When Sabine was very young and still attending the Krownest branch of the Mandalore Imperial Academy, she took a class on other cultures throughout the galaxy that prized a warrior ethos. She studied the Clone Wars tactics of Cham Syndulla and the short-lived civil war between the Mon Calamari and the Quarren during the Clone Wars (Sabine noticed later that none of these people prized a warrior ethos under normal circumstances, but at the time she was still that kid who followed orders and didn’t ask questions, so she didn’t tug at the threads). She studied the Wookiees of Kashyyyk, albeit a history Sabine knew later to have been heavily ‘edited’ to be more palatable to the body that held Mandalore’s leash. She studied the Trandoshans, and she studied the Lasat.
Not that she’d had the chance to learn very much about the Lasat.
“Hey, Zeb,” Sabine called over the edge of the railing, down into the Ghost’s main cargo hold. “I’ve got some oil for your bo-rifle, if you want it. It sounded pretty stiff when you extended it before.”
Zeb blinked up at her, silent for a long moment before asking, “What kind of oil you’ve got?"
Sabine held out the jar for him to look at. He rolled his shoulders and sighed loudly. “That should do the job. They don’t make the brand I used to use anymore, but that stuff’s close enough to serve. And it’s…” He paused, drumming the butt of his palm against a crate. “…It’s been a long time since I oiled the joints. Go get my bo-rifle, will you?”
A few minutes later, Zeb was sitting on the floor of the hold, while Sabine perched on top of one of the crates, her feet dangling a few inches off the ground. The bo-rifle’s hinges screeched as Zeb pulled it out to full length again Sabine winced and wondered how long it must have been since he last gave it that one vital sort of maintenance.
…Probably around the same time Sabine had her last lesson about the Lasat at the Academy. She winced again.
“So…” Sabine’s eyes followed Zeb’s hands as he slowly, methodically applied oil to the bo-rifle’s joints. She’d had years to grow accustomed to it, but it still amazed her how much more patient Zeb was with weapon maintenance than he was with, well, pretty much anything else. But he’d been another person once, like her. Maybe this was one of the vestigial personality traits of that other person surfacing for a little while, to disappear later into the ether. “…You didn’t wanna stay on Lira San with your people?”
Zeb’s ears twitched slightly. “Nah.” He ran his oil-slick rag over one of the shafts of the bo-rifle, hand pausing just a moment before he went on, “If there’re other Lasat out there, they’re gonna need someone to show them the way there. Besides—“ he didn’t look up, but he grinned nonetheless “—I’m on this ship for the long haul. I didn’t join the Rebellion just to ditch ‘em now.”
Sabine nodded, staring off towards the ceiling, not really seeing it. “Yeah, me too.”
Zeb carried on cleaning in silence for around a minute more before abruptly squinting up at Sabine. “You bored or something? The—“ he wiggled his fingers “—‘creative juices’ not flowing like they’re supposed to?”
Sabine deliberately did not shift her weight on the crate. “Something like that.”
“Then come down here and help me. You’re acting like a Danal ghost-hawk, except you’ve got more colors.”
That suited Sabine’s purposes fine. She slid off the crate and sat down on the floor of the hold beside him, picking up a rag and starting on the part of the bo-rifle he pointed out to her. There was something about weapon maintenance that was… calming. Taking her blasters apart to soak the parts in cleaning solution had always been soothing, the methodical steps of taking the weapon apart (speaking for those weapons which actually came apart, rather than the ones who came as a single piece), cleaning the individual pieces, letting them soak or dry or set, then putting it all back together once she was done. Ezra always griped whenever it was time for him to do maintenance on his lightsaber, but Ezra wasn’t Sabine. The process of cleaning her blasters required just enough concentration to let her take her mind off of other things. That had always been useful.
“Here, look.” Zeb pointed towards a couple of modules that had been under the wrappings he normally kept on the bo-rifle. “These are the power packs for the emitters, here and here.”
Normally, Zeb was more than a little protective of his bo-rifle, and ‘protective’ had wound up entailing ‘secretive’ and ‘mildly possessive.’ He’d never let Sabine handle it; apparently she couldn’t be trusted not to spray it down with bright pink paint, which was at least fifty percent unfair. When Zeb had just let Ezra go get it for him, a stab of envy had cut into Sabine’s stomach like a hot knife. If Zeb was going to let her near the thing now, she was hardly going to complain. And here was an opportunity to ask questions. “How often do you need to recharge them?”
He smirked at her, a knowing gleam in his acid-green eyes. “Never.”
At that, Sabine gawped at him, the questions that had been brewing in her mind were forgotten in favor of the one that suddenly ignited. “What? What do you mean, ‘never’?!”
Zeb chuckled hoarsely in the back of his throat. “This baby’s over three hundred years old, and it hasn’t needed a charge in all that time.”
Sabine raised an eyebrow. “What kind of power source do the packs have, then? Do they run off of solar energy, have they got a kyber crystal in them, or what?” She’d learned a little about the bo-rifles wielded by the Lasan High Honor Guard, but that lesson had focused primarily on how the Honor Guard used them to fight, not how they were powered or maintained. It hadn’t been considered necessary for Mandalorian students to know that much.
But Zeb shook his head, his shoulders stiffening slightly. “You’re smart; I bet you could figure it out on your own.” He sighed softly, curling his hand around one of the shafts. “I remember when I first got this thing. It was… so long ago.”
Long ago, Sabine had been a different person. Most days, she tried to forget, but she could never efface that other person from her memory; she could only bury it under the other memories she’d made since then, shut it up in the dark behind walls. It was so easy for that other person to be dragged out into the light again, all edges sharp enough to bleed.
Likewise, it was easy to imagine the other person walled up in the back of Zeb’s mind. Someone less angry, more proud, and much, much younger. Someone who hadn’t tasted choking despair arsenic-bitter on his tongue. Someone who hadn’t watched his world burn. Someone who had edges sharp enough to tear him to ribbons, even through that tough hide of his.
(Sabine kind of wanted to shoot Agent Kallus in the face the next time she saw him, whenever she thought about this. Dragging the person someone else used to be out into the daylight was a little like trying to kill the person they were now. It was vile.)
“So—“ Sabine pressed her fingertips to one of the power packs; even through her gloves, she could feel crackling warmth beneath her fingers “—what do you do if one of the power packs are damaged or go missing?”
Zeb’s ears drooped slightly. “I… I don’t really know,” he admitted reluctantly. “Back on Lasan, there were craftsmen who’d been trained to do maintenance on bo-rifles; they lived right outside the palace, showed up at a moment’s notice. But they’re all d—they’re all gone.” He glanced behind him, as though he expected to see something other than the wall there. “I didn’t see much of Lira San, but I don’t think there were any of those craftsmen there.”
Briefly, Sabine wondered what it had been like to Zeb, to set foot on the legendary promised land of his people. What had it been like for myth to become reality? She’d heard nothing of Lira San in the Academy; that wasn’t considered the sort of thing necessary for Mandalorian students to know. Was it some sort of paradise, a place of sweet grass and cool streams, rolling hills and valleys filled with tall trees and vibrant flowers, a place of mild summers and milder winters? Was it supposed to be a place of spiritual rebirth? Had it lived up to all the stories Zeb had heard as a child, or was it not what he had been expecting?
His people had been there. Even if there were only a few hundred Lasat on the surface of the planet, surely that made up for any other deficiency, and then some, and if Lira San really was the original Lasat homeworld, doubtless there were a lot more of them there than just a few hundred.
Lasan had to still be home to him. If there was any planet Zeb thought of as home, it had to be Lasan, even if Lira San was the Lasat’s promised land. It wasn’t like it was with the Mandalorians, where Mandalore was the homeworld even if a Mandalorian had been born and raised elsewhere (Had been born and raised or lived at any point in exile). Sabine had been born in exile on Krownest, and Krownest was home to her, but Mandalore was still the homeworld whose star she was taught to look for in the night sky, the homeworld she was taught to revere and long for. The ancestral homeworld of her people, even if many of them had been driven off in exile, or had willingly made their homes elsewhere as the Mandalorian people expanded their territory in the Outer Rim.
None of the stories Sabine was told ever included physical descriptions of the planet. Nothing prepared her for that. When she stood on Mandalore’s surface, surveyed barren deserts and crumbling mountains and parched riverbeds, when she stood on Mandalore’s surface and saw a scarred, broken world, it wasn’t what she expected at all. All of the cities and towns were sealed inside durasteel domes, both to ward off enemy attacks and to protect from the terrible winds that blew unimpeded across the surface.
Her mother had told her that standing on the surface of the homeworld for the first time would make her feel small. That she would stand under the vast sky and feel history descend upon her, that she would hear the voices of her ancestors speak to her on the wind. Sabine heard no voices in the wind, but she did indeed feel small. She hoped Zeb hadn’t felt small the same way she had.
“I’d say I could take a power pack from another bo-rifle,” Zeb was saying, a sour note curdling in his voice as though the very idea of it was anathema to him—and it probably was. “But when the Empire was done with Lasan—“ his jaw clenched “—they took all the bo-rifles they could find out of the palace and melted them down live on the HoloNet. Damn Imps,” he growled.
Sabine blinked rapidly, her heart feeling as though its soft flesh was turning to leather, hard and inelastic.
There were a lot of things the Academies on Krownest and Mandalore hadn’t thought it necessary for their students to know. There was one thing they had thought it necessary for the students to know.
In the earliest days of the Empire, shortly after the worst of the anarchy ended and long-range transmissions were re-established, a video had played live over the HoloNet. It was on all the channels; while it played, there was nothing else to watch. Mas Amedda, the Emperor’s aide, made the announcement, while a couple of stormtroopers carried a massive pot full of lightsabers towards an incinerator.
“Never again will we fear the Jedi!” His voice rose high with the passion of a zealot, his eyes protuberant and wild. “Through the grace of our Emperor Palpatine, we were saved from their treachery. The Jedi are gone. The Emperor saw through their Separatist plots, their lies. He survived their attempt to assassinate him. And now, at last, we are safe.”
The stormtroopers approached the incinerator, and began tossing the lightsabers into the incinerator, one by one by one.
“Never again will their instruments of oppression terrorize the galaxy. We have entered a new age. An age of freedom!”
Amedda tossed the last lightsaber in himself, and slowly, so slowly, the incinerator began to smoke.
“Thus tyranny ends!”
The chamber in the incinerator ignited, the fire burning golden—at first. When the fire reached the kyber crystals, it was another story. When the kyber burst (not “died”; Ezra insisted kyber crystals were alive, but how could inanimate stone be alive?), the flames flared blue and shot up into the sky.
It evoked no instinctual response in Sabine. After the fall of the Republic, her family had thought it… imprudent to talk about the Jedi, not even the warnings her brother had been old enough to receive from her parents before speaking of Jedi at all became taboo. She’d heard only bits and pieces about Tarre Vizsla, and even a millennium-dead Mandalorian Jedi wasn’t considered particularly safe to talk about. But she knew it must have meant something to Kanan. She wondered, sometimes, if he’d watched it play out while it was happening.
Something deeper, something closer to her skin echoed out of memory.
“When the Duchess Satine solidified her rule, she summoned the warriors of Mandalore to her side, and took them out into the desert outside of Sundari. She stood before an incinerator twenty feet high and said to us, ‘If you are truly loyal to me, you will strip off your armor and throw it into the fire.’”
Sabine knew it was time to quit stalling inside her head when her skin started to crawl.
“Hey, Zeb? Can I ask you something?”
“Oh, yeah?” He eyed her speculatively, some amusement in his voice, even if he seemed unequal to the task of laughing. “You asking me a question, now that’s weird.”
“I ask you questions all the time!” Sabine protested.
“Really? I don’t remember that at all.” He did sound close to laughing now, his broad shoulders giving a slight shiver. “’Cause usually you’ve got all the answers stowed in that databank of a brain of yours.”
Sabine rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh, but really, if Zeb was in a better mood now, that was a good thing for her. It would make asking the question a lot easier. “I wanted to ask you something about your bo-rifle.”
Sabine peered closely at him, her eyes narrowed. “When we needed to get through that imploded star cluster, you… did something with this thing. You said it was how the ancients among your people had used their bo-rifles. What did you mean by that?”
She could still scarcely believe what she had seen or experienced. They all ought to be dead, torn to pieces by the stars’ immense gravity. And the odds of plotting a safe hyperspace route through the cluster were, well, she didn’t like to think too much about that. Better just to focus on the fact that they’d all gotten through in one piece than on how close they’d all come to being incinerated like all those lightsabers, like all those sets of armor. And she had a few guesses as to what had happened, but she’d still like to hear it from Zeb…
Zeb wasn’t laughing now. He fixed Sabine in a… not a suspicious stare, not really, but a watchful one. “Why d’you want to know?” Raising an eyebrow, Zeb added, “You’ve never asked questions about my gear before now.”
Sabine hunched her shoulders. “You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to,” she said defensively, her voice pitching just a little high. “This is a conversation, Zeb, not an interrogation; I didn’t mean—“
“I’m not mad, Sabine.” Zeb prodded her shoulder gingerly. The floor rumbled beneath them, vibrating in time to the grumbling voice of the engines. “I just want to know why you’re asking.”
It was, in theory, easy enough to tell him why she wanted to know. She didn’t have to get into anything really personal, didn’t have to get into—blood on her hands, shame on her family, what’s a Mandalorian who can’t go back to Mandalore? what’s a Mandalorian without a clan? what’s a Mandalorian who is no Mandalorian?—why she left. It was easy. It was supposed to be easy.
Sabine frowned down at the backs of her hands, nausea twisting in her stomach, hot and sour. It’s just… He already knows you were a cadet. It’s just… You don’t have to talk about your classes. It’s just… Damn it, he’s saved your life more times than you have fingers! This shouldn’t be hard!
“A long time ago, when I was at the Academy, we had this class.” Sabine stared off at the far wall, her mouth contorting in a scowl. “It was… It was supposed to be a class about other warrior cultures throughout the galaxy, but you know the Empire. The only stuff in the lesson plans was the stuff they wanted us to know,” she bit out.
“One of the cultures we were “learning” about was the Lasat.” She could feel Zeb’s eyes burning holes into the side of her head, now. She managed to behave as though she couldn’t feel it as she went on, “We learned some stuff. Not much; if it didn’t have to do with war or fighting, it wasn’t in the lesson plan. But we learned even less about the Lasat than we did about the other cultures on the syllabus.
“One day, it just… It just wasn’t there anymore.” Sabine frowned and forced down a shiver. “It was the middle of the section about the Lasat, but that day, when I came into class, the teacher had skipped over the rest of that section and started on the next one. When I asked him why, he acted like we’d never been studying the Lasat in the first place.
“I went into the school databanks, and there wasn’t any information. It had been wiped from the databanks. There was an access terminal for the general databank, and there wasn’t any information about the Lasat in there, either.” Her stomach began to churn, that sensation of nausea resurgent. “I pulled up a map of the Outer Rim and the planet was still there, but it didn’t have a name designation anymore; there was just the numerical designation. I tried once, after I left the Academy, to look up some info on a databank that wasn’t being filtered for Academy students, and guess what?”
“There wasn’t anything in there, either.” His voice was a low growl; Sabine could just imagine looking to him and seeing his lips pull back from his teeth in a snarl.
Even years later, it was still jarring—one of those moments early on when she had known something was wrong, but had been too wrapped up in the idea that doing her duty meant blind obedience to the Empire to really do anything about it. Sabine could remember going to one of the Academy administrators after asking her teacher and searching the databanks hadn’t helped her at all. She’d asked if there had been some sort of glitch with the system, and could still remember, clear as day, what the administrator had said to her.
“There was never any information of the sort in our databanks, Cadet. The material you speak of was never in your class’s lesson plan. You must be mistaken.”
Why hadn’t she pushed harder? She had been a little girl accustomed to obedience, her family and the Empire both drilling the need to obey into her bones for as long as she could remember. But she had known something was wrong; why hadn’t she asked more questions? Why had she just swallowed that and gone about her business as though nothing was wrong? Why hadn’t she done something?
“Karabast,” Zeb muttered, and Sabine’s eyes snapped back to his face. He was rubbing the back of his neck, staring down at the floor with an almost winded look on his face. “I’d never… I’d never thought to check the blasted databanks.” He gritted his teeth. “I’d have thought killing all of us would’ve been enough for ‘em.”
Yeah, one would think. But they both knew too well the folly of putting anything past the Empire.
Zeb drew himself up, heaving a great sigh. “Well.” He pushed the rags and the little jar of oil aside. “It’s not something we usually share with outsiders, but—“ he smiled at her, warmer than Sabine was accustomed to “—you’re not really an outsider.”
Sabine nodded silently. There was nothing that needed to be said. When someone related the secret history of their people to a Mandalorian, a good Mandalorian was supposed to sit quietly and listen close, and not say anything unless prompted. If you had questions, you saved them for the end. And Sabine was at a loss for what to say in the face of ‘not really an outsider’, anyways.
“First thing’s first—how much do you know about early hyperspace travel?”
Sabine shrugged. “Asides from the fact that it was even more dangerous back then than it is now?”
“Asides from that, yeah.”
“Well…” Sabine frowned in reminiscence, mind seizing on something (mercifully) less sharp-edged than her time at the Academy. “My people first discovered faster-than-light travel about eight thousand years ago. We were slow to capitalize on it; Mandalorian space is home to some spatial anomalies that make exploration hard if you aren’t experienced with hyperspace travel and you don’t have a navicomputer or a beacon to rely on.” In the spirit of keeping this friendly conversation truly friendly, she went on, “I’ve always been told that when my people would send someone off to try and chart hyperspace routes, they’d give them a sort-of mock funeral before they set off.”
Zeb’s eyebrows shot up. “They really did that?” he asked incredulously, a hint of laughter chirping in his voice.
“They really did that,” Sabine confirmed dryly, her mouth twitching. “The explorers would be burned or buried in effigy, or an effigy would have whatever the explorers’ clan considered proper funeral rites done to it, and off go the explorers.”
Her aunt had told her that in the earliest days of Mandalorian hyperspace exploration, when things were at their most dangerous, to die in the name of exploration was considered a death on par with dying in battle in terms of the honor it brought to the deceased and their clan. They did a great service with their lives (and deaths), not just for their clans, but for all of Mandalore, and even an enemy must recognize a service done for their benefit. Sabine wondered sometimes, though, how much that service must really have been considered worth, if history didn’t remember their names.
“Well—“ Zeb reached down and held his bo-rifle in his open hands, balanced evenly on his palms “—we did things a bit differently on Lasan.” He tucked his chin close to his chest. “Or Lira San. Nobody was ever clear about what planet this was happening on.
“When we first started exploring the galaxy, one of the wise-women attached to the palace had a…” he let one end of the bo-rifle tip downwards so he could free his hand up to wriggle his fingers “…a vision. She told the queen the Lasat could safely leave the planet and go out amongst the stars only if certain conditions were met.”
Something about him, perhaps the way his diction had changed suddenly, perhaps the way his tone of voice was more formal than Sabine could ever remember it being, perhaps the slackened set of his face, made Sabine think that he was reciting this tale rather than simply recollecting it, maybe by heart. Was it something Lasat children were taught in school or told about by older relatives? Sabine found herself imagining a very small Zeb listening to one of his grandparents tell him the tale, and forced herself to stop imagining it when she remembered that his grandparents had probably been killed in the razing of Lasan.
“The wise-woman told the queen that she had seen a vision of a staff that would serve as a guiding light through the dark of space.” Yeah, he was definitely reciting someone else’s words, now; Zeb was reminding Sabine of no one quite so much as some of her older relatives when they recited passages from the old epics to the children of the clan, down to the way his eyes were half-shut and he was leaning easily against the crate behind him. “The staff would be held by the pathfinders, Lasat who could wield the Ashla and hear it sing; it would be used to guide the ships through space without crashing into a star or being drawn into a black hole.” His eyes fluttered all the way open, and he fixed Sabine in a searching stare. “You might have heard that the Lasat expanded a lot faster than other Outer Rim worlds. Take a wild guess as to why.”
Oh, no, he had to be joking. Sabine groaned and rubbed her forehead. “You’re telling me your people mapped out safe hyperspace routes using the Force?”
Zeb set the bo-rifle down on the floor with a metallic thud and sighed. “Yep. I’m pretty sure it’s what happened back at the star cluster. We had a wise-woman and two Jedi in the cockpit; if that’s not a recipe for weird stuff to start happening, I don’t know what is. Look, I don’t understand it any more than you do; it’s just…” He sighed again, crossing his arms around his chest. “Force-users can do some pretty weird stuff. I’ve had long enough watching Kanan and Ezra to know that.”
Sabine nodded, but she wouldn’t pretend to be satisfied. The Force? They’d really been using the Force? If Zeb had told her it was all down to some piece of technology left forgotten in the backrooms of history, that would be one thing? But the idea that anyone would use the Force to map out safe hyperspace routes was just… It was so far beyond what she was willing to gladly accept that it wasn’t even in the same galaxy as it.
(But some small part of her, the part that had been hanging around two Jedi and calling them family in her mind for so long now, thought it sounded kind of wondrous. Absurd and ill-advised, but wondrous, too. What her family would think of her to know that—but Sabine had done so much else that horrified them that this would have no more power to move them.)
Okay, she needed to get back on track.
“So how’d the bo-rifle go from being a pathfinder’s tool to a weapon?” Sabine asked curiously, tilting her head slightly. That was a pretty significant shift. Did Zeb’s bo-rifle even have the same design as the original staff? Was it recognizable as a descendant of the latter?
A small smile came over his mouth. “Figured you’d want to know about that. Well, black holes and stars in your path isn’t the only thing that makes space exploration dangerous. My ancestors ran into plenty of people who weren’t friendly to Lasat, and eventually one of the pathfinders figured out that their staff made a pretty good energy weapon when you handled it properly.
“Time wore on. As more hyperspace routes were mapped and more systems were charted, the pathfinders made their way back to Lasan. Their staffs were known more as weapons than as a pathfinder’s tool by then, and they…” Zeb’s eyes flickered downwards; he paused for a long moment. “…They were already very significant to my people. They weren’t—“ his voice roughened in something close to a snarl “—something you took as a trophy off of a corpse. Only the best warriors carried them, so the pathfinders became the Honor Guard for the royal family.” He held his hands out, palms up. “There’s not much else to tell,” he said shortly, and was silent.
Not much else he was willing to tell, more like. But Sabine knew she’d pressed more than she really needed to. She shifted her weight, not quite looking at his face as she murmured, “Zeb? Thanks.”
He waved a hand at her, some of the tension dissolving out of him. “Don’t worry about it. If I didn’t want to tell you, I wouldn’t have told you.” His jaw clenched. “If the Empire wants everybody to forget about the Lasat, somebody needs to know about all of this. There’s gotta be someone who remembers it.”
“The Duchess didn’t ban the use of other dialects of Mando’a, didn’t ban the telling of our old tales, not outright. But someone who used a dialect other than Sundari Standard, someone who told the old tales and showed them proper reverence, they were watched. Not subtly—one of the things about believing utterly in the rightness of what she did was that the Duchess didn’t believe she needed to be subtle. The art of the pre-exile warriors was appropriated for her own narratives; there are times when I think the only reason she didn’t have the great murals effaced is because the public outcry would have been too great. Or perhaps even Satine Kryze recognized what comparisons she would be inviting if she went that far.”
“My people,” Sabine said slowly, “put a lot of value on history. On stories like this one.”
Never mind that the Mandalorians considered their own history and stories far more valuable than the history and stories of outsiders. Even Imperial Mandalore considered other warrior cultures worth learning about—until the day came when one culture angered the Empire—even if they picked over things a Mandalorian would have considered vitally important to understanding their own culture in the interest of teaching cadets a very specific lesson. There had to be someone, somewhere in Mandalorian space, who hungered to learn more about worlds and peoples beyond their own.
We are at our best when we are a diverse people, she remembered her mother telling her once when she was very small, before the Empire had come in force, before anti-alien sentiment had swept through Mandalorian space like a snowstorm and some clans quietly (or not-so-quietly) divested themselves of their alien members. We are at our best when we are a people of many faces and many worlds, not when we are a homogeneous mass.
Maybe things could be different. Maybe… Maybe Sabine and Zeb could get these stories down on datapads and spikes. Disseminate them through the dark, distant corners of the HoloNet that the Empire didn’t yet fully control, and even if the Empire tracked the stories down and deleted them off the HoloNet, maybe someone would have downloaded them to their datapad before then. Maybe they’d share the stories with their friends, who would share it with their friends, and their friends, and the stories would live and breathe, even if known only to a few.
Or maybe she’d get it down on sheets of flimsiplast or durasheet, or even paper if Sabine was feeling very retro. Maybe she’d pass them out by hand like recruiters had passed out flyers at the Academy, or tack them onto walls like the posters that had hung from the Academy walls on Krownest and Mandalore both, but with a better purpose in mind than turning kids into mindless drones.
You couldn’t kill a story. You could warp it—Sabine knew that much. Satine Kryze’s government had not possessed a master of propaganda, not by any stretch of the imagination, but Sabine had heard things. Like how when Satine came to power and exiled all the warriors from Mandalore and called them no true Mandalorians, some of the stories had… changed. Heroes who had fought to protect or strengthen their clans, strengthen all of Mandalore became bloodthirsty creatures who cared for nothing but destruction and slaughter. Cowards who deserted in battle to save their own necks were now more principled than those who stayed true; they were now the ones who stayed true to their principles, the ones who made hard choices in order to stay true to themselves, even if it meant abandoning their families to their deaths. Kinslayers were heroes if their kinslaying ended a war. Jain-adi no longer deserved to go home after twenty years in exile. Liane Vizsla was no longer the ruler who had united the warring clans of Mandalore for a time; she had been whittled down to nothing more than an opportunistic thief and a brute. Melko, the most infamous Mandalorian to come down from legend and history, coward, oathbreaker and kinslayer all, was not exonerated, not exactly, but since he ultimately chose not to fight, he couldn’t be all bad, could he?
You could edit a story, you could suppress a story, you could warp a story, but you couldn’t kill it. The truth was always somewhere waiting to be found. It was the spark that couldn’t be extinguished no matter how someone might try to stamp on it. And there was always someone willing to share forbidden stories. That was the only reason Sabine knew anything at all about Tarre Vizsla, the only reason anyone ever knew anything about the injustices committed by the Empire if they didn’t live on a world where those injustices were committed.
Stories were immortal; they would outlive everything that was made of living flesh. You couldn’t kill a story. Even if you pretended it was dead, it was still there, floating in space, waiting for someone to come by and take interest, and animate it once again. Stories were starbirds of the imagination.
Maybe she could see to it that those stories found their way to Mandalorian space. She’d never be able to spread them there herself, never be able to tell them to the children of her clan, but she could try to make the stories reach them.
“Everybody likes a good story,” Zeb agreed, nodding. “You just gotta find the right story, and the right audience to tell it to.”
And when they found an audience who would honor them rather than forget, the Empire would find that the spark had turned to a fire.