Disclaimer: I don't own Star Wars… and if I did, it appears that I would be a very neglectful owner, indeed.
A/N: Okay… so, TWO weeks later! Geez… Thank you for the encouraging reviews! They gave me a reason to remain faithful! To you! (smile) Anyway, here's the next chapter – a longer one, too!
Chapter V: Tricky MissInformation
Fett led the group to the local transport center, and after a short tram ride, they reached the art gallery. It was a stylish – which is to say, exclusive – sort of place, very well-managed. And nothing looked like it had cost less than five hundred credits. Posters and flags lined the walkways of the area, proclaiming the group's entrance into the "Galaxy-Renowned Alderaanian Arts District."
"Seems a little redundant," Solo commented, tugging at the stiff collar of one of his better jackets. "The whole city is an art district."
Prior to leaving the ship, Rendar and Solo had followed Fett's lead and had changed into clothing that, at least, appeared presentable. Clean clothes just happened to be in season on Alderaan. Fancy that.
The Wookiee was left with the ship. For that much, Fett was glad. They didn't need a hairy billboard announcing their unique presence to the world.
The hunter paused before entering the gallery. "I will deal with my contact as I see fit," he warned. "You need not follow any further."
"Like hell," Solo scowled. Thrusting a finger at the storefront – wide panels of shimmering glass – he sneered, the expression distorting in his reflection, "We have just as much right to go into this place as you do."
"I'd prefer that you didn't know with whom I keep business."
"Well, it's just too bad that we are doing the business deals this time around, isn't it?" Solo barged into the gallery without another word.
Rendar flicked a nervous look in Fett's direction before following suit.
After entering, the hunter noticed Solo walking around the exhibits in a stupor, probably gaping at the asking price for many of the pieces. This particular gallery actually had the physical art pieces in the store, another sign of its wealthier clientele.
A door slid open at the back of the showroom, and from it, a woman entered. A form-fitting dress, slinky and with a long slit, encased her lithe form. Her dark hair fell across mischievous eyes. She favored the trio with a slight smirk, but it widened into a grin when she recognized Fett.
"Jaeger," she greeted him.
Rendar and Solo stared open-mouthed. "I thought you said it was a guy," Rendar whispered.
"I do try to protect my contacts' identities," Fett answered.
"I'm so glad that you came to visit me," she said while leading him to a desk. As she took her own seat, the woman gestured for him to make himself comfortable. On the desktop, she lightly tapped a small button. The front doors locked, and the lights of the display windows darkened.
At the change in atmosphere, Solo reached for his concealed blaster within his coat. With raised eyebrows, she said, amused, "For discretionary purposes only, sir."
Fett glared at Solo until the smuggler stood down.
"You requested information?" Amaya asked. A smirk found its way to her face once more. Fett hated when she smirked; it often meant that he was going to be paying far more than what the information was worth. "About Voorish glass?"
Feeling a scowl cross his face, Fett crossed his arms. Damn. She was being playful. Whatever she had to share was going to sting. "You know I mentioned that the piece was more notable than that."
"Ah, right," she answered. He heard Solo and Rendar muttering as she settled back into her seat. "You mean the piece from the Emperor's collection."
He stared without comment.
For an instant, she appeared to be hurt. "Ah Jaeger, you're usually more well-mannered than this."
He heard Solo snort from behind him.
With a sigh, she continued, "Well, what payment did you bring me this time?"
"A real find." He reached deep into the pocket of his tunic. He paused before pulling out the item. "You're going to fall in love with me for this."
She laughed, slapping the desktop in an effort to hurry the revelation of this prize. Rendar and Solo appeared to be shocked.
He set an older model of blaster on the desk. Instead of the matte black that was the fashion among modern blasters, it was composed of a silvery metal. Its handle was ornate, carved with an intertwining, almost delicate pattern.
"Hey!" Solo cried. "That's –"
"That's a BlasTech AF-11!" Amaya interrupted, standing. "One of their earliest models! Oh, I think I might have to give you a line of credit for this!" She winked, "On top of the love I owe you, I mean."
"Th-that," Solo was still fumbling for words. He watched as the woman hugged the weapon fiercely, still cooing over it. "Well… it was mine." Glaring, he turned to Fett. "You so owe me."
"I found the contact, didn't I? Besides, you should have better locks on your shipboard lockers," the hunter answered, quietly. Amaya was still rejoicing over the rare weapon. Over her squeals, he retreated to what she had been saying; he was not one to be sidetracked. "A line of credit? This is worth more than your info for me?"
She nodded with a peal of laughter. Reaching into one of the desk's drawers, she pulled out a flimsiplast. She handed it to the trio, still trembling with excitement. "Do you know how much this will go for?" she cried, cradling the blaster.
The trio stared dumbfounded at the flimsy. It was a press release from the Imperial Board of the Arts. Announcing that pieces of the Emperor's private art collection were on tour. A very public, very well-advertised tour.
"Well, where the hell was that in your research?" Solo scoffed. Rendar was practically on the floor, he was laughing so much.
& & & &
Exiting the store, the hunter's mind raced. How could such a mistake have been made? How could he have been so careless?
Fett growled low in his throat. Especially in front of Solo, that bastard! Dark thoughts once again swirled in his mind, and he gripped the flimsy tightly. He wanted to tear not only the flimsy into tiny bits, but also the smugglers. He knew, however, that he would not receive the reward if he did so, as tempting as it was.
He sighed. The thoughts of the prize brought a cold rationality with them. Besides, if there was one thing that was a constant about the smuggler, it was that any contact with him rained more bad luck on Fett than he felt was warranted.
Studying the flimsy more carefully, he led the group away from the shop. There must have been something that he had missed. Perhaps it was not as advertised as he had thought.
It wasn't. The press release was specific to Alderaan. Outside news sources had not picked up the story.
Damn her straight to hell.
& & & &
The art was being displayed in one of the Royal House's ballrooms. Upon further inspection of the flimsy, it appeared that there was to be a gala of some sort, a public viewing scheduled for the next evening.
How public the affair would actually be was somewhat of a joke. Only the first hour of the viewing was open to the public. After that, the royalty and dignitaries of the planet would have control of the room for the rest of the night.
"So, now that your contact has provided us with public information, what do we do?" Solo's voice was more than a bit smug.
Fett gritted his teeth in irritation. "While you were enjoying your laugh," he growled, "I… encouraged her to provide me the item's specs and a reliable artist."
Rendar seemed confused. Of course. "You mean you're going to have it replicated?"
Solo smirked. "So you got a plan then, oh Great Hunter?"
Jaw clenched. "Yes."