"Alright people, you know your assignments, so we have nothing left to say to each other," the squadron commander stated to the room full of troopers. "I'll see some of you again after the engagement," he smiled cruelly. "And have fun, boys!"
The room quickly dispersed of soldiers and pilots, all moving off to assigned posts. One young man stayed seated as he watched his younger friend move up to the front.
Rogal Dorn walked forwards, oblivious that his friend was watching him.
"Sir," Rogal Dorn said to the squadron commander, "Could I have a word, sir?"
"What is this about Corporal Dorn?"
"Sir, well... Sir, my mission sheet shows me as a member of the 341st Infantry, sir."
"And the problem with that is...?" the Commander's face showed obvious disapproval at this line of questioning. Rogal pressed on.
"Well, sir, I'm a scout. I should be in the 22nd Recon group... That's where I was assigned originally. I'm not a... a... a foot soldier!"
"Corporal Dorn!" the Commander snapped.
The corporal snapped to attention.
"Are you questioning my orders, Corporal?"
"Uh... sir?" Rogal looked quizzically at the Commander, and the squadron leader stared back, stony-faced.
"I gave the order to have you placed in Infantry, Dorn. Recon has enough men in it's ranks. Frankly you were the worst of the bunch, so we transferred you out! Infantry always needs good, strong young men like yourself! Do you have a problem with that, Corporal?"
"Sir... Uh, no Sir!"
"Good, Dorn. Now get to your post! You too Angron!" he bellowed to the older boy sitting in the bleachers.
"Right sir!" Angron scampered from his seat like a scared rabbit, and the two boys left the briefing room, walking down the corridor together.
"So Rog, how'd it go?" Angron said as they headed for Docking Bay 12, where they were to board a trooper transport bound for the Imperial Escort Frigate Fury, which lay waiting for them in orbit.
"Not too good. Listen, Jaik, I think Commander Clavin is personally out to get me. He had no reason to do that! He just did it because it suited whatever perverse ideal he was flouncing at the moment."
"Hey, come on. He had a reason! There's always a reason in this outfit. For the good of the Empire, right?" Jaik said, looking at his friend seriously.
"Right. For the good of the Empire." Rogal said glumly.
The two young men walked down the corridor towards the shuttle bay, as they absent-mindedly traded back and forth the youthful, jovial banter of two young men. They quickly arrived at the bunker, and donned their gear.
Twenty minutes later they were rising into orbit. Four minutes after that, they were making the jump to lightspeed. Destination: the Resistance base on Sulon V.
Rogal Dorn adjusted his stormtrooper helmet with great discomfort. Peering through the tiny, dark eye-holes, he ran forwards to where his squad had set up formation. The resistance base was only two miles distant. He smiled through his helmet as he watched three floating fortresses move over the desert sands.
Looking out over the dunes, Rogal was surprised that a resistance movement of any sort would attempt to establish a base on such a world. But they're simply a group of fanatics, he thought with distaste. Who could follow their insane logic?
Of course resistance was a ridiculous idea. Better to just fall in step and take the Empire with a grain of salt.
He adjusted his helmet again, wishing he didnât have to wear it in the hot desert sun. Of course, there were sufficient cooling mechanisms and so forth in the armour, but just the same, it was uncomfortable. He had sand in his boots, sand in the shin guards, sand in his groin, and sand in his helmet. He felt very itchy. He could remove his armour and get the sand out, but that would bring down the wrath of not only his company commander, but the wrath of the hot sun as well. He shifted uncomfortably, trying to ignore the sand.
As he boarded the tiny skiff, he thought about his homeworld, Tallos. He quickly felt himself longing for the damp, warm jungles and quiet, rainy streets of Tallos City. It was so peaceful there, he wouldn't mind returning some day. But of course, that was impossible. He wasn't likely to ever get a shore leave the way his progress was moving in the Imperial Military. He resigned himself to watching the desert shift and roll before his eyes, and allowed the heat waves in the distance make his vision blur.
He barely remembered his parents. When he was two, they had been killed in a speeder crash. Rogal himself had been badly hurt; his face had sustained a deep scar running from his left temple to the bottom of his jaw. It marred his otherwise non-descript, and, some might say, attractive face.
His father had been a military man, he knew that much. After their death, he had spent most of his young life living in a foster home. He had done alright, and although an orphan, with no one to look after him, he had inherited his father's legacy. Out of respect for the man he never knew, he signed on for Imperial Service, and never looked back. He remembered little of his mother; trying to picture her only revived the smell of jappaberry pie, and walking with the woman who's face he could barely remember, through the jungle, looking for jappaberries.
Jaik Angron, his best friend, stood nearby. He wanted desperately to ask the older boy some combat advice, but at this point, it was too late. Idle conversation might very well mean a removal from the operation, or possibly even a dishonourable discharge altogether. Comm silence was being observed; only mission critical information was being passed over the regular comm chans.
He watched with growing excitement as the resistance base leaped over the horizon. His mind reviewed his tactical responsibilities. Attack the west wing; take as many prisoners as possible; be sure to set the explosive charges before leaving. There were other objectives of course, but those were the only ones that concerned him, and his squad. He shifted uncomfortably again.
Time to play! he thought cynically.
It was almost over before it began.
The traitors, it seemed, had been almost completely unprepared by the attack. Two small laser turrets had been erected on the north side; however, since the Imperial forces were attacking from the south, those were completely useless. The floating fortresses had begun bombarding the walls, only to discover they were crumbling stone and almost completely useless; and in fact a detriment as a defensive measure.
Rogal's squad had entered the base through the south entrance, and immediately began heading towards the west wing. They encountered one rebel engineer on their way. He was cut down before he had a chance to run.
From outside, progress reports rolled in over Rogalâs comm system.
"341st! Report!" came a call from the battle leader. Rogal's squad leader would respond with a quick sharp answer.
"Commander! We have secured the west wing, with no losses suffered! Awaiting further instructions."
"Confirmed 341st. Hold your position until further notice. Take prisoners. Out," the voice on the other end would say.
"Out," and the comm would close.
Another call came in from one of the floating fortresses, fuzzy and broken.
"This is FF-220! Seeking assistance! A... Z-95 Head... has taken off from... landing pad! ...taking heavy damage, and... pilot is evading... fire! ... assistance... appreciated..." the comm fuzzed for a moment, and was restored again, only to hear a scream, and then the communication was broken.
Rogal looked out the window, and was surprised to see a Z-95 Headhunter swooping about the floating fortress. At least three fires had gutted the fortress, and the Z-95 continued to fire upon it without much trouble.
"Sir!" Rogal declared. "One of the traitors has gotten control of a fighter! He's destroyed a floating fortress!" The polarized lenses in Rogal's helmet darkened as the fuel tank inside the floating craft exploded, and he instinctively looked away.
"I know that you dim-wit!" the squad commander declared, and then, speaking into the comm, "FF-221! Get over there and help them!" he shouted into the comm.
A second floating fortress moved into view as the first crashed to the ground in flames. The Z-95 pilot was caught completely unawares, and Rogal watched as three laser bolts pierced the engines and S-foils of the small fighter craft. A lazy, smoky roll for about ten seconds, and the Z-95 crashed into a large dune about half a mile away.
"Sir, the Z-95 has crashed. Shall we move to over-take the pilot?" Rogal asked blandly.
"Frak... Corporal... We have our orders! We're staying where we are! Now shut your stupid trap before I have you slapped down to spittoon cleaner.
"Oh, fer frak sakes, Lieutenant..." Rogal said dryly, not minding his tongue. Then he immediately realized his mistake. The squad leader came at him in a flash, and Rogal felt the butt of the soldier's rifle hit him in the throat. He lapsed into unconsciousness.
"Good morning, Private Dorn. How are you?"
Rogal opened his eyes, and found himself looking into the black, durasteel face of a tall, shiny, ebony droid. "Oh frak..."
"Droid... I'm a corporal. Why did you call me private?"
"Your med-scan sheet shows you as Private Rogal Dorn, sir. Do you think perhaps administration has made a mistake?"
"Oh dear! This is terrible! I apologize sir! Let me call the front desk to check your rank. Oh dear, Oh dear, Oh dear!" the droid began spinning itself in circles about the bed. Rogal rolled his eyes and sat up wearily.
"Droids. By Tallos..."
Just then, the speaker above his head crackled as a voice exploded over the comm chan.
"Private Rogal Dorn! Report to the Commander's office immediately!"
"Uh oh... I don't like the sound of that one bit," he thought worriedly. He jumped off the bed and pulled on his camoflak pants and shirt. He started towards the door.
"But... but... but sir! You're not cleared to leave the med-bay! Wait! Wait!" the droid sputtered indignantly. "Wait!"
"Geez... somebody needs a memory wipe!" Rogal spun on his heel, and looked the droid in the metallic eye. "Stuff it," he said, then turned and left the room. He headed down the corridor, leaving the droid in the med-bay sputtering, squealing, and trying to figure out who was responsible for this.
He turned the corner again, and just ahead of him, he saw the Commander's office door. He strode purposefully down the corridor, staring directly ahead. As he walked, he saw the office door begin to open.
"I've got a bad feeling about..."
"YOU MAGGOT!" Commander Clavin screamed in his face. "You talked back to your squad leader? You questioned his orders in combat? YOU ENDANGERED THE MISSION!?!? On purpose?!?"
"Uh... I uh... no uh..." Now it was Rogal's turn to sputter; he backed up and tried to shrink into the bulkhead. The Commander was screaming now. Rogal tuned most of it out.
Suddenly though, he stepped back, the mask of anger and rage on his face seemed to lessen slightly. He smiled thinly, and called for a nearby stormtrooper by name.
"Corporal Angron! Come here!"
"Sir, yes sir!" the large white armoured man stepped forwards, clicked his heels and held himself in perfect military posture.
"Corporal, I want you and the Private to move down to the holding cells and bring me up Prisoner #791. That's right, the two of you bring him up here. Private, you just consider this a sort of atonement for your actions on Sulon V. If you can do this, then maybe I won't court-martial you. You got that?"
"Sir! Yes sir!" Rogal saluted smartly, trying to ignore his anger at the Commander.
"And Corporal Angron, you just keep in mind that if the Private does anything out of step... laces his boots improperly, holds his rifle to high on his chest, marches two steps behind you when he should be two steps ahead... well, you drop him so fast his head spins, and contact me immediately! You got that?"
"Sir, yes sir!" Angron saluted smartly, and marched off in step. They returned to their quarters, where Rogal began pulling on his stormtrooper armour again. He watched Jaik to see if he was going to say anything, but he did not. He stood, stock still against the wall while Rogal dressed. The Perfect Tin-soldier.
The two stormtroopers marched off towards the cell-block, and Rogal thought about what he knew of Jaik Angron, his best friend. They had met in boot-camp, and Jaik had expressed an overwhelming loyalty to the Emperor, and had been one of the only ones in the place who almost never met the wrath of any of the drill instructors. No surprise then, that Jaik had graduated at the top of the class, the best of all the new trainees from that year.
He had learned that Jaik Angron had been born in hyperspace, and had lived and grown up on Carida, the Imperial Training World, where both young men had been instructed. But his father had been a younger officer, only slightly important. But Angron had grown up on the training planet. Of course he knew the exercises like the back of his hand.
Jaik's mother had been arrested for treason when he was only a boy. That had been in the early years of the New Order. Even so, Angron had accepted it for what it was; Imperial Justice, though cold and cruel, maintained Order. Jaik had accepted it. His mother had been a traitor. She deserved what she got.
Rogal thought about his own parents for a minute. He didn't know what he would do if his own parents had ever been arrested like that. He didn't know...
Oh frak... watch yourself Rogal... he thought sharply. They were approaching the cell block. He looked to his right, and saw Angron staring straight ahead, marching in perfect step. The click of their boots clanged against the metal grating. Rogal smiled to himself under his helmet.
Angron stepped up to the cell door, #791. He clicked the lock on the door, and it slid open. The two stormtroopers stepped inside.
Jaik Angron instantly flew into action. He stepped forwards and delivered a boot into the side of the lone occupant of the cell, a young boy of about 16 or 17 years of age. "Wake up traitor! Wake up!!!" Another kick, this time delivered to the ribs, and the young boy groaned and fell out of the cot.
Rogal looked about for a moment, and tried to figure out what he was going to do now. He thought about his father, his mother. They would have been proud, to see him here. An Imperial Stormtrooper! Just imagine what his father would say to him...
Ah what the hell... he thought suddenly. He raised his rifle, and brought the butt end down on Jaik's neck. The Corporal hit the ground hard, unconscious. He looked down at the young boy lying on the floor, clutching his midsection.
"Imperial... scum..." he moaned. Rogal laughed, and pulled off his helmet. He felt a wash of cool air over his sweaty forehead.
"Damn those helmets are hot." he said out loud. "Well, let's go." he said to the boy on the floor.
"What are you talking about? Who are you?" the boy mumbled quietly, rising to his feet.
"Private Rogal Dorn, 341st Imperial Infantry... Well, I guess I'm 'retired' now."
"Spy...? Come to... rescue me?" the boy gasped, finally standing completely erect.
"Uh... sure..." Rogal said. "Let's go."
The boy grabbed Angronâs blaster, and the two of them stepped out of the cell, and started heading towards the exit.
"Uh... wait..." the boy said, turning back towards his cell.
"I've gotta a friend around here... do you know if he was taken prisoner?"
"What was his name?" Rogal asked, looking back. He began to feel impatient. If they didn't get going soon...
"Staxis." the boy declared loudly. Rogal felt his heart leap. "The sound sensors...!!" But they did not go off. The entire corridor was completely silent.
"Alright, let me check." He stepped up to the computer panel that rested along the bulkhead. He tapped a couple buttons, and in a moment... "Cell #580. Let's go," he said.
As they walked along down towards the appropriate cell, Rogal looked out a viewport, and realized for the first time that they were in hyperspace! "Great... just great! Why didn't I realize that before?"
"Uh... hey, kid, how are we gonna get outta here? I mean... hyperspace..." Rogal said, portraying a hint of worry for the first time since this began.
The boy stepped up to #580, and clicked the lock. "Oh... I wouldn't worry about that..." he smiled darkly.
"Aaah! Master Wyld!" came a deep, yet prissy sounding voice from inside the cell. Rogal was immediately reminded of the med-droid from the med-bay. He cringed.
An older man, possibly in his late 30's, or early 40's, sporting an extremely large beer-gut, stepped out of the cell, and greeted 'Master Wyld' with a friendly hug. Then he turned his attention to the helmetless stormtrooper standing nearby.
"Aah... who is this?" Staxis said, looking towards Rogal, and then back at Wyld.
"He uh... helped me escape. He's going to help us, too!" Wyld said excitedly.
"Oh, really Ecco? Well, that's just wonderful! It's always good to have one more aboard!" the jovial little man shook Rogal's hand, and then started to step past him. Somehow, however, he got tripped up on Rogal's boot, and stumbled, crashing to the ground.
Almost as soon as he hit the deck, the alarms began squealing all over the ship, and both Rogal and Ecco swore loudly. Staxis began squealing like a stuck pig, and ran off down the corridor.
"Bagolo!" Ecco hollered after him.
"His name is Bagolo?!?" Rogal cried out dubiously. The two young men began running after the older.
"Anymore friends you want me to help you rescue?" Rogal asked the boy as they ran.
Ecco snorted, not amused.
Even though alarms were squealing ship wide, with Rogal's knowledge of the ships design, and the patrol routes of the Imperial forces, they were able to reach the shuttle bay fairly quickly. Even so, Rogal still had misgivings about taking a shuttle.
"Why the heck not!?!" Ecco moaned, as the fat man tried picking the lock to one of the shuttles.
"What good will it do us? We're still in hyperspace! You can't over-ride that from here! We'd have to take the bridge to bring us out of hyperspace," he said, surveying the tiny, near-useless laser cannon on the nose of the tiny shuttle.
Bagolo, who had composed himself somewhat since the escape from the prison block, suddenly spoke up. "Oh... yes... hyperspace." he said absently. He stepped away from the shuttle and seemingly picked a bulkhead at random. He produced tools from nowhere and began disconnecting the wall plating from the bulkhead. In a few moments the three traitors were staring at a mass of wiring and tubing. Rogal blinked a couple times, trying to figure out what Bagolo was trying to do.
A knife came up from a pocket on the fat little man's pants, and he made one cut, two cuts, three cuts; and then suddenly, the whole ship began to buckle and jerk below them. All three were thrown to the floor, and the suddenly it was quiet. Rogal realized they were no longer in hyperspace.
"What'd you do!?" Rogal screamed at Bagolo. The portly man smiled and ran back to the shuttle and began tinkering with the lock again.
Ecco lifted his head off the deck plate, and looked over at Bagolo. "Cool!" he said jubilantly.
Rogal watched Bagolo tinker with the lock on the shuttle, and then quite suddenly, the whole shuttle bay began beeping, louder than the whole alarm system they had set off in the cell block, and the emergency warnings the abrupt shift from hyperspace put together. Rogal and Ecco covered their ears as a droid voice began squawking over the comm; "Unauthorized entry to Imperial shuttle! Security to the shuttle bay! Unauthorized entry..."
"We've got to get out of here!" Ecco wailed.
"Ok, Ok!" Bagolo screamed, trying to open the lock. He wailed in frustration as he slammed his hydrospanner against the panel. "Infernal... mis-parted... scrap-pile!!"
The boarding ramp slid down gently, and at the same time, the doorway to the shuttle-bay. Stormtroopers began pouring into the room. Ecco fired his blaster into their ranks. A single stormtrooper's chest lit up with the blast, and he collapsed to the ground.
Rogal immediately felt and saw the return fire, lighting over his head and hit the bulkheads and the shuttle. Bagolo squawked and dashed inside the shuttle.
The two younger men, continued to fire their blasters. Rogal blasted one, and Ecco blasted another. But they both knew they had to get inside quick. To stay was suicide.
"Let's blow this fizzy-glug stand!" Ecco cried jubilantly. He took two steps onto the boarding ramp, firing his blaster and he walked backwards. Rogal did the same, only five steps behind him.
As they ran inside, Rogal slapped the ramp switch, and watched it close as he covered the entrance. Ecco had already thrown his blaster into one of the passenger couches and run forwards to the bridge. Rogal followed him, just in time to hear the boy yelling at him.
"Hey, Imp! Can you fly?" he cried out as he strapped himself in.
"Kid, I'm a foot-soldier. I leave the chauffeuring to the Navy." Rogal said indignantly.
"Alright, alright... more glory for me than." Ecco said with a grin. Rogal nearly slapped the kid upside the head, but restrained himself to strapping into the flight-couch. Bagolo took the co-pilot seat.
"And AAAWWWWAAAYYY we go!" Ecco shouted, totally skipping the pre-flight check, the tiny shuttle shot out of the shuttle bay faster than Rogal knew such a small shuttle could go.
"This little one's got some legs on her!" Ecco cried as he looped the shuttle through a figure-eight. Out of the corner of his eye, Rogal saw the frigate Fury starting to open fire on them.
"Quick! Make the calculations for the jump to lightspeed! Get us out of here!"
"Now whereâs the fun in that?" Ecco laughed, as he turned the shuttle about, and pointed her nose right at the Fury.
"What are you doing?" both Rogal and Bagolo cried in unison.
"Giving 'em a run for their money!" the young man cried out gleefully. The little shuttle shot back towards the frigate, and Ecco dipped and weaved the shuttle complicated maneuvers too quick to follow, avoiding every turbolaser bolt that was shot at them. The shuttle came up high, and skimmed so close to the bulkhead Rogal could swear they'd sheared off some protective plating. Ecco grabbed the blaster cannon controls, and fired the useless little gun, watching the bolts splash harmlessly against the shields.
"You crazy idiot! Get us out of here!" Rogal screamed, as he watched his life flash before his eyes like so many turbolaser blasts. Ecco screamed with joy as he sheared almost too close to one shot, and they nearly lost their starboard wing.
"Ecco!" Bagolo cried out. "They've launched TIE fighters!"
Rogal looked out the window, and suddenly recognized the trademark scream of the twin ion engines in the distance. Seconds later, three of the tiny fighters swooped in low, and the shuttle shook as the took one laser blast on the port quarter. Ecco struggled to get the ship under control.
"Oops... uh, too rich for my blood." he declared. He reached for the hyperspace lever.
"Ecco! You didn't even run calculations through the navicomputer!" Rogal screamed as his heart nearly exploded from his chest. Bagolo nodded weakly, too sick to talk.
"Oh, don't be so much like Bagolo all the time." Ecco said, as he pulled the lever back, and he folded space, bent time, and stretched the stars into narrow lines. Rogal let out one, long fearful scream.
"Sir!" the deck officer of the Imperial Escort Frigate Fury cried out. "They've made the jump to lightspeed!"
Commander Clavin stared out the viewport, listening to the silence as each and every man on the bridge looked at him all at once. He listened as the TIE pilots shouted in the same report at the same time. He frowned. His personal shuttle was gone.
Beside him, Corporal Jaik Angron, in full stormtrooper armour, remained silent. Clavin looked about himself, and silently stroked his dark mustache. Finally, he spoke.
"Put out a Priority One transmission to all bounty hunters in the sector. Offer 75000 credits for the return of my shuttle, plus an additional 3â000 for each of the escaped prisoners, and another 12000 for the capture of the traitor."
Angron stood next to Clavin, and couldn't stand this new turn of events. "Bounty hunters, sir? We don't need that... that scum!"
"Corporal, we have other engagements to attend to. We don't have time to go off on some wild goovin' chase." he nodded to the communications master. "Send the message, all frequencies."
"Furthermore, Corporal, your performance in this incident has been extremely unacceptable. You are being transferred to the Outer Rim, effective immediately. Now return to your quarters."
"Yes sir." Angron said glumly, retreating to the turbolift.
Commander Clavin settled himself into his chair. "Get the hyperdrive operational as soon possible, please," he said to no one in particular. Even so, everyone who heard him rushed to make sure the order was fulfilled.
As soon as the beeping began ringing in his ears, Boba Fett was instantly awake. He sat upright, and scanned the instruments and panels in front of him instantly, with one appraising glance. A Priority One transmission from an Imperial frigate in the Core Sector had awoken him. He silently lifted his helmet off of his lap, and replaced it over his head.
With a single click of the flashing red button, he called up the message on the screen in front of him.
A bounty had been placed by a small, unimportant Commander Clavin. Fett reviewed the details. An Imperial stormtrooper, Private Rogal Dorn, had turned against his own shipmates, and attacked Imperial troops. In the process he had rescued two insurrectionists, Ecco Wyld and Bagolo Staxis, who had been captured as traitors to the New Order, and stolen Clavin's personal shuttle. The bounty for the return of the three men (alive), and the shuttle (intact), was only 93000 credits. Fett calculated that finding the three of them and the shuttle by now, three days after their escape, would cost, quite possibly, more than the bounty itself. Apprehending them alive and healthy would cost quite a bit more.
At the top of the communique in large bold letters was printed: SHUTTLE IS YOUR TOP PRIORITY.
This one was not worth his time. He deleted the communique, but kept the bounty on the bottom of his list, and then looked back to the top. A five year old boy had been taken hostage on the planet Meikos. The kidnappers had asked a ransom of one and quarter million credits for the boy's safe return. Instead of paying it, the parents of the boy had offered the ransom as open bounty to anyone who would take it. Fett weighed his options. The bounty obviously specified that the boy be returned safe and alive, however, the wealthy parents seemingly had no sympathy for the kidnappers. The communique said nothing about what would become of them; Fett knew that to mean that he was free to use any means at his disposal to get the child back to it's parents.
The bounty should be reasonably cheap to put into action. He would most likely spend less than 20000 finding the kidnappers, assuming they were still on Meikos. Apprehension would not cost a lot, seeing as how disintegration's were allowed. And he would have a handsome 1250000 credits to add to his account, for the simple rescue of a small child. Some people just had too much money.
He locked in his course for Meikos, and sent a confirmation message to the parents on Meikos just before he put the Slave I into hyperspace.
Then Boba Fett placed his helmet back on his lap, and fell asleep, completely forgetting the names of Rogal Dorn, Ecco Wyld, and Bagolo Staxis.
Lawg Skrak shifted his attention to the beeping communique that had just arrived Priority One from a small Imperial Escort Frigate in the Core Sector. He called up the message immediately, and leaned back in his chair on the bridge of his ship. He reviewed the details intently.
A young Imperial private had seemingly gone AWOL or berserk, and attacked his fellow soldiers, just before freeing two prisoners, and stealing the frigate commander's personal shuttle. The three traitors escaped after a daring space battle. The bounty for the live capture of all three men and the safe, intact return of the shuttle was exactly 93000 credits. Skrak surveyed his options.
His last bounty, the assassination of some unimportant dictator on an even less important planet, had only brought in 50000 credits. That had been almost a month ago, and he had not eaten in two days, his ship was running low on power, and needed repairs. This bounty, if he collected it, would solve most of his problems for at least two months.
He looked again at the names on the list. Private Rogal Dorn (discharged) - 12000 credits. Ecco Wyld - 3000 credits. Bagolo Staxis - 3000 credits. The Shuttle - 75000 credits.
At the very least, he thought, I've got to get that shuttle. The faceless names did not concern him. But he had to have this bounty.
He sent the standard confirmation message to Commander Clavin on board the Fury, and jumped into the Core Sector.
45000 light years away, a small, tiny shuttle came out of hyperspace in the abysmal blackness of deepest space.
The three men inside examined the instruments, and figured out they had only traveled approximately one light year from their point of origin. As they coasted through the blackness, they quickly began getting the navicomputer to run calculations for another jump. Suddenly a light began blinking on the panel.
"What's that!?!?" Bagolo cried out, jumping from his skin. Ecco smiled.
"We've got mail!" he said.
"Well open it." Rogal said impatiently. The young boy tapped two keys on the board, and looked down at the panel.
"3000 credits???" he cried out with dismay. "Is that all?"
Bagolo leaned forwards, examining the message screen. "They've placed a bounty on our heads!" he declared. Rogal leaned in and took a look as well.
"Hmmm... this was only supposed to go to bounty hunters. How come we got it?" Rogal wondered out loud.
"Probably because we're in a military shuttle... we're so close to the point of origin... Who knows? Who cares? What matters is that we know." Ecco said. He shut off the communique, and listened to the beep from the navicomputer.
"All set!" the boy said. "Let's get outta here."
"Where are we going?" Rogal asked.
"None of your business right now, Imp. You'll find out when we get there."
"Aaaww... don't you trust me?" Rogal smiled, pretending to be hurt.
The young man didn't laugh. "No."
He pulled back on the lever and they all watched space stretch into starlines, and then become the warm, blue, boiling reality of hyper- space.
Lawg Skrak's ship, Death Gundark, came out of hyperspace only four klicks from the frigate Fury, causing immediate alarms to go off around the bridge. Skrak immediately transmitted the standard bounty hunters hailing call. "I am the bounty hunter Lawg Skrak, I have come to take the bounty on the Imperial traitors Rogal Dorn, Ecco Wyld, and Bagolo Staxis." He was surprised see an abrupt response to his hail. "You have permission to come aboard the Imperial Escort Frigate Fury. This is an Imperial vessel, bring no unauthorized weapons aboard."
"Confirmed, Fury." Skrak said, then left the bridge. He strode quickly and purposefully towards the aft of his ship, and was met by KB-547, a droid he had picked up on his last job. His clients had been unable to pay him, so they had given him KB-547 as partial payment instead. Skrak had reluctantly accepted.
"Greetings Master Lawg," Kaybee said quietly. Skrak's first order of business, upon acquiring the droid had been to turn down the volume of his speech, and to tune down his jovial manner. Skrak waved a greeting to the tall gray droid.
"Kaybee, watch the ship while I'm out visiting. Just make sure we don't crash into anything, and we don't get boarded."
"Yes Master," Kaybee whispered.
Skrak smiled underneath his helmet. Maybe having a droid around won't be so bad after all, he thought glumly. It wasn't everyday someone, no, something called him 'Master'. He felt he could probably get used to it.
He entered the airlock to the Gundark's Spawn, the tiny shuttle that hung on the back on of the Death Gundark like a baby clinging to its mother's back. Skrak sealed the airlock without another word to KB-547. Another couple seconds, and the Spawn detached itself from its mother and drifted, thrusters only, towards the Fury.
Lawg Skrak was about as well received in the docking bay of the Fury as any bounty hunter might be, except for maybe that accursed Fett. As it was, the CEO of the ship, a Commander Klyf Clavin, conducted his business from the bridge by holocam.
Skrak turned on his own recording system inside his helmet, which recorded all the information passed through audio, visual, and all heat sensors. He was now recording the entire transaction.
"Hunter," Clavin said without ceremony. "The Imperial Military is strapped for time at the moment; this is the only reason you have been contacted. We are transmitting holos of your quarry to you now." Skrak watched as the faces flicked up on his in-helmet HUD, and on the datapad he carried in his hand. A rather non-descript, scar faced young man of early to mid-twenties; a young, cheerful looking youth in his mid-teens; and an older, fatter gentlemen in perhaps his mid-thirties or early forties. Lastly a spec of the shuttle came up, IDing the shuttle as the Clavins Kab. Skrak tried to hold back a laugh.
The bounty was offered for the live and safe return of each item on the list. Anyone would be sufficient to collect the separate bounties, but if all were returned in one package, the whole bounty of 93000 would be paid.
"Go now, hunter," Clavin said. "And know this, hunter: if you return here again with none of your quarry, you will not survive to see your loved ones again. You got that?" Clavin inquired.
Skrak smirked at the threat, and turned without a word began ascending the ramp into the Spawn once again. Just before take off, he closed the comm chan to Clavin.
As he piloted the tiny shuttle back to the Gundark, Skrak sent a request back to Kaybee to scan all systems on the edge of the Core to search for any odd ships landing at any ports. "Yes, Kaybee, use the illegal scans," he confirmed as he made the short flight from the Fury to the Death Gundark.
When he docked the Spawn, Skrak returned to the bridge and laid in a course for a twelve hour jump towards the edge of the Core, and returned to his sleeping quarters to rest. This was going to take some time, and he wanted to be well rested before he made his way to where ever his quarry had set itself down.
Only six hours later, Skrak was awakened (and surprised) to discover that Kaybee already had a report for him. There were only thirty unusual ships landing at seven systems on the edge of the Core. Skrak snatched the datapad from Kaybee's claw, and scrolled down the list. He wasn't expecting to see the name Clavins Kab anywhere on this list, but...
Wait a second... he thought suddenly. His attention was called to a small Imperial design shuttle registered Wyld Man. It's just too good be true... he thought to himself.
He tapped his finger over the name of the Wyld Man, and a report on the ship itself was brought up. Three passengers... carrying a cargo of hydrospanners... berthed at Docking Bay 4 on the planet Pellatt, in the Pellatt system. He jumped to his feet.
"Kaybee, bring us out of hyperspace now, and lay in a new course for the Pellatt system," he said plainly.
"Yes Master," Kaybee whispered.
Rogal Dorn stepped off the shuttle, and waited as his companions arrived just behind him.
"I can't believe I let you change our ID to Wyld Man, Ecco," he said forlornly.
"Hey, you didn't let anyone, Imp. You were asleep, and Bagolo didn't have enough imagination to think of anything better, so..." the boy trailed off.
"Right. And don't call me 'Imp'."
"Gotcha trooper-scum!" Ecco said with a grin.
"Let's stick with 'Rogal', why don't we?"
The three men stuck around outside the shuttle, waiting for Rogal didn't know what. Finally Rogal questioned them.
"What are we waiting for?"
"Our contact," Ecco said plainly.
Finally, after it seemed like they had been waiting around for a month, two men entered the hangar. Both were human. One was young, perhaps Rogal's age, with short dark hair and dark eyes, and light skin. The other was older, around fifty, with a shock of smooth, well-kept, graying hair, a graying beard and darker skin.
"So, who is this?" the older man asked.
"An Imperial defector, Commander Bainick. His name is Rogal Dorn."
The Commander looked at Rogal. "And what was your rank, Dorn?"
"Private. But I was demoted from Corporal for talking back to a superior officer."
"Alright. Well, that shouldn't matter too much. Welcome aboard, Corporal," the Commander said. "I'd like you to meet Lieutenant Lasso Antilles, my first mate on the Palekna." The two men shook hands, and stepped back. Rogal's head began to swim.
What? No checks or scans or anything, to make sure I won't betray them, or turn them in, or anything?!? Rogal looked at the old man curiously.
"Hey, you two... what happened to you on Sulon V?" the younger man asked Ecco and Bagolo. "We haven't received any reports from them in a week."
"Uh... yeah..." Ecco piped up. "Sulon. Well, Rogal and his boys attacked us by surprise. I still managed to roast one of those floating fortresses in my Z-95, but I got shot down." The boy looked over at Rogal, as though his getting shot down was some sort of personal insult from Rogal himself. Rogal looked away.
Quite suddenly, a whine filled the air, and the men smelled burning flesh. They looked over to see Commander Bainick collapsing to the ground, a deep smoking hole in his chest.
Lasso and Ecco dashed for cover behind a group of empty crates, and Rogal ducked into the safety of the space just underneath the landing ramp. Bagolo immediately retreated back into the Wyld Man. Rogal scanned about himself, and from the corner of his eye, saw the large gray droid striding over the body of Commander Bainick, a large blaster rifle in it's claw. It's large cylindrical head spun a 360, and it called out in a soft, metallic voice.
"Come out! You have been targeted for bounty by Lawg Skrak, professional bounty hunter. If you do not come out, you will face injury or death. Surrender now and you will be treated as kindly as possible." There was a soft whirring sound coming from the inside of the assassin droid's head, as though a recording were rewinding to the beginning, and then the playback starting again. "Come out! You have been targeted..."
Rogal took aim, and shot the droid in the head. The cylinder head separated at the neck with a bright flash of flame, and exploded of the body, shooting across the room, still wailing away. "... For bounteeee by Laaaawg Skraaaaakaah..." the head moaned, as it crashed into the wall of the hangar, and tumbled to the floor.
Two more blaster shots cracked against the head as it squawked on the floor, and Rogal could hear Lasso Antilles' voice from behind the crates. "Ecco! Cut it out!"
"Oops." Ecco whispered, and then laughed.
Rogal turned his attention back to the Docking Bay wall, and saw the dark armoured bounty hunter stepping out of the refresher unit. He fired three shots in Rogal's direction, and there was a soft hum as they sprung off the wall, the shuttle, and the ground. Stun beams, Rogal thought absent-mindedly. He returned his fire and caused the hunter to duck twice as the bolts cracked just above his head.
Quite unexpectedly, the hunter, Lawg Skrak, shot into the air. The wisps of flame just behind his tail made Rogal realize he was wearing a jet-pack. He hovered in the air this time, out of Rogal's line of sight. He hear the soft whine of stun beams again, and ducked out from under the shuttle, just in time to see Antilles and Ecco go down, stunned. He ran towards the crates, firing wildly in Skrak's direction.
"Come on Bagolo, we're getting outta here!" he screamed. He grabbed Ecco and began dragging him for the exit as the chubby man ran down the boarding ramp. Rogal screamed at him as he managed to trip on the decline as he ran downwards. "Let's go!" He fired again in Skrak's direction, and kept dragging Ecco towards the door.
"I'm coming! I'm coming!" Bagolo cried, sounding as though the world was ending. He rushed to Antilles and grabbed him around the arms, pulling him for the exit.
Skrak fired two more stun beams at the escaping rebels, but missed completely. He tried to get closer for an easier shot, but Rogal kept him covered, blasting completely at random, and limiting the hunter's options in which way to steer himself. If he went the wrong way, he might fly straight into one of the blaster bolts.
At about this time, Rogal got Ecco to the door, opened it, and pushed him out onto the street. He looked back at Commander Bainick, but he was clearly dead. He watched for Bagolo, and saw that he had pulled Antilles only a short distance from the door, before he had stopped to catch his breath. Rogal ran over and grabbed them both, half-pulling, half-dragging them out the door.
Rogal made sure everyone was safe outside the door, and delivered two more pot-shots to the still squawking, but non-coherent head of the assassin droid, which lay only three feet away. He ducked back and closed the door just as Skrak fired another stun beam, missing him by mere inches.
"Now where too?" Rogal said to Bagolo.
"Come on! The Palekna is berthed only two blocks down!" he said, and started pulling Antilles again. Rogal picked up Ecco and started to follow.
"Well, I guess I'm a traitor now, he thought to himself. "Anyway, where's the fun in playing a game you always knew you would win?" He pulled his unconscious charge down the street, trying not to think about it too much.
Inside the Docking Bay, Lawg Skrak landed next to the Wyld Man. He looked over at Kaybee's squawking head, and immobile body. These traitors had proven exceedingly difficult after only a four minute encounter. They had killed his droid, nearly killed him, and he had only managed to stun one of the designated quarry. This endeavour was quickly becoming too costly too pursue any longer. Anyway, it didn't matter; he was standing next to 75000 credits. He started walking back to the Gundark's Spawn.
The Death Gundark arrived at the rendezvous with the frigate Fury, towing the Wyld Man behind itself on a tractor beam. He released his prize as soon as he was free of his hyperspace exit inertia, and hailed the Fury immediately. "Mission accomplished."
He flew the Gundark Spawn into the hold of the Fury once again, and was surprised to find that Clavin had chosen to meet him in person this time. The Commander walked up to him, and two stormtroopers stood behind him, just in the distance.
"Hunter!" he said gleefully. "I see you've returned my shuttle. It is intact, I trust?"
"Pay me, now. I'll inform you after I have my money." Skrak stated.
The Commander seemed to hesitate for a moment, and then began to transfer the 75000 credits to Skrak's account. Skrak stopped him.
"I'm going to have to raise the bounty on the shuttle." Skrak said. "My costs for this mission were more than twice what I'm making on the shuttle," he lied.
"What? You... you can't do that!" Clavin sputtered.
Skrak, without a word, moved his hand to a tiny switch on his wrist. "I have your precious shuttle lined with thermal bombs. If you don't pay me what I'm asking, I will blow it to dust shards." The stormtroopers immediately lifted their blasters. Skrak began to sweat. He was bluffing, of course. There were no thermal bombs.
Clavin hesitated for a second, then reconsidered. "I... uh... alright. You win, hunter." Clavin pressed a couple buttons on his datapad to transfer the credits, and Skrak quickly 'disarmed' the charges. What an idiot, Skrak thought. Can't the fool see if I detonated the bombs, I'd take myself out as well? The hunter chuckled to himself. Clavin breathed a sigh of relief.
"Now, how is my shuttle?"
"Except for the fact that they re-christened it the Wyld Man, it's exactly as you left it," Lawg said blandly.
The Commander motioned to the two stormtroopers standing behind him. "Leave us," he said. The troopers spun on their heels and left the docking bay.
"And... the prisoners?"
"I decided that part of the bounty wasn't worth the effort. However, the agreement specifically states that I still collect full payment for the shuttle. I will go now," Skrak turned to go.
"Stop! Stop right there, hunter! I want some of my money back." Skrak shifted on his heel, saw that Clavin was pointing a blaster pistol at him. His arm snapped up, and he depressed the trigger on his blaster rifle three times.
The first two shots burned away Clavin's head, and the third hit the far bulkhead, since Clavin no longer had a head by that time. Skrak turned back and boarded the tiny little Spawn.
He looked down at the datapad transaction in his hand, and saw that he had not yet confirmed his acceptance of the deposit to his account. He clicked the 'Yes' key and watched his account fill from 12 credits to 150012 credits. He smiled, and headed for the bridge of the tiny shuttle.
Boba Fett stepped over the smoking body of the kidnapper, and looked into the tiny, smelly little cell. He saw a small, five year old boy, who looked like he had not bathed in about a month, and had been forced to live in a pool of his own feces. The child was very sick. Fett was glad for his nostrils that his helmet had some of the best air filters money could buy. He looked at the small, feeble little boy, who was now too weak to cry or be happy that he had been rescued. Fett stepped into the room, and picked up the child, pressing him against the chest armour.
Walking out, he watched carefully for anymore surprises, but found none. His trip back to Slave I was uneventful.
As he placed the child on the floor of his personal refresher unit, he received another communique from the Hunter's Guild. He called up a list on the message. It stated that the bounty on a Commander Clavin's shuttle had been collected, plus more than twice the stated amount. Fett might have whistled had he not been more concerned with making sure the child was not going to die on him. He had trouble remembering the rest of bounty. Oh, wait, he thought. That was the one with the defecting stormtrooper. The communique stated that the bounty had been collected by Lawg Skrak, but only on the shuttle. The men had managed to escape capture.
Fett checked his records, and discovered that the remaining bounty on these three dangerous men was now only 17000 credits. If they're not worth Skrak's time, he thought, they're definitely not worth mine.
He deleted the bounty from his list completely, and began to clean the child up, for his return to his parents.