,()()()!


with an E-11, then secured two E-9 blasters, one in an ankle holster, one in the small of his back.

Arra had never seen him holding a blaster since he had mustered out, and, fates willing, she never would. But Zeerid never went anywhere unarmed.

Before leaving his quarters, he sat at the portcomp, logged in, and checked the balance in the dummy account he used with The Exchange.

And there it wasone hundred thousand credits, newly deposited.

Thank you, Oren.

He transferred the credits to an untraceable bearer card. It was more than hed ever held in his hand before.



* * *



Vrath sat on one of the many metal benches found in Yinta Lakes spaceport on Vulta. Droids sped past. Sentients went by in groups of two and three and four. Someones voice blared over a loudspeaker.

Like every spaceport on every planet in the galaxy, the place was abuzz with activity: droids, holovids, vehicles, conversations. Vrath tuned it all out.

A large vidscreen hanging from the ceiling showed the latest news on the right side, and the latest ship arrivals and departures on the left. He watched only the arrivals. The board tracked every ship to which planetary control gave docking instructions, the scroll moving as rapidly as the activity in the port. Vrath was waiting for one name in particular.

An exercise of will, the firing of certain neurons, caused his artificial eyes to go to three-times magnification. The words on the screen grew clearer.

The Hutts mole in The Exchange had given Vrath a ships name, which meant he had a pilot, which meant he could find the engspice and keep it from ever getting to Coruscant.

The Hutts wanted the addicts on Coruscant freed of their reliance on their competitors engspice so they could be hooked on Hutt engspice,
  






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