Life on Klatooine – Fiach’s formative years

Fiach Dubh

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“I wouldn’t dismiss them quite so quickly. They may not be attractive to your eyes, Vestara, but their culture predates even the Old Republic. You’re looking at one of the oldest species in the galaxy.”
― Luke Skywalker to Vestara Khai


There was the Maw, and near it was Kessel. Hutt space had been clearly defined, and sure enough if you examined the charts, there was the Si’Klaata Cluster, consisting of Klatooine, Nimia, Ques, Lant, Iotra, Yoruibuunt, and Sriluur. Klatooine had been firmly within Hutt space historically – and for very good reasons.

Fiach’s home world was an arid planet. Visible from space as a sandy yellow ball of a world, marked only by a few areas of vegetation or the blue of oceans.

Most would suggest there was nothing remotely interesting on such a desolate place – but the locals knew different. It looked like a geyser at the moment of eruption, captured forever in time, each finger of water, each splash, each droplet, frozen so that one could admire its power and grace. Swirling, turning, it was vibrant, creative motion somehow paused. And it was not a statue but a natural formation – a type of glass.

It was known as the Fountain of the Hutt Ancients. The planet produces deep in its core a substance called wintrium. Back before recorded time – some tens of thousands of years – there was some kind of fissure in the planet’s crust. The wintrium erupted. There was a chemical change when it came into contact with the air and rather like water freezing instantly, it was transformed into glass rather than ice.

To Klatoonians, it is a sacred object. For, as Fiach knew so well, time is very important to their mind-set and culture…her mind-set and culture. The wintrium continues to harden through the centuries, becoming stronger instead of more fragile, an analogy of the Klatoonian’s in their eyes.

One of the reasons they agreed to become servants of the Hutts over twenty-five thousand years ago was because the Hutts promised to always keep the Fountain safe. It was even renamed – originally being known as simply the Fountain of the Ancients.
 

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TREEMA, CAPITAL OF KLATOOINE

Fiach was often left in charge of the store. Perhaps that was too grand a word for the small space that operated as a repair shop, with an awning above the entrance to give the appearance of more space. Fiach’s speeder was parked outside with a sign that simply read:

IF IT’S BROKE – WE FIX IT

As Fiach had grown older and developed her skills, she had encouraged her parents to take in more than just broken speeders and perform repairs on small craft. If it was mechanical or electrical, she knew she could fix it and had something of a reputation of someone to go to when others failed. Their shop just made ends meet and they could not afford the best parts – so her repairs were typically a last resort and customers accepted a less than beautiful solution.

Not that Treema was a city that shouted prosperity. It was the oldest city and had not fallen into ruins, primarily because of its proximity to the Fountain of Hutt Ancients. The city seemed to like to build on top of itself. Ships were permitted to dock in the centre of each level. The most expensive docking bays were on the top level, with the price falling the closer one was willing to be to the ground. The reasoning was simple: the upper levels offered better protection from sandstorms, greater security, and simply were newer.

During the height of the Hutt control in the galaxy, the city had been impressive. But nowadays, the world clearly did not receive the attention or the traffic it once had and but for the tourist trade related to the fountain, it had little going for it. Turbolifts that connected the levels of the buildings varied from efficient to erratic to let’s-not-get-on-this-one.

The city was one of zones and levels. Some were living areas, again with the most expensive and attractive dwellings near the top, and what essentially amounted to hovels down at ground level, and in some cases lower than that. Fiach’s parent’s store (and humble abode were at street level. The shop was in the sector devoted to trade: repair shops, stores, markets, and so on. Still others seemed to exclusively feature restaurants and taverns, and more were dedicated to recreation.
 
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Fiach Dubh

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Fiach was on a mission today. She had a few credits and some repaired items for trade and was on the hunt for tonight’s meal.

The zone she was in could easily be mistaken for a circus – given the noise, bustle and colours. There was also an overwhelming variety of smells, not all of which were pleasant. It was – in fact – an open-air market, and a crowded one. Underfoot was not duracrete as most capital cities enjoyed, but hard-packed soil.

Like most originally arid worlds that had a population to support, the Klatooinians had learned to grasp sufficient moisture from the soil by means of technology in order to grow a decent amount of crops. It was cheaper, in the long run (which was always the Katoonian philosophy), to invest in droids, irrigation technology, and up-to-date vaporators and mechanics to take care of them than it was to import food.

Fiach enjoyed the shaded marketplace, with its artificially moist, cool air blowing and musicians standing about playing strangely complicated-looking instruments with cases looking sadly empty of cred-coins. A few minutes later and all Fiach had left to make her purchases were the trade items she carried, her credits given to those she deemed less fortunate than herself and her parents. And she gazed longingly at the vast array of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and meats. None of which were any longer in her price range.
 

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“Twenty credits,” the merchant demanded. His tone was not aggressive or friendly – but rather was typical of the tenor of someone versed in haggling. Not that Fiach was a stranger to the art – for like the traders, her life was directly influenced by her ability to negotiate a deal.

From an early age, her parents decided she was the best person to seek out the best deal for food and essential supplies. She seemed to have a knack of striking the most advantageous arrangement they said, and she never seemed to upset a trader in her negotiations – something of a first for a non-native. Was it her age or gender that made the difference? Neither her parents nor Fiach knew, she just did what came naturally to her and it seemed to pay off.

For she never looked to offer an unfair price, nor did she start too low on the basis they would meet somewhere in the middle. Rather, she stated a fair price and the vendor either accepted or she sensed was not going to meet her price – when she would move to another seller. Sometimes, and definitely of late, she would raise her price slightly at their bidding. This was to appeal to their egos in being able to push her offer up and she saw it as a fair exchange – in which both sides got what they needed.

Fiach reviewed the vegetables. In her mind, they were worth no more than eight credits and the power couple she considering offering was worth ten. She took it out of her shoulder bag. “I’ll trade you this. It’s worth at least ten.” As ever, she was being totally honest with him and she hoped he appreciated and understood her candour.

Finally, he nodded. “A deal.”

She smiled and handed over the part before placing the vegetables into her bag. “I appreciate your wisdom and fairness,” she replied.

‘Right,’ she thought, ‘some protein next.’
 

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Fiach’s collection of parts to trade were depleted and she had enough food for half a week. It had been a good day in the market – but she knew she would have to get some new parts to repair if she was to repeat the exercise in a few days. And that meant heading out into the desert to scavenge for that balance of item that was valuable enough to trade – but not so valuable that it would not have already been stripped from a derelict ship.

The alternative was to work for one of the vehicle hire and repair shops. Sure, they had their own mechanics but when something appeared beyond repair, Fiach was often asked to work her magic and restore it to working order. Often it was mended to the point where it would not fall apart when touched. If it wasn’t touched too hard that is. Then the vendor would sell it as quickly as they could. Fiach (quite obviously) did not approve of this practice.
 

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Sometimes Fiach wondered what it would be in a position where she didn’t have to make choices that affected anyone other than herself. In her own mind, everything she did seemed connected to someone else’s wellbeing. Not that she necessarily minded – for she saw this as an opportunity to do good – but she often met people that seemed to have no cares in the world. Who lived a solitary life and seemed to make simple decisions. Fix a malfunctioning motivator or not, eat or not, sleep or not. It was not her life and she sensed that it never would be although – like many of her instincts – she had no way of telling or understanding why she thought this way. It simply…was.

For some, living in the Outer Rim had its benefits. The planetary populations were small and not highly organised, making it easier to live a life unfettered by politics and rules. She’d also come t understand this made such planets a haven for those that wanted to stay far away from any of the major hyperspace lanes. Most of the planets in the Outer Rim didn’t have anything interesting enough to attract attention, and fugitives rarely wanted to attract attention.

It was fair to share she’d met a few in her time. Some simply kept a profile so low that you could be forgiven for thinking they were shadows of their former selves. Others tended to revert to type. Whatever made them travel to Klatooine must be in their blood and they took up their life of crime in their new home. Most often they were petty thieves, the local crime syndicates did not allow any major competition to upset the natural order.

Despite knowing she was not from this planet and despite the fact she lived a simple and often near to the bread-line existence, Klatooine suited her. It was dusty and quiet, yet there were enough newcomers that she was always learning new things.
 

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It was morning and Fiach stood and crossed the floor of their tiny apartment. It wasn’t fancy enough to have rooms, just hangings that acted as room dividers, but the thing about austerity is that, if you don’t know any other life, you don’t see it for what it is.

She was dressed in her usual light-coloured, loose fitting garments and flicked some sand off her sleeve. Even the affluent Klatoonians were invariably coated with the dust that blew in off the desert flats and Fiach was hardly well-off.

Her sleeping area was bare except for her bed and thick floor mat where she might have entertained guests, had she ever received any. Her choice of clothes consisted of what she wore and – despite her parent’s protests – she refused to buy more. She reasoned she could only wear one set of clothes at a time and given she worked every day, there was no need for a ‘best’ set of clothing. When she was younger, they would surprise her with new things but over time had accepted her wishes and knew that, if she needed any replacements, she would ask.
 

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But today was a different day. For today she had brought home something from the repair shop. In her spare time, she’d manage to construct a computer using pieces scavenged from many derelict ships or from parts left over when she’d made makeshift repairs.

The centrepiece was a cracked but still-usable display from an old speeder. And a week ago, she’d found on the wreckage of a beaten-up hauler, a stash of data chips, and after painstakingly going through each and every one of them, she'd discovered three with their programs still intact; one of them, to her delight, had been a flight simulator.

So today, instead of being a day for scavenging, was a day to fly – at least theoretically. It was a good program, or she imagined it was, given nothing to compare it to. She could select any number of ships to fly, from small repulsor-driven atmospheric craft to a wide variety of fighters, all the way up to an array of medium freighters. She could set destinations, to worlds she'd never visited and never imagined she would, and also scenarios, from speed runs to obstacle courses to system failures.
 

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Initially she was awful. Truly awful. She was unable to last more than a few seconds without crashing the ship once she’d taken off. But with no hobbies, or social life, and boundless patience mixed with a sense of determination that she would not allow herself to be beaten by anything, let alone a data chip and a machine that she herself had put together, her abilities grew. And then blossomed.

She learned so much that there was nothing the simulator could throw at her that would challenge her any more. She'd reached the point where she would, quite deliberately, do everything she could think of to make things hard on herself, just to see if she could get out of it. Full-throttle atmospheric re-entry with repulsor-engine failure? No problem. Multiple hull breach deep-space engine flameout? It came as second nature to overcome the challenge.
 

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SOMEWHERE IN TREEMA

Fiach’s eyes fluttered open. Only seconds had passed since the thugs had knocked her unconscious. She could hazily make out the two figures standing over her.

“She knows too much. Better we just kill her.”

Fiach’s mind raced – yet as was often the case in these high-pressure situations – time seemed to slow (if that wasn’t a paradox). But her head hurt too much right now to even consider the conundrum. For foremost on her mind was whatever these figures believed she know – which in her opinion was nothing, let alone too much. And she searched her memory for how she ended up here. Wherever here was…

Though still only half-conscious, Fiach started to protest, but she found her mouth was numb from having something slammed into it. Her swollen lips couldn’t form the words.

Fortunately, one of the two figures did not consider her a credible threat. “No. If the boss wants her dead, he’ll want to do it himself.” It was hardly comforting, but it was a crumb at least. A reprieve.

One of the blurs (her vision was still at best hazy) reached down and grabbed a lapel on Fiach’s jacket. “We’ll lock her in the second cargo bay. The boss will be delighted with the credits and this one is a bonus. He might even pay us extra.”
 

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As she was physically lifted over the figure’s shoulder, she parted company with her breakfast. Or it may have been lunch…time and her memory was still as foggy as her eyesight. She felt the body beneath her stiffen and she braced herself for the inevitable blow. It was delivered to her jaw, but she remained conscious and was aware of travelling up – maybe up a ramp – and then it got a lot darker.

Fiach allowed herself to go limp. She looked back through half-closed eyelids to see the second figure was following them and the silhouette seemed to confirm her suspicions about being taken onto a ship. But what ship. And why. And who were these two? Too many questions formed in her fuzzy mind and she closed her eyes voluntarily and relaxed, gathering her thoughts by first emptying her mind.

Clearly these two were not the brains of whatever operation she’d stumbled upon. They were henchmen and the mention of cargo bays and credits suggested they’d delivered something on behalf of their boss. But was he somewhere else on Klatooine or off-world? She’d often considered inter-stellar travel, but not like this.

Relaxing further, she thought things though. They must be smugglers. And smugglers travelled with cargos that were designed to be hidden. And – if her logic stood up to scrutiny – smugglers often got boarded. Which meant their ships had secret compartments and…if she was lucky…ways to jettison the cargo.
 

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Within minutes of the cargo hold door closing and Fiach hearing it locking, she heard what must be the outer cargo bay door closing, or the ramp raising. She couldn’t really care less how the ship operated, but knew this signalled a countdown of sorts. Her two assailants would have to prep the ship for take-off, gain clearance from wherever they were situated and then they could take off. Her escape plan had to be executed within a matter of minutes – and she hadn’t formulated it as yet.

Not that it was going to be a particularly clever or detailed one.

Fiach kept her eyes closed. It was dark in the hold and trying to see was more of a hindrance than a help right now. So, she felt around her, building a mental map of the hold’s layout and worked on the assumption that any escape hatch would be beneath her. It was the only way to leave the ship, after all. And Fiach believed the opening would not be obvious to the naked eye, which is another reason she relied on touch alone.

And then she found it. It was a small circle, flush to the floor of the hold, an almost perfect fit to the floor around it, but her fingers felt the slight ridge. It could easily have been missed but luck, it seemed, was on her side. She depressed the button and it exposed a small opening and a catch. She flicked the mechanism and – quite literally – fell out of the ship. Natural reflexes took hold and she curled into something of a ball as she dropped, and her back took the brunt of the impact as she impacted duracrete.

Unfurling, she dared to open her eyes and although not perfect, her eyesight was definitely improving. The good news was that there was no sign of the two figures. There was bad news however, there were tell-tale signs that the engines were being started up and she risked being burned alive where she lay – and she wasn’t sure if she could trust her legs to carry her to safety.

The cool, clean air calmed her nerves. It did nothing, however, to soothe the stinging pain of her battered lips and her bruised back. Taking a deep breath, she scrambled across the landing pad to the only place she could hide -- the empty cargo containers sitting at the edge of the platform.

She gently nursed her jaw, which had taken the impact of the punch she’d taken as a result of her vomiting, as she looked around the landing pad to make sure that nobody had spotted her and was coming to return her to the hold.

Stashing herself between two of the containers, Fiach wracked her brain for a plan. She figured (or was that hoped?) the thugs would not check the cargo hold and discover her escape until they were some distance from here.
 

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Fiach’s racing thoughts slammed to a stop when she heard the hiss of the doors opening at the other end of the docking bay. She peeked out, not knowing what to expect, her eyesight now close to normal. She was startled to see a rodian with a protocol droid at his side. There was nothing distinctive about his clothing, but something about his bearing suggested he was someone of authority. And his brisk pace and furrowed brow suggested he was worrying about something, his distant look suggested it had nothing to do with the task at hand. The rodian looked up at the ship – which she now recognised as a fairly standard medium freighter and waved. Behind him, the protocol droid was desperately trying to keep up.

Any sounds of the ship departing quickly stopped and a few moments later, the cargo bay door of the ship opened and, what she assumed were the two thugs that assaulted her, exited the freighter.

If the rodian seemed stressed, the two henchmen were visibly agitated.

Fiach was trying to study them more closely, but her view was blocked when they met at a spot she could only view if she made her presence known.

Relying on her hearing alone, she closed her eyes – she always found this helped heighten the other senses – and unconsciously began biting her swollen lip as she considered this turn of events. Was the rodian the boss? Would her chance to escape flounder if they discovered her absence before they took off?

Her heartbeat slightly elevated now, Fiach dared to steal another look at the scene. The thugs and the rodian had fallen silent. The utility droid had disappeared into the ship and now returned with a large box – of what she presumed were the credits.

A low murmur of voices was now audible and clearly tempers were fraying as more and more snatches of speech reached Fiach’s ears.
 

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“—I’m not interested—” came from, she was sure, the rodian. She recognised the other two voices by now.

“BUT—” the remainder of the sentence was inaudible.

“Kill her.”

There was another exchange and Fiach craned her ears in a futile attempt to make out the words. Finally, their voices were at a level she was able to follow the conversation.

“No, not here, not now. Somewhere off world. I suspect she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is nothing to tie her to me, so don’t make a link.”

“How about Nal—”

Whatever planet he was about to suggest remained unformed on his lips.

“Don’t tell me you fool.” And with that, the Rodian and his droid turned on their heels and left.

A minute later, she heard the ship’s sub-light engines engage. Moments later, she watched in relief as the ship lifted off the landing pad.
 

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She waited a while before moving. Long enough to be sure the rodian wasn’t going to return and not so long that the thugs might find out she’d gone and return.

On one hand, she had little information. But what she had should be enough for an investigation. She knew the landing bay, the ship, its registration and although the rodian was nondescript, being accompanied by a protocol droid ought to differentiate him.

She was about to stand up when she heard a small voice, not far from her position.

“Sorry.”

She whirled around and saw a little girl, her clothes suggesting she was most likely a beggar. At that moment, her memories came flooding back. The girl had stolen some jewellery at the market. Fiach did not condone an acceptance of homelessness and starvation, but nor did she take kindly to theft. So, she’d followed the girl, to see where she went and if she could firstly talk her out of a life of crime and secondly see what she could do to help her out of her predicament.

And when the girl had ducked into this landing bay, probably to check her ill-gotten gains, Fiach had followed. But when the thugs arrived, they’d only seen the tall blonde and – she presumed – had decided to knock her out first and ask questions later. Except the questions never came.

The little girl held out her hand. In it was a necklace. “I’m sorry,” she repeated. “You have it.”

“No,”
said Fiach, gently. “you can return it to the trader, but first we go to the authorities.”

The little girl’s eyes widened and she shook her head. Tears were forming in her eyes.

“No, not for the reason you believe,” said Fiach again, equally as softly as before. “I suspect there is a reward for the information we have – and I want you to keep it.”
 

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A HUTT STRONGHOLD – SOMEWHERE ON KLATOOINE

Fiach was dreaming. In her dream, she was a little girl, sitting on her father’s lap and she was listening to her moher tell her a children’s nursery rhyme. But as hard as she tried, she could not make her mother’s face come into focus. Nor her voice, that seemed to drift in and out.

“On your feet, slave!” a voice growled. Not her mother’s. There followed an acute pain as someone kicked Fiach in the ribs. This was clearly no longer a dream.

She woke groggily, and found herself lying in the dirt. Scanning her surroundings, she saw she was in a small courtyard. But how had she gotten here? The last things she remembered was finding a wreck a dozen or so clicks from the Fountain of the Ancients. She remembered it looked pristine – almost too unspoiled to be an old wreck.

She was in discomfort from the kick but there was also a pain in her right shoulder and she remembered the blow – the result of a stun blaster. It had been, she knew realised, a trap.

Now she was fully awake. She crawled to her hands and knees, but couldn’t get up. She felt dizzy and realised that metal cuffs bound her wrists.

“You heard me. On your feet!”

Her body moved involuntarily as the captor yanked on a chain attached to her bindings. Her hands snapped forward and she fell face forward.
 

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She’d heard of the practice of course. Her stomach tightened as she swallowed her panic. She’d been alone and easy prey. And who would challenge her captors if she said she was not legitimately a slave? The law would be on her side technically but on a planet like this one, credits spoke louder than justice. As she lay there, eyes closed, she wondered how these things always seem to happen to her. What had she done in a previous life to deserve such poor karma?

“Up!” Another boot slammed into Fiach, her thigh this time. She steeled herself for what was to come and made her way clumsily to her knees and then her feet.

She had no idea how long she’d been knocked out. She was aware it was still daytime, but the same afternoon or some days later? It was still a couple of hours until sundown.

Her guard was a devaronian. Fiach resisted against the tension of the chains and the guard yanked hard. The force of it pulled Fiach off her feet, much to her guard’s amusement.

She felt too weak to fight, or even to walk. She was aware that her wrists were also bruised and in pain. Uncaring if she could walk, the devaronian simply dragged her along the ground, like some stubborn puppy.

Thankfully, she wasn’t dragged far. She was taken into a bare room, with a couple of guards and more slaves. The devaronian dropped the chain and left the room, allowing Fiach to lie…and think.

“We’ve a full shipment,” someone said over a guard’s comlink.

The guard standing above Fiach received another message. “Transport the prisoners to the holding pens, we’ll collect them after dusk” he was instructed.
 
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