Star Wars: Kandosii'tal


6 minutes later

Lower City, Obron City, Obroa-skai

1 year, 2 months BBY

"'Ey, look there."

"S'that a—?"

"He he he, yep. Genuine Mandalorian armor."

"How much does that go for on the market these days?"

"Enough that we'll be livin' the high life in record time."

"Come on then, le's strip the corpse 'fore anyone else spots 'im."

"Right. Get his head."

The two scavenging Weequays knelt at the side of a silver-and-blue clad Mandalorian warrior, red symbol emblazoned on his right shoulder, one pulling uselessly at his chest plate as the other reached for his helmet, tipping the head up so that they were effectively face to faceplate. They both nearly jumped out of their skins when a deep, filtered voice was heard.

"Just one question."

The headward Weequay's gold-brown eyes resembled the noonday sun even before a snap-hiss reached his ears, a glowing blue blade hovering just inches from his head. The helmet leaned even closer, putting their faces barely an inch apart.

"What corpse?"

They both screamed in terror and fled faster than humanly possible, leaving a battered and bruised Xel on the cold stone floor, the saber turning off a second later as a long, pained groan left his body. He exercised his sore muscles, sitting up and rising into a crouched position as he looked down at the content of his hand. His fingers clenched and his teeth followed suit when a burst of static came through his helmet's comm. systems.

"Xel—Xel, do you read?"

Relief burst through him as he put an index to his helmet and responded. "Alen," he breathed out. "Vod, you're all right. Thank the Manda." And our mother.

"I already have. Are you all right? Are you in pain?"

Xel hissed as he stood, his bruised body protesting. "Nothing I can't handle." He debated the validity of that statement for a second as he tested his range of motion. Cracked a couple ribs for sure…maybe a sprain or dozen. Something clawed at his heart, a feeling he knew all too well, and he clamped down on it, the turbulent emotion threatening to tear him apart.



"Stop blaming yourself."

The Mando's teeth clenched. Damn this bond.

"Curse it all you want, but this isn't your fault." Alen sounded winded. "It was her choice."

"How can you be so calm?" he asked, voice shaking slightly in pain and rage. "Your—our mother just died."

"Did she?"

Xel gaped at the question.

"Tell me again, what did it feel like when Xander was killed?"

Realization dawned on him. "Like my heart was being torn out."

"Right. Have you felt anything like that?"

"Well, no, but…I was unconscious."

"Trust me, when a Force Bond is severed, blacking out is no obstacle to pain."


Alen sighed heavily. "Good. Me neither." Silence reigned for a moment. "Can you get to your ship?"

Xel hissed again as he started putting one foot after the other, his steps quickening as a dark feeling in the back of his head increased. "Yes, I think so." He reached out to Telia's bond, trying to feel his mother's Force, but was met with an abrupt stop. His heart skipped a beat.

"Xel, focus. If she'd been killed, you would know it."

"Jedi healing trance?"

"Most likely."

"Can you get to your own ship?"

"Already halfway there. Whatever Mom did, she certainly got quite a bit of attention, so I haven't run into any trouble or tails."

"Small miracles. It'll take me a bit longer, but I should make it as well." He rounded a corner, reaching a turbolift a moment later and keying the "up" function. "Do you think Vader knows about the house?"

"No, otherwise he wouldn't have placed this trap, but I don't think it's safe anymore."

Xel nodded even though Alen couldn't see it. "Agreed. Go there and get whatever we'll need for the long-term, then get the hell off this planet."

"You mean…you're not coming?"

"Not there, no. Vader'll know my ship from Nar Shaddaa. Staying will only put you at risk, but if I go, there's a chance I'll draw them off. Make them think we're both gone."

"So you're leaving."

"Yes." He looked out the lift's window as it continued its straight climb. "For now, the best thing for us to do is split up."

"Roger that." There was silence for a moment before he spoke a little hesitantly. "Do you, by any chance, have my lightsaber?"

Xel blinked, looking down at his hand to see the cylindrical weapon in his grip. "Yes." He clipped it to his belt, his left arm falling over it to keep it hidden. "Once we're off this planet, I'll find a way to get it back to you."

"No need for anything fancy. Just give it to me when we rendezvous."

A black eyebrow raised slightly. "You sure?"

"A Jedi is more than a lightsaber. I'll be fine."

"Roger that," he answered, stepping out of the stopped turbolift and fast-walking toward a nearby speeder bike.

An Imperial scout trooper was leaned back against its chassis, oblivious to his presence until he got close. His hand reached halfway to his holster before Xel raised his hand and spoke.

"You want to give me that speeder." The trooper froze, and for a few seconds, Xel thought he'd failed.

Instead, he stepped aside and said, "It's all yours, sir."

The Mando smiled behind his faceplate. "Thank you, soldier." He mounted the bike, starting the engine and thumbing the repulsorlifts to life. "You're workin' too hard. Why don't you go out for a few rounds?"

"Yeah, why not?"

An eyebrow raised slightly as the trooper sauntered off, his white and black body a strange sight to be seen heading to the nearest red sector. The bike roared to life as Xel sped off, getting back to the spaceport as fast as possible before Vader discovered his ship and interdicted the whole planet looking for him. If he hasn't already. That scout had obviously recognized him. Pushing that thought away, he set his jaw and ditched the speeder behind a stack of crates at the port's loading dock, heading inside and sticking to crowds to avoid being spotted. One would think that being a six-foot man in full Mandalorian armor would make you stand out in a crowd, but like all hunters, Xel had a knack for hiding in plain sight.

The Force just made things all too easy.

A malicious smile blossomed on his face as he ducked behind two stormtroopers and through a series of maintenance tunnels to get to his docking bay. His heart jumped as two stormtroopers came into view, the pair guarding the entrance ramp of the Kandosii'tal. Xel strode toward them, fists curling, as he reached out with the Force, noting the sudden tension and coiled-spring feel to the soldiers.

"Don't you two have somewhere else to be? Search the other hangars, now."

They exchanged a look at his imperious tone before the one on the left spoke. "I—yes sir. Of course."

The pair left together as Xel boarded his ship, keying the throttle and activating the repulsorlifts.

"Kuat Heavy Striker," a voice called over the ship's comlink, "you are not cleared for takeoff and this spaceport is under lockdown. Power down immediately."

"Usen'ye, mir'osik," he spat, shutting off the link and maxing out his throttle, shooting out of the hangar at a breakneck speed and heading directly for space.

Another voice came over his speakers. "This is Captain Ledric Faal of the Imperial Star Destroyer Retribution. Stand down immediately or be destroyed."

Xel scowled hard. "Like I told the other guy—" he gunned the sublight engines, spotting the massive vessel in the distance and breaking away from it hard, "blow it out your shebs." The link shut off as four TIE Fighters opened fire, two green bolts slamming into the back of his shields as he juked out of the way of the rest. His teeth clenched as he executed one tight roll after the other, dodging most of their fire as his nav computer calculated the jump to lightspeed. "Come on," he groaned at his ship when it buckled under more fire.

Xel executed a complex series of rolls and twists, facing his attackers and blasting two out of space with his cannons before breaking off, sensors going haywire as they pinged an impending tractor lock. "Come on!" Finally, the nav blinked blue, and he turned hard to the left, right hand shoving the hyperdrive lever forward. The stars stretched and twisted as he shot into the blue tunnel of hyperspace, away from Obroa-skai.

The Kandosii'tal, hyperspace

Xel leaned back in the captain's chair as he pulled off his helmet, laying it on the dashboard and sighing heavily. He became lost in his thoughts for a while before spotting a blinking red light. He thumbed the Holonet activator and pulled up his messages, blinking several times in disbelief before accessing the most recent one. A familiar red-skinned female filled his vision.

"Hello Xel," Maila said quietly, almost painfully. "Sorry it took me so long to get in touch." She was twisting her fingers together, looking away from the projector. "I've been…somewhat in hiding until now. It's a long, complicated story, and one that I'm sure you don't want to hear." She still couldn't meet the projector's receiver. "I heard what happened to your partner. Xel, I'm so sorry. I…I don't know if you ever want to see me again. After I left you to walk into an Imperial trap…" She sighed again. "I can understand if you wouldn't. But if that's not the case, then…" she finally met the camera, "my offer still stands."

With that, the message ended, leaving only a set of coordinates on Nar Shaddaa, no doubt to her new base of operations. Xel just sat there for a minute, finger on his temple, considering his options. He needed to wait a while to contact Alen over Telia's frequency, so he had time to burn. Not only that, but seeing as how the Imperials had no doubt already tracked his hastily chosen destination, they would follow not long after. Nar Shaddaa would give him a proper direction to shift toward. Making a split-second decision, he dropped the ship out of hyperspace and plotted the new course, waiting for the computer to go blue before again punching the hyperdrive into action.

He disappeared into the armory to make several much-needed repairs, dumping the destroyed jetpack in the trash and settling down to ensure his armor's integrity as he waited.

Nar Shaddaa

"State your business."

Xel eyed the guard standing in front of him and contemplated the chances of successfully Force Persuading him to just step aside for a moment before deciding on doing things the old-fashioned way. "I'm here to see Maila Yar."

The Nikto's blaster cleared his holster halfway before Xel was on him, one gloved hand clenching around his armed wrist, the other around his neck.

"My name is Xel Caden," he hissed. "I was invited here."

Recognition flashed in the horned alien's eyes, and Xel slowly released him, eyeing him warily as the blaster returned to its resting place. "In that case," he coughed out, "go right in."

"Thank you," Xel said, somewhat annoyed as he strode past him through a set of double-doors.

The large office beyond wasn't as posh or polished as her previous HQ, but still had her flamboyant flair displayed evidently. To his surprise, the slender figure on the far side of the room was dressed rather conservatively, with a high-cut blouse and pants that fit her snugly without being constrictive of her movement. Maila turned to him slowly, her smile as comparatively subdued as her new dwellings. When they'd first met, he had felt the feminine energy practically rolling off her, between the seductive smile she shot his way to the melodious lilt of her voice.

Now that he had the Force at his command, Xel could see the currents of emotion and intent swirling about and within her. The effect was startling, as were the differences. Her posture was already stiff to the naked eye, but in the Force, she was a whirlpool of stress, tension, and, most powerfully, fear. Fear of what? he wondered, striding toward her in full armor, his bruises and injuries mostly healed on the way over thanks to the Force. As he nudged a little deeper into her mind, a process that felt awkward but easy, he could feel the fear coiling within her, directed both at a nebulous, unknown entity…

His eyes widened. And at me. A long sigh left him as a small, compassionate smile crept to his face. He halted four feet from her, eyes locking even with the black visor between them. He tried hard to make his voice as soft as possible when he spoke.

"I thought you were dead."

Her tight, strained smile widened a little at his concerned tone, her ice-blue eyes flitting away. "Almost."

He stepped closer, cringing as she flinched and gently laying a hand on her shoulder. "What happened?"

Maila's mouth opened slightly and her eyes went to his visor again. Surprise was written all over her features and signature in the Force. She was expecting anger, resentment, blame, hatred even, but all she was getting from his voice was concern. "I…I was found."

Xel's eyebrows furrowed. "By whom?"

She pulled away and started pacing. "By a competitor. An Umbaran named Nel Maltis. Runs a nasty ring of slavers in Hutt space. His lieutenant, a Trandoshan, somehow managed to get the location of my last hideout on the day you chased down Hammer. I hid to save my skin, allowing the Imps to lie in wait. I'm sorry."

Xel's eyes narrowed behind his helmet as he remembered Vader's words from that day.

"I convinced her to take a leave of absence."

"Doesn't that seem a little convenient to you?"

Renewed fear went through her.

Xel winced as she misinterpreted his meaning. He could clearly tell she was telling the truth. "I mean, Imperials show up just as you leave because a rival somehow finds you and decides to pay a visit? How would they even know where I was headed?"

"I—I don't know," she sputtered, withdrawing ever so slightly as she stared into that unyielding faceplate. "Maybe…"

"Maybe they had someone on the inside."

Surprise, then relief coursed through the Zeltron as she finally understood. "Who did, though? Maltis or the Imps?"

Xel shrugged, thumbs hooking on his belt. "Dunno. Maybe both, maybe neither." His eyes widened as another possibility occurred to him. "It was calculated."


"Vader tipped off your rival to lure you away."

Her eyes went wide. "Vader?" Her body started shaking slightly. "You mean…he was the one who—?"

"Who killed my father? Yes."

If it were possible, her eyes widened even further. "That…was your father."

Xel blinked as he remembered he'd never told her. To auretiise, all Mandos looked the same in armor, and their various expressions and body language were unknown, so there was no way to tell by their actions. "Yes. My partner was also my father." His left hand drifted to his right pauldron. "He…gave his life for mine."

She gulped and closed her eyes.


A firm hand tipped her chin up.

"He won't expect me to come here again, not since he put you on the run, and I know plenty of ways to ditch tails."

A small, grateful smile crept to her face at his concern, and she laid a hand on his arm as the smile turned slightly impish. "Must bite to be the hunted for once."

Xel chewed his cheek and couldn't help but smirk a bit. "Yeah." He sighed heavily, stepping back. "You can say that again." A long silence passed between them. "So, that offer of yours still stands, huh?"

Her eyes brightened visibly. In fact, her entire body language shifted, making her look more like her old self. "As a matter of fact, it does." She leaned back against her desk, arching her back ever so slightly and gazing at him from behind half-lidded eyes, as if sizing him up.

He smirked and crossed his arms. "Think you're woman enough to handle me?"

Her eyes narrowed slightly as her smile widened. "Is that a challenge?"

Caden grinned behind his helmet. There's the Maila I know. "First things first, though." He sighed. "You don't actually know who's behind the mask."

"I don't know what you look like behind the mask. There's a difference."

Xel's hands paused on the sides of his helmet. "All too true." A dark thought of how that might be applied to Darth Vader floated through his head before he dismissed it and lifted the buy'ce off his head.

The effect on Maila was palpable in the Force. Whatever images she had conjured of the man behind the mask were…well, they weren't what was facing her now. His two-inch jet-black hair hung down slightly, framing his tanned features and dark blue eyes perfectly despite the helmet's tousling.

"A little…younger than you expected?" he asked her with his real voice, for the first time.

"Well…yes." Her seductive smile returned a moment later. "Not that I'm disappointed."

Caden smirked as he tucked his helmet under his arm, striding closer to her. "Glad to hear it. For a second there, I was worried you'd find this ugly mug repulsive." He waved at his face.

She broke out into a grin and punched his arm playfully. Both shared a laugh, smiling at each other as each waited for the other to act first. Xel started to raise his free hand, but stopped a split-second later as that same predatory image slammed into his consciousness.

"Get down!" he shouted, tackling her behind the desk as half the office's windows blew in, sending sheets of broken glass across the room like crystalline spears.

Most of them landed on the far wall, some bouncing off the desk and others digging into the synthetic wood as Xel's armored body shielded her from any strays. When it was over, they both rose to a crouch, the Mando retrieving his fallen helmet as they peered out the window. Four floodlights activated at once, and for a single, raging moment, Caden thought he'd been tracked. When he reached out with the Force, though, there was none of the cool professionalism he'd come to associate with Imperial soldiers, nor was there any feeling of the black hole that was Darth Vader. All he felt was savage aggression, and it was all directed at Maila.

"Maila Yar!" a reptilian voice roared, confirming his suspicions. "Come out now and we will make your death quick!"

Xel's helmet instantly went back on as his blasters cleared their holsters. "Not gonna happen!" he answered for her, punctuating the statement with a trio of shots that nailed the man next to the speaker, the Force guiding his hands where his eyes failed due to the glare. "Go!" He shoved her toward the office's doors, putting himself between her and the enemy as he suppressed them. Blaster fire crossed paths in the office and the air outside as the gangsters opened fire, several shots pelting his beskar and one managing to nick the gap at his left shoulder.

The Mando hissed in pain as he rounded the corner, joined by the Nikto guard in his defense of Yar. The woman herself was not defenseless, though, and demonstrated this by drawing a Q2 and sending several shots through the gap. A stray round hit the Nikto, and he recoiled sharply as his arm fell limp at his side.


"Fine, milady."

Xel glanced at the injury as he kept up the pressure, weighing his options and stretching out to the Force to see if he could spot any others. The guard wasn't too badly injured, but if that wound went untreated, he could lose the arm. Focusing on living long enough to see to him, Caden grabbed Maila's shoulder and slapped the guard's to get him to follow. They both retreated down a hallway, rounding one corner after the next until Xel's Force senses pinged a slightly malevolent presence just ahead. He snapped around and was about to pull the trigger when Maila grabbed his arm.

"No! Xel, this is Yetha. She's my assistant."

Xel glanced from Maila to the girl, eyes narrowing. He recognized her from five months ago, true, but…there was something wrong. Deciding to trust Yar's judgement for now, he lowered his blasters and hoped he wasn't making a mistake as he grabbed her arm too, half-dragging both ladies along. When they reached the turbolift to the landing pad, Jeel hesitated, then faced Maila.

"I will stay and stall them."

"Oh no you don't." Xel huffed and clamped a gloved hand on his injured arm, yanking him inside the lift and shutting the doors, keying the floor of his ship. "I've seen enough stupid heroics to last a lifetime, and there's really no reason for it here."

The Nikto rubbed his burn gingerly, scowling at the Mando for twofold reasons.

"He's right," Maila said. "You've served me well, Jeel. I won't sacrifice you needlessly."

The alien gulped and nodded stiffly as the doors opened, leaving them with a straight shot to his ship.

Or so they thought.

A speeder flew in at a breakneck speed, landing on one end of the pad and laying down a series of automatic shots that sent them scattering to separate cover. They exchanged fire with the gangsters for a few more seconds before Maila formed a plan in her head.

"Split up!" she yelled to Jeel over the whine and roar of discharging blasters. "They're only after me! We'll draw them off, you get Yetha to safety!"

"Milady," he protested, not trusting her in the Mando's care.

Xel knew it. "No, di'kut! You're injured, and I've got better armor and firepower. I'm her best shot." Adding just a little Force to the statement, he saw the Nikto reluctantly nod in acknowledgement. "Maila, let's move."

She nodded and gave her people one last look, as did Xel, though the latter's gaze was directed at one in particular, and for far different reasons. His eyes narrowed behind his faceplate. There's something about that woman. Pushing that thought away, he sprinted between his charge and the attackers, laying down automatic fire from his pistols and running them near empty as they charged toward an empty speeder, Maila taking the controls and speeding off. As expected, the rival gang's soldiers pursued them, ignoring Maila's employees entirely. Xel prompted her to take a left turn, then a right and a sharp dive several levels down, the darkness of the city cloaking their movements as he shut off the headlights.

"Woah," she protested, hitting the airbrakes.

He laid a hand on her arm, gently moving her from the pilot's seat. "Trust me." He gunned the throttle, narrowly avoiding being seen as he flew through a small gap between two buildings. He expertly weaved through one building after the next, Maila's eyes wide open as she stared at the back of his head.


"How am I doing this? Two words." He tapped his helmet. "Integrated optics." At her raised eyebrow, he added, "Night vision." In all seriousness, the Force had more to do with it than his helmet.

She quirked a smirk despite the seriousness of the situation, leaning back in her seat as she laid her life in his hands. This man—boy, really, who she had expected animosity from, was showing off, and in the process quite possibly flirting with her, while fleeing for their lives from outnumbering outlaw forces. The realization made her grin and shake her head.

"You're staring," he pointed out without looking.

"How'd you know that? Helmet have eyes in the back of its head?"

He raised an eyebrow. Well, technically… "I don't need to see you to know when your eyes are boring a hole into the back of my skull."

"Hey, I'm staring, not glaring."

He grinned and chuckled. "We should ditch the speeder somewhere."

"How do you figure?"

"Well, we'll need to stop running sooner or later, and best not to leave a recognizable vehicle lying around, yeah?"

"Right. Of course."

He was silent a while before furrowing his brows. "Just how many people try to kill you on a regular basis?"

"A lot. Usually it's just one or two at a time, though, not forty."

He grinned behind his faceplate. "Look at it this way. It means you're moving up in the world. Soon you'll have proper hunters on you, nasty, cold-blooded—"

"Is this your idea of encouragement?"

"Just trying to look at the bright side," he laughed.

She shook her head. "I'd hate to see your dark side."

His blood froze a little as his smile faded, memories of his confrontation on Obroa-skai coming to his consciousness. "Yeah…me too." He could feel a slight pang of regret from her, but she said nothing. The speeder came to a halt on a lower catwalk, the Mando quickly rising and climbing out, offering Maila a hand and assisting her dismount. He tapped her arm. "This way." They made their way across one catwalk after the next, walking across the concourse into the Promenade, a vast plaza filled with lights, shops, and all manner of crowds. Unfortunately, their entry was too late.

Xel pushed Maila down as two blaster bolts streaked through where her head had just been, tagging a pedestrian instead. Caden whipped his body around, firing at the attacker and tagging the man next to him. The red reptilian eyes of a Trandoshan glared at him murderously, the animosity from earlier now focused almost entirely on him. Xel's head cocked in confusion before he ran off in the direction of an alley and the open skyline. The whir of a blade flying through the air reached his ears, and he spun sideways to put his gauntlet up. To his surprise, the vibroblade stuck in the metal, and he locked gazes with the Trando before running again, pulling the blade out and sprinting with Maila in front of him.

"Keep going!" he shouted, giving her a gentle shove forward as he broke off. Xel glanced at her shocked expression as she looked back to see empty air, then broke into another desperate sprint. Xel, for his part, had Force Jumped to a rooftop twenty-five feet above her and was tailing her from above, taking great care in his steps, being that he had no jetpack. He leapt between two buildings to keep up, taking note of the Trando's teams splitting into different alleys to cut her off. Smirking malevolently, he dropped the full distance to land feet-first on the head of a pursuing Rodian, snapping his neck instantly and rolling toward his partner.

A beskar blade left its sheath and imbedded itself in one of a Zabrak's two hearts, impaling the other a second later as Xel discarded the corpse and sprinted past them. He followed the threads of Maila's fear straight to her, leaping to another perch to retain his bird's-eye view. Three more teams converging on the next intersection. His eyes opened as he leapt the distance to the next building, rolling on contact and considering the next area. Three teams, fifteen contacts, one Trandoshan, the rest an assortment of aliens...and Maila was headed to a dead end, a rooftop whose only ways off were either the way she came or a dizzyingly high drop. Xel's teeth clenched.

They had well and truly backed her into a corner, and there was no way he'd survive against all fifteen in one shot. As he leapt to another rooftop, Xel felt the insistent clink of an object on his belt and looked down to see his brother's lightsaber. His eyes widened. Possibly... His armored head shook. He was good with a saber, but nowhere near the level of his brother or Telia, and all it would take was one good shot in the right place to stun him long enough for the others to finish him off. Looking up, he saw a better way and smiled as confidence filled him.

Maila ran onto the rooftop, her red skin alight with the simulated fire of a billboard above, and instantly realized her mistake. She looked around frantically, trying to find some way off that didn't include an unfortunate side product of death. The moment she understood there wasn't one, her hand dropped to the blaster at her hip and drew it, aiming it threateningly at her enemy's leader.

"You want me, lizard?" she said in a hiss. "Here I am."

The Trandoshan grinned toothily, razor-sharp white teeth complemented by blood-red eyes as his forked tongue flicked out momentarily. He raised his left arm, as if to motion his men to line up as a firing squad, which they did. Maila stared back defiantly. She wouldn't be joining oblivion alone. As her finger started to squeeze around her weapon's trigger, the sound of a hydraulic pop reached the ears of everyone present, and six pairs of eyes, including Maila and the Trando, looked up.

Xel had launched a grappling hook from his left gauntlet and swung off the side of a building in a pendulum motion, his downward momentum building until he swung back up, kicking his legs forward to add force and cutting the cable as his body reached the peak of its arc. A flash of bright metal came from his hands as his body flipped upright next to a billboard—right above the clustered enemy force. What happened next, none of them could have predicted.


Her eyes widened. No way.

The sapphire blade that came from his hands sliced through the board's primary support, and he deactivated it to launch his cable again, swinging away from the toppling structure as it fell thirty feet to pancake all but four of the enemy. The Trandoshan captain, one of the few survivors, let out a guttural growl at the Mando, teeth and claws baring in tandem as Xel dropped to her level and drew his blasters.

"Come on, you ugly fierfeks!" Xel taunted from behind his helmet. From the corner of his eye, he could see Maila eyeing him warily, her gaze flickering to the cylinder at his belt. He sighed internally and sensed there would be a lot of explaining to do once this was over.

Both of them fired at the now-reduced opposing force, tagging two more thugs and pinning the last two down behind a rooftop compressor. Xel nodded to Maila, who went sideways as he sprinted straight toward the compressor, leaping over the device in a twist-flip and plugging the Trando's last guard on his way down. The final thug bared his teeth and rushed him, grabbing both his wrists and roaring in his faceplate as his blasters clattered to the ground.

"Just imagine," he hissed. "I hear of my dear cousin's death and months later, while hunting down a job, run into his killer."

Xel's eyebrows furrowed. "Wait...what?"

The Trando slammed him against the compressor back-first. "Brack Anthis. You murdered Brack Anthis."

Blue eyes went wide as he looked at his right shoulder. "I can see why you'd think so." His visor returned to the lizard. "I didn't kill him, my partner did." His helmet slammed into the Trando's muzzle hard in a kov'nyn, causing him to roar in pain and release his wrists. Xel leapt into the air and delivered a falling elbow to his shoulder, feeling bone and muscle give under the strike as he staggered back. Caden slowly drew his knife, lazily twirling it using the ring until he stopped it in an underhanded grip. "But I'm perfectly happy to reunite you."

The lizard roared and charged at him as Xel met his animalistic fury in kind, smashing together in a pile of flesh, metal, and muscle.

Barely two minutes later, it was over. Anthis lay in a bleeding pile of scales, and Xel stood over his body victorious, little the worse for wear, knife bloodied. Funny, he'd thought, Dad said not to go up against a Trando up close. He suspected that was because Xander was restraining his Force abilities on Coruscant. Now, Maila and Xel were in an apartment just off the Upper Promenade, a safehouse of sorts he and his father reserved for times of crisis. Xel had taken off his helmet, gauntlets, gloves, and chest armor, stacking the plates neatly on a bench and cleaning his weapons on instinct.

Maila watched him with almost absent interest, eyes drifting every so often to the lightsaber still hanging from his belt. He could feel her staring and decided to break the silence.

"Are you just gonna sit there all night or ask me what you want to ask?"

She sighed softly and stood up, striding up to stand at his side. "Where did—?"

"Where did I get the lightsaber?" He shrugged. "Where else? From a Jedi."

She pursed her lips at his deliberate ambiguity. "So what is it then? It's not just for show." Maila snickered a bit. "You overwhelmingly demonstrated that." She cocked her head. "Is it a trophy?" She watched as his hands stopped moving.

Xel didn't know why the question bothered him. Considering that was the function of lightsabers worn by most Mandos, it was a logical assumption. "No," he answered quietly, unclipping the weapon and inspecting it in silence.

"What then?"

His expression and lips tightened as his grip around the hilt did. "A promise." Not only to return it to its rightful owner, but in doing so to force an unbreakable pact of brotherhood. Vode an, he thought. Even if Alen wasn't a Mando, he was family. Xel's eyes closed. The last of my family. He released a heavy breath as he set the saber down next to his blasters. "But I don't want to talk about that right now. Or...anything, for that matter."

She turned his head to face her. "What then? What is it you want, right now?"

His eyes closed again, a sharp stinging sensation plaguing them as memories flashed in his mind. Xander, facing off against Vader. Alen, facing off against Vader. Telia, facing off against Vader. Vader. Vader. Vader. His eyes opened, reddened, half by grief, half by anger, as his expression mirrored the combination. Two dark blue orbs met ice blue ones in an intense stare as he whispered his response.

"To forget."

Maila smiled slightly and nodded her head in understanding as she reached for the seal on his suit's shoulder, lips brushing against his ear. "Then you came to the right place."

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