“Kast in Darkness”
Ada Nelep sat on the top of a grassy knoll and watched the distant harbour ahead. ...
- Story by Melinda McMahon
- Estimated reading time: 15 minutes (3,114 words)
Ada Nelep sat on the top of a grassy knoll and watched the distant harbour ahead. The busy city buzzed with traffic, many interstellar ships came and went as she sat there pondering her future.
A cold breeze ruffled her dark fringe as she blinked her brown eyes against the grit being blown around. She'd killed a man. Not just any man, the Mayor of Harbour City. He'd tried to rape her but no one would believe that the Mayor who so adamantly promoted good morals could commit such an act.
She looked at her left arm that had a long scratch from her wrist to her elbow. She'd gotten it in the struggle but she couldn't remember the exact cause.
Her gaze returned to the harbour. They'd be after her soon enough. If she'd bled anywhere they'd find it, extract her DNA and come looking for her. She sighed, her anger had long faded and she was now considering going to the authorities. However she knew she'd be pinned for the crime and every other penalty they could think of. They wouldn't want to tarnish the image of the Mayor, it would create too much unrest amongst the population. A touch of her previous anger resurfaced for a moment and her eyes hardened. She wondered who would come for her.
Deep in space Slave I received a message and a light flashed to prompt the pilot to read it. Boba Fett turned his attention from the dogfight ahead for just a moment. He opened the file and skimmed it. A lowly ten thousand credits for a criminal who murdered a Mayor was not worth his time. He deleted the message and returned to the battle ahead.
The same message was received by a lesser bounty hunter by the name of Jodo Kast. He wanted to be everything Boba Fett was but somehow lacked that final element Fett had long perfected - fearful respect.
Kast turned his helmeted head and opened the message. Ten thousand credits was a decent booty for him and the Ryshi system was near enough. He set the co-ordinates and initiated the hyperdrive.
Ada sat high in the braches of an old tree as troopers below swept the area for the tenth time. Luckily she'd noticed that they lacked the ability to look up. Many times they had passed and not had any inkling as to how close she was.
Once again they were thinning out and starting to head back to their transport. Ada quietly sighed with relief. Their searches were starting to grow less frequent over the last four days. They probably thought she'd made a lot of ground and was well out of their grasp. She wasn't stupid enough to venture into the unexplored valleys. Too many people who'd adventured there had come back with serious and strange injuries from the creatures and vegetation that lived there. They probably hoped she'd been consumed by the native Sarlacc.
The sound of a ship approaching made Ada freeze, the engine note was different to the trooper's vehicle. It sounded more like an Imperial vessel and Ada had only seen those twice in her lifetime. She watched as an Imperial Shuttle skimmed over, its white hull was decorated. It appeared to be owned by a private party rather than the Empire. She felt slightly relieved.
It continued on to Harbour City, the trooper's ship not far behind it. Ada stretched and started climbing back to the ground. She needed to find something to eat.
Jodo Kast's reception at landing was less than hospitable. The aging leaders of the planet stood together like willowed skeletons with skin. Their ancient eyes scaled him with disapproval. "Is this the best we could get. Some scum want-to-be!" Hissed one robed in mauve velvet.
"Unfortunately the better class of bounty hunters didn't respond. I'm surmising the price wasn't high enough." Stated another leader in a green satin number.
Kast considered rebuffing the insults but he needed the work. His last efforts hadn't turned out as planned. Besides Fett would have stayed silent.
"Very well," grumbled the one in mauve, "he'll have to do. He's the most efficient looking one yet." With that he strode away and left the other leaders to discuss the details.
Kast was quickly brought up to date on the matter. He was shown a picture of his quarry and took in everything. He was surprised to see that it was a young woman, and an attractive one at that. Her face did not show any signs of hidden agenda but who was he to judge.
Once the briefing was complete the leaders quickly showed him how to leave the city. Kast hired a swoop and headed in the direction his quarry was last seen.
Ada didn't dare start a fire, instead she chewed on a hymbar root even though it would have been much more appetising cooked. The darkness of night was starting to fall and the chill in the air was increasing. Winter was starting to creep into autumn and Ada didn't like to think of the prospects of hiding out through such a coldly harsh time.
She wore the clothes she'd had on the day of the killing. Somehow she'd managed to avoid being splattered by his blood. Fortunately the blaster had been set for long range and had thrown the Mayor halfway across his chamber. It had been his gun and she'd had no idea it was set to kill. It seemed he had intentions of getting rid of her after he'd committed his evil act. Luckily it had never come to that.
She wrapped her thin cardigan around her slim form as a cold gust of wind rustled the leaves above. She wasn't cut out for this. She was seriously considering going back to Harbour City and hiding out in the slums. Not that she'd survive very long there. She'd never had the urge to be a living parasite to other beings.
Ada was suddenly aware that the animal noises around her had ceased. Something had scared them. A chill ran through her body and it wasn't caused by the cold night air. She slipped the hymbar root into her pocket and started for the nearest tree. She was stopped mid-stride by a hand grabbing the back of her shirt.
Ada froze. Her whole body went rigid with fear. They'd found her. Her heart was pounding so hard the noise thrummed in her ears.
"Ada Nelep," said a deep gravelly voice, "do you surrender yourself?"
Her eyes blinked but she stared dumbly ahead. She was too frightened to do anything. Her captor swung her around to face him.
"You don't seem the killing type." He observed.
Ada looked into the T-shape visor and felt her heart drop to her stomach. It was Boba Fett, they'd sent Boba Fett after her. Had her crime been such an event that Fett needed to be called on. She suddenly felt that her cleaver efforts to hide had been wasted.
Kast looked at the frightened woman before him. She was a mouse, there was no fire in her to commit the crimes the leaders had informed him off. She was no rebel murderess. Something colossal would have had to take place to make this woman raise a hand in anger.
She hadn't been hard to find. Kast had set his helmet to inferred and due to the cold weather, hadn't had much trouble locating her. "Why would you kill the Mayor?" He questioned out loud.
Ada stared at him, her lips starting to move. It seemed her initial terror was starting to ebb. "He.. he tried to rape me. But no one will believe me." She quivered.
Kast loosened his grip. He's seen holograms of the Mayor, he'd tried to look the picture of wholesomeness but his ratty eyes had given away his true nature. "I'd believe you."
Ada's eye widened with awe, "But you're here to take me in, aren't you?"
Kast's head tilted to the side as he assessed her, "Yes I am. However I have a certain moral code. Why should I hand in an innocent being to authorities who want to crucify her to make the people sleep easy in their beds?"
He watched as Ada's shoulders slumped into a more relaxed position. "You'd let me go?"
Kast's gloved hand moved to cover his blaster pistol, "No."
Ada didn't waste anytime, she ran as soon as his answer left his lips. Kast immediately followed. He'd wanted to prompt her into running, the hunt had been too easy so far.
Ada couldn't believe he'd actually been able to lull her into a state of relief only to twist the knife of fear back into her. Just when she thought she'd found an ally she'd been wrong.
She weaved between the trees, quickly accessing the best passage. She knew there were caves ahead but she's never ventured into them. There'd been too many horror stories about them to coax her to go there previously. But perhaps now they were her only hope.
She managed to find the rocky entrance to the eastern side and with only a slight hesitation she entered. The darkness encompassed her almost entirely. She slowed her pace as her vision deteriorated. She tripped over a rocky ledge but regained her footing only to walk into a wall. She realised her error in judgement would probably cost her life.
Kast was somewhat disappointed when Ada went into the caves. In inferred she'd be easy to find. He considered leaving his vision on normal but decided against it, he didn't need a broken leg.
He found her stumbled on the ground holding her right shin. He scooped her up without comment. She started to thrash then seemed to give up on the idea. It must have hurt too much.
He carried her for some time before finding his swoop. She seemed to have accepted her fate. Defeat etched her face as he sat her on the swoop, sliding in behind her. The trip to Harbour City was done in verbal silence.
Kast took her to his ship to administer first aid. He knew that once the brutes got her they'd have no patients to give her health a consideration.
She looked surprised as he carried her aboard and took her to the first aid room. He sat her on a metal table that doubled as a surgical bed as he turned to check his medical supplies.
Ada sat on the cold table in confusion. Wasn't he taking her to the authorities? She didn't understand what was going on.
When he came back with a tube of Bacta gel and bandages she started to understand. He was going to make sure she was as healthy as possible before he handed her in. She wanted to kick him with disgust, but decided if she were to do that it would be best after he'd finished fixing her up.
He cleaned her wounds with skill and applied the Bacta with certain hands. She wondered how many times he'd patched himself up.
However the medical treatment was finished all too soon for Ada. His helmeted head came up to look her in the eye. "Time to face the music."
This time Ada did kick him, fair in the thigh just beside his codpiece. He cringed but didn't back away, instead his hands locked onto her shoulders in a steel grip as his helmeted face levelled with hers. "Don't do that again."
Suddenly Ada remembered a snippet she'd heard. There was a Boba Fett wannabe running around. She had a feeling that this was him, not Boba Fett himself. Fett would have just shot her, at least that's what she's heard. Also Fett wasn't known for playing with his prey, he got down to business and got it done. "You're Jodo Kast, aren't you?"
The bounty hunter's head turned sharply.
Ada grinned feeling less intimidated. "Thought so."
"What's that supposed to mean." Kast almost hissed.
Ada tried to lean back but failed, Kast's hands were still firmly on her shoulders. "Oh nothing."
Kast gave her a sideways glance before releasing his grip. He'd let the comment slide for now. He had other things to take care of.
Ada watched him go, her attempt to belittle him seeming childish. He wasn't really her enemy, it was the law. She bowed her head and ran her hand over her face with frustration.
Kast skimmed through the messages on his ship's database before returning for Ada. It was time. He'd get a nice payout and be able to fund a new more rewarding hunt.
He placed handcuffs around Ada's wrists and led her to the leaders. They seemed to be containing their glee when Kast handed Ada over. He was paid in kind and encouraged to leave as soon as possible.
Kast watched with some regret as the troopers led Ada away. She threw one mournful look over her shoulder at him, but was quickly shoved back into line by a high-strung trooper.
Ada sat in the dank cell and peered up at the faint ray of light shining through the single barred window. She was alone and for that she was grateful. The troopers had made sure she was manhandled before being thrown into her cell. The cut on her arm had wept a little but her shin seemed okay.
She looked over to the cell's door which was a transparent forcefield, every so often it would flicker and buzz. Ada put it down to old technology and the damp conditions. The guards periodically passed by and peered into every doorway. There was no real means of escape.
Looking back up at the window, Ada waited to see the Imperial Shuttle leave. She now knew it belonged to Kast. She hadn't heard the distinct engine note, but somehow she knew that he'd be leaving soon. His business was done, why would he stay?
The light of day grew stronger. Ada sat on the cold stone floor and tried to sleep. Her body ached and she couldn't get comfortable. She longed for sleep but her mind keep racing through the events she'd been through. Something wasn't right but she just couldn't grasp what it was.
Hours later Ada stirred, not realising she'd eventually fallen asleep. The guards had come. She was dragged roughly to her feet and led outside into a private courtyard. One of the planet leaders awaited her. Ada recognised his face. It was Imbard Gitty, he always wore his mauve velvet robe, its tattered edges showing its age.
Ada was pushed into a seat and the guards left to stand post at the two doorways, out of visual range.
Imbard glowered at her with wily eyes. "So it was you." He rasped. He stood and paced around her with his hands behind his back, his eyes pinned to her in an unnerving manner. "The Mayor was stupid, we knew he'd eventually give into the emotions that drove him here. You know the man was a wanted criminal on many systems."
Ada's eyes widened, but she remained silent.
Imbard took in the reaction and continued. "Unfortunately for you, we need to make an example of murderers on this planet. It has been 19 years since the last killing. I don't want to deal with another community out cry."
Ada was repulsed but continued to watch Imbard's slow slinking trail.
He paused for a moment. "It's unfortunate that you're so young. People may pity you."
Ada's fingers dug into the arms of the chair she sat in. Her teeth ground but still she remained silent.
Jodo Kast sat motionless on the stone wall and watched the leader in mauve circle Ada. The man was practically begging for a thrashing. Perhaps that's what he hoped Ada would do. It would give them more evidence of her being a criminal. Suddenly Kast understood. They had no evidence on Ada. He remembered the briefing. They'd given him the picture of her saying it was from a surveillance camera outside the Mayor's chambers.
There was nothing to suggest Ada was the killer. Apparently the blaster pistol was free of fingerprints and there were no witnesses. Kast waited to see what else the old crone had to say.
Imbard gave a reptilian smile. "You know that blaster pistol was on stun."
Ada stared at him wearily and hid any signs of rising hope.
"My troopers adjusted the magnitude later. You see the Mayor was no longer under my control." Imbard tilted his head to gauge her reaction. It was the last move he made.
Ada watched as the old man crumpled to the ground without a sound. She watched in puzzlement and tried to understand. An unexpected thud sounded behind her. Ada stood and turned to see Jodo Kast walking towards her.
He stopped by Imbard's still body and removed a small dart from his side. Kast looked at Ada, "Don't worry it's not poisonous, but he will have a terrible headache when he wakes up."
At that Ada grinned, then her face turned serious. "What are you doing here?"
"Helping you escape." Kast said as he wrapped his arms around her waist. "Hold on."
Ada looked confused until Kast fired up his jetpack. She quickly latched onto him and watched the courtyard sail away. They landed a short distance away and Kast helped her onto his swoop.
They didn't stop until he reached his ship. There she turned and stopped him. "Why did you come back?"
"In the forest I said I wouldn't turn you in because I believed you were innocent. However I did require the bounty, so I handed you in and waited for the right time to bust you out. I don't believe in innocent people being prosecuted. Then that old crone confirmed your innocence." Kast explained.
Ada didn't know whether to kiss him or hit him. "I knew you weren't Boba Fett."
Kast tilted his head in what appeared to be confusion.
"Boba Fett wouldn't have gone to so much trouble to save an average person like me." Ada told.
Kast shrugged, "You'd be surprised. But you are right, I'm am Jodo Kast."
Ada took one last look at Harbour City. "Let's go before the troopers realise what happened."
Kast nodded and they ran aboard. It took only moments for Kast to leave the planet's surface. Ada stared out at the stars in awe. "I've never been into space." She confessed.
"Get used it, you might be seeing it for a while." Kast replied.
Ada smiled, her future didn't look so grim after all. She didn't care where they went, she was free from both the guilt and punishment. She was relieved to be told that it was the troopers who had killed the Mayor, though she'd been certain he was dead when he'd impacted with the wall after she shot him.
Ada settled down in the co-pilots chair and admired Jodo Kast for a moment. In a world full of betrayal it had taken a bounty hunter to believe her. At that moment Jodo Kast was the best person Ada had ever known.
Updated July 28, 2015
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