Chapter 18

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Deejo slid confidently into his seat in his booth at Ashgo’s. Well, so maybe it wasn’t his booth, except in the honorary sense of the word. After a hard day’s work fixing taxi droids, this was his favorite place in the world. He glanced around with satisfaction: cheap ale, receptive dancers, smoking allowed. It didn’t get any better than this.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Paaja and Wadhi walk in the door. Motioning to the server, he bellowed, “Hey rust bucket, get me three Rodian ales. And put some stims in two of them for these lazy bums.”

Paaja grinned and flipped Deejo an obscenity, while Wadhi loud-mouthed “Yeah, and add some dermaplast to Deejo’s ale.  We’ll need a lot to stop that big mouth from flapping.”

Wadhi slid into the booth facing Deejo, while Paaja slid in next to Deejo. Paaja started in with his usual nervous energy, and said, “Hey, did you guys see that nut Krul on the streams? There’s another trial of his streaming right now.” Paaja tapped the booth screen, and thumbed his holocom to transfer the stream to the booth.

This wasn’t the way Deejo had intended to spend his time at Ashgo’s. “Come on Paaja, don’t make me watch this crap,” Deejo objected.  “Put on Universal Combat or something like that.”

“Nah - leave it,” Wadhi said, with uncharacteristic shortness.

“Fine.” Deejo conceded the point for now with a frustrated wave of his green sausaged hand. The server had arrived with their ales, and Deejo basked in the cool warmth of Rodian ale sliding down his esophagus.

The holostream displayed a wide-faced, corpulent Rodian, sitting in a pool of light. His face wore a lopsided, menacing grin of defiance. A shock collar encircled his neck, with prongs pointing toward his exposed skin. Across from the hostage sat a tall, gaunt Rodian with flaky skin.  Krul te Rosin.

Krul began, “Mining Captain Pawa Wanga, why don’t you tell us about the first time you falsified a safety test?”

“You think you can intimidate me?  Untie me and I’ll break your antennae for you--aarrgghh--”  Pawa clutched his shock collar in agony, the pain shooting down his nerves in sharp jolts that caused his entire body to lurch.

“We knew that you would be a pestilence, even to the end.  Do you see this shock collar control Pawa?” Krul dangled the device in front of Pawa’s twitching face.  “And do you see Jeelee Awootu over there, from your old mining crew? Jeelee has assured me that she would love nothing more than to play a symphony of pain on your shock collar.  Test me again, and she will get her chance to become a virtuoso.”

Pawa Wanga shook his head and tried to speak, but the shock affects had yet to work his way out of his nervous system.

“Tell us more about how you falsified dust tests by sampling in your office rather than in the mineshafts.  About how you confiscated safety equipment except when inspectors were on sight.  About how you refused to submit failing dust tests and fired anyone who refused to play by your rules.”

A deep guttural scoff croaked from Pawa Wanga’s throat. Pawa sneered and countered, “Tests created by bureacrats who can’t tell their head from a dung heap.  Mining is a dirty business.  It has been and always will be.  We’re diggin’ in the ground.  Guess what, there’s dust in the ground.  When you dig it up, it gets in the air.  Miners know this, and that’s why they get paid.  To do the dirty jobs other people don’t want to do.”

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