The next morning came and went. Dinui picked up a last minute bounty and left the ship in a hurry, and Kellaro saw his chance in her absence. He knew only had a little time before Dinui returned from the hunt, as her mark was in the city, but he HAD to know the truth of the Assassin.
He dressed in his father’s old Mandalorian armor, pulling each buckle as tight as it would go to fit his slight frame. The helmet felt heavy on his head; it wasn’t his dad’s, for that had been lost. It instead belonged to a Zabrak Dinui had filled a bounty on, and whose head hadn’t been the same shape as Kellaro’s. Kellaro thought it made him look fiercer, though really, the oversized Mandalorian helm looked ridiculous on the young teen.
He quickly let himself out of the ship’s hatch and jogged down to the cantina nearest the Mos Ila spaceport. The bounty for the Assassin was displayed on all the major boards, and Kellaro squinted at each one. Did his father really lurk behind that T-shaped visor, he wondered, or was it a stranger: some monster of a man like the Eternal Empire claimed? Supposedly he had shot an upstanding Knight-Captain in the back…
A collection of bounty hunters was clustered under one such bulletin, paying it no heed but engaged in a game of sabacc. The chits they passed about stood not for money but for jobs. Kellaro felt his lip curl at the unprofessional practice, and he was very glad for the anonymity afforded by his helmet. He slipped among them, thinking he might pick up on some more information, and they gave him room, clearly wary of his Mandalorian armor. But when he continued to stand there in uncomfortable silence, one bumped into him with his shoulder and guffawed softly, derisively, when Kellaro staggered.
It was a test, one he had seen his mother put through innumerous times when breaking into new hunting territory. Kellaro suddenly missed her stoic presence, but at least he knew some of her tricks. Once he had regained his feet, Kellaro placed his toe on the man’s calf and pushed. The man’s knee buckled, and now he was the one staggering. Kellaro let out a derisive guffaw, and it became him the others were looking at in appreciation. He had unofficially earned his place in town.
Once the laughter had died down and the game resumed, Kellaro jutted his chin at the Assassin’s bounty poster. “Heard he was in town today,” he grumbled, making his voice gravelly where he couldn’t make it deep. He hoped it didn’t suddenly crack and give his age away.
The other bounty hunters paused.
“Bet his bounty would go for a lot,” Kellaro added.
“Yeah, to the one who’s tough enough to take him down,” said another of the hunters, an older man with a weather-beaten face and grizzled hair. He watched as the hunter next to Kellaro tried to shove Kellaro again; Kellaro sidestepped, and everyone else laughed.
Yet the old hunter didn’t look amused. “You think you can take him, young pup?” he pressed. “Scrawny thing like you?”
“Yeah, I do,” said Kellaro, squaring his shoulders defiantly.
The other bounty hunters laughed yet again, and Kellaro relented. “But, er, I would be willing to give you a finder’s fee if you can give me any information about him.”
The bounty hunters quieted, exchanging looks. Finally, one pointed towards the back of the cantina. “Mando with that same armor went in there a few hours past,” he said. “If you hurry — and you’re lucky — maybe you can catch him in there.”
“Just don’t let him know who spilled on him,” muttered another.
“Yeah, not likely,” said Kellaro. “I know how this works.”
And so he did, ducking away before the grumbling bounty hunters could think twice on it and call him back. He edged towards the back of the cantina, buying a drink here, talking up a serving girl there, trying to make himself look casual, though he was glad his armor concealed his nervous sweat. He passed through an open doorway into a quiet room, but not a private one. A band was playing a sultry tune in one corner and the lights were dim; he almost couldn’t make out the outline of an armed and armored figure in the corner. The Mandalorian faced the only exit so as to keep an eye on it, and it seemed he was looking directly at Kellaro when he came in. A courtesy drink was at the man’s elbow, untouched.
The Mando sat motionless, and as Kellaro approached him, the teenager’s mouth went dry. The other man did nothing as he came closer, simply tilted his helmeted head so he could see the band past Kellaro.
Kellaro swallowed hard, shoved his worries into the back of his head, then put himself in the line of sight of that emotionless mask. He cleared his throat.
“Su cuy’gar,” said the Mando first, in their tongue.
“Uh…” Kellaro had no idea what to say. “Are you the Assassin?” Might as well confirm his identity, he thought.
But the Mando said nothing.
Then… click, went something behind Kellaro’s head. He straightened abruptly: it was the arming of a blaster, and he was pretty sure he knew who it belonged to. “I told you I was going to take him alone and give you the finder’s fee!” Kellaro protested. “Go away!”
“We decided the credits would split more evenly without paying a kid,” came the sneery voice of the hunter who had kept shoving him at the sabacc table.
“One problem to that plan,” the Mandalorian suddenly broke in, his deep voice calm, though faintly annoyed. “I’m not dead yet.”
Quick as a flash, the Mandalorian yanked out his own blaster and, zam, zam, let off two shots past Kellaro’s head. Someone grabbed Kellaro from behind and bodily threw him out of the way. Zam! Zam zam! sang more blasters, and Kellaro couldn’t tell what was happening as he hit the wall and his overlarge helmet spun in front of his eyes.
By the time he got it straightened out, the Mandalorian’s blaster muzzle was jammed against his neck, in the gap between his helmet and the armor.
“Wait!” said Kellaro. “All I wanted to do was talk, I swear!”
The Mando cursed, and after a moment’s consideration, the blaster muzzle was lifted. “I don’t kill kids,” he said in disgust.
And he started to leave.
“No! Don’t go!” Kellaro cried as the Mando stood up, but the Mando wasn’t listening.
“Run off, boy. This bounty is over your head.”
He had come so close. He couldn’t go home empty-handed now. Kellaro struggled to his feet and pulled off his helmet so the Mando could at least see him, though the light was still dim.
The Mandalorian looked on in silence, expression hidden by his own helmet.
“Are you really the Assassin?” Kellaro asked.
The Mando nodded slightly.
“I think….” He just had to say it. “You’re my dad.”
Slowly the man took off his own helmet, and Kellaro’s heart yammered in his chest. The Mando’s face was pale and deeply rutted by scars. His eyes were a shocking blue and his long, plaited hair a platinum blonde.
Kellato felt tears spring to his eyes. “I knew it. I just knew it!”
“Brant…? Or… Kellaro?”
The name of his lost twin made the tears spill over. Kellaro stumbled forward and hugged the metal breastplate, the man it enclosed: his father.
“Well, you’re one of them anyway,” grumbled Kyolath and hugged him back. The two helmets dropped to the floor beside them, unheeded.
“Mother said you weren’t alive, but I knew it wasn’t true,” said Kellaro. He abruptly pulled back. “Where WERE you?”
“Frozen in carbonite,” said Kyolath. Kellaro’s eyes went round. “Eh, long story. But now I’m here, aren’t I? And… where are the others?”
“Mother’s, er, out of town,” Kellaro said haltingly. “And Brant’s –”
Zam! Boom! Their conversation was interrupted by blaster fire, as a particularly large ion burst exploded over their heads. Kyolath clamped Kellaro to his chest and spun around so his body shielded the teenager from the sparks.
“After you, or me?” asked Kyolath as he pushed them both under the table.
“Regardless, stay behind me.”
“But I know how to fight!”
The next volley almost took off Kellaro’s ear as he tried to jerk above the table, and Kyolath hauled him back down. “BEHIND me!” Kyolath snapped, and the Mandalorian ducked sideways, letting out a return volley between the table legs. He rolled and grabbed his helmet, replacing it neatly before firing several more blasts.
“How can I stay behind you if you keep moving?!” Regardless, Kellaro flattened himself against the table leg. Another shot took out the courtesy drink, splattering him with liquid and glass. Squinting shut one eye, he peered over the table and took his aim. Kyolath was moving around too much, almost like a Jedi, for him to get a clear shot near him. Then he spied a Twi’lek aiming at them from behind another table. Kellaro fired.
His shot caused the hunter to gasp and drop his weapon, and another shot finished the alien off. Kyolath careered sideways into the falling Twi’lek, readied to punch him, then glanced up at Kellaro when he saw the man was already subdued. Kellaro grinned at him.
“Great,” said Kyolath. “Now let’s get out of here!”
They ran into Dinui ship’s hangar with the bounty hunters hot on their tail. Kyolath held back, putting himself between Kellaro and the blaster fire again. The Mandalorian armor they wore would stop most blasts, but he didn’t want to take the chance with his own son.
Kellaro put on a burst of speed as soon as the ship was in view, calling to someone whose name Kyolath didn’t recognize to man the guns. Obediently a pair of them dropped from the ship’s underbelly and began firing; Kyolath had to drop to the floor to avoid the blasts. Of course this new crewmate would recognize Kellaro, but not him.
The ship’s hatch opened and Kellaro ducked just inside, but to Kyolath’s annoyance, the boy then hung around, firing shots into the bounty hunters still coming up the passage. Kyolath crawled to the side, only standing up when he had crates between him and the ship’s guns, and part of the hangar wall between him and the bounty hunters. There were six of them, working together as a team. Two set down shield generators that deflected the ship’s guns and Kellaro’s blaster. Another pair targeted the ship’s engines with cannons, though they only dared to use ionic charges at this range, so as not to tempt an explosion.
None of them had seen Kyolath apparently. He tiptoed up behind them, firing his blaster rifle point blank into one’s back and slamming the butt end into another’s head.
Then someone took him in the back. The blaster shot felt like plasma splattered across the back of his knees; whoever had fired it clearly knew Mandalorian armor and its weak points. The six must not have been so reckless after all. Kyolath went down on one knee, gritting his teeth through the pain. Blaster fire zipped past his head, taking down two of the hunters with what seemed like friendly fire. Then zam! another shot got him just where his breastplate attached to his hip-guards, finding the small gap where the plates pivoted. Skies, that hurt!
Kyolath dropped and rolled to the side, trying to give himself time to think. Kellaro was screaming something, and on father’s instinct Kyolath darted upright again and blasted one of the last hunters standing. Their rearguard had come out of hiding, but either she was a bad shot or — zam! another blast took Kyolath, right on the kneecap. This one was at least deflected, but the ship’s guns echoed over his head as he dropped again, reminding him of that problem, too.
“No! Stop! Don’t shoot!” A form darkened Kyolath’s vision.
“Get out of the way!” His own snarl was echoed by another. The rearguard gunner was closing, her blaster trained on Kyolath and Kellaro up front of him… then abruptly it dropped.
Kyolath looked between Kellaro’s boots, and his heart flipped a few times. He forgot he was down on the ground with several blaster shot wounds on his sides and legs. The pain no longer felt so bad. Dinui.
“Get out of the way!” Dinui demanded again.
“Don’t shoot! It’s not what you think,” cried Kellaro.
“This is no time for your games!”
Ah. She must have been returning from her hunt, only to find these hunters on her own doorstep, attacking her family for what must seem no reason. She probably had seen his Assassin armor, with no comprehension of who was truly inside it. Ironically, just as he had mistaken her for a bounty hunter, so she was now mistaking him…
Easily fixed, at least. Kyolath reached up and pulled off his helm.
Dinui’s blaster clattered to the floor and her hands smacked her face. Kyolath would have laughed at her expression, but he was instead simply looking into her eyes like he’d never see enough of them.
“I told you!” Kellaro was saying triumphantly. “You didn’t believe me, but I told you so! I found him, Mom. I found Dad!”
Even the teen’s giddy joy wasn’t fully registering. Dinui had become the only thing in Kyolath’s world. His long search was finally over.
Dinui seemed to feel the same way, taking his forearm to guide his way to his feet, then embracing him tightly. “I’ve missed you,” she began in a choked voice.
“And I, you,” Kyolath assured her. “All of you.” He opened an arm to Kellaro, who bounded in enthusiastically to hug him. “You wear the armor well,” Kyolath told him.
Kellaro’s grin could’ve taken in the sun.
“And I’ve missed you, too,” Keelath repeated. “You and — where is Brant?”
Both of them abruptly broke away from his hug, looked at each other, then looked at him.
“Brant is–” Kellaro started.
“He’s–” Dinui began with a choke.
Kyolath frowned. It had been his fear, but their faces confirmed it.
Brant was with the Sith.