The Valkyr had apparently picked a bad time to land here for resupply. Great, Giru sighed to himself in disgust, market day.
He took a moment at the edge of the street, peering into the crowd to get his bearings. The layout seemed to have foodstuffs closest to the spaceport, which made sense – the placement ensured that fresh cargo was available at the stalls quickly, reducing the likelihood of anything spoiling. Unfortunately it reminded Giru that, according to ship’s clock, it was nearing midday meal. His stomach rumbled involuntarily as the smells assaulted his nose, enticing him to neglect his duties and partake of the various food kiosks. Fishing a hand into a pocket of his jacket, he pulled out a handful of credits and counted them at a glance. Deciding there should be enough of his personal wages to splurge on a meal, Giru let his stomach take the lead.
The smells were at times familiar and foreign. The aroma of cooked nerf was unmistakable through the tangle of scents, but there were sweet tones he could not place. Some local fruit or vegetable roasted alongside the meat, Giru surmised. The effect of all the smells assaulting his nostrils was becoming overpowering and he stopped at the third kiosk. There Giru found an assortment of things on sticks. Most of it looked like something unmentionable wrapped around a skewer of wood, dappled with chunks of something not immediately identifiable. But they smelled wonderful! To his delight, after purchasing one of the things, he found that it was a spiced nerf sausage wrapped around the stick rather than impaled upon it, bracketed and held in place by the ends of a sweetly acidic citrus fruit. The chunks were a mix of nuts and bits of some sort of starchy tuber that softened when cooked. The strange conglomeration had been lightly breaded and fried whole. He had not caught the name of the thing, but he was considering grabbing another on his way back to the ship later.
Happily munching, Giru began to wander the market amiably. He had a job to do, yes, but he was not the sort to eat near anything he would be working on. So he took the time to browse and get his bearings in the area. Giru never liked to ask for help or directions; he preferred to learn by doing, even if it meant walking in circles past the same place three times before he realized where he was supposed to be. It helped him keep things straight in his head if he figured it out on his own. This time it was his ears that guided him to where he needed to be.
The sounds of mechanical work were unmistakable even over the general din of a market in full swing. There was always a clanging of metal on metal, even if hammers weren’t actually involved in the work being done. The clatter of falling tools, the bang of a pipe or a covering as it came loose, the skitter of fittings and fasteners as they were lost as part of the process. Giru heard it all and smiled tightly to himself. Flicking the stick from his breakfast into an alleyway, he wiped his mouth on his sleeve while brushing his hands off on his jumpsuit and made his way into the scrapyard.
A shower of sparks to his left missed Giru by a handful of centimeters as he crossed over from the relatively more civilized chaos of the market proper and into his element. He did not even flinch as the incandescent wave of detritus from the plasma cutter came his way, though he was careful to avert his eyes from the intense light of the cutting beam. There was a clatter to his right, followed by a barely audible grunt of satisfaction as another patron claimed their prize from the remnants of a junked speeder bike. The smell of various fluids and lubricants assailed him, made him feel comfortable and at ease. Yes, this was Giru’s element, and he had a job to get done.
* * *
An hour later, Giru was paying for his acquisitions. He had actually lucked out and found everything he needed for the repairs. His time estimate put them right on the edge of getting them to their next job in time, but it would be doable. And flying with a slightly-used-but-new-to-them damper would put the whole crew at ease, allowing Giru to focus on righting the next big problem with the Valkyr, whatever that may be. The best thing about that ship, Giru mused, was also the worst – it kept him working. He gestured absently towards the spaceport to indicate that he would be following behind the delivery droid. Considering the amount of work ahead of him, another of those sausage stick things sounded very enticing indeed.
Giru let his feet lead him back to the ship as his eyes roved over the crowd. Raised on Ord Mantell, and having frequented worlds like Nar Shaddaa, Rishi, and Corellia, he found the lack of racial diversity curious. Whether attributable to the Empire or just the nature of human expansion, it was always peculiar to him to find a settled world so close to uniformity in its population. Meandering his way back out towards the landing bays Giru found himself surreptitiously glancing at the people in the market, taking in their details. It was just something he did but could never understand why. People had never made as much sense to him as did machines or electronics, but he always tried to observe whenever possible in the hope that, eventually, he would reach some sort of understanding.
Just as the smells of the sausage vendor were beginning to reach him, he saw her.
To be fair, he always noticed females – of a variety of species – but this one seemed as if she so definitively belonged to this world that his attention was ensnared. On the dozens of worlds he had visited, in the Rim and the Interior, no one person had ever seemed like they belonged to their world more than this woman. Everyone he had seen had the air of trying to escape, of wanting to be anywhere other than where they were. Giru also got the impression they did not know here they actually wanted to be, only that it was not where they were. This girl (No, young woman, he decided) was where she wanted to be; he could tell by the ease of her walk, the lack of swagger or bravado, the comfort with her surroundings. But he could also see by the set of her shoulders that she was not completely at peace.
Without being conscious of it, Giru had now followed her to one of the local taverns. His left wrist twitched, as if the duty-driven portion of his mind was trying to remind him of something, but his curiosity had control, now, as he entered the dingy-looking establishment.