“I think we can meet somewhere in the middle, Rai.” Bralor crossed his arms over his chest, looking down at the holovid. “I’m good for it. 780.” The old man groaned and appeared to slump back in a chair. The clone leaned on the console. “You owe me.”
The image of the older man scowled, and flickered with static as he shook his head. “Taking advantage of an old man, Bralor?”
“You’re still making money on this deal.”
“This is how you want to call in your marker?”
A grin split Bralor’s face. “I knew you’d come around.” He stood upright, stretching to his full height.”I’ll radio when we’re there.”
“Not too long,” he replied. “One stop and we’re on our way.”
The man nodded and the feed was cut. Bralor looked back over the control console a moment before turning and and heading out of the cockpit, back toward the common area. “Should reach the station shortly,” he announced as he came down the neck of the ship. “If you’re packing off, now’s the time to be ready.”
Ducking under the opening, Bralor stopped. His head tilted and his brow dropped quizzically as he took in the woman in the dark emerald colored number. It took a moment for it to register to him.”So, you’re ready then,” he said, smirking and coming all the way into the room. “You clean up priddy nice, Arden.”
Arden found herself uncontrollably blushing. She wasn’t quite sure why it happened; this was all just part of the job. It didn’t really mean anything. She actually felt the corners of her lips part into a smile, “Thanks,” her eyes suddenly found a great deal of interest in the floor as she tucked a stray lock of hair away from her ear.
Bralor nodded and headed to sit at the table where Trey had been working on the plans for the job.”You do that?” Though his head was down, the question was clearly directed to the diva.
“So nice to see you appreciate my work.” The tiny Diva flashed a quick grin, curling her legs up underneath her as she relaxed in her chair. Confident in her own plans, she simply watched in silence as her shipmates made their preparations. Though Trey’s schemes didn’t always go exactly as planned, she was sure her reputation would be safe. It was enough to make her content, if not somewhat amused.
It was then that Kyra stepped around the entrance to the crew lounge. The deep turquoise gown wasn’t so much slit up the side as it did little to cover one entire leg. The asymmetry continued as the gown flowed up and over the opposite shoulder before splaying across her upper back; with tendrils of fabric fanning around to catch at the bodice and draping down to accent the low cut of the dress. Her coppery hair was intricately braided, and cascaded down over her uncovered shoulder. Delicate teardrops of Mon Cal aquamarine dangled from each ear, accompanied by a choker of the same. “It took me a while to get the wrinkles out. I assume it’s suitable?”
“The best dressed thieves around.”
Trey nodded. Darn right we are.”
From the doorway opposite of Kyra, Krynn stepped into the room and slowly looked around taking everything in. For a moment he wondered if everyone would need to find formal attire, but then dismissed the thought. He walked to the diva’s side and then leaned against the metal wall to keep out of the way.
Arden walked over and attempted to sit down at the table. Each time she attempted to sit, her inexperience with the garment she was currently wearing caused her to almost show things that shouldn’t be seen. After several attempts up and down, her head jerked toward the diva who was watching with great amusement, “How the hell do you sit in this thing?”
Despite being new to the crew, Kyra couldn’t help but smile. “Cross your legs at the ankle and sit sideways a little.” She offered. After waiting a moment she added, “You can’t keep your legs open wide enough to drive a starship through and still maintain some sense of decorum.”
“But keeping your legs open, is how you sit down,” Arden attempted again, and almost fell onto her backside before luckily landing in the chair, “How did I get myself talked into this,” she grumbled to herself.
Bralor set down the film down and looked to Trey. “I talked my guy down to 780. We drop you off and, and we’re good to head to his station. As far as anybody in the galaxy will know The Soul will be docked there for the duration.”
“780…” The other man shook his head.
“Payment on completion of the job.” He sat back. “So, if we get pinched…”
“Well, that’s something.”
“And Bralor if there is one scratch on the soul when I get back…” the pilot pointed her emerald painted fingernail in the clone’s face.
“You’re gonna chase after me? In that little number?” He shook his head.
Her eyes narrowed, “Don’t think I couldn’t old man,” her lips curled into a smile.
“I don’t.” One of Bralor’s eyes squinted. “I think you’d slip right out of it.” He laughed. “Don’t worry,adi’ka. I was behind the stick of ship before you had the eyes to see stars. The Soul’ll be fine.”
Arden pulled her arm back and smiled, “Better be.”
“Yeah, yeah.” The one time soldier took up the schematics on the safe and looked them over.
Kyra leaned over the Mandalorian’s shoulder to take a look at the flimsiplast. Her brow arched and she let out a low whistle. “An echs-oh seven?” She glanced over to Trey, “You need to be one helluva slicer for something like that… unless you have a lightsaber available that I don’t know about.”
Arden laughed, “I don’t even think one of those exists anymore.”
“Oh, I dunno about that.” A sly grin fell over Bralor as he gave a subtle look over in Kyra Wolfknyght’s direction. “There’s probably a couple out there.”
“Since Jedi are in short supply, my skills will have to do. They’ve never failed me before now.” The words were full of confidence, but there was something in his eyes that told a different story, but he smiled nonetheless. “I have a couple tricks that you guys haven’t seen yet.” Across from him Bralor simply nodded.
“I dunno,” Arden shrugged, “All I’ve ever heard is that they are nothing but old wives tales.”
The clone groaned. “You’re too old to believe crap like that.”
“You ever see one?”
Once again, Bralor’s eyes flickered to Kyra. “Long before you were born, kid. Long before you were born.”
Krynn nodded, “I have been studying the Jedi as part of my research on this human empire several of you had mentioned. Given their duplicitous nature and supernatural abilities perhaps it is better that the Jedi aren’t present now that the humans have succeeded in purging them from the Galaxy, but perhaps if we needed more information on them as part of our criminal activity we could seek out the renegade and ex-separatist factions on your ‘outer rim.’ This ‘Force’ that they wielded would be a valuable asset in our mission, and surely if such a thing is real there must be others who have knowledge of it. The Jedi must have had other enemies we could seek out and question other than the Supreme Chancellor, ex-republic officials, and the supposedly extinct Sith Bralor mentioned. But, every record I have seen on them are vague or say they were a myth.” He looked over at Trey quizzically. “Wait, you have tricks like a Jedi?”
“It was a joke,” Kyra stated flatly.
“I see.” Krynn responded to Kyra looking over at her. “That is unfortunate. I still have many questions on the subject.”
“So,” Arden rolled her eyes as she drummed her emerald nails on the table, “back to the plans then?”
Though her face remained coolly amused, Aidenne glanced back over her shoulder at Krynn. Her amber eyes met his and her shoulder moved in a small, ‘I told you so’ sort of shrug.
Trey flipped through his notes and looked at the assembled crew. “Okay, so what do we need to go over? Anyone have any questions on the job?”
Finally emerging from her room, Tiila walked into the lounge and stopped just inside. Like the other women, she was dressed for the part she was about to play. The cerulean satin dress she wore matched her hair exactly. If the depth of neckline plunge had been a competition, she would have won by a mile with the two sides meeting just above the navel she so often showed off. Lining the collar that climbed up the back of her neck was white fur that shimmered just slightly. Her hair, coiled in a rather elaborate design, had a fan of that same white fur that spread out from one side. Her make up artfully hid the remainder of the discoloration around her eyes. It wasn’t even noticeable. She leaned just slightly against the door’s opening, looking at the others cautiously.”How about ‘How much longer until we are there?'”
“Not long.” He cocked an eyebrow and shot a glance at Tiila. “And you’re okay with your part of the plan?”
“That I go on board and try to make everyone pay attention to the diva here while she sings?” Her shoulders shrugged as she went to inspect her blue painted nails. “I’ll do my best.”
Still curled in her chair, the Diva’s shoulders stiffened slightly as the Zeltron entered. She rolled her eyes as the overly voluptuous woman spoke. “Since when have I needed help to keep an audience’s attention?” Her lower lip settled into a hint of a pout. “Perhaps our over… dressed friend should find something else to do.”
One didn’t need to be Force sensitive to feel the wave of negativity rolling from the Theelin. It irritated Kyra more than anything else. “Even at high-credit performances, there are those that conduct other dealings… if she can keep every eye on you, that will make the rest of our jobs that much easier.”
“This is obviously your first time around this crew,” Arden smiled sarcastically at the red head,”nothing ever goes easy for us,” Arden started casually playing with her color covered lips smearing it on to her finger and the left side of her cheek.
The helpful advice was nothing that Bralor hadn’t already told her. However, Aidenne had no inclination to listen politely to this stranger. She fixed the redhead with a flat look of dislike then, deciding the woman was beneath her, simply turned back to Trey. “We’ve been over the plan. Is there something new we should know?” Catching sight of Arden out of the corner of her eye, she sighed. “Stop that,” the little Diva scolded.
Trey sighed, silently wondering what he’d been thinking in saddling himself with such disparate personalities and enduring that ever present “I told you so” look from Bralor. “Actually…” He took a long breath, hoping against hope that this all might go over smoother than by all rights it should.”We’re making one slight alteration to the plan…”
Leaning precariously out of her seat to wipe the smeared lipstick off Arden’s face with a curiously gentle gesture, Aidenne shot Trey a suspicious look. “What kind of slight alteration?” Holding the pilot’s chin in her tiny hand, she lifted it to the light to inspect her handiwork again.
Once again, Trey looked to Bralor for support. The clone held up a hand, “Hold on.” He rather pointedly picked up his battered helmet and slowly lowered it over his head. Then he leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “You may proceed.”
“Thanks,” their ringleader said from between clenched teeth before turning to Aidenne. “I, uh… that is we-”
“No, no. This part of the plan was all you.”
“I suggest you tell me right now.” Her grip on Arden’s chin tightened ever so slightly.
He looked back over his shoulder with a knit brow, “I asked what you thought about it and you-”
“Ow ow ow…”
“You’re stalling.” The Diva’s voice, that marvelous instrument, was downright icy. “And don’t think that armor will protect you,” she added without even glancing toward Bralor. The Mandalorian shifted back in his chair. He held back his chuckle, grateful for the helmet that kept his grin hidden.
“Alright,” the crew’s captain smoothed his hair back. He looked her in the eye. “You and Tiila are going to go in together.” He paused as it sank in to everybody in the room.
“What!” The pink skinned woman had come off the wall where she leaned.
“As a pair,” he added.
Arden’s eyes opened wide as she felt the diva’s nails begin to sink into her chin. She winced a little as she pulled herself free and then quickly checked her chin in the reflective table for blood. Thankful for nothing more than a few red marks. She smiled at the situation and was about to compliment Trey on making sure the other two women would kill each other, but as her mouth opened, her stomach started to turn. She quickly put her hand over her mouth and ran out of the room.
“See? You two can agree on something…” At the other side of the table Bralor almost choked.
“Mir’osik!” Aidenne whirled to face Bralor, leaning across the table to glare into his covered face.”And you really think this is a good idea?” She couldn’t get distracted by the small twinge of guilt over Arden right now. She’d make it up to the girl later… again.
“Actually,” he paused, “yeah.”
She was livid. Only the fact that she’d just inadvertently hurt Arden kept the Diva from lashing out. Slowly forcing herself back into her chair, she continued to glare at the Mandalorian. “Why?” It came out more plaintive than she’d been intending.
Trying to keep her seething under control, Tiila’s icy eyes sparked at Aidenne from across the room.”Perhaps I am to see that you manage self-control.” Sending out emotions that conflicted with her own was difficult but she managed to filter something other than negativity into the air. “You seem to have an issue with that.”
Since Aidenne wasn’t wasting her breath on those beneath her, she didn’t even glance at the gaudy Zeltron. She crossed her arms over her chest, ignoring the fleeting wish that she had more to cross them over, and waited for her brother to explain this absurdity.
She knew she would regret it later but that didn’t stop her now. “I hope you are glad that your outside isn’t quite as ugly as your inside.” She turned her head from the Diva’s direction, looking at nothing in specific. “Then it wouldn’t matter how well you sang.”
Though she hated to exhibit any self-control in front of the bitch, Aidenne couldn’t help it. It was too ridiculous. Still fully intending to kill her later–or at the very least send her out to vomit with Arden–the Diva laughed as she curled back into her chair. “At least she’ll keep us amused.”
“I am not here to amuse you, Diva. I am not here to amuse anyone.” Her voice was hard. “I am here to make sure you don’t fail.” She didn’t bother to look at the little alien while she spoke. “Try to see it that you don’t”
A metallic klack echoed through the room. Eyes turned toward the sound. Trey sat, scowling. His SIL-50 had been slid from its holster and was now pointed at the two females, its butt resting on the table. “Ladies, get over yourselves. And sit down before I stun you.”
The threat infuriated the Zeltron. “I thought we had this issue resolved. Apparently I was misinformed.” She did not move from her spot beside the wall.
“Apparently so was I. I was under the impression I was dealing with a pair of calm and collected professionals. Instead you two are acting like a pair of spoiled noble-spawned younglings.” His thumb slid the safety to the off position as he continued, “so I suggest you figure out how to act like old friends. Or I’ll lock you in a closet until you do.”
It was so hard to be a calm and collected professional while she was still fighting the urge to laugh out loud. “So. As a professional courtesy do you think you might have a moment of time to explain this new aspect of the plan to us?” She hid her lips behind her painted nails as she waited. “Or would now be a good time for me to check on Arden?”
Trey glowered at Tiila. “Are you ready to listen too?”
“I don’t have a choice.” She slowly sat in the chair nearest to where she was.
“We could drop you off somewhere and come back when we’re done with the job if you’d like. Or get you a ticket back to Nar Shaada.”
The Zeltron stared at the captain wondering again if she could get them all before someone figured it out. With Arden out of the room, she doubted it severely. She made no gesture to respond. She just sat and glared.
“Okay.” A smile played across his lips as he looked at the two women seated across the room and began by addressing the Zeltron. “There are a couple reasons. First, you don’t trust us, but you know we’re not going to leave our Diva and Bralor behind. It allows you to keep tabs on us. And that works both ways.” He turned his focus to Aidenne. “Plus, if Tiila is your honored guest, she will have a lot better access to the rich and elite, which is something we need for our secondary objectives.”
The idea was repugnant, but it made sense. The Diva nodded once then ran a hand through the sunset of her hair. “You’re placing a good deal of faith on my acting skills.” From her posture it was clear that she still placed a good deal of blame for this on Bralor’s shoulders.
“You mean you’re not a good actress?”
Her lips curled again as she held back a laugh. “No one’s that good. But if anyone could come close it would be your Diva.” Her amber eyes grew serious for a moment as she looked at Trey. “I don’t fail in my tasks.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Arden leaned against the doorway, her hair in shambles around her shoulders and her skin still as pale as a ghost even with the makeup.
“That didn’t last too long. Good. How do you feel?”
“Like Bantha poodoo,” Arden clumsily wobbled her way back to the table.
“You messed up your hair. We’ll have to fix that before you leave.” It was her version of an apology.
“Goodie,” Arden barely had the strength to roll her bloodshot eyes.
Trey tossed a small bottle of Peptonix to his pilot.
The little pilot almost had the bottle hit her in the face as she clumsily wrapped her hands around it. She slowly gulped down it’s contents, and laid her head down on her folded arms, “I really hope this is not how the rest of this mission is going to go or we’re doomed.”
Krynn remained silent against the wall letting the strange drama unfold. Slowly he let his muscles relax and slowly exhaled the tense breath he had unconsciously taken in the peak of the argument, and his stare moved off Tiila back to the others. He glanced again at the blaster on the table even though he knew that Trey hadn’t meant to do more than scare the girls back in line. It was something the officers back home might have done. Discipline was vital in a ship’s crew.
He waited for the diva to look his way before making eye contact with her. His eyes conveying a silent request if she needed anything of him.
Kyra lay a hand on Arden’s exposed shoulder. She was amazed at how much easier it was to feel certain… things since beginning the rather unorthodox training sessions with Master Urr. She’d always had an affinity for healing, but now she could actually feel the traces of toxin as Arden’s system fought to purge them, along with her lunch. “You sure you’re okay?”
The words weren’t as much a show of concern – though there was a modicum present – as much as they were a cover for what she was about to do. The girl nodded, and let her head slump back down to her arms. She focused on the concentrated areas of toxin and as subtly as she could manage heated up those areas to aid in burning out the substance. In the space of a few breaths, she had managed to reduce the poison to only a trace, sure that Arden would be able to function normally within minutes.
Again, more to cover her actions, she patted Arden’s arm, “Just checking. We’re hitting the floor together, so you’ll need to be firing on all pins.” She gave the girl a little smile before standing back up.
Aidenne fought back an irrational surge of irritation as she watched Kyra’s concern for Arden and looked back to Krynn. She held his red gaze for a moment then stood to leave, her fingers brushing across his hand in a tiny, reassuring gesture. “Let’s go,” she told the pilot as she reached down to help the girl stand. “We have more than enough time to make you presentable… again. Excuse us.”Unwilling to listen to any protests, she led Arden from the room and back down the hall to her own quarters.
Bralor looked over Trey. “We should be there shortly. I’ll go dock us up.” The Soul’s captain nodded.