Trey, Arden, and Ures were gone. Generally an empty ship was cause for luxuriating in the privacy, shedding her clothes and carefully crafted proper persona for a more comfortable moment, however short it may be. But Nal Hutta was not a place to relax, and there were two mostly unfamiliar bodies on her ship.
Though her door was locked and she doubted sound would carry beyond the the Soul, Aidenne found her normal practices in these moments of solitude struggling to make it past her lips. Her voice would rise and swell, the song taking flight for a moment then fading away. Her other pursuits found similar disinterest, the tools of her trade partially reorganized then left to sit in their half random state. Fueled by a restless frustration that bordered on anger, the tiny Diva found herself tempted to open the door to find Krynn.
He stood just on the other side of the door. Krynn had been standing there watching the metal door and listening to the diva as she practiced. It vexed him the way the song no longer seemed to affect him so deeply as it had before. What was different? How had it tapped into him so deeply and now… not. He gently put his hand on the cold steel door between them and listened to her voice ever so deeply. Every note, every breath, every soft footfall as she stepped and swayed with the music, he could almost see her face through the steel partition. Her face had pierced his dreams as he floated helplessly lost in deep space, but was he here to be part of the games she plays or was she somehow destined to be his to take? She was the key to his future, but how? He yearned to know down to the marrow of his bones.
Her voice lifted to the upper register once again. For a minute or two the slightly mournful song echoed through the ship only to fade away once again under the weight of her preoccupation. “(appropriate curse word that i’ll figure out later) Hutts. If Trey had even half a brain he would have found someone else to finance this ship.” The Diva paced the length of her floor one time before giving in to her restless urges and flinging open the door, only to run right into Krynn’s broad chest.
Krynn looked down at Aidenne. “Hello.”
“Krynn. I was just about to… What are…. ” Taking a step back, Aidenne tilted her chin to look up at him, instantly angered that he’d managed to surprise and fluster her. “Can I help you with something?”
He shook his head and said, “Not that I know of. I was just listing to you.”
She studied his face for a moment, surprised to find herself content with his eerily straightforward answer. “You could have knocked.” Then she added, “I was having a hard time practicing anyway.”
He wasn’t sure how to respond. He hadn’t particularly wanted to come in, but he supposed that was the typical assumption. “I’ll remember that next time.” He finally said. He stood standing there watching her a moment. Then he asked, “Were you going somewhere?”
I was looking for you. But since she’d rather bite off her own tongue than admit that, the Diva gave a shrug, somehow making it alluring yet indifferent. “The walls were closing in on me. I thought I’d head to the lounge to find a drink.”
“Oh, I see.” He responded, and stepped aside to allow her to pass.
She didn’t move. “So you were just standing outside my door listening to me?”
“Yes. Is that a problem?” He asked.
She was confusing him. “Because, you asked what I was doing. If it didn’t matter would you have asked?”
Those golden eyes stared up at him, blinking slowly as she tried to be patient. “I mean, why were you listening?”
He looked down into her golden eyes saying, “I wanted to see if I felt what I felt before. If I felt what drew me here to you the first time.”
Unsure of how to take that, she took a step back toward her room. “And did you?” she asked then instantly regretted it. As casual as she tried to make the words, she knew he’d hear the genuine curiosity in her words. Cursing inwardly, she waited for an answer, unsure of what she was hoping to hear.
He slowly shook his head and lowered his gaze. “Not like before.”
“Why not?” she asked again before she could stop herself. Moving to the side of the door she let him look past her into the mess that covered her normally tidy room. “I’ve been off today.”
“I don’t know. I am still trying to understand it myself. I was hoping that being close to you would make it stronger. Let me feel that way again, but nothing happened. Maybe now that I am here it is enough, or maybe it isn’t time yet. Maybe it wasn’t you that called me, but something else that brought us together.” He took a step closer to her, and put a hand on her arm. “Is there anything you know that might help solve this mystery?”
As always, Krynn’s explanations left her with more questions and no answers of her own. “I don’t think I know anything.” Her gaze came to rest on his hand, amazed at how frail he made her arm look, as if he could snap it by simply clenching his fist. “Maybe this isn’t a mystery that can be solved quickly,” she offered finally, delicately wetting her lips.
He nodded, “Patience is important. I am new to your part of the galaxy, and I am not sure where else to look. Until I learn more, I’m afraid you are my only hope of finding insight. So, if you think of something please share it with me. Then perhaps we can hunt the answers we seek together.”
She could have pulled away: she wasn’t comfortable being his only hope. But there was something about his sense of destiny that was… captivating. “And how do we go about hunting these answers?”
He curled a small smile and took a step closer. He put a hand to her cheek and said, “I think you are more well versed in finding what you desire than you let on. All we need is some inspiration to track to what we need to know. Like finding the scent of a blood trail.” His hand left her cheek and brushed her orange hair as it returned to his side. “All we need is a place to start looking. Perhaps research at an information repository. Unless you have heard of anything like this happening before?”
Her golden eyes gleamed as she watched him, listening to his touch as she considered his words.”Come in, Krynn.” Turning her back on him, she led him into her room. Gently gathering up the almost archaic sheets of music that had been scattered with her mood, she made a place for him to sit on the padded chest at the foot of her bed. “I’ve never heard of this happening before,” she began, going back to his question. “Not like this.”
Krynn walked into the room behind her carelessly stepping on several of her sheets of music as he found a place to stand out of the way. As he listened he raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“Watch where you’re stepping!” she snapped, dropping to her knees to run her fingers over the wrinkles from his boot print, smoothing the paper as well as she could.
He looked down at the papers without real concern, and then back to her. “My apologies.”
Somewhat mollified, the Diva set her music aside before turning back to him. “They may not look like anything important, but they’re very special to me.” Her blazing hair fell forward across her face as she took a seat on her bed. “Krynn, when I sing it’s like I’m connected to every member of the audience. Their reactions feed me and in turn I give them more to react to. But when that song ends or the show is over, it’s gone. But you weren’t even there. You’ve never actually heard me other than through my door. So whatever it is, it’s a lot stronger and like nothing I can explain. Yet.”
Krynn stroked his chin and pondered what she had talked about. He had often had feelings about other people, and known something about who they were and what they were capable of, but not like what she spoke of. What was going on? What did they need to know? He looked up at her, “Would you like to go get some air or maybe a drink?”
She nodded and extended a hand to him. “We’ll figure this out. And yes, let’s go.”
Bralor tipped his head to duck under the edge around The Soul’s hull. The open ramp allowed him to stand upright again and he stepped to the side of it as the crimson robed Tiila approached. A slow look up the ramp was enough to imply that he expected her to head up. The zeltron did as was indicated to her, ascending the ramp slowly and looking around. Once she reached the top, she turned and waited for him to join her. The Mandalorian gave another brief look around the landing dock, carefully eyeing those that were watching them then turned and trotted up the incline.
He dug a finger under the strap of his helmet, unsealing the locks that held it in place. “This way.”Leading her through the large and fairly open cargo space, Ures’vn pulled the helmet off his head. The nearest door lead to a rounded hallway, but right beside the opening was another door. Right around the corner was another nondescript door. He tucked the helmet under one shoulder jammed the console with his thumb, and the door slid open with that shunk. “This is it.”
She looked into the nearly empty room, then back to him. Her eyes showed the slightest recognition of his face but she made no other comment on it. “May I assume there will be some form of accommodation or am I to sleep on the floor?” She was not happy.
Bralor looked at the crate that sat in the far corner of the small room. “Can’t exactly say we were expecting the company. You work in negotiations, right? That sort of imposition doesn’t generally go over well.”
“Yes, and I did not exactly impose myself now did I?” She looked slightly impatient as she began unfastening the buttons of her robe. “I was simply asking if accommodations would be made or not.”
“That’ll be Vullif’s call,” he told her and held his hand out into the room. “I’m sure you wont be sleeping on the floor.”
“I should hope not.” She shrugged the material off of her shoulders. A thinly woven bright green dress beneath reached down to her midthighs. She dropped the heavy robe over his outstretched arm before taking her place in the “room”.
Bralor’s eyes lingered over her pink frame a little longer then he’d intended. “Trey should be back shortly.” The thick knit robe hung heavy on his arm. “What I told you before, keep it in mind.”
The material around her hips bunched slightly as she put her hands on them. “What in specific should I ‘keep in mind’?”
Lowering his arms to his sides, the robe in his hand pooled on the floor. He leaned toward her, close. “Don’t be clever.” He took a long noticeable breath of the air between them. His eyes locked firmly onto hers. “I think you know.”
The air between them was thinly saturated with a calming feeling. “I’ll do my best to behave while I’m here.”
“Your best…” He leaned back, noting the sensation that cascaded through his pores and through his bloodstream. He couldn’t help the small smile that came. “Like I said, it’s a small ship. I hope your best is good enough.”
Just being a few feet away was enough to keep him out of range for the feelings that naturally surrounded her. Now if she tried. . . “It usually is.” Tiila smiled, her eyes saying more than her lips.
“Good.” he nodded, carefully reading her body language. “Your gifts won’t be much good in the cold of space.”
Tiila sighed heavily, her shoulders rising and falling exaggeratedly. “You could take a moment from threatening me and possibly see the benefits I offer.”
“Oh, I could,” nodded the Mandalorian, “and I do. I simply want to impress upon you the danger of using your benefits against your best interests. I suppose…” His eyes, worn with all their mileage, locked on to hers, “it would never come to that, would it?”
She didn’t flinch from his gaze. “I certainly hope not.”
“Then we’ll get along just fine.” Ures’vn smirked. His hand reached over the console. “Sit tight.” He thumbed mechanism and a thick plate of steel dropped between them with that familiar shunk. A quick run of the buttons locked the door. The clone turned his head, cracking his neck in the process, and took a breath full of the clean air. He sighed to himself. “Man…”
When she heard the lock slip into place, Tiila hit the button to open the door. “Locked?” She hit the button a few more times. “Don’t lock me in here!”
“Sorry, Tiila,” he replied, almost feeling bad about it. “Trey should be back shortly. Till then you just gotta sit tight.” He could hear one of the crates smash against the door in response. “Right then.”
Trey and Arden emerged from the hallway into the open landing pad. “… don’t worry about it. We’ll make it work. Now just get us prepped and ready to lau…” Both his pace and his voice stopped cold as he saw, piled next to the Soul’s entry ramp, an enormous stack of luggage. “What in the Force is all this fedding poodoo?”
Arden rolled her eyes. “It’s hers,” she sneered, looking over the pile.
“She’s either going to have to choose between this crap or a bed. He looked at his pilot and grinned.”Think we should tell her about the secret room at the back of hers? This crap would fit in there.”
Arden’s eyebrow raised, “Can we just lock her in there with no food? If I remember that place is air tight.”
Trey returned the eyebrow raise. “Vicious, aren’t you?” He laughed and winked at Arden. “Head up to the cockpit and prepare to raise ship. I’ll deal with the new passenger.”
She smiled and punched him in the shoulder, “Just get her near the airlock, I’ll make it look like an accident.” She flashed Trey a pseudo innocent smile as she walked down the hallway.
Leaning against a bulkhead, Trey watched her head down the corridor. He chuckled and turned to the room where Durga’s emissary had been stashed by Bralor. He raised a fist to knock at the door, then thought better of it and turned toward the lounge to find Ures’vn. He found the Mandalorian sitting at the central table, a cup of caf sitting before him and a bottle beside it. “How’d it go?” He tipped the bottle over his cup, raising its contents.
“Had to make another little deal.” He sat down across from Bralor and leaned back in his chair. “Even if we score big this time, we’re still going to be in debt.”
Bralor nodded. He gave the bottle a little nudge and it slid halfway across the smooth table top. “I’m sure it’s worth the price. Being in debt doesn’t change the situation here much anyway.” He lifted the cup to his lips and paused before he took the drink. “And I know you know better then to trust Durga to hold to any agreement he made.”
Trey cocked his eyebrow as he looked up at the bottle. He took a swig and shuddered. When the burning ceased its cascade down his throat, he smiled. “Oh, I don’t. We’re going to have to come up with a contingency. But it’s not me the new deal affects most.” He slid the bottle back across the table and looked the Mandilorian in the eye. “It’s Arden.”
He set the cup down. “Ah…” He rubbed his speckling stubble with an open palm. Knowing Trey and knowing Durga it was easy to discern what sort of deal they had just worked out. “Kid deserves better… he said stuck in thought for a moment. “We’ll come up with something. If worse comes to worse… Galaxy could use one less big worm.”
“That’s the truth.” The two sat there in silence for a moment, then Trey spoke again, getting to the heart of the reason he’d sought Bralor in the first place. “So, the new passenger… What are we looking at?”
“Zeltron,” he replied flatly as he took his cup up again. “Crafty girl too.”
Trey shook his head. “Great. Her pheromones in this tin can… just great.” A gleam came into his eye. “You think Aidenne could…” He trailed off, thinking about the possibilities, then shook his head.”Maybe we should make her walk around in a sealed enviro-suit.”
“I wouldn’t take the idea off the table. Maybe keep it in the pocket.” Bralor replied with a nod. “She seems to thinks this is punishment though. Played right, that could work in our favor.”
“Kill ‘er with kindness, eh?” He thought about that for a moment. “We’re going to need furniture for her room… And I guess we should unseal the hold behind her room too. She’s going to need a hell of a closet.”
He laughed. “She certainly seemed to have some princess qualities to her.” His glance fell over to the central lift that lead to Aidenne’s quarters. “Between her and the Diva we could be swimming in drama. Not to mention whatever the history between her and Arden there is.” He drank. “And it ain’t pretty.”
Shrugging, Trey stood. [trey]”Well, it’s time for me to face her.” He glanced at Ures’vn. “I could use some backup.”
“No you don’t,” he said with a smirk and draining his cup as he stood. He took the bottle in the crook of his finger, “but I’ll go anyway. She ain’t happy…”
Tiila sat on the remaining crate in her ‘room’, the other one in dozens of pieces across the floor. Not only was she being punished, she was a prisoner now. “Racists. . ,” she muttered. A knock on her door raised her head. She frowned and stood from her seat, running her hands down her sides to straighten the wrinkles from her dress. “Come in. . .”
The door slid open. Vullif walked in followed by Bralor, sealed in his armor. “Greetings, Tiila Sadii, and welcome to the Free Flying Soul.” He walked around the room, kicking bits of duraplast crating around as he did so. “While I apologize for the state of your stateroom, I can’t say I approve of your remodeling.”
Her voice was clipped. “Perhaps, if I weren’t locked in this room, I would not have felt the need.” She crossed her arms, glaring at the two men.
Trey laughed. “Don’t worry. If you behave yourself, you’ll be given more access. In the meantime,” he walked to the back wall of the room and pressed a hidden stud. The wall slid open, doubling the size of the room. “This might help. We’ll get our droid to help with your luggage and then we’ll make a stop on Nar Shadda to see about getting you some proper furniture.”
She narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. “That sounds. . . acceptable.”
Okay, then. If you want, we can give you the tour of the parts of the ship you can access.”
“Yes, please.” She uncrossed her arms and flicked her hair off of her shoulders. “If I am to be assigned here I would like to know how to get around.”
Trey led the way out of the newcomer’s quarters, followed by Tiila and Bralor. “Over there is the galley. It’s pretty well stocked for a spacer’s ship, mostly because of the Diva.” He led her around the ship’s central corridor, pointing out escape pods and facilities as well as the off-limits portions of the ship. Passing the door for the main corridor leading to the cockpit, Trey emphasized the point. Finally, the short trip led back to Tiila’s quarters. “And now the lounge.”
“Trust me, you’ll like this.” Holding out half of a Para-roll to Krynn, Aidenne seemed to barely glance up as the tour entered the room. “You’re picking up women left and right, Trey. Something I should know about?” she offered as her version of a greeting.
“At least you didn’t pick up another man,” he fired back. “Krynn, Diva, this is Tiila Sadii. She’s our new watcher.” He laughed softly for a moment and continued. “After I offered to pay for Arden’s freedom, I guess he thought we needed another.”
Her golden eyed gaze lazily gave the woman a once-over. “She’s… well fed.” A very small smile touched her lips as she turned back to Trey. “Always the hero.” Her tone was almost fond as she considered it. “But you did the right thing. And if you tell her I said that, I’m going to make sure your next meal turns your skin several unnatural shades of green.”
“Perish the thought, princess.”
“Oh how. . . charming. You have a pet Theelin.” Tiila winkled her nose at the other woman. “She’s so tiny, I could break her in half.” Her voice hardened on those last few words.
Since the overly voluptuous woman was clearly beneath her, Aidenne ignored her words and continued to talk to Trey. “And how long does our new watcher need to live with us?”
Vullif shot Bralor a glance and smiled. “Ladies, please. We have a couple jobs to do. Sniping at each other won’t help.”
“But it feels good and you know how my people are.” She gave them a sarcastic look.
“Whores?” Aidenne offered helpfully with a saccharin little smile.
The air around her thickened as she tried to hold back from drenching this mouthy little tart in fear making her shudder and whimper. “I said my kind.”
“Tiila Sadii, was it? I do believe that makes you lower than a whore.”
Bralor crackled as it escalated between the pair, groaning some Mando’ad curse.
Her hands balling into fists, she looked to Trey and Ures’vn. “I did not come here to be belittled! If I am to behave myself then I expect you to teach her some manners.”
The Mandalorian crossed his arms over his breastplate. “Let it go.” he said, looking at Aidenne.
Golden eyes sparking with anger, Aidenne carefully considered exactly how far her respect for Ures went. “What exactly did you do wrong to get the slug’s spy sent along with us?”
“We were short on the payment and I told him how we’d get the money. Seems he wanted some insurance.”
“As I heard it. You have never made a payment on time.”
Smiling, Trey turned to the Zeltron. “We have made payments on time. Not often, I’ll admit, but it has happened.” Then his expression darkened. “Now, I’d suggest you head back to your quarters. Or the new furniture we get on Nar Shadda will be secondhand from a Trandoshan.”
“More threats. What a surprise. Now I am being sent to my room when she started it all.” She snorted and looked pointedly at Bralor. “Not punishment hmm?”
“She pays for her ride. You’re forced on us. Who do you think I’m going to side with. Room. Now.”
“Fine. I have a report to make anyway. I won’t forget this in it.” She turned, the motion sending a waft of anger their way.
Feeling the wave of anger roll over him, Trey had no doubt of its source. But he turned to the Diva anyway. “And you. You need to sheathe those claws, kittycat. She is the slug’s representative. And this trip is the first taste of freedom she’s getting from the him. So unless you are hoping for us to be blown to the Sith, I suggest you back off.”
“Well, if it isn’t the she-bitch.” Arden spat as she walked out of the cockpit.
Again, Ures’vn muttered the same curse under his breath.
Without turning, she spoke to Trey. “Learn to control your crew or I will do it for you.” Ignoring her old ‘friend’ she walked away towards the room she had been sent to.
Arden put her hands on her hips and smiled wider, “What got her so upset?”
Trey was fuming. “Sit down.” Without waiting for her compliance, he went on. “You of all people should know what freedom can do, Arden. And both of you,” he turned to Aidenne, “are going to try your hardest to get along with her. We all need to. Show her a life outside the one she’s had with Durga. Maybe she can find a second chance. Or at least a fleeting moment of happiness.”
The smile faded a bit from Arden’s lips, “Trey. I’m sorry, but that bantha and I have a history. She almost ruined me once; I owe her.”
“If it’s history, let it be history,” replied the clone, now standing beside her. “You know better then anybody that Durga’s not going to let her go anywhere, especially if terms go south. All things being equal, I think Trey’d rather keep you on board.”
“Fine,” she said in a bit of a huff. She stood up and started walking back to the cockpit, “Just make sure she stays the hell away from me!”
Trey looked at the Diva. “Remember what I said.” He turned and followed the pilot toward the front of the ship. “Arden, wait.” The girl kept on walking, so Trey took a stronger tone. “Arden Ramis!”
She turned back to him, “What!?!”
Frowning, he walked up to the girl. “She’s already forbidden from the cockpit corridor. But she’s now a fact of life, and one we need to deal with.” He sighed, clearly not happy with the situation himself.”You know if I was forced to throw out all the crew but one, you’d be the one I keep. You’re my right hand, and I cannot do this without you. So please, for the sake of the ship and for me, try to get along with her.”
Arden’s eyebrows knitted together as she studied Trey. Finally her shoulders drooped in resignation,”Fine. For you, I’ll do it.”
Trey threw his arm around her. “C’mon, let’s get this crate off the ground.”
An almost convincing little pout settled over the Diva’s lips in the silence that began to blanket the lounge. “Would now be a good time to mention how good I am at making things look natural?” she murmured with a little smirk to Krynn. “If I catch her toying with people I actually care about, I won’t bother to ask permission.”
Ures’vn stood along side the wall. There was an uncharacteristic slump to his shoulders, like a man holding onto the end of sigh. After a moment he straightened his back, his gaze craning to the ceiling. “Alright,” he said, looking over to the T3-E7 that sat inconspicuously in the corner. “Come on, Pal. Let’s get the negotiator’s crap. ” The utility droid chirped and whistled. It’s pair of front legs slid forward and it wheeled over to the Mandalorian and looked up to him with it’s bright, round eye.”Yes, I know you’re an antique.” Bralor patted the droid’s flat circular head. “It’s still not getting either of us out of a little manual labor.” The droid beeped, it’s legs coming together to push its height higher. “Flattery will get you no where with me, old man,” chuckled the former soldier, “Lets roll.”