Boba Fett took the stairs. His knees complained bitterly as he climbed, but the grinding sensation loosened up after three flights of stairs had been conquered, and by the time he reached the penthouse level, his joints were moving freely. He paused at the doorway, and wondered again if he should take this job.
He pushed the door open and stepped inside the penthouse office of Demetri Lell, CEO of Glaxxol Corporation. Lell had been expecting him, but not from the side entrance. The little man jerked at the sight of the bounty hunter; his arm hit the coffee cup on his desk, spilling a muddy brown puddle across the papers strewn there.
"Fett, what in the hell..." he started, nervously, but then he regained his composure. Mopping up the spilled liquid with some other papers, Lell kept his eyes on Fett. "If you think you impressed me by sneaking up here, bypassing my security systems, youâre wrong. You'll have to be better than sneaky to bring Agamemnon in."
Lell wanted Agamemnon. Why, Fett did not know, nor did he care. The price was a staggering 40 million credits. And it was a one-time offer, to Fett only. No other bounty hunter would even hear of the offer, so no other bounty hunter would be troubling Fett in the hunt. And the hunt wasn't going to be all that hard. It was the actual capture that would take skill.
Agamemnon was a Force user. One could not necessarily call him a Jedi, for their number was few and far between in the galaxy. But Agamemnon had honed his skills over the years, and had used them to secure himself at the head of the organized crime front. Since the death of Prince Xizor, Black Sun was open to any taker, and Agamemnon wasted no time in stepping into that slot, but he was craftier than Xizor could have ever dreamed. Agamemnon ran things from the shadows. Nobody ever saw him. To most of the galaxy, he was a ghost, a legend. But Boba Fett knew he was a real man.
Which lead Fett to the quandary he was in. If he took this job, it would undoubtedly be his last. Not that Fett expected the crimelord to kill him; he knew that Agamemnon had a certain respect for him. And Fett was not going to kill Agamemnon, only bring him in to Lell. But Agamemnon would undoubtedly put the word out that Fett was..... outcast from the crimeworld. And it's tough finding jobs when the underworld kingpins won't hire you. Of course, 40 million credits would set Fett up for a long, easy retirement. In his line of work, high profits always took precedence.
What could the greasy little man want with the Lord of the Underworld? Fett looked at Demetri Lell. He was a small man, with big aspirations. He had ties to the Empire as well. Since the Emperor had returned in all his cloned glory, rumor's ran rampant that Glaxxol Corporation was the Emperor's toy. The new synthspice Glaxxol had patented was bringing in big profits, all reportedly going into Imperial coffers... And Demetri Lell shared his own little crime empire in this sector of the galaxy. Fett figured it was a simple power play on Lell's part -- bring in the galaxy's other top crimelord for a little... negotiation....
A comunit buzzed, and Lell leaned across the desk to answer it. A female voice said, "The test subject has arrived."
Lell's eyebrows raised. "Bring her in," he said, and then closed the com as he looked at Fett. "So, you had no problem finding Trixeen?"
"No problems," Fett said in his harsh, monotone. Trixeen Caratuk was a Force User. She was also a singer whose band played the Hutt circuits. Fett knew her from years ago at Jabba's Palace. She liked to flirt with him, and he had played back, but that's all that had happened. A bit of flirting. But enough to make her think she could trust him.
Trixeen was brought into the room. She was a human female, with jet black hair and creamy skin. Her eyes were pale blue, beguiling innocent. Every curve was in the right place, and there was hardly a male alive whose head she failed to turn. She looked at Lell, and then at Fett. She smiled.
"Boba Fett, I should have known someday you'd come back into my life," she said, her voice a sultry, pleasing tone.
Fett nodded ever so slightly.
She moved a step forward, and that's when Lell's men hit. They injected her so quickly, she didn't have time to respond. She went limp, falling against the men. They eased her to the ground.
Fett could see panic in her eyes, and then, outright hatred.
"The drug, as you can see, has a rapid onset. It is designed to block the Force, and effectively paralyze the Force user as well." Lell said.
Fett had seen enough. It worked. That was all he cared about.
"I'm afraid the antidote isn't yet perfected. The effect of the drug itself will last roughly four hours. You can redose anytime, but no more than one ample an hour or you'll risk suffocating him. And, I want Agamemnon alive." Lell reminded Fett as he handed him a vial containing enough ampules to get the job done.
Fett slipped the vial into his pocket. "As you wish," he said.
Lell nodded and then motioned to his men. One of them unholstered a blaster and with no emotion or remorse, fired it at Trixeen. She died quickly.
Snow fell gently but steadily. The fine powdered flakes made a soft hiss-like sound as they hit the already frozen ground. Boba Fett lay motionless on his belly, concealed by the very snow that was making the ski run ideal for the tourists. He'd been here several hours, waiting patiently, and watching intentively, his mind never wavering from the job at hand. Tracking Agamemnon had been more difficult than he originally thought it would be. The crimelord had at his disposal more ways than the Empire did of making himself scarce. Fett had called in a favor to an Imperial insider, and shortly thereafter he'd gotten a lucky break when he decoded a transmission near Coruscant, and that transmission was from Marianna, who Fett knew to be Agamemnon's wife.
The shadows were growing long as the afternoon light faded. As the cold crept into Fett's joints, and his prothestic leg began to pain him above the knee joint where it was implanted into his own flesh and bone, he mused on why a man of Agamemnon's cunning and status would have a wife. She was a liability. Of course, the physical need for the companionship and sexual fulfillment undoubtedly had strong bearings in Agamemnon's decision, he was a man after all. But so was Fett a man. Beneath the t-shaped visored helmet, Fett's lips turned upward in an ever-so slight smile. He was a man, but more than a man. A loner by nature, he had no use for companionship, and any need for the things a female could give him had been pushed aside. He sometimes thought he had grown beyond being a mere mortal. He had transcended that plane and passed beyond, becoming a more perfect being. He always allowed himself to be a hunter first. Agamemnon should have strived to aspire to the same perfections because, as Fett reasoned, his wife was his biggest weak spot.
And Fett knew how to hit a man's weak spot.
In the last half hour, only a handful of skiers had come down this path. Now, movement on the ridge caught Fett's eye. As the lithe figure in the bright blue snowsuit crested the hill above him, Fett tensed in readiness. It was Marianna, Agamemnon's wife. This was her third run down the slope, and Fett knew that sooner or later Agamemnon would be with her. The message he had intercepted and decoded was a plea that her husband join her on the slopes. She had even told him which resort; Challiar Mountain, and the slope as well, Mogul Run. And as the sun began to set beyond the rim of the forest, Fett knew his quarry was close.
Fett remained motionless and watched as Marianna expertly cut to the inside of the trail, now covered with fresh powder. Her knees stayed flexed, her body position forward. The concussion of the speed against the chattering skis was absorbed by her legs and spine. The sight made Fett well aware of his pain once again. He had been laying here in the cold snow too long.
She dug the edges of her skis into the snow, throwing up a plume of powder that momentarily blocked her from Fett's view, but he could hear her sparkling laughter, and his pulse quickened in anticipation.
Another form crested the hill. Fett used his tongue to toggle on the control switch of the built in macrobinoculars in his helmet. He zoomed in on the newcomer's face.
But the skier was clad in a black outfit, face concealed except for the eyes, which were hidden behind reflective goggles. He could not make a visual identification.
"Come on, Gideon, you're doing great!" Marianna's voice broke through the soft sound of the falling snow.
Fett held his position. Gideon Kane was the real name of Agamemnon. It had taken Fett hours of research through old Imperial records to find that little tidbit. Gideon Kane was presumed dead. Which was a convenience that even Fett had used once. Fett pulled his rifle closer and levered himself on his elbows. He checked to be sure the ampule was loaded, the dart in position.
He watched as Marianna turned and skied ahead. Fett noted that Agamemnon was not the skier his wife was; he barely managed to snow-plow down the hill after her. She had already put a distance of over a hundred yards between herself and her husband, leaving him open prey. Fett sighed to himself. It was disappointingly easy. His finger squeezed the trigger, and a moment later he saw Agamemnon begin to go down.
In a heartbeat, Fett was up, scrambling for the swoop bike he had hidden against the treeline. He jumpstarted the machine, keeping his eyes on Agamemnon and his wife. She hadn't seen her husband go down, but something was wrong with her. Her form was askew; she was leaning too far back, and her arms flailed wildly. It almost seemed as though she suddenly had no control over her legs; and then she fell... hard. She plowed through the snow more than twenty meters before coming to a halt. Fett was already beside Agamemnon, pulling his inert form from the snow, slinging it over the back of his seat, and moving off again. He passed near where the woman had gone down, and could see her mouth moving as she screamed. Her legs were twisted at unnatural angles, and her cries were drowned by the roar of his bike's engines. With the sun sinking lower, and no other skiers on the slope that he could see, Fett knew she wouldn't last long. As his bike sped away from the ski resort, he thumbed the com-switch.
"Downed skier on Mogul Run. Medical transport required," Fett said into the com. He didn't do it because he cared about the woman. He did it because he knew that Agamemnon heard the fire from his rifle; and saw his wife go down. In the man's position, Fett would be thinking the same thing. He'd shot Marianna. Which brought him back to the entire bounty at hand. This piece of Hardware was 40 million credits! But also the end of his career. Unless Demetri Lell killed Agamemnon, a possibility that made Fett laugh, then this was his last bounty. And no doubt, when it was all over and done, Agamemnon would come for him. And Fett was smart enough to know that he did not stand a chance against one who wielded the dark powers of the Force. That was why he had done his research well. And he had one more card up his sleeve.
Boba Fett secured Agamemnon in a Force cage aboard SLAVE I. Even though the drug Demetri Lell had developed worked, Fett wasn't taking any chances. It was better that Agamemnon remained contained, drug or no drug. But the drugs effect was astonishing. Agamemnon was paralyzed; his force powers useless. Fett checked the man's vital signs, saw the unbridled anger in his gaze, and then stepped outside of the cage and locked it.
Even before he reached orbit, Fett called ahead to Glaxxol Corporation headquarters.
"Do you have him?" the antsy voice of Demetri Lell came over the com.
"Yes," Fett replied. "I'll expect payment on arrival, in cash," he added.
"Cash? That was never our agreement. I can't come up....." Lell started to complain.
"You want him? Cash," Fett reiterated.
"But.... I...... I'm going to need...... ," Lell stumbled over his words.
"You realize who this is?" Fett asked.
The minute of silence on the com made Fett aware that Lell was thinking it was a trick question.
"Agamemnon is the head of organized crime. I couldn't transfer the money fast enough before he'd freeze my accounts. I want cash, or you don't get the hardware," Fett stated.
"I'll have the cash available when you arrive." Lell agreed.
The comlink went silent as the connection broke.
SLAVE I came out of hyperspace and landed at Glaxxol's private landing pad. The transfer took place quickly. Fett received the cash, and handed Agamemnon over to Demetri Lell. He stood on the loading ramp and watched in silence as they took the crimelord into the building. For the first time ever, Fett had second thoughts about what he had just done. Perhaps he was just getting old, and tired of the game. But he'd always thought retirement would be at his discretion, not someone elses. And now he knew he was facing a forced retirement. He went back inside SLAVE I, and headed for the outer rim territories to wait.
Several weeks went by. Fett knew that Demetri Lell had been killed. Glaxxol Corporation had been taken over by another pharmaceutical company that was run by the underworld. Agamemnon was once again established on his dark throne; a place that really didn't exist but that was all powerful at the same time. Marianna had received medical treatment on site, but it had turned out that her legs were prosthetic and malfunctioned. They were not broken. Still, somehow, Fett knew Agamemnon would blame him for the malfunction. Whispers of Fett's betrayal had reached him even on the remote world of Ferrhast where he waited. Fett found humor in that betrayal because he had, in effect, betrayed a man that did not exist. No one with ties to the organization would hire Fett. Of course there were other's that would, but he used the same links, the same informants, the same avenues that the vast majority of the underworld used. In truth, there was no way around it. The underworld's reach went far beyond even what Emperor Palpatine's Empire touched. Fett was effectively cut off from his sources unless Agamemnon decided he should live. So Fett bided his time and watched for Agamemnon's arrival.
That time finally came.
Dressed in a simple robe, Fett climbed to the top of a rocky plateau and sat cross-legged on the hard ground. He watched the sunset. The sky turned a dusky yellow and then faded into blue-black. Above him, he heard the sound of engines, muted by a dampening device, but still audible against the silence around him. The movement of the cloaked ship blocked out the fresh smattering of stars in the night sky. The ship hovered above him, perhaps 15 seconds, and then it was gone. But Fett was no longer alone.
Fett stood up slowly, his knees made a crackling sound. A sudden gust of wind swirled about him. The hood of the cloak he wore fell away from his head, but he made no move to replace it. He wore nothing beneath the robe. He carried no weapons.
A black hawk-bat flew over him, so close he could feel the flutter of it's wings against the top of his head. He turned, watching its flight. It landed on a low branch near where the dark figure of Agamemnon stood. The crimelord was wearing blood-black armor, with a black cape. A mask of gold seemed to burn with evil intensity on Agamemnon's face. The mask hid all facial expression, but managed to exude hatred at the same time.
Fett had no Force ability, but one did not need the Force to sense anger. It radiated from the dark figure like a shield, and Fett had no defenses against it. But that WAS his defense. He knew his opponent's weak spots... his wife... and....
Suddenly, a power unlike anything Fett had ever encountered ripped him from the very spot where he stood. It picked him up, physically, and threw him back into the hard ground. Fett felt his body crumble, and then felt the first wave of pain. But before he could even register where the pain was coming from, he was in the grip of the power again, and this time his body was flung through the air at tremendous speed, only to be stopped by the inert form of a tree. Fett felt the air leave his lungs, and he gulped reflexively to try to inflate them again.
Now, Agamemnon moved in on him. The dark crimelord picked him up with his hands, and held him at arms length.
"This is for her," he said, the anger spilling from him like something alive.
A fist pummeled into Fett's abs, cutting upward, cracking a rib. Again, Fett could not get air into his lungs. One punch lead to another, and another. Several more ribs broke under the assault, but Fett did not defend himself, did not even raise a hand to try to protect himself. He simply took it.... because he knew Agamemnon would not fight someone who refused to defend himself. That was the crimelord's second weak spot.
The blows ended. Agamemnon dropped him. Fett fell gratefully to the cold ground, and he did not look up. He stared at the crimelords boots as they came into and went out of focus. The boots turned and headed away from him, but then stopped.
Fett found himself looking up, drawn to meet Agamemnon's stare through no power of his own. Agamemnon's hand was raised, his hand positioned as if he were holding Fett's face under the chin to force him to look at him. As his vision continued to zoom in and out of focus, Fett was certain he saw a glint of admiration in the man's gaze. But of course, he couldn't have. The man wore that golden mask.
"If you weren't Boba Fett, you'd be dead," Agamemnon said. He dropped his hand, and Fett's head fell with the motion so that he was once again looking at the ground.
He heard the screech of the hawk-bat, and when he found the energy to look up again, he saw a swirling black cloud meld with the darkness, and Agamemnon was gone. Fett pushed himself up slowly, and gathered the robe around himself. The pain was a staunch reminder that he was, after all, still mortal, still a man, still alive. He understood Agamemnon's actions; he had been granted a reprieve of sorts. So perhaps retirement would come another day.