Janus Kasmir, you are a stars-damned fool.
That simple sentence bounced and looped in Janus Kasmir’s head as he waited for the washer to finish with the Baby Jedi’s stinking robes. Grumbling to himself, he dragged a three-fingered hand down his face.
Why had he agreed to this? Letting the stupid kid look at him with Tooka-kit eyes, begging him for a place to sleep - he should have known that he wouldn’t have been able to say no. Now look at him - if he got caught, he’d be executed alongside the kid without question.
The machine dinged, signifying the end of the wash cycle. Reaching down, Janus popped open the door and pulled out the kid’s clothes, tossing the damp bundle on top of the machine. Scratching at his jaw fins, he mentally debated whether or not to bug the kid on how his clothes were supposed to be dried.
Eugh. Janus grimaced and stopped scratching himself. Less than an hour and he was already fussing. Kid was definitely leaving first thing tomorrow.
After hanging up the clothes to dry, he stepped out of the little alcove housing the machines and headed down to the ship’s fresher to see if the kid was done yet.
He was. Still shivering underneath the thin, ratty towel Janus had used for years, the kid stood in the middle of the corridor looking like a lost mooka pup.
“Oi, kid,” he snapped, “quit dripping all over my ship.”
The kid jumped and brought up his lightsaber, making Janus scowl. Kid was never gonna survive if his first instinct was to grab a weapon that marked him for death.
At least the kid turned the damn thing off once he saw it was Janus.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “And don’t call me kid.”
Janus rolled his eyes. “Whatever,” he said. “Just dry off before you hit my bunk. Don’t want a wet spot on the mattress. If you need anything, don’t bother me.”
He didn’t bother to wait until the kid nodded, stomping off to the cargo bay. He had a shipment coming up this week and had to make sure it was all properly accounted for and hidden so as to avoid anyone taking too close of a look. He didn’t have time to check in on the kid.
A quarter of a rotation later, Janus found himself peering into his room and mentally hitting himself.
The kid seemed to have dropped off fast. Curled up into a tight little ball and clutching his lightsaber like a stuffed tooka-doll, the kid’s face was nevertheless slack with sleep. He didn’t stir even as Janus let the doors slide shut and leaned back against them.
He was a truly a stars-damned fool, down to his core. Already, he could feel himself getting fond of the kid. Next thing he knew, he’d offering a position on the Kasmiri out of the goodness of his heart.
Pounding knocks echoed through the ship, making him jump.
“Janus Kasmir! Open up in the name of the Republic!”
Janus jumped and stared down the corridor just as his room’s doors opened and a small bundle of muscle slammed into his side.
Cursing, he pushed the panicking, flailing kid off of him and grabbed his shoulders, giving him a little shake as he babbled accusations.
“Kid!” he snapped in a low voice, “shut it! I didn’t betray you.” Glaring down the hallway as the pounding continued, he muttered, “Must be doing another sweep.” He turned back to the pale-faced kid. “In any case, I have to hide you or my brain’s going to be splattered across the docking bay along with yours.”
Glancing around, it was only a moment before his eyes rested on one of the many hidden compartments on his ship. This particular one was tall and narrow, just the right size for a baby Jedi as small as the kid.
“Here,” he said brusquely, yanking the hidden door open and shoving the kid inside, “stay and here and keep your mouth shut and we might just get out of this alive.” Not waiting for an answer, he closed the door and turned away.
Then paused as a thought struck him. This time of night, most honest people were sleeping. And he was fully dressed.
Quickly pulling off his shirt, he reopened the compartment and stuffed the bundle into the kid’s arms.
“Remember,” he hissed, “stay quiet.”
Then, as the pounding knocks reverberated through the Kasmiri for the third time, he grunted and slouched over, trying to look as if he just woke up. Slapping his hand against the ramp release button, he made a show of scratching himself and yawning as the blank helmets of the clone troopers came into view.
“Evening, gents,” he said with a sleepy, sleazy grin. “What can I help you with tonight?”
“Janus Kasmir, you were seen tonight with a suspected Jedi. Your ship is to be searched under the authority of the Grand Army of the Republic. If you do not comply we will use force.”
Kriff. Where - no, no, he had to stay calm. It had happened, all he could do now was control the fallout.
“What?” Janus half-snorted, half-laughed. “Me? Help a Jedi? Don’t know if you remember, but I made my feelings pretty clear about the Republic back when your General was informing us of our ‘freedom’ -”
One of the clones placed his hand on the butt of his blaster. The lead clone held out a hand to stop him.
“Be silent or I will silence you myself,” he threatened. “Now stand aside.”
Poodoo poodoo poodoo. Outwardly, Janus shrugged theatrically and stepped off of the Kasmiri’s ramp, leaning against a strut with crossed arms. Inwardly, he was furiously going over everything he had in the ship. A few less-than-legal podracing parts in a few crates, some sketchy bookkeeping - there wasn’t much for them to go on. Nothing that would earn him more than a night in prison, he was pretty sure. So long as the kid stayed in the compartment, he would be fine.
Of course, that meant that everything was riding on the clones not finding that particular hidden compartment. And that in turn meant that he had to be as annoying and distracting as possible without getting himself shot.
The clones stomped up the ramp, one clipping him hard enough to hurt. Rubbing his shoulder, an idea struck him. One that would likely get him beaten, but would definitely distract the soldiers.
“So,” he said, putting far too much syrupy innocence into his voice, “I gotta ask; with your General dead and all, who’s authority exactly are you searching the ship under?”
The Commander clone and his trigger-happy subordinate both stiffened underneath their armour. Janus didn’t bother to hide his smirk.
“What, no answer?” he asked, mock concerned. Carefully, he pitched his voice so that the ones in the Kasmiri could hear him as well. “I mean, I know that you clones can’t wipe your own asses without orders. I’m just concerned that after killing those traitors you might be finding yourself at loose ends.”
The other clone standing just half a step behind the commander yanked his blaster out of its holster. Janus glanced at him, his hearts stuttering a little and only starting to beat again when the commander flung his arm out in front of him again.
"Captain," he said; a warning.
"Sir!" came a shout from inside the ship. Janus turned slightly to see what the man was shouting about.
This time, his hearts did stop. There in one of the clones' hands, was the kid's still-damp clothing. He turned back to the other two clones, an excuse on his tongue, just in time to catch the hilt of the captain clone's pistol across his face.
Lying on the ground with blood on his tongue and his face throbbing, he couldn't stop the captain from digging his fingers into his ruff and hauling him to his feet with a pained yelp. Neither could he keep him from slamming Janus against a solid stack of nearby crates. With an arm across his windpipe and a blaster digging into his cheek, it began to occur to Janus that he had may have made a mistake somewhat in helping the kid.
"What did you do to Caleb?" the captain demanded in a low, threatening voice. His blaster dug into Janus' cheek just a little harder, breaking skin and causing a drop of blood to slide down the side of his face. "You got some buddies on your black market wanting a piece of a Jedi?"
"I want that ship torn apart, if needs be," the commander said, just a few feet away. He had one foot on the ramp and his blaster drawn. "We need to find him."
"Answer me, you sleemo," the captain growled, drawing Janus' attention back to him. "Where. Is. The kid?"
Janus could barely hear the pounding of the clone's feet inside his ship over the pounding in his head. Sorry kid, he found himself thinking regretfully. I tried. His mouth quirked up into a little smirk.
A disgusted noise reminded him that he currently had a gun pressed against his cheek. The captain's fury was pouring off of him in waves. Moving his hand only so that he could grab the side of Janus' head, he shoved him roughly to the ground, slamming a knee between Janus' shoulder blades when he tried to get up.
This time, the blaster was pressed against his temple.
"What. Did. You. Do?"
"Found some abandoned clothes," Janus slurred. "Thought I could sell 'em as genuine Jedi artifacts; after all, those gotta be rare now, right?" He giggled hysterically. "Or at least, they will be." He could hear the trigger being squeezed above him.
Well. He had had a good run. Maybe he'd be used as a warning story for young criminals; 'don't help baby Jedi, no matter how pathetic they look.'
A snap and a hiss, like meat hitting a hot frying pan. And the clones still in the ship began to yell.
Lying on the ground with a blaster pointed at his head, Janus couldn't see much as he angled his head. He could hear plenty. Thumping and shouting, punctuated with the sounds of blasters firing and that buzzing whoom-whoom of an ignited lightsaber. And the swearing, of course. Clones jabbering at each other in their military jargon, the kid screaming nonsensical threats - it was a zoo. And despite the fact that it was the kid that had got him into this situation, Janus couldn't help but grin and silently cheer him on.
Yeah, he thought, make 'em go through the nine Sith hells to get you. Maybe a new tenth one for me and the ship if you can swing it.
He was too busy smiling to notice the clone commander drawing his gun. It was only when the light from the kid's lightsaber made the metal gleam that he saw it. He opened his mouth, trying to shout a warning -
The commander fired.
The kid's yell cut out.
Janus froze. There was a thump from the ship, like a body falling to the floor. A pale arm flopped out from the doorway, lying limp, a lightsaber hilt falling from the slightly-curled fingers.
It rattled down the ramp, the sound echoing in the now-silent hangar, rolling across the duracrete until it bumped against the commander's shoe. Without a word, he holstered his pistol and crouched down to pick it up. Standing back up, he tucked it into his belt.
Janus could hear himself breathing harshly. It echoed in his ears.
The hand - the pale hand that was all that Janus could see of the kid - wasn't moving. Wasn't even twitching. He had known the penalty of being caught. Had seen the clone’s declaration, their condemnation of the Jedi.
But chasing a kid for weeks. Gunning him down. All after serving with him in a war for who knew how long.
That was cold. Cold in a way that made even his hardened gorge rise.
The commander was giving orders. He wanted someone to check the kid; probably make sure he was really dead. Then he jerked his helmet in Janus' direction. The Kalleran squeezed his hands into fists as durasteel cuffs encircled his wrists. Hauled to his feet, the clone behind him roughly prodded him with the barrel of his blaster to get moving.
The clones that had entered his ship were sitting up by the time they made it to the ramp. Once was a corpse, his helmeted head just peeking out of a doorway by his body's feet. Two more were kneeling and sitting against a wall, respectively, clutching stumps where their gun arms had been. The final trooper was crouched by the kid's body, blocking Janus' view. He seemed to be doing something, but what, Janus couldn't tell. Probably taking a sample as proof of finishing their job, he thought with a curled upper lip.
"Citizen," came the filtered voice of the commander, "you are under arrest for -"
"You're a bunch of kriffing bastards, you know?" Janus interrupted. "Nothing but meat clankers."
"Quiet, tuftsucker," the clone behind him snapped, slamming the barrel of his blaster against the back of Janus’ head.
Janus reeled, his head throbbing and his anger only increasing as he found his balance again. "Just doing whatever you're ordered to," he snarled, glaring at them. "You have less brains than a B-1! At least they don't mow down their own allies -"
Janus was on the ground and blinking stars from his vision before he realized what had happened. The commander had drawn his own pistol and backhanded Janus across the face with its butt in one smooth motion.
"Take this piece of filth and throw him in a cell," the commander ordered. "We'll question him later on his intentions."
Janus was wrenched to his feet for a second time, his shoulders screaming in pain. He ground his teeth together, not letting a sound escape. He wouldn't give them that satisfaction.
Marching away from the hangar, he threw a hateful glare at every clone he saw.