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Beyond - Legends The Child

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by CaraJinn, Nov 7, 2020.

  1. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Author: CaraJinn
    Era: A few years after ANH
    Genre: Drama/Family
    Characters: The Mandalorian, The Child
    Summary: When The Mandalorian traded his former life as a bounty hunter with being a caretaker for the little green child who suddenly appeared in his life, his life spun into a new direction leading to new acquintances and a search for the past to be able to bring 'the little green one' back to its clan.
    Disclaimer: Like in all my other works so far the main characters and the galaxy belong to Lucas/Disney and I earn no money from sending their characters out on new adventures. For this particular adventure the writing of the story has been taken place while Season 2 of the TV show "The Mandalorian" is being released and any similarities that might turn up after S2Ep2 are highly unintentional.
    Author's notes: First of all - this story will be all AU compared to the TV-Show. I began writing this story after S2Ep1 had been released and I can see that my planned storyline so far is not going anywhere along the official story except for the fact that also in my story they're searching for the family of the child. For those who have not seen S1 my prologue in chapter 1 will be somewhat a summary of S1 but the finer details have been left out. I simply needed the backstory to be in place before I sent The Mandalorian out in a non-canon direction in chapter 2. You are hereby warned and if you want to see the full TV-show "unspoiled" you can return to this story after that.


    ................

    Chapter 1: Prologue

    When all was said and done he couldn't tell where his life's story began. Was it in that terrible moment when his parents shuffled him into that crampy basement and left him there? Was it when an armour clad being opened the hatch to said basement and invited him to come with him? Was it the moment when he earned the right to wear the beskar'gam though no beskar was available at that time or was it the moment when the small crib opened and he laid his eyes on the weird green being inside, not yet knowing that he (it?) would be his steady companion in the years to come. He truly couldn't tell.

    Did it matter?

    Not really. What mattered more was what happened afterwards.

    He was born in the outer rim and raised by two loving parents. Deanna was a school teacher and Harah was a plummer. He had a good childhood, realising he was more like his mother as he enjoyed reading more than roaming the streets with the few friends he had. Already then he was considered some of a loner by his peers. At the age of 12 his life was turned upside down. The separatists came to his hometown and with them came death and destruction. And his parents vanished. He didn't get much time to mourn. Actually it didn't take more than a couple of hours (which felt like a couple of months) before the hatch opened and the first Mandalorian he had ever seen helped him out. He didn't look too closely around when he was lifted high up in the air and carried away. Instinctually he knew that his life and childhood had vanished.

    He learned to survive. He learned to fight. To his own surprise he was an adept learner. It was like something inside him told him what to do and when to do it. He learned the way of the Mandalorians. By the age of 20 he had earned the right to wear the beskar'gam, though access to beskar was little and he had to make do with an armour made from durasteel.

    For the years to come he roamed the galaxy taking on bounties from the guild, trying to earn enough to make a living for himself in the wide galaxy. He managed pretty well. He kept well in the outskirts, trying to avoid any attention from the ever present Imperial troops. What the Empire had done to Mandalore was not to his likings. He was too young to be there that fateful night, actually he wasn't even a Mandalorian then, but the stories told in the tribe taught him what had happened. Despite his occupation he resented the bloodshed of innocents. He resented the Empire and all it stood for and decided to keep out of their way as much as he could.

    Such was his way of living for years.

    Such was his way of living until the little green kid came into his life and the Armorer informed him that the child was to be considered his foundling until he found its own kind and could reunite it with them.

    That's when his life really spun off in a direction he did not see coming.
     
  2. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2005
    What a fascinating idea!! The initial feeling is that ones story begins at the beginning, but in this case (and many others) it certainly could start in a different place, especially one where a big change happened, where a different decision or outcome would drastically change who you are. I love the thought of this!!

    I also really enjoy the bit of expanded back story for him you've given here, bits of his life before.
    That last line!! I'm really looking forward to seeing where this goes!!
     
  3. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 2: Arvala-7

    "Such sorcerers were called Jedi…"

    The Armorers words rang in his head as Razor Crest lifted from the planet's surface up into the black, wonderfully empty place called space. The place where time sometimes seemed to exist and where all the struggles on the numerous planets below seemed so small.

    The kid was sleeping peacefully in his crib.

    "Find his own kind," she had said. That would be easier said than done, the Mandalorian mused. So far no-one whom he had crossed paths with had had any idea of the species of the child. Much less it's native planet. Finding it's 'kind' would surely not be an easy task, that much was certain. Where should he begin?

    When in doubt, start with the beginning.

    The words rang true in his mind, the only minor problem was 'where was the beginning'? One thing was certain, the child didn't drop down from nowhere in a crib. It had to come from somewhere, be it a female's womb or an egg. Actually he couldn't say for sure which origin was the most likely for the unique being he had in his care. Both seemed possible. Truth be told, even without the special gifts the child seemed to possess, he had never seen any remotely similar beings in his entire life - and he had seen many.

    The only place he could think of was to go back to Arvala-7 where he'd found it. That would be the beginning as he knew it. Somehow the child had been taken there, but if it was from the very same planet or an entirely other place he couldn't say.

    With a soft sigh he set the co-ordinates for Arvala-7 and leaned back in the seat.

    A warrior must sleep when he can.



    He'd never believed he would return a third time and yet, here he was again. This time without the help of Kuill, but on the other hand also without a bunch of Niktos to defeat, which meant he could land the Razor Crest noticeably closer than he did the first time he came. Hopefully the Jawas wouldn't mess with it this time. He ensured the hatch was well and thoroughly closed before he left. The child was hovering one step behind and to the right in it's crib. a peculiar place to be, but it seemed to come natural for it so he didn't object. It was close enough for him to protect if needed be.

    The settlement was deserted. The bodies of the Niktos had been removed. By whom he had no idea. Possibly there were creatures out in the desert which had taken care of that. A gush of wind came from between two buildings and made him look that way. For a moment he thought he saw a shadow disappear behind the next building but at a closer look there was no-one there. The little green being perked his ears but didn't seem overly concerned so he relaxed a bit. He'd seen the foundling lift things without touching them. The gods alone would know if he had other powers as well.

    In determined strides he set course for the building where he had found the child. If anything related to the child's origin was to be found here in the middle of nowhere it had to be there, he reasoned.

    The building itself was just as dark and somber as he remembered it, but at least it was Nikto-free. Unfortunately it was almost free from anything else as well which made a thorough search rather difficult. A couple of chairs, a table… a cupboard which was empty except for heaps of dust and a long ago deceased rodent of some kind. Finding answers here would surely be difficult. Not that he had expected otherwise.

    There's no such as an easy task.

    He heard her before he saw her. The shuffling of unsteady feet were easy to identify for a trained ear. The blaster was in his hand even before she reached the door. For a moment she froze, and then to his surprise she chuckled.

    "Oh, ho, ho, a guest? Put that weapon down, even if I were able to I couldn't do you much harm as long as you have that tin can on."

    She was old and grey and with a weathered face. Two sharp and wary, but not entirely unfriendly eyes stared right into his own.

    "Who are you?" he asked.

    "I could ask you the same question," she said unperturbedly. "You look a bit like them clones from the clone war but they had a different colour on their armor. Their's were white. You're not a clone, are you?"

    "I am not a clone," he confirmed.

    "Good," she said, "we've just got rid of them Niktos, being invaded by clones more than 20 years after the clone wars would be too much."

    "Who's 'we'?"

    "Our tribe. We lived here before the Niktos came. Now we live in the mountains," she explained.

    The child cooed and peeked up from its crib and the old woman startled.

    "You," she exclaimed, "you're alive."

    The child cooed again. It appeared to recognise the woman somehow, yet it seemed a bit confused.

    "You know it?" the Mandalorian asked. "Tell me."

    "Why? Why should I trust you?"

    "Because it's my foundling now. I will take him to his own kind. If I can find them."

    "Then I'm afraid you have a long way to go," she sighed. "Not even I know his origin and I've been here since he came."

    This was becoming more confusing by the minute. Had the child come here before the Niktos? Why had they come, and when did they come? From what the old woman could tell it seemed like her tribe had lived in the mountains for several years, and the child was…well… a child.

    "Tell me what you know," he said again. "Please."

    Another chuckle.

    "You're polite. I like that in a man."

    He waited.

    "Do you mind if I sit? My legs aren't as strong as they once were."

    "Sit."

    And then she began to tell.

    "I was just a youngling myself when he was brought here. He was even more tiny then than he is now. I didn't see the one that brought him but the village talked for months about the stranger who came and asked us to look after the child. He was placed with my mother's sister and that's how I came to know him better than most."

    The Mandalorian gaped, but before he could ask the question that was on the tip of his tongue, she continued.

    "For years he was living here and my aunt took care of him. He mostly slept but every now and then he was fed vegetables and meat grind to a fine paste. But he didn't grow much. We were all curious of course, but rumours said that the village had been paid handsomely to take care of him so we all did. It was true that our village fared better than others in the region. We had credits so we could buy livestock and seeds for our acres.

    You could say we got used to him. In many ways he was considered our little mascot, and the little thing did no harm to anyone. As the years passed he grew more conscious and alert but he was still considered a baby.

    And then the Niktos came. It must have been around the beginning of the clone wars when they suddenly appeared, literally on our doorsteps. In just a few days we were driven from our homes and fled into the mountains. My aunt, tried to bring the little one, but they insisted he was to stay. When she opposed they murdered her in cold blood. We are not a warrior people so we never tried to win back what was ours. Instead we made our new homes in the caves in the mountains. The first years we were constantly afraid that the Niktos would search us out and kill us all, but as time passed we realised that we were not their goal."

    "Wait, what? You're talking about years. It's more than 30 years since the clone wars started. I was but a child myself then. It cannot be that old?"

    "Oh, but it is. It is. If it was newborn at the time it came here, it must be…about 50 standard years now."

    The Mandalorian was glad he wore the helmet, he literally gaped. The little green being couldn't be that old. It was simply not possible. If it appeared as a toddler after 50 standard years, gods alone would know how long time it would last before it matured. He felt almost lightheaded by the thought. Not only was he supposed to care for the little being, but he would outgrow it and die before it even came close to reaching its adulthood. he would have to find another caretaker when that time came. Or, of course, return it to its own kind.

    Which again brought him back to his original challenge: how - and where?

    "Is there anything you can say about the one who brought him here? Originally?"

    The woman shook her head.

    "No, not really. As I said I never saw him myself. Rumors had it though that he may have been a Jedi. One of our - well- less reliable citizens mentioned that he'd seen a lightsaber hanging from the stranger's belt, but we assumed it was only the alcohol speaking. Why should a Jedi come here to this no man's land? They were to busy with their high end living in the core."

    The Mandalorian sighed. He wouldn't even think about how he would be able to blend in in a core world. His armor would attract too many prying eyes for his likings and he surely didn't need more trouble than he already had.

    "Which core world?" he said flatly, while cursing his less than informative tribe members. During his upbringing he'd sometimes heard the words 'Jedi scum' being spat out, but he hadn't really paid any attention. He'd just understood that Mandalorians didn't think highly of the Jedi, who- or whatever they were.

    The old woman peeked up at him.

    "Didn't they teach you anything on Mandalore? The Jedi had their base on Coruscant before the wars, if they're still there I have no idea. "

    The Mandalorian bowed his head slightly.

    "Your information has been much valuable to me. I'm afraid I don't have much to offer in exchange."

    The woman chuckled: "You've already done your part. You've given us our village back. for that we are grateful. And if you don't find the little one's family, you can always bring him back here. We will be glad to take him back. He is, sort of, one of us."

    A cooing sound came from the child who stretched its little claw-like hand towards the woman. She stroke his cheek softly and the little being grabbed her hand for a moment and shut his eyes. For a moment it seemed like an old man in deep thoughts. The woman gasped. They held the position for something that felt like an eternity before the little one let go.

    "What happened?"

    "He…I don't know, but my joints aren't aching as much as they did when I came. I think he tried to heal me."

    First telekinesis, then healing - the little guy surely was a useful acquaintance.

    With another slight nod towards the woman the Mandalorian turned on his heel and set the course back to his ship. He didn't at all look forward to 'the core worlds'.
     
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  4. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 3: Coruscant

    Coruscant was everything the Mandalorian had expected - and more. And not in a good way. He was used to the backwater planets in the outer rim where he could put down his ship almost everywhere without anyone caring and knowing. Unless someone was trying to kill him, of course. Coruscant was something else indeed. It was full of lights and noise and traffic and even before he touched the planet's surface he had the challenge of finding a place to dock Razor Crest. That part was easier than expected as soon as he made contact with Coruscant Space Control. He was simply pulled in by the tractor beam and lead to a suitable dock. One problem less.

    That didn't mean he felt on safe ground. He still had the problem of getting himself and the child out from the spaceport unhindered. He had a feeling that his armour might draw some attention and somehow he suspected that the little green troll would not go unnoticed either. For a moment he pondered whether he simply could bring the entire crib and keep the child inside until he was out of the spaceport but on second thoughts that might be even more interesting to the security.

    "You stay with me," he admonished the little one. "Don't leave on your own."

    He never felt sure whether it actually understood what he said, but somehow it usually seemed to catch his meaning, even though it might not catch his words. Hopefully it would work this time as well.

    A minor problem occurred when they arrived in the huge hall and one officer seemed to take a bit too much interest in them. He had a feeling that starting a shootout there wouldn't be the best idea, so for a moment his mind was racing trying to find a good explanation of who they were and what they were looking for. Asking for a Jedi just like that might not be the best idea in the world even though it was tempting. But before he managed to come up with a good explanation he saw his little companion lift a clawed hand and stretch it gently towards the officer, almost like it was about to pat his hand. In a split second he could see the officer's eyes become slightly glassy and in a rather monotone voice he proclaimed: "You may pass, I don't need any further information."

    And with that they were allowed to proceed.

    "What did you do?" he asked the little one sternly as soon as they came outside.

    The answer was a soft sound, remarkably like a human chuckle, and two dark innocent eyes looked directly at him for a moment before they once again turned towards the pulsating city traffic before them.

    And under them.

    And over them.

    This would not be easy. He already felt like a fish in the middle of Tatooine's deserts and actually finding some Jedi in this organised chaos seemed like a tremendous task.

    Well, he had to do something. He wouldn't have taken the trip so far for naught. The little information he had about the Jedi was mostly linked to the conflicts that had existed between Mandalorians and the Jedi. Unfortunately most of those events took place on Mandalore and other places in the galaxy and that wouldn't be of much help here. Maybe he should have set course for Mandalore instead? But no, he was very much certain that there wouldn't be any Jedi there, nor would there be much information about their present whereabouts.

    Didn't they mention anything else? I believe I once heard them mentioning that the Jedi had a temple somewhere and if the old lady was right that must have been here. If they are somewhere it has to be in that temple. And that should be possible to find.

    He really hated this solution but he simply had to ask bypassers.

    It didn't help much. Most of them looked straight through him as though they didn't even hear the question, some of the just shrugged and other seemed to get a frightened expression in their face when he asked.

    It wasn't until well into the afternoon he got the answer he was seeking. His informant was an old Weequay who sat outside a bar some levels down from the space port.

    "Jedi Temple, now that's a long time since I heard that mentioned," the old man drawled. "It's not here anymore."

    His facial expression turned into sadness. It was hard to say whether the feeling was real or just pretended.

    "So there actually was a Jedi temple here?" the Mandalorian asked.

    "Sure thing," the old being nodded, "but the Empire got rid of all of them and the Emperor claimed their Temple as his palace. Too bad really. If he had built a new palace it would have been easier for me."

    "What do you mean? "

    "Well, you see, the Jedi Temple was kind of secluded and on street level there aren't many places to enter. And the Emperor has…had…a thing or two that would be of interest to me. It would have been easier to get inside and….uh….retrieve those things if it had been a more modern construction. I don't do roof climbing very well in my age."

    "You mean breaking in and stealing something of value," the Mandalorian translated, letting some of the disdain he felt seep through his voice.

    "Nonono, stealing is such a harsh word, I would more call it….like redistributing. Yes, redistributing it is. The Emperor really doesn't need the "Star of Kiarra" anymore, but for me it would mean retirement. Sad to say, it's hard for me to scrape together a decent crew nowadays. They don't listen to me as they did when I was younger, even though I swear on my dear mother's name that I'm not a day more than 70 standard. I'm sure that my old friend Kenobi would have helped me out but alas, he's not among us anymore."

    "Kenobi?"

    "Yes, yes, the great Jedi General from the Clone Wars. A good friend of mine he was - when he didn't try to kill me, or I him…"

    "That sounds like a beautiful friendship," the Mandalorian stated drily,

    "Oh, but it was. But maybe a new friend would be just as good? I can see from your armour that you're a Mandalorian. You don't have one of those handy jetpacks now, do you? If you had it would be easy to get in through the central spire. For some reason the Emperor never managed to renovate that part. They say he just closed off the entire entrance to it. Maybe if you were able to fly in there and retrieve the 'Star' for old Hondo, he might be so happy that he remembered more about the old days and his Jedi friends. Yes, that might be a good solution for both of us."

    "No deal. I do not risk breaking into the Imperial Palace - or anything else, under such conditions."

    "My good mother would weep if she heard you. Do you not trust Hondo on his words?"

    "Not particularly. No."

    The old Weequay sighed and for a moment he looked every bit a forlorn, wrinkled puppy.

    "However," the Mandalorian added, "for 25% of the 'Star''s value I might be able to discuss the opportunities…"

    Hondo lit up for a moment and then rearranged his facial expression to something relative neutral again.

    "You're a tough negotiator, Mando. The 'Star' is very very valuable. 5%"

    "25"

    "10"

    "25 or no deal. And you do the selling."

    "You do not trust Hondo to tell what he knows, but you trust him to sell the 'Star' and give you the money?" Hondo said incredulously.

    "Yes, because if you break that agreement, I would come after you before doing anything else and you would meet your old, presumably deceased, mother again immediately."

    "25%," Hondo sighed.

    …..

    Breaking into an Imperial Palace certainly had its disadvantages, the Mandalorian thought sourly as he was adjusting the jetpack. He'd had to sneak back to Razor Crest to get it. That went well, but before taking off he had another small (and green) problem to solve. He had to find a place to stay for the child. He didn't dare let Hondo babysit it. Nor did he dare to lock it up in the ship. If something…unpleasant…happened to him the little one would starve to death locked up inside the ship. He didn't want to risk that. The last possibility was the simplest, but also the most stupid.

    Wherever I go, he goes.

    For a little moment he mused about his own kind of stupid. What in all the blazes had lead him to breaking with the guild and becoming an impromptu father to a small green…something…in the blink of an eye.

    At least his share of the value of the 'Star' would keep his financial problems at bay for a long time.

    Then he secured the improvised crossover bag that was slung over his shoulder - above the jetpack straps- and ensured that the kid had no way of escaping mid-air. The little one had proved to be quite resourceful but he didn't believe it could actually fly. Which, by the way, wasn't his force either. He'd spent far too much time inside Razor Crest and far too little outside practicing with the jetpack to be an expert flyer. But then again, hopefully he wouldn't have to make any fine-tuned manoeuvres on this mission. He had to get up as close to the castle walls as possible to stay somewhat unnoticed, then rising along the central spire (for the same reason) and climb into one of the window openings which were covered with some kind of duraplast. Well inside he wouldn't need the jetpack anymore. And with some luck he wouldn't need the blaster either.

    Don't count on it. You know any plan can and will fail in the most crucial moment.

    He kept in control. And avoided being discovered, at least not by guards or others that absolutely not shouldn't see him. If any air taxi drivers observed the lonely figure elevating alongside the spire, they didn't care.

    Getting in through he duraplast covers of what once must have been a huge window was easy and as promised (maybe the Weequay actually could be trusted in some ways?) the room inside was empty. It was also dark and quite dusty. Carefully he lit a glow rod and looked around. The room was spherical with tiles placed in a beautiful pattern on the floor. The walls bore signs of blaster shots and chairs lay scattered across the floor. Whatever took place here before the Jedi left, had not been peaceful. A tiny whimper from the crossover bag made him aware that the child who had been perfectly quiet during their ascend was now trying to get out of the bag.

    "Oh no, you don't…"

    But the warning was too late. The little green being had already managed to wriggle out of the bag and shuffled towards the center of tile pattern. A tiny yelp, this time with some amount of sorrow in it was the only sound that could be heard in the room as the little one set a steady course towards one of the chairs and climbed up. For a moment it sat there, looking around in the empty chamber and the light from the glow rod gave an illusion that its large black eyes glistered with tears. Yet it looked perfectly…as it belonged there.

    The Mandalorian felt something suspiciously like a lump clogging his throat for a moment. He had no idea what was going on right now, but obviously the kid felt something emanating from the room itself.

    "We don't have time for this," he whispered, " we need to go. Now."

    The little one looked around for a second time and with a sigh that might as well have come from an old man it slid down from the chair trotted back to the Mandalorian and lifted its small arms up in the air to signalise that whatever it had been doing, it was now ready to return to the bag and join his larger companion again. The huge doors which lead out of the chamber opened silently. Obviously the Jedi had had a well organised maintenance system. The turbo lifts was another story indeed. Using turbo lifts that had been out of use for more than twenty years was not the best of ideas, especially since use of those undeniable would catch some interest if there were any guards downstairs. It had to be the stairs then.

    Several long minutes later he really regretted that he couldn't descend by means of the jetpack. It would definitely take some time do get down to the main level where Hondo had said that the throne room could be found. It was easy to find, and Hondo had been right (again) there were no guards inside. Obviously the main guards had their posts outside assuming that nobody would be crazy enough to climb the spire or have a vessel so small that it would dock there unnoticed. Yep, that confirmed his suspicion. The stormtroopers had to be idiots.

    Always expect the unexpected.

    He wasn't completely sure wether it was his own thoughts or a crisp cultivated voice which whispered the words in his ear as he approached the throne.

    Nothing happened.

    The huge room was just as dark and empty as the chamber in the spire had been, but definitely less dusty. Good, then he wouldn't leave any footprints. For a trained eye his boots would clearly sign off 'A Mandalorian was here'. But then again, stormtroopers were idiots…

    Releasing "The Star of Kiarra" was easy enough. The knife he always wore was wedged beneath it and with a well placed twist of his hand he had the large stone in his hand, before he quickly stuck it into the bag.

    "Do NOT throw it away," he admonished the bag's temporary inhabitant. "This nice little stone will be giving us food and fuel for some years."

    Half way up the stairs again he decided to risk starting the burners on his jetpack. He really needed to get out before daylight claimed the planet surface. This time the kid stayed safely inside when they passed through the chamber and soon they were out in open air again.

    Hondo awaited them at the agreed upon bar on one of the mid levels and as planned the Mandalorian grabbed inside the bag to get the stone. A little skirmish took place before the kid actually agreed to give up his beautiful new toy, but size won that battle.

    "Florrum - 1 week," Hondo stated, before the Mandalorian disappeared in the crowd.

    Soon the Weequay had disappeared into the shadows as well.
     
  5. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Hondo! The appearance of Hondo Ohnaka is always pleasing to me, as witty banter always ensues, if not actual shenanigans.
     
  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Enjoyed the backstory in Chapter 2 and the acquisition in chapter 3. [face_laugh] "Redistributing," ... I'm going to have to borrow that particular adjective ;)

    I really like the voice you have given the Mandalorian =D= He has a no-nonsense observational style [face_thinking]

    The Child has some very interesting skills for one so "young."
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
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  7. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Yeah, Hondo has become one of my favourites too. He's fun to write when I'm in "Hondo mood" but he's so well portrayed in both Clone Wars and Rebels that it's hard to get his character right.

    I literally try to write the voice the same way it's spoken in the series [face_tee_hee] , so when I write I try to listen (how would this line have been if it were spoken ?) I try to keep him in character, but it's still early days. I have "a few" chapters left to write.
     
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  8. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 4: Florrum

    If he had expected the meeting on Florrum to be smooth and peaceful, he would have been disappointed. But he didn't. Years of training and many years of practice had taught him that nothing was easily won. Especially when credits were involved and even more so, lots of credits. Besides, his gut feeling told him, and very clearly so, that Hondo Ohnaka was not a being to be trusted 100%. The old one seemed to have some kind of honour but again, large sums of credits were involved.

    So before he set down Razor Crest on the assigned coordinates he tok a fly by to check the area. At first glance it seemed deserted, then by a closer look…. Behind that building was a glimmer of metal. Yup, could very well be a blaster. A couple of Weequays were moving away from the camp and they seemed to be heavily armed indeed.

    A surprise was brewing, that much was clear. It would be interesting to see what happened when the brew bubbled over the brim of the goblet, so to say. Instead of flying to the assigned coordinates he simply set Razor Crest down in the open place of the camp. Hopefully they wouldn't use too heavy artillery amidst their own homes, and with some luck the hull would stand some minor grenades. It had endured before.

    He himself would need some extra tooling too. Before entering orbit he had checked that his armor was fully functional, blasters, whistling birds, flamethrowers and all (none of them tested in the cramped rooms of the cockpit, but at least there were no obvious reasons to malfunction. It would have to make do.

    The not too often used electrowhip was retrieved from the closet. He needed something to extend his range in case he needed. The stun functioning might come in handy, and the whip itself might literally pull him out of unpleasant situations.

    He was ready. In best case he would get away with useful information and a poodoo load of credits, in word case he would end up dead. Based upon experience the truth would be somewhere between those two extremes.

    "You stay here. Don't touch anything!" he admonished the kid, "and don't let anyone in except myself."

    The latter was added for good measure. Mostly the little being seemed to know what was needed but when he got bored… Well, better be on the safe side.

    Then he opened the hatch and disembarked.

    The plaza was quiet. All too quiet for his likings. They probably laid on the roofs. Another pair of Weequays seemed to be guarding the entrance of the main hovel which was a part of the mountain itself.

    "Lead me to Hondo," he demanded calmly. "He's expecting me."

    The pirates exchanged a glance and nodded.

    "He's inside. You'll find him. Big table. Old man."

    So far, so good. At least they let me in.

    The cave was large and surprisingly well furnished. The large table in the middle of the room seemed to be well worn and had quite a lot of suspicious stains. He had a feeling that some of the dinners held here might end out in a violent dessert.

    Hondo sat by the end of the table, every bit the pirate captain he'd been (and possibly still was).

    "I didn't expect you to land here. You didn't use the coordinates I gave you. "

    "Too long way back."

    "You didn't trust old Hondo?"

    The old scoundrel managed to appear wounded by the thought of one of his 'dear business partners' mistrust.

    "Not particularly, no. But I kept my part of the deal. Now it's your turn."

    "Ah, yes. The information you seeked about the Jedi."

    The Mandalorian only nodded in response.

    "Well, it has been many years since I last saw my old friend Kenobi," Hondo began,"and even longer since we cooperated for real. As you know he was one of the bigshot generals throughout the Clone Wars and he and I cooperated many times. But he was a Jedi to the core, you know, and he survived every battle he joined and mostly won them too. He and his apprentice, Skywalker, were inseparable. Later Skywalker's apprentice Tano joined them too. Troublesome little Togruta girl, that one.

    Well, by the end of the Clone Wars the Jedi seemed to disappear. Their temple of Coruscant was attacked by the clones and the Jedi were extinguished. Almost. Rumors had it that they had turned against the republic and that the clones had killed Jedi all over the galaxy. I cannot tell you wether that's true or not. For that period of time we decided to…ah…lay low and not draw any attention to our business."

    "They all died?" the Mandalorian interjected incredulously. "Every single one of them?"

    "No, they didn't. Kenobi seemed to have nine lives because a year or so after the forming of the Empire he turned up at my doorstep, much like you did today actually. In his wake was Tano, but Skywalker had disappeared. Probably he'd been killed in the purge too. That guy was too reckless for his own good. Oh, well, they needed a ship. A rather large freighter, and of course Hondo could help his old Jedi friends. I gave them a superb freighter that I'd hoped to sell for twice the price Kenobi could offer but…one has to help friends. Right?"

    The Mandalorian frowned, having his own thoughts about the pirate's selfless behaviour.

    "Well, anyway, they took off and that was the last time I saw my friend Kenobi. But I suspected he needed that freighter for something and that something might very well have been related to the jedi. Somehow I believe that more of them survived. I never investigated further. "

    "Do you know where this…Kenobi left?"

    Hondo shook his head.

    "No, but I know there were other surviving Jedi. May years later I came across a little rebel group operating all my themselves. A boy in that group, Ezra Bridger, seemed to be a Jedi too. So was his Master, Kanan Jarrus."

    "Where are they now?"

    "Alas, I cannot tell. Ezra disappeared from the chart some time before the Empire fell and Jarrus disappeared at about the same time. The last I heard of them were that they did work in the Lothal region a lot."

    "So, in reality there are no Jedi to be found now?" the Mandalorian stated with a sigh.

    "No. But there is one more thing.."

    "What?"

    "Not 'what'. Who," the Weequay admonished. "Rumors had it that Senator Organa of Alderaan, Bail Organa, was a strong supporter of the rebellion. He was also a friend of Kenobi's back in the old days before the Empire. Find Organa, and he may be able to tell you what happened to Kenobi. Or Bridger. Or Jarrus."

    "But Alderaan blew up. Even I heard of that."

    "It did. Sad story. They say it was on Vader's order. Crazy guy. But, you know, somehow Organa escaped. He simply wasn't on planet that fateful day so he survived. He's now retired and is living on Coruscant. It's said that he's counselling the new Chancellor from time to time."

    Oh, no… Coruscant again. Really? But if Organa is my only chance of finding any surviving Jedi, well, so be it.

    "I thank you for the information. It's less than I hoped for, but more than I have. Now, the credits."

    Hondo sighed: "The credits. Yes, well, I'd hoped that you'd forget about them when you got the information…."

    So, this would be the tricky part. Well, that was to be expected. Hondo Ohnaka didn't seem to be one to part from his credits by his own free will.

    "The credits. I did the job, I want the second part of my payment."

    Hondo pulled up a heavy looking bag and showed it across the table with an even more heartfelt sigh.

    "There you are, you may count them if you need to. No-one shall ever say that Hondo Ohnaka is not a man of his words."

    Counting was out of the question but to be sure that the contents of the bag were real credits and not only rubble, the Mandalorian opened it and checked. New republic credits indeed and by the look of it no forgeries. Good, one thing less to fight about.

    He nodded his appreciation.

    "You have kept your word, Ohnaka. I accept the payment."

    And then all hell broke loose. He saw the little twist in the Weequays wrist as he raised his goblet in a mock salute and, in the very same moment blaster shots were crisscrossing the room from mulitple angles. Kriff it. It wasn't like he hadn't expected an attack but he'd been assuming it would happen outdoors.

    Never assume anything.

    Reacting on instinct he threw up his own blaster and fired in the direction of the shooters. One down. Two… Some of the shooting subsided He could feel the impacts of multiple shots on his armour. The beskar'gam held. So far. But it wouldn't last eternally so he had to get out. He grabbed the bag and ran towards the exit. And found it blocked by twenty or so of the old pirat's crew. In one fluent movement he put the blaster back in its holster and grabbed the whip. It uncoiled rapidly and the first five pirates fell stunned to the floor. 15 to go. He lashed out once more and more pirates fell. Good. He could handle the rest of them - he hoped. For a moment he dropped the bag and fingers flew rapidly over the controls on his sleeve panel. Flames shot out from his wrist and the remaining crew fled out into open air. Now he had his chance. He switched off the flamethrower, grabbed the bag (kriffin' heavy thing…) and exited.

    Just to walk into the inferno of blaster shots he'd expected from the beginning. Razor Crest's hull seemed to hold, but it was an open question of how good the beskar would fare. He had to get inside. Quickly. So he did the only thing he could do, sweeping the area in front of him with blaster shots trying to shoot his way out of the chaos. More shots hit the armour. This was getting dangerous. Even though they didn't penetrate he felt each and every hit as a huge fist trying to beat the poodoo out of him.

    Reminder to self. If I survive this I need to get a remote to open the hatch from a distance.

    And in that moment the hatch opened, seemingly by itself. And moreover the bag was gently pulled out of his hand and seemingly floating towards the opening.

    It's the kid. It's the mud horn all over again. Bless his little green being.

    And with that he pulled the second blaster from his hip and continued shooting as he ran. Pirates fell from roofs and on the ground and the hits to his armour diminished gradually. With one last leap he reached the hatch and just as miraculously as it had opened it began to close and he dropped rather unceremoniously inside, panting heavily after the sprint.

    The little green being inside cocked it's head and giggled.

    "Thank you, little one. I'm not sure if I could have managed without your help this time."

    Large green translucent ears perked up and he saw a little green hand touch his shoulder as if to say: "We're a team."

    "Indeed we are, little one. Now let's get out of here."

    A minute later Razor Crest took off into the blue sky.
     
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  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Intriguing information from Onaka tied to other stories and to TCW and Rebels =D= Great action and teamwork.
     
  10. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Yup. Hondo = shenanigans.

    And you seem to have Mando and Baby Yoda spot on.
     
  11. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 5: The Senator

    Finding a senator, or rather ex-senator on Coruscant was an easy task. Getting to talk to him was more tricky. The Mandalorian did good use of his time in hyperspace reading whatever he could find about the former Alderaanian Senator Organa. Obviously the Senator had been off planet when the Empire blew it up and he was now residing in his former apartment in Republica 500, sometimes working as a councillor to the new government.

    The senator had a rather interesting past, first serving as a senator for his homeworld in the Senate of the old republic, later being a secret, but important leader of the rebellion against the Empire and the father of Senator Leia Organa who also had been a part of the rebellion.

    It would have been better if he were a peasant.

    At least when it came to approaching him, and primarily unseen. That wouldn't be too easy in Republica 500 which was heavily guarded. It wasn't like the Mandalorian could just walk in unnoticed and knock on the door. He had to get up with a good plan B.

    But Plan B eluded him. Wearing a disguise was impossible due to the armour. Sneaking in unseen likewise. So he opted for the direct appriach - flying. With some luck he wouldn't be blasted from the skies before he could land safely on the Senator's balcony. With some more luck he wouldn't be shot immediately at said landing. The beskar'gam could stand a lot, but a direct hit on short distance would be challenging indeed. There would be a short time before he was caught on holo by the surveillance monitors until he actually got to speak with Organa, and hopefully win the man's trust enough to be…not killed.

    It didn't qualify as Plan B - it was more like Plan Z.

    This time he let the little one stay inside the ship. If a trigger happy guard targeted him the child could not stand a blaster shot, it would be totally unprotected.

    "Stay here. Wait for me!"

    Two dark, round eyes stared at him in dismay, as if to say: "Are you going to leave me here? Alone?"

    "I'm sorry. It's for your own good, you just don't know it yet."

    The hatch opened and he left.

    Coruscant's air lanes and pavements were full of life also in the late hours of the night. No-one noticed, or was willing to notice, an armoured man with a jetpack on his back. They had seen worse. Just a few years ago the city planet had swarmed with stormtroopers (armoured) and before that clone soldiers (also armoured) had been a rather frequent sight. One single mandalorian didn't stand out.

    He decided to go in low and then rise along the tall building. As in the temple he assumed that a silhouette towards the sky would catch more attraction and he ascended close to the wall on the side where he supposed Senator Organa's apartment would be. He had memorised the many holos he'd found, but the relative darkness and ascent made it hard to locate.

    He gambled. Again. And landed softly on a balcony which seemed very much like the one in the holos. To his surprise the door into the apartment was not fully closed and he stepped inside. The room inside was dark but the infrared screen in his vizier clearly indicated a lone person sitting in a recliner. A small blaster was pointing steadily towards the chest of his armour.

    "I did not expect a visitor at this time of the day," a cultivated voice said pleasantly, "I doubt whether my blaster will penetrate that armour, it is beskar, isn't it? But we might try if you want to."

    "I'd rather not," the Mandalorian stated,"I am not here to harm you in any way. But I would appreciate a bit of your time. I just…didn't expect that coming by the front door would work well."

    A dry chuckle came from the sitting figure.

    "You're right. My guards are a bit on edge. You were quite lucky that I have insomnia so I could greet you myself. Why don't you take off that jetpack and sit down. I have a feeling this will take a while. And besides…I am Bail Organa, and you happen to be…?"

    "I will sit down if you stop pointing at my chest with that blaster."

    The former Senator laid the blaster down cautiously, close enough to be reached, but yet less threatening than he'd been a minute before.

    The Mandalorian slipped off his jetpack and sat down, hoping that this wouldn't be the biggest mistake he'd done in years.

    "They use to call me just Mandalorian," he said, "but my birth name was Din Djarin. I would appreciate if you don't mention that name to anyone. It's not our way."

    "Well now, Djarin. What can I do for you? You have made quite some effort to see me."

    "It's a long story. I was told by an old pirate that you might know whether there are any Jedi left in the galaxy. He even mentioned some names."

    "Jedi? A Mandalorian asking for Jedi?"

    "Yes. I'm aware of the bad blood between our tribes, but I do not want them any harm. I just…have something for them."

    "Something?"

    "Yes. I have a foundling. He seems to have much in common with Jedi. Or so I'm told. I want to help him finding back to his people."

    The older man sighed: "I guess I don't have to tell you that you're about 20 years too late for that. Now there is only one Jedi left that I know of."

    "Who?"

    "Luke Skywalker. But he's too young to be taking care of a child. He's only twenty-something. and your, what was it, foundling must be a child?"

    "Yes. My informant did mention a Skywalker but he was fighting in the clone wars. That makes him more than 'twenty-something'"

    A glimpse of sorrow flashed over Organa's features.

    "That was another Skywalker. Anakin Skywalker. He's dead."

    "He also mentioned four other names: Kenobi, Tano, Bridger and Jarrus."

    The senator nodded.

    "They were good people all of them. Obi-Wan Kenobi was a good friend of mine. He died not many years ago some time before the rebel attack on the Death Star. Jarrus is also deceased. Ezra Bridger…disappeared and besides - he would be too young to take on such a responsibility, and I don't know where Ahsoka Tano is either."

    "So…there is no-one left except young Skywalker?"

    "Not that I know of. No."

    The Mandalorian sighed. He hadn't had too much of a hope, but knowing for sure that all the people Hondo had mentioned had disappeared was really a disappointment. He could see the older man was sitting in deep thoughts. Then Organa looked up.

    "I shouldn't be telling you this, but there is another chance…"

    "What?"

    "The day the Jedi fell was one to remember. My old friend Kenobi and Grandmaster Yoda of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant escaped the purge and I helped them get away in my cruiser. We all agreed that it would be wise to keep Luke out of reach for the Empire so Kenobi brought him to Tatooine where his father had family. I know Kenobi stayed there to watch over him for years to come after that. But he didn't retreat totally. I met him a couple of times after that and I also kept in touch with him in other ways. Actually he was one of the most important strategists for building the rebel forces. He never told me , but I suspected there were more survivors from the Jedi Order and that he managed to literally ship them away somewhere. I don't know where. He never mentioned it with a word, but…if you find the place he lived you may find some clues there to where the rest of the Jedi settled down, if there were any. I'm sorry that I don't have any more precise information for you, but in those days we appreciated the rule about 'the need to know'. It was safest for everyone."

    The Mandalorian bowed his head slightly.

    "I thank you, Senator Organa. I will follow your advice and try to find Kenobi's home. Do you have any idea of where on Tatooine I should start?"

    "He never told, but Luke grew up with the Lars' family not too far from Anchorhead. They were moisture farmers. So I would assume it had to be in that area. It's out by the Dune Sea, not far from Jundland Wastes. Their farm was burned down by the stormtroopers and they were both killed, but the neighbours should know where the farm was."

    "I appreciate your help and advice, and please let me know if you hear anything from Bridger or Tano. The comm code to my ship is here, but I would be grateful if you don't reveal it to anyone else. There are people looking for the child for some reason and I don't trust what they might do if they find it. For your own safety it would be for the best if you don't mention my 'visit' to anyone. It may be dangerous."

    A sad smile appeared on the Senator's face: "It is I who should thank you. You've made me feel young again for a moment. Those days of conspiracies and dangers were not good days, but yet - we were young and willing to fight for what we thought was right. You have brought my old comrades back for a moment, even though it was only in my memories."
     
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Very crucial clues even if they don't seem solid at the moment. Bail's reactions are very much in character. =D=
     
  13. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 6: Tatooine

    The kid squealed happily as the Mandalorian entered the ship again, shuffled towards him and demanded to be lifted up.

    Poor little thing. You probably thought you were left alone here forever.

    He knew the feeling. He could relate.

    "No worries, I'm back, safe and sound. The senator was actually quite nice to me, and we seem to be going for another adventure. Thank the stars, this time it will be back in the outer rim."

    The kid watched him with a serious expression in its old-young face.

    "Now off we go. As soon as we've entered hyperspace I need to catch some sleep and so will you. And you will nottouch the control panels."

    Dropping out of hyperspace (and his sleep) as a result of the litte one fidgeting with the controls was on the absolute bottom level of his wish list right now. He could stay awake for days if he had to, but that didn't mean he would. As soon as he got the clearance from Coruscant Space Control he lifted the ship off the dock and keyed in the co-ordinates for Tatooine. Then he activated the autopilot, gave his protege a stern glance which clearly said " .Touch" and went to sleep.



    It wasn't like he'd never been to Tatooine before. Actually he'd been there quite frequently as Mos Eisley was a beloved harbour for some of his clients/victims/preys - depending on how one preferred to phrase it. It wasn't like he'd never been in the outskirts either. Sometimes his bounties tried to escape by hiding in the desert. Usually they didn't succeed. A couple of times they had actually been glad to be caught and pulled from the harsh environment, other times only bleached bones and a quick DNA check confirmed that this bounty was not worth bringing back to his main client.

    One time he'd spent too much time there himself after a confrontation that included both an escaping thief, a hungry sarlacc and a broken leg (his own). He'd ended up in a Tusken camp and to his surprise they had accepted him. Well, the region had been one sarlacc less after that. Hungry as it was (even after consuming the bounty) it did not appreciate the grenade it had for dessert, so he assumed they actually felt some kind of gratitude. He also assumed that wearing his armour had helped, as they considered him as more of a civilised being since he didn't offend their senses by showing bare flesh to anyone.

    That's when he learned to speak Tusken. He wasn't fluent, but he could make himself understood, which came in handy from time to time.

    The suns had settled and a cold moonlight shone over the desert as the small ship almost brushed the surface of the planet. He'd decided to avoid Mos Espa and Mos Eisley completely and go direct towards Anchorhead. Nobody would care out here anyway, and he'd rather not draw any attention. He was a bit too well known in the capital.

    "Near Anchorhead," the senator had said.

    Well, that could cover a vaste landscape indeed. He decided to try to find the Lars' homestead first. Then he would have a starting point. The senator had also assumed that it would be in the direction of the Dune Sea, so that was as good as any place to start his search. He must have passed the ruins of the moisture farm in at least two fly bys when he finally saw a formation that was too smooth and symmetric to be a natural part of the landscape itself. Yes, this could very well have been the dome of a homestead house built by the local custom. He set the ship down carefully and disembarked.

    It was a cold night. Searing hot as the desert was through the day, it became incredible cold after sunset. No wonder that its inhabitants chose to live partly underground where the temperature was more stable. As he approached the construction he could see that it surely was built by human hands. The walls of the partly collapsed dome were scorched both by fire and presumably blaster shots. The attack must have been vicious and for a moment he felt sympathy for the rebels and the new republic. The moisture farmers must have been killed instantaneously.

    But this was a dangerous area and had this really been Lars' farm? He needed more than this. He began to walk in circles from the dome, not really knowing what he was looking for, just needing something to tell him whether he was on the right track or not.

    "Come on," he muttered between clenched teeth. "A small sign wouldn't be to much to ask for."

    Obviously it was.

    The he saw it. Two curved stones that seemed utterly out of place. Those were certainly not part of any construction. They were too far from the main building for that. Curiously he adjusted the light on his helmet and began to wipe the dust of the first stone. The writing was almost worn down by the occasional sand storms but he could still see the letters.

    'Cliegg Lars

    Beloved Father'

    Yup, definitely the Lars' farm then.

    The other stone was even more weathered, indicating that whoever that belonged to had deceased prior to Cliegg Lars.

    'Shmi Skywalker Lars

    Beloved Wife and Mother'

    Skywalker? Now that's a name he'd heard before. The name of the last known Jedi in the galaxy according to Senator Organa. This had to be a relative of young Luke Skywalker, but he couldn't see the connection. Shmi must have died years before Luke was born, so evidently he wasn't her son.

    Now at least he knew that he was on the right side of the planet. That had to count for something.

    …..

    It took him a long time to find the place he sought. Kenobi had hidden himself well. It was by pure coincidence he'd seen something that actually resembled a man made path in the shadows of the mountain range in the area called Jundland Wastes. If he hadn't been in the right position, if the suns hadn't been in the right position, if…. a lot of ifs, he would have missed it.

    But he saw it and he decided to land and check further by foot. A narrow valley was a perfect place to land and to keep away from prying eyes. Razor Crest could obviously be seen from the sky, but for once he was glad the hull was bruised and battered and not new and shiny. And there weren't many flying low over these areas. So he assumed it would be safe, as long as a krayt didn't want it for afternoon snacks. He closed the hatch thoroughly behind him. He'd had enough problems with uninvited guests in regions like this.

    The path he had seen from the air was in reality a staircase made of rough natural stones. His little companion looked around with large curious eyes, but didn't seem nervous so he assumed that no new inhabitants had moved in since Kenobi died.

    The little cabin was partly moulded into the cliff behind it and seemed to give good shelter against both climate and potential attackers, be it Tuskens or others. The door was closed but not locked and he opened carefully. The cabin inside was sparsely furniture but neat and tidy and in its own way actually quite cosy. Well, Kenobi had likely had enough spare time to spend in the 20 some years he had been living here. Carefully he lifted the kid from its transportation bag and put it down on the floor.

    "Don't go outside. Stay inside of that door."

    "Uh?" the kid answered and immediately set course for the door.

    "No. Inside. Do NOT go out!"

    The large ears wiggled a bit and then hung down. The little green being looked miserable.

    "Uh-Uh?"

    "No. Stay. Inside. Got it? I do not want you to go out there to be eaten by a rancor or a bypassing krayt," he threatened.

    With a resigned sigh the kid shuffled away from the door, obviously plotting a new course toward the kitchen area. Maybe there were some leftover delicacies?

    The Mandalorian sighed in relief. Another diplomatic crisis had been averted. The foundling could really be a handful sometimes, its stubbornness only matched by his own.

    Assuming that the kid wouldn't find anything overly harmful in the hermit's kitchen he began his own task, searching for anything that old Obi-Wan Kenobi might have left about the surviving Jedi's whereabouts.

    He found nothing.

    Well, he did find canned food, and actually water (who would have believed that there would be a tiny trickle of water coming from the cave wall?) and numerous boxes of something that seemed like and smelled like tea.

    But no information. None at all.

    With an exasperated sigh he sat down on the bench that obviously had served as a couch in the small room. They might as well spend the night here instead of going back to Razor Crest. Actually the sleeping quarter seemed quite comfortable and he'd lost track of last time he slept in something that reminded of a bed instead of the narrow and not overly comfortable bunk in Razor Crest.

    The kid looked at him.

    "Right, hungry. Let's see if we can find something edible here."

    They shared a can of spicy Devaronian black beans. Good thing the little one wasn't too picky about his food. With a final admonishing of "Don't leave the cabin" he stretched out on the mattress inside the small alcove that formed the bedroom and soon he was fast asleep.

    He didn't see his little companion crawling out of bed and retreating back to the living room. Nor did he see the two bluish translucent figures which appeared or hear his foundling's frustrated attempts on communicating with them.

    And he did certainly not see the drawer that opened under the couch, as if it were pulled out by invisible hands.



    But he did notice the next morning and vividly cursed himself for not seeing it the day before.

    If this is my new level of being alert I can just retire immediately. I would not catch a bounty even if it were right in front of me, shooting at me.

    Good thing that Hondo's little 'redistribution project' had lessened his financial worries for the time being.

    Curiously he opened the drawer and almost reverently lifted a stack of books, real books written on flimsi, upon the table. Someone has meticulously written a set of journals and he would bet that this 'someone' was the huts last inhabitant. The books seemed to vary in age and he decided to begin with the oldest one. Somewhere there had to be a clue about…well…something.

    The quick breakfast was made in such a haste that the foundling shot him a worried glance. He wasn't by any means a gourmet chef but at least he found the time to cook water properly. Oh, well, the kid had so far proven to be able to eat almost everything so he would probably survive this meal too. At least it wasn't frogs…

    And then he settled down to read and for a split second he felt the same peace of mind as he used to do when he curled up with a reading pad in his childhood home before his world crumbled.

    'Oh, Force. What have I done? I promised to bring young Luke to his family on the star forsaken dustball that is Tatooine, but I forgot one very important thing. I know nothing about infants, let alone newborn ones. Nobody even asked me to do it, I volunteered. Stupid, stupid, stupid Kenobi. '

    And from those first lines of what apparently was a diary written by the (in)famous General Kenobi he was drawn into a story of a life which seemed to have had more than its fair share of sorrow and loss. He read about love and war and betrayals, about a young man trying desperately to become a Jedi and who was refused over and over again until he was accepted. He read about the man who became a Master almost before he was knighted and about the man who saw his own world being torn apart by his apprentice.

    The Mandalorian lost track of time. He left his seat only to provide food for the little one who was increasingly unhappy with the lack of attention, but seemed to have found a place in the hut where he was babbling in his own weird language to something that seemed to be an invisible friend.

    When his eyes grew sore he slept for a couple of hours and then he went back to reading. And finally the last book was closed and he was none the wiser of his foundlings origin. Almost. But there had been a couple of vague leads he could possibly follow.

    Kamino would be his next stop.

    But before that: sleep.

    He prepared a proper meal from some of the cans in Kenobi's kitchen and was rewarded with happy squeals from the little one. Obviously stew was almost as much to its likings as frogs.

    "Yeah, I promise. We'll soon be on our way again, but I think we've found ourselves a base. This place is so secluded that we might come back here every now and then. But tomorrow we'll set course for Kamino. The cloners may have the answer to your origin."

    The kid burped in response.
     
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  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful and enthralling discovery in the journals
     
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  15. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 7: Unexpected Guests

    They never made it to Kamino. The weird sounds coming from the engines made the Mandalorian completely sure that he had to land somewhere to check before they unceremoniously dumped down on some random planets's surface or found themselves drifting in open space and he silently cursed himself for not closing the vents to the engines during their stay on Tatooine. Sand never did anything good in any engine. He'd been so focused on finding Kenobi's hut that he'd forgotten the simplest of safety rules.

    "Stars end, you don't even need Gideon to kill you if you continue like this," he muttered to himself.

    A worried "Huh?" came from the child.

    "It's OK, little one. We can make it to some planet but we cannot make it to Kamino before I have had these engines cleaned up a bit."



    The landing place was out in the middle of nowhere. He'd hoped to reach the capital but the worrisome sounds from the engines became worse so he decided to drop down near some kind of settlement. It seemed to be an outpost of some kind but places like this generally had good mechanic workshops. He just hoped they had a friendly engineer as well in case he had to borrow some tooling.

    With a hiss the hatch opened and he strode out. Open grasslands were surrounding a tower like structure which seemed to be some kind of a watch tower. It certainly wasn't what he'd hoped for but he had to make do with what he had - which in this case at least was a part of solid ground.

    A quick examination proved him right. The engines needed a thorough cleaning before any take off would be wise. He had just decided to walk to the watchtower and ask politely if they had some kind of equipment that could vacuum out most of the sand when he heard a swoop roaring up beside him - and he stared right into a rather nasty looking blaster.

    He had to blink, not once but twice. Its owner was clad in a mandalorian armour looking very much like his own, but with one very obvious difference. Where his own was new and shiny the newcomer's was painted in a variety of colours, some of them bright and new, some worn off by time and what seemed to have been numerous battles.

    "Who are you and what are you doing on my property?"

    Slowly he turned towards the slim figure and was careful to hide his right hand behind his torso. He had to even out the odds a bit and his fingers reached for the hilt of his own blaster.

    "Don't even try it! Keep your hands where I can see them."

    Her voice was steady and cold.

    OK, that won't do. I have to think of something else then. I'm not sure even beskar can hold a direct hit from that one.

    He slowly turned towards her again. Both hands visible as requested. And with a light touch of his fingers a wire shot out and twirled around her. He pulled. Hard. And with a surprised yelp she fell of the swoop only to roll towards him and catch his legs in a scissor's lock.

    Kriff it- he hadn't seen that one coming.

    He fell. Hard. Doing a roll and get on his feet again was not an easy task as long as his legs were pinned. She was over him in less than the blink of an eye and he found himself pinned to the ground with her blaster pressing down on his throat in the vulnerable spot between the chest armour and the helmet. She was tough! But he was larger and physically stronger. His hands shot down under hers and with considerably effort he managed to push her hands off of him and with a hit from his elbow he was pushed aside and he could use his body weight and larger frame to pin her down.

    Helmet stared towards helmet for a second before he broke the silence.

    "What's the matter with you, lady? I meant no harm to you at all."

    "You've landed on my property. I want you off this ground."

    "You could have asked…"

    "Would that have helped?"

    He sighed.

    "Actually not. I didn't plan to end up here. But the engines of my ship are full of sand and if I'm ever going to take off again I need to have them cleaned up. I was actually going to ask for a vacuum cleaner or pressurised air so I can get off this planet again. I was hoping to get closer to the tower but the sounds from the engines became…too unpleasant."

    She turned her head and saw the small pile of fine grained sand he'd managed to get out of starboard engine before her arrival, realising that there was some truth in what he said.

    "Oh… I may have been…a bit hasty. I don't get a lot of visitors out here. What about you letting me go, I promise to not blast your head off and we try again?"

    He hesitated for a moment and loosened his grip. Se seemed sincere enough, so maybe he would still find his head on his shoulders 5 minutes from now. He hoped so. He needed it.

    They both rose rather stiffly and glared at each other. Then she nodded.

    "Let me have a look at this disaster of yours."

    "Feel free."

    A quick inspection later she willingly agreed to what he was saying.

    "You're right, landing was the best solution. These rotor blades wouldn't have survived much longer with all that sand, nor would the side panels or the wiring."

    "I know," he confirmed somberly.

    "Too bad you didn't land closer to the tower. There's no way I can stretch the hoses for a vacuum unit so far, but I do have a couple of strong, rechargeable fans so if we open the panels on the backside and then put the fans on max effect. I think that would get most of the gritty stuff out. Then you can fly closer to the tower and we can actually use the vacuum unit for the rest."

    He nodded. The plan was reasonable enough.

    "Thanks," he offered. "Maybe this was the right place to land after all."

    "Don't make yourself too comfortable…"

    She never finished the sentence as the whisper of the winds was disturbed by a loud howl.

    "What was that?" he asked.

    He could see in her posture that something had changed.

    "Evening is coming fast. Let's go back to my place and plug the fans to the charger. We, or rather you, should not be out here when darkness falls."

    "I can stay in my ship," he offered.

    She shook her head as a new howl, closer this time, was brought to them by the increasing winds.

    "Not a good idea. It's not safe. The wind is increasing and Dume is running tonight."

    "Dume? And when did you start to care for my safety?"

    "Right now. Lock your ship and hop on. The swoop can carry us both for a short distance. I will explain as soon as we're indoors."

    "It has to be the three of us," he stated and disappeared into the ship.

    A surprised "Hey" was the last thing he heard when entered the cockpit.

    The foundling was waiting patiently in his seat. Only change was that it had once again retrieved the metal ball it seemed to love so much.

    "Come on. We have to go. Again. We've found a new place to stay for the night."

    "Uh?"

    The expression in the little one's eyes could be very tale telling, and just now it said 'Another stop? How would we ever come to our destination when you keep making stopovers like this all the time.'

    "No time to explain. Lady says we have to hurry."

    And with that he lifted the foundling up and departed the ship, closing the hatch well behind him. Whatever Dume was, he or she or it shouldn't have easy access to Razor Crest.

    The wind had increased even more so. The howls were increasing in volume and frequency.

    "Come on. We have to…what is that?"

    "He's my foundling," the Mandalorian explained, "wherever I go, he goes."

    She was a good driver and they reached the tower in a couple of minutes.

    She didn't stop to speak until they were inside and the door was closed firmly behind them.

    In one fluent motion she unlocked her helmet and removed it. Two incredibly big brown eyes stared at him, expectantly.

    He was speechless. Not only did she take of her helmet in front of him, but the action revealed a multicoloured hair which was far from anything he'd seen before - and he'd seen a lot.

    "Why don't you take off your helmet?" she offered. "We're inside. I promise there are none here but us and I have already promised not to shoot your head off your shoulders."

    "It's forbidden by creed," he said stiffly. Still in shock over her revelation and the easy way she took her helmet off.

    "If you were a true Mandalorian, you would know that."

    "Who do you think you are, teaching me about 'true Mandalorians'?" she hissed. "I am a Mandalorian, thank you very much, and that has nothing to do about covering my face with beskar. It is true that beskar'gam is a part of our culture, but it is not who we are."

    "I'am of Clan Mudhorn," he answered, "they just call me 'Mando'"

    He hoped it would do as a presentation. There was no way he would give away his birth name to this woman he'd only known for less than an hour."

    "Clan Mudhorn?"

    "Yes. We were recognised as a clan recently," he explained. "The kid and I."

    She shook her head.

    "You're weird," she stated unceremoniously, "but if keeping your helmet on makes you feel better I will not insist. Mando."

    The last word was released with an exasperated sigh.

    "I'm sorry," he said, "my birth name is one that I don't give away too easily. I have my reasons. What people don't know, they cannot tell anyone. The kid and I would rather go under the radar and there are people out there who are interested in finding us."

    If he'd expected to see fear in her eyes he would have been disappointed. Only mild interest could be seen.

    "I've heard that a lot, though not recently."

    "Who are you? And what are you doing here all by yourself" he dared to ask.

    "I'm Sabine Wren, of Clan Wren. I look after this place for my…younger brother."

    Outside the wind and the wolves were howling.
     
  16. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Awesome update =D= A very interesting encounter and glad she has the equipment to clean the engines so they can get to Kamino. LOL at the child's unspoken "another stop?"
     
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  17. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 8: Winter Solstice

    "Let's get those fans charging," Sabine said in a quick change of topic. "We need them to be ready by tomorrow and I haven't used them for a long time."

    Mando just nodded. Further explanations would have to wait, but he was definitely curious to learn how this single Mandalorian woman had ended up on an outpost like this 'watching it for her brother'. But first things first.

    They completed their tasks in a nearly companionable silence before they proceeded to Sabine's living quarters. As could be expected they were as colourful as the woman herself and it seemed like she'd put up some extra decorations of lights in the darker corners of the room.

    She followed his glance and blushed slightly.

    "I know, I know, it's stupid. Today is winter solstice on Lothal and I…well, I hate to admit it but I miss my family. We always tried to celebrate a bit when winter solstice came to our home."

    "So, you haven't been living here forever?"

    He was more than a little curious, but wouldn't show her.

    "Do sit down," she ordered, "and no, I haven't. As I said, I am watching over this place for my brother. He disappeared a short time before the Empire fell. I don't know where. This was his home planet and he was attached to it. I have no idea where he is now, but I do miss him. I miss them all…"

    "You had a large family?"

    She sighed.

    "It's…complicated. But yes. We were not related by blood but by friendship and purpose, and to be honest they became more my family than my birth family. We were fighting the Empire. You might say we were rebels, I guess. After the Empire fell we were scattered all around the Galaxy. Hera is raising her son, still serving the New Republic, Zeb has started a family of his own and Ezra…disappeared. I took upon me staying here, but on days like this it's kind of lonely. Actually it was good that you turned up here today. Maybe that will bring my mind to the present and not to what once was."

    A switch clicked in the Mandalorian's brain: "Ezra? You shouldn't by any chance mean Ezra Bridger?"

    And immediately she turned into a defensive stance again.

    "What do you know about that name?"

    He surely didn't have a good day with this lady. He seemed to be pushing all her wrong mental buttons - at once. He didn't want to be anywhere near when, or if, the explosion came.

    "Whoa…nothing. I really know nothing. I heard his name a few weeks ago. I was told that he was one of the few remaining Jedi in the Galaxy and that he had disappeared. Nothing more than that. I swear."

    She seemed to calm down a bit. Maybe he would survive.

    "Sorry. I'm a bit touchy when it comes to my family."

    He could relate to that. He had left the tribe voluntarily to become a bounty hunter. They had taken him in and treated him like one of their own. In many ways he was, but still he occasionally felt like an outsider. He would be eternally grateful for them saving his life and raising him in the tribe and he considered them as family - almost as much as his birth family. Almost. Those memories were buried deep within but in the silence of space he could still remember how it felt to have his mother's arms wrapped around him and following in his father's wake in the village. The Tribe had been welcoming, but not exceptionally warm and caring. Yet, they took him in as a foundling when he was all alone. That had to count for something. It counted a lot.

    He chose to nod in appreciation.

    "The kid is my family now. He's my foundling until I can bring him back to his own kind. Ezra Bridger might have been able to help."

    "How come?" she said curiously.

    "The child seems to have some of the powers as a Jedi would yield. Problem is - there are no Jedi left in the Galaxy. At least none who's easily found. And for some reason the Empire is trying to hunt him down."

    He hadn't meant to say that much, but Ezra's name had brought him off balance. He really wouldn't last long if he kept being this stupid. On the other hand - he had a feeling that she could be trusted.

    "Karabast!" she exploded, "there is no Empire. Which rock did you crawl from if you haven't noticed that the Empire has fallen? We have the New Republic now."

    Then she calmed down again. She was really volatile.

    "Jedi, you say? That may explain why it seems to be a wolf night. Dume must have sensed it."

    There was the name Dume again.

    "Who or what is Dume? And I do know that the Empire has fallen - officially. But there are fractions operating in the outer rim and they seem to be overly interested in my foundling for some reason I can't fathom. The only thing I know is that they do not want any good for him so I try to keep him safe."

    She frowned. This was obviously new to her.

    "I have to tell Hera about this. She can bring the information further to the Senate. When it comes to Dume, well, that's complicated too. You wouldn't believe it if I told."

    "Try me."

    He had found a seat on a couch and watched the kid playing happily with the steel ball. It seemed relaxed and content so there was likely no immediate danger. He had seen it tense when danger lurked so he suspected it somehow could sense enemies approaching.

    She disappeared into what seemed to be the kitchen area and he heard rumbling of pots and pans.

    "I'm not the best cook ever, but I can make edible food," she informed. "You better think about how you can get some stew through the beskar…"

    "I take it off," he informed, "as long as I am alone."

    "Too bad, eating in the kitchen it will be for you then," she said, " the kid and I will reside in the living room while we eat."

    Obviously she had determined not to pursue the 'Mandalorian helmet code' discussion. He felt grateful for that even though he still couldn't understand how she could show her face to a complete stranger. It was allowed between spouses, for obvious reasons, but nobody else should see one's face once the helmet had been donned.

    "What about Dume?" he tried again.

    "Oh… Dume is the leader of the wolf pack we heard howling. Actually he's the loth wolf."

    Her voice trembled only the tiniest bit.

    "He used to be Kanan Jarrus, or before that Caleb Dume, one of the few Jedis who survived the purge. He was Hera's partner and a part of my 'family' when we fought the Empire. He was killed when protecting Hera from an explosion and his soul seems to have merged with the wolf which is leading the pack. He won't harm me - he is still able to recognise me- but he's very protective so I wasn't sure if he might attack you. He seems to have become more aggressive after merging with the wolf. The wolf pack is often running in nights like this, but I thought they were overly active tonight. Your foundling must be the answer. Dume can sense it."

    "Will he represent any danger to the kid?"

    "No. At least I don't think so. I believe he senses that there is a Force sensitive on his land and he wonders what is going on. As do I."

    In that moment the relative silence was broken by the sound of engines and Sabine immediately grabbed her helmet and ran to the viewing platform just in time to see a small spaceship - even smaller than Razor Crest land - literally in her backyard. She entered in a slightly more dignified speed, removing her helmet as she closed the door behind her.

    "No worries," she informed, "it's an old friend. Actually one of my 'extended family' so to speak."

    She almost beamed from happiness as she ran downstairs to open the door.



    Mando was glad that the helmet hid his facial expression. That way he wasn't caught gawking. He'd only known the Tribe and he knew that there were other Mandalorians around but finding two others on one and same evening - what was the odds for that? And the being who stood in the door with a beaming Sabine draped around his neck definitely wore a Mandalorian armour of sorts. It was white, almost like a stormtrooper armour but with blue insignia that seemed to have had a tough life. Some places the painting was almost worn off. This man had not led a quiet life by the looks of it.

    "You have a visitor already," the armour clad man stated, "maybe I came in an inconvenient moment? Hera was so sorry that she couldn't make it out here so when I volunteered she almost kicked me out of base."

    Sabine blushed slightly again.

    "Oh, no. It's nothing like that. He just….uh…dropped down from the skies. Come on in, Rex. I'm so glad to see you. It has been a crazy day. And it will be a 'Dume night' so I guess there will be little sleep, and it's on evenings like this I miss you all the most."

    "I heard the howling. They're active tonight. And when it comes to the rest - you know that you're welcome to the base anytime you want."

    "Yeah," Sabine sighed. " I know. But I'll stay. I promised Ezra. Rex this is Mando….Mando, this is Rex, an old friend of mine."

    The Mandalorian saw the other man taking off the helmet and the face of an elderly man with a white beard appeared.

    What are those people? They claim to be Mandalorians but they don't seem to have the faintest idea about the creed and what it means. They are showing their faces as if they were ordinary people and they don't even seem to be ashamed of showing their faces in public.

    For a moment the two men glared at each other.

    "Nope, he won't do it," Sabine explained. "For some reason he doesn't take his helmet off."

    "The Creed forbids it," the Mandalorian shot in.

    Rex scratched the back of his head: "The Creed? New to me."

    This time the Mandalorian couldn't keep his mouth shut: "You both claim to be Mandalorians and none of you know that once you're sworn to the creed you cannot show your face to anyone. If you do you will never be allowed to put the helmet back on again."

    The two exchanged incredulous glances.

    "Nope, not known to us. And as I said, I'm born and bred Mandalorian, and Rex here is…of Mandalorian heritage."

    Rex straightened his back (which was fairly straight from the beginning) and with a small smile lurking in the corner of his mouth he said: "ARC trooper CT-7567, a pleasure to meet you Sir. I think."

    The Mandalorian's head was spinning for a moment. He'd heard the stories of the Clone Wars and he'd heard about the clones' military skills and how the stormtroopers wouldn't even come close to their skills in combat. Weird thing was that with their accelerated ageing they were supposed to be dead now. But this one was clearly alive and by the look of it a real deal. That armour had been used in less than peaceful duties.

    "Stop it you two," Sabine admonished, "Rex, Mando here didn't come here to harm anyone, his ship needed repair and he had to land here. We'll repair it tomorrow and he's going to be on his way again. I've just prepared some food for us and there's plenty for you as well. After all it's winter solstice and I really appreciate your company. Both of you."

    But there were more surprises in the loop. As soon as he entered the living room Rex facial expression froze into a state of shock. He almost dropped the helmet where he stood.

    "Master Yoda!" he exclaimed, "It isn't possible?"

    "Nng-uh?" the foundling asked.

    "Yoda?" Sabine and the Mandalorian exclaimed.

    "Who is Yoda?" Sabine continued.

    After reading the Kenobi diaries Mando was to some extent prepared, but hearing the word coming from the old clone trooper made him startle anyways. It was not like he'd expected to ever meet anyone who had seen the old Jedi Master. Well, actually Bail Organa must have, but at that time he hadn't heard the name himself.

    "Yoda was the Grandmaster of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant," Rex explained. "He disappeared after the purge but there were no confirmations of his death. This little one looks exactly like him except the fact that Master Yoda was about 870 years old when I met him during the Clone Wars."

    The Mandalorian almost sat down. Once again his head started spinning. He had suspected it. The tales about the old Master in Kenobi's books had prepared him, as had the fact that the little one had appeared about 50 standard years ago. The life span made sense as the kid seemed to be only a toddler as of yet, but it was a frightening thought anyways. With his own human life span there was no way that he would be able to see the foundling grown up. It was more important than ever that he found the little one's kind. This task was too monumental for one man alone. It really made sense of the saying "it takes a village to raise a child."

    Sabine was the first one to break the silence.

    "Sit. Down. Both of you. Now."

    The two men obeyed while she kept standing, hands akimbo.

    "You are officially giving me a migraine. Are you telling me that this little one here is going to be eighthundredsomething years old? Seems like you have the future staked out for you, Mando."

    "M-hm," the kid agreed, looking up at her with an expression that almost seemed playful.

    "You stay out of this," she admonished, "I have more than enough with those two."

    The foundling giggled.

    "Basically, yes," the two men agreed.

    "That's where I was heading," the Mandalorian explained, "he turned up from nowhere about 50 standard years back in time. I came over some old books mentioning Master Yoda and I suspected they might be of the same kind. Sadly the story doesn't say anything about where Yoda came from but it's not likely that he is the father of it. Then there should have been a mother as well. And besides…at the age of 870….well… Let's just say it's not likely. So I began to suspect he is somehow a clone. We were on our way to Kamino when my ship broke down to see if we could find any traces there."

    Rex had paled considerably.

    "I am one of the original clones of Kamino," he stated. "I know the place very well. It's deserted now. The cloning operations were closed down by the end of the Clone Wars and the Kaminoans fled the place. Mostly. A few stayed behind to watch the place. One of them gave me the injection that slowed down my accelerated ageing to normal speed."

    Scratching his head again he went on: "If the little one here is 50 standards he's older than I am. I am more like 40 now. And I was among the first batches that were made."

    The room silenced once more and only the happy cooing from the foundling and the sound of a metal ball rolling over the floor broke it.

    "Chissk. Tapdancing Zillo crap," Sabine swore. "This is too much."

    Rex gave the Mandalorian a glance which clearly said: "Uh-oh, now we're in for a ride. She saw the implications too…"

    "If he's really a clone too, and an old one that is. Who or what else did they clone? What if they have cloned Vader? Or Palapatine?"

    "Not Vader," Rex reasoned, " he would be too young. The facilities shut down about the time he came to power. But Palpatine…that would be not so good."

    "It would be a disaster of epic dimensions," Sabine snarled. "One of those is more than enough for a lifetime."

    "I will go there as soon as the engines of my ship are clean again," Mando said. "I'll try to find out what they really did and if there are more 'projects' out there than this little one. I will let you know what I find out."

    "You won't go alone," Rex stated. "I'm coming with you. I know the place and I can save you a lot of time searching for the labs. I don't know all the nooks and crannies of the place but I have been there on several missions as a trooper too so I will at least know it better than most living beings today."

    And with that the deal was settled.

    The tense silence was replaced with a more joyous feeling as Sabine retreated to the kitchen and came back with the meal. An eager squeal from the kid made them all burst into a much needed laughter.

    "No wonder he's so small," Rex joked. "You're not feeding him enough. He's hungry as a wolf."

    The statement was emphasised by a nearby wolf howling outside the tower.

    The kid stopped eating for a moment and perked his ears as if listening for a soundless voice. Then he returned to the food again.

    True to his oath the Mandalorian brought his plate to the kitchen to eat and when he returned to the living room his two companions had slumped back in the couch. The foundling rested drowsily on Rex broad chest, obviously fascinated by the white beard, while Sabine was resting her head comfortably on the old soldier's shoulder.

    Despite the tension they all had experienced before the meal the scene was now one of contentment, one of happy people finding comfort and peace in each other's company. Silently the Mandalorian removed the used plates from the table and sat down on Rex' other side, his foundling opening one eye towards him and letting out a loud burp.

    The Mandalorian felt more at peace than he'd done in years. For once he knew he was among friends.

    Soon they were all fast asleep and none of them saw the wolf pack circling the building or the four wolves guarding the Razor Crest.

    This night was one for peace and friendship, and no harm was to come to any of the four beings inside the tower if Dume had anything to say about it.



    .....



    Author's notes:
    I don't do AN's , I just don't. Primarily I want the story to stand on it's own feet, for better, for worse. But this time I make an exception. Making a semifluffy beeline like this is a bit out of character for Mando, to say the least, but I couldn't resist giving Mando and his kid a litte comfort after the end of season 2 in the TV show. Besides, adding Rex's white beard as a christmassy reference was irresistable and with the upcoming holidays I really just had to write this 'Holiday special chapter'. I do, however, intend to get them back on track again soon. Hope you enjoyed it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2020
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  18. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 9: Kamino Cloning Facility

    Kamino was just as wet and uninviting as it had been the fateful day when Obi-Wan Kenobi first discovered the Clone Army. It was also just as wet and cold as Rex remembered from his far too short childhood. For Mando it was just cold, wet and unpleasant and he sent a grateful thought to the Armorer who had cast and forged his beskar'gam. A conventional steel armour would likely corrode and disintegrate in less than the time he expected to stay here due to the salty and wet climate.

    They had set off from Lothal the day after Winter Solstice. With joined efforts the engines of Razor Crest had been cleaned and up and running by the evening. Sabine had proven herself to be an excellent mechanic and her help in rehabilitating the engines had been invaluable. She had invited them to stay until the next day but knowing fully well that the child's pursuers could be hot on their heels Mando had politely declined the invitation. They had already spent too much time on Tatooine, he couldn't allow himself to linger anymore. Besides, if anyone was tracking him he didn't want them to follow him here. Sabine appeared to be well suited to take care of herself, but after all she was just one person.

    For the same reasons they decided to leave with both ships. That would make them less vulnerable in case something unpleasant happened. Rex would plot the course and leave in his own ship and Mando and the kid would follow in Razor Crest.

    The moment he set Razor Crest down on the landing platform, Mando had felt a chill down his spine, a chill which was not caused by the physical conditions. An eerie silence hung over the place despite the thunder from the waves trying to rip the construction off the bottom of the sea. The feeling was enhanced by the increasing restlessness coming from his little companion.

    The moment they had broken through the atmosphere it had perked it ears and tried to get a glance out the window - a task that was doomed to fail as it wasn't by any means tall enough. The little brow wrinkled and it seemed to be listening to something which could not be heard with human ears. A tiny, unhappy, yelp came from it.

    Mando had never seen his foundling in such a worried state before.

    "What's the matter, little one? This place was abandoned years ago. There's nothing to be afraid of."

    The kid looked up at him for a moment, then it began to wiggle its little body down from the seat.

    "What are you doing? Stay in the seat until we have landed."

    A tiny "uh-oh" came from the being as it shuffled out of the cockpit with an amazing speed.

    What was going on? They had been in danger before, and the moment when he'd first handed it over to the client he'd seen a worried expression in its little face, the expression which somehow had hit his consciousness hard and led to the retrieval of 'the small package'. But through all the troubles and dangers they had faced later on, he'd never seen it acting this weird.

    As soon as they hit the landing platform and he could get out of the seat himself he went hunting. The little one had done a good job of making itself invisible, but after a few minutes hide and seek Mando found him under his own bunk.

    "Come now. This place isn't dangerous."

    I hope, he added silently to himself.

    "Nnnnoh!"

    Was that actually a word? It sounded suspiciously like a "no". A very determined one as such. He knelt down and grabbed for the foundling, trying to pull it carefully out from its newfound hideout. Not a good idea. Now it whimpered. He let go of the little hand and sat down.

    "What is it you're so afraid of?"

    Silence.

    Then he stood up again. Forcing the little one to join when it was obviously scared half to death was not something he would do. After all, this place was supposed to be abandoned and thus safe. It could stay in the cabin. It wasn't like they were going to stay for long anyways.

    "You can stay here," he decided. "You will be safe here. I'll lock the hatch when I leave and you'll be fine. Nobody can enter."

    He really had to go before Rex was totally soaked out there. Or, with all the water pouring down and sideways, he probably was already. A gush of wind and water hit his face as he opened the hatch and he had to wipe the front of the helmet free of water even before he'd taken one step out of the ship. A step that was considerably hindered by something, or someone, clinging to his boot. He looked down. Two black eyes blinked towards him: "Nnnnnooh?"

    He bent down again, carefully releasing the small claws.

    "Now what? I thought we'd agreed on this. You can stay here. Stay! Got it?"

    The child lifted his small hands, the now well-known signal for 'lift me up'.

    "You changed your mind? OK, come on, we have to close this hatch before Razor Crest is all soaked inside. And with the little one safely in the nook of his arm he stepped out into the wind and rain. A small green claw was determinedly fastened to his chest plate.

    Rex was soaking wet, and he was also curious: "What happened?"

    "I'm not sure. The little one didn't want to go, - he actually hid so I had to search for him. I promised he could stay inside the ship but then he changed his mind."

    Rex frowned.

    "Weird. The place seems empty enough. As it should be. I just hope that my entrance code is still functional."

    It was.

    The corridor inside was chilly but dry. What had once been glistering in pristine white panels was now covered by thin layers of dust. Only the sound from ventilations shafts could be heard. The eerie feeling Mando had had outside the complex grew. The child hid its face towards his armour.

    "Where to?"

    Rex shrugged. "I'm not sure, actually. I think we should start with the labs. Maybe we can find something there. Do you know what we're looking for?"

    Mando sighed."No, not really. Some records or samples or something that connects this little guy with the place. When I read Kenobi's books I got the clear understanding that Master Yoda was the same species as the little one, but it also seemed like he was the only one of his kind. I suspect that this one might somehow be cloned from the old Jedi Master. It doesn't per se help me to find his kind, but I if I can find out where he came from, that may be of help."

    The two men had begun walking further into the complex. Rex's determined stride showed that he knew where he was going.

    Finally he stopped outside a door.

    "Here, this was the main lab. We used to get our health checks here. To my understanding this was not the lab where they did the cloning experiments. We were never allowed to go there, but I know it's further down in the buildings."

    "Let's go there."

    Rex nodded: "Let's hope the turbolift is still functioning."

    The level they reached was even more dusty than the facilities upstairs. It was clear that no-one had been here for a very very long time. Which made them wonder - who had managed to keep the upper levels relatively clean? Wasn't the facility totally empty after all? The kid seemed to have calmed down a bit. It wasn't frantically clinging to Mando's armour anymore and every now and then it dared to give the surroundings a quick peek before it hid its face again. Possibly a good sign that no imminent danger was lurking in the shadows.

    "Further down," Rex decided.

    And the kid began whimpering. It was squirming in Mando's arms, apparently trying to escape his grip.

    "Stop that," he whispered, "Don't! I'm not letting anyone harm you, little one, but I cannot let you down on the floor. If you get lost down here I'm not sure I can find you again."

    This is so not good. If he does the 'magical hand thing' now and try to strangle me or throw me away or whatever he's capable to, I don't stand a chance. There's no way I can defend myself against that. And I cannot let him go either. If he's lost down here I will need the next umpteenth rotations finding him again.

    "I bet we're on the right level," Rex stated calmly. "Whatever happened to him, I guess it happened here."

    And then the squirming and whimpering stopped, just as quickly as it had begun and the child became limp in Mando's arms. Only the slow blinking revealed that it was still conscious. It seemed to have resigned to its fate, whatever that might be. Or maybe it actually trusted him to keep it safe. It felt kind of….heartwarming.

    "I promise I'll keep you safe," he added.

    "Let's get in while the litte guy is still calm," Rex said. "Only trouble is that I don't have the code for this lab."

    "That is the least of our problems," Mando stated. "Stay away."

    And with that he removed the blaster from his hip and with a well placed shot the lock was demolished. The door swung out on hinges which had not seen any lubrication lately. The creaking made them all startle. A faint summing came from all directions. It was hard to say whether it was the ventilation or something else. The walls were covered with something that seemed like small closets, doors or drawers being about one square meter.

    No traces in the dust layer on the floor. Good. No living things seemed to visit this place, at least not for several years. The mid section of the floor was covered with working benches, glass tubes and various electronic equipment which all seemed to be switched off.

    The kid whimpered again by the sight of the bench.

    "What is this place?" Mando whispered.

    There really wasn't any need for whispering but something about the environment made him feel like it was the right thing to do. This place gave him the creeps.

    "I believe," Rex sighed, "that this is one of the early cloning labs. They might have been doing experiments before we were created. It is obviously not one of the larger scale production units where my younger brothers were made."

    The phrasing almost made Mando shudder. It was something about the clone's straightforwardness that made his statement even more scary than it could have been. It was like he considered himself and his brothers assets instead of human beings. Technically he was right, but… it felt wrong.

    He'd never thought much of his own moral standards. It came with the occupation. He knew his work sometimes brought him into the shadowlands of 'merely acceptable' and he had long ago accepted this as his path in life. More than once he'd had to cut someone's life short before its natural time to pass had come. Sometimes he felt a pang of remorse, but more often than not he just let it go. His normal bounties wandered the same shadowlands as he did himself so they were, after all, aware of the dangers. But creating human beings as if they were disposable, right from the beginning? That was a completely different matter.

    Philoshophical thoughts aside, the lab appeared to be free from any useful information that might once have existed.

    "What's next?" he asked, hoping that Rex could come up with a new idea.

    The old clone shrugged.

    "I don't know. It will take forever to search the entire complex, and as we don't know what we're looking for…."

    His voice trailed off. Then he straightened his back even more than what was its normal posture.

    "I'll just have a look in one of those drawers, boxes…whatever it is. It seems to be some kind of an archive."

    The kid whimpered and hid his face against the beskar again.

    "Careful," Mando whispered, "I think he's nervous."

    "Yeah. I will."

    And he grabbed one of the lower drawers and pulled. Hard. It slid forward on well lubricated rails, so he almost fell to the floor. Almost. And seconds later he wished he had. He quickly pushed the drawer back into the rack.

    "Did you see that?" he asked, feeling sick to his stomach.

    "No, I didn't. Not really. I saw a glass container of some sorts and there was something dark inside it, like a body floating in liquid…"

    "It was," Rex confirmed, "but it wasn't…well, I can tell you that wasn't a regular clone. This was something else. But it seemed to be dead and just encapsulated for preservation."

    He swore he would never tell anyone of the monstrosity that was kept inside the container. It could have been a human life form, but something had altered it to something unrecognisable. There had been too many limbs for a normal human being and the skin colour had been a murky green/greyish colour and he wouldn't even think about its facial features which could be all too clearly seen through the transparent cylinder. It was something that nightmares were made of.

    The kid whimpered again.

    "Yes, you're right kid, let's get out of here. Coming here was not the best idea in the galaxy."

    That's when they heard the slow steps and a slim figure entered the room. For a moment Rex and the newcomer glared at each other.

    "Taun We?!" he exclaimed.

    "CT-7567", the newcomer said in its low, singing voice. "It had to be you coming back after all these years. And who are you?"

    The last sentence came as she turned towards Mando, and a small gasp came from her throat.

    "The Replica," she said, "you have the Replica."

    "Say again?" Mando and Rex said in unison.

    The kid had now turned completely silent, and seemed like it was trying to disappear into Mando's chest plates.

    The Kaminoan didn't answer. Likely she realised that she'd said too much already.

    "Taun We," Rex said in his most autorative voice, every bit the Captain he once was, "we're not here to harm you in any way, actually we were under the impression that the facilities had been closed down and that there would be no-one here. But we do need to know as much as possible about the little one here, the one you called 'replica'. There are people searching for him and it seems that he is in danger."

    "Very well," Taun We agreed, "I will tell you what little I know, but at that time I was only a junior researcher and I do not know the background for what happened."
     
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  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Ooh, excellent details of the eerie search and the unmentionable find in the drawer :eek: =D=

    Looking forward to what Taun We reveals.
     
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  20. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I don't know why, but for some reason I always got the impression that Taun We was a good egg. Like, she may have had a different worldview due to her people's culture, but she wasn't a bad person.
     
  21. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 10: The Replica

    "Do you have another place we could be while you're handing over the information?" Rex asked, "This place gives me the creeps."

    "You didn't open any of the drawers, did you?" the Kaminoan asked.

    "That one."

    "Good," she said, "some of them aren't nice to look at. We kept them preserved in case we would need samples later on."

    Rex paled visibly. If she considered what he had been looking at as 'nice to look at' they surely weren't on the same page.

    Taun We curved her long neck gracefully: "I do have a more pleasant place to be than here."

    The trio followed in complete silence, and as soon as the doors closed behind them Mando could feel a relieved sigh coming from his foundling. Obviously it had been afraid of what could happen in there. The little face withdrew from his armour and the round eyes looked up at him. He could almost hear its thoughts.

    Are we leaving now? We won't return - right?

    "No," he promised, "we won't come back here again. Ever."

    They ended up in something that looked like a control room further up in the complex and sat down in the relatively comfortable chairs. Mando noticed with some satisfaction that the kid had calmed down to such a degree that it was now taking in the surroundings with some of its normal curiosity.

    "Now, tell."

    Taun We let her eyes linger on the kid for a moment and then she looked up again and began her story:

    "Many many years ago, we were contacted by an off-worlder who claimed to be a Jedi. His order was quite unusual, he wanted us to make a clone army 'for the protection of the Republic'. It was a huge task but the payment was….generous so our leader at that time, Lama Su, accepted the deal."

    "Who was this Jedi?" Rex shot in.

    "I don't know. As I said I was merely a junior researcher at that time so I wasn't involved at all. However, we weren't just to create an army, but the army should possess the powers of the Jedi as well."

    "But none of us had that?" Rex asked.

    "No, you didn't. But you and your brothers were created later on. Some time later the same Jedi returned, He brought with him a piece of wood which we later discovered was a piece of gimer. We were told that there likely would be DNA on it which could be used as a base for the extraction of what he called midichlorians. It proved to be a difficult task. After a long time we were able to extract some viable material from the surface of the stick, but it was far too little to be of any practical use. We needed more material.

    So we took a step back in the process and discarded the work with the midichlorians for a while. Instead we focused on what we already knew, namely creating a replica of the one whom had left his genetic material on the stick."

    This time Mando shuddered and cast a glance down on his protege who now slumbered peacefully in his lap: "Replica?"

    Taun We continued with a nod:

    "Yes, replica. At least that's what we thought it was. After all we had never seen the donor of the biological material, so we couldn't know for sure. This time we managed to create a perfect living being, which was a huge progress. We didn't know too much of Jedi powers and it was so small that we couldn't actually verify anything. It mainly slept and ate - for months. It seemingly didn't age at all and we realised we had a severe problem. If we were to create an army of its kind it would likely not be ready in centuries and the Jedi had given us a timeframe of about two decades. So we had to come up with something new."

    "Accellerated ageing?" Rex shot in.

    "No. We didn't think of that - then. I wish we had. Our next approach was to try to blend genetic material from the replica with material from other beings, assuming that if the replica had these Jedi powers in the form of midichlorians it would transfer to a species with a more rapid ageing. I guess I don't have to tell you the entire project was a disaster. The biological material from this little one was not complying well with any of the species we tried to blend it with. Our first attempts was to blend genetic material from the replica with other species to create a living being with ingrained midichlorians. The result was basically what you saw downstairs. Or, fortunately, not saw. None of the specimens were able to live for more than a few years. It seemed like the material from the replica somehow affected their natural ageing, and while the replica aged slowly they aged much more rapidly than what should be expected from their species' natural lifetime. None of them developed normally, neither according to their species appearance and abilities nor to life span. Most of them appeared to be right out evil and totally impossible to control. Some of them were so dangerous that if they hadn't died from the accelerated ageing we would have had to…terminate them. One of our least disastrous tests was actually mixing the genetics of the replica with that from a human. That was the drawer you opened."

    Rex shuddered: "Thank you very much. One of those must have been one too many for the galaxy."

    Taun We continued unperturbated: "The others were worse. I can tell you, combining the genetics from the replica with the one from a Wookiee did not fare well at all…

    The next time the Jedi came back to check on our progress he was less than happy. He saw our specimens and he immediately discarded the project and demanded the replica delivered to him. Which was about time for the little one. All our experiments had demanded material to be extracted from him and it was taxing for his little body. At that time he was very weak so we had began to ponder whether we should make a replica, version 2."

    "Did you do it?" Mando asked.

    If there were more of the kid's kind in the galaxy, at least he wanted to know.

    "No, we never did. Because the Jedi demanded the replica delivered to him. And he was…very adamant. So, after long discussions we agreed upon proceeding with pure human clones and discard the path of creating Jedi hybrid clones. It wasn't until after the Jedi had left with the replica we realised that we might use the remaining bio material from it to create technology for accelerated ageing of the human clones. So that was what we did. We did some research on the matter and decided that using a human who was well skilled in the art of combat was our best approach so we hired a bounty hunter named Jango Fett for the future production. It took some trial and errors until we were able to extract the component from the replica's blood that seemingly controlled the ageing process and when we diluted it it didn't seem to harm the human receiver. As soon as we had that under control we could continue the process, and you and your brothers were produced."

    "Are there any more 'specimens' out there, from your earliest trials with humans and the artificial ageing?" Mando asked.

    "No, the earliest trials malfunctioned to some extent as well and died from natural causes here on Kamino," Taun We assured him. "The replica is the only one alive after the initial experiments and it doesn't seem to have aged a lot. It's still a toddler from what I can see."

    "Yes, he is. He seems to follow the natural ageing for his kind."

    Rex had one more question: "Who was the Jedi?"

    Taun We wrinkled her brow slightly: "I believe his name was said to be Sifo-Dyas. I'm not sure if it was he who placed the order, but he was the one taking the replica away."

    "Does not sound famili…," Mando began, but was interrupted by an alarm from the control panel, "…what's that?"

    Taun We rose and with controlled, yet fast steps she moved towards the pinging panel.

    "Oh, this was most unexpected."

    "What's going on?" Mando asked again, a vague feeling of dread chilling his spine.

    "A light cruiser just came out of hyperspace," she answered, "it seems to be one of the Arquitens class."

    Mando and Rex exchanged glances.

    "I don't like this," they concluded in unison.

    "Nor do I," Taun We agreed. "This has never happened before. Wait…it seems like something is dispatching. I don't like the looks of that."

    They all saw it now. Multiple small dots appeared on the screen, fast approaching the planet's surface.

    "I think we should leave now!" Rex concluded.

    Mando was already on the move towards the entrance door.

    "Agreed. Taun We, you're coming?"

    The Kaminoan shook her head slowly.

    "No, take the replica and leave. I suspect this whatever it is has something to do with it. I was set to guard this place and that's exactly what I will do. They may not mean any harm to me as long as the replica has disappeared. Go. Quick. We had contingency plans for this, so I know what is expected of me."

    "You are certain…?"

    "Go! Now!"

    And with that the two men bolted for the entrance, the kid safely tucked under Mando's right arm.

    They almost made it.

    The first darktrooper landed when they were half-way to the ships and in a second both men had their blasters unholstered and were firing towards the three attacking figures. None of the blaster bolts did any harm though they hit their targets. Five other dark figures were aiming for the door.

    "Kriffin' clankers," Rex swore, "they were easier to handle before."

    A well placed shot in the neck of one of the troopers made sparks fly and for a moment it seemed like it was short circuiting but then the pouring rain killed the sparks, and he had more than enough to do with avoiding the fists of the dark…thing.

    Two of the troopers focused on the Mandalorian. For a second he regretted that the jet pack was left inside Razor Crest. Blasters were obviously not the best tool to neutralise them so he punched the control panel on his sleeve and a fireball shot from the armour. The dark trooper was unaffected. He knew deep inside that hand combat with this monstrosity would likely be the last thing he did in this life so in desperation he released a thin wire from the armour on the left hand side. If he only could make it tangle around the thing's feet and make it stumble he might have a chance to get the kid to Razor Crest. Hopefully Rex was able to take care of the last one somehow. It failed. The wire was ripped off in an instant.

    The hope was crushed in the moment an iron fist hit his midriff - again and again and he felt air escaping his lungs with each blow to his ribcage. He had to keep the kid away from the fists that hammered down onto him. The third darktroooper had come from his left and a new fist hit his cheek in the same moment as a well placed kick sent him flying across the platform and he felt the foundling being ripped from him. He heard a yelp from the foundling and then his entire world turned black.

    He came to feeling someone dragging him into the ship.

    "The….kid? Where's the….kid?" he gasped. It felt like his entire torso had transformed into minced meat and for a moment it was hard to breathe. If it weren't for the beskar'gam he probably would have had an even closer resemblance to it.

    "They took him."

    "No. Wait, let go of me I can walk by myself. We have to get him back."

    "First we have to get into the ship before the rest of them returns. Besides they took off immediately after they snatched him from you," Rex stated dryly.

    The Mandalorian staggered to his feet and with Rex' support he was able to enter Razor Crest in a semi-decent way.

    "Where did they go?"

    "The cruiser. Let's get this thing going."

    Hatch locked, switches moved and Razor Crest lifted from the platform. They were just closing in on the huge ship when a blinding light came from the Cloning Facility and Razor Crest shuddered violently. And in that very same moment the cruiser slipped into hyperspace.

    "He's gone," Mando whispered hoarsely. "They took him. And we have no way of tracking them."

    The air around them was cluttered with debris from the explosion beneath them as Rex steered the ship up through the atmosphere.

    The Cloning Facility was closed forever.
     
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Interesting details from Taun We and [face_nail_biting] he's been taken. =D=
     
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  23. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 11: Uncertain Future

    As the shockwave from the explosion faded away and the debris slowly spread and fell to the planet's surface, Rex looked up from the controls.

    "What now?" he asked.

    Mando just shook his head - slowly. Every inch of his body hurt and the inside didn't fare much better.

    "I don't know. He's gone and I have no idea where they may be taking him."

    "You took a good beating down there. If you have any medpacks you should go and find some bacta and patch yourself up."

    "Yes… I believe the beskar'gam held. Both the ribs and the spline managed. I think. What were those creatures?"

    Rex shrugged: "We've heard rumours of something the Empire called darktroopers. They were not used during the war but obviously they have been launched at some time. I bet one of my blasters that we've met some, -first hand."

    Mando rose stiffly from his seat: "You have the controls, I'll go and do some patching."



    He'd been thoroughly beaten up before, and a closer examination didn't reveal any life threatening injuries. He would certainly have a rather multicoloured skin tone for the next days with the multiple bruises that covered his body, but he was quite certain he would heal in due time.

    Inside it was…different. He was pretty sure his internal organs were undamaged, but when it came to the rest of it he was a mess.

    The feeling of loss was overwhelming and when he saw the little hammock rigged above his own bunk he felt his eyes water a bit. For a few month's he'd almost been happy. Almost. He hadn't known, or at least wouldn't admit, how much he'd longed for a family and somehow the kid had become just that: family.

    "A clan of two," the Armourer had said. She might as well have said: "A family of two."

    That was what he felt deep inside.

    The weirdest family in the galaxy.

    He'd never seen that coming. The first time he'd seen the little creature he'd felt something inside. A need to protect, and contrary to his better judgment he'd acted upon it. It had cost him the life he knew, many of his friends and his tribe.

    He didn't regret it.

    The day the separatist troops came to his town and his parents hid him in the basement he knew that his life would be changed forever, and when the strange armoured man picked him up he knew that this was his best chance of a life. The war-ridden town that had been his home through his childhood was gone, torn to pieces after the separatist's attack. So was his childhood.

    His parents were gone too.

    He didn't know how he knew, but he did. Where there had been love and care, there was now emptiness.

    So he followed the stranger willingly enough.

    He adapted well to the tribe's customs. If this was the way he would survive, then so be it. To his own surprise he had some talent for combat and he soon excelled among the his age mates in both hand combat and the use of various weapons. He would forever be grateful to his surrogate father who took him in and gave him a new life, but something was missing. The tribe became his new family and yet…not. The aching hole inside was always there and in the dark hours of the night the first year he'd often laid awake and wept silent tears. The tears stopped as he matured, but the empty feeling was always there. Something was missing. He became one of the tribe's best warriors and when he realised he could earn good money as a bounty hunter he chose that profession. If that meant he could bring credits back to the tribe and support their survival, then he would gladly do so. Knowing that he gave something back somehow kept the hole at bay. It didn't heal, but at least it didn't grow either.

    And then he met the kid, and for a few precious months it had been like the hole had disappeared and been replaced by a warmth he didn't know himself being able to possess.

    He'd not been alone. If he'd been able to return the kid to his kind he would gladly have done so. It would still have hurt, but at least he would have known that the little one was safe and happy. Now that was but an illusion. Nothing, absolutely nothing, good could come from the mechanical monstrosities they'd just encountered, nor from Moff Gideon. Taun We's story had confirmed his bad feelings about the intentions of the man.

    But there was no way in the entire galaxy he could fix this. No way at all. The kid was gone, and there was no trace left of him.

    A deep sigh escaped him, straining sore ribs and muscles as he stood up and staggered back to the co-pilot's seat.

    Rex looked up when he entered.

    "You OK?"

    "Yeah. Mostly. I'll survive. "

    "Good. I did some thinking while you were away. I have acquaintances in the former rebellion. I think we should go there and see if they can help us get your kid back."

    "Us?"

    "Us," the older man confirmed, "you cannot fix this alone, son. It's too much for one man, and after what we heard on Kamino, even I wouldn't let the little guy stay with those beasts longer than necessary. I have friends at Seelos. We can contact my…other friends from there while we stay out of sight. What we really need is a Jedi but they are kind of hard to find these days…"

    "You really believe in the Jedi?" Mando asked.

    "I do. I fought with them through the Clone Wars and I saw the best and worst of them, I think. They were always there when you needed them, but in the end one of them also performed the worst betrayal this Galaxy has ever seen. Before his turning to the dark side he was the most loyal friend and General you could ever imagine, and then in a blink of an eye that changed."

    "What happened?"

    Rex gave him an incredulous glance: "You don't know? Didn't you hear anything out in the outer rim?"

    "Not…that. We had other things on our minds. Mandalore."

    "Right. Guess it makes sense. Well, Vader turned to the dark side of the Force and joined the Emperor. And in that moment he betrayed us all."

    "Dark side of the Force?"

    "Yeah. I'm not the slightest bit Force sensitive but as I understood their explanation the thing they call 'the Force' is dualistic, with one light side and one dark side. The light side is unselfish and giving, while the dark side is more selfish and focus on personal gain and possession. Until the Empire day the Jedi were always working in favour of the light. They weren't necessarily infallible, but their intentions were good."

    "And after?"

    "They died. Vader took out some, we clones took most. We were programmed from our creation to obey a command to kill the Jedi. And the command was given."

    The old clone Captain sighed: "I …escaped. One of my brothers discovered that we had implants that would override our free will. I believed in him and I had mine removed, before…it happened."

    Mando nodded. The little he'd heard about Jedi before had not been in their favour. Now it seemed as they were as much victims as the Mandalorians. His heart ached a little more for the little Jedi-to-be that had been snatched from his hands before it could learn to know it's own kind. On the other hand - finding said kind would certainly not be an easy task if they had all fallen as victims for genocide decades ago.

    A tiny hope fluttered inside him. Maybe, if he actually could find and save the kid, he would be allowed a few years more raising the little one before he had to let go.

    As if! Finding a tiny creature in the entire Galaxy was a near impossible task.



    They never made it to Seelos. As they dropped out of hyperspace for their next change of co-ordinates Rex' commlink was beeping loud and clear. The small, blue figure who appeared was unmistakably Sabine.

    "Where have you guys been? I thought at least you would come back Rex, and what in stars hells are you doing in Razor Crest?"

    "We had some complications… Are you OK?"

    "Why wouldn't I? Yes, I'm fine. Everything has been calm around here, well…except…Dume has been crazy. It has been 'wolf night' ever since you left. I think you should come back. Something is going on but I cannot figure out what."

    A distant howl emphasised what she was saying.

    "I think," she continued,"it has something to do with the kid so if you're all on board Mando's ship, I think you should come back here. Dume became more active the evening Mando and the kid came here so I believe it has something to do with either of them. He's never done this before as long as I've been living in this place. It's very out of character for him."

    "Well, there's a problem with that…"

    "What?"

    "Kid's gone. We were on Kamino when a bunch of dark troopers dropped from a cruiser and attacked the cloning facility. They took the kid. We were thinking of going to see my brothers for a while until we'd figured out what to do to get him back."

    "And Mando?"

    "Thoroughly beaten up, but alive. Mostly bruises. I've volunteered helping him getting the kid back. Or at least trying to find him. That's too much for a single man."

    "Count me in," Sabine said. "Another reason for you to come back here. Should I contact Hera and inform her that the dark troopers are more than a rumour? She can hand the information over to General Organa and Skywalker. Maybe Skywalker can help finding the kid, too."

    "Yes, do that. We'll change co-ordinates and return to Lothal."

    The transmission ended and the two men looked at each other.

    "Guess it's Lothal again, then," Rex stated.
     
  24. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Poignant reflections and sweet realization of the "family of two." [face_love] Glad there're more helping out now. [face_relieved]
     
    CaraJinn likes this.
  25. CaraJinn

    CaraJinn Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 8, 2018
    Chapter 12: The Wolf Night

    It was nearly dawn when they arrived at Sabine's place on Lothal. Sabine was awaiting them as Razor Crest landed, considerably closer to her home this time.

    The two men who disembarked were almost staggering. During the last couple of legs the soreness in Mando's beaten up body had increased to new heights and he almost moaned as he rose from the pilot's chair. Rex didn't fare much better. He had taken a couple of blows too, but also volunteered for piloting the first part of their journey.

    His phrasing 'son' back in Razor Crest had made Mando think. In reality they had to be of approximately same age, but due to the clone's accelerated ageing as a child he appeared much older. They might as well have been father and son from the appearance of it. Somehow it felt reassuring having the old-timer on his team.

    "You don't look too good," Sabine stated drily. "And that goes for both of you."

    Rex arched his brow: "You wouldn't have either if you'd been on the receiving end of a darktrooper's fist. Whatever you do, don't go into hand combat with any of those."

    Mando just nodded. Carefully.

    "What do we do next?"

    Sabine sighed: "We, or rather you, have some maintenance to do. To yourselves. Right now you look dead on your feet and I'm so not going out there with two living corpses like you on my tail. I have prepared food for you and then it will be 12 hours sleep for you guys."

    Mando sighed.

    "I'd rather start now. They're getting farther away as we speak."

    "You don't know that. Food and sleep it is."

    "And then?"

    Deep within he had to admit she was right. Neither he nor Rex were in such a condition that they could meet any 'complications' right now and whatever they were going to do it would need a minimum of strength.

    "I concede. Rest first, but then?"

    Sabine's brisk demeanour flattened a bit: "I'm not sure actually. I think we'll have to go out to meet Dume and I think we should do that at the old Jedi Temple."

    "What?" Rex exclaimed, "are you out of your wits? Going out there with the loth wolves and no Jedi to communicate with them, or to protect us."

    Mando felt confused. Why would they need protection? They were all three armoured and any wolf that wanted to take a bit of them would likely be in huge need for a dentist afterwards. It would surely be unpleasant but he was quite sure they would survive a wolf pack. He'd seen worse. Far worse.

    Somehow Rex must have read his posture, and done it right.

    "Oh, no. I can see what you're thinking, but those wolves are something else."

    "Dume won't hurt us," Sabine said, "at least I don't think he will. I have no idea what he wants or how to communicate but hey, we'll figure it out as we go."

    Rex sighed and shook his head.

    At dusk they rose and Mando noticed he was feeling slightly better. Food, a shower and then sleep had certainly helped. Some of the aching had diminished and the thought of doing something had lifted his spirits a bit. He was ready for whatever would appear.

    Sabine and Rex looked like that too. They both appeared ready for whatever might come, fully armed with blasters and with their helmets under their arms, ready to be put on if needed.

    "We'll use my speeder," Sabine decided.

    They could all hear the distant howls from the wolves now.

    "They're getting closer," Sabine said softly, "let's get out of here and see what happens."

    Mando felt a chill down his spine, that didn't sound too reassuring.

    They entered Sabine's little speeder - which was a bit tight over the shoulders for the armoured men. Rex sat down beside Sabine while Mando curled up in the back seat.

    "Squeeze yourselves together," Sabine admonished. "It will do just fine, I've done some modifications over the years so it's more powerful than it seems."

    Rex huffed in response.

    They set out following the howls from the wolf pack. Every once in a while Sabine stopped the engine so they could listen.

    "Yep, they're leading us towards the old Temple," she said.

    "Is that good or bad?" Mando asked.

    "We'll see."

    The answer didn't reassure him the least.

    They saw them at the next stop. Three wolves running side by side could be seen in silhouette towards the horizon.

    "They never do that," Sabine whispered. "They always run in a straight line. They want us to see them."

    Mando nodded. He knew the tactics from the tuskens at Tatooine or on other worlds. Hiding their numbers was crucial for anyone who lived in the wilderness. But something was amiss.

    "They're still far away," he said, "and still they seem so big."

    "That's the point," Sabine agreed, "they don't have the size of regular wolves. The loth wolves here are huge. And yet you haven't seen Dume."

    "Bigger?"

    "A lot."

    Where the megaliths had once stood there was no nothing but open landscape. Sabine stopped her speeder outside what had previously been the perimetry of the old temple.

    "I think we should walk from here."

    The two men nodded. It was something about this place…

    The trio crawled out from their cramped space and stretched out. Sabine and Rex resolutely put their helmets in place. Better safe than sorry.

    A new howl from multiple voices made them shudder. This time it was loud, really loud and it seemed to come from all sides.

    "Let's proceed to where the main megalith used to be," Sabine decided. "Stick together."

    The rising moon cast a bluish light over the plains as they tread forward.

    And the first wolf came. It just stood there looking silently at them.

    Then another, and one more. Finally they were forming a circle around the humans. The howling had stopped now and only the panting from the huge animals could be heard in the silence of the night.

    Rex looked around: "I don't like this."

    "Hush. Dume isn't here yet."

    The wolves began running, forming a perfect circle around the humans.

    "I don't think we should try to break the circle," Sabine said drily.

    Mando couldn't have agreed more. Up close these animals were larger than any canines he'd seen before. They didn't seem hostile per se but he had a distinct feeling that they were the ones setting up the show for the evening. The humans could just obey.

    Then it appeared. The largest wolf he'd ever seen crossed passed through the circle, its silvery fur almost reflecting the moonlight and with piercing green eyes fixed on Mando. It reached him to the shoulders as it stopped in front of them, clearly letting its glance pass from one human to the next.

    It was judging them.

    Now I understand what Sabine and Rex meant. Those aren't regular wolves. Those are something else, or at least the leader is. This must be the one she calls 'Dume'. But what do they want. It seems like it…he…wants to communicate something, but what? Is it just me, or is it actually focusing on me? I'm not sure I'm ready to become a snack for that one tonight, but on the other hand I guess I shouldn't draw the blaster until it becomes clearly threatening.

    The wolf bared its teeth in a sneer. Not good. Then it stepped forward. If Mando hadn't been wearing the helmet he would have felt its breath to his face. Then it seemed to make a decision and with a movement of its head it urged him to step forward.

    As Sabine and Rex tried to follow, two wolves broke out from the circle and stepped up in front of them. The message was clear: Stay.

    "It seems he wants to communicate with you," Sabine whispered. "I don't think he will harm you, he's likely looking for a way to communicate."

    That was…reassuring. If only 'communicate' had involved less teeth and muscles he'd been good with it.

    The wolf turned and took some steps away. Mando followed. They didn't walk far before the wolf turned around and looked at him expectantly.

    What now? He had no idea. Surely it was expecting him to do something, but what? He didn't have a clue.

    The answer came quickly. In two rapid steps the animal had closed in on him and the huge snout was put under the edge of his helmet pushing it upwards.

    "No!"

    The word was out before he could control it.

    A deep growl was the answer, - and a new push. More gently this time.

    The Armorers words: Have you ever taken it off in the presence of others?

    No

    Has it been removed by others?

    No

    This is the way.

    I can't. I really can't. It has been a part of me for so many years, I can't remove it now. But the wolf is not a human being, not really and it won't tell anyone how I look like? But I swore the creed and if I'm ever going to get the kid back I may need it. In fact I may need all the help I can get. Rex was right, taking on ex-empire alone is too much for one man. I don't know what its intentions are, but if it might help rescue the kid, its worth it.

    "Turn around, don't look," he addressed Sabine and Rex over his shoulder. "This is something you shall not see."

    The shuffling of feet told him that they'd probably followed his instructions. A warmth spread inside him as he realised that they trusted him enough to follow his wish. Slowly he released the helmet and lifted it off.

    The sensation was odd. It wasn't like he never took it off, but he'd never removed it in front of anything before, nor had he done so outdoors. He'd almost forgotten how it felt to have the breeze striking his cheek and ruffling his hair. Silently he lifted his face and looked into the green eyes of the animal in front of him. Its stare met his own, unwavering as if it was searching for his very soul. He felt the snout closing in on him and for a moment he felt the urge of putting the helmet back - fast. The canine teeth were far too close to his throat for his likings. Nothing happened. The wolf took a couple of sniffs, and drew back. Whatever it was searching for, it seemed to have come to a conclusion. A gentle push to the helmet sent the message through: "You can put it back on."

    His relief was almost palpable as the lock of the helmet snapped in place.

    The wolf stepped back a couple of steps and stopped again. Staring at the ground.

    What now?

    It lowered its head.

    Sit!

    It was more a feeling than any spoken or unspoken phrasing, but the meaning was suddenly clear. Mando stepped forward and sat down. He could see the backs of his two companions still turned towards him.

    "You can turn again now."

    He sat down, the wolf almost looming over him as it sat down behind him.

    Nothing happened. The wolves were still circling. He could hear the soft breathing of the animal behind him, and he saw Sabine and Rex sit down as well. This would be a long night indeed.

    It lasted forever, and then some more. Only the wind whispering over the vaste grasslands could be heard, combined with the hushed sounds of multiple paws towards the ground. At one point he tried to get up, but a huge paw on his shoulder clearly signalised that it wouldn't be a good idea, so he kept sitting not knowing what, if anything, would happen next. Dawn came, and with that daylight. The wolves stopped pacing and sat down, but kept the guardian circle unbroken.

    Sabine's patience was worn thin: "What's happening? When can we get up?"

    An admonishing growl came from the wolf next to her so she stayed. As did Rex.

    The change came in the form of a sleek ship almost touching the sloped hill behind them and went in for landing less than a klick away. The sitting wolves started circling again. Mando wanted to get up to be ready for whatever or whomever was on board that ship, but as soon as he tried he felt the paw on his shoulder again.

    Not yet.

    "OK, I get it."

    A tall hooded being jumped out from the ship and approached the group. Mando could see a slight change in Rex' and Sabine's posture as they exchanged a glance, and as on a given signal they both rose and approached the newcomer.

    "Commander!"

    "Fulcrum."

    Mando cast an inquisitive glance at Dume and the huge wolf bowed its head lightly.

    You can go.

    So he did. He had no idea whom the hooded figure was, but as both Sabine and Rex seemed to not only know him but be glad to see him he followed his friends just as the figure pulled the hood back and revealed her face. She had a strong face with an orange skin colour and white face markings. A couple of blue eyes stared directly at him.

    "Who are you?"

    The question was as direct as it was hard to answer. Who was he? Really? What would make sense to this being? So he stuck to the simple version.

    "They call me 'Mando'," he said, "I'm a bounty hunter, for the moment without any paid assignments."

    It would have to do for now.

    Her eyes narrowed a bit, before she surprisingly enough turned and hugged Rex and gave Sabine a friendly nod.

    "Where have you been?"

    "What happened to you?"

    She held up a hand and turned towards Mando: "My pleasure, Mando. I think. I am Ahsoka Tano, former intel officer in the rebellion."

    Ahsoka? Ahsoka! His brain clicked in gear and he remembered Bail Organa's words: "…and I don't know where Ahsoka Tano is either."

    "The Jedi?"

    She gave a low chuckle: "I was once one, yes. Not anymore. What is going on here? I felt this…anomaly…in the Force and it was quite insistent so I decided to have a look."

    The wolves had stopped circling and a trail of paws as if only one wolf had ever been present lead away from the open place. Only Dume was left. Calmly she walked towards him and put her hand to his face. For a moment it was like a silent conversation took place and then she withdrew her hand.

    "Thanks for helping, I'll take it from here."

    The large wolf rose and followed his pack.

    "He called out for me," she said, "that was what I felt from him. But he couldn't tell me why. Can you?"

    "It's…complicated," Sabine sighed. "Would you mind coming with us to my place - where Ezra used to live? It may take some time to explain."