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Tal Cuyot

For the Discerning Killer

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Tal Cuyot    41

Melona, 3630 BBY, just outside the city of Keldabe, Mandalore...

 

Tal Cuyot had never thought of himself as one who could properly appreciate natural beauty. Maybe a well-crowned rifle barrel, blaster burns on beskar'gam, a knife edge honed to perfection- but a sunrise? A rainbow? The normal stuff? That had never really been his cup of tisane. Still, even he could appreciate the morning sun playing over the bas neral growing on the Cuyot farm. He lived in a beautiful place, and sometimes he didn't remember that. This was the sort of thing that reminded him why he'd come back to Manda'yaim. Opening the door to this, instead of speeders zipping back and forth through hoverlanes and the stink of a thousand different beings and their bad hygiene... yes, sometimes he took the beauty here for granted.

 

He'd done his rounds of the place earlier, just after dawn. Coming back inside, he'd worked on finishing painting the sigils on a commissioned buy'ce, and had just finished. Now it was nearly noon. Kula had just finished in the fields, the gangly twenty-year old human brushing dirt from his arms as he returned to the house. He was a new addition to the Cuyot clan, such as it was. New addition to the Mando'ade, matter of fact. Jair had picked him up on Corellia, decided he was mandokarla, and brought him home. Seemed like she'd been right. "How're you liking Manda'yaim, ad'ika?" Tal rasped, cetare clicking as he finished walking down the stairs from the front door of the house. "Looks like you've got plenty of it on you."

 

Kula glanced over at the scarred Mandalorian. "Isn't bad at all. Better than Corellia, that's for sure. Saw some vhe'viin tracks out there, though." The young man had been a freightloader on the docks at Coronet City before Jair had crashed into the place shooting chakaareand had apparently saved her shebs. Long journey from there to the fields of Mandalore, but he was doing all right. "Want me to handle 'em?" 

 

Tal nodded slowly. Vhe'viine weren't good news, but they came around and you couldn't really do much 'till afterwards. "Yeah. Grab Chel, he's pretty good at getting the little shabuire." That was an understatement. Chel was a damn fine marksman, and aside from earning credits covering Jair on jobs, that helped a lot in keeping the fields free of vermin. "He's inside. You can take the speeder. I'll let everyone know there'll be some shooting." Wasn't as if it'd be out of the ordinary, given that they'd converted one of the fields into a test range, but still had to be done.

 

"A'right."  Kula nodded, passing him to go inside. Tal went on his way, too. The workshop, a long low building was attached to the side of the much larger house; on the side of it was an open area, where the forge was. It had a sign, Tal's concession to Jair's assertion that perhaps they ought to mark the business. Well- not just Jair. Chel, and Kula, and Torris, and... well, all of them had thought it was a good idea. Tal still wasn't sure that it was necessary, but there it was. "Cuyot Arms", in little black letters, in Basic and in Mando'a. A little building that made the best, that was how he thought of it. Torris had even started advertising. "Cuyot Arms- for the discerning killer". Maybe a bit on the nose, but it worked. 

 

He entered, pushing the geometrically carved door- a hobby of Torris'- open. It was just Jair and Torris in there right now; Rool was off in Keldabe proper, negotiating a purchase of billets for receivers. They were hard at work. Jair was assembling one of their flagship rifles at a workbench, the CRS-5, the only thing Cuyot Arms made that wasn't a full custom. Tal had had reservations about that one, worrying that quality would drop, but they'd convinced him, and it had worked out. Torris was working on a stock for the same model, carefully hand-checkering the precisely contoured veshok wood, the Twi'lek's long, blue-skinned fingers drawing his cutting tool down in slow, measured strokes. He flicked a lek to acknowledge Tal's presence without looking up; Jair, on the other hand, stopped what she was doing, looking up with a broad smile on her face. "How's the kid doing out there? Getting his hands dirty?"

 

Tal shook his head slowly, smiling as much as he could with the wound in his face. "He's twenty Standard."

 

"Yeah, he's a kid."

 

"You're twenty-eight."

 

She waved it off. "He's young. Anyway, we got another order in today. Another one of the '5s."

 

"Who's this one?" 

 

"Not sure. Came in from Nar Shaddaa. Probably another Hutt lackey."

 

Assassins and mercs, that was their general clientele for this sort of weapon. Most who tried to order didn't end up going through; Tal required that anyone who wanted one of his weapons had to come and order it in person. That was for a couple reasons. First, the best guns were fit to their owners. Second, he didn't like getting stiffed. Cash credits, half before, half on delivery. Third- well, it weeded out the riff-raff. The hut'uune of the galaxy who couldn't be bothered to come to Mandalore didn't deserve one of these weapons. "I'll get back to him. Forward me the message."

 

"Got it." She went back to her work, sliding the bolt back into the weapon. "The Falleen barve who ordered this one is coming today, I think."

 

Yeah, that was what he remembered, too. "A bit later. You want to deal with him? I gotta finish up Kula's beskad today."

 

"Yeah, sure."

 

He nodded and turned back around, taking the beskad from the hook it hung upon by the door. It was a short one, a bit less than half a meter. Heavy single-edged blade, with a false edge on the back. Just needed some finishing touches. Taking it outside, he sat down on a rough stool next to the forge, and took up his polishing stones.  

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Darth Tanit    464

Mandalore was not a planet that Darth Tanit had visited before, but in these uncertain times for the Sith and for herself necessity dictated that she attempt to reach out to the proud warrior people in some capacity. There were certain risks that were associated with traveling outside of the safe space in which the Sith now hid, however, it was unlikely that the Republic or the Jedi would be present on the planet considering the long and storied history the Mandalorian people had with fighting both groups. She herself had some measure of history with them, at least some of their less honorable members long ago, but the woman that experienced those things was no more. Since then she had become so much more powerful, and in that time she had recreated herself in the Dark Side. There was no more of the weaknesses of the past, no chains which bound her to those petty fears and nagging doubts that once plagued her. Tanit had become a leader of military personnel, and a killer, and a woman like her had no time to dedicate any thought to what she had been at one point in time.

 

Keldabe was a large city, comparable in some ways to Coronet City on her own home planet, Corellia. People went about their business as she disembarked from the transport which had ferried her through Nar Shaddaa. She took some precautions to keep herself from being traced back to Dathomir or Ziost, if only because to her the best way to minimize risk was to take several paths. In spite of the roundabout trip she was in relatively good spirits. The semitropical environment of Dathomir did not agree with her. This planet, she agreed with climate and had tremendous respect for a people that lived the lives those in the Mandalorian culture lived. She even appreciated the reasonable welcome she had received on the street, with people acknowledging her but not going out of their way to speak to her or anything like that. That was where it ended as far as she was concerned. While she could relate to the warrior culture, the differences between it and the Sith Order were enough to make it obvious that she was an outsider.

 

Fortunately, it was not readily obvious as to where she had come from. She did not wear her armor, nor did she carry her lightsaber. Today she was dressed much like someone who could be called a spacer as she had for the previous couple of days. She carried one of her company's own SR-181 revolvers, and the only item of consequence that could mark her as a Sith, her sword. She knew though that it was only  What Tanit had come to Mandalore for was to appraise competition in the arms manufacturing market. With Karnok Arms PLC taking its place in the small batch manufacturing game it only felt natural. As she wandered through Keldabe her attention was called away from a food vendor to a poster on the wall behind him. Waiting in line to eat something local was not something she had ever really done, but under cover of an assumed identity she felt like she could at least in some way enjoy herself. Cuyot Arms-For the Discerning Killer...

 

By the time Tanit made her way through Keldabe, she had learned that while the city itself was fine she prefered Coronet City. It might have been her bias, but Corellia was always home to her. The speeder pilot she hired to take her to Cuyot Arms was thankfully silent. That was how she preferred it. Small talk was not her forte, and with the things on her mind she did not really feel like breaking the monotony of public transit trying to find some kind of common ground with the pilot. Even the end of transaction was simple and to the point; payment for services rendered and nothing more. She was dropped off, and he left.

 

Tanit watched the speeder leave for a few moments. She was on her own for getting back to Keldabe it seemed. So be it. Tanit turned toward the buildings, and found that it was indeed a forge. The man outside was working on a blade. That was a weapon she could truly appreciate. Even in her spacer disguise she was someone who looked like a warrior. The scars and physical shape she was in gave that away. Tanit approached the forge and the man, "So this is Cuyot Arms?" she asked, looking around the place more so than she looked at the figure working with the sword.

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Tal Cuyot    41

The scrape of stone on beskar was calming. Slow, rhythmic- the sound of a killing instrument being perfected, one stroke at a time. Leaf-shaped, it wasn't the sort of thing Tal himself would use, but he could certainly appreciate it. Kula would do more with it, he hoped. 

 

He heard a speeder. It wasn't the high-pitched whine of the SoroSuub he'd gotten for light duty around the farm, the one Kula and Chel would be taking to find vhe'viine, rather a deep buzzing that set his durasteel teeth on edge. Wasn't someone from the clan, unless Ruul had brought a cargo speeder with the billets he'd gone for, or bought a new ride, and the Zeltron would have commed him first. Probably that Falleen coming to collect his rifle, but you could never be sure.

 

He was wearing his beskar'gam, the dull red and orange suit that had served him well since young adulthood, minus his buy'ce and some of the auxiliary plates- and of course, most of his weaponry. Didn't go around his own land armed, after all. Tilting his right wrist slightly, he checked the flamethrower readout. The tiny cylinder of compressed fuel was full, enough for a good ten seconds. The tiny holdout pistol in his boot was charged and ready, his utility knife was on his belt, and he still had his big recurve fighting knife at the small of his back. Never hurt to be ready.

 

He'd learned that a thousand times over his career. Unconsciously, the Mandalorian reached up to scratch at the thick torc of scar tissue visible just above the neck seal of his bodysuit, a reminder of one of those times on Haruun Kal. He'd dropped the ball, and was lucky to be alive after that. Hadn't helped his voice any. 

 

Tal returned to his work, changing to a finer stone. The speeder noise was going away again. Looking up momentarily, he saw a female human walking towards him. Short, red-haired, in unremarkable clothing. On her hip dangled a sword, a rather impressive specimen. On her other, some sort of firearm. As she drew closer, he could see that she bore her own scars. One in particular matched his, across the neck. 

 

"So this is Cuyot Arms?" she asked as she approached close. Heavy Corellian accent- either that, or a bad attempt at a normal Corellian accent. Tal's credits were on the former. He sucked in a breath, air whispering through the hole in his left cheek and past his durasteel replacement teeth, and pointedly glanced up at the sign. Aruetii had to be able to read, after all. Sorta hard to end up on another planet without being able to read. "Yeah." the Mandalorian rasped, matching his words with a stroke of the stone on the blade. "I'm Tal Cuyot, and we make arms."

 

He set the stone aside, letting the beskad hang from his gloved hand, and pushed himself to his feet. Running his empty hand's fingers through short-buzzed black hair, he shrugged. "You here for something?"

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Darth Tanit    464

Tanit noted that she and the Mandalorian shared a deep scar across the throat. He was a survivor or he was lucky. Regardless, she approached close enough without really saying anything for the first few moments. She looked at the forge, the sword, and the man that apparently owned it. It was what she expected. A small manufacturing group, which typically meant slower production for higher quality. "I am." Tanit said, her own voice about as hoarse.

 

She paused for a moment, considering a few things. "My name is, Chen Karnok..." She said, offering her birth name over her Sith name. It had been many years since she was addressed as such, but it was perhaps the safest way to introduce herself in the galaxy as it was now. "Karnok Arms PLC. Your forge looks like it is put to good use if that one blade is anything to go on. Function and form. I can appreciate the craftsmanship of a good blade." Tanit drew her own sword to hold it up in the light. The single-edged blade was a pristine specimen. Concave near the hilt and convex near the point. It was a classic design meant to distribute the weight of the weapon with the momentum of an axe while possessing the length of a sword. The hilt was undecorated, simple and functional. The sidearm, on the other hand, was high quality but a very new weapon on the market.

 

"More to the point, though, I would like to commission a weapon, a rifle. I have certain specifications for what I would like the design to entail, and cost is of no concern. I imagine we can come to some kind of arrangement?" Tanit offered, dangling what was usually an enticing prospect. She could pay most any cost. What she wanted was flawless functionality, which itself did not have a true price.

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