The stock freighter Dullaby had obviously seen better days.
"Those boys are crazy," Sniffles M'tus, captain and chief pilot of the ramshackle collection of space craft components sagely announced to his crew. "They're gonna fry their hindquarters."
"I still can't believe you let Karrde talk us into this," Kilos, Sullustan copilot and sole crew member of the Dullaby, muttered in reply as he began to read off the descent checklist.
The Dullaby had started life as a stock YT-1300, but had metamorphosed into a substantially bigger ship. M'tus continually added external cargo space, not caring how fast he could make the Kessel Run. They skipped nearly half the checklist since many listed systems were missing or dead.
"It's a lose-lose contract for us no matter how much we're getting paid," Kilos muttered on, still disgruntled with his captain's decision to take this contract. "You're still young--I want to live just a little longer so I can take a room a t the old spacer's home."
"Yeah, well, it'll keep the Empire off our backs for a while," M'tus countered dubiously, switching to planetary approach control frequency. Kilos muttered something about death and taxes in response, but M'tus pretended not to hear.
"Darlac 3 Control, this is freighter Dullaby inbound for Carislo City requesting approach data and overnight docking confirmation."
"Roger freighter Dullaby, we have you on our screens. You are on time according to flight plan," the disembodied voice of a groundside controller echoed in the cabin. M'tus suspected that some Imperial bureau was responsible for testing al l would-be controllers to ensure that they all sounded the same. "Squawk 4229.6 on your transponder."
It was an unusual request; modern approach control systems usually interrogated a ship's transponder automatically. Darlac 3, however, was anything but modern. The Dullaby had made this run often enough that Kilos adjusted the ship identifi cation transponder without a second thought. The transponder broadcast a coded signal to let approach control know that the blip they saw on their screens was indeed the Dullaby.
"We verify contact, Dullaby. Prepare to receive approach vectors."
"Roger--ah, stand by control. We might have a problem here," M'tus announced tensely. "A stabilizer seems to have broken loose. I'm gonna abort my approach and try to lock it down..."
As the Dullaby slowed in the thickening planetary atmosphere, a loading door on one of the bulbous external cargo pods abruptly exploded, spewing debris into orbit about the third planet of the Darlac system.