It would seem like all the Jawas of Anchorhead were paying respect to Kairi as she walked the dusty streets, bowing or offering trade. Iziz marched up to her, surrounded by the six Jawas she had freed from the Sand People. They traded the salvage from Calo Nord's party for a goodly stack of credits, probably less than the equipment was worth, but they were just glad to be rid of it. When the trade was completed, the rest of the Jawas scattered, but Iziz stayed.
"You, Giant. A great deed has been done for the tribe that is mine. We trade well for this." Iziz presented her with a sack of crystals. All of them were stunning in their quality, but a beautiful violet one particularly got her attention. "Iziz of Jawa thank you once more! We sing about you as we dig you."
"Thank you, Iziz," Kairi said. "May the Force be with you."
"May the…?" The Jawa did not understand the words, but understood the intent. "And good trading to you!"
"The Chieftain's gaffi." The Czerka representative turned it over in her hands. "I don't know what to say. This has been great news for everyone. They'll be quieter – maybe they'll break camp and move away soon. In either case, I guess we can reduce the bounty policy. Too many people getting killed on the dunes anyway."
Kairi kept silent. The Czerka rep needn't know that she'd struck a deal with the Sand People. The less she knew, the more likely it would be that she would simply mistake the lessening of attacks and the moving of the tribe to be the result of their hunters, and that would play to Czerka's inflated sense of superiority.
Overall, a satisfactory outcome. She still had one last query to make, though. She turned and went into Czerka's company store, and asked the clerk on duty whether Griff had been seen.
"Griff? Yes, he left a few hours ago. He tried to hit me up for credits. Said he was taking the next ship to…to anywhere really. He owed the wrong people gambling debt, it would seem."
Kairi sighed. Somehow, it figured.
"One last thing. He said he was going to find his sister before he left."
Mission's head-tails were still in bandages, and she was wearing a loose-fitting tunic and pants, as tight-fitting clothing would just aggravate the places that were still sore. She was doing repairs in the control room when she heard T3-M4 chirping curiously, a signal someone was outside the ship. Standing up, she checked the monitor for outside the ship's dock and gasped.
Zaalbar, who had been even more protective than usual, hovered over her. "That's your brother?"
"'Fraid so," Mission said. "Come on, Big Z. I always wanted you to meet him."
She was still moving slowly as she walked down the ramp. Griff was waiting there for her. He looked like he'd been blown through a heat-storm, but it was him, and he was alive! HK-47 decided to walk forward next to Zaalbar.
"Uh…" He looked Mission over and blinked. He didn't even recognize her!
Mission folded her arms. "Griff, you chuba-brain! Don't you even recognize me? Y'know, Mission, your kid sister…the one you ran out on?"
"Oh…uh…Mission! It is you! Hi, sis…Wow, you…"
"The bandages on my head-tails? Those'll heal, Griff, but…" Her voice grew heavy and she walked up to him. She wanted to hug him, but found she really couldn't – not until she knew the truth. She settled for grasping his arms. "Griff, I ran into Lena. She said it was your idea to leave me behind. Was…was it?"
"Well, sis…I…" He blushed a bit, and his head-tails crossed behind him in contrition. "As soon as I struck it rich, you know I'd be back for you. I…I just…well…" He tried to change the subject. "You're traveling with a Jedi now?"
"Kairi saved me from Taris, Griff," she said, pulling her hands away. Now that she knew, she was boiling. Her hands balled up into fists and her eyes stung. That Hutt-slime did abandon her! He left her to die or worse on that rock, and probably hadn't thought twice about it as he bumbled his way to the next scheme.
"Aw, Mission, cut me a break," he said apologetically. "Yeah, I left you behind. You could look after yourself. Besides, you're okay. You're here, and you look…well."
Zaalbar's growls and barks were lost on Griff as he came over to Mission's side, her ever-present back up. Griff gulped as he looked the large Wookiee over from crown to toe.
"Uh…er…Wow! Where'd you get the pet, sis?"
Zaalbar growled again.
"Zaalbar is my best friend, Griff," she said, stepping back towards Zaalbar. Zaalbar was staring at Griff, even as he offered a large paw in support. With a shaky smile of thanks, she squeezed it briefly for strength. "After you were gone, he watched my back on Taris. I…I always wanted you to meet him, y'know."
"That?" He started laughing. "Wow, Mission. How bad did it get after I left for you to fall in with a walking carpet?"
THAT did it! She stormed up to Griff and lifted her fist, smacking him hard against the jaw. Griff dropped to the sand, rubbing his hurt jaw and trying to form words. Mission shook her hand in front of her. The muscles ached. She took two deep, shaky breaths and forced herself not to scream at him.
"I'll tell you something, Griff. Yeah, Zaalbar's big and furry. Yes, sometimes he's a little shaggy and has bantha breath, but y'know something – he's never skipped out on someone, he's never blamed anyone else for his problems, and he keeps his promises. As a matter of fact, he kept me honest back on Taris. And unlike you, I know he's going to watch my back when he says he will."
"C'mon, sis. You had to admit it was fun and exciting," he said. "We went everywhere…the world was ours! All we had to do was –" He started to pick himself up, dusting off his battered coveralls.
"Sorry, Griff. Yeah, there were some fun times, but I remember the bad stuff, too. Zaalbar made a promise to Kairi, and well…I've made my promise to Zaalbar. I know where they stand…you, I can't be sure about."
He was sheepish now, shuffling his feet. "I got passage with this smuggler buddy I know. We could go into business. I've got this foolproof idea. I'll be just like the good old days on Taris – like nothing ever happened."
Mission shook her head. "That's your problem. For you, nothing has happened because you don't learn. For me…for me, too much has happened. Sorry, Griff, but…but you're on your own now."
Griff had one last appeal. "Sis…I've got my life, but not a credit to my name…I was wondering…"
Zaalbar threw up his large hands and started shouting at him. "You idiot! You fool disrespecting of clan and honor. You abandoned your sister – such things are unheard of among my people. And now you have the audacity to ask her to support you again? You should be humbled and awed at your sibling. She has saved many lives, and now travels with great people on a quest to save many more lives. I would have thought that I would see something of her in you, but I am disappointed."
"Uh…" Griff stammered. "What did he say?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Mission muttered. "Griff, do me a favor," Mission said. "No more schemes, no more running off. In other words, grow up and get a life for a change."
"C'mon, sis. I can't believe you're actually turning me down!"
"No, Griff. Maybe back on Taris, I would have, but…not…not anymore."
The last thing Griff saw as he walked away from the dock, head tails, drooping was his baby sister…all grown up. As he left the Ebon Hawk's berth, Kairi walked past him.
Kairi walked up to Mission, watching as Griff trudged away. "I take it you and Griff had your talk?"
Mission closed her eyes. Her voice was bittersweet. "Griff's in debt and on the run, like usual." She looked over at Kairi. "Thanks, though. You really helped, even if it doesn't look it. Now, I know that I at least tried my best with him." Her voice was close to cracking now, her shoulders shaking with the effort spent to keep from crying. "He did right by me in some ways. But if I had stayed with him, I wouldn't have much of a future, just a life of running from one bad deal to the next. Maybe I'd end up a cantina wench…or worse…to try and get him out of trouble."
Kairi hugged Mission loosely as to not aggravate her wounds, but Mission was hugging Kairi tightly as she wept. It was not the happiest of endings, but it was still closure. Completing the picture was Zaalbar, putting his large hands gently on Mission's shoulders.
"Thanks, you guys, I mean it," she whispered between sniffles. "For Taris, for this thing with Griff, for everything."
"First Kairi, then Carth, now you…" Canderous rubbed his wrists, the memory of the iron chains still fresh. "And Jagi used the opportunity to run off." He huffed. "Bloody coward."
"So, you are not going to go charging after him?" Juhani asked.
"I'll have my chance to break the rest of his bones. He'll just have to wait for a while." Canderous made another check of his cannon. Juhani had recovered it from what was left of Jagi's hideout, but there was no other trace of him. Asking around the Mandalorian Quarter brought no further leads. It was if he decided to vanish into the sands. "In the meantime, I should thank you, Juhani, for saving my hide back there."
"Not 'Cathar,' not 'Jedi?'"
"Unless you'd rather I call you that," he said gruffly, using a cloth to remove sand from the barrel. "After Malachor, I got used to fighting alone," he said. "Damn near got me killed foolishly. I used to beat my soldiers for acting as stupidly as I did."
"Even the strongest of us is sometimes taken unaware. From what little I understand of your people you had been challenged. You were not expecting your clansman to present a deception, and you also knew we would disapprove of such a duel." Juhani said. The krayt dragon pearl, properly polished, made a powerful enhancement to a lightsaber. She was working on the upgrade as she spoke. "There is no shame in having an equal at your back. That is, if you consider anyone an equal."
"There will be time enough to settle my debts, I suppose. In the meantime, I've better things to do than chase that cur."
"A question," Juhani asked, standing up and testing the weight of her lightsaber. "Why do you not hold a grudge against Revan for beating your people?"
"Because Revan was the best, and showed us the flaws in our own tactics. Even Mandalore himself was taken back by the ferocity of his forces, the tenacity of the defenders, and the subtlety of Revan's plans. After fighting us to a standstill, his forces started pushing back. We really didn't stand a chance. In a way, it was what we wanted all along. We wanted to fight our best in a battle that would be remembered for centuries. And we did."
Juhani nodded. Canderous might have been imagining it, but he thought that the woman might actually have understood that.
"Though the Council would rather not hear this, I cannot hold a grudge against Revan, either. Revan was corrupted, and her fall was a great tragedy, but I saw the good her forces accomplished as well, the hope that was left in her wake. There shall never be another like her, I think."
"Indeed there won't," Canderous said. "Ah, but wishing for the past to be different is useless. Better to look to the future, as we should now. We'll talk later, I think."
"I look forward to it…Canderous," Juhani said before heading back to her and Kairi's quarters.
The image of Bastila's father played before her in the holocron as it sat on the table between them.
"Mother, did you love him?"
"Dearly," Helena said. "While I am scared of dying, Bastila, I find the thought of joining him brings a certain comfort. I just wish…" She looked up at Bastila morosely.
Bastila covered her mother's hand with her own. "I know, but that is the way of the Order. Even a Jedi cannot always control the feelings of the heart. We must guard against it, no matter the cost." Morosely, she looked into her mother's weary eyes. "I will concur, though, that some sacrifices are more difficult than others."
"Oh, to the winds with your Order, Bastila. Did you ever know how badly it hurt to give you up?"
"I wasn't certain it grieved you much at all, frankly," Bastila admitted. "You seemed very eager, as I recall."
"Jedi are not the only ones to know sacrifice, dear. All parents know it, too," Helena said. "Your father wanted to make you into a hunter like him – traveling the space lanes, jumping from one planet to the next. He loved the life and was certain you would love it as well. I…I knew it was no life, Bastila. You needed more than we could give, and I'll admit that I wasn't a terribly good mother for you." Picking up the holocron in her tired fingers, she held it to the light to get a better look at the man inside. "But it was best for you to join the Jedi. They could do so much, and we could do so little. It was the hardest and most terrible decision I made, but I'm proud of you, Bastila. There hasn't been a day that I've not thought about my baby girl, and…"
"If you want to know the truth, dear? I stopped the treatments after your father…" she shuddered. "Seemed for the best to face the end quickly."
"Are you in pain?"
"Yes," she said. "Hence the local alcohol. It's not like it will kill me any more slowly."
"No, dear. I've made my decision. I'll be watching you from wherever I'm going – your father and I both. Your friend Kairi told me you're on a special mission from the Council – that you've got a galaxy to save." She took the holocron in both hands and pressed it into Bastila's. "This…this talk with you was what I really needed."
Bastila helped her mother up into her room, and tucked her into the narrow bed. She looked so frail against the worn blanket, cheeks and eyes sunken. Bastila could sense through the Force the truth of her mother's words – she had only days, perhaps hours, to live. Most of that time would be no doubt confined to this bed as an invalid – a picture she would never want to present to anyone. She touched her mother's forehead and her eyes stung.
Helena's bony hand took Bastila's and squeezed gently. "Goodbye, my dear."
Oh, how she would miss her…and how cheated she felt, despite her earlier words to Kairi. So many wasted years that she could have used to know her mother, and she never had a chance to say farewell to the father she adored, the man who doted on her as a little girl and wanted her to follow his ways…
There is no death; there is the Force…Funny how those words had once brought comfort. Now, they were so very empty.
When she returned to the Hawk, she walked with the same grace, but her eyes were rimmed with red. Her skin was blotchy, and there were still the drying traces of tears on her cheeks. The local authorities were informed and credits paid towards simple burial arrangements. Avoiding any inquiries or sympathy, Bastila returned to the single-bunk quarters she had in the back of the ship, sealing the door and mourning alone.