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Kinnu
12.31.2011 , 06:27 PM | #2
Step Two:

Befriend a Mandalorian while carrying out an assassination for your boss.


"... I, I can't be with you, Jacen." The twi'lek said tearfully. "I... I'm pregnant with Pra'tari's child."

A kernel of popcorn was thrown at the holograph, but the characters didn't seem to notice. "Why would you sleep with him, you moron?"

The accusation remained unheard as the holocam cut to the human's face. Anger, than sadness flashed across his features.

"... I see how it must be. Kinsa, I love you. But I can’t do this. I'm leaving."

The twi'lek's face shone with perfect tears. Ariadne had seen a twi'lek cry, and they puffed up like most other species—and it sure as hell wasn't that pretty. "Where will you go?" She whispered.

"Away. I need to think." He looked at her for a moment before leaning down and kissing her passionately. Dramatic music played. "Goodbye." He whispered.

Kinsa sobbed as Jacen walked silently out the door. The ending song faded in as credits flashed across the front of the holographic display.

Ariadne threw another kernel of popcorn at it. One of her cats picked it up, tail twitching. "I- damnit, Snowball. You can't eat that."

The assassin stood up and walked over, grabbing the white furred cat. Ariadne had never actually seen snow, having lived on Coruscant her entire life, but she knew it was white like her cat in an offhanded sort of way. The feline meowed in protest as she pulled the popcorn away.

"No. You aren't allowed to pick up my eating habits."

Ariadne sat back down on the couch, cat in lap. She scratched Snowball behind the ears. "It's alright. Jacen is too good for her."

She was just reaching to change the channel when SD-550 landed behind the couch with a mini-crescendo of whirrs and clicks. "Incoming transmission from: Nadhira." The assassin droid droned.

Ariadne had a holographic display built into one of her bracers, which was currently sitting on the table between her and the 'proj. Ariadne nudged it upright with her foot.

All she could see was Nadhira's face but, really, that was enough.

"Ariadne." The crime boss’s eyebrows rose faintly. SD-550 clicked something irritable behind her.

"Nadhira." The assassin replied, painfully aware of her pajama pants, "Calcified Lichens" t-shirt and the happily purring feline in her lap.

"I have a job for you."

"Suppose I can't exactly say no, can I?"

Nadhira smiled in a way that made Ariadne’s hair stand on end and continued without comment. "I'm sending the information you'll need to your datapad.” She said instead. “I wanted to make sure you haven’t forgotten your debt."

"Nope. Memory's as good as ever." Unfortunately.

"Good. I look forward to hearing of your success." Nadhira ended the transmission abruptly.

Ariadne sat there for a moment in silence. Her datapad beeped. Snowball lost interest in being petted and wandered off to do cat-things.

"... That woman really scares me sometimes."

"Only sometimes?" SD-550 inquired.

Ariadne grunted, picking up the datapad and scrolling through the contents.

"When are we leaving?" It wasn't referring to their job.

"Soon. Maybe after this one. Get a place on the other side of the planet, name change, standard procedure."

SD-550 did not follow her as she walked over to her bedroom. "I think Nadhira warrants a little more than standard procedure."

Ariadne frowned, hand resting on the button to close the door. "I know." She said softly.

"Oh, and I hope you like opera."

---

The dress was too tight. The neck sloped down, presumably to show off certain desirable feminine attributes, but Ariadne was lacking in that department so all it really did was make her shiver as they walked towards the opera house. She’d kill for a sweater.

Three weeks of careful planning had gone into this job. A private box had been purchased over the mark's own, a few employees had been bribed and blackmailed (mainly the Rodian who controlled the security holocams) and suitable outfits purchased.

"You are so lucky." Ariadne hissed to SD-550, "I hate jobs where I have to dress up."

"You look the part." It clicked. "That is all that matters."

There were no issues getting inside. Ariadne handed her blaster over to security and was allowed in. A protocol droid led her and SD-550 into an elevator terminal and then up to their booth.

The assassin droid had gotten a few odd looks, but it was an older model; presumably it was the very fine top hat it now wore that attracted attention rather than the rest of its appearance.

The protocol droid shut the door behind them and Ariadne sat down with a sigh. There wasn't much to do until the show started. At least the stage was pretty to look at, with golden neon shining around the edges and a chandelier hovering overhead. Their booth was also located near the very top. Ariadne refrained from looking down.

SD-550 sat next to her in case the protocol droid came back inside. Ariadne glanced over.

"You should wear that hat more often."

"I am glad you think so."

She eyed him for a moment. "Not a chance, huh?"

"None."

"Damn."

They sat in silence for a few awkward minutes. Ariadne stared at the program but didn't really register the words. Some information about actors she didn't really care about and how the opera being preformed was a timeless classic.

It was a profound relief when the lights dimmed.

A woman dressed in red and gold and a lot of jewelry stepped onto the stage. She began singing, alone at first but soon the orchestra joined in. Ariadne pulled a compact blowgun out of her purse and pulled the darts she'd decorated out of her hair, pulling the safety caps off.

SD-550 set to work drilling a hole in the floor. The music provided suitable cover. Ariadne just hoped there weren't any abruptly quiet bits.

The droid waved her over when it was done. Ariadne peeked through the hole as SD-550 disposed of the dust and bits of the floor it had amassed while drilling. The man sitting below her matched the physical description of her mark and he was directly below her. Ariadne was about to move her gaze away to use the blowgun when she spotted something roll into the box, right at her mark's feet.

"Wha-"

The resounding explosion knocked her unconscious.

---

"Mmmhfbb."

SD-550 stared down at her. The droid was carrying her in its arms. Its top hat was askew. "Welcome back."

"W-wuh happened?"

"There was an explosion, milady." Ariadne stared at the droid until she realized they weren't alone. SD-550 was carrying her down the service tunnel that also served as an evacuation route in emergencies. It had been their planned escape route after they’d quietly killed the mark, but now they were joined by nervous theater goers.

SD-550 gently put her down and she leaned against the wall, letting the crowd flow past her as she mentally outlined their next few steps. The droid had put a bandage over a cut on her head and she tried not to mess with it. A nice looking older gentleman stopped and asked if she needed any help, but Ariadne assured him she was fine.

"Alright, let's go."

Once they left the tunnel Ariadne looked around. She could hear sirens and see reflections of the flashing police lights against the building, but it sounded like the authorities were mostly gathered at the front of the opera house. She and SD-550 slunk away just as a CSF officer pulled up in his speeder, directing the crowd towards the front entrance.

They walked down the street in silence down to where they’d parked their airspeeder. Ariadne got in the back seat and sighed, just staring out at the city lights for a moment as SD-550 sat in the driver’s seat. “Why is everything so complicated?”

“I am afraid there is no easy answer for that.”

Ariadne rolled her eyes before she began to change out of the dress and into her usual clothing. “You are so helpful.”

“Philosophy is not one of my strong points.” The droid pulled off the top hat and set it aside.

Ariadne pulled a plain white shirt over her head and clasped on her bracers before zipping up her bolt-resistant jacket. Her pants and boots following soon after. “So there was another assassin.” Ariadne grabbed the blaster under the seat and let it hang from the holster around her waist.

“Affirmative.”

She activated the holographic display in her right bracer as SD-550 stared the airspeeder, putting some distance between them and the opera house. They drove parallel to the building, making sure it didn’t seem like they were driving away from it.

Nadhira took one look at Ariadne as the transmission flickered to life and sighed silently, leaning briefly out of frame to set down her ever-present glass. “What happened?”

“There was interference. The mark is dead, but not by our hand. Did you hire anyone else?”

The crime boss’s brow wrinkled faintly with thought. “No. Burin was not well liked, but I should have been notified if someone else took the job.”

“Yeah, that would have been nice.”

Nadhira inclined her chin. “See what you can find out and report back.”

Ariadne ended the transmission and looked up at SD-550. “Pull over somewhere.”

They ended up in an alleyway a few levels down, though not close enough to the underlevels to make Ariadne worried. She and SD-550 sat side by side, illuminated only by her datapad as they watched the news.

Coming to you live from the Galaxies Opera House in the Uscru District, this is Mira Kaal of Coruscant Local News.” The Mon Calamari stared at the screen solemnly. “Tragedy struck this evening when a small bomb went off inside the Opera House, killing several theater goers including Burin Vest, CEO of Vest Furniture and Co., and injuring several others. Authorities looking into the incident have suggested that the bomb was planted in order to assassinate the businessman. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but authorities are attempting to track down the few individuals who have been reported missing.

As the reporter was speaking, the holovision showed several overhead shots of the Opera House, smoking billowing from a window that had been broken in the blast. Apparently something had caught fire.

When it cut back to the reporter, Ariadne swore at the sight of her standing next to one of the Jedi Knights she recognized from their last job. “What’s she doing here?”

Here with me is Jedi Knight Keelu Afric. Jedi Afric, could you explain the presence of you and your partner here at the Opera House? Is the Jedi Council retaking interest in Coruscant’s affairs?

The Jedi smiled pleasantly, but it seemed rather strained to Ariadne, “The Council is handling its own affairs on Tython. Jedi Alen Isoder and I have chosen to remain on Coruscant in what we hope is a gesture of goodwill to the Senate. We believe this assassination may be related to the murder of Senator Kaila Madine. It is our sincere hope that this investigation proves successful.

The interview went on for a few minutes, but Ariadne learned nothing more of use. She shut her datapad off when the holonews moved on to a list of scheduled weather for the local sector. “I should have been paid a lot more for that job. Jedi trying to track us down is the last thing we need.”

“It is rather unfortunate development.” SD-550 looked at her. “Our plan?”

“Find Veitsi, see what he knows.”

Veitsi wasn’t his real name, any more than Ariadne was her own. He was a Bothan who lived near the underlevels, and the best slicer she knew.

The canine-faced bothan turned away from his many holonet screens to meet her with a smile as she and SD-550 approached. “Ariadne! My favorite killer-lady. What can I do for you?”

She carefully stepped over the many wires and spare parts lying on the floor. “I need you to get me some footage.”

Veitsi grinned and turned back to his many screens. “Can do, can do… Though I need you to be a bit more specific. Coruscant does have an awful lot of footage lying around.”

“Galaxies Opera House. Tonight. Booths… 3057 and 3055.”

“The Opera House? I heard about that. You weren’t behind that, were you?”

“I’m not that sloppy.”

The Bothan chuckled. It took him a few minutes, but eventually he was able to pull up the footage Ariadne wanted.

The holocam in booth 3057 showed an elderly couple sitting and talking happily. Veitsi fast-forwarded until they both looked over, alarmed, at the explosion. The woman placed a hand over her mouth in horror at something the cam couldn’t see. Probably Burin-bits.

“Check the other one.”

Booth 3055 was rented out to a lone human. He did not turn and face the camera, but then again, neither had the couple. He walked with the gait of a younger man and his hair was black; she couldn’t make out any traces of grey.

He sat calmly in the provided seat as the show began. Then he got up, pulled a helmet on, and walked over to the edge of his booth, where he casually tossed a grenade into Burin Vest’s own booth.

The man pulled out a blaster and shot out the holocam, but not before giving it a glimpse of the T-shaped visor on his helmet. The film went black.

“Subtle.” SD-550 droned.

“How the heck did he get all that stuff in there?” The bothan asked in disbelief.

“You can bribe anyone in this city if you have enough credits.” Ariadne sighed. It had been a very long day. “A Mandalorian… This night just keeps getting better and better.”

“You’re not lookin’ too great, either, hotshot. How’s the head?” She followed his gaze up to the bandage on her forehead.

“I’m fine.”

He gave her a concerned look, but accepted her payment without comment and let her go. Back in the speeder, Ariadne contacted Nadhira again.

“Someone hired a Mandalorian to kill Burin.”

“I know.”

Ariadne stared at the holograph. “You know? Then why-”

Nadhira almost smiled, but not quite. “Do you really think I got where I am today putting all of my faith in one person? You amuse me, little Ari.”

Ariadne frowned unhappily. “So now what?”

“I have people looking into it, but I’m already fairly certain he’s new in town.” Nadhira leaned back in her chair and propped her Crystal Snakeskin boots up on the desk. “I would like you to go find him.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to let the CSF handle that?” Ariadne was a staunch supporter of law enforcement when they worked to her advantage.

“CSF is a joke right now, thanks to our friends the Sith.” Nadhira smiled faintly. “It makes for smoother business, but I find myself taking matters into my own hands more often than I used to. Find him and make him an offer.”

“What about the one who hired him?”

Silence stretched long enough between them for Ariadne to pick out distant sobs and shrieking pleas from the rest of the background noise. Nadhira’s smile widened.

---

SD-550 broke the silence as they drove to where the Mandalorian apparently resided—Nadhira had sent some coordinates along, apparently from the one who’d hired him in the first place. Ariadne didn’t pity him very much.

“We should get out while we still can.”

“I know.” She said.

“Nadhira may provide good credits, but working for her is dangerous.”

“This isn’t exactly a safe profession, Sid.”

The droid clicked. “I am aware. However, the danger is not environmental. She is an organic who values control over others. It is her nature to attempt to bind us to her service.”

Ariadne smiled faintly. She watched as the city went by. “You don’t think we can outstep her?”

“I think we cannot do it forever.”

The Mandalorian was staying at a hotel that could be judged as modest by Coruscant standards. The lobby was empty—Ariadne had decided to talk to him in the middle of the night. Nadhira had been kind enough to include a room number, so they headed right up. The two stood outside his room. Ariadne fiddled with her hair. “I hate jobs where we have to talk to people.”

“Shall I do the talking?” SD-550 asked.

“No, no… I got it. Just nervous, is all.” She knocked.

Ariadne heard a woman’s voice pause. He wasn’t alone?

The man who answered the door a moment later had black hair and brown eyes. There was some stubble on his chin and his nose looked like it had been broken several times. There was also a large combat knife holstered in his belt.

Ariadne held her blaster to his abdomen and smiled politely.

“Hello.” She said. “I’d like to talk.”

The Mandalorian blinked a few times. “Didn’t realize room service came at gunpoint here.”

“Less ‘room service’ and more ‘aggressive negotiations’. Could I come in, please?”

He raised a scruffy eyebrow. "Do you mind if I turn off the holovid, first? I doubt you'd enjoy it."

"My droid can take care of it. Hands behind your head."

"Hmmm…” He made a show of eyeing her up and down. “Or what? You'll shoot me?"

"Yes, I would. And then I'd restrain you and call the CSF."

"I doubt they could fly up here. They weigh their speeders down far too much for that.”

"I have no qualms about dragging you down the elevator terminal if they can’t make it up here.” She nudged him with her blaster.

He looked at her for a moment longer, then did as she asked. “Fine. However, I must insist upon turning off the holovid. Otherwise it'll unpause automatically and that'd be just awkward.”

“I think I can handle a bit of awkwardness."

SD-550 reached forward and removed the Mandalorian’s knife from its sheath. The blade flashed in the light. Ariadne turned the bounty hunter around and noticed a blaster tucked in the back of his belt.

She guided the Mandalorian into the room with one hand on his shoulder, her blaster pressed to his back. SD-550 shut and sealed the door. She heard the bounty hunter grumble what sounded an awful like a string of obscenities and smiled.

The room was sparse, which was what she expected for a hotel of its quality. There was no one else in the room. She briefly glanced at the proj’ and saw some sort of holovid.

Ariadne pulled the blaster from his belt and motioned him onto his knees. SD-550 stepped forward, the switchblade in the droid’s arm coming out with a low ‘shnk’. It held it to the Mandalorian’s throat. Ariadne set his blaster on the nightstand and set herself on the bed in front of him.

"Let's start with names. I'm Ariadne."

He looked at her very seriously. "I am Prince Hinkenplutz. The lady on the projector over there is Isabel, a poor farmer from Dantooine who is doing anything she can to get by in the big c-“

He grunted in pain as her boot connect with his face, blood streaming from his mouth and nose. The Mandalorian coughed and spat it onto the carpet.

“Fine, Ariadne. I’m Cyric. Bounty Hunter.”

"I want to talk to you about the job at the opera house, Cyric.”

“What about it?”

"You ruffled a few feathers with that job, mainly because you got in the way of other people trying to do it. My... Boss wasn't happy, but she sent me to make you an offer. You work for her, or I leave you here and call th-"

The holovid automatically unpaused. “… I really need this job, sir. Are sure there’s nothing I could do to… Get ahead of the competition?

She felt her cheeks redden. “-call the CSF saying I know the location of Burin Vest's murderer.”

"Are you just upset because I beat you to killing the bastard?" He smirked at her. "I hate to say I told you so, by the way."

"I'm not upset." She said too quickly. There were a few suggestive noises from the proj'. It sounded like Isabel’s job interview was going very well. "I'm here because my boss thinks you'd be of use to her. It's either that or rot in a jail cell."

"Great. Jail or work for a dar’ijaa’yc boss."

"She's not that bad, really—she didn't pay me to kill you outright, for example."

"That really makes me feel better, thanks."

“I-“ There was a particularly loud moan from the holo projector. Ariadne raised her blaster and shot it. A few sparks and a puff of smoke rose from the device.

“… That's going to be on my bill now."

“You won’t be here in the morning, so it doesn’t matter either way. I'd like an answer, speaking of which.”

"You can wait while I think. No need to add pressure to this."

"I’d prefer not to stay up all night."

"Feel free to sleep. Not like I can escape like this.” He smiled at her. “As for an answer… It looks like I don't have much of a choice."

"Not really, no." She stood and flexed a bit. Something about the Mandalorian’s smile bothered her. “You'll have to come with me to speak to Nadhira in the morning."

"I'm looking forward to it oh so much."

"She pays well, if it’s any comfort." Ariadne looked around the room, picking up Cyric’s helmet and examining it absently. "Hmm. What to with you 'til morning."

"Beats me. I have the unenviable position of being held at knife point."

"It suits you." Ariadne tucked his helmet under her arm and walked into the bathroom, coming out with a towel. She tossed it to him. "Can't say the same about the blood, though. How's your nose?"

The bounty hunter caught the towel, wiping up the blood from his face, though he was careful not to bump SD-550’s arm—it still held the knife to his throat. "It’s fine." He reached up and reset it with a low crack. He winced, but no sound accompanied the grimace.

Ariadne sat down on the bed again. “If it makes you feel any better, you gave me this." She briefly touched the bandage on her temple. "I was in the booth above Burin's when it blew."

"I'd rather have done it to his face, but the employer was particular about making it a large public statement."

"Those jobs are the worst." Ariadne eyed the bounty hunter thoughtfully. She nodded at SD-550, who reluctantly stepped away from the man. She watched him carefully as he rose to his feet and nodded curtly. “What now?"

"We could stay here until morning. I need to keep an eye on you." She frowned slightly but shrugged. "Sorry."

"Not exactly the worst assignment.” That smirk again. “However, there isn't really much to do, is there?"

"Nope. Means I’m in for an all-nighter either way." Ariadne frowned. "Killing people outright makes things a lot less complicated."

"Indeed.” Cyric looked at her pointedly. “We could've continued watching that if you had turned the projector off rather than shot it."

Ariadne raised a brow. "For some reason, I still don't regret my decision."

"The story was rather nice."

"I'm sure you were just watching it for the plot."

"I don't come into so called 'civilized' space often. I'd heard about this stuff before, so I thought I should try it out. Honestly, it was rather dull."

"I'm sure." She leaned back against the wall. "So where are you from?"

"Mandalore."

"Out on the Outer Rim? You weren't kidding about not being in civilized space too often."

The Bounty Hunter shrugged. “Some of our greatest warriors have come from there.”

"You'll have to tell me more about them when it's not the middle of the night."

"If we're going to work together or some such, maybe I will."

Ariadne eyed him. "I don't usually work with others, my assassin droid aside."

"Good. Means I can go about jobs my own way without having to sneak around."

She raised a brow. "Is there something wrong with sneaking around?"

"Lacks honor."

"I think you'll be quick to find that honor gets you killed on this world."

"Mandos' are trained warriors, each worth twenty of any other military force. We can stand against Jedi one on one and we are feared throughout the galaxy. This isn't simply because of an honourable code but because of our skill. I don’t think I’ll be killed any time soon because I play by the rules."

Ariadne looked from the bloody towel on the floor, to his blaster on the nightstand, then back to the Mandalorian, who frowned.

"You caught me with my pants down. Quite literally, in f-."

"You can spare me the details.”

He chuckled and motioned to one of the many closets in the room. "If you open that, you'd see why Jedi do not stand a chance. Or those siit bastards. Honorless scum."

Siit? You mean the Sith?"

"Mhm. In that closet I keep a small collection of blades. Most are woven so that they are resistant against Lightsabers."

Ariadne glanced over at the closet. "Good to know." Her gaze flicked to SD-550, who briefly met her gaze.

"Mm. Well.” Cyric rolled one of his shoulders. “Feel free to sleep if you need it. I'm going to take a shower."

Ariadne let him go, though she didn’t relax, not even as she heard the sonic shower go on. Instead, she looked over at SD-550 and said, “What do you think?”

“Presumably he is capable of dealing with Jedi.”

“Yeah. That’s what I want him around for.”

“Organics introduce unpredictable variables into the equation. Working with him might beget... Complications.”

“I know. But those Jedi are still out there and looking for us. If they get the jump on us, I don’t want it to be just you and me. That would end very badly. We’ll keep him close for a little while and then move on.”

SD-550 nodded.

Ariadne sat there for a moment before she got up and opened the closet. She pulled out a case and flicked it open. “Gimme his knife.”

The assassin droid held it out to her, handle first. She selected a blade of roughly equal size and switched the two, tucking the lightsaber-resistant knife in an inside pocket of her jacket.

“I doubt stealing from him will garner you much of his support.”

“Yeah, well, if things go south with our Mandalorian friend I want a little extra security.” She shut the case and redid the clasps before she shoved it back in the closet.

Ariadne sat back down on the bed. She left Nadhira a message summarizing her meeting with the bounty hunter in case something happened to her en route. She’d given him several chances to attack her and he hadn’t taken them, so hopefully that meant he was smart enough to work for Nadhira for a while.

She half-expected Cyric to come bursting out of the fresher with a weapon wired together from various bathroom appliances, but his hands were empty as he stepped back out, fully dressed. They packed up his belongings (not much aside from the few weapon cases; she hoped he had permits for them) and left the hotel.

---

The White Spade was eerily quiet when they arrived. The sun was just beginning to shine through the smog, reflecting off the buildings that towered overhead. Ariadne stepped over a drunk passed out on the pavement as she walked inside.

"This way."

They walked across the club floor, a hushed expectation filling the air. The staff had cleaned up and gone to bed for the night. The bottles shone behind the shelf and the poles were free of fingerprints.

They headed up a staircase. Ariadne nodded to the heavily-armed bruiser.

"Cain."

"Ariadne."

He let them pass with a stifled yawn. They stepped onto the balcony, and though the rest of the club was still visible below, the glass around them was tinted a deep black to hide them from view. Nadhira's high-heeled boots rested atop her desk, one hand wrapped around the stem of her glass and the other tapping out a quiet rhythm against her thigh as she leaned back in her seat. Her eyes slid over the Mandalorian, impassive.

"So. This is him?"

Ariadne nodded tiredly.

"To use a cliche, I was expecting someone taller.” Cyric said. But he offered a respectful pose, standing at attention. Ariadne frowned at Cyric’s back as she sat down. She tried not to let her weariness show.

"That's what I hire people for." Nadhira replied smoothly. It wasn’t the first time Ariadne heard someone say that to her.

"I'm not about to be hired to stand on someone's shoulders."

"No. I hire people to kill other people, or, if necessary, bring them in screaming." She examined him over the rim of her glass, the corners of her mouth turning upwards in a way that reminded Ariadne of a snake. "You want a challenge?"

“Depends.”

"This is no businessman or civilian."

“Hmm... Go on.”

"Svok Ktam was one of my best enforcers, until he decided to leave. Ran to the CSF, not that they're of any use, and started spilling... Important information left and right. He's an Iridonian, trained extensively in hand-to-hand combat. He's been a thorn in my side lately." Her eyes narrowed slightly. "I want him dealt with."

The bounty hunter snorted. “You said you’d give me a challenge.”

"And I was told Mandalorians were intelligent, but if you underestimate him like that I was clearly wrong."

“What about the pay?”

Nadhira raised her eyebrows. "You’ll get it when he’s dead."

Cyric scowled. “Fine. Anything else?”

“Ariadne will accompany you.”

“... Great.”

“I presume that’s everything.” She smiled and simply stared at them.

Ariadne stood and placed a hand on Cyric’s shoulder. “Come on.” She said softly. Nadhira was done speaking with them.

The Bounty Hunter looked at the crime boss and gave a stiff bow. “Haat, ijaa, haa'it.” He turned and followed Ariadne down the stairs.

“What did you say?”

"It's a saying used after making a pact or a deal. Doesn't exactly apply in this case, really. Truth, Honor, Vision."

Ariadne laughed. “No, not really.” Her laughter faded down to a smile. “When do you want to head out?”

He shrugged. “Whenever you are ready.”

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’d like to get some sleep first. Food, too.” She glanced over at him. “Do you have a place to stay?”

“I do not.”

"You can spend the night at my apartment. The Spade isn't exactly the kind of place where you want to let your guard down for a nap."

"That would be kind of dishonorable, living at the home of a woman I hardly know."

"You could always stay here and get shanked in your sleep."

He smirked and ran a hand over his nose where she’d kicked him earlier. "As appealing as that sounds, I guess I could deal with the slight stain on my honor."

"Don't worry. I'll make you sleep on the couch and give you a stern lecture about getting any ideas." Ariadne winced as they stepped out into the sunlight. SD-550 moved off to get the airspeeder as she glanced over at the bounty hunter.

Cyric scanned the street in a casual manner that belied the awareness behind it. "I've already had plenty of ideas."

"... I also have an assassin droid that would be more than happy to stab you." She said idly.

"I'm sure the feeling is mutual."

"Sid does seem to have taken a particular shine to you." Ariadne smiled brightly. SD-550 pulled the airspeeder up and she climbed in the passenger seat. Cyric got in the back, grumbling something under his breath in Mando’a. “Where do you live, anyways?” He asked.

"I have an apartment in this district. I don't think my couch is as comfortable as a hotel bed, but as long as you aren't allergic to cats you'll be fine."

He snorted. "That would be.. Embarrassing."

Ariadne laughed again. “I guess we’ll find out.”

It only took a few minutes to get to her apartment. The main room was a hybrid of a kitchen, dining and living room, decorated mostly in muted greens. Another door led off to what was presumably the bedroom.

The sun was already well in the sky by the time they entered. Despite this, two of her cats came over to greet her, the other two hanging back and watching Cyric distrustfully. SD-550 moved past them to set the bounty hunter’s weapons down out of sight.

She watched Cyric’s gaze flick to the one window with the white curtain and the heavy door that led to her room as he bent down to pet Snowball. “It’s... Nice, I guess.”

Ariadne picked up the calico that came to greet her. “It’s home... And it’s a lot better than what most people have on Coruscant. That’s Snowball you’re petting, by this way. This is Shana and over there are Reign and Jazzy.”

"I don't doubt it's better than most. I'm used to a far less extravagant existence. Nice cats, though."

“Thanks.” Ariadne gently set Shana down. “Feel free to pet any of them, they’re all pretty well behaved. I’ll be right back.”

She left Cyric alone with SD-550 and the cats while she found a spare sheet and blanket, which she spread over the couch. “I’d give you the bed, but my room is a wreck.”

"It's quite alright. How long do you plan on keeping me here?"

“Until we get the job done, I guess. I just need to get some sleep and I doubt Nadhira would be pleased if I let the happy residents of the Spade have their way with you.”

"Ugh. No thanks.” He grimaced. “Sleep well. I'm sorry for any noise, but I'd like to make preparations for the mission tomorrow."

“It’s fine. I sleep pretty heavily... It’s one of the reasons I have Sid.” She smiled. “Night. Or... Morning, rather.”

"Good night."

The door closed behind her and Ariadne sighed. She undid the tie that held her hair up and let it fall around her shoulders as she walked into her fresher. She peeled off the bandage SD-550 had given her and she winced at the sight of the cut.

She sprayed it with kolto and applied a fresh bandage with the vague hope the wound remained uninfected. After brushing her teeth she walked back into her bedroom and unzipped her jacket, where it fell to the floor with a heavy thunk.

She picked up the cortosis-weave dagger and examined it more closely. The handle was a bloodied dark brown and the grip was good. It looked well used... And it hadn’t been damaged when she’d dropped it.

Ariadne set the blade under her pillow and pulled off her pants and boots. She started to mentally outline the steps she wanted to take for killing Svok, but Cyric would have most of the information on the mark on his datapad, once Nadhira sent it along.

Ariadne sighed and lied back. She stared at the ceiling, too tired to think anymore.

As the day began, she fell asleep.