“What? You’ve got to be kidding. That’s it? That’s what you would eat for emergency rations?”
Sir Davish Tam, Crimson Knight and one half of Mystic Mob Investigations, vaulted a safety railing then dropped to the next level of rooftop two meters below. He rolled with the landing, using the momentum to propel him up to his feet. Once upright he looked to his left, brushing grit from his hands on his travel-worn explorer’s vest.
Their quarry, a fast-moving human or near-human thief in a dark clingsuit, was tearing across a neighboring rooftop. Davish chuckled while he tapped the comlink in his ear.
“Runner just turned, should be on your three. And no, I’m not kidding. If it was an emergency, yeah I’d be eating that. Sithspwan, I carry two with me most of the time.”
Davish shrugged even though he knew his partner, Jedi Knight Vanya Ysadora, couldn’t see him. He bolted off in a parallel direction to the thief. Once he reached the end of the current rooftop, Davish jumped to a safety railing around the roof of the adjacent building and hauled himself up. There were a lot of adjacent buildings in the soho district of Bhavya’s capital city of Xogate.
“Don’t they go stale?”
“Stale? Not so far. I think they’ve got a half-life of like a thousand years.”
An aircar flashed by overhead, turning to join the rest of the traffic in the lane above. Davish sighed. An aircar would have made this chase easier. But then again, it was an aircar. And their last one didn’t fare so well when it got bombed. Nor the one before that when it got in the way of a lightsaber. The one before even that one? Well, it was best not to talk about that, or remember what happened. Davish shook his head and ignored the wistful thought.
The comlink blurted to life ten paces later. Vanya wasn’t out of breath, but Davish could hear she was putting some effort into her current sprint. Remembering the map of the area, Davish guessed she was pulling out ahead to cut the thief off at the aircar parking deck two buildings ahead.
“Trouble?” he asked.
“Nope. But I think he’s about to look for a hiding place or give up running.”
Davish snorted at that.
“We’ll see about that.”
Reaching out with the Force, Davish grabbed a large trash bin and shoved. The container flipped free of a roofing crew’s workspace to sail into the thief’s path. The thief yelped in surprise and easily dodged the flying cast-plast container as it hurtled past.
Truth was that while they were interested in catching the thief, they needed him to lead them back to his partner. The little sleemo was breaking into locals' apartments and swiping their ID cards. Within a day or two, that identity would get used in a fraudulent bulk purchase of something easy to sell on the gray market - Davish's favorite had been "cheap socks". Who engages in a criminal enterprise to profit off cheap socks? He shook his head when his comlink beeped for his attention.
“Ok. I’ve got eyes on our runner. Making a turn for the top deck of the aircar lot.” A pause then Vanya added, “But really, honey, do you even know what’s in those protein bars?”
Davish paused at the next railing, then slapped it with a hand.
“Son of a bantha! I lost him.”
“Don’t worry, I see him.”
“Almost on your ten. He’s figured out where you are and is using the air scrubber systems as cover.”
Davish squinted in that direction across the neat rows of soho rooftops that crisscrossed Xogate. The motion he hoped to see appeared a few seconds later.
Their target was still running but was now keeping low behind a long row of air scrubbers for that set of buildings. The thief appeared for a brief moment in a desperate dash across an open space between two air recycler units.
“Hon, I noticed you skipped my question,” Vanya teased. “I mean really, is all of that stuff in those bars ‘food’?”
Davish slipped over another safety handrail and scrambled down an emergency ladder to the same rooftop level as the thief. The instant his boots hit the roofing tiles, Davish raced after their quarry. Mid-step he tapped the comlink again.
“Ok, first, that’s your own fault for reading the ingredients. Never think while you eat.”
“You’re so debonair.”
Davish made a rude noise.
“Yep, that’s me. Debonair and all Tapani vor-ish. What you don’t know is that these protein bars were packaged using the finest jobara berries washed in the filtered crystalline waters of Procopia. Then they’re wrapped lovingly in Bethal chocolate before being hand-pressed by Mentats using Thermasote hand warmers.”
It was Vanya’s turn at a rude noise.
Davish grinned while he ducked under a set of air scrubber intake tubes, then jumped onto the next rooftop. Ahead, the ten-story tall aircar parking deck loomed large, dominating the view. He forced himself to pick up the pace.
“Ok, fine. I actually do know what’s in them.”
He hesitated before darting off to his right, then hurried over to a maintenance door. If he remembered his map correctly, there would be an access tunnel to the deck a floor down on the current office complex he was running across
“I just can’t pronounce all the ingredients. But! They’re perfectly safe to eat.”
“Yeah, tell me another one.”
Davish reached out with the Force and popped the lock. It came loose with a sharp crack. The door snapped open at his approach and he launched himself inside. He made a mental note to come back to fix the busted lock later.
“All right, hot stuff Jedi, what would you eat in an emergency? And no, caf doesn’t count.”
The thief raced onto the parking deck level ahead of Davish. Once out of the tunnel, the thief darted out among the cars, in a painfully obvious attempt to lose Davish. He shook his head.
Meanwhile, Vanya’s reply came back over the comlink.
“You can’t eat caf. Peanut butter on butter sandwich. If I had peanut butter, bread, and butter. Now, if I didn’t have that, maybe Mystery Poultry Analog sandwich meat tossed into a flask of tomato soup.”
Davish raced onto the deck, then ducked around a set of aircars parked in a line toward the turbolift. There was no sign of the thief. The worst-case was that the thief had already reached the turbolift and was gone. Best-case scenario? The thief was taking some meandering route and would be here at any moment. Davish hoped the situation was the latter. Following the line of cars, he ducked around the to the far side of the lift tube and waited out of sight.
“You have such a love-hate relationship with vegetables!” Davish whispered.
Over the comlink, Davish heard the whine of a blaster, followed by a crash then two more blaster shots. Amusement drained out of him as he frowned at the lack of any reply. He was a heartbeat from stepping out of his hiding place when Vanya’s voice crackled over the comlink.
“Ah, ah. No ‘hate’. That way leads to the Dark Side. I’m just giving those vegetables ample time to see the error of their ways and become cheeseburgers. All clear here. One outlaw tech bagged and ready for delivery. You?”
A ding on the other side of the turbolift chamber caught his attention. Davish waited to a count of three and moved back around the side that held the doors. The moment he arrived, the turbolift doors opened, and the thief stepped across the threshold.
Davish hurried, moving in the thief’s shadow like a dance partner. The instant the thief reached for the close door button, Davish was ready. His hand darted out for the thin man’s wrist.
One moment, the thief yelped and tried to grab for a hold out pistol. The next, the thief found himself flipped onto the floor of the turbolift car with Davish aiming the hold out blaster at him.
“Oh, we’re just fine here. Quite fine. Say… are you hungry? I could go for one of those cheeseburgers.”