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Way Back When: "Luck"

It had happened again. No, to give the current circumstances their ...

  • Story by D.G. Requiem
  • Estimated reading time: 29 minutes (5,851 words)
  • Updated January 26, 2008

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     It had happened again.

     No, to give the current circumstances their due,
it hadn't. This was completely new, totally different, in time, place, and perhaps
most importantly, conditions. The young man groaned. The first time it had hurt - the
first time he had cared, but now it was just annoying, playing back through his mind at
odd times even now, several months after the fact.

     A wanted man, not an uncommon occurrence in this day,
but with all the smuggling and piracy going on, having the crime 'treason' attached to
one's identity was not helpful. Nor was the 'kill on sight' command that came with that
attachment.

     It was unfair; that at least was plain, but the rough
looking young man accepted that. He'd learned that almost before he'd learned to crawl.
He accepted it, but he did not like it. Familiar rage began to rise again, and he didn't
suppress it. It was like a calming friend now; the only one he had it seemed.

     He looked around at the buildings on the street trying
to get his bearings. Yes, he was going in the right direction. He turned left down a
dead-ended alley and thumped on the heavy durasteel door. He heard faint sounds of
movement inside, then a crash followed by profuse cursing. He smiled grimly, mood
slightly improving at the few seconds of chaos. Finally the door opened a crack.

     "Mereel, you're early," the ragged ogre of a human
growled at him, obviously venting on the first possible victim. The young man wasn't
that easy though, and growled right back at him through the odd grin that he still
wore in harsh accented tones. Obviously, Basic was not his primary language.

     "Locaster you idiot, look at your chrono. How would
Zaith feel if he knew you'd fallen asleep during your guard?" he asked and shoved his
way inside. The only light source was a dim blue glow coming from a corridor on the
other side of the garage littered with bits and pieces from scores of machines, most
of which would never find any use. Not wanting to make the same blundering mistake
as Locaster, Jaster Mereel, (ex-Journeyman Protector and more recently ex-Stormtrooper
and Imperial Fighter Pilot) waited a few seconds for his vision to adjust enough to
the dimness to make his way across the wreak of a hall without any messy mishaps. The
larger man fell into step behind him silently. Locaster was big, and he could break
any average man in half, but was really just an average street thug. A follower really,
who did not have the type of mental strength or intelligence needed to take on Mereel,
especially not while the latter was in such a dark mood.

     Safely across the minefield of parts, Mereel strode
confidently down the bare walled round hallway. Down and over several twists and
bends with only dim glowing blue lights embedded into the walls at irregular
intervals for light. Mereel moved with such certainty that it was obvious he'd
been down this passageway enough to have no need of even the faint blue glow-panels.
The dull battleship-gray steel walls ended abruptly with another heavy durasteel door,
a retinal scanner and a punch-code box. Mereel had to bend slightly to get his right
eye parallel to the scanner as he punched in the code deftly with his left hand,
never needing to check the numbers he was putting in; Mereel was not short by human
standards, that illusion was created from being dwarfed by the bulky giant behind him.
The processor blipped in recognition and the portal slid open silently.

     "Kid's here," Locaster announced, turned and left
the way they'd just come. Mereel wondered once again why he needed an escort and
announcer while dually being outraged over being called 'kid'. He silently crossed
the threshold and the door whooshed shut behind him.

     "Hey Mereel," someone greeted. Jaster Mereel turned
in that direction to see whom it was since the speaker was behind him and to his left,
well out of his peripheral vision. He took in the usual sites of scruffy looking
humans and aliens working together or separately in different parts of the huge
underground 'stadium' on various forms of illegal weaponry. Some of it made to order
for some of the more prestigious (if there were such a thing) outlaws, and other
personae as could not buy these types of weaponry through the usual channels. The
unseen speaker turned out to be Nalty, one of the older humans who specialized in
taking outdated or abandoned technology and restoring or improving on it for more
modern times. Mereel's curiosity was piqued and he made his way over. The lean human
showed Mereel a mass of circuits exposed on what looked like an old personal jetpack
from back in the Clone War days when the technology had been abandoned when so many
of the users proved unable to control the mechanisms.

     "I'm almost done with this piece," he explained.
"We lost another one of our testers when he tried the other one I'd repaired. Moved
his legs wrong and ended up smashing into a wall. Quite a mess; his head exploded
like a melon. Pity," he mumbled and fused a few severed wires together with other
spliced pieces.

     "Yeah, I bet it was a waste of a good jetpack,"
Mereel commented. Nalty laughed.

     "My thoughts exactly rookie. Wanna give it a try?"
he offered, closing up the panel that exposed the circuitry and offering the jetpack
to Mereel. Jaster Mereel backed wisely away.

     "Hey, I'm not a tester anymore," he protested
defensively.

     "Come on Mereel, you've got a natural instinct
for this stuff. You have the reflexes, agility and experience as a fighter pilot.
I tell you what, if you can do it she's yours."


     "Yeah, and if I can't I end up a mess on the wall
and you'll have to find yourself another courier," Mereel countered, but he had to
admit he was tempted.

     "Look, you can have it anyway. After the tester I
realized why these things were abandoned in the first place. I just hated leaving
this one unfinished when I'd spent so much time on it. Maybe you'll change
your mind and it'll come in handy sometime." He shrugged and pushed it across
his workstation where Mereel would be able to take it, then bent down and searched
a drawer. He produced a package after a few minutes-minutes Mereel had been staring
at the jetpack-and handed the courier a package in a carry sack and a blaster.

     "Second moon, Hav't City, third district marketplace,
shop called the Treasure Hunter. Ask for The Minx. They might need a demo,"
Nalty instructed as he handed the items over. Mereel nodded, memorizing the
directions and started away, then on an impulse grabbed one of the straps of
the jetpack.


     Twenty-six hours later.

     As Mereel left the Treasure Hunter, another courier
job successfully carried out; he had the most peculiar sensation. Suddenly, Mereel
had a very bad feeling. In his time as a Protector, he'd had such feelings and on
occasion they'd saved his life. On instinct, Mereel shoved his way through casual
shoppers in the busy marketplace and made for his ship.

     Not a moment too soon apparently, a blaster bolt
hissed past him and he could smell singed hair. It hit a shopper square in the
shoulder and downed her. Mereel decided to take an indirect route. He dodged into
an alley and down a side street after that. Through an abandoned building and a
crowded cantina, another alley, always going in the direction of the spaceport. He
hoped to either lose his pursuers or at least draw them into a more open area so he
wouldn't be distracted by the slight chance he'd hit a civilian. He'd spent too many
years as a protector not to feel that compulsion.

     Just before the cantina one had gotten close
enough for Mereel to actually see him. Luckily not long enough for Mereel to get
shot in the back before he'd put enough distance between himself and his pursuers.
The one Jaster Mereel had glimpsed had set off alarms in the back of his mind. As
he gained still more space behind him by causing a riot in the cantina while he
went through - firing off a few random blasts and shoving into people, he remembered
the face. The man was a bounty hunter. Mereel had thought the hunter was carrying too
much equipment for an enforcer, even if the enforcer in question worked for some other
competition in the illegal arms business. Mereel wished he'd read the imperial
bulletin with the bounty hunter in it instead of just glancing over it. Now, if
his memory and sense of direction remained true, the spaceport would be just down
the street he'd turn right onto at the end of the alleyway he was in now.

     Mereel burst into the wide-open space and began to
arc across the quiet roadway. He dodged back over to the right side and stayed
against the wall. He'd realized how easy it would be for someone on the same side
of the street he'd come onto to be hiding in a doorway with a blaster the same instant
he saw a vague shadow in a corner just outside the spaceport entrance. One of the
hunters following him came out behind him and brought his blaster up to fire, but
Mereel was fast. He already had his own rifle at the ready and in an instant he
jigged to the side and dropped to his knee as he spun around and shot the bounty
hunter square in the chest. The man made an odd gurgling noise as he fell forward.
Mereel backed into the nearest doorway. Unfortunately it was boarded up so there was
no chance he'd be able to make a break for it. He held his blaster up to his chest
and breathed deeply. There was at least one more behind him, and now he could hear
the bastard's footsteps several yards from his temporary safe haven. Another was
under cover down near the entrance. Even if he got the other one behind him he'd
never make it into his ship's hangar alive.

     Calming himself, Mereel surmised his options. He
didn't have the sample weaponry he'd couried, it had already been delivered although
it would have been very handy at the moment. Mereel's brow creased for a moment and
he was momentarily at a loss for what else it was he carried in the one-strapped bag
across his back. The jetpack! Mereel thought it rather ironic as he snapped on the
metallic harness in the few seconds he had. He'd planned to sell off the pack to some
idiot, but here he was, 'testing' it. Well, Mereel reasoned, if I don't manage it,
I'm dead, and if I stay here I'm deader. At least those nerf herders won't have the
satisfaction of getting me themselves. Mereel held his breath as he pushed the switch
on the side.

     The acceleration forces were horrible, if Mereel
had been less experienced in this type of thing and had his head positioned slightly
more over to the side the g-forces would have snapped his neck as the jet pack's
rockets propelled him skyward in a burst of flame and sound. Mereel kept his wits
and arched his body slightly sideways (not back, he reminded himself, or you'll burn
your legs off) and twisted over the side of the deserted building in whose door
way he'd just taken brief refuge. Blaster bolts burned and streaked around him
leaving the scent of ozone.

     Mereel grinned despite himself and ducked his
head forward. It was almost his last move; he'd over compensated the dive and
when he pulled himself back into a more parallel trajectory he felt the pain of
a slight scorching across his calves. In seconds he was above the docking yards
and his courier ship faced with another very serious problem: How was he supposed
to stop the damned thing? If Mereel had retained any part of his religious
upbringing, he'd have prayed at that moment, but he hadn't. Swearing profusely
he dived towards the ground; nearly singed himself again as he began to arc up
at a much more severe angle, and turned off the pack. Mereel slowed as his own
air resistance and weight kept him from flying higher and he began to fall rapidly
back down to the ground. Mereel clenched his teeth and rapidly switched the pack
on and off again once to cut his velocity, then braced himself as he hit the
plascrete floor of the open air landing pad about ten yards from the courier
ship. One of the ligaments in his right knee was either strained or ripped and
he could hear the wet snap in his left shin as one of the bones in the lower leg
fractured under the stress. He forced himself up on his feet with agonizing pain
throbbing it's own pulse. He staggered over to the gangplank of his ship and nearly
blacked out from the pressure that seemed to be building in his head. Despite the
pounding in his ears he could hear another sound that had at first been far off,
but was getting closer with every breath he took.

     Mereel collapsed into the pilot's chair of the
small nondescript ship he'd been given for his travelling needs under the
organization and began punching buttons rapidly. A cold sweat coated him now and
he felt the pressure as the ships own burners ignited and sent it through the
atmosphere of the small moon. He ignored the trajectory requests from the control
tower and punched in the command for the computer to make a jump into the nearest
asteroid field. Jaster Mereel was a good pilot and convinced he'd be able to hide
on one of the larger asteroids while he used the ship's medkit to do what he
could for his legs and to regroup. He may have lost the bounty hunters, but it
was very possible he hadn't.

     A sigh of intense relief escaped Mereel as the
hyperspace tunnel formed around the ship. He suddenly remembered what its name
was - Luck's Last Hand. It was so suitable at the moment it was eerie. Mereel
shrugged mentally and turned off the ship's artificial gravity. Suddenly the
pain on his legs was eased off even though it was still intense enough to
incapacitate the average person. Floating up out of his chair, Mereel used his
arms to push himself along the walls to where the small food synthesizer and
medkit were kept. He jerked open the compartment panel and had to use his teeth
to rip open the package that contained the nerve blocking agents while he kept
the box of various sedatives shut with one hand to keep them from floating off.
He sprayed the locals liberally across his right knee and over everything below
his left mid thigh. The sudden relief was incredible. He shoved the sedative
box back into the wall compartment and pulled out the single limb brace. He bit
his lip as he configured it to his Left shin and found an attachable foot piece
that would take all strain off the break. The brace would in effect, act as
support until the bone healed (even though he would be walking quite stiff-
legged). He rummaged through the rest of the compartment and pulled out several
bacta compresses. He strapped these to his right knee and padded the inside
of the leg brace with the remainder. He didn't know if it would do much good,
but it couldn't hurt.

     Mereel propelled himself back into the cockpit.
He had a few seconds before the hyperspace tunnel began to dissolve around
Luck's Last Hand, and it came out of hyperspace completely a few hundred
kilometers from an asteroid field. Mereel stretched out his fingers briefly
and played them across Luck's controls. The ship flew between the rolling
asteroids and he kept half an eye on his sensors, just waiting for the bounty
hunters' ship to come out of hyperspace. Now Mereel had a few moments to
contemplate why the bounty hunters were after him at all. The ship executed a
tight roll and avoided getting sandwiched between two asteroids as they
collided. Concord Dawn had exiled him, they'd never bother sending someone
after him; as far as they were concerned, he didn't even exist anymore. All
the better as far as he was concerned. Likely as well, he thought, that the
Empire wouldn't have put out enough of a bounty for a 'trooper that had gone
AWOL after killing another Stormtrooper. Ah, that corrupted bastard of an
imperial commando, he thought, I remember now, I recall the rumors about his
family's wealth. They must have posted a bounty big enough for that team of
hunters to come after me. He groaned audibly, then sat up with a jerk as
something blipped on the ship's sensor screen. There was a power source; Mereel
dodged another chunk of debris, however faint, on a largish asteroid a couple
dozen clicks away. He cautiously eased his ship in closer for a better reading.
There were no strong power readings, only bare electronics working on a decaying
level. Fett readied Luck's few defense systems and eased over the asteroid's
horizon line.

     The ship was old, battleship gray and dark green
in places. There was a huge long rent in the starboard side. Not potentially fatal
to the passengers, but fatal to the ship. Mereel noticed a trashed communications
satellite lying partially wedged in an outcropping at the base of a canyon a good
distance from the dead ship.

     An idea began to form in Jaster Mereel's mind. If
he could just plant charges beneath the ship... blow it into orbit; he could use
it as bait for the bounty hunters when they came. And come they would, Mereel
realized, as he noticed a subharmonic frequency being broadcast in a repeating
frequency from his engines. A tracking device surely, disguised to look like normal
engine's subharmonics; he rationalized, unless you notice that the pattern repeats.
Mereel pushed himself up, wincing even in the slight gravity- not because it pained
him, but because he knew what even the slight stress must have been doing to the
damage in his right knee.

     Mereel snatched up the plain carry sack now having
only his blaster in it. He'd discarded the jetpack when he'd dragged himself aboard.
In rapid sequence Mereel keyed in the combination of commands that would shut down
all systems on the ship. It would include the air supply, but what was already
there would last until he had his atmosphere suit on.


     Everything was dark now. Mereel used his sense
of touch to find and unclip the hand held light on the wall to the right of the
pilot's chair. He flicked it on and hobbled down the short passageway to the cargo
area. He didn't bother to reflect on the fact he looked like a lame water foul.
Probably because he didn't care, definitely because if he didn't move as fast as
possible, wreaked legs or no he wouldn't be around long enough for them to heal.

     Mereel didn't have to manually open the airlock
to the cargo area; he hadn't had the time to close it before he'd made his escape
on Luck's Last Hand. Once again the ship's name seemed like a cruel joke while he
played the light beam over the wall that separated the ship's hold from the
hyperdrive engines on the ship. Jaster Mereel hoped that this wasn't his last bit
of luck. He wasn't afraid of dying, but he refused to die at the hand of some
bounty hunter.

     There.

     Mereel peeled off a small transmitter that had
been jammed into a crevice. It wasn't very big, but it was made to be reusable
and easily concealed with a strip of strong adhesive on the back. He pressed the
adhesive onto the inside of the carry sack and limped over to the storage closet
for an atmosphere suit. Mereel was able to pull on the atmosphere suit and seal
the helmet, but only barely. The leg brace and bacta pads protruded tightly beneath
the protective covering. It worried him, but he didn't have much of a choice.

     Mereel sorted through the odds and ends secured
under a cargo net on the wall of the cargo hold. Spare parts, fuses, a few handguns
and blaster rifles weren't out of place in the hold of a weapons courier. What
he really needed was an ion cannon and some charges. Jaster Mereel growled through
the filtered air and pulled the edge of the netting free, letting the assortment
spill slowly to the floor in the low gravity. Mereel pulled out four charges.
He'd plant one under each corner of the old behemoth to make sure it would blow
clear of the asteroid evenly. He searched through the rest of the motley pile as
quickly as possible. Yes!

     It was a small model, probably not meant to be
used on ships, but Mereel didn't exactly have a choice. He tucked the charges
into the pack and the small ion gun under his arm. He pumped the manual lever
that would open the hatch. The hatch wouldn't close until the ship was powered
up again, but it wouldn't matter.

     Once again, favoring the braced leg, Mereel
propelled himself over the distance approximately a kilometer to the other ship.
It took no time in the miniscule gravity since Mereel made the trip in great
leaps. He only had to be careful not to exert enough force to break the gravity's
pull.

     Beside the ship, Mereel dug into the rubble
under the ship and planted the charges. He was about to set them off with his
detonator when he suddenly wondered if perhaps there might not be survivors.
True, the ship was old, but it wasn't THAT old. He'd seen older ships still
in service actually. Mereel looked into the rent on the side of the ship. It
looked as if it had torn into a service crawlway. He tried to fit through the
jagged hole nearest him, knowing that if the metal even came close to tearing
the atmosphere suit he'd forget the whole thing; chance survivors or no. Mereel
looked over the smooth side of the roughly rectangular shaped ship and took
in the battleship gray and the hunter's green. Muttering an oath that fogged
the visor of his protective helmet he pushed himself inside.

     Mereel could see. The ship's ancient power
systems still illuminated service panel lights. Jaster Mereel propelled himself
using his arms along the horizontal space and nearly hit his head going around
a corner. He cursed and climbed through a narrow hatch and fell into the cockpit.
The atmosphere had escaped already. Mereel knew there was no chance of survivors
now. He turned to climb to his feet and found himself face to face with a corpse.
Mereel gave a start then ridiculed himself for being startled by a dead body.
He knew better. One wasn't afraid of the dead when one had killed. A plassheet
was clutched in the corpse's hand. Curiosity overcoming Mereel's need to act
quickly; he pulled the sheet from death's grasp.


     I was the last. I ran instead of fighting
alongside my brethren. Now I'll die alone in shame. I no longer deserve to
wear the armor of the dead Mandalore.

- Fett



     Mandalorian, Mereel mused. If the man had
discarded the armor, then it must be somewhere in here. The Mandalore had
been extinct for years and their armor was rare and valuable. Mereel glanced
around the small room as he got ready to climb back out the way he'd come.
It didn't matter how much it was worth, much longer and he wouldn’t be around
at all. Mereel pulled the tracer from the sack and secured it under the
console so it wouldn't be knocked loose when the ship was blown into orbit.
He nearly kicked a gray mound out of his way when he saw a yellow piece
of shoulder armor with glints of red. He bent and scooped the discarded
body armor into the now emptied sack and climbed out of the ship with a
growing sense of urgency. He cleared the distance to his ship in less
time that he'd have thought possible with two good legs and dodged up into
his ship while he activated the detonator. The blast rocked Luck's Last
hand, and Mereel picked up the ion gun and slid cautiously outside. He
put the gun to his shoulder, propped himself as best he could and waited,
all the while keeping an eye on the ghost ship of the forgotten Mandalorian.

     Minutes passed, but they felt like an
eternity. The old Mandalorian's ship slowly drifted across the 'sky', and
Mereel worried that if the bounty hunters didn't show up soon, the decoy
he'd placed would do him no good-except maybe if it drifted far enough that
he could escape undetected. But Jaster Mereel didn't want to lose his
pursuer. He wanted to kill them. Just for being stupid enough to come after
him in the first place.


     Sound doesn't carry in space. Sound didn't
carry in the thin atmosphere of the asteroid either. One of Mereel's old 'trooper
instructors liked to say 'remember, in space no one can hear you scream' before
he put the recruits through rigorous simulation flights. Not too original, but
true none the less. Mereel couldn't hear the approaching hunters' ship, but he
could see it's vague outline as it arched over the horizon. He checked his
surroundings briefly. He was concealed well enough on the rocky surface in the
gray atmosphere suit. The courier ship was hidden from the point of view of the
cautiously moving ship as well. He propped the butt of the gun against his
shoulder and trailed the ship. The asteroid was deep into the field, almost
on the other side, and movement wasn't as frantic here.

     The bounty hunters would have lost most of
their shielding coming through the field. They'd see the ship drifting on
their sensors, and think that Mereel had either been hit by an asteroid or
was trying to trick them by lying in wait. Therefore they'd divert all the
power left in the shielding to the front as they cleared the smaller asteroid
between them and their prey. Mereel figured he had a five-second window. His
trigger finger twitched.

     Now.

     Mereel fired the ion gun and watched the
ball of energy hit home. The force drove him backward onto the rocky surface
and he was briefly winded. As he pushed himself up cautiously he became aware
of a dull ache in his side. Probably a bruised rib, Mereel rationalized and
dragged himself aboard. He looked to the ship in the sky and was relieved to
see the external light had gone out and it was free floating.

     Up the cargo lift and to the cockpit Mereel
staggered, holding his side. Perhaps it was a bit more serious than a bruise.
He collapsed into the pilot's chair and rapidly punched in commands on the
console. Luck's Last Hand hummed to life. The ship vibrated as the ramp was
lifted and sealed into place. Mereel didn't route precious energy from the
engines to begin life support again; the suit would suffice until the matter
at hand was dealt with. Luck rose steadily out of the gravitational pull of
the asteroid and Mereel even managed a small satisfied smile when he loosed
Luck's arsenal against the dead ship.

     The ship blew apart in a spectacular
display. The brief fire in space was a beautiful spectacle so alien
to that of fire on a planet the things might not even be considered
the same. Mereel powered up the life support systems of the ship and
navigated his way cautiously through the remainder of the asteroid
field.


     Mereel's brow furrowed briefly.
"Yes, that's exactly what I need, but how much will it cost?"

     "About fifty thou," the alien replied
calmly.

     No, Mereel thought resigned, it was by far
more than he could afford. He sighed and nodded to the alien specialist
before he rose from the seat he'd been occupying across from it. "Sorry,
that's beyond my means currently. Thanks for your time."

     The alien nodded to Mereel as he left.
He paused and turned around. "What about the ID? Without the retinal scrambling?"

     "Much less. Say 2,500. But much more easily
traced, all someone needs to do is run a match for all corresponding retinal
patterns."

     "Is there a way I could get a slicer to
delete all public files of the old identity?" Mereel asked curiously.

     "No. Well, it is possible, but private
organizations, Old bank records, hundreds of databases would have the information.
It would be useless." The Violet furred alien spread it's two pairs of arms to
emphasize the hopelessness.

     "I understand. I'll think about that," Mereel
replied, and left the store that had been closed for hours. The store whose
main source of income did not come from the trinkets it sold to tourists.

     Mereel walked out into the deserted marketplace
of Nar Makaan. The streetlights attached to the outside walls of the cylindrical
buildings glowed green and cast eerie shadows across the roads. He had to find a
way to escape the bounty hunters. The price on his head was high enough to make
him a popular quarry for the less specialized hunters. Not enough for the elite,
like the woman he'd talked to on Concord Dawn when he was just a kid. She'd crash
landed in the middle of a desert and shot the two short-range fighters out of the
sky with some weapon he hadn't seen before or since. The black-haired human
woman seemed frail at first glance but had an aura of danger about her. Mereel
had a feeling if she'd come after him instead of the team of hunters that had (and
any of the ones he'd killed recently) he would probably be long dead.

     He'd seen her again after he'd been banished
and they'd talked for a short while about Bounty Hunting. The memory was fuzzy;
he wasn't in the best mental shape right after he'd been banished. He remembered
her making a comment about a creed when he had asked her if the ship's she'd shot
out of the sky had been other hunters after one of her bounties. She'd laughed
and said something like' oh, no, those were pirates. Bounty Hunters have a creed;
one hunter is not allowed to hunt another unless they are competing on the same
contract.'

     Mereel stiffened and paused in his walk back to
the seedy place he was staying in. If he became a bounty hunter, he wouldn't have
to worry about someone after him all the time. Mereel resumed his walk, but his
pace quickened: the only outward sign of his excitement.


     I'd be able to choose my targets. I wouldn't
have to worry about someone else's ideals interfering with my work, he thought.
He ducked through the doorway of the 'hotel' (that was a joke) he was staying
at. The purple furred inhabitants of Nar Makaan were decidedly shorter than the
average human, and Mereel was above average height. He pressed his identification
chip against the door panel of his room and the door slid open with a hiss.
Mereel didn't bother to turn the lights on as he crossed the room and sat down
on the bed. The door closed itself a second after Mereel pulled off his boots
and lay back silently on the mattress. He had a few thousand credits in his account,
a little over ten. He had Luck's Last Hand. The ship wasn't much, especially if
he wanted to do anything more with it than haul cargo. But he could trade it in
for a smaller ship with better capabilities, Mereel decided. He could also get
weapons and systems upgrades if he took the ship to Zaith. Nalty would be glad
to try out some of his more unconventional prototypes with Mereel. He could get
all the necessary upgrades etc. to a ship then fake his own death, then get a new
identity. Bounty Hunting wasn't so different, he decided as he let himself fall
into a light sleep, as what he'd been doing since he was 16: enforcing the law.


     Jaster Mereel woke to the sound of muffled
voices. The sounds were faint, but Mereel was a light sleeper when he wanted to
be. He'd even learned to sleep with his eyes open if needed (it came in handy
when he'd been assigned to TIE fighter guard duty for days on end) and the barely
audible sound of low voices outside his door was enough. Mereel groaned. More hunters.

     He cursed himself for not leaving two ways out of
his room. There was no window, and the walls were impermeable to any type of
armament he had with him now. Mereel sized up his options. All the things he
owned were either with him or in Luck's Last Hand. He had his blaster rifle,
but he was at a decided disadvantage since he had to be the one to open the
door if he wanted out. Damn. He had the Mandalorian armor with him. He had a
change of clothes. He had some money. Mereel let his mind wander back to the
Mandalorian armor again. It had weapons built into it. If he could put it on
it would lend a good cover story. Mereel grinned and pulled the pieces of
armor out of his carry sack. First he put on the suit that the metal armor
attached to. It fit well thankfully. Mereel didn't have much time. There was
the sound of someone getting blasted outside in the hallway. Mereel pulled the
wrist gauntlets on finally and the T-shaped visor helmet over his head. If felt
odd. He assumed a threatening pose and picked up his blaster rifle. The armor
would deflect most shots that came his way- if he was lucky and played his role
right, none would.

     Mereel punched the panel that opened the door
and stalked out of the room. A Rodian hunter brought his blaster up at Mereel
as he came out.

     "Who are you?" the Rodian lisped in fairly
good Basic.

     "Name's Fett, now get out of my way, I'm on
a hunt," Mereel growled at the shorter Rodian. He heard the roughness in his
own voice and thought this was one of those occasions when his harsh-sounding
voice was more an asset than a boon.

     "Ssso am I," the Rodian hissed. "My quarry
goes by Jaster Mereel. This is his room."

     "Mereel is gone." Mereel said simply, and
walked off, presumably to continue his hunt. He gave no explanations; he
didn't think a bounty hunter would need to. He was amused that the Rodian
seemed slightly intimidated by the armor. It had proved to be handier than
a way to get credits.

     Mereel decided that perhaps bounty hunting
was what his future held after all.

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