Full Time Job

Chapter 18

Chapter 18.0 – Waking to a New Day (Day 23)

At daybreak, Boba twisted around in sleep to snuggle into the soft curves of his mother when his father inched out from underneath the blanket that had warmed the three of them during the night. Jango had a job to do if his family wanted such things like heating, light and a warm drink for breakfast. His cyar’ika couldn’t help him anyway while he was stuck in the innards of the generator block with his helmet the only light, so he let them sleep.

No, Tomoe wasn’t one of the jetiise, he figured. She got cold and tired, bruised and exhausted like any other human without the ability to fudge on physics. What made her special was her iron will to put things right. He just had to trust her, then she could put him right as well. Their presence up here might be a bit risky, but there was no running away for her ...and this time she could not blame him.

To be safe, he kept himself from whistling while working.

Once Jango had rewired the relays he had used for his little stunt with the repulsors back into the generator controls, he restarted the generator for minimum output. The TIV’s life support system and computer flickered back to life. He withdrew from the generator housing and luxuriated in a stretch. Then he went to pick up Boba’s damp and muddy clothing and hung it to dry over an air vent.

Watching Boba asleep in Tomoe’s arms, he remembered three days ago, back when he had thought it unlikely to ever catch his impeccable lady with dirt under her nails… now she was standing in the mud to the heels, pulling for them. She certainly had grown more beautiful under that streak of mud on her cheek and the grime on her hand that dug into Boba’s thick black curls. Oh yes, those two were inseparable.

Tomoe had not reacted on the lighting and beep of the board-computer, but as he leaned in to snatch the jacket from the top of the blanket, she snapped into attention like a wildcat, hands already on her saber as he bounced back nimbly.

“Good morning,” he smiled, and then remembered that he was still wearing his helmet, the HUD tapped into the computer while working in the ship’s innards. ‘Whoa…’ female aggression was irresistible, but this wasn’t the moment to remind her. Apparently undisturbed, he shook out the jacket then hung it to dry and warm it. Crumbs of half dried mud rained down.

Hair wild around her oval face, Tomoe’s dark eyes scanned him. “Good morning,” her point made, Tomoe re-sheathed two finger-width of the shiny blade with a dry clack. She took it as a fact that she could feel Fett’s interest once it locked on her, but she would not let him touch her or take advantage of her while she slept. Fett could shove the bond- and fate-talk, period.

“Dry in half an hour.” Jango promised and cautiously picked up her pants as well. “Stay down until then, I get us breakfast,” his speaker altered voice informed her evenly as he thought ‘and please get dressed by then, or I can’t guarantee for anything…’

Leaning on her thigh, Boba peeked out from the circle of her arms and retrieved the blanket that had slipped down to their hips to wrap it around his thin shoulders again “Brrr…” he shrugged at the freezing temperatures inside the TIV. Cold moisture clung to the dura-steel structures above their heads. The boy had found the slits in the side-seams of her under shirt most practical to keep his hands warm. Tomoe sat the saber aside and rearranged her clothing for decency before as she laid back.

Once fully awake, her collection of bruises, scratches and concussions was in rivalry for her attention with cold and sore muscles which were not used digging all evening in a crouched position. She rested her head back and tried to ease her muscles despite the hard floor. In a way, she was glad she didn’t have to test her speed against Fett’s. The guy looked wide awake and his confidence shone over from the cockpit where he was bent over the com-console.

‘Hello?’ They were stuck in an unforgiving death-zone, with an aircraft that didn’t fly. It was like odds didn’t matter to him. ‘Did odds matter to me when I wanted to get away?’ She realized that the hunter wanted something as badly now. Her.

Warm air from the vents erased the fog from the cockpit window and the temperature became more comfortable by the minute. Without the little contrite smile that stuck to the corner of his lips, his possessiveness would have scared her witless as he ambled over with a food board and a bottle of hot shig. She had bought some time to find a way around it, make him see why it could not work for them... before the strange feeling in the pit of her stomach grew into something else than fear. Once he understood, it would no longer be a life-or-death matter and both of them could go on with their lives. She reached over and dragged her clothing under the blanket to get dressed.

Boba flipped back his corner of the blanket without concerns like modesty or sore muscles. No wonder, the boy had used her for cushion. He stretched and bounced to his feet to get dressed and have a look outside at daylight before breakfast. The snow field where the mountain flank had slid down was cluttered in dirt. His breath condensed in the air outside and Boba quickly closed the hatch again. “The mud slide made quite a mess out there.” He perched on the crew bench and warmed his hands around a cup of shig, “... the hole we dug looked much bigger yesterday.”

“...’cause we were sitting in it. Some things look better fading in the rear-view cam.” Jango explained.

‘Don’t kid yourself mate; you are still sitting in it,’ Tomoe thought, then asked matter-of-factly. “How’s our status?”

“My attempt to fix the com has not been successful so far. I guess the transmitter is somewhere in the rabble … I’ll scan for it later. If we cannot find it, I have to use local spare parts instead of calling them in. Right now the drives have gained priority. We need to move the repairs on stable ground.”

“I’ll go scouting after breakfast, but I think this bolder wasn’t moved since the last large outbreak... several hundred years ago. Together with the trench on the side and the lose material gone down already, it should be relatively save.” Tomoe chewed on the food board. The lack of taste woke memories of Tipoca city. “…after what you call breakfast, that is,” she cut the stream of pictures of manacles and eyebolts in the walls.

“It’s practical. Fixing the sublight engine will take me a whole day. What would you use for supply up here?”

“Accept my natural limitations and don’t get into the mess in first place,” Tomoe shrugged, “Prepare the trip well. Patrolling and hunting up here is for professionals only.”

“Did you?” Jango was eager for any private information she spilled. ‘Inn-keeper, my ass...’

“Once or twice. Since the border on the ridge didn’t have to be patrolled anymore, hunts for special snow- and water-proof furs became rare. For the meat alone it’s not economic.”

“There will be far less limitations for you in future...” Mandalore was as rough as a Bantha’s backside. A fur coat was a nice thing to have in winter. “I’d love to go hunting with you,” or... he quickly cut the idea what else he would love to do with her on the furs... before the thought made him dizzy.

“Sorry, I forgot to bring my bow.” Tomoe put her foot down on the idea anyway.

“You could borrow one of my blasters.” Jango offered generously.

“I don’t kill without purpose.”

“Neither do I.” Jango pinned his note on the wall of morals she pulled up around her to exclude him, “I trust you can get us lunch since we are already up here?”

“Sure I can provide lunch. You’re the one who kills for money.” She felt cornered and his strange behavior was getting to her. Couldn’t he see there was no ground for a relationship in the rift between them?

“Don’t belie yourself, cyar’ika. I never did it for the money. You have long understood that I hunt and kill because it grants me strength and freedom. The credits just cover my expenses and enforce the customer’s respect for my line of work. They also keep the number of requests manageable. While most of my business contacts are enslaved by their own greed, I can live on very little. I feel no need to burden myself with possessions.” Jango watched his words hit a nerve. Results. “You know that because you feel the same way,” he added.

“And your ship... not to mention your... place?”

“The ship was loafing around when my old one was destroyed on a job,” he explained lightly while nursing his shig “Of course I keep it in good shape and equip it with state-of-the-art kit. The housing is free for the duration of the project.”

“I still can’t understand why you did it... you speak of freedom - yet your clones get none!”

Oya!’ The cold was gone from her flashing eyes. “You want to know?” Jango put his cup down and stood. Now they finally got to the core matters... “You really want to know the truth about me?”

“Yes.” Tomoe matched his movement, her hands on the hilt of the sword, but Fett held his hands well away from his twin blasters... not that it meant much in his case. Boba inched backwards into the cockpit and took cover in the pilot’s seat, peeking through under the headrest. Last night had been so nice. Now everything was osik again.

“Once I tell you, it means that you need to come with me... or... I have to kill you.”

“What’s new?” Tomoe replied flatly.

Jango realized that it had been a mistake to act on his attraction. He usually wasn’t that jumpy and his activity had applied physical pressure on her again. Beginner’s mistake. Her consequent reaction had been predictable. “I would prefer to give my little spitfire all the time she required to make her choice,” he muttered.

“You think I’m not decisive enough?” she geared up.

“...I mean no... offence. On the contrary, it’s a compliment. You’re at your most beautiful when you’re angry. Especially when that anger is directed at me.”

“You are impossible.” Tomoe snapped with baffled expression. ‘Note to self: don’t get angry with Fett, he then enjoys himself too much.’ She really needed to learn to curb her emotions in his presence. “So what’s your intention… do you still plan to brainwash me?”

“Stop worrying about that and listen,” Jango grumbled, reached out, took her by the arm and pulled her down on the bench beside him, then let go immediately. “You are what I thought I would never find, or never want, or never deserve!”

Tomoe shook her head but sat back down anyway. “I’m sure it can be cured,” she mumbled.

“You are like a link to my past, to a happier age… of course I’m not going to waste that chance by killing or brainwashing you. Calm down. I’m going to tell you the truth now. I know you’ll understand why I did it... and why I need you so much.”

"How do I know that you're telling me the truth? You could just be trying to shine me on, trick me into being compliant with a tearful tale.”

“I don’t want your pity or sympathy or fear. It’s done. Don’t shed tears for me. There is no comfort in that. You know that I do not feel remorse - yet I’m no longer filled with hate. When I’m finished, you’ll understand my reasons.”

Mesmerized, Tomoe watched the cheerful gleam in his eyes give way to soulless blackness. “Why have you been filled with hate?”

“It was on a snow covered clearance on Galidraan where my dreams were slaughtered with the last people who had been close to me. That was ...nine years ago. We had been hired by the governor to put an end to an insurrection. Instead of taking unpopular measures like airstrikes, we were called-in and worked our way through the opposing armed positions effectively and with zero civilian casualties. We even bundled up some opponents to be picked up by the local militia.

When I went to see the governor to report and collect our pay and some intel, I was ambushed by Vizsla, the Death Watch leader who had killed my fathers years ago. I made it outside of the fortress just to discover the full expanse of the governor’s treachery. Instead of paying us for our service, the governor had called the Jedi Order down on us, telling their council we were murdering ‘political activists’. Comparing the response times, the chakaar must have called them by the time we started the job.

The jetiise never asked such sensible questions, but in their prejudice they accused us for murder from the start. On behalf of the force and their lightsabers they requested our surrender to be detained and transferred to a judicial system that wasn’t our own. Who would have trusted their promise to be treated fairly under such conditions?”

Jango shook his head...

“I denied. The killing started. We tried to buy time for evacuation, but due to their surprise attack we had no preparations to keep a horde of jetiise gone rampant at bay. Lightsabers are terrible weapons in a melee. It cost them half of their kin, but they killed us. One by one they killed us, all of us... but me. When I noticed that I was the last man standing on the field, my fighting spirit faded away like the clouds of my breath in icy air. I had killed jetiise with my bare hands, but from one instant to the other I was too tired to even stand. Everything I lived for, everybody I knew, every friend... gone in a minute.

There was nothing to hold me back, nothing to live for, but the jetiise didn’t give me an honorable death. They didn’t give me a fair trial. However bravely I had fought, I was no sentiment being to them. They handed me over to the treacherous governor like a piece of trash... The governor paid for his betrayal. Vizsla paid. The Jedi Order is going to pay for what they did. I understand you need time to think, so I’ll just say that I have made sure of that...”

His chest plates raised and spread slightly like the wings of a silver beetle as he took a deep breath.

“Now that I am finished with them, I can go on. I want to go on... I need to go on with my life, but how could I? Before you came into my life, my thoughts had settled with the plain fact that my own generation is as good as extinct. There is no chance for redemption or forgiveness in the face of so much death. I’m old enough to be the father of the few Mandalorian survivors scattered around the galaxy. Mando’ade marry young. Life will go on. But you can turn it as you want; I ultimately failed them as a leader... So what do I have beside my revenge?”

Tomoe had listened quietly and intently. There had been nothing to lie about indeed. Now she spoke up. She felt she had to give him something in return for his honesty, to encourage him. “You have a son, Janbuir. The brightest, strongest, most courageous kid I’ve ever known.”

Boba beamed at the praise. Good news… for once mom wasn’t angry because of what dad said to her. What a change!

“Yes. A winter storm won’t keep the sprouts from growing underneath the protective snow-cover. But only you can tell me: did I fail him as well, when I tried to supply him with a mother who truly loves him?”

“Now...” she clenched her teeth to keep her voice from shaking, “that’s not fair, Jango.”

“Come here, Tomoe,” Jango extended his hand, “give me a little hope.”

Hesitantly, she slid a little closer. Jango lengthened the motion to pull her on his lap. His large hand slid in her hair to cup her head gently. The armor plates were hard, his jaw was scratchy, but she found a soft hollow underneath his chin... and when she put her arms around him, just because she had to put her hands somewhere... it felt so right.

Tomoe fought the feeling with a murmured protest, “We should be working.” Her footing was gone and her scalp crawled with pleasant sensations.

The heady sweetness of her scent distracted him for a moment. She could complain all she wanted as long as she stayed on his lap, in his arms. “Oh, I think I like the view up here.” He felt her stiffen in his embrace. “Go ahead, ask me...” he mused, “That’s why I’ve always liked you, you take no osik from me, you fight back!”

“What happens to your other children?”

“All will fight. They will live the shortened but eventful live of supreme warriors. I won’t belie that many will die the warrior’s death that was kept from me. Life is not fair, but the ones who survive will fight their way into freedom. The Cuy’val Dar improve their odds. The knowledge will spread down the ranks. I prepare a refugee on the outside for those who want to join our people afterwards. By then, they will be my generation.”

Tomoe felt her weight pressing into solid muscle underneath her. Wasn’t she making him uncomfortable? Apparently not. She couldn’t stop thinking about the width and duration of his tactics. He had been wronged by a government he had no vote in, he had lost a battle he didn’t start, he had been left alone like her. Yet there had been no retreat for him. When he had been down to one man, he had multiplied himself again to an army’s strength. He would get what he wanted. He always did. It was scary and reassuring at the same time.

But would there be a place for her in his plans on the long shot? Could they be happy like that? It was as if he used her like a charm to ward off emotions he felt uncomfortable with. Like a war flag in the wind, she felt torn from side to side. What sort of responsibility was that? ‘Why do I think along this line anyway?’ she wondered... “So you add me to your kit like a patch for instant family bliss?”

“Now that you say it...” Jango smiled, “Bliss sounds good, doesn’t it?”

“I’m afraid you overestimate me, Jango. How can I make you happy when I am far away from harmony myself?”

“Once you come home with me, things will calm down. Please don’t be afraid. You will settle in. Boba loves you. I treasure you and you will be respected by the others. Rav Bralor for example holds you in high esteem. Others will once they get to know you.”

“You see...” She had to remind him. ‘I have not agreed to anything, damn you, Fett’... “I’d get terribly home sick after a while... I can’t have our child there, in those strange surroundings. I realize you have a mission and I won’t interfere with it or keep you from calling or visiting,” she finally offered up, “You can leave Boba with me whenever your activities become too dangerous.”

‘Results. She thinks about it at least and it’s ‘ours’ now,’ Jango thought. “No, I don’t do things by halves. I don’t want you to aggravate yourself every time I call you. I want to earn your trust. You think you are not ready yet? I’ll wait.” ...and work on you of course... “I want you to know me and to accept me. In return I like to keep my loved ones close. Once it becomes known that you are with me, there could be visitors we don’t like and you can’t handle alone yet.” ...Go for full spec... “And of course I love to make love to you.” No use to hide facts that couldn’t be hidden for long... not by any cod piece in this galaxy.

“I don’t.” Tomoe put into his speech quickly, feeling his breath in her hair.

“Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll.” Jango grinned as she fought to keep her mask of serenity from slipping when he stoked her spirits. He could feel her hackles rise under his fingers. The skin of her neck was velvety under his palm... but he would do nothing to it now, just spur her on a little more. He felt a sense of satisfaction as he did this, even though he was aching with unfulfillment. He was an evil man. She could direct her anger at him and please him, or she could realize that he meant no harm... which would please him, as well. “Let’s get those repairs done,” he topped up his point.

Tomoe landed on her feet as he granted her initial wish to get working and stood briskly. But she could see that amused gleam in his eyes. He was playing games again and this time, she was losing. How could he be so full of himself? How could she not mind what he had done a moment ago… touching her again?

And just what had happened to her standards?

Chapter 18.1 – The Last Mountain Warrior (Day 23)

Tomoe’s self-confidence had taken a blow and she couldn’t properly blame him for it. She needed to get out of here, find some clarity. Uncaring how cold it was outside; she climbed up the hatch and down the TIV’s rump, jumping the last few feet to the ground. Without a rope it would be difficult to get back up, but she didn’t care.

Fett took it easy, lifting his son half the way to the mudslide with a short trust of his jetpack. He put Boba on his feet and started scanning the mudslide with his gauntlet. He knew when his cyar’ika was riled and when it was best to leave her alone and let her think. It wasn’t easy, but he knew she would come back to him when she was ready for the next round.

Tomoe climbed up the slope to recover their rope. It had broken at the fixing clamp on the TIV and the long end hung into the dirt from the bolder. She cleaned it and wrapped it up, placing the roll over her shoulder. It would have to be exchanged to be safe, but for now it had to do. She carefully checked the structure of the mountain half a klick up from their present parking position.

When she came back down, she beckoned Boba over to show him around a bit while his father pulled something from the mud and examined it before he put it on a growing scrap pile. They walked down hill until the first greens sprouted from the rocky terrain. Once there was water and warmth, plants grew very well in the ground rich of volcanic ashes and nutrients. The water melting from the mountain’s snow cap added to the summer rain.

Far down on the opposing slope, they spotted a herd of mountain goats. The sun shone on their shiny brown covers as they moved between the rocks on the meadow slowly. Small curved horns and the white and black stripes on their frequently lifted slim heads put them in perfect harmony with their rough surroundings. Their large fluffy ears turned to pick up any sound.

Tomoe went for cover and checked the wind. It came from the sea side, warmed and filled with the scent of last year’s vegetation rotting and of fresh green sprouts. “Shhh… stay down and watch. We’re lucky. They are quick and cautious, with sharp senses. Nevertheless the clan employs guards,” she pointed out, “they are rare, impossible to follow in their own terrain - if one finds them at all that is. It’s hard to shoot more than one, but one needs several for a single set of clothing,” she informed the boy.

“I brought my blaster. How do we get close enough?” Boba whispered, shivering lightly in excitement.

“We can’t eat one for lunch. No surplus killing. They are beautiful as they are.” They watched their fill then crouched back in order to cause no disturbance. Tomoe pulled her garrotte from the overlap of her tunic to set up a trap to catch a marmot. “You still have that one?” Boba was underwhelmed by his mom’s switch to a cuddly, fat and obviously slow prey. She rubbed the braided hair off with mud to erase her human scent. “Sure.”

They walked back on their own tracks, digging out some root-vegetables on the way. The herd was still grassing down there, but something had changed.

“Look… here’s a supreme tactician. Picked out the guard and deceives the herd by acting it like a puppeteer.” The bowman waited for the attention to fade before he stood quickly and shot out two more goats before the scared herd took off in long jumps and vanished in the cliffs. His aim and pace was impressive. Seconds later, only a few rolling stones were left of the stampede. “Let’s go back to your father. I’m sure our presence didn’t slip this hunter’s attention.”

Tomoe was right and it didn’t take the hunter long to gather his goats and come after them. She would not cross the open slope that lay in front of them with a bowman in their back. She turned around and waited for his approach. Tomoe recognized him on the first closer glimpse. He had probably come over from the pilgrim’s base camp with the first morning light, avoiding the trouble in the provincial capital following his hit.

When Hanma had been taught by a mountain warrior indeed, then it would have been this guy. Thick grey hair was bundled into a long pony tail at the nape of this neck. He was a grizzled old lynx, a spirit of the mountains who had grown ageless a long time ago. The lower half of his face was covered by a grey shawl and his neck was surrounded by two of the goats tied together by the claws. His footfalls were heavy due to the load, but his strides were hardly shortened. In his eyes flickered the light of a crazy mind who felt sadistic pleasure when testing his lonely guts against somebody he considered a worthy opponent to feel the absolute power his training and experience granted him. Such an opportunity had grown scarce lately.

He turned the thin rope between his fingertips that Tomoe recognized as her garrotte. “I have heard you have potential, young Harada.”

There had been a less than brotherly rivalry between her father and this warrior. Even though the conflict had never been taken into the open, her father had been wary of this colleague for good reason. That had been more than a decade ago. Now her father was dead and this guy was still loafing around to pester her with his ‘I know everything better’-attitude. It wasn’t fair… yet she wasn’t in any position to seek trouble. If he stepped into her circle, it was a whole different affair.

“If you have a dispute, say it now,” she said in a low voice.

He threw down his booty by the side as his gaze locked on an even worthier prey. “I seek an answer… if you have it, I’ll call you my master,” he offered with a dip of his head. She was weak and made a poor example of their kind since she denied to use her full potential… and here he was to show her how to do things right. He would gain a valuable asset on the way. “Why could we not prevail against this… scum?”

Tomoe chose her next words carefully, thinking of the tenets her grandfather had taught her. “What we are is in our hearts. Ours didn’t stop beating yet, did it?” she replied with another question that held a multitude of answers.

His thick greyish brows rose, then he wrinkled his nose at her clothing that reeked of mud and yesterday’s sweat. “Even now you deny seeing the difference between the past and the presence?”

“There is a curtain of bright fire that parts the facts outside and conviction inside. It burns some and warms others. It is the human will that shields our beliefs and changes our surroundings. Tell me what you want.”

“There are beasts pestering our domain. Only fear will hold them in check. The fear of what they don’t know, the fear of the supreme warrior.”

“Even beasts can learn. Raise the level of the average; support the masses by example, light their way. People will develop if you let them.”

“I’m here to give you the possibility to be exemplary.”

“I decline.”

“Join me or fight me.”

Fine. Her patience was up anyway. “Listen. A fight won’t change a thing because you cannot make a difference up here. Life happens elsewhere. Time will show which one of us is right. I congratulate you to your superiority as a warrior, but I have lots of useful things to do.”

He would not stick to her heels when she turned to leave. He had other means to get the duel he wanted. “Always so close to the people… like your parents, just waiting to die with the downtrodden masses.”

Tomoe turned back to him on the spot. “Crazy old lynx, stop snapping at my heels and retreat or I’m going to help you.”

“You sound like a kitten sitting on a high tree, moaning in the highest octaves because it has no idea how to return to solid ground. Let me see the Harada’s latest home decoration so I can teach you what to do with it.”

“Boba, go - find dad.” She had the high ground, youth and speed, he had the weight, muscle and experience. None had inhibitions to kill. She didn’t care, as long as Boba came out safe.

“Miau…” The mountain warrior mocked. Her sword was one of her grandfather’s most sophisticated blades, but she didn’t treat it like the treasure it certainly was. She wielded it like a tool, easy and comfortable, just right to get the bloody work done. Her father and grandfather had been refined moralists, but years of their scrupulous technical training would come into action …once she could handle the emotional stress of a duel. As far as he knew, she hadn’t done so before.

Yes, she had been a blooded warrior since the slaughtering at the Harada-homestead many years ago, but this new attitude would have drawn him to her long ago. She had no fear; she was ready to bat him out of her way as if he was a minor annoyance on her personal scale of opponents. He wondered how the cute little girl who had been hiding behind the slide doors of a built-in closet whenever he visited had gotten to that point. Pity... it had not been him.

Both drew blank. Their energy clashed as they assumed stance. The empty air became molten wax to be shaped between the extensions of their bodies flashing in the morning light as they tried to out-maneuver each other before the unannounced but inevitable moment to strike came, which was likely to kill them both.

He stared in surprise, and his nostrils flared as if he was analyzing a scent... then he laughed out load. Hanma’s initial instinct had been right. A living and breathing Kitsune! She didn’t react but pressed on, her footing firm on the moist gravel. She was strong like a mythical creature, an opponent to die for. But he would risk dying from old age to see that come to pass.

“The passion of fight grants me insight,” His words had the ring of formality to them. He stepped back, prematurely breaking up the fight. “I understand now… all too well. Take care, young Kitsune. I want to see you live with that.” He was terrifying in his smile, but Tomoe didn’t look like she would care.

He picked up his pair of goats and left without further ado, slipping her strand of braided hair in his pocket. The girl had to put some meat on her bones. In a couple of months, the news would spread like wildfire. Wherever they took it, he would get the news.

There hadn’t been enough time for Boba to run back and return with his dad, but Fett rose from behind a bolder on the other end of the open slope. He approached with Boba behind his armored figure and a long range slug thrower held against his chest. Of course they had been monitored, but at least he had the decency to let her sort out her private issues. She had the hunter’s third goat to skin and a lunch to prepare.

“What was that?”

“We settled an artistic difference.”

“Looked like a sword-dance indeed. What did he want?”

“The usual ‘join us or else’-osik ...the one you are too familiar with yourself.”

“No cursing, Tomoe.” Jango reprimanded her in fatherly tone to break her tirade.

“Yes, Janbuir,” she nodded obediently, “He doesn’t like my present job and thought he had a better one to offer.”

“Trying to make a pool attendant from dire cat? I honestly think you’d be better off with us, without all the superstitious social mumbo-jumbo here.” Jango proposed, “You can shoot straight without his help.”

“I already declined. And no, I can’t place you in control over me, either. Never again - and if my life depends on that. I simply CAN’T.”

‘Uh oh...’ he hadn’t asked or done a thing, but cyar’ika was in her cutting mood again. “I don’t want you to.” Jango tried evasion to let the air out of her agitation.

“That’s what will happen once we go back.”

At least she had considered it. “Try me. Try yourself. Find out that you are my equal.”

Coming straight from a duel, her hand was still mated with her saber. Her pulse wasn’t back to normal, either. “We would KILL each other. We cannot do that to Boba.”

“No we won’t. Because you’ll find another way for us.”

“You think the killing will stop just because you want to leave it all behind?”

“So much fine consideration, coming from one who has just finished off her first dozen - congrats, by the way. And no, I’m not that naive, Tomoe. I know I have to work on it.”

“When this ends, will you be free to command yourself, to call your own battles?”

“Yes.” He simply said. Exactly that was the idea.

‘Can’t you get hurt by words and be turned away from me?’ Tomoe wondered as they wandered back. Jango’s patience confused her more than his aggression ever could. She had to learn more in order to make him understand why she could not move from her position. “Why couldn’t you surrender? Who are Jedi?”

Jango felt somewhat honored that she had declined the other guy’s proposal more harshly than his. He was ready for the next round any time...

“We make a living by solving problems the republic judicial system can’t resolve because it’s slow and twisted. Not the rightful wins but the one with the money and the bigger ass to sit it out. That’s why many of us have been in conflict with the law on one planet or the other. Usually nothing major, but to sort that out to the last speeding ticket would take years in detention, definitely longer than to the next harvest. What happens to our families in the mean time, especially when our adversaries know we can’t come to aid, yet they can still hurt us this way? - Rather dead than receiving such a message in jail.

And it would cost money we don’t have… otherwise we wouldn’t be fighting in other people’s conflicts. They would have split our unity to attack the hapless individuals and our transports and equipment would have gone to waste. The Jedi Order doesn’t understand that, they can play the honest poor because their deep pockets are constantly filled by tax-credits of citizens who don’t dare to ask sensible questions because of their blind faith in jetyc wisdom. Mando’ade are self-employed. We only trust our own and we take care of ourselves. Whenever the Jedi’s accusations had been right or wrong – and we knew for certain they were wrong - we were screwed. But we couldn’t go down without a fight.

Surprise, I’m a warrior, but I can think in financial terms. I have to if I want to do the logistics for a mercenary band. Being Mandalor isn’t so much a position of power than of service.

Who am I to serve now?” He coaxed.

This time, Tomoe was ready. She would not be cornered again like in the morning. “Sorry, I’m just a poor woman and can’t afford to hire such a fine specimen as you. But if you like, you could think up a solution for our barbecue.”

Jango huffed. Of course she knew how he meant it, but his cautious girl really had a talent to shot him down. If she had called ‘here’, he would have settled with that immediately. But his lesson would stick anyway, because they were so similar in their past and their needs. He was getting to her, getting to her good.


“How nice of him to leave us something for lunch.” Jango noted as they arrived at the TIV and she dropped the goat off her shoulder. “Are you sure it isn’t poisoned?”

“I’ll find out.” Tomoe used the small knife from the sword hilt to break up the corpse. She placed the innards aside and wiped blade and hands clean on a patch of snow. Soon the shadow of a large shrieking hawk glided over them.

“How could he find us up here anyway?” Jango had expected to find at least some privacy in the heights and he was uncomfortable to let an adversary go, but giving Tomoe additional problems could hamper his mission. She wasn’t the type to run to him just because she was in trouble. Pity! But then, he loved her for that as well.

“He has his spies.” Tomoe pointed up at a bird of prey soaring in the sky... “The bow isn’t the only reason why he wears a gauntlet on his left arm. He knows what the bird sees from the pattern it draws on the sky... there might be even times when his mind is linked to his animal, to see what it sees.”

She kept Jango from sighting up with his long-range slug thrower. “Let her be. You don’t want to start a war here.” The large hawk landed and hopped over to dig into the steaming innards. As elegant as the bird looked in the air, it moved clumsily when grounded. “She’s down for a while... and she’s useful, doing the clean-up for us.”

That went against everything Jango had learned about beast-training “Doesn’t its master make sure he is the only one to feed it?”

“He probably would if they hadn’t been a team for such a long time. They are held together by other bonds than the need for food. It also means that he’s still on trail, hindered from sharing his prey with her.”

“Sneaking up on us from another side, possibly to unleash another avalanche?”

“Not enough loose material left up there unless he’s got a fair amount of ordnance. I don’t think he’s out for further information and he has his hawk for the general overview.” Tomoe scowled “As crazy as he is, he realizes that when he forces me to put up with him again, I’ll shoot his mate first.”

“His mate?” Jango had taken it for another expression of local religion, but then he remembered that large beast creeping up on him and Tomoe’s compassion for the little one in the shower. Mate?! His hackles rose, and not only because he hated competition. Maybe there was more about it than he had spotted on the first glimpse. Vau got along pretty well with his stinking retriever, spoke to it and threatened it like his child in general, but as far as he could remember, Walon had never referred to it as mate or mentioned a mind-bond. “What’s that bond-talk all about?”

Tomoe didn’t feel comfortable with telling Jango such private things, but she had noticed that he no longer tried to keep her a chained, reduced and dump slave. She knew he wasn’t comfortable with her beliefs, calling it superstitious mumbo-jumbo. He wouldn’t believe a thing, so she would just tell him... She smiled softly - if he ran away scared, just the better.

“Some people are closer to animals than others and some animals are more intelligent than others in a human sense. Our legends tell that once upon a time, there was no border between the realm of humans and the realm of animals while gods wandered openly in the shape of both. Nowadays the humans have grown stronger, exploiting the land while the animals became smaller and weaker in mind and body. This misbalance causes discomfort, but it has been like this for centuries. Despite the widening distance between the realms, some people can reach over in trance and connect with the mind of an animal for a short time. Then they can travel distance... and sometimes time as well.”

Jango raised his chin briefly at the feeding hawk, “So he would have to be in trance to look at us?”

“Yes... if he managed to connect, he wouldn’t get much more than an expensive look at goat-innards.”

“Why expensive?”

“Something could happen to his body while he isn’t ‘at home’ ...and if something happened to the hawk, his mind would take damage... and the journey would exhaust him mentally and physically, leaving him unable to do a lot about what he has seen. It is a dangerous endeavor that has to be prepared and supervised carefully, not an everyday feature like a glimpse through your scope.”

Jango didn’t fully understand or believe the story. Nevertheless her argumentation itself sounded logic enough. But if something smelled of jetiise, then that. “How about you?” he inquired.

Tomoe decided to evade his question. “I’m not sure if you noticed, but his mind isn’t in the best condition. He has been a cruel and power-hungry person from the start and probably overdid it a couple of times,” then added, “His mind and body are no longer in union; to me it feels like a part of his mind wanders far away.”

“Did you ever try this?” Jango pressed on.

“Hawks aren’t my thing.”

“You are more into those other creatures, aren’t you? Like the little one in your shower.

“Not recently.” Tomoe concluded. It wasn’t a lie. Her stay in Tipoca-city was as far away as another life.

Jango sighed and rolled his head to ease his neck muscles. He knew from experience that she would say no more. He changed topic, informing her on his progress of the sublight-repairs as they gained distance from the suspicious hawk.

She was interested enough as they walked around the TIV. “Can you land down there without landing gear?”

“Fixing that might take another day.” Jango pointed at a crumbled heap he had dug out while looking for the parts of the com. “I thought of stopping by and use your comlink to ask for a couple of sand-bags. “

“I’m not sure they have such things at hand...” Tomoe was underwhelmed by the delay. Yes, she was tired and dirty, but they wouldn’t go hungry. To keep things away from the resort was a plus. But it would be better if she could call Ukon and tell her she was alright. “It looks like you have already found most of it...” She sorted through the supports and tried to place the parts into units.

Amazed by her memory for things she hadn’t even used, Jango pointed out where another large part of the structure was sticking out of the mud. The supports themselves had kept their shape basically, but the joints where ripped out. “Can we weld with board-means?” Tomoe inquired. Jango nodded “We can give it a try.”

“Good. We need some heat for lunch anyway.” Tomoe went to dig out the remaining structures while Jango had a look inside to gather some tools. With the heat of the flame thrower, he started banging the supports back into shape, then welded some plates over the ripped-out fixings. He would burn in new holes later that made up for inaccuracies.

He was working on the second landing support when Boba stumbled on the way to return a piece back into the arrangement and bring him the next one. The beam shattered on the rock like glass. Boba picked up the two pieces and wrinkled his forehead. Okay, he dropped it, but dura-steel should be more solid than that?! “Dad... we’ve a problem...”

Tomoe stopped dragging on the beam that poked out of the sucking mud. “You need to preheat that before the welding and cool it down slowly. It’s cold up here!” she called over.

“You’re the one with the sword smith’s legacy... I’m just an amateur!” Jango called back and put down the torch. He made a note on his HUD to raise the steel-quality issue in the next meeting with Rothana Heavy Engineering. Some clerk had saved a few credits in the wrong spot. “No problem, Boba.” He ruffled the boy’s hairs and picked up the two shards to cannibalize a piece of a crew-bench that could be used for strengthening.

When he came back, Tomoe had already taken up his position at the blacksmith’s herd. He stood and watched the warm glow playing on her face. It seemed that she worked in her own bubble of serenity. She went slow and carefully, reading the temperatures in the coloring of the metal. “I’ve never worked with this sort of steel before. Let’s have lunch first, and then I can check if I got it right.” She mused and dragged over a slate of basalt. She hammered it flat with a cobble stone and rubbed it off with snow before she set it up by the side and took the welding torch to light a fire underneath the slate.

His girl really knew to help herself, but Jango was suspicious about the dried stuff she used for heating the stone in their woodless surroundings. It didn’t smell as badly as he would have suspected from dried droppings. But jet-pack fuel wasn’t exactly made for delicacies either. Soon, a piece of goat-fat sizzled on the stone. Boba went to get the picnic basket with the utensils, tea leaves and some hot water from the TIVs dispenser.

His father decided to slice the meat and vegetables with his own knife to prevent himself from looking all useless. “That’s more like the field cooking I’m familiar with.”

A blanket around his shoulders, Boba swatted and warmed his hands near the hearth, picking thin slices of meat directly from the hot plate once his mother flipped them and split the portions between dad and him. She had even produced a small bag of salt from her sleeve. The roots had a peppered aroma and bits of fresh greens added taste. The boy finished his meal by eating the piece of food board he had used as plate. He licked his fingers clean. “That was good,” he leaned back with a sigh.

Tomoe finished eating, then smiled and pushed the support off her makeshift workbench. Boba jumped at the load clang. “I think it works,” mischief gleamed in her eyes. “Not bad for an inn-keeper,” Jango retorted spitefully. She winked, cleared the hearth and used it for pre-heating the structures Boba passed over while Jango went back to the sublight-repairs.

At dusk, they had assembled most of it but it became too late and too cold for further installations, so they had dinner and then decided to call it a night.

Once inside the closed surroundings of the TIV, Tomoe realized how much she reeked of sweat, dirt and smoke. There wasn’t much she could do about it than teeth brushing and a sponge bath with a rag and a little warm water. She took care of Boba first then knelt in a corner to wash herself underneath her opened jacket.

“Slave I has a sonic shower.” Jango noted with his back to her while he shaved in the cockpit, Mando-style. Feeling for stubble, he drew the razor sharp knife across his skin meticulously. The com-console wouldn’t take any messages outside, but the cam-and-screen system replaced a mirror just fine. Not that he needed it. He could have shaved inside his helmet if required. He was just looking for an unobtrusive way to waste some time and keep a straight face while he watched the scene behind him unfold...

‘Bury your hopes Fett, the heating works again.’ Tomoe stated in her mind, snatched a folded blanket and got ready to sleep on the remaining crew bench when Boba approached, dragging his own blanket behind him with a sad puppy look on his face.

“...and where do I sleep?” the boy complained, bouncing on the upholstered edge to demonstrate how easy he would slip off. Of course he had slept comfortably in the gunner’s seat two nights ago, but he denied doing so tonight. Mom and he had a ritual. Traditions had to be upheld. And of course he wanted dad’s bedtime story, as well.

“Alright,” Tomoe was too tired to put up with a full blown tantrum, “spread out your blanket, since you dragged it over the floor already.” She had brushed the worst crumbs into a corner, but the whole ship could use a thorough cleansing after two days of in and out in muddy boots. She rolled her pants and puttees into a tight bundle to serve her as cushion. She sat her saber aside, slid the knot of her belt to the front and corrected the fit of her tunic before she lay down next to her weapon.

Boba nestled into her armpit, pulled the blanket up and over them both and rested his head on his mother’s shoulder. He could see why dad wanted to do the same. It was so nice and comfortable. Dad was his hero. Mom wasn’t as fond of dad yet, but once she learned more about him, she would be. He knew just for which story he had to ask for tonight. The little schemer yawned demonstratively then lay still for what he thought was an appropriate time span before his next move. “Dad?” his bright voice was unhampered by sleep, “Can you tell again how you finished Vizsla?”

“That’s a long story.” Jango ambled over, carefully gauging Tomoe’s reaction as his armored cetare came to halt next to her head. She was weary but avoided a flinch, giving him the ‘I know you are there so don’t even think about it’ – look, the one a rabbit would give the fox in winter to prevent them both from wasting precious energy on a chase the fox could not win. Jango sat on the bench and undid his boots slowly. Finally, she returned her attention to Boba.

His father rarely used uncertain terms, but like every kid, Boba knew the difference between an outright ‘no’ and a ‘no, maybe’, so he felt encouraged to give it another try. “Please, dad...”

“I’ve bragged enough about my own deeds for a day,” Jango excused himself and made an alternative proposal, “maybe Tomoe knows a short tale with a happy end, maybe one of your journeys ...a nice closure for a peaceful evening?” he added.

“None I could think about it right now... I don’t mind, Jango, go ahead.”

“Alright then.” Fett decided to interpret that freely as an invitation, dimmed the light to a comfortable sleeping level and staked his armor plates on the floor, helmet on top. Easing down the zipper from the tight environmental seal around his neck, he slipped under the blanket beside Boba. Fully aware of his bulk he supported himself comfortably on an elbow and started his story.

To look over Boba’s head, Tomoe had to turn on her side as well, away from her sword. He just loved how the blanket hugged her waist and flowed down over her hip. Her slender hand steadied Boba against her chest, just in reach for his fingertips to nudge into the hollows between her knuckles subtly... of course all by chance in the limited space of the corridor.

“... so the jetiise turned me over to the governor of Galidraan. To my surprise the hutuun didn’t have me executed as the last witness of his scheme but sold me to slavers... I guess Vizsla had a hand in there as well. He preferred to see me rotting away on a spice transporter...”

Tomoe nodded. She didn’t have to ask why. In the old ways, the permanent imprisonment of an adversary was considered the ultimate insult. Since there was nobody left to ransom him in, an honorable opponent would have put an end to his life, or been so generous to let him do so himself. Such was the way of the warrior.

Jango felt they had reached an understanding that he could never have with an aruetii, so he just explained the things alien to her.

“After the spice is mined on Kessel it has to be processed from rock and spider webbings, and then packaged in opaque paper to prevent accidental activation. Everything has to be done in complete darkness or under dim, red lights that lack photons energetic enough to trigger the drug. It is hard, dangerous and stupid work, just barely too difficult to be automated... my hands grew course and callous over the years... it took me months to recover my sleight of hand.”

His fingertips ran up over the back of her hand gingerly, and then curved to slide under her palm. He bent down and lifted her hand the rest of the way to his lips. Her skin smelled deliciously of smoke, metal and a hint of grease mixed with her very own aroma.

Only aware of his velvety cheek under her dirty nails Tomoe pulled back her hand before he could nibble her fingertips. Of course he let go, in fact he had never held her hand. “On Mandalore, you could work with beskar, the best iron there is, you know?” he mused instead of telling her how much he loved her scent, and how it revoked memories of home she probably couldn’t follow since she had grown up in a well constructed homestead and elegant cottages while he had spent his youth in war ships, hangars and canvas covered burrows. She cleared her throat to say something, most likely another polite half-decline. ‘Easy now,’ he thought and continued where he had left off.

“...Until the day pirates raided the vessel and I got my hands on a blaster. The pirates were surprised to have help on the inside. They had taken chances attacking something that large. My half of the slavers killed that day also demonstrated what would happen to them if they crossed my need for revenge. They decided to play nice and dropped me off at the next space port when they ransomed in the miner.

Over a couple of steps and small jobs, I returned to Galidraan to recover my armor from the governor’s prized collection of relics. With a little encouragement, the governor was eager to tell me where Vizsla was headed since the Death Watch had been operating from his palace all those years.” True to his word, he had not fried the governor with his flame thrower. “I shot him afterwards.”

Aware that his clipped story telling had Tomoe’s full attention, Jango lifted a shoulder briefly and shifted his weight to lie on his hip more comfortably. The blanket was just for cover. His body suit’s system had long switched from heating to cooling. His move dropped Tomoe’s focus from his angular jaw over his wide shoulders and down to the exotic line of dark hair barely visible above the slider he had moved down between his massive pectorals.

“Vizsla’s Death Watch rabble was headed to Corellia with their capital ship. Its strong shields were impermeable for the cannons of my star fighter. But my small ship penetrated the shields that held out energy bolts as well as particles and hit the engine block just fine, causing the sublight-engine to fail and wreck havoc in their life-support system. They would go nowhere.”

Boba smiled. He knew where dad was while mom was still wondering. He could feel her surprise behind him without turning around. Jango smiled down at her when her eyes snapped back up to his face. ‘Gotcha...’

“I had programmed the autopilot of my star fighter on collision course then ejected from the cockpit and used my jetpack to navigate the high orbit of Corellia. Two gauntlet missiles broke the bridge’s main screen and I cannoned through before the shields could seal the breach. Quick thinker as usual Vizsla escaped through the blast door while his bridge crew was sucked into vacuum. Propelled by my jet pack, I slipped through behind him just before their automated closing. I had finally singled Vizsla out in a corridor.

Before he could ready a gun I had already smacked it from his hands and went at him with my fists. I didn’t mind to fight him man to man, with equal means. He had been a giant from my kid’s perspective, a demon who I could never kill as it hovered just outside my field of vision to leash out at me when I expected it least.

Now he was just a scarred, slightly handicapped veteran, a good target for my punches but no match for my strength and hate. Of course it wasn’t enough to smack him in the face and put him on his ass. I just waited a second too long to finish him. If you have your enemy at gunpoint, guard your distance and shoot – don’t talk. Vizsla slipped underneath my twin blasters as they powered up, knocked his elbow into my throat and the blasters from my hands then tried to strangle me.

My body glove protected me for as long as it took the ship’s generator to start blowing up. Vizsla lost his grip on my throat and ordered the Death Watch to evacuate. He thought kneeing my chin would render me unconscious until the ship was torn apart in the atmosphere. He was wrong. I made it into the second compartment of his escape pod.

With my fortune, it was the section that landed with the hatch buried in the ground, but Vizsla did me the favour to wait for me to make it outside as well. He was laying in wait with his flame thrower, since he knew my blasters were lost. I’m not fireproof, but I’m quick with my jetpack. Once more I went at him with fists and boots, but the guy simply didn’t want to die. He was like shit on my heel. When I kicked him off a cliff into the river below his grappling hook entwined my leg and pulled me down as well.

We hit the water surface down below, both fighting the drag of solid beskar in the stream rushing through between sharp rocks. My kit is vacuum proof, but the oxygen reserves are limited. I was lucky to come up again at all, but not so happy to face a pack of hungry dire-cats on the shore. But the beasts weren’t the only ones waiting for me. Vizsla came up behind me and injected a poison into my side. It wasn’t enough to kill me, but it rendered me near-lethargic.

Vizsla used the opportunity to try and beat me to death with a blunt stick and his fists while he took his own sweet time berating me and my fathers. The pain of the beating drove the lethargy away for the instant I needed to eject my gauntlet blade and slash over his belly.

Even then he thought he would get away once again, since I really was in no condition to finish him off. If you ask me if I killed the murderer of both of my fathers, no, I didn’t kill him. I just entrusted his entrails to a pack of dire cats before I sunk into coma.

When I woke, there wasn’t much left of Viszla, but it was sufficient to be identified. In the end it was his own poison that saved me from meeting the same fate. The dire cats took me for bad meat. As you can see, the bad meat is still around and kicking.”

It didn’t really matter what he said. She could have visualized the brutality from her own experience fighting him, his vengeful knife cutting through her skin... but she didn’t want to do so now. It was just a story and he was real. To listen to the velvety roughness of his voice and the steady rhythm of his breath that raised his wide chest soothed her tired nerves. Her instincts told her two things about him, male and ...safe.

Jango bent down to kiss Boba good night. His boy was already as good as asleep. He didn’t try to go any further with her, just let Tomoe feel the warmth of his breath on her neck before he removed his elbow from underneath him and lay on his side like her. The change of her expression had been most satisfying. She didn’t look at him as a target or an adversary any longer, but... differently.

Of course he was anything but safe, but by now Tomoe understood that Fett wouldn’t ravage her at the first possibility. He had been gentleness impersonated tonight and she had slept soundly an arm’s length away from him yesterday. She could do so again. It was reasonable. She closed her eyes, enjoyed the warmth seeping into her limbs, and slept.

He pillowed his head on his elbow and secretly pulled up his knees, stopping a hair width away from hers. Chance was that she would shift the rest of the way in sleep. He remembered that her knees had cute dimples and curved into a pair of shapely thighs, presently wrapped in nothing but the softest skin he had ever felt. Not that wishful thinking would make his body glove disappear... in fact, he had to stop his imagination right now or the suit’s cooling system would fail.

‘Driven crazy by a girl’s hands and knees... Jango, you have seen, tasted and taken everything in between, more than once...’ he berated himself, ‘exactly that is the problem.’ Would she have given in to him already otherwise? He really couldn’t tell. But the way she had regarded him from half-slitted eyes told him there would have been the chance. And if it was just a slight one... maybe he wasn’t such a hopeless case after all.

Chapter 18.2 – Night-Time Visitors (Day 23)

It was well past midnight when a toxic alarum on his bean comlink woke Jango with a start. Instinctively, he reached for the helmet and closed the environmental seal, his blaster powering up in the other hand. He slanted his palm over his son’s mouth and nose and tried to acquire a target when Vau’s voice drawled on the short-range com, “Can we come in?”

“Are you mad?” Feeling a little queasy himself, Jango rested the blaster on his knee and checked Boba’s pulse, then Tomoe’s. His family was sleeping soundly.

“Usually, folks beg me for leniency at this point and are eager to comply,” Gilamar pointed out before he lifted his blaster clear. “Just a mild sedative,” the armored doctor promised and left himself in through the top hatch, the sleeping gas leaving the vessel altogether with the warm air. “I could add some special booze to the party you were having, and then you tell her what to do while her brain is mush. Might work until we are all packed and on the way home. We are also equipped with a bacta tank if you want to go all uncivilized.”

“Your ‘support’ is uncalled for.” Jango stuffed the blanket closer around the two sleepers. Their breathing sent puffs of white in the air.

“After your sudden silence and your distressed appearance on the satellite images, we thought we would check upon you personally.” Vau inserted his tall frame through the hatch carefully. A sniffle and sneeze announced that Lord Mirdalan was prowling on the roof top. “You’ve definitely completed the vintage look, not to mention that lovely mud camouflage…”

“You should get back soon,” Gilamar rounded out their request, “people become impatient.”

“Repairs will take a couple of days” Fett’s terrifying grin underneath the visor could have scared a flock of birds into flight. He checked Tomoe’s life signs again. To be safe he removed the saber from his cyar’ika’s reach. After Vau’s heads-up, nobody knew what sort of surprises she held in check. Sedated or not, he would not say or do anything that could throw his mission.

“We could clean up the vessel and give you a lift.” Vau offered.

“We didn’t dig it out barehanded so you can blow it up. But since you are already here, doc, you can run your routine checks on her.”

The doctor nodded, holstered his blaster and retrieved a med-scanner from his utility belt.

“A common goal to work on helps us to develop some trust, especially since it’s nobody’s fault that we are stuck here. We could get it done in a couple of days, but some spare parts would speed things,” Jango told his visitors and transferred the list he had compiled during the day to their HUDs.

Gilamar blinked the transmission away and commenced to scan the young woman. If Fett had told him to shoot her, he would have done so without question, but once he had taken on a patient, he concentrated on their well-being unless he got attacked.

In the mean time, Vau went to find the spare parts. Based on analyses of their satellite images, they had made a qualified guess what would be needed. Curiously, landing gear wasn’t on Fett’s list. Some additional parts could be cannibalized from their identical vessel. They had even used a copy of the transponder code once they had slipped the orbital control unnoticed. Right now it was switched off to keep the locals away from their sacred mountain top. The Nulls were still under house arrest, but they had done a good job with intelligence and slices.

“Do you have a bacta-neutralizer?” Jango inquired. He supported Tomoe’s head and made sure that the complicated knot of her belt stayed tied while Gilamar scanned her lungs. He needed her to look and feel untouched once the sedation was wearing off. Leaving like a black shadow, Vau had closed the hatch behind him and Mird, enabling the life support system to make up for the loss of warmth.

“No. For what?”

“Gynecological problem. The stuff’s turned out to be a bit clingy.”

“The bacta itself doesn’t threaten her health. But don’t you do that EVER again, especially not unprotected. Remember she isn’t your usual glass vat,” Gilamar scolded. “You’re big boy and you definitely don’t want your little lady to carry your twins or even triplets, let alone with a month age difference.”

Fett sighed to himself at the lack of grace in that revelation, but nodded. “Of course I won’t, doc...” He remembered Vau’s warning that Gilamar was especially pissed at Tomoe. Right now it didn’t look too bad... he still had to ask him if he would help her when her time came...

But Gilamar was just getting started. Mandalore or not, this specific crime was the reason why his plates were golden for revenge. “What the fierfeck rode you anyway? You are a young, good looking, not to mention rich guy, I really can see no reason why you had to refer to THAT. You could have ten shapely arueti chicks for your release... on each supply run.”

“I don’t want ten. I just want one. This one... And she told me this morning that she would rather die than have me again... but I’m working on it.”

“Why ain’t I surprised?” Gilamar snapped. Fett had wronged Harada, she had taken her knife to him in return. Annoying private matter it was. If they still weren’t even yet, it was their job to sort it out. All he wanted was to stay away from it.

“Would you get lost now and keep a low profile, please? We’ll be alright.”

Ret.” Gilamar huffed and pocketed his scanner before he slid open the repaired main hatch a crack, piled up the spare parts Vau passed him up by the side and then jumped out into the night.

After his comrades had withdrawn, Jango pulled the blanket back up against the cold they had left inside once more. He knelt and kissed Tomoe’s unresponsive lips before he laid back down on the other side of his son, gathering his small family in his arms. As he lifted her head to rest on his forearm, her body was heavy, warm and wonderfully relaxed. A small treacherous part of his mind realized that he could have her now and she would never know.

“You do test my patience,” He murmured, punctuating it with another brief kiss, “but I cannot stay angry with you, it’s just that you look too delicious to ignore completely.” He ran his fingertip along her cheek then turned to lie on his back and stare at the ceiling.

Boba mumbled something in sleep and buried his cold nose between his mother’s breasts. Thanks to his father’s quick reaction, his boy hadn’t breathed in as much of the sleeping gas as she had.

“Lucky little one.” Jango shrugged as small feet kicked his good side. He was relieved that the scans had turned up nothing and his cyar’ika was well, but the ache in his loins was another condition entirely. One he was all too familiar with. But he would not take further liberties in this morning stillness. He had to put the thought out of his mind. He needed focus. He would not sacrifice his long term interest for short lived enjoyment. That kind of lust would fade easily enough even without spending.

He wanted more.

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