Actions

Work Header

Buir Shaak

Work Text:

Shaak is not the only one to fall backwards and wake up years upon years before her death.

She lets the others take their roles as they’d like. Kenobi and Yoda and Mace are all very focused on the problem of the Sith apparently known as Sidious. Jocasta’s already frailer than is optimal, but she’s got a mind like steel trap and know better than the rest how the Empire actually managed to happen, both the obvious and the less so. She is also the first and readiest to handle the problem of Yan, and the most hopeful that he is not yet beyond saving.

Skywalker is all of physically eleven right now, but so full of power and rage and grief that those three aren’t exactly letting him out of their sights. Plo didn’t fall back with the rest of them, but he’s more than happy to take over Skywalker-wrangling when the others are busy and don’t quite trust the boy to not muck up the plan. This is helped by the fact that Skywalker regularly kidnaps Plo’s favorite initiate for cuddles.

(The initiate also remembers the future. She spends much time lecturing Skywalker between hugs and crying. Nobody stops her.)

Shaak lets everyone do as they will. Objectively, they don’t need her on Coruscant.

She heads to Kamino.

--

The Kaminoans are confused but welcoming. Nala Se hides her annoyance. Lama Su and Taun We don’t realize that the Jedi aren’t meant to be here yet. Burtoni isn’t in Tipoca City.

Shaak asks to speak with the progenitor. She is led to Jango Fett’s rooms.

He stiffens when he sees her. He has not yet worked through his traumas of Galidraan. He does not act casual and confident, as Kenobi claims he had in the future. She smiles, and she knows that he sees her fangs. She asks to speak with him.

Woodenly, he agrees. He lets her in. She sits at his table. He serves tea.

Boba toddles about. She smiles when he collides with her leg. He is two years old, and very chubby. He fits nicely in her lap.

Jango doesn’t like that very much.

“This entire project is a trap,” Shaak tells him. “Both for my people, and for you.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” Jango tells her.

“It’s a long and complicated story, and I imagine you wouldn’t believe much of it,” she says. “You bought into this plan because they told you it would give you a chance at revenge against the Jedi for Galidraan, yes?”

He stiffens, rage palpable but stifled and hidden away. Shaak can feel it, but she’s sensitive to such things.

“Galidraan was arranged for by Death Watch, and Death Watch received funding from Sith—or at least people claiming to be Sith—to do so. Those same Sith are the ones that contracted and paid, through deception, for this army.” She takes a lek in hand and uses it to capture Boba’s attention, as he seems a mite bit annoyed that nobody is playing with him. “Upon destruction of the Jedi, the army would be turned to destroying other threats to the burgeoning Sith Empire’s power, which would include the Mandalorian sector.”

“Mandalore is demilitarized,” Jango says. He doesn’t seem to believe it, but he does say it.

Shaak shrugs. “Believe what you will. My only role right now is to oversee and scale down the ongoing production, and ensure a higher rate of ethical treatment and removal of more extreme training methods, along with gene therapy to negate the advanced aging, removal of behavioral chips, and deprogramming. We the Jedi do not hold with many of the abuses being committed here, nor do we wish to allow the indoctrination occurring. We will take responsibility, as they were ordered in our name, but as we are currently at work to stop the impending wars before they start, we’ll be looking to minimize the rights violations and set up alternatives.”

She smiles at him, and takes up her cup of tea, and says, “We would certainly appreciate if you stuck around to help, as they are your children.”

The eldest of the command batch should be three right now. The alpha clones, five, perhaps six. The main generation of troopers would be Boba’s age, only two.

Even the Nulls would be seven at the absolute most. Fourteen, physically.

Jango’s eyes are fixed on the toddler in Shaak’s arms. Wordlessly, she picks Boba up and holds him out to his father. Jango cradles him like something precious.

Shaak waits. There is no Colt to help her, this time, but that’s alright. There’s no war to fight, either. It will be a simpler process.

“I didn’t realize what I’d agreed to, when I signed on,” Jango says. He does not meet her eyes. “I didn’t realize they’d be… people.”

She says nothing. She waits.

“I’ve been trying to deny it,” he tells her. “Trying to convince myself that they’re not. That they can’t be. That only Boba really matters.”

She blinks placidly at him. “And?”

“And it was working,” Jango says, simple as anything.

“Did you want it to?”

He tucks Boba closer to his chest. He stares at the wood grain of the tabletop. He doesn’t answer her.

“They can still be warriors, if they’d like,” Shaak tells him. “You are their father. You are Mandalorian.”

He winces. She ignores it.

“And so, they are Mandalorian in turn. A child can disown a parent, in your culture, correct? Until they do…”

She does not shrug.

Jango stares at her. Shaak does not know what thoughts are going through his mind right now. She can guess. She knows where he would have gone, eight years down the line. She knows just how thoroughly his disregard would have manifested. She knows the kind of conflicted mix of yearning and hate the clones would have ended up with, in search of his approval and affection. The former, he’d have given only sparingly. The latter, he’d have given not at all.

“We want them to have choices,” she tells him. “But you are their parent. You have a responsibility to them, even as they are in the millions. I don’t expect all of them will want to be soldiers. But if they want, as many children do, to be just like their parent, then many will wish to wear armor and carry blasters all the same.”

Boba is sucking on his thumb, watching Shaak speak. He is very small, and very cute, and it’s almost hard to believe that he would commit his later crimes, when she sees him like this.

“I don’t have custody,” Jango says.

“No,” Shaak says, “but I imagine you should involve yourself anyway. They will be better for it, knowing their parent has any care for them at all.”

He twitches. It is not quite a flinch.

“Come,” she says, and stands, and turns. “Let us visit your children.”

--

Shaak knows Tipoca City well. Though Jango has been here twice as long as she was, Jango does not have the Force. Shaak grew up in the Jedi Temple. She knows her way around structures that sprawl.

The Nulls have already left Kamino. She’s not entirely pleased to have missed them. She visits the Alphas, and is greeted by children with round faces and distrusting eyes. They are five-and-a-bit, physically ten, and their little hands already carry callouses.

“Hello,” she greets. She bows. “I am Jedi Master Shaak Ti.”

They look at Jango for instruction. He nods. The trainer wears durasteel, not beskar, and Shaak can feel their shock.

“Line up in two columns to follow me,” she instructs. “Hold hands with the brother next to you.”

One of the clones lights up with curiosity. They do not ask a question as the Alpha batch rushes into the two-clone tail.

She goes over anyway. “You have a question?”

The little one shifts. Looks away. Looks back up. “Are you a girl?”

“A woman,” Shaak says. “I’m a little old to be a girl, these days.”

The clone blinks at her, wide-eyed and wanting.

“Are you a girl?” Shaak asks.

The clone’s head goes down, eyes on the floor and lip all bitten. “…I want to be. Can I?”

“If you want to be a girl, then you’re a girl,” Shaak says. She thinks she remembers this one, from later. They’d met only once, but… Sheila, she thinks.

She won’t name any clones unless they ask her to.

“Alright,” she says. She smiles, and stands back up, and goes to the front of the snake of clones. “We’re visiting your little brothers. Let’s try to behave in the halls, shall we? You can whisper, but we’ll be passing by some rooms where the littlest ones are napping, so be careful.”

She is treating them as she would initiates, not little soldiers, but that’s the point. They deserve to be children. Kamino will bend on this.

She will ensure it.

--

Shaak Ti sets a small company of Alpha troopers loose on the room where the commander class are learning their numbers and letters. There is an entire battalion’s worth in this training room, and so when she tells them to each find a squadron to mentor, it’s almost exactly enough. One squadron goes to the trainer that had followed them. She tells them that they’re going to play a learning game. She explains the game. She sets them to work.

Jango’s face is doing many interesting things. She asks to hold Boba again. The request is declined.

Alpha-17 wanders up to her with a gaggle of CCs. She knows them all. They look approximately six years old, physically. She wants to pinch their chubby little cheeks. She refrains.

“Wolffe wants to talk to you,” Alpha says.

She’s sure many of the clones want to talk to her. She doesn’t mind. Shaak goes to one knee so as to be on eye level with the clones. “Hello, Wolffe. Have the rest of you picked names yet?”

“I’m Kote,” one of them says, hiding behind Alpha. “That’s Fox. 6454 hasn’t picked one yet.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Shaak says, inclining her head in a nod of acknowledgement. They giggle and preen in the way of small children happy to be treated as adults. “Wolffe? What did you—”

“Geonosis.”

She stills. She tilts her head. She blinks. “Hm?”

“Starts there,” Wolffe says. “Utapau should have ended it.”

Alpha looks annoyed, perhaps aggrieved. The other CCs looks confused and worried.

“I see,” Shaak says, careful as she leans forward and sinks to kneel amid the pooling of her robes and skirts. “Did you make it to Endor?”

“Yes,” Wolffe tells her. “Me’n Rex.”

Shaak blinks placidly. “He knows as well, then?”

Wolffe nods shortly.

Shaak stands. She turns. She goes to an interface at the door, and searches up CT-7567. She turns to the rest, eyeing them, and then decides that she doesn’t mind if they tag along. Should Jango make any guesses, it’ll likely be that these boys are Force-Sensitive.

Time-travel is ever such a stretch, after all.

--

“Fulcrum remembers,” Shaak says.

Rex bursts into tears.

It’s very clear that nobody knows what to do about this. Rex is two, after all, physically four, and even as a clone, he’s expected to act like a toddler. His crying is quiet, which is a kindness only in that it doesn’t set off Boba in turn. Alpha’s panicking. Wolffe is panicking. The other CCs are panicking. Jango is frozen and staring in horror. Boba is actually two, and thus useless beyond being adorable.

Shaak considers that Rex is physically a child, and has all the emotional regulation of one, with the lovely little hormones and instincts that come with such a small and underdeveloped body. He is not going to be able to stop himself, no matter how rationally he can think about such things. She goes to her knees and gathers him against her, using the span of her sleeves to cocoon him close. The crèchelings usually feel safer with that wall between them and the world. She is gratified to find that Rex is comforted just the same.

She inclines her head, gesturing Wolffe closer. He sits with her. Rex’s hand, so very small, slips out between her torso and the curve of her sleeve to take Wolffe’s.

“Does General Koon remember?” Wolffe asks.

Shaak shakes her head. “No. I doubt that will stop him.”

He knows what she means. Most do. Plo is very known when it comes to his care for children. He’d never taken more than a year or two between padawans, until the war.

“Are you mad?”

She looks to him. “I’m far from crazy, young one.”

He does not iterate just how old he is. She is still older, and he is very small. “No, I meant… angry. About the Purge.”

Rex’s breath hitches. He whimpers against her chest. It is not quite a wail.

“You had no control. None of you did.” Shaak lets go of Rex to pull Wolffe closer to her side. She runs a hand down the back of his head. He seems to enjoy that. “We could not judge you for that. We could never hate you. What anger we have, those of us who even know, has long since faded to grief for you.”

Then Wolffe starts crying, too.

--

Jango invites Shaak to a drink in his rooms.

She accepts.

It’s a brandy from a planet in Wild Space, one she’s never heard of and never had reason to visit. It goes down smooth. Fett has good taste.

Boba, at Shaak’s own suggestion, has been left to socialize with Rex’s batch, under the supervision of Alpha and his CCs. It’ll be good for him. He deserves someone other than his father in his life.

Jango won’t meet her eyes. He’s not putting his helmet on. It’s obvious.

He stares into his brandy. “They can be children, now.”

“They can,” she agrees.

“…Wolffe isn’t,” Jango says. “Neither is Rex, is he?”

Shaak is silent. She waits.

“They’re Force-Sensitive?” Jango asks.

“Some of them,” she says. It’s not a proper answer. “Fox might be.”

Wolffe had told her that.

Jango sighs. “You keep talking about remembering. With the Force bullshit and how you said I wouldn’t believe it… either reincarnation or time-travel. Given that you outlined exactly what would happen to Mandalore, I’m guessing the latter.”

Shaak takes a sip of her brandy.

She does not confirm.

Jango Fett is smart enough to come to his own decisions.

“Haar’chak,” he swears, head falling back.

“We’ve headed off the worst of it, you know,” she tells him. “As young as your boys are, they’re not much of a threat yet.”

“An afterthought.”

She shrugs, languid. “Not emotionally, I assure you. Of those who remembered what would come, none of us wished to leave the clones as they are. We all, to the last, wanted to help. Other things simply took priority by necessity.”

“Taking out the supposed Sith,” Jango summarizes. He tilts his glass, watching the brandy swish about, and then sighs. “Not just claiming, are they?”

“No, I’m afraid that particular threat is quite real.” Shaak leans to the side, resting her weight on an elbow dug into the plush leather arm of her seat. She likes the way Jango’s eyes trace over the line of her body when she settles. She won’t be taking it anywhere, certainly not this soon, but it’s flattering.

His eyes go back to his drink soon enough. It seems he’s not one to dwell on such things, or is at least too polite to do so.

Perhaps one day.

“The threat is handled, you said.”

“We’ve thought the same of the Sith before. We’ll not be so complacent this time.”

He grimaces. She smiles, thin and grim, and laughs lowly when he scrubs a hand over his face. No, she can’t imagine it’s any more of a pleasant revelation for him than for the rest of them. She won’t tell him of how Skywalker is the most perfect an inside man they could have managed, without even trying. Sidious doesn’t have a clue how much that boy knows, and while Vader was not trusted with everything, he’d spent some twenty years at the man’s side, and Sidious had believed his loyalty absolute until the existence of one Luke Skywalker came to light.

“I’ll have to take Rex with me, when I go,” she says. She ignores how he stiffens. “I imagine he’ll sneak aboard if I don’t do it on purpose. Little ‘Soka will be more than upset with me, if I try to stop him.”

“You’ll be coming back?”

Shaak blinks at him. “That eager for my presence, Alor?”

“They like you.” They certainly like you more than they like me.

He doesn’t have to say the words for her to hear them. Being a Jedi has its problems, after all. Hearing thoughts even when they aren’t meant to be heard is an occasional risk.

He’s very good at projecting.

“I will be returning,” she assures him instead. “My place and role is here. Plenty would have wanted to be the ones here, but I am the one who knows the facility and processes and children best. Besides, with this many children and nowhere to put them…”

She shrugs. “Kenobi can help you lobby with the Duchess, if you’d like to get them Mandalorian citizenship. It may be an issue for those who wish to be warriors, but—”

“I know the state of my people, Master Ti,” Jango cuts her off.

Well. Yes, he would.

He does not apologize for cutting her off. Perhaps presuming he would need such things explained to him was an insult, considering his former role.

“Do you approve of her?” she asks.

“The Duchess?” Jango asks, and then shrugs when Shaak nods. “She’s not my first choice, but from what I understand, she’s trying to terraform what the Republic bombed out centuries ago, and the population’s actually going up for the first time in decades. Less foundlings getting taken in, but I’ve heard Dred Priest complaining that that’s because there are less wars being fought to orphan them in the first place.”

He frowns at the wall behind Shaak, and is silent for long enough that he likely assumes she’s hoping for something more concrete. “I’m not too sure on her rhetoric, or the social push for less armor and the like, but the policies are sound. She’s gotten consensus from a greater portion of the clans and civilians than I or Jaster managed, and she’s used that to work on stabilizing the economy and standardizing the quality of life.”

“So… I don’t like her as a speaker or as a person,” Jango summarizes. “But she’s better than Death Watch, and whatever she’s doing is working. Considering she hasn’t gotten hundreds of people that swore their lives to her killed, in a pointless fight where she shot first and asked questions later, and has managed to keep power for this long without an army to make it happen? She’s doing better than I did. Not a fan, but I wouldn’t complain if I was still there.”

“Even if you would have been displaced to Concordia, being a warrior?” Shaak pushes.

Jango doesn’t meet her eyes. “I chose to remain a bounty hunter. I could have retired to be a farmer like the family I was born to. There are no jobs for warriors in Mandalore, because there are no wars, so any who remain are looking for trouble by not choosing to… become blacksmiths or farmers or doctors, or find work elsewhere, or adjust their skills to government security like the Duchess’s Protector detail.”

He stands. He starts to pace. He’s not angry, quite, but he’s not happy. “I don’t agree with the deportation to the moon; I think that a warrior should be able to maintain their home where they chose to be, especially if it’s ancestral, even if they seek to use their skills as a warrior elsewhere. Had my life not gone as it had, I can imagine myself maintaining a home base on Concord Dawn, and taking work as a mercenary or bounty hunter elsewhere in the galaxy. Somewhere nice and safe to raise Boba, and putting my skills where they fit, because I worked hard to be able to do what I do.”

He looks ready to throw a glass. He doesn’t. “I also can’t argue that it hasn’t ensured stability for the past decade that Mandalore only rarely has. I can see her logic, even if I don’t like it. She’s trying to make sure that those seeking revenge, against bounty hunters and mercenaries like myself, do not target civilian population areas. If they had home bases all over, and still chose to do battle to make a living, others would get hurt. Granted, that means she doesn’t have a standing army ready for defense, which is a pain in the ass to consider when Mandalore has enough enemies that it could be needed, but there’s at least a point to it.”

He drops back into his seat. He takes a long drink. His glass is dry. He refills it. “My people have been raised on war and battle for millennia, Master Ti. Changing that isn’t an easy thing, and I don’t think it’s a pretty one. I don’t agree with all the ways she’s doing it, but I do think it’s necessary if we want there to be a Mandalore left. I don’t like her. I think she’s a pretentious bitch, honestly, but she’s… fuck knows she’s at least managing something.”

Shaak floats the bottle to top his glass up.

He drinks it in one go.

“You could go home,” she suggests.

“Can’t.”

“She wouldn’t ban you, I think. You’d likely be considered a good advisor for integrating a defense system without properly militarizing or—”

“I can’t,” Jango spits. He drops his head, brow to palm, and grinds it in. She can see the grimace, even at this angle. “I failed them completely, once. Death Watch and New Mandalorians both consider me dar’manda. I’ve got a few scattered friends and followers, but that’s nothing. I proved I can’t keep the throne, and then I abandoned my people for years. It’s a damn sight too late for me to go back and do anything.”

“Even be a farmer?” Shaak tries to joke.

“Yeah, me and my three million child soldiers,” Jango mutters. “I’m sure that’ll go over with the pacifists.”

“It will if you’re negotiating for them to work in agricultural revival and terraforming,” Shaak says. “And it’s still in the planning stages, but we were considering integrating the soldiers into our Service Corps. Half their training would be with Jedi, learning for environmental reconstruction, medical service, education, or exploration as they are best suited, and half with you. At that point, they can join the Corps branches to provide those services across the galaxy in relief efforts.”

She considers, for a moment, and then stands and moves to sit on the arm of Jango’s chair. She places a hand on his back. He does not shake it off. “And we’re working up a plan to present to the Senate for them to become the Judicial forces to attend to problems the Jedi cannot. Your boys outnumber us by a rather large factor.”

“Just like that,” Jango mutters. Disbelieving. Disparaging. Disgusted. She imagines it’s mostly with himself.

“You would need to be willing to testify in court about this being a plot by a traitor, but yes. If they try to assign you jail time, we turn it into just coming here and training the clones as you’d planned in the first place.” She rubs his back. He still doesn’t shake her off. “Fett?”

“They can still choose.”

“Yes, they can still choose.”

“They get to be children, they get to grow up at a normal rate, and they get to choose if they join your Corps or the Judicial whatever.”

“Yes,” Shaak says. She takes a risk, and pulls his head to her side. He rests against her. He is warm. He is not crying, but she thinks he may have long since forgotten how. “They have that choice.”

He does not thank her, for giving him the option to no longer press his children into service and convince himself it’s fine, because they aren’t really people.

She doesn’t force him to.

“Fuck,” Jango swears, heartfelt and ugly. “I’m… too drunk to plan this now. Talk me through this Service Corps thing in the morning.”

“So be it. Sleep well, Fett.”

“You too.”