said nothing, then, “If voice analysis didn’t show it to be you speaking, I might have assumed I’d hailed someone else.”
“I have something else on my mind right now.”
“Oh?” Oren paused, as if awaiting a more thorough explanation. Zeerid offered none, so Oren continued: “As I alluded to before, I have something urgent. Delivery requires someone with extraordinary piloting skills. Someone like you, Z-man.”
“I just finished a job, Oren. I need time—”
“This job will wipe your slate clean.”
Zeerid sat up in his chair, not sure he’d heard correctly. “Say again?”
“You heard me.”
Zeerid had heard him; he just couldn’t believe it. Mere hours ago, he imagined he could never get clear of The Exchange. Now Oren was offering him just that. He tried to keep his voice steady.
“This just a drop?”
“It is a drop.”
“What’s the cargo?” He tried not to choke on the next word. “Spice?”
“Where is it going?”
He figured it had to be heading to some seriously hot hole of a planet for Oren to have offered to clear his debt.
“Coruscant.” Oren pronounced the name reluctantly, as if he expected Zeerid to balk.
“Did you hear what I said?”
“I did. You said ‘Coruscant.’ So what’s the catch?”
“Coruscant ain’t exactly a hot LZ. It’s a vacation compared with what I’m used to. So what’s the catch?”
“You haven’t caught the holo?”
“I’ve been in hyperspace.”
“Of course.” Oren chuckled. “The Empire attacked Coruscant.”
Zeerid leaned in close, once more not sure he had heard correctly. Oren’s simple statement and the flat tone in which he delivered it did not seem to have the wherewithal to carry the import of the words Zeerid thought he’d heard.
“Repeat? There were peace negotiations taking place on Alderaan.