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"Whispers on Dxun"

  • Story by Melinda McMahon
  • Estimated reading time: 67 minutes (13,422 words)
  • Added June 15, 2008
  • Updated June 16, 2008

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Rain fell lightly, the small drops gathered into pools that ran down the ominous T-Shaped visor of a fallen Mandalorian. Numerous helmets were sitting upon pikes in rows. Markers of the dead.

Boba Fett examined the ancient burial ground upon Dxun. It had been a planet conquered by the Mandalorians centuries ago, yet their survivors had kept the burial grounds pristine as a mark of honour.

Fett would have taken his own helmet off in a mark of respect, however to do such a thing would leave him vulnerable and that was unacceptable.

Yet the renowned bounty hunter had not come to Dxun for a history lesson. He was in pursuit of a most elusive Mirialan. The female was a rather infamous thief who'd stolen from the wrong victim this time. To say the Hutt's were stingy would be an understatement. When someone stole from them, it was a capital punishment. For the Mirialan, Helif Pois, such was the reaction.

Pois was said to have made a run, never to be found among the millions of star systems throughout the galaxy. But Fett had eyes everywhere, besides a crashed freighter generally wasn't too hard to find, especially when the right people were looking for it.

Fett had already perused the crash site. He hadn't come out into the open, he merely stood back in the dense jungle and let a few small probe droids check it out. As he suspected, it had been empty.

But no matter how dense a jungle was, there were always signs of a being's passage. It had taken Fett hours to follow Pois' trail but he knew he was getting closer. The frequency of broken branches and half cast footprints were growing more evident. His quarry was growing tired.

Fett took a deep breath as he left the Mandalorian burial ground, he knew he was being watched but it didn't bother him. He could meld with the shadows and foliage whenever he wanted to. Unfortunately his quarry seemed to have the same skills, however they were not nearly as honed as Fett's.

This was all part of the hunt, it wasn't any fun if the prey didn't know it was being hunted and it had been a long time since Fett had a quarry as skilled in stealth as this one.

-

Helif Pois sat perched in a tree. She had her stealth generator on so she would only appear as a shimmer if someone looked in her direction. She was almost totally invisible it was only as she moved that a flicker appeared.

She had a pair of micro binoculars to her eyes and had spotted her pursuer. She smiled, she must have really ticked off the Hutts. Boba Fett didn't work for just any sum of money.

But Pois had known that she would have a large sum on her head. She had stolen some prized gems from Zorba the Hutt. There were at least two Krayt Dragon Pearls in her booty too.

Pois could only guess at just how much the Hutt had offered for her "capture". She didn't doubt that she'd be requested as "live merchandise" as the Hutt's enjoyed torturing those who committed crimes against them. Pois smirked at that, the way the Hutts acted you'd think they were innocent fops. What a joke.

Lowering her binoculars, Pois climbed slowly down the tree. She didn't want to draw unwanted attention. She'd been to Dxun before and knew her way around some of the jungle tracks. She just had to remember to avoid most of the wild life.

She'd come across one cannok so far, luckily the beast hadn't been particularly bright, she been able to simply walk passed it with her stealth generator activated.

Pois' goal was to reach one of the few settlements on Dxun. Not that you could really call them settled. They were generally small, hostile and well guarded. It wasn't surprising since most of the planets inhabitants were Mandalorian descendents.

With a sigh Pois made her way towards one of the worn tracks. Her plan was to steal a small space craft, fly to Onderon and get passage to a much more populated place where she could easily blend in. Although Dxun held many places to hide, it was much too boring a place for Pois. She thrived on the city life and its rich citizens.

-

Marsden Etek sat on the tree stump in front of his cabin cleaning his blaster. He was one of fifty four Mandalorian descendents who'd chosen to live on Dxun in this particular area. He had been training as a soldier since he was a child but there really wasn't much action on Dxun.

Sure he'd taken out many a boma beast and cannok but still it wasn't the same as true combat. He'd only tasted that twice, both times had been on away missions. The first time it had been with the Rebels, the second time as brute force for Jabba the Hutt. Of course they'd been hired as mercenaries but that didn't worry Etek he was glad to get any battle experience.

He'd taken away a full suit of Imperial armour on his first mission, which he'd modified for the jungle. He'd painted it mottled shades of green and brown. He'd also added to the helmet's functionality plus he'd remodelled it to look more like a Mandalorian helmet.

True Mandalorian armour was hard to come by and the remaining suits that were left on Dxun were only granted to the most skilled and honoured soldiers. At 19 standard years of age, Etek was considered too young and inexperienced to be granted such status. But one day he'd have a suit of his own, even if it was a relic from the first wave of Mandalorians to land on Dxun.

Today Etek and four other young Mandalorians, were to scout the perimeters of their territory, mainly to sweep out some of the dangerous beasts that roamed the land and also to check for intruders.

They knew that a freighter had crashed. A party of the more skilled soldiers had gone to check out the wreck. There were no bodies so the crew had survived. They had no idea of numbers, but any survivors were going to have a rough time against the wild life if they didn't carry weapons.

Etek just hoped the survivors were hostile, it meant he'd get some target practice.

Lifting his blaster for inspection, Etek smiled at his own work, the blaster was clean as a whistle. He stood and walked into his cabin, it was time to change into his armour.

-

Pois stopped as the trail led into a low cavern. She wasn't about to venture inside. She had no idea if it had multiple exits or only one. She wasn't about to get trapped. Instead she started walking into the thicker foliage as she edged around the large rock formation.

To leave as little sign of her passage as possible, Pois had to slow her pace and pick her path carefully, there was no point in rushing if one could be tracked easily. She was starting to make some progress when she heard voices. She immediately froze where she stood, knowing that her stealth generator would work best when still.

She could hear the murmurs of conversation but Pois was too far away to actually hear what they were saying. Slowly she squatted down on her haunches and was able to find a gap in the foliage which she could see through.

Two young men in armour stood talking. Both had their helmets in their hands and they indicated to something. Pois strained to hear but it was useless she was just too far away.

She crept forward slowly, even then she could only make out a few of the words being spoken, but it was not enough to work out what they were discussing. She was close enough to make out their faces and she could tell they were young, neither looked to be over 25 standard years old. Pois smiled at that. She could use their age as an advantage. Young men tended to follow their emotions and Pois knew just how to play them.

Pois herself was only 24, but she considered herself far more mature and experienced then others her age. Her success at theft had made her cocky and somewhat arrogant, though she hadn't even realised it.

As the two men were joined by another three, Pois realised their intent, they were going on patrol. They greeted each other and Pois had a moment to choose her victim. She looked for the youngest and most na_ve in appearance. She didn't want some roguish charmer who had a way with the ladies. She was after innocent virgin material, it made it so much easier to influence them with her feminine wiles.

Pois smiled as she picked one of the new comers. She guessed he'd be lucky if he was twenty, he looked intense yet a little uncertain. His dusty brown hair was somewhat shaggy and hung almost to his eyes. She wondered if it was a way he hid his emotions. His face was quickly covered as he placed his helmet on his head.

Pois didn't take her eyes of him. She waited for the patrol to roll out and smiled as they all went separate ways. It was unfortunate that her choice had headed off in the direction she'd already come from. Still it would make it easier for her to "accidentally" come across him.

-

Etek had been sent off to the South. He felt disappointed at the Sergeant's choice, but he couldn't argue with someone who outranked him. Still it shouldn't be all bad. He'd have to venture through the cavern and it generally attracted a few cannoks so at least he'd have some defence practice.

As he stalked along the path he had the feeling he was being watched. He paused several times during his patrol but saw nothing. Once he thought he saw some sort of shimmer in the dense brush but it was gone before he could take a better look.

The sensation didn't fade and Etek was growing edgy. He almost missed the growl of a cannok. He lifted his blaster and took out the cannok before it got too close.

Etek took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves. His chest was tight with anxiety, he didn't want to be ambushed, especially when he was certain he was being followed. He looked around again, but still he saw no one.

-

Pois found herself surprised by how observant her chosen soldier was. He knew he was being followed, he just didn't know who by. She smiled briefly but she had to get in front on him. She couldn't allow him to go into the cavern, that would be heading too close to Fett.

Pois knew that Fett would never give up on her. That was why she had to escape. At least if she got away for a while she might be able to get the bounty on her head lowered. It was a slim chance, but it was better than the alternative.

Quickening her step, Pois hurried towards the cavern, when she reached the mouth she snuck inside and turned off her stealth generator. It was time to meet her chosen soldier.

-

Etek was finally starting to calm down. The feeling of being watched had ebbed and he was starting to feel more confident. As he headed towards the cavern he saw someone standing with their back to him just inside the opening.

Etek stood straighter and held his blaster proudly, he just hoped he wasn't walking into a trap. As he got closer he was able to see that it was a humanoid female. She wore fairly plain clothes, a tan shirt, brown pants and a pale green utility vest. She had a blaster pistol strapped to her right thigh but her hands weren't near it.

Her black hair was in a high pony tail and he was rather startled as she turned around to look at him, she had mottled black spots on her face which identified her as a Mirialan. She raised her hands in the air as she saw his blaster pointed at her.

"Who are you?" He asked in his most commanding tone.

"My name is Helif Pois. I was on the freighter that crashed. I just want to go home." She replied.

Etek lessened his grip on his blaster and lowered it slightly. He doubted that Helif was any real threat. She just seemed desperate to get home. He could understand that. "Is your ship repairable?" He asked.

Helif shrugged. "I don't know. I'm not a mechanic."

"What about your crew mates? Surely one of them was a mechanic." Etek pointed out.

She paused and looked a little bewildered, then she seemed to focus and look back at him. "I got separated from them." Her lip trembled. "The beasts killed them. All of them, I think." She lifted her shaking hands to her face to cover her tears.

Etek lowered his blaster to his side and stepped forward and touched her lightly on the shoulder, drawing her attention. "I'm sorry to hear that. We shouldn't stay out here. There are too many dangerous beasts in the area. I can take you back to my village."

Helif looked up, her tear filled eyes shining. "I'd like that."

Etek nodded and found himself captivated by her dark eyes. He was reluctant to take his hand from her shoulder. A part of him instinctively wanted to protect her. He knew as a Mandalorian descendant that he should shun weakness. But this female didn't invoke his disgust. She stirred something else. He mentally shook himself. There were too fewer females his age in his village, that was why he was intrigued. At least that was what he tried to tell himself.

As she wiped away her tears, Helif asked a question. "I need to go to Onderon, can I get passage from here?"

Etek shrugged. "We have a shuttle we use to go to Onderon. I could probably pilot you over, provided that Mandalore gives me permission."

She smiled at him and Etek felt his heart pound, she was beautiful. "I'm sure he'll be okay with it." She said quietly, almost shyly.

It was then that Etek realised that his hand was still on her shoulder, he quickly dropped it and cleared his throat. "We need to head back that way." He pointed in the direction he'd come.

Helif nodded with a small smile and took the lead.

-

Pois' smile turned into a full blown grin as soon as her face was pointed away from the soldier. She'd hooked him, no question. The shy damsel in distress act had never failed her yet.

What she didn't realised was that she was being watched. Boba Fett lay on his belly on top of the stone cavern. He had observed her exchange with the Mandalorian descendant and continued to look on as she walked away.

It never failed to amuse him, the arrogance of his merchandise was amazing. She was convinced that she could escape him. Fett already knew what her plans would be. She'd look for a ship, leave the planet and try to escape to a supposed refuge. But no one escaped Boba Fett.

He would catch Helif Pois, it was only a matter of time and Boba Fett was a patient man.

-

Etek was unsure of the reception Helif would receive upon entering his village. His people were not particularly friendly to outsiders, but it wasn't like Helif was here by choice.

Turning his attention to Helif, he looked at her as she walked along the path, happy to take the lead. He found that interesting. Normally someone in an unfamiliar environment would follow someone who knew it, yet she didn't. It made him wonder. "Have you been here before?"

Helif stopped mid stride then turned to face him. "No. Why?"

Etek shrugged, "It just surprises me that you're content to walk the path first."

Helif's eyes narrowed slightly. "I'm a woman who takes charge of her own life."

Etek raised a brow at that. One minute she seemed weak and helpless, the next she was taking charge. He gave a nod, though not really understanding. "I see."

"I am armed you know." She stated pointed to the blaster strapped to her thigh.

"I noticed." Etek replied. "But just because a being carries a weapon, it doesn't necessarily mean they know how to use it."

Helif pulled her blaster from its holster so fast that Etek only had a moment to lift his own. She fired a bolt which only narrowly missed his helmeted head.

"You missed." Etek stated coldly.

"Next time you question my abilities, I won't." Helif stated as she re-holstered her weapon.

It was only then that Etek realised something. "Is that why you haven't asked what my name is?"

She looked at him in confusion.

Etek clarified for her. "It's easier to kill someone if you don't know their name."

Helif's features softened. "I wouldn't kill someone who's trying to help me."

"Then why haven't you asked my name?" Etek queried.

Helif shrugged. "I wasn't sure if it was appropriate with your armour on. For all I know you could be a droid under that helmet."

Etek laughed at that and removed his helmet. "See I'm flesh and blood."

"Human too," she said with a smile.

"You were expecting something else? I am Mandalorian after all. Well I'm at least a descendant." Etek said correcting himself.

Helif smiled. "Well then Mandalorian descendant, tell me your name."

He returned her smile, "My name is Marsden Etek, Private to the Dxun Mandalorians."

Helif stepped forward, her smile touched by shyness "Marsden. That's a nice name."

"Thanks." He nodded, not knowing what to say as she drew closer.

"You're very handsome, Marsden." She said, standing so close to him that he could feel her breath on his face as she spoke.

Marsden didn't know where to look, he felt thrilled but also unsure of how he should respond. Eventually he made himself look into her dark eyes and found himself captivated. He almost jumped as she touched his bristled cheek with her hand. She leant forward and rubbed her nose against his. "Thank you for finding me, Marsden."

Marsden was speechless. He wanted to say something to her but couldn't find the words. He closed his eyes for a moment and prayed that she'd kiss him. He wasn't disappointed. Her lips touched his briefly and he thought his heart would explode from the pleasure of it. But it was all too short. She stepped away from him before he could make it more deep and meaningful.

She smiled at him as he opened his eyes. For a moment he swore he saw more than satisfaction on her face. But it was gone before he could analyse it. "So is that Stormtrooper armour you're wearing?" She asked.

Etek was stunned. One minute she kissed him and then next she asked a question about his armour? To say he was confused was an understatement. "Ah yeah, it is. I modified it. I cut out the original optical relay and remodelled the helmet to look more like the Mandalorian ones. I'm sure you've seen Boba Fett's armour?" He queried.

Helif snorted, then tried to cover her response by placing her hand to her face. "My yes, he's a fearsome one that bounty hunter."

Etek smiled at that. "Yes he is, he can honourably wear that armour." Etek blinked as he got back on track. "Anyway my armour is very different to its original design. I've taken the weaker elements out and reinforced it with better ones."

Helif nodded, her eyes slightly glazed. "Fascinating."

"I'm boring you, aren't I?" Etek noticed.

"No, no, I'm just not all up on the ins and outs of armour." She answered.

Etek shook his head, seeing through her lie, "Very diplomatic of you."

She chuckled. "Okay so I'm not interested in the armour." Her look turned sultry. "However I am interested in the man inside the armour."

Etek couldn't help but blush. He'd never received this much female interest. He almost choked as he spoke. "You think I'm a man?"

"You're a soldier, not a boy. Therefore you're a man." Helif said once again stepping closer to him.

"But I'm only 19." He said, he'd never really felt that he'd officially crossed the barrier between boy and man yet Helif seemed to think so.

"Age doesn't matter, maturity does." Helif said as she circled him slowly. "You look all grown up to me. Your girlfriend must get shivers when she sees you."

"I… I don't have a girlfriend." He confided.

"Really? Are the girls blind in your village?" Helif said with disbelief.

"No, it's just that…" Etek started.

"There is no just. They obviously don't know what they're missing." Helif said standing before him once again. She wrapped her arms around his neck. "You are a handsome soldier and I'd be happy to say you were mine."

-

Pois was laying it on thick but it seemed to be working. Marsden was totally hers for the brainwashing. The poor guy was practically drowning in his own hormones. She couldn't have done a better job even if she was a Falleen.

She ran a hand through his hair as he attempted to respond to her. "You… you want to be with me?" He asked in astonishment.

She smiled at him. "Of course I do, how could a girl resist? But you'd have to be willing to come to Onderon with me. Would you leave Dxun for me?"

He blinked for a long minute. "I guess I could. But I'd be leaving everything I know."

Pois drew him closer to her. She rubbed her cheek against his and whispered in his ear. "But you'd be with me." Then she ran her nose along his ear and she felt him shiver.

He sighed with pleasure. "You're driving me nuts."

"In a good way I hope." She replied, still holding him.

"Oh yeah, it's a good way." He murmured as his arms surrounded her and he nuzzled her neck with kisses.

Pois did have to admit that she found Marsden handsome, but she really didn't have time for any more of this. She pushed away from him. "How long will it take to get back to your village?"

His brow furrowed as he thought, "About half an hour."

Pois stepped away from him but took his hand. "Let's hurry then."

Marsden pulled her up before she could go too far. "What's the rush?"

-

Boba Fett had caught the entire exchange between Helif Pois and Marsden Etek. So the little minx wanted to add a Mandalorian descendant to the mix. So be it. Fett was certain that the Mirialan would turn on her "partner" as soon as she got to Onderon. Not that it mattered. He would be waiting for them.

But in the meantime, he'd give Pois a reason to rush. Opening a pouch upon his belt, Boba Fett extracted a dart. He placed it in his wrist launcher, aimed, then fired. He hit Pois precisely in the neck. She gasped and pulled it out.

Fett could have captured Pois' then but he was enjoying toying with her as much as she enjoyed toying with Etek. However Fett had just added an element to ruin her game. Truth serum never boded well for a practiced liar.

-

Panic slithered through Pois' belly like an uncoiled snake. Fett had found her and it was likely she was poisoned at the best, tranquillised at the worst. Some may have found her choice in preference bizarre but Pois had her reasons. It was much better to be presented to a Hutt dead. They couldn't do you any further damage. Alive however was a totally different matter.

She had started to run before the dart, she'd removed, had even hit the ground. Etek was behind her, she could hear his footfalls even if they were quiet in comparison to hers. She knew she should slow down and use her advantages of stealth, but terror didn't listen to reason.

The path split into two and Pois started to deviate to the right. Etek grabbed her by the shirt sleave and shoved her to the left instead. She was about to protest until she saw the metal wall around Etek's village.

Once again he grabbed her roughly by her clothing, this time taking the lead. As he reached the gateway to his village he shouted a warning and the great doors closed behind them. It was only then that Etek brought her to a halt. "Who's after you?" He demanded.

"B-Bounty hunter," She admitted, then blinked wondering why she would give away such information.

"You have a bounty on your head?" Etek questioned, disbelief resounding in his words.

"Yes." She replied and wanted to kick herself. Why was she telling him this?

Etek removed his helmet as he looked at her darkly. "Who exactly is after you?"

Pois swallowed but she could feel the truth waiting to come out as soon as she opened her mouth. It was then that she realised that Fett had hit her with truth serum. At that moment she wanted to storm back out into the jungle and skin the hunter alive.

Etek took a step closer, he stood tall, trying to intimidate her with his larger size. "You haven't answered me yet."

"It's Boba Fett." She gasped, hating the fact that she couldn't lie.

That clearly shocked him, but he was unable to say anything more as his comrades gathered around them. "Where is the attack coming from?" the Commander of the group asked.

Etek shook his head, looking at Pois in disgust. "There's only one hostile. But he's not here to attack us."

The Commander looked annoyed. "Then why are we on alert?"

"It's Boba Fett." Etek informed him, though his eyes never left Pois. "He's after her."

At that moment, Pois did the only thing she could think of to save her skin, she pretended to faint.

-

Etek was very, very angry. As Pois fainted at his feet he contemplated slapping her into consciousness. But it was not in Etek's nature to hit a woman, no matter how infuriating she might be. Instead he stepped away. "She needs to go to medical. She got hit by some sort of dart."

"Sedative or poison?" the Commander asked.

Etek shrugged, "I have no idea."

"Very well then, Wellek carry her to the med bay and get Shilton to look her over." The Commander instructed.

Etek didn't want to look his Commander in the eye. He was not only furious at Pois but at himself. The Commander was in full armour which meant Etek would not have been able to see his face even if he were looking at it. "She is pretty. I can see how a young man could be deceived."

Etek looked up in surprised. He was about to comment but the Commander raised a hand to silence him.

"All of us have made mistakes when a pretty face is involved. Take some time to cool off, and then we can talk." The Commander instructed then walked away.

Etek felt a little less stupid and somewhat calmer at the Commanders words. He headed to his cabin and stalked inside. He would have thrown his helmet on the floor, but he'd put too much work into it to do something so silly. Instead he thumped his fist on the kitchen bench and let out a chain of curses.

How could he have been so blind? He knew the answer to that. He hadn't really had any romantic affairs with anyone in his village. The few girls that were his age were already in relationships. He'd never even flirted with a female. To finally find one that seemed interested in him had been so…so nice.

With a heavy sigh Etek sat down and ran a gloved hand through his hair. He wanted to believe that she hadn't lied about being interested in him, but somehow he knew that every word had been without truth. He felt his eyes sting with angry tears but he would not let them fall. He sat up with a sniff and started changing out of his armour. If Helif survived she was going to get the verbal interrogation of her life.

-

Pois lay on the metal bench breathing with the slowness of sleep. She might have lost the ability to lie but she could still act. She felt hands prodding at the puncture wound on her neck but she made sure to be as relaxed as an unconscious person would be.

She heard a humming noise and suddenly felt a warmth wash over her. It must have been some sort of body scan.

"I can't find any toxins in her system so I'll assume it's a sedative." She heard a deep male voice say.

"Fine let her sleep. Let me know when she wakes up." said another male voice. She was fairly certain it was the Commander's.

She heard one of them leave. The other walked over to her again, checking her pulse for the umpteenth time.

As a hand touched her forehead, Pois' eyes blinked open, her hands lashed out and grabbed the medic's head and slammed it into her knee. He dropped with a gasp. Pois went for her blaster but it was no longer in her holster. She was about to pick up a tray and smash it over the medic's head when she felt a hand wrap around her throat from behind. "Drop the tray," Said a male voice.

Pois complied. The medic stood up holding his bleeding nose. He glared at Pois for a moment then back at the Commander who held her. "There's certainly nothing wrong with her."

"I noticed that too." The Commander replied, his fingers tightening slightly. Pois winced at the pain but said nothing. "You've got some explaining to do young lady."

-

Boba Fett scaled the wall to the Mandalorian village with ease. He sat on the peak and viewed the settlement below. No one seemed interested in him, he would appear to be one of their own in his Mandalorian armour.

Dropping with the stealth and elegance of a cat, Fett made his way through the village with the easy pace of a predator. He had a purpose and this time it wasn't to find Pois.

-

Etek was finally starting to calm down. He'd taken a cold shower and now sat in only his cargo pants drinking an icy cold glass of water. His back was to the door but he knew it had opened.

Assuming it was the Commander, Etek poured another drink. "So what did you find out, Commander?"

As Etek turned to hand the drink to his guest he was surprised to see a man clad in genuine Mandalorian armour, more scarred then any worn in the village. "I beg your pardon, Boba Fett. I thought you were someone else."

Fett took the offered glass. "If you had expected me, I would be the surprised one."

A smiled tugged at the corner of Etek's lips. "So what exactly did she do?"

"She stole some valuable gems from Zorba the Hutt." Fett answered and lowered his feeding straw from his helmet and sipped the water.

"Zorba? Geez she's got some nerve." Etek shook his head in confusion.

"Indeed." Fett replied and retracted the feeding straw then placed the glass back on the table. "She's also going to try and escape this place and manipulate you to do it."

Etek blinked in confusion. "Why don't you capture her now?"

Fett shrugged, "I could but I want this one to learn a lesson before I take her in."

Etek turned his head to the side, "I thought she'd be wanted dead."

Fett shook his head. "The Hutt's prefer live capture for those who steal from them."

Etek felt his blood run cold. "They'll torture her, won't they."

"Without a doubt," Fett answered, no emotion touched his voice.

"Then what purpose is there in teaching her a lesson?" Etek asked.

Fett stood in the doorway. "You'll see."

-

Pois stared at her toes and pouted. The truth serum hadn't worn off and she'd told the Mandalorian Commander and the medic her story. Both were watching her with hard eyes. Her earlier attack hadn't won her any friends.

"So you stole from a Hutt? I'm amazed you're still alive." The Commander commented.

"Are you going to turn me in?" Pois asked coldly.

The Commander shrugged. "I don't think so. You're Fett's mark, I'm not about to get in his way."

Pois blinked and looked up from under her lashes. "So what are you going to do with me?"

The medic pulled a syringe from a cabinet. "I have an idea."

The Commander shook his head. "We leave her for Fett. Since Etek escorted you in, he can have the privilege of escorting you back out."

Pois would have smiled at the idea but she had some serious ground to win back. Getting Etek to trust her again would be a challenge.

-

Etek sat contemplating Fett's words. The man was certainly a mystery. Etek decided that he'd follow Fett's lead. He was feeling more at ease than he had previously. He was surprised when the Commander cleared his throat as he stood in the doorway.

Etek looked up, "Greetings Commander."

The Commander gave a nod in response. "Your lady friend is quite a piece of work."

The muscles in Etek's jaw clenched. "She's not my lady friend."

The Commander's tone softened. "I know that. However I do have a task for you."

"What would that be?" Etek asked warily.

"I want you to escort her out of the compound. Let Fett deal with her." The Commander told.

Etek's brow furrowed. "What about the wildlife?"

The Commander crossed his arms, "What about it?"

"She wouldn't survive out there for long." Etek pointed out.

"I seriously doubt it, soldier. She's more than she seems." The Commander pointed out.

Etek nodded in defeat, "That's for sure. Will we return her weapons to her?"

The Commander shook his head, "She's likely to shoot you in the back as soon as you leave her."

"We could always dump her on Onderon." Etek suggested, he didn't like the idea of Pois stalking the jungle.

"If you want to take her there, so be it. However you may just find yourself on Boba Fett's bad side." The Commander replied.

Etek smirked, "Somehow I think he'd merely see it as a further challenge to the hunt."

"Possibly," The Commander said, "But I don't want to lose one of my men."

Etek nodded, "I understand, Commander. But I have a feeling that Boba Fett will understand too."

The Commander stood silent for a moment, then nodded. "Very well, do what you think is best. Consider this a test."

"Shall do, Sir" Etek replied and gave the Commander a salute which was returned in kind. Then the Commander left Etek alone for the evening.

-

The morning was bright and sunny. It totally contradicted Etek's mood. He wasn't looking forward to seeing Pois again. Part of him dreaded the thought, another part of him was oddly thrilled by the idea. He wanted to quash the latter thought.

He dressed in his armour once again and headed outside. He went to the hanger bay to prep the shuttle he'd be taking to Onderon. He'd decided that was where he would deliver Pois to. She wanted to go there and he didn't want her here. It made perfect sense.

Etek was going through the final checks when he heard footsteps on the permicrete. He stopped as he saw two soldiers escorting Pois towards him, her hands bound. It seemed the Commander had assumed that Etek would fly her out. He smiled to himself at the thought.

"Leave her," Etek told his fellow soldiers and they complied. Etek took her bonds in his fist and pulled her close. "Looks like you get your wish. We're going to Onderon."

The corner of Pois' mouth lifted slightly but the smile didn't touch her eyes.

Etek didn't dwell on her reaction, he was still mad as hell. He was partly contemplating throwing her out of the hatch once they were in Onderon's orbit but he knew he wouldn't.

Dragging her behind him, Etek boarded the ship and shoved her roughly into the co-pilots chair. He strapped her seatbelt in and was very focused on avoiding contact with her.

Then he got into the pilot's chair and started the remaining flight checks. Beneath his helmet his jaw twitched, he was angry but he still wanted to look at her and that only infuriated him more. He let out a long breath and continued the checks.

-

Pois decided that silence was the best option for now. She could practically feel the angry waves rolling of Marsden. He was paying way too much attention to his pre-flight checks.

So it seemed that she still had an effect on him, even if it had changed from affection to rage. She could still work with that, although she was feeling a slight touch of regret. She mentally shook herself, now was not the time to get soft.

Finally Marsden finished his methodical checks and launched the shuttle. Pois waited until they were out of Dxun's orbit before she spoke. "I suppose you want an explanation?"

Marsden body was facing forward but she saw him tense at her words. She waited a moment but he didn't speak.

"My life has been a hard and complicated one." Pois began.

Marsden turned to look at her. "Theft from a Hutt is hardly the work of a hard done by peasant."

Pois nodded calmly. So he knew her situation, it wasn't surprising, his Commander would have informed him of her confession. This complicated things. "I started small but I found I had a talent, unfortunately it was one that there are laws against."

Marsden shook his head. "Admit it, you like what you do."

Pois smiled, "Yeah I do. It's a challenge and I live for the thrill of the moment." She looked up at Marsden, hoping her eyes locked with his beneath the helmet. "I'm sure you live for the moment too."

"I don't steal." Marsden pointed out.

"But you kill." Pois pointed out in turn.

Marsden leant forward sharply. "I have only killed in the heat of battle, never simply for the thrill of it."

"You want to kill me now though, don't you?" Pois said pointedly.

Marsden sat back. "No I don't."

Pois felt a wave of relief wash over her. Then she looked up at Marsden, "What do you want to do with me then?"

Once again Marsden was silent. Pois had put a touch of sultry in her tone but Marsden wasn't biting. She sat back into her chair and looked at the dark sky. "Do you ever wonder if there's a better life out there?"

"I'm a Mandalorian, I stay with my kind. Unlike you I understand loyalty." Marsden said sharply.

Pois blinked, that actually hurt her. She hadn't had any loyalty from anyone she'd ever know. Marsden seemed to believe that loyalty was something easily given. Such a thing had never been the case for her. "And unlike you, I've never had the luxury of loyalty."

"Going for the sympathy angle now, are you?" Marsden growled.

This time it was Pois who was feeling angry. "No, if I was I'd do a better job then that."

Marsden actually laughed. "Wow, I think you might actually be telling the truth."

Pois attempted to cross her arms in annoyance. "I've told the truth to you more often than you think."

Marsden's helmeted head turned slightly to the side. "Sure you did."

"Honest! I did. I only covered up about my small misadventure with Boba Fett." Pois pouted.

Again Marsden laughed, "Small misadventure? I don't think there's such a thing if Boba Fett is involved. You don't really think you'll get away from him, do you?"

Pois chewed her bottom lip. "No I don't think I can evade him forever. I just want to be able to avoid him until the bounty drops."

Marsden shook his head, "You stole from Zorba the Hutt, he's more likely to increase your bounty the longer you're missing."

Pois felt a chill go through her body. She knew what he said was true but she couldn't let go of the hope of escape. She moved her arms back and allowed her elbows to rub against the secret pocket in her vest that contained the stolen gems. "Sometimes our emotions get the best of us. I got too greedy."

Marsden's voice was quiet in reply. "Our emotions can mislead us."

Pois blinked, it seemed that she was actually getting through to Marsden and amazingly it was with the truth. She would never have believed such a thing in the past. "Marsden," she said quietly.

He turned to look at her.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have betrayed your trust." Pois said, actually meaning it.

Marsden snorted. "I'm sure you are."

Pois shook her head, "No, I didn't mean it they way you think. I am genuinely sorry. It's not often that I meet someone who is so… so…"

"Gullible," Marsden finished for her.

"No, I was going to say nice." Pois said and dipped her head feeling a little embarrassed by the admission.

Marsden's voice turned cold. "Lay off it. I'm sick of your chatter. Be silent until we reach Onderon."

Pois opened her mouth to protest, however Marsden took her chin in his gloved hand. His grip was not gentle. "I do have tape. I can force you to be quiet."

Pois closed her mouth and let out a harsh breath. Yet she remained silent. She would wait for him to talk.

-

Etek could still hear the echo of Pois saying his name. She'd said it so tenderly that he'd wanted to believe her apology. He'd been so close to caving in that he'd had to get her to stop talking.

Even now he was uncomfortably aware of her presence beside him. He wanted to talk to her. He wanted to believe that she really was sorry and thought he was nice. But Boba Fett couldn't be wrong. Helif Pois was not what she seemed.

Yet Etek wanted to forgive her. He wanted to believe that she wanted him, because as much as he wanted to deny it, he did want her. "Are you part Falleen?" He found himself asking.

"I thought you wanted me to remain silent?" Pois countered.

Etek glared at her beneath the helmet. "Just answer the question."

"No," she simply replied. "Why do you ask?"

"No reason." Etek said sternly.

He noticed Pois smile out of the corner of his eye. "What's so amusing?"

"You are. You're trying to justify why you find me attractive aren't you?" Pois smirked.

Etek shook his head, annoyed that she was so astute, though his question had been pretty obvious to read. He wished he'd remained silent. "Fine, yes I was wondering how I could I possibly be attracted to scum like you."

Pois looked astonished. "You think I'm scum? I'm offended by that."

"Good, now maybe you'll leave me alone." Etek snarled.

Pois looked him up and down. "If you wanted to get away from me you could have got one of your soldier buddies to drop me off. I'm sure you're not the only soldier on the planet that can fly a shuttle."

That made Etek bristle, he hit the autopilot button and stood up. He struck the release on her seatbelt then grabbed Pois by the shirt front and pulled her to her feet. "You've got a lot of nerve. You're the one tied up here."

"Physically maybe, but you're the one tied in knots inside. Admit it Marsden, you don't know what you want right now. There's a part of you that wants to throttle me and another that would like to do something more pleasurable." Pois told.

Etek dragged her away from the co-pilot chair and pushed her against the bulkhead. "Why do you taunt me? It's clear that your feelings aren't genuine."

Pois' face turned serious. "My feelings might not have been genuine in the beginning, but I do find you extremely attractive. I wish you'd take your helmet off."

"I'm sure you do. It'd make it a lot easier for you to attack me." Etek snarled.

Pois raised her tied wrists. "I haven't mastered the art of fighting with my hands bound."

"That's easy for you to say." Etek growled. He took off his helmet against his better judgement.

Pois' eyes softened as they roamed over the contours of his face. "You haven't shaved." She said raising her hands, her fingers touching his stubbled jaw.

He flinched away. "No I didn't. I was too angry."

Pois moved closer. "It suits you."

"Being angry?" Etek queried.

"No, having stubble. Makes you look more appealing." Pois said moving closer. The scent of her skin filled Etek's senses and as he attempted to move away Pois managed to lift her bound hands over his head and wrap them around his neck. She pulled him close and kissed him.

Etek felt as if his knees were going to buckle beneath him. She tasted so good and her lips were wild yet tender against his. He found himself returning her embrace and then her kiss. He quivered as she ran her tongue across his top lip.

He actually groaned as she pressed her body closer to his, her soft breasts pressed against his chest-plate. Etek felt his heart pound faster and wondered why he hadn't pursued a woman before now.

Feeling bold Etek slid his hand from Pois' waist to her firm backside, pressing her even closer to him. She responded by deepening their kiss and grinding her hips against him.

It was the proximity alert that brought Etek back from the brink of making a potentially fatal mistake. He removed Pois' arms from his neck and shoved her back into her seat as he returned to his and made the adjustments for landing.

"You haven't fastened my seatbelt." Pois said as she indicated to the harness hanging beside her.

Etek paused and then moved to strap her back in. He didn't miss the fact that she sat forward so his hand brushed against her breast as he locked the harness into place. Once he was done he returned to the pilots chair and prepared to land.

After a brief exchange with the Onderon authorities, Etek was designated a landing platform and lowered the shuttle with practiced ease.

"So what happens now?" Pois asked.

Etek sighed. "I take you to a motel, untie you and you do whatever you want to do."

A cheeky grin spread across Pois' face. "You say whatever I want to do, does that involve you?"

Etek felt himself blush at the suggestion. "You're trying to lead me astray."

"I think you want to be led." Pois told.

"Let's get this over with." Etek said as he stood. He released Pois' seatbelt and allowed her to stand.

She raised her hands. "You can untie me now."

Etek shook his head. "I don't think so. You're likely to steal the shuttle on me."

Pois smiled and shrugged. "Well I am a thief."

"Exactly, now let's go." Etek said as he pointed her towards the exit.

-

Slave I settled into place on the Onderon landing platform only a few places away from Etek's shuttle. The notorious bounty hunter had followed the small craft in, knowing that Etek would not reveal his pursuit. Even if the Mandalorian descendant did it wouldn't matter. Boba Fett always got his prey.

As the hatch opened Fett was greeted by a figure in a cloak, their face hidden by a large hood. "Greetings Boba Fett," a female voice said.

Fett gave a nod of his head in greetings. It had been a long time since their last meeting. "You received my message?"

"Yes, I did. I'll do as you instructed." The woman said.

"Good. I'll meet you later as discussed." The hooded woman walked away as Boba Fett headed into the city centre.

-

Janine held the cloak close to her face. Although she looked human she wasn't quite. Her origins were unknown except to those Imperial scientists who had put her together. Her skin was tinted a faint orange and her eyes were like those of a feline, though a deep green.

Her long black hair was pulled back into a long braid that was concealed beneath her cloak. Her taloned fingers and toes were covered, along with her short tail that hung to the middle of her thighs.

It had been some time ago that Janine had met Boba Fett. Initially she had been a bounty of his. She had been a prize to the Emperor and had been believed dead at the end of their exchange. However she had been restored to full health by one of the scientists who had been involved in her creation.

At her reawakening Janine had discovered she was not the only experiment the Empire had created. A male version of herself had been the first test subject, though he had been a volatile mix of unbalanced rage and violence. Janine had let him loose believing he was an innocent victim like herself. However this was not the case.

Janine had called upon Boba Fett to help her rid the galaxy of the horrible beast. Once this was accomplished Fett had offered her a job with him as an informant. Previously she had been located at Bespin, however she had relocated at Fett's request.

Now she was to assist Fett in his current bounty. She was not to take on Helif Pois but to monitor her movements and assist the Mandalorian descendant, Marsden Etek, if it was required.

She already knew that Etek had booked a motel room, presumably to rid himself of Pois. Janine made her way there through the busy streets, hoping that Pois wouldn't turn violent.

-

Pois felt a little shaken. She had Marsden under her thumb again but she didn't feel pleased about it. Nor was she proud of what she would have to do once she was free of her bonds. She needed to steal the shuttle from Marsden. She knew that she would lose his trust entirely if she did it, but she didn't really have any other choice.

She could try and steal another ship however it would be easier to steal Marsden's. She'd know where he was and only had one being to worry about. Stealing an unknown vessel provided a lot of possible problems, like if it was empty? Was the crew nearby? How many people were needed to fly the ship? And so on.

As Etek walked her to her motel room she felt a growing sense of dread. Part of her wanted to ask Marsden if he'd come with her, but she knew he wouldn't. He'd want to remain with his fellow Mandalorians.

Marsden opened the door and held it for her, allowing her to walk into the room. It was nothing flash but Pois didn't mind. She walked to the window and looked outside. They must have been at least four floors up, probably so she couldn't escape through the window as soon as he untied her wrists.

Pois turned to look at Marsden and raised her tied hands. "Is it time yet?"

He shut the door and walked towards her. Pois had expected him to cut the bonds loose, instead he untied the knot and unwound the rope. Pois shook her hands at her side, her fingers tingling slightly at lack of blood flow.

Marsden looped the rope around his hand neatly before fastening it tidily at his side. "Well you're free now. I'll leave you to your escape. Just don't plan on stealing my ship." He said pointing a stern finger at her.

Pois reached out and put a hand on his shoulder before he could turn away. "You don't have to go straight away."

Marsden stood silent before her. She couldn't read him at all with his face covered by his helmet. Even his body was still so she couldn't read that either.

"What are you thinking?" She asked.

Marsden's head tilted downward. "I was thinking I should go." His voice went quiet. "But I don't really want to."

That made Pois smile. "I was hoping you'd stay with me, even it is only for a little while."

Marsden didn't speak for a moment and Pois realised he was torn. If she was going to get him to stay she was going to have to be persuasive. "Do you want to see the gems?"

That got his attention, "You have them on you?"

"Of course, I didn't trust a simple hiding place." Pois told as she reached for her secret pocket and removed a small maroon velvet bag.

She went to open it as Marsden's gloved hand covered hers and pushed the bag away. "I don't want to see them. If you return them to the Hutt would your bounty be lifted?"

"To be honest, I hadn't thought of that. But the Hutt's aren't known for leniency, I'd be punished just because I pulled it off." Pois admitted.

Marsden nodded, "True." His gloved hand hesitantly rose to touch her cheek. "I should go."

Pois cover his hand with hers and intertwined their fingers. "Take off your helmet so I can see your eyes one last time."

With a nod, Marsden complied and removed his helmet. He looked very uncertain and there was a touch of distrust in his eyes. Pois didn't blame him but it made her feel worse, knowing what she had to do.

She moved towards him and captured his lips in a kiss. He returned it with as much passion as she. Pois then ran her hand up to his head, her fingers splaying through his hair. She began running kisses along his jaw, down his neck then back up to his ear. He groaned and Pois rubbed her cheek against his.

Marsden moved his hands to cradle her face and turned her head so she could look into his eyes. Pois wanted to cry, there was such a tender hope there and she was going to crush it. She rushed in to kiss him again and he stumbled back in surprise of her vigour.

She pressed up against him as he was now leaning back against a wall. Her hands roamed over his armoured body, releasing latches that held it together. He in return, removed her vest and was tugging at her shirt.

With a sense of dread Pois waited until she thought his attention was diverted, she reached for his blaster pistol in his thigh holster. She switched it to stun and shot Marsden in the foot.

A look of surprise and betrayal flashed over his face before he slumped to the ground. "I'm sorry, Marsden." She whispered quietly, feeling the worst she had ever felt in her life. She had the opportunity to finally trust someone and have someone trust her and she'd destroyed it.

She stood for a moment just looking at Marsden, wishing that things had been different. "Why didn't I meet you earlier in my life?" She said quietly before removing his armour. She'd need it to successfully steal his shuttle with the least suspicion.

-

Janine had been standing on the balcony. The couple inside had been so caught up in their own business that they hadn't even noticed her standing there. She had already contacted Fett to let him know of the situation. Now it was her time to make a move.

With a gloved finger, Janine activated the balcony door. As she had suspected, Pois hadn't shot to kill. Etek was breathing.

Janine pulled a stimulant patch from a pouch on her belt. She applied it to Etek's bare arm and watched as he came to with a sharp snort. He glared at her for a moment before turning curious.

"I am Janine. I've come on Boba Fett's behalf." She told simply.

"I thought Fett worked alone." Etek replied as he looked around.

"He does, but even the best bounty hunter needs informants." Janine said as she slipped off her backpack and started removing its contents.

Etek tried to stand but he was still a little groggy. Janine took his arm and drew it across her shoulders to assist him. "I've brought some goodies, on the boss's behalf."

Etek looked confused, but he liked the idea of goodies from Boba Fett. "So let's see them."

Janine smiled, "Ah a man of my own heart." She removed a dark flight suit with several armoured plates and matching helmet then handed it to Etek. Next she pulled the best items from the bag, genuine Mandalorian gauntlets.

Etek gasped, "Are those for me?"

Janine grinned, "They sure are. Boba was impressed when he saw how you'd modified your own armour. He thought you'd appreciate these."

Etek picked them up with awe. He looked over them as if he'd been bestowed with the most precious gift in the universe. "Wow, these are amazing."

"And they are now yours." Janine told.

-

Pois walked through the streets with an easy gait in Etek's armour, but her mind was swirling with turmoil. She wanted to go back and wait for Marsden to come to and apologise, but the problem was if she did that she was cutting into valuable time. She stopped several times in her confusion, but the need to survive overrode the need to go back to Marsden.

She found it relatively easy to get into the docking bay. She paused in mid stride as she saw Slave I further down the hanger. In a moment she was running for the shuttle, she opened the hatch in a fluster and climbed aboard. She quickly locked the hatch and ran for the cockpit. She was in the chair, the helmet in her hands for less than a second before she felt the cold metal of a blaster barrel touch her temple.

"I see you betrayed Etek as I suspected." Fett said dryly.

"It was the only way to escape cleanly." Pois protested.

Fett tilted his head slightly, "No it wasn't. It was the easiest for you."

"Easiest? No you're wrong." Pois cried, "I betrayed the only person who I had a chance with."

If Fett had been capable of it, he would have laughed. "I've seen your type many times before. You betray everyone."

"No, no it's not true! No one gave me a chance! My life has been nothing but pain." Pois strained in desperation.

Fett snorted, "Perhaps."

Pois dug around her thigh pocket and pulled the bag of gems out. "Take these back to Zorba. But please don't take me back, or at least not alive."

"You're not worth anything dead." Fett replied coldly.

Their exchange was cut short as the hatch doorway opened. Pois couldn't see around the bulkhead but she didn't need to. "Up," Fett commanded.

She did as she was told as the blaster barrel was still firmly pressed against her head. She walked out into the belly of the shuttle and saw a woman in a robe and a man in armour. She could tell it was Etek simply from his posture.

Tears ran down Pois' face. She wanted to say sorry and she wanted to escape.

"The shuttle is yours Etek." Fett said simply.

Etek nodded, "Thanks for the gauntlets."

Fett gave a nod in return, "No problem."

"You were in with Fett?" Pois said with appalling betrayal.

Etek shrugged, "He told me what to expect and you didn't deviate from that path."

Pois' bottom lip quivered, "But I thought…"

"You thought that I wanted to be with you? Well if you had a heart that would have been a possibility. But clearly you don't." Etek stated with a cold finality.

"I do. I'm sorry. I wanted to go back for you. But…" Pois' plead was cut short as Fett shoved her out the door and directed her to his ship.

-

Etek stood quietly as Pois was taken away by Boba Fett. His head dropped once she was out of sight. He'd played it cool, but the truth was he was bleeding inside. She'd ripped his heart out and he didn't know what to do.

Janine stood beside him quietly before turning to him and giving him a comforting hug. "Do not despair, my friend." She said quietly.

Etek let her hold him. He needed the comfort. "I was hoping I'd be wrong."

"You might be yet." Janine replied enigmatically.

-

Pois sat in her cell crying. Her life was in a shamble, at least what was left of her life. She'd made the wrong choice in betraying Etek for a second time. She felt as if something inside her had died when she realised he'd been co-operating with Boba Fett.

Slave I hummed with the noises of hyperspace and Pois knew her time was indeed short. She was dreading the meeting with Zorba but in truth he couldn't torture her anymore than what she'd already done to herself.

She touched the thigh pocket which had held her stolen gems. Fett had taken them off her as soon as they boarded.

Etek's helmet sat by her side, she picked it up and placed it on her head and breathed in the remanent of his scent. She had to remember that he had betrayed her too.

But she kept remembering what he said, "You thought that I wanted to be with you? Well if you had a heart that would have been a possibility. But clearly you don't." If she had a heart? She did but she had acted like she didn't and now it was broken and it was her own fault.

She heard the light footfalls of Fett's feet as he climbed down from the cockpit. She was glad she had Etek's helmet on she didn't want him seeing just how upset she was.

Fett approached her cell with a smock in his hand. "Etek will need his armour back. I suggest you change." He said simply and tossed the smock at her. Then he turned and left. Pois let out a sigh and got changed. She piled Marsden's armour lovingly in a pile and waited for the journey to end.

---

Zorba the Hutt sat in his amphitheatre with his servants, guests and entertainers. Boba Fett strode through them all with Pois bound in chains behind him. The Hutt liked a display of the down-trodden and Fett had learnt many years ago that it was worth his while to entertain a trivial client.

Zorba clapped his flabby little hands together as he saw the notorious bounty hunter. His glee only increased as he saw Pois in tow. "So Bounty Hunter, you have brought me the thief finally."

Fett gave a simple nod in greeting. "The time taken was within your given period."

"Perhaps," Zorba said, "but do you have my precious gems?"

Fett lifted the velvet bag and jiggled it so the Hutt could hear the stones rattle.

"Give them to me." Zorba instructed.

"Not until I'm paid." Fett replied, he was no fool when it came to Hutt dealings.

The Hutt grumbled but didn't object. "Very well, the two hundred thousand credits shall be paid."

"It was four hundred thousand, Zorba." Fett corrected.

"Oh, no I'm sure it was two. But perhaps you are right it must have been three hundred thousand." Zorba garbled.

Fett tilted his head to the side and placed the velvet bag back into his utility belt pouch. "You pay me or I go with what I came with."

"I'm deeply insulted that you try and push me for more money than we agreed on." Zorba huffed.

Fett fingered the trigger of his blaster in an intimidating manner. "You are forgetful. The negotiated terms were four hundred thousand for the gems and the thief. Two hundred thousand was for the return of one alone."

Zorba rubbed his chin as if in thought. "This does sound familiar to me. Let me see the gems."

"Deposit the money and they are yours once more." Fett replied coldly.

"How do I know they are mine if you don't show me?" Zorba exclaimed.

"My reputation alone should assure you." Fett said sharply.

The Hutt couldn't argue with that. But he, like all Hutts, was loath to part with his credits. "Let's make a deal then."

Of course, Fett had expected this. "The deal was already made."

"That was just a pre-negotiation. Let us settle on a final price." Zorba continued on. "We'll leave it at two hundred thousand for the gems, as for the girl, how about seventy five thousand?"

"No." Fett said simply.

"But she is a pathetic shadow of the thief I saw. Look at her, in rags no less." Zorba spat.

Pois stood with her head down and despair in her heart. She was no challenge for a Hutt wanting to break a high spirited criminal. He was displeased with such a sorry prize.

"You wanted her broken, that I have done already." Fett told.

Zorba looked annoyed, "I wanted to do further but it seems you were too efficient."

"I did only what you asked." Fett replied.

Zorba curled his fat lip in disgust. "Fine, have your four hundred thousand. But I am not pleased and my associates will hear about this."

Fett didn't react he was used to empty threats from the Hutts. They wouldn't hire anyone else for the troublesome jobs, no one could compete with him in those stakes.

Once the credits were safely deposited into his account, Boba Fett handed over the gems and Helif Pois.

"Get her out of my sight!" Zorba growled at a pair of his guards who gladly dragged Pois away.

Boba Fett gave a false nod of respect to the Hutt and left Helif Pois to her fate.

-

It was raining when Etek landed the shuttle back on Dxun. It was only a light shower and didn't affect the shuttle's ability to land.

As Etek disembarked he was greeted by the Commander. "How did it go?" the Commander asked.

"She's gone." Etek replied simply.

"There's more to it than that, isn't there?" the Commander asked, but it was more an acknowledgement of fact than anything else.

"Fett came for her," Etek stated.

The Commander nodded his understanding, "I see. Was he annoyed at our interference?"

Etek shook his head, "No. He saw me before we left Dxun. He actually rewarded me with these." Etek said as he displayed his new gauntlets and armour.

The Commander admired the dark orange gauntlets that were in fine shape. The armour was also of high quality. The body armour was a dusky rust colour while the flight suit was a dark green. The helmet was a stylised version of the Mandalorian helmet Fett wore. "You must be honoured to receive such gifts from Boba Fett."

Etek nodded, "I am. I was also surprised."

"No doubt, Boba Fett is not known for his generosity." The Commander pointed out.

Again Etek nodded.

"What is wrong, Marsden?" The Commander asked.

Etek noticed that the Commander used his first name, it was an uncommon occurrence. "I feel used and betrayed, but I know I shouldn't."

"You cared for her, that's why it hurts." The Commander told.

Etek nodded, taking in the Commander's advice but it didn't sooth his ache. "I guess this is what you meant by a test?"

The Commander shrugged, "Life is a test, soldier. You did what you thought was right, never doubt your instincts."

Etek looked at his gauntlets again and it lifted his spirits to a degree but not enough.

"The best thing to do is get on with things. We've got another job." The Commander informed him.

Etek looked up, but didn't feel his usual enthusiasm for such an occasion.

The Commander patted him on the shoulder, "You'll like this one. It's for Zorba the Hutt."

Etek immediately straightened up. "What? I mean what are we doing?"

"Zorba's got some renegade smugglers he wants brought in. They stole a few shipments of spice off him. As you can image, Zorba wants compensation." The Commander told.

Etek smirked beneath his helmet, "Typical Hutt."

"So are you coming along?" The Commander asked.

"I wouldn't miss it," Etek answered.

-

Helif Pois lay curled in a ball on the cold stone floor of her cell. It was dark, dank and smelt of faeces and vomit. Pois had her arms wrapped around her legs, holding herself as she tried to shut out the pain. The smock she had been wearing was torn to shreds across her back where she'd been whipped. Her fingers and toes bled from having the nails ripped out and her face was a mottle of blue and black bruises.

Her only saving grace was the fact that she was alone in her cell. Dried tears had left clean marks on her dirt covered face. Her dark hair was messily pulled from her ponytail as she sobbed without any tears. Death seemed liked a distant friend who couldn't come soon enough.

The one thing that kept running through her mind was why she had been stupid enough to leave Marsden Etek behind. She should have stayed with him instead of stealing his ship, things would have worked out for the better. She dreamed of a reality that could have been. It was the only thing that held her battered mind and body together.

The sound of the metal door squealing open swept away her thoughts as her eyes opened widely in horror. She didn't dare think of what was to come next. She only prayed that death would come sooner rather than later.

-

There was nothing like deep space fighting to cleanse one's mind. Etek concentrated hard as he flew his small fighter after one of the five smuggler vessels.

His Wing Commander gave him instructions to flank the nearest vessel as their larger ships disabled her.

The swarm of his comrades' ships warmed Etek with pride. His village along with three others had combined to pull this job off. Their Mandalore was overseeing the whole operation. To be part of such a mission was an honour.

But it was over all too quickly. The smugglers were no match for a bunch of battle-hardened Mandalorians. Although Etek was hardly a veteran of such battles, he felt more than capable of supporting his fellow Mandalorian descendants.

Before long they were at Zorba's lair bringing in the multitude of smugglers and crew from their large ships. The Commander had instructed his squad to take the smugglers to the dungeons to receive their penalties. Etek thought it a rather interesting use of words.

Etek escorted a number of smugglers to their cells before he noticed a few of his fellow soldiers pointing at one particular cell. As Etek walked passed them he overheard them saying something about the occupant being dead. He decided he'd have a better look on his return.

After passing the captive smuggler on to one of Zorba's thugs, Etek had a chance to look in the cell. He saw a being curled in a loose ball, their tattered clothing shredded to almost nothing. Their dark hair was mattered and hung over their face. Dried pools of blood were stained on the floor. Etek was unsure if they belonged to the pitiful being inside the cell or to some previous occupants. Etek was about to move on when the being spoke. "Marsden…" It croaked.

Etek stepped back in shock. The mess sat up and Etek was able to see it was a woman. He tilted his head to the side and took a step closer. The dark hair moved away from her face enough for Etek to see the dark eyes underneath. "Helif?" he asked with horror.

"Yes," she hissed through split lips before dropping back to the floor.

Etek blinked, his heart thundering in his chest. This could not be the woman who had been captured by Boba Fett. He did not want to accept that Zorba the Hutt had inflicted so much damage to the woman who had been so strong in spirit and will.

At that moment a fellow soldier stopped by his side. "I think she'd dead."

Etek paused as he realised it was the Commander by his side. He was about to speak but the Commander raised a hand to silence him. "Guard!" the Commander called.

A hefty Zabrak guard came sauntering their way. "What do you want, Mandalorian?"

The Commander pointed into the cell. "I think that one is dead."

The Zabrak peered into the cell with a sneer. "About time, she's endured a lot of punishment. I'm amazed she didn't bite the dust earlier on."

The Commander shrugged and looked at Etek, "I guess she had something to keep her going."

The Zabrak shrugged, "Not anymore it would seem. I'll call someone to clean this up."

The Commander shook his head, "We can take her off your hands, we've got some bodies to dispose of anyway."

The Zabrak looked uncertain. "Zorba likes to ensure that the dead are dead."

The Commander pointed a finger at the unmoving lump, "Does she look alive to you?"

Taking a closer look the Zabrak then nodded, "Fine get rid of her, it's one less we've got to deal with."

The Zabrak opened the door and Etek was in there before the guard could change his mind, he just prayed that Pois didn't moan in pain when he picked her up. He put one arm under her knees before hefting her over his shoulder. He decided it was best to act as though she were nothing more than another body.

Pois didn't make a sound and Etek was afraid that she might actually be dead. He carried her out of the cell and back to his Commander's ship. The last of the smugglers had been taken into the Hutt's custody so it was only a matter of time before the Mandalorians headed home to Dxun.

Etek wanted to put Pois into a Bacta Tank but if the Hutt or his guards wanted to do a spot search they'd soon realise that Pois wasn't dead. Instead he slipped her into one of the metal cases for the dead. He marked the box with a red X and went back to his ship.

-

The flight home was a long one for Etek. His mind kept wandering to thoughts of Pois in that metal case, hoping she was able to survive the trip back to Dxun.

It wasn't until he was back on the ground that Etek was able to find out the status of Pois. The boxes were being unloaded as he headed to the larger ship. The hanger was an underground haven that masked the number of ships the Mandalorian descendants actually had.

When Etek saw the box with the red X on it, he ran towards it. He pushed his fellow soldiers aside to open it and found it empty. He looked up in distress. "What happened to the body that was in this case?"

One of the other soldiers shrugged, "Dunno, maybe they dumped the bodies before the hyperspace jump."

The thought sent a chill through Etek, "Where's the Commander?"

"I think he went to see the medic." The soldier replied.

Etek ran the whole way. He was relieved to see Helif floating in one of the eight Bacta Tanks with her eyes closed.

"I didn't think it'd take you long to get here." The Commander remarked.

Shilton was monitoring Pois although he was clearly displeased about it. He was sporting a broken nose from Pois' earlier attack on him.

"How is she?" Etek asked.

Shilton shrugged, "Alive."

"I'd like an actual answer." Etek growled.

Shilton rolled his eyes, "Fine. She's got three broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, various lacerations to her back, a broken arm and heavy bruising over most of her body. Oh did I mention that she's missing all her finger nails and toe nails."

Etek felt ill, he also felt partially responsible. However it had been Helif's decision to steal his ship that had resulted in her current state. "How long will it take her to heal?"

Shilton shrugged, "Probably a few weeks. I haven't done a full analysis. She could have internal damage."

Etek's whole posture sagged. "When will you know for sure?"

"Give me a few hours and I should be able to tell you," Shilton told as he adjusted the settings on the Bacta tank.

Etek looked up at Pois' floating figure. She certainly was a mess. Her face was distorted from the swelling and bruising. Her hands and feet were also swollen while the rest of her was either bruised or lacerated. Despite her repeated betrayals Etek really did care for her. He didn't want her to die, he wanted her to live.

Etek sat down on one of the beds, "I'll wait here until you get the results." He told Shilton.

The medic looks slightly surprised but nodded, "Very well then."

-

Etek awoke with a start as he looked up to see that he had been woken by Shilton. He wondered for a moment why he was in the Med Bay then he looked at the Bacta tanks and remembered. "What's the verdict?" Etek asked.

Shilton rubbed his chin, "Well other than what I told you initially, she's got some swelling around her kidneys and she's undernourished. I don't think they were feeding her, which isn't surprising under the circumstances."

Etek nodded glad that things weren't worse but still not happy. "Will she be okay?" He asked.

"Yeah, she'll heal but it will take time. She can stay in the Bacta tank for a week or so to assist with the healing process but it'll be a while before she's back to her charming self." Shilton said with a touch of jest.

Etek smiled beneath his helmet. "Well I guess I should go home and clean up."

"And you should get some real sleep," Shilton informed Etek as he shoed him out the door. "She's not going anywhere fast."

-

A week passed and Helif Pois didn't seem to be getting any better. Shilton decided to leave her in the Bacta tank for another week and Etek found himself consumed with concern. He was worried that Shilton had missed something but the medic assured him all was fine. "Some people just heal faster than others," he'd said. Etek took little comfort in this and spent his every waking hour, beyond his duties, sitting by Helif's side.

He talked to her unconscious floating form, telling her about his day or memories from his past. He told her that she was getting better and that it wouldn't be long before she was out of the Bacta tank and could eat real food.

Etek spent enough time to see Helif's bruises fade from black to blue, then grey to green and then finally to the dull yellow they were now. Yet she was still unconscious.

Etek was making his way back to his cabin for a sleep when he noticed that the door was open. He was tired but lifted his blaster and stepped in the doorway. He was surprised to see Boba Fett sitting on his sofa. "What are you doing here?" Etek asked with a touch of shock.

"I came to return your armour," Fett replied as he pointed to the neat pile on the kitchen counter.

"Is that all?" Etek asked, hoping that Fett hadn't returned to take Pois back to Zorba.

"No," Fett answered as he stood. "You stole from a Hutt."

Etek stood his ground, "He thought she was dead anyway."

Fett stepped forward, "You're as bad as she is."

Etek started to say something when Fett dangled a pouch before his face. "Give this to her."

"What is it?" Etek growled.

"It's a rare herb that's extremely powerful for healing." Fett told.

Etek was suddenly baffled, "Why are you doing this?"

"It takes guts to steal from a Hutt when you're not a thief." Fett stated.

"But I thought…" Etek started.

"Don't think, just take it and be grateful." With that Fett patted him on shoulder then turned to leave.

"Wait," Etek said and Boba Fett paused. "Thank you."

Fett gave a nod in return, "Put the herbs in her Bacta tank." With that said he left Etek's cabin.


At Fett's departure Etek immediately returned to the Med Bay and emptied the pouch's contents into Helif's Bacta tank. He then stood before it, his hand pressed to the glass. "I hope this helps you, Helif. I'll see you in the morning."

-

Etek woke late the next morning and was thankful he didn't have patrol duty. He dressed casually and considered having a shave but couldn't be bothered. He walked his usual path to the Med Bay and was startled to see that Helif's Bacta tank was empty. He opened his mouth to ask Shilton where she was when he spotted her in a nearby bed.

"You're awake!" Etek grinned as he saw Helif squint at him.

"Yeah, I feel like I've been trampled on by a bantha." Helif replied wearily.

Etek gently took her hand in his, "I wasn't sure if you'd ever wake up."

The corner of Helif's lips turned upward slightly, "I didn't want to at one stage."

Etek tenderly pushed a lock of her hair away from her face. Her dotted black markings were easy to see now that the bruising had faded. "I'm glad you're still here."

"I wasn't sure if you would be," Helif told as she fought to keep her eyes open.

"You should sleep," Etek told her as he observed her pretty face.

"I know, but you're here," Helif said with real meaning.

Etek smiled, "I'll still be here when you wake up."

With that, Helif Pois closed her eyes and dreamed of a brighter future where the only thing she intended to steal was Marsden Etek's heart.

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