A Weighted Conversation (Ayy’shiri, Kaliper Akanth. SWG)
(Reposted with permission from Kaliper’s player.)
Ayy had lost the cane at some point, choosing to limp around and force her knee to work again. She returned to the Backfire with a small bag of fried chuba bits for Kal and a bottle of Lokian rum. She rapped the knuckles of her cybernetic fingers against the hull, “Awake?”
“Mrphflg,” came the muffled reply, followed by a few bangs, crashes, squawks, and barks. After a few moments, the airlock hissed open. “C’mon in,” came a distorted voice through the intercom speaker.
She raised an eyebrow as she came through the airlock and looked around curiously, “What are you doing to my baby?” She called, even considering Backfire to be her baby. “I brought you food.” She added, shouting as she made her way to the galley and set down the bottle and the bag. Cabinets opened and closed as she guided her way around the mess to grab two glasses and flop down onto the bench around the table.
“Not me this time,” Kal shouted from somewhere on the deck below. “Honest!” He emerged from the elevator a moment later and walked into the galley. A squirming little kusak pup was tucked securely under his left arm, barking and squeaking. “Scuppers is learnin’ t’hunt gizka.”
She poured them both a small glass of rum and set the bottle down before holding her hands out for Scuppers. “You’re actually starting to do something about the pest issues?” She asked a hint of surprise in her voice. “Are you being a good puppy, Scuppers? De’vek would be happy about you pulling your weight.”
Kaliper handed off the pup with a grunt. “Speakin’ of weight…” This earned him a growl from the kusak. “What? S’true. Yeh could stand a li’l more tearin’ up an’ down th’hallways instead of guardin’ th’mess.” Kal plopped down into a seat, tearing into the bag of fried chuba with a grin. “Thankya, darlin’. What’d yeh get up ta t’day?”
She scratched behind Scupper’s ears, “You’re not a fat pup, don’t listen to Kal.” She mumbled to the little Kusak and grinned up at Kal, “Look at how he eats! Who is he to tell you to guard anything but the mess?” Ayy grinned, winking playfully at Kaliper as she showered attention onto the puppy. “I spoke with Armide… She umm. She says that I have the heart and spirit of a Mando’a. She’s asked me to train as one. To become one.”
Kal munched away happily, nodding as he chewed, then stopped, as his brain caught up with his ears. “Sh’di wugh nu?” he mumbled around a mouthful, and suddenly erupted into a fit of coughing.
Ayy almost immediately picked up her glass and took a drink of the rum, “She has asked me to train, to become Mandalorian.” After repeating herself she shook her head, “Never in my life would I have ever thought this would be a conversation I’d be having. I go out of answering immediately by saying I needed to talk to you, which I do, regardless of decision.”
Kal continued hacking and sputtering, starting to turn a peculiar shade of red under the tattoos on his face.
You alright?” She asked, holding out her glass of rum to him.
A piece of fried chuba shot from his mouth and landed on the deck plates. Scuppers leaped off Ayy’s lap and pounced on the scrap of meat, gulping it down. Kal wheezed and grabbed at the glass of rum. Taking a drink, he flopped back in his chair, gasping for air. “Now then,” he said when he caught his breath. “Let’s talk.”
She raised a brow and leaned forward to take his glass, not the one she had given him before flopping back against the seat. “She only made the offer. If I were to accept, it would be taking on an entirely new lifestyle. Two months of training and limited contact with the outside world. This is, negotiable.”
“So, when y’say, ‘limited’…” Kaliper let the word hang in the air, and swirled the rum around in his glass.
“I have to make a decision before I can put down my own terms, but Armide tells me I’d be able to see you and tend to business.” She took a drink before tapping her fingertips against her forehead, “I don’t know, Ka’re. I honestly don’t know, I’m honoured by this. I’m tempted by it. Mandalorian ways are honourable and I love the Vencu’s greatly.”
Kaliper nodded slowly, and looked up from his glass, fixing his eyes on Ayy. “An’ they love yeh somethin’ fierce, too. ‘Specially Cannonball. Ain’ somethin’ given lightly, chance like this.”
“No, but it means that for me the Kusaks and my business become something less…the family and you will be my priorities. I don’t know if I’m prepared to make that sacrifice. I don’t know if I have what it takes to wear the beskar… I… I need you to help me with this decision. It sounds ridiculous, but you’re half my life. I’m not a fool, I know that my decisions impact you and vice versa…”
Kaliper’s eyes widened, and all he could do was stare for a long moment. Finally, he spoke. “Ayy, I can’t be tellin’ yeh what t’do wit’ yaself.” A tiny grin flickered across his face. “S’never worked before anyway.”
“I’m not asking you to tell me what to do; I won’t listen to it anyways. I would like your opinion on it, how it could possibly impact the work that we’re beginning to do…” She smiled faintly and leaned forward to prop herself against the edge of the table on her elbows.
Kaliper gave a quick nod, and leaned back in his seat, away from the table, and away from Ayy. “Business, then. Alright. If you’re going to do this, better to do it now, before we get any more involved. We haven’t thrown much in the way of credits at this project yet, so no losses there.”
“And if I was to do this, theoretically, I’d only have to back out during the training process. It’s not like I can do much right now as it is.” She shrugged. “Once training is over, I can go back to our plans. I’d still be answering to the Vencu’s as a higher power over our Alliance ties but it shouldn’t impede on anything.” She took notice when his accent changed and his change in body language, it shook her visibly. Scared her in the initial moment.
Kaliper shrugged. “You wouldn’t be missing much, to be honest. Backfire is not built for war. Until we have a ship, a REAL ship, we’re not going anywhere.” He gave a tiny smile, and then continued. “And I don’t imagine it will ever come to a choice between your family and the Alliance. Remember, we’re not joining any revolutionary army. All we get from them is a friendly little list of guidelines.”
She tilted her head from side to side slowly as she considered this before taking a drink, “True. I still need to speak with Sidewinder and Desev Vencu regarding you and my work for Poe while I’m training. Hopefully with RU-N4N being nearly complete, I won’t have to worry about work. But you…” She sighed and leaned back, watching his expression and body language carefully. “How will this affect us?” Ayy pulled her half cybernetic lekku over her shoulder.
He remained still, face blank, and said slowly, “That… all depends on what you negotiate with them. It wouldn’t be the first time you’ve gone somewhere I can’t follow.” He heaved a deep sigh, then cleared away some of the clutter in front of him and slumped forward to rest his elbows on the table. “But I’d miss yeh sommat fierce, i’pelire. I do every time. Every kriffin’ time.”
“I won’t do this if I can’t see you. If I can’t be with you, Kal.” She took another drink from the glass and reached forward to set it in on the table. “When I was in bacta, you were with me. Every moment, you were beside me in my dreams. You didn’t leave, you didn’t…” She paused, taking a deep breath as she focused the gaze of her hazel eyes on him. “I won’t do this; I can’t do this if they will not allow me, you. I can figure a way around everything else without a second thought.”
A look of relief washed over Kaliper’s face. “‘m glad yeh feel that way. But don’ pass it up ’cause of that. F’they really want yeh, they’ll hafta work wit’ye on yer terms.” Now a wide grin split his face. “Truth be told, I’m a li’l jealous. Always wanted t’stomp about in them big clompy boots. Yeh get all th’fun.”
“You could come train with me.” She leaned forward, her voice dropping to a whisper. “Pirate Lord, Master of the Backfire, Mandalorian…” Ayy chuckled pushed herself up enough to kiss his forehead before flopping back down against the chair. “You really want to see me stop around in beskar all the time?”
“Kriff that. I ain’ wan’ hafta tell yeh pops t’start callin me a Mandalokidonian.” He narrowed his eyes and looked Ayy up and down.”Maybe not ALL th’time… but I’d be lyin’ if I said I wouldn’ wanna see what yeh’d look like all done up propa.”
“I’ll keep weighing the decision again and go speak with Sidewinder or Desev…” She pursed her lips to hide a bemused smile and scooted out of the booth, “Want to see what I look like all undone?”
Kal rose too, giving a wink. “Might as well, b’fore yeh get all sealed up in tha’ buska-whutsit suit an’ I neva see yeh again.” He peeked under the table, to find Scuppers lying on his back, tongue hanging out, legs kicking in the air occasionally as he slept. Kaliper clapped his hands, shouting, “There’s a gizka! Go get it! C’mon, let’s go!” The kusak pup abruptly rolled over, scrambled to its feet, and hopped about, scanning the area before taking off at a run, claws skittering across the deck plates.
Ayy grabbed at the doorway, her clawed fingernails scratching against the metal when Scuppers raced between her legs nearly knocking her down. “Scuppers!” The pup didn’t stop and she looked back to Kaliper quickly, “Did you have to rile him up?” She laughed, “And you are always going to see me, regardless of the Vencu’s. And maybe they won’t want me when they hear my requirements.”
“They’d be crazy not to. But I won’ complain if they don’t. More f’me.”
“You already get it all.” She winked leaned back against the doorway she had clung onto in order to survive Scupper’s racing for Gizka’s.
Kaliper stepped up behind Ayy and wrapped his arms about her waist. “S’pose I’ll jus’t hafta learn t’share.” He kissed her cheek. “But not righ’ now.”
Ayy’shiri blinked at the information that scrolled across the screen of her dapatad when it beeped. She pushed herself up to sit on the rugs in the quarters of the Dancing Nuna. “You’ve got to be kidding me…” She mumbled and reached for her comm unit to send a transmission to Kaliper but pausing momentatily, “Kal?” Her voice echoed through the semi-furnished hull of the Nova. Not waiting for a response she pushed herself up and swayed lazily through the corridors, leaving the sliding glass doors open behind her.
An access panel worked its way loose from the ceiling and dropped to the floor with a CLANG. A grubby Zabrak appeared slowly, headfirst, his stringy hair dangling toward the deckplates. Peering up and down the hallway, he pulled the swoop goggles from his eyes. “Ayy? Yeh say sommat?”
She stopped in the middle of the corridor and blinked twice before staring up at him in disbelief. Her lekku curled along the length of her spine, shifting as she canted her head. “What are you doing up there?” Anything she had in her head previously was now gone and her brow knit in concern as the multitudes of things he could possibly be doing to the Nuna raced through her head.
“Checkin’ fer Wroonian metal mites. They’ll tear through tritanium like it was a leftover pharple sammich. If yeh give’em two, mebbe three months. Tiny mouths, y’know.” He nodded solemnly, then cracked a wide grin.
She began to smile but quickly bit the side of her lip as she chuckled low, “And where would we have picked up Wroonian metal mites?”
“Anywhere!” Kaliper exclaimed, his eyes widening. “Shippin’ crates, bottom of someone’s boots, yeh got any metal fillin’s in yeh teeth?”
Slowly, she raised a hand up to her eyes and rubbed them before pinching the bridge of her nose and taking a deep breath. “My teeth are capped with a ceramic compound.” She shook her head, her hand falling down beside her, “The sensors would’ve picked up an infestation. Are you actually trying to distract yourself from something?”
Kaliper’s face scrunched up as he considered Ayy’s words. “Distractin’ m’self? Naah! Jus’ makin’ sure yeh ship ain’ gonna fall apart on ya while ya gone.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Kaliper.” She said quietly with a smile, “It’d be unfair to go and take our home, or the simple fact that if I was to go, I wouldn’t be allowed to stay in it.”
“Not goin’… where ya not goin’? An’ why ya not goin’ where ya not goin’?”
“I’m not going to train, I’m not going to become Mandalorian. I’ve got a business to run, I’ve got Punkal to think about and Arazil. It’s not for me. So, I’m staying. Here. With you. Unless you have a better plan.” She waved the datapad dismissively, her expression turning somewhat awkward despite her smile as she looked up at him.
Kaliper said nothing, staring at Ayy. He blinked once or twice, then suddenly tumbled from his perch in the maintenance hatch. He landed with a THUMP on the deckplates. She sat beside him, facing him and set the datapad on his lap as she checked him over briefly to make sure he hasdn’t hurt anything. “If you want me to, I’ll go but not to become Mandalorian.”
Dusting himself off, Kal reached out and wrapped his arms around Ayy. “I don’ want yeh t’go anywhere,” he mumbled.
She chuckled and settled against him, pressing her lips against his forehead for a moment. “Good, because there’s a Nunaball team for sale.” She whispered. “And you know, that wanting me to go elsewhere thing doesn’t exactly work out for me. There’s this thing about being in love with you that creates a complete obstacle.”
Kaliper looked up at Ayy, a confused and almost hurt expression on his face. “I neva wanted t’be an obstacle f’ya, Ayy.”
“You’re anything but an obstacle, Kaliper. I was trying to say that there’s no where else I’d rather be. I can’t become Mandalorian, not because of you, not even because of my business. I can’t do it because it’s not who I am or who I’ll ever be.”
“Oh. Right. ” At this, Kal relaxed, giving Ayy a wide smile. “Now, what’s this abou’ nunaball?”
Ayy pinched the bridge of her nose, her eyes flicking up at him with a nearly incredulous look. “Small team on Lok is for sale.” She mumbled, picking up the datapad from his lap to offer it to him once her fingers slid away from her nose.
Kaliper picked up the datapad. He skimmed over its contents briefly, tilting his head with a thoughtful expression on his face. Then he turned it right-side up, tossing Ayy a wink, and began to read it again. “Lousy record. Ain’ won a game in a bantha’s age. No wonder they’s f’sale.” He jabbed a finger at the display. “Lookit what they’s usin’! Window washers! Yeh seriously gonna throw creds at these ol’ junkers? Yeh’d do better puttin’em t’work scrubbin’ ya deckplates.”
She shrugged, “Buy the team. Change out the droids with my Pits. It doesn’t matter if they win or lose, so long as they bring in the credits for us. If we used some smart marketing, renamed them after our little project then it’s possible that if anyone got wind of what we were up to, they’d only be lead back to this team. We’d discussed it as a front before, but now with what Eltich and Zeke have paid me, we have the credits to do it.” She reached out to click the tips of her clawed nails against the display and brought up another series of images of the run-down court they played out of. “Should the front work well enough, we’d have safety to actually live our lives without looking over our shoulders. And not just you and I, but all of us. De’vek, Jatsin…”
“Y’know what? Yeh really really smart,” Kal said, with just a hint of mischief in his voice. “Anyone eva tell yeh that?” He leaned over and planted a quick kiss on the side of Ayy’s head. ” I can almos’ hear ya brains tickin’ ova from here.”
She pursed her lips together to hide a smirk, “No, no has ever told me that.” She took her datapad back from him and grinned, turning her head briefly to return his kiss. “My brains might have wroorian mites.”
Kaliper laughed. “Don’ be silly. Can’t have metal mites in ya head. Those’d be Terellian brain burrowers. Completely differen’, y’know.”
“Did you write a paper on them too?” She teased, sticking her tongue out at him. “It could be the sounds you’re hearing.”
“Maybe I’VE got brain burrowers! Quick, are both my ears th’same size?”
She took his chin between her fingers and moved his head from once side to the other slowly inspecting his ears with a, “Hmm.” “Ooooh” “Ew…” Ayy scruntched her nose, “Same size, but you really need to clean behind the left one. Looks like you got into a fight with some grease up there.”
“Damned grease always fights dirty.” Kal held a straight face for as long as he could. About two seconds. Then he dissolved into a fit of giggles.
Ayy just watched him, trying not to chuckle at the display herself but failing. “How do you get grease behind your ears but,” She hooked her fingers against his and brought up his hands. “Not here?” Now she really was just teasing.
“That,” Kal proclaimed, “is one of the great mysteries of the universe. Like ‘why are we here?’ ‘where are we going?’ ‘Who’s flying this ship anyway?'”
“No one, we’re docked. We’re here because I work in West Carova and we’re going to Lok to buy this team AFTER I find a way to bribe you into the ‘fresher.” She smirked and pushed herself up, offering him a hand.
“Awww, not the fresher!” Kal whined as he took Ayy’s hand and hauled himself to his feet.
“If you think it’ll take the pain away, I’ll join you.” She snickered, fighting the temptation to tell him to cry more.
“Consider me bribed!”
Ayy’shiri pulled her rifle off her shoulder as she approached the tent. Her boots drug through the sand, heavy with the exhaustion of her mind and body. She pushed the flap of the tent away and took great care in laying out her weaponry and equipment before removing her helmet for the first time that day. Her eyes closed as the fresh arid environment of Tatooine could be felt against her skin. “Before we start with space and stars, I need to talk to you.” She set the helmet down atop her neat assortment of artilary and flopped down against the bedroll on her back. A simple groan escaped her, the relief of rest.
“If it were asked of you by your people, by your family, would you go against Eltich and I? Or those of our people? And if so, to what extent?”
As Ayy entered, Kaliper looked up from the collection of scavenged junk he had been idly arranging and re-arranging on the makeshift table in the tent. He studied the pile of gear she was laying out on the ground, his eyes resting on the helmet for a while, before he turned to regard Ayy herself. A slow smile spread across his face as he watched her work, but faded quickly at her mention of space and stars. He fidgeted uneasily on his stool, then settled back for a moment as he considered her question, glad for the abrupt change of topic.
“Well…” he began slowly, “fer starters, I know better’n t’pick a fight wi’a Mandalorian, let alone several. ‘Specially if one of’em is gonna be you.” He gave her a quick wink. “An’ as f’m’family, I’d hope they’s got at least as much sense as me where tha’ matter’ is concerned. But if they didn’t… well, I got a right t’refuse’em f’they asked. An’ they’s gotta unnerstand m’choice, even if they ain’ like it. I won’ fight yeh. ‘Less it’s just fa fun.” Here Kal paused, shifting himself on his seat to face Ayy squarely. “An’ what about yaself? F’ya new family eva set themselves out agains’ m’kin? D’ye got th’same right? Or is yeh all honour an’ glory-bound t’follow’em
jus’ ’cause they says so?”
“Things have happened. It’s very possible that Saevio and Arsani will be hunting Eltich and I. I can’t tell you why things happened as they did, but Sani shot Eltich and had she hurt him, I’d have killed her. My rifle was drawn, I hesitated in firing it because I knew that once I pulled the trigger there’d be no going back. She retaliated when another Mandalorian stunned her and in turn, we are moving against them.” She explained in a voice devoid of emotion. Her eyes were focused on the cross-section of the T-Visor she cradled in her hands. “I can’t hestitate, Kaliper. One of the tenets is to protect the clan, our ways. Without even thinking, I made my choice.”
Kaliper stared at Ayy, mouth hanging open. Then he slowly leaned forward, his head thumping onto the table. “Things have happened, y’say,” he mumbled into the tabletop. “Things is ALWAYS happenin’. ‘S never simple, is it?” He pushed himself up from the table and again turned to face Ayy. “If yeh’ve made ya choice, then I s’pose it’s time I made mine.” He looked at Ayy for a long while, then glanced away, closing his eyes. When he spoke again, it was in a quiet, firm, almost cold voice, one Ayy had heard only a few times before. “Sani and Saevio, good friends though they may be, are not my clan. Not my family. And if they EVER do you harm, I will pay them back tenfold.” He nodded once, his mouth set in a grim line.
Then he heaved a sigh, slumping back into his seat. “That bein’ said, I’d much prefer it neva came t’blows or blades or blasters between any of yeh. An’ if I hafta, I’ll put m’self righ’ smack b’tween the lot of ya. So’s they gotta go through me t’get t’ya, an’ ya gotta go through me t’get t’them. I’ll grab y’all by th’scruff an’ shake yeh ’til yeh stop tryin’ ta kill each otha.” He fixed Ayy with a pleading look. “Please try an’ talk’em down, willya? Yeh can protect ya clan just as well by avoidin’ a pointless fight as yeh can by killin’ anyone who looks at ya funny.”
Ayy looked up at Kaliper, her eyes moist with tears. She opened her mouth to speak but silenced herself and picked up the helmet to pull over her head and settled her lekku within the armourweave. “Conversations have been had.” Came the metallic drone of her response through the voice filter and she slowly pushed herself to her feet to pick up her armaments and settle them on her person. “I can’t allow you to harm yourself, because there is nothing I can do to stop this. What has happened will happen again. You are aruetii and I am asr’manda, it’s a choice that will constantly come between us and I cannot choose you over my clan.”
“I’m sorry.” She said as she left the tent.
The walk back to her ship, the KSE Firespray she’d finished and proudly named, “Shereshoy.” It was one of the longest walks she could ever remember taking. This time, she grieved for two lost loves and her tears made her stumble in the sands.