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Chapter 06

Keldabe spaceport

Two days was the longest Biran would leave his ship unattended, even in a place like Mandalore. Now that he knew where to land and stay close to his allies he took the Pursuer off from the busy docks of the capital city. Sitting in the next seat was Kal Skirata, thoroughly browsing the data he’d given him on his gauntlet display. They were lists of names and ranks of squads and troopers that he had trained. And of those that got processed for their second training.

“Did all of them make it to the Imperial ranks?”

“Most of them did. Barring casualties from Jedi during the final showdown.”

Shab. Didn‘t want to mention that.”

“Yeah. Damn shame.”

Biran wasn’t sure which part he felt most sorry for. But in his own point of view the clone troopers and commandos were the least to blame. They would always be like his own children and was always true for any of the Cuy’val Dar, the Mandalorian training officers hired by Jango Fett. The clone ARC’s, Nulls and Commandos were their pride and joy. Now their work was gone to other hands, aruetiise that would shut out the warrior spirits of the troops and turn them to drones.

They landed at Kyrimorut, just outside his temporary home, and Biran got up to prep his baggage.

He checked the contents of the safe in his cabin before neatly moving them piece by piece in his carry-all bags.

“Great looking beskar,” said Skirata peering over his shoulder.

“My brother and sister’s. May they rest forever in the Manda.”

Skirata, only a few years older than him, was now completely white-haired and even more wrinkled and elderly looking than he remembered him back on Kamino. The two men had only crossed paths a few times in a decade.

“These armors have been waiting for years to be worn again,” Biran mused, holding one of the helmets. It was painted purple and grey, with traces of green in the dents and scratches. That one would suit Runa just fine. Kal patted his back.

“Better late than never, ner vod. How is the wife feeling about this?”

“Not as opposed to it now. I guess the kids made her change her mind themselves.”

Kal stretched his thin lips in a smile, eyes lost in memories. He finished packing the suits.

“Tell me, that Bardan kid of yours. Where did you find him?”

“Ah, my little genius,” Kal seemed to avoid his stare. “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.”

“Try me, old shabuir. I’ve seen enough strange in this life.”

“I hate to go around his back about this, that’s all I mean. He’ll let you know himself. Why do you ask?”

Biran stopped at the hatch and turned to Kal, not knowing how to place the words.

“It’s nothing, parental paranoia. Cause you see, I have a daughter…”

“Ah yes, I see.” The old man grinned proudly. “Don’t worry, Biran. She’ll be in good hands. ”

Kal cheerfully punched the hatch open and walked out briskly for an injured, sixty-something year old man. He remembered seeing Skirata when he used to limp around the immaculate white halls of Tipoca City.

The three young people were there to greet them. Kal ruffled Bardan’s hair then shook Devik and Runa’s hands mando-style. They went inside to sit at the dining table where food and hot tea were ready.

“I want to apologize for not showing any sooner, business kept me a little longer on Nar Shaddaa. Anyway, you must be excited about being here already so I’ll cut to the chase: we need you to extract certain things from a very protected place without dragging attention.”

“Yes, we were told that.” Devik nodded in direction of Bardan.

“Good, then I can show you where it is…”

“That’s done too.”

“Okay then. Looks like my work is done!” He feigned leaving but sat back, smiling and exuding good mood. “It’ll be simple, really. Knock at the door and ask to enlist in the Imperial forces, get in, place a couple bugs and get out.”

Runa lifted her nose up from her cup of tea. “People can actually enlist in the Imperial army?”

“Last I heard they were recruiting non-clones, yes. And preferably humans. They’re hoping to get mando’ade into their ranks. Which is already done, basically.”

He looked over at Biran with a dark stare.

“The intel we need is the locations of their training bases and where they transferred some of our boys. The rescue missions will come later.”

“Sounds risky,” said Runa.

“It’s actually suicidal,” Biran added. “But risky by Mandalorian standards.”

“Don’t worry, ad’ika. We’re old but we’ve seen our share of action. And so did Bardan, which I think you already got to know.”

He expected Runa to flush or look shy but instead she froze up and just nodded. Something was wrong.

“Actually I haven’t,” he finally said. “Let’s hear your story, Bard’ika.

The young man, arms folded on the table, turned his dark blue eyes to Runa in a silent question and she looked back with a shrug. There was something going on, alright. He blinked slowly before caving in.

“Last name is Jusik. Look it up when you feel curious again.”

Now even Kal seemed upset. Biran decided it wasn’t the greatest time to put the man’s family tensions on the table. He had more important things to do with his own.

“Fine by me if you prefer it that way…” He stood up and gestured for his children to follow him.

Back in the dormitory he gave them a bag each with the Mandalorian suits. They were heavy: Mandalorian metal, or beskar, was very dense. So solid that it was laser proof.

“From now on you will not leave the house without these on.”

Fierfek,” hissed Devik, but he was radiating joy.

He unpacked a gauntlet with a dart thrower mounted on it, painted black and yellow. Runa found her helmet, and tried it on immediately. Her head looked huge without the rest of the armor.

“I can’t see.”

“Heads-Up Display is offline. Blink twice.”

“Ah! Oh my…”

Biran could stand there for hours watching them play with their new toys - no, their uniform, weapons, their new identity - but he helped them get the armor plates attached and fit correctly.

“They belonged to your aunt and uncle. Take care of your beskar’gam like your lives depend on it.”

“We will,” Devik said, voice amplified and distorted behind his mask. “Ha ah! Do I sound funny and cool or what?”

Runa, now all dressed of silver and purple, giggled childishly, fiddling with her belt pouches.

Biran didn’t want to spoil the moment by telling them that the previous owners of these armors had been brutally killed decades ago at the Battle of Galidraan. He spent hours cleaning them and he knew the stories of every burn, dent and scratch on the beskar plates. He especially remembered those caused by light sabers.

“So, dad…” Devik began, and took his helmet off. Biran felt a pinch in the heart that they weren’t calling him buir yet. “Does this mean we’re gonna see some action?”

“Keep wearing it everyday and action will come to you.”

“Makes sense, actually.” He clipped a leg holster to his belt and looked in his bag. “Something’s missing in all of this.”

“Your weapons,” Biran answered, “aren’t there. You’ll have to make due for now.”

“The fuel pouch for my flamethrower is empty,” Runa added.

“Sounds like a good stroll opportunity to me,” said Devik. “Can’t wait to go out.”

Biran put his own helmet on, and while he was at it started an archive search for the name “Jusik”.

“Then hop on the speeder,” he said. “We’re going gun shopping.”

The search results popped up in a miniature picture in the top left corner of his HUD. He recognized Bardan in that mug-shot, with a beard and long scruffy hair. He could’ve been some smuggler or thief in the Coruscant lower levels. Whatever he did, it made the Empire angry and had a hit on him. As he walked out of the house to get in his vehicle, his eyes wandered in the description and fell on a rank title: Jedi General.

Biran sat still for a moment, processing the intel. His first thought was traitor. His second, he saw images of his brother and sister getting sliced by blazing white laser swords in a snowy valley. And finally he looked around to find Runa behind him on the passenger’s seat. She was focused on arranging her hair tightly enough to fit in her bucket. She knew about Bardan.

Trying not to worry was hard as a parent. His children were adults, they could make their own judgments. Not being around for them for most their lives pushed him to do something about it though.

“What’s wrong, dad?”

Devik looked at him through his black T-slit, suddenly the familiar face of another mando’ad, a brother and ally.

“Something came up. Regretful news.”

“Anything I should worry about?”

“Not yet, I hope.” He powered the engines up. “But let’s go and get ourselves things that go bang!”