Chapter 19

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Til'trius accelerated down Nagobu Street on his aircycle, putting himself in the pulsing heart of downtown Iskaayuma’s tourist district. Sentient species filled the streets, waiting to enter restaurants, nightclubs, and concert halls. A large fountain at a major roundabout projected an enormous bluish holovid of the popular band Fuju Edranee jamming, who were scheduled to play that night.

The scene spoke to Til’trius: Despite what Krul does today, life goes right along without him. Terrorists assumed they drew a bigger, more attentive audience than they could ever get. The truth was no one likes being spoken at -- whether by a terrorist, the Premier, or even a god. Most were going to do their own thing, and were more determined to do so when others demanded they behave otherwise.

Only in dialogue and debate, true open-ended conversations, did people explore and sometimes convert to other’s opinions. Perverse injections of mining captains with parasites might shock an audience, but it would produce no lingering effect.

In front of the bar he needed to visit, Til'trius hopped off the aircycle and told it to park itself somewhere within tethering range.

Taking off his riding goggles and approaching the entrance, the text "Welcome Gryer," scrolled across his cyes. He sucked in slightly, taking note of his alias and running through his objectives: inspect the vehicles the ops team would use in the mines, pay that dirtbag Muru that Daniah had set him up with, and get out. A trivial but necessary errand that Commander Kenobi assigned him.

Time to get it over with.

As Til'trius stepped inside, the tile at his feet lit up and announced his presence. How fancy. Quite the signal for the hounds.

Sure enough, a posh-looking Rodian pimp glided over eagerly to see who had entered, and deflated when he saw Til'trius. Yes, yes... I'm a Bith. Go your merry way and bother someone else about backroom amenities. Til'trius formed a loop with left index finger and thumb, and thrusted his arm through it, waving it at the pimp. As the Rodian skulked away, it struck Til’trius how often people quantified one another in terms of the credits or pleasure they could provide. We’re often all bastards at heart.

Til'trius slipped through the crowd past the bar area, and admired the vast aquarium wall separating the bar from the lounge. Within the wall, phosphorescent jellies undulated brightly, their tendrils wafting along after them. After a brief pause, he walked down a short flight of steps to the sensationary lounge. Patrons lay in cots, sampling the mental experiences in vogue.

Near the front desk of the lounge was Muru Oja, speaking to a client. She was easy to spot: a corpulent turquoise Rodian, diminutive only by Hutt standards. Additionally, her eyes had been completely replaced with hardware -- a less common augmentation, but Til'trius had seen it done before. Til'trius pinged her with a cye alert. Muru nodded in his direction, raising one suckered finger.

Til'trius plopped down on a velvet waiting area bench, and turned to observe the people mingling in the lounge: some eating food, browsing sensationary kiosks, others immersed in experiences with their neuralware. Background ID programs pushed identity reports to Til’trius’ cyes. A lot of scum -- a fence, a hitman with an erasable memory, an exotic animal skins dealer, a suspected sex trafficker. Others possessed obviously fabricated identities. Tourists come here to relax? Aren't they worried they'll find a vibroknife in the back?

Til'trius cracked a knuckle. Being here made his skin crawl. Muru might procure the vehicles for the op, but Til'trius knew people like Muru often abaided extreme criminal activities, terrorism included. To honor his father, how could he mingle and enable such scum?

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