Chapter One – Introductions

The name's Rogue. Ni Mando—I'm Mandalorian. Often, that's all I have to mention to get folks' attention or to make 'em shut up. And if that doesn't work, then I try something I call "bloodless persuasion": hefting my blaster up under their noses so they can see straight down the barrel into the tibanna gas chamber. I've never had to try out actually bloody persuasion, since most folks that think they can make me angry and get away with it repent pretty fast once they're looking down that barrel and watching the gas swirl around. Or that might just be their reaction once they've seen the enormous repeating rifle slung across my back.

Maybe I need to back up a ways and explain. And by "a ways," I mean back to when I was six. Trust me, that's a long time, considering how long I've been practically on my own. Or even better, we can back up beyond that to my family history, and then maybe we can spend a while discussing my family's gene pool and DNA. Oh, right, like that'd be an enjoyable way to spend an evening when the firing range is right outside the front door. But I'll at least go back a little bit . . . maybe to where I come from.

My mother was Mandalorian, but she fell in love with my father when he was a smuggler along the Corellian Run. He stopped over on Manda'yaim—that's the planet Mandalore to those of you speaking Basic—for a while (I think he was evading some scoundrels who were out for his hide), met Mom, and they hit it off from the get-go. I was born a couple years later, when they moved to Coruscant, but neither of their families would have anything to do with me, really. I was a half-breed to Dad's family, who've never liked Mando'ade to begin with, and a half-breed to Mom's, who weren't keen on half-blooded Mando children. As far as they were concerned, I was a disgrace to the Mandalorian way of life, so Mom was practically an exile from her people, and the Mando clans were off-limits to me. So, I grew up on Coruscant in a rather nice penthouse Dad had bought with whatever credits he made doing his smuggling. We had it going pretty well, actually. I had new clothes whenever I wanted them, I went to the best school on the planet, and our penthouse wasn't just any penthouse—it was like a palace. So yeah, I was one of those stuck-up rich kids that gets anything and everything she wants. Except the major difference was I was not stuck-up.

Our problems began the year I turned six. Dad took to drinking—and gambling—and chewing spice—and seeing other women besides my mother. I'm not even sure what got him started on all that stuff, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with one of his smuggling runs going bust. But not too long after he got started on it, he and Mom got a divorce. He got all the money we had, leaving Mom and me with almost only the clothes on our backs and a penthouse we couldn't afford. That was when Mom decided to buy a ship. I know, I know. It sounds insane. But just give me a minute and let me explain, okay? Anyway, she sold the penthouse, sold almost all of our things (most of my toys included, except for one doll she'd made me), and bought a small, used freighter that'd seen better days. She spent the rest of the money we had on fuel and repairs, getting it ready as if for a big trip.

One morning, she woke me up early and told me to get dressed and pack my things. I didn't have enough to pack—just what would fit in a knapsack. But I did as I was told, and she told me that we were going on a trip. She said we were going to Mandalore and that I would be staying with a cousin of hers while she went on to look for work. She promised me all the way out there that she'd come back as soon as she'd made enough money for us to go off and live happily ever after. Neat, huh? Okay, so, at five in the morning, I wasn't exactly paying attention to all those little details, so it seemed neat. It wasn't until we were halfway to Mandalore that my brain woke up and I realized that Mom's cousin translated to "Mandalorian relative." Mm-hmm. Rude awakening, eh?

"Mom!" I complained. "I can't speak Mando'a! How am I supposed to communicate?!"

"You can speak a little, darling," she sighed. "But don't worry—he speaks Basic as well as you do."

That was the best reassurance she could give me?! I was six, for crying out loud! I lisped through my front teeth! The word "Basic" came out as "Baythick" nine times out of ten! So I stormed off to the cargo hold to sulk and worry about this imaginary language barrier until we landed on Mandalore. I expected huge cities with massive technology, but all I saw was one little house with one tall man standing out in front of it with his arms crossed. I scurried up to the cockpit and peered out the window, noticing how excited Mom seemed.

"Oh, there's cousin Jango!" she cried, and out she went, leaving me to shoulder my pack and follow.

I eventually did, but I was hesitant because my mom was going to go off and leave me on a strange world with a strange man for a while. Slowly, I sidled up to Mom, who was conversing with this Jango fellow in rather rapid Mando'a phrases. I caught only fragments of it; mostly my name, but there were a few simple words I figured out. The whole time Mom was introducing me, Jango kept staring at me like I had two heads and a horn growing out of each of them or something. I just smiled a tiny little smile in hopes he'd think I was an adorable little girl. He didn't, or at least I didn't think he did, because his stern expression never changed. Joy. Yeah, yeah, sarcasm. I speak it as fluently as I do Mando'a, now that I've been around them both for a few years.

After a minute, Mom knelt down to me and clasped her hands around my shoulders, smiling at me. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Jango had walked to his house and had stopped just outside the door. Turning back to Mom, I gave her the biggest, bravest smile I could. She patted my hair.

"Be good, cyar'ika," she said. I knew that word. It meant "sweetheart"; she called me that often. "Do as Jango tells you and keep your room neat. You wait right here, and I'll come back when I've got enough money for us to have a big house on Naboo, okay?"

I nodded, and then she hugged me. She hugged me so hard I thought she'd crack a rib, but somehow, she managed not too. She gave me another smile and a kiss on the forehead before heading back to our little ship. I watched her go, waving frantically as she disappeared into the clear blue sky. All right, so are you ready for the shocker? That was the last time I ever saw my mother.