By the time I reached Lei Vera’s chambers, they were empty. The door was open, and her silky draperies wafted on artificial breezes. It added to the impression of how vacant the space was, now. It wasn’t ransacked, or hastily packed. It was as if she just walked out and left it all behind. I knew there would be nothing that led to where she went.

The table that held her crystal drink set was wet. The glasses and the decanter were smashed on top of it. The etching on the crystals had scored the vessels. They broke into small, diamond shaped pieces. They glittered and sparkled in the light. It was a metaphor for the arena and the fortunes it could bring.

I didn’t touch any of the pieces. I knew what they were; I knew they were sharp; and I knew what the liquid that covered them was. It was a last hope at shedding her pursuers. I was too invested, and Lei Vera was beyond my reach. My best hope was that Kuni Matahlin would capture her.

Beaten, I returned to the bar. I wasn’t surprised to find Bru Cie had gone. The bartender sneered at me—at least I thought it was a sneer, it’s hard to tell with geonosians. I saw my new friend Dutch Virkum, so I sat down next to him.

“Something blue?” Virkum asked. He didn’t wait for an answer before gesturing to the bartender. He dropped a bag of coins on the counter between us. “You’re buying this round.”

I opened the bag and glanced inside. I’d have to count it to be sure, but it looked like more than I planned to win betting on the fights. “What’s this?”

“Moss’ old sword polisher left it. Said he owed you.”

That was one interpretation of doing the right thing.

“Of course I took out a small ‘holder’s fee’, but it’s all there.”

“Virkum, my friend, has anybody ever told you you’re the most honest guy on Geonosis?”

“Nobody I’d want anybody talking to.”

“Then let’s drink, instead,” I offered.

“What to?” he asked as if he didn’t know.

“To disasters averted, of course.”