Middle of Nowhere
The ship rocketed through the atmosphere with a violence that only a vastly inexperienced pilot couldn’t handle. Falling to the ground like a comet, the Upsilon-class Command Shuttle suddenly lifted up before crashing into the planet and soared just above the coarse land before slowing to a complete stop, gently touching the ground before the ramp lowered to the outside world.
A Human stepped down onto the harsh, unforgiving terrain and stretched his arms and legs after the long journey from the Caelus System. He thanked the Force he chose to come at a time when the sun was beginning to set. What were usually hot and barren lands were blissfully cool as darkness began to descend upon the horizon. It left a pleasant orange hue which basked everything in its pleasant glow.
He was followed by a young, timid Sephi woman. She stroked her right arm tentatively as she quickly made her way down the ramp to join him at his side. She thanked her luck the pilot decided to remain in the ship, she wasn’t so confident around strangers.
“Here we are! Home sweet home!” the tall Human said as he spread his arms out in a dramatic pose. He shot her his best toothy smile as she glanced around at… well… nothing. No tree’s, no buildings, no sign of life as far as the eye could see. Nothing but rough, dry ground for mile after mile as far as the eyes could see.
“Ok, I realize it doesn’t seem like much, Dasha,” the Human said. “But this is my homeworld. Yep, that’s right. Welcome to Mandalore!”
This is Mandalore?
Even to her young mind, tales of the warriors of this system stretched throughout the galaxy. Mercenaries, soldiers, and credit hunters. Even during the Clone Wars and the reign of the Galactic Empire, they proved themselves to be fearsome. Hell, Appius wasn’t even the first Mandalorian she had ever met. That particular honour went to one particular sleemo that thought it would be funny to see how she handled a strong dose of alcohol. The answer, unsurprisingly, was not very well. Though at least she managed to get some sniper training out if it.
“Oh, cool,” Dasha said sheepishly.
“Cool?” the Human inquired. “Olaror bat, Dasha. It’s a wasteland and you know it!”
The Ektrosis Aedile rubbed the back of his head and sighed. Dasha’s confidence issues were an issue. An issue he intended to correct no matter what it took. Even as young and small as she was, she was deadly. She just needed to see it for herself.
“Is this really what your home looks like?” the young Sephi asked.
“For the most part? Yep,” Appius answered. Thankful that she was still willing to talk to him. “There were a few domed cities, but otherwise this is it. A result of generations of war and strife that for the most part has left the planet barren. Ironic isn’t it? Mandalore has produced some of the most legendary warriors the galaxy has ever known from Tarre Vizsla to Jango Fett, and yet basic irrigation is a logistical nightmare.”
Appius watched his young apprentice’s reaction. Even without the Force, the young Scavenger was fairly perceptive.
“There was some hope for a time with the New Mandalorians. But that didn’t last very long. Still, some settlements still exist from that time, albeit in secret.”
“Is that where you are from?”
Appius responded with a soft smile, but even despite it, Dasha could tell there was a hidden pain behind his expression. She hated seeing it, part of the man she met when she joined Taldryan was still in there somewhere, even behind the amber eyes and utter snark that most everyone else tended to see.
“Well, you wanted to know where I came from! You keep asking me questions, I thought it would be good to show you,” he said.
“But… we are in a desert?”
“Yep!” Appius replied. “Because I also had something else in mind.”
He pointed to the weapon at her waist, cylindrical in design and highly recognisable as the weapon of Jedi and Sith across the galaxy.
“That,” Appius said. “I’m going to teach you how to use that and I don’t want anyone interrupting us.”
Dasha’s heart dropped into her gut. She was going to get lightsaber training from a Force User, from her Master, from Appius!
“But I don’t want to hurt you.”
By Sephi standards she was still a teenager and her lack of confidence came to the surface full swing. Her body tensed, the sign of a young woman who had seen and experienced far too much. Abuse, neglect, self-worth issues and obviously, confidence. The woes of a hard start to life in an uncaring orphanage bared heavily on her shoulders like a pair of durasteel anchors dragging her down into the floor. These were all things Appius was very much aware of. Getting her to trust him was the first step, but if she was going to survive in the Brotherhood. She needed more experience, more confidence and above all else, she needed to move on from her past.
“Jala, trust me. I’ve been doing this a very long time. You won’t hurt me.”
She took a deep breath, his words calmed and soothed her. He had that effect. Like an older brother to a younger sister, he was perhaps one of the few men she trusted completely.
Ah, to hell with it!
If Appius had faith in her, then she would certainly try! She grabbed the hilt from her waist and held the weapon firmly in her right hand. She pressed the activation switch as a distinct green blade hissed to life. She steeled herself as she watched the Force user in front of her smile and retrieve one of his own weapons. His own emerald blade snapped out of the hilt and he smirked, ready to face her attack head-on.
“Good,” he said. “That’s much more like it!”