It’s going to be a several-day journey to their destination and day and night kind of become meaningless in hyperspace, especially when one of the two smugglers always needs to be awake to keep an eye on the ship. An hour or so ago Zet announced it was her turn to nap, curled into an improbably small ball in her copilot chair, and zonked out.
Now she stretches as she comes to, leaning her head from one side to the other to work a kink out of her neck. “Mm. Did I miss anything?” she asks with a yawn, rubbing at her eyes.
“Well, we passed some stars on the left,” Santos gestures to the left with his hand, although with the co-pilot’s chair actually in front of the pilot’s she Zet doesn’t really see it. “To the right we had some more stars, and about 20 minutes ago we we’re headed for a large fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers, which on closer inspection turned out to me more stars.” Flying through space isn’t always that exciting.
Given the amount of excitement they seem to encounter every time they make a stopover, Zet doesn’t mind that space is relatively boring.
“About as well as you’d figure. I miss having a ship with real beds.” She worms around in her seat so she’s kind of sitting sideways, her legs draped over one of the arms. Now she can see him! “I can fly for a bit if you’re tired. Otherwise I guess we’ll have to find another way to pass the time. It sounds like I Spy is out of the question.”
“I’m good for now.” Santos isn’t letting go of the controls a minute longer than he has to. He’s not worried about Zet driving them into a nearby star or anything, he just doesn’t want to be slowed down. He’s close to getting his ship back, and faster than light isn’t fast enough. “Anyway, I thought we could talk business for a while. That grift we pulled on Bhel was brilliant. We could use it again, with a few kinks worked out.”
Really, Zet’s still more comfortable flying with Santos awake and around anyway, so she’s not going to complain. Propping her arms behind her head, she peers curiously over at him. “Yeah, might as well use the fact that no one knows or cares about the Chiss out here to our advantage. We pulled it together pretty fast last time. What were you thinking?”
“It needs to be tighter, more practiced.” The Chiss meets Zet’s eyes as she peeks. "For one, a Chiss delegate or their aide probably wouldn’t refer to the Expansionary Defense Force as " lots of stuff." He probably wouldn’t either. As much as he’s tried to distance himself from Csilla, he was part of the EDF for a time.
Zet can’t help but grin crookedly. “I was improvising. You don’t like to talk about Csilla very much so I don’t pry into it. You’re right, if we try that again I’m gonna need to know more about what we’re talking about in case we run into something who knows just a little more about the Chiss than that they think they’re better than everyone else.”
“You were right though,” Santos decides to just jump right into a history lesson. “The Ascendancy has a lot of stuff. We are old. While the Republic has crumbled and rebuilt itself a few times, the Ascendancy has for all intents and purposes, always been.” That Zet’s chair can’t turn to face him reminds Santos of how much the Void Crow is a piece of junk. He’d much rather be having a face to face conversation, at the very least, side to side. Who designed this ship? “So most of the technology here is redundant to us. The Chiss would need something truly innovative to make associating with aliens worthwhile.”
Zet nods, idly swinging one of her feet in the air where it dangles off her chair. This isn’t going to stay comfortable for very long. “Yeah, you’ve given me that impression. Do you guys spell that out to anyone who’s tried to broker a contract with you in the past? Like, would someone in Bel’s position know that, usually? Or do you just forget to send a reply?”
“To be honest, I have no idea.” Santos shrugs his shoulders, not that anyone could see. “I heard of maybe one contact with this part of the galaxy while growing up.” He thinks about the question for a moment, trying to work out an approach they could use. “We’re not the only people in our corner of the universe though. There are some pretty hostile worlds in the Unknown Region. It’s not entirely implausible that we would be at war and in need of an edge.”
“Well Bel said that every time the CEC has reached out to the Ascendency they got nothing but radio static back, so…” Zet shrugs. “It sounds like usually you guys just can’t be bothered. But we should have a more specific angle the next time we try to run this in case we find someone who got a lucky answer. Something better than tourism,” she adds with a crooked smile.
“So let’s go for war.” Santos offers as that angle. “No one over here really knows whats going on over there, and war is unpredictable enough that it could conveniently break out after any contact has been made.” He passes control of the crow over to Zet, testing her perception. There isn’t much to do at the moment, bit it will be good practice anyway.
“New topic. Chiss speak Basic. We speak it well. In many cases we speak it better than the people here.” As much as Santos wants to distance himself from Csillan society, it’s still a small part of him. “So you do the talking because the Chiss Delegate chooses not to use such an ‘uncultured tongue.’”
She doesn’t initially realize, particularly because she isn’t even sitting properly in her chair to watch her own display. “I guess we just have to spin it so it sounds like the Chiss have a good reason to want all this antiquated Known Region technology.” That part, she can improvise.
Zet laughs quietly. “With that accent you think you speak it well?” She’s probably teasing given how horrendous some other species’ accents tend to be. “Uncultured tongue, got it. Although I can also see the benefit of leading someone to believe that they’re able to speak freely without worrying that they’re going to offend you… there’s a lot to be said for honesty. Given how many humans especially are ready to treat other beings’ Twi’lek employees like furniture. Maybe we should play that one by ear.”
Santos shrugs. “Who needs honesty? The goal is to fool people into giving us stuff. Let them worry about what they are going to say, worry that they’re about to lose a lucrative contract.” He sits up enough to access the console, to continue his search for Palob’s family. “And I wouldn’t necessarily say that your technology is antiquated, it’s simply not very innovative. We use similar technology, but it just looks better when we do it. Anyway, all we need to do is convince the target that they have something the Chiss don’t, that will give them an upper hand.”
“Well sometimes we aren’t going to be going into places to steal stuff,” Zet explains patiently. “Maybe we’ll be there to find stuff out. Callia was only able to move around unnoticed on Bel’s ship because people thought they could ignore her. Trust me on this one.”
She stretches her legs out, half glancing at her own monitor. “What kind of- hey.” His copilot twists around gracefully in her chair to sit up and face the controls properly. “When did you do this?” There’s nothing to really worry about but so long as she’s meant to be practicing she’ll pay attention. “I was gonna ask what kind of things are out there in Chiss space that you have to fight. My best lies are wrapped in something true.” Such as, I’m not going to let my friends kill you.
“Well, Nagai pirates are always a threat.” Santos starts counting off on his fingers as he goes down the list. He started with the only one Zet is likely to have heard off. “And the Croke. They’re a bit of angry force-sensitive squids. Then there are the Mngall-Mngall. Stay away from them.”
Santos pauses for a moment as he thinks about other threats. “I heard some rumors of something from a different galaxy all together picking of solitary ships on the edge of space’ but that’s probably just a myth.”
“You have force-sensitive squids?” Zet could not sound less happy. She slouches down in her chair, experimenting a bit with the ship’s steering. All the better to not go scraping up against the other ship if she has to help dock it again, right? “Hey, how would you even hear about a rumour like that anyway. Do they leave witnesses?”
“We have a branch of our military that we like to call ‘Intelligence.’ Is that not done here?” Zet should be able to pick up on Santos’ mocking tone. They certainly know people involved in espionage.
“I’ve never lived in a culture where people who can’t find work get forced into military service so what would I know,” Zet returns. “Nar Shaddaa sure doesn’t have anything organized like that. Maybe you could expand on the topic.” Meanwhile, she sounds like she’s being deliberately obtuse.
The Chiss blinks his big, red eyes a few times. He’s fully aware of her sarcasm, but decides to play along. “You see, people are in general, assholes. Governments even more so. The like to send people to other governments to steal their secrets. To help them kill each other.”
“I don’t think we do that in the Known Region at all.” Zet drums her fingers on her console. “We leave that kind of barbarism to the fringes of space. So this is good to know in case I have to explain it to someone else.”
“Yes, we’re the barbarians.” Santos laughs softly. A great deal of what he’s seen going on in the ‘Known Region’ simply would not occur on Csilla. “So how do we use this to get information, instead of things?”
Goodness knows Zet doesn’t think highly of most of the Known Region either. She’s grinning when she glances back at him. “Well with Bel before we didn’t even actually want to talk to him. That whole thing was a pretense to get on his ship and take this piece of crap.” She kicks a foot against the control panel in front of her. “But sometimes it’s the conversation you want in the first place. I can talk us into a meeting with people like us, but people like Bel won’t meet with a couple of nobody nonhuman smugglers. They might meet with a representative of the Chiss Ascendency though.”
“True. A contact within the Ascendancy would certainly confer some bragging rights.”
Santos quickly takes back control after Zet’s little kick knocks them off course a few degrees to the left. “We’re going to have to work on that discipline,” he smirks, “if you are going to work for the Ascendancy.”
“What’s discipline?” Zet fires back. As soon as she realizes she’s not in charge anymore, she curls her legs under herself and turns sideways, hanging out over the arm of the chair. It’s easier to have conversations this way. More seriously, she adds, “Am I supposed to behave a certain way if I’m working for you?”
“Of course.” Santos sits up stiff and straight to demonstrate. “You must have perfect posture and poise. Every word must be carefully planned, and you must show just the right amount of disdain for those lower in status than you.” He pauses for a moment, think of the easiest way to describe who that would be. “So, everyone but me.”
Posture, Zet has on lock, when she bothers to put in the effort. And she’s good at talking. It’s the disdain that makes her hesitate. “I can’t think of anyone who’d tolerate a Twi’lek treating them with that attitude.” She smiles self-deprecatingly as she flips her lekku back over her shoulders. “We’re the bottom of the food chain, most places. Especially places where people want to talk to some pompous Chiss. But I’ll try.”
“But you have power in this role. If they want to set any kind of arrangement with the Chiss, they have to go through you.” After adjusting their heading, Santos carefully rests his feet on the edge of the console, and reclines as much as possible.
“Okay, but maybe you better back me up by looking super pissed and disinterested if they don’t like the way I’m talking to them.” Zet watches him try to get comfortable in the cramped space with a smirk. “And also be ready to describe the whole scene to my parents the next time we’re on Nar Shaddaa. They’d get a kick out of it.”
“Don’t worry, I think I can manage to look pissed.” Santos doesn’t sound too convincing, anger isn’t something he’s felt much. “I’ll tell your parents anything as long as your mom makes that soup!” Zet might notice a twinkle in he’s eyes. They are actually getting close to going back to Nar Shaddaa. Back to the Rainbow Dash.
“You know she’ll cook anything you ask her to,” Zet replies with a roll of her eyes. Her parents have been treating Santos like the favourite son they never had for a long time now, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t wearing pants the first time they met him.
“I’m looking forward to it.” Santos sends the controls back to Zet and stretches out as much as the chair will allow. “It’s my turn to nap. If you feel like flying into something, wake me up first.”