Chapter Eighteen: Desert Desertion

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As Ven had promised, Yavin's thirteenth moon looked almost uninhabited and suitably unpleasant: a dry wasteland composed mostly of hot deserts. They left Nyron with all his whiskey, five bottles in total, under an overhang from a small rocky flat sticking out of one of the cooler deserts near the northern pole, next to a cactus forest so he would be able to drink. And with that, Nyron was gone from their lives. Ishti felt the weight lift from his shoulders, and saw Da'bral's and Olulm's spirits lift significantly. They were free to do whatever they wanted without worrying that a teammate would betray them, but Ishti had one more loose end to tie off.

Once again in the cockpit with his three-man team, Ishti was ready to head back to Clotis to get their reward, before travelling to Corellia for Karlien and Merich's funeral. However, as soon as he told Gan they'd completed the mission, he got a message back: Gan was in Orena, Corellia and wanted them to meet him there! He'd heard that they were heading there from another bounty hunter and thought he'd make things easier for them. Ishti was immensely grateful for their employer's considerateness, and told the others, who were equally pleased.
"Alright!" Ishti grinned carelessly like a rogue should, "Punch it, Olulm!"
The Duros grinned with him and enthusiastically jumped the ship into hyperspace, reclining in his chair to enjoy the ride to Corellia.

They made it there in a few hours, lurching out smoothly from blue to black, with the planet straight ahead of them. Suddenly Ishti realised he was nervous. He never found out exactly how responsible Nyron was for Karlien and Merich's death, but he had forgiven him for it. All he felt for the insane man now was pity, and, he admitted, amusement. However, there was one feeling he had failed to realise he had been feeling ever since their death: guilt. He was the only one unquestionably responsible; as the leader, it was his duty to keep his team alive, and he had failed miserably. Now he'd identified it, it was stuck at the front of his mind; he could not dismiss it, or even accept it as something to learn from - it just ate at him. So instead, he forced himself to think about other things: why had Gan asked that only Ishti touch the box? If it was so important, why had nothing happened to Nyron when he touched the box? The ship landed before he realised it, and only once he realised the other two were getting up did he stop mulling over the questions and stand up himself.

Ishti was familiar with Orena, he knew it was one of the cultural centres of Corellia, but he'd never been to any Corellian city, so even he was awestruck at the gleaming towers of the moderately sized city. Corellia was famous for its industry, but managed to maintain a relatively clean atmosphere by not making their cities excessively large. Certainly their planet was not entirely city like Coruscant, and Ishti knew the Voxes themselves lived in an estate in the countryside outside of the city. Rather ironically, it was the two who weren't Corellian who were least impressed by the city. Da'bral was familiar with such cities, if not ones quite as beautiful, because he was brought up in the Iridonian capital; and Olulm didn't seem impressed at all, but he was probably just refusing to appreciate anything Corellian.

They walked a short way to where Gan had told them to meet him, following the directions given by their datapad, and saw he was already there waiting for them, smiling.
"You succeeded! Thank you so much! And I see you took my advice about your psychotic 'friend'. Well done."
Olulm laughed cynically, "After all he pulled, it wasn't exactly a hard decision. We dropped him off on a desert moon, he can't hurt anyone there."
Gan nodded sadly, "I suppose it's for the best. It still saddens me that he's so far gone to the darkness. But I'm sure you're anxious to pay your respects to your friends, so I won't keep you. Please show me the box, and I can send the credits to your account so you can split it amongst yourselves."
Ishti reached into his bag and held it out, the perfect size for his palm.
"You have no idea how grateful I am," Gan smiled with relief, "but hopefully these credits will give you some idea."
The Nautolan tapped his datapad and Ishti saw on his own datapad that the transaction had taken place. Then he frowned. "Gan, I thought you should know: Nyron took the box for a bit."
"What happened to it? Is he the same? Did you see anything?"
"No . . . . the box is the same, and Nyron is no more strange than he was before, why? Is it important?"
Gan let out a relieved sigh. "Oh... no. I was just worried that Nyron might break it, I saw how he was with those bottles. Now, I really must leave; I have important business to attend to. It was good doing business with the three of you, farewell!"

The three bounty hunters watched as the Nautolan rushed off into the bustling crowd, each one of them concerned about what they'd gotten themselves into.

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