((I know it's long. I'm really not sorry
Arai Elan was losing control. She could feel it slipping away, and only a fraction of her begged her to get a grip and be sensible about this. Do the right thing,
it urged, while the dark strand within her challenged, You see that minor shatterpoint, the one that will shift him to fear you more than his employer. Strike it!
There are shatterpoints in him that do not require his fear. Find one of them.
That will take too long! You have the quickest, easiest method. Use it!
"No," Arai murmured softly. "I will not
It was becoming a greater struggle to walk the fine line between understanding the limits of her ability to restrain her darker tendencies and being consumed by them. If at all possible, she had to avoid feeding them. She took three deep, calming breaths and closed her eyes. There! It was faint, but if prodded just right, it would lead in the right direction. She put her right hand to her right ear, then drew it away, leaving a slender-but-visible earpiece in.
"Lasstra Dade," she said, feigning a com call. A beat, a cringe, and an overexaggerated smile. "Oh, Mr. Warr. How can I help you on my day off, sir?"
The man seated next to her spared her the briefest of glances, in which she pantomimed blowing her brains out and collapsing in the plate of food on the bar before her. It earned the faintest of smirks before he turned back to his drink. Arai followed that gesture with a spark of anger.
"No, no," she said sharply. "I di-" She stopped abruptly, deciding this was when Mr. Warr cut her off. A moment later, she cut him off, speaking deliberately so he could hear her over his own words. "I. Did. That. Three weeks ago..." She made a face. "What do you mean, again?" Another pause and she could tell in the Force that the man beside her was gaining interest in her little one-sided chat with the nonexistent Mr. Warr.
"Ye-es," she said slowly. "But not more than bi-monthly. Honestly, M-" The arrogant prick of a co-worker who fancied himself her boss cut her off again. Just then, the man beside her shot another glance her way and she put on the most ferocious scowl she could muster.
"Now look here, Garron Warr," she snapped. "Just because you were named lead partner on the BayRun project does not
give you the right to speak to me like that..." He went on at length after that, and Arai thought he was probably arrogantly suggesting that she check her attitude and provide him with some results.
To which she answered, "I've given you nothing but
results. It's when you expect me to work around the clock that we have issues..." She made another face. "No, this does not mean I'm quitting. I'll be back in the office tomorrow, but for now..."
She plucked the earpiece out of her ear and tapped her neighbor on the shoulder. "Beg pardon," she said, "but I think my pompous "project lead" needs some alcohol. May I serve him some of yours?"
He chuckled and slid the glass over, watching as Arai dropped the earpiece into the glass.
"I wasn't using it much anyway," he said. "Can't really afford to get properly drunk tonight..."
"No, nor me," Arai said. "Warr's gonna be on my case bright and early tomorrow morning about this..." Then, as if just realizing how loud she'd been, she blushed. "I suppose you heard my name, then."
"Lasstra," he said, nodding. "Lasstra Dade."
Her blush deepened. "Sorry, I guess I effectively ruined your "me time", didn't I?"
"It's no trouble," he said good-naturedly. "You've actually brightened my night considerably. Wish I had the guts to stand up to my... co-workers like that."
"Sometimes I wish I didn't," Arai murmured. "He's a scheming little di'kut
, Garron Warr. To be sure, I'll have a lot of explaining to do for my boss in the morning, especially about the partial deafness Warr would have received from that drink we gave him."
"Well does your boss like you?" the man asked. Arai sensed that there was a lot riding on this answer. She wrinkled her nose.
"Not slightly," she answered, "and I despise him too. But he knows he needs me and I know I need the job. It's a win-lose situation on both sides of the table."
"Sounds familiar," the man grunted.
Arai smiled faintly. "You too, eh?" He nodded and Arai waited a beat. "And what was your name?"
He hesitated for a very long time. "Best I didn't tell you," he finally said. "My boss isn't someone who takes loose tongues lightly."
Arai laughed. "What's in a name?" Shaking her head, she said, "Well what do I call you, then? Hey you?"
He chuckled. "Call me Talon."
Her mind working overdrive, Arai asked cautiously, "That what you do?"
He stared at her in astonishment. "Most people don't pick up on that quite so quick."
Arai grinned and winked. "Like I said, my boss knows he needs me."
"My boss would kill to have you," Talon muttered.
Chuckling softly, Arai tapped her nose. "Let's not tell him then, shall we?"
Briefly, Talon tensed. Arai sensed that he suspected her of spying on him for his boss and worried that she had overdone her act. Then he chuckled.
"I won't if you won't," he said, and she wondered just how much alcohol he'd already had.
"So you swoop in for the capture or the kill, depending on what your boss wants, yeah?" Arai asked curiously. "Gotta be a challenge more often than not."
Talon grunted noncommittally. Then, he shook his head. He was a lonely man and "Lasstra Dade" seemed innocent enough, but Talon had long since learned not to trust an innocent face. He had one himself and he had been called a cold-blooded killer on several occasions. He hadn't become as good as he was at his job without being able to read people. Lasstra was asking subtle, directing questions, designed to put someone at ease. With someone untrained to watch for such subtle manipulation, the game would have worked. But Talon was unimpressed.
"What do you want, Lasstra?" he asked bluntly.
Internally, Arai wanted to cheer. This was exactly where she wanted him to go. She dropped the light-hearted attitude and turned fully to face the bar.
" she said bluntly. "Your boss is a supplier. I want to know where it comes from and its precise effects in all its forms."
He shrugged. "No can do, missy."
"But you can," Arai said calmly.
He hesitated, wondering how she knew with such certainty that he could tell her what she wanted to know. "What's in it for me?"
"I have nothing to give you," Arai answered simply. "Whatever benefit you may choose to find in telling me what you know is between you and your mind."
Talon laughed out loud at that. "Alright, missy. You've impressed me. Get yourself to Manaan and I'll see to it that you get the information you want. Mind if I ask what's so important about it?"
"I'm all but certain an old friend of mine has been exposed to the metal," Arai answered softly. "I want to know if there's anything I can do."
Talon grimaced and shook his head. "Say goodbye to your friend," he said. "It's only a matter of time."
Arai fell silent, considering this, and Talon rose and was gone. She knew she could not accept his advice, not until she'd had a decent chance to look over the data herself. Rising, she also left the restaurant and headed for her ship. But she'd scarcely gone ten paces before the Force alerted her of danger. She twisted, clamping an iron grip on the wrist of the hand that sought to shove her off the narrow walkway and down to the streets far below.
"Couldn't just let me go, could you Talon?" she asked, twisting his wrist just a little more, until it snapped. He cried out in pain and jerked back against the wall of the building behind him.
"Bad for business," he whimpered. Arai glared at him and finally ran out of patience.
"You thought I was a fool," she growled softly, "and that makes you
a fool. Perhaps Koven would make for a stronger leader of your little trading ring."
Talon's mouth opened and shut rapidly in both fear and astonishment. "How did-"
"And now you have a broken wrist," Arai went on coolly. "Koven will notice. He'll take you out. Best just do the job yourself."
Eyes wild, Talon looked past her and she laughed harshly.
"You would, wouldn't you?" she said. "But I can make this all better, Talon. Koven won't have to know. Give me every shred of information you have on ostanovium
and your wrist will be as good as new."
He awkwardly fished a small chip out of a pants pocket and passed it to her. Her eyes glinting faintly yellowish, she clasped his wrist, applying a healing touch with darker motives in mind.
"But you know," she said as she released him. "Now Koven will wonder what you've done with the intel he got you."
It was an uneven match. He drew a hold-out blaster; she drew a lightsaber. In seconds, two halves of Talon fell from the walkway and Arai headed off to find passage to Manaan.