The races continued well into the late evening; we watched excitedly as each jockey finished their trials. I kept an eye out for the Nash and his Blade Viper cohorts, knowing that they would stick around to see the final results on the race. The final contestant finished and for a moment, the crowd seemed to hold a collective breath, as the results were tallied. I felt the tension in the air and the excitement, my own heart thudding against my chest, hoping that Aiden had done well.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, COMING IN AT THIRD PLACE, IN THIS MONTH’S REGIONAL SWOOP RACE IS….DAK KALLOS!”
The crowd cheered as Dak stood up from his seat beside us and raised his arms, pumping his pumping his fist in the air. He turned, winking in my direction as he made his way up to the winner’s podium. The crowd quieted, as the announcers began to bellow out the next winner.
“RUNNER UP FOR REGIONAL IS NONE OTHER THAN OUR OWN FORMER CHAMP…..NASH FELAN!”
The crowds cheered and chanted as I watched Nash approach the podium from across the track. He waved and encouraged the crowd, yet I could tell that he wasn’t exactly happy to come in second.
Again the crowd was silenced.
“THE NEW SWOOP RACE CHAMPION IS A NEWCOMER TO THE RACING CIRCUIT, PLEASE GIVE A BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE TO AIDENNNN VINOLOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!”
The roar of the crowd was deafening! My heart felt like it had jumped into my throat! I knew he had done well, but I never expected him to win the entire race. Aiden stood, bowing to the crowd, their cheers and clapping shaking the bleachers with its magnitude. He looked over at me and leaned in, kissing me on the cheek. I stood stunned, happily watching him make his way to the podium to join the other winners.
I felt, more than heard someone approach me from behind. I turned just as Shorcuk reached my side, growling low in his throat.
“Whoa lady, call off your pet, will you?”
It was the Blade Viper I had seen following Nash around. I reached out a hand and touched Shorcuk lightly on the arm.
“He is NOT my pet, he is my friend. Talk about him like that again and I won’t be responsible for how he reacts.”
“No problem, lady.” The man gave a glance in Shorcuk’s direction before continuing. ” Your husband is quite the lucky man to win this race. My boss is very impressed. He would like to speak with you both tomorrow. He has….a proposition for you.”
“I am afraid that I will have to speak to my husband about that.”
“Be here tomorrow evening just as it gets dark. Don’t be late. The boss does not like to wait.”
I crossed my arms and tilted my head to one side. “And if we don’t show?”
The man grinned. “You will, if you know what’s good for you.”
“This had better not be a waste of our time.”
“Believe me lady, it won’t be.”
With that, the Blade Viper turned and walked away. I heaved a sigh of relief. So far, so good. Now to see what they want from us.
Aiden and Dak walked back to our seat as the crowds began to dissipate. Aiden looked at me, wrinkling his brow.
“Did we miss something, love. You have a strange look about you.”
“We are in. The Blade viper’s boss wants to meet us back here, tomorrow night.”
Dak looked puzzled. “Well that worked out a little too perfectly, don’t you think.”
“Indeed. It could be a trap.”
I looked at the two of them. “That could very well be the case, but who knows about are mission, but us?” I questioned. “Besides, what choice do we have?”
“It is a well known fact that the Viper base is well hidden and practically impregnable.” Dak said as we walked out of the track area and into the city streets.
“Well, with a little luck, they will just let us in.”
“I hope so, but what could they want with you?”
Aiden smiled, chiming in on the conversation. “Maybe it has something to do with how badly I beat you in the race.”
Dak glared in Aiden’s direction and then busted out in laughter. ” You were good, my brother, I will give you that.”
Aiden’s eyes twinkled as he leaned over and punched Dak in the arm.
“Oh, you are soooo lucky you are a Jedi. If it wasn’t for the force, I’d show you a thing or two!”
I couldn’t help but laugh. It was good to see the two of them getting along for once. I only hoped that it would last. I turned, facing the two.
“You both did so well, this calls for a celebration. What do you guys say to a quick trip to the cantina, I am buying!”
“Count me in!”
I glanced at Shorcuk. “You coming?”
The Wookiee growled a yes. One thing about Shorcuk, he liked cantinas.
No matter what time of the week, the cantina seemed to always be packed. The lower city patrons were a rowdy bunch and it was pretty obvious they liked their drink.
The four of us made our way to the closest empty table we could find and settled in. Drinks ordered, we leaned back, for once feeling a little bit more relaxed.
“Dak, I am thankful for all the help you have given us.” I smiled at him, truly glad that fate had allowed us to meet. I wasn’t sure we could have pulled it off without him.
“Is that your polite way of telling me that you have no more need of me and to get lost?”
I shook my head. “No, of course not! Its just that, I doubt the Vipers are going to let us all join in on this meeting tomorrow. I don’t see that there is much more you can do. I don’t want you to feel that you are obligated to help us any more.”
Dak started to reply, but paused as our drinks arrived. I thanked the waitress and took a sip of my ale.
“Look Na’sha, I don’t feel obligated to do anything. I like you and the boys. I like helping you. I don’t have any family and well…” Dak rubbed a hand over the back of his neck as if deciding what to say next.
“You are the closest thing to a family I have ever had. I want to stay with you and see this mission through.”
I was touched. I really liked having him around, and if Aiden would be honest with himself, he would have to admit that Dak was starting to grow on him as well. I reached out, taking Dak’s hand and giving it a squeeze.
“You are like family to me too, Dak. You are more than welcome to help us. I don’t know where tomorrow will take us, but you are welcome to come along for the ride. You say this gang is dangerous, I just hope you know what you are getting into and that you are well prepared.”
Dak nodded, a huge smile across his face. “Thanks, I won’t be a liability. Let’s just say, there are a lot of things that you don’t know about me yet.”