The Smuggler and the Princess

by DocDelray

Chapter 2: A simple job

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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.”

Next Chapter: Off to a rough start Estimated time remaining: 4 Hours, 23 Minutes
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