On the outside, Ari was a portrait of steadfast confidence. Every word and gesture and expression carried the message that what was happening was fine, that there was a reasonable explanation that she and the Republic soldiers would find together. That neither Talon nor herself was an enemy, and once they could all speak they would fix things. There was some concern, some worry, for obviously something had gone terribly wrong – but that it was something they all could sort out together.
On the inside, her thoughts and emotions raged. Mostly especially, a sense of dread was winding tendrils across her mind.
Talon's behavior had been growing increasingly worrisome. Using secret Force powers so she and Kell could defeat Lori and her partner in a casual game. Bringing Kell on board as a "temporary" cremate, without discussion and knowing her allies' concerns and distrust. The absolute dismissal of any reservations they had. Accepting a contract without the usual consultation with the crew. And now, the inexplicable decision to attack people who had been nothing cooperative and helpful… because she wanted to take some random Sith's lightsaber?
The Chiss' logic was sometimes maddening… but it had always been logic. Even if the manner of thinking was sometimes foreign to Ari, it was at least consistent and pragmatic. Stay neutral so they don't get caught in crosshairs and were free to take contracts as they pleased. Avoid letting any particular side know if they'd taken a job against their interests. Weigh pros and cons, consider risks, and then act appropriately.
Ari had arrived on the scene to find Talon unconscious and badly wounded, receiving first aid from the soldiers who were shackling her. The situation had somehow deteriorated to the point that even Ari's prior rapport with Malcolm wasn't enough to get him to bend. She hadn't even been allowed to check on her friend, and was being kept separated from her as they returned to the city. Although… was that even still her friend, Ari wondered? The Chiss had stopped listening to her, consulting her, or even seeming to care what she felt. She still sought out Lori at times, yes – but she displayed no care for Lori's discomfort and distrust of her brother. Impulse and desire had become driving forces. And now this. Sudden and inexplicable violence, when the odds were entirely against her, against all logic.
Ari didn't understand why Talon had begun behaving this way. And worse, she didn't know how to coax her captain back onto a saner and more cooperative path.
As the transport sped along the road, Ari's sense of dread grew. She wanted nothing more than to sink into her seat, close her eyes… cringe, maybe cry, at least take deep and ragged breaths while letting her heart race. At the stress of the situation, at the deteriorating relationship and trust with Talon, at being taken against her will. Or perhaps some righteous indignation at being taken into custody and having been obligated to allow her items to be taken and her hands to be bound.
That wouldn't help anything. It wouldn't get Talon and the Jackdaw and herself out of this. So she kept her back straight, her breathing slow and steady, her expression one of collected confidence and trust. No one else was going to show up and fix things. At best, the rest of the crew would attack Havoc Squad and free them by force – and that was something that Ari could not allow.
She’d do what she needed, to get herself and Talon free of this. It wasn’t even only about the two of them – she’d leverated Mason’s name to get the meeting with Malcom, after all. She needed to clear their names to avoid tarnishing his reputation as well. It was all doable…
Ari closed her eyes and took a slow breath in and out. Everyone knew the Sith could play with emotions, she could tug on that – Talon had defeated the Sith alone, clearly before the enemy fell, they had managed to do something to the Chiss’ mind. If necessary, she could pull in Satele and the Jedi, offer to go with Republic forces to escort Talon there in order to “cleanse” her mind of the Sith influence which had obviously impacted her. Mason was not going to happy when he heard about this, but she could calm him down. After all, Ari HADN’T played the Republic here, and had been acting in good faith, Lori had even managed to actually defeat the base during their ruse to do so… and she’d had zero influence on what Talon had done. All she needed to do was step into his arms, bury her face in his chest, and let him glimpse the distraught emotions that genuinely were troubling the engineer. She could deal with his “I told so” and “you should have let me help”, she could let him have those.
After that, though, Ari thought about what she should do. She knew what she wanted. She could even hear herself talking to Lori, saying it.
“I’m going with Mason and the others, to Balmorra. I’ll see you there if the Jackdaw takes the contract, but I’m going now. If I can, I’ll find your brother…”