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Jedi Temple, Coruscant, ten years before Geonosis

"Initiate Jasiri, this would go much more quickly if you would simply stop fidgeting," the tailor droid scolded as it held up a thin measuring tape to wrap around the seven-year-old's waist.

Zaran frowned and made herself stand still on the stool. Her skin prickled unpleasantly with the static buildup from pulling fabric still stiff in its freshness over her head. An irritated huff blew an errant strand of blue hair out of her eyes, and she glanced in the full-length mirror to see how she looked. What she saw did not please her. A thin girl, small for her age, stared back from the reflective surface with large, sullen dark blue eyes in a tanned face. The new tunic, too large for her, hung gracelessly off her thin shoulders, as though it didn't quite belong there. Her hair, at that awkward length where it was too short to pull back but long enough to get everywhere, was a staticy mess from constantly having fabric pulled over her head—this was the third tunic the droid was having her try on. Her nose was small and well-shaped. A soft, full mouth said she was vulnerable; her chin was entirely stubborn.

Zaran knew she was nothing special to look at, especially compared to Aisley Kivian with her exotic red scales and reptilian grace. Even at the age of eight, the Falleen was catching the eyes of several potential Masters. Zaran usually didn't care one credit's worth what she looked like. No, it was knowing that she was on display for the rest of her Clan to see that made her uncomfortable.

Squall Clan was visiting the Temple's tailors for their tri-annual measurements. If the younglings had outgrown their clothes, new ones were provided; any badly ripped ones that were beyond the initiates' abilities to repair were replaced.

Seven of the twenty Clan members had already been measured and dismissed to the appropriate helper droid or Padawan on duty. The other twelve where watching Zaran with what felt like unnerving intensity. She was particularly conscious of Aisley's arrogant amber eyes on her.

She probably thinks I look like a duct rat's nest. With another glance in the mirror, Zaran reluctantly had to admit that she would be right.

It's not that bad, you know.

The errant thought, carried to her on a gentle gust of the Force, made Zaran's tense shoulders relax slightly. Glancing over at the gathered younglings, her eyes sought and found the familiar horned head of her friend Charoo Lukai. The young Zabrak smiled at her, his ink black tattoos contrasting starkly with his pale skin. Frosty grey eyes conveyed the same reassurance that she felt blowing off him in the Force.

Zaran grinned back. Emboldened by his comfort, she did something she usually wouldn't dare do. Stretching out her considerable ability, Zaran caught the tailor droid's manipulator arm with the Force and froze it in midair. It took the droid several seconds to realize that it had been immobilized. By that time many of the younglings were giggling in guilty amusement.

The droid issued and indignant squawk. "Initiate Jasiri, you will release me immediately! I shall inform Master Jerint of this!"

Zaran once more glanced at Charoo. He was doubled over in silent laughter, his pale cheeks flushed and arms wrapped around his stomach. Despite the inevitable lecture she would receive about inappropriate use of the Force, at that moment, Zaran couldn't bring herself to care.


Tipoca City, Kamino

The MK medical droid, designation MK-8O, glided down the catwalk, completely immune to the height which would most likely have had many organics shaking in terror. Understandable, since the catwalk had no railing. But MK-8O was not programed to notice such a trivial matter as distance off the ground. Its electronic brain dispassionately calculated the expanse to be exactly 863.933 meters, and then continued on with its assigned task.

The transparisteel pods on their mounts lined the catwalk on one side. Each was filled with a clear, viscous fluid that perfectly mimicked a human female's placenta, delivering the required nutrients to the small bodies floating within. MK-8O's records told it that these units were four months and three days along in their gestation period; almost ready to be decanted and relocated to the nurseries. They would be the first units off the line and where therefore designated as "Alpha" units.

MK-8O paused next to each pod and inserted its probe into a data jack at the base of the pod's mount. It patiently downloaded all relevant medical data, ignoring the monitoring system's continued attempts to draw it into conversation. It would add a note in its report highly recommending that the mainframe tag the E2 monitoring system as in need of a serious overhaul.

Checking its internal record, MK-8O noted the pod that it was currently jacked into: pod t6-784, unit designation A-136.

Upon retrieval of the pod's medical data, MK-8O reviewed the vital signs. Once noting that they were strong and healthy, it scanned more closely for any negative readings, any sign that this unit was defective and needed to be flagged for termination. Eye sight was optimal, as nearly as could be told at this stage. Reactions to sound excellent. Bones strong and regular. The body had a pleasing symmetry, and there were no signs of any deformation. Everything read as green; nothing untoward.

Satisfied, MK-8O continued on to the next pod. Inside the one it had just left, the unit designated A-136, the baby with dark hair identical to every other one in the entire facility, opened one brown eye and watched the droid go.


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mad'ika