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Negotiations

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‘Here’s the thing, Solo.’ Tempo Jasteen sat back in his chair in the back room of the dingy cantina, spreading his hands. ‘I’d love to help you, I really would. But it’s tough, what you’re asking for.’

Han took a long swig of his beer. ‘Yeah, you seem real eager.’

‘It’s tough stuff,’ Tempo repeated. ‘On the one hand, you’re an old friend. You know I’d do anything to help out a friend.’

‘You’ve tried to have me arrested twice,’ Han reminded him. ‘Only didn’t work ’cause I’m smarter than you.’

‘On the other hand,’ Tempo continued, as though he hadn’t heard him, ‘I’m a businessman. Gotta make sure that this—’ He rapped his knuckles hard against the table, ‘—is good business. I’ve got instincts, and I’ve gotta follow them.’

Han snorted. ‘If you’re a businessman, I’m High King of Hargeeva.’

‘Han.’ Leia, who up until that point had largely been listening to the conversation in silence, leaned forward, her hands wrapped around her glass. ‘I’m sure this fine gentleman is going to do his very best to help us.’

Han’s old acquaintance gave Leia an appraising look and then shot Han a grin. ‘This is how it’s gonna be, then, Solo? What, is she the good cop?’

‘Not exactly.’ Han downed the rest of the beer and set the glass back on the table with a dull thud. ‘Look, Tempo, we’re offering you a fair price here.’

‘Well, sorry, but the exchange rate is what it is,’ Tempo said. ‘My hands are tied.’

‘“Exchange rate”?’ Han echoed. ‘Don’t you just make this up as you go along?’

‘See, this is why I’m the businessman and you’re not. I understand all this stuff.’

‘You’re not—’ Han broke off abruptly, figuring it wasn’t worth arguing the point. ‘Come on. Tempo. Buddy. We’re trying to rebuild the government. You don’t wanna do your bit?’

‘Never thought I’d hear you talking like that,’ Tempo said. ‘Time was, you wanted no part in the rebellion.’

‘Well, I changed my mind, and it ain’t a rebellion anymore.’

‘Reckon you’ve won, do you?’ Tempo asked, somewhat nastily.

‘Palpatine’s dead,’ Han replied, leaning back in his chair and listing on his fingers. ‘We retook Coruscant. Most of the Grand Moffs have given it up at this point, and more and more worlds are keen to join the New Republic. Yeah, I reckon we’ve won. Why, you know something I don’t?’

‘Outer Rim’s still wary,’ Tempo said. ‘One government’s much like the last, as far as they’re concerned. They wanted no part of the Empire and they’ll want no part of your New Republic. Empire kept trying to get ’em in line ’cause they wanted control, but you, you bunch of do-gooders, you just can’t stand the idea that you’re leaving anyone out. Not really galaxy-wide peace if none of these backwater planets get to share in it, is it?’

Han shrugged. ‘We’ll win ’em over.’

‘Not without money, you won’t. And since the Outer Rim doesn’t recognize whatever credits you’re using in the Core right now, that brings us back to why we’re here, doesn’t it?’ Tempo dug into his pocket, pulling out a small handful of the nova crystals Han and Leia hoped to buy from him.

‘Not every world is primarily concerned with money, you know,’ Leia said.

‘Sure they’re not, darlin’.’ Tempo looked at Han. ‘Got a lot to learn, this girl.’

Han’s eyes narrowed. ‘Pay attention and you might learn a thing or two from her.’

‘Doubt it.’ Tempo laughed. ‘Listen to you. Something in the water on Coruscant, eh?’

‘The Empire might not have brought every planet under its control,’ Leia said, swilling her drink around her glass, ‘but it instilled fear in all of them. And the ones that did fall into the Empire’s hands were subjugated, exploited. Used as pawns and treated as collateral in other bids for power. Even worlds that remained outside Imperial control suffered for that. You may find that the Outer Rim sees us as more of a distinct alternative than you’re imagining. When your last government made you expendable, one that assures you that you’re welcome and valued can be very appealing.’

‘What—who is this?’ Tempo demanded, gesturing at her. ‘I don’t need this naïve claptrap. Solo, when I arrange a business meeting, I expect to meet with the person I’m doing business with, not that person and whoever they’re shagging.’

Leia raised her eyebrows and turned to Han. ‘Well? You heard the man.’

‘I did.’ Han stood, resting a hand on the back of Leia’s chair. ‘I’ll order another beer and wait over there.’

‘Wait, wait.’ Tempo pointed between them. ‘What are you—what’s happening here?’

‘Well, like you said—’ Han gestured at Leia, ‘—you wanna talk to her one-on-one.’

‘I want to talk to you one-on-one!’

‘No,’ Han said slowly, as though Tempo were extremely stupid. ‘You want to talk to the person you’re doing business with. That’s her, not me. I just set up the meeting.’

‘It’s—her, not you?’

‘That’s right.’

‘But—she doesn’t even want the crystals!’ Tempo exclaimed. ‘What was it—“not every world is concerned with money”?’

‘Not primarily concerned was what I said,’ Leia corrected, ‘and I’m certainly not so, ah… naïve that I don’t think having something that passes for currency in the Outer Rim will come in useful.’

Tempo looked up at Han. ‘I feel I’ve been a little misled, Solo.’

‘Not sure why,’ Han said, shrugging. ‘I said there’d be two of us.’

‘Yeah,’ Tempo said, agitated, ‘but I obviously assumed it would be you I’d be striking a deal with!’

‘Why would you assume that?’ Leia asked, brow furrowing. ‘Han’s got an important place in the New Republic, but it’s military.’

‘Yeah,’ Han said. ‘I would’ve thought you’d’ve guessed I’d be bringing along a politician for something like this.’

‘You could’ve told me!’

‘It’s hardly Han’s fault if your instincts failed you on this occasion, now, is it?’ Leia asked pleasantly.

‘Now, that’s out of line.’ Tempo jabbed a finger at her. ‘That’s out of line, and I’m not going to sit here and be insulted. I’m thinking about upping my price.’

‘I’m sure there’s no need for that,’ Leia said.

‘And of course,’ he continued, looking up at Han, ‘I was already keeping it low ’cause you’re a friend, Solo. I don’t know her.’

‘Well, I’ll leave like you asked, shall I,’ Han suggested, taking his hand off the back of Leia’s chair, ‘and you and her can have a conversation.’

‘You know, I’m not sure I like what’s going on here,’ Tempo said.

‘What do you think is going on here?’ Leia asked. ‘I’m just a naïve girl with a lot to learn, aren’t I? I’d have thought you’d relish the chance to do business with someone like that.’

‘Yeah, Tempo,’ Han said. ‘You’re saying you don’t see this as a good business opportunity?’

Tempo looked from Leia to Han and back again, his expression stormy. ‘I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t like it, and I’m not about to be hoodwinked. Pay me the price I named and you might still get a deal out of this.’

Han sighed. ‘Well, we’re not willing to pay that, but worth trying, anyway,’ He touched Leia’s shoulder and she turned to look up at him. ‘Guess we can go and get lunch somewhere before we head to Cotellier, then.’

‘I guess we can,’ Leia said brightly. ‘Nice to meet you, Mr. Jasteen.’

Tempo frowned. ‘Wait, you’re going to Cotellier?’

Leia did an affected double take. ‘Well, yes, of course. Nova crystals are their primary industry.’

‘You know, no one on that rock’s gonna give you as good a deal as I’ve offered you.’

‘Oh, no,’ she said. ‘I’m afraid that’s where you’re wrong. We’re in the final stages of making a very good deal with the planetary government.’

‘Bantha shit,’ Tempo spat. ‘No one can make a deal with them.’

‘No one in the Empire could,’ Han corrected, ‘but they never had Leia Organa.’

‘I—hold on.’ Tempo’s eyes went very wide. ‘You’re Leia Organa?’

She smiled. ‘Nice to meet you.’

‘I don’t believe you.’ He shook his head. ‘They said you were shacked up with a princess, Solo, but I don’t believe it for one second.’

‘Believe it,’ Han said. ‘You oughtta pay more attention to what’s happening in the Core, Tempo. Leia’s pretty much in charge of reaching out to disaffected planets.’ He threw her a look of pride. ‘She’s good at it.’

‘Yes,’ Tempo said. ‘Yes, I’ve heard.’ He hesitated for a moment and then cleared his throat. ‘So, uh, so out of curiosity, what’re you offering Cotellier?’

Leia folded her hands together on the table. ‘Government-regulated trade of nova crystals.’

‘They’ll never go for that,’ Tempo shot back. ‘They don’t trust the government.’

‘They didn’t trust a government that was trying to bleed them dry,’ she said, ‘but they’re very interested in a government that will guarantee greater security along their main trading route and introduce regulations that prevent just anyone helping themselves and selling the crystals on without a fair cut for those working hard to produce them.’

Tempo turned very red. ‘Ah.’ He scratched at the back of his head. ‘So then if you’ve got this great deal ready to go, what do you need me for?’

‘Because we’re not quite there yet, though we will be, and we have other Outer Rim planets we’d like to start talking to,’ she explained.

‘But you’re right,’ Han put in. ‘That could wait, couldn’t it, Leia?’

‘It probably could,’ Leia agreed. ‘If we can’t reach an agreement, it might have to.’

‘Still, I thought it was fair to warn you your business is probably about to fold,’ Han said. ‘You know, since you’re an old friend.’

‘Because Cotellier want unlawfully acquired stocks of nova crystals returned to them,’ Leia explained, ‘so it may be that Han pays you another visit once the deal’s been agreed. This conversation gives you a head start, of course, but he’s very good at what he does, too. I expect he’ll find you sooner or later.’

‘Or,’ Han said, squeezing her shoulder in acknowledgment of the compliment, ‘you could sell to Leia now at a fair price, and she can return them on your behalf, and maybe later down the line you can set yourself up as a legitimate seller.’

‘I—this is—’ Tempo looked from one to the other, outraged. ‘This is an ambush!’

‘Nah,’ Han said. ‘It’s business.’

Tempo looked murderous for a moment and then hitched a smile onto his face. ‘Hold on. Hold on. I’m having a bit of a think here.’

Han raised his eyebrows. ‘Are you, now?’

‘Yes. What if I cut the price even more, eh? What if I gave you them for even less than what you’re asking? Reckon we could figure something out?’

‘That’s generous of you, Mr. Jasteen,’ Leia said. ‘What do you have in mind?’

‘You’ve got sway over there, right?’ he asked. ‘I mean, clearly you’ve got sway. You could put in a good word for me, couldn’t you?’

‘We could,’ she agreed. ‘Whether we will depends, of course, on how low you’re willing to drop your price.’

***

‘Rather nice of him to give us the crystals for free, wasn’t it?’ Leia asked Han as they walked hand-in-hand from the cantina twenty minutes later.

‘That was sly, Princess,’ Han said admiringly. ‘I thought we agreed if we could get him down to half the price we’d take the deal?’

‘Well, he was very accommodating,’ Leia replied, breezy. ‘I’m a very satisfied customer. Lunch?’

‘Yes,’ said Han.