In spoilers, by chapter. This is ALL of Fire and Glory II...all of it we finished, anyway. We're through with it, for now, anyway.
Chapter Six: [spoiler]Caton Brower never heard the steps behind him, never expected to be lifted from his chair and thrown to the floor.
“What did you do to her?”
“I’m assuming you refer to the Kiffar. You’ll have to be more specific.”
“She’s not healing. And you did something. What did you do?”
“My, not only are you helping her, but you’re helping her at an employer’s expense.”
Brower was lifted from the floor and face-to-face with the helmeted intruder.
“Tell. Me. Now.”
“Fine. I found a chemical that reacts with her blood to stop healing and it reacts violently to bacta. A marvelous find, no? What are you charging for this venture?”
“Only the cost of the clip I fire into your sorry skull.”
“You said you promised not to kill me. You don’t even realize what that alien means to you, do you?”
“I don’t keep my promises. How would I fix this problem, and feel free to put up a fight.”
“Then why make them? I never bothered finding a cure. I never needed it.” Even like this the man radiated smugness and pride.
“I ought to shoot that smile off your face.”
“But you aren’t, which makes me doubt your ability to do so. Besides, think about it, just how willing will the Empire be to hire you as soon as my reports get to Imperial Center?”
“Those reports won’t get there.” Fett dropped the corpulent captain and squeezed off a shot into his foot.
The man gasped in pain as the plasma pierced his foot. He narrowed his eyes, “Oh, they will.”
“Vader won’t listen. My reputation precedes me. He knows that if I shot someone for a display of stupidity, that person deserved it.”
“Maybe, but does he know you grow remarkably attached to a prisoner you’re sent to deal with?”
“I wasn’t sent to deal with her. I happened to be on the ship at the time. And if you recall, you let me have her. And if you’ll recall, you won’t tell anyone anyway. Unless you want more of your limbs singed.”
“I never would have guessed you’d enjoy her company that much.”
“Not as much as you would have have.”
“Now that I doubt.”
“Oh, I bet. Do you want your other foot shot off?”
“Not really. Are we done here?”
“That depends.” He turned his back on the captain.
“On? I really don’t have a cure.”
“On whether I want to waste more rounds on you.”
“I could always raise the alarm, you know.”
“You wouldn’t get close enough to the alarm.”
“Is she really worth all this?”
“Are you worth my time? No.” The bounty hunter walked away.
* * * * * * *
Shushai had just noticed the misformed eagle emblem on the other woman’s shoulder plate. But at that time she had been coaxed into a freighter and whisked away to somewhere unknown.
“W-where are we going?”
“Safety, my friend...safety. Why so nervous?”
“W-we were on Mandalore...where are we going?”
“That, my dear, is on a need to know basis.”
“And who are you?”
“What makes you say that?”
“Does your name describe you?” Her tone was humorous.
“I rest my case then. Trust me now?”
“Good. I think you’ll do fine.”
She glanced nervously around the ship. Besides Jahaatir, nothing else was transpiring. All the animosity had disappeared. She nearly wished that Kom’rk was there, but had stopped herself.
She didn’t know where she was, with a person she didn’t trust.
* * * * * * *
Kom’rk opened his eyes, and raised his head.
“Where am I?”
“The kitchen table. The same place we’ve been.” She looked down at him. “Welcome back to the land of the living.” She almost smiled.
“Frak you. So you just sat there while I slept? How long was I out?”
“In response to your three statements: No, thank you. Yes, I don’t have much of a choice. And about three hours.”
“Interesting. So, you’re just going to sit there until your ankle heals, or what?”
“Well I wasn’t going to leave you here. You’d probably get into some trouble.”
“I’d get into trouble?” He smirked.
“Yes. Frankly, I blame this whole ordeal on you when I’m in anything near a good mood.”
“What do you do if you’re in a bad mood?”
“I deal with the fact I brought all this on myself.” She was blunt and unfeeling with her words.
“You did not. But let’s not argue again. I’ve had enough disagreements for one day.”
“Fine. But I think I’m going to go crazy doing nothing.
“I could always get you some crutches.”
“I still couldn’t do anything. My definition of nothing must be different than yours.”
“Obviously. What time is it, anyway? About lunch time?”
“Yeah, around eleven hundred.”
“Do you want some food? Shushai said I was a good cook. Well, she always insisted on cooking most of the food, though.”
“I already ate actually. I’m not totally immobile you know.”
“When did you eat?”
“An hour ago.”
“What did you eat?”
“Some bread and a few vegetables. I’m still trying to get used to eating again.”
“Sometimes I wonder...”
“How you do the things you do...”
“Like acquiring food without getting up. How would you do that?”
“Easy, I got up.”
“Well, my brain formed an impulse, and then it traveled down my nervous system... Get the idea?”
“You limped over and got yourself some food, when you could have had me do it. Okay. That’s fine.”
“I’m not helpless, nor will I ever be.”
“I’d point to the ankle, but we’d be arguing again. So I’ll just do this.” He grabbed her hand and squeezed it.
“Would you stop that? It hurts.” She pulled her hand back.
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
“Thank you. So, now what?”
“I don’t know. I’ll keep sitting here.” He smiled at her.
“Then what?” She ran her hand through his hair again.
“And then I don’t know. I either start those bounties, or we go after Shushai.”
She considered for a moment. “Where’s your heart at in all this?”
“I don’t know. Part of me wants Shushai back, but the rest of me just wants you and I, here and now.”
“Then you have a choice to make, don’t you.”
“Depends on how easy the choice is. If it’s as easy as staying here, I can make that choice.” # He paused, and gazed deeply into her eyes. “I think I made that choice already. I made it a long time ago.”
“So what are you going to do?”
He placed his hand lightly on hers, and, with his other hand, stroked her hair.
“I think I’ll just sit here for awhile.”
“That’s not getting much done.” She closed her eyes.
“But that’s okay. I’m feeling lazy anyway. Fett can wait.”
“I’m worried about what Brower will do when he finds out I’m free.”
“Lug his fat shebs over here and get killed, probably.”
“It would be nice. But he’s too much a coward to try that.”
“I’ll shoot him in the knees, you can blow out his cerebrum. But agreed, he’s probably scared of Fett. Of course, so am I...”
“I think he may be scared of himself sometimes.”
“You can’t tell. He’s a master of anonymity underneath that helmet.” He paused, hesitating to breach the subject. “How did he treat you on Slave I, if I may ask?”
“Not even you could be as annoying as that man. He may look silent, but he isn’t.”
“So he didn’t mistreat you?”
“Aside from dumping me in a cell and subjecting me to his boring conversations, not really.”
“Ah. So he was bluffing.” Suddenly his mind was overwhelmed by an intense wave of thought. He gasped and curled instinctively into a fetal position. But as quickly as it had started, it had ended.
“Kom’rk? Are you okay?” Aaray had no idea what she would have done if he wasn’t, but she asked anyway.
“...Y-y-yeah. I-I’m fine. Wow. Ow. That hurt. It felt like my entire head just expanded. And was filled with so many different thoughts that my brain couldn’t process them. And then it chilled, then disappeared. Wow.”He panted heavily. All of his body processes had stopped in that moment: his heart, his breathing, his nerve impulses besides those flooding his brain.
She moved over towards him, putting one hand on his shoulder and using the other to lift his face so she could see him. “What happened?” Her voice was calm but her face showed her worry.
“I think it was Shushai. I remember an impression of care. Like she suddenly cared about me again. But I don’t remember too much. I think she sent a burst of Force energy into my brain. At least, that’s my theory.”
“I didn’t think the two of you were that strong.”
“She’s tenacious, I give her that. But she’s not as skilled as I am with the Force manipulation, so I think she just said “Frak it” and sent everything she had.” # He placed his opposite hand on hers which rested on her shoulder. “But I’m fine. I just hope she doesn’t do it again.”
“Would that even be physically possible for her?”
“I guess so, theoretically.”
“In theory every theory should be correct in practice. In practice not every theory is correct.” The back of her head started to buzz as she got close to him, like someone whispering in another language barely within earshot.
He suddenly felt...peculiar. The Force only amplified the sensation, like the interference when two unshielded comlinks got within close range of each other.
“You’ve confused me.”
“And how did I do that?” The feelings became a bit clearer as she touched her forehead to his, but the other thoughts still felt alien.
He decided to test this theory by sending a clear thought: safety in his arms.
“Yes, I can feel that.”
“Try sending me something. Just humor me.”
“I’d rather not end up a vegetable because you wanted to mess with my mind, thanks. I’m not human, my brain is different.”
“I like vegetables, though...”
“I wouldn’t like being one.”
“Well, I know you wouldn’t want to, but...eh, you’re right. So, now what? Wait, that’s your line.”
“You tell me.”
He leaned back. “I have no idea. Maybe we should get to work on Brower’s location. You said you’d come with me, so I guess I can call Fett and we can work out the first bounty.”
“Is that a positive?”
“Maybe.” Playfulness crept into her eyes and voice.
“Sometimes...” He slapped his palm to his forehead slowly. “Shall we?”
She rolled her eyes, “You don’t take a hint well.” She pulled him towards her and kissed him quickly before letting him go.
His eyes widened when she kissed him; he blinked madly, trying to process the situation. Then, it was over, and he stared at her.
“I can still surprise you then.”
“You can. Wow.”
“Good.” She ran her hand over his jaw.
“I think we’re getting distracted again...but I really don’t mind.” He smiled, a rare thing lately. He was glad it was for a good reason.
She put her forehead to his again, “I’m glad.”
He brought a hand up and ran a finger through her hair. He was thankful that he had someone, finally. After all the years of intentionally waiting and stalling, he had found her.
“You said you wanted ‘you and I, here and now’, how’s this?”
“I think it’s exactly what I wanted.”
“Then let’s make it last.” She kissed him again. It was meant to be short, but as she pulled away something stopped her. He put his hands on her waist and pulled her against him again. She didn’t fight.
He was going to be, for once in his life, selfish. He was going to think only of himself. He kept her against him.
She was content to be nothing to anyone but him right now. She ignored her past and didn’t dwell on the future, she let herself live without worrying for just these few fleeting moments.
The bliss of another, this time unreserved, embrace filled him. Shushai was momentarily forgotten--he figured that if she was safe, she wouldn’t care enough to do anything about it.
Their feelings seeped through each other's minds like poison. Nothing outside mattered. Their emotions led them.
* * * * * * *[/spoiler]
Chapter Seven: [spoiler]
“Dos, fire up the ship. I’ve got a comm call to make.” He set Aaray down in the copilot’s chair. He walked out of the cockpit and into the living area of the ship.
After a long time of calling and waiting, he finally heard the bounty hunter clear his throat.
“So, Parjai’Kote, you finally remembered me.”
“Hard to forget someone with such an ego.”
“Why are you calling me?”
“What’s that first bounty? I’m ready to go.”
“Hmm...let me see...ah, here we go. I need you to go to Imperial Center. A Moff there is troubling one of my ‘benefactors’. I need you to kill him. Then I’ll give you the first coordinate.”
“You’ll tell me more once I’m on Imperial Center?”
“I will. Fett, out.”
Kom’rk walked back into the cockpit. He noticed R5-K5 toodle in and settle down next to Aaray.
“He likes you.”
She rubbed the little droid’s dome, “I like you too, buddy.”
The droid toddled on his bipedal appendages and whistled contentedly.
“So we’re going to Imperial Center, R5, if you can get us there...”
“Who are we looking for?”
“Apparently a Moff. He’ll tell me more when we get there.”
“Ever get a feeling like you’re walking into a trap?”
“I always do.” He leaned on the pilot’s chair.
“I have that feeling right now. He might be trying to kill you.”
“Fett wouldn’t have been so cordial.”
“I don’t know. It scares me a little.”
“Don’t worry. It’s an assassination mission. And Fett signed up for it, so he was able to do it.”
“You’re not him. Furthermore, you don’t even know he signed up for it, he may have just sent you.”
“Sure, sure. It’ll be fine.”
“Another ‘situational meditation’?”
“Yes. That’s what it is.”
“I don’t trust the Force. It seems fickle. And dangerous.”
“I don’t either. But it’s somewhat reliable.”
“It’ll tell me things sometimes that help me. But I think that’s related to my family.”
“What did it tell you about me?”
“It gave me several...suggestions...about how to play my cards during our first meeting.”
“What did it say about yesterday?”
“Strangely, it didn’t say anything.”
“Well that’s almost disappointing.”
“Indeed. Dos, if you would put us into hyperspace and then help R5 monitor the engines. I trust you two.”
--”Thank the Maker. You organic lifeforms are so dreadfully boring.”--
Kom’rk turned to Aaray. “If you can’t tell, he picked up the sarcasm from me.”
“Never would have guessed.”
“Good. So we’ve got some time to relax...”
“That’s all we’ve been doing.”
“Well, there’s more time...”
Aaray groaned, “Yay.”
“You sound like you don’t enjoy it...”
“I dislike doing nothing.”
“Whatever. We’ve got about four hours...”
“So what are we going to do?”
“I have no idea. I guess talk.”
“Let’s do something less boring.”
“Like what? Jettisoning trash manually from the airlock? I’ve always needed to do that...”
“Yeah, you can do it. It’s easy, just make sure you hold on tight...”
“Yeah, you can do that. I think I’ll stay here.”
“You sure? I could just do it automatically. But things get stuck in there. I’ll do that.”He stood up straight and walked out. Several minutes later, he ambled back inside.
“So, uh, about yesterday...”
“What about it?”He took his place, leaning on the pilot’s chair.
“I- I...” She struggled to find the words she was looking for.
“I remember there being you...and me...and...yeah. That was it. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, it’s just... I guess I’m having trouble believing I did something like that.”
“Oh. Oh. Oh...yeah...me too...”
The ship lapsed into an awkward silence.
“We should do it again sometime...”He chuckled.
“We do have some time.”
* * * * * * *
Caton Brower lay in the medcenter bed, his foot bandaged still from the wound Fett had given him. He had had a hard time, but he had explained away the injury as a weapon discharge.
He would kill Fett for this whole predicament. He knew he would.
This stay on Yavin IV was the worst assignment he had undertaken, overshadowing the debacle on Undaunted. He wasn’t concerned about the two young Mandalorians, they surely wouldn’t come after him. They didn’t know where he was...but that scumbag Fett knew. He needed to be shipped off of Yavin IV.
He would dwell on that thought.
* * * * * * *
The medical droid’s processors could scarcely keep up with the tirade of whistles and beeps radiating from the astromech, entirely unlike a drunken Weequay.
--”Yes, yes, R5, yes. Now please, listen to me. I know you appreciate Master Kom’rk’s new...acquisition, but if you will bear with me for about sixty seconds...yes, yes, I know you’re counting. Now just please. Listen.”--
Dos swiveled around to look at the astromech.
--”I am not fond of this ‘Aaray’. I am of the opinion that she should be liquidated immediately. But Master Kom’rk has taken a...liking...to her, and I will not harm her. Yet. Although recent behavior from the two of them indicate a more tight-knit synchronization.”--
Another furious wave of high-pitched sounds bombarded his audial circuits yet again.
--”I know what you mean. Why, yes, I saw that, R5. It was quite interesting. Shall we continue about the job Master Kom’rk sent us down here to accomplish?”--
* * * * * * *
The trip hasn’t been very long...
Jahaatir walked out of the cockpit.
“Welcome to our stop, Shushai. Concordia.”
“Concordia...wait. You-you’re Death Watch?”
“You say that like you’ve been brainwashed to believe we’re evil. Well, the galaxy is, so don’t feel too bad.”
“Why would you bring me here?”
“To show you the truth, why else? We don’t actually eat people, in case you had heard that.”
“Why would I want to know the truth? How do you know I don’t know the truth already? And we don’t hate you all, in case you heard that.” She remained seated, even as the boarding ramp lowered. She remained seated, even as Jahaartir shook her head.
“You coming, girl?”
Shushai shook her head and crossed her arms.
“And why not?”
“I know it sounds childish, but I don’t feel like descending into that cesspit.”
“Listen, if you want a new start at a life where your past doesn’t matter, we can give it to you. Or you could go back to your brother.” Her voice lost its emotion and tone on her final sentence.
“If you’re willing to take me there or provide transport, I will. I’m not sure my dislike for my brother constitutes me blending in with a society I don’t condone. I’m sorry, were those words too big for you, Kyr'tsad di’kut?”
“You’re feisty, aren’t you. What about us don’t you approve of? The fact we don’t always act with an out-dated, overly-flexible ‘code of honor’ you have brain-washed into you?”
“No. I just don’t approve of an overly militaristic, often terrorist organization as an effective modus operandi,” she confidently replied, firing on all cylinders. If there was one thing Kom’rk taught her, it was excessive use of jargon in a practical application.
“Well I’m not taking you back, so either you learn to get along with all these ‘uneducated terrorists’, or go crawling back to someone you hate who might not even be there.”
“I think he’ll be there. If I have to kill you to get off of this rock, I will.”
The older woman laughed, “You think you could kill me? On my homeworld? On my ship? That’s great!”
“Never said I thought I could. It’s a possibility. Tell me how to get off this place and I’ll leave you all alone.”
“You aren’t even going to give us a chance, are you?” Jahaartir sighed, “Well, I guess you can’t win ‘em all. Pity though, I had high hopes for you.”
“I had high hopes for all Mandalorians, and then I met you. Your mother was right when she named you.”
“Oh, ouch. Mom’s been dead years. I don’t claim to represent the Mandos.”
“Are you going to tell me how to get off this place or am I seriously going to have to beat that smirk off your ugly little face?”
“Aww, aren’t you cute. Your dad must be so proud. If you want to get off, get someone else to take you.” She gestured to the surrounding area.
Shushai stood, replaced her helmet, and walked down the ramp, not turning back to look at her ‘savior’.
“If you change your mind, ask anyone for me. They’ll know how to get in touch.”
She smiled at the girl, “You never know.”
* * * * * * *
The chronometer in the cockpit beeped furiously; Kom’rk sat up on the bed and listened to it. He snaked his arm out from behind the shoulders of the Kiffar curled up beside him.
“Frak, we’re here. Hmm...alright. Er...let me get my gear...” He got up and walked into the cockpit to silence the chrono.
“I still have a bad feeling about all this.” Aaray kept her voice down. ‘Not like it matters, he can still hear me think.’
“Yeah, that’s right! I can hear you think!”His voice, singsong, echoed from the cockpit.
“Since I’m not going anywhere, I’m going to sleep.” She let a mocking tone seep into her words.
“Actually...I was neeeeeding you for something,” he chirped ethereally as he walked back into his bedroom.
“You’re overly cheery.”
“I need you to just be my eyes and ears for this. Call it an advisor position, if you will. I still need to comm Fett and ask him what the bantha-loving poodoo I’m doing.”
“I think I’ll use those exact words sometime.”
“Good. You do that. I’ll comm him.”
“Just help me with this. Thirty minutes, in-out, bang.”
“Save any horrible mishaps.”
“Those don’t happen. Only a lack of situational meditation.”[color]
“I’ve seen them happen. I stick to what I can verify. Without dying preferably.”
“True, true. But can you verify the Force?”
“No, which is my point.”
“Comming Fett now!”He made a hushing noise, moved into the corridor, and entered Fett’s number.
“Alright, Fett. I’m at Imperial Center. I’m in atmosphere, and I need you to tell me where the shab I’m going. Because I sure as fierfek am not going to hunt down one little Moff in a sea of millions of beings. If you don’t have an idea of where you’re going, you can go frak yourself.”
“Actually, I know exactly where he is. If I can keep track of one measly Imperial Captain, I can keep track of a Moff. He is currently visiting one of his major consituents at their suite in 500 Republica. This constituent is very influential to the Imperial effort, so, if you wish, assassinate him as well. There may be extra pay in it later. Unfortunately, they are guarded by quite a lot of 500 Republica security guards, with more ready to deploy. Those are the risks. His apartment number is 18346. Good luck with the passcode.”
“Thanks, Fett. Parjai’Kote, out.”
* * * * * * *
Aaray limped into the cockpit, still not one-hundred percent sure of what she was doing here.
The firing of pistons sounded the arrival of the medical droid, the affectionate whistles following after.
“So what are you guys doing?”
--”We figured you two were finished, so we came up to help you. In whatever it is a slimy Kiffar does.”--
A furious tirade of tweedles and beeps bombarded the cynical medical droid.
--”Yes, yes, I know you like her...but I don’t.”--
“Slimy. Hmmm. And what is that supposed to mean?”
--“Well...”-- The droid seemed unwilling to answer. --”Er...a medicinally biological acumen.”--
“Nice choice of words there. Obviously well based in facts too.So what’s wrong with me?”
--”Nothing, besides your...affection for Master Kom’rk.”--
“Why is it you hate my guts, but he has no problem with me?”
--”I am not misguided by emotions. For I am a droid. Master Kom’rk is fallible; apparently very fallible.”--
“I suppose there’s no way to convince you I’m a good person, is there?”
--”No there is not. Unfortunately, R5 has taken a liking to you.”--
“I take it you don’t like that either.”
--”No I don’t. How would you be able to figure that out?”--
“It’s a wild guess. If you were humanoid you’d be fuming right now.”
--”But I’m not, so I cannot comprehend your personality, which would be dreadful if I were to inherit it.”--
She shrugged. “Probably. But for the time being you’re stuck with me, aren’t you?”
--”I am, apparently. Tell me, is it really that dreadful to be humanoid?”--
“It has its ups and downs. Some people have more ups, so it’s worth it to them. Me, I wonder sometimes.”
--”So it is dreadful. Noted. What led you to...fall...for Master Kom’rk? What about him?”--
She thought for a moment, “Circumstance. I guess it’s just one of those cases where you don’t know why something is happening, it just is.”
--”So you don’t care why, you’re just following along?”--
“Not exactly. Love can be hard to explain.”
--”It’s an intangible emotion, so I refuse to learn it.”--
“I don’t think anyone ever learns it, we just live with it.”
--”You voluntarily live with another person, giving away part of yourself to that person?”--
“I suppose so, and that person gives part of its own to you. It’s an interesting situation.”
Kom’rk leaned in the doorway.
“Discussing love with a medical droid? Interesting conversation.”
“It is. He hates me, but won’t tell me exactly why.”
“He hates everyone. You learn to bypass it and not anger him when he has his bone saw.”
“Who made him hate everyone? It’s not something most medical droids do.”
“I have no idea. I inherited him from my father, and then from my grandfather. They were all relatively kind to him, but I have no idea how my grandfather got a hold of him.”
“You never asked?”
“Why would I ask, when I was five years old?”
She held up a finger and turned back to the droid, “Dos, why don’t you like people?”
The glare from the medical droid answered her question.
--”I do not like people because I do not wish to demean myself to such levels as of my former master.”--
“And what did he do to demean himself as such?”
--”Why should I tell you?”--
“I’m a curious person, just humor me.”
--”I’m a droid, it is impossible for me to humor you.”--
“Just answer the question.”
--”He underestimated my services.”--
“So you hate all of the biological life forms in the galaxy, because one man ‘underestimated your services’. Well that’s logical.”
--”Do I look like I espouse logical thought?”--
“As you said yourself, you are a droid.”
--”That does not imply logical thought. And Master Kom’rk, do you not have a mission to accomplish?”--
“Oh, you’re right. Let me get on that. Dos, don’t kill her. I know you would.”
“Your concern is touching.” Sarcasm dripped from her words.
“At least I don’t ditch you after the first kiss.”
“Again, your concern for my well being is most moving.”
He rolled his eyes from underneath the helmet. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. I’m going to go kill people now. Apartment 18346 in 500 Republica.”
“Just come back,” she looked up at him.
She reached up and put her hand on his helmet where his cheek would be, ”Do more than try.”
He ran his hands up her arms and squeezed her shoulders, ”I will.”
* * * * * * *
Chapter Eight: [spoiler]
Aaray watched with a growing sense of dread as the man she loved left the ship. The feeling that some dark shadow was hanging just out of sight was unshakable.
In addition to her concern Dos’s question hung in her mind, why did she feel for this human, what did she feel for him? Her mind wandered over all the moments they had shared- there wasn’t any one thing she could put her finger on, but she knew she didn’t want to leave. She wondered if he could hear her musing.
His voice crackled over the ship-board comm.
--”I’m still able to hear your thoughts. So yes.”--
“Blast you. I said stop.”
He chuckled. --”Fine, I’ll stop. Maybe.”--
“Thank you,” she said dryly.
--”I’m on my way in now. Infiltrating from the roof. If I ever lose comm contact, I’m dead, and you’ll need to get out of there.”--
“And with that cheery thought...”
--”Which I can read, by the way...”--
“But you won’t, because I’d get mad and leave your sorry shebs here...”
--”Dos would kill you. But anyway, I’m on the roof now. Give me several minutes to get in there.”--
* * * * * * *
His boots made contact with the slippery durasteel, which tapered off into the signature precipice of 500 Republica. This was a retreat for the elite of the galaxy, the entire building set up to be a relaxing play ground for over-payed, small-minded beings with too much time on their hands.
The pinnacle of culture and refinement, and here he was, an insignificant, “barbaric” Mandalorian, here to assassinate one of the highest of their troupe.
He shambled toward the maintenance hatch at the summit of the durasteel mountain.
Aware that the whole building was probably equipped with “state-of-the-art” security systems, he trod carefully. He was about ten feet from the hatch now, but the building seemed to shear off extraordinarily as if to deny him entry--but he was determined to get inside.
He was at the hatch. He unclipped the fusion cutter he had brought along just for this occasion, and set to work.
“Care to break the monotony? I’m rather bored, clutching to durasteel to prevent my death...”
--”Then I suppose focus is a bit more important than your wandering mind.”--
“Ah, see, that helped, I’m through one-half of the hatch now.”
--”Good for you. So, how are you going to do this?”--
He gasped as the hatch released and, due to a sudden burst of wind, nearly decapitated him.
“Sorry about that. Honestly, I have no idea.”
He lowered himself into the hole, the disorientation momentarily overtaking him.
“If only you knew...”
--”What do you mean?”--
“It’s surprisingly windy up here, but then it’s also completely silent where I am now. Now, do you happen to have the blueprints? I thought I gave them to you...”
--”No, you didn’t. But R5 is up here, and between the two of us we should be able to find them somewhere.”--
“Alright, that’s fine. Okay...I’ll just worm my way into this ventilation shaft and hope to the Manda there isn’t a fan blade waiting for me somewhere.”
--”Well this is a read out for potential costumers outlining the security features; about one in five random shafts does, and another one has flames cycle through at computer generated intervals...”--
“Frak. Erm...maybe the hallways are a better approach. There are no security features there, are there?”
--”Including guards? Personal and hotel-employed.”--
“Mmkay...I like my odds against living beings, than against cynical flamethrowers.”
--”I’m inclined to agree with you there.”--
“See? We can agree!”
--”Oh, that one was funny.”--
“I can be funn--hold up. I hear movement. Be right back...”
--”We hope so anyway.”--
A wet thwack and a gurgle faintly could be heard, as the solitary guard was quickly incapacitated.
--”Find a way out yet? Where are you?”--
“I’m...er...Level 18500. So if I know anything about numerology...”
--”Go down a turbo lift. Then look by the doors for the numbers.”-- The comm interrupted the monologue.
“I expected that it would work that way. Alright.”
--”Keep going, they’re bound to know something’s up now.”--
--”Can you sense where the guards are?”-- She was curious.
“Roughly. Let me find the nearest turbolift...ah. There’s one here. Noted. Taking it now.”
--”If there are so many limits to what a Jedi can do, why did they last so long?”--
“Good question. My grandfather helped in Order 66, even though my grandmother was a Jedi.”
--“How did that work? I’ve only ever heard rumors. Other than what my mom told me.”--
“The Emperor staged a Jedi revolt, and ordered Vader to march on the Jedi Temple. My grandfather and his squad helped in a facet of that. After that, they deserted, and recovered my grandmother. Meanwhile, all the other clones around the galaxy, except for an exclusive few, killed their Jedi commanders. So it was chaos.”
--”Not all of them died. My mom had friends from Clan Vos, she stays in touch with her family, and last I heard they hadn’t found Quinlan Vos’s body.”--
“Vos was one of the few Jedi that escaped. My grandmother, Kenobi, and some others I can’t think of all survived.”
--”How do you know for sure?”--
“Well, I’m here, so my grandmother survived. Kenobi died on board the Death Star.”
--”It seems to me, if Jedi were all they were supposed to be, the Empire never would have formed.”--
“They weren’t. I’d rather be a Mandalorian then give up my affections and desires. Oh, and I’m here. Do you know the layout of the suites?”
--”Yeah, and I’m glad I wasn’t born on Kiffu either. But yes, I do know the layout.”--
“How is Suite 46 situated in relation to the corridor?”
--”Go to your right.”--
“Hmm. Okay. I’ll need about 25 seconds to get in, and kill this guy.”
--”Give yourself a window of a minute then.”--
“Will do. Alright...let’s focus. Moving.”
The man beside the door was an under-worked CSF reject who liked to believe he was defending the security of the galaxy the moment he woke up. He was an easy kill, one quick slice across the neck.
The lock on the door was more of a challenge then him- a complex lock with a twisted and personally set password.
“Any idea what this combination is?”
--”Of course, I personally know these people and the way their minds work. Why wouldn’t I know the combination?”--
“Whatever. Is there anything you can do?”
She sighed, --”Fine, see if you can send me the memories on the lock, I’ll dig through them. You’ll have to take your glove off though. And this might not work.”--
“If it doesn’t, I’ll blow the door down. Glove’s off, and my hand is on the lock. Now what?”
--”I’ve never done this before, so I’m guessing. I need to feel like it’s me touching the lock. If I can get to that point, through your mind I might be able to get the code. That’s... disturbing. On second thought, just blow it.”--
“That works better, I suppose.”
--”Yeah, that sounds a lot less likely to fry our brains.”--
“Maybe, maybe. Setting the charge now, in case you can hear a sudden explosion.”
He placed the explosive-adhesive on the vital points of the door and shuffled out of the blast radius. It was a small explosion, he noticed. But the door was...somewhat opened, if blancing on one hinge could be considered such, so he entered, blaster drawn.
The panoramic window was what drew his attention, the expanse of Imperial Center opening up to him. Then, the Moff ducked beneath the couch.
“You can’t run from me, you Imperial dog.”
“W-who are you? What are you doing here! Guards!” The man changed from fear to anger as he gathered his thoughts.
Kom’rk raised the blaster, aimed center mass. “Don’t even think about it.” He fired.
--”I’d give you about five minutes to get out.”--
He holstered the blaster and stepped back through the door.
“Get down here, Aaray...I’m on my way.”
--”Where are you headed?”--
“Back the way I came.”
--”I’ll be there.”--
“Alright. Sounds relatively peaceful outside. Give me three minutes.” He ducked around the corner, and reoriented himself. He was almost to the turbolift.
* * * * * * *
Some emotion between boredom and itching for a fight played through her mind. Aaray was sure if this kept up she’d lose her mind. She just wasn’t wired to do nothing. The minutes chose to crawl by as she waited. She glanced at the computer screen on the console, no alarms yet. Now the only thing she could do was wait. ‘Frak.’
--”I’m almost to the hatch. You there yet?”--
“I’ve been here.”
--”Alright, I’m out. Get me out of this cesspit of culture.”--
“You can’t tell you’ve never dreamed of seeing this planet. The capital.”
--“Of all that I despise, yes.”--
The ramp lowered and the solitary Mandalorian jumped on board. He stumbled into the cockpit.
“Well hello there. Frak, it’s windy out there.”
“Welcome back. How did it go?”
“Well, the Moff is dead and I wasted one blaster round. All in all, it’s a success.”
“That is a huge relief to me. So, what’s the city look like in person?”
“I think I prefer the vastness of wilderness to the vastness of civilization. So I hate it. I can’t stand places like this.” He sat down in the copilot’s chair. “So, shall we get off of this rock?”
“There are too many people here, so I’d like to, yeah.”
* * * * * * *
Boba Fett sat up as the alert turned his console red. After a succession of quick taps, he had scanned the update. Captain Caton Brower had been rotated off of Yavin IV for medical reasons. He cursed under his breath. Now it would take time to find him again, he’d have to call the other Mandalorians off too. On top of the fact he still couldn’t help the Kiffar, he’d rather not be the bearer of bad news. It wasn’t that he was scared, but even small enemies could grow and gain power. He tried to keep his enemies at a limit. Most of them he killed.
He dialed in the number of the male Mandalorian, the one who followed the Kiffar.
--”This is he.”--
“I’m terminating our contract. You can keep the girl, the rest is off.”
--”Dare I ask why?”--
“You can. I won’t answer most likely.”
“There’s no deal. Were you stupid enough to miss that?”
--”You’ve lost him, haven’t you? I’m not that stupid. That’s the only reason you’d cut and run.”--
“Or he’s paid me off.” He wasn’t going to admit someone had slipped through his grasp.
--”Point taken. So what do you want me to do now?”--
“Leave me alone. Don’t comm me again, just take the girl and don’t bother me.”
--”That’s fine. Parjai’Kote out.”--
Fett turned the comm off. His mind flicked for a moment to the Kiffar, he just assured that he’d never see her again, which was one less problem he’d have to worry about. But then, why the hesitation?
* * * * * * *
Shushai Parjai’Kote opened the door.
She stepped inside.
“Kom’rk? Where are you?” The emptiness of the house resounded back to her; no one was here. ‘Maybe she was right...’ Doubt began to stream into the girl’s mind. ‘Maybe I should take her up on her offer.’
The door opened again. Acting on instinct, she crouched behind a piece of furniture.
“You know he was bluffing, he lost him.” It was a woman’s voice. It wasn’t human either, judging by the accent on her words.
“Most likely. Okay. So we need to find Brower.”
“How are we supposed to do that? I would love to know.” Shushai now recognized those voices, her brother and his... she snarled, who knew what they were now.
“I have no idea. Fett won’t help us.”
“I could ask him. I could see if he did know.” She didn’t sound fond of the idea, but a burning dedication behind her words, the dedication of one locked in a blood feud with another, overruled that.
Kom’rk stopped suddenly.
“Shushai? Where are you?”
The girl flinched at her name. How was she stupid enough to forget he could feel her presence! She cursed herself and stood.
“Where’d you go? I was worried about you...”
“Apparently not worried enough to care about me! You ran off with this...this alien! Why?”
“Enough already! Really, you know from my point of view you’re aliens, right? And where in the universe do you get off with calling my species ‘near human’?! How do you know you aren’t near Zeltron or something! Honestly, your whole race is stuck up.”
“Stay out of this--”
“Shushai! Stop it!” He placed a hand on her shoulder; she shrugged it off.
“I came back to be with you, Kom’rk, not with her!”
“I know. I know. Let’s just sit down, and talk this through.”
“I refuse. As long as she’s here, you won’t be able to talk to me. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t go back to the Death Watch.”
“The...the Death Watch? You went to the Kyrt’sad? Why? What did I do?”
“You fell in love with this girl.”
Aaray put her hand on the other girl’s arm, “Listen, I don’t know why you’re scared, but you shouldn’t be. I’m not here to hurt anyone, and I don’t mean to. I of all people understand how hard it is to go back to a normal life after something like... that happens. But we can try, right?”
Shushai’s anger vanished. She broke down, the feeble walls she had set up against the two crumbled. She sank down and sat on the couch, bursting into tears.
“It’s going to be okay.” She sat down with her.
She looked up, “Yeah?”
“Let me take care of this. Thanks for your help.”
“Listen, no offense, but you don’t understand this. You couldn’t help. Not like I can.”
“Fine then. I’ll be starting my hunt for Brower...”
“You do that.” She turned back to the girl, “Tell me what happened to you.”
“Where can I start?” Her hair draped in front of her eyes, obscuring the tears.
“Anywhere you want.”
“Well, Kom’rk went off for his bounty, but he told me to stay here. I stayed in the house, but then I decided to make a trip to Keldabe for some supplies. When I was there...” She choked on a tear.
“And then what?”
“Stopped at a vendor, but when I was inside, apparently, people followed me. I come outside to go to the speeder, and they...they jump me. Next thing I know, I’m in a ship, from what I can tell. After that, I blacked out again, and then woke up inside the cell. Then, I met Brower. Frak...the hut’uun...”
“What happened to you on the ship?”
“I don’t...I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You need to. You need to say it at least once, just let the memories go.”
“H-he...he...his official term for it was ‘experimenting’...”
“What did that creep do to you?”
She broke down. “I-I...h-he...he just...you know...” Sobbing, she gazed into the Kiffar’s eyes. “I’m sorry, I just...can’t. He needs to die. The chakaar needs to die.”
“He does. He does.” She hugged the sobbing girl.
“Thank you, Aaray...just...thank you. And I’m sorry...for everything.”
“I understand. It’s going to be okay now.”
“So Kom’rk and you...are..”
Kom’rk walked back into the living room.
“Yeah, yeah. Intervention over, Aar’ika?”
“Don’t call me that. Ever. But yes, I suppose so.”
“You see what I have to deal with, Shu’ika?” His sister’s glare bored holes into him. “Okay then. So I have several leads.”
“Shushai, can I ask you something?”
“You told me what he did, but did the rest of them leave you alone?”
“The troopers, yes. The officers were warded off by Brower, and Fett? He’s too self-righteous to want anything to do with me.”
Aaray nodded toward the hall and got up.
“Shushai, you’ve got to be tired. Go to sleep.”
“What if I don’t want to, hmm?”
“Fine. I will.”
Kom’rk walked back into the hallway.
“Apparently his methods for dealing with her weren’t just physical.”
He stood, in shock.
She nodded, “Indeed he is.”
“So shall we brief her on what we’re going to do to find Brower?”
”Not yet. Let’s take that slowly.”
“Wait. Sorry, I may be slow, but did he...did he...do the same to you?”
She shook her head, “I’m not human, so he wanted nothing to do with me.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you’re human to me...”
“What? Do you have any idea how insulting that is to me?”
“So being human is bad. Noted. Sorry, we are actually a self-centered race.”
“It’s not that you’re bad, it’s that your species seems, by nature, immature and violent without reason. You believe you have rights that no one else has.”
“This is why people like me despise people like Brower and Palpatine. I believe that it’s alright to be alien, and I believe that they have rights equal to mine. But other people believe that aliens are different, and feel superior to them because of it.”
“You know there’s a good chance she won’t bounce back from this, right?”
“I figured. What will we do with her?”
“I don’t know! But I think it’s a good idea not to tell her about us.”
“Probably so. I wonder if she’s actually asleep.”
“I doubt it.”
A creaking put Kom’rk on alert.
“What was that?”
“Shushai?” She guessed.
“Sorry, I’m paranoid.”
“It’s fine, I’m going to check.”
“I’ve got your back.”
“It’s okay! It’s just me!” The shout echoed back.
“What were you doing?”
“I knew you were going to talk about me.”
“So you were spying on us?”
“I wanted to know. I don’t want to be babied! I’m a grown woman! I can take care of myself!” Her voice quivered.
“Shushai, I didn’t mean...”
“Of course not! You never do! You always do exactly what you want, and then try to worm your way out of it!”
“Shushai, it’s okay, calm down.”
“I will not!”
“What!? What do you want from me?” She pleaded.
“Just calm down and let me explain!”
“No! I won’t calm down. And I’m tired of hearing all of your excuses!”
“Every time someone holds you accountable for something you give reason after reason why it’s not your fault! So what about this! What’s your excuse for talking about me behind my back?! For that matter, why did you leave me in the first place?!” She had begun crying again.
“Shushai...I...I’m sorry...I just...I’m sorry.”
“You always say that! How many times have you heard him say that?” She turned to Aaray.
“He does say that, but at the same time...” She tried to balance between making the girl feel better and ending the fight.
“What are you talking about?”
“Aren’t you listening!”
“I stopped listening. I’m sorry.”
Shushai’s look went from mad to broken hearted, “I hate you.” She whispered the condemnation without tone or volume, one last, fateful sentence. She turned and ran, crying.
He tore past Aaray and grabbed his helmet, intending to follow her. He was not losing her this time.
* * * * * * *
For the record, Fire and Glory comprised 33,326 words...in 14 chapters, in two parts.
Good run, I'd say.