"So is there none among you," Kyp shouted, "that is willing to take up the fight against this girl?"
Chii stood beside him, her hair tied around her head in an elaborate way to hide her ears. In the simple blue dress she looked very young and vulnerable. Her smile never left her lips. It had not taken long to explain the idea and rules to her. Now it all depended on whether she was found out a cyborg or not.
"A simple fight, no weapons, no strings attached," he went on. "If you win, there will be a thousand credits waiting."
The sum was modest, but anything more would make the game obvious. Kyp concentrated on keeping the heap of unconscious men behind the small stage uninteresting to the onlookers. So far they had earned four thousand credits. Just a bit more, and they were off the planet.
"What's the catch?" A burly man wanted to know.
"No catch," Kyp assured. He had made sure there were bets going on all over the place. He had secured a nice sum on Chii. "All I want is a small fee of one hundred credits. After all, medics don't come cheap." He winked and pointed at Chii again. "So, who dares to stand up against this veritable opponent?"
It was the oldest scam ever. But Kyp knew there was always somebody around who believed that luck was on his side, this time. People were like that. All you had to do was encourage them. This time it was a strong built Klatoonian. Kyp helped him up onto the stage adn introduced him to Chii.
The girl shook hands with her opponent and wished him good luck. That brought some chuckles from the crowd. The two faced each other, waiting for Kyp to give the signal to start. It had been easy to tell Chii how to fight. Her processors knew more about leverage and speed than Kyp. She was a natural talent at making it look real, too. By now, she even managed to make it look as if her opponent had a chance.
On the one hand, it felt good to know that they wouldn't have to go hungry anywhere, but it still made the young Jedi queasy that he had to hide Chii's true identity. Having droids fight against humans was inherently unfair.
The Klatoonian found himself pinned to the ground with a very effective lever. Kyp called Chii away and helped him up. "She is quite fast, is she not?" he suggested. "Quick like lightning, and never where you expect her to be."
The alien grumbled something unintelligible, but left without complaining too much. Being a Jedi did have advantages. "Do you want to have another fight?" Kyp asked Chii.
The girl looked thoughtful fro a moment, then she shook her head. "Opponents are not good," she explained. "Not good fighting."
Kyp didn't know if she just meant that the others were way below her or if the fact that they couldn't win made the fighting boring to Chii. "Okay, it's enough anyway." He took her hand. "Sorry, folks, but the lady is tired. No more fighting today."
He led Chii away, making sure they were not followed. "Wait here for a moment, don't go anywhere," he instructed Chii. As expected, Chii stood like rooted to the ground. Kyp ruffled her hair affectionately and went to collect his winning from the betting. Making himself unrecognisable, was easy. Collecting his money was easy, too. So easy that he decided to have an eye out for later trouble.
Chii stood exactly where he had left her, the traffic flowing around her as if she was a rock. Her unyielding attitude conflicted badly with her smiling face. "Chii not move," she greeted Kyp proudly.
"Very good," he replied. "Now we will go and buy a ship. Then we can leave this place."
"Chii like this place," the girl said to his surprise. "Many people, people nice to Chii."
Surprised, Kyp took the cards she handed him. Unsurprisingly, most were from owners of houses of very doubtful reputation. The women depicted on some showed clearly what kind of work was awaiting them. "We don't have time for this," Kyp evaded the topic.
"But Chii beautiful," the girl objected.
"Yes, you are, Chii. Very beautiful." Kyp took her hand. "Do you have to be beautiful to others, too, or would it be enough to be beautiful for me?"
She was definitely learning, because by now, Chii did not simply jump at him, she considered the question. "Chii not sure," she finally said. "Kyp speak true? Not pretend?"
"Of course not," Kyp said, feeling just a little bit guilty. "Everybody with eyes can see that you look amazing." It was not quite the same than admitting that she was beautiful, but if Chii noticed, she didn't show.
"Then Kyp is enough," she decided. "We buy ship now."
Relieved the young Jedi followed. "Let's try the Devaronian's shop first," he called, trying in vain to ignore the nagging though which insisted that Chii looked even better with her hair open.
The Hotaru was a small ship and not resembling anything Kyp had envisioned himself owning. Slow, with few weapons and badly armoured it was designed to transport families on longer trips. Three rooms framed a huge galley with integrated eating space, each of them carpeted. And all rather derelict.
At least, the galley was big enough to accommodate both of them. Though Chii did not have to eat, she took a keen interest in the preparation of food. She watched the Jedi closely, asking an abundance of questions. Kyp had never spent so much conscious thought on defrosting and heating up a prefab meal. He had almost messed it up, too.
"How long you wait now?" Chii peered around his shoulder to look into the pot.
"Until it boils," Kyp replied. "Can you set the table?"
"Yes." Chii nodded and kept looking at the cold stew.
"Will you?" Kyp asked slightly irritated.
"No. Chii stir!" the girl declared and took the spoon from the Jedi's hand.
"Okay, I'll do it then," Kyp said. Since Chii had realised how much stronger than most people she was, this kind of incident had increased. From the corner of his eye, he watched the girl stir with methodical accuracy; her concentration was rather cute. Finally he found the dishes, but seeing the state they were in, the young Jedi immediately decided to eat directly from the pot.
The distress in Chii's voice made him drop the plate. It clattered to the ground unheeded as Kyp returned to the girl."What happened?"
"It jumped at me," Chii pointed the spoon accusingly at the stew. It went 'plop' again.
"Oh." Kyp took the spoon and stirred. "That is 'boiling', Chii. If something boils, bubbles form and burst when they surface."
Cautiously, Chii peered at the stew around Kyp. "Stew not dangerous," she stated.
"Right." Kyp decided the stew was good enough to eat and carried the pot to the table. Chii followed him, her eyes searching the table.
"Kyp not have plate," she exclaimed. "Kyp cannot eat!"
Somebody must have given her lessons in normalcy while he had not been looking, Kyp decided. "Um, it's fine, Chii," he tried to calm her. "The plates are all dirty, I didn't want to wash one up."
She still stared at him questioningly.
"You can eat right from the pot, too," Kyp insisted. "No problem."
Chii scrounged up her face in concentration. "Kyp lazy," she finally said, coming to a conclusion.
Phrased like that, Kyp didn't like the sound of it. He sat down, waiting for Chii to do the same. Then he remembered that the girl didn't need to eat. For a moment he wondered if she technically could, but knowing her inquisitive manner he refrained from asking. She would be rather interested in the process and the young Jedi didn't feel like explaining where the food went.
"How about you?" he asked instead. "Can you get energy from other sources than the sun, too?"
"Chi." She sat down opposite, pulled a cable from her left ear and plugged it into the nearest power socket. "Chii eat, too," she declared and happily closed her eyes.
Kyp watched her for a while before starting to eat as well. He had believed that the image of somebody plugged into a socket like that would creep him out, but he realised that it didn't bother him at all. The only worry he had, was how big a drain on the system she would be and how badly that would reflect on their chances to get somewhere in one piece.
He finished his meal in silence not wanting to disturb Chii who looked so obviously happy. Finally, he gently shook her shoulder. "Hey there. Time to get the beds ready."
Chii's eyes snapped open, their irises unnaturally big and dark. "Chii help!"
"Yes, just make sure to unplug before you go anywhere," he teased.
"Chii not stupid," came the huffy answer.
"I was joking," Kyp wanted to roll his eyes. Whenever he slipped into treating Chii like a human, something like this happened and showed him how big the difference still was.
"How do you know joking?" Chii wanted to know.
Kyp had to admit that he had no idea. You just did. It was - normal. "I must think about it," he conceded.
Chii nodded. "When will Kyp explain about lightsaber?"
"Uh." He didn't know what to say. He had hoped she might have forgotten about it, but considering that she was a droid the chance for that was really bad.
"Do you understand the difference between Jedi and other people?" Kyp asked back.
"Chi!" She nodded. "Jedi have Force, other people not have Force."
"The Force," Kyp began and stopped again. He had almost turned into a younger, though hopefully cooler, version of Grandmaster Skywalker. This was not good. "If you can use the Force, you can do things other people cannot do, move object with your mind or touch things with your thoughts, you are faster and see thing before they happen." He opened the door to her room. "A lightsaber is not a weapon that is effective if you cannot use the Force. So only Jedi build it."
Chii looked thoughtful. "Jedi not only about use Force," she said.
"No," Kyp agreed. "We are stronger than most, so we are expected to be more careful, too. And to help those who are weak."
"Do right things is Jedi," Chii replied. "Luke say that."
"Yes, he would," Kyp sighed. If that attitude had already rubbed of on the girl, he was not sure he would manage to save her. It was the most difficult thing, trying to save people from themselves. He approached the bunk and prodded the mattress. A small army of tiny fleas jumped at him eagerly. "I just hope fleas don't eat cyborgs," he sighed.
"What fleas normally eat?" Chii wanted to know. She prodded the matress herself, watching the tiny animals with fascination.
"Blood," Kyp replied. "I don't think they care much which kind of blood. But you don't have any, so I guess you're safe."
"Kyp not safe?" She tilted her head.
"I will be," he assured her. "I'll just try to kill as many of them as I can so they don't eat all of me."
"Kyp kill fleas?"
"But Kyp Jedi."
"And they're fleas."
"Chii, I have no idea what you are aiming for," Kyp said.
"Chii aim for fleas," the girl said as if it was the most obvious thing in the galaxy. "Kyp Jedi, Jedi not kill."
Kyp stared. He didn't want to discuss the worth of life. Sentience was a slippery concept at best, especially when arguing with a droid, no matter how cute. He decided to try a different approach. "What am I to do then, Chii? Have myself eaten by those backbiters?"
"Save fleas," Chii nodded emphatically.
"And put them where?" Kyp wanted to know. "I can't -"
"Chii can." The girl almost bounced. "Chii get flea, Kyp save it."
He wanted to hit his head against the bulkhead. If that wasn't the most idiotic idea he had ever heard. "Great. Whatever."
It took some time to find something that closed tight enough to keep the fleas inside. Kyp crouched before his bunk, holding his arm over the mattress. Beside him, Chii stared at his hand, and with a sudden movement caught something out of the air too fast to see. After depositing the flea in his new home, she repeated the process.
Kyp was ready to drop into his bunk and sleep for three days when Chii finally declared his bed a safe place for him to be. He was just glad she didn't insist on feeding the little monsters.
"Now Kyp good Jedi sleep," she said smiling.
That almost made it worth the trouble.