tiila_avThe bottle of blush wine sat empty on the small table in the crew lounge and the others had returned to their quarters or occupied themselves with other things. Trey, however lingered in the common room.

“Trey…” There was dull thudding sound as the heavy bottom of the bottle came down on the table top. The thief’s eyes rose to find the former soldier standing there. “A word?”

The thief nodded. “This one of those private conversations?” he asked, a wry smile on his face.

“I dunno. Depends on how open you wanna be about future plans for the crew.” Bralor looked around the room and, finding it empty save the T3-E7 utility droid, set down a pair of squat glasses. “Prolly a moot point anyway. Doubt the droid’s gonna talk.” He took a seat and poured a few fingers of the bottle’s greenish contents into each glass. “Not like most of them can understand the old man.”

Trey nodded, taking a glass. “I think I got it covered anyway,” he said before sipping a bit of the ale. Looking over at the droid, he said “Hey, Pal. Panic Room.”

The utility droid rolled over and extended a servo arm upward, poking a couple buttons. The bulkhead doors slid shut.

“So what are we discussing about the crew?”

He picked up his glass and took a pull from it. The sharp liquid ran down his throat, its warmth settling in his belly. “The ambassador.”

Again the ship’s captain nodded. “Yeah. Been thinking about that myself.” Leaning back in the cushioned plasteel chair, Trey took another sip of the green ale. “She came in handy on the job. And while I kinda resent how she was forced on board, I hate the thought of anyone being stuck with the slug.”

Bralor nodded. “She’s got some adjustments to make. Growth, you might say.” He rolled the bottom of his glass around on the steel tabletop. “But she’s got it in her. Her and the Diva made a pretty formidable team.”

“Yeah.” the other man agreed. “But we aren’t putting the ship at risk, and we aren’t putting Arden’s freedom at risk for her either.”

“No.” There was a small smile on the man’s grizzled face. “Not really a good plan. Not what I had in mind either. I was thinking something a little more… Hutt.” He shot back the rest of the ale in his glass. “Appeal to the fat and greedy in the big worm.”

Tipping another splash of the green liquid into his glass, Trey had another drink. He knew Bralor, trusted him with his life on several occasions. And he knew the man wouldn’t come to him with an idea like this if he didn’t have a plan. “Chits in the stasis field. What do you have in mind?”

“We took in a sarlaac pit more than we even thought we would from that ship,” he fed the Soul’s captain the food for thought. “Even if we did a healthy fudge the books on this take, there’s a generous amount left to impress the fat bastard.” The Mandalorian ran his fingers across his stubbled chin. “Never met a Hutt that could ignore money like that. You?”

Trey was forced to agree. “You’re right. We could skim 20% and still have more than the top end of what I told Durga we’d pull…”

“And that’s just this one job.” The soldier refilled his glass. “Shows good faith on our part that we didn’t hold out on him.” He took a drink before adding, “Even though we are. Builds up a nice false confidence of the big worm’s control. Buys Ramis her freedom and takes a healthy extra chunk out of your ship’s debt in the now. I’d call that a win-win-win,” he said, ticking each win off with a finger.

Nodding as he began to see the practicality of the clone’s idea, Trey only saw one flaw. “Have you discussed this with the Ambassador? Tiila seemed to see this posting as a punishment. You sure she wants to stick around?

Bralor’s shoulders shrugged. “Not really. Not my place on your ship.” His wrist rolled the contents of the bottom of his glass around. “But I’ve never met a slave that wanted to be a slave. Not once their eyes were opened.”

Trey grinned. “You know you have a good deal of latitude on my ship.” Sliding his glass back and forth between his hands, he continued. “You all do. Otherwise our stray Padawan wouldn’t be playing with my family heirloom in the cargo hold. But you’re right. I should talk to the Ambassador.”

Finishing his drink, the Mandalorian nodded. “Nice of you to hand that down to the girl.” He stared down into the green drink with a somewhat plain expression for a quiet moment. “You know you’re flirting with the Rebels.”

“It’s a loan ’til she finds or builds something of her own, not a gift.” the thief said, raising an eyebrow.”And I might have no love for the Empire, but I’m no Rebel. Just an entrepreneur making a living on the fringe.”

“Sure, you are.” Ures picked up the bottle and tipped it over Trey’s glass. The green ale splashed around the edges, rising. “But, comes a time when even the man on the fringe is going to have to make a choice whether he likes it or not.” His dark eyes rose to the Soul’s Captain. “You’re a thief and an entrepreneur, but look at your crew. You’re not a man to walk away, Trey.”

Trey shook his head. “And choosing time might be closer than I want to think about.” Reaching in his jacket pocket, he produced a datastick and a reader. “Take a look and tell me what you think.”

Bralor slipped the stick into the jack and waited as the intel booted up. Slowly his thumb scrolled through page after page. That photo memory was as sharp as ever, absorbing detail after detail until he tossed the reader back onto the table. “I think this is the same crap as why I left the GAR. There was a tightness in his jaw as he picked up his glass.

“So there’s a choice to be made. After we deal with Durga.” He looked back to the starboard door.”And after I talk to Tiila.”

“If you need back up,” he filled his glass, “you know where to find me.”

Looking at the durasteel grey of the door for a moment, Trey took a deep breath. After a moment’s pause, he rapped on the hatch. “Tiila? Do you have a moment?”

“I have nothing but moments, are you needing one?” She chuckled softly and the hatch opened. The alien ambassador sat cross legged on a brocade chair, dressed in a white silk robe with soft white fur and feathers on her collar. She looked regal, her posture perfect and the glass in her hand made of thick leaded glass.

Trey took a seat on another chair they’d snatched from the Nar Shaada hotel. “How do you like it here, Tiila?”

“It is… not what I expected. I still have trouble with crew members from time to time…” Her fingers stroked the bejeweled deathstick case on her vanity as she took a sip from the thick blood red liquid in her glass. “But it has been more to my liking than not.”

Nodding, the thief shifted in his chair. “I’m glad to hear that. I know I didn’t act like it at first, but I am.”

“Don’t worry about it, Trey. This was all one big surprise.” She set her glass down and faced the captain with a smile. “I have found company to enjoy here.”

He returned Tiila’s smile. “Good. Because I think you should stay. And maybe one of these days, we’ll get you out from under Durga too.”

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