Chapter Four

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Gaylen did get himself another drink, wowing to finish this one more slowly. His resolution was doing rather well when another person ascended the stairs and focused on him.

It was a woman, he decided, although covered with baggy clothes, a baggy hat and a scarf over the lower part of her face. The amount of covering made him a touch nervous, even if Eldin sending someone after him in public on such short notice seemed unlikely.

But as she got closer he noted the golden skin tone and relaxed, then relaxed further as she tucked the scarf down.

"Ah, Kiris," he said.

"Gaylen," she replied, and sat down.

"I didn't know you were in these parts."

"Well, I am. I heard you were hiring."

"I am. Starting my own crew, finally."

"Hello Kiris," Jaquan said over the comm.

"Me and Jaquan," Gaylen added.

"I take it you're with the ship," Kiris said at the communicator, and a smile flashed briefly on an otherwise dour face.

"Of course I am. It says hi, by the way."

"I heard you were going solo," Gaylen said to her.

The comment seemed to make her a touch uncomfortable.

"It just didn't work out," she said. "Too boring. Where are you headed?"

"The Nearer Fringe."

"And that's all you're going to give up?"

"It's a pretty delicate matter. So, yes."

Kiris just nodded. She understood how these things worked.

"800 Gybos upon completion," he added.

She nodded again.

"I could do worse than that."

"But I'm not expecting to have any locks broken through," he said.

"Hmm."

The woman silently took him in with piercing eyes that perfectly matched her skin and hair.

"Are you expecting trouble, though?" she asked meaningfully.

"I'm not going to look for it," he said. "There's a chance it'll look for me, though."

He shrugged.

"It honestly depends on factors beyond my control."

"But you can control what kind of people to take on board," she said. "And you know that I'm experienced, and I keep my head cool. And out on the fringe... well... you never know what kind of skills you're going to need."

"All valid points," he admitted. "But Kiris... I really need this run to go smoothly. So no independent acquisitions on any of our stops. Alright? I don't want any extra complications."

There was some dissatisfaction on her face, but he suspected it had more to do with her general dislike of being given rules.

"Simple enough," she said, though her voice didn't quite match her words. "So I'm on board?"

He held up the comm.

"Let's exchange. I'll let you know."

"Being all professional?" she said, and flashed another momentary smile that didn't reach her eyes.

"Hopefully."

They exchanged, and she left.

"See you," Kiris said as she descended.

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