It was a warm day on the planet of Coruscant. People were scurrying by on their business. Traffic was whizzing along. Couples sat on benches and talked, giggling over jokes no one but them understood.
As I sat on the bench watching people walk past and waiting for my lunch break to be over, I wondered what had happened to keep Venku from calling. He was due back any day now but had promised that he would send me a holo message every week. It had been two weeks since he had contacted me. I knew that he was busy guarding the dead body of some important guy, but he could still keep his word. O well, break was over. I had to get back to work at the quaint, if somewhat scum filled, cafe I worked at in order to keep my identity consistent with my papers, and to not arouse suspicion.
"Tran, Tran Selco? Get in here right now, we have a major problem brewing." Someone called in a wavering voice, then added as an afterthought, "And some newbies to Corascant are needing help."
That was one of the other serving girls, Natalla. Tran Selco wasn't my real name, but it was necessary to keep a low profile. Why? Because I have a price on my head. Why else? It was not big enough to warrant the big bounty hunters, like Boba Fett, coming after me; but it was big enough to warrant some interest.
Sighing, I headed into the cafe via the kitchen door. It was muggy compared to the warm breeze outside. Inside I could see what the trouble was. A big Trandoshan was pushing some of the customers around and scaring almost everyone. All of the other staff was too frightened to do anything about him. The Trandashan had cornered one serving girl and was blastering her with questions... about me! Not the Tran Selco me, but the secret me. How did he know I was here? Who had told him who I was? I should have been scared, but it was not the way I had been raised. Under normal circumstances I would have been able to take him sitting down. But these circumstances where nowhere close to normal. I was eight months pregnant! It was Venku's and mine first. We had been married for just over a year when we got the wonderful news. Back to the fuming lizard. I calmly walked up to him and asked that he state his business here. That certainly threw him off balance. He released the tearful wreck of the serving girl, what a pitifully weak creature, and turned his attention to me.
"I am looking for one called Ashla," He growled in his muzzle.
"No one here by that name," I replied, lying through my teeth.
If I told the truth I would be merchandise, and my unborn child most likely killed by the Kuati noble who had put the price on my head in the first place. Seemingly satisfied, he clomped out; leaving me to calm the place down and sooth everyone's shattered nerves. I saw the newcomers Natalla had mentioned in her panicked message to me a few moments prior. They were probably more shaken than everyone else, this being their first time here. I stepped over to serve them and noticed a glint of familiar metal out of the corner of my eye. Doubting that it was who I thought it might be, I continued on my designated course and asked the elderly couple what they would like to drink. As I finished taking their order and instructing them how to use the table menus to order further food, I heard another commotion at the front of the eatery. Casually glancing in the direction of the disturbance, I saw what earlier I had dismissed as a trick of the eyes. There was Boba Fett, best bounty hunter in the galaxy, standing just inside the door. The cafe was once again in an uproar. People running for the exits were stopped by the imposing figure in Mandalorian armor. I saw Boba Fett detain a waitress, the same one who had been cornered by the Trandoshan. I don't know what he asked her, but when he let her go he headed straight for me. Know I was really panicked; I could handle a low grade hunter like the lizard, but not one as high on the greatness list as Fett. Our eyes met and I knew that I had been spotted. Realizing that running would instantly give me away, I stood my ground and controlled my fear. It was one emotion too dangerous to have in a time like this. Fear, in the right hands, could be used to destroy the one afraid. As I watched Fett stalk towards me, I worked hard to repress my emotions and figure a way out of this extremely sticky situation. When he finally reached my position, he said the most unexpected thing.
"I was told you were the one to talk to. I am looking for a girl." Fett said, unobtrusively holding out a generous sum of credits.
He spoke so quietly I almost misunderstood him.
"What type of girl?" I retorted.
He proceeded to describe me fairly accurately.
I laughed. "Sounds like me, mister. Except I doubt that it's me that you're wanting".
Obviously not seeing the humor, he exited the way he had entered, taking the credits with him.
* * *
Inside the Cantina I could see a crowd of lower middle class citizens. I stopped one of the serving girls that were scurrying around the place and questioned her about the ware bouts of one named Tran Selco. Tran Selco was supposed to be the one to talk to if you needed information. It was rumored that she knows every new person that came into the space ports in a one-hundred mile radius. I had come to Coruscant in search of a girl named Ashla. The trail stopped here. I needed to know more about the recent goings on of Coruscant, and more about the bounty, if I was to complete my assignment. The serving girl nervously pointed to a young woman around the age of seventeen or eighteen. This was Tran Selco? I walked over and, holding out a sum of credits, asked if she knew of the girl. She answered me while still standing close to a table where an elderly couple was seated. I would have preferred to talk somewhere more privately, but I let her call the shots. After I had described the girl in question for her she looked startled. Studying her face, I realized that she looked just like the fugitive I was looking for. She had blonde, shoulder length hair and calculating eyes the color if the sea on Kamino. She wasn't beautiful but her strong features warranted a second glance. She would be a catch for peopled interested in woman, I wasn't. Deciding that she was indeed the one I was looking for, I retraced my steps and left. I felt that it was better to capture her somewhere less public, as it was safe to assume that a cantina of this class was low enough on social status to warrant a need for weapons, but it also probably had higher quality ones as it looked like it got good business. I walked towards my speeder bike to await the optimal opportunity.
* * *
On my way home from work I basked in the warm sunshine and reflected on the day's strange events. This was definitely not a typical work day. Two bounty hunters showing up at around the same time, and one of them Boba Fett! It was puzzling me why Fett had been looking for me. I know that I have a price on my head, but it was small compared to the prices that Fett typically asked in return for his expertise. Unless... Perhaps Mister Kuati Noble had hired Boba Fett privately just in case no else was able to catch me. I stopped at a transport station and continued my thinking, ignoring the sound of multiple lanes and layers of traffic. While I was still pondering over what had happened today I was attacked from behind. I felt sharp claws dig into my shoulder blades and twirl me around. Fighting off the pain, I could see the Trandoshan bounty hunter before me. Knowing that I had to defend myself, I looked for a weapon. Not seeing any close by I remembered my hair decorations. On the outside they looked pretty, but they were really razor sharp knives. Quickly drawing them from their decorative scabbards, I slashed towards the giant lizard's throat. But I was not fast enough. Right before I had gotten the knives out of their scabbards, the Trandoshan swiped at me again. This time he raked a deep gash on my chin and cheek bones. Holding the right side of my face, I finished my fatal slash. Unfortunately, I miscalculated and got him in the head instead. With the Trandoshan dead, I headed home to wash up.
When I arrived at my Spartan apartment I walked into my bedroom and, after taking off my work clothes and placing them into the incinerator to get rid of any evidence that I had been here, took a small bag off the closet shelf. I packed my few belongings and tended to my wounds. The cut on my face would certainly leave a scar. All of my clothes had to fit into the bag so I did not take very much. Once the basic belongings were taken care of I packed the few blankets, clothes, and other necessary baby gear I had gotten for my unborn child. I knew that it was a huge possibility that the baby would be born in a place that did not have any of the things that a young child might need. I had, by this time, abandoned any faint hope that Venku might be here when our child arrived. Wondering what might be keeping him, I realized that the man who had made me a wanted person would most likely want Venku out of the way permanently. Probably because what this evil person wanted would not be technically legal otherwise. I have never liked the way Kuati nobles get their heirs, through picking the perfect person to father or mother the child whether they liked it or not. Most often the chosen one would accept the lavish payment for their services. But in other cases, like mine, the candidate would refuse. Then the noble who was after that particular person, would make it so that they got what they wanted no matter what the price. It's kind of like arranged marriages, but more dangerous. I knew that many individuals share my views, but this has not deterred any Kuati nobles from their chosen path.
I headed for the front portal after doing a last minute check to be sure that I had everything. Stopping by the kitchen, I grabbed a rag to wipe off any fingerprints I might leave on my way out. A slight noise in the hall made me stop momentarily in my tracks. I detoured to the front closet to get my twin Verpine pistols that I had almost forgotten, and belted them on. All of the inactivity of being in hiding was making me soft and forgetful. Then I heard a sound coming from the behind the portal. Warily, I went to investigate. Who might be calling on me here on Corascant? No one knew me here. Before I could turn the handle the whole portal was ripped off the wall. In the opening was the Trandoshan who had attacked me before and whom I thought was terminated. I reached for my guns, but instantly dropped my hands as the Trandoshan's guts were sprayed all over me by a blaster shot from behind him.
* * *
I waited outside for when the girl would get off of work. Once I saw her leave, I followed at a distance, using the shadows of the buildings to hide me and my speeder bike. I could see a Trandoshan stalking her as well. Dismissing the Trandoshan, I continued on my way. At about one mile from the cantina that she worked at; the girl stopped in a dark alley way. She was most likely waiting for a transport. I did not see the Trandoshan until it jumped the girl. She was startled. It was strange behavior for a thief; one would have thought that she would be more cautious. This whole situation seemed out of the ordinary. Why would someone who had stolen important documents from a Kuati noble be hiding on such a largely populated planet where someone was likely to spot them? Unless... Perhaps the noble who had hired me privately had lied to me. Why would he have lied to me? I am not terribly picky about what type of jobs I took on and I dislike being lied to.
When I turned my attention back to the fight I could see that the girl's shoulder was bleeding through lacerated flesh. She fumbled at her hair, how odd. While she was messing with her head the Trandoshan took another swipe at her, this time gouging a deep cut into the right side of her face. I was about to interject myself since the merchandise was wanted alive, when I saw her draw a pair of knives from her hair decoration. That must have been what she was fumbling for earlier. Those were pretty handy. She plunged them into the Trandoshan's scalp, and then ran off. When she was well out of sight I went to have a look at the Trandoshan. He was still breathing. After he had gotten up a few minutes later I proposed a plan to him. If I just showed up at the lady's dwelling place she was liable to hurt herself out of fear. While this was not something that I couldn't handle, I would prefer that she not be anymore damaged on arrival. I figured that if a Trandoshan which she had already defeated and most likely assumed dead showed up it would through her off balance, giving me more time to act. The Trandoshan would have to be eliminated later, I didn't share credits with anyone. With this plan in mind and the Trandoshan walking in front of me, I proceeded to track my merchandise.
* * *
I sidestepped just in time to miss the now dead lizard falling on me. Instead, he fell on my front entry way with a sickening, booming "splat". Wiping myself off with the rag, I saw behind where the Trandoshan had been standing who the shooter was. It was Fett! I knew that he would recognize me sooner or later, but I had rather hoped that it would be later. I placed my hands above my head to unsheathe my knives, but he saw it coming and raised his blaster a little higher as a warning. I noticed that he carried a sawn-off EE-3. It was a good gun; the man certainly knew his weapons. Fett addressed me.
"Come with me." He ordered gruffly.
Eying him cooling, I decided that now was not a good time to be witty. I complacently followed him out of the hall and into the turbo-lift, carrying my bag over my shoulder. In the lift, Fett confiscated my knives and blasters before restraining me with power cuffs. He glanced at my bag but did not take it from me. I am thankful that he at least did that. Feeling helpless, I slid to the floor and sighed pitifully. Fett took no notice; to him I was only another piece of merchandise. I sighed again, using the distraction to pull something out of my concealed left boot. Once I had gotten the thin electronic device free I pushed the one button on it. Before I could replace it though, Fett saw what I had done. He knocked the signaling device out of my hands and pulled me roughly to my feet. I didn't care though; my escape plan was now under way.
A few months previous to this humiliating event, I had the chance to visit Kuat with my husband Venku. While there, I realized that sometime in the future I would be returning to that place in less than pleasant circumstances. I made several deals with a few of the personal working at the afore mentioned noble's palace. I had also made another profitable investment there concerning a trapdoor and other hidden niceties.
When we reached the lobby of my apartment building the doorman scurried to get out of Fett's way. He didn't even try to stop him, which was probably a wise move on his part
When we got to Fett's ship I was glad that my own spacecraft was getting repairs and upgrades in Kuat Drive Yards. It would make my plans much easier.
Fett shoved me into a cage next to some alien named Tsumo and an Ubuugan named Chung. When I was securely put away, Fett left for the cockpit. I smiled sardonically, and began to sing. After I had belted out a couple of tunes, I could feel the ship taking off. When we had left the atmosphere, Fett returned and told me in no uncertain terms to "cut it out". Deeply offended, I sniffed disdainfully at him and stopped my caterwauling. I am not a bad singer, it's just that most of the rough and tough people don't seem to appreciate music. Tsumo and Chung seemed to have been enjoying my singing.
That night I slept fitfully, and when I awoke my stomach was seriously cramped. It was probably a combination of sleeping in a cage and being pregnant. I was also extremely hungry. Around an hour later, Fett arrived with a slop that did not look or smell in the least bit appetizing. It jiggled ominously. I was just about to not eat it when the baby kicked. I ate it. Not for the wonderful taste but for my child and because if I didn't I would be painfully force fed. If I was not pregnant I would have tried to starved myself just to inconvenience Fett. After I was finished with my meal, my thoughts turned to Venku. What was he doing? Was he even still alive? I looked around myself at the depressing surroundings, and laughed. I had been in tough spots before. I had even been in a Firespray like Slave 1 before. But this was a different angle on everything. This opportunity would make me better at what I did. Now that I was the merchandise, I knew what we did to evade capture. This was a great learning opportunity, I thought, as I began to contemplate ways to make the other unfortunate creatures aboard my allies.
The next day found me recounting a story to my fellow passengers about a new bounty hunter named Androllae H. They sat in rapt attention, filling their sorry souls with my words.
"Twelve years after Order Sixty-six, there lived a young child around the age of ten. This child lived with its mother on a remote farm on Mandalore. There was no father around. The father was an assassin and was rarely home. This was fine with the child since its father had turned himself mostly into a machine to make his job easier and because when they last saw each other they had gotten into a terrible argument. The farm was so remote that it did not even have running water. On the day that this story takes place the child went up to well to get water for the day. When it returned, it saw a man talking with its mother."
"What species was the child? Was it male or female?" Tsumo asked in his whiney voice.
"It was a human. No one knows the gender." I was getting exasperated at him, he had been complaining about everything since I woke up. I held my emotions in check. "I will refer to the child as a male from now on to appease you." I accommodated in a tone that I hoped did not sound superior.
This seemed to satisfy Tsumo so I continued with my story.
"He quickly hid in some nearby shrubs; visitors were few to the farm and this one smelled like trouble. The child watched as the scene unfolded before him. He could tell that they were exchanging heated words. His mother turned to leave, but before she could enter the house the stranger raised a light saber above his head. "This man is a Jedi", thought the child, "but all of the Jedi were supposed to have been killed many years ago." Before he could finish his train of thought, the boy saw the Jedi pierce his mother through from behind. With a startled cry she fell, her blasters rattled on the pavement. Abandoning all caution, the boy ran from his hiding place to his mother's side. But she was dead before he reached her. In the distance he could hear footsteps marching in unison. Before anyone could do anything, the boy reached for one of his mother's twin Verpine pistols and shot the Jedi. Unfortunately, the blaster was set on stun so it did not kill the confounded man. The distant marching was coming closer. As the crying child held his dead mother close the marchers come into view."
As I finished my sentence, I saw Fett coming down from the cockpit. I had been so engrossed in my story telling that I had failed to notice that we had docked with another ship. While I was wondering whose stop this was, Fett called for Tsumo to come with him. "Poor guy," I thought, before Tsumo's whiny voice broke through.
"Oh, mercy, this is it isn't it Fett? Y-you're going to kill me". Tsumo stammered.
Fett replied, "I have a task for you. It may well result in your death".
I drowned out the rest of Tsumo's whining about how Chung had done worst things then him, and to take Chung instead. Rather than listen to Fett explaining things to Tsumo, I focused on the entry to the ship we had docked with. From what Fett had told Tsumo the ship was abandoned. Then why did it look so familiar? It hit me; this was the ship Venku was working on. I recognized the name "Mingula" etched on the bulkhead above the entry. If the ship was abandoned then Venku must be dead. Devastated, I sat in the darkness of Fett's ship awaiting my fate
That's when I felt them, deep, agonizing pangs in my stomach. It couldn't be coming now! I wasn't due for another couple of weeks! I looked to Chung for help but he was fast asleep. As the pain intensified I realized that Fett probably did not know that I was pregnant since I didn't show much; the pregnancy only made me look slightly overweight. My cries of pain woke Chung. At first he panicked but after he had calmed down he proceeded to try and help. He didn't do much good though. After Fett had been gone for a few hours, a heard a strange buzzing noise. Peering around me, I could just make out something in the airlock. As it came closer I saw that it was a lot of somethings. Insectoids! I recognized them from my travels in the galaxy as parasitic flesh eaters. Knowing that they could sense vital signs I worked to put myself into a passive state. Fortunately, Chung was closer to the airlock, and he was resistant to these creatures.
Suddenly, Fett's airlock sealed and we started to move away from the ship. My labor pains continued and gradually intensified. At a loss at what to do if Fett had been eaten by the insectiods, I attempted to find a way out of my holding cage. Then I felt the whole ship rock as if something big had just blown up. Several minutes later Fett appeared from the airlock. I barely noticed him through my pain. Chung was busy eating the insectiods and had completely forgotten about me. Fett calmly came over to investigate the problem. It amazed me how he could always be so calm. After informing him of the situation, I decided that Fett wasn't really as calm as he looked. The way he acted you would have thought that I had just told him that he had gotten the wrong merchandise and it was worth for more than he expected. Fett roughly escorted me to a side room that I knew was there but had not noticed until then. In the room there were only a few items; including an operating table and a medical droid asleep in the corner. As we entered, the droid came to life. Fett left me in the competent hands of the droid while he went back to the cockpit. A moment later I felt the familiar, bone-crushing jolt of jumping into hyperspace. It struck me then that Tsumo had not returned. He was probably eaten by the insectoids. After all, he wasn't protected by Mandalorian armor like Fett. "Good Riddance," I thought, his whining had really started to get under my skin. My musings where stopped by more labor pains. I resisted the urge to scream, it would do me no good. The Medical Droid said nothing to me the whole time. Fett must have deactivated its voice function. That was very useful, most droids tended to talk too much. Two hours later, after a lot of pain (the droid did not give me anything to numb it) I held in my arms a gorgeous baby boy. He had dark eyes and hair just like his father. I hope that when he grows up that he will know about his father like I never knew mine.
When I was finally returned to my holding cell Chung begged me to continue my story. I tiredly refused. I fell asleep with my child in my arms, only to be awoken soon after by his crying. I fed him and made a nest out of the blankets in my bag. I was too awake to fall asleep again, even after the baby had drifted off once more. I sat up and started going through baby names in my mind. Most likely I would name him after Venku. What else would I name him? After all, he did look like father. With these thoughts I succumbed to sleep.
I awoke wondering if Fett ever slept. He probably slept in the pilot's chair, always there if something went wrong. I remembered times, before I had married Venku, when I had done the very same thing.
"No rest for the hard worker," I mumbled. I hoped to get some more sleep before Venku woke up again. As I finished this hope, Venku started to cry. I fed him again, changed him, and then proceeded to get no more sleep. When Chung awoke, I finished my story.
"Quickly, before he could be seen, the child , still holding his mother's Verpine pistol, scurried back to his previous hiding place just in time to see clone troopers round the bend. They studied the dead woman and the stunned Jedi. One of them noticed a small set of footprints and traced them back to where the child was hiding. The child tried to run but the clone commando grabbed him and, after relieving him of his weapon, carried him down to the other clones. The frightened boy tried to wriggle free but was only held onto tighter. The other troopers gathered around the boy, scaring him even more. But he didn't show it, which was the way Mandalorian children were trained. Noticing the commotion, the leader walked up to the group gathered around the child. 'What do you have there,' the leader questioned the commando who had found the boy.
'A child,' the one who had first discovered the child answered in return.' I found him hiding in the brush up on the hill 52yds to the east. I believe that the dead woman is his mother. He was holding this gun; it's just like the one we found on the body.'
'The leader took the blaster and handed to back to the boy, also giving him his mother's other one. How would you like to come with us?' he asked the child.
The boy felt that he could trust these masked man and nodded his consent. The clones were kind and knew that such a young thing would have a hard time making it on his own this for away from any civilization. The clones felt as if they owed the child something since it was them that had driven the Jedi to such desperate actions. The boy knew that other Mandalorians would take him in, but he somehow felt safe with these strangers. The clone troopers finished off the Jedi, and then buried the boy's mother and the Jedi. The leader gave the child the light saber. 'As a war prize that shows that you defeated the last Jedi,' he said. So the clones took the child in and kept him secret from all others. For two years they trained him. After this period of time the ones that were still alive deserted the Empire and went into hiding with the child. After his thirteenth birthday he left them to find his own way in the galaxy, and to locate and make amends with his father. In the years after he left the commandos, the boy became a hardened adult, coming to us today as the bounty hunter Androllae H. No one knows if this is a true story or what actually happened in the years after he left the clones; if he found his father or who his father was. No one even knows what happened to the clones. But they do know this; that the child became a force to be reckoned with as an assassin and bounty hunter, one to rival even the greatest of them all."
I neglected to tell them that the boy was actually a girl and that there was another child as well; and that the child was Venku Skirata, one of the clone's son. I also didn't tell them that I had come by this story by living it; but all this was on a need to know basis, and they definitely didn't need to know. As I finished my story Venku woke from a nap and started to wail. After taking care of him I realized that I had not yet mourned my husband's death. Thinking that it might raise some suspicion I decided to do it when we got to Kuat, when I would finally "discover" that he was dead. Recounting the tale made me think of my mother. I could still remember her soft brown eyes, the way they looked at me with such love. She was my world, such a strong and caring woman, thinking of her reminded me of all of the time we spent together. She led a hard life and had a hard death. I would live my life to make her proud, I resolved again.
* * *
After I dropped the merchandise off at the medical chamber, I returned to the cockpit and prepared to jump into hyperspace. I had lost Tsumo to the carnivorous flies only to come back to my ship to discover that one of my other merchandise was with child. The whole situation surrounding her seemed strange. Aboard the freight vessel I had finished the other half of my job when I had discovered a holo-projector in the hand of one the crew that had a message from the merchandise in discussion. I had wondered, when I first took the assignment, why that particular man was wanted dead but the woman alive. I dismissed it at the time, but when I discovered that the man was her husband the whole affair made sense. I do have my rules when taking jobs; and this one definitely crossed the line. There was not much I could do about it since I had already taken the job. But the Kuati noble had better give up the rest of the payment without too much fuss because he was starting to make me angry, and I do not get angry very often.
Several hours after the jump to hyperspace I could hear the girl finishing the story that she had began before the whole problem with her had arisen. It was a rather intriguing tale and I tried not to listen and to pay attention to my piloting. I had heard rumors of this bounty hunter Androllae H. but had never had a run-in with him. He operated in sectors of the galaxy that I rarely went in. In fact, I only knew of one being who had expanded that far into the outer reaches, D'harhan, and he was one tough barve. Before he died, that is.
Fett wondered if there was some connection. Then, dismissing the idea, he turned his attention back to the view portal and to the planet that was fast approaching.
Just outside of the atmosphere of Kuat, Slave1 docked with the ship that was waiting for it. Fett finished his business concerning the Ubuugan and then continued down to the planet's surface. Long before this time Ashla had decided that being allies with the Ubuugan was not to her advantage and spent the rest of her time aboard Slave1 caring for her child and finding ways to patronize Boba Fett. Her efforts were met with little retaliation but she continued just to pass the time. As Slave1 landed on the docking bay of a noble's palace, Ashla strapped Venku to her chest and gathered up her belongings. This was her stop. This was where her fate would be decided.
* * *
I recognized the imposing palace as soon as I stepped onto the docking bay. Instead of glancing around at the all of the splendor and perfectly manicured gardens, I trained my eyes on the ground and put out an aura of nervousness. An armed guard came to meet Fett and me. He escorted us to the noble's reception hall, right beside the docking bay. The hall was of unnecessary size. The noble, his guards, and I and my escort were the only people or things in it. I knew, from a previous journey here, that sometimes it was used to host gigantic parties. But they were few and far between. The hall was mostly used to greet newcomers and to show how rich the noble was. The floors, walls, and ceilings where made with expensive, bright material. How anyone would want such a garish room I didn't understand. It was all foolishness. Fett brought me to a halt in the center of the room right next to our welcome committee. I glanced around and plotted my next moves. I would need to be closer to the left glass wall sometime in the future but I did not worry about it. I turned my attention back to the present crisis when I heard the Kuati noble speak.
"I trust that you eliminated the man as well as bring me the girl," the noble got right to the point.
"Yes," Fett replied, "here is the evidence". Fett held out the Holo message that I had sent Venku right before he left.
They continued their discussion in brief, pointed phrases while I allowed my attention to wane once more. As soon as I had heard "here is the evidence" I fell to the floor and started to weep. After all, it was my husband that they were discussing. All the while I was slowly inching towards my left and the windows facing the gardens. Once I had reached a spot that I had engrained in my memory I stopped moving and waved my hand to the guard at the main entrance. He immediately closed and locked the doors, cutting off his access to the large room. Guards at the other three entrances did the same. Fett looked up but did not do anything. The Kuati noble didn't notice at all. On the floor in front of me I pressed my thumb to the corner of a tile. The tile opened with a small click and I removed the contents that were within a hidden crevice underneath.
* * *
The Kuati and Fett were finishing smoothing over the fine details. It was time for Fett to be paid and Ashla to be handed over to the noble. Fett pulled Ashla up from the floor; she quickly hid what she had taken from under the trap door.
"Take the child and terminate it", the Kuati noble instructed the guard who was standing beside him. The guard glanced apprehensively at Ashla, uncertain whether to comply with the noble instructions or Ashla's previous ones. The noble still did not notice that the guard was the only one out of the five that had escorted him that was still in the room. Most people where baffled by his stupidity. Before the lone guard could act on the command, Fett stopped him.
"Not until you pay me", Fett demanded.
"Of course, of course, all in due time."
"Now, she is not yours until I have been paid".
The Kuati stalled for several more minutes. Fett was getting angry. This was an unwise move for the noble.
* * *
I saw that the Fett wasn't going to get paid anytime soon. I did not have the luxury of waiting until he did. Pulling out the blaster that I had taken from under the trap door, I got down to business.
"Nobody move", I barked. The Kuati just laughed.
"You are surrounded by guards, how do you think you are going to get out of the palace?"
"Look again", I said, "all of the doors are shut and locked and your guards are on the other side".
"There is still the problem of your leaving". He chuckled joyfully, "I do so enjoy watching you make a fool of yourself".
Fett took note of the situation, and, seeing that the noble had no intention of paying him, drew out his blaster and pointed it at the noble's worthless skull. "No one is doing anything or going anywhere until I get paid", He demanded again.
* * *
Ashla moved farther to the right and, in the same tone of authority, said. "Engage, set count down at ten minutes".
The Kuati glanced nervously around. He spotted the still slightly open trap door and paled. There was a thermal detonator inside, the big kind. Fett appeared calm and unflustered as always. After all, he did still have ten minutes to get out. The Kuati noble tried to slide over to the closest exit but Ashla stopped him with a short command and a slight raise to her blaster's muzzle to enforce it. The guard did not try to do anything. With two weapons out he did not want to take a chance. Besides, the girl had paid well for his cooperation. A minute or so after Ashla had started the bomb a small ship crashed through the wall of glass on the left of the room and skidded to a halt close to where Ashla had been standing before she moved. Ashla, with her blaster still out, hopped into the cockpit that had siphoned open. Inside there was a single man, the pilot. Before the ship had a chance to take off, Fett shot. The noble fell. A hole was drilled through his head. Fett and Ashla's eyes met. He tilted his helmeted head forward in acknowledgment and she nodded back. The ship's canopy sealed and it took off, flying through the shattered glass and up into the sky. Fett walked out of out of the doors that had been reopened. He did not glance at the noble's body. It did not matter to him that he had not gotten paid. He should have kept to his morals, they had never failed him. "She is one tough barve," he thought. The sight of the young woman holding her child and flying away glared behind his eyelids. As he took off in Slave1 the detonator in the palace finished its count down. Pieces of debris hit his view port. Fett looked at the holo message nestled in his palm. He hit the play button and listened to the contents.