Baby, It's Cold Outside
It was getting cold, the temperature on Tatooine was dropping mercilessly with the onset of the night. Ventress bit back a curse and picked up her pace, resisting the urge to wrap her arms around herself like a weakling. She hadn't realised that the desert here became an icebox once the suns had gone down.
The hiss of sand under her feet provided a nice counterpoint to her internal litany of self-recrimination. It had been a waste of time and precious fuel to come here, but she hadn't counted on Jabba's big bounty turning out to be her former Master, Count Dooku. She should've set her ship down closer to Jabba's palace so she wouldn't have to slog through these Force-forsaken dunes to get back to her ship. She raised an arm to protect her eyes as the wind whipped up a flurry of sand. A small shiver crawled down her spine; even the wind was cold now. Her ensemble of bantha leathers and re-appropriated fabric from her Nightsisters garb offered little protection against the cold; something that would have to be rectified when she had some spare credits.
Her Force-senses tingled and she raised her voice to be heard above the rising wind. "You can come out. I know you're there."
A familiar shape detached itself from the shadow of the dunes, coat tails and hat brim flapping in the wind. "Mmmm… perhaps those 'sabers on your waist aren't just for show after all?"
He grinned toothily. "At your service."
"What do you want?" she demanded, ignoring his jibe about her lightsabers. If he wanted to think she'd taken them from a dead Jedi, she wasn't about to correct him.
"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow, ignoring the fact that the wind now felt like it was full of knives slicing at her exposed skin.
"It's cold outside," he growled. "Let's talk. My ship."
"And just why would I agree to that? I hardly know you," she said; it was nice to talk to another sentient after weeks of solitude and travel.
He eyed her up and down in a manner she didn't care for.
"Touch me and I'll break your fingers," she snarled.
Bane just smirked as she shivered involuntarily in a fresh gust of icy air, choosing to ignore her warning. "For one thing, my ship will be warm inside."
He pressed a button on the control panel on his wrist and there was a hum of engines as a Telgorn dropship, compact and made out of angles, rose out of the dunes and slowly headed towards them. It settled itself slowly down beside Bane as daintily as a Coruscanti socialite fussing with her skirts. Bane opened the side hatch and stood in the entrance, bright yellow light from the ship's interior flooding the area around Ventress.
Ventress hesitated. Her goose bumps now had their own goose bumps and it was through sheer willpower that she hadn't started shivering. At her feet, she could see frost flowers starting to form on the sand. "I really can't stay."
He hmphed. "Little lady, you'll freeze out there. Get in. I'll pour you a drink, we can talk business, and if you have good information, you might even get paid."
It was a non-decision really. She walked up the ramp, feeling a pleasant blast of heat on her face as she entered the ship. Bane indicated a small table beside what looked like the ship's galley and shut the hatch, dialling up the heaters. Ventress took a seat and Bane clattered about in the galley, emerging with two chipped mugs full of steaming hot caf. She took the offered mug without a word and dumped four spoonfuls of sweetner in it. Poison wasn't really Bane's thing so she felt quite safe accepting food from him. And if it was drugged, she fully intended to take his head off.
The sides of her cup were painfully hot, she forced her half-frozen fingers to curl around the cup. Between the deliciously hot air that was coming out the ventilation grills and the tingles of heat in her throat and stomach from the caf, Ventress was beginning to feel quite warm again. She leaned forward over the table. "You were interested in information. On Dooku?"
"Yes. My information is"—he looked down at his mug, swirling the dregs before he drained them—"out of date."
"So why ask me?"
"Out of that lot in there, you were the only one smart enough to walk away. That tells me you've had dealings with the bounty before; you know how dangerous he is."
It was almost a compliment. Ventress felt a spark of warmth in her heart that had nothing to do with the ambient temperature. "Before I tell you anything, I want an advance."
He tossed a golden credit bar across the table. She inspected it, finding it genuine enough. "And a lift back to my ship when we're finished," she continued.
"Good," Ventress purred. "Now let's talk."