Special Delivery

Part Four

Back in the safety of hyperspace, Sal flicked through the files she’d gotten from their ship. She couldn’t tell exactly what they were into, but it looked like there were some references to “packages” and some coded locations - so, smugglers. She glanced over at the infant gurgling in the co-pilot’s seat, fussing with its safety harness.

“Who are you, really?” she murmured. There were other bad people out there besides Imperials and Hutts, she knew. And nothing good could come of going to Dargo III. Then again, it was just a little baby. A wrinkly, helpless little human baby. And she’d come from Rebel docks; they couldn’t be trying to smuggle information to bad guys on Dargo. Unless… they were good guys on Dargo. Secret agents!

But wait. The guy she’d just left floating and unconscious in orbit around Gora had seemed… sincerely desperate when he’d said the baby couldn’t get to Dargo III.

You don’t understand, kid. It can’t get to Dargo. I can’t let it.

No, she didn’t understand. Not anything. He’d felt… not evil. Just desperate. And weren’t they all?

Sal sighed hard. She still had a few hours before dropping out of hyperspace in Dargo system. She spent it looking up anything she could find on Dargo, on the images in each of the messages she’d found with Soewn.

Rebel information was tightly guarded, for obvious reasons, and she wasn’t great at getting around security measures. But Karrlos was human, and he was in Crucible sector, so she fed his image in and ran it against civilian databases for the human worlds in the sector. Which was a long sort of number crunch, but she let it and a similar search on Soewn’s mother run while she read through data she’d found on the ship that’d tried to steal the baby.

By the time she was frowning at the stolen datapads and making her own notes in a separate file about a splinter cell called “Gabe’s Quarter,” the computer binged back results. She looked over.

There was no result for Karrlos, but - “Avangelin … Gabriel?” Sal looked at the infant, who cooed at her and tried to push buttons on the console. She looked back at her datapad and reread the information on it. Gabe’s Quarter had started out with the Rebellion in its infant stages, but broke off early on. It’d settled its base of operations on — Dargo III.

Poodoo.

Well she didn’t have a problem with other people who had a problem with Imperials, just because her sister didn’t happen to have joined their particular team. Except, if this guy who wanted the baby was adamant it not get to Dargo III, but he was in with these Gabe’s Quarters people, and Dargo was where the baby’s mother, Avangelin Gabriel had sent it, then who was the bad guy?

Well, somebody was, because her ship had been boarded for absolutely no legal reason and she’d been threatened by grown up human people and if she hadn’t got them all, they’d have “taken care” of both the baby and herself. And really? She wasn’t convinced the men with blasters had been the bad guys. She read a little more about Avangelin Gabriel, but either the woman was a saint, or her record had been cleared by someone with more computer savvy than Sal had.

Time to look up the “grandparents.”

The people who lived at the location Avangelin Gabriel had listed on her note to Karrlos were named Bar and Novi Bellaas. Sal had been hoping they’d be named Mr and Mrs Gabriel-the-People-You-Are-Looking-For, but having any name at all was a good start. Their records were also squeaky clean, which was good enough proof for Sal that Bellaas was a fake name. But their photos were of old humans, and they looked enough like Avangelin that they were probably her real parents. Not that Sal was really able to tell, with humans. But she felt like they were involved. Sal looked up their comm info.

When an old man answered, she said, “Mister Bar Bellaas?”

“Yes?”

“I have a delivery for you, and I wondered if you would be able to meet me at a docking port close to your home.”

“A delivery?” His side went quiet.

“Mister Bellaas?” Sal frowned at the console. “Are you still there?”

The voice came back, strained. “Who - who is it from?”

“Avangelin, Mister Bellaas. It’s… ‘precious cargo.’”

“Where are you,” the voice hissed suddenly. “You aren’t in orbit, I presume.”

Sal frowned and leaned closer to the comm mic. “No. But I’m in system. Mister Bellaas, is everything all right?”

“Get out of here, now.”

“Mister Bellaas, your grandson-!”

Now, Miss, whoever you are-” He paused, mumbling to someone else. “Grandson?” he said then, suddenly subdued, tired.

“He needs family.”

“A different family,” he spat. Another voice, softer, feminine, could be heard soothing him. “A different family,” he said again, venom gone.

“Let me help you,” she whispered. “I don’t know what else to do. Let me come to you.”

“No.” It was the voice of command. Not a voice Sal heard often, and not one she reacted particularly well to, being a child possessed of a very grown up sense of responsibility. But he continued before she could interrupt. “Meet me at these coordinates in two hours.” Buried in the signal was a stream of information her computer interpreted for her as a location on the moon of an outer planet. Sal looked up from the computer display and opened her mouth to ask— but the connection was fuzz. Gone.

She looked over at the cooing infant.

“Okay. Well that’s only like half an hour on sublight, so we got time to get you cleaned up.” She started to unbuckle the tiny thing and it grabbed onto one of her lekku.

Sal decided to fill an actual basin with actual water in order to bathe the little baby. The warm water would have seemed soothing to her, sitting in the gentle waves, feeling all the stress and tiredness soak away. Not that the little thing had stress or tiredness. It seemed full of energy, life, and she felt really, really old. But twenty minutes later, the little boy was clean and hungry and sleepy and crying. She cradled him for a while, walking up and down the ship because that seemed to settle him, and when he had had a little more of the warmed broth, he passed right out.

Sal got them to the rendezvous point as fast as she could and used the rest of the time to dig into the little pod Soewn had been hidden in, looking for whatever it was that Soewn might have had with him that shouldn’t be handed over to his grandparents. At first glance, it seemed perfectly average: beat-up but serviceable. She pulled up the padding, patched into the little computer read out, even turned the thing over to see if there was anything attached on the outside. Nothing.

And it couldn’t have been on Soewn himself, because she’d just given him a bath and he was just a baby lookin’ thing. He did have that birthmark on his foot.

The comm went off. Sal raced to the cockpit to hit it before it could wake the baby sleeping in the Med Bay. “Sal Vage of the Mine, Not Yours.”

“This is Bar Bellaas. You have a package that belongs to me?” he said hopefully.

“Mister Bellaas,” Sal breathed in relief. “Yes. Want to do this on the ground?”

“I’d prefer not to,” he replied. “Better to be able to make a fast getaway. Coming about to dock.”

Ugh. Why did people have to keep docking with her? She remembered the blaster her sister had left for her and strapped it to her side before locking the cockpit door and heading to Med. She picked up sleeping infant just as the bounce of being docked clanged through the ship and stepped out to meet him.

The man who swam through the airlock matched the old man in the photo she’d found, and she let out a breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding. “Mister Bellaas,” she said.

He found the ladder rungs just as his feet found her gravity and was lucky for it. Sal didn’t think he could have easily stood banging into the floor. His info said he was 64, but he looked beaten down by life.

“Miss Vage?” he guessed.

“Lug. Sal Vage Lug. You can call me Sal.” She turned the tiny tot so it could face him and smiled. “He looks like you.”

The old man nodded wearily. “Babies all look the same,” he said gruffly, but the corners of his eyes were crinkled in relief all the same. “What do I owe you, Miss Lug?”

“Owe… oh.” Snarf would certainly make a second deal with him to offset the tiny amount Karrlos claimed to have put in her docking accounts. But Snarf was off training, and Sal was alone. “I’ve been paid already,” she said.

“Oh.” He didn’t look happy about that. Had she said the wrong thing? Maybe it was some human custom- “It’s that kind of thing, is it?”

“What kind of thing?” Her hand inched toward her blaster.

“Someone’s paid you to lure me here with my grandson, is that it? Paid you a pretty penny, I wager. Or maybe this is how you make your money, taking pay from desperate people-”

“His father,” Sal interrupted, brows together. “I didn’t ask for this job. I didn’t make any deals. This isn’t what I do. I don’t even know if he was telling the truth when he said he forwarded credits to my account. I found Soewn on my ship, after I’d left orbit. With a couple of notes.”

“His father…” Bar Bellaas followed Sal to the lounge computer, where she played him both of the notes she’d found with Soewn. Bar Bellaas frowned when Karrlos’ image came up. “Who is that?”

“Soewn’s father, Karrlos,” Sal said, frowning in doubt. “Isn’t it?”

“That’s not Karrlos.”

“What?”

“Karrlos. My son.”

“What?”

The old guy made a face that Sal recognized meant he was just this side of patience. “My son. Karrlos Bellaas. Is due to be married to Avangelin Gabriel. And that’s not him.”

Sal blinked. She swivelled the display and handed the kid off so she could tap at the controls. “But Avangelin’s message says I’d be taking him to her parents. I thought you were her father.”

“Avangelin’s parents are in Habaa System. Moved there after Gabe’s Quarter disbanded. Ava and Karrlos would never send a child here. It’s too dangerous.”

“Okay, so this guy-” She paused the playback on his face. “Isn’t Karrlos, but he changed the coordinates so I’d be taking the kid to Karrlos’ parents here in Dargo System. Why would he do that?”

Bar Bellaas frowned. “I don’t know.”

There was another clang from above them. Sal’s stomach dropped into her boots. “Oh, poodoo.”

Part 5

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