Lulpuku grabbed a cold can of Sour Sarlacc and plopped himself down onto the couch of his rundown apartment. Most people didn’t like the taste of Sour Sarlacc, but for a Twi’lek like Lulpuku, it was just the thing to help him unwind after a long day working at Dexando’s Emporium. It wasn’t long before Puku, as he liked to be called, settled into his nightly routine of munching on Frag Snack Chips and browsing the Holonet. Night after night, it was always the same.
Puku used to dream of making his mark on the galaxy as a bounty hunter. Sure, the credits would have been nice, but there was an ideal to it as well. He would be the law in the lawless planets of the Outer Rim. The best bounties, however, always seemed to get taken by Trandoshans and assassin droids. Meanwhile Puku was lucky if he could manage to nab a few credits turning in a lowlife that had borrowed money from the Hutts.
With the bounties so few and far between, Puku took a job in the shipping district of Ark Station, the galaxy’s most well-known black-market base. It wasn’t much, mostly just moving illegal cargo from one ship to another, but it was enough to make ends meet between hunting contracts.
Puku hated every minute of it. The other workers were largely good for nothing, always sluggish and forcing Puku to either do everything himself, or redo their shoddy work. If he was lucky, though, he could always squeeze a few extra credits from smugglers and traders who wanted to keep the details of their cargo on the quiet side.
As time dragged on, the bounties only became fewer and fewer and Puku moved into an apartment nearby with a coworker to split the cost of rent after he threw out his back moving cargo and had to find other employment. He was fortunate and found a job at Dexando’s. It paid better than the shipping district, but still not great. Puku wondered when he’d finally get the opportunity he deserved to make his mark on the galaxy.
Puku was brought out of his solemn memories by the sound of the door sliding open. Puku’s roommate, a Rodian named Keatch, walked in looking tired. Keatch grabbed himself a can of Bantha Blaster from the fridge and tossed himself onto the couch next to Puku, immediately opening the can and downing half of it. Keatch was the only other worker from the shipping district that wasn’t a loader droid that Puku considered worth his salt.
“How was work?” Puku asked, knowing the answer before he heard it.
Keatch grumbled some curse word in Rodese, gulped down more of his drink. “You?” He looked over at Puku.
“Always the same. The manager says that if I don’t boost my productivity I’ll be out of a job. It’s not my fault no one wants to buy our clothes,” Puku responded in a self-righteous tone. He had told Keatch all about the problems at work. The lazy manager, the poor inventory, the bad location. If it wasn’t for Puku, the place probably would have gone under by now. He had a few ideas of how Dexando’s could do better, but he couldn’t bring himself to care about the place. It’s not like they were a big business like the weapons shops or any of the armories.
“You ever feel like leaving Ark Station?” Puku asked, seemingly out of nowhere.
“How are guys like us gonna make it off this hunk of junk? It’s not like we’re doing any big business like Cicero and his ilk. It’d take some sort of miracle to get outta here,” came the nasally response from the Rodian. Puku knew he wasn’t going to get more out of Keatch, so he finished his drink and went to bed.
As Puku lay on his ratty mattress, he wished that he could be back among the stars. Hunting down bounties, sure, but he would take any excuse to get off Ark Station at this point. Puku told himself that once he had enough money to rent a small ship, he would get back out there and make it big. There was even a little part of himself that believed that he would. But a bigger part of himself would keep working at Dexando’s day in and day out, always coming back to the same apartment, eating the same chips, and watching the same vids. It really would take a miracle to get out of here Puku thought to himself as he drifted off to sleep.
Puku dragged himself out of bed the next morning and made his way to Dexando’s.
“You’re late. Again,” a sneering voice called out to him as he made his way into the shop. That voice could only belong to Patricia, possible the worst manager in the entire Outer Rim. “You show up late one more time and you’re done for!” Puku dismissed the threat almost immediately. It wasn’t the first time he had heard it.
“You’re sounding cheery as ever, Patricia,” Puku said with excessive amounts of sarcasm.
“Don’t take that tone with me,” she snapped with venom in her voice. “I’m your superior and you need to respect me more. Now watch the shop while I’m gone.” That was code for, “Stay here while I take three hours to go get more deathsticks.” Puku knew it was pointless to call her out about her problem, so he merely took his place behind the counter and waited for customers to trickle in.
It was a slow morning until two customers walked up to the shop, a large Trandoshan and a human, both loudly making their way toward the miscellaneous section. The Trandoshan browsed for a bit before settling on an eyepatch. The buffoon seemed pretty pleased with himself after trying it on. Puku thought it would be best to intervene before this moron got too carried away with some of the stranger items.
“You’re gonna have to pay for that,” Puku stated with a hint of irritation in his voice.
“How much is it?” the Trandoshan asked in a raspy voice.
“Thirty credits. What if I don’t have thirty credits? What if I only got, like, ten?”
“Then you’re not gonna buy it.” Had this idiot ever been in a store before?
Undaunted, the lizard persisted. “I’ll do you one better. What if I got fifteen?”
“So, you have more than ten credits,” It was supposed to come out as a question, but who was the Trandoshan trying to fool? It wasn’t working.
“These are hypotheticals. I don’t know have much I have,” came the Trandoshan’s response.
“So, if you hypothetically had thirty credits you could hypothetically buy it. Or leave.”
“But if I hypothetically had less than thirty credits,” the Trandoshan interjected, “I could haggle with you and pay less, right?”
Wow this guy was thick. “No,” was Puku’s curt response. How did this Trandoshan survive on his own, he wondered.
“Damien! Damien come here!” called the Trandoshan to his human accomplice.
“What is it, Sskogga?” the human responded lazily.
“Wha- How did you see through my disguise?” The Trandoshan addressed as Sskogga asked incredulously.
“I’m wearing an eyepatch. How did you know it was me?”
“Because Sskogga, you were literally the only Trandoshan in this entire store when we walked in.” It quickly became apparent to Lulpuku that the human must be the brains of the operation. Even then, that wasn’t saying much, it seemed.
“Can’t argue with that logic,” Sskogga replied, not a hint of embarrassment in his voice. “Okay, this is what I’m going to do. I need you to do a Jedi mind trick so I don’t have to pay thirty credits for this.”
“A Jedi what?” Puku interrupted. This Trandoshan didn’t seem to realize that Puku could hear every word he was saying.
“This doesn’t concern you!” Sskogga quickly blurted. “Look, I think there’s someone that needs help over there.” Sskogga stared at Puku with his one uncovered eye and pointed to an obviously empty section of the store.
“I’ll be right back,” Puku stated flatly. He skulked over to the other side of the room, far enough away so that he could ignore the idiocy that was taking place across the shop. It was at times like this that Puku wished that he could be anywhere but here. Before he could get too sullen, the human called from across the room.
“Mr. Twi’lek,” came the voice.
“Twi’lek! Hey! Hey, come back here! Hey! Yeah!” the Trandoshan’s voice covered the human’s completely. Puku looked back over his shoulder, rolled his eyes, and strolled over to the pair.
The human held up some dark grey robes similar to the ones he already had on and asked, “How much are these?”
“That depends on if you need them fitted or not.”
“I just tried them on. They fit perfectly,” the human responded with no small amount of arrogance in his tone.
“Very well, then that’ll be sixty credits.” Perhaps if the prices were high these two fools would just leave the shop and Puku could go back to minding his own business.
“We’ll get it—” the Trandoshan blurted out, tripping over his words, “We’ll do five. Five credits!”
“Does he speak for you?” Puku could barely keep it together with these two.
“The eyepatch costs five credits,” the human reasoned.
“And the robes! We get it all in one shot!” The Trandoshan interrupted again.
The robes and the eyepatch for five credits?! The Trandoshan must be supremely stupid to think that haggling down a price of ninety credits to five would ever work. Puku might not have cared much about his job, but he wasn’t dumb enough to bargain with this fool.
“What are you talking—” Puku felt a strange tug at his mind, almost imperceptible. “No, that’s not the agreed upon price. We haven’t agreed upon anything. I shouldn’t even let you buy it!”
“Together the robes and the eyepatch are worth ten credits,” the human ordered.
“Together the robes and the eyepatch are—” Puku felt the same sensation again. This time it was an insistent urge to agree with the man. He couldn’t shake the haze that was settling upon his mind. There was definitely something going on. Puku felt compelled to lower the price, against all his better judgment. “—ten credits.” Puku finished his sentence before he had completely processed what had happened.
“We’ll pay it!” the human hurriedly said, “Slide your chit,” he said to the Trandoshan. Puku proffered a data pad and the Trandoshan slid a chit along its side. Puku took the data pad back and saw that ten credits had been transferred for the eyepatch and the robes. He slid the data pad into his jacket pocket and simply stood there as if waiting for further instruction.
As if walking out of the mist and into the light, Puku suddenly came to his senses. He started to say something to stop the two from leaving, but the human and the Trandoshan were already gone. In their place stood Patricia.
“Did I just hear that you gave those items away for ten credits?! How could you be so stupid? I knew as soon as I left that you would bungle something!” she yelled at him. When did she even get back? How long was Puku in that fugue?
“Patricia, I can explain. These two guys came in and they acted all dumb but then they pulled some sort of trick. Maybe they drugged me or something— Wait! One of them mentioned something about a Jedi. We have to find them right away!” Puku started scrambling for his jacket. He had to find those guys before they got away.
“You really expect me to believe that? Puku you’re so full of it. I’ve had it with you. You’re done. Get your stuff and leave.” And with that, Patricia walked to the backroom in a huff.
Puku couldn’t believe what just happened. This was all those two thieves’ fault. They’re the ones that practically stole merchandise and made him look bad. Puku cursed aloud, put on his jacket, and left the store. He spotted a street vendor a little ways away, and while a cold can of Sour Sarlacc wouldn’t solve his problems, it would help take the edge off.
After paying for the drink, Puku noticed a small flat rectangle in his jacket pocket. Upon inspection, he realized that it was the company data pad from Dexando’s. He turned to bring it back to the shop but stopped himself.
Perhaps this was his miracle. Perhaps this was his ticket out of here. There were over two thousand credits loaded onto the data pad. That was more than enough to get off the station and get a fresh start somewhere else. Lulpuku felt something stir inside him. It was a sudden urge to take control of his life and leave Ark Station. Before he could second guess himself, Puku began making his way towards the docks.
Puku got to the nearest speed-rail station and was shocked to find that it wasn’t coming for a while. Apparently, there were power outages all over Ark Station. That was highly irregular as higher ups in the station liked to keep things running smoothly. Having to go by foot was a pain and would take time, but Puku didn’t have much of a choice as the taxis didn’t look like they were running either. In fact, it looked like almost all vehicular traffic had been locked down. Something was going on, but Puku knew that he had to leave soon. What if Patricia had noticed the data pad was missing? She’d probably call station security and he’d be thrown in a cell somewhere. No, that was ridiculous. She wouldn’t call security on him, would she?
Puku pushed the thoughts from his mind as he hurried to the docks. The whole station was running on backup generators now and he was getting a very bad feeling about the whole situation. The sooner he left the station the better. He managed to make his way down to the shuttle bay and hurried over to a bulletin board to see if any of the smugglers were taking passengers. His heart leaped as he saw a shuttle with a single free seat. It was scheduled to leave in ten minutes. Not believing his luck, he quickly purchased passage and boarded the shuttle.
As Puku buckled himself into the passenger seat, he felt something rock the station. He had no idea what it was, but anything big enough to rock the station couldn’t be good news. The pilot settled into his chair at the helm and asked for clearance to leave only to be met with static. The pilot tried again. No response. After the third attempt, the pilot grumbled something about the lazy dock workers and fired up the engines anyway.
“Shouldn’t we wait for clearance?” Puku called to the pilot.
“Just sit down and shut up! Things ain’t lookin’ good here and I’ve got precious cargo to deliver. I ain’t stayin’ here a minute longer. We’re leaving, with or without clearance.” The pilot seemed really rattled about something. Perhaps it had to do with the power outages.
The shuttle promptly lifted off the docking bay floor and exited the hangar. Puku’s eyes went wide as he looked out the window and saw a fleet of foreign ships engaged with the different pirate, scavenger, and marauder vessels that usually floated around the station. The pirates and such were doing incredibly poorly, as the massive dreadnaughts of the foreign fleet blasted ship after ship to smithereens. Countless other smaller spaceships were blasting off into hyperspace, fleeing the fight entirely. The hangers of Ark Station, however, remained still, with no other ships taking off.
They had only gotten a few kilometers away before the attacking ships began bombarding the station itself. The pilot executed a few maneuvers to avoid debris and fired up the hyperdrive as soon as he was clear to. Puku looked back one last time to see an enormous, blinding explosion instantly fade out of view as they blasted into hyperspace on the last shuttle off Ark Station.