The Soul was streaking through hyperspace en route to Nar Shada and Durga the Hutt. Trey watched the streaking grey nothing of Hyperspace flow by. Turning to his pilot, a smile crossed his face. “How do you feel, this close to freedom?”
“Why do I get the feeling the that with that one sentence,” the pilot chuckled, “the rug is gonna get pulled right on out.”
“You know what?” the thief said, eyebrow raised. “You worry too much.”
“And you don’t worry enough.” the pilot shot back.
Trey patted her shoulder. “C’mon,” he said, jerking his head toward the ship’s aft. “I managed to snag a nice bottle of Coruscant blush wine, pre-Imperial vintage. Gonna crack it open back in the lounge.”
“Yeah sure,” Arden smiled up at the head of the rag tag group.
Trey returned the smile. “Set the autopilot and do whatever else it is you do up here, I’ll make sure to save you a glass.”
“Okay,” she said as she returned her attention to the controls of the Soul.
Having spent enough time in her cabin listening to the teachings of Master Urr, Kyra decided it was time for some more… physical education. She found a mostly cleared out cargo bay and set about moving the few storage containers and plasteel cylinders out of the middle of the room. A snap-hiss echoed through the compartment as Kyra settled into middle-guard.
She closed her eyes and took a deep, calming, breath. When her eyes opened, she launched into the steady, practiced movements of Shii-Cho. Muscle-memory slowly began filtering back into her being after so many years away from the School. As she practiced, her basic movements began to refine themselves into a more fluid and graceful technique. Had anyone been watching, they might have thought Kyra was dancing across the deck with some invisible partner only she could perceive.
As it were, the redhead had gathered an audience.
Ures’vn Bralor stood at the mouth of the hold, leaning against its cool metal frame. He watched her body slide into the motions of an almost familiar kata. Her feet were silent with every graceful step, leaving only the gentle hum of the lightfoil as it whipped from place to place. With each repetition he could see those kinks working themselves away to the practiced ease of a trained body’s instinct.
He was now more sure than ever of what the young woman was, and as such he knew that she was probably completely aware of him. Still, he would let her finish a several more rotations before announcing his intrusion.
“New toy,” he said as she dropped back on her right foot and the blade drew parallel to her chest, readying for the repeat. “Must feel good, even if it is an expensive knock off.”
“Beggers can’t be choosers,” the girl replied without looking at the Mandalorian. The hum and whir of the blade filled the air again as Kyra repeated her exercise, adding different variations here and there that only the trained eye might perceive. Once she finished the second round, Kyra deactivated the blade and even though her breathing remained steady, she wiped the sweat from her brow; the only clear evidence that she’d been exerting herself.
“And yes, it does feel good. It’s been too long since…” her eyes found the floor as her voice trailed off. “Anyway,” she said after a moment, “I assume everything went down okay after we left?”
The man nodded. “Well, enough.” He pushed off with his elbow and stepped in. He didn’t feel terribly compelled to discuss the job. It was over, and they had to look forward. They had to keep moving. Not that he’d forgotten about the surprise loose end. Far from it, but that was his concern to tend to.”Everybody got back alive. That’s what counts.”
His hand held out. “So how long’s it been?”
Kyra held up the lightfoil hilt, “Since I last held the grown-up version?” A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “Never, really. Our training sabers weren’t much more than over-sized and under-powered versions of these. Enough to give you a nasty burn, but not much else.”
The Mandalorian’s brow rose with a little curiosity in its peaking. Looking at her, his thumb engaged the soft green blade. “Shame.” His wrist rolled and the lightfoil created a wheel of light at his side before cutting to sharp stop inches from the floor at the end of his extended arm. “They were impressive weapons in action.”
“Yeah…” Kyra’s voice went quiet again as the image of the Jedi monument on her home-world came unbidden to her mind’s eye. Mixed emotions welled up inside her. Had it not been for her romantic visions of the Jedi Order, and the little Force ability she’d exhibited, she might have never left home. She might have shared the same fate as her parents. She might… Shaking off the ‘what if’s’ she looked back at Bralor. “I thought you said you didn’t serve with many Jedi?”
Killing the blade, it swiveled about in his palm, coming to a rest with the base of the hilt toward her.”Clones rarely rarely served with Jedi,” he clarified for her. Although there was a great many of his lot that cast themselves against the Jedi, but there wasn’t even a hint of disdain in his tone. “We mostly answered to them. But I’ve known a few and served with a couple.”
She took the cylinder, rolling it over in her hands. “So… has Trey said anything about what happened in the hangar? I mean… there’s something of a bounty on Force users, and… well, that was a pretty blatant display. Even if it was more reaction than anything else.”
“Bounty?” Bralor gave a small, dry laugh. “You’re a walking goldmine to the right people.” With only a little hesitation, he added, “Or wrong people.” He felt the pull of his genes prickle at his memories. He unlashed the pouch on his belt and removed the flask. “Of course for some you’re an order awaiting completion.” The soldier took drink.
The girl looked confused. “I don’t understand? I mean, if you guys aren’t going to turn me over to the Empire, that’s great, but what do you mean about an order?”
Bralor’s dark eyes narrowed. “You’re on the run, in hiding. You’ve been on your own, what? Years? Teacher’s gone. I’m guessing your master told you to stay out of sight, stay hidden. Don’t reveal yourself.” His arms crossed over his the plates across his chest. “Did they never tell you why?” He shook his head. “Or did they just never have a chance.” This last bit was almost mumbled to himself.
The fact that the Mandalorian’s words weren’t far from the mark caught Kyra off-guard. She took a few steps backwards, bumped into a plasteel crate and sat down. “We were on our way to Coruscant, to the Jedi temple there. Jedi Knight Jusik receive a message though, and we changed course, headed to the outer rim. He left me in the care of a former Padawan and then left to seek out his master. I never saw him again.” Kyra told the story as though she been reading it from a datapad, with only the slightest trace of pain creeping into the edges of her voice. “I always feared the worst, but Master Kenzon kept me so occupied with training that I didn’t have much time to dwell on it.”
Her knowledge of the purge was limited to snippets of hushed conversations in the dark corners of cantinas. She knew the Jedi Order was no more, knew that the Empire hunted them down, but little else. “What happened?”
“Jusik, eh?” The name seemed to give the older man a smile, even if it was just a small one.
The smile was brief though. He shook his head, his tone falling into that cool chill. “Supreme Chancellor Palpatine determined the Jedi were acting against the republic after an armed assassination attempt by their Council. He ordered the GAR to take them out. All of them, every trace.” Bralor sighed. “Soldiers follow orders as a general rule, and Clone troopers are especially engineered to. The Jedi fell and in their ashes came the Empire.”
“You are a rare breed, Kyra.” He looked at her with those hardened eyes. “The Empire will see you extinct if it has its way.”
A chill passed up the girl’s spine and she suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Master Kenzon had warned to not to leave, he’d practically begged her to stay, in fact. But at the time so deep was the desire to find her parents, she thought she didn’t have any choice. She’d had to go back to New Holstice.
And now here she was. In the cargo hold of a light freighter with a crew of thieves and killers and an entire galaxy outside that wanted to exterminate her. For the first time in a long time, reality settled in on her like a Star Destroyer. She looked into Bralor’s dark eyes, “What do I do?”
“Don’t worry about Vullif. I don’t know what you did in the hanger, but Trey won’t turn you in. He’s a thief, not a slaver. Hell, damn near this whole crew is painfully aware of the price of freedom…” His arms fell from his chest as he took the steps towards her. He dropped the flask back into its pouch.”I’m not going to kill you either, in case you’re worried.”
“Keep your head and wits about you. Don’t be a target.” He took the young woman’s hand and the blade burst to life under his arm, its green glow reflecting off the dark beskar’gam on his chest. “And adapt.”
It had been a long time since Kyra had felt that she could count on anyone but herself. It wasn’t an easy way to live, but something in the Mandalorian had punched through her defenses like a turbolaser blast. Her green eyes met his dark eyes and she nodded. “Okay…”
Confidence started to creep back into her being. It was as if Bralor was able to impart a measure of his own steely resolve through physical contact. “Okay,” she said again, pulling away, but not deactivating the blade. “You have any pointers, old man?” The last added with a hint of mischief.
“I’m no Jedi,” he took a step back, “and I’m better with a blaster in my palm or a short blade for close, quiet combat.” The latter implied the silent and unsuspecting kill, the sort that put blood all over your gloves. But like every ARC trooper, Null and Alpha alike, he had been trained in nearly all forms of combat, including several forms of vibroblade. Of course, having watched several Jedi over the years didn’t hurt in the slightest. It was amazing what a little memory engineering let you pick up on. “But I’ve learned a thing or two here and there.
“You’re swinging that thing like a two handled saber, not the shorter blade it is.” He took a step back from her, his stance opening up in an almost familiar manner. “It’s leaving you all kinds of open.”
Kyra fought to suppress a smile. The Mandalorian had, after all, only watched the beginning of her training routine. She held the lightfoil low, sliding her left foot back slightly to angle the point of the blade towards Bralor. The redhead flicked her wrist in a tight x-pattern before bringing the blade up in salute. She returned to low guard with another flourish. Giving him a little wink, she taunted, “What else you got?”
Bralor looked at her a moment then glanced back over his shoulder. He came back with a dry smirk on his face. “A vibrosword back in my bunk.”