He caught the scent of whisky and ale as her eyes fell on him, widening. She froze. Then, before he could do anything, she had stumbled up to him and grabbed him by the collar, breathing heavily, eyes looking urgent. Her forehead glistened dully with sweat.
“They’re everywhere. They’re infiltrating us!” Whisky was strong on her breath.
Slowly, so as not to alarm her, he grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her back. He gave her a once over kind of look. “Jag… are you drunk?” He realized there was shock in his voice. This wasn’t like her.
“Maybe I am,” she snapped. “It’s the Sith!”
“Calm down. I triple scanned the ship and did all the checks you usually demand,” he said. “There’s no one here but me and Dice in the back.”
Her eyes were searching the corridors and recesses of the ship, but she seemed to relax a bit at that.
“Tell me what’s going on,” Daceest said quietly. If it had gotten her this worked up, he wanted to know.
“Fine,” she muttered. “Fine. Suppose there’s nothin’ I can do about it right now.” She sat down with a grimace in one of the chairs in the equipment room… but she sat gingerly, and looked about as tense as a Nexu prepared to spring. The alcohol hadn’t done much to relax her it seemed.
“I went to that damned Black Barge Collective expo. The one on Coruscant.” She gave him an accusatory look at that. “Dace, you know I hate those things. I should never have gone there, even if I do need to do networking. Dice can go next time.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Dice?”
She waved a hand in disgust. “She disappears so often anyway. I’m sure she can handle herself.”
Daceest let the ridiculous comment pass for now. Dice’s competence wasn’t so much in question as her ability to negotiate complicated arms deals. Or deal with any social situations, for that matter. She was the only person he suspected might be worse than Jagna with those.
“So? Did you find Sith there?” he guessed.
She sat up suddenly and slammed a fist down on the table, making the droid parts jump. “YES!” she yelled. “Sith! Oh, you won’t believe this.” Her eyes were intense enough to murder a krayt dragon by herself.
She paused, as if thinking back, then raised a finger. “First, I met this… Jedi… who was a Sith pureblood.” Daceest sighed and barely kept himself from making an exasperated face at her.
“Don’t you start! They’re untrustworthy!”
“Not all – ”
“Shut up! I’m talking here.” She leaned back. “He said he was a Jedi. But, he was an ex-Sith. Master… Arun. See, I told you he is related to the Imps. He kept talking to me.” She looked offended. “He told me I should be calm! In a place like that!” She snorted. “Well, he did have some interesting things to say. He said he was looking for people to work for him. Apparently, he infiltrates the Empire to look for other Sith defectors. Highly questionable endeavor if you ask me. But that kind of work, I could get behind. Mind. If high profile targets needing demolition were involved…” She wet her lips, eyes almost looking eager. “And… besides that, if he could get me inside deeper than I usually can get… well, I might be able to do some extra damage.”
“Is that what he wants?”
She made a raspberry. “You kidding? He gave the typical, ‘don’t let your violence consume you’ or some other kriffen Jedi speech. But he doesn’t have to know.” Daceest smiled at her sadly, and she glared. “Quit that look. This is important. Anyway, I gave him one of my contacts. The heavily encrypted one that’s untraceable, just in case. Can’t be too careful. See. I can deal with Sith.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
Her eyes got wider. “There were Chiss there.”
She nodded seriously. “It was… disturbing. I’m sure not all of them were Republic. It’s just not possible. And, I met a Sith in the flesh.”
“She was a twi’lek. She said right out that she wasn’t a Jedi, but she clearly had that Jedi look. And a Jedi was talking to her and thought she was. Sith, you see? She got in, Dace. Got RIGHT da-gum into Coruscant. What kind of security do we have, anyway? The weasels in Coruscanti security are louts I tell ya! See, this is what we get for trustin’ the military. Can’t do a da-gum thing right.”
Daceest listened patiently until her tirade had ended; however, his brows were furrowed slightly. A Sith on Coruscant? This was something worth investigating.
“I tell you, you can’t go five feet without stepping on a Sith in our own backyard now,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s not like it used to be, where I was blowin’ them up in Imperial space. Now I have to go assassinate them in Republic space too!”
Daceest gave her an accusing look of his own. “So you got drunk?”
She glared at him, then looked away, hand twiddling her pistol. “Yeah, that was pretty stupid, but I was really mad. And upset.”
He sighed. “Anything else?”
Her eyes almost bulged, and she stopped her twiddling. “Isn’t that bloody enough? But yes, now that you mention it, I saw Vonn.”
Daceest’s eyebrows rose. This was news. “Isn’t that the same Vonn who’s SIS?”
“The one Gim blackmailed. Yeah. He was grinning. It was kind of freaky. And,” she leaned in closer, looking as if she was about to tell something scandalous. “He hugged me. Then he left.” Daceest’s mouth dropped open, speechless. Before he could restrain himself, he was laughing. Jagna’s glaring daggers only made it worse. He really wished he’d been there to see that. Someone who hugged Jagna must have guts!
“Yeah, yeah, you think he’s insane? I thought so too. You can stop laughing.” Daceest was wiping a tear from his eye, trying to catch his breath.
“He planted something on you, didn’t he?”
She scowled. “Yes he did. Contact info of some job crap. I should have known. He doesn’t know me very well… or he would have known he was taking his life in his hands to do something so stupid. I almost kriffin’ knifed him right there.”
“So, did he say anything? You know… before that.”
She sat back, looking nervous. “Well, I asked him if the SIS was going after me. He said no.”
“Don’t know if I believe him. Can’t trust a guy that’s SIS.” Or really anyone else either, Daceest added in his own mind, with a smile.
“I know,” he said instead. Then he stood. “Go, get some rest ok? I’ll look into this Sith business myself.”
“You will?” She looked surprised.
“Of course.” For a wonder, she actually seemed to really relax to a semblance of her old self. Granted, it wasn’t much. Daceest wondered if she realized how much she had come to trust him. He wasn’t sure how that had happened. Accident or not, he was glad. He worried she’d fall apart if she hadn’t trusted somebody. Better she didn’t realize.
“Go sleep,” he said. It was a command.
“Fine,” she spat. Grumbling all the way to her quarters, the door closed behind her with a sharp snap. Daceest sat back down, rubbed a hand down his face and sighed. Good grief. He pulled a datapad from the desk, and began a few queries with customs.