you certain?

Anger bled into Zeerids tone. No, Im not certain. Whats certain in this work? Ever?

Oren did not respond. Zeerid lassoed his emotions and continued.

Im only certain that the pilot I expected, a fellow named Arigo, was not there. But his ship was. Im only certain that eight men with blasters and hostile attitudes tried to burn holes through me.

Eight men. Orens voice was tight. Not a good sign. What happened to them?

Zeerid had the impression that Oren was noting everything he said, filing it away in memory so he could sift it for any inconsistencies later.

Theyre dead. I sniffed out the attack before they sprang it.

That seems convenient, Z-man.

Zeerid stared out the canopy at Ord Mantells star and controlled the flash of temper. He knew that if Oren suspected him of double dealing, or just didnt believe his story, a word from the man would turn Arra into an orphan.

Convenient? Let me tell you whats convenient, Oren. Word is that lots of deals have been going sour because The Exchange wont play nice with the other syndicates, including the Hutts. And nothing explains lots of deals going sour except a leak. That tells me The Exchange is venting Oh-two.

Oren did not miss a beat. Zeerid almost admired him. If one of my fliers thought there might be a leak, he might also think it an ideal time to make a play for some goods himself. Especially if he had heavy debts. Make it look like an ambush of, say, eight men. After all, theres a ready excuse at handthis strife with the other syndicates you mentioned.

He might, Zeerid said. But only if he was stupid. And stupid I am not. Listen, you gave me the drop coordinates on Ord Mantell. Send someone there, a surveillance droid. Youll see what I left there.

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