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Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
“This is to be a test of your knighthood. You and your companions must make your own way through the difficulties you will encounter.”
― Arca Jeth

The Trial of Insight was the last test offered as part of the Trials of Knighthood.

Its origins were based upon pragmatism. The Council in times gone by had noted that while a Jedi could take down a Sith on a battlefield, they could be undone by common thieves.

This test helped a Jedi to see what was really in front of their eyes through use of the Force. Seeing through illusion, evaluating an individual’s true persona, and unveiling lies are seen as essential to a successful mission.

Sometimes the Council or master assigned a puzzle from the Jedi Archives or ask them to decipher a code, or decode broken text in scattered files. Sometimes, a field of stones would be laid out and a Padawan would be forced to locate the single grain of sand amongst it.

Lilla’s trial would, as ever, be far more hands-on…

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
Lilla sat in the briefing room.

Perhaps briefing room was a trifle too grand to describe the location. Perhaps it was better to call it what it was – a booth in a cantina in a disreputable part of town. As cantinas so commonly were.

And as she concluded her tour as a Jedi Ranger, she was given a most interesting mission. To support a rebellion. Even on the face of it, it was a challenging spot to be placed in. A Jedi upholds the law. And local laws trump moral codes every time – even the Jedi Code. Sort of.

Lilla presumed her master had something to do with choosing this assignment – given the amount of grey she would have to deal with. And the shades too.

So she sat here, surrounded by bounty hunters, pirates, and smugglers. And if the authorities came in now, she’d be classified amongst them. Not that she was sure which category she’d fall into. Probably all three. Or they’d invent a new one – just for her.

Which meant her mind was wandering, so she brought it back to the here and now. She sat next to Nadorcot – her ally in the bombing mission. They’d been close ever since, and Lilla had been teamed up with her more than once.

But that was as part of a crew. This time they’d be flying as a duo – piloting a light freighter, albeit one with significant upgrades.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
It looked like just another light freighter, and there had to be thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of them in service throughout the galaxy. The engines were overpowered for the ship’s size, and the controls were so sensitive as to be paranoid, which meant it was temperamental and to be flown effectively, needed a pilot and co-pilot to manage her in flight. Even then it was liable to slip out of control if both operators didn’t know exactly what they were doing.

It was bruised. It was dented. It needed paint – but despite the outward appearance, was state of the art under the bonnet.

Admittedly it drank fuel like it’d been wandering the Dune Sea for weeks without water. Oh, but it was fast and manoeuvrable. And Nadorcot had upgraded the weapon’s systems.

It was the fastest ship of its size Lilla had ever flown – had ever seen. It cut through space and atmosphere alike as if born to it, and seated side by side, she and Nadorcot could make it dance.

She loved the ship.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
“Let’s be clear,” Lilla explained for what was either the eighth or the ninth time. “I’m not a part of the rebellion, I’m not a freedom fighter, and I don’t work for your interim government.”

The rebellion’s chief of intelligence raised an index finger, directing it at Lilla as if contemplating poking her in the eye.

“People will die.” She said it simply, a statement of truth, looking at Lilla and letting the words sink in.

“It’s about the greater good,” Lilla said.

For an instant – just an instant – she saw the disappointment on the officer’s face and felt instantly guilty.

“Let me ask you something,” the officer said. “It’s not going to end in galactic war, not if you follow the plan.” The officer tapped the control on a hand-held device. The display illuminated, showing a map of the galaxy. She tapped the console again, this time working quickly, and the map zoomed down, rescaling itself over and over again, to centre on a section of Wild Spce. With a final press of a button the map froze, displaying a system of planets.

“Here it is,” the officer said, indicating the second planet from the system’s star. “Outside the current government’s sphere, so it gets a lot of traffic from criminals.”

Lilla almost looked offended at where this was going.

“The problem with being a rebellion is that we don’t have resources,” the officer said, staring at the projection. “And what we do have is never enough. We have to stay on the move. We’re dealing with it now. The government has everything, all of the resources, all of the troops, all of the spies. For us to survive, we have to plan not just one move or three moves but five moves ahead. We have to have contingencies. Not just where we’re going next, but where we might be going if that location is compromised, if it falls through. We have to have options.”

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
The officer tapped the controls again. The map shifted to the side, and a new image sprang into place. A holo of a young human male.

“This is Captain Onnect, leader of our recon team. It’s a small unit, and their mission is simple. identify, secure, and prepare new locations.”

“That’s a lot of very sensitive information for one man to be carrying,” Lilla said.

“Yes. But the fewer people who know a secret, the fewer who can give it away.”

Nadorcot nodded her agreement.

“He knows not only where we’re going, but where we might be going. He knows where everything we’ve hidden is. All of it.”

Lilla nodded. She had a bad feeling about this.

“His team was ambushed,” the officer said. “Onnect escaped, but the rest of his team were killed. He managed to get a burst transmission to us, letting us know what happened, letting us know that he’s made it off-planet, on his way to the planet you’re so reticent to visit. But the security forces are on his trail, he’s alone, and he’s exposed.”

Nadorcot sighed softly. She and Lilla were thinking the same thing.

“We can’t send a large force in – and none of our operatives are good enough to extract him. The Republic Remnant said it was your decision to go in or not. I’ll leave it up to you.”

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
Lilla could cope with anger. She could deal with pleading and begging. But logic and understanding could never be argued with, not in Lilla’s eyes.

“We’re going to need the pass phrase, whatever it is, so Onnect will recognize us,” Lilla said.

The officer smiled as if he’d known all along she’d say yes.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
What could possibly go wrong?

Whenever anyone said that at a mission briefing, Lilla always groaned inwardly. Because, in truth, there was plenty to consider that might go south – and being optimistic was never a fall-back plan.

Lilla stared out the cockpit at the swirling blue-and-white hyperspace tunnel, not really seeing it. She could feel the ship around her, the low vibration of the heavily modified engines growling, hurtling them faster than lightspeed.

Nadorcot spoke to her, trying for the third time to engage in conversation.

Given Lilla was in no mood to talk, she felt guiltily relieved to hear the engines shift subtly, almost imperceptibly. But she knew both of them felt it, and both of them straightened up in their seats, Nadorcot already reaching overhead to lock in the acceleration compensators as Lilla reached forward to throttle back out of hyperspace.

There was no need to talk; they’d done this a thousand times. They say you could tell the quality of a crew by how they handled this manoeuvre. There were pilots who earned very comfortable livings flying rich passengers here and there solely on the basis of how smoothly they could switch from hyperspace back to real-space, without spilling their passengers’ drinks. Only the very best could manage it seamlessly.

Lilla eased the throttle handles back, cutting power on each engine in concert and watching as the end of the hyperspace tunnel suddenly ran toward them, a field of stars and the glow of the atmosphere of the second planet coming into focus. At the same time Nadorcot linked into the sublights, and Lilla felt the ship catch, caught in space, as if trying to determine which way to go, eager to keep running.

Lilla reversed the throttle on two of the engines, felt the ship yielding, then brought the remaining throttles back up. All at once the tunnel was gone and they were looking at a planet of brown, red, and gold beneath them.

They’d done it flawlessly.

Then the ship’s proximity alarm started shrieking, and Lilla twisted in her seat to silence it.

“What?” she asked, more of the ship than of her co-pilot. “What is it?”

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
Nadorcot twisted one of the dials on the sensor array, then slapped the aft-view camera to life. Lilla stared at the image on the tiny monitor embedded in the control console and tried to keep her jaw from dropping.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Nadorcot said nothing at first, then, “Do you think they see us?”

There was a crackle from the speakers in the cockpit, the open communications channel springing to life.

“This is the Destroyer Ascension.” The voice had all the arrogance and entitlement Lilla had come to expect from an officer of such a regime. “Unknown freighter, identify yourself and state your business.”

Lilla reached for the headset, holding it to one ear as she gestured to Nadorcot, but she needn’t have bothered – her co-pilot was already half out of her seat, reaching under one of the consoles to her starboard for the case full of ship aliases they had available.

Every ship in the galaxy had, built in as part of its core construction, an identity that was broadcast to other ships that came near enough. Called the Identification Friend or Foe-or IFF-transponder, it was a unique ID, theoretically impossible to alter, and never mind that it was positively criminal even to try. But that didn’t stop individuals from doing so and Lilla, quite literally, almost a hundred false names and the documentation to go with them.

“Well, hello there!” Lilla said. She decided an upbeat approach the most appropriate under the circumstances. “Lovely day, isn’t it, Ascension?”

Nadorcot had the case open and pulled a data cube.

“Unknown freighter, we repeat, identify and state your business or you will be boarded. You have ten seconds to comply.”

“Now that’s no way to greet someone,” Lilla said. “You talk that way to all the ships that come across your bow?”

“Unknown freighter, you have five seconds to comply. Broadcast your transponder identification and state your business.”

“Now, hold your Banthas,” Lilla said. “I’ve got it right here. Hey, is there something happening on the planet I should know about?”

“Three seconds. Two seconds–”

Nadorcot slotted a cube home into its receiver on the console, tapping the transmit button at almost the same instant.

“You all should have it now, Ascension,” Lilla said.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
There was a pause, nothing but silence over the open channel. Lilla and Nadorcot stared at each other. If the identity was rejected – or worse, identified as false - they’d be facing a Destroyer at point-blank range. At best, they might be able to evade long enough to make the jump back to lightspeed, but the mission would have failed before it had truly begun.

And given there was already a Destroyer orbiting the planet; there was a good chance they’d arrived too late anyway.

“We identify you as Lucky Lucy, captain. State your business and cargo.”

“That’s us,” Lilla said. “Just heading down to refuel and get a little relaxation. Understand there’s a cantina out on the south side of the capital–”

“Your leisure interests are of no concern to us. In future, you are advised to transmit your ship identification immediately upon exiting hyperspace. You are free to go about your business. Ascension out.”

There was a click as the communications channel closed.

Lilla and Nadorcot slumped back in their seats, exhaling in unison.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
The ship shuddered as it cut through the atmosphere, and settled as Lilla and Nadorcot guided her through the clouds on approach to the capital. Nadorcot keyed in coordinates while Lilla finalised their landing arrangements with the flight control, securing a landing bay in one of the largest facilities on the edge of the city.

There was good and bad about hiding out here, Lilla reasoned. The good was that the local government was as corrupt as any in the galaxy, and with enough credits one could bribe or buy one’s way to just about anything one needed. While there was, ostensibly, a working economy on the planet, the real business was made on the black market, dealing in goods and weapons and spice and, sometimes, even slaves. If you could make money on it, it was probably being bought or sold in one of the cities.

The bad was that the planet didn’t have much in the way of said cities. There was the capital, by far the largest, and perhaps a half dozen more scattered across the planet, but that was it. There was a good reason for this: the metropolises were all domed, enclosed structures with regulated temperature and atmosphere controls. When the planet had been colonised, it had been an ideal, almost idyllic world. Since then, the atmosphere had turned poisonous as industrial and commercial ventures had filled it with toxins. The temperature had skyrocketed, the surface had begun to overheat, and the result was a runaway greenhouse effect that now meant you either lived under a dome or you died.

Which meant the cities were overcrowded, overpopulated, and underserved. Lots of places to hide, sure, but not a lot of places to run.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
The ship glided toward the cluster of port structures as directed by flight control, and Lilla brought it in a slow pass over their designated bay. Each bay was protected by a magnetic shield – a faint, blue-tinged shimmering of energy – and several were occupied. Nadorcot leaned forward, peering past Lilla, joining the Jedi in a survey of the visible ships parked below. In one of the bays, they could see an government troop transport.

“Maybe they didn’t land a full complement,” Lilla said.

Nadorcot raised an eyebrow.

Lilla flicked the throttles, brought the ship through a one-eighty that reversed their direction, put them into a hover over their designated landing bay, then set the ship down onto its pad. Nadorcot began securing systems and Lilla set the engines to standby, as opposed to full shutdown.

“I guess we plan to leave in a hurry,” Nadorcot said.

They stepped from the cockpit and down the short hall to the circular main compartment.

“We don’t know if the Ascension’s after our man. It could just be a coincidence, right? And even if they are searching for Onnect, they’re going to be spread out. So, we keep our eyes open, we play it smart, we’ll be fine. In and out, nobody’ll even know we were here. No diplomatic incident. No galactic war.”

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
They reached the doors of the landing bay and keyed them open. They slid apart, revealing a long, wide, bustling promenade that stretched as far as the eye could see, with more corridors leading to the other bays extending from either side. The noise was immediate – voices arguing, shouting in a dozen languages, speeders whizzing past, droids yammering in binary, vendors hawking their wares from their stalls. They stepped through, and Lilla tapped the door controls, locking the ship safely behind them.

Lilla felt the Force tap a warning on her shoulder. She spun, watching as the crowd parted to reveal an oddly tall and lean figure, some fifteen metres away, leading a group of three humanoids. It took another half second before Lilla could recognize the leader as a known bounty hunter. One she’d run across only a few months before following a particularly challenging mission. He’d found out she was a Jedi and was keen to collect on the bounty – which hampered her assignment significantly.

“Jedi,” the man said, and even across the distance his voice was clear, “Hello.”

Then he opened fire.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
Lilla and Nadorcot took cover, which was followed by a salvo of blaster fire ripping overhead, narrowly skimming the top of the overturned makeshift stall that they had taken cover behind. Shards of masonry showered down, pieces of it vaporized into a fine dust.

“So much for keeping a low profile,” Lilla said.

“So much for in and out,” replied Nadorcot.

There was another salvo, and Lilla shifted in her crouch. Without a word being spoken, Nadorcot returned fire whilst Lilla activated her saber and deflected oncoming blaster bolts. “The time for subtlety is over, I fear.”

The bounty hunters dove for cover. The leader was positioned behind one of the heavy support columns along one side of the promenade. This was not going well. They were wasting time, and with all this shooting, it wouldn’t be long before any manner of troopers showed up to investigate the commotion.

Something ominously heavy clattered onto the ground nearby and rolled into view, whining as it approached steadily and rapidly. Without thinking, Lilla waved a hand at the object, the Force catching the metal ball and sending it bouncing off one of the sidewalls of the now nearly deserted promenade. An instant later the ball exploded, and Lilla felt a moment’s gratitude that this part of the port had cleared almost instantly when the shooting had begun.

Bounty hunters came in all shapes and sizes, all of them with their own axes to grind. Some, she knew, were very careful on the job, precise and professional. Others, though, cared about nothing but obtaining their target. If innocents got in the way, well, that was just too bad for those innocents. They were collateral damage, just the cost of doing business. With the firepower these guys were carrying, Lilla was certain they fell into the latter category and not the former.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
But there was one thing that her experience had taught her that was universal to all bounty hunters.

“I have money,” Lilla said.

The firing stopped, and Lilla knew she had their attention.

“I’ll give it to you. All of it.”

Nadorcot looked at her in amazement.

“All of it, it’s yours – just let us go.”

“Where?” The leader of the bounty hunters spoke again.

“It’s on my ship. You let me go and get it, I’ll bring it to you.”

“Lilla.” The man sounded disappointed. “If I let you go to the ship, you will not come back. We will come with you.”

“You come with us, there’s nothing to stop you shooting us in the back once you have the money.”


“So, you can see why I’d think that’s kind of a rotten deal.”

“We can offer you another deal,” the man said. “We can kill you here, then take your ship and your money.”

“I don’t like either deal,” Lilla said.

Nadorcot nodded her agreement.

Lilla sighed and looked down the promenade in the direction she was facing, away from the bounty hunters.

There was a squad of government stormtroopers approaching, led by an officer with a blaster in her hand. Lilla quickly deactivated her saber and looked to Nadorcot.

“Put it away!” she hissed.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
“Rebels!” Lilla shouted, pointing roughly in the direction of the bounty hunters.

The bounty hunters chose that moment to resume firing, and the officer and stormtroopers immediately scattered, splitting into two groups and pressing themselves against either side of the promenade. Blaster bolts sailed over Lilla’s head, smashing into the walls and ground farther down the wide hallway. Lilla pushed off from the cart and began running low toward where the officer had taken cover behind another of the pillars. More shots peppered the wall behind her; she felt the heat of one of the bolts singe her hair as she slid in next to the officer, feigning breathlessness and pretending to be scared.

“They’re crazy!” Lilla said to the officer. “They were going for one of the ships and then something happened – they just started shooting! I think they’re trying to escape!”

“Stay back!” the woman said, pushing Lilla against the wall. “How many?”

“Four, I think,” Lilla said, making her eyes wide.

The officer’s jaw clenched and she pivoted, motioning to the troopers in position across the way.

“Set for stun. I want them all alive. We’ll need an ion blaster.”

“I can help,” Lilla offered.

“You’ve done enough, citizen. Stay here where you’re safe. I’ll want to speak with you once these traitors are in custody.”

“My friend, she’s trapped up there.” Lilla pointed to where Nadorcot was still hunched down.

“We’ll clear the route,” the officer said. She motioned again to the troopers opposite her, giving them the go signal. They moved the way troopers always moved: quickly and precisely and as a unit, advancing in groups, giving one another support fire, making their way quickly up the promenade. The bounty hunters were shooting back, either unwilling to surrender their bounty, more likely, not yet realizing that the battle they were fighting had changed, that they were no longer exchanging shots with Lilla and Nadorcot.

The group reached Nadorcot and she ran in long-legged strides to where Lilla was waiting for her. They each spared a glance back up the promenade.

“Time for us to go,” Lilla said.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
The cantina was in a cargo hold and was actually a ship.

They slipped into the docking bay without difficulty and without anyone paying them any attention. They approached from the back of the vessel, where the cargo ramp was down and a very bored security guard was leaning against one of the hydraulic struts. They could hear music and voices coming from within. The man held up a hand, stopping them.

“Cover is fifteen credits each,” he growled.

“I’m a friend of Taska’s,” Lilla said.

“Everyone’s a friend of Taska’s,” the guard said. “Thirty credits.”

“Hmmmm,” Lilla offered, fishing the chits out of one of her pockets. She dropped them into the guard’s hand. “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

They climbed the ramp into what had once been the substantial and reasonably spacious cargo hold of the ship. Technically, Lilla supposed it still was the cargo hold of the ship, but that was no longer the purpose of the space, nor had it been for a very long time. Instead, there was a long bar top against the fore-end bulkhead, with transparent cases behind it displaying bottles and bottles of the finest liquors the galaxy had to offer. A half dozen small round-top tables filled the rest of the space, with two or sometimes three seats at each-and most were occupied.

The ship was known by those in the know. The owner of the ship needed no permits, paid no taxes, and, when the local authorities got wind of those two facts, would pick up and fly away at a moment’s notice to set down on some other world and repeat the process all over again. For people who made their living on the go, traveling from world to world – smugglers, scouts, mercenaries – it was the perfect place to have a safe and quiet drink and for Lilla at least, the chance to find out the local gossip.

Lilla led the way to the bar, threading between the tables and bellying up between two empty stools. The bartender, facing away from her, was a human woman with short red hair.

“Drinks?” the woman said, as if a visitor might have a different reason for being here.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
“No drinks, just information. I’m looking for someone.”

“We’re all looking for someone.” Taska straightened, pulled the hand towel from where it hung, tail stuffed into the belt at her waist, and began wiping down the bar.

“Can you help us?”

“You haven’t told me who you’re looking for yet.”

“Human male, roughly twenty standard years, brown hair, brown eyes. He would’ve just arrived within the last eighteen hours or so.”

“So, maybe a third of the humans visiting here, that’s who you’re looking for? Are you being purposefully vague?”

“He’s looking to get off-planet. He’s expecting a lift.” Lilla leaned in, catching the bartender’s gaze. “He’s expecting a very specific lift from some very specific friends. The kind of friends you’ve been known to be sympathetic to.”

To her credit, Taska didn’t immediately react. She waited, then slowly slid her eyes back to Lilla. The suspicion in them was unmistakable.

“You’re expecting me to admit to being a rebel sympathiser as well as providing information?” she said.

“I’m his ride.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You think I’m working for the government?”

She glanced at Nadorcot, who had remained silent, listening. She shook her head ruefully.

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
“Do not shoot,” the bounty hunter said.

The trooper officer looked him over, assessing. The hodgepodge of salvaged military gear and pieces of body armour was recognizable as part trooper and mock Mandalorian. The weapon in his hand had been dropped, but recognised it as a model normally used by police for its ability to switch between automatic blaster fire and semiautomatic stun. The hilt of a vibro-blade hung from his belt and a second weapon –rested in a holster beneath his arm. Three grenades on the belt, two of them stunners.

She held out a hand and the bounty hunter produced the contents of his pockets. Credits, a holoprint, and an ID card.

“Bounty hunter.” She said the words as though the title was toxic. “Bounty hunters, not rebels.”

“The other two, where’d they go?”

“I don’t see them. They must have run off when we moved on the targets.”

“We were just played. Those two, those two were the rebels. They’re here to rescue Onnect – I’d bet anything on it.”

“The individuals are not rebels and one has a significant bounty. I will find them and collect.”

“So, you’re saying you can track those two?”

“That is correct.”

“You and your partners are free to go,” the officer said.

Once the bounty hunters had left, the officer spoke to her sergeant. “Take a comlink and follow them. Stay in contact.”

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
Taska knew trouble when she saw it, a necessary skill as a starship captain and arguably more important as a bartender.

Trouble was on the cargo ramp right now, in the form of four individuals – arguing with her partner, copilot, and bouncer. She reached under her side of the bar top, beside the sink, and put her hand on the grip of the sawed-off slug-thrower she kept hidden there.

“Let them in,” she called.

The partner/guard/bouncer looked at her unhappily.

She smiled. She always smiled when she could manage it. She’d learned the trick back before she’d acquired the ship, while working as a barmaid. She’d learned the smile, the friendly demeanour, how to spend hours on her feet – and how to deal with trouble, how to know when it was time to stand your ground, time to hide behind a table, and time to run.

The group made their way up the ramp. They had weapons in hand, though not raised. The few patrons at the tables carefully picked up their drinks and moved out of the way.

“There was a Jedi here,” the bounty hunter said.

She tightened her grip on the gun beneath the bar, but kept the smile in place.

“Who’s asking?” she said.

The weapons came up, and came up quickly, and suddenly Taska was looking at the wrong end of five blasters. The bounty hunter slammed his fist on the bar. “We’re asking! And if your hand’s on a weapon, little lady, I’d let it go and take a step back.”

Lilla Syrin

A great leap forward often requires first taking t
The only thing that made this place different from a thousand other cities in the Outer Rim that Lilla had visited at one time or another was, as far as she could tell, the presence of the dome. And even that wasn’t unique. It was just another city, founded by colonists who’d ventured out from the Core Worlds in search of opportunity and a better life. It had grown, it had flourished, it had faced setbacks, it had built a dome, and life had gone on and ever on, as it did.

There were people here who were born, lived, and would die without ever leaving the dome, without ever knowing what it was to breathe fresh air or feel natural weather, rain or snow or the heat of a desert world.

They’d rented a speeder, the fastest available, as she knew the troopers would be after them soon enough, if not already. Speed was a crucial ally.

Nadorcot programmed the in-dash navicomp and set a destination near the location Taska had given them.

The chatted about nothing in particular as they travelled and finally the navicomp chimed, and Lilla pulled the landspeeder over, parking it around the corner from the address Taska had provided.

They took a moment to check the street and saw it was all but deserted, with the exception of a municipal service droid vainly fighting a losing battle against litter.

They rounded the corner, headed down the block. A sign ahead of them flickered with faulty wiring, alternately telling them that there was vacancy or not, depending on when the circuits cut out. The doors to the hotel slid apart as they approached, one of them sticking. Lilla led the way through the lobby, ignoring the droid clerk behind the counter. It wasn’t the lowest rent hotel Lilla had been forced to visit, but she wouldn’t be recommending it.

An old human was asleep on a bench beside the elevators, but he woke up enough to yawn and stare at them as they waited for the car.

Lilla reached into a pocket, pulled a couple of credits, and held them out. “You want to make a little change?”

“Depends what I have to do.”

“You see anyone coming through here who looks like they don’t belong, you hit the environment alert. You do that for me?”

The old man eyed the chits in Lilla’s palm. “I can do that.”