Monday, July 22, 2013

From the Crowd

Related articles that may assist in reading, collected together in a glossary of sorts:
Tatooine-Desert planet.
Podracing-Form of racing seen in Episode 1.
Hutt-Large creatures that are usually involved in crime.
Rattataki-Bald, pale race of near-humans(being an offshoot of the human race) that are known for their violent society.

     The roar of the crowd rose as the racers zoomed by. The stands physically shook with every passing pod, not by the vibrations they gave off, but because the people watching were absolutely livid. Most didn't even bother to shield their eyes from the cloud of dirt that was shot towards them. Once the racers had moved on from the crowd's sights and into the desert wasteland that is Tatooine, the crowd's eyes shifted up to the giant screens above.

      The leader of the pack had gained even more ground on this lap. The numerous gamblers in the stands were a mixed bag. Some were grinning, and patting their friends shoulders. They had been certain that no five time champion was going to lose to some noisy upstart. Others were furious, grumbling to themselves about the various amounts they had placed on said upstart. 

     The upstart, a human by the name of Don Caldwell, had taken first for the past three races, but those might as well have been practice runs compared to now. Pre-season races may pay out their fair share, but it was the season races where the real money was. Thus far it wasn't looking well for Caldwell, who was barely managing to keep pace with veteran Owen Morton, yet another human. 

     Yet, even with the last lap ever approaching, it was clear that Caldwell hadn't given up the fight. His pod's engines groaned as he put what they had left into pushing forward. On the screens it was becoming obvious how much ground he was gaining in the process. The gamblers in the crowd exchanged emotion, those previously happy gaining a sense of dread, their companions doing quite the opposite.

     Zooming by to start the last lap, the two were seconds from being on equal terms. While Morton's face was obscured to the crowd, his motions were enough to show how horribly agitated he was getting. Brushing his pod up against his opponent's was much like watching an animal warn a potential predator. The message he was trying to send was clear and simple. Back off.

     But he wasn't backing off, not even a little. Some may call that bravery. Others would call it a moment of foolishness. Certain members of the crowd didn't care. Everyone who watched could see quite easily what was bound to happen. On the final stretch power began to shift to the upstart. First it was probably by a few meters at most, before it was the entire length of a pod. By the time the greenhorn had finished, the veteran was a good minute behind him. The crowd was in an uproar. 

     One had to give Caldwell some credit. He wasn't arrogant about his victory, going so far as to shake his opponents hand and smile. The arrogance would come later. The same couldn't be said of his opponent. Morton shook his hand, and even offered a smile, but one couldn't help but notice how such polite gestures were made so hostile. 

     It took nearly half an hour for the stands to begin clearing out. The local sponsors had awards to give, the Hutt in charge of everything wanted to speak, for the sake of hearing his own voice most likely, and the winner had to have his fifteen minutes of fame. It was closer to eight minutes by her count. 

     Finally Daeria found herself standing up with everyone else, her red eyes watching the filter out in droves. She remained standing in silence, watching them go, until her eyes fell upon someone who had appeared to have done the same. 

     The man in question stood on his own, a easy smile resting on his lips. He was human, not quite tan yet not quite pale, his brown hair somewhere between short and medium length. She recognized him immediately, if nothing else by the jacket he wore. 

     His eyes met her's, and they watched each other for a time. Some in their situation would have bolted, whether towards each other or away from each other. They didn't because they saw no point. They weren't star-crossed lovers desperate to see each other, and yet the man didn't fear the woman enough to simply bolt. It was likely that they were both here on business and really, what was the point in interrupting for the sake of some silly chase? 

     He gave a small smile before he left, and she squinted in return, trying to decipher it. Her eyes allowed a small amount of emotion to show through, confusion. Daeria shook her head, coming back to reality. She had a job to do, and she was going to do it. 

     Really it was more along the lines of preparing for a job. There was a target that needed scouted. Working her way down to the pits it became clear just how easy that would be. They were almost abandoned, with only the pit crews and a few idle fans lingering around hoping they would be able to manage an autograph. Off to her right she could make out Caldwell's designated area. 

     One in her profession might have been there to scout the younger racer, but she wasn't. Word had been going around for some time that Morton wanted him gone, but what Morton hadn't accounted for was the repercussions of such an action. The Hutt in charge of the series wasn't one to support such methods for winning. Healthy competition brought in more money. Had there been no competition between the two he would have been fine with a mark being placed on the younger racer. But there wasn't, and so it wasn't okay. The Hutt had began to see Morton as a rather large liability. So he needed to disappear. 

     Morton's pit was rather easy to spot. It was a large, tented area, remaining unburdened by the blazing sun. A crowd had gathered in front of it, and she kept her distance to observe them. Among them was a mixture of fans, reporters, and even an angry gambler or two. Collectively they were starting to get on her nerves. She simply needed to see the inside of the tented area, but now she was going to have to wait. Minutes, then nearly an hour passed before finally there was no one else to be seen. 

     There wasn't anything to write home about. That was her first thought. Most of the area was taken up by the pod, tools, and a number of cans of fluid for both. There was a small sitting area, but no sign of anyone meant to sit there. Security was either very lax or nonexistent when the racer wasn't present. A plan was slowly forming in her mind, though it would center around one fact. 

     From behind her she heard someone, a woman, give a small cough. Daeria turned, slowly eyeing the woman over. She didn't belong here, that was for certain. She was dressed in business attire, her skirt going just below her knees. Rattataki. An odd profession for one Daeria thought. Many were prone to more...Hands-on work, nothing this sensible. Pale eyes peered at the Chiss from behind a small set of glasses before she spoke, her voice firm and even, "Is there a reason you're in my client's tent?" 

     Daeria gave the agent another once over. This wasn't the person she'd noted during her research, not even close. That had been a sleezy looking human with a bad streak of racism to his name. Daeria allowed a small hint of surprise and worry into her voice, "Am I in the wrong spot? I thought this was the press tent." 

     The pale woman pressed her lips together, smirking to detract from the venom in her gaze. Fighting off the urge to laugh, she pointed to the east, kindly adding "The press tent is that way. You don't look like press." The hunter nodded sharply, making to leave but the pale woman blocked her path. "You. Don't. Look. Like. Press." Her voice took on a more threatening tone this time. 

     Daeria narrowed her eyes but kept her tone neutral despite the growing sense of antagonism she was feeling, "Press bodyguard. Idiot ran off without me." she shrugged her shoulders as if to say "What can you do?"

     The agent gave the hunter a knowing pat on the shoulder. Stepping to the side, she waved her hand towards the exit, frowning once Daeria was well out of sight. 

     Some might have hated having to work around this new obstacle, but Daeria was thrilled by it. As she meandered down the road back towards the town that sat near the track and it's contents, she was having to hold back a grin, despite the fact that no one would have even seen it what with her wearing a hood. She lived for such challenges. Without them she would simply get bored. Some would probably find the fact that one of her few sources of joy was in finding harder or more challenging ways to kill people, but such was the nature of her work. 

     For a time her thoughts distracted her, almost too much. It took her far longer than it normally would for her to pick up on the noise behind her. The constant crunch of a second set of footsteps. Stopping in her tracks, she did not turn but instead spoke, "I can hear you."

     Behind her a man gave a small, slightly nervous chuckle, before responding, "Figured you would." The voice was odd. It obviously wasn't native, and had a drawl to it that was always hard to pin down when it came to origins. Most associated it with spacers, or smugglers. She associated it with him, and for some reason it made her blood run cold. She could hear him swallow nervously, before he spoke again, "Hey darlin'."

     Daeria Malcom turned, the movement precise. For once she didn't know what to expect. He might have his blasted drawn, who knows? Instead, though, he had his thumbs tucked into his belt, his easy smile from earlier now taking on a more nervous appearance. Silence filled the air, the desert wind seeming to have died as to allow the moment to have some sign of peace. She ran through a number of things to say, and a number of ways to say them all, yet she could really only bring herself to address him in her usual monotonic style, "Redamous."

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