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The leader of the Jawa clan instructed his Sandcrawler crew...
- Story by Unknown
- Estimated reading time: 67 minutes (13,427 words)
- Updated July 28, 2015
"Boba Fett rarely loses his quarry, and has, thus far, shown no remorse for their fate."
-- Star Wars Essential Guide to Characters
*timeline spans movie episodes 4, 5, & 6*
The leader of the Jawa clan instructed his Sandcrawler crew to direct the massive vehicle toward the still-smoking wreckage of a freighter ship way off on the horizon. As the towering machine lumbered forward on its treads, the wreckage grew larger in the Jawa leader's field of vision. Simultaneously his mind was calculating the possibilities as to what the cargo could be and how much of it could be brought into the Sandcrawler before others discovered the motherlode. Arriving at the scene of the crash, the 'crawler lurched to a stop and its door opened, members of the populous Jawa clan streaming out in all directions. They surrounded the wreckage, already instructing droids to carry off larger pieces of metal, while other Jawas used laser torches to separate the twisted sheet metal into more portable sizes. There was another Jawa salvage team responsible for the recovery of any weapons that could be fixed or used for parts.
The Jawa leader was the one who found the bodies of the pilots, who, judging by the cargo of illegal drugs that had been aboard, were smugglers of some sort. The bodies were respectfully dragged out to the sand and left where humans would find them. The cause of the crash was instantly apparent to the well-traveled Jawa leader. One of the overconfident fools had actually tried to process the volatile chemicals into drugs en route to Tatooine's Mos Eisley spaceport, and the ensuing explosion had cost them both their ship and their lives. Traces of the distinctive green chemicals had been flung onto all the metal surfaces, staining them. With disapproval the leader observed that several of his comrades had inadvertently swept their cloaks over the chemically-tainted surfaces. He hoped that it would not harm them before they had a chance to clean it off.
A loud sound, the slamming of something against metal, caused all the Jawas to spring back from their work. The head Jawa observed a sheet of metal shudder as something underneath it pounded its surface, then lay still again. Cautiously edging towards the metal sheet, the leader flipped it up and found a young female human in what was once the cargo hold of the ship. Despite being drenched in the caustic green chemicals, being out cold, and suffering a badly-broken arm, a lot of long, jagged slashes from crash shrapnel, and a wound that would most likely cost her her right eye, she was still alive. She had apparently come to just long enough to slam the metal with her fists. _Strange how destiny works,_ thought the Jawa leader. _The pilots die and the stowaway lives._ Calling over his fellow clan members, the Jawa leader devised a sling from a tarp and in this contraption the human was carried into the Sandcrawler.
Jawa first aid was notorious for doing far much harm than good, and had the crash victim been conscious to refuse treatment, she most certainly would have. In the 'crawler the Jawas debated what course of action would be best to follow, and decided on what they felt would help her best. And so when the girl drifted back to consciousness she found she had already been immersed in a tank of hot oil normally used for cleaning droids, with a breathing mask over her face and the oil temperature slightly lower to avoid killing her. Improvisation had been necessary since the Jawa clan didn't have a bacta tank at its disposal, and it was believed the hot oil would be soothing to the severe pain.
The sight of dozens of peering Jawa faces distorted by the oil she was in was nearly too much for the girl, but she was almost used to trauma by now. The Jawas lifted her from the tank and onto a hard surface they must have considered to be a cot. She was still in her shredded clothes, which were now streaming hot oil. The girl felt the pain in her arm less ferociously than she had back in her brief moment of consciousness in the wreckage. An array of wrappings covered the broken arm, and underneath it had been splinted with something that looked strangely like a piece of a long-barreled blaster. Time would see that it healed.
Her eye was another story, however, and she felt the raging soreness under the bandages which covered the entire right side of her face. She looked up at the ceiling with the eye that was uncovered. Monocular vision would take some getting used to until her eye healed--_if_ it healed.
The Jawas did not understand her speech, slurred from the effects of the pain, and when she asked for something to drink one of them injected more sedatives. As she fought off the sleep that was winning the fight over her swimming head, the last thing she saw was the glowing Jawa eyes looking respectfully, almost _tenderly,_ down at her.
Hence Brandy, the mysterious human who refused to talk about her past or why she had stowed away on the freighter, became from the age of fourteen on almost a surrogate Jawa. After recovering, she learned to converse in their language, adapted her habits to their way of life, and became quite useful for her intuitive talent of fixing salvaged droids and weaponry for resale. The Jawas who had originally scoffed at their leader's suggestion of saving the girl soon grew to realize what an asset to the clan she was. She helped the Jawa clan become more prosperous than many other competing groups on Tatooine, and soon led most expeditions to crash sites.
Despite making efforts at adopting the nonviolent ways of the clan, Brandy often found herself called upon to fight off Sandpeople who attacked Jawas in hopes of claiming the scavengers' finds for themselves. Her prowess at driving them off made her a heroine in the eyes of the younger clan members and a dangerous radical in the minds of the older Jawas. Nevertheless, it was agreed that she could stay with the clan as long as she wished, which fit in quite comfortably with her own plans--or lack thereof.
Every once in a while, for reasons she never really understood, she would sneak off to be around humans for a change. On these occasions she headed to the Mos Eisley Cantina, to sit at a booth (with a "borrowed" ID she had found on a crash site) and order different drinks to enjoy while she listened to the tales of the Cantina regulars.
From her dealings with the Jawa traders' customers of many different races, she spoke a wide array of dialects and therefore could communicate with most everyone who came in the Cantina. Wuher the bartender noticed this in due time and offered her a job serving customers at the bar on busy nights. The Jawas reluctantly allowed her to take this job, realizing that human contact was important for their friend.
Brandy loved the bar-tending job because not only did it pay well but she got to hear the best, alcohol-enhanced stories from the customers who would be perched on bar stools every night without fail. Tales from every pocket of the galaxy reached her in this manner. She listened intently, her mind recording the details of each story, though most stories were about bar fights that had taken place right in the Cantina itself. Beings came and went, but their stories remained, to be retold again and again by different tellers. Some never returned after leaving their stories behind, so in a way their stories were their only legacy.
Brandy's whole world changed one night in her eighteenth year when a human sitting on a bar stool told for everyone's' listening pleasure the tale of a mysterious new bounty hunter known only as Boba Fett. She stopped wiping the bar down and absorbed every word of the tale, the words being permanently etched into the grooves of her mind. That night as she rode a battered old landspeeder home she could feel the legend of Boba Fett alive in the cool air that surrounded her. She dreamed of lands beyond Mos Eisley and Tatooine, and fixing droids seemed no longer such a promising career. Brandy was disappointed when the Jawas scoffed at her mentioning traveling off-planet to distant worlds.
At about that same point she became a different person, restless, bolder and more sure of what she wanted to get out of life--and aware of what limitations she'd rather not pay heed. A local crimelord known as Jabba the Hutt had been threatening to exterminate the entire Jawa clan -HER Jawa clan- if any more wrecks within a few miles of his palace were plundered by Jawas. The fact that Jabba did not actually own the land in the first place did not seem to hold any weight in his eyes, but it enraged the Jawas who needed to survive off what the sky rained down for them.
The Jawas continued as they always had, and one night twenty juveniles did not report back to the Sandcrawler as scheduled. Believing the worst, Brandy performed perhaps the most amazing accomplishment of her life so far. She installed a new set of commands for a protocol droid and from the safety of the 'crawler used a remote-controlled device to send it out to the gates of Jabba's palace. When it was seized and brought inside the stronghold, Brandy waited for nightfall then set the droid, which had been deactivated and placed in a storeroom, into motion. The carefully-oiled joints of the droid made no noise as she directed it down a hallway, while overseeing the whole operation on a viewer screen in the 'crawler. Finding the imprisoned Jawas in the dungeon, ready to be fed to the rancor for Jabba's amusement the next day, the droid removed the lock from the cage and set them free. The young Jawas crept all the way outside to a waiting landspeeder that returned them to the Sandcrawler in perfect safety.
And thus Brandy had a considerable bounty placed on her head by Jabba. If any of his henchmen came looking for her, they would harm the Jawas without a second thought. Keeping this in mind, Brandy prepared to make her break from the scavengers. Without ceremony, she bade the clan that had become her family goodbye and packed her few belongings in the landspeeder. She peered down at the hovering vehicle, realizing for the first time how little she truly owned. Everything had been shared back at the Jawa community, and soon she'd be plunging herself into an entirely different world. With an uncanny mixture of the sensations of a heavy heart and the tingling excitement of setting out into a new life, she directed the 'speeder to Mos Eisley. She entered the bar and informed Wuher of the termination of her employment, knowing that the bounty would attract enough attention to make a "high-profile" job such as bar-tending impossible. She left the Cantina before he could argue.
Brandy stepped into the landspeeder once more, and the twenty-year old craft listed to the side, spilling her onto the dusty ground. Laughter echoed from those in the streets who had witnessed this embarrassing moment, and Brandy pretended not to care as she brushed off her threadbare clothing and threw the bag of her possessions back into the 'speeder. It was then that it hit her: she had nowhere to go. Stowing away again was not something she was willing to attempt, and she didn't have a single credit to pay her passage off-planet.
_Guess I have two choices. I can sit here leaning against my busted landspeeder until one of the Hutt's goons drags me away, or I can decide what to do with my life._ Steering the crippled landspeeder into an alleyway, she sat reading maps, her situation not improving. Sand was rolling along around her and she crawled under the craft to take advantage of the shade. _Here I am lying in the dust. Yeah, I really planned this one well._
It was late at night. Brandy had fallen asleep, less sure of her own intelligence than she'd ever been before. She hadn't even considered where she was going to spend the night, so she was stuck with the default option: in the landspeeder. She dozed without dreaming, the city around her far from quiet.
"Freeze." She slid open an eye, then sat up abruptly, blinking at the sudden apparition of a Stormtrooper standing before her, his plastisteel armor shining white in the moonlight.
"Aren't you the one who's wanted for stealing from Jabba?" Brandy could only nod while keeping an eye on the blaster rifle he had aimed between her eyes.
"Jabba's got one sweet bounty on your head...and I see it's my good fortune to collect." He shifted the rifle, and the tone of his voice gave off the impression that he was grinning under the helmet. "I'm off-duty soon, and then you and I are going to make a little excursion to Jabba's." There had been rumors of Mos Eisley Stormtroopers who worked less honorable jobs on the side, such as amateur bounty hunting or even smuggling, and Brandy inwardly cursed her naivetÃ©.
"You look like you're the type to resist, and I can't have that." Keeping the blaster trained on his hostage, the Imperial fumbled in the compartments on his utility belt until he found what was certainly a non-standard issue syringe. Brandy recognized the sickly green contents within to be the same form of sedative that had been administered after she had been pulled from the freighter wreckage long ago. The sap from rare plants was rumored to have the potency to bring down a Bantha in the correct dosage, which wasn't very large.
"Hands up. Stand--slowly." Brandy stood awkwardly in the landspeeder, and the craft's broken stabilizer failed once more. She hit the ground on all fours, and wrestled with the Stormtrooper, who dived at her with the needle. Just when it seemed as though it would be impossible to do any damage to the armored man, he slumped over and hit the ground. Inching closer, Brandy saw the syringe had been plunged into his own arm, scoring a direct hit on the unprotected joint between two pieces of armor.
Breathing raggedly, she stood in the moonlight, considering the new--and alluring--choice that had just opened up before her. It was a desperate plan, but she had a way off Tatooine, or at least into what she hoped would be better things. She dragged the Imperial to the desk of the Mos Eisley Inn.
"My buddy here had a bit much to drink tonight, and I think he'd better sleep it off before I release him to his superiors." she said, the Stormtrooper's head lolling on her shoulder. The clerk stared back at her in awed disbelief, then handed her a room card, sneering as he did so.
Clad in head-to-toe plastisteel, Brandy retrieved the sack that held her belongings from the landspeeder. The vehicle would not be there in the morning. It brightened her already euphoric mood to think it would make some lucky Jawa's day to find it.
_Good thing I'm not built like a Cantina dancer,_ she thought, _or this armor wouldn't fit._ She checked in with her superiors via the com-link and thus began her career as 8025. She also made a mental note to find a voice-alterating module for the com so she wouldn't have to imitate the voice of the Stormtrooper who had owned the armor before her.
When the sedated Stormtrooper woke up two days later, he found himself without any armor and left with only the credits and personal items that had been in his utility belt. He found he had two choices of his own: admit his failure and be subjected to severe punishment by his superiors, or flee the Imperials. He made perhaps the only freewill decision he had made since joining the Stormtrooper ranks and chose the latter.
Some years later, 8025 stood in the Cantina. It felt strange to be back on Tatooine after the extensive travel she'd been doing, yet nothing had really changed. The bar's patrons were still the usual humans, Rodians, Ithorians, and other species. They were serving the same mind-altering drinks, and Wuher still wore the glazed-eye look of an overworked man. The only difference was that she was now viewing it all through the small slits of a menacing Stormtrooper helmet. Yet it seemed as though the world had lost some of its color; that everything was washed out in some strange way. Little did she realize, but the apathy that eventually settled over most Stormtroopers had struck her as well. The face behind the helmet reflected all that she'd been through the past years--the intensive training, dealing with demanding officers, not to mention keeping her true identity hidden from the rest of her unit.
8025 paced authoritatively, enjoying the suspicious glances shot at her. Taking advantage of the absence of other Stormtroopers or officers, she entered the restroom and removed her cache of spice from a compartment in her belt. She used the drug, failing to notice that it took increasing amounts of spice to bring about any affect. Her pupils dilated, she replaced the Stormtrooper helmet. Her com-link sputtered to life with a transmission; she was to report immediately to a nearby hangar bay, because the droids her unit had been searching for had finally been located, and someone was trying to spirit them off the planet. Cursing at her own poor timing, 8025 burst out of the restroom, pushing past all in her way, and rushed to the hangar bay.
Automatically her fingers gripped the blaster she had drawn. 8025 was exhilarated to be part of a real mission, rather than dewback patrol or the even worse assignments she'd had off-planet. The spice she'd used mixed with her adrenaline to create a burst of energy. She charged forward into the hangar bay and began blasting at the group of rebels who were trying to flee. The blaster rifle failed to hit any of its targets, but she continued firing. The R2 unit and protocol droid were making their way up a small ramp, and she swiveled her blaster around. They wouldn't _have_ a ramp to walk up in a minute.
This was the life. What she'd been called to do. Serving the Empire. Keeping rebels such as these from gaining access to whatever plans that R2 unit supposedly contained. Her fellow Stormtroopers aboard the Death Star would be endangered if the plans were taken to the Rebel base, and she fired for their lives and for her own.
An officer near her slumped over suddenly, and she saw he was dead. 8025 turned her head. The shot had come from _behind_ them! Yet the only one there was another Stormtrooper, 1023, the only one who still seemed to have a mind left in the entire Stormtrooper division. She stepped closer to him, inadvertently blocking a shot from one of the Rebels that had been intended for 1023.
She didn't have time to turn her head back to the action in front of her when the rebel's blaster bolt hit its mark. Lightning, all she could see was lightning. Roaring noise filled her ears and she went down, causing another Stormtrooper to almost trip over her. Before her vision filled completely with jagged yellow and black static, she caught sight of the small ship lifting and racing past, over her unit.
Many minutes passed, then her vision began to return. Struggling to her knees, she propped herself up on her elbows and gazed forward. The ship and the other Stormtroopers were gone. Only a few prone forms remained. Shivering, she put some distance between herself and the dead officer.
_1023 _couldn't_ have shot that guy._ she assured herself, knowing what she had seen. What could have made him do such a thing? She looked at her armor. The hit she'd taken had left a scorched mark on her armor, and she could see it was a glancing blow. The protective cocoon of the armor had worked, but she had been convinced it would have worked _better,_ not left her in such pain. She knew most of her ribs on her left side were broken, and the bruised area would be with her for a while.
Hearing voices, she froze. A Hutt slithered past, followed by--Boba Fett! He walked slowly to keep pace with Jabba, his ragged cape fluttering behind him. Guided by some force within herself, she struggled to her feet, wobbled a bit, then followed at a distance, blaster rifle in hand. If she reported whatever came of this and it led to the eventual recovery of the two droids, she could be promoted to an officer!
The Hutt was loudly grumbling. He stopped at one point and looked back at his tail, which sported an ugly bruise. 8025 nodded to him and he squinted suspiciously. 8025 had been told nothing of a Hutt's visit to the area. Her pulse quickened. The Hutt's entourage consisted of Rodians and burly humans, yet none were as noticeable as Boba Fett. Perhaps they had played a role in spiriting those droids away.
"Halt." 8025 stood tensely, facing the group with one hand holding her blaster rifle. Their visages showed scorn and contempt, even downright mockery, of the authority she was attempting to display. Sweating under the armor, 8025 approached them. Boba Fett casually let the strap to his Blastech Rifle slide off his shoulder, which halted the Stormtrooper in her tracks.
The Hutt said something she didn't understand, and his bodyguards continued on with him. Boba Fett remained, and faced her. The Hutt noticed he hadn't continued on with the rest, but Fett nodded and they grudgingly continued without him.
"I know who you are." Fett told 8025. "Or who you _once_ were. There's still a bounty on your head." 8025 was stunned. How could he have singled her out from the other Stormtroopers?
"I'm not who you think. I _ain't_ Brandy anymore." Boba Fett nodded, sending chills up her spine.
"Have you discovered what happened to your Jawa family?" he asked. Not mockingly, or sympathetically, or viciously; Fett was simply asking her a question.
"What do you mean? I let everyone think I was gone so Jabba's henchmen wouldn't hurt them." She'd just revealed more than she'd ever intended to. Fett remained silent. 8025 felt the blood drain from her face. Something was incredibly wrong. Turning, she tore away. She had to prove it was wrong.
She stood before the Stormtroopers, breathing heavily and clutching her broken hands. Seconds ago, after finding what had happened to the only beings that had ever accepted her as an individual, she had radioed in and found out which unit had been responsible for the carnage, then followed them back to Mos Eisley. In a blind rage of pure hatred, she had rushed the officer. He had stood calmly while she broke one fist and then the other against his armor.
Now the adrenaline was wearing off and the pain was setting in.
"You _killed_ them!" she gasped, realizing as the throbbing pain stretched up her arms that the now-dead Jawas had been right when they had prophesied so long ago. Her anger _had_ gotten the better of her.
"They wouldn't have fought you!" she screamed with the last of her energy. "Whatever you wanted from them, they would have surrendered!"
"Shut up." commanded the Stormtrooper whose armor had shattered the bones in her hands. "It was an order. They were a threat to the Empire. Those two droids..."
"A _threat_?" screamed 8025 hysterically. She wasn't crying, just flooding her eyes with liquid salt.
The Stormtrooper's com crackled to life. "Hey, what's that yelling about?" demanded the static-filled voice. The Stormtrooper officer glanced at 8025.
"Just a reaction of one of the rookies. Got a little upset about the carnage. Musta never seen a dead Jawa before. We have everything under control." 8025 stood up straighter, looked fiercely at those watching her, then stormed away. She tore her helmet off, then threw it in the dust. Kicking it, she slapped the tears roughly out of her eyes, the pain in her hands all but forgotten. Hearing the helmet strike a building made her feel no better.
Something made her stop before she kicked the helmet again. Instead she picked it up and brushed it off, then sat in the alley staring at it, wondering what had gone wrong. The face reflected in the glossy plastisteel had bloodshot eyes and was framed by scruffy hair, which made her turn away. She realized with a start that this very alleyway had been the backdrop for the event that had started the vicious circle of Imperial life for her. Why had she ever believed life in the Stormtrooper ranks would be better than what she'd known before?
Brandy--not 8025--was resisting the urge to shed tears again, yet she felt lost. She'd failed at trying to fit in with the Stormtroopers. She'd never fit in completely with the Jawas, the Imperials had just made her the object of a massive joke, and her latest mission had been entirely wrong. _I must have failed at being female as well. Females are supposed to be social beings, and I've been playing soldier all these years._ She was sure she was going to get sick right in the sand. The reality of having been labeled "dispensable" for the decade she'd been a Stormtrooper began to sink in. Her existence mattered to no one. Except possibly... Brandy shook her head violently. It was stupid. The bounty hunter didn't care about her or anyone else. Only bounties were important to him. She realized that he had probably informed her about the Jawas simply to mess with her already-brainwashed mind.
Two years later...
Brandy sat in a corner booth at the Mos Eisley Cantina. The remains of the last decent meal she'd had in a week lay on a plate before her, next to her modified Stormtrooper helmet. Her head was still swimming from the rapid intake of the contents of a bottle of spirits she'd bought from a Jawa in a dark alleyway.
A pair of Ithorians regarded her curiously, their wideset eyes flitting from her wild and spiky long hair to the strange armor she wore. She briefly amused herself with the decision on whether or not to send an obscene gesture their way, but her mind turned to other things, mainly the drink in her hand. She guzzled down the liquid, its watermelon-like taste mellow yet burning at the same time.
The alcohol gave her the courage she hadn't been able to find all night. It was time to obtain the information she'd come here for. She approached the bar, leering at the Ithorian pair on the way. _I have become a real punk in the last two years,_ she thought, enjoying the idea immensely. Taking a seat, Brandy grinned at a Rodian seated next to her and began swiveling on the stool.
"Hey, bartender?" she inquired, raising a hand in the air and very nearly tumbling off the stool. The alcohol had affected her in no small way. Sitting still for a change, she boldly asked, "Does Boba Fett come here often?" Having quit the Stormtroopers the day she'd found the smoking Sandcrawler, she had been trying her hand at amateur bounty hunting ever since. Without any extra money for wasting in the Cantina, she'd lost track of who did or did not patronize the place anymore. The bartender nearly dropped the glass he'd been filling. His eyes bore into hers.
"Why do you want to know?" he questioned, adding, "Since when did you have two different-colored eyes?"
"It's from an old accident." Brandy had stopped wearing a tinted lens soon after she'd left the Stormtroopers. _Let people stare if they wanted to,_ she had believed. Big deal if they'd notice her eyes no longer matched. Her right eye had been ruined in the freighter ship crash long ago and the ingenious Jawa doctor had transplanted a new one, borrowed from one of the two dead pilots who surely didn't need it anymore. So what if it was an unusual purple eye and her left one was still blue, it served its purpose. Brandy didn't look in mirrors often anyway so she couldn't care less.
She momentarily froze when debating how to answer the first question Wuher had asked with such suspicion: _Why do you want to know?_
"I'm his, uh, girlfriend." she lied sarcastically. The loud yet melodious tunes of Figrin D'an and his band drowned out her outrageous answer.
"Wha...?" asked Wuher, gesturing that he couldn't hear her.
"His girlfriend. Have you seen him lately?"
"I'M BOBA FETT'S GIRLFRIEND, OKAY?" she yelled, just a split second after the Modal Nodes' tune ended. The entire Cantina momentarily stopped their conversations and stared at her, and for a second she was treated to an entire room of piercing eyes and toothy grins, all directed her way. Immediately uproarious laughter assaulted her ears.
Attention. All her life she had wanted it. Living in a Jawa clan as a human meant standing out in the crowd of little beings shorter than you who dressed the same, had similar trading occupations, and reacted with concern when you questioned their pacifistic attitude toward confrontation. The Stormtroopers hadn't praised individuality either. Brandy had been striving for attention for as long as she could remember. She had always been willing to argue, to take up dares, to fight if necessary, but anything she did was in the hopes of making a difference somehow.
She had desired something _different_ in her life to the point where she had rejected the lifestyle many of the women on Tatooine had chosen. She did not want to marry any Rebel fighter pilot and live in constant worry that his every mission would result in his likely demise, or live the life of a moisture farmer's wife. From the start she had chosen the famous nonconformist Fett as her idol, and even wore not Mandalorian combat armor, but her modified Stormtrooper gear, which she had covered with black liquid metal and on which she had meticulously recreated Fett's blood-red logo. She was motivated by her desire to atone for the actions she had taken back when she had believed the Empire was good.
Now she wasn't thrilled about the undesired attention. From beneath her spiky hair she felt her ears growing hot. They were probably turning red. The Rodian on the stool next to her turned his head and gave her a once-over, sneering at her armor.
"You lie, girl. Fett has no love interest." The Rodian had understood only two words of Brandy's language, "girlfriend" and "Fett," yet he knew what she was talking about. A Kowakian lizard-monkey who was perched on the beer tap (to Wuher's great chagrin) decided to take advantage of the situation by "translating" in his own special way for the Rodian.
He half-screamed with glee, "He say, ''Course you are. You kind of girl Fett go after.'"
"The Rodian said that?" thought Brandy, as the Cantina patrons listened on the edge of their seats, curious as to what the lizard-monkey was trying to do. The Rodian stared quizzically back at Brandy, who shot him a warning look.
Turning to the Rodian, the lizard monkey told him: "She say you look dumb as Greedo who Solo ice while ago! You must leave or she send Fett after you!"
Brandy wasn't sure why the Rodian suddenly swiveled on his bar stool and pointed a blaster at her head, since she had not yet guessed the real intentions behind the lizard-monkey's volunteer interpreting job. The Cantina patrons, who had been laughing at the hilarious comedy that had been unfolding before them, stopped abruptly at this change in tone. Only the lizard-monkey continued to grin widely, clearly enjoying the trouble he had caused. He decided to push it even further.
"Hold it there, buddy." cautioned Brandy, trying to reason with him. She wished frantically that she had more experience dealing with Rodians so she could have learned the basics of their language.
"She say, 'Curse entire, worthless Rodian race!' sang out the lizard-monkey in the Rodian dialect. As she saw the enraged Rodian squeeze the trigger of the blaster, Brandy realized that the lizard-monkey had been taking advantage of her ignorance as well as the Rodian's. One of her hands was still resting on the bar, just out of the Rodian's field of vision. Keeping her eyes on the blaster that was aimed between them, Brandy gripped the nearest drink in her hand, swung it around a lightning-fast arc, and slung the liquid into the beady eyes that glared at her from behind the blaster.
The sputtering Rodian lowered the blaster in order to wipe the alcohol from his eyes. Someone grabbed him from behind and snatched away his blaster. Before she could even sigh with relief, a pair of hands gripped Brandy's arms tight to her sides and dragged her to the center of the room. The Cantina patron who had seized the Rodian hauled him over so he was facing her, and in a cruel display of sick pleasure the other bar customers formed a tightly-packed ring around them.
Cheering began and they were simultaneously shoved towards each other. Brandy hoped to avoid the inevitable slugfest they would be forced to take part in, but the Rodian's fist slammed against her head and she fell back into the ring of customers, who quickly shoved her back into the ring again. She felt something splash on her face and heard the screeching laugh of the lizard-monkey. In the corner of her vision she saw him crouched on the bar, holding the beer tap like it was a blaster. He had also soaked several other crowd members, one of whom yelled, "BEERFIIIGHT!!! Wuher had left, apparently to get help.
Brandy knocked the Rodian to the ground, and he hit the ground in a roll. The crowd cheered. Inter-species fights were one of the most thrilling events the Cantina ever witnessed, and here was a Rodian bounty hunter and some ex-Stormtrooper freak swinging at each other right in front of them. The Rodian staggered to his feet, gripping a knife someone had slipped to him while he had been sprawled on the floor. He lunged at the insolent human and the lizard-monkey trained the beer tap in their direction. Food and drinks began to fly over everyone's' heads.
Grappling to keep the Rodian's hand with the knife forced away from her face, Brandy rolled and ducked as the knife plunged into the wooden floor. She scrambled to her feet and slammed a boot square onto the Rodian's back, sending him down. He did not get up, having been knocked cold. The crowd hissed, having hoped the Rodian would be the victor. Brandy stood back wiping sweat from her face.
Adrenalin still coursing through her body, Brandy headed back to the bar and drank down the Rodian's glass of watermelon-wine, standing tall and defiant even though no one had congratulated her.
His footsteps sounded down the corridor. If it hadn't been for his boots clicking against the tiled floor, he would have been completely silent in his progress down the hall, a ghost in the armor of a long-dead army. Boba Fett approached the Cantina door, and heard loud screaming as usual. He opened the doorway--and nobody even noticed him. Various drinks were flying through the air in radiant-colored arcs, but the central hub of the melee seemed to be a group clustered around a Rodian who was waking up off the floor. Off to one side at the bar Brandy was glaring at Salacious Crumb, who had left Jabba's palace for a few days. She was the very one whom he was supposed to bring to Jabba as soon as possible, the one who had quit the Stormtroopers.
He strode forward and slammed a gloved hand on her shoulder. She spun around, saw him, and froze, her anger at the lizard-monkey all but forgotten. Fett noticed with bewilderment his own logo on her armor. His presence in the Cantina was finally noticed, and all fell deathly silent.
"Boba Fett?" she gasped, not believing her hero stood before her with his hand on her shoulder.
Salacious Crumb broke the silence: "Boba Fett, I have message from Jabba! He say she is criminal who stole from him and you need arrest her!"
"Thanks, Salacious." Fett nodded in the Kowakian's direction. He had received the message from Jabba half a week before Salacious had, but it was pointless to bring that up because to offend Salacious was to offend his master, Jabba.
Which Brandy apparently didn't know because she had been ready to slug the lizard-monkey before he had stopped her.
"You little--!" she yelled, and Salacious shot some beer at her (and, inadvertently, at Fett.)
"That will be enough." commanded Boba to the bratty reptilian creature. Not releasing his grip on Brandy's shoulder, he wiped beer off his sleeve. Salacious was incredibly juvenile at times, which was most likely the reason he was Jabba's court jester.
Looking down at Brandy, he informed her: "You need to come with me." Resisting now, she tried to pull away. She managed to grab her helmet off the floor where it had fallen. "Jabba needs to see you at his Palace."
In his typically forceful way, Fett began to shove her towards the doorway. She had no choice but to head there anyway, because his grip on her wrists, now pinned against her back, felt like it could crush them. She slipped on some spilled beer and fell so suddenly onto the gritty floor that he lost his grip on her.
Fett impatiently yanked her to her feet and kicked the door open, forcing her to follow him. Back in the Cantina all was silent until someone stated, "He sure treats his _girlfriend_ nice!"
They moved down the corridor without speaking. Brandy was actually grateful for Fett's getting her out of there before she got into more serious trouble, but she would have never told him. Entering the hallways which housed the dozens of overnight rooms for Mos Eisley travelers, Brandy looked around at the dingy, poorly-lit hall. Fett had an overnight room? She had figured he spent most of his time in the _Slave 1._ Well, surely it was a room that was farther from the din of the Cantina, with all the money he earned from bringing in prisoners.
However, to her surprise, he stopped well before reaching the nicer rooms that lay farther away. Fett punched in a key code number on the door panel and they entered the seedy room. It smelled of stale cigarette smoke and spilled alcohol from past visitors, in addition to a moldy scent that seeped in through the air ducts. _Boba Fett doesn't car much about his surroundings,_ thought Brandy, looking at the scattered food containers and spilled drinks that had dried right on the long-haired carpet. As he released her to shut the door, she bolted towards the other end of the room but didn't get far. Fett shot out an arm and slapped manacles on her wrists. Defeated, she glared at him from her seat on the floor.
Boba Fett stood staring down at his latest prisoner. For a few seconds they simply looked each other over. Fett wondered who this one who wore black Stormtrooper armor with his logo on it could really be. Recalling his meeting with Jabba earlier that week, Fett recalled the Hutt's statement of Brandy's crime against him: "Jawas, Fett. She stole _Jawas_ from me." Behind his helmet visor Fett had smiled. He had simply tracked Brandy down to the Stormtrooper ranks, then after she had resurfaced, he had waited patiently until Jabba had renewed the bounty he'd established for her capture years ago.
Brandy broke the silence. "You're a slob." she announced, surveying the room.
Fett stared at her incredulously. "For someone drenched with beer and slop, that's a strange comment." Brandy tottered to her feet and looked at her reflection in the dust-flecked mirror and had to agree with him.
Turning to Fett in anger, she demanded, "So why does Jabba want to see me?"
Boba Fett answered that she was in for it because of the Jawas she had helped set free. It seems Jabba had seen that action as stealing, not rescuing friends, but in his infinite mercy he was not going to kill her immediately, he just requested her presence at his court.
"You can forget it because I won't be here in the morning." stated Brandy. "If you think I'm heading to Jabba's Palace you can think again."
"You COULD spend the night in the _Slave 1_." warned Boba.
"Good, I'd rather be there than in this sleaze pit--" Fett had yanked Brandy to her feet and marched her past the corridors of overnight rooms to the hangar bay. Stopping at his private vessel, he led her inside.
Closing the hatch behind him, he unclipped the manacles from her wrists. Brandy spun around as he followed her.
"I'll find my own way around, thank you." she yelled. Brandy didn't get any farther because she had stepped back against the bars of the _Slave 1's_ prison cells and the small group of minor criminals that Fett had already captured had pulled her backwards, pinning her against the bars. She struggled and kicked at the criminals behind the bars, but it took Boba Fett to send them retreating back to the far sides of their cells.
"Thanks." said Brandy, without even thinking. He didn't reply, but she was nearly positive he was laughing at her underneath that helmet, or at least thinking _I told you so._ The next thing she knew Fett had locked her in a cell for the night, with nothing but darkness and complaining criminals to keep her company. She lay in the center of her cell and thought about the incredible irony of the past events. Amazing to think that she was being arrested by the very hero she had worshipped for so long. With those thoughts dying on her mind, Brandy fell asleep in the silent coldness of the ship.
"You know I USED to idolize you." she told Fett in the morning. He had let her out of the cell and had even let her have some food. For some reason unknown to him, Fett had had trouble sleeping the night before. He was well aware that Jabba would probably take one look at his latest acquisition and drop the trapdoor to the Rancor pit. While she looked fine by his own standards, Fett knew that Jabba had far more attractive dancers, and he was certain that Brandy wasn't a natural dancer; she lacked the grace that was the trademark of the dancers he'd seen in the Palace. It struck Boba Fett as a waste to bring in a bounty only to watch her be killed. He'd heard reports of her amateur bounty hunting--nothing spectacular, but she showed promise. And Boba Fett knew that promise meant nothing to Jabba.
He had briefly debated on whether or not he should have let Brandy out so she could spend the night on the floor of the room. It would have been better than the metal floor of the cell. He was relieved to see she was still in relatively good spirits. She had no awareness of what lay ahead of her.
They were in the cockpit of the _Slave 1_, he in his chair and she standing next to him. Boba Fett was fairly sure she wouldn't try anything stupid like attempting to take the controls. The _Slave 1_ cruised over the sands of Tatooine, and Fett couldn't help noticing that she winced whenever she saw a Jawa Sandcrawler off in the distance.
"Painful memories?" he asked.
"You know what happened two years ago. I don't want to talk about it." She hadn't slept well last night either, having recalled in a dream once more the horrific event that had taken place two years ago and had shattered her life. She didn't want to recall once again the day she had returned to the desert only to find a smoking 'crawler. Didn't want to remember rushing inside, the ozone smell and the scent of something..._burned_ pervading the air. Certainly wanted to push back to the far corners of her mind the memory of finding the entire Jawa tribe slaughtered by the Imperials that she had believed to be righteous. Her world had shattered that day, and she had left her soul burning in the 'crawler, just another victim of the carnage.
Boba Fett remained silent. "You don't talk about your past either, hmm?" Brandy asked him.
He didn't look up from the controls. "No."
"No, absolutely not. I am not going to wear one of those _suits!_" Brandy informed Boba Fett later that day. They had arrived at Jabba's Palace and she was scheduled to appear before him in an hour. Boba Fett tried to explain with some reluctance that Jabba required all his dancers to wear similar clothing.
"All his _other_ dancers. If he has others he won't need me. I thought I was supposed to be here for setting some Jawas free--_years_ ago. Why did he wait so long to send you after me?"
"Believe it or not, he sent other bounty hunters after you but they messed up and you managed to elude the whole lot of them, though it's beyond me as to how. I guess joining the Stormtroopers threw them off. I _don't_ mess up, and you weren't hard to find. And besides, Jabba says that IS your punishment. You have to be a dancer for a few months."
"Ugh! Why doesn't he just feed me to the rancor right away? Lemme go after a few months, ha, that's a good one. I don't wanna dance for that slob..."
"Careful, Salacious could be around."
A glint of hope came into Brandy's eyes. "Fett, we could...run away together. You're in danger of being fed to the rancor here as well. You and I, we break outta here and no one ever gets us because we're making too much money getting bounties--"
"Not possible. You have forty-five minutes before you have to see Jabba. Now get dressed. I'll...turn around."
"I already told you there is no way I'm going to--"
_The top doesn't fit well,_ thought Brandy, tugging at the two piece garment that didn't cover enough. "Fett will get it for this, _and_ Jabba." She sneered at Fett when he turned around.
Fett, on the other hand, was taken aback at the sight of Brandy without the black Stormtrooper armor. She had long, jagged scars on her arms and legs, not to mention on her back. They were the type that he had seen on pilots who had been killed in crashes, only these had healed because she had beat the odds and survived. In addition, she had several slashes on her arms that looked like knife wounds. No doubt, this prisoner was a scrapper. Fett gained a new respect for his latest bounty. It would really be a waste when Jabba disposed of her so quickly.
"Okay, let's get this over with." Brandy headed towards Jabba's throne room and kicked open the door the way Fett would. Fett followed her, ready to witness the inevitable. Brandy took a place in line with the other criminals, strangely enough all of whom were female and already dressed like dancers as she was. Ignoring the members of Jabba's court who leered at the group of dancers, she waited in line listening to the pleas of the criminals, all of whom Jabba "forgave" by "allowing" them to become dancers in his court.
With some trepidation she stepped forward. It was her turn now.
_I will not plead._
The Hutt's cat-like eyes lingered on her and she was tempted to deck him. Jabba's sides began to shake and his entire bulk began to heave in laughter. He said something in Huttese she didn't understand and Salacious, back from the Cantina, giggled.
"What did he say, Fett? If that was an insult..." Brandy stood over the door to the rancor pit without knowing it. With uncharacteristic panic Fett noticed one of the Hutt's appendages that would serve as an arm moving towards the button to drop the trapdoor. He sprang forward.
"Boba Fett, do not interfere. This girl is not cut out to be a dancer in my court. She--"
"Jabba, do not be hasty." Fett now stood on the trapdoor himself, with his hands on Brandy's shoulders. "This girl may well not be what you're looking for in one of your dancers, but she happens to be one of the finest droid technicians on Tatooine. I am aware you are in need of someone to keep your service droids in working order. May I recommend Brandy."
Brandy hadn't understood the Huttese Fett had just spoken. She glared at the Hutt with stern eyes, vowing to make him pay for this insult to her dignity. Boba Fett on the other hand couldn't understand the way he was behaving. Why did he care about this prisoner? How should it affect him if she was fed to the rancor? He had already received his bounty. Why did it bother him to see her humiliated in front of the court? Most of all, why did he have a wish to destroy every member of Jabba's court who was leering at her?
Jabba feared Boba Fett in no small way. It would take no effort to kill him now by dropping him into the rancor pit, but he hesitated because there was a chance Fett would escape and kill him. The hunter was _daring him_ to drop the trapdoor. So in a rare occurrence, Jabba listened to somebody else. Fett, feeling victorious, took Brandy back to the hallway.
"What did you do back there?" asked Brandy. She had heard stories of a trap door in Jabba's Palace but had no idea where it actually was.
"Nothing." said Fett. "You have been assigned the duty of droid mechanic. I trust you'll do a good job." _Well, _that_ was disappointing,_ he thought. If she only could know what he had just done for her...
"Does that mean I don't have to wear this stupid costume?"
A loud order was yelled out in Huttese. Fett steered his captive back into the throne room. Jabba stared at him, his yellow eyes glowing with anger at having been forced to act against his wishes.
"I don't need more mechanics. The last two have not given me a reason to feed them to the rancor--yet. Your _captive--,_" and he stressed the word so strangely that Fett wondered momentarily whether Jabba had realized how he felt, "if not dancer material, can still earn her keep. She will be pitted against two Tusken Raiders I captured today in a fight to the death, tonight for my entire court's enjoyment."
Boba Fett led Brandy out again. He repeated to her what Jabba had told him. Brandy, to his surprise, did not panic or plead with him to allow her to escape. She didn't particularly seem worried, either. Fett was beginning to really respect her discipline.
"No problem. I can hold my own against Raiders. Once some attacked a Jawa who was plundering a crash site and I had them running in no --"she was cut off by her own delayed realization that the fight was to the death. _I have to kill._ she thought. No, there would be another way. That is what she had always been taught by the Jawas. That was what had kept her from any easy opportunity back at the Cantina when she had been holding a knife over the Rodian who had been trying to kill her.
She turned to Fett. "I wish there was some alternative to _killing_ them." She turned away, and crossing her arms across her chest, added, "Even when I was a Stormtrooper I never caused a single death."
Harshly, Fett informed her, "The only alternative would be to throw yourself down to the rancor, the trapdoor to whose cage you were standing directly on five minutes ago." Brandy turned pale and grew silent.
_An alternative can be found,_ she told herself.
That night Brandy waited in the cell with the other prisoners, a sad lot of many species. The Jawa race was represented in the group, but she didn't converse, her past memories were too painful. Meanwhile, Boba Fett was going through some torture of his own. His emotions, always carefully controlled and hidden under thick metal armor and a helmet visor, were suddenly not so easy to deny. He had believed her when she admitted to having killed anyone. Fett tried to tell himself that Brandy was a seasoned fighter and would prevail in the fight tonight, but when he stood in the court room as she was led in by two Gamorrean guards, still dressed in the dancer costume, his previous rationing was forgotten.
Brandy and the Tusken Raiders paced around the circle, eyeing each other nervously. The first Raider charged at her, with a spear drawn. Fett glanced at Jabba, who was staring in glassy-eyed wonder. _Sure, you are testing me _and_ her. Just to see if she is really the fighter I said she was, you put her up against two armed opponents. Real sporting of you, Jabba.._ Boba Fett began to wish he had never found Brandy in the Cantina. Then it would be just another fighter on center stage tonight, and he would be leaning against a wall, indifferent to what the outcome of the fight would be.
When he looked back seconds later, Brandy had already flung the spear from the Raider's grip and held it raised over her head. As the second Raider charged, the crowd cheered, hoping to see a gory impalement. Brandy disappointed them by neatly chucking the spear into the Rancor pit, and it was heard being splintered by the Rancor's jaws. The second Raider knocked Brandy off her feet and into a nearby table. For a second she looked defeated, then she got up and kicked the Raider in his stomach.
The first Raider, eager to get back in on the action, pinned her arms behind her while the second pulled back a fist intended to connect with her face. She ducked and the fist struck the one who had been holding her, toppling him to the floor. She was pulled backwards and fell over the body of the downed Raider, and the second Tusken backed up quickly. Peering over her shoulder, she saw why, and dived forward. Jabba, impatient for the fight to end, had opened the trapdoor. The second Tusken punched her forcefully in the eye, and Brandy fell once more into the staggering Raider behind her, sending him over the edge.
Horrible sounds emanated from the pit, but they only added to her fear. Brandy feared Jabba had installed more trapdoors in his bloodlust, and for all she knew she could be standing on one at the moment. The Raider who had survived thus far leapt at her, and pulled her to the Rancor's trapdoor, which had now been closed by Jabba, who wanted to draw the fight out between these two as far as he could. Hoping to convince Jabba to change his mind, the Raider flung Brandy onto the window to the Rancor pit, and she sprawled painfully on its metal grid surface.
Staggering to her feet once more, she grappled with the remaining Raider, trying to grab his gaffi stick before he could use it against her. Salacious giggled from where he was sitting, leaning against Jabba's tail. Mischievously he tipped Jabba's tank of three-legged frogs. The water made both fighters slide and fight for balance. Ignoring what his lackey had done, Jabba opened the trapdoor once more, hoping to see one of them fall inside. Brandy quit fighting for the gaffi stick and concentrated on keeping her balance. She managed to stay on her feet, then flung herself forward as the floor went out from under her. The raider had not been so lucky, having fallen over the edge of the trapdoor when it had opened unexpectedly. She closed her eyes as to avoid having an image of the Raider being eaten permanently etched into her brain. Unfortunately she could still hear the last sounds that the Raider would ever make.
Brandy had smashed her knees when landing, but the pain was the last thing on her mind. She pulled her hair out of her eyes. She had lived due to her skills, but now two were dead. The court stared at her in wide-eyed disbelief, like she had no right to be alive. Off to the side Fett began breathing again and his eyes filled with water from the sweat that had been rolling down his face. Her victory reminded him of a fight he'd watched years ago where Han Solo had proved his worth.
"The winner, Brandy." muttered Jabba unhappily. He allowed her to be led back to her cell, already planning who to pit her against tomorrow night. She'd mess up sooner or later and then he'd just get a new fighter. No one could survive on luck alone, though Jabba was not aware that luck hadn't been the major factor in Brandy's being alive. The combat skills she'd been taught as a Stormtrooper had seen her through.
"I can't keep this up forever." she said as soon as Fett arrived down in the dungeon to bring down other prisoners. "Those deaths were bad enough." Brandy stood in the shadows of the cell. There was slime dripping on the walls--she had no idea how slime could grow on such a dry planet--and she'd spotted spiders as large as her hand creeping about in the dungeon. Fett nudged the prisoners into adjacent cells.
"Jabba's counting on it that I'll make a fatal error sooner or later and then it's all over." Brandy winced as some slime dripped slid off the ceiling and oozed down onto her hair.
"You'd better not make one any time soon, because you're scheduled to dance for Jabba tonight." Fett snarled, and Brandy stepped back, stunned. She crossed her arms across her chest, ignoring the sludge dripping into her eyes. She doubted that her words were having any effect on the man behind the helmet.
Fett unlocked the cell and delivered her to the room where Jabba's dancers were preparing for the night show. After Boba Fett left, the other dancers crowded around Brandy, asking questions.
"What's going on with you and that bounty hunter?" asked a human female, fixing on a jeweled headdress.
"Yeah, word has it that he stepped onto the trapdoor to intimidate Jabba this morning." added a humanoid.
"It's nothing. He went through a lot to bring me in, and didn't want to see his efforts wasted when Jabba decided to feed me to the Rancor. So anyway, I'm supposed to dance tonight. What brought about the change in heart?"
"Oh, yeah. That." A female Rodian, who had mastered Basic, approached Brandy. "Don't ask, but you've been scheduled to star as tonight's entertainment. Hope you know some good moves."
"Where'd you learn to dance, anyway?" asked the human who had spoken earlier, looking at Brandy with the slightest hint of a sneer on her face.
"I _don't_ know how to dance. C'mon, do I look like I spend my time dancing?" The dancers exchanged looks, then glanced at her with pitying eyes.
"You'd better learn really quick, girl." said the Rodian. "I can show you some stuff. First, you'd better do something about that eye, and those scars," she began, thrusting a mirror in Brandy's face. Her blue left eye had an ugly purple ring surrounding it where she had been struck by the Tusken. Brandy snatched a jar of glittering body paint and covered the purple bruise with even darker purple paint. She looked up at the Rodian.
"Show me everything. If Jabba wants to see some dancing, he'll get it."
It was the party she'd never been invited to. Brandy felt like an uninvited guest crashing an exclusive party. Something inside her wanted to reach out and take part in everything going on around her. She could see why so many beings had been lured into the Palace. The music, the atmosphere, the flashing lights, even the occasional glimpse toward Boba Fett. She was brought back to reality when she glanced towards the Rancor pit, realizing what was at stake.
Boba Fett couldn't believe the dance group tonight. Brandy was in the foreground, decked out in tasseled armbands and fake jewels. She had brushed glittery gel into her hair, and the facepaint she wore covered the battle damage from the earlier fight. His surprise was complete when she led the group in dance, moving with incredible speed to make up for her lack of talent. Fett had watched many dance numbers without interest, but tonight he was captivated. The Max Rebo band had prepared a special song to celebrate the arrival of the latest additions to Jabba's dance ensemble.
"Ho, ho, ho, ho..." Jabba shook with perverse laughter. He turned to Fett. "She redeemed herself." Boba Fett remained silent. He didn't protest as Jabba called Brandy forward and slapped a metal collar with a chain attached around her neck. The Hutt held the other end of the chain firmly and kept one arm slung over her shoulder for the rest of the dance.
Jabba tugged on the chain and she was pulled forward. He stroked her face, smearing the paint she'd recently applied, as she cringed in disgust. She tried to back up, but the Hutt's slimy lips contacted hers. She stepped back, truly revolted. She shot a look at Boba Fett that he would remember forever. Jabba chortled and returned to watching the rest of the dance.
"Get UPPPP!!!!" Salacious Crumb screamed, splashing water from the bowl of three-legged frogs onto the sleeping dancers. Brandy woke up, having fallen asleep curled up on the edge of the dais, as far from Jabba as she could get. It was early morning, and Jabba awoke briefly, laughed, and dozed off again. Salacious Crumb sprawled on the dais, his floppy ears resting on Brandy's foot.
"Hey, what are you, anyway?" Brandy hissed, brushing water off her face. "If we're not eating breakfast anytime soon, I'd rather sleep."
Salacious perked up. "You want food? There is food, good food, for us. You want?"
"Sure. You bring me something decent to eat and I'll _maybe_ forgive you for that Cantina incident." Brandy looked around. Everyone in the throne room was sleeping off the inebriation of the night before. Salacious scampered around the side of the dais and picked up a plate of half-eaten slop that Jabba had left from the party. As Brandy reached for it, truly desperate for nourishment, he flung a handful of it at her.
"No. Mine. It Salacious Crumb's food." The Kowakian lizard-monkey crammed mouthfuls into his beak, periodically making faces at her with food dripping off his face. Brandy decided she wasn't so hungry after all.
"Here. You take what left." He tossed the plate at her, and laughed as the goo landed on the unfortunate dancer. She turned her back on the Kowakian, then realized that Boba Fett had witnessed the entire incident. Jabba awoke shortly after, and waved for Fett to return Brandy to her cell.
"My first kiss and it had to come from a Hutt." she whined, wondering just how long she'd have to stay at Jabba's Palace until she could escape. The door to her cell slammed shut.
"I feel your pain." snapped Fett, storming away and leaving Brandy thinking about a lot more than plans for escape.
A year and several months passed. Brandy remained in the Palace, keeping as far from Jabba as she could. She quickly learned the rules of staying alive in Jabba's throne room, for there was only one: Don't piss off the Hutt. She learned more dances and gained new scars from the fights she was still called upon to take part in. Other dancers came and went, many via the Rancor pit, and Brandy learned of the brutality behind the party atmosphere.
Boba Fett came and went, each time adding bounties to his log. They talked very seldom, exchanging few words. Brandy realized that the human emotions she'd imagined Fett having possessed had been suppressed too long. He didn't care about anyone. He was a true loner, just as she was, and their paths were apparently destined to come ever so close but never to cross.
The _Slave 1_ landed gracefully on the hangar bay. Fett strode inside the palace of Jabba the Hutt and announced that Jabba's Carbonite-frozen art had been procured. Brandy approved as Fett upped the price considerably on the latest acquisition. It was a ghastly thought to realize that a man was trapped alive in the Carbonite, but this was the kind of work that earned respect for Boba Fett.
With intense reserve and lack of emotion she observed the events of the two days that would change Tatooine history forever unfold. Her fellow dancer Oola fell victim to the Rancor monster's jaws. Then a young man named Luke killed the Rancor after having been dropped into the pit. Fett's work turned out to be all in vain because Leia freed Han Solo from the Carbonite. Somehow, Brandy didn't hate Leia for this, having sensed Leia felt the same way towards Solo that she felt towards Boba Fett. She felt sorry for her when her identity was discovered, Leia was captured, and she, too, was forced to kiss Jabba.
That night she and Leia were forgotten as Jabba watched Manaroo, another of the new dancers, move across the floor. Anything Brandy had done in the past completely paled by comparison. She was shocked to see Boba Fett drinking with Dengar, a fellow bounty hunter who was suspected of being involved with a plan to hide a bomb on Jabba's sailbarge. Dengar collapsed on the floor and Manaroo cried out. So Fett had drugged him. She wished Manaroo hadn't made the bad choice of falling in love with Dengar. The man was a criminal, he had plotted to kill Boba Fett, herself, and everyone else aboard the sailbarge. Yet at the same time, Manaroo's cries of pain as Dengar was dragged away filled her own heart with pain.
That night, Jabba motioned towards the dancers. "I want one for Boba Fett. You know who to choose--the best."
Brandy wasn't surprised when Leia was chosen. She didn't sleep at all that night, her thoughts on Boba Fett constantly. She couldn't deny it--she cared deeply about the bounty hunter. Manaroo was equally restless. Both dancers were experiencing heartbreaks for the same reason; they were both losing someone they loved.
The next morning, Leia returned to Jabba's dais and Brandy promptly attacked her.
"Have _fun_ last night?" she snarled, tears glistening in her eyes.
"No. The bounty hunter and I spent the night in opposite corners of the room-" Brandy listened with shocked disbelief. Her hands fell to her sides and it was Leia's turn to be stunned.
"You care about him, don't you? I saw your face when the Gamorreans dragged me to him."
"No, I--" Brandy paused. "Yes. I care about him a lot."
Leia sighed, then warned gravely, "Don't you realize that if you play with fire, you're going to get burnt?"
"Burns," Brandy shot a piercing look her way, "can heal." Leia just gave her a pitying look. She hadn't expected her to understand anyway. Forgotten by Jabba, Brandy rushed out to the hangar bay where the _Slave 1_ was docked. Boba Fett was preparing his jetpack, but he dropped everything when she came in.
"NO!" She grabbed his arm and he stopped for a minute. "Don't go out there." Gently, he removed her fingers from his arm.
"Sorry, but this is something I have to do. I'll be back shortly."
"Then I'm coming with you."
"No you're not. You're...worth a lot to me," his helmet faced her and she was sure he was gazing into her eyes, "and you're no good to me dead."
Brandy sighed. So he was admitting it was dangerous. "Boba Fett, listen to me. When you go out to find Solo, be careful." she spoke the first tender words she could remember having spoken. He wordlessly tossed a vibro-saw her way and she removed the chain from around her neck.
_This is crazy,_ he thought. _The bounty hunter plots to release his own captive._ They boarded the _Slave 1_, since it was likely to be the only area within Jabba's palace that had not been tapped by spies. Brandy's eyes glowed with admiration the entire time, and she felt an absolute loyalty to her mysterious new...friend?
"You know, when I first met you, I wasn't speaking with a clear mind. I STILL idolize you." She watched the visor of his helmet and wondered what was going on behind the dark window that shielded his eyes.
Fett turned towards her. "You picked a hell of a person to idolize." He rested a hand on the wall, gazing out at the action taking place outside the ship.
"Look, there is something I _have_ to do." She headed to the back of the ship and he followed, perplexed. In a small area where Boba Fett sometimes rested on long journeys Brandy stopped and sat on the cot he kept in the room, and like she had hoped he did the same. Fett had no idea what Brandy represented to him at this point--his new...friend?
The next thing he knew she had flicked off the light and in the total darkness she removed his helmet.
He waited. _Go ahead, Brandy, turn the light on. Show yourself to be a traitor. You just wanted to find out who I was--_
She kissed him.
Boba Fett had brought in hundreds of bounties, fought for his life, and steered the _Slave 1_ out of destruction from opposing ships all his life. He was totally unprepared for anything of this sort, had never thought it would happen nor had ever expected it to.
Brandy handed him his helmet and he put it back on. They stayed in the dark, considering everything that could be if only for the situations they were stuck in. Finally Fett spoke.
"You might want this." He opened a compartment and handed her the Stormtrooper armor she had figured had been destroyed by Jabba long ago.
"I don't want anyone else to see my face again except you." She held the Stormtrooper helmet. Its gloss reflected the dim light in the _Slave 1's_ cockpit.
"It's a lonely life." admitted Fett. "You have to be sure you're ready for that."
"I am. Until you return from the sail barge, I just wanted to tell you something I realized the last month."
"What would that be?"
"The love between two loners is the strongest kind."
He turned his gaze from the jetpack to her. There were three words he wanted to say to Brandy, but his heart sank. He wasn't Dengar, and she wasn't Manaroo. He kept his hand on her shoulder for a minute, then let it slide off. Boba Fett walked away, toward the sailbarge. He could barely keep his mind focused on the sailbarge expedition, finding the emotions rushing through his mind hard to handle. He had followed his heart and not his mind. Until two days ago he had regarded his heart as no more than something that had to keep beating in order for him to live, protected from others by thick Mandalorian combat armor. Boba Fett had always relied on his mind, because it was his mind that got him out of danger and had kept him alive for so long. Those who trusted their hearts before their minds ended up getting cheated, injured, or killed. Dengar was a prime example. Yet Fett had just done exactly this, and he wasn't sure what it meant. His confusion only led to feelings of anger directed toward himself, and to Jabba, and to Han Solo.
At about mid-day the report came back of the sailbarge's total destruction and of Fett meeting his doom. Brandy heard the story and in numbed shock walked past the looting that had already begun. Manaroo was freed by a guard, and she raced into the desert to find if Dengar was still alive. Brandy had plans of her own.
She found what she was looking for out in the smaller vehicles area adjacent to the hangar bay: a small landspeeder, the type she was used to piloting. She aimed it straight towards the crash site, reported to be over the dreaded Sarlacc pit. Brandy knew she was pushing the craft too hard, and at this accelerated speed explosion was a likely event to occur. She stopped it by the pit and peered downward, screaming Fett's name until she tasted blood in her mouth. There was no answer.
She boarded the speeder blindly, swerving to avoid the jagged strips of debris that littered the desert sands. Jerking to full acceleration, she felt the 'speeder lurch, then it exploded.
She struggled to her feet after several hours of unconsciousness. The dry wind slammed sand grains into her face as she stood peering into the pit. She had to be imagining things in the sand ahead of her; it appeared as though Manaroo had found the wounded Dengar and was transporting him to safety. They were too far away to hear her even if she had chosen to yell out.
_They're together again._ She was struck with a wild thought, staring into the depth of the Sarlacc pit. No, it would do no good. Brandy turned away. She glanced down at her armor. The crash into the abrasive sand had scratched the skull-like symbol off her armor.
Delirious from the heat and hallucinating from the pain of the crash, she walked the entire distance to Jabba's Palace. In the hangar bay she found what she was looking for. A small ship, just large enough to take off-planet. She was really going to leave, to discover what life lay beyond Tatooine in the stars. She was determined to prove herself as a bounty hunter, in honor of Boba Fett.
Brandy returned to the Cantina later, but few knew who she was because she now wore the helmet in addition to her battle-scarred armor. As she passed the room that Boba Fett had once rented, the memories started rushing by and she didn't try to stop them. Kicking open the Cantina door, she ordered one watermelon wine to drink on her way out. This wasn't her place anymore; the stars above were. Her ship, the _Revenge,_ was out in the hangar bay waiting for her. Despite the name she had chosen for her ship, Brandy had given up attempting to avenge the death of the Jawa clan she had once been a member of. She was her own person entirely, an independent bounty hunter and spy, and no longer a novice at either profession. If Boba Fett had truly escaped from the Sarlacc as had been rumored, she planned to be worthy of his respect when they met again.
A pair of Ithorians regarded her curiously; most everyone did nowadays, wondering why a Stormtrooper would wear black armor. She wondered whether they could be the same two Ithorians from a night long ago. One of them turned to the questioning looks of the others in the Cantina and began a tale that he had heard from a legend, the legend of the one who loved a man whose face she had never seen.
"There she goes. Brandy, the one who is forever searching for a love that cannot be."
(Brandy is an original character I created. All other chars., places, ships, and events are connected to LucasFilms.)
*This story dedicated to a friend from my hometown who in real life is every bit as mysterious as Boba Fett.*.