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06.25.2012 , 09:02 AM | #124
73. In which Quinn extends a second olive branch

A tragical air can forestall
Any joys, once you’ve taken a fall.
For heroes Byronic,
It ends up ironic:
It hurts to feel nothing at all.

Nalenne was busy tapping her fingers next to her useless console when ghost-Quinn walked up beside her.

“Good evening, my lord. If I may ask, what’s giving you trouble?”

“It’s a White Star Comics distribution node I run. Couple of Republic companies have been conspiring to block ‘em. Not even content censorship, just pure market blockading. I can’t seem to keep my files available to everyone.”

“So obfuscate the routing.”

“What the what now?”

It’s simple enough. Bring up the node control and follow my instructions.”

He talked her through the configuration, which was only ‘simple’ according to some bizarre Imperial supergenius definition of the word. But eventually they managed a roundabout setup that would circumvent the Republic slicers’ blocks, at least for the time being. The comics would flow.

“Thanks, captain. So why are you being helpful here instead of working?”

“I wanted to see how you were. Outside the context of fighting.”

“Oh? But talking to you is always a fight. You do that.”

“Fascinating. I have actually made a minor game out of counting how many words it takes you to initiate hostilities in our conversations. You make single digits some days.”

“Sith. It’s a talent.” She felt a small incredulous smile forming. “Would you rather just talk?”

“If you have time.”

“Color me surprised.” A thought wandered to mind. “Remember how long it took before the first time you blew off the console-jockeying night shift to talk to me?”

“Tatooine,” he said immediately. “The hangar bay had collapsed in the last windstorm, we were stranded. I was furious.”

“Really? I couldn’t tell the difference from normal you.”

“That would be because I was always furious after three seconds of trying to deal with you. I simply had three seconds’ head start that night.”

“I see. I don’t even remember what we talked about.” Nalenne smiled wryly. “To be honest, I only remember I was with you.”

“We talked about staggeringly inane things. I remember, for example, you asked me how my uniform felt, how comfortable it was.”

“Oh! And you said something uninformative, like ‘it was adequate to cover you.’”

“It was a stupid question.”

She decided to let that slide. “What about now? How’s your unchangeable uniform feel?”

“I don’t feel anything.”

Nalenne sucked in her breath. “I’m sorry. That was also a stupid question.”

“At least you’re reliable.”

“I can’t imagine going without all that. When’s the last time you even felt…I don’t know, pleasure?” Definitely the first feeling she would miss if half her world fell out from under her.

He considered. “Last week. Cornering that Republic squad on Kashyyyk.”

“Ooh, that was a good dramatic entrance. Getting 2V to rig the whole platform like that? Great. But you know I hate it when you don’t tell me in advance about the cleverly constructed trap that will stylishly finish off a fight.”

“Half the satisfaction is in surprising and impressing my superiors. The effect is lost if you know it’s coming.”

“I can’t deny it’s a pretty sexy move.”

“Is that really what you’re thinking about in the middle of a sensitive operation?”

“Every time. Does that surprise you?”

“No.” He half smiled. “That hunger tested my restraint for the longest time.”

“Glad you finally gave in.”

In spite of the singing tension, they did not touch.

“Um,” said Nalenne, “except for the part where it made the disastrous downturn the most unspeakably painful experience of my life. Not so thrilled about that bit.”

“Not now, please. That battle would be a waste.”

“But slinging blame is our favorite subject.”

“It doesn’t have to be.”

“You’re being reasonable at me. On a nice topic, for once.” Nalenne nervously ran a hand over her face ridges. “I would appreciate it if you could just let me hate you all the time, instead of three-quarters of the time.”

“Yes, well. I’m sure we’ll start fighting again any moment now.”

“Yeah. You’d better go.”

They looked at each other for a while instead. He seemed terribly serious. She wanted to reach out and inform him that with a face like that, he was still an insufferable wet blanket.

“Malavai?” she said instead. “I should say you do the surprise and impress thing all the time. If that’s half the fun, consider tonight’s maneuver successful.”

“If you put it in those terms, I am obligated to point out that the other half of the fun is in breaking my opponent’s spirit as a prelude to crushing them utterly.”

“Yeah, that part’s pretty familiar, too. Now go, before we jinx something.”
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---(Ceterum autem censeo, Malavai esse delendam.)--- DELETA MALAVAI EST