This story contains excerpts from Daniel Keys Moran's The Last One Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett.
Jaster Mereel trudged slowly down the long, gray cement hallway, his head held high and his eyes fixed straightforward, ignoring the gestures and obscenities shouted by other prisoners in the cells that lined the walls. His hands were bound together at the wrist by chains, and that chain in turn was connected to another that looped around his waist. The shackles around his ankles caused him to stumble every few steps, but the firm-jawed and broad shouldered escort guards in front of him, behind him, and to his right and left made kept him in pace. They were there to make sure he didn't try to delay his migration from his cell to the courtroom.
He had no intention of delaying the inevitable. He would admit to his actions, but not regret them, and face the consequences. And he would make sure that the Ruling Council would remember this day for many years to follow.
"How does the Journeyman Protector Jaster Mereel plead?"
Mereel slowly turned his head back towards the crescent table that seated twelve councilmen at the mention of his name. He opened his mouth about to speak when Pleader Iving Creel stood up at his side.
"Journeyman Mereel pleads unrepentant," he said, glancing over at Mereel afterwards and eyeing him cautiously, as if expecting a last minute change.
Mereel simply nodded solemnly and turned back away, looking out the courtroom window once more, like he had been doing before hearing his name. Outside he could see the small, military spaceport for the capital of Concord Dawn. Their simple defense force was made up of numerous modified Y-Wings, a few Z-95 Headhunters, and two odd looking craft, titled Firesprays.
In the background he heard a few quiet gasps from the audience behind them, but no verbal signs of shock were emitted from the Ruling Council. After a long pause, the elected main judge spoke once more. "Very well. The Council will now deliberate on the subject of the murder of a fellow Journeyman by Jaster Mereel."
Mereel watched as two technicians moved a fueling pump up to the side of one of the Firesprays. A half dozen more men hauled crates up into the smallish cargo hold of the ship, then coming back down for more. Even though Firesprays were generally used for patrol duty, the fact that they were being loaded up like stock freighters did not surprise him. Rumors had been circulating through he barracks recently that Concord Dawn was using some of its freighters and its Firesprays to run spices, weapons, large assortments of different military equipment, and even rare armors and weapons. They would then sell them openly on the black market, making a nifty sum. The thought that a man who made out with one of those loaded ships would be able to survive for a long time by himself intrigued Mereel greatly.
The hushed whispers and movement that had been coming from the Ruling Council table abruptly ceased, prompting Mereel to turn back around. The main judge looked sternly at the young, ugly man. "Journeyman Mereel, we have reached our verdict and punishment. If you have any closing statements, now is the time to make them."
Mereel smiled wryly, letting a few teeth show through cracked lips. Slowly standing, he made sure that his gaze encompassed the entire council. Waiting just a few more heartbeats, he spoke at last.
"Everyone dies. It's the final and only lasting Justice. Evil exists; it is intelligence in the service of entropy," he said. "When the side of a mountain slides down to kill a village, this is not evil, for evil requires intent. Should a sentient being cause that landslide, there is evil; and requires Justice as a consequence, so that civilization can exist.
"There is no greater good than Justice; and only if law serves Justice is it good law. It is said correctly that law exists not for the Just but for the unjust, for the Just carry the law in their hearts, and do not need to call it from afar."
He paused, letting the words sink into the councilmen. "I bow to no one and I give service only for cause."
The courtroom was silent for a long time. Beside him, now fidgeting uncomfortably in his chair, Creel gulped. The main judge stared long and hard at Mereel, and the young man met his eyes and returned the stare. The judge then glanced briefly at each of the other eleven councilmen, receiving a nod from each one.
"Taking into account Journeyman Mereel's statement," he said, "the Ruling Council's verdict remains the same. Jaster Mereel is found guilty of murder in the first degree. His punishment has also been agreed upon: death by means of firing squad, the same death Mereel gave to his fellow journeyman."
Behind him, the audience erupted into jumbled conversations. Acting as devastated as possible, Mereel dropped back into his chair, and in the same fluid movement furtively slipped a small pocket sized datapad off the desk in front of him. Leaning forward as if stricken with grief, he quickly slid the datapad underneath his belt and pulled his shirt down over it. A trio of guards rushed over and slapped cuffs around his wrists, then connected those to his belt. They stood him up and two held him in place as the third finished the job by adding the chains to his ankles.
As they pulled Mereel towards the side exit of the courtroom, he kept his eyes locked with the main judge's in a hard glare. Just before leaving the room, Mereel forced the guards to stop. Still staring at the judge, Mereel smiled coldly.
The guards led Mereel down a long, sterile-white hallway in the low, prison building that would eventually lead them to the open and grassy prison courtyard. Keeping his eyes on his escorts at all times, Mereel worked fiercely yet intelligently at the small datapad underneath his shirt. After a few more seconds he felt the slight jolt of electricity run up his arm, but he withstood the shock and kept working.
The same trio of guards that had led him out of the courtroom were now still walking him, and as they turned the corner the rear guard moved up in front, leaving guards to Mereel's right, left, and front. Suppressing a smile, Mereel took the open wire and struck it against the thin chain binding his wrists together, giving off a small and quiet spark. Within moments the chain was being eaten away rather quickly, and Mereel continued to watch his escorts.
A soft clink signaled Mereel that the chain had been cut, and now he slid the datapad back underneath his belt. They walked onward and turned down another hallway, this one having a series of air ducts leading down to the basement and up to the roof. Once they had gotten parallel to the first duct, Mereel struck.
Throwing both of his arms out to the sides creating horizontal arcs, Mereel hit the two guards on the right and left in the center of their stomachs. Reaching down and drawing one of the guard's blasters, he hopped to the side to dodge a stun bolt from the front guard. Taking careful aim, Mereel delivered a quick shot to the guard's head, then turned and fired repeatedly at the air duct.
He jumped at the weakened duct with his shoulder, throwing all his weight into the hit, and broke through, tumbling down and landing in a safety antigrav field. Mereel then held his ankles up and shot away the shackles and rolled out of the field onto the cold metal floor. Running like a panicked mynock would fly, he found the basement-loading ramp that would lead him up to the air base landing field.
Mereel scrambled up the ramp and made a dead run for the nearest Firespray. Sirens wailed from all sides and troops rushed out, getting off quick shots as they ducked strategically behind crates and take-off blast shields. Three confused crewmen stumbled out of the Firespray's cargo hold, and Mereel simply ran by them and closed the boarding ramp once inside the ship. He moved quickly to the cockpit and slapped on the controls, bringing the engines to a roaring start. He wasted no time in preflight safety checks, instead choosing to face the consequences as he rocketed skyward.
Within seconds the blackness of space surrounded him, and he quickly checked his navigation charts for a close planet he could hop into hyperspace for. Finding a planet that he knew would be easier to hide in due to its large content of scum and villainy, Mereel and his Firespray jumped into hyperspace.
A slightly larger heavily modified freighter pulled up from the atmosphere of Concord Dawn, and locked onto the Firespray's trajectory. It, too, entered hyperspace, following its target.
Tatooine hung desolate and as dry looking as ever in the blackness of space, rotating slowly around its twin suns. Jaster Mereel and his Firespray exited hyperspace on the fringe of the system, but instead of being in the cockpit, Mereel was busy rummaging through the crates in his cargo hold.
In the one closest to the cockpit, and one of the smaller ones, Mereel found numerous blaster charges, but no blasters. A third crate, this one being slightly larger, housed four blasters ranging in different models, but each was a BlasTech. He moved across the hold to the largest box in there, and carefully forced it open. Inside glistened a few personal shield generators, numerous thermal detonators, a few missiles, a rocket launcher, and a blaster rifle. Mereel whistled long and quietly, taking in the entire contents of the box.
He cautiously picked up the blaster rifle to examine it. While watching its luster in the dim lighting of the cargo hold, he noticed, leaned up against the back wall, a box just inches taller than him. Setting down the rifle, Mereel walked over to this new find and pried it open. His heart skipped a beat as he saw what he thought was another person standing inside the box. Upon closer examination Mereel noticed that it was simply a suit of armor, or something like that, but it still looked menacing to him. He thought he knew what type it was, but he couldn't put his finger on it.
Its green and gray armor was slightly battle scarred but its markings were still readable. The strange figure on the shoulder pad of the armor immediately tipped Mereel off.
Mandalorian armorâ¦. Very rareâ¦. He was about to grab the T-visor helmet when the quiet tone from the cockpit came on, notifying Mereel that he was close to the planet. He moved back into the cockpit, taking one last look at the armor then sat down on the flight chair. His fingers danced across the controls as he effortlessly took the Firespray down through Tatooine's atmosphere and landed it in the dead center of a large, windswept desert.
Mereel didn't notice the modified freighter descending through the atmosphere behind him, nor did he see it land just over the next dune.
Jaster Mereel stood outside the Slave I, as he had dubbed his new Firespray attack ship, fully clad in the strange Mandalorian armor. In front of him he had set up splinters from one of the crates that he had broken up, and he now held the blaster rifle in a shooter's stance. The butt of the rifle was tight up against his right shoulder, and his white gloved hands held the grip and barrel firmly. Taking careful aim, Mereel fired off a few quick shots, hitting each target squarely.
He lowered the rifle slowly, admiring his effortless skill. No other feeling could compare to the satisfaction he got from being perfect, getting things done right the first time. Mereel, while some could term him obsessed, insisted on being perfect; he could settle for nothing else.
Getting ready to set the targets up again, Mereel heard a sharp tone sound from his helmet and on the left side of the inside of his visor a smaller screen formed. It showed the terrain behind him, and a large, reptilian humanoid approaching slowly, armed with a rifle. The lipless smile on the creature's face told Mereel that the thing had no idea that he had been discovered.
Mereel spun, his rifle squaring in on the approaching creature. The thing was visibly caught by surprise, but didn't panic, and instead raised its rifle to point it right back. "Jaster Mereel," it sneered.
A wave of mild surprise quickly washed over Mereel, but it just as quickly subsided. He nodded. "And just who and what exactly are you?"
The reptile chuckled, which resembled a series of hisses more than what it was meant to be. "You have never seen a Trandoshan before? For somebody wearing Mandalorian armor, you sure don't know much."
"Don't push me," Mereel countered, extending his rifle farther out and keeping his voice level and cold. "You're name."
It was less a question than it was a command. "Does it really matter?" the Trandoshan hissed.
Mereel shrugged. "Everybody deserves some recognition on their tombstone."
"Cradossk," he said, his eyelids narrowing into razor-like slits. "You certainly can threaten like a murderer, but let's see if you really act like one, eh? It's time to repent for your crime."
"My so-called âcrime' was what was right," Mereel said in a blood freezing voice. "I have no need to repent. Why, then, do you hunt me?"
Cradossk shrugged. "You were convicted of a crime and you fled. I'm doing this to bring you backâ¦. I'm doing this for justice."
Mereel shook his head. "I am Justice."
The flurry of laser bolts that Mereel sent from his blaster rifle caught Cradossk off guard, but did not hit him. Instead, the Trandoshan let out a bone chilling scream and rolled to the side, returning Mereel's fire in a hailstorm of his own. Mereel jumped to his right to avoid the oncoming shots, and got off another volley of blasts before he managed to roll behind the Slave I.
Mereel checked his rifle's power level and took note of the fact that due to his target practice, he had precious few shots left. He would have to be perfect; but then again, he had no problem with that.
Clanks could be heard rising from the other side of the ship, and looking up Mereel saw Cradossk climbing his way over the top. The Trandoshan jumped down, poised to pounce on Mereel, but the man ducked away. The attacker raised his rifle, but his shots flew just wide of the fleeing Mereel.
While running, Mereel reached into his pouch for a grenade. He found the familiar round ball, and, after pulling the electronic pin, spun and hurled the destructive globe at his pursuer. It landed and detonated just behind Cradossk, but the explosion was enough to throw Cradossk towards Mereel, and it also knocked his rifle away.
The Trandoshan lay gasping for breath in the sand as blood slowly dripped from cuts all over his body. Mereel leveled his rifle with Cradossk's head and without hesitating squeezed the firing stud, only to have it simply groan and fizzle quietly. He was out of ammunition.
Cradossk lunged at Mereel, knocking him down, but the man was able to scramble from the Trandoshan's deadly grasp. Rolling away, Mereel took hold of the rifle by its barrel and swung it in a bone-crushing blow to the reptile's head. Cradossk spun around on his knees and fell hard on his stomach into the sand, his eyes closed and his head badly battered and bruised.
Staggering to his feet, Mereel forced himself to relax. Raising the rifle above his head, poised to strike, Mereel glared down at the unconscious Trandoshan. Something in the back of his mind told him this wasn't right; there was no justice behind it; it was too cold blooded.
Mereel dropped the rifle to his side and kicked the reptile in the ribs for good measure, then trudged off through the sand back to the Slave I. He lowered the boarding ramp to his ship and walked slowly up inside, then closed up behind him. He didn't bother stripping off the armor as he sat down in the flight chair. Turning on the engines, Mereel raised the ship off the ground and started his ascent through Tatooine's atmosphere.
It was then that he noticed the freighter parked secretly on the other side of the nearby dune. Not wanting to be trailed if the Trandoshan ever woke up, Mereel targeted the other ship with his laser cannons and blew it to pieces, watching carelessly as the metal hulk flew apart in twisted, molten strips and chunks.
Upon leaving Tatooine's gravity field, Mereel made up his mind on where he would go. He figured that because of his skills in combat and such the Empire would be able to make good use of him, and he'd probably be a fairly good stormtrooper. Setting a course for Carida, the Slave I jumped into hyperspace.
"Welcome," the synthesized voice said. "You have accessed the Imperial Academy Registry. Please select the faction of the military you would like to train for."
Jaster Mereel stood with his weight shifted to one leg and a large stuff sack over his shoulder, inspecting the console readout screen in front of him. He was standing in the middle of the Grand Reception Hall, a colossal building on Carida that was used to receive new trainees, at a registry console that was, like the others, attached to one of the many pillars throughout the single-roomed building.
Mereel watched as his choices flipped to life on the screen before him, each resembling a three-dimensional button. He raised his right index finger and softly tapped the screen where it read stormtrooper corps.
"You have selected," a whir, "stormtrooper corps. Please type your name by using the keypad below the screen."
Mereel reached down and began typing his last name first, then his first when he realized that he could no longer use that identity. If Cradossk had been after him that quickly, he knew Concord Dawn would send out even more bounty hunters for him. He would have to use some other name.
It was then that he thought of an old folk tale he had heard as a child, about an ancient hero who brought swift justice to the unjust, and protected the good from the evil. He used his skills and powers to serve justice in whatever way possible. Quickly recalling the name, Mereel typed it in.
"Thank you," pauses and quietly hums, "Boba Fett. Now, please enter your homeworld."
He typed it in.
"Age, sex, height, and weight, please."
He typed that in, too.
The questionnaire continued much longer in that manner, and he filled out the entire form in just one hour. When the questions were finished, the console buzzed and whirred for a few seconds, then stopped. "Thank you Boba Fett. Your code number is FB530. From now on you respond only to commands issued to your unit or to Stormtrooper FB530. Your barrack number is /95./48./37 and your room number is 94. Thank you for your cooperation, and we at Imperial Command hope you enjoy your time in our academy, and hopefully you will someday join our ranks."
He smiled coldly as he gazed at the now blank screen. "Oh, I think you can count on me being in your ranks," he said to himself. "It's just a matter of time."
Turning back around and heading for the exit, Boba Fett strode confidently out of his past and into his future.