Without the help of a chrono, Tomoe woke before sunrise, because her body remembered old routines which were followed in Tipoca as well. She felt well rested when she padded into the bathroom to pick up her now sleeveless tunic and tie the oversized pants around her midsection with her garrote. Nobody around yet to make her morning miserable.
What a relief!
She yawned heartily and stretched before she was ready to face her reflection. Bad hair day, most definitely. Her hair would take years to grow back to its full length. On the other hand the lack of weight was a plus. But there was no need to overdo it like Vau. She tied it into a pony tail when the door buzzer went. ‘Ready when you are, Fett...’
But it was Boba. The boy approached cautiously when she opened. “Good morning Tomoe... did you sleep well?” he presented his best manners.
She squatted down and invited him into a hug “I didn’t think I would be able to sleep, but before I knew it I was out.”
over them, a thump hooked in his belt, Boba’s grown-up version displayed a
different attitude. "Come here, sleepy one. Get used to rise early from
“I’m ready.” Tomoe stood to her feet her body all rigid determination “Lead the way, Fett.” she slid her gaze from his face down to his knee. He had changed his pants, obviously, but she could make out a thick bandage underneath. Today, Jango Fett would not give her a run for her money and she made sure he knew it.
“Can you sew?” He snapped. Obviously the fact didn’t slow his temper.
“Sure.” Tomoe stopped her observation.
“Then you get to fix my pants before Boba comes home in the afternoon.”
“...once they are cleaned and you provide me with sewing equipment.” The task would hardly keep her busy that long, but her own clothing might.
The morning training made her see more of the stilt city. Her assessment on the day she arrived had not been wrong. It was not a robber’s den. It was ... worse ...
Neat squares of ninety formed up in ranges that seemed to stretch to the horizon. Aside of the age difference they all looked the same, the last rows in the far back were even younger than Boba. Well organized, obedient masses, who only knew what was presented to them by their trainers. If military training was meant to strip away the individual self-perception, here the concept was pushed to the limit. Complete prevention of the development of one from the start.
‘What have you done?!’ She fell slightly behind to stay out of sight, remaining in Fett’s wide shadow. The last thing she needed was attention to her wide-eyed shock and ragged appearance. She quickly dispersed her attention to keep a low profile, going through the same moves as all others. No wonder the place was soundproofed so well. Heaven knew what would happen if the structure went into resonance due to the synchronistic movements of the marching... and rapidly growing soldiers below. Hopefully the engineers had designed the theatre for their grown up weight.
It wasn’t just big. It was megalomaniac... and in a way that did not fit in with the Jango Fett she knew. The guy certainly knew how to fill his plate, but the vast expanses of this plan did not match his compact style, his attention to detail, his lack of personal possessions that allowed him to travel light and fight hit-and-run-tactics. After all, Fett was not an emperor in need of an army to guard his palace and country or to occupy neighboring territories. If any, he was a nomad leader and an army on his own right in case of trouble.
Why would he burden himself like that?
“Kyr ge'kaan” The waves of synchronized movement ceased and a short bellow echoed through the theatre, announcing the end of exercise. Without further ado, everybody took off different directions. Tomoe jumped to catch Rav Bralor as she passed her on the way to an unknown gate. There were questions she would rather not ask Fett. “Where’s the bathroom, please?”
Rav looked her over. She had done well for an aruetiise, but it had taken its toll, sweat rolling off her and matting her hair. “There are shower rooms down the end of this corridor, but they are all occupied now.” Staff had its own showers but she realized a minimum level of comfort was provided by Fett. “You can use my shower while I get ready for work.”
“Thank you.” Tomoe gladly accepted the invitation and followed the older woman along.
“Not enough girls around here. It will be a pleasure working with you.”
“I hope I’m going to be assigned to that.” Tomoe smiled back.
Bralor’s quarter consisted of two rooms with a fully equipped bathroom, held in the impersonal monochrome scheme like any other she had seen. Aside of a colorful quilt folded over a chair, Rav seemed to have even less possessions lying around than Fett, but then she had no kid to entertain half of the day.
Leaving the bathroom door open, Rav shed her fatigues and proceeded into the shower. Her remarkable unlined face went with a muscle packed body that belied the stretch marks on her belly. “You are wearing armor every day, too?” Tomoe inquired while shedding what was left of her own clothing.
“Sure. No difference there.” Rav shook the water off of her, then exited the shower and grabbed a towel, squeezing water from the tips off her graying chestnut braids. “You’ll need a couple of plates as well in case training gets rough... and put some meat on those bones”
Tomoe chuckled “You aren’t the first telling me this. I AM eating... but it seems it’s all burned in the same moment.” – “Jango needed his ass kicked... all you need are more proteins.” – “Those food-board things?” – “Yeah.” She groaned and showered in the water that was steadily growing colder. No wonder with so many people doing just the same thing. By the time she had finished and dried off, she noticed Rav had already put on her metal skin. She realized how badly she needed a change of clothing herself.
“You should have a word with Fett to provide you with some work clothing.” Rav wrinkled her nose at Tomoe’s socked feet in comparison with her sturdy boots. “Anyway, let’s have breakfast.”
Rav showed Tomoe to the mess hall, and then went to her own business. Everybody else looked clean and well provided for. Their clothes were well kept and most were well groomed. She knew little about armor, but it seemed like it fit them well and looked like they took care of it. Although the riot of colors looked like chaos, everyone seemed to know where they were going and all of them seem busily getting ready for different tasks.
How could such self-confident individuals be brought to train that child-army out there? Tomoe grabbed some food from the droid at the serving table and went to find Rav to sit down next to her. She continued to think about it as the conversation swirled around her fluently in at least two languages.
Before long Fett joined her at the table with a smile. “How’s Boba’s sibling this morning?”
‘Don’t you boost the news to your men,’ Tomoe looked around extra slowly “Fine, from what I saw in training. There are so many of them, I wonder how you manage to tell them apart?”
He gave her a rather dour look, crossing his large arms over his chest. But Tomoe knew him well enough by now to know it was only his begrudging look he got when someone actually was able to out-maneuver him. “Got my note?”
“Yes, sir. I believe it was about _my_ child.”
He noticed that she had found a new title for verbal distance “It’s Jango and _ours_.”
“Considering the public accusations you have used to take me away from my home... how can you be sure?” she smiled sweetly at him, waiting for his jaw to drop in stunned disbelief.
“I am.” He smiled back smugly.
‘Damn you!’... “Then bring me back home.” She requested.
“No and I won’t waste a thought about such possibilities, Cin’ciri. Neither should you.” - “Oh,” she shook her head in disbelief. “I like you the way you are.” He let the information sink in, “You belong here now.”
“Keep calling me that name and I’ll live up to it. I respect you as the leader while I am here and I do my job, but I do not consider you a part of my private live.”
“What do you want then?”
He could get the barb he was asking for. “Maybe a less common face?” She quirked an eyebrow.
“Then that’s all you get for now...” Jango shrugged “Meet us in the sparring room in the evening. You are going to teach Boba and me your fencing style.”
No way she would hand him her only trump-card on a lacquer platter “I’m unfit to train such advanced pupils,” she excused herself.
“Udesii... some common knowledge will make it easier for us.”
Her hackles rose. She really hated that word and all it implied for her. “I taught you yesterday, in the only way an alpha male can be educated... If Boba wants to learn, I can teach him the beginnings.”
"Damn it, I didn’t mean it like that,” but then he nodded at her proposal... ‘give her a little leeway... you can get the info through Boba.’
Tomoe realized he had succeeded to wind her up in no time. She needed to recover her patience, reduce the pressure resting on her, or she would break sooner than later. “Before you learn how to handle a saber, you have to make one, Boba.” Since fencing was considered a valuable knowledge here, maybe she could share her skills with a neutral side and gain a gun, shooting and flying lessons in return?Chapter 2.1 – Bartering with Dred Priest
Tomoe spent the rest of the morning over her notepad, catching up on Boba’s engineering lessons and trying to find a minimum common basis. The boy was way ahead of her when it came to energy and what was called circuits and relays. Even if she could get her hands on related information, her flying lessons had shrunk into far distance. But first things first. She would show Boba how to create and maintain a basic practice weapon with simple means and see how he would cope with that.
After lunch, Boba dropped by and she asked him to show her where the Cuy’val Dar did the mending of their armor and weapons. She had expected a decent forge and was disappointed by the sparse utilities for serious metal work. Again, she would have to ask for support or retreat to wooden sticks.
“In old times, every warrior had to craft his own weapon. Especially when he was nobility, he needed to master the technical and spiritual exercise. My family, the Harada have lived by the blade for many generations,” Tomoe told Boba, “It has formed our clan, cost it in blood and in the end in public recognition, but I can still craft basic things as they have always been done. This I will teach you also, and while I teach you, you are going to teach me Mando’a... alright?”
“Alright.” Boba cocked his head to level with the workbench. She sighed and told to boy to find a crate to stand on while she searched for tools she didn’t find in her box of personal belongings. All that furniture wasn’t nice to children. She ended up removing the splint that anchored the handle to the blade with one of her hairpins, then went on naming and explaining the parts as she disassembled them.
“And that’s a matte spot where a careless person tried to mend it using very rudimentary grindstones. Remember, always check for cracks before you start polishing on a nick... and practice before you work on a valuable blade. While the experience will make you understand your instrument, a lack of it can permanently ruin a blade by disrupting its geometry badly or wearing down too much steel.”
“Is it ruined?”
“Observe the hardened ‘skin’: It didn’t suffer too badly. I just need a couple of good grindstones and some lime stone powder.” Tomoe reassembled the blade carefully, while Boba named the parts. “Now let’s find some material for you to make a practice weapon.”
Kal had been taken aback by somebody disturbing his few minutes of after-lunch contemplation and was glad to be basically ignored in his corner. The girl tried hard to pull her own weight and he could respect that. He gathered some material from a locker and ambled over “Try this. Can’t be hardened, but will suit the purpose.”
Tomoe bowed in her hips, receiving the sheet metal with both hands “Thank you.”
“You are very scrupulous about your stuff.”
“I take that as a compliment of a person who pays attention to detail.”
“And you talk a lot.”
Tomoe nodded and smiled at his scrutiny and Kal left for the afternoon exercises, then turned to lay down the basic shape together with Boba. She wondered if she went over everything too quickly, giving Boba too little time to watch, to find things out for himself so he could develop a keen observance and deep understanding.
On the other hand, she was aware of the mountain of information that was pressed upon the boy on a daily basis. There would be no playing around in the workshop under the watchful eye of an ever stoic granddad. Both of them were expected to make visible progress immediately. So she kept on explaining and invited him to ask questions while she picked up some of the scrap pieces herself.
When she felt that Boba reached the limits of his patience, Tomoe relocated to her own flat and switched to his usual homework until Jango came along, dropped the sewing-task on her and picked up his son for dinner in the mess hall.
Entering the riot of colors and chattering made her smile. Once the helmets came off Mando’ade were no more silent than other peoples. For once, nobody would frown at her freshly ruined fingernails. She filled her plate and found a seat beside Rav. “So what do you do in the evening?” she inquired after a greeting to the round.
“Reviews... additional training... touch ups...” Rav shrugged “We don’t get much mail or entertainment around here, if you mean that.”
“You forgot to mention your special medicamentation." Tomoe arched a brow at the woman in yellow armor who piped in. “Rav makes the best tihaar around ... great painkiller.”
“Ha ha. Ever tried to get your hands on fresh fruit on Kaminio for a decent mash, Isabet? Unless you find a way to use seaweed, we live on our reserves.” Rav caught Tomoe’s thoughtful expression “You never give up, huh?”
“Just interested in going new paths. I’m used to eat seaweed but I never heard of an alcoholic beverage based on it. There must be carbohydrates in it, but I guess the problem is to split the polysaccharides and find yeasts you can feed with a salty mash... how high is the salt concentration in that sea out there?”
By then, the whole table was laughing “Knock it off...” Rav stopped her “I’m not going to cultivate any more excesses around.”
Tomoe grinned “I agree the taste would be more of a test of courage than a painkiller.” - “See what I mean?” - “Oh yes... problem.” she mouthed under her hand.
They finished dinner. Tomoe made a mental note to get used to eat more in shorter time if she wanted to keep up with the others. “Accompany me to the sergeant’s room if you like.” Isabet offered, “Rav can catch up with us later... don’t worry, you won’t have to fight today if you don’t want to.” she reassured her, “We do use it to spar and blow off steam, but to relax and keep in shape as well.”
Tomoe fell in step beside the woman in yolk-yellow armor “I didn’t get the impression that you only let the other’s run this morning.”
“There’s always use for additional practice to stay on top of our profession.” The room was sparsely populated when they entered and they sat down on a couch in the corner “So what did you do for a living?”
Tomoe realized that she wanted Isabet to respect her, but she neither wanted to lie nor betray her own principles “Entertainment, room service in a hotel and so on... nothing compared to your profession.”
“If the necessity arose.”
Isabet elbowed her gently “Don’t tell me Jango Fett was knocked over by an inn-keeper.”
“I was taught to wield blades for self-defense from early age. It’s a cultural thing within some families on my home world. An ancient tradition that became rather superfluous with the introduction of modern weapons.” Tomoe tried to explain, fully aware that any weapon the woman next to her sported was for deadly pragmatic reasons.
“Such as... bow and arrow?” Isabet teased.
“Bow and arrows are sacred weapons. Those where not covered by the moratorium. I’m talking of fire weapons.”
“No fire weapons? You guys make the jetiise look up to date! Everybody has blasters, slug throwers and so on... Are you sure you are from the same galaxy as I am?”
“Well, after a long phase of warring, my people settled on that rule and it made my home world a relatively safe place for centuries in which conflicts were settled differently.”
“And ready for the picking for sure.”
“To allow blasters would not have prevented what happened.”
Isabet got them two cups of shig and settled down again “Do tell...”
“In short: aliens arrived, ignored our foreclosure and used local conflicts to gain trading influence by arming different sides. Of course it was illegal. But they simply murdered the leaders who they could not bribe... those who stayed faithful to law and traditions. It ripped the network of pacts and peace treaties apart and we learned all too quickly what modern warfare is about.”
Tomoe was aware their talk was approaching the border to the insecure territory of privacy and philosophy quickly. She produced her knife with her right hand on the sheath and offered it to Isabet for reassurance.
“Observe, Isabet... This is a pure, a sacred weapon, forged by my grandfather, polished by his brother. It takes years to master it to its full deadly extent and at the same time it shapes your mind because you think about purpose - It kills - But it is not like pressing a button for short-term gain.”
Isabet took the weapon carefully. “No vibrofunction but nevertheless, a nice craftsmanship... I take that you had ritualized fighting a lot.”
“On a world that had banned fire weapons for centuries, blue flames brighter than the sun were unleashed. In mere seconds, they burned the gods and ripped the curtain apart between our realm and the shadow-realm. The lucky ones burned together with the sacred wards of our realm. In return, foul spirits were unleashed, so the unlucky ones took months or years to die or they are still dying. Or their children are malformed and die.”
“I don’t like that particular fairytale ending.” Isabet stated dryly to gulp down her discomfort. She returned the blade and offered “But then, this is not so uncommon, many Mando’ade keep a weapon or armor plate around in memory of a loved one.
“I see.” Tomoe nodded, put the knife away and a smile on her face. “Kal’s right, I’m talking too much... let’s find something to do.” She stood and emptied her cup in a long swig. “Is that a board you use for throwing blades?”
“Yes... so you don’t despise distance weapons for principle?”
“Not at all...” she approached the board and figured a short distance, Isabet trailing behind, her tension slowly fading “I’ve worked on some.” She reached into her messy updo, producing a threesome of narrow darts “Let’s see how they came along. I’m not quite sure about the balance...”
Isabet grinned and hooked her helmet to the back of her belt. “Not a hairdo I would copy, but I already thought those pins would have some alternative use...” She stood back carefully “go ahead.”
Tomoe shock her right hand out, which was still sore from working all afternoon, then picked a dart by the handle and lifted it over her right shoulder. Inhaling deeply she stiffened her wrist, and then let it go with a snap that went from her right shoulder to her left hip. The throwing blade connected with the board and bounced back on her, slightly off to the side.
Undisturbed, Tomoe inched backwards and tried again. This time, the dart embedded with a low chunk, sharply inclined into the board. Another adjustment, another throw, a better angle. Tomoe crouched to pick up the dart that had bounced and placed it to mark the position of her right toe. Then she retrieved the other two darts from the board.
“Would you like to give them a try, too?” she offered politely.
Isabet shook her head “Right after you figured ‘em, girl.” She winked at Rav entering with some colleagues. Tomoe bowed slightly in her hips and placed her foot back on the position she marked. She took a long step backwards, gripping the dart by the blade and let it fly again, adjusting her position in pursuit of the sticking point.
Tomoe listened to the talk around the room, the hiss of the door, the rain pounding against the window.
Then she picked up a moment of silence that promised mischief or worse. She cast a glimpse at Isabet and Rav in the corner of her eye without breaking her present activity. She could feel somebody else’s eyes between her shoulder blades. When a combat knife whooshed past her head in a half-turn and embedded in the board with impact, she didn’t even flinch.
“I’m afraid there are few insects on Kamino for you to pin down.”
‘Hurray.’ She did not need to turn around to know the voice... ‘Bully’s back.’ She emptied her hand with another quick snap. “Such a pity, right when I begin to feel inspired by local customs, you call a stop. This was just about fun... and precision.”
“Oh really?” Priest swaggered past her to retrieve his knife. And indeed, it was closer to the centre than any of hers.
Tomoe smirked briefly at Rav and walked up the board as well. She stopped up within Dred’s vicinity “Sure.” She echoed with a smile and extracted her blades one by one, holding the first between her teeth and lower lip.
“What me to show you how it is done with a real knife? I wager I’m more precise with this one than you with those pins.” Dred switched from competitive to patronizing.
On the way back she asked, “You want to bet on that?” giving him a look over her shoulder. Tomoe had always stayed away from gambling unless she was employed to call the game. But this was about skills, not dices. “Not that I have a lot to wager.”
“Off the mark yet again.” He eyed her thoroughly from head to toe.
She raised her heel off the ground, her hand sliding down to lift the hem of her pants just a little. “Don’t tell me you are infatuated with my socks. They are probably your size, but it’s the only pair I own.”
“I’m more interested in the sweet... regenerative contents than in the poor wrapping.”
“So what’s it going to be... your blaster or my kiss?” she offered smoothly.
“Just a kiss? That will barely be enough for this one.” He pulled a small hold-out blaster from his boot and placed it on the nearby table.
“I wonder... how do _you_ know already?” Tomoe arched a brow, looked from the weapon to the man and commented “Copikla.”
Rav looked from Tomoe to Dred “Obviously,” she laughed her shebs off.
“You know how to play foxhunt?” Tomoe offered and designated the distance.
“Sure. We start on top centre, you get two fields head start. One throw per turn.”
“You catch me, I kiss you.” She winked.
Dred beamed “Go ahead,” he stood back.
“Third field it is.” Tomoe snapped her dart into it. “Your turn.” She had assumed a slightly off-centre position so she didn’t need to make way for his throw.
Dred took aim and embedded his knife deeply into the top-centre field.
“Fourth.” Tomoe’s dart smacked into her next field right away.
On the way to retrieve his knife, Dred figured that this little woman had far less problems to hit the board than he had wagered. Her operational margin wasn’t the board but probably three fields in diameter. At least she had enough respect not to grin up at him too boldly while she pulled her toys out. He had to be careful with his wide instrument on the horizontal fields, or she would be inevitably off and away. Maybe he could rattle her concentration a little...
“Why didn’t you kill Fett?”
“Doesn’t make sense to kill a dead person, does it?”
Tomoe checked off his point and concentrated to get the hang of her new throwing blades. And let him run twice as much. To the attentive cheers of the small audience for both sides she extended her lead from two to four fields over Dred and lost it again on the way back up, but still managed to stay out of reach... just barely. His technique was handy to throw about anything from knife to screw driver over a medium distance and score a sound hit. He had the power and the practice to adjust it. At his comfort-distance, she wouldn’t have hit a barn door with that primal technique. No, there was no need to turn a gamble into an insult.
Tomoe kissed her last blade before it hit home on her starting field again. “Thank you for the game.” Her bow expressed constant vigilance.
Dred had already corrected his view of Jango to prevent a loss of face. He returned her a crooked grin. “Don’t mention it.” He would not be a worse looser than his leader.
“Kandosii!” Isabet cheered and elbowed Rav into the red plates protecting her side.
Rav settled her elbow on the other woman’s shoulder and grinned at Dred, “Now THAT looked like fun...”
Isabet handed Tomoe Dred’s holdout-blaster “No more qualms about tools of trade, huh? Welcome to the team.” She gave the new girl a pat on the back that drove the air from her lungs and the three of them stuck their heads together.
“Did you sweep your place for bugs already?”
“Bugs?” Tomoe wrinkled her forehead. – “Devices to listen... and watch.” – “Uhmmm... no... it’s not that I do anything I need to hide.” Rav laughed dryly “Should be done at least once a week. Some people around here have no sense for privacy.” – “Can you show me how to do that tomorrow?... I need to find Vau...” The name pulled two sets of eyebrows upwards. “Old psycho? You must be kidding.” – “Oh... He can be quite a gentleman... and I have questions only he can answer.” – “Okaaaay...cya.”Chapter 2.2 – Ask Vau
From the pathway Tomoe spotted a tall dark figure sitting on the edge of a large platform that hovered over the surge far below. She halted briefly in front of the transpari-steel double door until it acknowledged her approach and slid open to the sound of rain beating on the stream lined but unyielding surfaces of Tipoca stilt city. She pocketed her socks and took a couple of steps outside so the door could seal the corridor against the moisture and cold, but waited for Vau to notice her. It was hard to tell what he saw out there.
Mird had vanished even from the enhanced sight of his helmet but Vau preferred to not see the slim form of the woman in the doorframe until she turned back to the door. He was off duty and he certainly was not going to jump for anybody. “Wait.” His baritone voice was converted by the speakers of his helmet. Without turning his head he motioned to her over with a raise of his arm and she approached. “Good evening, Walon.”
“What is it?”
“I would like to hear your opinion on a medical issue.”
“Go ahead.” he grumbled.
“Which side effects on gestation are to be expected with the drugs injected into me the past days?”
He picked up that detached sound in her voice. “Back off.” The tall man got to his feet with amazing speed, lifted her over a couple of steps before dropping her with a low grunt and towering between her and the abyss.
Once he unfolded his vice-like armored grip she landed on her bare soles with a splash and staggered back a step, staring up into the black visor hiding his face, wiping away raindrops that poured from the helmet’s edge onto her forehead. “I didn’t mean to startle you. Please excuse my intrusion.”
He looked her over. While the seals of his armor kept him dry and warm, she looked as wet as Mird after an excursion flight around the stilt city. Was it rain or fatigue or misery? Probably all. “Let’s go inside...”
“It’s just rain.” She stepped into the translucent doorframe and wrung the water from her pony tail.
“Sure it is.” He took her up to the privacy of his quarters and threw a towel at her before popping the environment seal of his helmet. Tomoe dried her hair and feet then hopped from one foot on the other to put her socks back on.
“None, from my point of view.” He picked up the thread “The mixture is composed to influence the brain only. It can do that because it is similar to your body chemistry that regulates the interaction of conscious and subconscious. Same effect as dreaming minus nightmares because of the sedative but it wears off in a definite time. Don’t worry about it. On such an early stage, stress would have been the worse medicine.”
He turned to the dispenser sitting in the wall and returned with two steaming cups. “So what else?”
“A stun dart and an injection that disabled my lower jar and voice.”
“I don’t need to tell you that nobody runs field tests on pregnant women with such drugs. It is heavily dependent on the stage of development. In which week are you exactly?”
“I can’t tell.”
He arched a brow, thinking ‘it’s more like you don’t want to tell’...
“I would say, if it’s too early to notice, it’s too early to be afraid of side effects. We’ve got an excellent medical care here. Time will tell.”
“I prefer not to relay on the health care of cloner medics.”
Vau nodded. “I understand. They will leave a member of our inferior species alone unless it catches their scientific interest or causes trouble.”
She heard contempt dripping from his voice. “How did you end up here?”
A low chuckle barely escaped Vau’s lips. His intense tiger eyes looked deep into Tomoe’s. “I’m a run-away. I’ve lived everywhere around this galaxy for the more than forty years. Originally I did mercenary work but business was far more lucrative running weapons, spice, whatever. I did a lot of things,” Vau alluded with a rare smile.
She just shook her head good-naturedly and took another drink of caf.
“Why did I leave just to settle here,” Vau glanced around out of habit, always on guard. “That’s what you really want to know, isn’t it, Tomoe.” It was a statement not a question.
Tomoe nodded, “I guess it is.” she agreed.
“Because it’s in my blood now,” Vau eyed her levelly. “You probably don’t understand…” he paused and for a moment seemed to see deep into Tomoe’s soul. “Or maybe you do. Maybe you will understand in time. Sometimes, there are more important things than money, Tomoe.”
“This is very true.” Tomoe nodded, how she knew that. As she looked into Vau’s eyes for a moment she had the oddest feeling; almost as though she were looking into a mirror, seeing within her own eyes, into her own soul. It was the most disconcerting feeling in the world. ‘What do you want...’
“How about you?”
“Where I come from, they despise the old system as outdated and dangerous but cherish the choice they were given... between one tyranny or the other. Both of the institutions arguing over my world have no sense for culture or loyalty. But they wield means of violence unheard of. All what counts now is money, the latest off-world fashions and technologies, mindless submission to those in power who show no responsibility in return...
I can’t change the past, but I can learn and I can raise my kid on my own.”
“Sounds like a step into the right direction.” Vau stated, his granite face unmoved.
“Thank you for your advice and hospitality...” she bowed lightly, “If you will excuse me..? I still have to fix my clothing.”
Vau nodded silently and impassive, a storm raging in the golden tiger eyes following the small woman as she entered the elevator. The doors slid close. He turned away. What a difference she made.
Meanwhile, Jango had settled down with his son for the evening. Boba sat on his knees, a notepad in front of them which was linked to the secure com-console of Slave I. The mercenary showed his apprentice how to scratch information about a target using different resources. ‘Should have done that right away.’ Jango scolded himself, ‘Always know what you plan to level.’
As starting point they used Tomoe’s ID which he had copied before returning it to her. So far, their search had turned up little of interest: advertisements “Let us warmly welcome you to our resort... been there, seen it.” he skipping through tracks of her school career, social insurance, an inscription at an arts academy, working license... everything as clean and expectable as a record from working girl could be.
It was amazing what laid around to be picked up by anybody who knew where to look. No criminal record, she had never even got so much as a parking- or speeding ticket. “If it looks like this, you’ve got either a very pedantic person... or it is wiped.” Jango explained to his son.
“I think she is a little... pedantic.” Boba piped in, excited about the new word, “She wants me to learn at least about the three ‘most essential’ of seven types of grindstones.”
“Bummer.” Jango filed his findings and widened the search on the next generation, which turned up even less public information. Up another generation. He wasn’t looking for excellent kitchen knives or vintage prints of famous beauties?!
The boredom was interrupted once they tried to access the official family records on her home planet. “Entry deleted.” Jango raised a brow and went to dig deeper in the archive, finding a contact department with a very short name only. The fact made him suspect a far higher level of confidentiality. At least he wasn’t in a place to give them a call.
“Strange hiding policy... deleting records.” He stated “I suspect they have a hard copy somewhere... and a Rancor or something as nasty in front of the door.”
“Dead end?” Boba rubbed his eyes and turned around on Jango’s lap to face his dad.
“Until we shoot the Rancor or employ a local slicer it is. Once we do that, we have a professional who can be linked back on us... and who will sell the information to the highest bidder. Let’s have a look at the environment instead.”
“Traditions, culture, religion. She seems to refer quite often to them.”
“More bedtime stories?”
Jango chuckled “Since you already got the hang on myth and lore, you can start there... find me a spoiler-free digest.”
One hour later, Jango was convinced that Bob’ika got the better part of the job. The boy was caught up reading while he sank deeper and deeper into a quicksand of contradictions himself. It was a mixture of old and new, local and foreign. When most worlds employed one concept, they had at least two solutions. No dogma to follow through the uncontrolled wild growth, no standard without an exception and lots of crazy traditions, festivities and habits. To all that came an overturned rank- and governmental system and a barely established new one, that was by no means simpler, rumours and accusations spreading in all directions. On top of it, most authors had managed to avoid the essential but inconvenient question “why?”
Jango was confused.
He had been looking for a dogma to pin her down by her own moral standards... but what were they? He had found some baselines which didn’t sound too uncommon, like purity, harmony and fertility, respect the ancestors... It made him a happy explorer until he got stuck in a collection of philosophic essays with weird contents like ‘believers pursuit to... kill their own deity?!
“Dini'la aruetiise.” He would never be sure again if there was some common ground for morals in this galaxy.
“What is it, dad?” Boba’s young voice penetrated the fog with ease.
“I don’t get it. On one hand, they have rules for everything... but nowadays, everybody seems to do what he or she wants, unless it crosses someone with more influence or breaks some leftovers of old class standard, then it’s either despised or especially honored.”
“Huh? What class?”
“There were nobles, warriors, farmers, artisans and merchants... everybody was sorted out somewhere... unless you were an outcast... As an entertainment artist she wouldn’t have been allowed to touch a weapon... unless it was fake and part of an act...” He elaborated and rubbed the itching bandage on his thigh “Well, what she does is definitely not just for show.”
“Tomoe told me that her clan had lived by the sword for generations.”
From Jango’s point of view, all Non-Mandalorians were merely amateurs, but... “Warriors then - for the sake of our research.” Aside of the omnipresent exceptions, this class had suffered the deepest fall in public influence recently. Maybe her reason not to push that aspect of her educational background.
“Main duties of women of the warrior class...” Jango gave the digest of an article “...manage all household affairs, maintain honor (whatever that means), care for the children and elders and perhaps even defend the home forcibly, ’ (make that a certainty) ...Traits valued: humility, self-control, strength, courage and loyalty... sounds somewhat familiar, isn’t it, Bobi’ika? And here we go... subservience to her husband – Oya!”
Within the last 24 hours, the stakes had risen noticeably. Jango was convinced that she got all the right stuff, aside of this useless refinement, cultivation, perfectionism... all those outdated methods and futile superstitions had to go. Then she would become a part of the clan and earn a living yet be protected. He was sure she would recognize the concept. On the other hand, old loyalties and a higher regard to bloodlines and spiritual ancestry would make it harder for her to accept him as father and mate.
‘I can’t do anything about the past,’ he rehearsed, ‘Those traditions are dead on your home world, Cin’ciri. You can’t go back, you can’t eat your pride. You are disgraced... soiled... shamed... for you didn’t even manage to kill yourself in time... okay, maybe just hint that... but: don’t tell me you are not looking for something. Everybody is... I can give it to you.’
He just had to make her pull out all the stops, put her on the right track of the Resol’Nare... and together, they would raise their kids as Mando’ade. Then there would be happiness to make up for bad times. From what he had seen, she would adapt to the simple lifestyle on Mandalore gracefully. Once their job in Tipoca was done, they had to lay low until the storm was over and the galaxy had been purged. Together they would rally to the cause of their people.
Jango noticed Boba had fallen asleep in his lap, the mop of dark curls burrowed into his wide chest. He picked up the sleeping kid and carried him to bed. When he undid the sturdy boots, the boy woke and shrunk out of his clothing on his own. “How about _you_ tell me a story tonight, Boba?” Jango proposed, mischief blinking in his dark eyes. “Uh no... I’m sleeping already.” – “Fine with me. Sleep well.”
‘That was easy.’ Jango leaned against the corridor wall for a moment and smiled. Then the door buzzer went and his smile dropped. It was Kal stopping by, wearing his ‘women!’-face, which could only be escalated by catastrophes like a Null in bacta or an air raid on Keldabe. Poor guy. There was a reason why he was doing things differently. “What is it now?”
Kal got right to the point “Maybe you provide Tomoe with some basic necessities, before she turns into a liability again... not everybody loses a bet as gracefully as you or Dred... against a newbie and amateur.”
If nothing else, Cin’ciri provided at least one essential thing to their little community... gossip. “She’s gambling?”
“She tried a new set of self-made throwing blades on the cu'bikad-board and liberated Dred’s hold-out blaster on the way. Looks like she started a weapons collection like any good girl.”
“She’s good enough to deserve your praise?” Jango arched a brow. Kal’s skill with his three sided knife was infamous.
“It looked narrow, but it’s hard to tell if he let her win or if she merely kept him interested.”
"Well at least it is another small piece in the puzzle of her.”
“One you can’t effort to solve with a piece of yours at a time.” Kal shrugged, “you could have chosen a Mando girl as well. One who doesn’t juggle half of Tipoca’s male population as easily as her throwing knifes.”
“Did you honestly think it would be easy to put her back into the box once _you_ let her out? What do you expect me to do? - Lock her up and place a sign on her door,” Jango outlined a rectangle with his fingertips, “...dangerous, do not feed?” he laughed dryly.
“I never thought I would see the day when you would finally take a lover, even one as cute as Tomoe.” Kal’s blue crystal clear eyes bore into Jango’s dark ones. “You must choose to accept her fully or to let her leave; otherwise you both will continue to hurt one another until you destroy everything about yourself.”
“There is something about her. I don’t know, it has me confused. Still it is my problem. I will find a way to deal with it, I always do... Now let’s quit the gossip and get down to business."Chapter 2.3 – Jango’s Recap
After briefing Kal, Jango turned in and did his personal recap of the day.
So far, so good. Cin’ciri had not gone into hysteria upon receiving his message of pregnancy. She did not try to commit suicide or went amok. Her vital signs had been remarkable stable, the stress electrocardiogram during the morning-gym proved her excellent physical condition. She had been acting quite reasonably all day aside of the fact that she still denied to acknowledge the obvious... but that would change sooner or later.
He had to hand it to Kal, the situation had its advantages. No more injuries from manacles, healthy exercises, better overall performance... and most important: Boba had relaxed remarkably. His son had a fine sense for abnormality. He could not have fooled him much longer. In fact, it was surprising how eagerly Cin’ciri had tried to keep everything from the boy. He wondered how long had she managed to hide that garrote from him. After all he had strip-searched her in the morning and frisked her the evening before... but he had been looking for a knife then.
The bounty hunter mapped his prey’s location over the day. She had been in Vau’s personal quarter? Fierfek! Did she enjoy pain so much that she couldn’t get enough of that guy?! He compared time stamps with the vital signs, spotting no prominent raise, only a couple of small peaks. Just chatting? Hmmm... he was still the one who got her heart racing... while having breakfast, for example. Not that it had shown much on the outside. Maybe he could convince her to wear his anklet a little longer. The intimate insight it provided him was a nice feature...
For the moment Cin’ciri was in her quarter, just a small bare foot showing within the frame of the surveillance camera while she was mending patiently something draped over her lap. He could find the interesting scenes in fast-forward tomorrow. If she let the lights on long enough and didn’t prefer to move through pitch black darkness like she had last night. Eyes like a dire-cat. Excellent hunter-material he had tampered with.
Not that she had been appreciative of his tampering so far. Raised as a warrior of sorts, she naturally had her pride... No wonder she felt stepped upon. But then, before their deal that set her free, he had only taken what he had been entitled to. As her legal owner, he had never been rough with her unless she insulted or attacked him. She had aired her grievances. Once they had worked out the details and formalities, she would be his official mate. She could keep her pride and he would have more sway as her husband.
Jango ran a hand down his awakening body as he allowed himself to fantasize about what ‘subservient’ meant. He could think of a couple of services if he put his mind on it, but it probably depended on instructions... He was sure she would be a fast learner once she relaxed and eventually let him teach her. He didn’t want her to associate sex with pain but to participate willingly... experience what desire felt like. He would have her again. But not yet. He wanted her consent.
Her long hair was hanging down like a dark curtain, cutting them off from the outside world.
He looked up into her passionate face and gave a slow smile of gratification. She looked so beautiful with her pale torso flushed pink with excitement and her nipples erect. She purred with pleasure and moved her hips as his fingers went up to rub the rosy, velvety crests. “Ride me,” he closed his eyes and took his pleasure in his own hands.
She was straddling his nude hard body, her hips found the rhythm easily as they began to move against one another. His demure little lady was a wildcat in his bed...
He could feel his orgasm approach like an ocean storm as he threw back his head and suppressed a throaty cry.
Her voice returned to his mind, low and brittle like autumn leaves. “...but still find no satisfaction.” Then the silky curtain of hair was gone, sliced in halves.
“Poor Jango,” the bodiless voice crooned in his ear.