Only the clicking of his boot heels broke the silence, and only a well trained ear could hear those. JM669 had earned the highest marks in his training cycle. He not only could march in full armor without clanking and looking clumsy, but, he had scored the highest marks on the firing range in academy history. In hand-to-hand combat, he had taken the instructor two falls out of three. His accomplishments had not gone unnoticed. Tomorrow, Lord Darth Vader himself was scheduled to arrive, to transport him to the training center for the Royal Imperial Guard. JM669 felt no pride in this achievement, only satisfaction, pride was also a weakness.
A scream pierced the night. A woman's scream. JM669 quickly assessed the direction of the disturbance and quickened his pace to a steady jog. When the woman screamed the second time, it was not as loud, only more pleading. It was enough for the trooper to determine in which quarters the disturbance was occurring. He pounded on the door. "Imperial patrol. Open the door."
"Help me please, help." The cry was answered by a thumping sound. The door was secured from the other side, but a blast from the trooper's E-11 was enough to persuade the controls to release.
"What's going on here?" He commanded. His eyes fell on a female slave crouched in the corner of the rough cot. Her clothing was torn and there was a red whelp on the side of her tear-streaked face. Standing over her was JM669's commanding officer. He had an ugly expression on his face. His uniform tunic was draped over a chair across the room.
"Trooper, your presence is not required here. Leave now and make no report of this."
JM669 stared at the partially dressed officer unbelieving. He did not expect or accept this type of behavior in the Imperial ranks. "Do you have a problem with your hearing? I ordered you to leave."
"Sir, step away from the girl and surrender yourself. You are under Imperial arrest. You have disgraced yourself and the uniform you wear. I'm taking you to the detention center."
The young officer was shocked by what he heard. A stormtrooper violating an order? "Trooper, this is your last warning. I will have you court-martialed."
"Sir, are you threatening a stormtrooper carrying out his duties?"
The officer had had enough of this insubordination. He pulled a small blaster and aimed it at the trooper. JM669 had actually hoped that would happen and anticipated it. Before the officer could bring the blaster level, JM669 squeezed the firing stud on his carbine and drained every last joule of energy in the power cell into the offensive vermin who called himself an officer. When the power cell was drained, all that remained of the young officer was a smoldering pile of burnt bones.
The filters in JM669's helmet shielded him from the acrid smell of burnt flesh, and the smoky residue lingering in the hovel. The girl looked up at him, no longer afraid, relief on face. "Thank you." She whispered.
A moment later, two more stormtroopers entered the small apartment, blasters drawn. They took one look inside and quickly trained their weapons on JM669. "Freeze! Don't move. Take his weapon." The junior of the two stormtroopers grabbed the E-11 in JM669's hands. For a moment he thought about resisting, fighting his way to the spaceport, and taking the first ship he saw. Knowing that it would be futile, he relented, surrendering the weapon, and allowed the other to place him in binders. He would be the one going to the detention center this evening.
A Lambda class shuttle dropped from the docking bay of the Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator. As the gull wings dropped into flight position, two TIE fighter escorts moved into formation with the larger craft. Minutes later, the shuttle landed near the Academy Headquarters. A full honor guard of stormtrooper, officers, and the graduating class were lined up on either side of the walkway to the Headquarters building. Colonel Miosk awaited for Lord Vader to descend the ramp.
As Darth Vader approached, he spoke,"Lord Vader, we are honored by your visit.."
"You may dispense with the pleasantries Colonel. I am eager to meet this stormtrooper of whom you spoke so highly."
"Uh, there has been a, well, a new development in his progress."
"I do not have time for games Colonel. If you have something to tell me then spit it out."
Lord Vader's respirator sounds always unnerved Colonel Miosk. Standing here in front of him now, and in not the best of moods, the Colonel was very intimidated. Of course, he could not show his fear, and lose any respect that Lord Vader and everyone else may have for him. "My Lord, there was a disturbance last evening. Trooper JM669 murdered a superior officer. He is in the detention center now, awaiting court-martial."
"I will speak with him. Many things we believe, depend upon our point of view. Have him transported to my flagship."
Knowing better than argue with Vader, Miosk replied, "Yes, my lord."
Later, aboard the Devastator, a stormtrooper escort knocked on the entrance to Lord Vader's private chambers. "You may enter." The two troopers brought in a man in a prison white coverall and binders on his wrists. "You may leave him and return to your post." The troopers nodded and quickly left.
For several moments, the only sound in the room was Vader's breathing. The prisoner met Vader's gaze with his own dark eyes and did not bow from shame or subservience. "You disintegrated an Imperial officer, yes?"
It wasn't a question.
"Yes. He deserved it. He was a disgrace to the uniform and to the New Order."
"If you had it to do over?"
"I'd burn him down again."
"This is not the first time you've done this."
That comment caught the former stormtrooper by surprise. He was not quite successful in hiding his emotion at the remark. Vader continued,"Yes. I know all about your past, about the incident on Concord Dawn. Last time you were only exiled. This time you face termination."
JM669 had regained his composure. "If you were going to kill me, I'd already be dead. I think you have something else in mind."
"What makes you so sure that I won't strike you down myself?"
"Because you know about me. You've probably seen all my academy scores and you know that I'm more useful to you alive."
"Do not be so smug. Once you find out what I have in mind, you may prefer death."
"In some ways, I'm already dead. I died a long time ago."
Darth Vader motioned at the other man's wrists. The binders fell off to the floor. Vader gestured to a trunk in a corner of the room. Open the storage container." The prisoner did as his was told. When he saw what the container held, his breath caught. He lifted out a dented and scratched helmet of Mandalorian design. He knows. Vader really knows. "How? Where did you.."
"That is of no consequence. I have need of one of your ability. The Jedi, although their number is greatly reduced, continue to lead this rebellion against the Empire. Someone of your skill and cunning will help me to rid the galaxy of their kind forever, Boba Fett."
Fett sighed, resigned to his fate. He thought he had put that part of his life behind him. "As you wish. I'm somewhat surprised you spared my life. Why? Surely there are others you could use.
"You once saved my life. A long time ago, on a planet I will not set foot on again. You were one friend who was always loyal. Your reputation as a warrior also serves you well."
"That name has no meaning for me anymore, Kitster."
"Nor that name for me."
"I have an older unregistered ship in deep storage you may have. I will arrange for you to have access to Imperial fuel and repair facilities, as well as safe passage through blockades."
"You know that I have no love for the Jedi either. I won't let you down."
"I know you won't my friend."