The first instalment of my little collection series is dedicated to Falkenauge as a thank you for being the first to review one of my stories. Thanks for the wonderful review. It's what we writers live for.
P.S.: I do not own Star Wars. I tried to bribe Lucas, but he already has all the Tauntauns you could need.
Jango Fett stepped out of the protective interior of the ship and into the wind and rain swept world that was Kamino. Upon his first close-up view of the planet and its capital, Tipoca City, Fett could only say that he was less than impressed. Next to the dizzying heights of Coruscant, the maze of Nar Shaddaa or the endless white vista of Galidraan, Kamino was nothing more than an ocean world that had barely managed to survive an ecological disaster.
Following the cloaked form of the man who called himself Tyranus, Fett took in the enclosed outlines of Tipoca City. His helmet's HUD enabled him to pierce the darkness and the raging storm, while the buffers turned down the volume of the rain and thunder to a more bearable level. If the situation had been less serious, he would have smiled at the ridiculous plink, plink sound that the rain made against his armor.
Fett used the HUD to zoom in on the two figures waiting for him and Tyranus behind thick durasteel doors. He adjusted the viewer with a few blinks, filtering out the intermittent light from the lightning, adjusting the contrast between the darkness outside and the intense brightness that came from inside the city. Fett got his first full view of the Kaminoans even before he and Tyranus had finished crossing the landing pad. As with the planet itself, Fett was not overly impressed by the natives. They were very tall, but their bodies were so spindly and fragile looking he figured they wouldn't even be able to lift a blaster, let alone bear the weight of armor. But looks could be deceiving. The Rek also looked like nothing more than tall reeds in the weed, but most of them did just fine as bounty hunters. Fett decided he would reserve judgment for now. He treated everyone as a potential enemy, so being cautious and suspicious in regards to these Kaminoans would not be too hard.
Once the two Humans had stepped inside the enclosed city, Fett had to pause and wait for a few seconds as his helmet adjusted to the intense white light that reigned inside the city. One of the Kaminoans, dressed in long, flowing robes of black and grey and with a tall fin-like crest atop its head, approached the two men.
"Welcome." The Kaminoan said, and although the voice was deceivingly gentle and melodic, Fett identified the speaker as male. "I am Lama Su, Prime Minister of Kamino." The Kaminoan gracefully inclined his head towards the visitors, then gestured to the second Kaminoan, standing a respectful distance away. "And this is my administrative aide, Taun We."
The second Kaminoan also gave a graceful inclination of the head, which created a gentle tinkling sound from the two strands of beads hung from the headband encircling the Kaminoan's white-skinned crown. Even before she spoke, Fett decided Taun We was female. Though the race in itself could only barely be considered humanoid, there was something about the shape of the eyes and the fine-boned face that bespoke of femininity. And of course, only a female could contrive to find a way to bedeck herself in jewelry when lacking either hair, protruding ears or noses.
"It is very pleasant to make your acquaintance." Taun We's voice was higher than Lama Su's, more fluting, with a not unpleasant timbre. "As I have also been made the Project Coordinator for the creation of this clone army, I look forward to our close cooperation." Though her lips did not in fact lift in a smile, there was some kind of facial contraction that seemed to suggest a smile to Fett. But more than anything, he was disconcerted by the Kaminoans black eyes, with their grey irises. He didn't like the way they regarded him.
His employer removed his rain-soaked hood to reveal an aged face with white hair and a full beard and eyes as cool as those of Lama Su and Taun We.
Tyranus gave them both a patrician nod of acknowledgement. "I too am happy to finally make your acquaintance. Master Sifo-Dyas," and here Tyranus paused, an odd light in the old man's eyes. "Has told me much."
"Will Master Sifo-Dyas be joining us?" Asked Lama Su, all politeness.
Tyranus bowed his head momentarily, a shadow passing over his face, before he answered in even tones. "I am afraid that Master Sifo-Dyas will, in fact, not be joining us. I expect he will be," again that slightest of hesitations. "Rather absent in the future. I hope this does not pose a problem?"
"Not at all," said Lama Su in soothing tones. "The project has already been paid for in full. All that is required is the genetic template and production of the requested units can begin." For the first time, the Prime Minister turned his full, unblinking attention on Fett.
"Am I to assume that this is to be the template for your army?"
Fett bristled at the dismissive words and placed one hand with exaggerated care on the butt of one of his side arms, making sure the movement was noticed and followed by the Kaminoan. "The name's Fett. Jango Fett. And you'd better remember that for the future, fishmeal."
Lama Su's head swayed backwards on its long, spindly neck, almost as if caught by a sudden gust of wind. Fett had the satisfaction of seeing those dark eyes widen a mere fraction in surprise and fear.
Before the situation could escalate, Tyranus stepped smoothly in between the two; placing one firm hand onto Fett's armored shoulder. "Calm yourself, Jango. I'm sure our friend, the Prime Minister, meant no insult."
Fett pulled his shoulder away from the older Human's hand, but he did take his own hand away from the blaster. Too much temptation. He turned away slightly from Tyranus and the two Kaminoans, scanning the gleaming white hallway. He wasn't sure he liked Tyranus calling him by his first name either, but he figured with the amount of credits the man was paying him, he was entitled to some liberties. A few, very minor ones at least.
Taun We stepped forwards slightly, making an elegant sweeping gesture with one pale hand. "Would you like to see our production facility?" And just like that, the minor faux pas had been rectified. The customer was once more appeased.
Fett didn't say much during the tour. Mostly he listened, cataloguing information for future references, creating a mental and holographic map of Tipoca City. From what he had gathered from the earlier medical jargon, his presence would be required for as long as production was to be undertaken. A simple blood donation now wasn't going to cut it. He hadn't understood all of the technical babble, but he had made a recording of the lecture and would research any relevant terms he was unfamiliar with later on. The point was he would be staying in Tipoca City for an extended period of time, not just to train this new army, but to play pincushion for the Kaminoan geneticists on a regular basis. Just karking lovely.
They stopped in one of the corridors overlooking a hall big enough to park two star cruisers in. The space was filled with dark towers that sported a spiraling array of glass bulbs. Freak trees for a freak harvest, he thought cynically.
"And these," Lama Su was saying, making another one of those elegant Kaminoan hand gestures. "Are the maturation vats. This is where individual units of the regular clone soldiers will be interned until they have reached a physical growth conducive to the training regime. The vats are empty now, of course. But once our geneticists have isolated the required traits in the genome and have perfected the genetic formula for the clones, mass production will begin."
Tyranus gave a sharp, satisfied nod. "Most impressive."
That it is, Fett thought and tried to imagine these thousands of cold, sterile glass tubes filled with tiny bodies. Bodies that would eventually look just like him. There'll be a whole army of little Fetts running around the place.
The thought was disconcerting in its connection to other, more homely, ideals. Fett shifted momentarily from foot to foot, glad that his helmet hid his features. His errant thought had brought up memories of Jaster Mereel, his adoptive father, and of Rozatta. Both dead now, both with their own ideas of what he should be doing with his life.
"The strength of the Mandalorian is not solely the beskar'gam. It is the family that stands by his side and watches his back. You should start thinking about that Jango. No man can stand alone."
Jaster had believed that, just as Roz had believed it. Believed it to her dying breath.
"Meet a nice girl, settle down, have a kid…Just find something…something to live for besides the money. You deserve more."
Fett shivered in his armor, though the suit had environmental controls and was programmed to the maximum level of comfort for a Human. Ghosts. In this place of sterile air, white walls and gleaming lights he found himself surrounded by ghosts. And he was too old for ghosts. Or maybe, he thought, I'm too old to not concern myself with ghosts. Fett closed his eyes momentarily, trying to banish the voices of the dead. It had to be Rozatta's recent death that was bringing all this up, because he hadn't consciously thought about Jaster in quite a while. But he and Roz would have gotten along quite well. They had both been firm believers in the virtues of family. He supposed that was why they had both been so willing to take an interest in a stray dog like him.
With his HUD's 360-degree vision, Fett observed Tyranus talking to the Kaminoans, going over specifics in the clones' required genetic parameters. He wondered if Tyranus had any family waiting for him. Did he have a permanent home, where he could rest those old bones of his? Or was he like Fett, with nothing more permanent to his name than an old ship given to him by a man long since in his grave? The thought was not a pleasant one and Fett found himself envisioning his own future, old and grey, still living on the Jaster's Legacy, with nothing but space to keep him company. He had never really considered what he would do with himself, once he had amassed enough credits to live comfortably.
And this job was paying enough to make the prospect of retirement a very close thing. And what then?
"Well Jango?" Tyranus' voice broke through the bounty hunter's reverie. "What do you think? Do we have a contract?" And the old man was looking at him expectantly.
Fett looked from him to the two Kaminoans standing behind Tyranus, then to the wide expanse of gleaming glass and sterility behind the transparisteel. If he took this contract, then there would be a whole army of men with his face wandering the galaxy. And he would help ensure that they were the excellent soldiers he himself was; pass along the training Jaster had given him.
But it's not the same, he thought. It's not what Jaster and Roz meant.
He thought of Roz looking down at him, the Toydarian's wings beating frantically as she argued with him about his ship – again. "You ever think maybe you hang on to that ship – those memories – because you're looking for someone to take under your own wing?"
Fett could see his helmeted face reflected in the transparisteel of the corridor; the helmet superimposed over the images of the vats. Vats that would soon house thousands of his clones.
"Yeah," he said slowly, watching Tyranus carefully. "Yeah, we got a contract. But on one condition."
He watched as Tyranus' face tightened in momentary anger, before smoothing into an aristocrat's aloof mask. "And what condition would that be? Not more credits, certainly. You are already being paid more than handsomely for this task."
"No, no credits." He told Tyranus. "I want something else." Something more valuable than credits, he thought, but did not say.
"I want a clone. An unaltered clone," he amended, remembering the details they had discussed earlier.
Tyranus lifted one white eyebrow in surprise. "Whatever for?"
"That's my business." Fett said and his tone warned of any further inquiry. "I get my clone along with the credits and I'll give you the best army creds can buy. That's the deal. Take it or leave it."
Tyranus looked towards the two Kaminoans, who had been watching the conversation in polite silence. "Would this pose a problem for you and your production schedule."
"Not at all," Lama Su said. "Pure cloning is a simple matter and easily done. It would not affect our production of the other units."
Tyranus gave a sharp nod, then turned back towards Fett. "Very well. You will have your money. And your clone."
No, Fett thought. I will have my son. And he would do exactly what Roz had suggested. He would take the boy under his wing, just like Jaster had done for him and he would teach him everything he knew. And he would make sure that his life did not include starvation and life as a slave, nor the bitter betrayal of comrades. The boy, his son, would walk proudly through this galaxy and carry on and improve upon his legacy.
Following the Kaminoans and Tyranus through the white sterility of Tipoca, Fett felt something within him settle. He had been alone for a very long time. It was time he finally had a family once more.