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What’s up with the Mando?

Posted on Thursday March 11th, 2021 @ 1:02pm by Rhea Nyx

Mission: When a Hutt Laughs
Location: Aboard Venator-class Star Destroyer Kalifal on the way to Coruscant
Timeline: MD11 - 2215

Dianne Dezhat was not a happy woman. As the de-facto first officer of the Kalifal, she was happy to just stay in orbit and keep an eye on Magistrate K’Rae’s planet. It was an easy enough job, now they were halfway across the system with orders to get to Coruscant for reasons unknown. Throw in the last-minute order to re-route to pick up the Mandalorian woman on the way there. In Dianne’s experience with Mandalorians, they always brought trouble wherever they showed up. And now trouble was aboard the Kalifal and Dianne was nowhere near an answer as to what they were even supposed to do or why, let alone who the woman even was. Even since the Mandalorian woman set foot aboard the Star Destroyer, she’s mostly kept to herself, except when she sauntered onto the bridge like she owned the damn ship. All she did was silently observe the operations and had pulled Captain Chu’a into a discussion with the Captains of the Suraj and the Weequay as the Venator-class Star Destroyer made its way towards Coruscant. Dezhat wasn’t privy to those discussions at the time and that served to irritate her even more.

“Do we even know why she’s here or what she’s up to?” she spoke as she paced back and forth inside the Captain’s ready room.

“She has a lead on a ship that can be acquired for the Magistrate’s collection. Neither the Mandalorian nor the Magistrate has informed me of the details beyond that,” Captain Chu’a spoke, granted, they didn’t know much. In Chua’s experience, the Mandalorian tended to keep her cards close to her armour, not revealing her plans until much later. If ever. But she got the job done, and at the end details hardly mattered if the result was in their favour. If it suited the Magistrate, it suited Captain Chu’a. He was happy to take a backseat and let someone else do the strategic planning for a change.

Dianne frowned, “they can’t be trusted. This one flies in with an attitude whenever she feels like it….first she wants us on Coruscant, now she wants a ride there. Why?” she threw her hands up, pausing in the middle of her pacing. “Does the Magistrate even know what she’s up to?”

The Captain shrugged, “my job, and yours is to follow orders, not question them.” He reminded his XO. “If the Magistrate said we are to take orders from the Mandalorian, that is what we are doing,” Chu’a noted. “You’re welcome to question his reasons yourself when we come back” he added, fully aware Dianne wasn’t going to do that.

“Follow orders? We aren’t in the Imperial Navy or the Republic for that matter, are we?” She shot back crossing her arms on her chest as if she wasn’t entirely sure what else to do with her arms for the time being. She resumed her pacing. Chu’a watched her for a few moments.

“You aren’t.” He pointed out. “Most of us were one or the other at one point in time for many years,” Chu’a reminded her, “Do *you* need a reminder who we’re working for now?” he asked, his voice took on an edge letting the woman know he’s had enough of her questions.

Dianne stopped short, cutting off anything else that was about to come out of her mouth. Suppressing a shudder, the woman cast a troubled look at the Captain, she knew that he knew he’d hit on a still-raw nerve.

K’Rae was definitely not the Imperial Navy nor the Republic, in any way, shape or form. He had his own set of rules, some of which Dianne wasn’t sure she wanted to know the reasons behind nor be on the wrong side of. She owed him after the fracas on Malastare; in a manner of speaking, the Magistrate owned her much like, she suspected, he owned everyone who worked for him whether full time or part-time. Dianne could only guess at what K’Rae had on the Mandalorian pilot/mercenary/bounty Hunter/Protector/whatever else the woman did for her to end up doing work for him on multiple occasions now. Then again, the way the woman had acted pointed to much more than just your average Merc someone of K’Rae’s type would hire. There had to be more there, Dianne figured, but she realized that Chu’a wasn’t interested in those details.

“No, I have not forgotten” she said slowly, “Captain” she added, her tone less challenging as her temper deflated. She didn’t like the situation, nor did she like the guest the Kalifal currently hosted aboard or where they were heading based on whatever little information the Mandalorian had provided them with.

“Good,” Chu’a nodded, “go see if our guest is… comfortable, if she needs anything and inform her of our latest status”

Dezhat let the displeasure show itself on her face.

“I really d…” she began.

“That wasn’t a suggestion, Dianne,” Chu’a cut her off, fixing her with a stern look.

“Great. Let’s hope she doesn’t shoot me,” Dianne muttered as she turned on her heel to exit the captain’s ready room.

“Don’t give her a reason to and she won’t,” Chu’a warned her, Dianne stopped to glance back at the man.

“Are you sure about that? Mandalorians don’t exactly need a reason to shoot anybody,” she said.

“This one doesn’t shoot unless necessary, in my experience. So ensure you don’t make it necessary” Chu’a replied. “Besides, it’s not advisable to make enemies out of Magistrate’s allies,” he pointed out. “You and I are easily replaceable, Magistrate K’Rae’s allies not so much,” he noted, making it clear for Dezhat where they were on the totem pole.

Dianne didn’t bother replying as she left the room. Shu’a shook his head, Dianne Dezhat may have meant well, but sometimes she asked too many questions. She wasn’t an officer, however, she was good at herding the crew together and she had other skills the Magistrate’s forces could make use of. What her issue was with their current guest aboard, Shu’a wasn’t fully sure, he just hoped it won’t end badly for either side. Dezhat made several good points in her objections, Shu’a knew they may never find out the details of K’Rae’s deal with the Mandalorian Protector, nor did he care, his priorities were to his crew and ship. As long as the Magistrate was satisfied, so was the CO of the Kalifal and all the souls aboard, apart from maybe the woman who just stalked out of his ready room.

****

For the first time in what seemed like many weeks, Rhea was all alone. Part of her wished to stay that way forever, but the Mandalorian knew better by now. She hadn’t gone through everything she has in her life just to lay low. That hadn’t exactly worked previously. There were reasons she was where she was, doing what she did at any given time, even if those reasons weren’t always blindingly obvious at first. She cherished every quiet moment she could get as it let her reflect on past events and figure out her next steps rather than constantly thinking on the fly whether inside or outside the cockpit.

She couldn’t quite put her finger down on what was up late no matter how she looked at things so far. The situation with Grey Wing seemed to have escalated and gotten more complicated faster than she had time to put everything in order, she’s had to adapt on the fly and do what she could at a moment’s notice. But all that often came with the massive downside of not having time to just sit and process what was known so far, a downside that could lead to massive errors down the line. She knew there were still conversations to be had. With Sol. With Celeste. With the Hutts. But those would come later and once her contacts came back with more intel on Celeste and his crew and affiliations. For now, Rhea Nyx acknowledged that she had to play the hand she was dealt and work with what she had.

She didn’t tell Harizzo or the rest where she was going or what she was up to, mostly because at the time she wasn’t sure what that final plan would be, but also because other than her instinct and skillset honed by decades of experience, she wasn’t quite sure whom to trust yet. The less the rest knew, the less chances of a slip up that could lead to catastrophic issues down the line in case someone on the inside was a spy or was offered more credits to betray Grey Wing. All Sol needed to know at that point was she’d meet up with them on Coruscant. What it took to get there didn’t matter.

Following the recent development with Celeste and the Hutt, and the still numerous questions she had for both of them, Rhea had no intention to go into any op without a backup plan the variables of which she had better control of when it came to protecting members of Grey Wing and giving them an edge over whoever they were up against. If anything Celeste’s unannounced arrival drove the point further home in her mind. Rhea intended to do what was necessary and beyond to keep the Wing protected as best as she could using the resources she had at her disposal whilst also protecting her sources and existing allies. No sense burning bridges if you could make use of them down the line. That’s where details began to matter more.

As odd as her alliance and working partnership with K’Rae was, Rhea felt comfortable aboard the Kalifal. She wasn’t quite sure why she picked the Venator-class as her base of operations, feeling drawn to it on some level despite her lack of fondness for capital ships in general. Mostly in use by the Republic, the versatility of the ship was impressive. Size and weaponry aside, Rhea could see why the Kalifal was one of K’Rae’s best ships. Shame that most of the time it just sat around orbit protecting K’Rae’s world down below.

The Mandalorian knew she’d be less at ease if she were aboard the Gozanti-class ship on loan to them courtesy of Captain Celeste. Something didn’t quite sit right with her at the notion. She couldn’t risk being off her game as it wouldn’t help Grey Wing or their mission. That, and she wasn’t about to wear stormtrooper armour as a disguise. It was a joke to even consider it as armour given it offered as much protection as sand in the middle of a sandstorm.

Rhea glanced around the room, focusing on the sound of the engines for a few seconds. Running a hand through her short hair then rubbing both hands together, the Mandalorian placed a gloved hand on one of the metal bulkheads in the quarters she was in whilst the thumb of her free hand looped itself around her weapons belt. Much like the armour she wore, every ship carried the history of various wars and skirmishes with it. The Kalifal was no different. Why read about it when you could get a glimpse into it directly, Rhea figured.

Taking in a deep breath, she closed her eyes and let her mind roam free as she explored the connection to the ship and its history on a level well beyond what she could read in a database. She could picture it vividly in her mind as she felt people running through the ship’s hallways, commanders giving orders to troops below, launching ships and orders to engage the enemy above whatever planet they were above presently. ‘Malastare’ the word floated up without her even asking for it. How many more battles did this ship take part in before it ended up in K’Rae’s personal collection? She briefly wondered. The answers came easily and quickly. Ryloth. Christophsis. Geonosis. Malastare, the last big conflict this particular ship took part in...her mind paused on the images and the voices of the crew forever frozen across time. Some were still alive and aboard the ship right now, she noted absently filing that piece of information, not quite sure why. She’s learned long ago not to question anything she’s received this way, certain it would come in handy sooner or later.

She half wondered what the ship’s name was previously, but it didn’t come up, all she felt was that Kalifal was a name the ship took on after it joined K’Rae’s collection. She wondered why he named the ship so, but let the thought float away as irrelevant to her current goal. It seemed like hours later she let her hand drop from the wall, the visuals ceased instantly and she was back in the quarters aboard the ship. Rhea took in a silent breath and slowly let it out, somewhat unsettled by what she saw and felt as she blinked away the residual visuals as the tell-tale tiredness crept in. She shook her head, chasing away the voices and images of previous captains and crews of the Kalifal and battles they took part in. They would forever remain a part of the ship’s history, and she was about to add to it by taking it to Coruscant.

Rhea wasn’t sure how much time had passed between her mental exercises, her getting some rest to her now sitting at a table with her helmet within easy reach. She was going through the motions to clean and reset her Westars when she heard the call signalling someone’s presence outside.

“Enter,” Rhea spoke, holstering one of her weapons in a smooth motion just as the door slid open to reveal Dianne Dezhant. The woman didn’t wait for another invite as she stepped inside meeting the Mandalorian’s steely gaze. The fact that the Mandalorian already had a weapon out didn’t really surprise Dianne.

“Captain C’hua would like to know if you require anything,” Dianne spoke, not quite sure how to refer to their guest considering they didn’t even know her name. The ident codes she always sent across only ever identified her as the Protector. Dianne guessed there weren’t that many of those left around if this Mandalorian was one indeed, there definitely weren’t many flying around in a Mandalorian Protectorate fighter having the balls to take on capital ships if necessary. But as far as Dianne was concerned, most pilots were insane anyway, although not all of them were as annoyingly mysterious and closed off as this Mandalorian when it came to information sharing.

Rhea put the second Westar back into its holster before she replied, “for the moment, no. Thank you.” she said with a brief nod towards Dezhat, “The Captain will know right away when I do require anything,” she added.

“I’m sure he will,” Dianne spoke dryly, visibly relaxing a bit as the Mandalorian’s weapon was holstered. “We are set to be at our coordinates inside of two hours,” Dezhat added, crossing her arms on her chest but keeping her distance close to the door in case she needed to make a quick exit if the woman across would start shooting. ‘Don’t give her a reason to shoot you’ Chua’s warning reminded Dezhat. ‘They don’t need a reason to shoot anyone’ Dianne thought again, a frown creasing her eyebrows.

Rhea nodded, “I will be on the bridge in 40 minutes. Contact the Weequay and the Suraj, I’d like to brief you all on what’s to transpire before we arrive at Coruscant.”

“It’s about time,” Dianne snapped before she could stop herself.

Rhea raised an eyebrow at the reaction. “Is there a problem, Ms Dezhat?” the Mandalorian asked as she stood up to her full height and fixed the other woman with a look.

Dezhat looked straight at the Mandalorian “yes, I’m standing right across from it.”

Rhea made a show of looking around, “If you’re seeing things perhaps you should get yourself checked by a doctor,” she said as she leaned against the table, her helmet sat beside her as if two sets of Mandalorian eyes were watching Dianne right now. The thought unnerved Dezhat a bit more than she cared to admit.

“Wherever you people go, trouble follows,” Dianne elaborated ignoring the other woman’s dig at her.

Rhea frowned, “you...people?” she queried crossing her arms on her chest as she raised a questioning eyebrow at the comment, “I’d avoid judging people by their armour if I were you, Ms Dezhat.” She said, her voice level. “We’re on the same side here.”

“Are we? One of your people…. Saxon... said the same thing to my husband before..”

“I am *not* Saxon.” Rhea cut in with a low growl, she pushed herself away from the table her hands falling by her side as they tightened into fists, her reaction and sudden change in demeanor causing Dezhat to step back. “Saxon was a traitor to Mandalore,” Rhea shot back anger in her voice, her eyes indicated as much as her face hardened. She resisted the urge to pull out her weapons, this was not the way anymore, she reminded herself. That would be just proving Dezhat’s point. ‘balance’ she thought mentally reaching for the flight controls in her Fang as she continued the discussion with Dianne aboard the Kalifal.

“Easy for you to say,” Dezhat said.

Rhea glanced over at the helmet on the table, a constant reminder of how her life has changed since that day many years ago.

“What do you know about Mandalore and our ways?” Rhea asked switching gears, seemingly back in control of her less than stellar traits for the time being as she placed one hand near the helmet on the table, the other settled by her side.

“Enough to know none of you can be trusted,” Dianne said.

“Clearly you haven’t met enough real Mandalorians yet,” Rhea spoke. She wanted to say that not all Mandalorians have forgotten their ways, but she knew the assurance would fall on deaf ears for the moment. Words meant little when actions spoke volumes, and Rhea would be first to admit Mandalorians were hardly known for their words.

“One is more than enough,” Dianne replied.

Rhea nodded curtly then shrugged, “You and I may have a lot more in common than you think,” she spoke, her voice even. “I cannot speak for the actions of others, just my own. I am not here to make enemies.” she stated simply. Rhea’s face remained neutral, whatever anger she felt just moments ago was nowhere on her features as she addressed the other woman. Her eyes, however, told a whole other story. Dianne met Rhea’s gaze, taking in a sharp breath at what she saw in the Mandalorian’s eyes, Dezhat thought better of pushing things further. She nodded silently, Chu’a was right, this wasn’t someone they could afford to be on the wrong side of, not when it would in turn displease the Magistrate.

“Make sure to contact the Weequay and the Suraj, I’ll be on the bridge in 15 minutes” Rhea said, the motion of her head indicating to Dezhat that she could leave.

As Dezhat departed without another word, Rhea shook her head letting out a heavy sigh. This particular confrontation, Rhea hadn’t expected to bring up memories of events long in the past. Her gaze shifted to the helmet sitting atop the table. Rhea blinked, time didn’t heal, it just created distance. Almost ten years didn’t seem like enough of a distance,and at times it felt a lot longer than a decade. Sometimes in the chaos of jumping from op to op, Rhea didn’t always remember that. It’s the quiet moments right before an op that she sometimes managed to catch a breather and reflect on things past, present and future.

Grabbing her helmet off the table and settling on the floor, Rhea placed both hands on top of her helmet in front of her as she sat cross-legged. She had to prepare for what was to come once they reach Coruscant. She knew what Sol and the rest would be doing, she could figure out the when, and she knew what her part in this would be, even if she wasn’t quite sure of the minute details just yet. Drawing on her experience, her parents’ and mentors’ teachings, trust in her skills and whatever the energies out there that had kept her alive so far, Rhea was content with her current place in everything, even if she didn’t have all the answers yet. She figured there were things she wasn’t meant to know just yet. If ever. She still had to remind herself of that from time to time.

She closed her eyes allowing herself to take in several slow breaths as she let her mind wander unrestrained. Her mind inadvertently jumped over to Grey Wing and the recent events the group had found themselves in and how it all ended up intertwined with her own life. The Protector didn’t redirect her thoughts choosing instead to follow what came up well aware there was a reason it came up at this point in time.

She was still wary of getting too involved with groups outside of a casual working relationship, but Rhea knew there was no way out of this particular predicament. Grey Wing was different. On some level, she knew she was destined to be the group’s Protector the moment she came out of hyperspace unannounced the very first time and pushed the odds into the Wing’s favour only to disappear into hyperspace without even so much as a conversation with Harizzo and his squad. And then she did it again and again over the coming months. She didn’t question the coincidences or how she knew what she did, she just trusted her instincts to take her where she needed to be.

At the time she hadn’t even considered how complicated things were going to get with Grey Wing, and she had no doubts things would get even more complicated as things progressed now that the Hutts and Celeste were in the mix. And Harizzo, he definitely didn’t seem right in the head at certain moments, even before he’d shared what he did with her. but then again she wasn’t quite right in the head either, she knew; it was one of the reasons she preferred working on her own. On some level she suspected Sol knew she wasn’t fully there either, if he didn’t, surely their last altercation on base clued him in even if Rhea hadn’t intended for that.

Her mind drifted over to the briefing with the ‘inner circle’ before she and Sol were set to fly out to take care of what turned out to be Idryn Scal and their latest addition to the squad.

She remembered the mild curiosity registering on Sol’s face as she removed her helmet and walked towards him without a word once everyone left. She supposed he expected her to say something, she chose not to, sometimes silence spoke more than words. Actions spoke volumes more. The surprise, shock, anger, a hint of fear amongst a myriad of other emotions swirling around his eyes as the Mandalorian unceremoniously pushed him against a wall, her hand raised pinning him harder into the wall preventing any movement as the repulsor in her vambrace activated. Rhea’s own eyes blazing with anger, frustration, peppered with a hint of hurt and betrayal at his actions and words, for a brief moment she didn’t care if he saw that and more in her eyes. She was not one to take threats lightly, especially those coming from a supposed ally, someone who’s meant to have her back the same way she had his and the Wing’s. A mix of emotions blazing in her eyes Rhea didn’t say a word as her mind fought back between giving in to her urges and regaining her self-control, her eyes still staring at Sol, her gaze unfaltering. Killing Sol would not help anybody. ‘You’re not here for that,’ the words flew across her mind.

Letting her hand drop and releasing her hold on Harizzo, the only thing the Mandalorian had said at the time was that she’d see him in the hangar, keeping her voice detached from any emotion as she fought back to regain control. Slipping her helmet over her head, Rhea strode out of the briefing room at a quick pace leaving the Grey Wing’s leader to his own thoughts.

The whole incident lasted about a minute from start to finish. Sol had no idea how close the Mandalorian woman came to stepping over the line that day, only Rhea herself knew how much more was needed to push her over the edge and into the darkness she had no intention of revisiting again. Still, this near slip up troubled her even now and served as a reminder that she may never fully conquer that part of herself. Dezhat’s comments just doubled up on that reminder and brought it back to the surface. She was still a Mandalorian, fighting was part of her nature as much as her being a pilot was. Rhea surrendered to the idea that most of the time she knew when to fight and when to step back; and sometimes talking worked better than shooting. If anything, talking was one of the more potent weapons added to her arsenal over the years. It definitely left a much smaller body count. She wondered how many more conversations with Sol it would take for her to be more comfortable with him and the Wing as a whole.

Back on the Kalifal, eyes closed, Rhea breathed in and out, ‘Find your balance,’ the thought popped up in her mind. Not for the first time in the hours she’s been aboard, Rhea Nyx wished she could be aboard her Fang, the only place she truly felt in balance and in complete control of her life these days. She let that mental image override the recent experiences that threw her off her game in any way. Not for the first time in recent days she’s had to tap into that from another time and place; it wasn’t quite the same as actually being behind the controls of the Fang, but the mental image would have to do for the moment.

She stayed still for what felt like hours, but she knew it was only minutes. Rhea opened her eyes, glanced around the room she was in, she felt the rumble of the Kalifal’s engines as the ship sped through hyperspace towards its destination. She sat back against a bulkhead, taking hold of her helmet as she let her thoughts and the latest memories get settled and integrated into her psyche. Few more minutes passed before the Mandalorian stood up, slipped the helmet over her head and made her way to the bridge. She had work to do.

***

 

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