Chapter Three

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The Edden Mall was another structure with many, many identical siblings spread through inhabited space. Nestled between two larger ports it was a great, big thoroughfare that collectively offered just about every service interstellar travellers would want first thing after setting foot planetside, or last minute before taking off: Entertainment, food that actually tasted like food, drink, parts and repairs, pharmacies, social gatherings, currency exchange... and job opportunities.

Of course, job offerings varied in formality, and so Gaylen sat by a small table outside a decent little establishment, enjoying a mild drink and the view. The place was set up on the roof of a single-storey building and accessible by a flight of metal stairs, letting him take in the flow of people while still noticing details.

Some historians insisted that the First Civilization had reached a state of uniformity before the Big Flash, across all their far-flung planets. The thought made Gaylen wonder whether it was even worth pining for those times. He loved these kinds of displays: Plain old humans in all their variety, their various specially adapted offshoots, and uncounted cultures.

Tall and short, broad and thin. Shaved heads, bushy ones, elaborate ones, and all kinds of coverings, hoods and hats. The clothes ranged from roomy to smotheringly tight unitards, from dull and prim to dazzling combinations of colours, from the completely obscuring robes of a pair of Qivian priests to the barely anything worn by a trio of Kahanans, showing off their sculpted bodies.

It really was amazing how diverse the human race could make itself.

In time one of those interesting figures stepped onto the deck and fastened its eyes on him. It was a lithe young woman, wearing dark blue clothing and a pair of black sunglasses. From beneath a hood poked chalk-white hair, fitting the deathly pallor of the face.

She walked over to him, moving with odd, smooth grace. She then passed by the table, behind Gaylen, before completing a circle.

"Ahem," she said, and then held up a little pad before her face with a dramatic flourish. "Freelance crewmembers needed for delivery run. Two weeks expected. Experience and medical skill a bonus. Must speak Larin or Gyvo. Inquire outside of Yellow Top. Will be wearing green coat."

She put the pad away and her hands on her hips.

"Could you give me directions?" she then asked with mock sincerity.

"Sure," Gaylen said. "Just head over there."

He pointed at the chair opposite himself.

"Goodie," she said with a grin, pulled the chair up and sat down.

"So, you're a Dwyyk?" he said.

"Born and raised," she replied and lowered her sunglasses. He caught a glimpse of blue irises that filled the entire eyes, before she winced from the brightness and put the glasses back up.

"Do you have a name?" he asked.

"Ayna," she told him.

"Anything more than that?"

"Not away from Dwyyk, no."

Right.

"What's your name?"

"Gaylen Qin."

She smirked.

"It isn't really though, is it?"

"Let's talk about you," he said.

"Well... I've been wandering the lanes for about two years now. Just... doing this and that. I thought I'd join a crew for a bit. Are you going somewhere interesting?"

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