The Morbis Ferre dropped into subspace 300 kilometers off the Promised JewelÃ¢Â€Â™s bow, weapons primed and shields holding at full charge, ready for any trace of defensive action from the ghost ship. At first, there was none, and the Ubese pilotÃ¢Â€Â™s paranoia appeared to be unfounded. The Skipray cruised onward, its ownerÃ¢Â€Â™s talented hands tightening ever so slightly on the ion cannonsÃ¢Â€Â™ triggers.
SomethingÃ¢Â€Â™s not right. Whispered a bodiless voice into ArcuseÃ¢Â€Â™s ear. HeÃ¢Â€Â™d heard the voice before, and had learned over the years to heed its advice. He knew the apparition very well; and why shouldnÃ¢Â€Â™t he? It was his own mind speaking after all. It was the small whisper of intuition that had saved his friendsÃ¢Â€Â™ lives on many occasions, and his own even more.
Where are the other hunters? Surely you werenÃ¢Â€Â™t the first to arrive; the [\i]Morbis FerreÃ¢Â€Â™s[i] a good ship say true, but not known for its speed. There are no ships attached to the hull, no landing bays to be seen, and no debris or any other signs of a space battle. He thought, eying the sleek, massive luxury vessel with great suspicion.
The Promised Jewel[\i], target of every bounty and treasure hunter in the sector, seemed to be, in every way, untouched. Where any normal hunter mightÃ¢Â€Â™ve seen this as a blessing, the Ubese warrior sitting at the [i]Morbis FerreÃ¢Â€Â™s[\i] controls grew all the more doubtful that everything here was what it seemed. One black, armored glove reached for the intercom:
Ã¢Â€ÂœSathik, I need you on the turret.Ã¢Â€Â
There was no answer for a few seconds, then: Ã¢Â€ÂœWhy, we got trouble?Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœNot yet.Ã¢Â€Â Arcuse rasped, letting go of the Ã¢Â€Â˜talkÃ¢Â€Â™ button and bringing his full attention back to his viewport. His control board informed him that the topside gunwell had been powered up; thus encouraged, the Ubese took the gunship in closer, fingers still twitching beside his firing studs. Helmeted eyes still glued to his viewport, he keyed the intercom for the turret.
Ã¢Â€ÂœIÃ¢Â€Â™m taking us in closer, be ready.Ã¢Â€Â
The [i]Morbis Ferre[\i] drifted ever closer, every weapon in her considerable arsenal trained on the hull as it approached. ArcuseÃ¢Â€Â™s gaze shifted momentarily to his sensor readout, assuring himself that they werenÃ¢Â€Â™t about to be blindsided from behind.
[i]Be ever vigilant sai, if the instructors back on Uba taught you anything, it was to stay alert and shoot straight. Now, what to do about this ship...
Ã¢Â€ÂœYou see any docking clamps? Landing bays?Ã¢Â€Â The Ubese soldier asked into the intercom.
Ã¢Â€ÂœNot a one. We could always use one of those forced entries we pulled back on that Imp garrison. You remember Willy?Ã¢Â€Â Sathik answered back.
Ã¢Â€ÂœIÃ¢Â€Â™d rather not. And no, weÃ¢Â€Â™ve got no thermal paste to burn our way in. Perhaps you could blast us a hole? IÃ¢Â€Â™m not reading any shields on the vessel, should be simple enough.Ã¢Â€Â The Ubese returned.
Ã¢Â€ÂœArc, I thought youÃ¢Â€Â™d never ask.Ã¢Â€Â With no further discussion, the laser turret began to beat its steady rhythm through the hull, launching lances of crimson energy at the starcraft below. ArcuseÃ¢Â€Â™s paranoia-enhanced eyes followed the first salvo with intense curiosity, wondering if perhaps the term Ã¢Â€Â˜ghost shipÃ¢Â€Â™ was meant to be taken all too literally this time.
[i]Mayhap the blasts will pass right through.[\i] The Ubese thought, not quite believing himself even as the notion crossed his mind. [i]Such things are illogical, it would do you good to concentrate on possibilities that may actually occur.[\i]
A moment later however, Arcuse proved himself wrong and right at the same time. The paired laser bolts passed [i]through[\i] the [i]Promised JewelÃ¢Â€Â™s[\i] hull, and out of the UbeseÃ¢Â€Â™s sight. SathikÃ¢Â€Â™s voice came through the comm a moment later.
Ã¢Â€ÂœArc?Ã¢Â€Â Said a perfectly calm, and thus obviously wrong voice.
Ã¢Â€ÂœDid you just see that?Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœIf by Ã¢Â€Â˜thatÃ¢Â€Â™ you mean your opening salvo going through the-Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœArc! Look out!Ã¢Â€Â Sathik suddenly yelled, the loud noise causing the UbeseÃ¢Â€Â™s hand to dart towards his holstered blaster out of reflex. In his line of business, shouting was generally followed by gunshots. That reflex, the very one that had kept him alive a dozen times over, now betrayed him. As his right hand dipped towards his thigh holster, an emerald pillar of light struck the [i]Morbis FerreÃ¢Â€Â™s[\i] amidships, throwing Arcuse against his pilotÃ¢Â€Â™s harness and shaking the entire ship. Had he seen the turbolaser blast coming, and had his right hand been on the flight-stick, then he mightÃ¢Â€Â™ve had a chance to veer out of the way in time. Most unfortunately for the Ubese however, he [i]hadnÃ¢Â€Â™t[\i] seen the blast coming, and nor had his hand been under his control so much as it had been under his reflexesÃ¢Â€Â™; needless to say, he didnÃ¢Â€Â™t have a prayer.
Arcuse immediately grasped the SkiprayÃ¢Â€Â™s flight-stick and shoved it forward, throwing more power to the engine with his left hand as he did so. The ponderous gunship lurched forward and dove, causing the second blast to do nothing more than skim across the shields. The Ubese gunslinger looked to his shield gauge for an instant, and saw them already 2/3 gone. Had those shields been down, he and Sathik would be just so many particles floating in space.
Ã¢Â€ÂœWhat in the Nine Circles of Hell just happened!?Ã¢Â€Â Arcuse rasped angrily, one of the few emotions he experienced. He wouldÃ¢Â€Â™ve yelled, it was certainly the right time for it, but his very anatomy prevented him from doing so.
Ã¢Â€ÂœFire came from the kriffin ship!Ã¢Â€Â Sathik bellowed through the comm, perfectly capable of yelling, and doing so. HeÃ¢Â€Â™d begun firing blindly into the Ã¢Â€Â˜ghost shipÃ¢Â€Â™sÃ¢Â€Â™ not-quite-real hull, hoping to hit whatever had just tried to shoot them down.
Ã¢Â€ÂœWhat? I didnÃ¢Â€Â™t see any gun turrets as we were coming in.Ã¢Â€Â Arcuse responded, throwing the [i]Morbis Ferre[\i] into a corkscrewed climb and firing a few ion shots into the Ã¢Â€Â˜shipÃ¢Â€Â™ that filled his viewport.
Ã¢Â€ÂœThatÃ¢Â€Â™s just it!Ã¢Â€Â Sathik yelled back, Ã¢Â€ÂœThere [i]are[\i] no gun turrets. Those shots came out right through the hull, just like mine went in.Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœInteresting.Ã¢Â€Â Was the only response Arcuse gave, though more to himself than to Sathik. He looked down at the seemingly very solid hull skimming a few dozen meters beneath his ship, and raised an amused eyebrow at his own audacity. If the blasts went through, itÃ¢Â€Â™s possible that...
[i]Victory does not come without risks.[\i] HeÃ¢Â€Â™d been taught, but was this taking it too far? Perhaps it was.
Whether it was or not however, played no part in ArcuseÃ¢Â€Â™s decision as he pushed the flight-stick forward again, putting the [i]Morbis Ferre[\i] into a steep dive Ã¢Â€Â“ directly towards the [i]Promised Jewel[\i]. The sleek hull rushed towards him, and a questioning sound came through the intercom.
Ã¢Â€ÂœUh, Arc?Ã¢Â€Â Sathik asked.
Arcuse didnÃ¢Â€Â™t answer.
Ã¢Â€ÂœYou do realize that weÃ¢Â€Â™re, umm, ya, kind of going to hit the ship?Ã¢Â€Â
The Ubese kept his silence, and his eyes remained fixed on where they would hit in just about...now.
As the holographic plating of the [i]Promised Jewel[\i] engulfed first the bow, and then the middle (the laser turretÃ¢Â€Â™s location) of ArcuseÃ¢Â€Â™s Skipray, he heard Sathik spitting a chain of expletives from down the corridors. He hadnÃ¢Â€Â™t used the intercom. Almost smiling, the Ubese brought his attention back to his viewport, just in time to barrel-roll out of the way of another turbolaser blast. This time, he could see the shotÃ¢Â€Â™s source.
Ã¢Â€ÂœHello beautiful.Ã¢Â€Â Sathik murmured to the intercom as he brought the turret to bear. His target wasnÃ¢Â€Â™t exactly a dreadnaught, but it was far from an impossible shot either. The problem he was going to have though, would be firepower. Even with the cannon upped to maximum power, he was doubtful it would have much impact on the cruiserÃ¢Â€Â™s, if it was large enough to be called that, shields. Ã¢Â€ÂœMight need a wee bit of help here.Ã¢Â€Â He said, leaving the intercom on so he wouldnÃ¢Â€Â™t have to keep keying into the cockpit.
Ã¢Â€ÂœWeÃ¢Â€Â™re not going to destroy it.Ã¢Â€Â Arcuse rasped, hating the very words that came out of his helmeted mouth.
Ã¢Â€ÂœIt shot at us Arc. Took off more than it could chew, and now whoeverÃ¢Â€Â™s on that thing needs to die. Natural selection, I thought you loved that kind of stuff.Ã¢Â€Â Sathik said, wanting to blow the vessel out of space as much as Arcuse did.
Ã¢Â€ÂœThere are two bounty hunter craft docked with that ship. One of them is the Slave I.Ã¢Â€Â The Ubese said, checking the starshipsÃ¢Â€Â™ profiles on his sensor readout, looking up every second or two to avoid what could be a killing shot from landing.
Ã¢Â€ÂœYour point being? So we even get to eliminate our top competition [i]and[\i] kill the ship. I mean I like the old Fett more than most people, but he still cuts into our profits from time to time.Ã¢Â€Â Sathik said, still firing with little effect on the small, compact cruiser.
Ã¢Â€ÂœThe Bounty HunterÃ¢Â€Â™s Creed sai.Ã¢Â€Â Arcuse rasped, needing to say nothing else.
[i]I will not kill another hunter during a hunt, unless he himself breaks this creed. On this I give my word.[\i] Just one of several points in the Creed.
Ã¢Â€ÂœYÃ¢Â€Â™know what Arc? Sometimes I really hate that sense of honor of yours.Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœHow did we meet again?Ã¢Â€Â Arcuse inquired, wanting to cut the talking as soon as possible so he could get his mind back to keeping them alive. At this, Sathik fell silent, knowing the answer very well. At a competition on some forgotten (and now destroyed) planet, a killing match called the Battledome, Sathik found himself running through a forest with two rancors on his tail, far from a good position for anyone to be in. The rest was simple: Arcuse saw the situation, deemed it unfair, joined in, and between the two of them he and Sathik had dispatched the titanic creatures. In short, ArcuseÃ¢Â€Â™s overzealous sense of honor had quite possibly saved SathikÃ¢Â€Â™s life.
With no further arguments, Arcuse throttled the [i]Morbis Ferre[\i], draining power from the laser turret and feeding it into the crippled shields as he grew closer to the still-firing cruiser. With his honor gaining priority over his lust to kill, the only remaining option that could include surviving the shipÃ¢Â€Â™s constant barrage of fire, and not abandoning the hunt, would be to board the vessel. Besides, maybe he could get some clue as to where the real [i]Promised Jewel[\i] was.
The Skipray took another hit on its way in, blowing away what was left of its shields, but Arcuse didnÃ¢Â€Â™t much care. The closer they got to the ship, the worse its aim became, such is the glory of turbolasers. The Ubese kept the ion cannons blazing all the way in, and even fired off a half-dozen concussion missiles for good measure. The latter exploded semi-harmlessly along its shields, but the former went straight through the transparent barrier and made contact with the hull, shorting out systems wherever they struck.
Ã¢Â€ÂœSo, what exactly is the plan?Ã¢Â€Â Sathik asked as the gunship decelerated near the dense vesselÃ¢Â€Â™s hull.
Ã¢Â€ÂœWe pull a modified Han Solo.Ã¢Â€Â Arcuse answered.
Ã¢Â€ÂœCome again?Ã¢Â€Â The Dark hunter in the turret inquired, not entirely sure what his friend meant.
Ã¢Â€ÂœWe get in close and dock with the ship to avoid fire.Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœI got that part, but where does the modified part come in?Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœWe kill anything on that ship that isnÃ¢Â€Â™t a bounty hunter.Ã¢Â€Â The Ubese replied simply, punching the clasp on his chest to release his crash harness as the Skipray drifted slowly towards one of the cruiserÃ¢Â€Â™s docking ports.
Ã¢Â€ÂœI think IÃ¢Â€Â™m going to like this plan.Ã¢Â€Â Sathik said, and likewise untangled himself from the gunwellÃ¢Â€Â™s harness. The pair of soldiers met moments later in the [i]Morbis FerreÃ¢Â€Â™s[\i] cargo hold/armory, and began quickly browsing the vast shelves of weaponry. In the end, Sathik took his shotgun and his S-5, along with the assortment of omnipresent knives he had on him. Arcuse took his usual E-11, with all its various accessories, his standard BlasTech DL-36 sidearm, an HSB-200 hold-out blaster in an ankle holster, a combat knife on his opposite ankle, a pair of elongated vibroblades on his back which heÃ¢Â€Â™d recently taken a liking to, and a pair of wrist lasers. A good deal more firepower than he normally carried while out on the job, but Boba Fett was on this ship after all, and if they ever met up with him, the Ubese warrior wanted to be as ready as possible.
HeÃ¢Â€Â™d always wondered when he saw the Mandalorian, which he did occasionally, if he would come out on top in a fight. Arcuse was certainly younger, which generally meant faster and stronger, while Boba wasnÃ¢Â€Â™t exactly in his prime. The Ubese was a near perfect shot, capable of shooting a pistol out of a boyÃ¢Â€Â™s hand almost completely out of reflex, dare he say maybe a better shot than Boba Fett himself. Still, there was something about the legendary hunter that had kept him alive through his years of hunting, something more than intelligence and firepower. Arcuse had no idea what that unknown skill was, and silently hoped that he and Sathik would finish their business here [i]without[\i] being forced into a confrontation with Fett.
[i]If we do,[\i] The orphaned soldier thought to himself. [i]IÃ¢Â€Â™ll do my best to kill him if he tries to do the same to me. If IÃ¢Â€Â™m lucky (maybe thatÃ¢Â€Â™s his secret; ironic that itÃ¢Â€Â™s what saves Solo every time if it is) IÃ¢Â€Â™ll at least drive him off.[\i]
Ã¢Â€ÂœReady?Ã¢Â€Â Sathik asked, blowing ArcuseÃ¢Â€Â™s thoughts away like breath to sand.
Ã¢Â€ÂœAlways.Ã¢Â€Â The Ubese replied, using his friendÃ¢Â€Â™s own saying. His plagued friend punched the ramp release, and immediately noticed that the air tasted...old, almost stale somehow. Arcuse on the other hand, noticed nothing; his helmetÃ¢Â€Â™s air-scrubbers kept the air the usual fabricated clean he was used to.
As the cargo ramp touched the deck, both hunters descended the incline, crouched low with their weapons at the ready. There was no illumination in the airlock, and likely none elsewhere either; Arcuse activated the tactical glowrod on his BlasTech rifle, and panned the light across the walls, searching for anything that might be a problem. His quick scan came up clear, and the two proceeded onwards. Sathik had spent much of his life in the dark, and could operate without much loss of efficiency in it.
They reached a blast door simply by walking forward after exiting and sealing the [i]Morbis Ferre[\i], quite obviously giving access to the rest of the ship. Arcuse checked a panel on the wall to the left of the door, and grew more than a little uneasy to discover that the massive doors were unlocked. The Ubese hit the door release, and then stepped back next to Sathik. The two shouldered their weapons, and waited for the blast doors to open, completely oblivious as to what might be on the other side.
It is currently midnight as I finally post this, and I blame any bad, horrible, or in any other way not good writing on my exhaustion. Nice to have a scape-goat every once in awhile.
I can furthermore blame it for my anger. WHY IS ITALICS NOT WORKING!? EVEN WHEN I TRY USING THIS BLOODY BBCODE IT DOESN'T WORK! WHY DON'T WE JUST BRING BACK THE RUTTIN HTML!?!?!? WORKED JUST FINE THEN!