2010.11.21 "It's a matter of principle."

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"It's a matter of principle."

He keeps saying that, while looking at me with those sad, bloodshot eyes. He's clearly trying to amuse himself at my expense with all this double-entendre crap. "What principle, exactly, is involved in being stupid?" I splay my foam-tipped talons at the armoured window separating us as beseechingly as is possible given than my face is only made to express rage or constipation.

"The rule says that edged weapons aren't permitted in this area. Your talons are edged weapons. They had to do something. Clearly."

I run my tongue over one fang. "If I flick off one of these ad-hoc talon-tipper foamies, they're going to rush in here all pissed off, aren't they."

"It's possible. Or it's possible that they'd let it go - what harm can you actually cause? That you couldn't just as easily do with one of your longer spines, I mean. They were just covering their asses procedurally-speaking with those foam thingies." The jowls on the old Hylosus make it very hard for me to tell what he might be emoting, but it all comes across as patient condescension. Except sprinkled with charm, such that I kind of enjoy his snark.

"I suppose that's fair. But there's still the idiotic interview they subjected me to before permitting me to visit you. In an observation room they had this Trop ask me if perhaps I was actually the one responsible for the carnage at that pub."

The bags under the bags under his eyes tense for a moment. "Ah. Idiotic because there's no way you'd answer 'yes', but more because the array of soft second-rate combatants working at this prison wouldn't have been able to stop you." His tongue dabs his lip. "You know that they record your involuntary physical responses for review with mathematicians, right? They could ask you what kind of breakfast cereal you prefer and get loads of useful information out of you."

A wide, honest grin tries to emerge; it probably looks horrific on me. "That's actually kind of funny to imagine. I probably shouldn't linger."

"No, I suppose not. It was foolish of you to come anyway."

"Probably even more foolish than you suspect." I can't repress a shiver that makes my spines quiver. "But there's a couple things I just wanted to clarify."

The big Hylosus leans back and almost achieves at beatific expression despite his bloodshot eyes and well-furrowed snout. "This should be good."

I have the distinct impression that I'm going to disappoint him. "I get your reasoning for blowing the deal with the slave trader. Slaves that aren't in that position as part of a contractual agreement are an ugly moral problem for some people - fine." He gives a hint of a shrug. "But I'm troubled by how certain you were that I was capable of what needed to be done."

NOW the Hylosus is radiant with smugness. "Ah."

So helpful. Fine. I'll admit more. "I know that I can't conceal how much tougher I am generally than I try to seem. That's really no big deal, nor really all that uncommon. But I am careful to never use any weapon other than my rifle, at all. How does that translate into being able to fight a towering Groten bare-handed?"

Oh, zark. That knowing grin and wink makes me want to claw through the armoured window and tear his face off.

"You aren't careful enough about how you look at others."

I just stare at him as blankly as possible, strangling my inner demons to maintain a calm demeanour.

He spreads his hoof-tipped fingers in a common gesture of supplication. "You didn't give away that you are an assassin, I'll credit you with that. But you obviously knew too much what to look for when you watched our flattened Felinid companion whenever he engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Even his most surprising displays of specific skill failed to impress you."

A snort blasts out my nostrils. "Huh."

The old Hylosus leans forward conspiratorially. "It's worst than that, too. I caught you noticing some of the more subtle grips and holds I use with my blasters. That, and if one looks carefully at that museum piece of a pistol you carry they can see how very very consistently it has been held over the years. That's another piece to the puzzle."

I see him watching my expression. I wonder what he sees?

"You're suitably impressive as you present yourself for hire, and for the observant you probably seem seasoned trying to look professional. Probably dismissed as trying to keep a healthy margin of advantage, which is understandable in our sort of work. But the clues I noticed point you to being seasoned in multiple reams. Hell, if you weren't so paranoid and your skills weren't so perpendicular, you'd probably be legendary."

My bright red little eyes hold his. "We'll both live longer, happier lives if my legend stays secret, old pig."

I turn and leave, stalking straight out the door for the prison's visitor center. One of my peripheral sensors catch him giving me a solemn nod as I disappear.