QI’RA: Chapter Eleven

First Light

On a planet called Polaris; a stunning world of near-golden sands that made up a landscape of rolling dunes, towering structures of gleaming brown stone, and sparkling rivers that were teeming with life snaked through the beautiful terrain, resided Crimson Dawn’s base, Dryden Vos’s fancy yacht, First Light.

Qi’ra stood at the window of what used to be Dryden’s quarters, taking in the beautiful view with a slight smile on her red lips.

She wore a stunning long-sleeved black dress that had a sheer front over the plunging V-neck. A short one-shouldered black cape woven into the dress was for extra dimension so that as she turned it flowed with her every movement. And hidden within the folds of her dress was a blaster. Just in case. To complete the look, her dark hair flowed down her back in a cascade of curls.

As she gazed at the world outside she found herself involuntarily thinking of Han and how he would react if he saw her. He would probably tell her that she was beautiful and then smile at her with that look that signaled he wanted to fool around. Just the thought of his smile made her grin.

And then, just as quickly as the thought brought her happiness, like a looming storm cloud she would remember the sadness on his face as he stood on the banks of Savareen gazing at the very ship she was standing in, knowing they would probably never see each other again. And even if she did, would she have to kill him, to maintain the front that he had murdered Dryden Vos? She didn’t know if she could.

She tried not to think of Han but her love for him had been real, no matter how many times she tried to tell herself it wasn’t. And that meant he always found a way to enter her thoughts. To haunt her dreams and remind her what could’ve been. But, she figured she’d rather dream about traveling the stars with Han than cowering before the towering figure of Maul.

There was a knock at the door and when she turned T-38 was standing in the doorway.

“The bounty hunter. She’s ready for her payment.”

Qi’ra entered the main negotiating room aboard First Light. The same room where Han had nearly died twice and where she had killed Dryden Vos. Her jaw clenched. There were so many terrible memories in this room.

Her guards, an all-female personnel dressed in long black capes with the Crimson Dawn insignia painted in gold, black leather from head to toe, golden embroidered masks, and long blaster rifles that could also be used in close-combat stood around the room. They were so still they almost seemed like statues, until one noticed their moving eyes.

Standing to the side was Top Lieutenant Nienye, expectedly handsome in his close-fitting dark green robe that parted at the waist, revealing dark brown pants and boots. The dark green robe had a thick black sash across the midsection and a stunning golden necklace dotted with red beads that splashed color throughout the gorgeous piece of jewelry adorned his neck.

When he saw her, he dipped his head in acknowledgment and she found herself involuntarily getting warm in the cheeks. She quickly averted her gaze to the bounty hunter, Ventra Dune, who was lounging on one of the couches with her feet unceremoniously propped atop the table.

Upon seeing this lack of decorum T-38 visibly sneered.

“I’d appreciate it if you’d kindly take your feet off of the table, bounty hunter,” T-38 ordered sternly.

A grin stretched across the bounty hunter’s stitched and bruised face as she took her feet off of the table.

“Told ya, Nienye. You gotta pay up later,” she said.

Qi’ra looked at her Top Lieutenant with a cocked eyebrow as his head fell with silent laughter. She then reverted her attention to the bounty hunter as she seated herself across from Ventra Dune. T-38 situated herself behind the couch at Qi’ra’s left shoulder.

“It seems you’re feeling better,” Qi’ra noted.

The bounty hunter grinned, revealing a missing tooth. “Nothing a good amount of money can’t fix.”

Qi’ra nodded. “Agreed.”

She nodded at one of the guards who dipped her head in response. The guard pressed a button on her wrist bracer and less than thirty seconds passed before the elevator door opened, revealing yet another one of her guards who was entering the room with ten black crates filled with credits. The bounty hunter’s eyes practically popped out of her head at the sight of the reward she was about to receive.

“You can count it if you want?” Qi’ra said, a slight smile tugging at her lips.

The bounty hunter looked at her. “Are you kidding? I don’t have to count my credits ever again!”

This made Qi’ra laugh. “I’m glad to hear. And I’m glad you’re still alive to enjoy it.”

“You think you’re happy?! I could kiss every single person in this room.”

T-38 scowled. “Don’t even think about it.”

The bounty hunter guffawed. “It’s a joke lady. Stop being so serious.”

As Qi’ra sensed her bodyguard growing angry she quickly said, “You’ve been given your payment. Now it’d be best if you leave.”

The bounty hunter popped to her feet. “Oh, I’m leaving.” She sauntered toward the elevator, winking at the guards as if she had a secret. When she passed Nienye she pointed at him and said, “If you ever want to stop killing people for free you know how to find me.”

Nienye’s smiled immediately vanished. Qi’ra stood, her nostrils flaring.

“I said it’s time for you to leave!” she ordered.

The bounty hunter stepped into the elevator, pulling the crates of credits along with her as she shrugged. “Geez, it was just a joke. Why can’t you people take a joke?”

With that, she was gone as the elevator doors closed.

“Would you like me to have the guards kill her outside?” T-38 asked, clearly fumed by what Ventra Dune had just said.

Qi’ra shook her head. “There’s no need.”

Nienye approached them. “It’s just her rude sense of humor sometimes. She didn’t mean anything by it.”

T-38’s comm beeped and when she tapped it a small hologram appeared in the handheld device. It was that annoying copper protocol droid, V-6789.

“Your guests have arrived,” the droid announced.

T-38 replied curtly before ending the conversation.

Qi’ra sighed. Sometimes dealing with bounty hunters and smugglers and their eclectic personalities could be…tiring, but entertaining The Shadow Collective could be even more exhausting, for they were always trying to undermine her or forge some shady deal that would tarnish Crimson Dawn’s reputation in the long run.

Qi’ra almost felt like running to her quarters and locking herself in for the rest of the day while ordering T-38 to tell her guests to go away. Unfortunately, she couldn’t do that.

As if sensing her discomfort Nienye smiled at her. “It’s going to be fine.”

He didn’t know how wrong he would be.

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