Life on Klatooine – Fiach’s formative years

Fiach Dubh

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The engines started immediately. Fiach thanked her lucky stars that the smuggler kept his ship in good condition. Given their line of work, it was a given – but she was still relieved.

She performed perfunctory pre-flight checks. They were not going into orbit and so many of the systems did not need to be prepped. But the next things she did was to flick a switch that enabled the shields. And not a moment to soon, as the sound of small arms fire pinging the ship could be heard.

The children were huddled as close to Fiach as they could and the cockpit was cramped. But she could hardly blame them. “Hold on tight,” she said as she pulled back on the throttle and gained altitude before shooting forwards. She knew there was no way the kidnappers could catch them up and – the closer they got into town – the less likely they would even want to be in their vicinity.

Ten minutes later, Fiach settled the ship in the sand on the outskirts of town and close to one of the local security force’s buildings. She lowered the cargo bay ramp and, in the dark of night that had now fallen, she ushered the children off the ship and walked them quickly into the custody of a bemused desk sergeant. She was unsure the perpetrators would be brought to justice, but she had the satisfaction of knowing the children were safe.

The ship, it transpired, would be impounded. If nobody claimed it in 90 days, it would be turned over to Fiach. As she left the security office, she wondered what price it would fetch and which worthy causes would benefit from an unexpected windfall.
 

Fiach Dubh

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TREEMA MARKETPLACE

The place was bustling as Fiach strode through it. She would have liked to stop to buy a piece of muja fruit, but she was late – and Fiach did not like to be tardy. She moved through the crowded streets with movements as fluid as a river, as if she could see every potential bump and avoid it just before it happened. Not that this was possible of course – only the Jedi in children’s stories had that sort of ability. Without seeming to dodge or weave, she created a path with the least amount of energy.

She skirted the last vendor, cut down an alleyway, and arrived at the landing platform. She was here to deliver a repair that was so important, the owner had been prepared to pay double the rate – and had chosen their back-water shop as opposed to one of the gleaming stores much closer to where the ship was docked. For some reason, Fiach could not reconcile these two facts. If money was no object and time was, why trek so far to find someone to fix it? Not that one of her fathers had complained. Nor had they lowered their price, to Fiach’s annoyance. She saw overcharging as the equivalent of theft.

“But they suggested the price,” he’d argued.

“But you knew it was too high,” she countered.

This debate had progressed for as long as it had taken Fiach to fix the transponder. It was actually a simple repair. The unit had somehow been corrupted and all she had to do was reprogram the ship’s details from the flimsi she’d been given.

She looked up at the ship, its designation matched the information she’d input and she was sure the unique transponder code also matched.
 

Fiach Dubh

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As she waited for the person that had ordered the repair to show, she closed her eyes. It was a little game she used to play. She was, it seems, blessed with an exceptional memory. To Fiach, it was like a database. Not only was she able to recall information but she seemed to be able to cross reference it. If asked about a place, she could not only tell you which days she visited it, but who was present, what was said and a myriad of other facts. It came in particularly helpful when carrying out repairs — especially if parts were missing. If she’d worked on the item before, she could remember which elements had disappeared and therefore knew what was needed to get the mechanism working again.

Eyes closed, Fiach gathered her thoughts. She plucked observations from drawers in her mind, remembering things her eyes had registered but her conscious self had not.

“A small freighter with one deep scratch on the right flank, several dents on the underside of cockpit. Twelve cargo boxes ready to be loaded, one flight bag, one medpac. As for the hangar, one stone overhang with three docking bays. Cracks running vertically down the stone, a green vine trying to grow three metres down from the ceiling on the left, with one purple flower four metres from the ground.”

She opened her eyes. It was as she had described. But something was nagging at her, a persistent thought in her subconscious that would not go away.

She closed her eyes again and checked through her mental compartments, referencing data. And then she saw it. A ship with a deep scratch in its right flank and several dents on the underside of the cockpit. She had seen it from a different angle on that occasion, which is why it did not immediately register as odd. For the ship she remembered seeing only a week ago was this very one, but it had a different designation then.
 

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Fiach knew hunger. Her two fathers were not precisely shunned by polite society, but they weren't embraced either. Work was harder to come by than it should be and they either made ends meet, or there were lean times. Yet despite this, Fiach had a moral compass that never wavered. And so now, she considered her options. Clearly the owner was keen to pay above the odds, and chose a backwater repair shop in the hope that no questions would be asked.

It was typical. People thought those who were hungry would do anything for credits. Well not Fiach - and she had already made the decision not to hand over the transponder. The question was, did she simply throw it away, go to the authorities or confront the crook?

Considering her options, Fiach decided on a different approach. To progress with the exchange and see what additional information she could glean. The ship owner might flatly deny any involvement with the repair. She needed more proof and she was determined to get it.
 

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Fiach could be described as ingenious, and stubborn. Two traits that didn't always work in tandem. But she was, above all, a pragmatist. She knew her limitations. Walking up to someone who was operating this type of work and demanding answers was never going to end well...not if you're a young girl with a knack of repairing things as your only strength.

No, she needed a plan. Racking her brains she decided to go with what she knew. Removing a small repair kit from her shoulder bag, she made a few adjustments to the transponder. Unless someone skilled checked it out, it would appear precisely what it was supposed to be. And if the man she was delivering it to was skilled - or knew someone that was - he wouldn't have come to her for the repair. would he?
 

Fiach Dubh

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“What are you doing here?”

The voice was metallic…a droid. Fiach stood up and pushed the transponder into her pocket. She’d completed the work with seconds to spare.

“I brought this,” she replied and spent a few seconds checking her bag and both pockets before fishing out the transponder. “As requested.”

The droid took the device and – for a moment – Fiach wondered if it had any way of checking how she’d tampered with it.

“Very well, you can leave now” he stated in a monotone voice and hastened to the ship – no doubt to fix it to the craft.

Fiach nodded and walked out of the hangar as quickly as she could without raising any concerns. And once out of sight, she pulled a datapad out of her pocket and waited.
 

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Two days later, she saw what she wanted to see. The ship had not just been fitted with a new transponder, but a tracker too. And it had landed somewhere nearby the town but far enough out to be out of sight – for whatever nefarious means the owner had for it. It waited there for two hours and then returned to the hangar she’d seen it in previously.

This happened three times in the next week and it always went to the same destination. So, when it took off for the fourth time, Fiach was immediately on her speeder and heading to the rendezvous point. She could not keep up with a ship, but she had two hours in which to make up for her slower speed.
 

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She arrived with minutes to spare. The ship was well hidden and but for her tracking device, she would not have found it. Although maybe she might have if she’d made it here a little sooner. For there were signs of a second ship and, more importantly, remnants of footprints. Two abreast, from what she could see. The eddies created by the second ship taking off had blown a lot of them away, but her keen eyes spotted them. And not the prints of someone striding, or even walking. But of shuffling.

Slaves.

Ever since her part in the breaking up of a trafficking operation, she knew deep-down that those that delivered and those that received would find another way. All she’d done at the time was slow them down. Make them more careful. Now it seems they transported their prey here and then immediately took it off-world.

She ducked back down behind the rocks she was hiding behind. She’d travelled the last kilometre on foot, in case the sound of her engine gave her away. She considered her options. She could hand over the tracker to the authorities, but to what end? So a corrupt official could line his pocket to turn a blind eye? No, she needed more evidence and saw a way to get it.
 

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This part of Treema was something of a wasteland, and Fiach moved through it like a rat slipping through bolt-holes. She clambered through the wreckage of an old building, its apartments long shattered, the walls torn open to expose the mess of collapsed urban sprawl. Through the broken world, life still tried to grow: creeping three-fingered vines and twisting spirals of slime-slick fungus. And though the ruins attempted to conceal it, Fiach knew that people lived here. Or maybe living was too generous a word. They dwelled here, huddled up together in shipping containers and through crumbling hallways, hidden under the fractured streets and atop buildings so weakened they sway like sleepy drunks in even the softest wind.

The person she sought was here. Somewhere.

Fiach recognised Philax at the rendezvous point. Her role in the whole affair was unclear, a girl of approximately Fiach’s age who she knew because she once stole a caseload of ID cards and tried to fence them via Fiach’s parents’ repair shop. The cards would allow anyone easy passage through the known worlds without triggering a closer look. Very handy for smugglers and those who wanted to keep their true identity off the grid.
 

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Fiach found the hide-out eventually. She had a way with people and was able to convince them to tell her things they probably oughtn’t. Not that Fiach though that strange. If that was the only truth you knew, why would you question it?

The roof of the former foundry was flat and, like everything else here, broken. A vent stack tower from the next factory over fell across the foundry, connecting the two ruined buildings in a make-shift bridge.

As she waits to see if the girl was home, she spied sudden movement on the roof. As she focused in on it, she saw a small sheet of tin move aside – and a brush of neon-green hair catch the fading light of day. Fiach mused it was an interesting fashion statement for someone that wanted to go under the radar.

Knowing she had to move quickly, she ran and leapt off the lip of the building, propelling her forward as the foundry roof came up fast. She tucked and rolled, and when she returned to her feet, she ran straight to the ramshackle lean-to where Philax has been hiding.

Philax stepped out.

She saw Fiach.

Fiach saw that she saw her, and yet Philax stood there, unmoving.

At first Fiach thought that the girl was frightened. This was a girl on the wrong side of the law after all. Yet that made no sense. She should have spooked. She should have run. Everyone runs.

And yet she remained, staring right at Fiach.

The realization stuck Fiach like a knife…

She's not running. Because she's bait.
 

Fiach Dubh

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Fiach dropped down again into a roll just as the stun blast filled the air above her head in a warbling scream. How did she know it was coming? Fiach was too busy to contemplate the notion.

She leapt to her feet and saw a woman heading her way. Older. White hair moved by the wind. But her concentration moved swiftly from her hair to her hand, as she had a pistol pointed right at Fiach and another stun bolt came her way.

But Fiach was fast: a coiled spring, suddenly released.

She deftly pivoted on the ball of her left foot, and span around throwing a length of pipe she picked up as she originally hit the deck. It left her now outstretched fingers and whistled through open air.

Clack! Her aim was true and the pipe clipped the front of the blaster. The woman cried out as the gun tumbled away, clattering onto the rooftop. But the woman kept coming, shaken but undeterred.
 

Fiach Dubh

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The woman skidded to a halt in front of Fiach, throwing a punch as she did. It was a good punch, a solid punch, but Fiach seemed to know it was coming. So she sidestepped, and the fist caught open air. Which was when Fiach felt the fist hammering into her kidneys, dropping her down to one knee.

Fiach cried out and spun, catching sight of the man that sucker-punched her. And as much as Fiach wanted answers, she was pragmatic enough to know when it was time to quit. The fallen vent stack tower was her escape route, so she sprang to her feet and bolted fast across the rooftop. Another stun blast warped the air around her as she leapt and slid onto the crumpled tower now serving as a bridge.

She righted herself and ran, feet banging on the metal. The vented durasteel provided texture that helped her keep her footing, and she charged down the bridge as fast as she could and towards a break in the factory wall next door. Nobody seemed to be following her. Her assailants must be slow, too slow.

Judging the distance, she leapt across the gap...

And an arm extended across the open space and slammed hard across her trachea. Her heels skidded out from under her and she dropped onto her back, the air blasting out of her chest as her lungs collapsed like clapped hands.

"Hi," said a voice. A man’s voice. A voice she knew.
 

Fiach Dubh

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Perhaps Fiach had a romantic notion of ‘doing good?’ Maybe she was just naïve as to how dangerous the underworld really was? Or it was possible that her desire to do the right thing overpowered her usual focus of applying logic with no regard to anything else.

For she lay here, fighting for breath, wondering not if she was going to die, but how she would bring the slave-trader to justice.

“You,” she wheezed, air finally returning to her re-inflating lungs.

“Yes,” he replied, looming over her and a sneer on his face. “Who else?”

Fiach was thinking of a retort but her breathing had not caught up with her brain.

He must have taken this silence as fear, as he turned his back and began the ubiquitous master-plan download for Fiach’s benefit. Which is when logic kicked in again. He would only be telling her of his plans to move to a new site – and its location – if her knowing this was irrelevant to his plans. And given it was unlikely he would expect her to join his enterprise, it could mean only one thing. He intended to kill her.

Fiach considered her options. The two that she initially encountered would still be behind her. The slave-trader, the one whose ship she’d rigged the transponder to broadcast its location to her, was in front of her. And she couldn’t go up. Which left only one possibility.

As the slaver turned and pointed a blaster at her head, Fiach rolled to her left – and off the makeshift bridge.
 

Fiach Dubh

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Down she fell, three stories. Well, two to be precise as she hit a corrugated metal lean-to between the first and ground floors that broke her fall – and no doubt a few bones too. But the damage it inflicted was minor compared to whatever the permacrete ground would have done to her body had she fallen the complete three floors.

Looking up, she could see sky through the now broken roof and knew the others would not jump, but would follow her. Picking herself up, she winced at the pain emanating from her ribs and left arm and shoulder blade and limped as fast as she could away from the scene.

Despite the excruciating pain, her mind continued to pose and solve puzzles. Could she be linked back to her parent’s shop? She didn’t see how. Had she made an enemy that would not rest until she was dead? Most likely.

What she needed was to get away from Treema. But how? Perhaps her journeys out into the desert to scavenge would provide the solution? It seemed improbable, but it was also her best bet.

/End Thread
 
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