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Revisit and Lessons in Kindness

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Kin-ma was aware that the governor had petitioned for assistance from Mandalor after the autumn floods.  She was even aware that aide had been sent.  She was not, however prepared for a face from her past to appear on the step of her ki-onsen with one of her missing and feared dead grandchildren in his arms.  The gray, black and red of the armor were very much the same, the helmet with the painted crosshairs over the right eye was slightly different, the black line was thicker and the finer line within it was gold not silver.  The rifle looked less worn but was the same sort and was racked in the heavy looking pack on the man’s back.

The elders might have thought ekooloha weren’t real men the first time hundreds wearing the same face had come to save them from the Techno Union, but it took very little time to realize the same face did not mean the same soul.  And many had the souls of warrior poets, dragonfly warriors of singular determination.

She and her mother had housed several.  They had been good men, kind men, but when they had left, she had never expected to rest her eyes on another.

And yet, here one was.

The ki-onsen gate had been open, but the welcome flags were not yet out as it was still quite early and most of the attendants were still either attending to morning prayers, doing set up or in the case of the upstairs workers rousing for a late breakfast or still abed.

The ekooloha knelt down to one side of the door and set the child on their feet and reached up to pull his helmet off.

The face was far younger than she expected and once the helmet was free a long slim que tail of silver fell down his back, the crest of silver she remembered was as much natural curl as helmet hair, but this could not possibly be the same man.  The fine laugh lines were similar, but nowhere as deeply etched and the faint ink spatter shaped scar was missing front the left side of the jaw.

He was just as observant though; she had barely twitched to lean forward over the railing, and he was locking eyes with her and gently redirecting the tired child’s gaze.  The skin around his right eye was unmarked.

The sound of the child crying ‘ba-baa’ and a further sound of people at the gate got the door attendant’s attention and had them bustling out in time for the gate to swing wide and further men in the grey, black and red armor to come in carrying three of her other missing grandchildren and one of her daughters.

She turned and hurried downstairs, this was a very good reason for the household to be accepting visitors outside of normal hours.

***

Kin-nia hurried down the stairs, Ban-ha hadn’t seen the man on the step and because the stranger had good manners, he hadn’t rapped on the door post or called for attention then she heard Li-hue cry out for ba’a-san and other people coming through the gate.  She was in such a hurry that she managed to trip on the door sill, but she didn’t hit the step.  Strong hands and arms caught her before she landed on her older sisters’ youngest son.

She looks up into a pale gold washed face and warm silver flecked hazel eyes as their owner bodily lifted her over the door sill like she weighed less than the paper that prayers were painted on and set her properly on her feet where her little nephew could latch onto her leg with a wail.  She stared briefly into the face of the young man, a young face with a crest of white curls and then her nephew wailed again, and her attention is back where it should be.

He was filthy.

Someone had clearly attempted to wash the worst of the mud and grit off of him, enough to see he wasn’t injured but for one small clean scrubbed spot on his face that was covered with a bandage.

Her sister was more bruised and battered and her older son held his baby sister tightly enough and his dark eyes were haunted enough she knew he’d seen terrible things.

The rest of the household began boiling out to take care of their displaced kin.  O’ba’a came out wrapped in just her robe and stared into the face of the younger silver haired man, because when she scanned the courtyard there was another, his crest of silver curls trimmed differently and no que-tail hanging down his back to his armored hips and a small circle and lines tattoo over one eye.  Then O’ba’a looked at the older and there was a flash of recognition in his face.

“Kin-ma,” the voice was a soft hissing rasp, he went to one knee and embraced her grandmother and spoke softly.  Kin-nia let one of her cousins take her nephew and shamelessly listened.

Of twenty missing family members they had found nine, four of six grandchildren and great grandchildren were essentially unharmed physically, they had brought five home today the other four were either refusing to leave because they were able to help search or so injured, they could not yet be transported.

Her older brother and her sister’s husband were searching.  Her younger brother was badly injured and could not be moved.  His wife was refusing to leave his side.

These armored men would be returning to continue helping with the search, and later when hope of life was done with recovery and clean up.

They took the brief time for a small cup of plum wine, and promised if they were able, they would return for a more proper sharing of rice.  The younger coiled up his que-tail and set his helmet back in place as the elder kissed her grandmothers’ palms with reverence then rose and put his own helm back on.

Then the four soldiers sketched quick bows and were trotting out the gate, she darted out to watch, but they picked up speed as they moved down the road south.

“O’ba?  Who were those men?”

“The white haired one I knew from the wars, he and his brothers are nine-nine, fortunate ones.  I did not expect to ever see Cross-san again.”  There was a strange sad smile on her grandmother’s face.  “His younger ekooloha is proving to have the same sort of soul as his image.”

Ekooloha, a clone?

He looked nothing like the bronze skinned, blocky and strong-featured men she associated with being ekooloha of Mandalor.  He was too tall, his skin and hair to pale.

“We should see to our kin and burn prayers of thanks that some of our lost have been returned.”

Yes, prayers would be good, she quickly ran through where the ink stone was, and after that she would wash rice so the children could have the comfort of a full belly even if their minds could not be set at ease.

She focused on helping her grandmother inside and finding what she needed to paint the prayers.

***

Scope kept pace, his scanners said there was still at least one life sign out here.  He raised his rifle and scanned the far bank of the torrent that a few weeks ago had been a picturesque and serene river.

There they were.  Two small figures.  They had somehow scrambled up the cliff face and were perched on a narrow ledge trembling in what had to be a hellish mixture of fear, exhaustion and cold.  The girl was probably about twelve standard, then the doll tied to her back moved and he swore savagely and togged his com.

“I have three, a girl with an ik’ad on her back and another smaller child.  They are on the far side; I need help for a traverse.”  Buir would murder him if he tried to do this without backup standing by.  There had been to many close calls with large debris in the river and rescuers needing rescue very urgently because of it and even without that issue some of the lines were starting to fail from overuse.

“We are closest, Crosshair and I will assist.”  Scope let out a small sigh of relief and began doing more focused scans on the rock above and around the shivering ad’ike, he had some solid things to tie off on this side, he just needed a good spot on the far side for an anchor.  He really didn’t want to go into the washbasin mess that was the rivers’ current state.

He found a spot and shifted to the traverse line actuators and slowed his breathing as he focused on getting perfectly into the hairline split in the rock half a meter over the girls’ head.  High enough to be securely into more solid rock and make it where gravity would speed a trip back.  He focused on his shot, not the fear and hope mix in her eyes when she saw him.

He was watching as the doubled up light line spooled out and when the anchor hit and the secondary charge went off and drove the anchor head deeper into the rock he caught the lines in his left hand, a pair of hands took his rifle, and he didn’t spare a glance for his ba’vodu as he tugged the lines and then yanked hard.  Only when he was sure the anchor was as well set as it could be, did he look over at where his buir was splicing and welding the lighter line to a heavier one.

He got a nod and began the quick, smooth hand-over-hand pull of the light line, ba’vodu Tech was recoiling the lighter line as his buir fed the heavier making sure nothing would tangle.  They’d had that happen once already today, and while the lighter line theoretically would hold Boomer and ba’vodu Wreckers combined weight they didn’t want to push their luck.  If the heavy line began to fail you had a few seconds to get off of it, the light just went, and you were in the soup.  Scout had demonstrated that this morning, if it had been anyone else, they might have lost him and the two survivors he’d been hanging onto.  He’d installed the drop failsafe on his rig, and it meant he had two hands to hang onto people with when the far end of the line went kark it I quit. 

Scout had put his back to the current, hung onto his passengers and prayed as several vode scrambled to pull them in.  His buy’ce had taken a good thump and the back of his armor had been scoured clear of paint but all three were alive.  He was also on concussion watch, so for at least a little while his part in the rescue and recovery job was done.

The heavy line came back and ba’vodu Tech was running the ends back and securing them while Scope dropped his pack and began rigging his lines.

“You don’t have to do this part,” Cross’buir sounded stressed, but he hated seeing people he cared about in danger.  This mornings near misses had rattled everyone, and he hadn’t been in a position to help.

“I’m still lighter,” he double checked the extra harness and let Crosshair double check his rig, then Tech rechecked both just in case.  Then he took a couple deep breaths and clipped himself in.  Cross caught the back of his buy’ce and rests the fronts together where he could just see his father’s eyes through their visors.

“Be careful.”

“As I can be,” he promises, then he’s released and looped his ankles over the line and began pulling himself hand over hand along the lines.  He’s grateful when his ba’vodu patches in a view from his buy’ce so Scope can see where is in relation to where he needs to be, it lets him see how agitated the younger child is.  Without that little heads-up window, he wouldn’t have had any chance to grab the stupid, terrified child when they leaped for him.

As it was it was a scramble and he needed both hands to keep the kid from tumbling into the raging waters below them, enough of a scramble they’d slid several meters back down the line before Scope was able to stop the slide and get stable enough to get the kid semi secured to his chest.  Then he saw the tree being swept downstream and hurried to get closer to the safer side of the river, praying he’d get clear enough that if the tree caught the line, they wouldn’t go with it.  He could reshoot a line for the girl and the baby if he had to, but if they went into the water all bets were off.

***

Tech heard the strangled oath from Crosshair and froze as he watched a massive tangle of an uprooted tree rolling, jinking and sliding down river.

Moving toward where Scope was precariously dangling with a young child clinging to his chest.

“Clear the river, massive debris headed down,” Crosshair snapped over the team coms, he could not help his son, he could get others clear one way or the other, a few seconds warning was all most would need.

From the swearing Tech knew several verde were hustling and heard one bitching about having eyes on and Crosshair being the king of karking understatements.

The tangle of roots, branches and the Ka’ra only knew what else missed Scope by meters, the line by centimeters and continued its irregular tumbling and jolting path down the river.

Scope skidded to a halt digging furrows in the soil with his boot heels as he came to a halt, Tech leapt to get the child clinging to him loose; and was a bit rougher than he meant to be in his haste but the instant the first child was safe Scope was moving back over the river, faster this time.

The girl did not leap for him, it actually took precious seconds to get her to let go of the rock face and take Scopes hands.  This time he had locked his legs around the cables so he would not move as he pulled her up by main strength and got her as secure as she could be across his chest.  Then Tech could see him cupping the back of the infant’s head as it was perilously close to the lines and start moving back.

The extra bit of weight and his urgency added a fair bit of speed, but then Tech saw the reason for the urgency. The water levels were rising again.  The instant Scope was above land Crosshair cut the line and grabbed them, Tech grabbed the other child and Scopes pack and rifle and bolted for higher ground as fast as he could go.

They made it to the top of one of the enormous blocks of granite just as the wall of water swept through.  Tech could hear the warnings he; Scope and Crosshair had been shouting being repeated and the frantic scramble to get as many people as possible clear of the new rush of floodwaters.

“Good thing we put the aide station on the cliff side of the river,” Scope observed as he panted and tried soothing both the frightened girl and the shrieking infant.

“Indeed.  It appears the temporary dam held as we expected it to.”  Tech observed and kept a firm hand on the other child who was not coping with the stress at all well and was having flailing hysterics that put him at risk of falling into the waters they had just escaped from.

“Given it wasn’t supposed to hold for more than ten hours and it’s been thirty I’d say we did good.”

“Still going to take jet packs to get us off of here,” Crosshair snarked, but the lack of depth and venom in his tone spoke of his relief that they were all more or less safe.

“Perhaps not, the water level is dropping precipitously,” Tech watched as water than had been under a meter from their perch began dropping.

“Me'vaar ti gar?” came the stressed snap over the coms.

“Scope, naas. Three civilians safe.”

“Crosshair, naas.”

“Tech, naas.”

They heard others checking in and some tension bled out of Scope and Crosshair both as Hunter, Boomer and Wrecker checked in.  Breaker and Scout had been in the aide center, Breaker as a medic, Scout as a patient and nap toy for some of the displaced ik’ade.  Clearly both had a mental checklist even as he did for vode and verde as voices chimed in with status updates.  One verde had been partly swept but had been able to get xirself out of trouble enough that xir vode had been able to rescue them but xir was done with the rescue effort because xi was now a patient with a broken arm and leg.

Once it was confirmed that all of the verde were mostly intact they began more detailed updates and because they were mostly safe and were uninjured, they were given their ranking for getting retrieved.

“I’m good with waiting, really.” Scope snarked as he flopped over backwards and stared up at the sky.  “Not moving sounds amazing right now.”

A distressed sound had Tech turning and seeing the girl they’d rescued pointing in clear distress toward a puddle of red under Scopes hip.

Cross let out a strangled noise of his own and Tech decided hanging onto a still hysterical civilian was going to be his best means of being helpful.

“Oh, yeah.  I’m going to need a new flight suit until this one can get patched.”

“How bad?” asked Tech as Crosshair peeled off his buy’ce so he could get a clearer look.

“Feels like cable burn,” Scope offered then yelped as Cross carefully poked the area then pulled a bacta wipe to clean it so there would be less chance of infection from the filthy water.  Then once Scope was taken care of, he did a quick check of the girl and did a similar cleaning of the small wounds on her hands, arms and feet.  Mostly scrapes and scratches probably gotten in the mad scramble to get to relative safety.  The other child had better clothing and shoes and was undamaged but for bruises and a few small scrapes on his hands.  The infant was undamaged other than needing a clean diaper.

“It is, just enough that with water it looks worse than it is.”  Crosshair sounded relieved, but Tech understood.  Seeing Scout drop into the river this morning had been harrowing and he’d been too busy hauling on that bit of line to spare the breath for screaming or swearing.

Hearing Hunters scream had been quite enough, thank you.

He’d still hugged his child tightly when he and the two civilians he’d been clinging to had been pulled to safety.  He was somewhat selfishly glad his boys were both on the aide station side of the river now.

They’d had enough time for the hysterical child to scream himself hoarse and finally drop from exhaustion, enough time for the girl to drop into an exhausted sleep and Scope to drop into a doze, cradling the infant across his chest and allowing the girl to use one thigh for a makeshift pillow and enough time for their own tremors to die and the feeling of being flattened to hit when he heard the distinctive roar of a shuttles engines.

Crosshair scanned the sky and let out a low snort followed by a small curl of a smile.

“That sounds like the Havoc Marauder.”

“Your ears aren’t lying.”  He nudged Scopes shoulder and the younger clone startled awake and kept one hand on the child and the other on the girls’ shoulder as he sat up.  He gave her a gentler nudge as he shifted up to his feet.  Crosshair helped him get his pack back on without disturbing the baby and resettled his buy’ce.  Tech rolled back to his feet and hefted the other child over his shoulder and darted for the steps the instant they were deployed.  Cross took the girl and made Scope go up the steps before he followed close on his heels.

Boomer grinned at them as Wrecker took the younger child, Scope did a quick headshake and headed to the tiny excuse for a medical galley they had for something to use for a temporary diaper for the baby while everything else was in the sonic on the speed sanitize setting.  The girl Cross gently set into one of the jump seats then followed Scope in case he needed an extra pair of hands.

He remembered healthy wriggly ik’ade, even if he hadn’t had custody of one for a while.

Crosshair watched Scope wipe down the baby and frowned, that was not a healthy wriggly ik’ade.  For all the volume of crying it had done before it didn’t look well at all.  Scope running a fingertip down its cheek got a head turn at least, but from the pathetic little burble it had begun to get used to not being attended to.

He shot a measuring look back at the girl and the younger boy who was awake, and sulking, tucked into restraints he couldn’t wriggle out of.  He had shoes, the stoutly braided and woven straw cordage ones almost everyone on this planet used, over split toed socks of a thick and durable material.  His trousers were of a similarly stout material, and he had three layers of the wrapped front tunics of varying hem and sleeve length.

 By contrast the girl was barefoot and bare legged she had two of the wrap tunics, but both were more heavily worn and patched, and the inner tunic was more patches than whole cloth.

Not siblings then.

Given the state of the infant he suspected if was more likely the girl and the baby were related and the boy was just an unrelated stranger who had the sense to follow the girl, who clearly had a better developed survival instinct.

He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, he really hated that most core-ward cultures seemed to have issues dealing with the poorest of their numbers.  Intellectually he knew Manda-yaim had to have similar social issues, he just never saw it in Beviin-yaim or Kalevala.

He could hear Scope doing a quick check of drawers, and the relieved sigh told him his son had found what he was looking for.  But their medical bins were stocked a fair bit differently on a mission like this one that their more usual combat related ones.  It took some jerry rigging but between them they got formula mixed a makeshift bottle rigged and got the baby fed.

The look on the girls’ face seeing two grown men in armor fussing over feeding and burping a stranger’s child was somewhat amusing. The look of horrified disgust on the boys’ face was far more entertaining and that child’s discomfort when Wrecker and Boomer wanted to hold the baby too, well; Crosshair never claimed to be a nice man.  And tweaking the nose of a spoiled brat in this minor of a way at least gave the other survivor some relief.

“I have good news and bad news,” Tech started.

“Bad news,” Crosshair didn’t add his voice to the chorus, just snickered at every other adult on board saying the same thing.

“I really do not know why I bother with that lead in, you always all say the same thing,” Tech grouched, but he had a small curl of a smile on his face when he did.  “The bad news is there is insufficient space for us to land immediately by the aid station.”

“That’s not really a surprise given the amount of flooding we just had, most of the flat area is probably still under water.”  Scope padded up toward the cockpit and leaned over the navigator’s seat and reached a hand forward to ruffle Breaker’s chestnut curls where he’d shifted to the co-pilot’s chair.

“That is correct.  The good news is we suffered no major casualties and all the civilians we had eyes on who were confirmed as alive still are, some were extricated a bit faster than was safe or desirable,” Scope let out a huff of relief and interrupted.

“It beats drowning.  Ni’ne ba’vodu.”  Tech gave him a small smile and a nod of forgiveness for the interruption.

“Agreed, however that means more critically injured are being emergency medivaced up to the Negotiator and the Reliant.  And we have a choice,” he glanced back and was Boomer and Wrecker were paying as close attention as Scope and Crosshair.  “We can hold until there is a landing space, and potentially be used to ferry injured.  We can go up to the Negotiator and not have any idea when we’ll be sent back down, or we can land near a settlement that was unimpacted by this disaster.”

“If we do door three, we still have to deal with the kid who thinks we’re torturing him for fun.  Even if we went up to the place were folks sort of know us, I dunno if I’d want to inflict a stranger’s kid on them.”  Scope’s point was valid.  Crosshair slanted a glance at the kid in question.  He had to be restrained in place, the girl had just quietly curled up in a seat and watched them pass the baby back and forth with dark, worried eyes.

“They may understand some basic, but there’s a lot of miscommunications happening,” Crosshair agreed mildly, but he’d rather wait to land.  Shiva was still in the aide camp, and she tended to focus on the crisis under her hands until she dropped.  Not that he or any of the other medically trained did much better, but if he was there, she’d check on him, he would check on her and neither of them were as likely to run themselves into the ground.  Scope was only marginally better about the focusing on the emergency until there was nothing left habit.

“We stick around we can get the kids back someplace where they can understand folks, we can get one of the translators to see who they are, maybe get ‘em back with their families,” Boomer agreed as he cuddled the baby into his chest plate.

“That’s three votes for,” Tech stopped when Wrecker flailed an arm up.  “Excuse me, four votes for wait for a landing spot.”  He slanted a look over at Breaker.

“Five,” Breaker knew Scout wasn’t likely to be evacuated up unless something else went catastrophically sideways.  Tech made a decisive nod.

‘Six then, motion carries.” He toggled the ships com and began talking to the verde in charge of ground control, rather to all their surprises they were given a clearance and a patch of rock to land on, and a stern warning about deviations from flight lines.  But in a situation like this Tech wasn’t about to risk another ship full of injured civilians.

The landing was a dainty almost vertical drop with the neat spin in place to put the nose of the ship outwards but aimed such that the wash of the engines wouldn’t disrupt the camp itself.  Crosshair dropped the ramp and Boomer started out still cradling the ik’ad.  The girl let out a small sound of distress that turned into startlement when she went to follow, and Wrecker scooped her up and carried her a few steps behind Boomer.  They’d go get properly triaged and someone who wouldn’t butcher the local language could get more information out of them and hopefully find their family.

The annoyed sigh, done in near stereo from Breaker and Tech had Cross snickering even as their last passenger began pitching a fit again.

After a moment of Tech flipping through his translation programs he sighed again and snapped out a few words.  Cross watched Scope and Breaker both twitch just from the tone of authority.  He wasn’t sure if it was the tone, their boys’ reactions to it or the actual words that got the kid to stop raising haran for long enough they could undo the restraints and take an arm to escort him out to triage.

“I’ve got this one.”  Tech gave the kid a stern look and firmly escorted him toward the triage area.  Scope managed a wry twist of a smile and followed at a slower pace, his injury was minor and had gotten a preliminary treatment, he’d be fine.

***

Scope made himself useful and found himself minding the monitoring of unclaimed ade and ik’ade including the three he’d rescued yesterday.  According to their translator the boy had living family, so he’d get transferred up to the Reliant soon to be reunited with them.  That was the good news even if the kid still seemed to think Scope, Scout and Breaker were some sort of semi benevolent demon.  His behavior said more demon than benevolent, but it got them a limited form of cooperation and the rest of the team was grateful for that.

The girl had no living family that she knew of other than her baby brother and had been heartbreakingly grateful for better clothing, shoes and the formula and diapers for her brother.  Lai-na didn’t even know her proper family name and knew her mother and older sister had died.  The way she spoke it left Scope with a nasty nagging feeling at least the sister had died from something unrelated to the flooding, but the translator had just made a small moue of unhappiness and refused to clarify.

Breaker had been trying to translate the recorded bit Scope had off his buy’ce but wasn’t certain as any of the old Doi-ca language variants were challenging.  Ba’vodu Tech called the language set ‘infernal’ more than once which was really something coming from him.

A broken little wail and Scope was moving.  He got to the ik’ad before Lai-na did and was doing a quick check.  Dry diaper, a glance at the chart attached to the bed told him the little one had been fed not that long ago.  So, he cuddled the little one to his chest and made soft noises to try and soothe him.  Being on duty here meant he was out of his torso armor so the little one at least got the extra warms from Scope’s blacks.  The girl was giving him conflicted looks so he settled to the floor of the shelter and let her half cuddle into his lap.  He knew she was around fifteen, but she was tiny so her in his lap and the baby cuddled between them more or less worked.

“Scope, would you please verify this?”  Breaker had a look on his face that Scope usually associated with him finding something he really didn’t like.  Scope took the pad and scanned the first screen and found his eyes narrowing in thought.

“Grab buir.”

“Ba’vodu Crosshair?  Why?”  Breaker seemed startled.

“Remember that group we ferried?”

“Yes, that’s why I wanted you to verify this set of readings.”

“Buir knew the matriarch.  He may have an idea that is a,” he grimaced.  “Less nasty reason than what instantly jumps to mind.”

Breaker nodded and made the request via his wrist comm.

To both their surprise Crosshair was striding in only a few minutes later, he must have been doing something over in one of the main shelters.

Scope handed up the pad and he and Breaker quickly explained their findings, and from the sudden intent look on Cross’buir face his hope for a less nasty reason than abandonment might hold some water.

He remembered Kin-ma from the Clone Wars.

Kin-ma had two sisters that had never been found.

Lai-na wasn’t the right age to be the daughter of the older sister, granddaughter maybe, or the daughter of the younger sister.

The genetics were showing kinship and there were lines to her face that were similar to the girl Scope had caught when she tripped in her haste to get to him and the child he’d been returning.

And it wasn’t like these two had anywhere else left to go.

“Good catch Breaker.  I’ll bring it up to the relocation team.”

“Would we be taking them back?” Scope asked trying to smile at the girl who clearly knew she and her brother were being discussed and was very afraid.

“I did promise Kin-ma we’d be back.”  There was a slow curl of a smile.  “And it would be interesting to see if Tech still blushes when she flirts with him.”

Scope blinked and shared a look with Breaker as his brother’s eyes went round behind his goggles at the very thought of someone not his buir flirting with his other buir.

***

Kin-nia heard the sound of a ship overhead and blinked when she saw a shuttle folding it’s wings up like a paper crane and settling on one of the elevated landing pads on the hillside behind the ki-onsen.  There had been some business today, but not as much as before the flooding.  Mostly a small number of businessmen who had need of a longer range holo transmitter so that they could check in with families and associates now that the initial rush of rescue efforts was settling into clean up and rebuilding and a few cases of recovery of lost ones to be returned to their families.

The sight of familiar gray, black and red armors had her heart lifting.  She recognized the ones with silver curls and let out a cry of joy that her younger brother and his wife, her sister and her husband and her older brother’s faces were there.  Her younger brother was in a floating litter, but he was alive.  Two of her missing nephews had been found but the rest of their lost she did not see.

It hurt, but they had been far more fortunate than many.

O’ba’a greeted the armored men with joy and relief that they were returning so many and was surprised when the one she called Cross-san took a knee and showed her a pad.  Her hands covered her mouth and her eyes filled with tears.  Then the younger silver haired man gently shepherded a girl and a tiny baby closer and O’ba’a let out a gasp and cupped the girl’s cheek.  Then she looked into the baby’s face and embraced them both weeping

Her sister whispered an explanation.

The whole family knew O’ba’a had lost two sisters to the wars.  By chance two children had been found that were too closely related to them to not be kin of some kind.  The grandchildren of the elder sister or the children of the younger it would take some careful questioning to be sure of which, but kin no matter what.

And they had been orphaned by the flooding.

Kin-nia set her chin firmly and walked over and wrapped her outer kamusi over the girl which had the poor thing bursting into tears.

But she would be taking good care of her newly found little sister and their baby sibling.

***

Scope had initially been confused when one of the younger women threw her outer robe around Lai-na, especially when she promptly burst into tears.  But the startled and happy look on Breaker’s face told him this was a good thing.  So, he stepped back and nudged his brother.

“Kin claim,” Breaker whispered, his face lighting up with glee.

“Gai bal manda?”  Scope clarified.

“Very close, she’s claiming a sister.”

Scope felt some of the tension slip off his shoulders and accepted a tiny cup of the fragrant pinkish wine they’d had the last time they were here with a smile.

Later when everyone was safely settled Scope found himself getting scrutinized with what felt like approving gazes as he helped some of the smaller children getting their portions of fish and rice.  To him it was just like back home in Beviin’yaim where the older and more settled clan kids helped the younger and newer.  It was kind of nice to have a toddler in his lap even if she was getting more rice on him than in her mouth.  Looking across the low table and seeing Lai-na properly bathed and dressed doing the same sort of thing with a bottle for her brother made him smile.

Missions like this where he could bring families back together, even with the tragedies of the disasters made him feel a little better about his place in the galaxy.  And from the joy on Kin-ma’s face seeing Cross’buir again and meeting Shi’buir for the first time and learning about Ruu and Atin and all the things that had changed for the better in the years in between felt like one of the jetii lessons in kindness.

He shared a look with his brothers and went back to helping the child in his lap eat.