Work, Fett mused, chuckling inwardly. Work, although common in these days of chaos following the five year anniversary of the New Republic, seemed just a mere taste of what he had really considered work when he first entered this trade of bounty hunting. Every target of his kept getting stupider and stupider, every job easier and easier. It had almost gotten to the point that no skill was required; there was no desperation, no real reason for his efforts except to inflict revenge for his clients.
For once in his life Boba Fett felt like his efforts were worthless in the great call for justice throughout the galaxy. He was lost amongst the stars, wandering from job to job, picking up a few thousand credits here and there, but never really feeling like he had done something for the greater good as he had said he served. He felt low and petty, like just some thug or hit man that did whatever for whoever, not caring about justice anymore.
He knew what this feeling was; he had heard and saw it expressed by many other sentient beings throughout his lifetime. It was the emotion called guilt, and Fett didn't like it. Fett realized, though, that if he let guilt overwhelm him that would lead to another emotion: fear. That was something that could just not be.
So now, as he stood gazing out over Mikiir, brooding over the past, Fett hoped that maybe â just maybe â this job would be the one to put him back on track. Maybe once again he could do something for justice, knowing that his actions would benefit the just and punish the unjust. Maybeâ¦
Fett saw the tall, muscular and handsome man emerge from the rooftop penthouse door behind him via his helmet's 360Âº viewfinder. "Boba Fett," the man said, his arrogant grin especially brilliant in the fading evening light.
Fett neither did nor said anything. He just remained facing out over the city, at the edge of the roof with his toes jutting out into the open air.
"The mysterious Boba Fett," the younger man continued. "The last of the old bounty hunters. I don't know how you did it, Fett, but you managed to survive all those years. And for what?"
Fett remained silent.
The man walked casually over to a small bar and began pouring himself strange green liquor. "I'll tell you what: nothing. Nowadays there's nothing out there for you except low rate jobs. Why, I'll bet you haven't actually worked for a real organization since the time that fat slug Jabba hired you to track down that Solo character. Am I right or am I wrong?"
Not wanting to end up killing his potential client, Fett did not respond.
Taking a sip of his drink and looking curiously at the hunter, the man continued. "Well, this job'll change all that, Fett, you'll see. This will pay you up big time."
Spinning on his heel, Fett strode briskly up to the man and jabbed a gloved finger at him. "Money isn't everything to me, you know," he said menacingly.
Wisely, the man paused to perhaps change his tact before continuing. "All right then, you can do this job for whatever reason you have, but I'm just telling you, I'm willing to pay you heavily for your efforts."
"Exactly what does the leader of the Tenloss Syndicate want done that has to involve me?" Fett said in his characteristically cracked voice.
"I do have a name, you know," he countered. "It's AndrÃ© Tenloss, and seeing as how we're soon-to-be business partners, I'd prefer we go about a first name basis."
"In my line of work I have no use for names," Fett growled. "However, I suppose for reasons of conductingâ¦business, I will make an exception, Tenloss."
Fett noticed the man's left eye twitch, visibly annoyed by Fett's disregard for his wishes. "Very well, then. Let's get to talking," he said, gesturing to a pair of plush leather chairs.
He didn't move a centimeter from where he stood. "By all means," Fett paused before leaning in closer, "talk."
Swallowing hard, Tenloss stepped around Fett and seated himself in the chair facing the hunter. "All right, Fett, here's the deal. As you know, my organization deals in all sorts of business, including weaponry, ships, technologyâ¦you get the point. Well, it so happens that a small-time competing syndicate has recently acquired a top-notch scientist for their research department. My spies inform me that the scientist is currently developing something that will put me out of business, and most likely insure that syndicate as the sole organization in all of the galaxy." He stopped now, obviously trying to add to the gravity of the situation, and took a sip from his drink.
"And my role in all of this is?" Fett inquired.
"I want you to find that scientist and bring her to me, alive and preferably unharmed."
"Yes," Tenloss said, reaching into his pocket and taking out a datapad, "her." He tossed Fett the pad and he caught it easily in his right hand, then held it up to examine the small readout. There was a picture of a young and beautiful brunette dressed in a common white lab coat along with a brief biography below. "Her name's Kailla Hrush, and she's got looks to kill," Tenloss said, the last phrase coming out with a touch of lust in his voice.
Fett moved his visor up from the datapad to look blankly at Tenloss.
Realizing what he just said, Tenloss raised his hands, palms out. "Oh no, Fett, that's not the reason I want her. I got plenty of that. I want to âknock the wind out of my competitors,' so to speakâ¦by taking their scientist from them, of course," he finished quickly.
Fett nodded, a minuscule movement of his helmet. "How much?"
Tenloss brought his fingertips together and stared intently at Fett, but said nothing.
"Well?" Fett asked. No hint of the extreme impatience he was feeling showed up in his voice.
Fett twitched his helmet in a nod again. "When do you need her by?"
"Preferably within a few standard weeks," Tenloss said, surprised at the lack of shock shown by Fett at the named price.
Turning quickly around, his small cape billowing behind him, Fett stalked towards the penthouse door to leave. Tenloss's voice stopped him.
"Remember, I want her alive and well."
Fett looked back one last time. "As you wish."
After receiving the location of the target from some of Tenloss's people, Boba Fett had left the nameless Tenloss Syndicate world in the Slave I. He had put in the proper coordinates but was surprised to learn from them that it was just outside the Hoth asteroid belt. Of all the places, he had thought, and then he had entered hyperspace.
Now seated in the cockpit and throwing the Slave I into dives, twists, and barrel rolls, Fett had second thoughts about this. Sure, the secret installation wasn't too far into the asteroid field (barely two dozen kilometers) and it was a small time syndicate, but that didn't mean much. First of all, piloting through an asteroid belt was crazy and only a few idiot smugglers had been able to do it. Secondly, who knows exactly what kind of installation this was. And third, the fact that the report Tenloss's spies had handed him told Fett that Hrush was working on something called Project Deathbringer, left him guessing what it was they were creating.
Fett had to admit, though, to the irony in it all. He had heard many people in his life give him many names other than the one he went by, but two seemed really popular: Angel of Death, and Deathbringer.
He tended to enjoy the respect he commanded over others, but the fact that some weapon had earned the title that Boba Fett had came very close to unnerving him. On this job especially, he would be cautious.
As he furtively slid the Slave I along with other asteroids towards the star base that now filled his entire view screen, Fett reminded himself that just a few days ago this was the kind of job he had been looking for. And whether it was good or bad for him, he found it.
Boba Fett attached the Slave I via docking clamps to the inside of the mouth of a colossal asteroid grinder attached to the station, which was used to harvest valuable minerals from the rocks. Using the laser cutters that encircled the boarding tube, Fett cut his way into the hull of the star base. A low tone emitting from the control panel indicated that the hole had been cut and the atmosphere was safe to enter on the other side. Checking the power level on his assault rifle one last time, Fett opened the hatchâ
âand stepped out into a never-ending abyss. Gripping the edges of the hatch, Fett peered around the open space. He recognized the star base design; it was an exact replica of one of the late Emperor's old Skyhooks above Coruscant. Long ago he had boarded an abandoned one and used it for zero-g combat training, so he knew these things practically by heart.
This particular space was a cheap way of making the station look bigger than it actually is, and it tended to add a bit more protection. After construction, the Skyhooks were then coated with another thick sheet of metal that was on average two meters out from the real hull. Anybody attempting to board would have to do twice the work, and it would give the occupants enough time to either prepare a counter-attack or evacuate. Fortunately for Fett, the occupants didn't know he was hereâ¦yet.
Reaching back into his cargo hold, Fett found a lonely bolt in a corner behind one of his spare crates. Putting it at arm length away from him over the abyss, he let it go. Instead of falling in artificial gravity, it simply hung there, suspended in space.
Zero-g, Fett thought. Perfect.
Setting his visor to nightvision, Fett pushed off from the sides of the gouge he had cut in the outer hull, and used the booster jets on his pack to maneuver through the empty space. He knew exactly where the research labs were, but it would take some time to get there. Although the labs were naturally placed on the inside of the station, Fett knew that air vents lead from there to out where he was, and he could easily use them to get in, get Hrush, and get out.
Floating along in the dark, Fett began to think about the possible scenarios that he could face when confronting Hrush. What if she has whatever weapon it is she's working on? Would she use it right away, or would she be stunned at his sudden appearance? Fett banked on the latter happening, so he would have time to swiftly strike with a Corporate Sector glop tube to immediately render her immobile. Then he would do the same for anybody else in the room before any alarms could be triggered. He'd grab Hrush and climb back into the vents. With any luck, he'd be back at the Slave I before the alarms sounded.
Then again, what happens if she isn't even in any of the labs? Well, that would be easy. He'd simply wait for her to return to the labs. It would be no big deal to sit around in the vents for a view hours; he'd had longer stakeouts.
Abruptly the path in front of him turned, and then there was an offshoot leading towards the center of the station. Fett took that path and glided for a few dozen more meters, before stopping at a large vent that if he crouched he could walk through. As he pushed himself inside, he felt the familiar effects of gravity pull him down onto his knees.
After getting to his feet, Fett ducked down the long passage, being as silent as possible on the metallic surface. Below him he could hear the thrum of electricity moving through superconductors that would bring it around the station, and every now and then he would make out voices both above and underneath him, identifying the spots as rooms and hallways.
However, none of these areas was the spot he was looking for. Fett continued onward for many more meters, going through twists and turns, taking rights and lefts, and even moving up and down through different vents. Eventually his visor picked up bright patches in the otherwise green view that he had of his surroundings, indicating where light was coming up through grates. He put his visor back to normal settings, and his eyes quickly adjusted to the dim lighting.
At last he came to a wide, perfectly square expanse in the vents about fifteen meters wide and long, which he knew put him directly above the laboratory cluster. Moving carefully over to the nearest vent, Fett peered down only to find an empty office room. He set his visor to scan for heat sources, and now he crawled on to another vent, this time finding a young blonde seated on a couch smiling as a man stood pouring wine into two glasses. Fett decided to leave those two alone.
The third vent he went to proved to be a jackpot as he watched Doctor Kailla Hrush typing away on a personal computer at her desk. He now scanned for alarms in the room, and found only pulling a lever could set that those off. As for security cameras, this was apparently a private office, and therefore had none.
Satisfied that his entrance into the room would be unnoticed except by Hrush herself, Fett reached into one of his many belt pouches and produced a miniature vile of a white, slimy substance, that upon exposure to air would expand into a sticky, glue-like glob. It would then quickly harden, allowing Fett to take his target without becoming trapped himself.
Fett quietly raised the vent, all the while keeping his eyes on Hrush. She continued typing, and did not even notice him in the corner ceiling of her room. After setting down the grate beside him, Fett was just about to jump down through when the intercom buzzed to life.
"Doctor Hrush, your guard escort is on its way to bring you down to the bio lab," the masculine voice said.
She glared angrily at the speaker on her desk, but obediently shut down the computer and got out of her chair, heading for the door.
It was now or never, and Fett dropped down, landing with a soft click on the floor. The woman turned her head quickly and startled, barely managing a brief scream before the glop capsule hit her in the stomach, enveloping her and temporarily knocking the wind out of her.
Fett raised his rifle to state in the universal language to shut up, and then wrapped his other arm around her. Even with the cement like glue covering most of her body, she was remarkably light, so he figured carrying her through the vents would not be too hard.
Stepping under the vent, Fett threw Hrush up into the shafts and then jumped up, too, grabbing the edge and pulling himself up. After replacing the grate, he slung his rifle over his shoulder and then picked up the dizzied Hrush. Once again he began to hurry through the shafts, taking all the right turns in all the right places, until eventually he reached the zero-g area.
It was at this point that he heard the alarms wail to life, and it seemed that his target was finally coming around, too.
"Let me go you psychopathic nerf herder!" she screamed in his ear while squirming inside her cocoon.
"Whatever you say," he replied coldly. Holding her out in front of him so she was over the pitch-black abyss, he let go of her.
The scream that she let out after that forced Fett's sound adapters in his helmet to rise, muting the sound for the time being. When she finally realized that she was in weightless space, she glared angrily at him. "What do you want and just where in space do you think you're going?"
Fett jumped out and grabbed her, then used his booster jets to glide effortlessly through the dark. Once again he set his visor to nightvision. "It's not what I want, and if you must know, we're going to my ship."
"Your ship's in here?" she asked surprised. Then realizing the stupidity in her question, she corrected, "I mean, where is your ship?"
Fett kept his head forward but watched her using his helmet's viewfinder. "You don't need to know."
There was silence for some time as the two of them jetted quickly through the darkness. Eventually, Hrush spoke up again asking, "You're Boba Fett, aren't you?"
He didn't respond.
"Great. I'm stuck with a bounty hunter," she groaned.
"Believe me, I'm the least of your worries," he said as they reached the hole he had cut in the hull of the station. He jumped in and then effortlessly pulled her through behind him. Dragging her over to one of his empty cells, he threw her into it and slammed the bars shut, locking her in. Then he walked over and found a jug of water, opened it, and emptied its contents on Hrush.
The cement began to dissolve, and when it had finally eroded away, she stood in the cell dripping wet but relieved. "Thank you," she said awkwardly. "Well, at least thank you for getting that stuff off me."
Fett ignored her jabbering and walked over to climb the ladder that lead to the cockpit. He despised targets that were women; they always got way too emotional when he brought them in. Some would even offer their bodies to him, in hopes that he wouldn't deliver them to whoever his client was, but his answer was always no. Fett was honorable, and would earn his credits, rather than have a momentary fling and lose his reputation of always delivering the goods.
Just as he was about to climb, however, Hrush called after him. "Hey, Fett. Errâ¦where are you taking me?"
Fett stopped, still facing the ladder. "AndrÃ© Tenloss has put out a bounty for you."
In his helmet he could see the woman's face suddenly pale as her mouth worked slowly, trying to form words. "You-you can't take me thereâ¦n-not to the Tenloss Syndicate. I know what they want, they want Deathbringer, but they won't have it if you don't deliver me to them. Please, for the sake of theâ"
Raising a gloved hand, Fett ended the conversation. He didn't want to hear her hysterics. He climbed up the ladder and sank down into the flight chair. Below him he could hear her yelling, but not the typical screaming. For an instant Fett thought that maybe she did have something worthwhile to listen to; after all, she wasn't going crazy down there, just trying to get his attention. He quickly dismissed that thought, knowing that it was better not to ask questions; better to just do his job, get the credits, and get out alive; better to just do what was for justice.
But as she continued pleading frantically for his attention, Boba Fett wondered once more:
Was he doing what was just? "Thanks," the security chief said gruffly, "we'll take it from here." He waved forward a few of his guards. "All right boys, she's all ours."
Boba Fett stood silently clutching his assault rifle while he watched the security officers enter the Slave I, which he had just landed minutes ago on one of the many outcropping landing pads attached to the sides of the Tenloss Tower. The waning light from the world's sun now painted the sky with vivid shades of red, orange, and pink as it dipped farther below the horizon. A brisk wind blew every now and then, and there were pink-tinted clouds surrounding the towering skyscraper. His cape fluttered behind him in the breeze, and the air whistled by his helmet.
The entire scene reminded him much of that fateful day on Cloud City where he had finally captured the infamous Han Solo, but these were painful memories of a better time. Instead of focusing on this, Fett chose instead to intimidate the security chief, which ended in success.
"Uh, is there aâ¦problem, Mr. Fett?" the man said nervously while his eyes darted around.
Fett just stood like a weathered statue, staring at the man.
The man gulped and shifted his weight from leg to leg frequently, and kept looking up inside the Slave I, hoping his friends would return quickly.
Fett couldn't stop the smile from spreading on his face as he saw the beads of sweat forming on the man's bald head. He still had that intimidation in him after all. That thought brought back good memories, and Fett found himself reminiscing when suddenly there came a man's shout and a woman's frustrated yell from inside the Slave I. Fett saw the security chief turn and look up inside the ship, shock flooding his face.
"What's goin' on in there?" he called.
A young man stumbled down, bent over, with his hands cupping his crotch. The expression on his face was pure pain, and Fett almost winced at the thought of how hard that kick from their captive must have been.
Three other security guards struggled their way down the ramp, with the beautiful Doctor Kailla Hrush in tow. She kicked madly, trying her hardest to break free, but there was no hope. She emitted more frustrated groans and grunts as she worked fiercely, but the guards continued on dragging her across the landing pad.
Hrush's eyes fell on Fett, and she immediately stood up, momentarily halting the guards. "Fett! Listen to me! You've got to stop them from taking me. You don't know what you're doing! He'll use me. Tenloss'll make me give him the formula for Deathbringer. It'll kill us all; the entire galaxy!"
Fett tilted his head to one side and took a few steps closer as the guards continued to drag Hrush away.
"Deathbringer," she struggled, "it's a biological weapon. A disease! I was forced to work on it. You've got to believe me! It-it's a airborne virus that cannot be stopped by any filter known. Once you breathe it, the virus attacks your lungs and quickly decomposes them! It can get into ship's oxygen supplies, so once the ship hits port, the disease'll spread. Please Fett!" she screamed. "The syndicate that held me captive would have used it to âknock the wind out of their competitors' so to speak."
Fett stopped. He had heard that before.
"Please!" the guards dragged her inside, into a turbolift, and they disappeared.
Fett had heard that saying before, recentlyâ¦somewhere. She had said, âknock the wind out of their competitors'â¦ ââ¦their competitors'â¦
Tenloss, Fett thought angrily. He had known what it was she was working on all along. A deadly virus that could wipe out whole planetary populations, and it seemed that it couldn't be stopped.
But Fett knew it could be stopped; he was the one to stop it.
Leaning back, he used his macrobinoculars to look up at the roof of the tower. Sure enough, there stood AndrÃ© Tenloss peering over the edge, looking right back down at Boba Fett. The man quickly disappeared from sight.
Once again Fett found himself at the crossroads of life: take one route, and escape with the credits your life, but don't risk trying to stop an epidemic before it starts; take the other route, and risk your life and credits serving justice.
This time, at least, Fett knew what he had to do.
Waiting in the turbolift as it rapidly ascended towards the roof, Boba Fett clicked out the power pack from his assault rifle and slapped in a new one, then cocked the barrel into full energy mode. He glanced up for the fourth time at the floor indicator, showing that he was just two dozen away from the top. Shifting his weight, Fett for once in his life found himself nervous.
A sharp ding sounded in the turbolift, and the double doors slid away to reveal AndrÃ© Tenloss's rooftop penthouse. It was empty. He strode through the rooms carefully, his rifle up ready to fire and his eyes in the sights, making his way for the door that led out to the roof.
Upon finding it, he shuffled over and pressed his back up against the wall next to it, catching his breath and listening with his helmet's advanced hearing capability. Outside, there was a faint conversation taking place.
"She's out cold, sir," he heard one of the security guards say.
"Excellent," came the arrogant voice of Tenloss. "Did you find the sample tube she supposedly keeps hidden on her all the time?"
"Yes, sir," said another voice. "Here it is."
"You idiot!" Tenloss shouted. "Don't throw it! Do you know what would happen if you dropped this?"
"Uh," said the first guard, "it would break?"
Fett heard a thump and then a groan. "No, you numskull, it'll kill us. This stuff is highly volatile, and there's nothing that can stop it."
"Oh," both guards said in unison.
"Now get out of my sight â both of you!"
Fett heard the clicking of footsteps approaching, and decided now was the best time. He spun around, rifle up, and kicked the door with all his strength, sending it flying off its hinges and into one of the guards. The other was momentarily startled, but wasted no time in drawing his weapon. Fett ended his life with a quick shot to the face, knocking the body a yard backwards.
The other guard now ducked and rolled behind a long, tall planter, dodging a volley of shots from Fett's rifle. Fire suddenly came from Fett's left, and he turned while diving to the side and saw Tenloss with his own blaster drawn. Fett landed hard and knocked the wind out of himself, but quickly regained his composure and rose to his knee, firing off another dozen rounds that raced wildly off over the city, narrowly missing Tenloss.
Instead, the man ran and ducked behind the bar, shooting at Fett on his way over. By now all this shooting had slowly woken Kailla Hrush, who sat tied up in a chair on the side. She saw Boba Fett, and her eyes immediately widened. "Fett, over here!"
He saw her, but couldn't get to her because of more fire coming this time from the guard. He had managed to set himself up so that he could shoot Fett, but it would be impossible for Fett to shoot him without turning his back on Tenloss. So, Fett chose to jump to the side, ducking behind a ventilation chimney. Amidst the shots being fired, Fett could hear Tenloss shouting, "Get up here, now! Fett's here, so get as many as you canâ¦.You're on your way? Good."
Fett stood and began to charge towards the bar, rage boiling inside of him. But something suddenly caught him dead in the stomach, causing him to double over in pain. He looked up to see the guard standing over him, brandishing his rifle like a club. Fett noticed that when he had fallen his rifle had spun away, and he watched as it teetered and then finally fell off the edge of the roof.
The guard grabbed Fett's arms from behind and hauled him to his feet as Tenloss emerged from behind the bar. "So, Fett. I guess this is the end for you. Sure, you managed to survive all these years, but let's face it: you're an antique, Fett. And antique's belong in a museum, not running around like you."
Hrush screamed as Tenloss raised his blaster to Fett's breastplate. At that close of a range, not even his armor could help him.
In his last desperate thoughts, Fett noticed the test tube hanging at Tenloss's belt. "Kailla!" he shouted. "Hold your breath!"
He watched via his visor as she looked at him confused momentarily, then drew in a deep breath of air. Then, looking back at Tenloss, he growled, "Sorry, Tenloss, but my exhibit isn't open yet."
In a swift sweep of his leg, Fett kicked Tenloss in his side, shattering the test tube. Then he spun around as Tenloss fired his blaster, but instead hit the guard holding Fett. Tenloss was about to fire again, but then stopped and frowned. His hands began clutching his throat and chest as he sank to his knees, mouth open, gasping for breath. He began coughing violently, blood bubbling in his mouth and flowing down his chin. As he crumpled to his side, he thrashed wildly about before finally ceasing to move.
Fett was now holding his breath like Hrush, and he hurried over to untie her. Once she was unbound, they ran over to the penthouse and looked inside, only to see guards piling out of the turbolift. Fett turned around and led Hrush quickly over to the edge of the roof. There was only one choice if they wanted to live, and Hrush realized that, too.
All at once the two leapt from the roof, and began plummeting towards the roads below. Laser fire from the pursuing guards just missed them, buzzing by where they had previously been. Fett began breathing again and grit his teeth, and he figured Hrush was breathing again, too, considering she was screaming her head off. More laser fire continued to rain down on them from above, but the shots were wild and useless.
The wind whipped by, catching Hrush's hair and Fett's cape behind them. The low cloud line approached them quickly, and in seconds they flashed through, now in clear sight of the ground. Below was a large paved plaza, and people looked up to see the pair free falling towards them. They screamed and ran, scattering like ants. Fett punched the thrusters on his pack, and their descent began to gradually slow.
Fett held tightly onto Hrush and rolled over as they neared the ground. They landed with a hard thud on the pavement, but Fett's pack to the brunt of the fall. Fett managed to struggle to his feet, picking up the weakened Hrush.
She staggered forward, dizzy from the fall, but Fett helped her keep her balance. Hrush looked at him with a worried expression, but Fett nodded his head, reassuring her that it would be all right now. Her next move surprised Fett, for she suddenly embraced him in a strong hug, and wept against his chest. Having never been in this situation before, Fett found it rather uncomfortable. But he did eventually â gingerly â put his arms around her.
When she had regained her control, she stepped back, blurry eyed, and Fett stared at her quizzically. "Thanks," she said, sniffling.
He nodded again, and tapped the comm unit on his wrist. Moments later the Slave I descended from the now dark sky above, and landed in front of them. They boarded the ship, and took off immediately.
Days later, the Slave I exited hyperspace on the fringes of the Coruscant system, and jettisoned a small pod. A passing frigate picked up life readings from the pod, and immediately moved to intercept. It captured the pod, and opened it to find their missing scientist, Kailla Hrush, alive and well.
She immediately told her story, and how Boba Fett had valiantly risked his life to stop a mad man from unleashing Deathbringer, the terrible virus. The ship then hailed the Slave I, wishing to bring Boba Fett to Coruscant to have him awarded for his efforts. He would be cleared of all crimes and would be an official citizen of the New Republic.
But the Slave I ignored the frigate's messages, and instead turned and flashed away into hyperspace. Boba Fett was not ready to stop yet. He was not ready to accept that the passing of time would force him to settle down. As long as there was greed, crime, and evil, there would be a need for justice. And as long as there was a need for justice, there would be Boba Fett.