Rand could hardly believe the sprawling mass of ivory arranged in a series of three concentric discs below him was one city. Of course, he had seen bigger cities on worlds like Taris and Coruscant, but those covered so much of their respective planets that it was easy to accept that the planet just was a city. But these were something else. Architectural genius, beauty beyond compare. He could hardly find the words to describe it. Where would they even begin to make a difference in a place that big?
The answer, he suspected, lay on the eastern most disc. A large structure rose out of its center—large enough to be a city on its own. That was the Palace District. Despite a whole continent laying thousands of kilometers north of the city, the capitol of Tatlo was located here floating on top of the largest of the planet's tropical oceans. There the gears of power turned. And there, Mandalorian control of the planet would be decided. But only if they capitalized on the refugee crisis properly.
That, as it turned out, was harder than it seemed; and Rand wasn't all too sure how he felt about it to begin with. Song had invited him back to deal with his traitorous uncle. But he was no closer to achieving that goal in the months since she had found him in Mos Eisley. Was he truly out of exile yet? Was he once again part of his people?
It didn't matter. Not yet. Think of it as a job, Rand, he told himself. One you're not getting paid for.
They were descending in his ship. He, Song, and another Mandalorian he didn't know. Awkward silence had reigned for the past hour, but now that they were actually nearing the starport, he supposed it was time to get their plan straight. "We should side with the Mon Calamari," he said suddenly and bluntly. "If our mission succeeds, this planet will be the incubator of the new Mandalorian fleet. Everyone knows the people of Mon Cala are brilliant shipwrights." It was not fair, he knew, but they weren't here to be fair. They were here to do a job. To win. He added, "And supplies only stretch so far. We'd be forced to make a choice either way." @Song@Killa Ree
To say the trip had been awkward would be an understatement.
Song wasn’t exactly on good terms with either accompanying Mandalorian. On one hand, there was Mysha Kelborn. She’d met the woman on Nevarro, during a hunt for a hidden trove of beskar, before she had rudely parted ways with her, and for reasons Song had already forgotten. On the other hand, there was Randor Wren. Her exiled cousin. She’d crossed paths with him in a cantina on Tatooine, which they’d proceeded to destroy in a harrowing fight that had left both of them bruised and bloody.
Her father had killed his, after all, and he hadn’t been particularly forgiving after spending years in the desert. And while the two of them had forged a partnership in the mutual desire to destroy the old man, Song doubted he’d forgiven her yet.
At least they could agree on some things. Like the mission, for a start. Although her conscience bucked against the idea of throwing diplomacy out the window, Rand had a point. Between thinning supplies and rising tensions, unifying the three sides would take weeks, if not months, of diplomatic talks—and that was time she’d much rather spend elsewhere. The Mon Calamari were the best option for the Mandalorians.
“Agreed,” she said once Rand had finished speaking. “I don’t believe the Wookies have ever been very fond of our people, and their strong sense of independence could become a problem in the future.” As the ship neared the dockyard, she scanned the city’s skyline, a white sea of buildings on the water. “A council rules the planet. Three members, one for each species. According to reports, they’ve been locked in a cold war with each other for months since the last refugee crisis.”
“If we want to put the Mon Calamari in power, the other council members will have to go.” She left the implication of that up in the air, then turned to Mysha. “Unless you have any better ideas, Kelborn?”
Mysha didn't really know either of these people too well. The last time she had been on a mission with fellow Mandalorians, it had been the assault on Zyggeria; that felt like a lifetime ago, with a man most of their people saw as dead. Though she knew better, it didn't make the loss any easier. So she buried herself in work with her own kind. After all, she wanted to earn her way to be the next leader of the Kelborn; she had to prove not only her skills with her hammer, but her words as well. However, it seemed the two together knew each other; she had met Song before, but the woman seemed awkward. Well, saving one's life and then flying with them had to be awkward, indeed, but the male in their midst seemed even more unsure of reading the room.
Of course, siding with the Mon Cala residents would seem like the most logical step forward. However, that would be playing one third of the peoples at odds against two thirds. Some might like those odds, but it wouldn't be in their favor. And surely, the council they would meet would expect this. The armorer shrugged at the man's words, tilting her helm his way. Today, the Mandalorian had dressed in her steel skin in the grey of mourning. However, the scatterweave cloak she draped herself in was black with sheens of silver over its' surface, and she kept her armor highly polished. This was the next step to proving leadership, after all.
At Song's words, she nodded.
"Much as I think it would be beneficial to ally with the Mon Cala, it would be in far better interests to work all three." Her voice was measured and calm, and for a moment, she glanced out of the ship's views to the city below. "Three different factions; two, beleaguered with the loss of their respective homelands. One, taking on all these unwanted flotsam of political battling. Abandoned by an Empire, and now other governmental bodies. No doubt, to a degree, all three would be resentful. I suggest we use it; Horuz, of its' own, is still a great asset for our ships." Her lips twitched, unseen, beneath her helmet. "It all depends on how we are greeted, as well. The Wookies will be the hardest to deal with, but hardly the worst. Despite their... dislike... having a stable home would be preferable to being viewed as baggage, don't you think?" She tilted her head slightly, arms crossing beneath her bust.
She could play the role of diplomat... and if the three proved stubborn, they could be provoked to extreme measures. A conquered world would be better than none, after all, and if they wouldn't welcome open talks, they could simply take what was there by force.
Rand had thoughts of the unhelpful variety. His life was bounty hunting. Diplomacy was not exactly a skillset most bounty hunters picked up. In Rand's experience, the best way to make people do what you wanted them to do was stick a blaster in their face and give them an ultimatum. But he wasn't a bounty hunter here. The Creed compelled him to help other Mandalorians, even if he didn't know one and was sour about the other. And even though Song's father had exiled them and stripped him of the name 'Mandalorian,' he had to be one now—for his father, rest his soul.
"Fine," he said tonelessly and with a shrug. "But I've never been much of a talker. If it's the diplomatic route we're taking, it's best I let one of you do the talking while I stand somewhere menacingly."
For all the good that will do.
He steered the ship towards the starport nearest the Palace District. An aquatic platform greeted him, and there was already a delegation assembling to receive them on the other side of the security clearance. If anyone asked, he was simply the ladies' security. With any luck, that was all he would have to be. But some small part of him hoped the negotiations went sideways. He hated feeling useless, and he was plenty more helpful when his fists were involved.
The ship settled into its nest with a small jolt and Rand killed the power before marching out of the cockpit and down into the bay where the landing ramp was. A security team met them at its foot, holding out scanners and buckets for their weapons.
«You'll need to remove that helmet and your weapons,» a bulbous Mon Cala in a white uniform said.
Rand had anticipated this. "It would be a bad way to greet your guests by making them violate their religion."
«And that shiny dome and an arsenal of explosives are needed to preform this... religion?»
"I'm a Mandalorian," Rand said simply. "So, yeah. Kinda."
The Mon Cala huddled with his accomplices and whispered in hushed, angry tones, before giving Rand his attention again. «The helmet can stay. The weapons will be returned to you after they have passed a basic check to make sure you aren't carrying any illegal arms. Will that satisfy your religion?»
Rand hated the emphasis the Mon Cala put on the word. The Way of the Mandalore had always received skepticism everywhere its children went. But he was honor bound to stick to it. He would not dishonor his father, no matter what it meant for the Mandalorians as a whole. "That will be acceptable," he said, and relinquished his weapons into one of their outstretched tubs. @Song@Killa Ree
She rested a finger against her helmeted chin, considering Mysha’s words. She wasn’t surprised the armorer was seeking a solution that benefited everyone. It was generous, noble even, and something Song might’ve suggested had she not lived and seen so much death in the last year. Between Ghent and the Mand'alor's crusade, violence had become a subject she’d grown all too accustomed.
“Taking the diplomatic route won’t be easy, and maintaining a hold on Horuz might prove difficult if tensions break out in the future,” she said, then shrugged, “but you may be right. We can approach this with a soft touch first, and if that fails, we can do this the traditional way.” By force. Should the council not come to a compromise, Song supposed the three of them would have to make one of their own. And should that fail too, well, other arrangements could be made.
As Rand submitted to the security inspection and proffered up his weapons, Song did the same. All her blasters—and what knives that weren’t concealed on her body—she handed over to the guards, comfortable enough without them to continue. On Krownest, she’d learned a hundred different ways to kill a man, bloodying her knuckles against tree stumps or tearing ligaments as she perfected the same kick a thousand times. She could take them on with her bare fists alone.
She was hardly defenseless.
Once they’d passed through the security checkpoint, Song turned to the others, hoping to reassure them. “I should have said this before, but we have spare Mandalorians and ships on standby in case they’re needed, courtesy of the Solus’alor. With their help, seizing the government for ourselves should be relatively simple.” She cast Mysha a sympathetic glance. “But it won’t be bloodless. And without any one species on our side, the government we build after won’t be a welcome one.”
She could remember what happened when Fenyang had forcibly taken Lothal, without compromise or conditions. The blood he’d spilled that day, and the innocent woman he’d publicly murdered, still hung heavy on her mind like a pall of smoke. Not even Song, cold as she’d become, wanted that for Horuz.
“So,” she added, cutting her eyes back ahead to where the delegation waited. “Let’s do our best.”
Her comm beeped as the others spoke; glancing down at the message, the woman uttered a chuckle, before putting it away and adjusting her cape.
"Clan Kelborn is here as well. We also have people waiting, just in case words fail."
Despite the humor of what the message was, her tone was calm. "If there are problems diplomacy can't solve, we solve it the way apparently all other aruetii do, and what these leaders no doubt expect; we show them the diplomacy of plasma and beskar."
Succinct and to the point. However, all other conversation seemed to be over, as already, there were representatives waiting for them.
She surrendered her firearms and grenades without much care; even the vibroknives. She was sure the others were like her. They didn't need blasters to be effective.
Bowing once to the delegation, her voice came clear, cool, and authoritarian. "We thank you for your consideration of our religion, and your time," she answered smoothly, standing tall. She could be polite if necessary, however, if they continued sneering at her and her compatriots, she might have to begin shaking these fish in their little barrel. Despite her placid tone, however, she stood as tall as she could, all but towering over one of this group of... representatives?
She didn't have to be a doormat to be polite, after all. They weren't here to play nice, so she wouldn't play nice either.
The fish made good on its promise, returning their weapons to them on the other side of the security checkpoint. Rand very much doubted these few representatives could take down the three of them, even unarmed, but it felt good to be whole again. They led them along a narrow, winding street that he could only guess would eventually get them to the Palace District. It was hard to see over the city's many alabaster walls, and as they got further into the city, they became crammed tightly together by crowded market stalls and their unruly customers.
«As you can see,» the Wookiee representative said in her native tongue. «The situation here is dire. There are too many mouths to feed and not enough goods coming in to feed them. The recent disaster on my homeworld has increased the flow of immigrants to our world. The situation is simply unsustainable.»
«It would be more sustainable,» the Mon Cala representative cut in, «if you Wookiees didn't eat so much.»
«Don't act as though you're suffering. The Mon Cala have been building underwater cities to compensate for the growing crowdedness of the city. Your people have room and food while mine starve.»
While the aliens bickered, the human delegate remained suspiciously quiet. His eyes were fixed on Rand's helmet. He had no doubt heard the news reports out of Lothal and elsewhere in the Outer Rim. The Mandalorians were on crusade again. He was suspicious the three of them were here for the same purpose. Rand wished he were right.
He did nothing to break up the squabbling delegates. To him, it sounded like the Mon Cala were earning their keep. Sure, it would seem shitty to an outsider that the Mon Cala were easing the situation for themselves, but that was better than complaining. And he was sure saying as much was distinctly not the diplomatic approach. So he stayed silent, towering menacingly behind the human delegate, and let the two were better at talking do their job. @Killa Ree@Song
Song had read the reports coming in from Horuz. The influx of refugees, the crowded tenements and dwindling supplies—she’d expected to see them all, but what she saw instead was a hundred times worse.
This place couldn’t possibly be a market. She’d been to markets on Taris, on Tatooine, but this looked more like a cross between a riot and a stampede. Men and women clamored around open stalls, bargaining for what little food and supplies sat on their shelves—as if that helped. Everything from fresh fruit to seasoning had been raised to exorbitant prices, and her pockets ached just by looking at them. She’d find better deals from a Toydarian con artist in a dark alley than here.
Then there was the smell. That unbearable stench. She’d visited enough backwater worlds to know the taste of rotting fish and gutter oil in the air, and Song suddenly wished she’d installed a breathing apparatus into her helmet before landing.
She did her best to focus on the delegates leading them, though—but what good that did. It didn’t take more than ten seconds before the three had devolved into petty squabbling, and she had the terrible urge to threaten them into silence. Perhaps the only thing keeping her from brandishing a knife were the strange looks the human delegate had been casting her way.
He was suspicious. No, afraid. The arrival of three Mandalorians, fresh after Lothal’s fall, had to mean something to him.
“Councilors,” Song said smoothly, thankful for the break of silence, “We understand the situation very well. Your people’s haggling can practically be heard from orbit, and it’s obvious the recent attack on Kashyyyk has only made matters here worse. It’s why we’ve come.” She cut her eyes to each councilor, trying her best to appear at least appear friendly. “We are here to help.”
“Help in what way?” To her surprise, it was the human councilor who spoke. He must have finally mustered the courage to ask the big question. The elephant in the room. “Why have you really come to Horuz?”
The crammed stalls. The self-important and self-righteous arguing amongst themselves for resources. The many hungering and starving; she knew that look. The feeling of helplessness, crammed together without even the dignity of paying for something that wasn't over-inflated; this was the look of a planet in a rapid spiral, and they all knew it.
Still, when the human councilor spoke, Mysha's helmet turned to stare him down. Hearing his question, she could see the other councilors stiffen at the bluntness of it. Did they expect three Mandalorians to throw themselves into a rage? It was fair. Still, it was brave for him to be so direct.
"Horuz has been looked over."
Her voice was calm, measured, as she stared down the councilors. "How many times have you appealed for help from major governmental bodies for aid, only to be turned down because you weren't Kuat?" The man's face colored, but she shook her head. "We have surrendered our weapons, and promised a peaceful talk, yet you assume we are here to wage war. What if we wanted to help, because we want peace?" She tilted her head.
"Each of you has been wronged by the... Sith, or other campaigns of warmongering." Her voice was still quiet, calm, but she paced forwards, slowly. "Neglected. Abandoned. We wanted to break the cycle of pain, speak first." Looking to the other representatives, she nodded once. "Discuss terms of aid, protection and support. And yet you want to maintain this discussion of diplomacy outdoors?" She tsked once.
"A poor show of working with those who extend an olive branch, in my opinion. But looking here..." She glanced around, impassively. "If we say we're here to help, and do more than what any other government has extended to you, wouldn't that be a chance worth taking? Or will you accept that other governments will merely bring more refugees to your door?"
«And why shouldn't there be more refugees?» the Wookiee representative said indignantly in Shriiwook.
Which Rand thought was a stupid thing to say given the circumstances in Tatlo. Even if the Wookiee homeworld had just been consumed in firestorms. It was clear she was thinking of her people more than the collective. Even the ones who hadn't arrived here, yet. Still, he didn't say anything. It was clear Mysha was a better diplomat than he was, and even Song was better with words.
Instead, he kept his eyes on the crowd around them. In the midst of the argument, they had forgotten they were not alone. Hundreds of people were crammed on to the streets around them. More than a few had taken notice of their bickering; and Rand suspected they had also noticed who was bickering. Here. On the streets. With only three Mandalorians to protect them. Instinctually, he placed a hand in the small of Song's back to urge her forward. They needed to move closer to the Palace District before this got ugly.
Unfortunately, their "hosts" were still locked in bitter debate.
«You brought up the Sith, Lady Mandalorian,» the human representative said. «I don't consider myself a scholar, but I do have a university education. And if I remember my galactic history courses well, your people have historically worked with the Sith, no? What are your leaders' stance on them now?»
«And what of the Syndicates?!» the Mon Cala representative shouted over him. «It wasn't the Sith who turned my people's water, the lifeblood of our civilization, into toxic waste! Mandalorians are traditionally bounty hunters, are they not? How can we be certain you won't let the criminal element thrive once you're here?»
Rand bristled at the suggestion that bounty hunters were somehow synonymous with criminals. To his father, bounty hunting was honorable. A way of bringing in resources and credits to the clan, of helping it to prosper in the most direct way possible. But again, his mouth stayed shut. More eyes were turning their way. The mood of the crowd was shifting. He needed to be ready the moment the match was lit. @Killa Ree@Song
Between the three questions lobbed at them, Song was quick to jump on the subject of the Sith.
“The Mand’alor’s relationship with the Sith is not your business, Councilor,” she said coldly, her voice low, enough for the man’s face to pale. “But we are not their dogs, if that is what you are implying. We are not their friends.” Song knew she might be overstepping. Since the moot, Fenyang had aligned his interests with the Empire, using their ships and weapons to wage war against the Free Worlds. Did that not make them friends? Allies, even? She didn’t know—and she didn’t want to believe it.
She disliked the Sith as much as she did the Jedi, and the attacks on Firrerre and Kashyyyk certainly hadn’t improved her opinion of them. War was one thing. Mandalorians fought all the time. But bombing defenseless civilians? Children? There was no honor in that, no glory. Just ash and smoke.
But as long as the Mand’alor did not openly denounce the Sith, then neither would she. She’d keep her thoughts to herself, even if it pained her, and she would keep to the Creed.
As she let Mysha handle the other councilors, her eyes would dart elsewhere. To the crowds and to the vast market courtyard around them. Like Rand, she wasn’t lost to the growing number of stares, the people slowly turning to face them, whispering in low breaths and murmurs. In the distance, a man dressed in robes stood on the lip of a burbling fountain, arms stretched wide. He was in the middle of giving a furious speech, the citizens around him growing angrier at every word.
“A grave injustice has been done to this city,” he declared. “Homes overflow and innocents starve. Women and children are forced to beg on the streets and scrounge for crumbs.” He beat against his chest, as if the very words had lit a fire in his heart. “Refugees flood into the city with every passing day, and yet the gates of the Palace District remain closed to us.”
Her shoulders tensed as his eyes fell on Song.
“See, my friends?” said the man, pointing a gnarled finger at three delegates and their sparse retinue of guards. “Look as our city leadership consorts with outsiders, leading them to the comforts of their grand Palace District. No sooner would they abandon us to famine than to feast on oysters and white truffles with warmongers!” All heads turned to them. Her gut dropped, suddenly faced with dozens of agitated civilians.
“Mysha,” she said. “The councilors.” She didn’t have to finish for the other Mandalorian to understand what she meant. They needed to get to the Palace District. They needed to leave now.
She wasn't surprised that the crowd would turn violent. Considering how some of her brothers and sisters had acted in the past, it wouldn't be entirely unfair for these delegates to react as they had been. But to be so brainless as to bring them to a public marketplace first, dragging them through the public eye?
Or was this deliberate?
She glanced at the male human Councilor, noting he didn't seem as nervous as the Mon Cala and Wookie representatives did. She grit her teeth within her helm, muttering something quickly under her breath in mando'a.
Hearing Song, she nodded once.
Stepping fluidly forward, she'd keep her body between the crowd and representatives, nudging them lightly.
"I suggest we leave now, before there's further debate. Unless you want to be mobbed." Sure enough, a few commoners seemed to be reaching for things. Still, something the councilors said had nettled her, and she had to address it.
"If you knew your history, you would also know the Sith and Syndicate families were also some of the first to glass Mandalore." She watched the man's face pale; smugness seemed to fade as she leaned over him, her voice a low murmur as she began moving them along, spine stiff and posture tall, defensive to move them to the walls of the Palaces. "So believe me when I say we never forget an enemy. And we would never call them allies. Not those of the true Way."
They would have to move this interesting conversations within the safety of the Palace walls, unless these councilors enjoyed being mobbed. She could guess not, judging by the many paler faces. They began to move quickly.
Perhaps it had always been. Rand wasn't sure whether their presence lit the fire, or if it had already been lit before they landed, but once he recognized it, he knew they couldn't stop it. He saw the exact moment the mood in the crowd shifted. After Mysha's suggestion that they all book it to the Palace walls, the Mon Cala representative looked up briefly, longingly at those high walls, those safe walls. A woman in the crowd saw and hardened.
Distantly, Rand could understand her thinking. The opulence of the place, the security and comfort it brought its residence, revealed just how little they were connected to the situation on the ground. People were hurting. People were starving. And instead of addressing their needs, these politicians were going to hide behind high walls. They would rather talk to outsiders than their own. But it wasn't Rand's job to sympathize with her.
It was his job to stop her. And he failed.
What the woman threw at them, he didn't know. It didn't really matter, though. Whether it was shit, a rock, some other household item, it plunked harmlessly off the smooth metal of his helmet. But it started something more vicious. With the first object thrown, the crowd lunged. Rand was pummeled from every side. So many faces filled his visor, that he immediately lost track of Song, Mysha, and their charges. He didn't have time to think of them, either. Hands were grabbing for his armor. If he didn't shake them off, they would strip him of his protection, his religion, and then they would trample him to death.
A hand reached for his blaster. That was the final straw. He slapped the hand away and drew the blaster for himself. The crowd around him gasped just before the first shot rang out. Rand wasn't sure who he hit. It didn't matter. He shot again and again. Until people were scattering away from him. At last, he could breathe again; but even this was temporary. Anger soon replaced fear. The crowed was about to surge again, going for his gun.
Song watched with dawning dread as the crowd around them swelled. Hard eyes and cold stares—she could feel the disgust in them all, and the desire to reach over and tear the councilors apart. Even the guards accompanying the delegates looked nervous and on edge, clutching their rifles as if to ward off the civilians, but to no avail. She knew there would be no stopping this. No ending the mob that was about to set the whole bazaar ablaze. All they needed was one spark, one bold move.
All it took was one rock bouncing off Rand’s helmet.
She reeled. The crowd surged, threatening to swallow them whole, men and women shouting and swarming the delegation. Song threw herself in between them and the rioters, but not even she, for all her training, could fend off a hundred angry, vengeful people. Not alone.
How had it come to this? The councilors should have been smarter, more careful, than to have strode through a courtyard of starving and desperate people. Were they truly so confident in their guards, or their citizen’s obedience, to think they wouldn’t violently react at their arrival? Faith couldn’t fill an empty stomach and Song of all people knew loyalties could change. She should have known better than to let these morons guide them through a busy street.
She was fortunate the councilors, or at least the human one, had the mind to throw a cowl over his head and make a beeline for the Palace District gates. Two guards shadowed him, batting swords at the mob in order to keep them back. Song thought to assist one of the other delegates, or Mysha at least—until she felt a ton of bricks slam into the back of her head.
She hissed. Whirling, she faced her assailant, a stout man in a black apron and armed with a forging hammer. She was lucky her helmet was beskar, else he might have left her with either a concussion or a serious dent in her skull.
Not one for idle chat, Song repaid the man with a sick hook at his temple, in the same place he’d hit her. Now, he was unlucky to not be wearing a helmet, because her armored fist sent him straight to the ground, his body collapsing like a rotten tree. When another man attempted to swing at her, she ducked and kicked them hard in the gut. The force was enough to send him flying into a woman armed with a brick, and they both crumpled together onto the street.
A blaster bolt sang over the crowd. More followed, and Song spun to the source of the noise. She was not at all surprised to find Rand, alone, firing into the mob. What else did she expect?
“Randor,” she called to him. “Are you mad? Don’t kill them!”
She knew it was stupid to tell him such a thing. The mob was clearly out for blood. For retribution. But she didn’t want the deaths of more civilians on her conscience, or to reinforce the idea that all Mandalorians were murderers and warmongers. Not here. Not like Lothal.
She had begun escorting the delegates. Boos and snarls of rage were flung at her, but she had to stand tall. Still, when the shots rang out, she heard fearful cries as civilians scattered away temporarily. And she began to see red.
She had been patient, but the armorer was not like her father. She hadn't learned how to predict the aruetii and their ways. And yet, she learned one thing from her brothers and sisters; fire a shot into the crowd, and the mob will stomp you out faster than you could say "no". Still, the brief respite was enough to formulate a mad plan.
The roar was loud, loud enough to snap across the entire Marketplace. As she did, her foot stomped down hard onto the duracrete, hard enough even for cracks to form. How her brother had held onto his blaster after having their weapons removed, she didn't want to know. But this situation was too much. It would be so damn easy to call down the ships and level this damned place to smoking ruins, but that would prove nothing. It would prove they were little better than the damned dar'jetii, and they were, damn it. Even they were doing peace talks. Were the Mandalorians seen as little better than rabid Kath-hounds?
The display once again put the mob on the backpedal. She raised up her arms, showing her empty hands. Her heavily accented Basic came out, authoritative and hard.
"People of Horuz. You have been trampled on by the galaxy enough."
There was a moment of silence, but... unfortunately, some of the tide might begin to turn. She didn't quite understand why they would become aggressive again, but one glance back at the delegates they were sent to meet, and she knew why.
They were sneaking away while the three of them would take the fall.
It was a damn trap.
She gritted her teeth in her helmet. When the human representative saw her staring, he froze, and his face turned white when her head shook ever so slightly.
"We are here for aid. Food, better shelter, and medicine for you, the people. That is why we have come here." Tensions were still high though, some still looked murderous. And after she saw what they had to face in the marketplace?
She couldn't rightfully blame their rage, either. But she wasn't able to control their rage. Very soon, they would possibly lash out again. Or perhaps... they could be persuaded to listen.
Mysha's words held the crowd back like a thin rope and Rand could feel the strands fraying with each passing moment of tense silence. He still held his side of the mob at gunpoint. He had warned her—warned them both—he was not a diplomat. He was a bounty hunter, and he was not being paid enough to be polite while people who wanted him dead grabbed for his guns. His warning shots earlier had not killed anyone, mercifully enough for them. But one or two people were sporting nasty burns from where the plasma had seared them.
A large hand clasped his armored shoulder and, before he could spin around and redirect his arms, tightened its grip. Rand recognized the hand at once to belong to the Wookiee representative, who then spoke to him in Shriiwook. «Peace, Outlander. You will come to no further harm.»
Rand didn't believe him. Some members of the mob were Wookiees and even they didn't look like they believed him. But the Wookiee stepped forward, placing his immense body between Rand the crowd, acting as somewhat of a shield. The Wookiees slowly stood down, even if the humans and Mon Cala were reluctant to do the same. When it was clear there was not going to be another surge, Rand lowered his weapon.
He wouldn't put it away. Not yet.
«Where is Rykard?»
Rand looked around and noticed that the human representative was missing. He must be the one named Rykard. "He must have fled in the chaos," Rand said. He had not seen what Song and Mysha had. He did not know of Rykard's betrayal yet. "We should call down the other Mandalorians," he suggested instead. "Three of us aren't enough to keep this situation from getting ugly again. We're not riot police. If they attack again, people will die."
Those closest to Rand, along the outside of the mob, tensed again, and Rand thought they might begin their attack anew—but most of the closer ones were human, and the Wookiee standing before them was too imposing. They wouldn't take the chance. @Song@Killa Ree