"This is the final elimination! These are the rules: No eye gouges. No blows to the throat or groin. No intentional deaths. There...Are...No...Other..Rules! The Last One Standing Will Be The Victor!"
Jen Mereel, the diminutive arms dealer from Concord Dawn stood in the corner of the five-sided Victory Forum in the town of Dying Slowly on Jubilar and grinned happily. Up in the stands, her...brother Bob (OK i reckon no-one gets to be his girl or the board may go up in smoke! And that goes for the guys too - I read your Fettfic J.K. you sick twisted beast you. Christ you could've given the man better taste though - Dengar?!)...where was i...oh yeah - up in the stands Fett focused his macrobinocs on the tiny figure below. "Don't screw this up, sis, I got credits on you" he thought to himself. Jen couldn't sense his thoughts amongst the rest of the crowd, and anyway she was too busy practising her Seven Striking Sarlaccs Death Lunge (In the stands, Fett shuddered unconsciously) to notice squat. She cracked her knuckles enthusiastically and looked around at the other contestants in the arena....
(ok guys - bring it on!)
Janos Kadar apoligizes about the Dengar/Fett thing but maintains that he said earlier his intention was to bring out the crappiest slash fic around. If Jenara took it seriously, then Janos will assume a ROFL position (or in sonya's case, "ROLF") and inquires--between each laugh--why Jenara did not review his utter-piece-of-crap-story.
Janos bids Jenara a good day and informs her he does not have any intention of challenging her to fight, because anyone would beat an 120-pound 15 year old boy (unless Jenara is 5'6" or 10 years old, but I doubt it).
AC looked over at Jen and thought to himself, 'That chick's gonna kill somebody.' It was obvious in her movements that she had been taught by a Starbuck's Chai Tea master and that meant trouble. AC, on the other hand, had spent more time in prison than he had on the outside and knew how to handle himself in a brawl. He thought JanosKadar had been in prison too cause he had read some of his material and it bordered on the 'don't bend over to pick up the soap' motif. AC flexed his back and was satisfied with all the cracks he heard; 'Just like Bruce Lee', he thought. He figured he'd wait to go for the female till last and looked over at the other competition as he began to look way down deep inside himself to call up the rage...
Fett focused in on the new entry, the ex-con AC Jaynos. There was a hard edge to this being. Fett frowned. Things could be tough for Jenara. He did not want her to get hurt. But more, he did not want to lose.
"Your credits are safe with Jenara."
"Ursula." Fett lowered the macrobinoculars, gave a curt nod to the statuesque female as she emerged from the shadows. Her only weapon was a jug of watered down beer from the concessions stand. Heâd seen her kill with less. He tensed, feeling the air come to life around him as she closed the distance. "You know my sister?"
"Not personally." Ursula leaned up against the railing and cast him a sly, sidelong glance. "But the women always win in the end. It's a law of nature. Speaking of nature, I heard a rumor about you and Dengar a few days back."
Fett held his fury in check and ignored the jibe. El Sapo Diable would pay soon enough. "I'm surprised your not fighting tonight Ursula."
"The odds favor placing bets tonight over planting fists. At least for me."
She smiled slow and easy, and Fett wondered what trouble she was up to now. With Ursula, there was always trouble. Another law of nature, he thought.
The crowd was getting restless, crying out for blood and entertainment. Suddenly, a series of explosions erupted along the stage perimeter. Strobes of rainbow hues swept the arena and wild beat of drums blasted from the sound system. A being strode boldy down the eastern ailse. As one, the crowd screamed a blood curdling war cry that broke into a brutally manic chant of a single name. The north section of the arena started the wave.
Fett put the macrobinoculars up, and drew a bead on the new entrant. This was bad. Very bad.
Ursula whistled low. âIs that who I think it is?"
The wave spread to the rest of the arena. The sentient reached the pit.
Fett nodded, feeling real fear for the first time since the ravage of the Sarlacc and the twin suns of Tatooine. "Indeed, it is."
Fett glanced quickly at Ursula and turned to leave the balcony. With all the fools standing to see the new entrant, he couldn't get a clear visual. And all the screaming and yelling wasn't helping the sensors in his helmet.
"Where do you think you're going?" called Ursula, brandishing her jug of cheap, foul-tasting beer, but Fett ignored her. Jenara, he thought coldly, had better not panic.
He sprinted up a staircase, dodging the press of aliens loitering on the stairs and came to a door marked "Employees only." He ignored the sign, of course, and went inside. A janitor turned, looked at Fett, and said, "You're not allow-" but he was cut off because Boba Fett threw him over the edge of the balcony. The balcony had an excellent view of the arena below, and Fett pulled out the macrobinocs again. Damn. There was no mistaking the tiny, ugly form of Dragonfire, a badly deformed Ewok with cybernetic implants. Jenara could not disguise her horror, and even AC Jaynos looked slightly worried.
People lived in fear that Dragonfire would come to a pit-battle and start killing the contestants. And lately, it seemed, the messed up native of Endor had been cruising Concord Dawn's arenas.
Fett knew, then, what he had to do...
A tall, broad-shouldered man entered a booth in plain-sight of the audience at the top of the announcer tower. His sudden presence caused a sudden uproar of cheers from the crowd. He was, after all, Ec'urb Lleb'pmac.
The face that looked down upon the audience was bold and lantern-jawed, covered in a blue layer of stubble and topped with a black mop of hair.
"Lleb'pmac! LLEB'PMAC!" The audience screamed at the idol of many low-rate but lovingly cult horror holo-vid fans.
"How's everybody on Dying Slowly doin' tonight?" Ec'urb bit his lip and smiled as the cheers just kept on coming. "I'll take that as 'havin' a blast'! And boy do we have something for you folks at the Regional Sector Nummberr Four's All-Human Free-For-All Extravaganza tonight!" His flinty eyes looked down at the contestants from the elevated booth; a hovering droid monitor buzzed around, feeding him his lines.
He grabbed the mic firmly and started off the night...
"IN OUR NORTHERN MOST CORNER OF VICTORY FORUM TONIGHT WE HAVE A LOVELY, but *DEADLY* LADY FROM THE PLANET OF CONCORD DAWN! SHE ENJOYS ROMANTIC WALKS ALONG THE BEACHES OF YAVIN 8, YLESIAN BUBBLE BATHS, AND THE PLEASURE OF TEARING ANY MALE'S THROAT OUT! EVERYONE LET'S HEAR IT FOR...JENNNNNNNNNN MEREEEEEEEEEL!" He smiled down at the woman and winked before turning his head to the next contestant.
"ONNNNNN THE EAST SIDE WE HAVE THE TATOOINE TERROR, THE KNIFE OF NAR SHADDA, THE SELONIA SLAYER. A PSYCHOTIC WARRIOR DEEP FROM THE BOWELS OF THE MOST GRISLY IMPERIAL PRISONS IN THE GALAXY -- MEET -- A...C...JAAAAAYNOOOOOOS!"
"AND FINALLYerk..." Ec'urb's voice gave way to a squeak as he covered the mic and turned to his agent, "What?! You didn't tell me *HE* was in this fight?! I thought this was humans-only. What do they want, a BLOOD BATH?!" he turned back to the mic and grinned, but with a more morose tone, "AND NOW...I SEE OUR FINAL CONTESTANT IS COMING IN. AN ENDORAN BEAST OF SUCH FEROCITY THAT IT COULD STRIKE FEAR INTO THE IRON HEART OF LORD VADER...THE TRIBAL BUTCHER HIMSELF...*gulp*...dragonfire!"
His shaking hands dropped the mic as he stared down at the Ewok in horror. A horror that could only be broken by the image of another visage. That T-Visor...
Ec could see it down on the balcony.
He turned to his agent pointing, "Isn't that..."
He mouthed two silent words.
Someone prodded him, causing him to shoot up onto his feet. What was he supposed to say? Oh yeah.
"AND NOW FOR THE MOMENT YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR, WELCOME TO THE MAIN EVENT! LADIES AND GENTLEBEINGS, BOYS AND GIRLS, IMPERIALS AND REBELS ALIKE...
LLLLLLLLLET'S GET READY TO RUMMMMMMMBLLLLLLLLLE!"
Jaynos curled his upper lip in disgust. He hated Ewoks, and Jawas for that matter. The only thing either of them were good for in his opinion was drop kicking but this furball was a problem. Of course he had heard of dragonfire, who hadn't. What were the sponsors of this event thinking by letting him in this match? First he wasn't a human and second there was no such thing as an 'unintentional death' with this guy. AC hadn't fought all week to make it to the final elimination just to be handed his balls on a plate. On the other hand, with the odds stacked against him now, the little bit of money he had wagered on himself could end up making him a fortune; if he won. One thing he did know, he was going to get that promoter who had sold him a line to get him to sign up for this match when it was obvious now that he just wanted bodies to throw against this ewok. Well, there was nothing he could do about that right now; save it for later. Jaynos looked over at Jenara and the two shared a look that both understood clearly: if either of them wanted to get out of this with most of their organs still inside their bodies, they would have to work together. He hoped she was as tough as she looked. The two waited for the bell to ring to start their assault on the pint-sized, pug-ugly, cybernetically-enhanced monstrosity before them.
Meanwhile, Ursula had pushed her way to the side edge of the stands where she not only held an unobstructed view of the arena floor but could also watch Fett from his balcony perch above. She knew something was coming but wanted to watch it unfold before perhaps jumping in on the action.
Ursula watched the arena, aware of Fett at the balcony above and to the left. She hadnât expected him to be here tonight. But then, he was Boba Fett, and rarely did he do the expected. She hoped he wouldnât complicate matters. Of course, she couldnât remember a time when his presence didnât complicate matters. The price of doing business, she supposed.
The mongrel Ewok was prancing around the ring, itâs arms held high, while white foam ran from its horrid maw. Fettâs attention was riveted on Jenara. The announcer, one of those square-jawed hunks from B grade horror holo-flicks, had fearful eyes first on Dragon fire and then on Fett. AC Jaynos and Jenara exchanged a quick look, made a warriorâs marriage of convenience, and then focused on the Ewok.
This is going to get ugly, Ursula realized with grim certainty. Something was going to happen, and she needed to know what before it was too late. It all boils down to odds, she reasoned: figure the odds, then play to win. With a practiced eye, she assessed the situation and did the math.
The odds were good Fett would throw down with little provocation. Ruthless, fearless, and inventive, Fett was a master in combat. There simply was no single equal. A mere glance from that fierce helm brought many a hardened criminal to their knees, begging for mercy that would never come. However, circumstances were unique tonight. This was a large crowd with an appetite for destruction, and the Ewok a butcher who thrived on wholesale slaughter.
The crowd, and the Ewok, wouldn't take kindly to an âinterruptionâ in the festivities. Considering Jenara was Fettâs sister, that made it personal for the hunter, and who knew how that would affect the usually detached professional? Hundreds of potential opponents and strong emotional ties put more numbers in favor of Dragonfire, despite Janaraâs own legendary prowess in battle. Factor in AC Jaynos, a tough survivor out for himself as always no matter what bargain heâd made, and the odds took a walk on the wild side.
Ursula swore a vile oath. Damned Dying Slowly. She hated this town. Nothing ever went as planned here. Not one single blasted thing.
From her belt pouch, she removed a tiny, crystal philter filled with a colorless liquid. Small, but outrageously deadly, she thought, adding the chemical reagent to the jug. Just like Dragonfire. What had masqueraded as swill took on itâs true, more sinister incarnation as the liquid morphed into a lethal gel. Ursula put the empty philter back in the pouch, and capped the jug with a pressure lock Sheâd been warned not to use too much, but then in her experience on the job, if some is good, more is better.
Should things get out of hand, and she fully expected they would with that crazed Ewok, sheâd be forced to intervene. Intentional deaths were not part of the plan tonight, even if the promoters thought it good for a cheap pop. There were those who wanted AC Jaynos and Jenara Mereel alive. And they paid well. Well enough for Ursula to jack the odds if necessary. The price of doing business.
The three contestants began circling one another in a macabre dance, a prelude to the certain carnage that would follow. The Ewok was confident, even in the face of the obvious alliance of AC Jaynos and Jenara. Too confident.
It occurred suddenly to Ursula that perhaps it was no coincidence that the ringer Dragonfire was placed in the final round. Just as there were those who paid to keep Jaynos and Mereel alive, there may be those who paid to get one, or both dead.
Making a decision sheâd hoped not to have to make, Ursula palmed a comlink from a discrete pocket of her flight jacket and activated the transmission scramble.
"Weâve got trouble." As she spoke those words, a strange tingling sensation beset her. She looked sharply to the balcony above, and Fett looked back. He nodded slowly, marking her. Her blood went cold.
"You heard correct," she said into the link, unable to turn away from the compelling visage that was Boba Fett. "Weâve got big trouble. Sweep the crowd. Who else is out there with an axe to grind tonight?"
The Future Boba Fett:
Boba Fett scanned the raging crowd and came upon what Ursula had sensed. There staring up at him was the bounty huntress Sky Fin. Fett had heard about this firery girl. She was young, and had just had a big break from a rich "businessman" on Coruscant. Sky gave Fett a smile and a quick wave and then dropped to the ground, out of sight. "Ursula, you're not going to believe who's taking on this job." "Try me" "It's that new bounty hunter, Sky Fin, the Rebel reject" "Great, we're all going to die" Ursula mumbled.........
Cybernetic ewok? Janos stood in the crowd being crushed by two extremely fat and smelly Rodians who were cheering wildly for dragonfire and spilling their drinks on him. The contents were slightly corrosive, and Janos did not enjoy being in a madly cheering crowd, so he ducked away to a less crowded area of the stands amongst janitors and...Boba Fett?
There he was, standing with his binocs speaking into a comlink. The bounty hunter turned his visor to Janos' direction.
"Hey," Fett said, lowering his binocs. "Aren't you the one spreading lies about me and Dengar?"
"How did you know i like Hello Kitty?" Boba Fett grabbed Janos' forearm to prevent him from getting away.
Ohshitohshitohshit Janos thought. "Dude, take it easy...it was Pete's idea!"
"Who the hell is Pete?" Fett's voice was low and coarse.
"He's a bum; lives in Skokie, likes to do this kind of stuff," Janos said more calmly than he felt. Besides, it was all true, except for the Skokie bit. "You know, slashfic. Nudgenudge, knodnwink knodnwink, saynomore," Janos tapped his nose with his free arm.
"I don't have time to kill you," Fett said, releasing Janos' forearm. "More important matters await."
"Right, then." Janos slinked away as quickly as possible back in the group of janitors.
"Psst. What'did he say?" a figure in a janitors jumpsuit nudged Janos.
"Dah! Oh it's just you, Percy. Go away. Don't you have a Village People reunion to attend or something?" Janos edged away from the cowardly bounty hunter and could see his brick-in-sock at hand.
"That was last week," Percy explained. "Listen, did Fett tell you anything about any other bounty hunters?"
"No. Why are you here anyway?"
"I'm after the big one," Percy said looking out to the arena and rubbing his hands together.
Janos looked out to, where Dragonfire currently had AC Jaynos in a headlock. "What big one?"
"Boy, you really are clueless, aren't you? What do you do for a living, anyway?" Percy said impatiently.
"I write the fortunes in fortune cookies. They're the only ones that'll hire someone underage."
"Okay, whatever. Look, there's a big bounty on Jenara Mereel's head and I'm going after it."
"Who's paying the bounty?"
Percy looked at him blankly. "I don't know. All I know is that Sky Fin's going after them too."
"Yeah. Sure. And you'll be able to beat Sky Fin at catching her?" Janos pointed at Jenara, who aimed a well-places kick at dragonfire, bringing cheers mfrom the crowd.
"Probably not, but it's worth a try," Percy said, picking up his mop. "I am Perciville, master of the Janitorial Arts."
"I thought you were a mechanic," Janos said, watching Percy brandish his mophead menacingly.
"Yeah, well, no one's afraid of hydrospanners," Percy shrugged and disappeared into the crowd, leaving Janos to wonder how badly sky Fin was going to kick Percy's ass. The thought made him slightly happier as he took out a pencil and piece of paper and wrote thoughtfully: Beware of the red-haired mop wielder in your future - may lead to a deadly urge to kill. Janos stopped and then wrote: Lucky numbers - 45 16 7 10 22
The Future Boba Fett:
Sky weaved through the crowd to get a better view of the ring. The fight was going as expected: pure madness. Jen had just pulled out a clump of fur from Dragonfire which made him give out a banshee howl and a clawed right hook that hit Jen in the cheek. "She's doing very well," Sky thought to herself. She knew other bounty hunters were waiting for the fight to end, just as she was, so they could claim the hard merchandise of Jen Mereel. Sky Fin looked at the opposite side of the ring and saw Percy. She gave a small snicker and a half-smile to him and a greeting nod, daring him to bring it on.....
Percy gulped. He knew his ass might as well be kicked. Okay, he knew his ass was going to be kicked. AC Jaynos was being bodyslammed by dragonfire, but that was the least of his worries. Soon, he'd be going up against two very lethal women who could tear out his throat, and him, he armed with a half brick-in-sock and a mop. Maybe the bucket would cause some distraction, he didn't know.
Janos chuckled at the pathetic Percy from a distance, wondering whether now was time to aid the bounty hunter that he hated so much. No, Janos thought. Nah, I'll sit and watch.
âYou know, I gave up my vacation for you.â Ursula moved into the back shadows of the arena, communicating once more with her employer via the comlink. âI should charge you extra considering the line up of hunters tonight.â
âThe price has already been negotiated.â Fettâs voice was tight, his words clipped. âThere was supposed to be back up in the ring. Where is the fourth contestant?â
âI was about to ask you the same thing.â Ursula slipped through a door marked âEmployees Onlyâ and entered the access corridor that ran behind the stands. It was dimly lit, and empty. Within moments sheâd located the stairwell that led directly to the holding areas for the fighters and promoters. âI think Iâll check the locker room. Never know what we might turn up. We know who weâre facing, Iâd like to know if anyoneâs going to be at our back. And what happened to our fourth man.â
She could hear the dull roar of the crowd as she trod lightly on the durasteel stairs. The ring announcer was proclaiming a triumph for ACJaynos, calling a series of his lighting fast moves. The calls got the crowd pumped. Ursula wondered how much punishment Dragonfire could take, and what would happen once Jen and Jaynos were left. But more she wondered what had happened to the blasted fourth contestant. Her contact in the arena had been very specific about the payoff for the back up. So what had happened to the skell?
âDo not get yourself killed Ursula,â Fett ordered in no uncertain terms. âI have purchased your services and will not have you renege on the contract.â
âDeath does not constitute breech of contract, but thanks for the sentiment.â Ursula stopped on the final landing. A black, dented, durasteel door was all that stood between her and the locker area. She'd reached the destination quicker than anticipated. Sheâd yet to see an employee, or a fighter, or even a fan wandering about. Something was wrong. Very wrong.
âKeep your eyes on Sky Finn. Sheâs your real danger. Nothing gets between her and credits. Jenâs worth some serious credits. You should have warned your sister about deals that seem too good to be true, especially when the Hutts are involved.â
âIt is not the Hutts but Black Sun that are the cause of this mess. The ex-con ACJaynos did some work for them , that is why I want him taken alive as well. He may be my only chance at resolving the problem.â Fett paused as the crowd roared to life. When the worst subsided, he said, âThere are others about tonight. I saw not only Janos Kadar, but that fool Percy.â
âThereâs bad blood between those two.â Ursula was about to say more, but a strange noise caught her attention. Strange in that it did not belong in the bowels of this arena, while the battle raged. âI think company is coming, Fett. Ursula out.â
She killed the link before he could issue any more orders , and stowed the com in her flight jacket. Then she pulled her heavy blast pistol from her shoulder holster, checked the charge, and smiled.
Good thing sheâd been smart enough to wear body armor tonight, even if the helm gave her the bed head look afterwards. She pulled the face shield down, and ducked into the corner. The door opened into the corridor. From her vantage point, she could see first, and if necessary, shoot first. There were worse positions and situations to be in, like up in the arena, surrounded by hunters that smelled blood and the credits that blood could bring home.
The noise was louder, getting closer. She listened closely, focusing all attention on the sound, but still she could not tell. The odds were evenly split. The noise could belong to friend as easily as foe. The only certainties were that the noise did not match the location or situation, and the source was heading her way. And, should she somehow fail to stay alive, there was the additional certainty that Boba Fett would track her into the afterlife to extract payment for that failure.
Guess Iâll just have to keep myself alive, she thought, as the noise suddenly stopped and the handle of the black door moved.
The handle of the black door turned slowly, very slowly, as Ursula prepared her blaster. Slowly, slowly, the handle went for about a minute more when Ursula started to get slightly nervous. The hardle rattled as she could hear someone curse and try to pry the door open. It stopped, then a sigh from the other side before a pause--then the black door flew open.
Ursula fired a shot before the door had a chance to bounce back, and when the smoke of the shot had cleared, she saw a petrified tall, gangly figure with a janitor's cap clutching a broom at the doorway. The blaster shot had barely missed him by a few inches.
Ursula sighed and shook her head. It's just this idiot, she though, raising her gun again. Percy suddenly started flailing his arms in panic and screaming like a little girl. Ursula stood there for a while before backhanding the man repeatedly to stop him.
"Shut up!" Ursula hissed, "I can't hear it anymore."
Percy stopped and stood quietly, fidgeting with his cap as he listened intently. "I don't hear--"
"That's because with all your screaming, of course it left," Ursula snapped, half-wishing it were true. "What are you doing here, anyway? There aren't any George Micheal videos here," she muttered the last part.
"I know, I already checked," Percy said, his head hanging, still fiddling with his cap. Ursula cursed Percy mentally for making whatever had been there go away. She was sure those sounds weren't all too normal, and if Percy hadn't yelled so loud for the entire stadium to hear, it probably would've showed itself by now.
"Come on," Ursula took out her blaster, thinking up something she wouldn't do on normal occasions. But whoever--or whatever--was lurking outside wasn't something friendly, she had made up her mind about that. "You're coming with me. You're the one who got me into this, so you're coming with me to go after it."
The color drained out of Percy's face. "Go-go after something potentionally dangerous??? No thanks, but I am not dying." Percy jammed his cap back onto his head and stared at the blaster muzzle in between his eyes.
"You're coming and that's final," Ursula grabbed his collar.
"Why meeee????" Percy whined.
"Because if we happen to find something dangerous, you'll come in handy," Ursula tightened her grip on his collar and nearly dragged him out.
Percy snorted. "How, with my amazing martial mop arts?" he scowled down on her. "I'm not even a good mechanic."
"I don't care if you're a good mechanic, you're not fixing their ship," she said, waving her blaster around dismissively. "Anyway, if what's after me has any blaster of some sort, I can use you as a human shield. Make yourself usefull for once in your life," Ursula peered around the corners of the doorway before Percy straightened up and Ursula had readjust her grip on his collar.
"Fine, but let's get one thing straight," Percy said seriously. "I'm not dying. Not soon, anyway."
"Yeah, well, what makes you so sure you'll live forever?"
"I've clung on to life from an early age and I'm not going to let go. I'm addicted."
Then you should go to a rehab and make everyone's lives--wait, why am I making stupid puns in my head? Ursula shook her head, "Come on," she said, dragging the janitor.bounty hunter out of there.
"Watch my neck, ouch" Percy said as Ursula pulled him down so his head was bellow the level of hers.
Janos kicked the ground angrily and thrust his hands in his pockets to check if he had any extra change. None. He had bet his last 20 credits that AC Jaynos would loose (because he really wanted to see that guy pounded to a pulp), but no such luck. Wandering over to the docking garages, Janos debated whether he should leave back to Coruscant, back where he had a room and some money, and there weren't fat Rodians to crush him. He leaned idly against the Lucy and stared back at the muttering gotal parking officer. Another ship pulled up at the bay, a crappy, rusted one Janos recognized as the General McClellan. Surely enough, a boy no older than himself with a mass of brown matted hair and a short stubble came down the ramp.
"Hey Janos," Pete the Bum called, walking over to the Lucy holding a bag of chips.
"Hi, Pete," Janos unenthusiastically. "So, come to watch the extravaganza?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the galaxy. Only chance to see some actually skilled people kill each other."
"Too, bad, round's over,"
"Some wannabe tough-guy," Janos shrugged.
"Where's, wossname, Philip?" Pete asked opening a back of onion chips.
"Percy," Janos corrected. "I dunno, probably off somewhere looking for Prince records."
Pete and Janos leaned against the ship for a few minutes, the sound of Pete munching and spilling crumbs on his Red Dwarf interrupting the silence.
"So this is what it's like when doves cry, huh?"
"Don't make lame puns."
"Sorry," Pete continued munching.
"And if you see Boba Fett, tell him your name is Brian or something," Janos reminded him.
"Because I said so,"
"What, so I'm your bitch now or something?" Pete said. Janos sighed, rubbing his tired eyes.
"Look, just don't tell him your name," Janos waved his glasses impatiently.
"Fine. Wanna raid Percy's ship since he's not here?" Pete offered.
"Nah, it might be too fruity to handle," Janos said.
"Come on, we might find some rare Elton John records or something. Those would sell a lot."
Pete and Janos made their way into Percy's Juba Nuba and indeed, saw piles of Boy George records and what not. Pete rummaged through Percy's pink bathroom and stuffed an expensive frily hand towel in his pocket.
"Pete..." Janos was calling from somewhere in the ship in a dead, hollow voice.
"What?" Pete called back, examining a silver hairbrush.
"I think you should come down here..."
Pete sighed and went down to the bounty cage (there was only one of them) to where Janos was standing, staring into an armored cargo hold. "What is it?" Pete was saying.
His mouth hung open when he saw what Janos was staring at, something they never even guessed would be in Percy the failed mechanic's ship...
The Future Boba Fett:
Sky had been keeping a close watch on the rest of the (wannabe) hunters during the course of the fight and when Percy had (not so subtly) slipped out of the crowd she followed. When Percy had had the misfortune of running in to Ursala, she decided to stick around and help him out if the need arose, maybe..... Sky's DX blaster was fully charged and her patience was running very short, "If I don't blast someone soon I'm gonna go nuts!" She new her old friend Janos was around somewhere, maybe he wouldn't mind a little visit. Sky backtracked out into the docking bay and saw Percy's ship. "Very good,' she said with a smirk. She jogged up the ramp, which someone had so conveniently left down. The moment Sky entered the truly disturbing craft she heard a horrified yelp coming from the bounty cages. She jumped gracefully to the area. "What's up guys.... "OH MY.. SWEET MERCY... WHAT THE HECK... IS THAT WHAT I THINK IT IS????!!!!!
Ursula pushed Percy out into the dimly lit hall, then followed.
There was but one bare bulb in a socket, the wire pulled low and swinging like a hangmanâs noose. The rest were smashed, up one end of the hall, down the other.
Percy coughed nervously. âMaybe we should just go back up the stairs...â
âMove.â Ursula gave him a shove in the small of his back. She felt the points of his spine through the thin fabric of his janitorâs uniform, and almost felt guilty about scaring the poor sod, but business was business. Coward or not, Percy was hunting the target sheâd been hired to protect. That in an of itself warranted study. Why would a coward like him take on a dangerous hunt like this?
The door to the fighterâs locker room hung by one hinge. Wedge shaped dents marred itâs surface. Very damning evidence. Only one tool left marks like that. Only one hunter in the known galaxy used that tool.
Ursula could smell Percyâs fear as he began to sweat in earnest. Obviously, he recognized the marks too.
âUrsula, I donât think we should go in there.â
âI donât think we need to.â She looked into the room, the contents of which were in turmoil. The scene confirmed what sheâd heard earlier, but thought impossible.
Percy cleared his throat, and pointed a shaky finger towards the ground. âThose areâ¦â
âAggregate pebbles,â she finished for him. âLooks like Intaraâs come to the party.â
She was about to comment on the dead risingâ¦(no one in the business had seen Intara since a fiery construction accident on Ord Mandelâ¦no one could have survivedâ¦no one should have survivedâ¦) when the sound of oncoming footfalls caught her attention.
She turned in time to see Fett round the blind corner, his unconscious sister Jen slung across a shoulder, and the EE3 braced at hip level. The noise of a crowd in hot pursuit was unmistakable.
Fett stopped, turned and punched out several short burst of laser fire. That, and a natural fear of the hunter known as Boba Fett, kept the rest of the hunters pinned around the blind corner.
âNow would be a good time to earn your pay, Ursula,â he said, calm as ever.
âWhereâs ACJaynos? Heâs part of thisâ¦â
âWent to collect his winnings. A good diversion for me to grab Jen.â Fett shifted the burden of his unconscious sister a bit, and moved to stand behind Ursula.
Ursula gave her jug a few good shakes, and set it gently on the ground beside one of the loadbearing beams that supported the upper levels. Then slowly, with infinite care, she removed the airlock cap. âWhat ever you do kids, donât look back at the pretty lights.â
She could hear the other hunters arguing about what to do. No one had braved the blind corner yet. Too scared. With good reason. Another few minutes, she thought to herself, and thereâd be no more corner to round.
âI guess you wonât be needing me anymore,â said Percy, a little too nonchalantly.
Fett aimed the blastrifle. âYou keep showing up in all the right places at all the wrong times.â
âLookâ¦about your sister, I really wasnât going to..â he stammered.
Boba Fett cut him off. âI donât believe in coincidence. Youâre going to answer some questions for me. Letâs go!â
Fett didnât need to shove Percy. One look from the merciless visor, one subtle wave of that sawed off muzzle, and he was moving full tilt boogie as ordered. This hall emptied out on the far side of the arena. Percy had seen a small speeder parked outside.
If he could reach the speederâ¦
Ursual and Fett were on his six.
The absence of laser fire from Boba Fett made one fool hunter brave. He took the corner just in time to witness the chemical detonation of the jugâs highly reactive contents. A rumble of thunder shook the arena infrastructure.
Though theyâd already made several turns and twists in the corridor, the force of the explosion knocked Fett, Ursula and Percy flat.
Fett picked himself up first and gave Percyâs prone form a kick with his toe. A giant crack worked its way down the permacrete ceiling. Collapse had begun. In six standard minutes, so would the fire.
âI warned you not to use all of the vialâs contents , Ursula,â Fett growled.
âThen you shouldnât have given me the entire supply.â Ursula dragged their unlikely company to his feet. âLetâs go, Percy. Shake it off. We wonât carry you. Stay here, and youâll be dead for certain. With us, well, thereâs a chance.â
With the stamina and burst of energy only a true coward could muster in times of mortal threats, Percy took off at flat-footed run. Ursula and Fett were but a breath behind.
They broke out of the rear doors, into the putrid night air of Dying Slowly. A speeder sat at the ready.
Percy was the first one in, taking a dive into the back seat. Fett dumped Jen in with him, while Ursula took the drive and fired up the craft.
Fett took up position with the EE 3 in the passenger seat.
In seconds they were off into the darkness, destined for the docking bay.
Fett frowned behind his visor as he watched for followers. He would feel a lot better if theyâd hooked up with ACJaynos, but that might come later. He would feel a lot better if he knew where the hell Sky Finn had gotten herself. That, too, might come later, he thought grimly.
He looked down at Percy. He would feel a lot better if he knew what could force a coward like this to brave a place like Dying Slowly and throngs of vicious, credit crazed bounty hunters. This man was hiding something. Fett knew it deep down in his bones.
As if reading Fettâs thoughts, Percy lifted his head from his hands and looked up in terror.
Fettâs frown leveled out. His eyes narrowed. He made his decision. âUrsula, weâre heading for the JubaNuba first.â
Ursula swore under her breath. âThat wasnât part of the plan.â
âThe plan has changed.â Fett put force into the statement. Skirting the edge of contractual agreements with Ursula carried a danger all itâs own. He wanted to ensure she complied without problem. âPercy is hiding something aboard ship. I need to know what, or, should I say, whom.â
Percy felt the icy grip of certain doom grab at his craven heart. What would Fett do when he found what Percy had locked away? A sudden, more frightening thought seized him. Fett liked to get his way. What if the prize had escaped? Or worse, been stolen?
Percyâs heart beat like a jackhammer against his narrow chest. If the prize was there, he could give it to Fett, and maybe Fett would just let him be. But with no prize, there was no bargaining chip. He hoped above hope no one had raided his ship. Every time he left the thing docked, someone raided his ship, usually that guy JanosKadar and his buddy Pete. Scenery whizzed by as Ursula took the speeder to its limit. Every second brought him closer to his shipâ¦
âWhat the hell was that?â Ursula asked Fett of the sudden thud and shift in load in the speeder.
âOur boy Percy just passed out,â said Fett easily, relaxing back into a seated position.
âWould you take it under advisement if I said going to the JubaNuba is a bad idea?â
âThat Percyâ¦he gets into some weird stuff sometimes. Trouble chases him more than it does me.â
âWeâre going to the JubaNuba and that is final.â
Ursula knew it was useless to argue with Boba Fett. A hardheaded man, he was, with or without the Mandaloran helm. âFine. JubaNuba it is, boss. Just hope you like frilly bath towels.â
âWhat is that supposed to mean?â
She snickered to herself as the docking port came into sight. âYouâre about to find out.â
The speeder pulled up to the JubaNuba, and Ursula was surprised to see that the ramp was lowered. Boba Fett jumped out of the speeder and slung his sister over his shoulder, just in case. Ursula stepped out as well, curiously following Fett. Percy was still unconcious in the back of the speeder.
When Fett entered the ship, his expression did not change, though Ursula's did. She had never seen more Pet Shop Boys posters in her life.
"Um...yeah." Ursula said, not knowing what else she could say about it. "I guess he really likes Elton John..."
"Do you have a problem with that?" Fett turned his visor towards Ursula, who shrunk just slightly and shook her head. Fett took out his blaster and proceded to the cargo hold, passing Percy's bathroom.
Pete and Janos both jumped when they heard Sky Fin's voice. Pete yelled and hid in a broom closet, and Janos froze.
"OH MY GOD!" Sky Fin said, pointing at what was in the hold.
Ohshitohshitohshit , Janos thought, Mentally panicking at Sky Fin. SHE's here...
Things didn't get any better when he saw Boba Fett round the corner and come in with his unconcious sister. Janos almost made like Pete, but he stood there, frozen and staring at Boba Fett. Sky Fin had diverted her attention from the cargo hold to stare and Jenara Mereel. Fett could tell by the look on her face that she was debating whether she should go for the prize or not.
Boba Fett was there.
She wouldn't touch her with him around.
Fett gave a mere glance at Janos and Sky Fin and proceded to the cargo hold.
Ursula had fell a little behind Fett as she was distracted and disgusted by Percy's bathroom. She heard no sound in the hold though, so she decided to follow. When she reached the hold, her mouth dropped open at the sight of what was in there. She hadn't even noticed Sky Fin or Janos, but all her attention was caught on Boba Fett, who set his sister down on the floor and hefted the contents of the hold.
Bigger than Boba Fett, it was a single assault cannon with stacks of plasma cartriges that could probably wipe out three dozen people with one shot. Fett did not seem at all shocked at seeing such a weapon there, but then again, he never looked shocked, so he hefted it on the ground next to his sister and climbed into the big armored hold. In the back there was a small number code patch, with which Fett fiddled with for a few seconds before the safe opened up and Janos yelled. What was in the safe was not one deadly weapon, but instead, many. Shoulder cannons, assault rifles, detanators, mines of all kinds, vibro axes and blades, and a vast array of things Janos had never even seen before in his life. Some looked pretty grim, too. There was one that looked like a double chainsaw with dried blood on it. Fett rumaged through all the weapons for a while.
"A cache of secret weapons??" Ursula said. "Are we in the right ship??" She hissed at Janos, who tried to answer as calmly as possible.
"Well, let's see, unless Percy doesn't like Boy George and Ricky Martin and has A HUGE LOAD OF DEADLY WEAPONS IN HIS CARGO HOLD, YES! I THINK WE'RE IN THE RIGHT SHIP!!!" Janos was almost to the point of hysteria. Pete creeped out of the closet and saw Boba Fett and jumped back in.
"Ursula," Fett uttered quietly. "come look at this."
Ursula approached the cache and looked at what was in Fett's hand. It was a small cylinder of the liquid Ursula had used earlier, just twice as much. She stared at it before Fett pocketed. "That's not the only thing," Fett pushed aside some armor pieces and showed her some construction tools, shovels, a jackhammer, and a bag of gravel.
"Those are Intara's weapons," Ursula said.
"Who's Intara?" Janos asked from behind.
"Shut up," Sky Fin added, her eyes on Jenara Mereel.
"No way, Chinese Food," Janos retorted, but he shouldn't have. Sky Fin aimed a punch at Janos and hit his brow sending his into the floor. Janos got up after a moment and felt above his left eye. Blood.
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT FOR?" Janos yelled at her.
"Quit whining, I lightly tapped you...buddy," she said.
"Li-light...Lightly TAPPED me? I'm BLEEDING!"
"Quiet," Fett told them both, and they both shut up. Fett climbed out with Ursula and they both went to the bounty cage. It was empty, but Fett examined the bottom. There was some dried blood and some grains of sand.
"But Percy only has one bounty cage," Ursula had no sooner said when they all heard a blaster click from the entrance of the cargo hold...
A single shot rang out. It proved beyond reasonable doubt that Sky was a hunter with a brain. The only problem was that it was spread across the wall behind her. Reflexively, Fett toggled to IR and raised his E-33. And did nothing.
âPull the trigger if you will Fett. I am standing ten degrees your right at six meters. Oh, and you may wish to take your helmet off, I imagine all that static must be quite uncomfortable . . . . . â
A lone figure stepped out from the shadow holding a smoking slug-thrower.
âDispersion field.â Commented Fett.
âI take it from the tone of your voice that was more a statement than question,â replied the figure.
Fettâs response was deafening by its absence, but the whole cargo compartment knew what it meant. The field was similar to that produced by cloaking devices but more subtle. Cranking up from zero, it jammed comms, shut down weapons and nullified electronics. It was subtle, as it did not have the telltale signs of a jamming field until it had reached maximum potential difference and when that level was achieved it was too late to do anything about it. It did however render any electronic gadgetry of its user useless.
Silence filled the air, as seconds seemed to stretch to minutes. Minutes to hours. Hours to days. A thick blanket settled over the motley crew as the stared in perfect silence at the lonester.
Jen, having regained her conciousness stared grogilly at the assailent and finally broke the silence: âYou dead or dying asshole!â
âAs they say in the Terran system, reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. As one of the Mereel clan, you should be familiar with this.â
âThere are weapons in the hold. Blood. Dust. These all belong to you Intara!â sneered Ursula. âI know! The Rodian Job on Ord Madell? You took a hit to the shoulder and I patched you up? I checked you RNA pattern. Thatâs your tissue in the hold!â
âIt was I who put myself in the hold with the blood and the meks.â Intara seemed to loose himself in thought for a moment. âPoor Percy, my puppet on a string, thinking that he had taken me. Thinking that he tracked me across the outer rim for six months, believing himself to have me on the run. The truth is Jenera my child that everything you see here today took place at the behest of his most Excellent Imperial Majesty, Emperor Palpatine.â
Jenera mulled this over. âMind control?â she quizzed.
âHe is a weak and pliable individual. Coupled with blind ambition and no drive to succeed. It was no great challenge to make him think he could take all of you on and win. Which leads me on to a question. Where is the fool?â
Fett lowered his useless blaster. He had tried to run a diagnostic on his armor but the field had all but shut him out. Instead, playing for time he shut down the entire system, knowing he had no use for it at this time. That didnât mean he wouldnât kill this clone Freak. âCute trick,â he pointed out, conscious of the others force abilities. âHeâs around. Ursula took offence at his lack of panache with a mop and explained it too him. In what I am assured was rather harsh terms. You seem to have a pure Sabbac hand.â
âAnd sadly the game endâs here.â Intara stepped towards the younger Mereel sibling.
âYou go through me first clone scum!â
âAh Boba, it pleases me to see that you protect your own so graciously. It pleases me more that you see me as a threat. To be seen as a threat by the last of the Madalorians is the greatest honourâ
Even through the visor, the disgust that Fett felt for the clone was blatant. âDonât flatter yourself.â
Intara smiled mildly. âStay at your hand Boba, I intend to collect the bounty on your sister before we leave this ship, but I promise you this day that no harm will come of her by my hand.â
âSpeak in English!â yelled Ursula, âThe clone wars are just a memory now, you wizard days are past. What the hell are you talking about?â Ursulasâ outrage was more for show than actual anger. She had partnered the fallen Jedi in the past and knew of his enigmatic ways. She also know that whilst he would not lie, he would not necessarily be completely honest.
Intara holstered his slug thrower. It was an antique by modern standards, a relic from humanities days of civil war from before when Coruscant was Coruscant. Before the Old republic when it was known only as the Terran system and faster than light speed was the heady dream of those seen as fools or charlatans. Intara took in the dull walls of Percyâs ship. Scarred with age and fatigued by too many uncalculated Hyperspace decants, the bulkheads had the peculiar swirls of gravametric distortions. The sickly sour odur of lubricant and refrigerant began to replace the acrid tang of cordite from Intaras aged but functional Desert Eagle. He breathed long and deep of the stench of the vessel and sat on a packaging crate with his exhalation. âHow long have you been on Vaderâs payroll Fett?â The hunter gave no response. âDo you think you are his only fringe operative?â Ursula thought she saw Fett momentarily flinch but could not be certain. She did know that things were about to get interesting.
The stench in the cabin lent heft to the silence that ensued, a silence punctuated by ships entering and leaving the Golgotha that was Dying Slowly. Intara waited studiosly for some kind of response. Sensing none was forthcoming he started again.
âYou are all no doubt aware of my curious choice of weapons arsenal. Have any of you ever thought to look at the dust bombs I use? These are the products of years of nano-mek R & D at the imperial facilities at Yaga Minor. Microscopic droids that will strip a man to nothing in moments, programmed to attack the genetic strands of those I specify. Whilst effective, it does generate a set of unique problems for the user.â
Fett was unimpressed. âI use a disintegrator. It does the job just as easily.â
âYes,â Intara mused, âA bulky, power consuming beast that is at best in accurate. A problem I myself had with the dust. Until now.
âAs I recall, Vader was a little upset that you chose to present your last mark to him in a vial no larger than a power cell. Rather smaller than the Hutt body he was expecting. I am told that he took your leg as retribution.â
âVaders dealing are his business,â Fett replied neutrally.
âOf course Boba. Tell me, has anyone looked at the bounty posted on you Jen? No doubt you have traced it to the Huttâs. Capture dead or alive?â
The question seemed to hang in the air. Janos had been silent all this time chose to be heard.
âA mark is a mark. It doesnât matter if they are guilty or not.â Janos began with venom but the fire left his words as Fett glanced sidelong at him.
Intara smiled ruefully. âYou have much to learn Janos. And you have learned much. But in time you will develop a sense of justice that will show you so much more than you see today.â
Jen Stepped forward. If her temper was near to boiling it did not show. Her pale skin was mirrored by glacially calm eyes that met her would be assassin calmly and coldly. Her voice was barely audible but carried to every corner of the cabin with ferocious clarity and unabashed menace. âWhat are you going to do to me?â
I can assure you Jen that my interest is very much in keeping you alive. Do you remember the time when you were on Bastion. Of course not, it was known to you only as Dalthomir then wasnât it. Imperial security forces were always so sensitive about disclosing the home-world werenât they? As I remember, you were hired by a TwiâLek to take out an Imperial officer by name of Rogan Josh. A beurocratic nobody. Did you not think it odd that such a lowly mark should attract such a handsome mark. And that you were the only one to be drawn to him? He was a plant, as was the bounty. Do you recall his breathing on you as you tried to throttle him? Do you recall how yous strong hands could not defeat his windpipe? Intra-muscular poly-carbonate armor. He had a gas filled tooth that he waqs told contained a stun gas that he was immune too. A defense mechanism. He wasplanted in a low security building to give you easy access to him. When he breathed on you, you were infected with a new nano-mek spore. Apparently you were of an appropriate genetic type to produce the correct hybrid of technology and genetics. Hence the Empire posting a bounty on one of their own.â
Jen Shuddered as Intara drew a new item from his cloak.
Jen studied the device. Dimensions similar to a hold-out blaster, it had a needle where the barrel ended and a small plasteel canister on the top. The shiny metal surface gave it a medicinal look.
âWhat is that?â asked Jen.
âYour salvation. I am working under direct order from Vader. My mission is to take ten CCâs of your blood to him. After this is done, my business is concluded, you are free and I am 500,000 credits the better. As for Percy, he was simply my cover. The weak minded are useful for there innocence and pliability.â
Ursula puzzled over this. She stared at Intara as he took the blood sample from Jen: âSo thatâs it?â she asked.
Intara shut down the dispersion field.
âYes,â he replied, âThat is it.
A gentle pressurizing whine accompanied Fett raising his E-33. âNot quite.â He stated.
ACJaynos was fairly sore already. "That stupid ewok" he muttered under his breath while massaging his left wrist. Jenara had taken a rather nasty blow from Dragonfire to the back of the neck that laid her out right before AC had gotten his arm around the furry freak's neck and given him a good 'ol sleeper that cut off the blood to his brain sending the cybernetic shrimp into unconsciousness. He was the last one standing and, so, was hailed the winner of the free-for-all.
The arena floor quickly filled up with enthusiastic spectators who tried to lift him on their shoulders but it was a difficult affair since he was a good deal taller and a good deal heavier than any of the lifters. Finally, two very drunk Rodians managed to get him up and they lurched around the arena giving AC an unfettered view of the entire place. He scanned the arena floor for Jenara who was now easy prey for any of the numerous hunters he had noticed during the bout. He began to worry as he could not see her and was just about to jump down from his makeshift bier when he spied Fett speed off down one of the entrance tunnels with a form over his shoulder that fit the, he thought, quite exotic profile of Jenara.
'Well, that takes care of that.' thought the ex-con turned professional pugilist. He thoroughly enjoyed the regal treatment while it lasted (all of 4 minutes) and then went off to the betting booths to collect his money. He had only been able to put a few hundred credits on himself before the fight had started but, with the odds so high against him with the introduction of that T2 reject from Endor's moon, AC was able to rake in over 15,000. Maybe not much compared to the bounty on everyone's mind but quite a respectable sum for a guy that had grown up in poverty. Thoughts swirled inside the fighter's surprisingly creative head. Buy a ship? Maybe a bar. Maybe an abandoned warehouse somewhere? Yeah, that sounded best: a place to start a pugilism school of his own.
His thoughts were forced to wait, however, as a violent explosion followed by the imminent collapse of the arena sent everyone who could scurrying out of the place. He hoped Fett and Jenara had made it out but then reasoned that they were probably the cause of the fireworks anyway. No big loss otherwise except he had left his favorite cloak down in the locker room. Oh balls.
AC looked up from his still aching left wrist towards the spaceport. He had tracked that fight promoter who had almost gotten him killed in a stacked bout to here. Now it was time for a little payback.
Most people made way for Jaynos as he walked through the port to the hanger area. His imposing size and obvious strength coupled with the old scars and newer cuts and bruises all over his body was enough to send even the most confident in another direction. By the time he reached the hanger bay, there was no one else around. He spotted the ship he was looking for, the Gambit, on the oppositte side of the large structure. As he was about to head over to pay an uninvited visit, AC happened to pass a speeder with a limp body in the rear seat. Normally, he would have kept walking; years in prison had taught him to mind his own business. Something about the body seemed familiar though so he looked a little harder at it. He realized who it was and said out loud, "Oh, its the flamer." just as Percy lifted his head.
"Who told you?" asked a very groggy mechanic/janitor/bounty hunter. Percy's eyes went wide before AC could answer though as he remembered exactly where he was and how he had gotten there. "No!", he yelled as he struggled to his feet. "He's mine! I tracked him for six months! I captured him! You can't have him!" Percy was almost delirious in his ravings as he tottered back in forth trying to get to the ramp of his ship. AC had contemplated just hitting him over the head and putting him back in the speeder but he thought better of it and, in any event, wanted to see where this was going. He had the oddest feeling that this was leading to the culmination of some exotic plotline with a number of intertwining characters and an amazing ending where everything that had happened in the past few hours would come together in an explosive finish. If that were the case, and he had no reason to believe it wasn't, he was sure to meet up with Jenara again and he wanted to ask her if she would go into business with him by opening up their own fighter's school. 'How cool would that be?', he thought as he followed a staggering, mumbling Percy up the ramp.
Pete peered through the crack in the door to the broom closet, took in the Mandaloran stand off in Percyâs hold, and swore to any particular deity that may be listening never to raid the JubaNuba again, if only he could get out with his life. Sky Fin was dead, Janos bleeding from a gaping head wound, and four hardened mercenary soldiers looked about ready to mix it up some more. Pete knew the beaten metal of Percyâs ship could not provide him protection due to the years of abuse. If someone, anyone, fired anything more powerful than that slug thrower, he could very well be toast. He was too young to be toast. Thinking to add a little weight to the prayer he went so far to look up, skyward, just in case any being might be paying attention. It was then he noticed the grate that covered the access way to the repair crawlspace, the crawlspace that crossed above the armored cargo hold he so desperately longed to escapeâ¦
Intara froze, the extraction device raised in one hand.
Fett radiated menace, poised to trigger the blast rifle, aimed directly at center mass on the other hunter. âYou clones,â he said, nodding at Intara, âthe ones from the Outbound fleet, you were flash taught, werenât you?â
Now it was Intara who flinched. How could Fett have known his origin? âIt is an efficient and effective method of education.â
Ursula kept her eyes on Fett, waiting for the signal she knew would come. The jig was close to being up. If Vader got hold of that blood sample and learned what wasnât in there, as opposed to what should be, every being in this hold was as good as dead.
âNot as efficient and effective as experience. Thatâs something the genetic pirates who create spawn such as yourself fail to take into account.â Fett took a step towards the clone called Intara. He gave a curt nod. To all in the room but one, it looked to be a nod of acknowledgement, one warrior to another, Fett to Intara. He continued to speak. âIf youâd had any real experience, youâd have known better than to mess with me and mine. Particularly when thereâs business involved.â
Ursula read the familiar code of Fettâs subtle and not so subtle body language, stepping back as he took his first step forward. Then she waited, watched for the next signal, and wondered if Intara had any clue how Vader and the Emperor had been played by Black Sunâs dark prince Xizor.
Currently, only three living beings knew the truth: Fett (naturally), Xizor (The end employer) and herself (Fettâs hired hand.) And as always, the truth was much worse than the fiction. The Imperial Josh, like all his brethren, thought he had the real gas delivering device, the real spore. Little did he know, little did any Imperial (Palpatine included) know or suspect the real transfer occurred on an Imperial penal colony. The true host was a nameless, faceless con whoâd been in and out of trouble since birth, the last being anyone would suspect, a more perfect genetic match than Jen, at least as far as the criminal organization was concerned. The last thing they wanted in the hands of the Emperor was nano-bot hybrids, at least, not before theyâd had a chance to study and counter the biotechnology. Theyâd done the job of the counter, now they needed more of the correct host blood supply so the Emperor did not grow suspicious. Only the real host had been paroled, along with his blood, and gone missing.
Only 500,000 credits, she mused. Intara worked cheap. Xizor had supplied four times as much to make sure the Emperor and his minions never uncovered this deception. Jenâs blood, as it was, would not reach Vader. Not on her watch, or Fetts. Ursula waited patiently for the next signal, the next indicator to guide her moves. She had Intara under surveillance as well, and could not help but notice the strange look that entered the beingâs eyes. It was akin to â¦madness. She recalled this look from their shared past adventures. He was summoning. This was not good. Not good at all. She could take him out now, but Fett had been clear about her instructions under such conditions. Damn him and his rules.
âThe business is concluded, as I have stated. I have what I came for. Let me leave of my own free will and I will not injure you, or your associates.â Intaraâs voice was startlingly absent of emotion. He allowed the stinging venom of hate and rage to swell in his soul, allowed it to filter into his bloodstream and circulate throughout his genetically superior physical body. Outwardly, he was still, calm, placid. Inward, the fell energy of the dark side ran free. He was a fallen Jedi, and knew well how to best manipulate both sides of the force. He let the power grow. âAttempt to detain me and you risk not only the Emperorâs wrath, but my own.â
âYou won the last round of sabacc, freak boy. This hereâs a new round,â spat Jen. âMy moneyâs on my brother. Face it, youâre outgunned!â
âHand over the blood, Intara, and I might take pity on you. I may even let you live,â said Fett with deadpan calm. He took a second step, moving at a slight, almost imperceptible angle.
The heavy footfall of his boot on the armor plating of the hold perfectly covered the slight noise Ursulaâs zipper made when she opened the lower portion of her left sleeve and exposed the gauntlet strapped to her forearm. Fettâs change in position cleared her field of fire.
âWhat?â Jenâs cry was one of startled betrayal when she heard her brotherâs plan of leniency. âYou canât let him live!â
Fett ignored his sister. â500,000 credits is surely a good price for your life. Think about it. You have ten seconds before I pull the trigger.â
âI canât believe youâre going to let him..it go!â Janos, pale from blood loss, was stunned and couldnât help but respond. âAfter what itâs done?â
âShut up,â Fett barked. He turned his helm just barely to the right, acknowledging the boyâs presence. Or so it seemed.
Janos quieted down.
Ursula went into action.
The final signal arrived. Good old Fett, now there was a man a girl could rely on. Even if he did complicate things, he always had a way of sorting them out in the end. Usually a violent way, but than that was part of his charm. Ten seconds, heâd said. Ten seconds, she thought. Just like on Nar Shadda, when those Rhodians had us cornered in the back alley casino. She started the countdown.
She cuffed back the sleeve two turns, clearing the launch port.
Intara frowned, and flexed his free hand, the one on the left. What was the barve up to now?
Ursula calculated distance, trajectory, target weight and draw time.
Fett took the third step. Intara tensed.
Ursula took aim
Ursula launched the tiny grappling hook and monofilament, snared the extraction device with Jenaraâs blood, and yanked it free of Intaraâs grasp. Immediately, the tension reel activatedâ¦
And all hell broke loose. All at once. All in relatively the same space.
Intara gave a startled cry, but did not reach as expected for the device. The retraction force was set to account for resistance, so the device slammed back into Ursula with impact enough to knock the breath from her body. Off balance, she tumbled backward.
At the same time Intara yelled, metal groaned, rivets popped, durasteel patchplating failed, and a body dropped from the ceiling. It landed on top of Intara, and they both fell to the floor in a tangled mass.
At the precise moment both clone and teenaged boy hit the floor, Boba Fettâs blast from the EE-3 zipped through open air, through the open port door to the hold, and burnt itâs way through a corridor wall of Percyâs ship.
Jen threw herself at the weapons cache, clawing for something, anything with an active powercell. If Fett wasnât going to put away Intara, then she would take care of it herself!
Intara hurled the body of the hapless boy across the hold, square into Janos, and with blinding speed, leapt to his feet.
Boba Fett attempted to drill his opponent with a second blast, but Intara ignited a light saber, and beat off the shot. It flew wild, just missing Ursula as she attempted to stand. She fell back on her ass, into a pile of Percyâs ill-gotten weapons cache.
âSo youâre a Jedi, and a clone. How fitting.â Fett held his ground, blast rifle ready, and took new measure of Intara. âI made my name killing Jedi.â
Intara did not speak. He merely held out his free hand, catching Boba Fettâs Mandalore EE-3 blast rifle as the power of the dark side tore it from the bounty hunterâs grip. He tossed it to his rear, discarding it like a piece of waste. It landed at the entry way to the cargo hold.
Needless to say, the removal of the blast rifle left Fett open. Not defenseless, but certainly open.
Jen finally unearthed a sporting blaster, but with a mere glance from Intara it exploded in her hands.
âYou bastard!â she cried, clutching her injured hands to her body. âYouâll pay. I swear it on my clanâs collective grave, youâll pay.â
Ursula ignored the show. She was busy with the cargo pocket of her pants. She never really understood why he made her carry half the crap he did until they were in the thick of the storm. This item had always puzzled her. Finally it made sense. Why let the enemy know all your secrets? Better they think itâs the other guy thatâs the danger. Then they never see it coming. At last she extracted the item she sought.
âNo. I will not pay, Jenara. I offered to let you all live, but that offer has been since retracted.â Intara took an aggressive position, preparing for battle. The saber he wielded was dark, almost black, with an eerie purple glow. It seemed to swallow light rather then emanate any, a lethal, destructive weapon in the hands of a creature created to be itself a lethal, destructive weapon. There was an evil hiss, and from the pommel end appeared a match. Two blades, balanced at the fulcrum, wielded by a fallen Jedi, poised for action. It appeared a certainty he would cut Fett down where he stood. âSo Boba Fett, you made your name killing Jedi? Perhaps I will make my name killing you? What do you think?â
âI think not,â replied Fett. He held out his right hand, easily catching the long, silvery cylinder thrown by Ursula. Instantly, the cylinder activated, releasing a blade that flashed with crimson and orange light. He took an easy stance, comfortable with the arcane weapon. The glow washed over him, over the ancient Mandaloran battle armor, making him appear more myth than living being. Never did he look more deadly then now.
The two opponents faced off. They circled, as had the fighters of the arena earlier that eve. They calculated, they measured, they planned. The onlookers were mute, filled with a mixture of awe and fear at the sight before them. The deep hum of the sabers vibrated in the hold. Then Fett spoke, and shattered the silence with action.
âLay on,â he snarled , and stepped in to deliver death.
Percy enetered the hall that lead to his cargo hold. His eyes went wide at the site of the charred remains of the wall to his bedroom. Panicked, he threw open the door. Gods Teeth! Just as he'd thought. That blast had destroyed his favorite Elton John poster.
AC Jaynos hung back. His trained ears confirmed what his ex-con's intuition had picked up when he first stepped on board the JubaNubba. There was one hell of a fight going on...the real nasty, all or nothing, someone's going out in a body bag type. The type that spelled DANGER in big, angry letters, usually written in some poor sod's blood.
Percy, however was heedless of such danger. Still groggy from passing out in the speeder, he was unable to think straight. (or what passed for straight in his world.) All he knew for certain was that someone had raided his ship (again), trashed his favorite poster, and probably released his prisoner (and arch enemy) Intara. This was worse than the verpines and the garage. This was complete and utter violation.
He backed out of his room, and ran a hand through the stringy mop of his red hair. Some foreign and potent entity had taken over his lanky body. Crazy thoughts danced in his head. When he looked back at AC Jaynos, he was not surprised to see the bigger man actually take a step back.
"Someone's going to pay, AC," he said shakily. "Someone's going to pay big this time, and it ain't gonna be me! Six months. Six long months..."
"Yeah, sure, buddy. Okay. Maybe you should sit down a moment. You don't look so hot..."
An understatment. AC had seen that look in plenty of cons over the year, the look of murderous rage that indicated all sense had left the body and pure insanity was now running the show. He knew he should turn and walk away...but damn it, he couldn't. Deep down he knew Jen was in that hold, and probably needed help. His help. They'd made that silent bond in the arena. He'd let her down. He had to make amends if he ever hoped to win her cooperation in this venture. He'd been in plenty fights, in and out of prision, most more brutal than he cared to admit. Things had quieted down suddenly. How bad could the situation be? Surely he could hold his own against whatever might be going on in that cargo bay. After all, what was the worst a fruit like Percy could have gotten himself into? A domestic dispute with an angry interior decorator over chintz accent pillows?
Indeed, the only argument Percy had ever been subjected to was about the horrid shade of his window treatments. But now was not the time to think about that.
Angered by Fett and Janos letting his prisoner go loose and that they tore up his Elton poster, his favorite. The one with the pink mohawk. God, would they pay.
AC Jaynos tried to see the expression on Percy's face and jumped slightly when the tall man whipped around quickly, suddenly (and unreasonably) seemingly covered partially by shadows.
"Do you know what this means, right?" Percy said in a flat tone unlike his usual one.
"No...look, Jen's in trouble...I promised--" AC was getting more disturbed by the moment.
"To hell with her," Percy said quietly, breathing very evenly and slowly. His eyes seemed to have widened and didn't want to blink.
AC had had enough. "Look, I'm going in there and stopping whoever--" he said taking out his blaster but a cold hand tightened its grip around his wrist.
"No." Percy pulled AC from the door. "We won't. Not after all this time. He's going to pay." Percy walked over to his "weapons" chest (full of extra socks and new bricks) and lifted it open. AC noticed that Percy's hand were shaking very slightly.
He rummaged for a while, during which time, AC considered whether he sould make a dash for the cargo hold or see what Percy had planned. Finally, Percy's head turned over his shoulder as steadily as an owls, his red hair lank with cold sweat. His face suddenly split open in a wide grin, the scariest AC had ever seen. Percy did still not blink as he hefted out something heavy from the trunk, keeping his eye on AC.
"Erm..." Jaynos steped back once when he saw the man-held assault cannon Percy had placed on his shoulder. He did not seem to be straining under the weight at all.
The mechanic's grin fell slowly as he loaded plasma cartidges into his weapon.
"So-w-what happened to your sock...?" AC Jaynos asked timidly, for the first time since he was a very small child. Percy did not answer as he made his way to the cargo hold's door. Throwing all caution to the winds with a critically insane man, AC Jaynos asked frantically, "Why???"
Percy turned to him and leaned in until his long nose was nearly touching AC's. "Because I'm...â¬Ã§ÅÃ±â Â®Â¡Â©. MOO! MOO!" Percy started laughing crazily in AC's face and suddenly quieted and resumed going for the cargo's door.
What a freakin nut... AC Jaynos thought, finding himself actually a bit scared since a long time...
The Future of Boba Fett:
Sky cracked open one eye to catch a glimpse of the battle playing out before her. "Fett with a lighsaber, huh. He just gets cooler..." When Intara had thrown her against one of the walls using the force everyone expected the blow had put Sky's light out. Fett was doing a superb job of blocking Intara's thrusts. The battle continued on, neither man losing ground nor gaining any. Intara was breathing hard and yelling profanities at every chance to taunt Fett. Boba Fett looked none for the worse. The glow from the lighsabers had iluminated the battlefield in an erie glow. Sky took a deep breath to ready herself and calm the throbbing in her head. Sky's anger had been boiling ever since Intara had walzted into the cargo area. When Fett made the dark jedi stumble back towards her she saw the opening. With a defening yell she thrust herself up and delivered a round-house kick to his head. Her black boots making a satisfying crunch on impact. "THAT'S FOR TRYING TO KILL ME BUDDY!!!" Sky spit at him. She stared down on the dazed Intara and gave her signiture smirk. Then from the doorway came an evil laugh coming from the mouth of a possesed janitor....
Regaining his feet, Fett gave the Janitor a look. The laughing stopped. Suddenly, there was no where for the now lucid Percy to look. The Madalorian seemed to fill the room, diminishing those around him until he was the entire universe to the eyes of the Janitor.
Fett spun to face Sky, the blade of his sabre close to her face. Sky remained motionless, all but blinded by the cold hard plasma. The energy hum of the blades took on an unreal life of their own as the ageing ship creaked itâs own melancholy story.
When Fett spoke it was not in obvious anger, rather the words of a scholar stating fact as read from an ancient and weighty tome: âDonât.â
Unable to see beyond the tip of Fettâs blade, Skyâs steel faltered. âHe tried to kill me, Fett.â Skyâs calmly modulated voice faltered at the utterance of that name.
âPast tense. Heâs trying to kill me right now. Present tense. Sit.â
Sky tried to reply âBut-â
Fett cut her off: âI donât like repeating myself.â
Sky fell silent, shaking with impotent rage, knowing full well that she could have taken on Intara and knowing equally well that Fett would defeat her with a thought.
Intara had been standing all the while, sabre at reposte, awaiting the return of his opponent. âDissent in the ranks Boba?â asked the fallen Jedi?
âJust fight me!â shouted Fett as he swung his sabre in a high parry.
And so it began again. Warrior to warrior, quarter neither asked nor given, mercy neither expected or wanted. No room to manoeuvre, the warriors battled toe to toe, staring coldly at each other as the blades embraced in their Danse Macabre. The swords thrust and parried, high then low, attack then defend, the walls of the hold showering the combatants in a confetti of burning durasteel as they were hacked away at by errant sweeps of antiqued weapons. Seconds stretched to minutes as the hunters fought the fight, each one gaining ground, only to loos it as exhaustion took itâs toll on the attack and the gentler effort of the defender beckoned. The wailing of the blades was joined and drowned by a new sound as the hull of the cargo bay started to give, screeching in terror as a mynock exposed to atmosphere as the floor gave way and the combatants fell to the ground.
Stunned and blinded, unable to walk, the bloodied and bruised warriors tried to find their weapons, tried to find their feet, desperate to find their senses before the other, to push the attack, to end the conflict to find victory, to be the one.
Boba tasted something bitter and metallic as the breath returned to his aching lungs. âBlood?â he questioned himself. âHas that bastard drawn my blood?â A vicious wind or euphoric hatred boiled through his veins as rage took over his being, only to be surpassed by the agonising pain he realised he was in. He savoured the pain for the briefest flash before raising his blade.
Intara saw only blackness around himself. He sensed many lives around him. He sensed a crushing pain on his torso. He sensed the consciousness flowing from him along with the oxygen from his lungs. He gathered the force around himself and pushed against his captor, a captor not of flesh and bone but of components and circuits, no longer functional as a hyperdrive but adequate to crush the life from most beings. Intara raised an empty arm and as his vision returned to his eyes, the satisfying weight of his sabre returned to this hand. An instant too late as Fett plunged his blade deep into the cloned torso of a being made by man.
Fett whipped the blade from the doomed Intara. A choked cough rattled from his ruined lungs. Black fluid oozed from a black hole in the warriors blackened chest.
âYou- think youâve won Mereel?â Croaked Intara? âPlenty more- where I âcame from,â he stuttered.
Fett shut down his blade and started toward his mark. With a suddenness that surprised even Fett, the dying warrior whipped up his blade and separated Bobaâs leg from his knee before leaving this world for the next.
Boba fell, landing heavily on his right side. Pain burned in his cauterised stump. In a long second that lasted an eternity, he knew he could not scream. He puzzled that his injured knee did not bleed. He questioned how he would get back to Slave One. These thoughts lasted the briefest instant that stretched to the longest hour. Not possessed of humour, it occurred to him that the situation was not without irony: critically injured, he was more concerned with professionalism than with the practicalities of living to fight another day.
Percy stared at the empty space that was the cargo hold. An odd calmness had came over him when half of his craft seemed to vanish. Engrossed in the battle before him, he had not noticed AC slip away quietly. Had AC seen something he had not? More to the point, where was he? Percy trusted him. He wanted someone to back him up as he finished Boba Fett.
Ursula stared forlornly at the gaping wound that had appeared around the hydro-spanner that had appeared in her arm. Then, as shock gave way to violent pain, she realised that a tool from the engine room of the freighter she was in had impaled her. No, she was on the ground. As full realisation dawned, it became clear to her that she was not blind in one eye, but was in fact bleeding. She also became clearly aware of the fact that she was now outside the freighter and no longer in the cargo hold, a fact confirmed and attested to by the fact that the ship had no lower hull, it was daylight and she was surrounded by the guts of the crafts engines. The snap if a light sabre coming to life snatched at her attention. The sight of one warrior falling followed by the other captivated it.
Consciousness returned to Sky in time for her to see Fett crash to the Ground with Intara standing over him. She closed her eyes and played dead. âPerfect,â she thought, âFett gone, felled by a clone.â Sky knew that she had the upper hand. The Jedi looked pale and drawn: this gave Sky the upper hand. She drew her blaster and fired. Intara, a smoking gaping wound on his chest, fell lifeless to the ground.
âIâve won,â she thought to herself.
Jenera dropped down to the ground close enough to Sky to take her out with a snap-kick to the neck. Clinging to a plasma conduit for support, she had remained inside the ship when the deck lifted from beneath them. Percy was going to be plenty pissed about this one. Where was he anyway? As if in response to the unspoken question, the ship shuddered and lurched as overtaxed repulsor banks in unmatched groups hefted the carcass of the vessel off the surface of Dying Slowly. Converters wailed as the nav system tried to compensate for functional starboard repulsors doing the work of non-existent port units. The ship seemed to gain altitude before flipping over and crashing into the desert sand. AC could be seen from th cockpit. He was still and silent. Jen did not have high hopes for him. Behind her, she could hear a quiet babble. Percy, having been brutalised so many times that day could take no more. Seeing his ship destroyed had taken the few remaining slivers of his sanity and plunged them into the cauldron of madness. âHow many more will fall today?â she asked herself.
Rising to her feet, Ursula knew she had a spell in bacta coming up. She was in serious pain. Her dislocated shoulder added misery to her stab wound as the whole arm swung uselessly. Her other arm, barring minor cuts and bruises, still functioned well enough to carry a blaster. She staggered towards Boba who seemed lost in his own little world as he examined his injured leg. Ursula spun around to meet the crunchig sound as someone walked towards her. It was Jenera.
âYou OK Jen?â asked Ursula.
âBetter than you two,â she replied sardonically. âJaster, you need help.â
Boba stared sightlessly at the pair. âIâll live. The armour is good.â
âYouâve lost a leg!â snorted Ursula.
âThe wound is cauterised. Jedi tradition. Donât kill if you donât have to. It means that you can disarm someone and not kill them with blood loss. And the armour IS good. It has neural monitors in the helmet. Itâs blocking the pain receptors. You should try it.
âSo what now?â asked Janera.
Exactly on cue, the low pitch undulation of a Firespray approached.
âNice,â smiled Ursula. âRemote?â she asked.
âI need help to get on board and to a decent med facility.â Boba did not answer the question.
Ursula smiled humourlessly. âI hear Kessel is nice round about now.â
No one laughed as Jen hefted her brother and the group staggered towards the LZ for the old patrol boat. The galaxy had just become a little more uncertain. Boba was put down by a dead man. A dead man who promised to return. He had received death threats from the dying before, but never any that could be fulfilled.