“Whispers in the Cantina”
- Story by Jillian Moyet
- Estimated reading time: 9 minutes (1,937 words)
In the Mos Eisley cantina . . .
Hey, weary traveler, you look like you have come a long way. How about a drink? Here, this isnât a very nice place for someone like yourself, so no charge.
A refugee from Alderaan, huh? You donât say. I visited Alderaan, once. A long time ago. It was business, not pleasure. I had a small job to do. Not your kind of work, I can tell you. You wouldnât want to hear about it. You would? No, I probably shouldnât tell you. Itâs not a tale for a pacifist. Well, if you want to here it, all right, here we go . . .
In case you donât know, Iâm a hunt saboteur. Or . . . well . . . I was. I settled down from that after a few years of doing it. You know what that is? You donât huh? Well, do you know what a bounty hunter is?
Good. Thereâs hope for you yet.
Okay, a hunt saboteur is sorta like an anti-bounty hunter. Instead of cashing creatures with bounties on their heads in, we protect them from the bounty hunters, ferrying them away from the creatures that are gunning for them.
Itâs a pretty dangerous occupation. Bounty hunters can be very vengeful â and very resourceful.
So anyway, there was this small Twiâlek with a bounty on her head, and a bounty hunter on her tail. Not any bounty hunter, mind you. The best of the best of the bounty hunters. She was on the run from the notorious Boba Fett.
I donât know what the hell she must have done to earn the bounty posted on her. I mean, I donât know all of the details. All I know is that she tried escaping from some Huttâs palace, and did all she could to regain her freedom. And a bounty was placed on her, because she either killed someone or stole something, to bring the wrath of the Hutts down upon her. Thirteen thousand, five hundred credits. A handsome amount. Anyway, over the atmosphere of Alderaan Fettâs was pursuing us, he in his ship, Slave I, and me and the Twiâlek in mine, Rockwell.
Yup, I had dealt with 'em all. But it was strange that time. That time, I wasnât so sure I could outrun the bounty hunter pursuing me.
* * *
Boba Fett turned his ship to the left just a bit, aligning himself and his ship with the Rockwell. He had it in his sights.
Iâve got you now, he silently told the other ship. Youâve got nowhere to run, this time.
He had never chased down this particular hunt saboteur â heâd once gone for a saboteur named Nâdru Suhlak, and succeeded, but this was a new saboteur to test his skills against. It was a challenge that he did not mind taking on, since he always knew what the final outcome would be.
The hunt saboteur dove downward, toward the planet Alderaan, then rocketed back up, maneuvering toward the right Fett swerved after him, mere hundred yards away from the ship. The ship shot down, and under Slave I.
Fett wasnât impressed. Heâd seen this maneuver enough times. He banked left, and intercepted the Rockwellâs path., diving downward.
Iâve got you now, he told the other ship and pilot silently.
You know that, donât you?
The other ship started firing madly, but Fett was too quick. And he was a much sharper marksman.
Two lasers shot toward the Rockwell, disabling it before the other ship could react.
You know now, donât you?
"Okay, okay," a defeated, weary voice said over the comm unit. "Come on over and get her. Just donât hurt my ship anymore, okay?"
"Agreed," Fett said. "And donât try anything funny. Iâm coming over to get her myself."
* * *
Okay, right now I must seem like garbage to you, but it was all part of the plan.
You see, I thought that I could trick the bounty hunter. I thought that I could catch the bounty hunter off guard, since he thought he already had his prey. I thought everything would be all right. That he wouldnât suspect anything. I was too young to understand whom I was up against. Compared to Boba Fett, I was an amateur.
* * *
"What did you do?" she asked quietly. "You just gave up like that? Just stopped fighting?"
"No, no," I said quickly. "Itâs all part of the plan. Please, you have to trust meâ"
The hatchway slid open. I spun around, and leaned against the pilot seat. The Twiâlek, her name was Seenâsh, and I donât know a last name, was leaning against the far bulkhead.
"I make it a rule not to interfere with other creatureâs business," Fett said. He stood in the hatchway, not coming into the small space of the cockpit.
"Uh, right," I said. "Sheâs right there. You can have her if thatâs all youâre planning on taking."
I donât know if the bounty hunter found this amusing or not. Perhaps he did. But he did reply, "Iâll be taking her anyway. Whether you like it or not. Itâll just bring up the factor of whether you want to go on living if you donât comply."
"Thatâs direct. Okay, take her. She wasnât paying me enough to get her outta here anyway."
"Traitor. Thatâs betrayal," Seenâsh said, against the wall.
"Thatâs business," I said harshly. "You mustâve done something like it to get in your current position, and it was all business to you then."
"But you told me . . ."
"Look, thereâs nothing I can do, okay?"
Fett stepped forward. Right past me. And I saw in Seenâshâs eyes, that she did not believe that I was really on her side.
* * *
Well, youâre probably wondering what happened. Well, Iâll tell you, I almost let the bounty hunter take her, I didnât care that it would make me some coward. I wanted to remind myself that it was just business, like it had always been before. Iâd been boarded by bounty hunters before. I knew the program. This was the law between the hunt saboteurs and bounty hunters. Almost our religion.
But I saw her eyes, and I flipped.
"Actually, there is something I can do," I said.
Boba Fett had grabbed Seenâsh by her arm, and hauled her halfway up to her feet. His Mandalorian battle helmet, with its narrow, T-shaped visor set in it, raised from where it had lain down looking at its prey, and looked into my own eyes. I shivered. But only slightly. And I didnât back down.
"What does that mean," he asked calmly, in a way that made you know it wasnât a question.
"It means that I donât want you taking her anywhere. I know what the Hutts, or whomever she double-crossed is going to do to her. Theyâre gonna torture her big time, probably for a long time. And you know what? I suddenly realized that I donât want that. Because I know that what she did was not bad. And I donât want a decent creature like her to suffer because she wanted a little taste of freedom."
"So?" Fett countered. "What are you going to do about it?"
I grabbed the blaster at my hip, and I aimed. But not at Fett, mind you. No, that was insane. Besides, it wouldnât have worked. That barve would have somehow gotten the blaster away from me. So I did the only sensible thing. I aimed the blaster right at Seenâsh. "Iâm gonna make her death nice and painless, right here, right now."
"If that were true, then why would I let you go on living?" Boba Fett shrugged. "kill her and Iâll kill you."
"Yeah, whatever," I said.
"Here - " Fett let Seenâsh drop to the floor, and stepped away from her. "Iâll make I easy for you. Sheâs right there, all defenseless. If you are going to take her out, you have to do it now."
We stood there for a moment, Seenâsh between us. I could sense that the bounty hunter was using some kind of psychological tactics on me. Reverse psychology, or something. I donât know. But for some reason, I couldnât fire.
"Seenâsh, I â I am sorry, okay? "
She nodded. "Yeah. I forgive . . . you."
Well, I couldnât fire, and Fett knew it. I was just bluffing. I guess I had been from the beginning. I cursed myself for a fool.
Boba Fett leaned down to grab Seenâsh, and my finger pressed against the firing stud. A bolt of crimson pierced Seenâshâs chest and she fell dead to the floor with a pained, grateful gasp.
* * *
Well, you probably want to know how it ends. Iâll tell you.
That bounty hunter looked up at me, his cold visage aimed right in my eyes, and I really thought that he was going to kill me. I really did.
"That," he rasped, "was a mistake."
I nodded. "It was. But Iâm still glad I did it."
And I lowered the blaster.
You know, the galaxy is a funny thing. Because Boba Fett didnât kill me. I donât really know why. Because of my nerve, maybe. Maybe because he hadnât really expected me to fire. I hadnât. I really donât know.
He left my ship, taking the body with him.
I couldnât take it. I had to ask, "Wait. Arenât you going to kill me?"
And he said simply, "No."
"Oh. Why not?"
He turned around to face me in the hatchway. "Because creatures like yourself are worth more alive than dead."
And then he left.
* * *
The bounty hunters have a saying. "The live ones are worth more than the dead ones." I guess Boba Fett figured that I should go on living. Maybe someday I would serve one of his purposes. Or something. Or maybe I had earned his respect, or maybe he just did not feel like killing me.
We hunt saboteurs have a saying as well. "Cut your losses and keep your skin intact."
It means, that when all else fails, give up your passenger to the bounty hunter thatâs hovering over you. Better it than you. But I didnât follow that little saying of ours. I guess I just wasnât cut out to be a hunt saboteur.
Well, after that, I got out of the trade, and settled down in Mos Eisley. Yeah, I know, nice early retirement place. I ainât even forty yet, but Iâm retired, and in the worst place a creature could want to stay in. Mos Eisley. But I feel pretty safe here. I don't know why.
Yep, I started working as a bartender. Figured what the hell and got a freaking desk job, compared to my previous one. And you know? It ainât too bad.
What? Yeah, of course I still remember what I did. I feel guilty about it, yeah. But I canât feel really guilty, even though when I did someone a favor, I also stole someone elseâs credits, credits that he had rightfully earned, and I had still taken another creatureâs life.
So yeah, it runs through my mind quite a bit. But I talk to people a lot, and that takes my mind off it. But you are the first person Iâve told this to.
Do I really feel guilty about stealing Boba Fettâs bounty. Sure. He had earned it. Heâd done everything right to get his bounty, taken time, effort, and money, and you know, I have to respect that. So yeah, I think itâs not okay with me that I cheated him. But hey, I also like that I got away with it. I donât know what my dominating emotion about that encounter is. Regret, fear, guilt, pride, what.
So, thatâs my story. Thatâs pretty much the end. Never saw the bounty hunter again. Never want to either.
So, how 'bout you. Whatâs your story? . . .
Updated July 28, 2015
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