered its way to the forefront of all of them though. Would she ever see them, Ponyville, or even Equestria ever again?

Despite her posh appearance and mannerisms, Rarity was no stranger to dangerous situations. She had sweet talked a Dragon into almost giving up a portion of his hoard. She’d fought hoof to hoof against the Changeling army when it invaded Canterlot. Rarity had faced down some of Equestria’s most notorious villains and never faltered. She had been on the front line in her world’s brief siege from the terrorists known as Deathwatch and seen the carnage and destruction they could sow in their wake.

But through it all she had her friends at her side. There was always somepony there at her back that she could rely on to lend her strength and confidence. Now here she was, lightyears from home, all alone and surrounded by strange and violent beings. Very much like her experience in the Diamond Dogs’ caves, except no amount of whining would get her out of this jam. What if she never saw Equestria again? What if that rushed holo-call was the last her friends and family would ever have to remember her by? The gravity of it all was finally crushing down on her, making her knees buckle and tears mix with the water already running down her face.

No, she couldn’t let herself fall apart. Not here, not now. She was going to see her home again, her friends and family, even that pair of stallions that lived next door and made for good cheap labor . She would make it through this because she wasn’t alone.

Though she was pained to admit it, she at least had Simon. Granted, he was rude, abrasive, and at times rather insensitive, but unlike most she’d met so far, he hadn’t tried to shoot her. In his own way, he’d done what he could to help her and keep her safe, as questionable as most of it was, but she was still alive after all. That counted for something. Rarity had only known the spacer for a little over two days now, but he seemed rather sincere about his intentions to get her home safely.

Her thoughts finally coming back under control, she magically reached out and shut off the valves, stopping the flow of water. Pulling back the shower curtain, she stepped into the steam filled bathroom and trotted her way to the mirror. With a soggy forelimb, she wiped the fog away from the glass and examined herself. Most importantly to her, she examined the damage her mane had been put through.

Rarity bit down on her lip as she lifted her soaking strands into the air to get a better look at them. A few edges of her mane had been singed from constant blaster fire, a still blackened hole was in the middle of a sizable chunk and there was a portion that hung near her face that had been sliced away by that light sword thing. The whole thing looked absolutely atrocious and was almost driven to tears again.

With a heavy heart, she steeled herself for what she knew had to be done. Her magic reached out and hefted a pair of scissors and a comb into the air. “It’ll be alright, Rarity, I hear short manes are in this year.” She reminded herself before setting to work.

A much cleaner and slightly less soggy Rarity trotted her way down the hall leading back towards the parlor she had been in earlier. Her mane was still wrapped up in a towel and the rest of her body was once again clad in the same tacky robe from before. When she drew closer, her ears were treated to the sounds of hushed yet aggravated voices.

Rolling her eyes, she braced herself for yet one more bump in this seemingly endless cycle. No doubt Simon had done something to offend his “mentor”, she would more than likely have to turn the charm up in order to defuse the situation. But as she got closer, the subject of the conversation caused her to hesitate.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve keepin’ this from me, Simon.” Lorn growled. “She was one of my closest friends, an’ ya don’t even have the courtesy to tell me about this.”

“I… I was going to tell you Lorn,” Simon explained in an oddly weak tone, “I just… I wanted to find Kaily first.”

“Sith’s blood, kid, you mean she doesn’t know yet?”

“You know how she is.” Simon reminded him. “If she doesn’t want to be found, she’s not going to be found. Just my luck that happened to be right now…”

Rarity heard the old alien give a sigh followed by the sounds of a body meeting the fabric of one of the arm chairs. “When did this happen?”

“Three days ago.” Simon replied with a tired groan. “It happened right after I took that Gaian girl’s job. Plan was, drop off the cargo, somehow find Kaily and then head home. Serif certainly put a wrench in that plan.”

That photo quickly returned to Rarity’s mind. The girl in that photo, Simon had been so defensive of it. She quickly squelched a gasp with her hoof, her eyes widening in realization. Had something happened to that girl? And who was this Kaily, had something happened to her as well?

“You’re damn lucky someone beat me to it, otherwise I’d’ve beat the tar out’a ya myself.” Lorn grumbled.

Rarity hugged the wall beside her when the still fuming Sullustan trudged out of the room. Their eyes met for a moment and her body locked up in panic. Lorn however barely regarded her as he strode past, leaving the somewhat confused Unicorn lingering in the hall alone.

For a moment she stayed in the spot, unsure of whether or not it was alright to enter the room. Finally finding the courage to move her hooves, she plastered on the most casual face her fatigued state of mind could muster. She found Simon sitting slumped over in one of the chairs, his head in his hands. When his gaze lifted at her approach, she found herself frozen once more.

An empty silence drifted between the pair, neither saying a word to the other. Cautiously, a warm smile came to her features as she pushed further into the room. “How are you feeling, Simon?”

“I’ll be even better once the painkillers start kicking in.” He replied with a lazy grin.

“That’s a relief,” she said with a happy sigh as she removed the towel from her head, shaking the last droplets of moisture from her mane. “I was actually afraid with the way you kept passing out, that you might not make it this far.”

A twinge of sadness entered her as she caught sight of her own reflection. Her once proud luscious curls of lavender were now replaced with a far shorter mane style. Though the tresses still maintained some of the bouncing curl they had been trained into, they hung close framing her face. Glancing back towards Simon she gave a worried smile.

“Be honest, how do I look?” She asked giving a few of the curly strands a bounce with her hoof.

Simon examined the Unicorn for a moment before asking, “What, cut your hair or something?” The critical glare she quickly affixed on him brought his good arm up in defense. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding, it looks nice,” Simon assured her, “cute even.”

A touch of red bled through the fur of her cheeks. “Why thank you, Simon.” Her mood however took a swift shift, becoming more serious. “Things have become far more complicated haven’t they?”

It was the question he knew was on the way, but had been hoping he could avoid. “Yeah,” he groaned in response. “Sorry about that, Princess. I think it’s going to take me a bit longer to complete my contract with you.”

With a tired groan she dropped herself onto the couch. “Please tell me this doesn’t happen often.”

“Not always. Sometimes it actually gets dangerous.” He replied with a wry grin.

Rarity quickly sat up to give him a burning glare. “Don’t even joke about that.” She snapped at him. “You and I barely escaped that place with our lives and you were almost sucked into space for Celestia’s sake!”

“Yeah, and we’re still alive, I’d call that a win.” Simon snapped back at her.

“And what happens next time when your luck runs out?” She asked with a glare. “What happens next time Simon, when some hoodlum hired by one of those cutthroats finds us and puts a blaster bolt through you?”

“You’d get a refund for starters.” He replied flatly, meeting her glare for glare.

Her frustration had reached a boiling point. There was very little Rarity could do to hold her emotions in check as her forelimbs shook with the urge simply grab him by the collar and thrash some sense into him. She could feel a touch of wetness starting to fill in at the corners of her eyes and her teeth starting to grind against each other.

“Would you stop talking like that,” Rarity snarled at him, “what makes you think I would even care about the blasted credits at that point!? Are you so selfish and self-centered that you think so little of everypony else around you?! All I want is to get through this ordeal and return home to my family and friends!”

Her tirade paused a moment giving her a chance to regain a bit more of herself. “Back on the station we could have escaped when your robot brought us the ship. Instead you thought to try attacking Vrax again and now you can barely stand. What if he’d killed you?”

The overflowing frustration had taken its toll and left the mare feeling even more drained than before. Dropping her head onto the pillow that had been left on the furnishing for her she let out an angry sigh. She needed to look away from him, lest she continue on her angry rant. Rarity tightly shut her eyes trying to hold back the tears that wanted to desperately to flow free. With a calming breath, she brought herself back under control.

“As hard as it is for me to admit this, Simon, I need you.” She confessed sullenly. “Back home, I’ve faced my fair share of trials by fire and come out stronger for it. Out here though, I am all alone and out of my element, and it scares me.”

Simon sat silent for a time as her words raged around in his head. She certainly had a lot of nerve, trying to single him out like that, break him down with her guilt trip. And like he’d buy that big speech about not caring about the money, credits meant everything in the galaxy. She was just trying to get back at him for all those things he put her through back on Star Forge. Or maybe she was just trying to see how easy he was to push around emotionally so she could get what she wanted later on. But if all that was true, then why did Simon suddenly feel so small and worthless right now?

He let that silence slip in between them once again, the words he knew he had to say refused to make the trip past his lips. Biting down hard on his pride, Simon forced himself to speak up. “I admit, you have a point there, Princess. I’m sorry.” Those words were a punch in his gut. “This is nothing that you signed up for when we set up the contract and I’m sorry for that. But like I said before, I’m going to fix this and I’m going to get you home. I haven’t failed a contract yet.”

A voice in his head reminded him he had one more thing to say to her. “Also, I guess I kinda really owe you one for saving me back on the station. Thanks, Rarity.” He said with a great deal of reluctance.

Rarity stared straight ahead at the wall opposite the couch, part of her wanting to simply leave him stewing in whatever guilt he’d managed to accumulate. But bitter acts would do neither of them any good.

“Think nothing of it, Simon.” She breathed out. “I couldn’t very well just leave you there to die, now could I? However, your apology is accepted.”

One thing was still bugging him though, burrowing into the back of his mind despite all his attempts to ignore it. “Rarity, back on the station, how exactly did you get us from that hallway into the hangar?”

“To put it simply, darling, teleportation,” she replied casually with a yawn, “not exactly a normal spell from my repertoire, but thank Celestia it actually worked as I’d hoped.”

Her answer only filled him with more questions and more than a few red flags. “And what could have happened if things had gone wrong?”

“Well, from what Twilight explained to me about it, we took a brief jaunt from where we were in the hallway, to another point of existence then back to our own some distance away.” She started to explain while trying to curl up on the couch. “There are actually quite a lot of things that could go wrong, especially with a blind jump like the one we made. We could have come out the other end inside of a wall, one of the crates, even Vrax depending on where he was standing at the time. It’s one of the reasons we were some distance off the floor, I wanted to avoid that hazard at the least. When the spell is line of sight, teleportation is more or less foal-proof, but without any idea of where one is going, the odds of survival become understandably low. There’s a reason very few Ponies ever learn or try to use teleportation magic, one mistake has the potential to end your trip pretty quickly.”

Simon ran all of this information through his head and could only find one thing he knew and understood that was remotely similar. But that wasn’t possible, even for a Force user, wasn’t it? If it was, that meant that she essentially had performed something akin to a localized jump through hyperspace from the way she described it. It all sounded about the same, even the hazards of it. It still didn’t seem possible though, no living creature could possibly do something like that without the mountain of technology that was a hyperspace engine. All of this was becoming more than his tired mind could easily handle.

“You know what, I’m too tired and pumped full of painkillers to make sense of this junk.” Simon complained, rubbing his temples. “I’ll talk to you in the morning, Princess.”

“Good night, Simon.” Rarity snickered in reply.

Evening never really seemed to come to the planet of Nar Shaddaa, not that anyone could ever tell what time of day it was. Thick clouds of smog filled the sky with massive towers of metal and glass blotting out the sun. The plant was constantly illuminated by the undying neon lights that never seemed to go out. High above the clouds of smog however, one could see the sky, a privilege that only the wealthiest could enjoy, a privilege that Serif gladly enjoyed.

Reclining at the desk at the end of his office, Serif had something far more entertaining to look at than the sky. He watched the pair of scantily clad females gyrate and grind the solitary pole that had been set up. A large office above the smog and beautiful women at his beckon call, these were just a few of the perks of working for a Hutt.

Serif’s enjoyment however was cut short as an indicator built into the polished surface of his desk began flashing. He rolled his eyes in annoyance before motioning to the women to leave. Once he was alone, the holo-projector built into his desk sparked to life, creating the scaled down image of an Ubese.

“Vrax,” he stated in a flat business tone, “I thought we agreed you wouldn’t contact me until you finished your half of the deal.”

“Plans have changed, Serif,” the masked figure snarled at him. “Your courier saw to that.”

With a raised eyebrow, he leaned forwards towards the projection. “What do you mean?”

“First of all, the little pest showed up to the meeting with some kind of Force witch.” Vrax said with a strong hint of venom. “To top it all off, they spaced the package!”

“Could you repeat that?” Serif asked with a snarl. “Did you just say that one of the most valuable items in the galaxy just got sucked out into space? Do you have any idea how far this sets back all of our plans!?”

“I’m very well aware of that.” Vrax barked in response. “I’m going to find your little friend and his woman, and then I’m going to take every credit out of him and his little girlfriend, one drop of blood at a time. I just thought I’d let you have a heads up before you started getting the clean up bills.”

With his threat in place, Vrax’s image vanished from the holo-projector, leaving Serif to sit fuming in the dimly lit office. Gone, how could the contents of that cargo pod be gone just like that? It had cost him billions of credits to procure the contents of the crate and even more to set up the deal. Now it was gone, all of those credits, all that time, all those plans, gone.

R8-Z7 scooted along the corridors of the Meaningless Venture, going about his usual tasks and chores. The little astromech had his work cut out for him with all the busted panels and mess after his rough landing back on Starforge. Still, it had gotten the desired results and helped him save his master and companion. Whistling a happy little electronic tune to himself, he welded a section of wall back into place.

It had been some time since his master and the companion left to seek repairs for the damage they had sustained. Z7 didn’t mind though, he enjoyed these moments to himself. They were welcomed moments that gave him a chance to let his mind wander while putting his metallic hand attachments to work. Tonight’s subject was whether or not the concept of sight still applied to him even with electronic supplements in lieu of organic eyes or never having technically had natural sight. It skirted the taboo issues of self awareness, but thankfully avoided going too far over that line. He was well aware of how short a Droid’s life span could become if limitations were pushed too far.

As he rounded about the lounge area of the ship, something caught his attention. A rather familiar looking package now that he searched his memory banks. He had been sure that his master had dropped that off back on the space station. Perhaps he had made a mistake. They were rare but he was understanding of his master’s shortcomings. He was only organic after all. Taking the box in his metallic grip, he returned it to the cargo storage bay for safe keeping and made a quick note to bring this to his master’s attention. With a happy tune once more being whistled to himself, R8-Z7 went back to his merry work.

Just Another Tuesday

“Pssst, Ortell,” a harsh, graining voice whispered to him from the darkness, “time to wake up!”

Before Simon knew what was going on, something very solid slammed into the side of his face. Waking with a start, he found the less than towering but surprisingly intimidating form of Vrax looming over him. The Ubese grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him from the chair that had been his bed and into a savage knee that bit its way into his gut.

Simon gasped out pain and fell to his hands and knees. His mind raced, trying to figure out how he’d been able to track him down so easily. He was certain he’d covered his tracks and there was no way he could have found him so easily.

“Hurts, doesn’t it?” Vrax asked through a chuckle. “Not half as bad as getting sucked out into the void, but still painful I’m sure.”

It was then, the pain burrowing into his mind and body gave way enough to let him hear the screams coming from the back rooms, he knew that scream. “R-Rarity!?”

“Is that her name?” His attacker asked before a kick was lodged into his side, sending him sprawling across the floor. “We didn’t stop to ask, a bit rude of us, I know, but we were in a hurry. I wasn’t sure if shooting that old man at the front door had woken you up or not. As you can no doubt hear though, some of the boys took a shine to her. You’d be proud though, took her this long to even make a peep, just laid there glaring, not wanting to give the satisfaction, you know the whole bit right.”

Vrax took a knee next to Simon, gripping him violently by the hair and yanking his vision to meet his visor. “They must be doing something really nasty back there to finally get her to scream like that.”

Simon had heard enough! The Human launched himself forward with a wide blow from his right arm. His target however simply let the blow slip past him as he leaned back. Vrax’s grating laugh poked away at him before another angry blow struck the side of his face. Simon rolled away from his enemy to gain a touch of breathing room and get to his feet. He had to find away to beat this guy but the sounds of Rarity’s pained cries from afar made it hard for his mind to focus. This was an opening that Vrax was fast to capitalize on with a fresh flurry of blows that tore into his victim’s body.

Fear and pain gripped his body and his mind. Every move Simon made, his opponent was able to easily counter it before meting out a savage assault all his own. His vision had clouded from the blood and sweat while the side of his face was swelling up. A sharp pain bore into his left arm, he was sure that it had been broken or at least was close to it now. He felt a trickle of something warm rolling down the side of his neck and called his attention to the blood flowing from the side of his mouth.

Simon reared back to throw yet another desperate punch at the Ubese standing before him. He was practically half the smuggler’s size, but still hit like an angry Bantha. Yet another quick blow to his gut quickly reminded him of that as his blow was harmlessly knocked aside. He could swear that he could see him smirking behind that lifeless mask of his.

Gloved fingers took him by the throat in a vice grip that couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to choke him or just crush his neck. Simon fought uselessly against the squeezing grip that Vrax had on him. As the arm retracted, he found himself falling to his knees against the smaller alien’s superior strength. He tried his damnedest to keep a spark of defiance in his eyes and keep hidden the fear he was feeling right now.

“Look at it this way, Ortell,” Vrax’s gravelly voice wheezed out, “you don’t have to see what my men did to your Force Witch. In fact, you don’t have to worry about much anymore.”

Vrax’s grip on his throat tightened and cut off what very little air had been barely filling his lungs. Simon watched as the Ubese brought his free hand back for one more blow. This was going to be the one that killed him, Simon knew that. He was powerless to stop all of this, he was no match for Vrax and now he was going to die by the blood thirsty thug’s hands. Shutting his eyes tightly, he braced himself for the final blow while the sounds of his companion’s screaming filled his ears.

SIMON!” His eyes sprung open to find himself staring up into those large deep blue eyes. Rarity was looming over him, a look of worry and concern on her face as she stared down at him. “Simon, are you alright?”

Simon’s mind struggled to grasp what he’d just been through. His body was still wracked by a dull pain that refused to leave him be despite having long since worn out its welcome. A burning sensation in his lungs drew his attention to the fact that he was out of breath. Beads of icy cold perspiration soaked his entire body. Her eyes were still boring into him, demanding to know what was wrong.

“I’m fine, Princess, just fine,” he said with a forced smile. “It was nothing, just a bad dream is all.”

The way his voice shook and the fearful look in his eyes told her that more than he was willing to speak up about. Still, she had already seen first hoof what happens when one tried to pry information from the young spacer. Rarity felt no desire to start her first morning away from her home planet with an argument.

With a forced smile of her own, she let him be. “Alright then, darling, if you say it was nothing.”

Sitting up properly, Simon began rubbing the last remnants of sleep from his eyes. The painkillers he’d been taking the night before had clearly begun to wear off as dull pain seeped from one end of his body to the next. With his vision cleared, Simon took notice of his Equestrian companion who had begun to busy herself with yet another project. A pile of clothes and fabrics were sprawled out on the floor and table at the center of the room with the beginnings of yet another outfit. One other thing he took notice of was the black shirt that was draped around her body that hung around her a bit awkwardly.

“I hope you don’t mind, Simon,” she said after taking notice of his gaze, “I had grown tired of that dreadful bath robe and your shirt was the only clean thing I could find on hoof.”

A devious grin slipped over his features. “No, that’s fine, but, you do know what it means when a woman wears another guy’s shirt right?”

Rarity barely looked up from her work. “Not entirely sure, is there some kind of fashion faux pas with it?”

After popping his stiff joints back into place, Simon crossed the room to slip up behind her. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he leaned in next to her ear and whispered. “It usually means that you slept with him.”

Simon had expected the posh girl to turn beet red at his teasing, to possibly turn around and yell at him yet again. What Simon had not expected though, was for her turn around bury her face into the side of his neck. A shiver ran down his spine when she breathed in deeply through her nostrils and drank in his scent.

“Simon, darling,” she breathed out in a husky tone, “the rumor mill and this shirt are as close to that level of intimacy you and I will ever get.” To add emphasis, she patted his cheek with her hoof.

Simon’s cheeks had begun to fill with long forgotten warmth at her words and her touch. His stunned silence had given room for the air to become filled with the soft sound of her giggling which reddened his cheeks all the more. He had to admit though, her coat certainly felt a thousand times softer than he’d assumed when looking at her.

“Whatever, Princess,” Simon snorted in retort in an attempt to not only save face but also distract from the warm tingle that still ghosted along his neck, “an over-privileged girl like you wouldn’t even know what to do with a guy like me.”

With her laughter finally under control, Rarity fixed a bemused grin on Simon. “And, what pray tell, sort of guy would that be? Let me guess, some tough guy with a chip on his shoulder that calls no pony master and makes his own rules?” She made very little effort to hide her sarcastic tone.

Grumbling a few choice words under his breath in annoyance, the tired smuggler made his way towards a thankfully still warm pot of caf. Pouring himself a mug, he gave quiet thanks to Lorn for having left this out for them. Taking a moment to lose his senses in the warm, bitter liquid’s strong aroma, he could feel his muscles already starting to relax.

Casting an eye on his companion’s hoofwork he couldn’t find the urge to suppress the obvious question. “So, what’s the deal with you and clothing anyways, it didn’t look like your world placed too high a priority on it when I was there.”

“Well, for starters, that little incident back on the station is a prime example.” She stated between stitches. “It is my misfortune to not be of a bipedal decent, for it seems that most quadruped species are assumed to be animals. A sense of style is a clear sign of intelligence I’ve always felt.”

Simon took a moment to turn this over in his head. “Well, yeah, I guess that makes sense, that guy did try to steal you after all.”

“Ugh, please don’t remind me,” she grumbled through a half hearted smile, “petting me on the head like that was going to “calm” me down while he tried to drag me away.”

“I warned him you had a temper.” Simon chuckled.

“As much as I abhor violence, it certainly gave him reason to think twice the next time he tries to foalnap somepony.” She said quite proudly.

Abhor violence,” Simon snickered between sips of caf, “says the girl who held a blaster to my head after knocking me senseless.”

“You did have me trussed up like a Hearth’s Warming Eve present.” She quickly reminded him.

“Only so Serif would think I was going to kill you.” Simon laughed happily.

With those words a cold pit formed at the bottom of his stomach. Serif, the man who’d paid him to deliver that mystery box that his Ubesse buddy was so keen to kill him over. The very same box that had been sucked out into space and was probably still floating around the Star Forge Nebula at that very moment. Simon was suddenly overcome with a sudden tired feeling that nearly buckled his knees.

His change in demeanor had not gone unnoticed. “Simon, darling, are you alright?”

“No, and neither are you,” he grumbled as he slouched onto the floor holding the sides of his head, “Serif was expecting that box to be delivered and for you to be a corpse. This is not good. That damned box is probably halfway to Coruscant by now.”

“Simon, what if I told you that only one of those was actually an issue?” Rarity asked with that beam of pride in her voice again.

Despite the pain running rampant through his body, Simon forced himself to his feet and out the front door. A pair of darkly tinted glasses fought back the ever ravaging sunlight that sought to torment him all the further and illuminated the bruises on his face. Pain, however, was something he could easily squelch at the moment, all thanks to ever boiling anger in his breast at the moment.

Beside him strode his Unicorn companion. Rarity had clad herself in a far more form-fitting outfit than the set of altered clothes she had worn during the exodus of Star Forge. An off white shirt and pants of a dulled brown color made the base of the outfit. Over her form was draped a sleeveless surcoat of a faded grey that reached down past her flank and barely avoided skirting the ground. In the back of his head, Simon gave thanks that she at least didn’t try to put on a fashion show.

Rarity beamed proudly over her latest creation. Unfortunately the fabrics used to create were not the most alluring or choice pieces, and considering the time constraint of a single night it wasn’t as fabulous as she’d like it. However, having been designed for an Equestrian body type, it felt far more comfortable against her fur than the clothing she had simply altered to fit herself. With a bit more time it could have been a bit more grandiose, but at least it seemed to fall in line with the general fashion sense of the galaxy.

“So, Princess,” Simon broke their somewhat comfortable silence, “when were you planning to tell me you grabbed the crate, before or after I got tortured?”

Rarity rolled her eyes with a huff as her nose turned into the air. “Really, Simon, it merely slipped my mind for a moment. Better to learn we still have it after the fact than to have truly lost it,” she quipped in reply.

With an annoyed sigh, Simon’s shoulders slumped. “Fine, I guess this doesn’t make it as bad as things could be.”

“What is our plan now, Darling?”

“After you show me we really have the crate, you’re going right back to Lorn’s.”


Before Rarity could start on a tirade, Simon interjected. “My plan, from that point, is to contact Serif and complete this damned job. After that, I’ll come right back and pick you up to finish yours.” He didn’t have to look at her, he could feel those huge blue eyes boring holes into him. “Look, Princess, this whole thing keeps going from bad to worse and I can’t guarantee your safety. Force only knows how bad this thing is going to get from here.”

On that cue, a pair of ragged looking nonhumans stepped out from a side alley with blasters drawn. Brought to a stop, the sounds of three other blasters priming could be heard behind them. Five armed and clearly dangerous looking aliens had surrounded the pair with weapons trained on them both.

“What were you saying about things getting worse?” Rarity asked sarcastically.

“I didn’t think we’d get a bounty this fast,” he muttered to her.

“Vrax put a pretty high one on the pair of you, said he wants you both alive,” the closest armed gunmen informed them.

“Oh, well, alive is good,” Rarity chimed in happily.

“So he can kill you himself,” One of others added.

“Of course he does…” Simon grumbled while he stared down the barrel of a blaster.

“It’s a pretty nice stroke of luck that you two just happened to be walking down the street just as the bounty went up,” one of the thugs happily pointed out. “This is gonna be the easiest two thousand we’ve ever made!”

“Wait, what?!” Simon snapped at the gunman over his shoulder. “You mean to tell me we’re only worth a thousand each?”

“Actually you’re only worth four hundred credits,” the thug pointed out. “She’s worth sixteen hundred, Vrax really wants to get his hands on your girlfriend, man.”

“I don’t believe this garbage…” Simon growled in ever growing anger. “I’m a professional criminal at times and I’m worth less than her?”

“Gentlecolts, if I may?” Rarity inquired as she took a few brave steps forward towards the obvious leader. “There is no reason this must devolve into violence.”

The five armed thugs shared confused looks with one another before their leader leveled his weapon with the Unicorn’s left eye. “Ya know what lady, you’re right, this doesn’t have to get violent, just come with us quietly and we can get this whole thing over and done with.”

“Ah, an open dialogue, so good to see that manners aren’t given a backseat throughout the galaxy,” Rarity happily gushed. “Now then, sir, if you wouldn’t mind, should my companion and I choose to take you up on your ever so gracious offer, we will need to discuss our travelling arrangements as well as sleeping quarters and dietary issues.”

Trying not to lose his obviously held back laughter, the lead gunman snickered and waved her on with his weapon. “By all means ma’am, tell us how we can make your travel with us more comfortable.”

“Excellent!” she cooed. “How refreshing to meet such well mannered stallions, you should really be taking notes, Simon.”

Simon’s mind had been hard at work trying to find a way out of this latest mess when Rarity decided to chide him once again. If he drew his weapon they’d just mow them down. If tried to get Rarity to do that teleportation thing again they might end up halfway inside a wall. Just as he was about to entertain the idea of something involving a Kath Hound and a Disruptor Mine, Simon noticed that soft blue aura from so many times before around Rarity’s horn.

Quickly realizing the mare’s plan, he jumped into the conversation. “Yeah, trust me guys, you do not want to see how she gets when you don’t provide for her every whim and need.”

Rarity shot him a pleasant smile and a wink when he began helping with her plan. “Oh yes, you see, we Unicorns are creatures of very delicate nature. I will of course require a strict vegetarian diet, meat plays havoc on our systems you see. Then I’m going to need a clean bed with well laundered sheets, no less than a thread count of four hundred mind you, any less and I can NOT get any sleep, believe me I have tried. Access to a bathroom and or similar facility that has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, I mean this as no personal slight but I would prefer to not come down with any kind of alien disease that my pony system is unprepared for,”

The assembled mercenaries were clearly starting to no longer find her ramblings amusing as she continued to list her demands, over and over again. Finally no longer able hold his anger in check, the lead thug narrowed his gaze on the chattering Unicorn. “Alright, I think I’ve heard quite enough of your “requirements” lady. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we have you outnumbered and outgunned, so I think we’ll just be-”

His words fell as flat as he did upon his face when a heavy object connected swiftly with the back of his head. In a likewise manner, his companions fell to the same fate as a series of loud THUNKS filled the air.

With a pleased smile, Rarity trotted forwards to the unconscious leader of the bounty hunters and bent down beside his ear. “It’s a shame you didn’t notice the levitating debris behind you or your companions, darling.” She cheerfully pointed out before strutting her way past him. Glancing over her shoulder at Simon, she gave him a teasing wink. “Now then, Ortell, what was it you were saying about things being too dangerous for me?”

Before he could make any kind of crass comment on her abilities a red hot kinetic bolt of energy zipped through the air near his head and struck the side of a building. On instinct, Simon dropped low and drew his pistol. Another pair of armed thugs were already letting several fresh energy bolts fly when the smuggler let loose his own barrage. A hail of blaster bolts, that struck everywhere but their targets.

There was a brief and awkward pause between Simon and the bounty hunters as they all three stared in disbelief at wayward blast marks around the ground and shop walls. Before either side could snap back to cohesion, Rarity’s aura snagged her companion by the arm and began dragging him quickly down a nearby alleyway.

“That was quite possibly the worst shooting I have ever seen in my life, and my species has just now started learning about blaster technology!” the Unicorn scolded him.

“I’m a better pilot than a shot, okay!” Simon shouted back as he began to join her in a full on run for their lives.

As they rounded a corner, someone shouted out their location before a few more blaster bolts rang out striking the ground and walls near them. “How many of these blasted bounty hunters are in this town!?” Rarity complained before ducking into the next alley.

“We’re on the fringe of civilized space,” Simon informed her as he fought to keep up with the obviously faster mare, “this place is a prime spot for any spacer, smuggler and of course bounty hunter to stop and fuel up before hitting the deep end of the Outer Rim. And I think they’re more interested in getting you than me Ms. Sixteen Hundred!”

“Are you really going to get mad about that now!?”

Their escape came to a dead halt when they found themselves facing a dead end in their way. Turning to make for a quick exit, they found themselves face to face with a pair of humanoids pointing blasters at them. “That’s far enough, you two!” The tallest of the pair informed them.

“You sure these are the pair from that holo you saw?” his companion asked.

“And just how many humans do you know that are running around with four legged aliens? ‘Sides, they look dead on like the holo, man.”

From what Rarity had learned of the various races of the galaxy, she could see that these two were most likely rather young, perhaps barely within their teen years. Their faces held a youthful touch to them and neither seemed able to hold their weapon steady as if fearing it more than those they pointed them at. Narrowing her eyes dangerously, the mare took several steps towards the pair.

“Hey, we said to hold still horn-head!” one of the teens yelled at her.

“And just what exactly do you two think you’re playing at!?” she snarled at the pair.

Both teenagers flinched at her harsh words but quickly forced themselves to meet her glare. “H-hey, we don’t have to take lip like that from you, we’re freaking bounty hunters lady! Besides,” his tone became a lore bolder, “we’ve got the guns and that means we control the situation.”

Rarity’s eyebrow quirked at this idea, “Is that how things work?”

In a flash of blue energy, the blasters were ripped from the hands of the young man and levitated into the air. The weapons made a swift about face and now leveled themselves with their former wielders. Both young men began falling over one another as they scurried and fought to back pedal and run away from the irate Unicorn.

“And don’t let me catch either of you ever doing anything like this again!” She shouted at the boys as they ran screaming from the alleyway.

“Jeez, Princess, I’d almost forgotten how scary you can be when you’re angry,” Simon chuckled.

With an annoyed huff, Rarity dropped the weapons into a nearby refuse bin before slamming the lid shut. “Yes, well, their foalish behavior aside, what is our plan now? I highly doubt these ruffians are going to let us leave the planet.”

“Yeah, and sending you back to Lorn would only be putting him in unnecessary danger,” Simon admitted. “Looks like it’s on to plan B.”

“And what is plan B?’

“Real simple,” Simon replied as he inched his way to the edge of the alley’s end and checked for any of their pursuers, “we get to the ship and get the hell off this planet.”

“Simple indeed,” Rarity commented with a wry smile, “and just how do you plan on getting us there with an entire city looking for us?”

With a cocksure grin, Simon produced his comlink from one of the pouches on his belt. “With a little help of course.”

The quiet and uneventful nature of this afternoon had given the ever wandering mind of the droid R8-Z7 to explore further concepts of being. At times he brushed on the taboo ideals of self awareness, an always dangerous subject for one’s circuits to focus on, ever obedient programming however kept these ideals at bay. Still, the concept of whether or not he could say he had any kind of taste due to it having been programmed, was an entertaining examination of self.

After all, most sapient species considered taste to be something that they honed and developed over time. A constantly changing and evolving thing, organics always seemed to excel at evolving.

The Master’s new companion no doubt was the reason for these sudden new subjects of study. During the construction of her new coverings, she had inquired much about galactic fashion senses. Being a droid he had very little knowledge on such things, however a quick trip through the holo-net educated himself enough to be of use to her. Now the ideas however lingered in his programmed brain, raising questions of whether or not a droid can develop a sense of taste and fashion.

These musings however came to a crashing halt when a light on the communications hub began flashing, accompanied by a loud beeping noise. Chirping and whistling excitedly, the round little droid made a quick B-line for the control panel. Master was calling, perhaps he had a new task for him!

“Are you certain this will work?” Rarity asked with a worried tone.

“I’ve never heard of it not working.” Simon replied as he led the pony through the cramped stairwell.

“And just how many times have you done this?”

Simon paused for a moment before flashing her a vaguely confident smile. “First time for everything right?”

Simon continued to lead her up the building they had ducked inside of. It was a less than exquisite apartment building just north of the market district. The worn wooden floor boards creaked and groaned under their feet and hooves as they moved at fast pace through the building. The dimly lit hallways with the occasional bits of garbage and refuse were very little improvement on the streets they had left behind, though provided a touch of security that the streets obviously lacked. Still, the feel of lingering eyes from the peep holes kept both the dressmaker and the smuggler on high alert.

In time the tightly packed feeling of the stairwell gave way to the wide open sky and roof top. Stepping out onto the rooftop, Simon and Rarity both dashed for the nearest piece of cover they could spot, the rickety remains of an air conditioning unit that more than likely no longer worked. Scanning the skies and keeping a tentative eye on the surrounding buildings, Simon retrieved his com-link once again.

“Z, we’re on the roof, get your metal butt in gear!” Excited whistles and beeps sounded from the other end of the communicator. “At the moment, I frankly do not care what the control tower is telling you. We’re sitting ducks up here Z,”

After a few more chirps from the droid, Simon returned the com unit to its compartment on his belt. “So, Princess, how good of a shot are you?” He asked while producing a small hook connected to a thin strip of rope that fed into yet another belt compartment.

“Probably better than you,” she teased him while continuing to scan the area for any signs of the ship.

“You better be right about that,” Simon stated as he loaded the grappling hook onto the end of his blaster, “because we only get one chance at this.”

Before he could hand the weapon off to the mare, several blaster bolts struck the side of their makeshift cover. The pair ducked away from the impact on reflex just before several others started striking their position.

“Didn’t they say that Vrax wanted us alive!?” Rarity shouted over the sounds of blaster bolts striking metal.

“They’re keeping us pinned down,” Simon snarled as he shrank back from a bolt that struck the ground near his leg, “their friends are probably on the way up here.”

The sounds of roaring engines overhead sent a wave of relief through Simon’s core as he spotted his beloved ship flying close to the small city’s rooftops with the gangway down. “Alright, Rarity, you’re up!”

Levitating the weapon turned grappling gun, she began taking careful aim at the closing ship. “Now is probably a bad time to mention I’ve only fired one of these twice.”

All the color flushed from Simon’s face at this revelation. Before he could interject however, she sent the tethered hook flying through the air. Time slowed to painful crawl as the projectile inched its way towards the ship. Over his shoulder he could hear the sound of the door to the roof being kicked open, but his eyes refused to pull away from sight of the hook flying towards the ship. His heart skipped a beat when the grappling hook actually managed to strike just beside the gangway and magnetically latch tightly against the hull.

Simon’s arms tightly looped around Rarity and held her against his chest. “So, uhm, this is probably going to hurt, a lot.” He warned before they yanked into the sky by the surprisingly strong thin rope attached to his belt.

Sure enough, a blinding pain rocketed through Simon’s body as the injuries from the beating he’d taken from Vrax were reawakened. Rarity was no better off as the human’s arms tightened around her nearly squeezing her uncomfortably when she was yanked roughly into the air. The roar of the ship’s engines drowned out their own screams as they were hoisted into the mid afternoon sky through hails of blaster fire. The device attached to Simon’s utility belt that had produced the thin cable had begun to retract and pull them closer to the ship as it flew well beyond the outskirts of the city.

In moments, the pair once again found themselves sprawled out on the cold metal floor of the ship after climbing back inside. Through a wall of pain, Simon forced himself to sit up and look to the mare in his arms. “So, was it good for you?” He joked with a roguish grin.

His joke was answered with a swift hoof to his chest that sent him rolling away from her. “Ugh, have some decorum will you, Ortell.”

There was little time to rest as a shrill siren split the air. “For the love of… Now what is it?” Rarity asked dejectedly.

“Probably some of their friends in starfighters coming to kill us.” Simon pointed out casually before he pulled himself back to his feet. “Things just keep getting interesting when you’re around, you know that.”

“All I wanted to do was sell my dresses.” Rarity hissed at him. “You’re the one bringing in the criminal element here!” She declared after getting to her hooves.

After scrambling to the cockpit, Simon quickly strapped himself into his seat and shouted at Rarity to do the same. “Things are about to get really bumpy, Princess.” He warned as his hands breezed across the controls at a swift practiced pace. Simon flashed her a wide arrogant grin. “Just sit back and enjoy the ride.”

The bulky but swift freighter cut a path across the sky over the planet Orrikal as five smaller, more agile craft followed after it. The fighters themselves were considerably more fragile by comparison to their bulkier prey. Two sets of wings and a pair of tails extended from the stout body of the crafts while a pair of engines kept them aloft. When the distance between them and Meaningless Venture began to close, they let lose a volleys of energy blasts from the weapons mounted at the tips of their wings.

True to his bragging, Simon began dancing and weaving the ship through the hail of blaster fire. The few bolts that could not be avoided struck mostly harmlessly against the thick shields of the star freighter. He could feel the frightened eyes of his passenger upon him with every shudder and shake when the fighters scored their hits.

“Z, see if you can’t knock a few of them off our tail,” Simon shouted at the droid.

Whistling in compliance, the astromech rolled itself over to one of the consoles and plugged into the well placed data-port. Within the span of a millisecond, his robotic brain had become one with the ship’s targeting and weapons systems. The large scale double barrel gun atop the vessel sprang to life and shifted to aim at the pursuing fighters. R8-Z7’s droid mind was able to run through the calculations and trajectories of his targets faster than any organic could.

The heavy dual blaster cannon fired a quick succession of blaster bolts that caught the lead ship by surprise. Starship grade bolts of energy ripped past one of the light pursuit fighters’ shields and tore the modest armor plating asunder. In a bright flash the ship was reduced to a smoldering pile of slag that was no plummeting towards the planet below. The plucky astromech behind the controls of the weapon let out a chirp of triumph over his victory.

“Great, Z,” Simon encouraged him. “Don’t get cocky!”

With their leader a smoking wreck falling to the surface, the other four fighters quickly broke off to gain distance and find a new avenue of attack. Simon quickly took the ship into a sharp climb into the upper atmosphere with his newly gained breathing room. Blue sky gave way to the deep black veil of space as the starship broke free of the earthly restrictions. A few flashes of blaster fire from behind however reminded them that they weren’t home free yet.

“Why haven’t we done that blue tunnel thing!?” Rarity asked with a healthy dose of panic.

“Couple reasons,” Simon snarled in a reply as he ducked the bulk of yet another volley of blaster bolts, “for starters we aren’t clear of the planet’s gravity well yet. Secondly, the engines need time to charge up to make the jump, on top of that the ship needs to align with the right Hyperspace route. All of this makes us a sitting target if those guys overtake us.

“Besides, a blind jump through hyperspace is a sure fire way to get yourself killed.” Simon continued as the ship rocked from another direct hit.

“Then what do we do!?”

In the distance was something that caught Simon’s attention. The main shipping lane of the planet, lines of ships of varying sizes and ships going to and from the planet’s larger settlements. A devious smirk tugged at the edges of his face while his hands gripped the controls tightly.

Rarity noted the sudden change in his demeanor and then the lines of ships ahead of them. “No, oh Celestia, please tell me you are not going to-“ her voice trailed off into a scream as the ship’s speed quickly jumped, speeding them head on towards the veritable wall of transports.

With several quick maneuvers, the Meaningless Venture slipped through the various lumbering transports and heavy duty freighters. The starfighters chasing after them may have had speed and maneuverability compared to their prey, but none of the remaining four pilots could have predicted the smuggler’s desperate and seemingly crazy gamble. The now leader of the mercenary pilots in particular had misjudged his craft’s position in the chase, his wing clipping the side of a massive transport. The small fighter lost control and found itself spinning off from the rest of the squadron and well into the droid controlled gun’s firing range.

Explosions mixed with blaster fire and ships cutting right through the main shipping lane began to sow all the chaos that Simon needed. The remaining three fighters found it much harder to keep up with him as they now had to duck and weave through the now panicking heavy freighters and transports as well as deal with any of their escort craft. Two of the star fighters were forced into crashing into one another resulting in another explosion that rocked the ship.

As the final fighter finally broke free of the chaos it found itself no longer the pursuer, but the pursued. The Meaningless Venture brought its game to bear with the tiny craft before unleashing a volley of heavy energy bolts. The smaller craft like the others was no match for the heavy blaster cannon. Within seconds the fighter craft is in vaporized in a burst of blaster fire.

“We’re all clear, set the coordinates, Z!” Simon shouted as he breezed his hands over the controls.

The black void of space began to shift and distort until in a bright flash it was replaced with the blue tunnel of hyperspace. With a sigh of relief, Simon fell back against his chair and finally let out the breath he’d been unconsciously holding. A pair of soft but amazingly strong limbs wrapped around his neck before he felt the silky touch of Rarity’s cheek against his. He couldn’t help but laugh along with the jubilant Unicorn as she celebrated their near death escape. Without thinking, his arms snaked around her and returned the hug.

There was an awkward silence however when the pair found themselves eye to eye. Just as quickly as it happened, the pair pulled away and returned to their seats. Simon kept the back of his chair to her as he pretended to be working on something with the ship. Rarity merely sat back in her chair and stared off at the effects of hyperspace.

“I believe I’ll retire for the time being.” Rarity said, breaking the silence. “Nearly getting killed certainly takes its toll.”

“Yeah, sorry about that again,” Simon replied still keeping his back to her. “We’ll be making a few random jumps to make sure we don’t get tracked. Go ahead and get some rest.”

He listened to the sound of her hooves on the metal floor of the ship as she made her exit from the cockpit. The smuggler couldn’t help but venture a glance past the high back of the seat and watch her leave before returning his full attention to the controls in front of him. A touch of red however entered his face as the ghostly warmth of her cheek against his still lingered.

A Cold Night

Part of her desperately hoped that all of this had been some kind of silly dream. That she’d let her mind wonder after reading another of her novels and that she’d wake up wrapped up in her thick comfy bed sheets. That she’d wake up to the sounds of birds chirping outside her open window accompanied by the waking hustle and bustle of Ponyvile. She’d wake up and get to work on the latest set of orders before her sister got off school and came over to spend time with her. Then perhaps Twilight or somepony would show up at the shop with some threat to the world that only the Elements of Harmony can stop. Yes, she’d open her eyes and everything would back to normal. Sadly though, she knew all too well that her eyes were already wide open.

With a ragged sigh, she forced herself out of the bed to the sounds of her bones popping as she forced life back into them. Halfway back in slumber, Rarity trotted her way through the ship. In her time on the vessel she had certainly become familiar with its layout as well as the function of some of its systems, at least the ones she was forced to use on a daily basis. Passing one door in particular, she found something rather odd.

Simon stood in front of the softly glowing hologram of someone in particular that sent a slight shiver through Rarity’s body. “Serif,” she muttered under her breath as she hugged the wall beside the door.

“Simon, it’s been a while since I’ve seen or heard from you,” the well dressed Cathar pointed out in a stern tone. “You’ve got some major explaining to do. The last thing I heard was that not only did you keep that girl alive, but you started a fight with Vrax and lost the package to the Starforge as well.”

“First off, you really think I was about to just kill someone in cold blood?” Simon asked with no shortage of sarcasm. “As for Vrax, him and his goons shot first! This kind of shit is what happens when you deal with an Ubese, Serif. Little karking Hutt-spawn was probably planning to take all the profit for himself from the beginning.”

“That aside, we’re still out one very important object, Simon.” Serif reminded him.

“What if I told you, I still had the package?”

“I’d be tempted to take back almost everything I’ve said about you.”

“Listen, Vrax was gonna be your middle man for whatever this deal is you’ve got set up, right? Well, clearly he isn’t up to snuff, so what if I completed it for you?” Simon asked with a confident smirk.

Serif visibly turned this idea over in his head, sharp feline eyes sizing the smuggler up from across the vastness of space. “These are some really cut throat people, Simon, I’m not sure you realize what you’re volunteering for.”

“Then I’ll expect hazard pay.” Simon quickly replied. “Look, get Vrax and his bounty on me and my new partner off our backs, and I’ll get the job done.”

“You’re asking for a pretty big favor, paying off the Bounty Hunter’s Guild like that.”

“Shuga isn’t paying you? Besides, you owe me this and more, old buddy.”

Serif showed a moment of hesitation “You really have the crate?”

With a wide grin, Simon lifted the box in question into view of the holo-transmission. “Would I lie to you?”

Serif eyed the case intently before tapping a few keys off screen. “I’ll be karked, that’s the real thing.” The Cathar gangster mentally turned this new information over for a moment. “Alright then, Simon, you got a deal. I’ll do what I can about the Guild, but no promises. Until then, I want you to wait for me to contact you in the usual place.”

A wide hungry grin slipped over the smuggler’s face as he reached over to end the call. “One more thing, Simon,” Serif’s interjection stopped him mid reach. “You should get rid of the girl while you still can. She’ll thank you in the long run.”

Once the hologram finally cut out, Simon let out a tired groan and let himself drop onto the couch behind him. Rubbing his temples he caught a glimpse of lavender and white from the crack in the door. “So, how much of that did you hear?”

Tentatively, Rarity entered the room with a touch of guilt on her face. “What I assume was the entire thing…”

Simon stared at the ceiling, pipes, wires and light fixtures filling his gaze. “He’s not wrong you know, would probably be better if you just left now and went home or something.”

Rarity took a seat across from him with a tired sigh. “I won’t deny that the thought has crossed my mind more than a few times. I miss my home and I miss my friends and family. I can’t stand constantly lying to them about where we are and what we’re doing.”

“With all those blaster toting whackos running around your planet now, it’d probably be the safest place to wait out this bounty thing hanging around your head.” Simon pointed out.

“Yes, it would be nice to just give up and go home, wouldn’t it?” She said with a tired smile. “But I’ve never liked the thought of giving up. Besides, you’d probably be dead within a week without me to save your flank, partner.” She added with a teasing smirk.

Simon gave her a mock glare before rolling his eyes and sitting up in his seat. “Alright then, Princess. Just don’t blame me when you either get shot or end up some slaver’s new favorite pet.”

From the cockpit, Rarity watched as the Meaningless Venture made its way through the mixture of asteroids and fields of debris towards a single dark grey orb in the black. Soon, the ship made a slow descent through the thick grey clouds that covered the planet until it finally touched down in the tiny space port of one of the scavenger towns that dotted it. As the gangway lowered, the first thing Rarity took note of was the flecks of grey that fell about like fresh winter snow. A cold biting wind drifted through her and tore at the coat around her form. As her eyes traveled upwards to watch falling flakes, her companion offered a scarf to her. Bringing her gaze to his, she found a similar one wrapped about the lower half of his face.

“Ash fall,” Simon informed her as she wrapped the scarf about her mouth, “centuries old debris that’s still floating in the atmosphere starts to fall to the planet, burns up, and turns to falling ash. You don’t wanna breathe it in.”

“Oh joy, yet another charming place you’ve brought me to.” Rarity said with a touch of sarcasm. “Do you treat all the women in your life to such exotic trips?”

“Only the ones who’re as beautiful as you, Princess,” Simon replied as he made his way through the open air landing pad.

“Oh, Simon, you are ever the charmer.” Rarity snickered as she kept pace with her human companion. “On a more serious note though. Are you sure we can trust Serif?”

“I trust Serif to double cross me if he thinks he can turn a big enough profit from it.” Simon replied as he led them through the streets of the barely alive town. “I trust him to think more about what’ll benefit him over me. But most importantly I trust him to at least not try to kill me openly. That’s why we took our time to stash the box on that moon before coming here.”

“That was a rather clever strategy, Simon.” Rarity praised him between her laughter.

“Yeah, well, get robbed while you’re off your ship enough times and you learn not to hide anything important onboard.”

From the self proclaimed safe house, Rarity watched as the already dreary urban landscape outside. Deep grey snowflakes covered every inch of ground, every rooftop and clung to the sides of buildings. A shiver ran through her, causing the Unicorn to pull her coat tighter around her body. A nudge at her shoulder drew her attention to her companion’s offering of a clear glass filled halfway with an amber liquid.

“Might wanna drink this.” Simon advised her. “Heater takes a while to kick in and it tends to get pretty cold on this planet at night.”

Taking the glass with her magic, she floated the liquor to her lips and instantly felt a quick wash of heat as it slid down her throat with a strong bite. Wincing, she nodded a thank you to him before taking another, smaller, sip to melt more of the building frost from her bones.

“This world you’ve brought us too, darling, it seems so very dreadful.” Rarity sighed as she finally settled into her seat hoping to sap some kind of warmth from the couch cushions. “Why would anypony actually choose to live on such a world?”

“Same reasons anyone sets up shop on any world, profit and freedom.” Simon answered her. “This world’s far enough into the Outer Rim that people can operate without the GA or Imps trying to claim a slice of the pie.”

“I fail to see what kind of profit this dead planet can provide.”

“Scrap,” Simon informed her, “this planet is filled to the brim with plenty of it to claim. See, a few centuries ago, this planet was fought over pretty fiercely by these two factions called the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire. This system sat smack dab in the middle of an important hyperspace route so they both wanted it. They spent their entire war blowing each other away all over this star system, especially this planet since it’s the only one that’s remotely inhabitable. Then a few hundred years later this place became a hotspot for slaughter when a new Empire tried to take root and ended up bumping heads with the Rebel Alliance. This entire star system is littered with billions of credits worth of scrap materials and who knows what else.”

“So grave robbing, then.”

“Welcome to the galaxy at large, Princess.” Simon snickered. “Folks out here gotta make a living somehow. Not everyone gets to grow up in a perfect village on a perfect planet. Some of us started out in the trash pile and had to crawl our way out just get a glimpse of the sun.”

“It’s not as perfect as you assume.” Rarity stated flatly as she watched the amber liquid swirl about with every tip of her glass. “After all, why do you think I went through the trouble of hiring you. ‘Gotta make a living somehow,’ as you put it.”

Simon sipped on his own supply of liquor as a silence started to settle between the two of them. “So… why set up a deal with a shop all the way out on a planet like Nak Shinmor?” The smuggler asked between sips. “It’s not that well known of a planet and it isn’t exactly any place special like Coruscant. Seems like a lot of trouble if you ask me.”

Rarity was quiet for a time, staring into her drink with a frown. “Because there was nowhere else I could turn.” Was her hushed reply. “Ever since those brutes from Deathwatch attacked our capital city, Canterlot, nopony really cares all that much about getting a designer dress or suit made. Just about every able bodied stallion and mare has been enlisting with our new friends the Mandalorians.”

With a sigh she drained a bit more of her glass, the warmth of the amber liquid began to fill her stomach and head. “To be brutally honest Simon, what little money I can invest with has been sunk into this venture.” A lazy grin slid over her face as she began chuckling to herself. “And now, here I am on the planet of graves and ash hoping that the stallion who initially wanted me dead can get the bounty on my head lifted. Oh Celestia, how did things get to this point?”

Perhaps it was the liquor or maybe it was the sleep, but Simon couldn’t help but find her laughter infectious. “I dunno, Princess, you seem to be taking to the outlaw life pretty easily.” He pointed out with a wide smirk. “Ever think of giving up the quiet life making clothes and take to the stars to make deals?”

Rarity let out a snort between her fits of laughter. “Oh please, life in Ponyville is anything but quiet, especially for an Element of Harmony.” She said with a proud grin. “One day we’re helping stop some ancient evil that had been sealed away for centuries, the next the entire town is being overrun by overactive omnivore insects. If anything, the outlaw life would be a vacation, darling.” Relaxing into her seat, she fixed the interstellar rogue across from her with a thoughtful stare. “So, how did you end up like this, going from one planet to the next?”

“Good ol’ Lorn, that’s how.” Simon replied with a smirk. “The old Sullustan used to pay me and Serif a few credits to help load and unload his cargo any time he stopped at our port. One day, he offered us a more permanent position working on his ship. If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably be sitting in some spice den blowing what few credits I had just to kill myself.”

A distant smile started to form on the smuggler’s face as he began to recall things more clearly. “That first flight though, it felt so damned freeing, ya know. Like, everything wrong in my life was being left behind, like a huge set of chains were falling off me along with natural gravity. No more slums, no more scrounging for credits, the entire galaxy suddenly opened up for me.”

His musing came to a stop when he noticed caring glint and smile upon the mare across from him. “What’s with that look, Princess?”

“Oh, nothing, I just never took you for the poetic type, darling.”

“Tch, yeah, well, just the liquor talking.” Simon was quick to reply as he downed the last of his drink. “Sides, you should get some rest, who knows where we’re headed next.” He reminded her before tossing a blanket of faded brown material.

Catching it in her magic, Rarity fixed a raise brow on the smuggler. “What about you, Simon?”

The spacer reclined in his seat with a cocky grin. “I’m going to keep an eye out for Serif’s call, Princess. I’m touched that you care, though.”

Rolling her eyes, Rarity wrapped the blanket tightly around herself and laid her head upon the couch with a tired sigh.

“Be that as it may, Harrick, but as I recall, Shuga has given you and your guild ample business and more than enough contracts to replace this one.” Serif pointed out to the tiny holographic Trandoshan projected in the center of his desktop.

With a satisfied smirk, the Cathar leaned his seat back and propped his feet up on the surface of the desk. “Now, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, call your hounds off and I’ll see that your guild is rewarded with much more enticing targets than a smuggler and… what were they called again? Oh yeah, Unicorn.”

“Being a hunter, I’m not keen on the idea of letting potential prey sssssslip away.” The well dressed reptile snarled. “However, I will not deny how much the guild reliessss on lord Shuga’sssss busssinesssss. The Ubessse’sss contract issss of little consssequence, consssider it canceled.”

“And should any of your hunters decide to pursue the pair regardless?”

“They will no longer have the protection of the guild behind them.”

“Excellent,” Serif replied with a wide smile, “we should celebrate with a drink, Harrick. How does Corona’s sound to you?”

“Asss long asss you’re the one buying my friend.”

When the transmission cut out, a triumphant smirk slid over his feline face before he swiveled his chair around to stare out across the Nar Shaddaa skyline. His razor sharp golden eyes watched the hordes of speeders zoom from one end of the city to the next.

Glancing over his shoulder at the controls to the holoprojector built into his desk, his smirk grew even wider. “I think I’ll tell Simon the good news later.” He muttered to himself. “After all, he didn’t seem to be in any rush to get into contact with me to fix this mess.”

With a thick blanket of darkness and coating of ash settling upon the outside world, Rarity laid curled up tightly upon the couch with a thin blanket to help her fight off the dull chill still hanging in the room. Even through her newly assembled clothing and fur coat, she could still feel the frigid bite and could only imagine how it must feel outside. She had hoped that being away from the constant hum of the ship engines that maybe she could finally get some sleep. It seemed she was wrong.

Cracking her eyes open against the dull light of the corner lamp, she spotted her human companion slumped in the chair across from her with his jacket pulled tightly around him. With a sluggish groan, Rarity forced herself to sit up. “Simon, darling… are you still awake?”

He regarded her with a brief glance before pulling the coat tighter around himself. “Just waiting to hear from Serif, you should go back to bed.”

“Darling, you should be getting some rest too.” She pointed out. “Besides that, it’s positively freezing in here. Don’t you have a blanket or something to keep warm with?”

“That cheapskate, Serif, only left supplies for one.”

“Simon, you’ll catch a cold at this rate!” She chastised him.

“I’m fine, Princess.” He reassured her.

The fashionable mare’s keen eyes easily spotted the slight tremor in his body as he swore up and down that was alright. Her frown only grew when she glanced down at the blanket still wrapped around her. Without another thought, she got to her hooves and crossed the room to the reclining smuggler.

“Rarity, what do you think you’re-“ Simon’s words of protest were cut short as she climbed into the chair with him.

She settled herself into the large chair beside him with a tired sigh. “Please, Simon, we’re both adults, try to act like one will you.”

He bit back a wide stream of insults at her comment before giving an aggravated growl and looking off to the side. “Fine, do what you want, not like you don’t already.”

With a flash of her horn, the blanket moved to incase the pair, side by side. “Oh, and do try to keep your hands to yourself will you.”

“Ugh, just shut up and go to sleep already.” Simon growled at her.

With the coming of morning, there was as always a losing battle for dominance over the sky being fought. The warming rays of the sun pressed into the thick grey clouds that forever covered the planet, but very little of it managed to pierce their wall. A dull grey light filtered in through the mass and began to paint the world in its drained colors. Some might assume it was fitting for an already mostly dead world like this one.

Muted light began to backlight the sharp edged mountains of ruined warships that nestled themselves into the surface of this world. The long dead and silent leviathans that now forever slumbered in a bed of cracked earth and soft ash. These massive skeletal grave markers dominated the landscape and cast their mountainous shadows upon the lands.

Not far from one of these jagged goliaths sat one of the few settlements to call this planet home. As the residents began their early morning routine and prepared for another day of salvage and picking over the hundreds of wreckage sights, a sharp cold wind kicked up through the town sending ash and other forms of lightweight debris into the air. A small piece of this debris went tearing through the air and smacked against the thick window of one house in particular.

Simon woke with a start as the sound of something striking the side of the safe house. His hand was halfway towards his blaster when he noticed a few things that were rather strange. First thing he noticed was a very warm and slightly heavy weight pressing into his body. The second was the silky soft touch of the furry limb that was between his hand and his blaster’s grip. The final thing he noticed was that this weight resting against his side and chest was rising and falling in a slow steady pace.

His eyes cast downwards to find a mixture of porcelain white and deep purple nuzzled into his chest. The posh mare breathed softly and at a steady pace as she slept away the wee morning hours. Simon could feel her oddly strong forelimbs wrapped tightly around his midsection, holding her firmly against him.

The smuggler’s gaze sharpened to a knife point as he reached out to take her by the shoulder and shove her away. The moment his hand made contact however, something happened that caused him to freeze on the spot. A soft and tired whimper escaped the mare before she nuzzled herself deeper into his chest. To Simon’s surprise, he could feel his heart slamming into his chest wall as she held onto him against whatever dreams were still running through her head. His senses were brushed by the warmth of her body and the cascade of what remained of her perfume.

With a great deal of reluctance, Simon’s hand moved from her shoulder and his arm instead rested around it. The spacer let out a ragged sigh as he let his eyes close and sleep start to reclaim him. He never noticed the blue hued light that filled the room.

The Corellian Connection, Part One

This felt safe. This was a rare and nearly forgotten feeling for the fashionable Unicorn as of late. Ever since all this new and far more dangerous chaos had been forced upon her, Rarity had felt anything but out of harm's way. She was no stranger to these kinds of situations; however, being so far removed from her friends and allies and surrounded on all sides by cutthroats and killers put a new spin on things. But something made her feel so relaxed and protected.

As she breathed in through her nostrils she was treated to the dull but soothing scent that clung to fabric rubbing against her cheek. The feeling of something weighty draped around her shoulders brought a happy sigh from the mare. Rarity nuzzled her cheek against the form she was propped up against. She had become completely lost in the content feeling that filled her breast and began to spread throughout her entire body eliciting a deep sigh. It was rather surprising how comfortable the chair she had fallen asleep in had become in the night.

Her eyes cautiously began to open, finding her vision dominated by what looked to Simon’s chest. Further investigation showed her that her forelimbs were wrapped about his torso while his arm had been draped around her shoulders. A touch of red seeped onto her face after as she quickly realized what she had been nuzzling and cuddling into.

With her conscious mind slowly beginning to return to her, it started to register with her that the first rays of daylight were upon her. The dull blue light of the world she was upon had trickled through the windows to stretch its grasp across her. Rarity quickly buried her face to escape the azure radiance that teased and pestered her. Something was pestering her in the back of her mind though, something that just didn’t feel right. Like a soft wind, Rarity remembered something very important about the planet she was on. She was on a world covered by thick grey clouds, how could there be a bright blue light filling the room?

With a bit of reluctance, she slowly turned her head to find a tiny figure she had honestly hoped not to see again anytime soon. There standing on table surface was the holographic representation of the Cathar gangster that still brought a touch of fear to her. His sharp, feline eyes practically glared into her eyes while a bemused smirk sat upon his lips.

Sitting up right against the chair and a deadpan stare affixed to her face, Rarity’s hoof smacked Simon’s chest. The smuggler quickly sat up with a start, his hand making a quick beeline for his holstered pistol. Upon seeing the image of Serif staring up at him, he awkwardly holstered the weapon and sat up in his seat.

“So, you two got a good night’s sleep, I hope.” The alien gangster’s tone was dripping with sarcasm.

Rarity and Simon quickly went into a stream of excuses, pointing and gesturing towards each other. Serif’s grin grew as their voices began to bleed into one another until they started to become one big long list of explanations. With a content smirk, the Cathar leaned back in his high backed chair as he listened to them try to explain the scene he’d just walked in on.

“Yes, that’s all very cute,” Serif stated as he held his hand up to draw them to a close. “Now then, you, girl, would you mind leaving us? I have things to discuss with my friend.”

An angry glare filled Rarity’s eyes as she narrowed her vision on the smug gangster staring back at her from the hologram. She could little to keep the quickly boiling anger in her eyes under control as her mouth begged and demanded to retort. However, she never got her chance.

“Her name is Rarity,” to her utmost shock, Simon of all people had spoken up to defend her, “and as of that incident on Orrikall, she’s currently my partner. Anything you need to discuss with me, you can say in front of her.”

“Hah, you working with a partner; now that’s a good one,” Serif snorted. “And on top of that a woman now? Look, Simon, would you just get your rocks off already and get rid of her, preferably before she starts getting in the way!”

“I beg your pardon!?” Rarity snarled at him.

“I don’t recall speaking to you, woman,” Serif shot back at her.

Rarity’s eyes became a razor-sharp glare directed towards the smug alien’s hologram. Her teeth began to grind against each other as the anger and hate began to swell in her chest. She quietly prayed to Celestia that she could get her hooves around his blasted neck. Oh, how nice it would be to crush his spine to dust. But these, were not the thoughts of a civilized lady.

With a deep breath, Rarity brought her anger under control and forced herself to her hooves. “If you’ll excuse me, Simon, darling, the air in here has become more than a bit putrid.” She growled before trotting away to one of the adjoining rooms with her nose turned high in the air.

“Your way with the ladies never ceases to amaze, Serif,” Simon grumbled after the mare took her leave.

“Tch, and when’d you start getting so soft?” The gangster asked in retort. “Besides, I’m just watching out for you, or maybe you’ve forgotten every other time some woman’s screwed you over?”

“You gonna lecture me or do you have news on the bounty?” Simon snapped at him.

With a sly smile, Serif leaned back in his office chair. “The damnedest of things, the Bounty Hunters Guild seems to have lost that pesky price on your heads. Looks like you’re both in the clear for the most part.”

“And Vrax?”


The Ubese criminal slammed his fist into the holo-projector with a guttural roar. Sparking wires and broken metal were left behind in the wake of his rage.


“He was less than happy to hear the news,” Serif replied. “He wants you both dead, in a big way.”

“What else is new?” Simon snorted. “Guess there’s no chance you could get him to back off us then.”

“About the same chance you have of teaching a mynock to eat cookies and cream.”

“Good to know all those credits and clout can’t stop one overly violent psychopath,” Simon grumbled with a roll of his eyes. “So what’s the plan from here?”


“Thank Celestia,” Rarity breathed out as she watched the deep grey skies fade and give way to the impossible black of space. “What an absolutely dreary place that was.”

“Jeez, Princess, you act like we were there for weeks or something,” Simon grumbled as he and the droid, R8-Z7, went about the tasks required for space travel.

“I don’t expect you, of all people, to understand the finer points of caring for and maintaining one’s mane, Simon.” Rarity quickly retorted as she settled into her seat adjacent to the pilot’s chair. “But, we can cover proper grooming techniques another time, darling. So, what wonderful exotic place are we off to now, and what happens to be wrong with this one?” she asked with a healthy dose of feigned excitement. “Is it dotted with massive pools of lava, or is it covered with tons upon tons of garbage?”

“You’ll see soon enough, Princess,” Simon replied.

Rarity watched with a touch of eagerness as the view outside the ship went from the dull thick grey clouds of the world to the surprisingly bright blue sky above it all. She watched the bright yellow sun of this dreary world uselessly claw at the thick wall, seeking to reach the ash-coated ground. High above the world, she could see the bright streaks of objects plunging down to the planet, tiny comets that painted the otherwise lifeless looking orb. It wasn’t long before the black wall of space overtook her view.

Across the sea of the ink, she could make out the frail, skeletal remains of once mighty leviathans that had waged war across this system. There was a strange but morbid beauty to look upon this world and its sea of broken ships. Try as she might, she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the massive skeletons that spoke to her of powerful warships that raged and did battle across this star system. Wonder and fear curled inside of her as their ship slipped its way through the hollowed corpse of one war ship.

In time, they had broken free of the field of dead ships and the Meaningless Venture finally made the jump to hyperspace. Rarity found herself let out a breath she hadn’t even known she was holding. A nudge to her side drew her attention back to the world within the cockpit.

“Hey, Princess, you alright?” Simon asked with a nudge to her side.

“Why, of course, Captain,” she replied with a wide smile and bubbly tone. “I believe I shall retire for a brief rest until our next destination. Do be a dear and wake me upon our arrival, Simon.”

“Fine, whatever; just watch it with giving those orders,” Simon warned her as she left the room.


Vrax sat glaring daggers through the visor of his environmental suit’s helmet at the shattered remains of the communication console. The pain that tore at his clenched fist and across his arm was easily smothered by the bright flames of rage that swelled in his breast. He could feel the uneasy gaze of his underlings on his back, forcing him to cobble together some form of self control. That’s when it hit him.

“So, what do we do now, boss?” one particularly brave henchman spoke up.

“For Serif to spend the credits needed to buy off the Bounty Hunter’s Guild, tells me two things,” Vrax said after a long calming breath. “Firstly, the crate that Ortell stole from us after we’d rightfully stolen it from him is still in play. And secondly, that there is more at stake here than the monetary value of the crate’s contents.”

Vrax leaned back in his chair as tapped the armrest in thought. “We can’t make a move against them, not out in the open at least, not without Serif and his Hutt connections coming down on us. So, we’re going to follow them as closely as we can without getting spotted, let them do all the leg work, and then swoop in, kill everyone, and take whatever it is Serif’s after for ourselves.”


With a tired yawn, Rarity adjusted her coat as she made her way towards the gangway of the ship. Simon was already there dictating a list of orders to the droid who happily chirped and whistled in reply. The thick stench of ozone, burnt metal and engine fumes filled her nostrils snapping her back to reality as she trotted her way into the dimly lit hangar bay.

“So, Simon, darling, what grand adventure are we on this time?” she asked with a happy ring in her tone.

“Nothing too crazy I’m hoping. All we need is that information and we’ll get off this rock.” Simon replied as he waved off the astromech and headed towards the main lobby of the space port.

“You don’t know already?” she asked while she kept pace beside him.

“We’re dealing with a contact of a contact,” Simon replied. “These are people who don’t want to be found and quite honestly I’d rather not find out why. Either way, we’re going to get the info we need from this contact and get on our way as quickly as possible. Rather not stay on this planet longer than we have to.”

“A planet that makes the great Simon Ortell uneasy,” Rarity commented with a wry smirk. “My, my, this must truly be a wicked place.”

“Not on the surface at least,” Simon grumbled as they headed towards the exit.

Upon exiting the space port, Rarity found herself nearly floored by what laid before her. A clear blue sky stretched out above her, dotted by white streams of fluff and the warm glow of this world’s radiant sun. A cool comforting breeze swept through her hair bringing with it the intoxicating scent of clean fresh air. Across the horizon she could see rolling hills and snow capped mountains where scant few towers of metal and glass rose up to challenge their dominance over the heavens. Lush fields of green grass and collections of vibrant trees painted the landscape with life.

“Yo, Princess, what’s the hold up?” Simon snorted as he nudged her side.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, darling. It’s just, well, this place, it’s just so beautiful here,” she gushed with her eyes riveted to the sprawling landscape. “Certainly a far cry from the last one, or that dreadful desert world we stopped on.”

“Yeah, well, welcome to Corellia. Now don’t let your guard down around here, alright,” Simon warned her as he continued to stride onward. “This place might look pretty and the folks might come off as friendly, but that’s only so they can kill you without you knowing who did it or where it came from. Besides, we’re going to be dealing some nobleman, meaning some ancient stuffed shirt with a pampered lifestyle and will probably treat us both like we’re beneath him.”


“Simon Ortell,” was the jovial greeting he and Rarity received upon their arrival, “it is so good to finally meet you in person!”

In the grandly decorated main hall of the rather lavished manor they had trekked to, the pair found themselves met by the lord of the house. He was a fairly youthful human male, perhaps barely into his twenties with a lithe build. His face was closer on the gaunt side but somehow managed to maintain a strong pride and confidence. Deep blue eyes sparkled with joy while atop his head was a head of very well kempt auburn hair. The nobleman was dressed in a suit of finely pressed dark blue material that seemed to skirt the line with shifting fully to being black.

“I am Malrick Casval Kalreen the Fourth, welcome to my home! Please, come in and make yourselves comfortable.”

“What was it you said earlier, darling?” Rarity asked the smuggler snidely.

Malrick quickly took a knee before the mare. “Oh, and who is this enchanting creature you’ve brought into my home, Ortell?”

With a soft smile, she offered her hoof to him. “I am Rarity of that planet Gaia, a pleasure to meet you Lord Kalreen.”

Taking her hoof in his hand, he placed a kiss atop it. “Please, my lady Rarity, the pleasure is all mine I assure you, and do call me Malrick should you deem me the honor and prestige of your melodic voice. Ah, Rarity, such a lovely name for such a breathtaking treasure, truly our world’s meager sun does your radiance little justice.”

His honeyed words cause a deep red to break through her pristine white coat. “Oh my, you certainly know how to speak to a lady, Lord- I mean, Malrick.”

Loud and forced coughing from Simon brought this back and forth to stop. “Yeah, if you don’t mind, Malrick, we are here for more than a social call.”

Malrick gave the smuggler a faux look of hurt, before nodding in agreement with another wide beaming smile. “Yes, of course, that little matter of directing you towards my clients. I suppose we can put off pleasantries till after the deeds are done.”

Simon caught the disapproving look the Unicorn was shooting him, with a roll of his eyes he shrugged off her disdain. “Yeah, so, where do we find these clients of yours?”

“Now, now, now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,” Malrick advised as he took a seat in a large lavished couch. “I plan to give you the information you need, in good time; however, there is a small matter I could use your help with.”

“And what would this ‘small matter’ be, dear?” Rarity asked while settling into a across from him.

“A very simple task, really,” Malrick waved over a sharply dressed female alien with a single ornate glass of ruby liquid. “I want you two to attend a party.”

“Oh, well that certainly sounds lovely,” Rarity beamed happily. “And what is the occasion?”

“An old rival of mine, Kinaris Xardos, is celebrating having beaten me out on a contract with the Galactic Alliance,” he stated happily while he sipped on the fragrant drink on hand. “Now, normally I would be more than willing to congratulate and wish even the most hated of enemies all the best upon beating me fair and square. However, there was nothing fair about how Kinaris went about swiping that contract out from under me. That brigand stooped so low as to blackmail me into giving up and letting him win.”

Rarity let out an audible gasp at this news. “My word, such a lowly act.”

“Oh, I know, I was so hurt by his actions,” Malrick replied with a sigh. “As you can imagine, I have no intentions of letting this go unrequited, which is where you two come in. You see, he’s currently keeping the datapad with the information he has against me locked away in a safe in his study. I would appreciate it if you two helped me get it back.”

“And if we refuse?” Simon asked.

“Then I imagine it will become much harder for you to find the people you need to,” Malrick replied coolly and even. “You must understand: I would prefer not to try and force you both into this position, truly I don’t. However, I am a businessman and I must have some way to come out of all this ahead of when I started.”

“As a businessmare myself I completely understand, dear,” Rarity replied with a smile. “Now then, just how are we supposed to get this datapad you desire so badly?”

“You don’t have to do much, my dear,” Malrick assured her from behind the rim of his glass. “All I need is for the pair of you to place a jamming device, no bigger than a pen, in the same room that the datapad is being kept. A professional of mine will take care of the heavy lifting from there.”

“Alright, so, how do we even get into this party?” Simon asked with a clearly rising annoyance in his tone.

“That, I’m afraid, is something you two will have to figure out, but I recommend you do it quickly,” Malrick informed them. “This party is the most opportune time to steal the information I need since the security forces will be too spread out keeping an eye on all the party goers. Now then, it would be best if you did not return here, lest we tip Kanaris off to our plan. You will find the device waiting for you on your ship as well as a full dossier on the man in question. Once your task is completed, I will contact you in a few days with the coordinates.”


Research... he hated research. Simon slumped into one of the large couches of the ship’s common room, datapad in hand as he glazed over all the information Malrick had provided them with. He poured over every single detail of the building’s layout, their security systems and the caliber of guards they employ. In the end, Simon Ortell came to one glaring conclusion.

“This is impossible,” he grumbled as he tossed the datapad onto the table in front of him. “The man lives in a freaking fortress with his own private army to protect himself, not to mention top of the line security measures.”

Z7 began beeping and whistling his addition to the conversation before Simon’s hand came to rest atop his metal dome of a head. “Yeah, that might work Z, but it’d take me way too long to slice their entire network. On top of that, if one node goes down then the whole thing gets alerted.”

“Perhaps you’re looking at this all wrong, Captain,” Rarity commented from the second couch across from him. “You’re trying to do this like a heist.”

“It is a heist.”

“Don’t you remember what Malrick said? He has somepony to take care of the stealing; all we need to do is get inside.”

“Okay then, Princess, how do you suggest we do that?” Simon snapped at her.

A confident smile slid across the mare’s face as she rose to her hooves. “I feel like a spot of local fare, Simon. Care to join me?”

“Are you serious?”

“And why not, sitting here and moping about has done us little good; besides, this is the first place we’ve come to that I find remotely pleasant,” her magical aura engulfed her horn and then sides of Simon’s jacket before he was yanked to his feet. “Come on, Simon, it’s a beautiful sunny day outside, don’t spend it cooped up in your ship.”

“Ugh, fine, if it’ll get you off my freaking back. So where do you wanna go?”

“One of those lovely servant girls told me about a café that apparently serves some of the most amazing sweetened treats on this side of the planet.”

“You gotta be kidding me, you wanna stop researching our target and go get some pastries?”

“And you don’t?”

There was a long pause for a moment before the smuggler’s shoulders slumped in defeat yet again. “Gah, fine, but only ‘cause the fresh air might make it easier to think!”

The fashionable Unicorn happily clapped her forehooves together with a wide smile. “Wonderful!”


Rarity was starting to get used to the attention. The fact that she was from an alien race that was just starting to be seen outside their own star system tended to attract more than a few glances her way. To her surprise though, these always seemed to be nothing more than passing curiosities for the most part. This at least gave her ample time to enjoy the warm beverage and pastry the green-skinned waitress had brought to their tiny outdoor table.

Rarity took a moment to bask in the melding of hyper-modern buildings and around her and the lush green fields and mountains in the distance. “Oh, I absolutely must bring the girls here after we’ve settled this whole mess of ours.” She mused.

Simon, however, looked to be less impressed with their surroundings as he sipped on his cup of caf. “Level with me, Princess. Why the sudden sweet tooth, and why come all the way out here? We must have passed like five other cafés on the way.”

“Well, Captain, like I said before, I was told how they claim to be one of the best on this planet. Having a very talented friend in the pastry business back home, I simply must see how the treats off-world stack up.” A sly smile curved up her muzzle. “However, there was more to my choice in location.”

Simon followed her gaze to find someone he hadn’t expected to see. He was a tall well-built human with strong chiseled features that seemed impossible without some kind of manipulation of genetics. Sandy blonde hair was perfectly combed into place matching the perfectly fitted and well pressed attire that managed to clad him. But what made Simon’s eyes go wide, was the fact that he’d seen this man before. This man, sitting just a table away from them and drinking a cup of caf with his datapad in hand, was Kinaris Xardos himself. What’s more, he was all alone.

With a wide friendly smile, Rarity rose from her seat and strode over towards him, ignoring Simon’s silent protests. “Good afternoon, may I borrow your sweetener, sir?”

Kinaris didn’t even look up from his datapad as he flatly replied. “And what’s wrong with the one on your table?”

“Well, for starters, it doesn’t help me come over here to start a conversation with you,” she said while slipping into the chair across from him.

“You have about two seconds before I have my bodyguards drag you away from this café, so I suggest you make this good.”

“Making something good is just what I do, darling,” Rarity stated confidently as she sipped on her drink. “You see, I’m a seamstress, it’s my job to make everypony else look their best, including you.”

Kinaris paused for a moment, a curious brow raised at the alabaster alien sitting across from him. “You have my attention.”

“Allow me to introduce myself I am Rarity, a fashion designer and dressmaker on my home world of Gaia. However, being famous on one single world hardly seems fitting when I could become known galaxy-wide.”

“You’re an ambitious woman, I’ll give you that,” he said with a smirk as he set his datapad off to the side. “But I deal more in shipping cargo and managing factories, what does any of this have to do with me?”

“I’ve heard that you’re about to hold a party, dear; one that I’ve been told will be attended by a number of the galaxy’s most influential people. What better way to make a name for myself then to get the host of this party to wear a one of a kind outfit designed by me just for this event?”

“A charming offer. However, I already have an outfit designed by my personal tailor. So I’m afraid-“

“Please dear, you don’t think I’m going to simply give up that easily,” she said with a playful smirk as she magically lifted her cup to her lips. “Tell me, Mr. Xardos, are you betting man? I’m willing to literally stake my career that I can design an outfit far superior to whatever you have already. What do you say?”

“Let me get this straight: You’re going to just give me a new, tailor made outfit for this party. And all you want in return, provided I chose your creation over the million-credit clothes I have prepared, is the recognition for having made the clothes?”

“If you feel you can offer better compensation, then by all means, be my guest. But for the most part, getting my name to the galactic elite, is worth far more than the price of any suit.”

Rarity watched patiently as Kinaris visibly turned this proposition over in his mind. His eyes bore into hers but Rarity clearly gave him no quarter: She held her ground and refused to shy away from him as she awaited his decision.

“Alright then, Ms. Rarity, you’ve got yourself a deal,” he stated offering an open hand which was soon met with a dainty hoof. “You have until the day before the party to prove you aren’t just talking a big game.”

“Excellent,” she happily stated as his powerful hand lightly gripped her hoof in a shake. “I shall begin work immediately then. Come along, Simon,” she called out before leaving the café and heading towards the main streets.

“Just like that- don’t you need my measurements?”

“Not to worry, dear: The entire time we’ve been talking I’ve been taking them. I told you I was the best on my home world didn’t I?”

Simon quickly caught up to the Unicorn who still continued to exude confidence as she trotted along the sidewalk. The confused and dumbfounded look on Simon’s face brought a bemused smirk to Rarity’s lips as they continued down the road.

“Did… did all that really just happen?” Simon finally asked.

“I believe it did,” she replied in a cheerful tone. “Honestly, Simon, you really must work on your people skills.”

“Tch, you lucked out, that’s all,” Simon replied indignantly. “I still think it’d be easier to break into his place.”

“But now we have a chance to walk in through the front door.”

“Yeah, fine, you got a point there,” Simon reluctantly relented. “So what happens now in this master plan of yours?”

“Very simple, Captain Ortell: we go shopping.”

The Corellian Connection, Part Two

In the course of twenty-four hours, the primary cargo bay of the Meaningless Venture had been converted into a workshop. Spools of fabric and cloth had been stacked upon the couch along with various other supplies and a few fashion holo-mags. In the eye of the storm, Rarity was hard at work trying to create the promised outfit for her would-be client. Her mane and tail were frazzled, looking unusually unkempt for the prim mercer. Her attention was riveted to the work at her hooftips, brow furrowed and horn blazing a bright blue. Floating in the air around her were the various tools of her trade, as well as a cup of caf.

Simon didn't go beyond the hatchway, instead staying propped up against the bulkhead and sipping on his own cup of caf. He'd made the mistake of interrupting her work already, and had no desire to be threatened by a pair of shears yet again. Instead he was content to let her whittle the hours away sleeplessly while he breezed through the information on his datapad.

“Ugh, no, this simply will not do!” the ragged looking unicorn growled as she tossed yet another half finished creation aside. “Why in the name of Celestia do so many species in the galaxy just have to have a bipedal body?” She could feel the frustration starting to worm its way deep into her as she slammed her forehead into the fabric covered table. The design was there, in her mind, she could see it as easily as any of her other creations. But time and time again she found herself making novice mistakes. Whether it was a sleeve just barely an inch too long or a pants leg just a tad too short, all of these small accidents were starting to add up on her. Rarity found herself desperately missing her workshop; at least there she not only had access to all of her tools, but mountains of her prefered fabrics and of course her-

"That's it!" Rarity quickly sat up as it dawned on her. Her eyes darted to her human companion. "Simon, quickly, I need you to take off your clothes!”

The smuggler froze, mid-sip, at this demand. Staying very calm and collected, he finished swallowing the drink in his mouth and turned his attention to the harried mare. "Pardon?"

Pleeeeeeease darling, I need your body, right now, please, please, please, please, please!”

Simon took a moment to process this while she stared up at him with desperate and frantic eyes. "Well, you're not the kind of girl I’m usually into,” he said with a casual shrug, “but, why not, it's been a while since I got some play.”

"I'm sorry, what?" Rarity asked with clear confusion etched on her face.

"I know, right? Great looking guy like me, you'd think I've got a girl every night," he told her as he started taking his shirt off. "Not to say I've got any trouble scoring; I mean, c'mon, dashing space rogue like me, girls can't get enough of me. The job just kinda gets in the way though." Soon he was stripped down to a pair of floral print boxers. "So, we doing this here or the bedroom, cause I kinda prefer not to pass out on the couch when we're done - kills my back."

Rarity sat in stunned silence as she stared at him while her mind tried to desperately piece together what had just happened in front of her. Quickly, a deep crimson bled through the white fur of her cheeks as everything became very clear to her. "Oh, uhm, well, Simon, dearest, I…, ahem, think there's been a slight misunderstanding. You see, when I said I wanted your body, I, uhm, well, naturally, I did not mean in a carnal way. You see, I've spent the greater part of my life clothing my fellow pony, but sadly I'm somewhat still novel when it comes to the body shape that most of the galaxy seems to have. As such, I need you to act as a sort of dressform so that I can put together this outfit for our client."

"Ah," Simon said as she finally clued him in. "Soooooo, does that mean that we aren't going to..." He nodded downwards towards his boxers for emphasis.

“I’m afraid not,” Rarity said evenly. “Even if the desire were there...I shan’t have the time to, ahem, ‘do anything’, as it were.”

"Alright, it’s your loss."

"And it will keep me awake for nights to come, I assure you."

A few more minutes went by while Simon gathered his thoughts, lowered his libido and adjusted to the slight draft of the workspace. “So, you really think you can trust them?” Simon finally asked her as she went to work modifying the fabrics.

Rarity raised a curious brow at this. “That depends, darling, are you ever able to trust anyone?”

“In my experience, no one is trustworthy.”

“Simon Ortell trusts no one, that’s certainly a shock to me.” Rarity snorted. “Honestly, dear, if you never give anypony a chance you’re going to end up living your days out all alone.”

“Then at least I’d be living a long life,” Simon countered. “Everyone in the galaxy wants something, whether it’s credits, a hot meal, or a warm body to sleep beside. No one does anything for nothing. And believe me, no one passes up a chance to get everything they want while giving up nothing in return.”

“Darling, are you suggesting that Malrick would double cross us? What makes you so sure of this?”

“He’s overly friendly and nice,” Simon said bluntly. “No one is that nice unless they want something.” Out of the corner of his eye he could see the look that his mare companion was giving him. “What? It’s true.”

“So, in your narrow view of the galaxy at large, there is no room for kindness outside of the desire to achieve one’s personal goals?”

“Not just him,” Simon quickly defended. “That Kinaris guy too. What makes you think he’ll keep his word? He blackmailed Malrick into backing off so he could claim the GA contract, we know now that he deals regularly with a human supremacy Sith spawn and right now he’s holding all the cards. I’m just saying that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least for him to go back on his word. That’s just how it is for those of us not living on planet Sunshine Rainbow.”

“Hmph, I should introduce you to my dear friend Fluttershy then; she would certainly make you eat your words.”

“Sharing me out to your friends now, Princess?” he asked with a wry grin and a playful wink. “I got no problem with that; I love group activities.”

“Oh yes, such a lovely girl,” Rarity happily told him. “Perhaps you’d also like to meet the wonderful Mandalorian courting her while we’re at it.” She could barely suppress the urge to giggle at the way he visibly recoiled at the mention of a Mandalorian.
The time had finally come. Simon and Rarity stood at the foot of the steps leading up to the luxurious manor of Kinaris Xardos; though the locals had called it a mansion, it was, in truth, far more palatial than that. Towering high with walls of polished stones of pure alabaster inlaid with gleaming metal worked into the stones, giving the place a look of ostentatious yet secure grandeur. Rarity paced back and forth in a near panic as she muttered her uncertainties to herself while a suit carrier floated beside her in a dull blue aura.

Simon watched her nervous trek back and forth for a time before finally snarling at her, “Would ya knock that off, Princess?!”

“I’m sorry, darling, it’s just that, oh, I’m so nervous about this,” she admitted finally. “Such a high-profile client and the first major offworld job I’ve ever done - you can hardly blame me for being at least a little on-edge about all of this.”

“Yeah well, I guess it doesn’t help that these karking dinks are making us wait like this,” Simon added. “I’ll bet they’re probably watching us stew for laughs.”

The posh Unicorn snagged the edge of Simon's ear and tugged him roughly and brought him to one knee near her. "Darling, I would rather you didn't speak ill of our clients at every chance you find. Now please, just try to at least pretend you don't have such a negative attitude about everything?"

With an angry growl and a few alien curses, the smuggler freed himself from the telekinetic grasp and shot Rarity a glare. "I prefer to call a realistic view of the galaxy. You'll learn soon enough, Princess."

It was then that a well-dressed Twilek male appeared in the doorway. He bowed his head as he greeted the pair of them, “Lady Rarity, my master is ready to receive you and your gift.”

The pair shared a look of silent agreement to deal with this further when they no longer had business to attend to, then followed close behind the alien servant as he lead them through the opulently decorated halls of the stately manse. The high walls and arching ceilings were adorned with a great number of paintings, tapestries and sculptures of important moments and peoples of the their original cultures. Rarity couldn't help but stare at the strange and breathtaking works of art and wonder what inspired them and what stories they were trying to tell now. It made little difference now; the only story they could tell was of the over-burdened bank account of their current master and owner.

As they traveled deeper into the manor Rarity and Simon could see a number of the servants preparing the home for the upcoming party, laying upon the tables a number of refrections and delights that came from the compass points of the galaxy and were equally varied in their sight, smell, presentation, and, likely, taste. The fashionable Unicorn quickly recalled the infamous night of the Grand Galloping Gala at the sight of the decorations and food platters. Perhaps this party in particular won't end as disastrously, she thought to herself, not venturing to voice her concerns.

Eventually they found themselves lead into a large study that could put even the sizable, sometimes surprisingly well and conveniently stocked library of Ponyville to shame. Stacks and shelves of codices, scrolls, tapestries, and datapads lined the room and reached up into the high arched ceiling. Rarity couldn't help but snicker inwardly at the thought of Twilight drooling over the impressive amount of knowledge accrued here.

At the far end of the room sat a large wooden desk centered in front of a large bay window that looked out across the vaster plains and mountains. Kinaris sat behind it and gave more attention to the datapad in his hand than to his newly arrived guests. When they neared he gave Rarity and Simon a brief glance before returning his attention to his work.

"I hope you both know I'm incredibly busy at the moment," Kinaris told them both before setting his datapad off to the side. "For both of your sakes, this had best not have been a waste of my very precious time."

"Of course, darling," Rarity said as she stretched her most well-practiced smile across her muzzle. "As such I'll forgo the flourish and get right to the reveal."

With a bright blue flash from her horn, the suit protector vanished in a flash and left behind the carefully crafted outfit. Floating in its place was now a tunic of dark blue outlined and patterned with golden embroidery, accompanied by a pair of matching pants. A shawl of golden material was draped from shoulder to waist with a similar wrap hanging about the midsection of the outfit. The outfit subtly gleamed in the light of the room, helpfully enhanced by a small glamor spell or Rarity’s, designed just for occasions like this.

On the outside, Rarity was all business, calm, collected and most importantly an absolute professional. She showed no outward signs of any kind of emotion as she watched Kinaris examine the outfit. Inwardly, however, she was a raging storm of fear and apprehension. There was more to this for her than simply completing their job for Malrick. Something like this could easily jumpstart her career beyond Equestria and maybe even rocket her straight to into intergalactic fame overnight.

"An...interesting...design." Rarity's heart soared through the roof as Kinaris complemented her hoofwork, but was immediately brought back to ground as he added, "However, I'm afraid it just doesn't quite meet my high standards."

Her ears quickly drooped at hearing this. "I see, well, are there any kind of changes I could make to it for you?"

"No," Kinaris said flatly before returning to his seat behind the desk and scooping up his datapad again. "You may go."

Simon's fists gripped the point of becoming white-knuckled as he glared daggers at the overconfident man behind the desk. "You gotta be kidding me," he snarled through bared teeth. "After all that work and you're just gonna brush us off like that? Who the hell do you think you are?"

He reached out, taking Kinaris roughly by the collar. But before he could enact any of the violent fantasies that were running through his head, his arm was quickly grasped and twisted roughly at an odd angle. With a shout of pain the smuggler was sent to his knees, his own pained yelps drowning out Rarity’s cries of alarm.

"Boy, you need to learn your place, especially when coming into my home," Kinaris said in a low, firm tone before twisting the arm just a bit further to coax out a louder scream. "On the ground like this is exactly where a slum-crawling mongrel like you deserves to be."

"Take your hands off him," Rarity loudly protested until the familiar feel of a metallic cylinder pressing into the back of her skull filled her senses. Cautiously she threw a glance over her shoulder to find the Twilek servant, a pistol in one hand and a vibroblade in the next.

"Don't even start with me, you up-jumped alien trash," Kinaris growled at her. "Did neither of you think I wouldn't run a background check on the two of you? I know for a fact that our ‘chance meeting’ was all part of whatever revenge plan that fool Malrick had dreamed up. Normally I'd kill the pair of you on the spot for such insults, but I think sending you back to your master with your tails between your legs will send a much louder message to that degenerate."

The pair found themselves ejected from the stately manor in short and ungainly fashion. Simon quickly shouted something that, judging by the sudden spark of anger, the tail-headed alien clearly recognized. He quickly struck Shimon across the face with the heavy metal of the pistol in his hand before backhanding him with it for good measure. The blows sent Simon toppling backwards onto the ground while the Twilek merely left him there bruised and bleeding from a gash over his eye.

"Simon, are you alright?" Rarity asked worriedly as she rushed to his side.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he admitted with a labored breath. "Freaking highborns… hate every last one of them."

"Darling, why did you have to escalate things like that?"

"C'mon, you honestly didn't think he'd pick your fancy duds over whatever he's already got waiting around for him did you? I know you're not that gullible, Princess."

"Yes, well, either way you didn't have to try and attack him like that," she snapped at him while helping him back to his feet. "He might be a classless boor, but that's no reason to take things to such a crass level. I suppose we'll have to find another way to get those coordinates from Malrick."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," Simon told her with a playful grin as they strode towards a parked speeder.

"Simon, what did you do?"

"Let's just say that, so long as no one decides to finally move that heavy wooden desk of his, then we’ve pretty much finished our part of this job. After all, you think I'd let a punk like him put me on my knees if it wasn't part of the plan?"

"Oh really?" she asked with a teasing smirk of her own. "So does that mean that when Vrax beat the snot out of you it was all part of your plan, then?"

Simon shot her an annoyed glare before getting into the speeder. "Keep it up, Princess, and I won't let you in on phase two of my masterful plan."

"I'm surprised there was a phase one," Rarity drolled as she took her seat in the passenger seat. "Really Simon, can't we just call this one a fait accompli and go back to the ship?"

"Tch, no way," the smuggler snorted at the thought of such an action. “After the money we’ve lost on that plan of yours, we need something to break even on all this.”
Dark had finally set upon this hemisphere of Corellia bringing with it a clear, cloudless sky and a soft summer breeze. From her spot on the grassy hill, Rarity stared up in wonder at the alien world’s night sky. She lost herself in the unfamiliar constellations that pierced the dark blue blanket above and painted it. Even more so she found herself enraptured with the three moons that floated overhead. It would almost seem romantic if it hadn’t been for her current company.

Sitting near her, Simon watched the manor at the center of the valley below through a pair of electrobinoculars. To her other side, was R8-Z7, seemingly oblivious and simply whistled a tune to himself while a tiny device spun about atop his head. With an inward sigh, Rarity made a mental note to return to this planet with somepony of a higher caliber. At the very least, she’d mention the night sky to Luna, who would very much appreciate it.

“Toldja, you should’ve brought a book or something,” Simon pointed out without looking up to see her.

“I wasn’t aware we’d be spending the majority of our night sitting in the dark,” Rarity huffed. “And all the while, a perfectly delightful party is going on in the distance.”

“A party we weren’t invited to,” Simon reminded her.

Before Rarity could fire off a retort, Zee began beeping and whistling with excitement. She turned towards her human companion for any kind of translation of what had the droid so keyed up.

The smuggler quickly adjusted his view on the mansion and zeroed in on dark-clad figure slipping in through a window. “Cheer up Princess, the night's just about to get fun."

Several minutes later, the Unicorn, the human and the droid quietly made their way through the empty, dimly-lit halls. In the distance they could hear the sounds of mingling partygoers and the soft lilt of music that tantalized the heart and mind. Rarity couldn’t help but pout a bit at being so close but so far away from what sounded but a wondrous gathering.

“Simon, darling, this is crazy,” she whispered to him.

“I told you, don’t worry about it,” he assured her. “We’re letting Malrick’s professional do all the heavy lifting for us. All we’re doing is helping ourselves to some of the crumbs and making it look more like an everyday robbery. If anything, this thief should be thankful for the backup.”

"That's all well and good, but what about us setting off the alarms?"

"Relax. You don't think I played around with that nifty little gadget of Malrick's? Zee and I found a way to boost its masking effect. Long as we steer clear of the party and guards, no one'll know we were ever here."

Zee even gave a happy little chirp for his master's plan, but something still weighed down on Rarity. "Simon, I know you're used to doing things of less than scrupulous nature. But I, on the other hoof, am not a thief, nor do I wish to become one," she protested through her clenched jaw. "Why couldn't you have left me back on the ship?"

"What, you mean besides the fact that your Force power's helped pull our butts out of the fire plenty of times so far? I'm not saying things will go south, but if they do, I'd rather have you close by to help than miles away."

Rarity was taken aback by this revelation. This man who'd fought and spat and screamed with her almost every step of this journey had just admitted to needing her help. It did little to dull the discomfort of committing a clear and obvious crime, but then again she'd already aided in that when she agreed to plant that device in the office. Still, it did bring a small smile to her lips at the thought of her new comrade finally opening up to her in some way. She mused about how much nicer it'd be if he'd do so over tea or something equally pleasant and legal.

The trio came to a pair of guards standing watch at on either side of a pair of large double doors. Simon eyed the scene with a hungry gleam in his eye as he dreamt up what might be waiting behind those big, heavy doors. Without a word, he signaled to Zee to start up part of the plan. The droid nodded its entire body to show recognition before a section of its head slid open and a small antenna rose up. Rarity quietly watched this play out, curious to see how exactly they intended to get past the rather large and foreboding watchmen.

A shrill beeping coming from a guard's wrist mounted computer drew its owner's attention. "Looks like someone decided to take a detour into the western wing bedrooms," he grunted in annoyance. "C'mon, we'd better break up their private party before they make a mess of the sheets."

"Yeah, let's just take our time though, better chance of getting a bit of show," his partner suggested with a wide, toothy grin.

Once the pair had wandered off out of sight, Simon and Zee quickly went to work on the door. Rarity couldn't help but watch with a slight touch of awe at how deftly the human and droid were able to ply their skills. They were a well-seasoned team which shone through with the way they we able to swiftly breeze through the electronic locking programs that kept the hefty doors locked tight. Soon the dull THUMP of the last locking mechanism disengaging was heard.

Simon carefully cracked the door ever so slightly and peered inside. He was happy to see that the only thing inside the room looked to be the stored-away trinkets. The roguish spacer motioned for the others to enter the room and carefully eased the doors shut behind them. By the light of the triple moons, Simon beheld what looked to be the private collection of Lord Xardos. Walls of fanciful paintings and tapestries from worlds and ages unknown and forgotten. Display cases held strange and unusual objects from across the galaxy, while a few held shimmering works of jewelry and several metallic cubes lined with what looked like glass.

"Okay, let's move quickly," Simon told his companions in a low voice. "Don't bother with the jewels, they're probably fakes, but we definitely want those holocrons, those’ve gotta be pre-Purge era."

Glancing over his shoulder, Simon spied the sullen look on Rarity's face as she levitated a few objects out of their cases to examine them closely. The subtle twitch of her ear drew his attention to the lightly-muffled sound of the party going on just below them. With an inward curse or ten, he motioned to Zee to continue gathering up the valuables he could fit into the pack they'd brought with them.

Simon's approach had nearly gone unnoticed until he was standing beside Rarity and said in a near-whisper, "Lady Rarity, may I have this dance?"

She looked up at him with clear shock and confusion at the sudden and very out of place question. "Simon?"

The human bowed in a formal manner to her and offered a hand to the mare. With a brief hesitation, Rarity placed her hoof in his hand and was gently helped to her hind legs. It was wobbly at first, and more than a bit awkward for her, but she soon found it was easier to do so if she used Simon's body for support. A deep red glow pushed through the fur of her cheeks when her body pressed into his, only to become another shade brighter when his arm slipped around her waist and his hand pressed into her loin. On instinct, her own forelimb snaked tightly around his midsection to help her cling against his body. Rarity found herself standing with her head coming to just around his shoulders. Nervously, Rarity looked into spacer's eyes which brimmed with confidence and life as he slowly began to move with her.

It was then that the fates deemed to play a slow soft melody that helped guide their movements. Simon carefully stepped about the room, holding his dance partner in his arms and staring deeply into those perfect blue eyes. For Rarity the show room had vanished; she was in a grand ballroom that rivaled that of the Canterlot palace. Nobles and dignitaries of all species all watched the mare and her partner with envious eyes as she and Simon drew everyone's attention towards them.

But eventually the music came to a slow fading stop, as did their dance. Rarity still held herself against Simon's chest while likewise he continued to hold her in his arms. The imaginary crowds had vanished and only the two of them remained in the pale moonlight. They stared into one another's eyes for a while longer, both of them drawing closer under the pull of an invisible force between them. Their lips parted on reflex as they came within inches of one another.

"Can't believe it was a false alarm," a voice on the other side of the door grumbled.

"Probably someone trying the doors to see if they can sneak inside," the other one replied.

Simon breathed out an angry curse before his attention moved to one of the large windows. "Rarity, you said before that you need line of sight for that one trick, right?"

The serene, still silence of the distant hillside was suddenly shattered in a flash of bright blue energy. Simon, Rarity and Zee were materialized in this burst of light. The two flesh-and-blood members of the party were hit with a heavy wave of disorientation and fatigue causing them to fall over one another. The spacer and unicorn laid in the dew-laden grass as the iron weight of sleep threatened to make them both pass out. Rarity’s head was resting against Simon’s chest, she could hear the steady thump of his heart.

The loud chirping and whistles of the astromech droid, however, caused this moment to come to a sudden end. With a grumble, Simon forced himself to sit up and pulled the unicorn with him. “Alright, alright Zee, we’re moving.”


The Meaningless Venture’s engines roared to life and began lifting the metal behemoth into the air. It rose into the air until it had cleared the open roof of the starport and began rocketing into the stratosphere. Before long, the ship, was soaring once more through the freedom of open space.

“It’s unfortunate that you could not spend more time on our world,” the holographic form of Malrick said. “Your presence will truly be missed, dearest Rarity.”

“I know, darling,” Rarity cooed from her spot on the couch in the recreation spaces. “But perhaps when all is said and done I can pay you a visit.”

“Speaking of bringing things to an end,” Simon pointed out as he entered the room. “We’ll be taking those coordinates now.”

“Of course,” Malrick replied while tapping away at something off camera. “You know, I heard a rumor that Kinaris was robbed during his party. Quite a few things went missing from his private collection. You wouldn’t happen to have heard anything about that would you, Captain Ortell?” Simon kept his face a stone wall, his eyes locked with the hologram of the noble. “No, I suppose you wouldn’t have heard anything about that, would you,” Malrick said with a wry grin. “The coordinates have been sent to your nav-computer, I wish you both the best of luck in this venture. You just might need it.”

Once the hologram cut out, Simon let out a drawn out sigh and flopped backwards onto the couch. He rubbed his temples with an annoyed grumble. “I am so karking happy to be off that planet.”

"We could have left sooner if you hadn't insisted on getting even with somepony," Rarity huffed. "Really, stealing, how absolutely unbecoming of an Element of Harmony. The longer I spend with you Captain Ortell, the more of a criminal I seem to become."

"Yeah, but you gotta admit, it was kinda fun, right?" Simon asked while flashing her a playful grin.

For a moment Rarity was silent, but slowly the faintest crack of a smile split her lips. "It was rather exciting, wasn't it? I just hope nopony back home finds out. Oh, just imagine the scandal it would cause!"

"That's right, Princess, gotta keep those priorities straight," Simon snickered. "As for our newly acquired cargo, I know a few good fences, they'll get us a good payout for all that junk and a few of them might not screw us out of our cut."

"You know, Simon, for all the times we might scream and shout at one another, I'm glad you've been here to watch out for me," Rarity admitted while resting a hoof upon his shoulder. "Thank you darling, you're a good friend."

Simon glanced at the hoof resting on his shoulder. This simple act brought with it a warm swelling deep in his chest. A warmth that wanted to spread out to the rest of his body and bring down his long standing defenses. A warmth that quickly smothered by pulling away from her and getting back to his feet. Something grabbed him though, it stopped him mid-stride on his way towards the cockpit and forced him to root at the center of the space. With a great deal of reluctance, he gave in to this boiling feeling.

"Hey Rarity," he said while keeping his back to her. "I know you weren't keen on the robbery plan and that I pretty much pushed you into it, so I'm sorry for that. For what it's worth though, you did alright, thanks," Simon looked over his shoulder at her smiling face before quickly slipping his rocky mask back on. "Yeah, so anyways, Princess, we got a few stops to make, so try not to get underfoot till we're done, alright?"

Rarity could barely suppress the bemused grin that painted her face. "Just try not to get yourself into trouble while you're at it, darling. I need a rest between sessions of saving your flank."

Volumetric Moments

The air in the tavern was heavy with a mixture of smoke, laughter and the stench of various liquors. A lone human sat at a table in the back of the room where the rest of the bar gave him a wide birth. His hair was a disheveled mess of shoulder length brown hair that somewhat hung over his blue eyes. Many of the features of his face were hidden beneath a thick beard which served to place him deep within his adulthood. The man was dressed in a tattered set of tan and brown robes that hung off his broad physique. But the one things most noticed first about him was the fact that he was clearly missing his left arm.

While the majority of the bar gave him a wide birth and he seemed all too content to enjoy this isolation. That is until he noticed his latest bottle had finally run dry. Before he could signal the waitress over, a fresh one was placed on the table by the only man brave enough, or maybe crazy enough, to approach him.

“Dryden Volriech,” Simon Ortell warmly greeted the ragged looking man. “How’s the life of a professional Jedi drunkard?”

A toothy smile cracked the face of Dryden as he pulled the bottle towards his open palm. “Tch, I can connect to the Force better when I’m drunk,” he countered. “So what brings you to my favorite watering hole, Ortell?”

Simon reached into his jacket and produced a cube of bluish glass and golden metal. “Found some junk laying around that you might’ve wanted.”

Dryden’s smile widened as he looked over the object. “I can only imagine how a slum dog like you got your hands on something like this.”

“Hey now, you know the deal, no questions asked,” Simon reminded him as he placed the cube on the table. “I’ve got two more in the usual spot, provided of course you can get me the usual payment.”

Dryden flinched a bit at this. “Jeez, I doubt the temple’s got deep enough pockets to cover a cost like that.”

“Tell ya what,” Simon reached over and took the bottle from Dryden and began pouring the bright amber liquid into a pair of glasses. “You pay me for two and for the third one you get me some information.”

The Jedi looked at the cube, the glasses then back to Simon, “What’re you looking for?”

“I need you to find her for me,” he said before sliding a cup towards his drinking partner. “I need to find her and fast.”

With a sigh, the Jedi reached over and took the offered drink, “Fine, but you know that’s going to take some time, even for me.”

“I know, but you’re probably the only person who can pull it off.”

“Yeah, well, you’re just lucky I have to head back to Talgear anyways,” Dryden pointed out as he downed some of the liquor. “Old Man Laan finally talked me into taking on an apprentice.”

“They’re gonna let you teach?” Simon exclaimed through a fit of laughter. “Man, your order must be falling on some really hard times.”

“Tell me about it,” he replied before downing the last of his drink. “I’ve been told she’s some kind of super student or something. Still sounds like a freaking dumb idea to me.”

“Couldn’t agree more,” Simon chided him before washing down his own glass with a quick gulp. “I’ve got some business to take care of still, get in touch with me when you find her for me will ya.”


Strolling up the gangway of the Meaningless Venture, his mind still mostly focused on the meeting he'd had with Dryden. His wandering thoughts were cut off when he caught the sound of Rarity speaking with someone. Quietly he slipped to the edge of the entryway and found her speaking with the hologram of that tinier Unicorn she'd spoken to before.

"Rarity," The tiny little thing squeaked happily and bounced up and down. "So how's your trip going? Have you gotten to see anything really cool out on all those other planets? When are you coming home? Oh! Are you going to bring me any cool souvenirs? Have you gotten to-"

Rarity tried to suppress her laughter at the excited greeting she'd been given. "Sweetie Belle, please, one question at a time."

"I'm sorry, but it's been like a million years since you called," Sweetie Belle exclaimed.

"Yes, I know, I'm very sorry for that," Rarity replied in a sad uneasy tone. "But tell me, what have you been getting up to, I do hope you and your friends have left at least some of Ponyville standing."

"There was only the one time we nearly blew up the town. But things have been kind of boring lately, everypony is too busy with stuff to play or go crusading. Casus and Scootaloo are always doing that training junk and Apple Bloom had to go visit family in Appaloosa," she hung her head sadly as she looked up at Rarity. "I really wish you were here right now?"

"So do I," she said with a sigh, barely able to look at the littler Unicorn's hologram. "My business out here is nearly done and when I get back you and I are going to take a trip to Canterlot, just the two of us."

Sweetie Belle's face lit up at the mention of this while a wide smile pulled tightly from one ear to the next. "You mean it?"

"Of course," Rarity said with a soft smile. "Just be a bit more patient and I'll be home as soon as I can."

"Ooooooookaaaaaaaaay," Sweetie Belle agreed with a great deal of reluctance. "Bye Rarity, love you!"

"Good bye Sweetie Belle, I love you too."

With the image gone, Rarity stared straight ahead at the projector her sister's image had been floating over just a few seconds ago. Her shoulders began to tremble and her head sank low between her shoulder blades. Tears formed around the edges of her eyes before they rolled down her cheeks and onto the metal grate beneath her hooves. She began to sob and whimper softly to herself until the sound of footfalls snapped her back to reality. Rarity quickly brought a forelimb up to clear the tears out of her eyes and fought to regain her composure before turning to face her host.

"Princess," Simon greeted her awkwardly.

"Captain Ortell," Rarity replied in a forced even tone.

"I was just walking by, wasn't trying to listen in or nothing like that," he said in his defense.

“Yes, well, before you say anything, I'm very well aware after the last talk that intergalactic calls cost a great deal of money,” she quickly said. "And I assure you that I shall make restitution for this at my first convenience."

“Yeah, well, just so long as I don’t have to repeat myself,” Simon replied.

The smuggler looked over the currently rather pitiful-looking girl before him. Rarity's normally strong and unflinching outward appearance had started to crack and fray, and in its place were puffy reddened eyes and tear-matted fur running down the sides of her face. Simon refused to even acknowledge why, but it tore at him to see her like this. It didn't take long for his colder exterior to lose out in the internal struggle.

“So, I was thinking I might go hit up that holo-theatre down the block from the spaceport. You know, take some time to relax since we’re not getting shot at. If you want, you could join me.”

Rarity fixed a curious and confused look upon the smuggler who fidgeted a bit uncomfortably under her gaze. Slowly, she began to smile weakly and nodded in agreement with him. "Yes, I think some recreation would do us both some good. But one condition, darling."

"And that would be?"

"I pick the movie."

The smuggler and the fashionista strolled side by side down the main street of their latest location. Rarity hadn’t bothered to ask about this planet and Simon didn’t seem to care all that much to explain it. They were surrounded by a small city that a hugged large lake nestled beneath a mountain range. Tall buildings of glass and metal rose up around them and reached towards the sky while all around them various races and species milled about on whatever business they had on-hand.

Rarity took her time to admire some of the local sites of this unnamed world, the impressive architecture that could put even Manehattan to shame. Overhead she watched a number of airborne vehicles zip around through the sky. It briefly reminded her of Pegasus-drawn sky chariots, these were clearly based solely on the technology that these aliens openly flaunted. Eventually the pair reached their destination, a building marked in bright light up letters with a long row of posters lining the front. Aurebesh was still something she had been learning, but Rarity could make out the word “Theatre” in the title of the building.

She took her time looking over the displayed posters for the latest films to be shown at the establishment. One depicted a pair of near humanoids running in terror from form a hulking beast that was hidden by shadows, save for its glowing red eyes. Horror was certainly the last thing she felt like watching. The next poster depicted a group of men in identical white armor that had been smeared by dirt and grime while behind them was the twisted wreckage of a city. It never fails, leave a few stallions in charge of the camera and you’ll get a gritty war movie. Next on the line was group of youths that looked towards the camera with looks of shock and befuddlement whilst all manner of chaos erupted behind them. A typical comedy, she thought to herself, it was beginning to look like many trends were universal. Finally she came to a poster that showed a saddened woman in a fanciful gown clutching a pair of robes and the hilt of a lightsaber to her chest, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Simon, how about this one?” she asked her companion.

Heir to the Order,” he read the title aloud. “The story of a woman forced to choose between her life of a princess and her life as a Jedi. I’ve heard it’s one of Lisa Vondyar’s finest performances to date.”

“I’ve been meaning to learn more about these Jedi folk,” Rarity commented. “My friend Twilight has become all but infatuated with them. From what little I’ve learned they sound like an absolutely fascinating group.”

Before long the pair sat beside one another in the dimly lit theatre. Seating had not been a problem, despite rave reviews not many had spent their credits on the artistic piece. Stadium seats had been set up around the room facing a large holo-projector. Rarity watched as the trailers for other movies began to play in the hopes of attracting viewers. She found very little desire to see the one about the gritty space commando fighting his way through waves of space zombies with a frightened space female latched onto him.

“I have to admit, Simon, I’m actually quite impressed,” she commented in hopes of ignoring the prattling advertisements. “Most stallions I’ve known would recoil in fear at the very thought of seeing a film that was not some mind-numbing piece of dribble.”

"Please, you've seen my collection," Simon said with a snort. "I've always preferred a much higher caliber of viewing material."

"I recall you mentioning a love of movies."

"Yeah, before going to work for Lorn full-time on his ship, movies were pretty much my way to escape from the slums. Mom would get so mad at me every time I spent all my spare credits to see whatever was playing at the holo-theatre."

Even in the muted light Rarity could note a far off look in her companion's eyes. There was a pain in them that started to bleed through his entire expression. Raised a hoof from her arm rest for a millisecond but quickly stopped herself. She could easily guess how the small sign of comfort would be taken and thought it best to avoid the conflict it would cause.

"You and Serif I assume?"

"Hah, naw," Simon replied as some levity returned to his face. "Serif's always been a credit pincher. He never willingly went with me to see anything. But my big sister usually did."

A soft smile curled the edges of Rarity's lips as he let this small nugget of information slip by. "Oh, so there's another Ortell running around the galaxy, I wonder if she's as courteous as her brother," she said playfully.

"Kaily's a lot more intense than me. You would not like her," Simon cautioned with a smirk. "She was always the Tough One though, so I guess it makes sense."

“You and your sister are close, I take it?”

“You could say that,” Simon replied. “She was always watching out for me and doing whatever she could to keep her little brother safe, ya know. Especially if it meant breaking the faces of an entire swoop gang that tried to move into our neighborhood.”

For a brief moment she recalled the argument she'd nearly walked in on back at Lorn's shop. "A rough and tumble sort, eh?"

"And how," Simon replied with a snicker. "She used to get into just about any kind of a fight at the drop of a hat."

"She sounds a bit like my friend Rainbow Dash. Pegasi are known for being competitive but that girl takes things to a whole new level sometimes.”

"You've got a lot of friends back on that orb of yours."

"It tends to happen when one stays in one place for more than a few days," Rarity teased.

"Sounds horrible," Simon said with a grin. "Think I'll keep to my stars then."

"That may be for the best," Rarity added. "After all, if the great Simon Ortell suddenly had friends and a home the galaxy might suddenly implode."

Simon gave her a bemused look before rolling his eyes at her comment. "Probably not, but why take the risk, am I right?" They sat in silence for a while as the opening credits began to flash across the projected image. Simon could feel a question starting to worm its way from the back of his mind to his mouth. "So, that little Unicorn you keep calling, you two related or something?"

"Sweetie Belle," Rarity replied with a warm smile. "She’s my little sister and one of Ponyville's most notorious fillies. She and her friends have nearly brought the town down around everypony's ears more than once while trying to find their cutie marks. Beyond the chaos she and her friends tend to sow with their arguably good intentions she's actually quite sweet."

"I'm sure that's getting so much better now that you've got an infestation of bucketheads on your planet. Not sure how folks can sleep at night with those war worshiping nutjobs running around in your backyards." Simon then caught the critical look that Rarity had fixed on him.

"I’ll have you know that several of those ‘nutjobs’ saved both my life and the lives of my friends. Furthermore, my sister's life was saved by a little Mandalorian boy whom was kind enough to carry her on his back all the way home after her leg was injured. While I know a number of them can come off as abrasive, I’ve learned first hoof that not all of them are bad. Why do you have so much disdain for them?”

“After you spend a few months getting shot at by them, watching them shoot each other over some pointless ancient concepts, you tend to get a bad taste in your mouth. I’m sure you’re right - some of them are probably decent folks - but they just haven’t been any of the ones I’ve met.”

Rarity let a comfortable silence fall between them yet again as they watched the movie play out before them. They watched as the fire-haired woman on screen dealt with the demands of her people and her desire to stay true to the code of conduct of these Jedi. The way the movie depicted them, they reminded her of a sect of warrior poets from Equestria’s dark ages, sowing justice and hope across the land.

“Simon, darling,” Rarity spoke up in a low whisper. “We’re really nearing the end of this ordeal?”

“Yeah,” he replied with a light touch on her shoulder. “Pretty soon you’ll be back home, just like I promised.”

That could have been the end of that conversation, but something burned Rarity about that answer. “And what about you?”

“What about me?”

“Well, where do you go from there?”

“I go to the next job,” he replied curtly.

“And you’re fine living your life like that?” Rarity asked with no shortage of concern in her lowered voice.

Simon looked to clearly struggle with her question. His jaw tightened while he fought to force up a reply. "Yeah, it's fine."

“Don’t you ever get tired of that? Don’t you ever feel lonely running from world to world all alone?”

Simon rolled his eyes at the question. “Been doing just fine like that for years now.”

Rarity looked at him sadly before returning her attention to the film. "If that's how you feel, darling, then I won't push the matter."

Turning his attention back to performance, he tried to ignore the way her words started form an icy ball in the pit of his stomach. He kept his mind focused on the movie and that long lusted for light at the end of this long, long tunnel he’d been trapped in. All he needed to do was make one more stop, get Serif’s mystery item and then drop off those karking dresses that have been in the ship’s hold for weeks. Then it would be back to his glorious status quo. No more complaints about where they were headed next, no pestering about his sense of fashion and style and no more her. But why did these thoughts only make him feel all the worse?

“It’s certainly a shame what happened to you Mr. Xardos,” the Ubese commented as he looked over the empty display case. “I heard they made off with a few million credits worth of artifacts.”

“And you just happened to stop by on short notice out of the kindness of your heart, Mr. Vrax?” Kinaris questioned, his voice dripping with venom.

Kindness, when have you ever heard of a kind hearted Ubese?” Vrax snorted. “The thieves that hit you happened to be a group I’m hunting at the moment. The way I look at it, I could stand to make a good stack of credits for killing them for you.”

He paced around the room, the empty expression of his visor taking in the surroundings as he moved around the perimeter. “You must realize that there’s no way you’re getting any of this collection back, they’ve probably hit about twenty different fences by now and unloaded them all. If you’re lucky they’ll have maybe two thirds of what it was all worth. That’s a pretty hard blow to stomach, don’t you think?”

Vrax stopped and looked dead into Kinaris’s eyes. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to kill them anyways. See, I’ve been really wanting to tear their limbs off like insects and beat them to death with them for a while now. But for the right price, I can make it into a very...special...kind of ordeal for them. It would make for a wonderful little show of force to anyone else who might try to do the same thing.”

He offered the human an open gloved hand. “What do you say?”

Kinaris stared at the full suited alien for a moment, his eyes giving away that he was clearly giving serious thought to this offered act of revenge. A razor sharp grin slipped over his expression as he took the offered hand in a firm shake. “You’ve got a deal, Vrax. I expect a nice, long, detailed holo of the entire affair. Their screams and cries for mercy are going to lull me to sleep every night.”

Black Luster Blues

It had been nearly two weeks since the movie - two whole weeks spent in port while Simon and their mystery client discussed a meeting ground to finally finish this job. All of this brought a spark of hope to Simon’s gut at the thought of unloading this case. And best of all, unloading his passenger.

Soon, the heavy blackened walls of the ancient, overly overhauled space station came floating into view. Black Luster was a station with a storied reputation that reached all the way back into the hay days of the old Republic. For thousands of years it had orbited the dead world of Harkonnen and served as base of operations for anyone willing to pay for the upkeep and repairs. Rather than let it simply fall through the atmosphere and crash into the long dead and rotting world, it had been given extensive repairs and refurbishing time and time again, becoming more of an undead corpse of its original self than a new and vibrant station. Though he didn’t voice it, Simon idly wondered if there remained a single piece of the original station left within its superstructure.

“Oh joy, another floating deathtrap,” Rarity commented as she saw the space station coming into view. “Simon, why can’t we ever go to any clean ports of call?”

“You want spotless, get kidnapped in Imperial space,” Simon said with a teasing smirk. “Surprised you weren’t born as one sometimes.”

“I’ll keep that in mind the next time I walk in on illicit dealings.”

“Don’t let the rotting coat of paint fool you: Black Luster is actually a pretty decent place as far as the Outer Rim is concerned.”

“I shall differ to your judgment as per usual, Captain Ortell.”

“Oh yeah? Don't mind me if I start counting the seconds until the fussing starts up again.”

The ship tacked to and fro, maneuvering its way into the already heavy traffic that surrounded the station. Far larger cargo vessels inched their way in and out of their lanes while smaller ships like the Venture managed to move with far greater freedom.

As the ship passed through the energy field into the hangar bay Rarity couldn’t help but stumble a bit, nearly falling out of her chair as the ship’s gravity switched off in favor of the stronger force exerted by the space station’s systems. Much to her surprise though, she founder herself caught by her companion’s arm about her midsection. She stared up into his emerald eyes and could feel a small touch of heat in her cheeks. Pushing this from her mind she quickly righted herself with a thankful nod.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be used to those blasted shifts in gravity,” she complained.

Simon barely stifled a chuckle as she pulled herself away to preen and fix her mane. “Right, well we got a few hours before we meet the buyer. What do you wanna do?”

He barely had time to retract that question when realization suddenly collapsed in on him. Simon saw a bright excited glint enter the Unicorn’s large expressive eyes while a wide smile stretched across her muzzle. Before he knew it he was laden with packages, parcels and various shopping bags all packed to the brim with new purchases.

They were in the esplanade of the space station which more or less acted as an open bazaar, lined with shops and stalls of various goods and wares from across the Outer Rim. Simon watched as Rarity argued the price of a large spool of red silk with the Duros merchant running the shop. With an annoyed grumble the dark grey skinned alien finally broke under the fashionista’s unrelenting savvy with her credits.

With an excited giggle she levitated the spool over to the already growing pile of goods in Simon’s arms. “Oh, darling, can you just imagine the wonderful gown I’ll be able to craft from this amazing material?”

Ooooooh yeah, sure it's gonna look juuuuuuuust greeeeeat," Simon grunted as he fought to keep the new weight balanced with what he was already caring. "Any chance we're finally done wasting our credits yet?"

"I fail to see how buying a few souvenirs for my friends is any kind of a waste,” she scoffed.

"A few," Simon said with a snort. "Feels like you're stocking up for your entire freaking town."

"Well I don't want to leave anypony out when I start handing out gifts, and besides I even got you something."

"I told you I'm not wearing that pink shirt," he snapped at her.

"And I told you that it's not pink, it's salmon," she corrected him. "Trust me darling, there is a difference between the two."

"You're making that up."

"I am not, salmon and pink are completely different colors."

"No they aren't, you're just using a fancy word to say pink."

"Pink is much brighter color while salmon is much closer to being a lightish red in hue."

"Yeah, well it looks pink to me."

"I am doing my best to hide my shock."


Vrax leaned against the railing of the upper level catwalk, his visor's built-in binoculars zoomed in on the smuggler and the dressmaker. "I honestly feel sorry for promising a slow torture first," he said to himself. "Right about now a sniper rifle would end this whole trip so much faster."

Behind him, several of his men milled about, their weapons and body armor at the ready as they geared up for what looked like a full-on assault. Vrax paid them very little attention however, as his full focus was on the pair he'd been hunting from one sector to the next...and here they were, just about in arm's reach.

"Soon as they make the trade, we start the show," Vrax reminded them. "You all have your jobs and I've called in a few extra mercenaries to make sure they don't slip away this time. Remember, I want them both alive, everyone else you can kill."


As the pairn continued to spend their new influx of credits, they were blissfully unaware of the number of crosshairs being drawn on them. From the vantage point of a store that sold vintage mugs, a pair of humanoids watched their targets mill about the shops. One of them was clearly a Human male; he was a mixture of muscles and cybernetics with heavy scar tissue littering the edges of his mechanical parts. The other had been concealed head to toe in a suit of matte-black heavy combat armor that completely hid the being's identity.

"So, looking forward to finishing up this blue milk run" the cyborg asked his companion. A frown touched his lips when he received no response from the armored figure. "Figures, I get stuck with one of you tight-lipped types," he grumbled. "Bet you think you're all kinds of BA with that heavy combat shell on. This is probably your first job to boot. You better not screw up out there, shortfoot. If I lose credits on this job because of a dumb mistake you made, I'll shoot you."

The armored figure turned his small slit of a visor towards the cybernetic man. He said no words, only glaring at him with the eerie crimson shine of the cycloptic view port. The stare made the other mercenary shift a bit in discomfort as he looked into the emotionless mask that hid his partner's true face. No more words passed between the two as they returned to monitoring their targets’ movements.


"So then I say to Serif, We can't, you set it on fire," Simon declared with a few hand motions for emphasis.

Rarity could barely stop the fit of laughter that racked her body after hearing the end of her companion's story. She brought a hoof to her muzzle to try and stifle herself down to just a giggle. The pair sat across from one another in what one would assume passed for a desirable eating establishment. Between them were plates of alien dishes that now laid in various states of being eaten.

"I can't believe you two actually did that," she said between snickers.

"Are you kidding me, I can't believe we didn't get arrested for it," Simon replied.

She sat in happy contentment listening to Simon as he went into the next leg of his story about the interstellar hijinks of his youth. As she listened to his tales warmth began to build in her chest and began to spread through her entire body. She felt her eyes transfixed on his as they shined with light that had been lacking since their ill-fated meeting back on Gaia. The longer she stared into them the more she could feel her head start swimming.

With a bit of inward effort, she forced her attention back to her plate. Her levitating fork brought another bite of bright green fruit to her mouth, washing her pallet with the sweet citrus flavor it contained. The fashionista was thankful for the chance to wipe away the unsavory taste of protein bars and other flavorless foods stocked on the ship. It was magnified when she took another sip of the auburn liquid in her glass.

The more she drank, the more her head filled with ideas and urges that she quickly crushed under mental hoof, though their aftereffects were certainly felt regardless of her efforts. She had begun to notice aspects of her travelling companion that she hadn’t before. The deep black of his hair was like the void between the stars and the emerald gleam of his eyes just seemed to draw her gaze back every time. The roguish curve of his smirk invoked images of a dashing pirate from one of her serial novels. She could feel her heart start to flutter at the very thought of these things. It had to just be the drink, she assured herself.

It was ridiculous after all, she assured herself. They were completely different species from entirely different worlds and vastly different walks of life. Beyond that, they shared little to nothing in common and were constantly at one another’s throats. The very idea was beyond foalish to her. But then again, Fluttershy had managed a relationship with one of these aliens. Soon though, that wouldn't matter anymore. She'd be back in Ponyville and he'd return to the same life he'd had before they'd met, that status quo restored. But the young Unicorn couldn't understand why that thought twisted her stomach so much.

Before long their time for relaxation had ended and it was time to meet with this mysterious buyer of Serif's. Case in hand, Rarity and Simon boarded the elevator to the upper levels of the station. A tense silence had fallen between the pair of them, disturbed only slightly by the burrowing droll of the music pumped in through the speakers.

"Hey Princess," Simon broke through elevator tunes. "Before we get up there, I want you take this."

She looked at the weapon curiously, it was like many of the other blaster type weapons she’d quickly become familiar with. What set it apart was the small size and shortened barrel. With a touch of hesitation she encased it in her aura and lifted it into the air so that she could examine the small blaster closer.

"It isn't much," Simon informed her. "Just a hold out blaster, little something I carry around as a backup weapon. It's only got about twenty shots in its power pack so don't go firing it off all crazy."

"Good to know, but are you certain it's really necessary, darling?"

"If our luck holds out the way it has, then you're probably going to need a bit of extra protection."

Rarity nodded in agreement with the smuggler's sentiment. The idea of actually using the weapon on somepony still left a very uncomfortable feeling at her core, but she could see the logic in having it. If nothing else she could at least frighten a would be attacker with the threat of using the weapon on them. She levitated the weapon into the confines of her surcoat. The tiny weapon easily slipped snuggly into one of the pockets near the small of her back. She gave her reflection in the metal wall of the elevator a once over. A small smile moved over her muzzle when she saw how easily the weapon and any trace of it vanished from sight. If it wasn't for the weight of the blaster she might’ve easily forgotten it was even there.

Her musings were cut short when the doors flung open with a hiss. She and Simon quickly gave one another one last reassuring look before stepping off - there was no turning back now for either of them. Before them was a crowd of people all packed near the entrance one of the upper level establishments. Rarity's ears easily picked up the loud thumping and rhythmic bass of the club's thunderous music and the unified voices of those partying inside. She immediately thought of a neon-haired unicorn she'd hired for one of her fashion shows once.

At the entrance, a tall, broad-shouldered alien that was covered from head to toe in thick brown fur stood watch at the entrance. Rarity cringed as the massive creature lifted one rowdy humanoid into the air with ease, bellowing a loud roar before throwing the offender across the room where he crumpled to the floor.

Simon strode up to the Wookie at that door and produced an ID card from his jacket. "Ortell, plus guest," he informed the alien. "We're expected, VIP box."

It looked over a datapad before nodding in agreement. It barked something in a garbled language that Rarity wasn't sure if it really wasn't as feral as it looked. Still, it was kind enough to step aside and wave the pair of them in. Through all the chaos and the music, neither of them had noticed the alien that had managed to shadowed them into the club.

Inside the club, the noise wasn't much better. No longer muffled by the walls of the station, she was now force fed a somewhat painful dose of loud, booming noise that passed for music. Bright lights flashed and danced overhead and through the glass-plated floor beneath her hooves. All around her the bodies of men and women of races from far and wide across the galaxy danced and moved to the rhythm.

Eventually they made their way through the writhing mass of bodies and to a pair of double doors flanked by a pair of dark clad men who lead the pair into a room that overlooked the dance floor. The boom of the music and the crowd were reduced to low rumbles against the walls of this mostly sound proofed room. It had been sparsely decorated, a few luxury couches and several holographic projectors that showed various alien females dancing.

From the moment they had entered the establishment Rarity had an uneasy feeling, but when they entered this private room it turned into a full-on feeling of dread. A cold mound that had formed in her chest grew claws and began to drag itself into her spine. There was a strange pressure in the air that refused to give her any kind of quarter and only seemed to press harder on her the more she consciously tried to push it away. She tried to push all of this out of her mind as they finally came face to face with their client.

She was a human clad in form-fitting dark clothes that showed off her slender form and shape. Her pale skin created an almost fragile illusion about the woman. Sickly yellow eyes picked the pair of them apart like a hungry Griffon while her pitch black hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. She reclined contently on a large ornate sofa with a stylized glass of amber liquid. Rarity could feel the discomfort in the air oozing off this woman like a dark cloud.

"So you're my package boy," she cooed. "I must say, I would have ordered this meeting sooner." The grin left her face quickly. "I do have to ask though, what happened to Vrax?"

"He tried to double-cross our boss," Simon quickly replied. "So now you deal with us."

"Is that so?" she said with that predatory grin returning. "And just how should I ‘deal’ with you?"

Rarity could feel herself bristle at the strange woman's words and discomforting tone and the way her eyes continued to blatantly ravage her companion. She could only hold her silence for so long. "You could start by giving us what we came here for."

The woman turned a curious eye towards the no longer silent Unicorn. Rarity could feel those claws again, dragging along her back until they reached her neck. She could feel them slide around her throat, their tips just barely digging in. She froze and her body seized up as a sudden pressure pressed against her throat. From the smile on the woman's face, it had been the desired result.

“I suppose we can conclude business,” the dark-clad woman said before she signaled one of her companions.

One of them produced a thick metal case, not unlike the one Simon had been carrying. Simon and the mystery man carefully approached one another, each one handing off their respected suitcase to the other before taking a few steps back. The case that Rarity and Simon had risked their lives to protect for so long was quickly brought over to their hostess who wasted no time in punching in the code. She flipped the lid open and a wide gleeful smile pulled her lips upwards while an excited spark entered her unnatural eyes. She quickly shut the lid and nodded to her companions who backed away from the smuggler and the Unicorn.

“Yes, well, it has been a pleasure doing business with you,” Rarity said with a forced smile.

“You haven’t even tasted my pleasures, dear,” she replied. “But I’m sure we can have some real fun another time.”

"Ah, yes, well, how lovely," Rarity said with no shortage or disdain. "But as I said before, Simon and I really should be-" her words fell short and her ears twitched about, something had drastically changed. "Did it just get quiet out there?"

Almost on cue a volley of blaster bolts shattered the thick wall of glass that had overlooked the dance floor. Simon brought his arms up and readied himself for what he assumed would be hail of painful cuts and stabs, but it never came. Cracking his eyes open he saw that Rarity had placed herself between Simon and the wall of glass. Her horn glowed brightly with translucent blue energy while a wall of the same magical force stood between them and the shards, striking the shield with no effect.

With the shock finally wearing off, a harsh gravel voice called out from the club floor: “Hey Ortell, you still alive!?”

Rarity and Simon shared a look, not one of fear or apprehension, but one that bordered on annoyance. “Yeah, I’m still alive!”

“And what about the Force witch!?” Vrax asked them.

Rarity rolled her eyes and shouted back. “Yes, darling, I’m still alive as well.”

“Well, that is very unfortunate,” Vrax admitted. “I guess me and the boys will just have to come in there and kill you!”

“Since this seems to be an issue between the three of you,” the mysterious woman spoke up. “My friends and I will take our leave. If you survive this, Ortell, look me up. I promise a night you won’t regret.”

“Actually,” Vrax interjected. “I was thinking I’d just kill as well and take both cases for myself! Come out ahead of everyone in this messed-up game of ours.”

“I don’t see that working out well for you, little man,” she snarled at the Ubese.

"Well, from where I'm standing, I've got all the blasters and the numbers," Vrax told her. "So I think I've got plenty of reason to feel pretty confident about my chances of walking out of here right about now."

Rarity could feel it, it was much stronger now and centering around the three humanoids - a ripple of energy that flooded around them and converged within them. She'd felt this before back on her home world. She had been in the presence of those who had tapped into this power and seen the marvels it was capable of, but this felt different. It was wild and unchained, like an animal set loose from its cage and thirsty for the first drop of blood it could find.

With a wave of her hand, the pale woman willed the shards of glass into the air. Hundreds of them floated about her, suspended by her unseen means. With another motion the pieces of glass showered down upon the room full of mercenaries like a swarm of bees. Men screamed out in pain, many dropping their weapons or abandoning their position to try and escape the cutting pain.

Their distraction in place, the trio leapt to the dance floor below with inhuman speed that caught the nearest pair of hired guns by surprise. Before any could react, three blades of crimson energy leapt from the metal hilts they now carried. Four heavily armed and armored men were cut down in the span of two seconds, their bodies falling limping at the feet of their attackers.

Every weapon was now trained on them, the air filled with the sounds of safeties being disengaged. But no shots were fired when Vrax stepped in. "Don't waste your power packs," he ordered them. "Get up there and bring me the smuggler and his woman, alive. I'll handle the Sith."

The three of them shared a curious look before giving the Ubese their full attention. "You've perked our curiosity alien, and just how exactly do you plan to back up this boasting of yours?"

"For starters, I'm an Ubese, my people have spent millions of years developing ways to kill Force users."

She could barely suppress the urge to laugh at this statement. "How adorable, let me guess, you've learned a few teras kasi techniques and now you're a full blooded Jedi killer?"

"Why don't you come over here and find out," Vrax chided her before assuming a defensive stance.

Simon and Rarity watched the exchange from the shattered VIP room above the dance floor-turned-battleground. The smuggler watched with fear laced interest as their constant pursuer knocked away the Force assaults with practiced ease. His eyes tore away from the exchange however when the corner of his vision spotted a number of mercenaries making a dead rush for the door below them. His eyes quickly scanned around for anything that could help them before settling on Rarity.

“So, line of sight, right?” he proposed.

Rarity looked at him then at the wide open doors of the club’s entrance. “At least this isn’t as far away as that hillside was,” she assured herself before she scrunched her face up in concentration.

Three of the braver, or stupider depending on whom you asked, of the guns for hire had rushed past their boss and his prey and made a mad dash for the entryway to the VIP lounge. Among them, the cyborg soldier and his power-armored companion. Upon reaching the door the two readied their weapons while a younger clearly more eager merc forced it open. The two let their younger partner take the lead as he rushed headlong into the room just in time to be blinded by a flash of blue light. Shouting in surprise the inexperienced mercenary began firing blindly into the room.

When his vision cleared, he finally saw that the room was empty and the back wall was now peppered with smoking blaster marks. His embarrassment was compounded when his companions shoved him aside to enter the room. “Where the kark are they?” he asked.

“Found ‘em,” the cyborg declared pointing out the pair that stumbled to stay on their feet just at the entrance of the club.

Seeing his chance to get back in good favor, the younger gun for hire flicked the switch on the side of his weapon. With the safety of the underslung grenade launcher taken off, he quickly took aim on the two of them. Just as he pulled the trigger, the larger armored mercenary grabbed his gun and forced the shot off course. The small projectile struck the floor some feet behind them and exploded on impact sending Rarity and Simon hurtling through air violently.

“What the hell,” he screamed at his partner. “That would’ve been dead on!”

“We need them alive, you idiot,” his cybernetic companion reminded him. “You’re lucky he threw your shot off or you’d be answering to the boss.”

Rarity and Simon landed roughly on the smooth metal floor of the station, tumbling across the ground. “What was it you said about our usual luck, darling?” Rarity quipped as she fought to ignore the pain shooting through her sides.

“No time to rest, princess,” Simon grunted out while grasping her about the barrel and hoisting her to her hooves.

Their break did not last longer than a blink of an eye as several blaster bolts struck the ground and walls around them. “Why doesn’t anypony in this galaxy ever resort to words in order to solve their problems,” Rarity complained after she finally found the strength to start galloping alongside Simon. “No, it’s always guns and explosives, so uncouth!”

“Tell me about it, nothing but a bunch of freaking barbarians,” Simon shouted before drawing his blaster and firing several blind shots over his shoulder.

Ahead of them, crowds of people scattered and shouted in panic just doing whatever they could to avoid taking a blaster bolt, "Why isn't anypony putting a stop this, police, guards, robots with stun guns, something!?" Rarity shouted over all the chaos.

"Vrax probably bought them off to show up late or something," Simon replied before ducking another blaster bolt. "Be nice if things were in our favor for once."

"With all the rampant theft and collateral damage in our wake, you'd think ponies would be flocking to our sides," Rarity shot back at him as an energy bolt passed close by her collar.

"Hey! We only committed one major crime on purpose," Simon reminded her.

He tugged on the back of her coat to pull her off course and into a nearby shop. Inside, a number of scared shoppers and staff all took cover, shouting to be left alone. The smuggler gave them very little of his attention while he continued to move at full speed through the racks of various shirts and swimwear. Simon heard the familiar hum of Rarity's horn as she used her magic to knock anything and everything in the store down and in the paths of their pursuers. On the other side of the store were the glass walls and doors of the back entrance. With several shots from his blaster, the glass became cracked and weakened which made it much easier for the pair to hurl themselves through and into the other side of the upper merchant level.

Rarity's sharp eyes could see that they were running out of space to run and fast as a bulkhead was drawing closer. She scanned about for anything that might help them until finally she spotted it. That familiar yellow and black markings that marked the entrance of a maintenance shaft. The glow of her horn flared up once again while the same blue aura encased the latch that held the grate in place. With a quick jerk of her head, the grating was hoisted out of the way. With blaster bolts singeing the ground around them and filling the air with the scent of ozone, the smuggler and the dressmaker hurled themselves into the dark tunnel.


Vrax stood his ground at the center of the cracked dance floor while his Sith opponents encircled him like a pack of hungry animals. His mercenaries having long since piled out of the establishment in order to avoid the coming melee, he was on his own against these three. Their faces became contorted and twisted things in the crimson glow of their energy swords and the dim light of the broken light fixtures. He could feel them sizing him up and picking apart his defenses in hopes of ending this quickly. But after the display he'd given them, they had reason to hesitate.

The first attack came from behind, just as he'd predicted it would. Cracking and snapping of glass under the heavy souls of the Sith's boot telegraphed his approach and told Vrax exactly where he was attacking from. With a quickly motion of his hand, he snatched the metallic hilt from his belt and flipped the switch. His attacker's assault was brought to a grinding and sudden halt as a blade of grey energy shot up from behind the Ubese's back and caused him to falter back several steps. Under his mask, Vrax was smiling.

Not wanting to lose this new momentum, he quickly spun around on the ball of his foot and slashed his saber at the neck of his foe. The Sith, a humanoid with red and black face markings, brought his own saber up to deflect the blow. Hissing energy and sparks filled the room when the blades bounced off one another. Several blows rained down against the now defensive Sith as he backed away from his opponent.

His companion launched himself forward to try his luck at striking the Ubese from behind as well. Despite the superhuman speed granted by the Force, the cracking and breaking of glass under his feet still alerted Vrax to the attack. After knocking the enemy's blade aside once again, he let fly a powerful kick to the gut and sent him toppling away before swinging his blade around to meet this latest assault.

This time Vrax was the one put onto the defensive as several quick and well honed slashes were thrown at him. His own skills with the weapon saved him from being sliced apart by the superheated plasma but he was still losing ground with every step he was forced to take backwards. The assault's true purpose became all too clear when his saber was sent far to the right from a glancing feint from the Sith swordsman. His chest was exposed and the enemy saber was about to plunge into him.

Vrax moved on instinct and let the momentum of his deflected saber pull him. He toppled to the side and away from the attack while scoring a quick blow with the back of his hand to the side of the darksider's face. He darted to the side of a column at the side of the dance floor and slashed his saber through the duracrete and steel. Overhead he could hear the creaking of lighting fixtures that this thing had helped support. Just as both Sith were recovering from their momentary surprises, a shower of metal, wires and glass fell upon them. Metal beams and broken light units smashed into the ground around them and if not for the Force it surely would have crushed them both.

Before Vrax could capitalize on this distraction, the dark Force woman leapt through the debris and met him, saber to saber. The force of her attack sent both of them hurtling through the air and smashing into the wall behind the neon-lit bar. They both quickly recovered from this and began trading blow after blow with their sabers. Their strikes slicing and burning through the countertop and mirrored backdrop.

Still moving on instinct, Vrax grabbed an unbroken bottle from the countertop. With the swing of his saber he managed to force an opening in their exchange and with another swift blow he shattered the bottle over her head. Glass, blood and green-tinted liquor poured onto the floor while the Sith woman fought to keep her footing and senses. A fight that Vrax had no intention of letting her win as he rushed forward and slammed a kick into her chest to send her toppling to the ground.

Before he could finish her off, a metal beam speared through the air and buried itself into the mirror behind the bar. He quickly took off at full speed in the opposite direction as a hail of projectile debris was sent flying at him. The pair of Sith he'd attempted to crush were back on their feet and using everything they could lift in the room to try and kill him. Grabbing a metallic sphere from his belt, Vrax threw the item at their feet before taking cover behind another duracrete pillar. The pair of Sith turned to run from the grenade just as it let out a loud shrill whine. In a loud pop and rain of metal fragments they were both sent hurtling through the air in opposite directions of one another.

Vrax took off as fast as he could for the one that landed closest to him, catching up to him just as he got back to his wobbly feet. The Sith was just barely able to bring his weapon up in time to catch Vrax's latest blow as well as the next two as they struck him from above again and again. One the fourth blow, Vrax feinted another overhead strike, but instead looped his blade around to strike the Sith across the gut.

In one fluid swipe of his grey blade, his opponent's torso was split at an angle. The upper half of his body fell to one side while his legs went in another. His breathing became labored now that he only had one functioning lung while eyes stared straight ahead at the ceiling before glassing over. Vrax stepped over his fallen opponent as he breathed his last and scooped up the fallen Sith's lightsaber. Flicking the switch, he took a readied stance with the red and the grey sabers in hand while waiting for his clearly surprised opponents to make their next move.


It was dark when she started to come around, the dim overhead lights of the tunnel she'd popped out in gave her only the faintest view of her surroundings. Rarity forced her legs move and pulled herself back onto all four. She gritted her teeth as the hurt lingering in her sides and back assaulted her entire body. Shaking her head clear, she fought to keep her limbs from giving out before taking a few test steps. Satisfied that nothing felt broken, she focused her magic into her horn, exposing the mass of grimy metal, wires and pipes to a wash of blue light. Looking around one thing quickly became very clear to her.

"Simon?" she called out. "Simon!?"

There was no answer to her calls. Fear and worry began to worm their way into her core when it became obvious that she was all alone in the bowels of the station. She shook those thoughts out of her mind. The Element of Generosity had been in far worse scrapes than this and she would not be phased. With a clearer mind she recalled the comlink concealed between her curls and her ear.

Placing a hoof upon the tiny device to activate it she spoke in a calm even tone. "Simon, are you out there?" For a moment there was no answer. She could feel those darker thoughts and feelings taking root inside of her again. "Simon, darling, if you're out there, please answer."

"Y-yeah, ugh, yeah I'm here, Princess," his labored voice grumbled from the other side of the line.

"Oh, thank Celestia," Rarity breathed out. "You had me worried, Captain Ortell."

"Yeah, well, looks like I'm still alive," Simon grumbled. "Nice escape plan, by the way, jump down the tube blindly. How about we try that with a hyperspace jump next?"

"I don't recall you finding us any avenues for escape at the time," Rarity snapped back at him. "Besides, it worked last time. Though, with varying results."

"Must have been a split in the tube somewhere," Simon told her, "I got a fix on your location, you're a few levels below me but on the plus side we're beneath the docking ring. We gotta start making our way up and fast if we wanna get to the ship before they block our path."

"I understand," Rarity agreed as she started looking for anything that looked like and exit. It was then that her hoof brushed against something, when she glanced down she found the metal case that she and Simon had just been hunted for. With a sigh of relief she floated it onto her back and began trotting through the maze conduits. A playful smirk slipped across her muzzle at the thought of Simon worriedly thinking he'd lost their prize yet again. I'll tell him when we get back to the ship, she said to herself.

Several floor above her, Simon slipped his datapad back into his coat before taking a minute to look around the dark corridor. He hunted and searched around the ground near where he woke up, assuming it had been where he'd landed. "C'mon, don't tell me I lost another one."

"Maybe it got stuck up in the tube somewhere," he said to himself as he eyes the opening he'd no doubt spilled from. "Need to find a maintenance droid or something, get them to hunt around the tunnel for it."

These thoughts came crashing to stop as the door to his right suddenly opened with a loud hiss. As he turned with his pistol at the ready to face whatever it was, a flash of blue light washed over him. In this moment the world around him started to spin, his limbs went heavy and his blaster fell to the station floor just before he did as well.

Black Luster Blues: Second Verse

The hum of the lightsabers was accentuated by the crackle and pop of the floor when the tips of their blades sank into mess of glass and metal. Inside Vrax's helmet however, was the sound of his own heavy breathing. He kept the energy blades buried in the broken floor in order to cover the sound while it took every bit of control to keep his body from showing any outward signs of exhaustion. He could feel his naturally weak lungs struggle to pull in enough of the tainted air he survived on to keep himself from keeling over. His entire body ached now that the adrenaline had started to cool in his veins.

Still he was thankful for one thing: The death of one of their own had forced the Sith to briefly pause their attacks. This wouldn’t last forever though; sooner or later they would resume and it was unlikely he could keep up this pace compared to someone able to access and enhance their body through the Force. He needed a way to end this quickly and decisively.

“You look pretty mad,” Vrax commented, his voice alight with mocking tones. “Was he a friend of yours?”

For a moment neither of the Sith did much beyond glare daggers at him, but eventually the woman spoke up: “That fighting style, it isn’t tera kasi, is it?”

Behind his mask, Vrax grinned from ear to ear. Banter was exactly what he needed to buy time while he plotted his next move. “No, it’s not. I told you before, my people have spent millions of years fostering our endless hate and blood lust for Force users. Getting your entire star system nuked because of them can really put you in a bad mood for a while. So we spent that time finding ways to fight and kill your kind. The ignorant masses have tera kasi, we Ubese have zi-cha’ar.”

“So, what you’re telling us is that you’re some kind of close quarter juggernaut then?” she asked with a growing smirk.

In the back of his mind, Vrax was pretty sure he knew what was going through her head but his body was just a fraction of a second behind. Before he knew it, the entire wreckage of the club was being levitated into the air around him. Chairs, tables, glasses, bottles, even pieces of the stage and light fixtures began screaming towards him.

“Let’s see if your range game is any good,” she chided him with a smile that held no joy.

Vrax very quickly found himself forced onto the defensive, slicing and cutting his way through projectile after projectile. However, it was a losing game: the more he destroyed, the more ammo he was handing them. This was compounded by the fact that he couldn’t keep up this pace forever, a blunt-force reminder delivered by a chair smashing into his back. Stumbling to the ground from the blow, he rolled across the ground and narrowly avoided a heavy chunk of duracrete that would have crushed his head.

Getting to his feet, he made a mad dash across the room straight at his Sith antagonists. With speed and reflexes that had been honed from years of training, he cut a swath through the hail of debris that stood in his way. His sabers danced and buzzed as they cut everything they touched and within moments he had closed the gap.

As he approached striking range, the dark-clad woman swept a hand in his direction and the floor beneath Vrax exploded outward. The Ubese found himself airborne and stunned when lumps of duracrete pummeled him in the gut. Though the lightweight armor of his environmental suit took the brunt of the blow, he could feel kinetic forces slam into him, knocking the air out of his lungs.

As he drifted through the air unabated, the cruel, cackling laughter of his opponent served as the background music. Vrax had barely touched ground when it was ripped apart just beside him, sending him hurtling once more, stopped only by a painful crash into the wall. His breathing was labored when he forced himself back to his feet with the wall for support.

Whatever advantages he’d come into this fight with, were now slipping away - and the next thing that could slip, if he didn’t change the circumstances, would be his grasp on life.


Rarity made her way through the dimly lit corridors of the station’s lower levels. Higher and higher she climbed through the lowest levels of the station's inner workings, always hoping the next sign she'd see would be pointing her towards the hangar bay. Her hoofsteps echoed off the metal floors and walls, adding to the hum of the generators, the buzz of power conduits and the sloshing of various pipes and pumps. The combined din was starting to wear on the mare's nerves, almost making it hard for her to concentrate.

As yet another automated door hissed open for her, Rarity found herself rooted in place as she came face-to-face with another armed alien in ragged body armor. The two looked at one another for one endless second before either made their move. With a flash of blue light, Rarity telekinetically swung the strong the metal case on her back into the side of her obstacle's head, impacting with a metallic CRUNCH. The alien let out a stream of angry shouts in its native tongue while it grasped the side of its face. She immediately spun around and started at a full gallop in the opposite direction.

In her time far from home, Rarity had picked up a few things from the galaxy she'd been adrift in. A few tricks and skills of her own, various creative ways to use both her magic and, more immediately, the stream of alien expletives she let fly when another group of armed men came stomping down the nearest gantryway. Not letting her pace slow, she darted blindly down one corridor after another but found herself being blocked every few yards. Perhaps it was luck, Celestia guiding her from afar or maybe even this Force phenomenon the off-worlders continually talked about in various states of awe. In any case, despite the best attempts of her would-be captors’ movements to squeeze the trap, she continued to escape; it seemed, metaphorically, that the more they tightened their grip, the more she slipped through their fingers.

Rushing up a set of pipes that they couldn’t follow through, she squeezed up to another deck, only to find herself yet again she found herself blocked by a pair of armed men who quickly aimed their weapons at her. She could hear shouting and heavy footfalls behind her growing closer. Perhaps this was it, the end of the line, she feared; soon she'd be delivered into Vrax's hands and no doubt executed in some grisly fashion or another. She was going to die light years from home, never getting to see Equestria again, never getting to see her friends and family again, never getting to see Sweetie Belle finally get her cutie mark.

No, she told herself, steeling herself. No, I will not be taken! I am an Element, and I will see my kith and kin once more!

With newfound determination, Rarity poured more speed into her legs as she tore through the tight corridor towards the two mercenaries. As they prepared to fire, she reacted, both sliding underneath them and charging her her horn for a blast. A flare of blue enveloped the pipes above as Rarity reached out with her magic and tore open. Her would-be captors let out a surprised yelp as a mixture of thick oily slop, bright blue liquid and hissing gas poured over them, dropping their guns. She immediately took advantage of that, taking the weapons in her magic and rushing off with them while the two wiped the gunk from their eyes; by the time they recovered enough to chase her, she’d be long gone...and armed..

She could barely keep the satisfied smirk from her face as she heard the shouting of the mercenaries she'd left behind. Whatever’s keeping me from being caught? I hope it’ll continue until I can rendezvous with Simon, she mused.

As she made a mad dash through the endless halls and corridors yet another avenue for escape was foolishly opened by one of her mercenary pursuers. Still uncomfortable with using the weapons on her opponents, Rarity used the brief lull of surprise to close the gap and made a quick swipe across the alien’s knees with the heavier pistol, hefting it as a cudgel. The strike crumpled the attacker’s joints, causing it to topple over, shouting in pain, and allowing her to gallop away.

Darting into another narrow hall, she found a large reptilian creature armed with what looked to be a cannon of some kind. It let out a hiss as it pulled the trigger, sending a large net flying through the air towards her. With another burst of magic, the Unicorn rebuked the net and sent it flying back towards her opponent. It wrapped itself around the hulking reptile and then blasted him with a burst of electricity. The monstrous alien let out a loud shriek of pain before it collapsed on the ground. Smirking proudly to herself, Rarity continued to race through the halls towards her supposed freedom.

"Simon," she said into her comlink between heavy breaths,"if you're there, I've hit a small spot of trouble. Now I'm not saying I need help darling, but if you're free at the moment then it would not go underappreciated."

Turning another corner, she could see another set of stairs, and shortly after that, the words HANGAR BAY 14. The Aurbesh wording made her heart soar. Despite the growing pain in her legs and the throbbing pain in her head from using so much magic, she breathed a happy sigh of relief, feeling the sensation of hope. "Good news darling, just about there now," she happily chirped into the com. "If I might be so bold, you should ready the ship to leave as soon as I'm aboard. There are still more than a few cut throats after me and-" All of this was snatched away when something stole the floor out from under her hooves.

Rarity went into a tumbled across the metal grates of the floor, filling the air with loud clanging, both from her and her “cargo”. Pain filled her body: from running blindly for so long, from pushing her magic so much and now the pain from hitting the floor with what felt like every inch of her body. When she finally came to a stop she could see what had caused her fall. On the ground before her was a weapon she recognized all too well, the blaster that belonged to Simon. She could feel her heart starting to sink into the pit of her stomach.

"Simon?" Rarity breathed in worry. "Oh, Celestia no."


What at one point had been a nightclub was now a broken and sundered warzone as Ubese killer and Sith warriors exchanged blow after blow. What had briefly been a fight in Vrax's favor was now quickly becoming a fight just to stay alive. The Sith had very quickly become wise to his skills at close range and now kept him fighting defensively at a distance with wave after wave of debris, and thanks to the earlier chaos and combat, they were not wanting for ammunition to use against the stocky foe.

Once more, Vrax barreled through the barrage to close the gap with his opponents - and once again, the floor beneath his feet cracked and shattered with a burst of Force energy. And once again, he was sent hurtling through the air. He swung his trophy saber around like a madman, swatting at the swarm of debris that they threw at him, and while a few of his chaotic swipes managed to strike true, he was again hammered by the debris storm. This was brought to a stop when he slammed backwards into a wall, his body smashing through the cheaply-purchased material and offering little cushioning to him.

Quickly righting himself, Vrax could see that he was in the kitchen of the neighboring establishment. He eyed one of the pipes that connected to a still-burning stove and an idea quickly snapped into place in his mind. Knowing that the Sith would eventually pursue even at the risk of an ambush, he did not wait long to ready himself for what was surely coming. Turning off the saber, he started using the hilt like a hammer and knocked a portion of the pipe loose. A loud hiss escaped as the gaseous contents of the pipe started to escape and fill the area. With all of his might, he forced the leaking end of the pipe to point itself at the hole he entered the room from.


All manner of horrible thoughts entered Rarity's head at the thought of her comrade's fate. She was given little time to explore these when the sound of footfalls started to come from the hallway she'd just left. Rarity told herself that she would mourn if necessary when she was safely off this space station. Turning to make the climb to the hangar bays she found herself bumping into a large black solid wall.

After falling back a few feet, she was able to see that it was less of a wall that she had hit and more of a person that was built like a wall. Rarity looked up into the emotionless visor that glared daggers at her and sent a chill down her spine. Before she could react another pair of brigands blocked her only path for escape.

“Looks like the end of the line girly,” chuckled a man that looked to be part-human and part-machine.

“Dibs,” a younger humanoid growled, levelling his blaster.

Rarity's mind reached out, quickly mapping the locations of the other two blasters, as well as the additional one underneath her clothing. Her mind then wandered back to that dark day in Canterlot, and how in a flash of light so many lives had been ended and turned into charred corpses. Then how close her own rage and anger had nearly forced her to take a life that day. Her heart slowed to a crawl and her body nearly trembled at the thought of what she might have to do now. But even with the addition of the three blasters at her disposal, she was outgunned, out-armored, and they had their weapons pointing at her already, and unless they were bad shots - and they likely wouldn't be mercenaries if they were - they would pull the trigger long before she could even aim her weapons.

The odds in her mind started to improve just a bit when she glanced back at Simon's discarded blaster; by some small miracle, when she tripped over it, it angled in such a way that placed it right into position. A plan quickly formed in her head: It was foalish, risky and completely insane, but it just might save her flank. She'd need to be fast and precise, more importantly she couldn't hesitate. Corpses, burnt and charred. Every single move had to be done with a purpose. Pearl white fur stained red with the blood of the alien broken beneath her hooves, hate and rage boiling. If she hesitated or was off by even a hair, she was dead.

Her horn's magic flared brightly until it was a blinding pitch forcing the others to shield their eyes. She used this distraction and reached out with her magic to take hold of the blaster on the ground. Likewise her magical aura reached out to the other blasters as well. She bared her teeth and held her breath while flashes of a home and loved ones she might never see again started to flash in her mind, followed by another remnant of a thought:

His smile, he actually looked rather handsome when he smiled.

The hall was suddenly filled with the sounds of blaster fire and the smell of ozone.


“Little bastard,” the Sith woman growled after Vrax did not emerge from the hole he’d left in the wall. The pair of Sith stood their ground in anticipation for the Ubese’s continued fruitless attacks against them. But instead he had refused to return to the battle that he’d egged them into.

“He’s been able to hide himself from us,” her companion commented. “This zi-cha’ar of his has masked him from the Force. Perhaps he’s used this as a chance to escape with his life?”

“No, this Vrax doesn’t strike me as a coward,” she replied. “A fool, yes, but not a coward. If anything he’ll have some kind of trap set up for us.”

With a sneer, her fellow Sith motioned towards the broken wall. Under his will and command, the Force roiled forth like an angry wave, picking up everything in its path. It crashed through the wall and tore it apart all the more. They could clearly see the kitchen beyond get torn asunder by the blow.

“Hmph, that should deal with his trap,” the male Sith said with a chuckle. Without a second thought the Sith warrior darted towards the opening. His hate, rage and growing bloodlust fueled his power within the Dark Side and granted him inhuman speed. If the alien was foolish enough to remain, then he would soon be dead. But these plans came to a horrific halt the moment he stepped into the room.

Unfortunately for him, Vrax had been patient, waiting with supreme patience while the Sith idiots tore the room apart with the Force. At the first sign of either of the Darksiders he ignited both of his stolen sabers and brought the blades against one another, sending crackling sparks in all directions, including, most importantly right in front of the broken pipe aimed at the hole.

In a burst of heat and burning air, the gas that had been spraying from it was ignited. The Sith that had entered the room was soon awash in a wave of fire that seared his clothes and skin with agonizing effectiveness.

"Burn Sithspawn, burn," Vrax roared over the screams of his victim.


Rarity had barely moved the blasters when the pair of men down the hall from her fell to the ground in a heap. She stood there, frozen and confused while several smoking holes dotted their bodies.

As the electromist slowly cleared from the area, she looked back and noticed a large, armored figure standing over her while a small plume of smoke rose from the barrel of the weapon.

"Nice trick with the horn," it said in a heavily distorted voice. “Unfortunately, you missed one.” The figure turned to show another alien, who by the looks of it had intended to sneak up on the unicorn and drive a vibroblade into the back of her skull. “Fortunately for you, I took care of it.”

"Um, yes, well, thank you," she replied cautiously and still keeping a telekinetic grip on the blasters. "Not to sound too ungrateful darling, but just who are you?"

"Oh, right, the armor." With a loud hiss of escaping air, the hulking armored figure pulled off its helmet and let a mess of dark raven hair spill out just past the shoulder. The soft contours of the face hinted that she was in fact a woman, and a few telltale scars dotted her face showed soemone with wide experience and strength in combat. She beamed with a warm friendly smile that made her emerald green eyes shine brightly and quickly conjured the memory of photo Rarity had seen before.

"Name's Kaily Ortell,” the woman said in a cocky tone that wouldn't have sounded out of place had it been voiced by Rainbow Dash. “I'm here to rescue you."

Rarity sat there as this new shock started to settle in on her brain. "You're Simon's sister?"

"Oh, good, he told you about me already," she said with a chuckle. "Was worried this would be one'a those long awkward explanation deals. Anyways, a one-armed Jedi told me he was trying to find me, then I heard about this big hunt Vrax was on to find him. So I figured I'd follow along and save my loser brother's hide."

"I'm afraid you're a bit late on that last bit," Rarity said as she levitated the blaster towards her. "It would appear that Simon has already been taken."

"Jeez, can't go ten seconds without me needing to save him."

"Oh, believe me I'm well aware of that feeling,” Rarity added with a wry smile.


With a wave of her hand and an extension of her will, the Sith woman pulled her companion literally out of the fire. With another application of the Force the flames eating away at his body were scattered away leaving his bubbled and charred flesh. His breathing was ragged and labored but life still clung to his blackened, decimated body.

“You realize we can’t do this forever right?” Vrax called to her from behind his fiery blockade. “It’s only a matter of time before the station’s security force comes in and starts shooting. What do you say we cut our losses, you take your wounded friend and I take that mystery crate?”

“You little sleemo,” she hissed at him. “Do you think I’d be foolish enough to turn my back on you, Ubese!?”

“Depends, you willing to gamble your crispy buddy’s life on it?” Vrax shot back at her. “C’mon Sith Witch, how long’s he got left in him after that warm welcome that I gave him?”

She glared daggers at the fire separating her from the alien that dared to strike her and her fellow Sith. Now he dared to dictate terms of surrender to her? Rage and hate filled her veins, bubbling throughout her entire being at the thought of submitting to this lesser life form and his lies. Her grip on the hilt of her saber tightened like a vice as the thought burned her from the inside out. She brought her saber up and with one swift stab she impaled her wounded companion through the chest, ending his life. Reaching out with the Force, she took her now dead compatriot’s saber and ignited it alongside her own.

“Now I have no burden to slow my hand, Ubese,” she cackled.

Through the fire, Vrax tumbled out into the open, igniting both sabers, the gray-hued blades lancing into the air. “Fine by me, I don’t like loose ends either.”

The pair squared off silently, each one taking measure of the other’s stance while weighing their options and chances. Every subtle movement from one was matched by something similar from the other as they sought to fill in whatever gap the other had found. In the distance the sounds of sirens and shouting from outside could be heard even from the wreckage of this facility yet to the two fighters it was given no mind. Death would come swift and this would end now.

In the space of a single breath they hurled themselves at one another. The Sith once again drawing from her boundless hatred and rage to pull herself forward. On the other end, Vrax lacked the advantages that the Force granted his opponent, but what he did have was training and skill. He shut himself off from everything but his enemy, and nothing else mattered to him; he moved on pure instinct and reflex, a finely-hewed killing machine.

When they met at the halfway point, both swung their weapons with full intent to kill the other. A bated breath later, they stood completely still, face to face with their sabers poised from where they had come to a stop after the strike. Time stood still until finally one of them moved. The darkside woman’s arms dropped to her sides, her eyes glazing over and legs going limp. Her chest fell one final time as she fell to her knees and continued to stare blankly straight ahead while a still-glowing gash down her chest as well as a hole where her heart used to be continued to smoke and smolder.

Another loud THUMP sounded in the now mostly silent room before Vrax stumbled backwards. A waft of smoke rose up from where his left arm used to be. The soft glow from the energy burn faded away and left behind only charred blackened flesh. He gripped the stump tightly with his right hand and screamed in pain and rage for his lost limb. If not for the seal around his helmet then he might have been exposed to the deadly oxygen-filled air. But this fact did little to dull the agony that now filled his entire being.

Taking several labored breaths, he forced himself to calm down since the security forces were right outside. The healthy sum of credits he'd left with their boss at least granted him enough time to escape but it would be some time before he could afford to make any return visits. That is, until after he cashed in-

It was then that Vrax noticed that the case traded to the Sith had gone missing.

"No," he wheezed through his voice modulator. "NO!"

With a healthy dose of anger and pain, the Ubese began stumbling about the decimated room, knocking anything in his way to the side. He turned over every inch he could while shouting over and over. "Where is it!?"

Finally giving in to his rage, he turned on the Sith woman's corpse, still on her knees. The soul of his boot met the side of her face sending the limp body toppling across the room like a rag doll where it landed in a heap. "Where is it you schuta!? Where's the karking case!?"

"Boss, you still there?” the voice of Vrax's henchman stopped him before his temper could flare any higher.

"Ulmar, this had better be damn good news," Vrax warned him.

"Sorry boss, but the station's bigwigs are saying we gotta go, now.

"The other case?"

"No dice..."

"You're making it very hard not to kill you right now Ulmar."

"Got one bit'a good news though," Ulmar nervously replied. "We picked up someone I'm sure you'll be wanting to have a few words with."

A hungry grin began to tug the sides of Vrax's mouth beneath his mask. "Meet me at airlock five, top level. And get the damned medical droid up and running."


"Zee, can you hear me?" Rarity shouted into the com in a near panic. As she'd hoped the unknowable whistling of the robot on the other side chirped back at her. "Darling, prepare the ship for immediate launch and track my signal. Simon has been taken and we haven't a moment to waste!"

Ahead of her, the heavily-armored and imposing figure of Kaily Ortell led their charge with unyielding resolve. One unlucky lowlife attempted to get in their way and was quickly greeted with a solid blow from her shoulder plate. The force of the blow practically flattened the alien against the wall, knocking the air and sense out of him.

“C’mon, Vrax’s ship should be right through here,” Kaily called back to her while she elbowed another unfortunate lowlife getting in their way.

When the door slid open a wave of heat washed over the two of them. The engines of the semi-circular ship roared to life as it started to shift and move. It spun around to face the shimmering field that kept the deadly void at bay before it blasted away sending a shockwave through Kaily and Rarity.

“No, no, no, no!” Rarity shouted as the ship flew away.

Kaily quickly hit the comlink on her wrist. “Zee, get the ship to our position now!”

Within moments the Meaningless Venture burst its way into the hangar bay and dropped its gangway. The moment Rarity and Kaily boarded it fired its engines and shot out into space. The pair made a fast b-line for the cockpit where the astromech R8-Z7 was already plugged into the main console and franticly whistling to them. Their view shifted and darted about until Vrax's ship came into view just as it detached from the upper level of that station.

"Zee, patch me into the firing controls," Kaily ordered while taking a seat at the helm.

"But, your brother, he's aboard that ship," Rarity quickly objected.

"I'm only going to disable them," she assured her. "Gonna lock onto their main reactor. Cut off their power supply and they won't be able to jump."

While Kaily adjusted and toyed with the controls before her, the main gun atop of the ship shifted about. The dark-haired mercenary focused intently at the screen in front of her as she continued to draw a bead on her target. Behind her, Rarity bit down on her lip while worry and dread swelled up inside of her.

"C'mon Zee, keep her steady just a little longer," Kaily pleaded.

Everything happened in the blink of an eye. Kaily's finger tightened around the trigger and the ship's gun roared with a burst of energy fire. Thick red bolts of devastating energy were let loose upon their enemy's ship, but the ship was no longer there. The moment the shots were fired, Vrax's ship made the jump to hyperspace.

"NO!" Kaily roared when her target vanished. "Zee, plot a course - I want us on their shebs, NOW!"

"Simon," Rarity breathed out in disbelief at the empty void in front of her. After everything that had happened, after all the pain and misery, in the blink of an eye her companion throughout it all was ripped away from her. She looked on slack-jawed as if this was some horribly-played prank, but then soon realized this was no cruel jape: not even the pranking twins of Rainbow and Pinkie would be this cruel.

Numb to the world around her, she barely heard Kaily's loud shouts and curses or Zee's frantic chiming and whistling. Everything slowed to a crawl around her and her head felt light. Simon Ortell, her friend, was now in the clutches of murderous cutthroat that would no doubt waste little time in either torturing him or possibly outright killing him. Her heart sank into the pit of her stomach. From the corner of her eye she spied the case that she had managed to escape with and suddenly she could feel a spark of hope.

I’m going to get you back, Simon, Rarity vowed, her eyes narrowing with a sudden anger that came from nowhere. I swear as the Element of Generosity, we’ll get you back.

She then turned to look at the four blasters, all set on the floor. Reaching over to take one in her hooves, she held it with a firm intent. Had she been more familiar with weapons, she would’ve identified it as an antique EB-11, modified for modern technology. Had she realized that she had a century-old weapon in her hands, she would’ve comprehended that whomever she took it from had a worthy treasure, indeed.

But all she saw it for, was a key: a key to rescuing Simon. A smile more akin to her pegasus friend came onto Rarity’s face as she thought, Whoever took Simon? I’m coming for you. And as Generosity, I will be generous with what I have to give you…

...I’m just not sure you’re going to like it.

Black Luster Blues: Final Verse

The first rays of soft morning light pushed their way through the lacey white curtains of the room. Simon reluctantly cracked his eyes open and took in the lavishly decorated room around him and the soft plush bed he lay on. A shift in weight drew his attention to the purple-maned white unicorn that crawled her way into the bed. Rarity stared at him with half-lidded eyes that gleamed with hunger and desire as she closed the gap with a painfully slow pace. With a smirk, she draped herself around his shoulders and brought her snout teasingly close to his lips.

“Ortell,” she breathed out in a low, husky voice.

He felt her warm breath and smelled that sweet, flowery perfume. The smuggler sensed his heart race and desire rise when she inched her lips closer to his. Licking his lips in anticipation, he moved to meet hers when everything fell apart.

Simon’s eyes snapped open to find he was sitting in a rather uncomfortable metal chair. Pain shot ran through his arms starting at the binders around his wrists. The taste of warm copper filled his mouth while the side of his face began to numb and drive out the sharp hurt. His eyes just barely began to adjust when he came to realize that he was in a dimly lit room surrounded by cargo boxes and snickering mercenaries. At the center of it all was a face, or rather, mask that sent an icy chill through his entire core: Vrax.

“Heeeeey there, Ortell,” he greeted him warmly with that harsh, gravelly voice. “Sleep well, I hope?”

“Vrax,” Simon replied in a groggily, “I was just having the best dream about your mom and a bottle of Corellian Blue."

The smuggler couldn't help but start laughing at his own joke while all those in the room simply moved away from Vrax. But instead of flying into a rage, the Ubese started laughing along with his captive. What started as a few light-hearted chuckles quickly rose into boisterous laughter shared between the two outlaws. Vrax was still laughing happily when the metal appendage connected to his left arm launched forth and sank a set of three thick claws into Simon's side. Simon froze up while pain shot through his entire body and a warm sensation ran down his side. Vrax was still laughing in his face when the claws were yanked free.

"Oh, sorry about that, Ortell," he said while still snickering. "See, I'm still on a loooooot of painkillers. I guess I got a bit carried away," Vrax brought the claw up to Simon's face so he could see it better. "See that Force bitch you went to meet with kiiiiiinda cut off my arm when I cut out her heart. To top it off, we didn't really have any fancy sleek prosthetics laying around, so I settled for this combat droid arm. What do you think, suits me, right?"

Simon didn't respond, only slumping his chair while the three puncture wounds in his side continued to drain needed lifeblood. Through his blurring vision he could see a pool of red starting to form at his feet while his head became rather light.

"Uuuuh, boss," one of the henchmen spoke up. "Maybe we should..."

"Oooooh, right," Vrax nodded in agreement and waved over the bipedal medical droid. "Patch him up, so I can hurt him again, would ya?"

While the mechanized construct saw to Simon's wound, shrill beeping drew the gangster's attention. He produced a small disc-shaped device from his pocket that when activated created the small holographic image of an annoyingly familiar Unicorn. A Unicorn who looked more than a little irate at the moment.

"Vrax," she hissed at him,"I believe you have something that belongs to me."

"Well how about that," Vrax asked with a heavy taste of poison in his tone. "Sure looks like the game has suddenly changed. Tell me, how does it feel to be on the other side and to have what you want so far out of your reach?"

"Where is Simon?" Rarity barked at him. "I know you have him."

"You're not in a position to make threats," Vrax growled at her.

“Darling, I’m a lady - I don’t make threats...only statements.” Rarity levitated one of the supposed lost cases into view of the holo-projector. "Besides, I have sufficient capital to make any comment, threats included if I so wish, that I desire. Show him to me, now."

"Alright, but I gotta warn you: I think we might have voided the warranty a bit," the Ubese said as he brought Simon into view of his own holo-projector. "There, your boyfriend is alive and in slight disrepair. How long he stays this way is up to you."

"Simon!" Rarity gasped at the sight of her beaten companion. "Vrax, you heartless degenerate fiend!"

"Heartless?" he asked, bringing the camera back to face him. "How dare you insult me when I go out of my way to have his wounds patched up? If that's the way you're going to be, then maybe I should just start pulling those stitches out strand by strand while you watch."

He made sure that she could see everything he was doing, tilting the projector to get just the right angle where she could see him playfully tug on a freshly sown spot on his torso. Playfully the gangster tugged at the medical grade string and forced lovely pained noises to leave his victim's throat. All the while, Vrax kept a careful eye on Rarity's expression, a wonderful mixture of anger and worry.

"Stop it," she screamed at him.

"For now," Vrax growled after he stopped his bit of torture. "But keep this in mind: I'll do far worse than those paltry scratches, unless you give me that case."

"Don't," Simon groaned. "Just run..."

"To where?" Vrax asked with an amused snort. "Where's the little uplifted alien going to run and hide that I won't find her? Back home to her friends and family, surrounded by all those big scary Mandalorians? How long do you think it'll take me to find one that's willing to sell his loyalty long enough to bring her to me beaten and bloody? Her entire stupid race threw in with that galaxy's most notorious mercenaries. Throw enough credits at them and all that talk of loyalty and family will go out the window eventually. Oh wait, I know, why not go back to your old friend Lorn? I'm sure it won't take me long to find his shop or even kill an elderly Sullustan. Oh, right, you were hoping I would know about the geezer right? You really do know how drag your friends down with you, don't you Ortell?"

"I want to make a deal," Rarity said in a low defeated tone.

"Rarity..." Simon pleaded.

"You want this blasted case don't you?" Rarity asked. "Then please, just return Simon to me alive and in one piece, swear to leave us alone and it's yours."

"Sounds reasonable," Vrax agreed. "Keep in mind, he might be a little...scuffed...when you get him back.”

Harm another hair on his head and so help me….” Rarity hissed at him.

“Or you’ll what,” Vrax shot back at her. “Space the crate? Go right ahead, I’ll be sure to send you copy of his death vid, I’ll even make sure it’s nice and slow just for you.”

Rarity’s expression began to crack and break. “Please, Vrax, I just want Captain Ortell back… if the case is what you want, then fine, take the blasted thing! Just give him back.

Vrax looped an arm around Simon’s shoulders and pulled him close. “Ya hear that Ortell? Your woman wants to save your sorry hide! Ain’t that just the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?”

“Go to hell,” Simon managed to grumble between labored breaths.

The Ubese roughly messed the broken man’s hair with his metallic claw before shoving him aside. “Bah, you’re not much for this mushy stuff are you? Alright, Force Witch, you got a deal, the worthless smuggler for the mystery case.”

"I'm glad we could reach an agreement," Rarity replied with a forced smile. "Now, if you could just send us the coordinates-"

"Not so fast," the mangled gangster was quick to interject. "There were two cases and you've only proven that you have one of them. If you intend to give me half my prize then I'm afraid that'll only get you half this piece of space trash."

"Now see here," Rarity barked at him. "The other case was in your possession at the time of our egress. If it has been lost then the responsibility of such an action falls upon you, Vrax. Besides, how do we even know you don't already have the second case with you and this is just an excuse to waste time and justify a thinly veiled excuse to continue harming my companion?"

"Simple," Vrax replied through a snarl while his new metal claw tapped at the side of his leg. "You don't. Simon Ortell's life for both of the cases, it's that simple. Now, I'd scurry off back to Black Luster if I was you; no telling who's got that box by now."


As the holo-projector went dark Rarity let fly a long collection of curses that had been building up in her head. Some were from her beloved Equestria while many more were little bits of local flavor she'd picked up from the various aliens she'd been dealing with. With her rage boiling over, the normally composed fashionista slammed her hoof into the console and let out an angry shout. She could feel the eyes of her companions upon her as the haze of anger started to lift away from her mind. Looking over her shoulder, she noted the stoic Kaily sizing her up with her arms crossed over her armor plated chest. In the corner, she could see R8-Z7 beeping and chirping in a low sad tone as his domed head shook back and forth.

"Harchak I say to his little errand," Kaily boldly said with a snort. "Let's just track him down and put a few dozen blaster bolts through his head."

"If we rush in, he'll simply kill Simon on the spot," Rarity was quick to remind her.

"So your plan is to play his game," Kaily asked with a scoff. "That second case could be halfway to the core worlds by now if someone picked it up. And like you said, there's no guarantee that Vrax doesn't already have it and he just wants an excuse to screw with us."

"I don't think he was lying," Rarity admitted. "For a man that wears a mask at all times he had a very obvious tell and when you work in sales and deals you tend to spot these things. His claw was tapping away at his leg when I asked him about the other case."

"Great, so we're going back to the space station we just shot up," Kaily said with a chuckle.

"Technically the only thing I shot was a pipe or two, darling," Rarity corrected her. "But you're correct: I'd imagine that the authorities will not be pleased to see us return."

"Considering that they're probably getting a few kickbacks from that little nerf karker," Kaily pointed out. "I wouldn't be surprised if this was all one big trap."

"Perhaps," Rarity agreed. "However, Vrax has been very hoofs on since we started dealing with him. If this was a trap he'd be there waiting to savor the moment. No, while this certainly will be a most difficult task, any interference we encounter will be from those that believe themselves earning their master's favor with our capture, not through Vrax."

"Well ain't you just got all the answers," Kaily replied with a brash smirk plastered across her face. "All them big words make me feel like this just might work, so let's go do this before I wise up."

Z7 let out a loud happy chirp and quickly rolled himself into the cockpit. The reenergized droid wasted no time in plugging himself into the console and taking control of the ship. It quickly dropped out of hyperspace and made an about face before an explosion of speed sent them hurtling into the blueshifting tunnel once more.


Sure enough, the station's security was on much higher alert than when they'd left it. An assortment of various aliens were now patrolling the halls in force, all them garbed in the same cheaply-made uniform armor and armed with an equally random collection of weapons.

The majority of the influx of protection was centered around what had at one point been the upper level's most lucrative nightclub as well as the neighboring restaurant. From the concealment of an access hatch across the promenade, the fully armored Kaily Ortell and far less armored Rarity were able to watch the authorities go about their business. While Kaily had the benefit of her visor's zoom function, Rarity had to rely on a pair of electrobinoculars that she hovered in front of her face. As a number of bodies were brought out on hover gurneys one piece of evidence caught Kaily's attention: One of the officers holding up a pair of metallic hilts and questioning his commanding officer about the objects.

"No way," she breathed out. "Those are karking lightsabers. Why are there lightsabers?"

"Our robbed friends came equipped with them," Rarity quietly informed her.

"What was the blade color," Kaily asked with a strange ring of fear in her voice.

"Red," the Unicorn beside her replied as she continued her surveillance.

"You guys got mixed up with freaking Sith," Kaily hissed under her breath.

"I'm afraid I'm not entirely familiar with the group," Rarity replied while still not looking up at the bulky human. "But they were a most dreadful collection of characters. I've never felt a chill run down my horn and spine like that before."

Just then she noticed something that nearly made her jaw hit the floor. Exactly what they had been waiting for: the missing crate. In his haste to flee the station Vrax had left it behind and now it was in the care of Black Luster's security forces. The Unicorn's mind raced and time slowed to a crawl as she tried to think up a plan on the spot. Kaily and Simon both said it: these were no officers of the law, merely hired guns that kept the peace as their buyers saw fit. And one of those buyers was Vrax. No doubt he'd be given the case or at least contacted about its whereabouts the moment they were away with it. She only had this window of opportunity to change the outcome in her favor. And that's when a plan hit her.

She levitated Simon's lost com-link from within her coat and with careful precision she used her magic hurl it across the open ground towards the case. Her face scrunched up in concentration as she pushed her magical reach to its limits and beyond, ducking and darting the little device in and out of cover as she tried to reach the box. A few beads of sweat formed on her brow as the strain and pressure of such a task started to weigh heavily upon her. Finally it gently found its target and with a quiet little click it fastened itself to the underside of the crate. Rarity let out a quiet thank you to goddesses as she nearly collapsed upon the metal grate below her.

A large metal hand clasped the back of her neck with a gentle pat. "Not bad, not bad at all. Nice having Force Magic to back ya up."

"Well," she said through a string of heavy breaths. "It wasn't much really, but I dare say that even Twilight Sparkle would be impressed by that small feat."


"You hear about that good-looking tailhead down on Sub-Sector Eight?" one of the guardsmen asked his companion as they road down deeper into the bowels of the space station. A number of boxes marked evidence sat on a hover trolley in between them.

"The one with those green markings down her lekkus," his companion asked with a grin. "What about her?"

"Word from up top is that she's been helping those new Spice pushers set up shop down below," he told him. "Chief wants us to pay her a visit and make sure she remembers who's in charge around here."

"Tch, about time," he replied. "Those dealers think they're such hot poodoo coming to our station and setting up shop like that."

"And not even giving us our cut," his friend interjected. "Now that's just bad manners, we're gonna need to teach these punks a lesson in how things are run here on Black Luster."

"Speaking of which, any idea why the sergeant was so hot to get this box to storage," the other asked. "I mean not everything makes it to evidence, but with the way he lit up you'd think it was his Life Day present or something."

"Above our paygrade - that’s all you gotta know," was his partner’s even reply.

When the turbolift doors slid open with a loud hiss, a heavily-armored fist slammed into the lead officer‘s face. While the sound of metal crushing bone filled the air, his companion was given just as little quarter to react to this when a metal grate suspended in blue energy smashed into the side of his head.

The pair were left sprawled out on the floor by the ambush while Rarity and Kaily stood triumphantly over their unconscious bodies. Between the now resting guardsmen the evidence container and the seemingly all important crate laid there before them. "Told we could catch them in time," Kaily stated as she started to gather their target item.

"Yes, well, imagine how impressed I was when you managed to fit through that vent," Rarity replied while keeping an eye out down the corridors behind them.

"A crack about my size, really?" even with the voice modulation it was easy to spot the annoyance in Kaily's voice. "Do you talk to my brother like this, too?"

"Oh no," she quickly responded with a touch of bemusement. "My banter with your brother has been known to reach rather marathon stature. According to a number of tabloids we may be setting a galactic record."

"Tch, always figured he'd settle in with a smart ass like himself," the bulky mercenary said while she strapped the container to her back. "I know I'm hard to find but least you two could've done is dropped me a line about it."

This statement clearly caught Rarity by surprise and caused her to do a double-take looking rather a gasp. "I beg your pardon?"

"Look, don't worry about it," Kaily replied as she started checking around the halls with her blaster at the ready. "I know my brother plays everything close to the chest, so I'm not even mad. Hell, you seem like a decent enough girl, probably keep him grounded pretty well I'd guess. I'm gonna guess he talked you down from some big ceremony and bringing in a ton of friends and family and just doing something small and low key. If ya want, after we save his sorry sheb I can twist his arm get you whatever dream wedding you actually wanted with the louse."

It took Rarity nearly a full minute to process all of this. During this time her jaw sat firmly on the floor between her forelegs while she stared in disbelief at the powerful young woman listing out her assumptions. The mare bristled slightly at all of this: of all the foalish ideas! Her, married to a scruffy space jockey like him? The very thought clearly disgusted her to the point where her heart skipped a beat and a deep crimson pushed through the white fur of her cheeks.

"Hey," a playful shove from Kaily knocked her out of this stupor. "C'mon, I'm just fooling with ya. Simon's way too much of an idiot when it comes to women to ever land a wife."

Rarity gave her an annoyed look before agreeing with the statement. As they were about to leave however something in caught the mare's sharp eye. During the scuffle the lid to the evidence container had been knocked off and laying there on top of a number of randomly collected bits of importance was a pair of metallic hilts. She gave the weapons a close look, it was hard to believe that they could cause as much damage as she'd seen and heard about. They were truly elegant and devastating weapons. As Kaily called for her to follow, Rarity finally ripped her attention away from the box containing a lightsaber hilt.


Simon was having anything but a good day. Granted, it had started out in what was becoming a rather typical fashion: filled with blaster fire and death threats. Lately though, things have certainly started to escalate, a fact that quickly entered his mind when one of his captors roughly shoved him into the wall. His captors had made it no mystery that he was anything but welcomed on this ship but they had at least patched up the majority of his injuries. Unfortunately for Simon they hadn’t been kind enough to leave him with any of his tools otherwise he would have already been out of the binder cuffs that kept his arms restrained behind his back. Just as he was starting to recover the henchman that was escorting him roughly shoved him further along.

“C’mon punk,” his guard snarled at him. “I ain’t got all night to waste on you.”

In a quick act of defiance, Simon hurled himself backwards into the far larger and fitter man behind him. The smuggler’s smaller form slammed ineffectively into the broad wide chest of his keeper whom didn’t even budge an inch. Simon cautiously looked up to meet the gaze of the henchman he’d just tried to assault and was met with a rueful glare which the spacer countered with a wide awkward grin. A fat, meaty hand clasped him around the back of his neck and hoisted him into the air. Simon’s legs kicked at the air as he was sent tumbling further down the corridor and tumbling across the metal grating of the floor.

“You must really have a thing for getting your butt kicked, Ortell,” the henchman commented with a smirk.

“Maybe I’m just biding my time,” Simon replied with a grunt. “That way it’s that much more impressive when I turn the tables on guys like you.”

A boot slammed into his gut yet again with a great deal of force behind the blow. “Somehow I have my doubts about that.”

Simon gasped for air and curled himself up on the floor following an instinct to hide his exposed underbelly to his attacker. He continued to cough and wheeze long after his jailer left the tiny room and locked the door behind him. Once his senses started to return to him a smirk started to stretch across Simon’s face when he slipped the vibro-knife he’d taken from his violent captor out from his sleeve. The tricky smuggler pulled himself into a sitting position and began pressing the now-vibrating blade into the connecting band on his binder cuffs.


I have to admit, I had my doubts I’d be hearing from you again,” the hologram of Vrax said to the Unicorn. “This where you admit you couldn’t find it and then beg for more time?”

Rarity was stone faced as she stared into the visor of the Ubese gangster. Her horn lit up with a blue aura as she hoisted both security containers up for Vrax to see. She continued to glare at the tiny image of the alien, even through his expressionless visor she could see the wheels in his head turning.

I suppose I stand corrected,” Vrax admitted. “Bring your ship to-“

“No,” Rarity interrupted him.

Really,” Vrax hissed in response. “I suppose you don’t care about what I do to Simon then?”

“And you must think me a foal blindly follow you into what is obviously a trap. No darling, I think I’d rather not place my neck in your latest noose. Instead, you’ll be bringing Simon to a location of my choosing and you’ll be coming there alone. Unless you’d rather I dumped both of these cases into the first sun I happen to swing past.”

Vrax glared at her through his environmental mask as he tried to break the equine before him. The metal claws of his prosthetic arm clicked together as he defiantly let her demand go unanswered. With an angry growl he finally relented to Rarity. “Fine, Witch, we’ll do this part your way. But only if it’s in a public place, I’d rather not walk into your trap either.”

“Agreed,” Rarity happily replied. “I will contact you within the hour with the location.”

Her hoof tapped the console in front of her and cut off the transmission. With the feed cut she let out a long held breath and nearly collapsed on the ground with a sigh. Her attention snapped to Kaily when she felt her hand pat the back of her neck.

“Not bad,” Kaily said, praising the Unicorn for her ingenuity. “Now that we got Vrax dancing to our tune, what’s the next move?”

“I wish I knew, darling,” she said with a sigh. “Things are in our favor for the time being but that can easily change if we don’t make the right move from this point.”

“So where are we taking this deal?”

The mare shook her head as she began to pace the common room. “I’m not sure. We can’t get him to return to my home planet, he’d never agree to place himself in blaster range of the Mandalorians and I can’t have him anywhere near my home and loved ones. If we go to some underworld planet or station he could easily bring them under his sway with a few well placed credits. We need someplace neutral that he can’t turn the tables against us.”

The mare took a seat upon one of the couches with a frustrated sigh and buried her face in the fabric. Kaily began busying herself with the computer as she listed off places they could face Vrax on equal footing but her words fell upon deaf, tired ears. Rarity’s gaze settled upon the crate she and Kaily had stolen back. This unassuming metal box that had caused both her and Simon so much trouble since Seraph gave it to them. Ever since it’d shown up she had been fighting for her life all across a dark uncaring galaxy. As she gazed upon the cargo container her ire and curiosity began to flare.

With a glow of her horn, she hoisted the box into the air and floated it across the room to her. Rarity took a moment to examine the device on the front of it but the electronic lock clearly had no intention of giving up the secrets of opening the latch. An idea formed in her head: it was rather unconventional but it could work in theory. Her face scrunched up in concentration as she focused her magic upon the inner workings of the device. With a bit more effort she finally managed to force the latch to unlock. Rarity smirked with satisfaction at her victory over the object.

Upon lifting the lid her feeling of joy quickly changed to fear and panic. When the lid opened a feeling of dread and terror rushed into her body with a force that choked the air from her lungs. She let out a scream and slammed the lid shut, the lock clicked into place much to her relief. As she panted and forced down gasps of air she could see that her panic attack had not gone unnoticed.

“Yo, you alright?” Kaily asked her with a curious brow.

“I… I think so,” Rarity replied and wiped a few beads of sweat from her brow.

“What was that about?”

“That box,” she said pointing a shaky hoof at it. “Whatever that is inside it is something dark, something malicious and hateful!”

“Makes sense,” Kaily admitted. “Sith don’t normally go looking for artifacts of fluffy cuddliness.”

“I don’t know what that it is in the box, but I know we can’t let Vrax or anypony else get their hooves on it. We need to get rid of that thing as fast as possible.”

“Great well, that’s pretty messed up,” Kaily agreed. “But since we still need it we’re gonna file that idea away for now m’kay?”

Rarity shot the mercenary an annoyed glare before finally regaining her composure. “Right then, we shall stay focused on the task at hoof. Where can we lure Vrax to that he can’t gain the advantage?”

Silence hung heavy in the room for a moment until Kaily finally chimed in. “I might know a place.”

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