Chapter 38, Part 1

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With the hyperspace journey over and the solar system mostly traversed, Rodia's blue-green orb grew to fill the Halcyon's sensor screen. Daniah's body tingled with anticipation. She felt like she was young and at the top of an amusement park ride: terrified and excited, with the urge to scream.

She lived for that thrill. Her hunger for it led her across the galaxy and compelled her to join missions like this one. She'd survived them thus far. Which one would be her last? She didn't know and was glad of it. Ignorance gave life its excitement.

Nearing Rodia's planetary atmosphere, Daniah opened a channel to a traffic control satellite for clearance.

"Traffic control," she said, "this is the Halcyon. We are requesting deactivation of a weather shield for landing in Iskaayuma."

"Halcyon," a Rodian voice spoke up on the comm speaker, "the weather shield will be deactivated when we receive and confirm your IDs and clearance code transmission."

"Oh," perked up Echo, "may I send them, mistress? May I?" She made a digital pant.

Daniah lifted her eyebrow. "Yes, Echo."

The droid sighed in delight as if Daniah granted her greatest wish. Daniah rolled her eyes.

"But really, you don't have to do everything for me."

"Nonsense! Request denied. My devotion to you must never be in question."

"But it is." Daniah shouldn't do this to her, but it was just fun to mess with Echo's mind, or, whatever it was.
Space travel was too boring to not have dalliances with annoying one's companions.

Echo made a flatulent beep. "Now whatever could you mean?"

"You know what I'm talking about Echo. I've noticed your drop in productivity, your lack of affection; less sweet nothings... more time spent in hibernation mode. It's clear you've been avoiding me." Daniah sighed. "How it hurts."

The droid's boxy chassis shimmered with lights. "That's impossible. I never would do those things deliberately! Let me run a query of our interaction logs for confirmation of this horrible truth. You will forgive me, won't you my goddess?"

"By the force!" Daniah threw up her hands. "Process this - I'm screwing with you! Would you just send the code already?"

"Done," Echo pouted. "I transmitted our trip itinerary along with it. But a question, mistress."

Daniah did a spin in her seat and looked up at the ceiling. "What now?"

"Are you sure the code will check out? While you are always wonderfully prepared, brilliant in foresight-" Echo continued, but Daniah zoned out until she got to the point. "-I mean do you ever wonder if our local friends could give us an invalid landing clearance? Maybe take our bribe and turn us in?"

Daniah smiled. "Quosh's tip off made you jittery, Echo?"

"Admittedly yes, mistress."

"Lighten up! Why do we smuggle in this system? You can always count on a Rodian acting out of self-interest. If an official turned us in, she'd be cutting herself off a steady stream of future revenue. And that's patently non-Rodian."

"Pardon this one's lack of intelligence, but it seems rash to lump all of a species under one behavioral model."

Daniah raised an eyebrow. "Calling me rash, Echo? Then you're making progress. I didn't think you could offer anything short of a compliment."

"Ur, just helping round out your thought." Daniah snorted. Clever droid. "For instance, have you considered that the Aqualish Authority might have informed them about earlier stint and offered a greater financial incentive? Rodian-Aqualish racial tensions may run deep, but an exorbitant sum helps overcome any prejudice."

"In which case I'd have to do something magnificent to save the day, wouldn't I?"

"We are not worthy!" Echo cried out.

"No," Daniah said smoothly, "You're not."

"Code confirmed," came a voice from the comm speaker. "You may proceed, Halcyon. We are sending you coordinates for your atmospheric entrance vector. Weather shield 17B will be deactivated when you are proximate. Land on pad 2471."

"Acknowledged. We are starting our approach."

"Course plotted," beamed Echo. "Shields calibrated for planetary re-entry and tuned to Rodia's atmospheric specifications."

As the Halcyon dove into the blue expanse, the control console chimed with a text from her supplier Muru Oja. Daniah had already checked in and confirmed a meeting to hand off the transport vehicles. So what could she want?

The note read: "Heightened security due to SKYE crisis and tourist district attacks. Random ships searched. Suspicious ones impounded. Be ready."

Daniah swore. She'd paid off a Rodian official to avoid a hold up in customs.


Daniah smiled. Good thing Kenobi could just wave his hand at security and the trouble would go away. "It's nothing. Just glad we've got a Jedi on board. Let's alert the crew to prep for possible inspection. Oh, and ready IG-68."

The astromech failed to respond.

"Rodia to Echo, did you register that? IG-68 - time for him to drop."

"Yes, sorry, my queen. I'll let him know. It's just... that droid and his companion disturb me."

That was a relief. "I thought it was only me. But given you're a droid, and he kinda champions all things droid, what bothers you? He seems quite taken with you - an astromech on steroids."

Echo beeped in disapproval. "Ahem, I'm far more delicate than that description suggests. But yes, he's bugged me with questions regarding my deep integration with the ship."

"So his attention bothers you?"

"No, mistress." Daniah was surprised by her droid's terse immediate response. What's got into her? Daniah waited until Echo elaborated. "It's his independence. His approach to things. He doesn't act like, well..." Her voice softened, almost embarrassed. "A droid."

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