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The waking sun peeked through the gaps of Coruscant spires. Standing at the window, Jacqueline Rees collected herself ahead of what she had no doubt would be an infuriating morning. Dressed in corporate attire, she was a far cry from the mussed and grease-stained leather she preferred. Sleek reds, blacks, and polished leather covered her, tailored perfectly to the nape of her neck. As foreign as it was, it suited both her and the sour expression on her face — the kind of expression that hinted at a short temper and quick-drawn blaster.

“Coffee, Miss Rees?” Her C2 droid inquired as it entered the room.

“Nope,” she replied, not turning from the window.

“Pardon me for the observation, Miss Rees, but by my calculations, you did not receive the required hours of sleep for — “

” — happens,” she cut him off grumpily. “Now fuck off. Got a meeting soon.”

The C2 unit didn’t need another opportunity to gauge her mood. It bowed quickly, “Of course, Miss!” and hastily made for the exit. A door vertically hissed into place behind it.

She fumed silently for a few more minutes before tapping a button on her wrist. A ceiling holodisplay hummed on and a shade dimmed the sun’s interference from the window. As the room darkened, holographs appeared one-by-one till they formed a semicircle around Jacqueline’s flat-top desk. Turning from the window, the she faced them.

“Morning. Skip the compliments and formalities. Don’t care. Agenda’s also changed, but just so you all don’t piss your pants, gonna sum it up for you: Posted profit this quarter, we’re recouped from last quarter’s labor change. Enjoy the pretty green numbers in the stock you didn’t fucking earn. Also dropped the shipping company for Hutt Space because our current fucker was sneaking cargo off to line his pockets. Apparently he was in debt to a Hutt. Big surprise. Didn’t cover his tracks good enough. A casual glance at ballast reports tipped me off. So also fired our guy in charge of checking those things, because obviously he was stupid. Both replacements know how to math properly. Questions?”

A smirk tugged at her lips when one holo stirred uncomfortably, speaking up. He was a balding man, smaller in stature and dressed the extravagant tunic of an Alderaanian noble. “Miss Rees,” he spoke, his voice thick with an Imperial accent. “I assure you, that ballast miscalculation was simply a — “

Swiveling her head in his direction, she let her smirk go on full display. “Heeey, thought you’d speak up about it! Thanks for playing. Turns out that hire was one of your guys. Came highly recommended and whatnot. Well, you also didn’t cover your tracks enough. Kinda suspicious, isn’t it? Unfortunately, because I’m not allowed to, I can’t tell you to fuck off. But let’s let that hang over your head the rest of this meeting, yeah? So yeah, shut up.”

Turning to the crowd, she shrugged a shoulder. “Any other questions?”

As was becoming more typical of these meetings, the others remained silent. It was not the first time subtler dealings were flayed out into the open.

“Neat. I just saved everyone about forty-five minutes. Mark that down in the minutes. Prolly saves company money too, so buy a yacht or something. And you’re welcome,” she waved dismissively. “Now to the real deal.”

Hand on her hip, Jacqueline started pacing. “You see, there’s just this one thing I can’t figure out. Brembal Kybersmith’s alive and at least one of you knows it. Again, you sucked at covering your tracks,” pausing, she winked. “And before you think I’m all mad and whatnot, he was just here last night. Paid a little visit to his ‘granddaughter.’ Hell, we even made plans for her birthday and Life Day. Nice little cozy family get-together.” Her eyes narrowed at each holofigure.

“So spill. Who knew, when? Why wasn’t I told?”

Another uncomfortable silence took over the room. Shrugging a shoulder, she continued: “Y’know, when I was moving in to this new, nice place, I had some time to kill before they finished apartment renovations. I found this curious little trail of credits from Coruscant that — “

” — Lord Brembal contacted the board and was forthright on faking his death, Miss Rees,” one of them interrupted quickly. Her accent Republic, her attire was no less than a Republic senator. “He said it was necessary for an ‘aggressive corporate move’.”

“Yeah? What kind of move?”

“He… did not say, Miss Rees. You must understand, Lord Brembal was not as forthcoming on his… vision as you are.”

“Uh-huh. That way you saying he didn’t swear as much?”

“No, no. On the contrary, Miss Rees, he simply wouldn’t tell us anything. Including what the ‘aggressive’ move was.”

Arms crossed, Jacqueline sized up the senator. Holocalls, even local ones, could spare the caller from divulging their most obvious tells. The benefit of a fuzzy reception. Shrugging, “So this trail of credits leads to a particular sector where a certain paramilitary gang happens to — “

” — I’m telling you all we know, Miss Rees!” The senator cried, clearly rattled. The other board members eyed her, shifting in their seats.

“Alrighty. I believe you. Thanks for cooperating. It’s kinda cute.”

“As always, your sources are well-informed, Miss Rees,” one of the holofigures glowered. “But your unorthodox methods will not always yield… results.”

“Mm, yeah. I get it. You had a Sith all these years. Yeah, no doubt that was better.” Leaning forward, she planted a hand on her desk before growling at the holodisplay. “But he didn’t come from those sectors where paramilitary thugs picked of starving kids for target practice. He only threatened your families to keep you in line. How nice of him. Am I wrong?”

Again, the figures shifted.

“Alrighty. Well, I could do that. S’not like I don’t have a flagship — or a couple of them — to take out wherever your families are skulking. Or hire mercenaries to kill them in their sleep. Or my own damn guns. But here’s the thing. We all know one, two, or maybe a couple of you would think ‘well, these credits are worth more than my dear old dad or sister or uncle or daughter,’ and other selfish rich-people bullshit. So I’m going for the fucking jugular. You want to stay on my good side? Don’t fucking lie to me. Ever. Because I will flay your little secrets and reputations apart. And that shit’s harder to get back than credits. And more precious to you than your fucking family.”

She let the threat hang a moment before adding: “You don’t cooperate? I’ll throw all your red meat into this nice little circle first. Pack rules’re in effect from now on. Don’t know what that means? You get eaten. Probably by the guy sitting next to you. I’m sure more than one of you have nice little rivalries with each other you could use a leg-up on. All the credits you embezzle or kids you sleep with will do. And if the group here doesn’t do a good enough, then I’ll do job. And my jobs always get done. Thoroughly,” Crossing her arms, she leveled her gaze at the group. “I clear?”

Stunned silence, then finally, one-by-one: “Yes, Miss Rees.”

Shrugging a shoulder, she nearly smiled. “Alrighty then, we’re crystal with each other. You all fuck off now till you’re not needed again. Later,” Tapping her wrist, the holo connection switched off. Keeping the shades over the window, Jacqueline hovered over her desk with her head bowed in thought. Tightening her fist and grinding it into the desk, she fumed.

Sonuvabitch, Brembal. Her eyes narrowed. Just try and keep up the current pace, dickbag. You don’t have the cards you used to. 

Author Ari
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