Bralor’s fingers steepled under his chin and stared back at the blank monitor. There had been no word from Aidene since her surprise departure with Krynn while they had been dealing with the Hutt. All of attempts to receive any word on Zann had come up empty, but Tyber Zann wasn’t the sort to give any details he didn’t care for you to know. That, of course, had done wonders for his own mood and assured the promise that his next encounter with the crime lord would end with nice scar to intersect the one he already had, leaving a nice little cross-hair between his eyes.
He sighed and pushed the screen away, getting to his feet and leaving his quarters.
The mood on the ship had been shaky at best. Tiila had barely left her quarters since launching for Osarian, if she had at all. No attempts yet had managed to even crack her door, and Bralor was sure she hadn’t even eaten anything. Then again, no one on board could truly understand what it was she was going through.
At least Trey and Arden were more or less back to normal.
“Still no response?”
The Mandalorian looked up, finding the ship’s captain standing in the corridor. His arms were folded across his chest.
“Still no response,” he confirmed. “If something was wrong, we’d know. She has her ways. She learned well.” He hoped it was true.
Trey nodded, lips pressed tightly together. He stood in the doorway for a moment, then sighed deeply. “I’m sure you’re right. But Krynn is with her. And I don’t trust him. We still don’t know what species he is, much less who he’s working for. I’d feel better if she was alone.”
The deckplates gave a familiar shudder signalling the reversion from hyperspace, and Arden’s voice crackled through the ship’s intercom. “We’re in real space, should be hitting Osarian’s upper atmosphere about…”
The ship bucked slightly, and the Soul’s pilot finished her sentence. “About now.”
Trey nodded to Bralor and walked forward to the cockpit, slipping into the seat behind the Jawa who had assumed co-piloting duties. “Nice reversion. I didn’t think you could pop out of hyperspace this close to a planet.”
Feeling the ship bringing her to fulfill her boss’ business, Tiila Sadi refreshed the crimson paint on her anger twisted lips. She had spent all day preparing herself for the job that lie ahead. The gold dress she wore shimmered as light hit the scales the material was made from, her hair was pinned high around a jewel encrusted comb that matched her dress with a select few curls falling to frame her pink face. She was so made up, very little of her actual skin showed, despite how revealing her dress was.
Sitting in the middle of an extremely precarious V, her new favorite piece of jewelry accented the decolletage on display. The light blue gemstone reflected the light the same way her genetically-designed hair did, both shining in the cracked mirror before her. She touched it lightly, ignoring the pain that beat beneath. The necklace chain bore a shining resemblance to the circle of gold she had been instructed to wear, a reminder of what choices she had regardless of any hopes this ship had infected her with.
Capping the tube of beetle red, she tossed it onto the vanity counter amid the several empty bottles of liquor she had acquired from their work on the last ship. It is a fact that the body can subsist off of the nutrients in alcohol alone, and she had put this to a test. Not having unlocked her door for days showed in the weight she had lost. Sighing wearily, she stood and unlocked the door. She knew it was being watched and didn’t bother to open it, it would be opened for her.
After the briefest moment the door slid back. Bralor stood in the opening, all geared up in his dark armor save the familiar helmet. His brown eyes met hers without lingering on her frame, though it hardly went unnoticed. She had hid the way the past few days had weighed upon her body expertly enough, but not from such a trained eye.
“We’re nearly there,” he said, unable to raise even a hint of a smile.
Her gaze flickered away, unwilling or not wanting to meet his for long. “I know.” She sat back down at the vanity and reapplied the thick winged black line on her eye. “Otherwise the door would have remained locked.”
He watched her through the mirror’s reflection. “Right.” The old soldier stood just outside the threshold for a quiet moment. He studied her as she went through those practiced and repetitive motions, void of any passion or joy.
“You don’t want to do this,” Bralor said quietly, almost matter of fact. “You don’t want to do this, don’t do it.”
Sighing again, the pink woman slipped the brush back into its pot. “Do you know what Durga does to his belongings that no longer work?” To answer her own question, she pushed a green tinted bottle off the table top, letting it shatter in the durasteel crate she had been using as a garbage container.
“There are ways,” he replied. “There are always ways. If I’ve learned anything from all the ops I’ve tangled it’s that there is more than one route to your goal.” He paused a moment, looking around at the number of tinted bottles, void of their drink. “We can find the other way.”
Tiila brushed a few more bottles off, taking a tall tapered red one that still carried some of its contents and poured it into her glass with shaking hands. “I have stood in the room while he disposed of faulty staff. There is no purpose in being concerned with the use of your body when it is inside out.” The glass rested on her lower lip a moment before delivering its contents with a tip of her wrist.
“Durga’s not here.” Bralor shook his head. “It’s good to know what to expect from him, but that just gives time to prepare. Engage what we can now, manage the possible results.”
“Based on the information I received on my datapad, this is an important job. Extremely important.”She finally returned to his eyes. “I wouldn’t be the only one he destroyed if this isn’t done.”
“So,” Bralor folded his arms across his chest, “change the rules. Make the job different for the client, get the result Durga wants.” He smirked just a little. “I’ve seen what you can do.”
Her thumb ran back and forth over the side of the glass as she considered his suggestion. “I… I guess I could try. Not everyone is sufficiently affected by my pheromones.” Her nail picked at a crack that spread across the top half of her glass. “If it didn’t work… I’d have to give him what I was sent here for.” She was surprised at how much she didn’t want to do this. A job she had thought she enjoyed so much… and she hated it.
Bralor finally stepped across the threshold, crossing over to where she sat. “It’s a start.” He placed his hand on her shoulder, just where it met her pink neck. He gave a gentle squeeze. “If improvisation is needed, that’s what we do.”
“Just keep Arden away from me or it will be her on her back in that man’s bed.” She put the glass down, perhaps a bit too hard. The crack spread down the entire side of the glass, rendering it useless. “If nothing else, I’m sure I can clean out his liquor cabinet.”
The Mandalorian shook his head just a little. “Take it easy with Arden. This is the place to be building bridges, not razing them. You might need her help when this comes back to Durga.”
He leaned over her and moved the glass back. “And you’re going to need to keep your wits about you.” He knew how that sounded coming from him, the first one to throw a few back before a job.”You should get some real food in your belly before we disembark.”
She ignored completely his suggestion of food. “Arden is treating her freedom like a spoiled child.”Her fingers brushed the warm gold that fitted around her neck. “I wouldn’t think someone who spent time under Druga’s thumb would take it so much for granted.”
“I think you’re mistaking Arden’s problem. It’s not freedom; it’s trusting the people you rely on.” His eyes flitted to her fingers on the chain. “We survive together. Takes some longer to learn that than others.”
“It hurts my trust when she acts the way she does, and not only am I the only one that calls her on her unacceptable behavior, but I am verbally assaulted for doing so.” She sighed and took a few steps closer to the Mandalorian, lowering her voice as she spoke. “Personal feelings aside, Arden is hiding something. I can feel it. It crawls across my skin every time I am in the same room with her. It makes me uneasy…”
His chin tilted, looking her in the eyes. . “You aren’t the only one, Ambassador. You don’t see all that happens on the ship, particularly locked away in your quarters.” His were dark, almost colorless. “And a crew never dresses down the captain in public. Particularly when they are on a sour mood. Picking your battles is as much about timing as anything.”
He shifted, armor moving the only sound in the room for a moment. “I’ve known a number of untrustworthy boot heels. Jedi. Mercs. Smugglers and officials.” He paused. “I trust Arden.”
“You don’t understand.” She sighed and shook her head. “I don’t have to see. My people, we feel emotion as much as we can give it. Zeltrons are powerful empaths, and it was just another part of me that was tinkered with genetically.” She reached across the short span between them and touched his protected arm lightly. “I promise you I am not speaking out of hurt feelings. I have sat on this for a while now because I didn’t want it to look that way, but I fear I will never have any other situation in which to say so.”
The man was quiet again. He appeared to be consider what she was saying. His gaze rose to the ceiling. “I believe you.” He looked down again. “I believe she is hiding something from you being here.” And he hoped that was all. He didn’t like the feeling of dissent the idea started to sow. “I have trusted Arden with my life and safety because she’s earned it.”
“I’m not saying she is hiding something horrible, or that she is hiding something from anyone but me. All I am saying is that I have valid reasons for not trusting her. You have to remember I have known Arden for far, far longer than you have, and she has not earned trust from me. Quite the opposite.”
Her hand dropped from his arm and her back straightened. “However, if Arden is allowed to show disrespect that would get her throat cut elsewhere, and I am barked at for commenting, then it is hardly freedom I am being offered here. I at least got respect in my job.” She held her arms up, showing the sparse dress and gold bangles she was decorated in. “and I am little more than a whore.”
“You’re more now,” he said. “If you weren’t, we wouldn’t be trying to find a way around this.”
Ures’vn Bralor reached for her. His gloved hand touched high on her arm. “The life we lead out here is dirty. Tempers are high right now and people are acting hot. But we take care of our own.” He squeezed, looking into her eyes. “I promise you that.”
Maybe it was their shared design or maybe it was the feeling of sincerity that he was giving off, but she softened. “We’ll see what happens after this job with the aristo. Maybe I’m just a whore with a really bad attitude.” She laughed a little bit.
“Maybe.” He didn’t laugh, but the edges of his eyes wrinkled with the hint of a small smile. “I’m just a drunk with a chip on his shoulder.”
Bralor stepped back. “Come on,” he said, jabbing the console beside the door with an elbow. It slid into the hull with that heavy shunk. “Let’s go find out how to really screw this bastard.”
Smirking as she passed by him to walk out the door, Tilla flicked a blue curl out of her face. “I thought we were trying to get me out of the screwing part?”
Finally the soldier let out a small chuckle. “Lady, what I’m talking about people tend to find whole lot less enjoyable.”
“I certainly hope so.” She leaned her back against the door’s frame. “At least when I kill people in bed they die with a smile on their face… usually.”