The Lost Get Found
Chapter 1-The Armorer
There was less than an hour to go before midnight, and Greef Karga had finally reached his limit. He'd met a client before sunrise that morning, and had spent the remainder of the day working with a hired crew to repair the cantina. They were hard workers, who had accomplished a lot in the three days since the Imps had attacked—but their workday had ended several hours earlier. He'd stayed, continuing to work on some of the smaller tasks in the back. By the time he'd locked up the disaster of a storage room, filled to the brim with any and all items that could be salvaged, he was more than ready to call it a day.
Though the bodies of the Imperials had been removed the day of the attack, and the blood was long mopped up, the cantina was still a wreck, and would be for several weeks. He'd temporarily relocated some of his bounty-related business to an out-of-the way building he owned a few streets over—but some it he planned to do from home, sipping caf at the kitchen table, or a nice Corellian whiskey on the back balcony.
As he opened the back door to leave, the faint moonlight glinted off a shiny object on the opposite side of the alley. He reached down for his blaster, but a few seconds later breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh—it's just you."
Cara had just taken her braid down, and was brushing her hair, when the knock came.
She muttered under her breath, rummaging through a basket of clean laundry for a loose tunic, which she slid over her tank and leggings. Grabbing both blaster and knife from beneath her pillow, she headed to the front door of her new apartment. It was probably just Ry coming off his shift, with a verbal report of what he was supposed to be entering into the program on his datapad—but just in case…..
She opened the door. "What do you….."
But instead of a short, broad humanoid with orange skin, Cara found herself face to face with the Mandalorian Armorer.
She looked both ways down the walk outside her second story suite, then motioned for the woman to come inside.
She closed the door, and utilized all the security features. "Sorry, I was expecting one of my team members—I didn't mean to be rude." She gave the other woman a half smile. "I'd offer you a cup of tea, but I'm guessing you're not here for a social call."
The Armorer, who hadn't moved since she'd entered, spoke in the same even tone Cara remembered from her visit to the Covert. "I apologize for the Iate hour, but I thought the cover of night would be safest for both of us. I have a favor to ask of you."
"Shoot—but at least sit down," Cara said, gesturing toward a pair of oversized chairs.
"Very well." The woman perched herself on the edge of the upholstered seat, her posture just as straight as when she was standing. "As a security measure, the Covert has no means of communication with the outside, and I need to make contact with a member of our tribe, who has been off planet for several months. Greef Karga informed me that his equipment at the Cantina was…inaccessible…..at the moment, and suggested I speak with you, as you've recently acquired a communication system of your own."
Cara gave her a warm smile. "Not a problem at all. We just got it hooked up this afternoon—and thanks to some punk kids who tried to rob a liquor store before we could give it a trial run, you'll be the first to use it."
The Armorer nodded once. "Thank you—I promise to be brief."
"Come on, it's in the other room." Cara stood, motioning toward the softly lit doorway leading to her bedroom.
"This is a very nice setup—I'm impressed," the Armorer commented.
Cara smirked as she sat down at the desk. "Having your boss as your landlord definitely has its advantages." She flipped the power switch to the on position, and the display lit up. "Karga says this system is a little different than his—maybe because it's not older than I am, "she chuckled, rolling her eyes. "I'll show you how to use it, and then I'll leave you to make your call."
"Actually…..if you don't mind—I would also like to briefly contact Din Djarin, so I can inform him of the change in means of communication. I thought you might like to say hello."
Cara froze—could that fancy helmet detect her increased heart rate? Play it cool, Dune. "Yeah, guess I should check on the idiot—make sure he's still alive, say hi to the kid."
She was sure she heard a smile in the Armorer's voice at her next words. "I don't think they'll be expecting you—we could surprise them."
Cara grinned. "Surprise as in you make the call, and I'll pop on when they're least expecting it?"
"Yes, exactly. I think the Foundling will particularly appreciate it. He does seem to be quite fond of you."
"Yeah…..we hit a little rough patch a few days ago, but I think we're good now—and he's kind of growing on me, you know?"
She guided The Armorer through the call sequence, then stepped to the side of the desk, out of the frame. Less than ten seconds later, Din showed up on the display.
"Hello Din Djarin. It's good to see that you've regained a semblance of health. How are you feeling?"
"Much better. Still have a headache, but I think I'll live. How are things on your end?"
"The melting of the Beskar was completed this morning. This is The Way."
"This is The Way," he repeated softly. After a brief pause, he asked, "Any idea what our next steps will be? Have any from the Tribe returned?"
"No to both questions—but I plan to contact the Captain shortly, and will take his views into consideration before making a decision."
"Does he know about…..what happened?"
She shook her head. "I felt it necessary to complete the work at the Forge, and this is the first opportunity I've had to make contact."
Cara could see him looking around the visible space of the room. "That's not the back room at the cantina—where are you?"
It was the perfect opening.
"Hey Mando, how's space," she said, jumping into the frame. She felt her face spread into a smile so big it made her cheeks hurt.
"Cara! I…space is good. How are you? Where are you?"
She laughed. "In my new apartment. Karga just set up my comm system this afternoon—and sent your friend over here to make her calls, since his is out of commission."
"That's…very kind of both of you." There were a series of sounds coming toward the floor on his end, and a few seconds later, there were two in the frame instead of one.
"Hey little guy, how are you?" Her voice was perfectly fine—not squeaky at all.
"Eh?" the baby responded, looking around the cockpit for the source of the familiar voice.
"Look, she's right there—can you wave at her? Hi Cara," Din said, waving his own hand, which was shortly mimicked by a tiny green one.
Cara waved back, and felt her heart melt even further. "Hi buddy, I miss you. Are you keeping Daddy out of trouble out there?"
The answer was a string of babble that made Cara crack up—and she could've sworn she heard a chuckle come from the helmet next to her. "Well, there's no doubt about it—you've got a lot to say, even if we can't understand it."
"He was sleeping when you called—I think he recognized your voice," Din said, stroking a velvety ear. The baby trilled a happy sound, his eyes going to half mast.
"Any leads yet on where his people might be?"
Din shook his head. "Not yet—but I thought of someone who might have some information—so we're heading there now."
"Oh yeah, where to?"
"The Western Reaches—Takodana, to be exact."
Cara's raised her eyebrows. "Oh wow—that's…far."
He shrugged. "Yeah, but I got nothing otherwise. And if my contact doesn't have answers, she might know of someone who does. She's been around a long….." He cut off at the baby's distressed sound. He sighed, "Well, he needs the refresher, and still can't get down the ladder safely by himself. I guess I'll go."
She smirked, giving a two-fingered salute. "Have fun with that, Mandad. If you hear from any other Tribe members, they can contact me, and I'll make sure she gets the message," Cara said, tilting her head toward the gold helmet beside her.
"Thank you, I will. Akay vi urcir tug'yc," he said to the Armorer.
"Akay vi urcir tug'yc."
"Bye, little one," Cara said, waving to the baby again. "Take care of your daddy for me."
He waved, followed by a "Ba" that she took to mean "bye."
"Talk to you later, Cara," Din said, then disconnected the call.
Cara found she couldn't wipe the smile off her face. "Well, you ready to call your Captain now? I'll leave the room, so I can't take over this time."
The Armorer huffed out a quiet laugh. "I will be speaking to him in Mando'a—so unless you've picked it up somewhere along the way, I'm afraid you would have a difficult time 'taking over,' even if you wanted to. Though, I don't feel that you overstepped at all. The three of you were clearly enjoying yourselves."
Cara smiled. "Yeah, they're something else. I miss…." she cut off with a yawn."
"Perhaps I should postpone calling him until tomorrow."
"No, it's fine. Go ahead and make your call—take all the time you need." She stood, reaching across the bed behind her to grab a pillow and blanket. "I'll go test the comfort level of my new couch. I was a dropper—I've slept in much weirder places, trust me."
The Armorer chuckled. "I've no doubt about that—and I've done the same myself, at various times in my life."
"At times? You sleep in a sewer every night—that's a new one even for me." Cara quickly corrected herself. "Not that it's a bad thing…..just…..unfamiliar. To me," she finished lamely.
"I imagine my current accommodations are better than many you've experienced. I do have a bed and access to hot water," the Armorer added wryly.
Cara chuckled. "I guess I walked right into that one."
"You really did. But I know your intention was not to offend—and I've found humor to be a great catalyst in softening relations, as well as driving away despair."
"Laugh to keep from crying, huh?" Cara smirked.
"You have no idea," the Armorer replied, shaking her head slowly.
Cara sighed, softening her tone. "I'm sorry about what happened to your people. I only know two members of your Tribe—but you both seem decent. If the others were the same…..that's a big loss. The galaxy needs all the good people we can get."
"Thank you," the Armorer whispered. "It…..hasn't been easy." She took a deep breath, exhaling very slowly. "I suppose I should make my call now—I'm rather tired myself."
"Like I said, take your time. You know where to find me if you need anything." Cara gave her an encouraging smile. "Just wake me up when you leave so I can lock up."
Cara woke up a few hours later, and was surprised to see that the bedroom door was still closed. The chronometer on the wall above the couch showed that she'd been asleep for over six hours—and the sun would be coming up in less than two.
She knocked on the door, and after a few moments, and the sound of metal against the surface of the desk, it opened.
"Oh, Cara, I'm so sorry! I fell asleep during my call, and…" she trailed off. "I have no valid excuse. Please forgive me," the Armorer said, her tone almost pleading.
Cara gave her a sleepy smile. "There's nothing to forgive. Unless I miss my guess, you've been working around the chrono since the Imps attacked. Your body was at the point where, the minute you didn't have to be on guard, you crashed. It happens—I know I've been there."
The Armorer touched the part of her helmet covering her forehead. "I think you're right—thank you for being so understanding. And thank you for allowing me to make my calls. I promise I'll be more considerate in the future…if you'll allow me to return?" Her tone was unsure.
"Yes, you can come back—I promise, it's not a big deal! You need to be able to contact your people—you need each other right now." She paused. "Since you fell asleep—do you need to call the Captain back?"
The Armorer shook her head. "No, we had conversed about all needful topics—and he's sleeping now as well." She hesitated. "I hope we didn't disturb you last night—our discussion got…..a bit loud, when he found out about the Imperial attack."
"No, not at all. I was out in about ten seconds." Cara gave the Armorer a sad smile. "I haven't been sleeping so well myself. She looked down for a few seconds, willing the growing heat behind her eyes to stop already. "I know you need to get home before the town wakes up—but I have hot chocolate and pastries, if you're interested."
"I haven't had hot chocolate since…well, it's been awhile. I would love some."
"Great," Cara replied, smiling. "Nevarro's not exactly a center of commerce, so I was surprised to find it in the market—especially since it's dark chocolate, which is my favorite. I also bought way more pastries that I can eat before they go stale—at least without putting myself into a food coma," she chuckled. "And, since I have all of two friends, and both are off planet, I thought maybe I could stand to gain another one?"
The Armorer nodded. "I would like that very much—but first I need to dry my helmet, as it's a bit damp in here from sleeping. Do you have a towel I can use?"
Cara smiled, and pointed toward the attached refresher. "Right through that door. I'll go get the chocolate started."
"Okay, you ready?" Cara asked ten minutes later, as she placed her mug and pastry plate on the small table at one end of her back balcony. The horizon was still dark, and her only light was a small candle inside a red glass holder.
"Can you hear me?" the Armorer asked, her voice no longer modulated. She was inside Cara's laundry area, with only the light from the attached kitchen, her food on the table used for folding clothes. The window was open, but the screen, coupled with the dim room, allowed her to remove her helmet without revealing her face, even if Cara happened to look in her direction.
"Loud and clear," Cara replied. "You good in there?"
"Yes. Everything you've provided is more than sufficient."
"How long's it been since you've had a meal with someone outside your Tribe?"
The response followed a brief pause. "Quite a number of years. We settled here soon after the Great Purge, but even before then, we kept mostly with our own kind." There was another pause, and the sound of a spoon clinking against a mug. "The fresh air feels strange on my bare face—but it's very nice."
"I'm glad you're enjoying it. How's the pastry and chocolate?"
"Both are excellent. Which bakery did you visit? Din Djarin has been holding out on me on his supply runs."
Cara laughed. "I'll have words with him next time I see him—about that, and letting your chocolate supply dwindle. But to answer your question, bakery's just up the street, on the corner. Be warned, though—the cute little old man who owns it is a smooth-talking flirt—that's how I ended up with a dozen Corellian creams. Not that I'm complaining, she said, taking a bite of the second pastry from her plate.
The Armorer chuckled. "I think your submission to his charms was intentional."
Cara barely refrained from spraying her drink all over the table. "Shhh, don't make me laugh, I'll wake up my grumpy neighbors!"
"My apologies," the Armorer replied—though she didn't sound one bit sorry. "I only meant that I'm sure you're more than capable of fending off unwanted advances," she said primly.
Cara shrugged. "Yeah—no matter what form they take. Our mutual friend learned that the hard way when we first met."
She recounted her time on Sorgan, starting with her first meeting (and subsequent fight) with Din, to training the villagers for their battle with the AT-ST, to shooting the bounty hunter who'd taken aim at the little green baby.
"Your timing, of being at the right place at the right time, was nothing short of miraculous."
Cara shrugged. "I was already angry, so having the opportunity to shoot something made my day a little brighter."
The Armorer huffed out a humorless laugh. "I felt similarly when a small squad of Imperials entered the Forge shortly after your party left. I made short work of them with my tools, and had quite a sense of satisfaction—at least for a time."
"Wonder what it says about us, that we take pleasure in killing?" Cara asked.
The Armorer sighed. "I don't believe it's 'taking pleasure'—but more a sense of making sure justice is served, and wrongs are righted. You saved the life of an innocent child—and I lived another day to pay respects to the fallen members of my Tribe." They deserve that," she ended quietly.
Cara swallowed, not sure why she was getting choked up all of a sudden. "Yeah—they do. And the kid…..if I hadn't been there…," she trailed off, as the first tear slid down her cheek. Stop it—what's wrong with you?
"Thankfully, you'll never have to know what might have happened if you hadn't been there. Instead, you can find peace in the fact that the Foundling lived—and his father has had the opportunity to become part of something much bigger than himself—to raise a child as a warrior."
Cara sighed shakily, wiping her eyes. "He's come a long way in taking care of the little guy since Sorgan. He was planning on leaving the kid there, so maybe he could have a normal childhood. There was even a widow who offered to raise him, along with her own daughter—but all that changed after the hunter tried to shoot him. Din thought it was too risky for either of them to stay after that, and they left almost immediately."
"I believe that was the wisest decision, under those circumstances. How did you end up joining with them again?"
"He came to me, looking for help, before coming back here to meet up with Karga. At first, I thought I should stay on Sorgan—it was pretty peaceful since the Klatoonians were gone—but when he told me the invaders here were Imperial, I knew I had to go with him." She sniffed, swiping a hand under her nose.
"It's not just 'fighting for the good guys' with me—it's personal. I'm from Alderaan, and they took everything from me—my home, my family, my culture, my way of life—and if I use every last breath in my body trying to stop them, it still won't be enough." Her voice broke on the last word, and she pulled her knees up in front of her on the chair, and wrapped her arms around them, burying her face as sobs wracked her body.
A few moments later, she was vaguely aware of the door opening, and shortly after, heard the scraping of metal on permacrete as the Armorer pulled out the second chair.
"I have it on authority, from a very discerning six-year-old, that I give the second-best hugs in our Tribe. I don't want to overstep, but…." The Armorer cut off as, in one swift movement, Cara had unwrapped her arms from her own knees, and had thrown them around her new friend's shoulders, burying her face there instead
Cara allowed herself to simply be held, as she hadn't in years. The Armorer stroked her hair, the way her mother used to when she was little, which brought both a fresh batch of tears and a shaky sense of peace. She tried to calm herself, but it didn't work. As messy as all of this was, it was just going to have to play itself out.
Finally, just as the horizon was starting to turn pink, Cara sat up, wiping her wet eyes and wishing she had something for her nose. As if the Armorer could read her mind, she was handed a small square from her pocket, which Cara immediately made use of.
"Sorry—I didn't realize I was that much of a wreck," she said, followed by another shaky breath.
"You've clearly needed that release for quite awhile," the Armorer replied. "There's no shame in it."
Cara sighed, frustrated with herself. "I thought I was finally going to go a day on this planet without having a meltdown—so much for that," she spat.
"You're being very hard on yourself. The presence of Imperials has brought up difficulties from the past—and to battle with them, to almost lose a comrade….."
"To abandon him with a droid, that I know he hates, just because I can't….won't…..remove his helmet, because I know how much his Creed means to him, even though I don't understand how depriving a child who's been through so much, of the closest thing he has to a father, can be the Way to anything." Cara was crying again, and was surprised to find a comforting hand on her shoulder, despite her angry outburst.
"It hasn't always been like this for us," the Armorer said softly. "After the Purge, after losing so many and barely escaping with our lives, after patching together a Tribe comprised of the mourning remnants of several clans of Mandalore, we adopted many practices not part of our original Creed as means of survival. Trust me when I say you are not the first to experience frustration with not only their implementation, but the needfulness of such."
Cara rolled her eyes. "Yeah, but it's not my religion—I don't really have a right to complain about what your people do, as long as it doesn't affect me directly."
"But it does affect you—because you care deeply for Din Djarin. And there's no shame in that, either."
Cara was almost glad of the fact that her face was already red and blotchy, because she was definitely blushing. "Sun's gonna be up soon—I guess you should get going," she said, rising from her own seat.
"Yes, you're right—I'll gather my dishes." The Armorer stood, and Cara picked up her own things before following her inside.
"Just put everything in the sink—I'll get to them after I've had lunch, since I don't have to work until this afternoon." Cara paused. "You said there was more you needed to do at the Covert—is it something I could help with?"
The Armorer studied her silently for several seconds. "You can help by taking care of yourself. You need more sleep—and while I generally don't sleep at all during the day—I may have a bit of a nap myself when I return to the Covert."
Cara yawned. "At this point, it's almost like I don't have a choice." She led the way to the front door, then paused. "Be careful going home. You think of anything I can do to help, let me know—same for making another call.
"Perhaps I can come by a bit earlier next time. I'll even bring a meal to share."
"I would like that….thank you…..for everything," Cara said, giving her new friend a hug.
"No, thank you. My hope is that more members of our Tribe are out there—or it may be that there are only the Captain and his travel companions, Din Djarin, and myself. Either way, it is of utmost importance to communicate with those who are left—and your willingness to help with that means a lot."
"Bryn. It's…..my name."
Cara smiled. "Bryn. I like it—it suits you."
"It was my grandmother's name, and I admired her greatly—so I shall take your approval as the highest of compliments."
Cara smirked. "Well, what do you know-I'm actually named after both of my grandmothers. My mom's mother was Caralina, and my dad's was Synthia—so my parents combined it to make 'Carasynthia'. But if you ever call me that, I will kill you!
"Why? It's a lovely name."
"It's so…..frilly, and complicated—and I'm anything but," she replied, making a face.
"You alone get to decide what you do with the name you've been given. I don't perceive yours as 'frilly and complicated'-but strong, and honorable. I do believe your grandmothers would be proud of the woman you've become."
Cara swallowed—No, you are not going to cry again this morning! Still, her voice was strained when she spoke. "Thank you. And thank you for trusting me with your name."
"Din Djarin is not a man whose trust is easily earned—and yet, he has trusted you with his life multiple times in the past few months. If he can do that, I can trust you with my name."
Cara smirked. "I'll admit, it would be more than a little awkward to say, 'hey, Armorer'" if I wanted to get your attention.
Bryn chuckled. "I agree. And, if others from the Tribe contact you, they will need to identify themselves. It wouldn't be fair if you knew their names and not mine."
"So it's not forbidden for them to tell me their names?"
"No. And, now that I think about it, if you know, and use, my name with them, it might help quell any uneasiness in contacting someone outside the Tribe. It's been an adjustment for me, and I expect they'll be the same."
Cara studied her friend for a moment, then asked softly, "How long has it been since you've been aboveground—before tonight?"
Bryn sighed. "Over ten years."
"Ten…wow! Are you okay?"
"I'm trying to be—and I really must go now."
Cara opened the door, looking both ways down the walk. "Okay, I think you're clear—take care."
Bryn nodded, then stepped outside. Cara waited for her to walk out of sight before closing the door and heading for her bed.