It was a still, dry and hot day on the Imperial construction planet of Averam. There was little to no wind at all, and the sky was cloudless and desolate. The hot and stuffy air finished off the dead tone that Nature had decided to put upon this world. To the common inhabitant this weather was lousy and boring, but to the assassin, these factors were ideal; there was no natural obstructions to alter aim, shot, or to interfere with the getaway that would require precision timing and a good deal of luck.
Azgrath Kratnal settled himself down as comfortably as he could on the weathered stone roof top, peering over the short ledge, down about five stories to the square below, where a massive crowd had gathered for the annual speech presented by Moff Grituz. Lying stretched out on the dirty, earthen roof, Azgrath's mottled brown and gray flight suit camouflaged him perfectly with his surroundings. Even his high-powered sniper rifle was painted accordingly, completing the outfit.
After finishing setting up the shock stand of the rifle on the ledge, Azgrath lightly tapped in a combination on a small keypad just below the scope. A quiet tone confirmed that any shots Azgrath fired would lack the sufficient gases to give the laser bolt a distinctive color, rendering it effectively invisible.
A wild cheer erupted from the crowd, and Azgrath looked over to see that Moff Grituz had arrived at the plaza. He picked his way through the crowd heading towards the podium, shaking hands and throwing his beaming smile around the entire time. After what seemed like hours, the Imperial Moff finally stood at the podium, overlooking the thousands gathered before him.
Azgrath double-checked the silencer on his rifle barrel to insure it was functioning correctly, then charged the gun. He put his eye up to the scope, and began to carefully seek out the Moff in his cross hairs. The stout, fat man looked more like an albino Gamorrean than the human he supposedly was, Azgrath noticed as he saw him in the magnified viewer.
The Moff began his speech, first thanking the multitudes of people for showing up and then graciously thanking them for their hospitality. Gradually he moved into the true nature of his visit, to update them on the current doings in the Sesswenna sector, the moff's territory of order.
Refusing to waste time and perhaps let his quarry escape his sights, Azgrath tightened his grip on the rifle and squeezed the firing stud. The gun shuddered and made next to no sound at all, but Azgrath watched in cold contentment as the Moff staggered backwards, a hole burned through his thick skull, and blood drenching his once pure white attire. His body fell backwards and landed with a sickening thud on the ground, one which Azgrath's Force-heightened senses had no trouble picking up.
As he quickly backed away from the ledge and retrieved his stuff sack in which he kept his instruments of homocide, Azgrath smiled at the irony of it all. The Emperor had personally trained him as one of his Hands, had taught him the ways of the Force to the extent of Azgrath's limited abilities, and had equipped him with the knowledge, strength, and skill to be one of the galaxy's greatest assassins to ever live. And here he was, knocking off yet another high-ranking Imperial official.
And he loved it.
Azgrath quickly unscrewed the long barrel from the rifle, then pulled off the butt of it, slid off the scope, and finally crammed the four pieces into the stuff sack. Slinging the sack over his shoulders, Azgrath ran at an unimaginable pace to the far side of the roof and leaped across the ten-foot gap onto the next building. He continued doing this until he had covered three blocks, then slid down a drainage gutter to an empty alleyway below.
Sirens blared in the distance, and overhead military shuttles streaked by, heading in the direction of the plaza. Azgrath watched for a few seconds as they dipped out of sight, and finally ran off down the alley, disappearing in the shadows.
The Starry Sky Cantina was the exact definition of a stereotypical, filthy hideout for lowlife scum. Drunkards moved about through the dim lighting, bumping into tables and knocking drinks, and occasionally other drunkards, to the ground. Fistfights erupted between disgruntled customers here and there, and the occasional blaster shot signaled that there would be one less drink being paid for. Illegal gambling was abundant, as were con men. Boba Fett realized that the reason why he was meeting his potential Imperial employers here was probably because this was the only place they could blend in.
Outside the Averam night air was just as still, dry and hot as it had been earlier today. Fett enjoyed these conditions more than any others, due to the lack of effect it had, whether it be good or bad, on your performance. And it seemed, according to the recent news, that there had been somebody else on this planet today that had thought in the same manner.
Fett had received the call just around an hour ago as he was preparing to leave in the Slave I. An Imperial officer had contacted him concerning the assassination of Moff Grutiz, a pig of a man, at the Imperator Plaza around noon. The officer went on to casually suggest that Fett should meet with some Imperial agents tonight at the Starry Sky Cantina, saying it would be well worth his time.
So here Fett was, waiting for the annoyingly late mystery guests. However, a pair of curiously sober looking men were making their way towards him, and Fett decided that the Imperials had arrived.
The two nondescript looking men sat down in front of Fett at the small round table. "Boba Fett," said the taller man on Fett's right. "I delight in this honor of meeting you in person."
"Please dispense with the pleasantries," Fett countered coldly. "I have neither the time nor the patience to deal with it."
"Very well, then," said the second man, "we'll move right into business."
"This is a request from the Emperor, himself," the first man said. "It seems that one of our assassins went missing a few months ago. We have been unable to locate him, but know for a fact that he is still around."
"Really?" Fett inquired. "And exactly how do you know?"
The second man grimaced visibly. "He has been assassinating Imperial officials left and right, the most recent being today's little fiasco at Imperator Plaza."
Fett shook his head. "How do you know that was him today? It could have been nearly anyone who's a good shot."
"We're fairly confident it was him," replied the first man. "We saw him leaving the main spaceport in a SoroSuub 2500 yacht," he said while tossing a couple pictures and a datapad onto the table. Fett picked up the pictures and inspected each one closely. One was definitely from a file, and showed him posing quite unhappily with the Emperor. He had dirty blonde hair and was tall with a good, medium build. Classic farm boy. The other picture was in black and white, showing the man running up the boarding ramp of a SoroSuub yacht. "We have reason to believe his ship is heavily modified for quick travel, so getting to his next destination before him is impossible. We have tracked him, however, and his ship was heading for Coruscant."
"Coruscant," Fett repeated. "Hence the urgency in which you met me."
"Indeed," replied the second. "We don't know who he'll hit, but Admiral Iomish will be making a public address, so we think that's who he'll be targeting."
Fett scrolled through the datafile, which proved to be a record of the man's life. Azgrath Kratnal; never heard of him. "Who is he working for?"
"No one," the first one answered. "We believe it to beâ¦personal matters."
Fett didn't bother to inquire further on the subject; he knew how the Empire could ruin lives. "What's the pay?"
"The Empire is willing to offer you three million credits for your services," said the second man, "due to the gravity of the situation. You are free to use whatever method necessary, but it this case the Emperor will not mind if you do not bring him back alive. He's been deemed a threat to Imperial Command. Just get the job done."
Fett nodded. "As you wish."
TIE Bombers screamed by overhead, raining destructive blasts down on the defenseless city below. Concussion waves rippled through city blocks, leveling buildings that had stood for decades and some for even centuries. Ground assault TIE Fighters followed quickly, all the while spewing missiles across the sky towards the few stubborn buildings left standing.
Young Azgrath Kratnal looked on helplessly, kicking and screaming, as he was carried away from his boyhood home on the shoulder of a stormtrooper. "Mom! Dad!" he cried. "Put me down, I want to go back to my parents!"
But the trooper ran onward, heading towards the awaiting shuttle that hovered a yard above the ground. Despite the frequent kicks to the chest, he continued to surge towards it, intent on helping the little Emperor's Hand survive.
Azgrath didn't care about that right now, though, he only wanted his parents. However, even as he struggled in the arms of the trooper, he watched as a sole bomber streaked down from the harsh, stormy sky and dropped a single bomb. The ovoid canister fell surprisingly slow in the mind of Azgrath. He watched in horror and slow motion as it dropped and in a burst of light leveled his house. Azgrath felt the screams of his parents in his Force-sensitive mind, and reached out with his hands while tears streamed from his eyesâ¦
Azgrath shot out of the bunk screaming, and slammed his head on the bottom of the bunk above him. His skin was wet and clammy, and his hands shook with such intensity that he thought he had awoken in the midst of a seizure. He rolled slowly out of bed and staggered across the room into the small refresher unit, clapping the lights on at the same time.
He turned the cold water on in the sink and leaned on the counter, looking at his ragged reflection in the mirror. It was that same dream again, the one that had plagued him all his life after that fateful day on his homeworld.
He had been assigned to subliminally help quell an uprising on a planet close to his home, and having completed the assignment early, he decided to visit his parents despite strict rules set by the Emperor not to make contact with family. Much to his shock, shortly after he landed the planet came under Imperial assault. Luckily, a squad of stormtroopers had recognized him and tore him right out of his parents arm's in their own home. They ran him to the shuttle as his parents hid in their basement from the bombing. They never had a chance.
Azgrath splashed some cold water on his face and rubbed his eyes wearily. Now, though, the Empire would pay for what it did to him and his family. Perhaps even, with enough training, Azgrath could eventually make the Emperor himself pay for his actions. For the time being, however, high-ranking Imperials that had had a role in the bombing of his planet would have to do.
He smiled as he walked out of the bathroom and began to change out of his sweaty clothes. Admiral Iomish would indeed pay dearly for his crime against Azgrath and his parents. It would not be easy, seeing as how the admiral would be on Coruscant, but Azgrath would have his revenge.
And nobody would get in his way.
"Baggage, please," the customs official said courteously.
Azgrath Kratnal casually lifted his black stuff sac onto the conveyor belt that would lead his sole piece of luggage through numerous sensors trying to detect any illegal material. Any attempts, Azgrath knew however, would be in vain due to his sac's special liner that provided scanners with false images of clothing. In truth, however, Azgrath normally traveled on planets with nothing but the clothes on his back. All other outfits were stored on his yacht.
On this particular instance Azgrath was clad in a granite colored jumpsuit, the same color as most buildings in Imperial City. The synthetic material that the suit was made of, though, gave Azgrath slight chameleon abilities because the suit could shift from light gray to black in seconds. Nearly all of Azgrath's wardrobe was like this, and it had cost him a fortune. But he would settle for nothing less than the best equipment.
"It all checks out, sir," the man said. "Make sure you visit the Tourist Information Booth on your way out to get any guide books you need. Thank you, and please have a pleasant stay on Coruscant."
Azgrath, smiling sarcastically, grabbed his bag roughly and trudged towards the exit. A few aliens approached him on his way, offering him money to watch his ship, to clean his ship, and even some to not steal his ship. Quickly dismissing these people, Azgrath continued forward, past the Tourist Information Booth, and out into the street.
He lifted his arm upon reaching the lofty and grand landing platform, and immediately five or six taxi shuttles roared over and slammed to a halt, nearly colliding with one another. Azgrath walked up to the nearest one, opened the door, and hopped in, throwing his bag down next to him.
The Devaronian driver looked back at him, his horns making screeching sounds as they rubbed against the metal roof. "Where to, pal?"
"Monument Square," Azgrath said, nodding.
The devilish-looking alien turned back around and began to pull away from the platform. "Oh hey, did you know that some, uh, Admiral Iomish is supposed to be speaking there later today?"
Azgrath smiled. "Yes, I know."
Boba Fett stood as still as one of the statues below him in Monument Square atop a seven-story building, looking down into the masses. A great crowd had gathered to hear the speech that was to be made by Admiral Iomish in just a few short minutes, and Fett cursed the lousy Imperials for having such low security, especially in the capital. Picking out some guy who could apparently blend in with everything else was going to be tough, and to try it without help was even worse.
Still, Fett scanned the crowd with his macrobinoculars, particularly looking for gaps where there seemed to be no person at all. From the datafile that Fett had received from the Imperial agents he had learned that Kratnal had purchased special attire made of a synthetic material that changed color according to its surroundings to help him blend in on assassination missions. Fett admired his target's choice in equipment, and hoped that his skill in that didn't carry over into his apparent skill in assassination.
His hopes were quickly shattered as a scream erupted from the area of the podium, and Fett turned back to see a white-haired admiral clutching a hole in his chest while staggering backwards. Fett grit his teeth in anger and was about to leave when a movement on the rooftop across the street caught his eye. Nothing seemed to be there, but there was a thin, hazy vertical strip in his vision. Fett turned his visor on to heat-sensor mode, and he immediately saw the red figure of a man standing on the roof.
However, he was not moving. In fact, he was facing Fett and was holding something. Fett squinted his eyes, but then realized exactly what the man was holding. Diving quickly to the side, he felt something slam into his left shoulder before he landed. Looking over he saw a charred hole in the armor with smoke rising from it.
Fett rolled on his side until he was behind a ventilation chimney, while chunks of concrete were being blown out of the roof where he had just been lying. He pulled his heavy blaster pistol out of its holster and checked its power supply. Content with its capacity, Fett fired up his rocket pack and jetted into the sky. Then, altering his course, he flew across the gap between buildings which was fifty yards or so.
By now the man, who he had decided was Kratnal, had run with surprising speed towards the other end of the building. Fett caught up with him and planted his feet on the man's back, shoving him down, making him drop his rifle, and sending him sliding to the edge of the roof. Shutting down his pack, Fett landed with a soft click of his boots nearly on top of the gun.
Kratnal stood slowly, panting, and kept his fists balled. A stream of blood trickled from his lower lip, and he reached up to carelessly wipe it away with the back of his fist. "Boba Fett," he said, following with a mocking chuckle. "I had no idea I was suddenly so important to the Empire."
Fett raised his blaster, leveling the cross hairs on Kratnal's forehead. "The Empire's paying me a lot to bring you in," Fett agreed, then added, "dead or alive. Let's make it easy for both of us." He motioned with his blaster to move away from the edge of the roof.
"I'm not crazy enough to try and take out the whole Empire by myself, you know," Kratnal went on. "Nobody in their right mind would try that alone. I'm merely exacting revenge on a few important figures who ruined my life." He stepped back and up onto the ledge of the seven-story building.
"Step away from the edge, Kratnal."
The other man smiled at Fett and then glanced down behind himself. "You know, Fett," he said, returning his gaze, "we're a lot alike. We're both deadly hunters and assassins; we're both the best in the business; and we both almost never lose."
Fett took a step closer to the man. He didn't know what he was getting at, but he wanted to make sure Kratnal would not escape him.
One of Kratnal's thumbs twitched noticeably, but he kept his eyes on Fett's visor. "And if we do lose or come close to doing so, we always have an escape plan." He spun on his heel and jumped of the roof.
Fett began to run towards where the man had just stood, but the sniper rifle in front of him suddenly exploded, sending him backwards a few yards until he hit a heating pipe. He stood cautiously, trying to regain his composure. Nearby he heard an abrupt whine of repulsor engines, and watched as a SoroSuub 2500 yacht rose from between the buildings and lifted away into the busy sky.
His prey was good, very good, he thought.
And Boba Fett was starting to get annoyed.
Azgrath Kratnal sat hunched over the large computer console in his private quarters onboard his SoroSuub yacht. His fingers typed away wildly on the keyboard as he scrolled through volumes of information on people involved in the massacre of his home planet, using his flash-learning technique he developed through the Force.
His last remaining target was the commander of the bomber group that had assaulted the city in which his parents had lived. Commander Meke Bremton was scheduled onboard a spaceliner flight that would tour a distant nebula. It would be easy for Azgrath to book a room onboard and take out the commander without anybody noticing for a while. His only problem would be that meddlesome Boba Fett who always had a knack for showing up at the wrong time.
But Azgrath planned to not even encounter Fett on this mission. There was no way the bounty hunter could know that Azgrath would take out Bremton next. At least he hoped so.
The Nebula Fire had departed from its stardock in the early morning and entered hyperspace for the nearby Fire Nebula. Its passengers enjoyed fine entertainment in the main concert hall, and those less interested in music could retire to picture galleries, catch a holovid, or simply wander the decks.
Two days later they arrived at the Nebula. The passengers looked out in awe at the expanding and mixing gases before them, and many smaller shuttles ventured from the luxury liner into the swirling gases. After they returned hours later, the liner remained in the nebula for another few days, before finally jumping into hyperspace for home.
It was during this last leg of the trip that the members of the 95th TIE Bomber Assault Wing decided to hold a party for their retiring commander, Meke Bremton. The party lasted long into the first night in hyperspace, and Bremton soon found himself with an unbelievable hangover. He left the party and headed for his quarters.
Azgrath Kratnal walked quietly behind the staggering man, knowing that he really wasn't drunk, just drugged. Naturally, he could have just killed the man with simple poisoning, but instead Azgrath chose to kill his targets when they had a chance, no matter how thin that chance may be.
He followed the man down the long hallways, past many staterooms, to the refresher rooms and escape pod areas. The man stumbled into the nearest stall, coughing all the way, and Azgrath was about to follow when suddenly there was a blur of movement on his right.
He turned to find out what it was just in time to see a gloved fist hammer him in the jaw. He stumbled backwards into one of the escape pod chambers, and looked up to see the ominous silhouette of Boba Fett standing in the doorway. His left fist was balled tight, and a heavy blaster pistol was clutched in the right.
Azgrath felt the annoyance surging off him. He knew this wasn't going to be good.
Boba Fett glared down at the quivering Kratnal who now found himself defenseless in the face of death. "I'm done playing with you, Azgrath Kratnal," Fett said darkly.
Lunging at Fett, Azgrath immediately tried to hit the blaster away from him, but Fett merely sidestepped and slammed his open palm up into Azgrath's jaw. The man spun on his heels and nearly fell over, but regained himself quickly. He swiftly kicked at the blaster, sending it up in the air and getting it caught in the grid work of pipes.
Fett, not bothering to watch where the blaster went, grabbed Azgrath's foot while it was still in the air and yanked it up, knocking him to his feet. Reaching up to grab his blaster, Fett once again stepped back to his original position to block the only exit.
Azgrath crawled backwards cautiously until he bumped into a pod, his elbow hitting the release button, opening the hatch. He jumped to his feet in alarm, and stood in a stance that would lead people to believe him to be an untrained civilian. "How did you know?"
"What? That you would go after Bremton?" Fett asked. "Easy. On Coruscant you said you were exacting revenge on a few people who ruined your life. It only took a few minutes of reading through your datafile to see exactly how your life had been ruined. Then I checked up on all important figures having to do with the assault on your world. All were deceasedâ¦except for Bremton."
"Very astute of you, Fett," Azgrath said slowly. "So what's next?"
"The Empire gave me the choice of bringing you in dead or alive," Fett said. "But frankly, I think the galaxy is better off with just one of us running around." He kicked Azgrath in the stomach, sending a whoosh of air from his mouth and knocking him back into the escape pod. Then he hit the hatch shut and stepped back.
Azgrath had pressed himself up against the door and was slamming his fists on the window. "Let me out of here, Fett! I swearâ¦open this hatch right now, or I'llâ"
"Or you'll what, Kratnal?" Fett interrupted mockingly. "I'm afraid there's nothing much you can do."
"Fett! For the sake of decency, you can't kill a man like this. It's not right!" Azgrath pleaded frantically.
"Honestly, I don't care, Kratnal," Fett said as he moved to hit the eject button.
A crazed yet strangely calm look suddenly came over Kratnal's face. "You may be done playing with me, but I'm not through playing with you, Fett. I'm gonna get you; one way or another, I'm gonna get you."
Fett stared hard at him. "I don't think so."
Azgrath looked right back at him with cold assurance. "I will."
Fett punched the release button, and the escape pod jettisoned into hyperspace.