3 - The Den
Everyone wears a mask. Some of us hide it better than others, but we're creatures of instincts, habits, needs. Funny how people think they're more than the beasts I hunted so often as a child. They bleed the same. Eat, fight, rut, die. We're all just animals under our clothes.
I could tell the bounty hunter who had killed my brother was getting tense when we got closer to her hanger. Reminded me of the way birds get when you wander close to their nests. Or a manka cat near her den. Her muscles bunched in her shoulders under the thin white shift she'd been gifted. Definitely a manka cat. She whirled around, unfazed by the vibroknife I'd palmed. I raised an eyebrow, curious to see what my cat would do.
"Look," she said grimly, "I want to see this through, but you and I both know your reputation isn't the best when it comes to being trustworthy. Touch any of my crew, and I will hunt you down if it's the last thing I f**king do."
A small smile tugged at my lips. "What's the matter, sweetheart, don't trust me?" Last person who trusted me has probably been eaten by scavengers by now.
She stalked over, jabbed me in the chest with one finger, and glared up at me. "I don't f**k around when it comes to my crew, Crae. Hurt them and die."
"Guarding your cubs," I said, enjoying her ferocity, "it's almost cute."
"You're really weird, Crae, you know that?" she said shaking her head as she turned around to unseal the airlock. Mankas are one of my very favorite predators. I've killed lots.
"*Boss is back! Hi Boss!*"
My bounty hunter waved to a bouncing Jawa on the medbay landing. I'd seen the Jawa around the ship, checking it over, making repairs. Was half tempted to crouch down and see if he'd come to me for a few treats.
A slim dark haired girl ran down the steps from the upper level. "Where were you?!? We were so worried!"
I met her eyes briefly. Wide, doe-like. Easy prey. Not even a challenge there, I thought as I flipped my vibroknife in my hand.
A Devaronian sauntered out of the medbay and leaned against a wall. "You were worried, I was...concerned. Briefly. Don't look at me like that."
He met my eyes directly, his gaze sharp, assessing. This one would be a challenge. Snakes are hard to catch in the shadows. I should know. What's kept me alive so long.
A broad-shouldered young man followed the doe down the stairs, his eyes assessing as he looked at me. Direct, but without the cunning of his horned crewmate.
"Glad you made it back." His words went to my cat, but his eyes never wavered from mine. How do you kill a bull? By not being in front of him.
I slid my eyes away, intrigued by my cat's crew, her cubs. I looked around the ship. Was older than I'd have figured, not meant for luxury. I could feel Skari's eyes on me, concerned, wary. She is no fool, her interest in honor notwithstanding.
"What happened to your face?!?" the young female gasped, grabbing Skari's chin and yanking it to the side so she could look at the damage.
"I cut her," I said casually, curious to see what they'd do.
"You did what?" the girl yelled. The bull took a step towards me. I shifted my feet, prepared to move out of the way of his charge.
"It's fine, Mako," Skari said, jerking her chin out of her hand and meeting the young man's eyes directly, "Torian, I'm fine."
No one seemed convinced.
"And what happened to your armor?" Mako asked suspiciously.
"I cut that too." It was too easy to spook this one. Without her mama around, easy pickings.
"Shut up, you're making this worse," Skari muttered at me. I raised an eyebrow and smiled a little, ignoring the death glares I was getting from all the crew members.
"Guys, this is Solomon Crae. He's going to be joining us while we work on a new job."
Skari watched the group; I watched Skari. There was enough suspicion around to float a battlecruiser. More fun than a hunt in Voss's Nightmare Lands.
"Can I talk to you?" Mako demanded, pulling Skari towards the medbay.
I could hear her moving around the room getting kolto pulled together while Skari stood in the doorway, watching me. Torian and the Devaronian had taken up positions with their backs to walls, carefully keeping the me in sight. The Jawa was crouched behind some boxes, ready to leap. The handle of the knife landed solidly in my hand after every flip. Pack dynamics were always fascinating to me. This would keep me entertained for quite some time.
I could hear the doe muttering something to Skari as she applied kolto gel to the slashes I had made. I liked the cuts. They followed her old scars. Two new long lines down her face. I haven't decided if I'm killing her or not. She intrigues me, but my brother is a corpse rotting under the ground. The cuts are a downpayment.
"It's complicated," Skari said, meeting my eyes across the space. It's not. Not really. Not for me. She turned her head, and I heard something about the Tabrel Sector.
The doe's response was high pitched. Scared. Does were sensible creatures, I'd always thought. They recognized danger, ran the other way, fast. Course, some predators are faster.
Skari responded. Calm. Steady.
I heard something drop on the floor. "And you brought him back with you?!?!"
Everyone in the cargo area looked up at that outburst. I stayed relaxed. Didn't change my knife flipping. No point provoking them. Not yet anyway.
"Crae, lets get you settled in," Skari said, walking towards me with a scowl on her face, the cuts glistening with greenish goo. "Not sure where you're going to sleep, we're packed in here tight anyway."
"Some space on the floor is all I need." The ship would provide shelter, heat, interesting creatures to observe. Almost everything I needed. I followed her up the stairs, appreciating the view. Almost. The sounds of angry conversation below continued as she led the way up the stairs.
"Do you have a galley on this ship?" I asked, stowing my bag in the corner where I'd be sleeping, palming the canister of Denovian tea in my hand. Might as well take advantage of the creature comforts while I decided whether I'd kill her.
"Yeah, it's back this way." She pointed me towards the small space. I could feel her eyes on me as I walked down the passageway. Worried eyes. I do so love intelligent creatures.
I could hear the Devaronian speaking to her, his voice sour and sarcastic. "Well isn't that special. You brought home a pyschopath."
We're all just animals. I just rarely put on my mask.