He stopped and listened, frozen mid-pace between the workbench and the Marshal’s ornate, wooden desk. He waited for the background groans to subside before answering his ringing omni.


Astau’s voice buzzed over the channels like a swarm of stingless flies, traveling between the skyscrapers from fifty kilos to the east and half a kilo down. The short, black syllables blurred into one another. “I’m no further. Any progress on your side?”


“Did you ask him about the other mercenaries?”

Saren glanced at the Marshal’s wall clock. Enamel face. The moons’ light painted it silver and violet. “Not yet. I’ll update you before two, at the latest.”

“We can’t let this opportunity go to waste. Be subtle if you can, but you must procure that information.”

He flicked his mandible. “Understood.”

He’d dropped the ‘sir’ months ago. By a twitch of the accelerometer, he disconnected without waiting for a reply. The captive was awake.

Saren ignored his poison-dart glares and completed the round, coming to a stop behind the desk. An écritoire lay open, its contents–two datapads, a paper pad, a bundle of pens and refills–spilled across the desktop glass. The release of energy from his biotic field must’ve jarred them out of position. He pushed the hefty chair aside to reach the drawers. The thick carpet muffled the sound of its feet.

The sound of chains rattling, then — “Motherfucker.”

The top drawer yielded only sheaves of documents. Its rails were oiled, silent. Saren opened the one beneath.

“What kind of sick game you playing at, bitch?” The captive said, words sticky through broken teeth and lacerated tongue. He spat out a fleshy glob. It landed in his collar.

“One you seem to enjoy.”

The second drawer contained personal effects. Letters, scissors, plate balm. Saren shifted through it with one hand, keeping an eye on the captive’s cuffs. Good. They held.

“Fuck you. I don’t know nothing. Got it, you barefaced piece of shit?”

The third time for that particular insult, and the mercenary’s fingers weren’t even being broken at every joint. Saren found the implement in a slender, velvet-lined case.

Your Palaven blues are indeed striking,” he remarked, setting the case atop the desk. The Marshal would have to receive compensation for this.

“So you’re fucking colourblind, too. Reds, fucker, Taetrus fucking reds–

He advanced. The mercenary looked from his eyes to his flared mandibles to the coarse talon file in his hand.

Saren’s voice rippled across the ensuing silence.

“Are you sure?”

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