Jaesa and Broonmark returned, and Jaesa was in a surprisingly downcast mood. Quinn guessed that the meeting hadn’t gone well.
“On the contrary,” replied Jaesa, upon his asking. “It went quite well. Nomen Karr has almost returned to his former state of mind.”
“But?” Quinn probed.
“One of the Jedi Knights guarding Karr.” She sighed. “She was a friend of mine when I was at the Academy, Kira Carsen. She looked at me with such disappointment, such resentment.”
“You have to expect that, when you are fighting for opposite sides,” Quinn said, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“I know,” Jaesa sighed. “But…Kira and I used to be such good friends. I guess I realized that I don’t have any good friends like that, here in the Empire.”
That statement surprised Quinn.
“If this Kira was as good a friend as you suggest, she will understand,” he said. “No doubt she sensed you were not a Sith.”
“True, but she’s mistrusting of anything within the Empire. I sense it.”
“Well then. If she is your friend, she will get over it, right?”
Jaesa looked absolutely startled. “Where is the Quinn who spits on anyone even vaguely allied with the Republic? And who is this new Quinn?”
Malavai laughed. “Don’t worry, I’m still the same old grouch you remember, Jaesa. I merely see a…a friend who needed encouragement.”
Jaesa raised an eyebrow. “You? A friend?”
Quinn shook his head. “Hard to believe, isn’t it?”
He turned and walked to the cockpit, his normal place of solitude.
“Quinn!” cried Pierce.
Pierce was bored again. His eyes were no longer black, but his nose was still fragile and his ribs ached profusely. The Fury was currently docked on the frigate Ziost Shadow, and Methic was helping the Empire with a raid on an ancient prison on Belsavis called the Eternity Vault.
Pierce looked up as Malavai reluctantly entered the crew quarters. Quinn planted his hands on his hips and spread his legs.
“Yes, Pierce?” Quinn asked.
“I want to go out onto the Shadow,” Pierce said. “Is it okay?”
Quinn nodded. “Just…no strenuous activity, all right. If you get bruises in new places, Lord Methic will tan my hide in ten different ways.”
Pierce chuckled, and then nodded. “Okay, then. See you later, Captain.” He gave a smart salute and departed.
Pierce raised his rifle and took aim at the Shadow’s training dummy and opened fire. Each bolt caught the dummy in the chest or the head, depending on which way Pierce decided to fire. Some of the shots glanced off its shoulders, or even its lower corners.
Pierce groaned quietly. A few days confined to quarters and he was already losing his edge.
He looked over at the other dummy and noticed someone over there, too. A female Rattattaki, she had purple tattoos around her eyes and ears. She wore a gray trenchcoat and wielded a crossbow.
“Nice shot!” she called over sarcastically.
“Shut up!” Pierce roared.
“Nope,” she replied gleefully. “I’m Kaliyo! I don’t do ‘shut up.’”
Pierce growled and turned back to the dummy. He fired a few more times before returning his gaze to Kaliyo.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. “You don’t look like much of an Imperial?”
“Oh,” she replied. “I work with an Imperial agent, Cipher Nine. He’s away on a mission, on Belsavis. Capturing a prison called the Eternity Vault.”
Pierce laughed. “Did they send everyone in the Empire there?”
Kaliyo didn’t reply, she just blasted at the dummy, every bowcaster bolt a headshot. Pierce returned his gaze to the dummy and fired again, determined not to be outgunned by some street girl working for an intelligence cipher.
He took aim and scored three straight headshots.
At that point, a few more beings entered the Shadow’s training deck. One, a giant beast with pale skin covered only by a loincloth–and Pierce wished profusely that there was more of it–stepped up to the dummy Kaliyo was blasting and starting hacking at it with a vibrosword.
“Hey! You with the skirt!” Kaliyo yelled. “You are in my line of fire!”
The big thing slowly turned and marched up to Kaliyo, its vibrosword still in hand. A little less boldly, Kaliyo stepped back and looked up at the nine-foot-something monster.
“You should rethink those words next time, little girl,” rumbled the monster. “Next time I may be hungry.”
Kaliyo chuckled. “You’re real fun, aren’t ya?”
“I am not ‘fun.’ I am deadly.”
“Some people think that’s fun.”
Pierce, distracted by this, did not notice the Devaronian that stepped up next to him with a sniper rifle and began sniping Pierce’s dummy.
“Hi,” the Devaronian said. “Name’s Gault.”
“Pierce,” he replied.
He glanced back over at Kaliyo. The big monster was now holding her upside-down by her left ankle.
“You are too scrawny,” the monster said. “And unappetizing.”
“What is your name, beastie?” Kaliyo asked.
“I am not a ‘beastie.’ I am a Dashade. And my name is Khem Val. Fear me!”
“Nah. Only thing I fear is a bad hangover.”
Disgusted, Khem Val dropped Kaliyo. Luckily she managed to sprawl out on the floor rather than hit her head.
“Ow! Watch it, jerk!”
Khem Val loomed over her.
“Sorry,” she said.
“Hey,” someone said, tapping Pierce’s shoulder.
Pierce turned and looked at the man–or, rather, the Houk. Tall, with a thick head and pinkish skin, the Houk had a large vibrosword strapped to his back.
“You going to shoot or what?” the Houk asked.
“Lay off him, Skadge,” said Gault. “That scene over there is the best entertainment we’ve had since Dha went to help the Imps at the Vault.”
“Your boss is at Belsavis, too?” Pierce asked. “What are the odds?”
“Apparently quite good,” replied Gault. “Want to lay a bet the Dashade has a friend there, too?”
“Nope,” Pierce replied. “I’d probably lose.”
By this point, Skadge had charged in and was, like Khem Val, mauling the dummy with his vibrosword. Pierce sighed and tried to aim around Skadge. He glanced over and saw Kaliyo was doing the same thing with Khem Val.
After a few hours of training, in which a few more beings entered the room, all of them apparently waiting for someone to return from Belsavis, they agreed to go to the Shadow’s small cantina.
Sitting around the bar, Pierce exchanged war stories with Kaliyo and a newcomer named Torian–who made Pierce a little nervous, since he was a Mandalorian–while Khem Val muttered something about Yn and Chabosh.
Pierce laughed as Kaliyo vividly described how she had dealt with a man on Dromund Kaas, and Torian said a few words in his own language. Pierce raised an eyebrow.
“You’re Mandalorian,” he said to Torian.
Torian nodded. “I am.”
“A Mandalorian did this to me,” Pierce said, rapping a fist on his armored chestplate, where bandages covered his broken ribs.
“Well then,” Torian said with a smile. “You were beaten by the best. Why don’t you tell that story?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Pierce shook his head. “I killed and injured a lot of your friends.”
Torian shrugged politely. “So? They knew the risks going in. Part of battle is the possibility of death. You deal with it.”
Pierce considered that, and then laughed. “You’ve got guts, kid! Real guts! All right, so here’s what happened…”
He told the story, Torian nodding the whole time and Kaliyo laughing at some of Pierce’s more vivid statements. A few others gathered around to listen, including what was apparently an assassin droid codenamed Scorpio.
“An impressive feat,” Scorpio said. She looked him over. “You killed or injured eleven of the best warriors alive. I’ll add you to my threat list.”
That creeped Pierce out a little.