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#101
Cato Fett

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Indescribable sensation enveloped him. Light, brighter than what his visor could dim, filled in through his eyes. Cato briefly wondered if this was a hand reaching from the Manda, pulling soul and thought from his failing body as fire ate into his flesh. Then an all too-real feeling in his toes, stomach-turning nausea. His feet left the staircase decking and he felt ‘propelled’. Air sucked free of his lungs. There was brief pressure boiling up from his heart, roaring across his ear-bones. Heat snapped to cold.

 

Snow and glacially frozen stone slammed up at them.

 

A drift cushioned their brief fall and Cato went spinning down the slope of the mountainside. Disorientation was worse than any pain; all his senses were in riot, trying to translate the stupendous switch in environment. The frigidity rode up through his limbs, briefly invigorating, quickly turning to thickening chills that sapped his mobility. They skidded across rough granite patched intermittently with ice. Laira was limp in his arms. He looked round helplessly, struggling to draw back fresh breath, seeing at last a jag of hard boulder blocking their way. They rebounded off the rock; his grasp faltered, Laira slipping away down the long hill. Beyond her at a hundred yards, the mountain face dropped off abruptly.

 

Cato forced air into his lungs, pushing hands and feet into rock crevasse, and threw himself forward. He sped after her, swiping for one of her wrists. They were eighty yards out from falling. Their fingers touched briefly. Sixty yards, now forty. At ten yards to the cliff edge, Cato wrapped his arm around her elbow and yanked her back into his hold. With supreme effort, he drew and activated Oilseller’s vibro-edged. Cato stabbed it through the granite until its high-frequency edge lost speed and could slice the earth no more. Laira’s boots dangled over the daunting fall.

 

“Come on…!” Cato groaned. He crawled them away from the edge, pulled and sheathed Oilseller away; his lungs felt fit to burst. Compared to young Laira, whom now he noticed wasn’t breathing.

 

“…Ad’ika?” Cato rolled her over. Colour was leeching from her cheeks. He peeled back her eyelids and found the pupils and iris nearly unresponsive. A blued-out tone was beginning to seep up and spread from her collarbone. Faint heartbeats answered his careful probe of her carotid and jugular arteries but life was fading. Helplessness gripped him. “Nayc. …Nayc!

 

He sloughed off his jacket, rolled it, and propped it under her skull with her mouth kept slightly ajar. Her tongue popped free of her airway, lolling back behind her teeth. Forced steadiness in his hands. Slipped the helmet aside, brushed her jacketing away from her chest and knotted one hand over the other. His prosthetic palm settled on her breastbone as he began heaving and pushing to a beat time in his head. Every thirty compressions, he paused and pressed their mouths closed, shutting her nostrils, and then exhaling twice. Cato ignored that she tasted sweet, an edge of flesh-salt on her lips, her perfume wafting up at him. The compressions resumed as he tried to instill blood pressure, willing her heart to beat again and taking no pleasure from their brief kisses so he could swell her lungs with breath. “Come on, now… Come on… Ad’ika, I’m trying, please…”

 

Laira Darkhold


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#102
Laira Darkhold

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Darkness surrounded Laira, her mind quiet and at peace. 'This can't be what death is like?' she thought as her mind wander seeking whatever light or brightness that was supposed to lead her on to the afterlife. But that's not what she saw, just darkness. Endless darkness and quiet. Cold gripped her hands and neck, wet like ice being pressed against her skin. Pain shot up from her chest, and her vision returned suddenly, blurred light everywhere as blood began to flow back into her eyes once again.

 

She realized there were hands on her chest and a mouth over her mouth, something holding her nose closed. The taste of sweat and whiskers was in her mouth, tickling her tongue. She gasped for breath, hand grabbing the being on top of her. She wasn't panicking or fighting, something told her this was a friend. Her eyes cleared, and she was holding onto Cato who had stopped compressions and mouth to mouth upon her revival. Laira grinned at him, "Hey," her breath raspy as she breathed raggedly, trying to suck air into her lungs. 

 

Snow surrounded her, a ledge not far from where she lay. She didn't remember Torolis well, but she didn't remember snow on the ground where they had landed. Mountain peaks stretched into the sky above them and the air was cold and frigid. "How long was I out? Where'd you take us?" She asked, propping herself up on her elbows and shifting around wincing as the sudden pain from her shattered ankle filled her senses. Just moving it hurt, just having it attached to her hurt.

 

The last thing she remembered was Cato ignoring her and carrying her body out with him, and then blackness. She must have passed out from the pain, gone into shock and somehow he pulled it off. "I guess I owe you a really good dance." Laira grinned roguishly, licking her lips slowly and seductively, offering the Mandalorian a wink.

 

Cato Fett



#103
Cato Fett

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He admired her appetite for the tease; smashed ankle bones, so-many hundred feet above sea-level, a scant few paces from hip deep snow and glacial ice contours, she still had the mind to voraciously prod at his libido. Cato silenced any stirring, gently checking her foot bandaging. The splinting rod still held though he would have to get her to lower climes before that metal grew too cold and put another ache up through her leg. Questions swam against his survival priorities. What’d been that light? How did they seemingly transport from place to place? Were they still situated on Torolis or had they leapt, somehow, beyond the planet? Outside the system entirely?

 

At once, Cato decided against sleeping on the mountain face. His chrono-piece was fried; specific local time eluded him. But he held his hand flat against the sun and counted through finger-widths how many possible hours they had until sunfall. He’d dressed with emergency shelter measures strapped to his web-gear. Enough for a single body to subsist with, two if he stretched their resources and they both went without. Cato freed a compact pouch from the back of his waist belt, unzipped it, freeing a long thermal blanket. He held it round her shoulders before tying it neatly at her collarbone.

 

“Tell me how we’ll dance,” He said, hefting her weight onto his shoulders, careful of her ankle. They trudged west, following the run of a more forgiving escarpment, Cato watching his footing against hidden ice flues. Snow banks occasionally slowed them, as he navigated against waist high drifts keeping Laira hoisted aloft on his back. Cold was in his knees now, working to aggravate the pain still settled in his musculature. Just over a lower, distant hill-rise, warding lights blinked atop communication spires wired down to a small outpost. Alliance colours fluttered on raised banner-rolls. Cato adjusted Laira forward more, caught his breath, and trudged on.

 

Today was going to be a hike.

 

Laira Darkhold


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#104
Laira Darkhold

Laira Darkhold

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Laira wrapped her hands around Cato's chest to help hold her weight steady on his back, her legs partially squeezing his sides so that he didn't have to struggle to hold her up. As svelte as she was, she was still over fifty kilograms of muscle and bone he had to carry with little to no help, so any assistance she could offer he would appreciate during his hike down towards the settlement off in the distance.

 

"Well, lets see. You have a couple of options." Her face hovered close to his, grinning as they walked down the mountain. "If you were feeling formal, I can slow dance. If you wanted something a little more intimate, I could show you zeltron Shaabi, its an exotic dance with lots of hip movement. There is the ever popular Booty Grind, men love that I'm told." She shrugged her shoulders and adjusted herself comfortably. "Could always give you a lap dance if you asked really nicely."

 

She was confused, she could see Galactic Alliance symbols, but there was no sign of their ship. Laira had no idea where they were or how they had gotten there. All she remembered was clinging to the Mandalorian expecting the blast and wanting to be anywhere else. Then she remembered Cato being on top of her, reviving her from shock. No, it was more than that. He had brought her back to life.

 

The memories of the light, the Force surging through every molecule of her body, and the sudden jerk of everything. Laira had some skill with Fold Space, but nothing akin to teleportation. Not that she was aware was within her capability. It was a struggle just to use Fold Space to take Elpsis's clothing, so this would have been impossible. Or at the very least, highly improbably. They continued making their way down the mountain until Cato's helmet comlink was able to make contact and call for someone to pick them up and take them to the settlement.

 

"So, while we've still got some privacy, Cato's choice of dance. What'll it be."



#105
Cato Fett

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“Something fast. I like keeping my footwork practiced,” Cato said. He’d laid her onto a small jut of hard ice that refused to melt under sunlight. Snow blanketed her rump from the worst of the chill, with the heat-cape folded and settled under her legs as a kind of seating mat. They could just make out the running lights of a squat, short-wing shuttle on distant approach. Half-an-hour until arrival, Cato thought. He’d get Laira sequestered into medical treatment, for both her ankle and any after-effects of their instantaneous transmission. If they had folded-space, if they did briefly cross a strange band of time and matter, he wanted comprehensive diagnosis. Cato adjusted Oilseller in its scabbard, and thought of the Thing.

 

Defiant of modern combat doctrine, the firearm had failed. The blade took back brief precedence and proved its still relevant worth. The Thing fell to Oilseller, Cato wishing to believe, against doubts on the nature of cyberization, that whatever human remaining in that chassis had gone to death with honour intact. Horrid, powerful, and menacing as it was. It made him feel his age. He turned in against the mountain breeze, braced against the moan of high arctic wind. Cloudless skies blazed with impossible blue above. That Thing was the future, Cato thought, and I am destined to fall by the wayside. Armies of the Living will battle armies of the Dead, empowered by the esoteric and the advanced, while the elder ways are abandoned in favour of absolute, meaningless victories. What do I do? Adapt? How? Cyberization? Is that always the answer, fusing flesh and nanomachines?

 

What was Laira’s future against that? He looked over his shoulder, at her posed against the low ice-jut. Her hands were rubbing heat back into her ribs. She was due warm bacta immersion; a week’s deep sleep and she’d wake up with every hurt mended. Would they operate on her ankle? What of the necessary tendon and ligament muscles, would the bacta rebuild their strength and sinewy elasticity? Maybe you worry too much for her, Cato paused. She was young. The future still belonged to her generation and perhaps they would work to preserve reason against wars of madness. She would heal, dance, flirt, pilot, fight, tease, and live unimpeded. Cato breathed in the cold, contented with her happiness.

 

“Just fast,” He went on. “You pull that Shaabi on me and I’ll have to propose.”

 

Laira Darkhold


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#106
Laira Darkhold

Laira Darkhold

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"Oh, sweetie. You might want to invest in a nice ring then." She grinned widely, he should know by now that to tell her something like that would only result in Laira most certainly acting upon his prompt. Laira was mostly alive, thanks to Cato. Even if she had been responsible for their transportation to Saijo, it was only his actions that saved her life. "I guess we'll try a little of all four once I'm up for it."

 

If Cato had of given up and left her for dead, she likely wouldn't have rallied and attempted to transport them out. If he had of stopped and relented to sit with her, who knew what might have happened. And if not for him she would have died on this mountain anyway, be it from the transportation or the fall she would have suffered off the ledges. She owed Cato her life, and he was special. He was different. Most Mandalorians Laira had grown up around possessed an insufferable machismo combined with severe depression. The combination was one she'd seen for her entire adult life and had become annoying. Cato didn't seem to possess the machismo, more a reserved humility and a very collected shell of emotions. She cared about him greatly, wanting to break through his shell and know the real Mandalorian beneath all the layers of armor and hardship. Laira also had the mischievous desire to have him wrapped around her fingers if they could manage such without causing him pain.

 

The shuttle arrived after a while, Laira having stayed wrapped around Cato when he deigned to sit beside her, resting her head against his strong shoulder until it landed to fetch them. "Bring me sweets while I'm laid up and I'll be sweet to you!" She said as the Medical team began tending to her field dressings, covering her mouth with a breath mask that began flowing a subtle bacta and sedative mixture into her lungs. They moved her to a stretcher and began scanning her for internal injuries. So much could be wrong with her given the situation and she would probably require a few reconstructive surgeries over the course of the flight back to the Yedo Fire.

 

Cato Fett



#107
Cato Fett

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(Later)

 

Yedo Fire

[EF91 N-D Frigate]

[Hyperspace Transit]

-+-

[Silent Running Protocols: Engaged]

[03h:39m]

 

The medical wing was gentled with protocol silence and even droid nurses and physicians travelled on installed repulsor-modules re-tuned to low noise emissions. A clerk at the checkpoint lobby allowed Cato visitation rights, pinned him with a coloured badge, and directed him to a close wing by the port hulling.

 

From Saijo, they made flight to Sullust and on to Denon, trading transports for a public but vetted passenger cruiser, traversing Deep Core before again transferring to a private ferrying service. Flotilla Red waited on their arrival, having paused halfway in mid-sail between Kessel and distant Abrion. Laira was on immediate leave, Cato sequestered to direct debriefing talks.

 

 He related their stayover on Kothlis, dealing with the BSN and traipsing just beyond IMPINT surveillance nets, before prosecuting their mission on Torolis. The installation was detailed, meticulously dissected from audio/video recordings extracted from his helmet feed, with events cross-examined and questioned until the psychology and stress of the moment-to-moment fighting was understood. Some voiced stern upbraiding that they’d ignored opportunities to filch precious Imperial cybernetics, further complaints filtering afterward, some edged with pointed accusals. Cato kept his patience, answered politely, nodded and clarified as required, offered what apologies he could. The mission had not gone to plan, and that was partly his responsibility. He countered with offers of resignation from priority RESINT privileges in a forward scouting role. The captains and commanders and seated lieutenant-colonels promised replies in the coming days.

 

 Afterward, he detoured through the galley and requisitioned a stock of sweetened chocolate the kitchen crews had smuggled in with the latest re-supply. He was paused now outside Laira’s hospital chambers, ringing her hatch. Her voice carried out rather than an answering bell and he slipped inside, crossing over to her bedside.

 

Su’cuy, missy.” Cato pulled the wrapped tinfoil from his jacket-sleeve and laid it as a gift across her stomach. “You wanted something sweet, I remember. Not the best I could find, but not the worst. Rebel medicine treating you right?”

 

Laira Darkhold


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#108
Laira Darkhold

Laira Darkhold

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Laira smiled, sitting up in her hospital bed as Cato entered. She was in one of the gowns they gave to all patients and was sequestered in a bed where the room had been left empty. That wasn't politeness or a remark on her prestige, only an indication that the medical wing wasn't seeing too many people at the time. "Hey there," She graciously accepted the tin foil and began unwrapping it, "You're sweet enough for me, hun." She grinned, wondering if how he'd fared during her time on leave.

 

Her leg was set into a cast with Bacta running through it to keep her healing. The doctors had her set to leave later that night with orders to take it easy for a few days before going back to active duty. As part of the Jedi Remnant she was lucky enough not to have to deal with too much redtape in the mean time.

 

Once she pulled the packaging open to see the chocolate covered fruit snacks the redhead immediately plucked one and began eating, sticking it partially into her mouth, wrapping her lips around it suggestively as she took a bite, her eyes flicking to the Mandalorian to ensure he was watching and paying attention to her antics. "Mmmmm, so good. You want one?" The redhead held the tin foil out so that he could pluck one of the fruits if he wanted to, but she doubted he'd take one. He might to appease her though.

 

"The doctors have been taking excellent care of me, said I'd be good for our date by tonight so you might want to wash up and dress up. I like your stubble though." Laira wondered what Cato had thought about while they were separated, if he had longed for her at all, if he had thought about her. She wasn't sure about him, the teenager confused. She owed the Mandalorian, a lot. More than just her life. Laira felt comfortable around the older man, even found him handsome in many ways. But she was uncertain if they had anything realistic in their future, or if she wanted that from him. 

 

Questions for later, after she'd gotten to know him a little better. "How have you been holding up without me?"

 

Cato Fett



#109
Cato Fett

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“Staying busied. RESINT’s not impressed with how the mission got torched. I’m facing demotion to scouting work,” Cato said, shrugging. He pulled a bed-side chair closer and took a seat against her extended cot. Monitoring consoles were hooked beside the head of her bed, reading her physical vitals through unobtrusive diagnostic fields. One arm, he noted, held needle tract marks from recent biopsy culling. That Laira looked unbothered, still vivacious and fired, spoke of her unending good health. Pain, the agony of want, welled in his throat.

 

“…Listen, I-” He cleared this throat until the thickness left his words. “They want a man to help skirt around the Chiss worlds. The Iron Empire’s cleared out, no one’s certain why. I volunteered to take a gander and report back. I make the jump to lightspeed in an hour or three. I’ll owe you a dance next time.

 

“…Miss Darkhold,” Cato said. He pulled at his chinstraps and loosed off his helm. The Mandalorian was plain, ugly with scars, with a small queue of hair tied up from his nape. His words struggled, polite but stumbling. “I don’t know how to put this. Forgive me, I don’t. I owe a debt for surviving what we did. I’d love nothing more than to dance and feast and let you tease me all night. I just can’t for now, and it’d be best if I let you be for a time. Please, accept my apologies. I… Oritsir, I hope you understand.”

 

Laira Darkhold


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#110
Laira Darkhold

Laira Darkhold

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Her face fell dour, the sudden realization Cato would be leaving and the dynamic duo would be separated. She considered what it was that made her sad while he explained where he would be going, that it was best that he did, and all the other reasons. Yes she would miss him, miss having him around to hang out with, but she didn't yearn for him like a schoolgirl for her handsome professor. The redhead liked having Cato around though.

 

"You're leaving me?" Her grey eyes flicked up to look into his, sadness and sorrow welling in her eyes. It was partially her fault, if she'd had more control she could have dropped them at the ship and RESINT wouldn't have been so disappointed in him, maybe if she'd been more useful they wouldn't have demoted him. "I'm sorry," Laira whispered, her voice somber and soft.

 

He took off his helmet, Cato tried his best to make it easy on her and to ease himself the trouble she would put him through. The redhead reached out with one hand, running her fingertips along his hand. "I don't want you to go. I could meet you out there, or," She stammered through possibilities. In the end he was right and she was wrong. He was right in that she needed time to figure her own emotions out, Laira had just wanted to figure them out with Cato around. She wasn't sure what she wanted from him, but the princess knew she wanted something from him.

 

Then she got mad. "Don't give me that Miss Darkhold! You don't get to just walk away from me and be a stranger after everything." Her heart thumped, her expression matching her tone. She knew deep down he had to live and she couldn't follow, at least not right away. And she didn't know if they wanted the same things, or if they could had the time or inclination to figure that out. What she did know was that he wasn't getting out of this room without giving into her just once. "Now, you come here and call me Laira, take my number and give me a kiss goodbye," she leveled her eyes at him with a glare, "With tongue and some passion, or so help me I'll hunt you down."

 

Cato Fett



#111
Cato Fett

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Ret’, Miss Darkhold.”

 

The bedpan rang off the portcullis hatch with fury. Cato depressed the locking mechanism and felt Laira’s abuse hurtle at the hatch, roiling like a tide at a sea-wall, excoriating his character, his masculinity, his fighting prowess, all facets of his cowardly character and to please, please come back, did he not owe her at least a kiss? Had she not saved his life? I’d have died but for you, Miss Darkhold, Cato thought and turned away up the gunmetal passage. Four bells rang over the intercom. Glowlamps dimmed, the hospital module rotated personnel, replacing a few nurse-droids to battery recharge stations, refreshed physicians pulling on anti-microbial coats before commencing patient rounds. He handed back his visitors pass to the changed clerk and boarded the umbilical walkway, making for the hangar bays.

 

He was compromised until he could compartmentalize the unrequited things, Laira’s company serving to kindly destroy him trace by trace. Until I’m wracked with the impossible, because she is young and perfect for any Mando’ade to wed but wholly uninterested in bearing the burden of an aged partner, whom could just as easily stand-in for her father, Cato thought. And because you’re tired of the little niceties, playing pretend. Every notion surrounding her is mired in trite complexities. I’m out of time to try deciphering any of it. There’s work to be undertaken, imperial aggression to resist. If word’s correct, the Death Watch is fragmenting. I’ll be left to pick up what pieces I can, but it proves, once and for all: Mandalore is no prize. It never has been, nor will it ever be.

 

At the end of the walkway, he paused to briefly retire behind a length of stanchion columns ribbed along the broad corridor. Cato lowered onto his haunches, pulling his helmet off to face the visor. His wa, his harmony, was in revolt. Not since Alor Yuna’s loss had he come close to such upset. Miss Darkhold was pulling the stitching free from old hurts that’d never healed. Youth, agency, time, sacrificed in favour of duty, loyalty, honour. He did not regret it. But he regretted everything that may have been. Cato fought the T-visor’s piercing glare, settling the helm back over his skull. Karma, he thought, neh? Cato tried to draw on the Infinite of Zen, the formless Tao of immense serenity. Failed. He gritted his teeth and controlled his shuddering, daring to shame himself publicly with tears beneath the helmet.

 

Until at last, he felt something close to better…

 

-切り-

 

Laira Darkhold


Edited by Cato Fett, 05 February 2018 - 02:56 AM.

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#112
Laira Darkhold

Laira Darkhold

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Laira sat, pouting in her medical bed. He was lucky, very lucky, her leg was in a cast and she was still bound to the bed by needles and tubes. After everything they had been through and all the emotions she thought they had felt, suddenly it hadn't been real for him. Suddenly all the feelings of closeness and comfort she had felt around him, he threw back in her face like they were nothing. It was all just a mission for the Mandalorian and she was just lucky to have the rug pulled out from under her before she had believed anything could come of it.

 

How much of what he had said was a lie? How much of how he had acted was a ruse, designed by a veteran spy to put off her guard and break through her barriers? Tears streamed down her face and anger, sadness, and sorrow radiated through her aura. Sure the two of them may not have been a match, they likely weren't, but she had hoped they could have remained close. Laira certainly had not expected all her feelings of friendship and dare she say love, if misunderstood, to simply have been rejected.

 

"Why even come to say goodbye, that arse?" She asked between sniffling to the empty room around her. "Just to rub how little I meant to him in my face?" Anger seethed through her veins, she wasn't a petty person, not by nature at least. It was something in the way of how he had suddenly become so detached and distanced from her. They had shared a bed for Force's sake, and now they weren't even on a first name basis! Maybe he was broken up by their sudden separation, maybe he was dealing with something she didn't understand, but for some reason the expectation that they would be friends was shattered for the redhead. It would have been less painful had he not said a word, at least then she wouldn't have had to be vulnerable in front of him one last time, wouldn't have had to struggle with her feelings about him only to be abandoned.

 

Oh, he would pay for that, in due time.

 

Cato Fett