“You reek of fear.”—Arianwin D’yer
The first time I met Lieutenant Malavai Quinn, I loathed him.
His no-nonsense demeanor and impeccably pressed uniform told me everything I needed to know. He was like all the others. Bureaucratic. Spineless. The kind of man who fought in the name of the Empire but left the dirty work for others.
I leaned against the doorway of his command center. My eyes flickered over him, taking in the way he moved. His posture ramrod straight. His chin held high. The deep timbre of his voice never wavered even as he reprimanded one of his soldiers. My lips curled in disgust when I noticed the immaculate shine of his military-issued boots.
The unmistakable hint of approval in my master’s voice when he spoke of Quinn confounded me. With no political influence to speak of, Quinn was useless to our plans, and yet somehow he managed to worm his way into Baras’ good graces. I vowed to myself I would determine why. If Baras considered Quinn one of his allies, I dared not overlook this opportunity to turn one of his trusted advisors against him.
“If that’s your best, you’re useless to me.” Quinn frowned at the cowering soldier in front of him. “I could shoot you dead with a clear conscience. Is that what you want?”
When the soldier began to snivel, a look of disgust briefly crossed Quinn’s face. He brusquely dismissed the soldier with a wave of his hand.
The soldier accidentally brushed by me in his haste to leave. I read the tension in his bowed shoulders and noted the man’s pale complexion. Despite my initial impression, I reluctantly admitted that, at the very least, the Lieutenant must wield enough influence to inspire fear among his subordinates.
But was it enough?
I stepped into the room. Quinn turned his attention to me, all traces of frustration wiped from his face. He bowed low.
I paused when I saw the hardness in his eyes. They shone at me with such intensity that my fingers instinctively gripped the hilt of my lightsaber in case he was fool enough to attack. When he merely waited for me to acknowledge him, I forced myself to relax.
“Lieutenant Malavai Quinn,” he introduced himself. “I am to be your liaison on Balmorra.”
The way his eyes met mine irritated me. Despite being in the presence of a Sith, the man was entirely too self-possessed. He radiated uncompromising strength in the face of my growing anger. If he dared to consider himself my equal, he would soon learn the painful truth.
“You say liaison,” I corrected him, my voice dripping with malice, “I say servant.”
Quinn hesitated. His expression remained bland, and yet his gaze never wavered. “Yes, I am in your charge…for as long as you are on this planet.”
The unmistakable truth inherent in his words left a sour taste in my mouth. He would be suitably obedient for as long as I was on his planet but I had no real power over him. Quinn was my master’s eyes and ears on Balmorra. He knew it. He knew I knew it. Baras had ways of making his displeasure felt, and I couldn’t afford to incur his wrath…yet.
But soon, I vowed to myself, I would see the vibrant blue of those eyes dulled to a lifeless gray. I struggled not to laugh at the thought of the Lieutenant licking the bottom of my boot in an attempt to appease my wrath.
When I didn’t immediately respond, Quinn continued, “I am to acquaint you with the climate here on Balmorra.”
Seemingly oblivious to my animosity, he began to brief me on the planet’s history. As he talked, his hands punctuated the air in concise movements. The heavy material of his military jacket stretched across his broad shoulders, hugging his masculine form like a second skin. I noted the faint shadow of stubble along his chiseled jaw and suddenly felt the urge to trace the contours of his face with my hands.
The emotion confused me.
My whore of a mother had taught me at an early age that sex was a commodity best sold to the highest bidder. A man’s passion was her leverage over weak-minded fools who saw my body as the key to unlock salvation for a mere handful of credits.
Even back then, I instinctively knew there was no such thing as eternal salvation. Peace was a lie. There was only the sinful pleasures felt by the strong pressing into the weak. But eventually, I learned that their power to dominate over and in and over again led the way to my eventual victory over fear. Once I learned to embrace the very emotions that controlled their baser instincts, I tasted the sweetness of freedom.
But this ache I suddenly felt in the pit of my stomach left me vulnerable, and I loathed him for it.