“Prelude to the Future”
An early test of skill for the galaxy's best.
- Story by Melinda McMahon
- Estimated reading time: 7 minutes (1,492 words)
On one of the tiny moons of an uninhabited planet a solitary figure staggered through the undergrowth of dark twisted limbs and purple leaved vines. The vines snapped at his passing, dripping purple sap onto his grey flight suit. It was all that he wore except for his EE-3 blaster. The spiked toes of his boots dug into the black soil as he pursued the whaling creature that lolloped ahead of him.
He had wounded it as it had tried to attack him. He'd shot it at close range then attempted to strangle it with one of the thick grey branches from the willowy trees. In the process the branch had snapped and the creature had gotten free.
He jumped and outstretched his left hand and latched onto the splitting trunk of a pale ashen tree, swinging himself up and onto the back of the reptilian creature. The creature reared up in protest, it bellowed a roar that rolled and echoed through the valley ahead. He straddled the beast's neck with his powerful legs and grasped the single horn that protruded from the creature's brow.
The gloved hand holding the blaster swung the weapon to the creature's temple and pulled the trigger. The creature slumped to the ground, rolling onto it's side. He launched himself away and tumbled into the scrub then rose to his feet.
Dark shadows covered the man's face as he studied his prey. The creature twitched in response to death. There was no sign of satisfaction on his face, the hunt was over and he had achieved his objective easily. From a pocket on his flight suit he pulled a vibro-knife and sawed through the knobbly horn, removing it from the creature's head. Once it was done he followed his own tracks back to his base camp.
His nose was pink from the cold air, steam rose as he exhaled. He looked up into the sky; the single red sun was low and drawing close to the horizon. This didn't bother him. His body tingled with a shiver as his sweat cooled on his covered skin.
The camp held no luxuries except for the fire and tarp thrown over a branch as a make-do shelter. He was a lone hunter; he had something to prove to himself before he offered his services to the galaxy. He had lived on the planet for over four standard months. During this time he had not spoken a single word or made a noise unless it was to flush out his prey from hiding.
From his left hand he dropped the creature's horn onto a pile of trophies he had collected from the aliens he had pursued. He had conquered every predator on the uninhabited moon and tomorrow he would leave it behind. He stared at the first star to piece the evening sky. Up there somewhere was a ship waiting for his beckoning to land. He holstered his blaster and pulled a remote control from his breast pocket. A memorised code was punched into the dirty keyboard then a message was sent to the silent vessel above.
In space the dormant ship awoke. Lights broke the gloom in the cockpit and the ship prepared to ignite its thrusters. It was shaping up to fly after months without use.
On the moon below the remote control told its owner of the ship's progress. He sat down on the damp soil and threw another handful of twigs on the blooming fire. The night would bring extreme cold, he knew from experience.
Goosebumps blossomed over his body as he went to his tarp shelter. Within was a small brown blanket that he draped around his shoulders in an attempt for warmth. The shelter blocked the wind and the wafting heat from the fire seared its way into the shelter with the speed of a snail.
Gradually he warmed and grew content enough to sleep in the light doze of the hunted.
Morning was only a few degrees warmer than the previous evening. He awoke in the shroud of mist. The fire had died to mere embers and crackled as their light diminished.
He pulled the blanket off his left shoulder and let it dangle from his right. In the sky a growing speck was descending towards him. His cracked lips bent to smile but quickly refrained at the dull pain. He knew, even without a mirror, that he was a mess. His hair was mattered and three day growth covered the lower half of his face.
The blanket moved with a gentle swish, yet there was no wind. He pivoted and was faced with a skeletal creature that was as twisted and black as the tree trunks around him. It's slender elongated head was dotted with needle-fine spines that bristled, damp with morning dew. Spittle hung in long tendrils from it's extensive fangs as it gave a taunting hiss.
The hunter pulled his blaster into his hands as the predatory thing began circling him. A bony tail with four horn-like tusks at its end, lashed with viscous intent. The hunter aimed his blaster but it suddenly flew from his hands as the snake-like tail smashed it away, slashing his gloved hand in the process.
The smell of blood brought the beast to a higher level of provocation. It snarled then lunged forward, snapping its powerful jaws at the empty space where the hunter had stood only moments before. The jagged tail swung at him and he dropped to his haunches to avoid being fatally struck down. In this position he was able to extract his vibro-blade from the pocket at his shin.
With the precision of a professional blade yielder, the hunter spun himself in a low to the ground circle, his arm stretched to its full length. A perfect gash was attained as he turned, slicing the beast's throat. It gurgled slightly as it clawed at its own throat.
He backed away and let the creature die in its own time. It struggled with a strong determination to live. Before it weaken fully it scampered into the tree line and blended in with the surrounding vegetation. The hunter let it go.
His ship landed a short time later. He had stowed everything aboard except his blaster that lay in a muddy puddle. The hunter leant down and wrapped his uninjured hand around the object; he froze as he glimpsed the reflection on the puddle's water.
In the tops of the twisted black trees were hundreds of creatures with the same black exoskeleton of the beast he had battled with. His skin crawled. His heartbeat rose. He grabbed the blaster and ran for the ramp to his ship. Slashing claws ripped at him but he made it aboard, slamming his fist on the outer hatch's function button. It slammed down, crushing one of the creature's skulls that had lunged to get inside.
The hunter backed away, his chest rose and fell with heavy breaths. It was time to test out that armour he had purchased. He strode down to the cargo hold and opened a sealed crate. Inside was the ancient armour of the Mandalores. The black T-shaped visor was coated with packing dust. He brushed the excess away and looked into the gaze that had terrified a previous generation.
He dragged the crate to his quarters and pulled out a fresh flight suit. Round two would be to his advantage.
Outside droves of aliens waited. Some tried to breach the hull, but their attention was diverted to the outer hatch that opened revealing an armour clad being. "Time to play," said a gravelly voice that had not spoken intelligible words for months.
The beasts seem to hiss in unison then charged ahead. The hunter didn't physically touch a single creature. In a volley of blaster bolts he knocked down the first wave. The second line seemed to hesitate, obviously judging the best strategy of attack.
In the 360Â° view from the helmet the hunter saw an attack from a creature scaling the hull of his ship. He turned and sent a burst of fire erupting from his flamethrower attached to the gauntlet on his forearm. The creature crumpled into a burning heap of mush.
The other aliens hissed but didn't draw any closer. He threw half a dozen thermal detonators into the crowd of beasts. The explosions exterminated the majority of the creatures and those that remained as the smoke thinned were scurrying away. The hunter finally had his first real challenge and despite the odds, he'd survived.
The hunter's previous identity had been thrown to the wind long ago. He had been changing and at last the transformation was complete. Jaster Mereel was dead and buried. The hunter looked at his armour, a name was on the left breastplate: Boba Fett. A suitable name that he would carry into his new career. A career he had previously been undecided on. He was a hunter through and through and the bounty hunting trade was a beacon in the black night that was his soul. Boba Fett had found his purpose.
Updated July 28, 2015
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