Lorahns was a stifling hot planet. The climate was uncomfortably warm for most setinent beings and this inclimate weather was made worse by the religious oligarchy which had all but taken control of the planet. The Order of Nook Nadar had been in control for thirteen standard years. This was just long enough for corruption to infiltrate the order. The originators of the religion had all been imprisoned or killed in factor of a more zealous sect to take over. They no longer wished for peaceful coexistence with those they branded "heretics", they now wanted to convert or kill the heretics. One of these heretics was named Niviek âYppiks. He arose amid the tumultuous reign of High Priest Jonk Dank. Niviek was a fiery speaker who always prefaced his outright disgust with the orderâs corruption by saying that he did not think religious freedom was a bad thing, but rather a right that must be protected. He also said religion had no place in the government of any planet and that the most corrupt of Lorahnâs officials was High Priest Dank. Jonk Dank immediately issued a price on âYippiks head of one half million credits, the third highest bounty in recorded history. Nearly every bounty hunter in the galaxy was on the trail of âYppiks, but only one was personally commissioned to do so.
Deep inside the palace of Nook Nadar, dark acts were being committed in the name of a God that never asked them to be done. Heretics were being burned alive for failure of faith, others were being ripped apart for cheating on the tithes paid to the church. Some of the tortured were children, it was always easy to convert parents when they saw a vibroblade coming near their childâs eye.
Amid all this torture of body and spirit sat on his throne High Priest Jonk Dank. He wore expensive robes woven of finest imported Bantha hair. His pale blue skin was scrubbed clean and his clawed nails were sharpened to a razor edge. His long, dark hair was pulled into a ponytail which lay over his right shoulder. He, like all the FFibâs on Lorahns had large eyes that appeared orange when the light hit them. He listened to the sweet screams of misery and smiled, showing needle like sharp teeth. It was a symphony of salvation, a harmony of the holy. He looked and listened and knew that it was good. He know his god, Nook Nadar, would be pleased.
"Yes my Lord, I do thy work, in thy name." he said.
A dark, metal blue 3PO droid approached the throne and said in a stuffy voice, "Sir, an incoming craft is moving towards the palace. It is an older craft, but it is approaching very rapidly."
"Good. That will be my hunter. Bring him to me."
"Yes sir." the droid said and hurried about itâs business.
The Slave 1 moved out of orbit and through the atmosphere of Lorahns. The ship was an older, Firespray craft, but itâs owner had modified it heavily. The pilot approached the palace silently. He fed the proper clearance codes to the palace security and was told to land on platform 3-C-9. The craft settled down on what appeared to be itâs back. A loading ramp extended out of the shipâs aft and a man strode down the length of it. He was met by the High Priestâs droid who asked his name. The man told him and the droid quickly led him to the main audience chamber.
"Please wait here. the High Priest prefers to have guests announced."
The man said nothing, but gave a slight nod as the droid entered the room.
"Your Excellency?" the droid asked as it entered.
The throne slowly revolved away from itâs view of the heretic cooking pits and Jonk Dank said, "Yes?"
"Your bounty hunter has arrived. I introduce...Boba Fett."
The doors opened and a man wearing grey Mandolorian combat armor strode in. The armor completely covered him, but his visor never left the High Priest. He strode past the guards and torturers (as well as the victims) as if they were meaningless to him. Dank liked to impress or intimidate his guests with the gruesome display of his power, but it seemed to have neither effect on Boba Fett. The armor made him look both cocky and invincible. On closer inspection though, the armor was badly beaten and full of scrapes and blemishes, telling a story of past battles that the hunter himself had no need or desire to tell.
He stopped before the throne and neither bowed nor even lowered his head. He simply kept looking straight at the High Priest.
"Boba Fett," Dank began, breaking the sanctity of the moment, "Your reputation proceeds you."
"I know." the hunter said. He spoke in Basic, giving no clue to his race or even species. His voice was harsh, and barely above a whisper. Dank found it displeasureable.
"I have summoned you here to retrieve a heretic named Neviek âYippeks. He has spoken openly about his hatred for all religions and has burned many synagogues..." Dank lied.
"His past does not interest me, only his future." Fett interrupted, "Do you want him?"
It seemed a strange question, "Yes." Dank answered.
"How much are you willing to pay?"
"The bounty is for one half million credits. You know that."
"Dead or alive?"
"Alive if possible, dead if necessary. We do want the body intact though."
"So that we can fit it with a cybernetic uplink that will force him to convert weather or not he is dead. Think of all the converts we will have when they see their leader, risen from the grave telling them we were right."
"Your religion does not concern me."
"So, Fett, what religion do the Mandalorians follow?" Dank asked, showing Fett that he wasnât a stuffy, religious soothsayer. Dank had been a con artist and scoundrel for years before getting into the religion scams, where the real money and power were.
The dark protocol droid entered the room and said, "All the information we have on âYippeks last known where abouts have been downloaded into your shipâs computer bounty hunter."
Fett turned to exit and Dank said, "You never answered my question."
Fett never turned his head as he made his way out the door, "Who said I was a Mandolorian?"
Niviek âYppiks was an intelligent Ffib. He had always been the questioning kind and when it came to the religion of his homeworld, it was no different. Only this time he wasnât taking on Ffib child abusers or trying to stop the import of Kessel and the more potent Ryloth spice. He was talking about the separation of church and state. An idea that was not alien on most systems in the galaxy. It was an issue which had first made him an exile and an outcast, but now made him wanted criminal. He sat in his hotel room, thinking of a way to get out of this dilemma. There didnât seem to be a way. Dank would never forgive Nivek for exposing him for the fraud he was. It really didnât matter, the masses were still imprisoned under Dankâs dark rule.
There was a knocking on the door. Nivek cursed himself for being so adamantly against the use of blasters and other weapons. It would be nice to have at least a vibroblade to draw right now. If there was one thing Nivek had learned in this days a fugitive, it was that not all creatures held life as dearly as he did.
"Who is it?" he asked, trying to sound menacing, but coming off more as frightened.
"Who do you think?" a comforting, gentle, yet agitated voice asked back from behind the door.
âYppiks opened the door to see a full 1.8 meters of solid Ithorian standing before him. Momaw Nodon, despite his appearance, was as mild a Tatooine winter. The Ithorianâs were nicknamed "hammerheads" for their oddly shaped craniums. With their long, spindly fingers, huge elephantine feet, and slanted eyes, they looked like they could perform dental surgery on a kryat dragon. Ithorians were peaceful and cared for all living creatures. They worshipped their lush green planet as their God. (a worth while one, Nivek thought. He didnât think the sandpeople or womprats indigenous to this sorry planet were even aware other life existed.) Nodan had been a priest on his home world until he had spoken out against the Empire. The other leaders of the planet had exiled him to this pathetic planet where he now worked for the Rebellion as a spy. He had lost most of his faith in all the rulers of sentients, but still loved his planet-God. Nivek knew the only hope for him was to join the Rebel Alliance to recieve itâs blanket of safety. It was his only hope of escaping the all too willing to accept the Empire Order of Nook Nadar.
"So, what is the word on the street?" Nivek asked.
"Itâs worse than you thought." Momaw said in his native language. Nivek didnât mind, he had studied a number of languages.
"What do you mean?"
"High Priest Dank has put a bounty on your head for a half million credits."
"A half a million! Do you realize how many families he will have to starve to fill the coffers like that?"
"Donât worry, it gets worse."
"Yes. It seems that not only will you have all the two-bit punks coming after you, but Dank has commissioned Boba Fett himself to hunt you down."
"Boba Fett? Who is that?"
"You have never heard of Boba Fett?"
"He is the most notorious bounty hunter in the galaxy. Vader himself sometimes uses him. People donât evade Fett, they simply waste time until he gives the hunt his full attention."
"Great." âYippeks stated.
"How long have you been on Tatooine?"
"About two standard months." Nivek said.
"All right...given time to get to Lorahns...figure out where you were headed...get here. Boba Fett should either kill you or return you to Lorahns in the next two days."
"That is comforting."
"But the Rebellion will help you. Iâm sure of it. When the Empire falls and the Republic is once more again in power, the crimes against life that Dank has caused will not go unpunished.
"Good. Itâs satisfying to know that someone else can appreciate that things Iâve tried to teach my countrymen."
"Yes. You stay here. Iâll go and tell my contact that we will need a transport down here immediately."
"Canât I go with you? It seems it would be safer."
"No. I canât jeopardize my standing here for anyone. If Iâm seen with you, then any one with a brain could figure out Iâm with the Alliance."
"Why is that?"
"Because, everyone knows you are trying to contact the Rebels. Itâs your only hope. Plus, you are much safer here than out on the street."
Momaw turned to leave, then suddenly looked at Nivek, "You sure you wonât take the hold out blaster Iâve got? Just for insurance?"
Nivek thought about it, then said, "No. If I donât hold true to my beliefs, the that bounty on my head isnât even justified."
"Many would say you have found the answer to your problem. I am not among them. Never lose courage Nivek." Momaw said and exited the room.
"Courage." Nivek agreed.
Nivek lay down on his bed to ponder as he heard Momawâs heavy footfalls all the way down to the street. He always found it had an amazing calming effect on him to just ponder. Sometimes on everything, sometimes on nothing. This time however, he barely got a chance to get started before a short Corellian man crashed through Nivekâs closed, shuttered window. He stood and Nivek saw he was dressed in a dirty flight suit and a long over coat which reach down to the middle of his thighs. He reached for his blaster on his hip and drew it in one fluid motion. His grizzled, stubbled face was marked by a deep scar that started on his forehead and traveled across his nose and over his right cheek. His hair was short, but stood up at odd angles over his head.
"Boba Fett?" Nivek asked.
"No. My name is Sklar. I beat Boba Fett to you eh? Well, good enough. Iâve earned that half a million. You are coming with me."
Sklar wasnât very good at conversation Nivek found out. He was very good at saying "Shut up", "Keep moving", and "Enough talk", but that was about it. They made their way to the hanger bay where Sklarâs ship was docked. It was a hulk of a ship that looked held together by hope and electrical tape.
"Letâs go." Sklar said as he pressed a button on his belt and the loading platform began to lower.
Boba Fett stepped out of Sklarâs ship.
Sklar didnât notice the hunter until Fett was out of his ship and on the ground. He nearly leaped out of his skin when he saw Fett. He attempted to reach for his blaster (much more shakily than he had in the room, Nivek noticed) Boba Fett had his blaster rifle unslung and pointed at Sklar before the less experienced bounty hunter even had the top strap undone.
"What are you doing here?" Sklar asked, sounding scared and full of indignation.
"Fulfilling my contract." Boba Fett said. His voice was so cruel, so cold, that Nivek shivered. Their would be no debate or discussion with that voice.
"But what about the bounty hunterâs code? You canât interfere with me! I captured him first."
"You interfered with my contract. You are in violation. I will only ask this once, so try to pay attention. Do you want to live, or do you want to argue?"
Sklar looked like a child who had been told it was well past his bed time. Nivek got a sense that is Sklar did not see how senseless it was to argue with this man, it would mean far worse circumstances than a spanking or loss of holocube privileges. It might mean this young manâs death.
Sklar must have gotten a hint of this himself because he pushed Nivek at Fett and said, "This wonât be the end of this."
Boba Fett took hold of the binders around Nivekâs wrists and said, "Yes, it will."
As the two men left, Sklar to do his own pondering, Boba Fett shouldered his rifle, giving Sklar an open shot, but no more than one. Sklar placed his hand on the butt of his blaster. Nivek could hear Boba Fettâs breathing underneath his odd helmet. It was slow and normal.
Sklar didnât draw his gun. He took his hand off it and began to walk up the landing bay door of his ship.
"Wonât he follow you?" Nivek asked.
"No." Fett said as he pressed a button on one of his wrist gauntlets and the engines on Sklarâs ship instantly exploded in a crash of metal and fire.
The Slave 1 was efficient, as well as barren. There was nothing inside signify what Boba Fett felt or believed. From the short time Nivek had been in Fettâs company, Nivek believed that may be a fitting representation of what Fett held dear.
"Boba Fett," Nivek stated, "Have you ever considered what you are taking me back to? Have you ever considered how far this will set back my movement? How much this will do to enslave my people?" "Concord Dawn." Boba Fett said. He couldnât believe that he had lost his cool so quickly with this Ffib. He had said more in the last few minutes than he had in the last few years.
"Yes, Concord Dawn. He was a Journeyman Protector who killed his superior for being corrupt. He pled unrepentant for his actions, even though it could have meant his death instead of just exile. Not many people know his story outside of philosophers and intellectuals. Your knowledge of him is surprising. He is an example of standing up for what you believe to be right."
"What of it?" Fett asked.
The hunter never took his eyes off the control panel of the Slave 1 as he answered, "It has crossed my mind. What is your point?"
"You donât care that and entire civilization will be set back because of your love of money?"
"Personally âYppiks, I think you overestimate your own importance. But if you are so vital, then your people will use you as a martyr to give them strength. Either way, why should I not get paid?"
"They wonât let me become a martyr. They will give me a cybernetic implant and make me become their puppet..."
"If your people are so easily led, then maybe they need someone to control them. I think maybe you donât have enough backbone to die for your cause."
That stung Nivek deeply. He knew how deeply he held his beliefs, and this hired killer was not going to preach to him, "That is rich, coming from someone who prostitutes himself to any cause for enough credits!"
The hunter slapped on the autopilot and got out of the cockpit. He forcefully walked to the holding cell where Nivek was jailed.
"I donât prostitute myself to anyone. I will admit, there is money to be made in bounty hunting, but what you fail to see is that there are more civilizations than just yours. There are more planets than yours. There are different galaxies, each with there own definitions of what is right and what is wrong. I simply donât judge as you do so willfully. I donât say these people need to be clued in on my knowledge. That I have the answer to all the universeâs woes. Iâm smarter than that. I simply help to enforce the laws of any system that needs them to be enforced..."
"For a price." Nivek spat.
"For a price," Fett agreed, "but if you donât like the ruling government, move to a new system. It is an unlimited universe and Iâm sure you can find one with your morals in mind. Just donât tell me how your people will be enslaved because you canât teach them. Jonk Dank is insecure so he must force people to serve him, but you have become egomaniacal because people fall over themselves to bow down to you. Law is for the unjust. The just donât need laws because they carry the law in their hearts and donât need to call it from afar. I do not serve and I bow to no one."
"Jaster Mereel." Nivek stated.
"What? What did you say?" Fett asked.
"Jaster Mereel. You last statement, it was a quote from Jaster Mereel before he was exiled from his home on, what world was it?"
"I was influenced by him in my own beliefs. I may not agree with his actions, but I admired his force of will and his integrity in the face of such adversity. I wonder what happened to him?"
"No one knows." Fett said as he opened the door of the holding cell.
"What are you doing?"
Boba Fett handed Nivek an unloaded blaster and pushed a button on the side of his helmet.
"Filming." Fett said as Nivek heard a slight whirring sound coming from inside the hunterâs helmet.
"This camera has no sound. This is you shot to be a martyr and I still get paid. I keep this around for cases when I donât have to abide by a 'no disintegration' clause in my contracts."
"I see." Nivek said and held the blaster up towards the bounty hunterâs head. He knew it was unloaded.
Boba Fett shot âYppiks four times in the chest. He fell to the ground, dead. Fett then slid one of his wrist weapons into place and hit a button. Flame erupted from a small barrel on his wrist, charring the body beyond all recognition, and Boba Fett was relatively sure, beyond control by a cybernetic implant.
The holocube dimmed as the image faded. Boba Fett was standing in a darkened alley with the holocube in one hand and his sawed off blaster rifle in the other. A raggedly dressed, very thin Jong Dank was huddled in the end of the alley. His hair was unwashed and trimmed short to give him a different appearance. His once polished nails were broken to the quick.
"So, the film you gave as proof was doctored, it was all a ploy. He didnât really try to escape." the former High Priest said.
Boba Fett nodded his head slowly.
"And since we did not have a body to use to turn his followers to us, they overthrew the Order of Nook Nadar."
He nodded again.
"And his followers put a contract out on me. So you took the contract on my life as a way to get even more pay for this adventure?"
"Why? It was all about money wasnât it? I deserve that much information. We are much alike arenât we Fett? When you were debating that poor, misguided Ffib, the whole scam to get me came to you didnât it? Very profitable indeed."
"No. âYppiks was a fool, as are you, but he got in. I think he stumbled into it and did not even know what he discovered, but it was enough that I wanted to help him. Not so much that I was going to let him go, but enough that I didnât want him to become a puppet to a zealot like you. You were wrong about the money. Hunting you is a bonus. I would have done this for free."
"So, it is finally finished. No one knows what happened to Jaster Mereel because he changed his name, didnât he? He somehow came by a suit of Mandolorian combat armor and is doing, in a round about way, what he was doing on Concord Dawn. Bringing justice to the unjust, regardless of his own personal beliefs, and getting paid very well for it. A twisted logic, but yours none the less. Is that about it Boba Fett, or is it Jaster Mereel?"
Fett stood motionless for a moment. He had not heard himself called that name in a long time.
"I though you could appreciate it. It is not who you know, but what you know that can save your life." Boba Fett said as he pulled the trigger.