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(( Related: [SWTOR] Contact (Jacqueline) and [SWTOR] Hunt 1 (Jacqueline). The following is on my SWTOR smuggler, Captain Jacqueline “Jackie” Rees. ))

Jacqueline flickered through a variety of holos, each depicting a different sector of Nar Shadda: Alleys, street corners, even crowded squares. All were of the lower levels of the Hutta moon, or the lowest level any uncompromised holocamera dared to be installed, and filled to the brim with either the lonely or the very vacancy and isolation that made them so. There were no embraces or moments of celebration in the holos the captain captured; there was only the milling of the destitute in the various dangerous ways they led their lives.

She flickered past the drug exchanges, weapons deals, and public sexual advances without a second glance or modicum of surprise. Reflected on her face was a lifetime of inoculation. Instead, she sought different sights, pausing to study what to the trained eye seemed to be the most mundane thing. So caught up in her analysis that when her datapad beeped with a message, it wasn�t until the caller abruptly popped into the holoviewer that Jacqueline�s concentration was finally broken.

�Sonuva — !� The captain exclaimed, reeling backwards. For a comedic moment, she nearly toppled right out of her chair onto the durasteel floor. �What the hell?!� she blurted accusingly as her hand grappled with the console to regain her balance.

Her caller snorted in reply. She was a young woman with blonde hair and visible tattoos.

�Serves you right! And �what the hell?!� That�s not your line, that�s mine!� Cheska glowered from her end of the holo. Even through the terrible reception, her seething temper was obvious. �The hell is wrong with you?! You show up from the dead to tell me to get out and the first thing you do is jump right back in? Is this� this some kind of bullshit code you get to live by but not others?�

Rising back into her chair, Jacqueline coughed and added a smile. Her tone rather weary: �Heeey, Ches. S�good to see you.�

�Fuck you, Vee. You gonna tell me what�s going on or give me the run around?�

�Going to give you both,� Jacqueline replied bluntly, waving a hand. �Sorry, Ches. You�re not in this one. You weren�t even in this one back when we were working together.�

Sitting back, Cheska�s anger was visibly deflated and replaced by hurt. Recovering, she crossed her arms and replied bitingly: �Okay, fine. Tell me what you�ll tell me, so I at least can tell you how damn stupid you are. And probably not talk you out of it, because you�re stupid and stubborn.�

�Damn straight,� Jacqueline chuckled, looking down. Looking back up at the holo screen, she continues: �Give me at least a little credit, will you? I always think things through.�

�Yeah, and somehow that thinking doesn�t get told to the rest of us.�

�I got my reasons,� Jacqueline replied with a noncommittal shrug, reaching just off screen from Cheska�s view to pour herself a drink. �Ches, I got out because I was done. Wanted to start over. And you know how it is when you want to get out: It�s all or dead. So I chose dead. You know that part. I didn�t keep you in the loop because you�d be the first person they�d get info from if they thought it wasn�t real. S�why I told you to get out. If I showed up again, anyone who knew me was going to get screwed, big time.�

Leaning back in her chair, Jacqueline�s eyes rose to the ceiling, gaze distant. �When I was out, thought I had all that I�d do figured out, but I didn�t. Also figured I�d have the time to figure it all out. Turns out I didn�t. Made some bad mistakes. And a really big one. Paying for it now.�

�Mistakes? Oh, that doesn�t sound at all like you,� Cheska rolled her eyes, her voice dripping in sarcasm.

Taking a sip of her drink, Jacqueline replied with a roll of her eyes: �Yeah, well. Thanks, asshole. Drudge up some ancient stuff while you�re at it. Twist the knife a little. Really could go for more of that right about now.�

�Considering the shit you put me through, I get to do some knife twisting,� Cheska snorted again, rolling her eyes as well. �Okay, fine. Keep going. You haven�t got to the part about why scaring the shit out of the lower ranks and gunning for top jobs is a great fucking idea.�

�You�re going to get about half of that,� Jacqueline replied, sipping her drink. �Sorry, how it is.�

�Because apparently you got your reasons. And you gave me only half the reasons why you left, anyway.�

�Yep,� tipping her glass toward Cheska, Jacqueline nodded appreciatively, adding a low whistle. �Wow, you�re sharp.�

�Shut up and get on with it.�

Shrugging, Jacqueline leaned back into the chair. �I need guns. Good ones. Lots of them. I don�t have enough for what I�m going up against, and going around hiring mercs isn�t going to cut it. Can�t raise my profile right now. My current crew isn�t big enough and they got enough on their plate. So figured that stomping into the middle of the latest coup was a good time to get some. They�re already running scared. So let�s see how many will run with a ghost.�

�Like hell Drack�s gonna let you swing in and take people from him. He�s been gunning for the top for too long to — �

�To hell with Drack,� Jacqueline growled, taking a drink. �He�s a tough guy wannabe and we got scores to settle. And he�d be shit at running the place, anyway. I wouldn�t mind settling those scores while I do my business, and keeping the old business out of his hands.�

Staring a long moment, Cheska sighed. �You really need to let other people in on this. Okay, I get it, you�ve got your reasons. And you threw the whole syndicate for a loop when you showed up like you did. But they�re gonna recover, and they�re gonna start coming after you. You can�t deal with that.�

Nursing her whiskey, Jacqueline kept silent. Staring, Cheska crosses her arms.

�You gonna talk to me about that, or is this the �run around� part?�

Jacqueline grinned. �Nope and yes. Also, you�re not invited. You just got out, remember? You shouldn�t be an idiot like me and hop back in.�

Cheska scoffed. �You really did do that on purpose, did you?�

Shrugging at her, Jacqueline set her empty glass aside. �S�what I do. No need for kiddos like you to get hurt. Some real shots are going to fire over this one.�

�You mean, shots over this thing you�re not telling me about, but you�re going to use the Exchange to do it?�

�The ones that�ll follow me, yeah. The rest won�t stick around. Besides, tired of running. Time to end this. Either way, I�ll win something. Maybe just some piece of mind.�

Real concern crossed over Cheska�s face. �Be careful, Vee. You�re an ass, but just got you back. Not gonna lie, I was happy about it after I stopped swearing and breaking things. There�s not enough friends left in the galaxy anymore.�

�Don�t I know it,� Jacqueline replied darkly, then grins. �I�m good, Ches. Death and I have an understanding about things. We�re good.�

Scoffing again, Cheska replied: �Yeah. Let�s see how long that bargain holds up.�

�Yep, so!� Clapping her hands on her knees, Jacqueline flashed another grin. �We good?�

�Hell, no. I�m calling tomorrow. And the day after that.�

�Not really looking forward it.�

Good.�

Both of them grinned at each other.

�Laters Ches,� said Jacqueline.

�Bye Vee,� Cheska replied, and the holo switched off.

Author Ari
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