“So, tell me again how exactly you managed to get yourself stranded in the Unknown Regions, and sealed up in a carbonite block… or how my vod’ika and his wife are dead, leaving you with a missing left arm that looked like it got scorched and chewed off by a firebreathing rancor? Huh, Zul’ika?”
I can’t look Uncle Barve in the face right now. Maybe it’s residual hibernation sickness, maybe it’s guilt or anger, but I’m fighting the urge to throw up again. I’m looking at my reflection in one of the giant metal cabinets in his cybernetics maintenance workshop. My face still looks pale, a sharp contrast to the blue chevron qukuuf on my cheeks that mark me as a member of Kiffar’s Clan Konshi, at least through my mother.
“Stay still, chakaar, or I won’t get this thing calibrated right.” Uncle Tannor “Barve” Veyrde is a genius when it comes to machines, especially the beast of a cybernetic arm he’s currently adjusting to optimal performance specs. I wince as I feel the feedback of the newly formed nerve connections, a reaction to his precision fine tuning. He feels me fidget and puts his tools down, lifting the multi-lensed adjustable goggles from his sweaty face. He grabs his handkerchief from the breast pocket of his coveralls and wipes his bushy red eyebrows. He stuffs the cloth back into his pocket, shifts his workbench stool to face me, and stroking his long, braided red beard with hands that could palm my head as well as solder the wings off of a flitgnat, he looks at me with a sad smile.
“Never mind, ad’ika. I get it…I’m just surprised… and angry, I guess.”
“I tried to get ‘im, Ba’vodu. Karkin’ dar’jetti got the drop on me at the carbonite freezing station.” I feel my anger rise again, it feels stronger even than the fresh sense of loss right now. I don’t remember dreaming when I had the Kilian IV Agri-plant’s processing droid put me in Deep Freeze, but I’d like to think it was about revenge.
Uncle Barve’s massive hand pats me on the new arm, making me feel like I’m eight years old again, fresh into my apprenticeships with my buir’e. Normally, I’d be annoyed and shrug him off, but right now, it feels oddly comforting. “No worries, kid. At least you were clever enough to call me from Jinn’s comm and do what you had to, to survive till I got there. Once we get you fixed up, Papa Radd will want to see you. He wants to hear firsthand that his only grandson's going to be okay.”
I can’t help smile, “Yeah, I'll manage. Kilia IV’s a real long way from Concord Dawn. Glad you came and got me. Hoped I was worth the trouble.”
“Are you kidding?” Barve offers his trademark gruff chuckle and knee slap combo; my knee, not his. He continues as I rub the newly sore spot. “Those prissie nobles wanted nothing to do with a pissed of Mando in full combat mode. They handed your parents and their stuff over right away. Seems they were embarrassed about a murder in their precious bantha slaughterhouse. Getting their sheb'la droid to convince the plant’s computer to release you was the biggest problem. Okay, let's finish this."
He pulls the goggles back down onto his face, adjusting the magnification as he opens a hidden maintenance panel in the cyber-arm, just before the wrist. He picks up one of his many micro-tools and makes a few adjustments to the internal workings. I can feel a couple of sharp twinges as I watch the servos and pistons make increasingly smooth motions while each of the arm's clawed fingers alternately bend to touch the thumb. I can't help smile at the ease of which I'm growing accustomed to the new arm. I find it equal parts pleasing and unsettling.
"There," Uncle Barve says, satisfied with his cybernetic genious. " How's the respirator holding up, ad'ika?" He looks, somewhat concerned, at the ingenious armored chest and collar plates that house my new life support system.
I breathe in with a slight metallic rasp, afraid of any sign that my dearest uncle might see me as any less now. "Feels much better than the first bacta dip. The 'droid breath' is a lot less annoying."
He nods, eyes melting into a look of love and supportive approval. I didn't realize how much I needed that. "I told you we'd get you back together, Zui'ika…collapsed lungs and all."
I can't help rub my chest with my right hand, flesh fingers tracing along the cable filaments embedded in the armor. My hand jerks away, as the thought of accidentally pulling something loose comes to mind.
Uncle Barve smiles, as if picking up on the reason for my fear. "No worries. Kid. Those conduit lines are made of a durasteel and cortosis weave. They'll hold up fine."
I guess I looked as confused as I felt. "Cor...toe..sis?"
He chuckles again, "Cortosis...didn't have enough for full coverage...just where it really counts. Stuff's rarer than beskar right now. Trust me, you find that hutuun'la dar'jetti, and he beats his lightstick against even a small piece of that, he'll be in for a real shock."
I nod, getting up from my stool. "Let's go see Radd’ba'buir. I'm excited to see what he'll think."
"It's safe to say I've overstayed my welcome." The Kilian Renegade known as Sutekk Jors, muttered to himself. Kilia IV no longer held any allure for him. His failure in assassinating the Heiress of House Tionc left a bad taste in his mouth as he packed his few meager belongings, a few sets of clothing and the lightsaber he'd been given by his last client, courtesy of some unknown loose affiliation with a group of Mandalorian agitators who called themselves The Death Watch.
...Morbid... but perhaps appropriate, he mused. The dark side of the Force whispered promises of much to be gained by leaving this backwater planet. He had no desire to continue as a Renegade, not after the deaths of his brother and his squire at the hands of those Mandalorian mercenaries and their young whelp. He remembered the ferocity of the boy who'd engaged him. He was indeed formidable, but inexperienced, especially against the powers wielded by a fully trained Renegade. Sutekk was unhappy to hear that his younger brother had fallen to the child's blade, and surprised by the wounded Mandalorian boy's ability, but avenged his fallen kin by dispatching the boy as he had both parents. Of course he suffered injuries himself, owing, in his opinion, to the prideful mistakes that came from the overconfidence he had felt in his dark side powers, wielded against the supposedly legendary Mandalorian combat prowess.
No, he said to himself. He couldn't put the blame on anyone but himself. He felt the anger as he remembered fleeing to the Renegade’s Lord for help, only to be cast out on his own for his failure to kill the Tionc Heiress as planned. He'd soon learned that another Mandalorian had arrived on Kilia IV to claim the dead family and that the boy had miraculously survived. Another failure. It was time to go...start a new life... no more failure...not again. He boarded a rare transport off planet, hiring the greedy pilot for passage as near to the Mandalore sector as possible.
Perhaps this Death Watch could use a new enforcer.
Sutekk Jors smiled.
"Kom'rk tsad droten troch nyn ures adenn, Dha Werda Verda a'den tratu."