Ony Bobbisia stepped out the door of TriSpark Power and took a deep breath of fresh air.
'I think I’ll have lunch at Dex’s today', he thought to himself, 'a big cup of ardees, and an extra-large plate of sliders. And for dessert, red-hot Triffian wafer beetles. Dex is the only non-Triffian I know who can make them right.'
A shrill voice cut into his thoughts. “Going somewhere, Ony?”
Ony rolled his eyes before turning back to face Skoo Runkin, his former co-worker – and new supervisor. He tried to put a friendly tone into his voice, even though the crabby Nuknog had only become even more unbearable since his promotion. “I’m just headed over to Dex’s Diner,” he said. “Do you want me to pick something up for you?” Inwardly he cringed, hoping Skoo wouldn’t offer to join him.
“I cancelled your lunch break. Get inside and get back to work.”
Ony just stared blankly for a few seconds before he figured out that Skoo was completely serious. “Um, Skoo? You can’t cancel lunch breaks. They’re mandated by law. Besides, I’m really hungry. Don’t worry, I’ll have that T-4 operational again by the end of the day.” He turned to walk away, but he’d only made it a few steps before Skoo grabbed his arm.
“I’m the boss now, Ony. You have to go back to work. I need that T-4 up now.”
“Skoo, the lesser coil is crystallized. It took me all morning to extract it. I already put it in the vibrotank for cleaning, but it won’t be ready until after my lunch break anyway. Then I have to reinstall it, reboot the T-4, and route the integrator. It’s a lengthy process, but we’re not losing any time by my taking lunch now.”
“I could’ve had it back up by now. I don’t get why everybody else is so slow about these things.”
Ony held his tongue. Skoo was certainly one of the fastest techs the department had ever had, but he took shortcuts and disregarded quality checks. The rest of the maintenance team was constantly redoing his work, but management had only seen that Skoo was fast while the others were even slower than usual.
Skoo took his silence as an invitation to keep talking. “ I think I know why Mr. Stomk quit. It’s because everybody kept taking these ridiculous lunch breaks.”
“Stomk didn’t quit. He was promoted to department manager. He’s still your boss. Please, Skoo, I really need to go now.”
The Nuknog was stubborn. “And I’m your boss. Lunch is cancelled. Get back to work now. I need the T-4 online immediately, and there are three blown power couplings in Sector 7G I need you to look at.”
“7G? That’s not my area.”
“It is now. I fired Castellaneta this morning.”
That surprised Ony. Castellaneta had been at the plant for 18 years, and was close to retirement. He was about to say something about that, but just then he saw Brb Stomk coming out the door. He brushed past Skoo and caught the Ugnaught by the sleeve.
“Mr. Stomk, there’s a problem I think you should know about. I’m due up for my lunch break, and—“
Stomk cut him off with a chopping gesture. “I don’t have time for scheduling concerns, Bobbisia. That’s Mr. Runkin’s responsibility now. Take it up with him. Besides, I’m on my lunch break right now.” The diminutive Ugnaught then waddled off, leaving Ony flabbergasted and Skoo with an expression that could only be a Nuknog smirk.
“You heard him. I’m the boss. You have to go back to work now.”
Ony shook his head in frustration. “This is stupid. You can’t cancel lunch breaks. I’ll be back when I’m finished eating.”
“No! You get back to work NOW!”
At that, Ony lost his patience. He started waving his arms in a Triffian display of anger. “You’re crazy! You’re a shift supervisor, not the gorram Supreme Chancellor! I don’t get paid nearly enough to put up with this kind of poodoo! I quit! Go fix the power couplings and the T-4 and the frakking schedule yourself!”
Skoo looked confused. “Quit? How can you quit? You’re an employee! TriSpark is your work.”
Ony pulled his employee ID badge off his chest and threw it on the ground. “That’s how I quit! I can get another job!”
Skoo didn’t answer. He was glaring past Ony, toward the diner. Ony followed his gaze and barely saw a brown-robed human entering the restaurant. Ony looked back at Skoo, confused himself now.
“Jedi,” growled the Nuknog softly. “I don’t trust those Jedi. Destroy a person’s livelihood, they will.” Then he turned and fled with a remarkable resemblance to a frightened ikopi.
Ony stared after him in confusion, then belatedly recalled that Skoo’s homeworld of Sump had been liberated from a corrupt mining consortium by the Jedi hundreds of years before – but when the planet’s only employer went bankrupt, the Republic couldn’t give them unemployment compensation. Ever since, the Nuknog had been bitter against the Republic and the Jedi.
Suddenly Ony felt curious about the Jedi entering Dex’s Diner. He didn’t know much about Jedi, but if it was part of their duty to dispose of bad employers, he had a job for this one. He made it two steps closer to the diner when another thought struck him.
What if Dex was one of those bad employers? Was he not paying Hermione according to fair and comparable market wages? Did WA-7 get regular maintenance? What kind of medical benefits did Dex give his workers? Ony didn’t want to see his favorite lunch spot shut down, but he was certain it would be if the Jedi found anything amiss.
Ony glanced at the windows and saw Dex sliding into a booth across from the human. It must be serious, then. He stood under the window and pressed his ear against the wall, straining to hear their conversation.
“So my friend, what can I do for ya?” he heard Dex say. Poor guy, he didn’t even know he was about to lose his business.
The Jedi went straight to the point. “You can tell me what this is.” Ony surmised that the Jedi must have found some physical evidence against him.
“Wow! Whaddya know! I ain’t seen one of these since I was prospecting on Subterrel, beyond the Outer Rim!” Ah, so Dex was going for the “that was a long time ago” defense.
“Can you tell me where it came from?” Oh dear, the Jedi was going to interrogate Dex before he arrested him. Ony wondered if the Jedi would go easy on him if he gave up quickly.
Then Dex said, “This baby belongs to them cloners. What you got here is a Kamino saberdart.” Blaming someone else? 'Oh Dex', thought Ony, 'that’s never a good idea'.
“Kamino saberdart,” mused the Jedi. “I wonder why it didn’t show up in our analysis archives.” Suddenly Ony was confused. Was the Jedi, defender of the hapless laborer, falling for Dex’s flimsy excuses?
“It’s these funny little cuts on the side that give it away. Those analysis droids you got there only focus on symbols, you know. I should think you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge and, hehehe, wisdom.” Ony gasped. He had it all wrong! Maybe these saberdart cloner people were the oppressors, and Dex was nobly assisting the Jedi on his quest to free the – uh – Kaminoan downtrodden…
Ony listened as Dex explained where Kamino was, and told the Jedi about the cloners there. Then he heard the Jedi get up to leave, and brown-robed human was outside and walking right towards him. Ony froze, sure he was about to get arrested for listening in on a classified conversation. But the Jedi walked right past him, didn’t even seem to notice him.
A rumbling in his belly reminded Ony why he was outside the diner at all. He straightened up and headed for the door. He held it open so that two Rodians and a human could exit, then stepped inside.
WA-7 greeted him at the door with “Can I heeeeeellllllllpoooooooooo…” Hermione, the human waitress, flipped a switch on the back of the droid’s neck to silence the tone.
She smiled down at Ony. “What’ll ya have?” she smiled.
“Ardees – oh and a double helping of sliders, please.”
“Double sliders, Dex!” she shouted over her shoulder.
Ony thought for a moment about the conversation with the Jedi that he had overheard, then asked Hermione, “Is he a good employer?”
Hermione shrugged as she slid a cup of ardees across the counter. “Sure, I got no complaints. He’s helped me outa some real tight spots before.”
Ony looked at WA-7. “Does this sort of thing happen often?”
“From time to time. Usually I just switch her off, and then back on again. She’ll be fine.”
Dex came out of the kitchen, carrying Ony’s sliders in one of his four huge hands. “Hermione, she's no use switched off off like that. Go turn her back on.”
Ony gratefully accepted the plate, then remarked, “You know, Dex, you look like you could use a good maintenance tech. I’d be glad to bring in a copy of my résumé.”