Pleasure Doing Business
Diana DeRiggs

To Mara, for being the nagging muse!


She slid quickly into the dark, rented room. She had no fear of the dark, or of what she would be doing there.

As she took of her clothes and folded them neatly, placed them in a little dustproof sack and put that under the bed, she sighed and wondered if this would be worth it. She took this job because it was slow going in the shipping and transport business. Having left her former employer with a long range shuttle and a crew of assorted sentient species beings, she was trying to drum up enough business to support them all. She’d rented an office and business comlinks, and the creatures were doing a great job of being office administration, and were finishing repairs to the battle-scarred shuttle. They were refitting it for luxury trips throughout the system, as well as for long-range cargo hauling, with easy-snap seats and auto-resizable webbing.

In the short time they had been on Corellia, they had booked some wedding parties and company picnics, but those were months away. They’d also placed bids on lots of cargo transfers, but they were waiting to see how they panned out. In the meantime, they’d run out of money. She had appropriated funds and taken what cash she could find from her previous employer, but it simply wasn’t going to be enough. Between acquiring everyone's working papers and setting up shop, there was simply not enough money. Of course, in those days, she had only planned for herself and her droid, but she couldn't leave those others behind. So now, she found herself their benefactress, and it explained the startling lack of funds left.

The group had gotten together and discussed a few things. They moved from the apartments to the tents on the river, moving their shuttle into a clearing among the tents and trees, to save on lodging costs. The Chadra-Fans, naturally fearful of water, grew or traded for vegetables and spices, and the perpetually hungry Ortolans fished and cooked simple roasted or boiled meals to save on food expenses. Every creature, from Bilar to Gamorrean, pitched in to help. In this way, they scraped together enough money for an extra month’s rent for the business, but no more.

Resolved, the Gamorrean female, named Swindae, took the woman aside and told her she’d be willing to earn money by working. Swindae was not fitted with an interpreter droid or voice box and her grunts could take a long, long time to understand.

"But, you already work! We all do!" protested the human woman.

Grunt grunt

"Well, yes, it is slow, but it will pick up soon, I promise!"

The Gamorrean woman chose to raise her eyebrow instead of grunting.

"Well ... okay, so it's really slow. But where do you want to work?"

Growl.

She ran away, not believing what Swindae had suggested. But as she lay that night in her tent which she shared with her astromech droid, she realized that the Gamorrean woman was suggesting something that was easy, lucrative, required no expenditures, and they could get out any time. The port city was always busy with men and women looking for a good time.

The next morning, circles under her eyes, she called another meeting and talked over the idea. The group was concerned, but not surprised, looking grim in their knowledge of their circumstances.

Swindae revealed she'd been contacted by a man who wanted her to provide services to males and females - human or alien - who'd wanted to have sex with a Gamorrean. Knowing this species to be temperamental and difficult, the man had always sent those customers away.

But he'd heard rumors about their group and noticed that Swindae and Peche never suffered from attacks of temperament, even when provoked by the riffraff. He thought he could charge a premium price for her favors. When one of them wondered aloud what that price could be, Swindae named it, and everyone gasped.

When it was called to a vote, all hands were up, voting in favor.

* * * * *
"Are you ready, Swindae? Tonin, go tell her I'm ready. Thanks!" Kirney Slane called after Tonin, her astromech droid. Seated in the speeder, she waited for the Gamorrean woman to finish her preening and to come out. It was her first day at her new "job" and the group agreed that Kirney and Peche, the male Gamorrean, should accompany her, to negotiate with the man who would broker Swindae's services.

When they at last came out, the other creatures popped out of their tents and gave a cheer to the made-up female. She smiled and waved to them happily, and Kirney noticed that maybe Swindae liked the idea of saving their business through her prostitution. After all, Swindae had explained, how could they hurt her? There were all so small! And they had voted on it; she would only be in that business until their business was self-sustaining and profitable. They had even defined what that meant: When then had more requests than they could comfortably handle.

Still, Kirney wanted to make sure that Swindae's cut was generous, or at least fair. She felt strange acting as an agent, almost like a pimp herself. Peche's presence would ensure they got what they wanted.

As they drove inland to the place of business, Kirney was struck by the luxury of the building on their approach. It was set in an estate, isolated from the main part of town, yet within it, guaranteeing that the real estate charges were huge. Exquisite stonework, tiled floors, precious metals, large fountains playing complex streams of exotic and glittering liquids greeted their entrance to the building. A steward, obviously looking out for them, came scurrying forward to greet them, and conveyed them through a series of passageways to a luxuriant sitting room, full of rare fabrics in rich colors. He served them refreshments, and the three beings sat back and enjoyed the hot tea and pastries. They'd been too long in tents, and overstuffed upholstered chairs and dainty sweets were a too-distant memory.

A small, elegant man with shiny eyes and a bulging forehead came into the room. He was completely bald and resembled a Human-Bith, if such a child were possible. Swindae grunted in recognition.

"A pleasure to see you again, my dear," said the man, clasping the Gamorrean's hand, "I'm so glad you've decided to come!"

"I'm Kirney Slane. This is Peche. We live and work with Swindae."

The little man scurried to Peche, shook his large hand, then to Kirney, and kissed hers, "I'm charmed! Swindae is indeed fortunate to have such friends! But, let's all sit down, we can conduct our business out here. Excuse me for being so blunt, but that's why we are here, isn't it? Fine, fine ... this is how our business works: I send a client to a room or suite within this complex, so I front all the costs of the "place," so to speak. Swindae will have a smaller room to herself to rest, refresh and prepare. She will be supplied with any and all "props," which are charged to the client, and be given a code to indicate what sort of acts, how much time, etc. are expected of her. She has the option of editing any of these requests. It's really very simple. She can even refuse the client!"

Peche grunted slowly to Kirney, so she could understand him clearly. "And what percentage does she get? How often does she get her money? Will she be able to see the books?"

The man laughed lightly, "She gets a flat fee per act, plus 15% of the total cost. It's really quite fair, given our outlay and facilities and quality of clientele."

"Can you give us a case, please? It's hard to assess what is fair on the information given," Kirney translated for Peche, then added, "and remember that something is 'fair' only if both parties agree it is. Are the costs gross or net?"

The little man's lips made a thin line. "Very well then, we have here Kurryl, who is Rodian. She is rare in that she does not have the strong odor normally associated with members of her species. Something to do with Imperial modifications, I believe, but I am unclear as to the details. In any case ..."

Peche grunted. Kirney translated, "What if Swindae rejects all her clients one day because she is not feeling well? She can take time off?"

"Well, of course, she can ask not to be included in the schedule, at no charge. But remember, she needs to be here on a regular basis, since she is a 'special request' woman, and will be booked in advance. As such, she will be charged a fee for rejecting clients. But, don't worry, if she is ill, we will make arrangements."

Another series of grunts, "What is this fee?"

The man took a sip of his tea, "25%, gross."

There was suddenly a lot of noise in the room, and the sounds echoed and clattered, despite the luxurious fabrics and carpeting installed.

* * * * *
Swindae had wanted to stay and look over her room and to get to know some of the other women. Kirney was exhausted, and couldn't blame her. She could do with a hot shower and a nap, too. They had strong-armed the man, whose name was Magestatio, into showing them the books on several women, and cutting a better percentage for Swindae. She would now get 50% of the gross fee, and pay 10% re-editing and 15% full rejection costs. She winked, telling Peche she would not need to reject anyone, since they really needed the money. But, it was the principal of it all.

Further, she would pay for her room out of pocket, rather than having the standard percentage fee taken. Kirney had quickly calculated that since Swindae would be part time, it would be cheaper to pay the 100 credits per day fee than to be charged 10% of her take, especially now that her take was doubled.

The little man was quite ashen and drenched with sweat as the negotiation ended. He no longer pretended to smile.

"You will ruin me if word of this gets out! You must promise and sign to it, that you will not reveal the details of Swindae's contract to anyone! If you do, I will deny everything and will resort to slandering you!"

Peche raised his eyebrows, then lowered them, glowering menacingly.

Magestatio gulped and the teacup clattered after he took a sip and put it down on the stonework table. "I didn't mean that, Peche. I am just distraught. I do this out of the goodness of my heart. But I am making so little off of you, Swindae. That is hardly fair to me, who provides the means and security for you to conduct a lucrative business."

She snorted, and Kirney translated, "You are desperate as I am for the business ... besides, we agreed to renegotiate in three standard months."

The small man sighed, "Yes, and I hope you get many customers and make lots of money, as you hoped. Undoubtedly, we will profit handsomely from your availability, but I still have some misgivings about this contract. I have an idea - a request - that will make this contract more palatable to me and to the directors. It will benefit your family also, need I add? Ms. Slane, you are a beautiful woman, and ..."

"No!" interrupted Kirney, who didn't like where this was going.

"Please, hear me out," Magestatio was earnestly pleading, "just listen, and if you don't like it, so be it. In that case, I'll put this contract forward and take the consequences from the Directors."

Looking stubborn, Kirney sat still. He took this as a sign to continue.

"There is often call for Human women, certainly," holding his hand up when it looked like Kirney would protest, "but in this case, I will need an analyst, someone who does the assignments. Like a restaurant hostess, if you will. You pair up clients with girls, you prepare the client for interaction with an Alien, notify the women about their client preferences. It helps if a beautiful woman does this, fewer conflicts, you can always just apologize and rearrange. The analyst can be paid a normal salary or a generous per diem, and on request, the analyst could also take on customers as she sees fit. Actually, there is a requirement ... but the analyst keeps 75% or 100% of the take, minus the cost of props and room and other expenses, of course. The percentage depends on whether she takes a salary or not. The requirement is there so that we have recourse upon overbooking, and it dissuades the analyst from looking elsewhere should she need the money."

Now it was Kirney's turn to stare. First, because he was making her an offer to be a clerk rather than a hooker. Second, because she knew how much the full take was. Her family and business could easily live on her taking one client a week, not even considering the analyst's salary.

It was a very difficult offer to pass up.

* * * * *
Actually, Kirney had found the job pretty simple. The men coming tended to have favored types or special women they wanted, or very specific requests. It was not her job to tally the fees, so the main source of stress was not on her head. With her trick memory, she could easily remember the kinks and preferences of return customers, a fact they really appreciated. They would not have to repeat themselves every time they came to call. Since working there, the number of complaints at the brothel due to mismatches went from a dozen a month to virtually zero.

What a strange thing to be proud of, she thought to herself, as she assigned Viona with a big, fat Imperial officer. She knew he liked skinny, slim-hipped girls with big breasts, and Viona was enormous, having been synthetically altered years before. She liked large, corpulent men, because they tipped well, something the other girls might not have seen. Viona had been working for the brothel long enough to understand that this was a business transaction, there was nothing personal.

In her first month, Kirney had taken on six overbooked clients, and they had gone away satisfied. When they came back, some actually inquired as to her availability, and she coyly booked them with girls similar to her in look and body type. From those six sessions, she was able to move her family back into civilized abodes. From Swindae's first paycheck, they were able to pay the rent on the business, including workshop, parking and storage fees, for the upcoming year.

Swindae was having an enormous amount of fun. She kept her word, and never rejected or edited a client. She wanted to keep the whole of her fee, and she told Kirney that she'd even take on Zsinj himself if he paid enough.

Wondering if she could be so mercenary, Kirney worried at first if Tonin and the others could handle the business inquiries. They agreed to try, and to her delight, they won some contracts and had satisfactorily completed several shipments. The profits were reinvested in the shuttle and in a secretarial droid who would handle inquiries and give out quotes based on a program Kirney wrote late one night after her 'job.'

Realizing that she needed to stay independent of the brothel's paycheck, Kirney started cutting her days down to one or two a week. She really needed to put her heart and soul into the company she and the other escapees from Admiral Zsinj's flagship had created. They were doing well. She could actually afford to leave the brothel all together. Swindae could cut her participation down to half time, too.

But frankly, Swindae liked the money and she liked the way the Humans who came to her respected her and often demanded to know what she liked. Peche was not her mate, so she didn't think there was anything wrong with what she was doing.

As for Kirney, she liked the money too, but more so, she found herself enjoying the sex. When she was younger, sex was something you got through, it was a currency you used in order to gain something, whether it was money, or information, or material goods or favors. She went into the job at the brothel thinking the same. But to her surprise, the others in the shuttle company commented on her sunny nature on the days after she had been at the brothel. They actually pushed her to work there more often. They liked her better after!

She thought about this a lot, and wondered why she was like this. She was a good analyst, and she found herself running programs and even talking to her droid. Tonin massaged her data and found that she was happiest when she was taking on clients who were dark-haired, moody, and intense in personality. Kirney felt as if she had been slapped when she saw the results; she had known a man like that before, but ironically, she had never made love to him.

Myn Donos was her squadron mate when she was a member of Wraith Squadron, a brainchild of the legendary Colonel Wedge Antilles. He had hoped to create a squad with strength in commando tactics and skills, rather than in flying per se. They were an adequate starfighter group, under his and second-in-command Wes Janson's tutelage and drilling, making them better than all but Rogue Squadron. The Rogues were also legendary, having been founded by Luke Skywalker and Antilles when the New Republic government was just a loosely-cobbled alliance. Not connected to any specific fleet or planet, the Rogues were even said to have destroyed small fleets of capital ships with their twelve X-wings, with not so much as a small backup force assisting them. Kirney knew it was true; she'd seen it and had participated in campaigns like that with the Wraiths.

She had been an Imperial Intelligence operative, and had been unmasked by her then-commanding officer Face Loran, the former holostar child actor. Nearly in mid-battle, she'd been forced to escape, having been shot at by boyfriend, Myn Donos, and fled to work for Warlord Admiral Zsinj as an analyst on his flagship, the Iron Fist. But in her time with the Wraiths, they had unknowingly undone her blind acceptance of Imperial philosophy and doctrine, and made her a true Wraith, loyal to them. It hurt her to have to bolt, and it broke her heart that Myn, with whom she was developing a relationship, had shot at her.

His mind was not stable, she knew. He was haunted by the destruction and decommissioning of his former command, Talon Squadron. She was responsible for slicing in false data, leading them into a trap that killed everyone but Donos.

So, she couldn't blame him. But she was sad.

She wondered if Myn was still angry at her.

* * * * *
She borrowed some props from the brothel, a sweet sundress, made up her face to appear younger and fresher than her true years. Men seemed to like making love to younger girls, and Kirney could create the look she needed in minutes. Braiding her red hair loosely, she draped the faille artfully over her shoulder. Swindae grunted that Kirney looked no older than 17 or 18, and Kirney smiled at her.

Tonin made the recording. She had decided what to say hours before, and took a deep breath.

"Hello, Myn. It's been a while since we've seen one another."

What else could she say? She opted for the truth, insofar as she was willing to tell it.

"... Contact me, visit me -- do whatever you feel you have to. I'll accept whatever you decide."

Tonin turned off the recording and toodled at her that the message was within the 1-minute economy-message package parameters, and that he would send it to the holocenter upon her approval. Not wanting to even review the recording, she told him to go ahead.

* * * * *
Myn blinked at the message. Kirney ... Kirney ... her name is Kirney???

This felt weird. Wasn't she Gara? Or was it Lara? Myn couldn't be sure any more.

He'd shot at her. He had discovered that she was the spy who was responsible for him losing the men and women of Talon Squadron to Admiral Trigit's fleet. She had sliced in data into the Intelligence files indicating a low level of risk for that area, and bad terrain data as well. They had nowhere to run or hide when then suddenly found themselves under fire.

Myn swore he'd get even, that he'd exact revenge in the name of all those who died under his command. He'd hunt down the warlord and pull the trigger himself.

Wait ...

He'd done that.

Weeks ago. Months ago.

He and General Crispin chased Admiral Trigit as he tried to escape from his dying fleet ship, and he'd shot the escape shuttle into molten molecules. It had felt good then, and he said a prayer to put the souls of the dead to rest.

So what am I feeling now?

Gara Petothel had sliced in the bad data. But he knew her as a squadronmate. He knew she was hurting, that she had had a change of heart and mind, and that it was a wrenching thing. She'd sent a private message to him while she was undercover with Admiral Zsinj's fleet, at terrible risk to herself.

Her description of what was happening in her mind was eerily familiar to him. It was exactly how he felt his brain shifting around on him, taking control of him. She couldn't be faking that.

He'd had discussions with Commander Antilles and Wraith XO Lieutenant Janson, which he kept to himself because they affected him more profoundly than he was willing to admit. The commander asked Myn who he'd want to kill Lara if he couldn't do the honors himself, and the executive officer told him that you can't look dignified while you're having fun. While he knew both were being extreme in their examples, he understood what he had done to himself and what he was doing to others by harboring hate and desires for revenge.

Here was an invitation to do something uncharacteristic and fresh and new. He could start again. The ache he felt in his heart would never go away, but perhaps he could obtain a new heart, and make sure that it stayed full.

* * * * *
In disguise as convoy goods and independent trade pilot Finel Mearc, Myn Donos passed through the checkpoints on Corellia easily. It was simpler than he thought. He had a silly name, and Face Loran had advised him to act like his name, in some stereotypical fashion, so that the customs guards would assume the rest of his personality. He'd thought about taking someone with him, to help him out, but ultimately, he thought he'd best go alone.

He was on leave before starting up with the Rogues; Commander Antilles had accepted his application, and had granted him this leave, knowing all that had passed in Myn's mind these past months.

He looked up a comlink access for the address on the holonet, but when he called that residence on his comlink, a strange voice answered, grunting and barely able to speak in Basic. He looked up "Kirney Slane" on the local directories, and was surprised that there were at least 250 entries for that name alone, and many more with the names "Kirney" or "Slane." Surely, he couldn't contact all of those people! He only had four days of furlough.

He entered a tapcaf, ordered a drink, and started calling those 250 people.

* * * * *
Kirney lay under the customer, feeling him move in and out of her. She was crying quite loudly. The man smiled, thinking he was the cause of her passionate tears. It wasn't him, of course; it was another man who resembled him, who hadn't answered the holo she'd sent to him over three days ago.

Kirney really let her frustrations out, screaming and clawing at the man, bucking and pushing at him. Impressed with his effect on her, he doubled his efforts, resulting in an intense orgasm that made him black out. She was still beating on him when he came to.

After cleaning up, he left a tip three times the size of her fee, hoping she'd take him on again.

And she didn't feel any better for the sexual outlet.

* * * * *
Myn Donos looked out the window of the inexpensive motel room at the starry sky, wondering why he was alone. He hadn't found Kirney by calling all those comlink sequences. He'd even called back the ones who hadn't answered the first time. He called the address she'd given him, and they'd told him the current residents had been living in the woods. He'd thought they were telling him to buzz off and to not call again. But maybe he'd go for a walk and see about the woods, anyway.

* * * * *
Kolot, despite his small size, glowered menacingly up at Kirney. Crossing his arms, the Ewok intoned in his sing-song, vibrato-type voice, "It is clearly your doing that you double-booked the shuttle. I will not take so many at once, it will mean our license will be revoked and the passengers will be unhappy."

Ter, Zol and Apa -- collectively they formed one sentient Bilar claqa, whom Kirney called "TZA" -- agreed, talking as one, "Since you do not wish to cancel on that other group, the only solution is to subcontract to another shuttle company." The average number of Bilar in a sentient claqa is four, so the short-numbered TZA could be sometimes a little slow. But most of the time, TZA could be counted on to think simply and clearly, and to not lose sight of the obvious.

Swindae raised her plump arm up to be called on to comment. She grunted loudly and slowly, so that everyone would understand her, "Or we can buy another shuttle."

"That's too expensive," gasped Kirney, "we're doing well, but not --"

"There is the money being saved for the vocoder implants for me and for Peche. That is more than enough for a down payment. We can take on more assignments. And I can sell the jewels that my clients have given me as gifts." Swindae smiled. Everyone could see that she quite enjoyed self-sacrifice, and she did it so selflessly that no one could dislike her for it.

Peche grinned. Truthfully, he was frightened to receive the implant. He had suffered much while being chemically and hormonally modified by Zsinj's scientists, and avoided even getting checkups for his health, so deep was his distrust in medicines and medics. Swindae had given another good excuse to avoid the surgery.

Willet, the gentle-minded Talz, motioned to speak, "We will need to train more pilots, so that each shuttle will have enough crew. We should also probably consider having at least one backup crew, for emergencies."

The Ewok Katish murmured, "That will take at least a standard year to train new pilots for passenger ships, over half that time for bulk cargo transports crews."

Kirney sighed, "So we're resolved to accept Swindae's offer and buy another shuttle; but that assignment is in a few days. We won't have a crew ready. Right now, Kolot and I trade off pilot/co-pilot duties, depending on which port inspectors are on duty, right? If one of us uses Tonin as his or her co-pilot, we still need a certified pilot to fly the other shuttle. This okay with you?"

There was a short silence. They didn't like hiring outside of their group, since who knows what an outsider would think of their family and their business? They also wanted to keep the money within their own group. But there seemed to be no choice.

"Perhaps," whistled Zerdrr, a Chadra-fan who had an interest in being a navigator/co-pilot, "we could ask the owner of the ship we buy to pilot it for us, just once? We could require this instead of haggling over the price?"

"Hey, that's a great idea," agreed Kirney, "but make sure his license is good and clean. Have Tonin run a check on him, okay? No good having a pirate flying our customers somewhere!"

They put it to vote, as was their custom, and then started selecting who would start the pilot training. It would have to be done in shifts, two beings at a time, so as not to stress the scheduling too badly. After some discussion, it was decided that Willet and Zerdrr would do the bulk cargo freighter training and be the backup crew. Peche and Namron, another Chadra-Fan, would undertake the passenger training, thus they would go first. Swindae and TZA would take care of the course registration and license applications.

The Ranats, Nalu and Tejk, were asked to be backup crew, but refused. They preferred their role as security officers. In the presence of a voracious Ranat, most people behaved very, very well. It was well known throughout the galaxy that three Ranats once stowed aboard a pirate ship, then killed and ate the crew before landing at their destination. Ranats rarely came out the loser in hand-to-hand combat in close quarters. TZA wished to back up the Ranats, pointing out that the three of them, sharing one brain, could be physically apart yet know what was going on in the other two locations.

Katish and Nimal, the Ewoks, preferred to stay as ground crew. They remembered the torturous training and injections and prosthetics-fitting that Kolot suffered, and didn't want to endure the process themselves. Additionally, as a cub, Kolot had wanted to fly, and possessed the ability to think in three-dimensions. The other two understood that they did not have this talent, and were happy to stay grounded as maintenance and operations staff.

The Ortolans agreed. The species were insatiably hungry, and were easily distracted. They took care of catering and sometimes serving, but neither Katbus nor Siebert much cared for anything beyond bookkeeping and food. They also kept the shuttle clean, supplied and organized, so Kirney didn't push them further.

She was grateful that they didn't fight amongst themselves, and that they helped her come to viable solutions so quickly.

* * * * *
Myn walked around the area where Kirney Slane's group had formerly camped, along the river. There were remnants of tent pegs and cooking fires, but the group was long gone. Talking to others camping in the area resulted in no information. It seemed people kept to themselves when homeless.

He had run out of time and money now. There were no more leads for him to follow.

He squatted down, his back to a tree, overlooking the river. He'd have to sell his ship, and take a common carrier transport to Coruscant. Fortunately, he had several sets of ID, courtesy of his commander and New Republic Intelligence. In a way, this would be better, he'd less likely be caught on his way out. It would look suspicious to come into the system with an empty ship, and to leave, just as empty. He could charter cargo or passengers, but he didn't feel up to communing with people. Myn wondered if he ever would again.

She'd stood him up. Plain and simple.

* * * * *
It was a calm night at the brothel, and no overbookings had been made. Kirney had managed to pair up every customer with a working girl. She stretched at her elegant desk and took the time to receive a transmission from Tonin. She knew that Peche, Willet, and three of the Chadra-Fan, Quiril, Toomaka, and Liki, had been looking at the ship market all day. They would need a second ship this week, so she really needed to review quickly.

They really needed a ship that could take four crew members and four passengers. But the only things in their calculated price range was a skipray blastboat (too small), YT freighters that really needed a lot of work (read: no engines), and some other ships of dubious ownership whom Tonin could not clear. After peering at holos and reading notes and specs by the acquisition team, one ship did come to the surface: a Kuat Systems Engineering Firespray-class Patrol Ship. It was originally built for planetary security forces, and had been fitted with prisoner cages and could be crewed by one or two. Liki's opinion is that it could be quickly refitted with compact bucket seats, enough for the four required crew and 6 passengers. Or even four passengers and a table for eating or playing games. They could get the seats from the salvage shops cheaply enough, and install the quick-pop fastenings overnight. In anticipation of Kirney's okay, Quiril and Willet had gone to salvage dealers to look for the required furniture.

The owner of the ship wanted a quick sale, having used it to get in system, but no longer needed it as he planned to stay a while. He wanted the credits to set up shop, so was flexible about pricing. Tonin had scanned his ID for arrests and warrants, and the man had come out clean. Also, the ship was clean and well-cared for, but lacked any personal touches, as if just bought. This jibed with the man's explanation for letting the ship go.

Kirney let Tonin know to offer up to 50% of the dealer's price -- offering cash if necessary -- plus a day's pilot's wages. And a night at the brothel, to sweeten the deal. She ignored the admonishing tones of her droid.

By the next morning, the owner of the ship, a male Human, had agreed to the price, and piloted the quickly re-fitted ship carefully and well. He had politely refused a copilot, but let Quiril come on board to help with the passengers. She said the clients were very happy and the ride was remarkably smooth.

Kirney admired the man's skill as she watched his ship maneuver through densely populated Corellian space, wondering who he was. Afterwards, Peche said the man, who looked as tidy and sparse as his ship, took his payments, shook hands, and left. He'd refused the brothel invitation, but Peche had slipped it into the packet anyway. They'd paid him in cash, to get him to accept 50% of street value, so they actually had no idea who he was. Tonin had not found any other records for the name he ran as a check when purchasing the patrol ship. He had just disappeared.

Oh well, she thought, I guess he doesn't want to be found. Still, it might have been useful to have a good pilot to call on until I can get the others up to speed with training and licensing. She'd forgotten that offering cash would effectively mean she didn't need his name or background. She scolded herself, but then again, they got a tidy ship in excellent working condition, more or less what they wanted. She and Kolot would have to juggle piloting duties and she crossed her fingers that no mishaps would occur. In the meantime, one crisis was averted.

* * * * *
Business was incredibly busy in the brothel that night. It was the annual harvest and fertility festival, and it was known that most people on Corellia lost their virginity on this night. Every girl in the employ of the brothel was working tonight, no excuses allowed. Many of them were on their third or fifth customer for the night, and Kirney had serviced one man herself already. Men and women who had been turned away earlier that evening were back now. Swindae had said she was willing to take the group of six men who wanted one woman between them. She led them upstairs, and they all squealed and ran after her, wide-eyed like schoolboys, pushing and shoving each other over who would be first. Kirney shook her head, wondering what Swindae's fees would be that night.

Kirney had finally thought she had managed to accommodate everyone, when another man came through the door. Her mind sagged for a moment, knowing there were no girls left, and every room was occupied. She glanced at the clock, and saw it was 0500, nearly sunrise. No chance this man would wait. She'd have to take the job herself.

But in actuality, she found herself ready for one, having discussed, thought and arranged sex and procurement all evening. She was a bit horny and she had planned to masturbate while she had the chance. But here was something better -- a strong looking man.

When she first agreed to take this job, Kirney had worried that clients for her shuttle business would recognize her, but the girls made her up heavily, put her in clothes she'd never wear. It was like learning how to blend into a garish, perfumed, colorful party atmosphere.

Long ago, as an Imperial Intelligence operative, the girl who was now Kirney Slane might have known this. But now, she was a businesswoman, like any other working woman. Kirney had marveled at her loss of information then, but grew more comfortable in this identity. She felt that, at last, she was who she thought she really was.

Confident she would not be recognized, she extended her hand and smiled, sucking in her stomach and standing straight, swirling her shirt becomingly in front of her with the other hand, greeting him as he stepped into the elegant foyer. He was wearing a hat with a broad brim and he wasn't very tall, so she had trouble seeing his eyes, but was happy to see his lips and cheeks smile back. Without looking up, he would not see her eyes, so she pursed her lips in invitation, and he traced her lips with his index finger and wrapped his hand behind her neck to draw her closer.

Their kiss was luxurious, pliant, liquid, viscous. Their lips molded together and Kirney felt herself melt into him. She leaned into him and wrapped her arms around, enjoying the feel of hardened muscle and exuding warmth. She breathed in his scent, closing her eyes to savor it. It was a familiar scent of a man who expected much from a woman. Yet it was familiar, in a slightly different way. Perhaps she had serviced him before.

As with all the customers, she let herself drift back to a time when she was happy. When a man as confused as she was told her he cared, that he loved her. As long as she kept her eyes shut, the fantasy would carry her away.

She felt him rubbing her stomach through her dress, his hands reaching into her blouse to fondle her breasts. She held his hands over the plump, rounded breasts with the erect nipples... he squeezed gently. She moaned and pressed her hands over his, more firmly. He squeezed again, and kept applying pressure as the woman squealed and squirmed beneath him.

Encouraged by her reaction, he mauled her breasts and started biting her tongue as it darted into his mouth. Her moaning came from deep within her and he was reminded of a girl he once knew ... he'd wanted to love her, to make love to her, but he had never had the chance.

The two struggled out of their clothing, right there in the foyer. Naked, they lay atop the soft, plush nerfhides. There were no other rooms available right now, and Kirney's burning need wasn't allowing her to think rationally. The man's desire was matching hers; he didn't seem to mind the public space. Both Kirney and the man wondered briefly at how quickly and intensely they merged together. But then their passions overtook them.

Kirney had shoved the man back onto the upholstered cushions and had pulled his trouser fastenings, popping them off, and quickly, desperately taken his rigid member into her mouth. Sucking and licking along it, using the tip of her tongue to find nerve junctions, the man was reduced to babbling, "Please, oh yes, don't stop, unhhhh ..."

Not willing to let him orgasm quite yet, she let go of his member and the sudden halt in stimulation caught him by surprise. Not having quite reached the point of no return, the man's penis wilted quickly. He could hear his blood pounding in his ears.

"Why, you little …" He was embarrassed at losing his erection so quickly, and angry at her for leaving him hanging. He grabbed her by her hair and twisted her downwards. Kirney shrieked and fell over, having been caught unexpectedly. He kept pulling at her hair till she was on her back then straddled her throat and pushed his penis into her red-painted lips.

Survival instinct kicked in at last and Kirney bit him. He jumped up with a roar, while she stared at him, horrified at what she had done.

He cuffed her, snapping her head back. She tasted blood in her mouth and grimaced, waiting for the next blow.

He jumped on her, his erection engorged, holding her head in his hands as he forced her to take him into her mouth. He grew excited by her helplessness beneath him, and more so by the sparks of lust reflected in her eyes as he became rougher with her. He pressed into her, vaguely hearing the thudding of her head against the deep carpeting as he pleasured himself.

Kirney was caught in a hazy dream. She was being raped. But deep in her mind, she was making love to a man who knew her innermost self. He plumbed to fulfill all her needs and desires. She felt her mind's moorings gently set her body adrift, and the pleasure of her attacker filling any voids.

She closed her eyes, imagining Myn in her mouth, forcing himself into her. She sucked and licked with passion, continuing to mouth him after his climax. He yelled out and groaned with pleasure at her ministrations.

She couldn't get enough of him, crawling up his hard, lightly haired body, planting kisses and licks along the way. Spreading her thighs, she straddled his erection; it had never had a chance to calm. She mounted him and rode him to her own shattering release, imagining how Myn would enjoy the view of her pert, full breasts, the panting and moaning. Convincing herself it was him, she convulsed on him mercilessly.

* * * * *
Myn had decided to hire a call girl for his last night on Corellia. He'd managed to sell his ship and to buy passage on a crowded transport to Coruscant. He'd managed to avoid detection, flying low on the radar screen, as it were, by selling his ship privately for cash. He knew Antilles would not be happy about losing a ship, but it was understood that it would be tougher for him to leave if he didn't sell it.

He'd gotten a better price by hiring himself out on a short mission as a domestic pilot, so he felt he was justified in indulging in a professional girl for the night. He visited a very nice brothel, one which he'd known about since he was a boy on Corellia. They were reportedly very discreet and specialized in variety and kinks. Besides, he had managed to get a promotional invitation for a sampling, so the session wouldn't cost much. And, he didn't want to leave Corellia without having had sex at least once!

Right now, he was trying hard not to scream with pleasure. The girl he'd hired was doing a superlative job on him. He threw all his concentration on her lips, the way her sex was clutching at his, her breathing, her moans. He pretended she was Lara, the girl he'd come to Corellia to see. But Lara had stood him up. He didn't require much fantasy to pretend this naked young girl writhing on his body was Lara in the flesh. He had never seen her naked, after all.

Now he had her pinned to the soft, plush carpets, her thighs spread and her pretty feet around his back. Leaning forward to hold her wrists above her head, he yelled out her name, "Lara!!" as he orgasmed. As he came down from his high, she wept quietly and contentedly, sighing, "Myn ... Myn ..." They dozed off together in the foyer's nerfskin rugs, lying naked and happy for the moment.

* * * * *
Kirney felt cold, and knew her customer has left. But she was reluctant to open her eyes. Who knew who had seen her lying naked on the floor? She'd also been relishing a beautiful dream, where she and Myn Donos were together, living alone in a house on the Corellian mountains.

The customer had triggered this fantasy. He was average height, dark, brooding, and had violence and passion in his soul. She'd made love to him as a ‘trick' as a ‘client' – but her body responded as if he has truly been Myn. On one hand, she was ashamed that she wore her passions so close to the surface. On the other, she felt a jubilant release, and knew that Kolot and the others would smile knowingly at her good mood.

There was no stalling the inevitable, so Kirney opened her eyes and found someone had placed her clothing over her, like a blanket, and had further taken the liberty of cleaning her body. She didn't feel the customary stickiness or crumbly dryness of sexual juices too long exposed.

Putting on her dress, she recalled that she had murmured Myn's name to the stranger as she fell asleep. And then she recalled that she'd done it in response to his yelling out her name… But it wasn't her name. It was an older name, of someone who used to be her, but was no longer. What a strange coincidence for him to cry out to a "Lara," whoever she had been.

* * * * *
Feeling better after renting a room just for use of the refresher and to prep for leaving, Myn sat in the crowded corvette, strapped in and prepared for takeoff. He felt the repulsorlift engines engage and looked out a porthole, watching the planet fall away from him. He watched the scenery, wondering when he'd ever see Corellia again.

Something nagged him about the prostitute he had slept with last night. She was certainly willing and beautiful. She had taken him without a word, and Myn truly appreciated her skill at bringing him off, over and over and over again. He'd responded in part because he allowed himself the fantasy that she was Lara, the girl he'd fallen in love with. He'd even shouted out her name in his climax, enjoying her body as he'd hoped to enjoy the woman he once loved.

He fell asleep, his still-hard member yet in her, so he might have dreamt it. But did she murmur softly to him, "Myn"? Perhaps it was just a dream.

When he awoke, she looked so lovely that he felt himself rise again. He made love to her softly, hoping not to awaken her. She sighed and her hips and belly undulated, to meet him. He gazed at her, seeing Lara in this girl, wishing that he'd found his lover after all.

Tears formed behind his lids as he closed his eyes, racing toward release. He hissed through clenched teeth as it happened, trying not to yelp or awaken her.

He got dressed and was going to cover her with her clothing, but hesitated, for he suddenly thought it a shame to ruin the fabric with their wetness. He found a washcloth and slowly, gently cleaned off this girl's body, allowing himself the luxury of exploring her, pretending he was exploring Lara, getting to know her body. When the tears started running down his face, he got up and left payment and the invitation under her guestbook. He covered her body, kissing her cheek, whispering his goodbye to her, whoever she was.

* * * * *
Kirney looked over the brothel invitation, recognizing it as the one Peche had given to the pilot who flew their new patrol boat. She smiled to herself. She'd gotten to meet him after all. And he was, indeed, a skillful pilot, of both ships and of a woman's baser needs.

He was also quite familiar. The smell of him, how he held her, the texture of his voice… they reminded her more of Myn Donos than any other man. This bothered her a lot. What would Myn think, finding her whoring her body to the highest bidder?

That morning, she had returned home, and her family was quite concerned with her. She had a puffy face from where that man had struck her, her limbs were stiff from sleeping on the floor of the brothel foyer, and she was over-tired from the long festival night. But happily, that was the extent of the bad news. The good news was that word of their services had finally gotten around, and they were now taking in more requests than they could comfortably handle.

Kirney and Swindae realized the time had come to retire from prostitution. The conditions for it were right, and it was coming on three months since they negotiated their original terms with Megestatio. They had promised to renegotiate at this time.

So, too, their office and living quarters lease was up and they could now afford to move into more spacious quarters, with proper yards for their two ships. It was a good time for a completely new start.

Both women were rather pensive and regretful at having to leave the universe's oldest profession, but they recognized the need to put it behind them, and to concentrate on building and growing their primary business. They even brought a nice gift basket of homegrown fruits and vegetables to Megestatio that very day when they tendered their resignations, which he had the good grace to accept. They parted amicably, with the promise that should the need arise again, Megestatio would be the first man they called.

* * * * *
Myn dozed in his cheap semi-private sleeper bunk, not quite finding sleep. He still didn't quite understand what had gone wrong that Kirney, and why she had not met him. He kept thinking it over and over to himself, and found that even when he dozed, he half-dreamt of her.

In his dream this time, Kirney was in the large apartment complex he had first called. Lieutenant Kettch was with him, the legendary alter ego of Lt. Wes Janson of Starfighter Command. Kettch was a stuffed Ewok originally designed to torment Commander Wedge Antilles and Wraith Squadron. He was also the core of a complex joke within the unit, with Squeaky the manumitted protocol droid providing the sing-song trilling voice of the Ewok. Others later imitated his voice when they needed to fake the existence of the Ewok, so Myn recognized Kettch speaking to him without too much shock.

Kettch, however, was saying nothing helpful, just the same phrases over and over, like, "Bleed and die," or "Kettch fly good."

He sat up suddenly, fully awake. The voice that had answered him on that first comlink call trilled in that manner. It was an Ewok who had answered! Had he asked for Kirney Slane? Or Lara Notsil? Perhaps he had asked for Lara, and the Ewok had not understood who that might be??

That girl in the brothel – was that truly Kirney Slane? She seemed so familiar ... and the way she responded to him when he called out her name, "Lara!" She responded while half-conscious with, "Myn, Myn ..." Didn't she? She might have! Oh, he wasn't sure!

And if it had been her, why had she been driven to prostitution? Is that what he'd done to her??

Myn felt the insanity coming for him again. No! He pushed it away, resisting the urge to order the captain of the ship to return to Corellia. He told himself, there would be enough time to check once they reached Coruscant ...

* * * * *
Wedge Antilles found Myn in a tapcaf between the tranport station and the military base, crying alone into his ale.

"Find her?" asked the commander.

Myn nodded.

"She didn't want you?"

Myn wiped his eyes, and choked on his drunken words, "She's gone again. I found her, but I didn't recognize her. I called and called. But now she's gone again!" He sobbed pathetically into his ale.

Wedge put some credits on the table, and lifted Myn's arm over his own shoulder, to help him stumble back to barracks. In an act of great compassion, Wedge never spoke to Myn of this lost weekend, ever again.



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