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They suddenly struck him as very foreign, and that surprised him: Vau had taught Delta all the Mandalorian customs and language, just as Skirata had taught his commando squads, but somehow at that moment Omega and the Nulls seemed very much more Mandalorian mercs than men of the Grand Army.

"So," Boss said, as if reading his mind, "if we got in a ruck with a bunch of real Mando'ade, whose side do you reckon they'd be on?"

Sev shrugged. "Who do you think killed the Mand'ade we found in Ko Sai's hideout?"

"You don't know who did that," Fixer said.

"Yeah, and neither do you."

Scorch put a stop to the speculation. "Vode an. Brothers, all. Okay?"

Delta Squad each managed a casual acknowledgment and Sev expected Skirata to try to talk them into joining the game, but he didn't. The six men carried on, oblivious, with the occasional shout or comment in Mando'a, and they might as well have been in Keldabe, not Galactic City.

It was . . . unsettling. It was also oddly tempting in a way that Sev didn't want to think about.

Commandos were all on the same side. Sev was sure of it. And for the time being, so were the Nulls, although they were a law unto themselves. Whatever eccentricities they had, they were totally loyal, obeying Skirata to the letter.

Skirata paused, trapping the ball under one boot, and seemed to notice Sev for the first time.

"Copaani geroy? " he asked, totally Mando. Want to play?

"No thanks," Sev said. "I'll stick to my embroidery. Looks a bit rough. I bruise easy."

Delta Squad walked on, leaving behind a scene that for a few moments could easily have been unfolding on Mandalore, and not in the heart of the Republic.

"Just as well they're on our side," said Boss.

"Yeah," said Sev. "It is."

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