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The first thing that Beru realizes about Kamino is that it’s always storming. But her mother says, “Doesn’t that mean it’s also never storming?”

Beru has to think about this for a bit.

“It’s never storming if a storm is when the weather is worse than normal,” she finally says. “But it’s always storming if a storm is when bits of things are whipped up by the wind and tossed around dangerously.”

“Good,” her mother says. “Now, what do you think of the kaminoans?”

Beru thinks for a long moment. “They don’t like us being here,” she says. “I think they just don’t like humans.”

“Do you know why?” Her mother asks.

“No,” Beru says.

“Then why don’t you go find out?”

 

Beru isn’t the youngest human on Kamino – that’s Boba, definitely. She’s not even the youngest tatooinian – that’s Sala, who’s about three, and there are a few children older than her but younger than Beru. But she’s still one of the youngest.

She doesn’t like being one of the youngest. Back home, she’d be on her way to becoming an adult. She’d be learning the plants of the desert (though she knew most of them already – nothing wrong with learning ahead of time), learning how to understand the calls of the animals (she knew when krayt dragons called out that they’d found water and how to listen for womp rats’ dens and other things besides) and listen to the whisper of the sand (the sand that she could walk on like she was air, knowing which way the wind blew and when a storm was rising), all in preparation for a day and a night in the desert, to become an adult under the eyes of the suns and the moons and the shifting sands.

But here, there are no sands. There’s barely even one sun, what with the skies being cloudy and dumping rain everywhere – and the water is wonderful, Kamino is practically a paradise compared to Tatooine, but still, Beru was looking forward to adulthood.

 

The kaminoans don’t pay the tatooinians any mind, most of the time. Mostly it’s just politely disdainful glances in the hallways and shooing them elsewhere, to where the kaminoans aren’t working at the moment.

That’s not quite true. They listen to Beru’s mother Kelin sometime, because she’s the speaker for the slaves and because she’s technically the one in charge of watching Boba, though everyone knows a child can’t just be raised by one person, it has to be a community.

Anyways, the kaminoans will talk to Beru’s mother, ask her for updates on Boba’s progress. They say it’s for science, but won’t say why it’s for science. The kaminoans are strange, and everyone knows that they and Mr. Fett are hiding something, no matter how nice they’d all been in getting them off Tatooine.

So now, apparently, it’s Beru’s job to find out what’s actually going on here.

 

Mr. Fett is off Kamino a lot, but he’s on Kamino the day that Beru decides to try sneaking into the secret meetings that he and the kaminoans have; this is because he’s much easier to follow than random kaminoans. She doesn’t know any of the kaminoans’ actual jobs; she knows that Mr. Fett is involved with the secret.

It’s hard to follow someone through Kamino’s winding corridors; everything here is bright white (apparently it’s colored in ultraviolet, but Beru’s full human, she can’t see that spectrum) and she stands out as one of the few humans on the planet. She can’t let anyone see her following Mr. Fett, either. She’s going to have to be really sneaky here.

 

Even though the kaminoans don’t like them, they’re letting the tatooinians use a spare building to stay in as they orient themselves as free people in the galaxy. This includes, strangely enough, educational services; everybody is using an online schooling program, learning about whatever they want to learn about.

“I might like to go back to Tatooine,” Ikan Sandrunner confesses to her quietly. “Kamino is nice – I love being free. But I miss being warm.”

This seems to be the opinion of a lot of the newly-freed slaves; there are forty or so of them on Kamino, twelve or so families all told, and Beru’s heard maybe a little under half of them missing the suns and the sand.

“Hmm,” Beru says, and looks up maintenance systems.

 

Kamino is a water planet. That means that there’s water everywhere; but they don’t want water inside, at all, because it might mess up their equipment. That means that there’s gotta be a way for the water to drain out of the hallways where it might collect.

This means that there’s a system of crawl-spaces under virtually every corridor in every building. They’d be far too small for a kaminoan to get through, probably even too small for an adult human.

Beru will fit just fine.

 

It’s hard on her hands and her knees, crawling along the wet drain, listening and following Mr. Fett’s footsteps, making the right turns and keeping the proper pace.

She knows that Mr. Fett is mandalorian, one of the battle-ready mandalorians, a bounty hunter; she knows that he’s got some long-term work with the kaminoans.

It’s only when he stops, pries open one of the vent covers, and lifts her out of the drain that she realizes that bounty hunter probably also means knows when people are following him.

“You know, other people have just asked me what I’m doing, not followed me across half the city,” he tells her.

“Well, have you told them?” She asks.

He stares down at her. “No.”

“See?” She stands and goes to brush off her knees before remembering that it’s not sand, dusting herself off will do nothing about the water. “There’s no point in asking, then. But I still wanted to know.”

“So you followed me.”

“So I followed you, yeah.”

He sighs. “Don’t do it again.”

 

Beru decides that she was probably too loud. It’s easier to be quiet on sand than it is in water; water splashes, and sloshes, and makes all sorts of drippy noises. She needs to figure out how to move without disturbing the water in the drains as much.

But also maybe it was infrared; Mr. Fett wears the helmet almost the whole time except when he’s eating or with Boba, and the helmet could have anything in it.

Blocking her infrared is easier than learning how to be quiet. Beru hasn’t fallen in love with physics, not like Kitser has, but she gets the basics of light wavelengths. If you cover up something blue with something red, then you won’t be able to see the red; if you’re glowing infrared, and you cover yourself up with something glowing in the ultraviolet wavelengths…

She doesn’t know if it’ll work, but it’ll be fun to find out.

Moving quietly is harder. She wants to not disturb the water, wants to not make it splash. It’s too shallow to swim fully (the kaminoans had insisted on teaching them how to swim; she still remembers the first time that she realized there was enough water to just immerse yourself in it for fun).

So Beru watches the kaminoans walk.

They’re not really aquatic; they’re clearly not fully land-based, either. This means that they probably know how to move in shallow water. They pride themselves in their decorum, in their grace.

She mimics how they move, when they’re not watching; all slow gestures and patient steps. She tries to move her body like that, again and again and again, until she’s got it down as well as she can, and then she follows Mr. Fett again.

 

The fifth time he catches her (infrared blockers, something to disrupt motion sensors, and a little bit of hacking are all apparently not enough) he sits her down to have a talk.

“Look,” he says. “Why is following me so important to you?”

Beru thinks. “First,” she says, “I wanted to find out what you were doing here all the time, what the kaminoans really have you here for. But now it’s just a challenge.”

He stares at her for a long moment. “A challenge, huh?” He rubs his chin a bit, and Beru can see the spark of an idea forming in his eyes. “How about this,” he suggests. “You’re bored here, aren’t you?”

Beru shrugs a bit. “I was learning how to manage a farm,” she says. “This is just… there’s not much to do here, in comparison.”

He nods. “Good management skills, then. Good perseverance. Creativity, obviously. All right, then. How old are you, Beru?”

“Eleven,” she says.

“How would you like to learn how to fight?”

 

Like Beru said, it’s not that the schooling that they’re all getting is boring. It’s just that there’s only so many hours she can sit in front of a screen before she gets fidgety and twitchy. Watching Boba and the younger kids helps, gives her something to do for a while, but there are so many people doing that that most of the time she’s just in the way. It’s not like the desert, where you had to watch out for storms and sinkholes and stinging bugs and make sure the vaporators were working correctly and be careful enough to avoid a beating. She’s got all these time management skills, and nowhere to use them.

Until she starts following Jango Fett around, of course.

 

“I’ve taught people your age before,” Mr. Fett says with a frown. “And you’re not complaining nearly enough.”

“Did any of them actually want to learn how to fight?” Beru asks. “I don’t see why I’d be complaining.”

“By the end of the day you’ll be bruised and exhausted,” he explains. “Even mando kids tend to whine a bit about that.”

She looks at him for a bit, her head tilted to the side. “I was a slave,” she says. “If I go to bed bruised and tired, this time it’ll be because I chose to be, because I’m learning something useful. So if anyone tries to make me a slave again, I’ll kick them somewhere sensitive and make them regret it.”

“Huh,” Mr. Fett says, looking sort of weird. “That works.”

 

The thing is, Mr. Fett starts looking sort of weird and regretful any time she mentions slavery. She mentions this to her mother.

“Maybe he was a former slaver?” She suggests. “Doing some sort of repentance thing?”

Her mother frowns and shakes her head. “He’s mandalorian to the bone, and they don’t hold with slavers. But you’re right, I’ve noticed him getting that expression sometimes – I’ll ask the others to look into it, some, watch out for it more.”

‘The others’ are a lot fewer people – a group of families had gone off to start their own lives, back somewhere familiar, now that they were freed. Kamino isn’t for everyone, clearly; some miss their friends, some miss the desert and the bright suns. Some have decided that they’re perfectly positioned to help others, the way they’ve been helped. The Sandrunners, Moonholds, Darklighters, and a few other families have gone back to Tatooine, with their shiny new educations and strategies for talking to people who hated them; the kaminoans had been good practice and the freedom trail wouldn’t run itself.

Beru and her mother have stayed, though, along with about twenty others. Beru’s still cold all the time, but also she can’t regret being freed and leaving Tatooine, or learning how to fight.

 

Mr. Fett declares her proficient in Mando’a after the first six months, and almost fluent after three more. By the time the year’s anniversary of leaving Tatoine has reached them, Boba is toddling along, speaking words in Mando’a and Basic.

And, when they’re very careful none of the kaminoans can hear him, Amatakka.

He’s a child of the community, after all, even though he’s never been a slave, never even set foot on Tatooine. Some of the adults don’t like him speaking the slave’s secret tongue, but also they can’t stop him from picking it up when they speak it all the time.

As a compromise – or not really a compromise, as Beru’s mother saying that either he’s not one of them or he’s fully one of their children – they tell him the stories, too.

As he grows up speaking Amatakka, he also grows up hearing stories about Ar-Amu, about Leia the Elder Sister and Ekkreth the Trickster, and more.

They make sure that Boba grows up knowing that people should be free.

 

Boba’s not with them all the time, of course. Jango doesn’t take him on jobs, but sometimes when Jango has some downtime and nothing pressing he’ll take Boba out for a few days to reconnect with his son, to show him how much he loves him.

Beru always misses Boba when that happens – Boba’s become like a little brother to her, especially since Mr. Fett started teaching him the first mandalorian style, how they start preparing the youngest children to learn how to fight.

Of course, when Mr. Fett’s away, she can practice her hacking skills and try to figure out what’s going on.

She hasn’t given up, though Mr. Fett hasn’t told her anything yet; all she’s been able to dig up are a few discussions between kaminoans about whatever product they’re producing and a short message to Mr. Fett from a group calling themselves the Separatists.

 

Beru is from Tatooine, from the land of the krayt dragon and the twin suns. She is Beru daughter of Kelin, Beru of the White Sun.

But she becomes an adult in the mandalorian style, with Jango Fett calling her ad’ika and asking, rather awkwardly, what colors she’d like her beskar’gam in.

 

She goes on her first job with Jango when she’s fourteen and Boba’s three. She’s not sure if she wants to be a bounty hunter, like Jango, or if she wants to do something else with the skills she’s learned – but until she decides it can’t hurt to find out what bounty hunting is like.

It’s a relatively simple job, according to Jango. The Trade Federation has put a minor bounty out on a small band of smugglers; Jango and Beru will go take them out and bring the stolen cargo back to the Federation.

“We don’t have to kill them,” Jango tells her as they leave Kamino – Beru’s second time on a spaceship, and the stars ahead of them look beautiful. “We can try to bring them in alive. But you know that there’s a pretty high chance that some of them will end up dead.”

Beru brushes her fingers over the blaster at her hip, thinks of all the ways she’s been learning to fight. “I always knew what I was getting into,” she says. “I may decide it’s not for me – but I won’t know until I try, will I?”

“You won’t,” Jango agrees. “Remember to keep your headset comm on, remember to keep the HUDs up, if anything looks like it’s going wrong, just let me know–”

Beru laughs. “I know,” she says. “You taught me how to take care of myself. You’re such a dad.”

She can’t see Jango’s face under his helmet, but something tells her he’s making the weird regretful face again. Seriously. If he’s got so many regrets, he should just tell them what’s going on and save everyone the stress.

Unless something is stopping him from telling them…

The thought is thrown out of her mind as the stars blur into the bright white-blue of hyperspace, which may be one of the most beautiful things she’s ever seen.

 

Beru’s beskar’gam isn’t true beskar iron – actual beskar is far too hard to find, far too expensive for armor that she’ll grow out of in a year or two. But it is good, solid durasteel, able to shield from almost everything other than a lightsaber or a laser cannon.

She’d gotten Jango and her mother to help her color it and decorate it – pale yellow blending in to light orange, the sand to the sandstorm. Lines in blue, for Jango’s teachings and for water and life. Cheeks of dustier blue, darker and greyer, for the skies of Kamino. Black rings around her wrists and ankles. Black for freedom; black for justice.

Two white circles on her forehead, for the suns of Tatooine. Curling around her chest, Leia, the Elder Sister, the krayt dragon of Tatooine.

She almost feels like a different person the first time she walks around in the full armor. She’s not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, or just something that is.

 

Her shiny new armor is slightly less shiny by the time she and Jango get back from delivering their bounty.

None of the smugglers died. Beru had pointed her blaster at one of them, and they had raised their hands; she’d put them in binders, and hadn’t fired. One of them had tried to go after her with a knife while Jango secured the other two. Beru had ducked under the smuggler’s swing, used their momentum to carry them over her shoulder and to the floor, then twisted their arms up behind their back and put them in binders.

Jango had nodded approvingly.

“Nice kid you’ve got there,” one of the smugglers had commented. “Training ‘em up to continue the business, Fett?”

“Damn straight I am,” Jango had said amiably. “If you so much as touch my kid I’ll shoot you somewhere it’ll hurt.”

“I can handle myself, buir,” Beru says, and keeps the knife.

 

They start calling her Shev’la Fett, her buir’s surname and the Mando’a word for silent. She’s the one who plans ahead, who is already behind the locked door, who is already sinking a sedative dart into her target before they even know they’re being hunted.

She may be learning how to be a bounty hunter, learning how to be a warrior, but she doesn’t see any reason to be flashy about it; better to just get the job done, then go home to her family.

 

Jango tries to teach her how to gamble; Beru rolls her eyes and plays him to almost a tie in sabacc and gambler’s chance. It’s been years since she left Tatooine, but gambling is something that she and the others had learned like breathing.

“That’s how I was going to free us,” she confesses after Jango admits that he can’t teach her much more thans he already knows about how to gamble. “Slaves weren’t forbidden from gambling – I was going to win enough to buy our freedom, then move somewhere else. To our own farm, one that I could actually run.” It’s still a bit of a dream – run her own farm someday, collecting water that people can use to live, to grow things. If she decides that being a warrior isn’t for her, she still has another option.

 

The first time Beru kills someone isn’t on a hunt with Jango, or even a hunt by herself; it’s not as some sort of training or test, not planned in advance or considered.

If she wants to be technical about it, it’s not self-defence.

Beru is sixteen when Jabba the Hutt sends a bounty hunter after the slaves of Mos Espa.

 

Sala Rockstrider, eight years old and far too prone to hiding in improbable places, is the first one to see the bounty hunter; because Sala has lived on Kamino for years and knows how to sneak around (so maybe Beru had given the younger children some tips) the bounty hunter does not see her.

Beru meets the bounty hunter in the middle of a corridor, her beskar on and the rest of the ex-slaves hidden away in a boarded-up room.

The bounty hunter is some small-time bothan who stops when she sees the mandalorian in the corridor. “I’m here for information,” she hisses after she and Beru have inspected each other for a long moment. “Hey there, mando. Shev’la Fett, isn’t it? There’s no need for violence here.”

“Is there?” Beru asks calmly, her heart beating a thousand parsecs a minute. “Depends on what you’re looking for, I suppose.”

“Information, like I said,” the bothan says. “The whereabouts of an escaped slave.”

“Everyone here is freed and legal,” Beru snaps.

“And if they don’t get in my way, I have no reason to test that, do I?” The bothan asks, and Beru’s finger tightens a bit on the trigger. “No, there’s someone from the same place that escaped, a few months before this lot was bought. I want to know where she is.”

It feels like ice-water is trickling down Beru’s back with how scared she is. But she only knows what ice-water feels like because of one person.

“Who are you looking for,” Beru says, knowing the answer.

“Shmi Skywalker.”

The bothan is dead before she hits the ground, a blaster bolt through her neck.

Beru’s hands are shaking, staring at the dead bounty hunter, feeling like her armor is almost constricting around her. She’s not sure how long she stands there, staring at the body (she’s exactly sure, the clock in her visor tells her it’s ten minutes and forty-three seconds) before she feels a hand on her shoulder, before she spins around and sees her mother.

“Amu,” she says, “Mom, I–”

Kelin Whitesun envelops her daughter in a hug.

 

Beru doesn’t remember how they take care of the body, but she does remember that they do it; Beru has spent five years learning how to be a warrior, and her mother has spent five years learning the seas of Kamino as well as she knew the desert. The body goes away like it was never there, and Beru sits down to have a long-needed talk with her mother.

“Beru,” she says, “Is this who you want to be?” There’s no judgement in her tone, just an honest question.

“I don’t know,” Beru says. She wanted to be busy, she wanted to be doing something – but she think back to the confrontation, to Sala’s terror and the others’ grim determination. To the bright joy she’d felt when a mandalorian man had come to Mos Espa and said that he’d met Shmi Skywalker, who had freed herself, who deserves to remain free.

“I don’t know,” she says again. “I… I want to protect people.”

“Sometimes, that may involve killing,” Beru’s mother says, her eyes solemn. “Killing in defense isn’t a bad thing, whether it’s your own defense or defense of others. Can you accept that, daughter of mine?”

Beru thinks of her armor, thinks of what she’s declared herself as – the blue for life, the black for freedom. Orange, for the sandstorms that will strip flesh from bones.

“I think I can,” Beru says.

 

Beru doesn’t tell Jango about the bounty hunter, but she thinks her mother does, because over the next few months he teaches her more and more ways to take down an opponent non-lethally – stunners, of course, and chokeholds, and ways she can pin a larger opponent, and dozens of other techniques.

Don’t get her wrong, she’s glad to have these techniques – but also, she’s taken a sentient life, now. She knows that if she needs to, if she really needs to to protect someone, she can do it again.

 

Boba is seven, starting to learn advanced kicks and rolls and how to shoot a blaster alongside how to listen to people and survive in the desert and her mother’s tzai recipie. Beru is eighteen, taking a bounty here and there, sending money to her friends on Tatooine running the freedom trail when she can.

That’s when everything goes bad.

 

Beru hasn’t really given up on finding out what Jango’s been up to with the kaminoans, but there’s a ridiculous amount of high security around the entirety of Kamino, so much so that she can’t even tell where on the planet whatever they’re doing is, and Jango is honestly way more experienced than she is – but she trust him, her teacher, her buir.

Boba’s mentioned other kids before, people he’s visited when Jango has taken him off to have some father-son time. They’ve always sort of figured that these were other mandalorian kids, or the kids of other people who have taken jobs on Kamino.

All that is blown to pieces when Boba walks in one day and asks, “Are clones slaves?”

Beru’s mother slowly puts down her datapad. “It depends on if anyone is enslaving them,” she says carefully. “Since from what I know of clones they’re sentients just like you and me. Why do you ask?”

They’re in the common room of the tatooininan quarters; most of the remaining ex-slaves are hanging around, studying or working on projects of their own. Boba’s question gets the entire room’s attention.

“I… I think…” Boba hesitates. “The separatists are trying to build an army, and I think they’re using slaves to do it.”

Everything moves very fast, after that.

 

Beru borrows a kaminoan ship when she goes out bounty hunting by herself, so that’s what she does now – the ship’s not big enough to hold everyone, can only fit half of the people they need to get off Kamino. None of the tatooininas want to stay here, not when there may be slavers. When the people they’ve been living with might be slavers.

They send away Sala and her family, and the other families with children first. Beru’s mother stays, too, waiting for the ship to drop them off somewhere safe, then return.

Boba stays too, though nobody is very happy about it.

“I’m the only one who knows how to get to the cloning place,” he points out stubbornly. “You won’t be able to get there without me.”

Beru doesn’t like leaving her family in danger, but she likes even less the idea of taking Boba with her.

“Fine,” she says. “But the rules are just like if you’re following buir somewhere dangerous. No wandering away, no touching things without my okay, following my instructions to the letter. Can you do that, vod’ika?”

Boba nods, determined. “I can do that,” he says. “I promise, ikkalda.”

Beru “borrows” a sea-skimmer, lets Boba input the proper coordinates, and hopes beyond all that Jango is trustworthy, that she hasn’t put her faith in a slaver.

 

“Stay in the skimmer,” she orders Boba.

“But–”

“I’ll be able to sneak in myself,” she says. “Boba, you need to stay safe.”

“I’ll be able to blend in in ways you can’t,” he insists.

Beru closes her eyes. “They’re your father’s clones, aren’t they?”

“… yeah,” Boba says.

Beru feels… she doesn’t know what she feels. She doesn’t know who she can trust any more.

There’s only one way to find out.

“Stay,” she tells Boba again, then makes her way into the facility.

 

With her armor, she’s barely small enough to squeeze into the drains any more – but she still can, and she knows how to stay unnoticed now. It takes her an hour or two to really understand the scale of what’s going on here, and when she does, she wants to throw up.

Millions of clones. An entire army, for the Jedi – though she’d always thought that Jango had worked for the separatist faction. Accelerated aging, combat training – the oldest of the clones looks fourteen but isn’t older than Boba, sitting back there in the sea-skimmer.

Millions of clones. Millions of slaves.

She comes across a few groups relaxing a bit, talking to each other, calling each other names, not the numbers they’d been assigned. They’ve named themselves, or some of them have – Snap, Wave, Risk, Biter. She can feel the way they act, the secrets they pass between each other, the way they watch out for the cloners.

These clones, these children, are slaves.

There’s an angry fire burning deep in her heart, a fury that she can feel building up and up and up.

A little circle on her HUD pops up; someone’s comming her.

“Beru,” Boba says, his voice sounding tinny and small. “Beru, I can see Buir’s ship here.”

She’d always figured that the Slave I’s name was ironic, somehow. Now she can’t help but wonder.

“All right,” she says. “Thanks, Boba. I’ll be fine.” Then she cuts off the call before he can argue with her.

She follows two of the cloners down the twisting hallways, on the off-chance that they’re going to meet up with Jango; they’re not, but they get her to an area full of meeting rooms. He’ll be here somewhere, eventually.

Beru knows it’s a bad idea to actively seek Jango out. She knows that he can spot her in an instant, that he can take her in a fight.

But she has to find out why.

She finds Jango – and it’s clearly Jango, fully adult and in his beskar’gam – with a group of clones, ones looking to be about ten. (Five years old, Beru thinks, and feels a little sick.)

He’s speaking in Mando’a, telling them about the history of Mandalore the First, about the settling of Mandalore (the planet) and the creation of the Mando’ade. Beru remembers him telling her this story, not much older in mind than these children are.

He’s kind to them, answering their questions and using their names, not their numbers, as she’s heard some of the kaminoans do. Beru isn’t sure if that makes it better or worse.

She watches him interact with the children, watches him smile and frown and underneath it all have that singular expression, that regret and sorrow and guilt that she’s finally able to see all the layers of.

She’ll find out its origins soon enough.

 

Beru waits until the children have all left the room. Then she comms Jango.

“Beru,” he says, and she watches him tilt his helmet. “Everything all right? Did something come up?”

“You could say that,” she says, pulling herself up into the room.

Jango turns, sees her, and freezes in place.

“All those years, and I finally managed to sneak up on you,” she says quietly. “And this is what I find.”

Jango sighs and sits down. “Beru–”

“Jango,” she snaps. “You know this is wrong. You know what’s going on here, what’s been going on here for… for longer than I’ve been here. Longer than my family has been freed, and all this time, you’ve just been making more slaves.” She spits out the word, feeling the fire in her heart flare into burning fury.

“You think I didn’t regret this?” Jango says tiredly. “As soon as I realized what was going on–”

“Oh, as soon as you realized,” Beru says scathingly. “How long did it take you to realize that paying for people is slavery, no matter what form it takes?”

“A few months,” Jango says. “And by then, I couldn’t–”

“Oh, of course you couldn’t,” Beru says. “You couldn’t just–”

“Um–” says a voice from the doorway.

Beru and Jango both turn to look – there are two clones standing there, looking worried and confused. They look thirteen or so. Six and a half.

“Sorry, sir,” says the one in front, almost distracting Beru from the fact that the one behind him is blonde, of all things. She’s heard that clones can have genequirks, and she supposes that when the kaminoans make millions the quirks can get very different. “I, uh, had a question?”

“Now’s not the best time, Cody,” Jango says. “I–”

“Who’s that?” The blonde clone blurts out. “Are they another teacher–”

“Shut up, Rex,” Cody hisses, elbowing him, just as Jango and Beru both say “No.”

“We’ll ask later sorry to interrupt you sir,” Cody says very quickly and drags Rex away.

Beru knows that Jango can feel the weight of her gaze even through both their helmets.

“Tell me it wasn’t for money,” she says quietly, as soon as Cody and Rex get tired of eavesdropping and move away. “Or tell me it was, and I’ll kill you.”

 

“You know that I’ve never loved anyone, romantically,” Jango says, and as Beru twitches towards her knife, he says, “This is relevant. You know I’ve never loved anyone, never felt that desire – it’s just not for me.”

Beru doesn’t nod, but she does know. She’s not quite the same – she’s had crushes, though the act of procreation disgusts her as much as it does Jango.

Wait.

“Boba,” she breathes out, letting her stance drop. “You – they wanted an army of clones, and you asked for a clone for yourself.”

Jango nods. “And once I had my son, once I realized that really, they were all my sons – they had something to hold me here.”

 

Jango made a million slaves, and for that she’ll never forgive him, never call him her buir again – but threats against his family are what kept him here, kept him from destroying the whole operation, and for that she’ll deign to speak with him.

“This stops now,” she says.

“It can’t,” Jango says. “I wish I could, but this is the Sith. You want to fight people who can fling lightning from their fingertips?”

“All the years I’ve known you and you’ve never given up,” Beru says. “And you will now?”

“What about your family?” Jango says, and he has given up. “Kelin, Sala, Darvin, all the others – you’ll be fine fighting the Sith when the Sith go after them?”

“Well, given that they’re all off-planet or about to be,” Beru says, “I’d give them a fighting chance.”

Jango sits up straight at that. “They’re gone?”

“Took my ship and left,” Beru says. “Half of them on one run, the rest of them on the next. Boba and I came here in a skimmer.”

She can see the rusty gears in Jango’s head creaking to life. “So Boba and you and I can leave in the Slave–”

And, yeah, maybe Beru can see where he got his ship’s name, if he feels that he’s been trapped all these years. But also–

“And the other clones?” She says. “How are we going to get them out?”

Jango quiets again. “I don’t know,” he says.

Beru grits her teeth. “Stop being so defeatist,” she snaps. “You don’t know – all right. Then let’s figure something out.”

“Unfortunately, Miss Whitesun,” says a voice at the doorway, “That won’t be an option.”

 

Beru is perfectly ready to dismantle the entire Kaminoan cloning facility, starting with Sosan Hi.

But she grits her teeth and sits calmly, because they’ve got Boba, they’ve got her mother, they’ve got Sala and Vaar and the rest of the tatooinians, they’ve got a few million clones as hostages if they ever need them.

Sosan Hi is calm, and slow, and scheming, and lays out very carefully how he could kill Beru’s entire family if she so much as steps out of line. He talks very calmly about how it would be so nice to have another instructor for their product, and how he was so glad that Beru’s family had returned so quickly from their short vacation offworld. What a shame it would be if something were to go wrong, somewhere where the kaminoans couldn’t take care of things.

“And I trust you understand, of course,” Sosan Hi continues, “That Lama Su need know nothing of this, yes?”

Beru clenches her fists and thinks of all the ways she could dismember this corrupt, dirty, Sith-dealing slaver, then agrees that she’ll say nothing to the Prime Minister.

Jango won’t look at her, won’t look at anyone, his head bowed and his hands clenched in his lap as tight as Beru’s are at her sides.

 

Boba is at their side as Sosan Hi gives Beru a tour of the cloning facilities.

Beru keeps her helmet on, doesn’t let Sosan Hi have the pleasure of seeing how awful, how horrifying all of this is to her, even as she’s sure he knows, regardless of what she shows through her armor.

It’s only a small subset of the cloners who know that they’re working for the Sith and not the Jedi, apparently – Sosan Hi is in charge of them, with a quiet politician called Ailan Sa as his second. Ailan Sa is the one who explains to Beru – in excruciating detail – what her future will consist of.

 

They will give her quarters in the complex that hosts Jango’s clones, near the similar rooms that Jango has.

They will give her the kindness of privacy within her rooms. Within her rooms only, apparently, as every single other room, every corridor, every inch of the facility is under intense surveillance, so as to monitor the clones’ development.

They will permit her one holocall a week to her family, not exceeding one hour and not revealing any of the kaminoan’s or the Sith’s secrets.

They will allow her family to return to Tatooine, should they wish; however, Beru will remain here.

 

She sits in her new rooms, hours later, and lets herself cry – lets herself shake, lets herself take deep, heaving gasps of air as it feels like she’s almost drowning in fear. Boba sits next to her, letting her hold him tightly, letting her fall apart.

Jango sits as close as she will permit him. It’s not very close.

As her breaths even out, as her tears slow and dry to a stop, she finds herself able to think again.

Many cultures across the galaxy have a phrase that sounds like keep your enemies close. Beru is going to show these sunburnt slavers how dangerous phrases like that can be.

 

Beru repaints her armor.

Her arms all the way from her wrists to her elbows are dark brown, wound through with black, same as her shins. The lines on her helmet stay blue; every other scrap of blue is scrubbed from the armor.

The base stays its light yellow fading into bright orange. The designs – the lines of her armor, the symbols she’s etched in, biggest of all, the krayt dragon, the Elder Sister, the bane of the slavers – are repainted in bright, blinding white.

 

She goes over to Jango’s rooms after her first call with her family, a week after she’s discovered everything.

He lets her in, stands aside and lets her walk around his quarters, waits for her to acknowledge him.

At least he knows how much he’s screwed up, she thinks.

Beru glances at the corners of the room, then at him, and raises an eyebrow in question.

“We’ve got privacy in here,” he says in reply.

“Good,” she says. “We need to contact the Jedi.”

What?”

“Obviously talking to them directly isn’t really reasonable,” she continues. “But if we want someone to fight the Sith, it’s either them or other mandalorians, and the latter are… pretty scattered.”

Jango grimaces. “The Jedi–”

“Are our only chance to get Boba and everyone else out safely?” Beru interrupts. “I understand that you don’t like them. I don’t like you much, right now. There’s nothing that either of us can do about that, unfortunately, so let’s just work with it, hmm?”

Jango looks down. “Beru–”

Beru ignores him. “There’s a very good chance we’re not going to be able to get in contact with any Jedi directly,” she continues. “But we do know some people who will definitely meet some Jedi relatively soon.”

“Who?” Jango asks.

“Literally any one of the millions of clones in this facility,” Beru points out. “Who are people perfectly able to help us out, if they want to. I bet we can find a few who don’t like the kaminoans to pass on messages to certain Jedi.”

Jango blinks, like he hadn’t even thought of that. Like he still isn’t quite used to thinking of the clones as actual people, able to take action independently of orders. “Okay,” he says. “So we tell them to let a Jedi know, when the time comes. How do we make sure it’s a Jedi we can trust to do things right?”

“That’s the easy part,” Beru says.

 

The fact that mandalorians didn’t like Jedi is well-known throughout the galaxy, so of course the tatooinians had been very careful when talking about Anakin and Shmi Skywalker, and how they had finally gotten off-planet. None of them were quite sure about the exact details of what had followed after, but it was well understood that Anakin at least was training to be a Jedi, and most likely that his mother was with him, no matter what Jango had heard – and that some of Jango’s stories made it clear that Anakin wasn’t the only one getting trained.

It was equally well understood not to mention the whole “Jedi” thing around Jango Fett, just in case.

 

“The last time you encountered Jedi was on Cato Neimoidia, right before you rescued us, right?” Beru asks, and doesn’t wait for Jango to reply before continuing. “How many Jedi?”

“Two,” Jango says, frowning. “We thought it was one at first, the one that stole my old ship, but after a bit of investigation, we realized that there were actually two the whole time. Still not sure how the second one got off the planet, given that they didn’t lift the block until every being had identified themselves as being clearly uninvolved.”

“I know how it happened,” Beru says.

Jango sits up straight and narrows his eyes. “How?”

Beru shrugs nonchalantly. “Well, there were a few ships that had priority clearance that were able to make it off the planet before the block lifted, weren’t there?”

“You know there were,” Jango says. “I was on one of them. But nobody on that ship was a Jedi.”

“Really?” Beru asks. “There wasn’t anybody who the ship had just picked up? Nobody who didn’t seem quite as necessary to the running of the ship? Nobody who ever used strange excuses to get out of future commitments?”

“Only–” Jango stops. “No.”

“I mean, it was the Jedi that Shmi and Ani left Tatooine with,” Beru says. “Though I guess–”

“You’re telling me,” Jango says, “That not only is Shmi Skywalker a Jedi, I was the one who helped the Jedi get off the planet and duck the Trade Federations?”

Beru considers it for a bit. “Yes,” she says finally. “That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

Jango swears for a solid three minutes.

 

The plan they finally settle on is going to take a long time to come to fruition.

They talk with only a few of the clones, some destined to become troopers and some commanders – they can’t risk the kaminoans finding out, and thus the Sith finding out.

It breaks Beru’s heart, how these clones, these children, no older than Boba, are fighting so hard to become people. Some of them feel it, how they’re being denied basic rights – but a good portion of them just don’t know, just think that this is normal.

That, at least, is something that Beru can do something about.

 

Beru had promised herself that she’d never be a slave again.

There are as many ways to be enslaved as there are grains of sand on Tatooine, as there are raindrops in the skies of Kamino.

Beru remembers the stories, the ones she’d grown up listening to. The ones Boba had grown up listening to.

The masters may have a thousand ways to catch slaves – but there are a hundred thousand ways to become free.

And, after all, they had wanted Beru to teach.

 

Boba spends the next few years telling stories to his brothers, the kinds of stories that Beru has no excuse to tell them – but Boba is a child, and even if the surveillance cameras catch him telling strange stories to the clones, what are they but childrens’ tales?

Beru’s words for the clones are shorter, quieter, in hallways or after lessons, brief moments during sparring or shooting. You are a person. Nobody has a right to tell you what to do. You have a right to be free.

“Then why don’t you take us away?” One of the clones demands, one who hasn’t named himself yet. “If we have a right to be free, then free us!”

“What makes you think that I’m free to do that?” Beru replies. “We’re trying, I promise you that. But we can’t do it on our own.”

“The Jedi,” he mutters, quietly enough that the surveillance won’t be able to pick it up. “The message you want us to pass on–”

Beru nods, just a hair. “We will free you. We just need to be careful about it. Going charging head-long at a problem is a good way to get killed.”

“So you have to be smooth,” he says, then grins. “That fits. My batchmates have started calling me Slick.”

Beru smiles. “Slick,” she says, and draws upon a bit of tatooinian ceremony. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, friend of mine. May your water be clear and your name hold you up as you wander through life.”

Slick makes a startled noise. “Um,” he says. “Thank you?”

“Just a bit of old culture. Don’t worry about it,” she says, in the way all the clones have learned means this is a lesson, too, if you care to learn.

 

She doesn’t formally disown him, but she never calls Jango her buir again, and he knows enough to stop calling her ad’ika.

Boba is still her little brother, though, her vod’ika. Nothing can change that, not the Sith or any master who tries to make them slaves.

Boba asks her about it one day. “You don’t mind that he’s still my buir, do you?”

“Not at all,” she says, and lays a hand on his shoulder. “As angry as I am with him, that’s my business. Does it bother you that he’s not my buir any more?”

“A little bit,” Boba admits. “But… because it had to happen, not because he’s not your buir.”

She smiles a bit, a little sadly. “Yeah,” she says. “Me too.”

 

Jango goes out on jobs sometimes, since the Sith know that they have a secure hold on him. They know he’s not going to misbehave.

Of course, after two years they start believing that Beru doesn’t misbehave, either; the Sith may be powerful force-users who can shoot lightning from their fingertips, but they don’t seem to understand that whispers can bring a person down as well as blasters can.

Boba is nine, and little Sala is twelve, when Beru sees the stars again – she hadn’t even realized how much she’d missed them, trapped on Kamino.

Is it always storming on Kamino, or is it never storming, she remembers, and smiles. She’s not misbehaving – she’s always misbehaving.

She fingers the kaminoan poison darts for her backup rifle. It would be such a shame if they accidentally used something easily traceable near someone likely to follow said traces, wouldn’t it? Such a shame. Clumsy, almost.

Though nobody would dare accuse a mandalorian of being clumsy.

 

Her first job out in years, she finishes up early and takes some time off in a bar. It’s usual for bounty hunters to do, she reasons – the Sith can’t argue with that, probably won’t want to use up their threats over something this small.

Plus, she’s not going back to Kamino until she absolutely has to.

She gets a beer, drinks it slowly, barely letting herself get buzzed. Like she said, savoring being on a planet that gets actual sun.

“Hey! That’s not Shev’la, is it?”

Beru’s hand tightens around her drink.

“You’ve been out of the circuit a while,” says the person who’d recognized her, and she looks over and sees another mandalorian.

“Jorad,” she says. “It’s been a while.” He’s small-time, compared to Jango, but has the best information and gossip in the galaxy, making it his business to know what’s going on.

Jorad shrugs. “Not my fault if it has. Where have you been, these past few years?”

“Around,” she says shortly. She doesn’t want to talk to him, will not explain where she’s been, where she needs to go back to.

“All right, then,” he says, backing off a bit. “You looking for another job right now?”

“Can’t, sorry,” she says. “Pass on my greetings to everyone, though. I know it’s been a while.” There. She’s been polite.

He nods. “Say, have you met – hey, Bo, come over here, there’s someone who you should meet!”

Why did she have to pick this bar, of all the bars on the planet?

Jorad turns back to her. “Bo, this is Shev’la Fett–”

Everything seems to quiet down, all of a sudden. “That’s not my name,” she says. She is Beru Whitesun, she is a daughter of Tatooine and a daughter of the suns. She is not the daughter of Jango Fett, no matter what she’s said, no matter that she still speaks to him civilly. He has no ties to her.

She has a right to name herself.

“That’s not my name,” she says again, to Jorad’s solemn face and his friend’s confused one, and leaves.

 

The jobs get less tense over the next year, as people realize that if anyone calls her Shev’la Fett she’ll leave and not come back. They need to call her something, so she tells them to call her Sarad. It’s not her name, but it will do.

She has always been the flower that blooms in adversity.

 

On Tatooine, there are few plants and fewer flowering ones; anything that exposes delicate parts tends to get scraped raw by wind and sand, and eaten if it survives beyond that.

There are a few plants that flower, though – kaktru flowers at moonrise, and sandflowers creep over some of the canyon walls.

There’s only one flower that survives in practically any place it’s planted, whether that’s the base of a canyon or a city roof or the open desert, and that’s the sweet, round, red-brown beru flower.

 

“I’ve taken a hit on a senator that I’d like some backup for,” Jango says carefully. For all that she’s been taking jobs, she hasn’t been working with him, outside of teaching the clones.

Beru frowns. He knows she doesn’t take assassination jobs, but especially not political ones, and killing a senator won’t be anything but political. But the way he’s said it…

“Where?” she asks casually.

“Coruscant,” he says. “So you understand why I want backup. If you don’t come I’ll have to contact Wesell, and she’s mucked up enough jobs that it’d be risky.”

“I understand,” Beru says. Of course she understands that they’ll have the best chance of contacting the Jedi on Coruscant. “Which senator?”

“The Naboo senator,” he says. “Amidala.”

 

Amidala’s guards are two Jedi, a master and a padawan – and unless she’s mistaken, the padawan is little Ani Skywalker.

She could ambush Amidala in her bedroom, but it’s an obvious setup, and the Naboo are infamous for using decoys.

But that would be too complicated, really. All she needs to do is wait for a moment the senator’s in public – say, on her way home from a senate meeting.

Another Jedi is waiting for her as she steps out of the hovercar and starts to make her way towards her apartment. Beru knows this Jedi, as well; Shmi Skywalker has only grown stronger with the years that have passed.

She takes aim carefully, the elegant Naboo hairstyle clear in her crosshairs. Then, in the moment between one breath and another, she buries a kaminoan poison dart in the wall behind the senator, barely a centimeter away from her head.

Chaos breaks out as the Jedi realize what’s happened, as the senator’s security realizes what’s happened, and Beru turns and runs.

 

She makes herself blend in, making her way through bars and clubs before parking herself in the corner of a cantina; a quick tip and the owner will claim that she’s been here for hours.

It never hurts to be thorough, though Jango is being loud and distracting for the Jedi to follow anyways.

 


 

Shmi catches a glimpse of him on a rooftop, moments before he flies away. They regard each other for a split second, his armor reflecting the green of her lightsaber.

Then he nods, once, and goes, vanishing into the darkness of Coruscant.

Shmi will talk to Lannai, talk to her other friends in the lower levels, see if anyone saw where the mandalorian assassin went – but for now, she just wonders what’s so bad that Jango Fett warned them like this.

 


 

 

The storm will be over soon, Beru thinks, one way or another. Or maybe it’ll have begun.