Jace-no-helmet-

Strays

As TinTin entered his office, he quickly closed the door behind him giving the Trandoshan  a much needed break.  As booming as business was, there was one thing TinTin valued more than credits…and that was quiet.  All he ever wanted to do was live out his life and reap his rewards, but somehow trouble always seemed to find him.  

Colborne Port was no longer run by the people but rather the crime syndicates.  It didn’t take an expert to understand that TinTin’s Cantina was one of the few remaining places that didn’t have Tuma The Hutt’s stink all over it, but what choice did the citizens really have?  Tuma controls everything.  Everything, except the Cantina. After all, he had history with the Hutt and he was doing everything he could to avoid him as old hatreds ran deep.  Realistically though, TinTin knew that it was only a matter of time before war would be at his doorstep once again.  But that was a problem for another time as TinTin was more of a “live today, worry tomorrow” kind of guy. 

TinTin proceeded to sit down and fill his mug with his favorite vintage of Cloud City Cider.  As he was doing so, he noticed a little ripple within the thick liquid in his glass.  His stomach immediately dropped.  He could feel it, before he heard it.  There was a ship landing on his personal pad and few would be so bold.  Before TinTin could even turn and look down from his window,  MaGooch, his colossal, cumbersome guard smashed through the door.  “T, it’s Gara Squad… They got kids with them and one looks hurt… pretty bad too.” The Gamorrean grunted.  

Before Gara Squad even entered the sanctuary, TinTin knew what his old “pal” Scorch was going to ask of him, and the answer was absolutely not.  He was done taking in strays.  The last time he did it, that girl became family, which for most people may seem like a great thing but to TinTin, love was a weakness.  The less people he cared for, the less he had to lose.  That’s when Rinn joined the pair in TinTin’s office.  

Rinn was the exception. TinTin and MaGooch were duty-bound to free her from a horrendous situation involving slavers attempting to take her offworld.  TinTin convinced everyone that he only did the act of kindness as a consequence to those slavers messing with his smuggling operations.  He explained that it was just better for everyone if the slavers ceased operations indefinitely.  Only Rinn and MaGooch knew the truth.

Knowing TinTin better than most, the orange skinned, Twi’lek understood that TinTin would put on a game face and play it tough, but when it was time to make a decision, she knew it would be the right one.  Besides, she figured she would stay for the meeting just to make sure TinTin’s stubbornness didn’t get the best of him.

As soon as Rinn made herself comfortable behind his desk, TinTin knew that he was likely going to have two new guests at his Cantina for the foreseeable future, but he had a reputation to keep, so he thought he would try and put off a decision for as long as he could.  He buzzed the door open to allow Scorch entrance to his office.  Just outside of his door, he could see the wounded boy on a hover bed with his younger sister standing guard over him accompanied by several members of Gara Squad.  He knew right there and then, that these kids would be strays no more and that the Cantina would be their new home, but he still had to play it out, if only for appearance sake.  

Lessons Learned

As the sun began to set, Jace and Gigi could feel the fatigue of another full day of training begin to take over.  The siblings were exhausted and frustrated because it had been weeks since they began their fighting drills, and it felt as if little to no progress was being made.   For some reason, TinTin was exceptionally hard on them today.   He over analyzed and dissected every attack and defense they demonstrated.  The pair agreed, it was time to quit. But being so tired, they barely had enough energy to walk to their bunks, let alone tell TinTin they were done with everything.  So, it was decided they would break the news in the morning after a good night’s rest. 

When the siblings awoke the next morning, they knew confronting TinTin was going to be difficult, especially after everything he had done for them, so they took a walk around Colborne Port to build up some courage.  As they began walking, they heard loud childlike screams in the distance and knew immediately something was wrong.  They followed the cries for help around the corner down a darkened alleyway.  There were three young children surrounded by a dozen of Tuma’s thugs.  It was easy to identify that they worked for Tuma, as they bared the mark of The Blight.  It was one of the few details, the pair noticed before the thugs attention was turned onto them.

At first glance, none of these fools seemed to present a big challenge on their own but together, they were certainly a threat.  Quickly, the goons took notice of the siblings and focused their efforts on the newcomers.  Jace and Gigi were outnumbered and in trouble.

An angry Weequay who seemed to be the leader, teased, “Well, well, look what we got here.  Let’s make these little heroes our next casualties!  Get ’em boys!” He gestured to his men to attack. Chaos erupted.

Before Jace and Gigi knew it, the group of scoundrels rushed the pair with their blunt, make shift weapons, made mostly from pieces of scrap.  Without warning, the siblings had no choice but to fight.  In the process of the attack,  their  bodies reacted in unison almost mechanically and without thought. Punch after kick was blocked and eventually a swift retaliation was delivered.  Before long, the battle was over and the attackers were now the conquered.

After Tuma’s crew lay battered and broken, Jace and Gigi realized exactly why TinTin was so hard on them during their training sessions.  He knew what they were capable of, when they worked together.  After the children were safe, the pair returned to the Cantina with a change of heart and prepared for another day of grueling work.

Jace and Gigi apologized for being late to TinTin, who lovingly accepted, secretly thinking there was more to this story, but knowing better than to ask about it.  TinTin smiled and immediately called upon his assistant MaGooch to work them a little harder than usual in close combat drills.  The pair looked at each other and smiled as they prepared for yet another day of training.

The Clone Wars Within

Dena knew that failing Tuma was not an option.  It wasn’t his fault that the kid survived, after all he took a blaster bolt directly to the back of his head.  There was nothing more that could be done, the boy would eventually succumb to his injuries, it was just a matter of time now.  Dena could not understand why that wasn’t good enough for Tuma. Nothing ever was.  Regardless, Dena was instructed  to go to the medbay and finish the job.

 

Accompanied by two IG units, Dena made his way to the medbay where Jace was fighting for his life, with his sister by his side.  As they approached the room in which the wounded boy lay helpless, the assassins began their preparations.  With secrecy on their side, they burst through the door unbeknownst to those on the other side of it .  Surprisingly, they were met with an unexpected audience….a girl with a blaster pointed directly at them. Before the standoff could end, there was an explosion of smoke filling the room.  Shots rang everywhere.

 

Before Dena knew what had happened, both IG units were destroyed and his hand was all but removed due to blaster fire.  A squad of Imperial Stormtroopers appeared out of nowhere.  What was Dena going to do?  The fear of failing his boss took the pain away from his hand momentarily allowing the Rodian time to think.  Tuma was going to kill him for failing yet again.  He knew he would have to make this right in some way, so as he scrambled to his feet to leave the medbay, he grabbed a DNA sample from the boy in the form of a disposed bandage.  He then retreated with haste back to the Hutt’s floating citadel.

As Jace was evacuated by Gara Squad, a news report was doctored for the Holonet explaining that the boy had passed throughout the afternoon, even though he still lay recovering.  The reality of the situation would be revealed in time, but by then it would be too late, Jace and his sister will be in hiding while they recovered.

 

Dena fearfully approached Tuma explaining that the boy was as good as dead.  No one could survive a direct blaster bolt to the head.  Immediately, Tuma knew this meant that Dena had failed once again, and it was far past time to be reprimanded.  As the Hutt sat quietly pondering the vicious punishments to deal out, the Rodian quietly presented a peace offering.  Thinking this was nothing more than useless rubbish, the Hutt grew angrier until Dena explained what he had in his possession.  This truly was a beautiful gift in the form of Jace’s DNA.  For those who don’t know, DNA is what makes us…us!  And there is a lot of it in a person’s blood even in the smallest of samples.  With this much of a sample, there would be more than enough to conduct some testing.  Tuma began to laugh, thinking about the endless possibilities.  After a short pause, Tuma had settled on the notion of what he felt would be the worst punishment of all.  Not only would he destroy Jace but first he would make him suffer by ruining the relationships he had built especially with his sister, Gigi.  It was that bond that gave each other strength, and it was that bond that each of them held most important.  Tuma would destroy it, then finish off the children, but in order to do so he would need a clone. 

Cloning was nothing new, though after The Great Wars it was frowned upon, but what did Tuma care, he was the head of The Blight.  What the Hutt didn’t realize was how much work had to go into making a clone.  He didn’t want a perfect duplicate of Jace as that would only double his problems.  That’s why the boy’s DNA had to be manipulated and aged accordingly and that would take some skill.  Luckily, he knew just the malicious being for the job.

 

Reaf, a Muun academic under Tuma’s employ.  Chief Advisor and lead scientific engineer of The Blight. There were few that could match his sadistic demeanor and gifted brilliance in replicating synthetic and organic coding.  Thus work began on creating a version of Jace that could be manipulated into eradicating any who oppose the Hutt and his collective, The Blight.

After weeks of failed attempts, Experiment 88 was complete and passed initial testing.  The aging process was very difficult but Reaf found a way to manipulate that too.   Presented before Tuma, the clone bestowed an eerie likeness to that of his nemesis.  As Tuma circled the boy, he found it hard to find any differences between the creature before him and the model he was based on.  The only variance that was noticeable with an eye’s glance was the clone’s hair.  It was a darker shade of blonde as opposed to Jace’s auburn color.  From a distance though, it wouldn’t be noticeable.  Distracted by the perfect duplicate in front of him, the hair color went unnoticed by the Hutt.  Humans all looked the same to self absorbed Hutt.

 

The clone was blessed with all of the strengths of his predecessor and none of his weaknesses.  Tuma knew he would be more that an match for Jace to handle, especially with the diverse combat training implemented within the clone’s mind.  He would be the perfect soldier.  Obedient and dangerous, just how Tuma liked them.

 

After the inspection was over, Tuma had asked the clone if he was ready to do what needed to be done? The clone’s only reply was a small smirk that told the Hutt everything he needed to know.  Reaf looking upon his creation, could not contain his smile any longer knowing that this success would only build a darker reputation for himself.  Dena who stood alongside Reaf bearing witness to the initiation of the newest member of The Blight, was disgusted with himself.  He wished for a moment that he had the courage to just take the punishment that Tuma had planned as opposed to presenting this monstrous idea.  The kid’s had been through enough and the thought of a clone pretending to be one of them was too much.  It was unnatural and nothing good was going to come of it.

Tuma commanded; “Experiment 88, do what others could not, seek out the boy and destroy him!  Eradicate all who stand in your way!” The evil version of the heroic boy looked upon the assembled rogues with a callous grin and replied; “Consider it done, and you can call me X!”

 

Months had passed and Jace and his newly formed crew were gaining notoriety throughout the system of Nar Shaddaa.  The capital, Hutt City was a buzz with tales of selfless acts performed by these so called heroes.  X grew angry because he couldn’t understand why the siblings were doing these acts.  Didn’t they too want to be infamous throughout the Galaxy?  The whole notion of selflessness was to hard for X to try to understand.

 

Although Tuma’s intention of creating a clone was to secretly infiltrate the enemy then systematically tear them apart from within, X had other ideas.  He knew he was superior in all ways to Jace and wanted to flaunt it.  He didn’t understand the point of hiding when he could simply come out and destroy Jace and his sister quickly and efficiently. It just didn’t seem honorable to him.  After all deep down the Mandalorian ways of life were just as much a part of X, as they were with Jace. Even though he couldn’t understand why he held such values, he accepted them and decided he would take action and soon.

 

Preparing for an attack was a sacred ritual to X.    Crafting his armor was something not to be taken lightly.  Through hours of analysis on Jace and his fighting tactics, even X had to admit that Jace’s armor was something to be envious of.  It could be mimicked but never replicated even with the proper Beskar and materials.  This wasn’t your common stormtrooper armor.  This was truly a one of a kind marvel and X wanted his own to rival that of his nemesis.  Finding a balance between effective and unique was challenging to X but he managed to do it.

 

With his armor complete, X settled on a color scheme as bold as his approach.  He decided to go with a red and yellow combination symbolizing the ever burning flame of ruin from Mandalorian lore.  The fable explained once the sacred flame was unleashed upon the world, destructionand chaos would spread dooming any who stood in it’s path.  X was ready to do what needed to be done, so the hunt began.

 

 Jace and Gigi perched themselves on a dirt stained rooftop above Merchant Alley, sharing a pair of electrobinoculars between them .  Tuma’s droid patrols were at it again shaking down local merchants taking all of the earnings they had made that day at the market.  The pair weren’t having it and signaled to their other team members the motion to get ready.  Lud Lum the massive Wampa was positioned not so subtly behind a Luggabeast while Chimmy was slowly shifting from one overhead tarp to another near the action.  Pep was aboard the parked Gunnarsingh, three streets over preparing for a quick pick up. 

 

Unbeknownst to Jace and his crew, as they readied themselves and watched below, they themselves were being monitored from a distance.  As the droids collected their fees for the day, they made their way to an opening between the alleys below.  It was now or never.  They jumped into action with all the members doing everything they could to keep the half dozen droids away from the innocent civilians.  X thought to himself that he had seen this same scene far too many times, that it had become so predictable.   The monkey thing would distract the droids getting their attention, the big beast would then charge from the rear with the siblings flanking what remained from the sides.  As quickly as predicted it was over, and in a few moments their ride would pick them up but not before they returned the credits to the merchants.  It was time for this monotony to end.

 

As the siblings made their way toward the merchants, they could not believe their eyes.  A Mandalorian descended upon the pair from the rooftops above using his jetpack.  Mandalorians were a rare sight these days.  As it drew closer, they were shocked to discover the armor was almost identical to Jace’s in every way, except for the coloring.  Armor was sacred to the Mandalorians, and no two sets were identical.  Something was definitely off and the pair were prepared for anything or so they thought.  Jace’s hands hovered cautiously above his blasters, while Gigi was not as hesitant with her bowcaster already pointed at the helmeted figure.

 

As the Mando landed before them, Jace had that weird feeling again that something bad was going to happen, though he hoped he was wrong.  Maybe if he could talk to this mercenary he could convince him to join them, even though he doubted he would accept.  Gigi shouted, bringing Jace’s attention back to the individual in front of him.   “Who are you and what do you want?”

The Mando slowly turned his helmet toward Gigi and removed it.  The pair were shocked at the sight before them. They froze in disbelief.  The pair couldn’t accept it.   How was this even possible?  Did Jace have a twin neither knew about?  Was it even a twin?   The armor was a copy of his own, so maybe this was just some shapeshifter playing tricks.  With a million thoughts running through their minds, the clone smiled and decided and introduction was in order. “The name’s X and I am here to warn you that the next time we meet will be the last!”

 

With that, X turned his hand sideways and allowed a thermal detonator to fall from his hand and roll onto the ground before him.  He quickly placed his helmet back on and launched himself skyward with his jetpack.  Jace turned his attention to the nearby merchants and began guiding them to a safe distance while Gigi picked up the detonator and threw it as far as she could into the air of the empty alleyway.  With an explosion, the siblings turned their attention back to where the clone had last been seen but he was long gone by then. As they made their way back to the ship, they were greeted by Pep, Lud Lum and Chimmy along the way.  The three had run toward the action when they heard the explosion.  They asked who had done that as all the droids were destroyed before they separated.  Still in shock, Jace could only muster a few words. ”It was ….me?”

 

To Be Continued!