Callia is still laid up, waiting for the rebels to work their medical magic on her eyes. Zet slipped away for about half an hour, likely finding somewhere to pace in anxious silence within the larger ship, but she finally winds her way back to the hangar bay and lets herself inside the Void Crow.
She’s surprised, actually, by the pang of guilty emotion that prickles at the back of her throat as she passes through the cramped hangar bay. They hardly knew its former captain. They certainly didn’t part on the best of terms. But there’s a big difference between sucking a fellow smuggler into a big job and making him collateral damage in a personal vendetta.
Zet weaves through the ship, headed for the copilot’s seat in the cockpit. The rebels dealt with the worst of her wounds but she’s still moving stiffly after her close encounters with the front of a ship and the business end of a giant worm. She just needs to be somewhere quiet, to think.
If Zet wants some quiet, Santos certainly isn’t going to argue. She’ll find that he’s already taken up residence in the cock pit, pouring over every control, every contour of the dash. He’s careful not to disturb anything, this isn’t his ship. It’s still Palob’s. He’s just borrowing it. Part of him wants to find Nossk, hunt him down and end him. Palob’s death was senseless. He simply had the misfortune of knowing Santos. What if it’s Callia next, or Zet? Could he trust himself to fight off his darkside? Would he want to?
Yeah, quiet suits him just fine right now. Still, when he see’s that it’s Zet joining him in the cockpit, he offers her a weak smile.
She half-expected to find her best friend here anyway. If this is their temporary ride, of course the pilot is getting comfortable with the controls. Zet smiles back at him, lightly touching his shoulder as she pauses beside his seat. Her eyes rest on his face for a few seconds before they drift away to take in the rest of Palob’s former home away from home. “How’re you doing?”
“Well, Pablum is currently in several pieces because he happened to know me, Rakine had a lovely encounter with a bomb, and you were run over by a transport ship, again because some lizard wanted to hurt me. I’m not sure I’m doing so well right now.”
Santos begins accessing the computer, skimming through Palob’s files. “Maybe we can find something here that would lead us to his family. If he has any.” The Chiss hopes he doesn’t. Letting them know what happened is not something he’s looking forward to. “How about you?”
“Palob,” Zet corrects him quietly. Her fingers squeeze lightly into his shoulder before she leans away, swinging around to perch on the back of the copilot’s seat. “It’d be good to be able to tell someone what happened.” That sounds like she’s volunteering to do the deed if he can find the information.
She lifts one slender shoulder in a shrug as she watches him work. “Taking said transport ship and a giant subterranean worm into account, I’m doing okay. I guess I didn’t really realize how serious you were when you said Nossk was creepier than your average Trandoshan. Was he always like that?”
“Not initially.” Santos leans back in the chair and takes a deep breath. “He seemed cool when I met him, but as time went on he became less interested is your run of the mill smuggling jobs, and more interested in games, like the one back there.” He looks over at the Twi’lek worry written all over his face. “I was planning on leaving him, although I didn’t plan on giving him my ship. But he threw me out of my own ship and flew away. I really don’t understand why he’d do this now.”
“Well, consider this: he’s a sociopath.” Zet absently rubs her shoulder, the one that took the brunt of the blow from the ship. Good thing it’s not her gun arm. “I dunno, he saw the opportunity? I guess we know now not to beeline for him the next time we hear he’s in the neighborhood.” She musters up another faint smile for him. “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.”
“The list of people we have to watch out for keeps growing.” Santos let’s out a deep sigh and gets back to the computer. “I think we should take the fastest route to Hutt space. I’d feel a hell of a lot safer in an actual ship.”
“Agreed. We’ll see what we can get for this old Jedi stuff on Duros and then hightail it home. I bet my mother’d like to see you again.” Zet winks at him. “You’re uh, feeling okay though?” She gestures vaguely. Is that supposed to mean the Force or something? “I was worried about you in the first place, knowing Nossk was there.”
“I won’t lie to you, I really wanted to kill him.” Part of him still does. “But I saw what Sora became after she lost control. Hell, even Callia’s reaction to Sora was enough to scare me shitless.”
He smiles at her again. More convincing this time. “So yeah, I’m feeling OK. I wanted him to pay for what he had done, in custody, though. Alive.”
“He will.” There’s the faint edge of steel in Zet’s voice. No one runs her over with a spaceship and gets away with it. “But next time we pick the time and place.”
Some of the tension leaves her as he confirms that he’s all right – her eyes light up and she leans back a little. “Good. Callia was saying all this stuff about how I might have to keep you grounded. I had about half a second to feel really, really scared about that before the ship hit me.” Can’t keep him grounded when she’s out cold…
Santos can’t help but smile at the thought of Zet going toe to toe with Nossk. He’s never been a warrior, but he’s still Trandoshan.
“You being hit by the ship kinda helped keep me grounded. I’d been thinking about what I’d do when I saw him for a while, and I’d already decided not to risk letting my dark side take hold.” He pauses briefly, never all that comfortable talking about what the Force could do to him. “It was harder than I thought to resist, but when I had to make a choice between chasing him and making sure you were ok, there really was no choice.”
The subject makes Zet uneasy too, but her non-response (verbally at least) is really an improvement over the way she was freaking out over the Force only a week ago. She’s trying hard to be comfortable with it. There’s no question it’s been useful. “Oh, is that the trick? I’ve just gotta put myself in harm’s way to keep you on the straight and narrow.” She shoots him a teasing grin. “I’m gonna need to invest in some body armor.”
“Yeah, it’s that simple.” He tries to maintain a straight face, but quickly breaks into a grin of his own. “I’m sure it will get easier the more I learn about the Force. But body armour is always good. We’ll see what we can do with our profits from Duros.”
“Mm.” Zet shifts, unfolding her arms and pushing off of the chair. She stretches her arms over her head, such as she can in the cramped space. “I was really hoping we’d be able to quietly sell this stuff on the side instead of making a special trip. I don’t know how we’re gonna do this right under Callia’s nose, especially now that she’ll be able to see again.”
“The simple answer is, we won’t.” Santos stands up as much as he can in the cramped cockpit, walks around the chair and rests his arms on its back, allowing the chair to support his weight. “We need to tell her what we have, and we need to respect her wishes if she doesn’t want us to sell it.” Being responsible is a new experience for him. He’s not sure it’s one he likes. “We put her far out of her comfort zone with the glitterstim, and I know we really didn’t have a choice in the matter, but still. We need to let her know her input is valued if we want to keep her around. And I get the feeling that we will need her around.” He’s actually nervous about Zet’s reaction. “And this is a part of her heritage. A heritage she wasn’t given the choice to give up on, like we did.”
Zet’s brow ticks on “we won’t.” But she bites her tongue, hearing Santos out, even though her expression grows more and more unreadable. She’s not sure what to make of his newly minted responsibility either. As he wraps up his pitch, her arms fold across her chest, the gesture less casual this time and more closed-off and frustrated. The Twi’lek looks aside, a flicker of sharp teeth visible as she chews her lip.
“We need that money, Santos.” At least she isn’t mad at him. She does sound a little exasperated. “Sure, we’ve got a ride back to Nar Shaddaa now if we hang onto this ship, but the Hutts are gonna pop our heads off if we show up without everything we owe them. I didn’t give up my entire heritage. I’ve got parents living there they can hurt if we keep messing around out here.”
“We do.” Zet is entirely correct, they need the money, but Santos is pretty confident this won’t be their only opportunity. “So what happens when Callia finds out what we’ve done? Maybe there’s something there that would be useful to us and we don’t know how to recognize it. Maybe she’d have no problem with it at all. I just think that if we do this and not tell her, it’s going to come back at us, biting.”
At what point does someone become more trouble than they’re worth?
The second the ugly thought crosses Zet’s mind she regrets it. That’s not fair. They’d probably still be stuck on Tatooine if not for their new friend, and Santos would probably be taking a nosedive to the dark side without her spiritual guidance, no matter how Zet feels about the Force. Once upon a time they were a crew of two, but now they’ve got other teammates to factor into the equation.
“She told me she was fine with a don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” the Twi’lek insists, but with less fervor now. “We talked about it before we left Corellia. That if something like glitterstim came up again she’d just rather not know about it. Couldn’t we just do this the same way?”
Santos cocks an eyebrow. “This isn’t glitterstim. This is something so profoundly personal to her. If we don’t let her have a say in this, we may as well spit on everything she is.”
The Chiss sits back down in his seat and reclines as much as possible, He closes his eyes and takes in a deep breathe. “Look, you know I wouldn’t make you do anything you didn’t want to. Just, please think about it. We’re far from Nar Shaddaa, and our track record for keeping ships isn’t that great at the moment. There will be more opportunities to pay off what we owe.”
“Rrrgh.” Zet pinches the bridge of her nose. That subtle twitch of her lekku is no doubt the equivalent of saying something very foul under her breath. “Fine. We’ll tell her.” Tipping her head back, she closes her eyes, shrugging her headtails over her shoulders to let them hang down her back.
“We need to figure this out. Are we business partners carrying a pair of refugees? Or are we a crew of four? We don’t have time for a huge moral debate every time we try to make some money, okay. If Callia wants a say she needs to know the time and place to pipe up isn’t after five crates of glitterstim are already on our ship, and we’re docking to make the delivery. And if she and Qurzer want in then they need to pitch in and help us get rid of this debt instead of shooting dirty looks at us when we pocket a few extra credits.” She hasn’t forgotten the way Callia got in a huff about holding onto half of Palob’s share. And now look what came of giving him hers.
“So let’s have a big family meeting.” There’s no passive aggressiveness in Santos’ tone. He understands Zet’s reluctance, but in his mind, they’ve already made their decision. Well, Callia has anyway. She’s put herself on the line for both of them numerous times. How much more does she have to prove? “We don’t know that she’ll be against selling these items. But even if she is, we all have things we won’t do, and if we respect each other’s boundaries, why wouldn’t we respect hers? Callia is one of us, and has been for a while. Qurzer too as long as it suits them and their Queen.”
It’s kind of a hypothetical question for Zet, too. She doesn’t need Callia and Qurzer to jump through hoops of fire to earn a place, but it sure would help if things were just a little bit formalized. And it’d probably end in fewer hurt feelings later if it was something slightly different than ‘when smuggling do as the smugglers do and shut up.’ “Okay.” She rubs at her arm and looks at Santos again. “Maybe we can just broach the topic with Callia when we show her what we have. All at once. I think Qurzer still needs a bit of time to process the part where they convinced their entire planet to rebel before they make any other big decisions.” At least that’s genuine sympathy in her voice.
“Sounds like a plan.” Santos suddenly grins, ear to ear. “She doesn’t have to be sober when we talk to her. I’m sure we can find some quenya someone on this boat.”
Zet barks a laugh. “Good luck. We could hardly get one glass in her the last time. Anyway if we’re trying to liquor her up she’ll know we’re planning something.”
She jerks her chin towards the controls. “What d’you think? Can you deal with walking around hunched over all the time all the way to Hutt space?”
Santos shrugs. “Don’t have much of a choice, do I? Unless I want to crawl out of the cockpit. Could be worse though. We could be stuck in a Selonian ship.” Unfortunately, the mention of the ship brings his mind back to Palob. “We should probably try and sell this thing anyway. I’m sure whatever family Palob had could use the money now.” Has he been drinking? This is far more charity than Santos is used to.
Yeah… Zet’s starting to look a little bit confounded. Not that it’s a bad sentiment. She’d want her family looked after if she met a bad end. “Okay, but do you think they’d mind if we borrowed it long enough to get where we’re going before we make our donation?”
Santos shakes his head emphatically. “No, I don’t suppose they would. Considering that he was kind enough to give us a ride to Selonia even after we stole his ship and put him in a box, I’m sure his family would even insist that we take a small cut.”
“That’s the Santos I know and love. I was starting to wonder if maybe you’d gone just a little bit wrong in the head after all,” Zet teases. “Okay, if you can find what we need in his computer I’ll reach out to them. Otherwise I guess we’re just waiting for Callia to get her clean bill of health.”