A/N: Hello to you all, and thankyou very much to those who reviewed. I'm so sorry I haven't managed to post for ages, stupid history coursework, revision etc etc. I'm sure you don't really want to know but, anyway, it's here now!

Caro: That's very dedicated of you, thanks for being so appreciative.

A. Windsor: I love Yanni too! He's sweet in an 'Aww, bless' sort of way, isn't he?

Anyway, things a bit tense now, eh? Please don't forget to review, you have no idea what they mean to me! Should I even continue with this story at all? Tell me!

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"Well, here we are," the group in the stock-room heard Kal say, obviously talking to the figure who flanked him, his voice was tight and anxious - he was having second thoughts about this whole bounty hunter thing. They shifted behind the shelves so they were able to see better and assess the situation.

They watched as the shadowed figure pulled off his cloak and wrapped it round the back of the chair Leia had previously occupied, revealing himself. A square jaw-line kept in coordination with the razor-sharp features of his face. He was obviously a U'Jen - the spots of colour, matching the iris', tatooed beneath each eye making it immediately clear that he was of the race of the planet U'Jenis. Not much was known of this people, except for the markings they all bore from two and a half days old, when a sacred ceremony was performed as the three moons were at their highest in the sky, and the spots were tatooed. A vicious, puckered burn adorned the underneath of his jaw, where it met his neck. And a large scar slashed down and across his full mouth at a diagonal, almost as though his mouth had been torn apart. His eyes were a turquoise colour and his hair dirty blonde - he would have been handsome had it not been for the meaness of his features and the danger zinging in the air about him.

The group hidden behind the larger shelves at the front of the stocking floor shrank back as one as the bright, hard eyes drifted across in their direction - they all held their breaths, but thankfully the eyes swept on by, fixing on Han's inert form. Then, the bounty hunter smiled, the slash across his mouth spreading sickly when the being grinned. "This is him then, eh?" he asked, voice not as deep as Han's or Kahn's, but sharper, more clean-cut. "*The* Han-Jaim Solo?" Both Avatella and Deacon winced slightly as the bounty hunter made their friend's full name sound more like an insult - something foul-tasting, to be spat out - a horrid, mocking tone to his voice.

"Aye, that's him," said Kal, looking at the stranger warily, unsure as to how to handle such a potentially dangerous person. He tried to ease his shoulders into a more natural position: he had been holding them tight and hunched. "W-what are you gonna do, like? You want him whole, don't you? I mean, that's what you said when we set up, have you changed your mind?"

"You would do well," said the U'Jen, raising his voice threateningly and silencing the Corellian immediately, "To hold your tongue, and not persist in asking me endless questions, eh?"

Kal merely nodded, and moved to stand in front of Yannilro a little. "All I'm wanting is the money, and then you can do with the smuggler what you want," his voice faltered a little, but rang true in the large stocking room.

"Thankyou," Odin'alro answered sarcastically - as though he really would have waited for the stocker's consent - not taking his eyes from Solo's form. He reached into one of the many pockets of the large jacket he was wearing, and withdrew a thick wad of credits. Kal's dark eyes widened noticeably as they caught on this bundle, bound together with nerf-leather - Luke doubted either he or the Corellian had ever seen so much money. The bounty hunter threw this was carelessly over his shoulder, not even looking to see where it landed, so Purno had to scramble to catch it.

Having done this, the fair-headed U'Jen, started to walk slowly towards the unconscious Corellian, "So *this* is the great Han-Jaim Solo - *this* is the man who once was hung up by his feet and beaten with shipping-pipes for hours at a time? The man able to keep conscious and sane after being flogged with un-resisted, full-grade electro-whips just to demonstrate their power to an audience? The man tales tell is virtually impossible to keep captive, to silence, to kill; the man who has survived slavery at least six times in his life - even escaping the Kessel Mines with his mind and pride virtually intact.... *This* weak specimen of a man is supposedly the fastest, most skilled pilot this galaxy has ever witnessed, the sharpest, most deadly shot about... *this* is supposedly the most dangerous Corellian - possibly even human - seen for over five millenias? *THIS* is the Gundark of a man who's very name strikes fear into more than a few hearts - the man I have heard the most unbelievable tales about, the man *I* even thought to admire?!"

Odin'alro's voice had been rising steadily as his rant went on and on. Ava had to almost physically hold Deacon back from lunging at the dangerous bounty hunter as he spoke of their best friend with such disrespect, such disgust, and Chewie shifted furiously where he stood. "And the great Han- Jaim Solo, reigned in and leashed, by a mere drug? A chemical?" With this, Ewol looked back to Kal and Yann, as though expecting them to agree whole- heartedly with him and laugh at Solo, but they stood silent, eyes wide. So the U'Jen dropped his head, heaving a sigh, "You would not believe some of the tales I have heard about this man before me..." he waved a hand vaguely at Solo's still form, "Impossible yarns that surely to the gods he should not be capable of doing." A wide yet sickening grin took over his features then, and his turquoise eyes gave out a gleaming light, "And *I* am the one to bring him in." Odin'alro's already considerable reputation in the galaxy would most definately double, possibly even triple, when word got around that he had reaped the bounty upon Han Solo's head - he would be the most notorious, most feared, most highly-paid bounty hunter in all the worlds. He couldn't wait...

"So," he said suddenly, gathering himself together and becoming all business. He strode once more towards the unconscious Corellian, "What I propose is that - if you so permit it, Mr. Purno - I get a little time to rough this 'legendary' smuggler about a bit... purely for my own enjoyment you understand..." and with that, he threw a strong backhand at Han's jaw, snapping his dark head around. Chewbacca very nearly roared with rage, and it took both Ava and Deacon to hold the Wookiee back and Leia's soothing hand upon his vast back to keep him in their hiding place. Odin'alro, however, was unaware of the struggle behind the stock-shelves close by to him, and he continued, having satisfied his sudden impulse, "And I suggest that whilst I'm doing that, *you* get the word about the galaxy that he's on the market - put a Gundark among the Jawas, if you catch my drift- "

"W-wait," Kal's words cut off the U'Jen, he was mildly shocked by the harshness of Ewol - though he really should have expected it from such a bounty hunter. "I thought you'd just be taking him and leaving - that was the deal, right? You'd get your money and everything..."

Odin'alro laughed, "Oh, Kal..." he shook his fair head as if dissapointed. "You don't seem to understand the workings of the bounty hunter/smuggler world, do you? I have here the most sought after bounty in the whole galaxy, possibly the biggest pay-off for all my life... you think I'll just hand him over to the cheap, first-timer, wannabe crime-lord that gets nervous enough to put in the first bid without really nowing the value of what he's getting? No, no, my friend... there's going to be quite a bidding war over dear Mr. Solo here, until I am fully satisfied with the results..."

"But..." said Kal hesitantly, dark eyes flickering from Han to Odin'alro. "I thought... Jabba- "

"Jabba knows barely enough about bounty hunters to deal with them *quite* as much as he does," Odin'alro announced confidently, turning back to eye Han again. "You seem to underestimate Solo - he's got quite a few death marks hanging around his neck... there are plenty associates of mine who would be... *overjoyed* to see him. So why don't you get on and do that, eh?" He suggested in a way that left no room for arguments. Kal looked like he was about to object further, but then though better of it, and turned to the comm on the desk.

Once his back was turned, Odin'alro wasted no time in hurling a fist into the younger Corellian's bare and exposed midrift. A sharp *whoosh* of air escaped the unconscious body, but other than that, Han did not move, still caught in his drug-induced unconsciousness. The spiteful U'Jen then, his blaster leaping into his hand as though with Force-inhanced speed, cracked the butt of the heavy-duty weapon across the pirate's face, spraying blood across the stocking-room floor from the split lip and further broken nose so that Leia, Luke and everyone behind the shelves could see it splatter upon the steel-crete floor. Leia could feel Deacon trembling where he stood, trying to control the indignant fury coursing through his veins just like the Kem'apizin in Solo's. She turned to Luke to try and gain some comfort, only to find his large blue eyes as hard and cold as steel and ice, and she was shocked to find the young Tatooinian looking so angry, so consumed with rage - it was completely out of the ordinary for the usually mild-mannered farmer... but she supposed he had very good reason. None of Han's friends were able to move to aid him as the U'Jen slammed one merciless fist after another into the pirate's body, beating it steadily up over and over. It was only when Odin'alro had picked up a disgarded shelving slat, and beaten Han across the chest with it once it that they all leapt unintentionally from their hiding place, having no clear plan in mind but knowing they could not stand blithely by any further.

Deacon pointed the blaster straight at Odin'alro, the bounty hunter's turquoise eyes wide and amazed at, firstly, that a group of such a size was threatening him, but also that he had not noticed them there before - that they had managed to sneak up on him at all. "Right-ho," said Deacon, voice as hard as stone and deep ebony eyes glinting dangerously, "You've had your fun, now I reckon you can leave."

Unexpectedly, the U'Jen just chuckled, not seeming to be in the least bit frightened by the blaster aimed between his eyes. "I am afraid, mate, that I can't be doing that." His eyes drifted over to where Avatella was busy trying to release the bonds around Solo, "I wouldn't, pet," was all he said.

The bald-headed Globod's temper sparked at that, and she turned round, one brow raised, "Oh? What makes you think I'm gonna take orders from *you*? He's our best friend and, in case you haven't noticed, there's only one of you and five of us, and one of us is a Wookiee."

Odin'alro shrugged, and suddenly a blaster appeared, pointed at Deacon's crotch area. Chewie roared in his outrage. "Perhaps this might sway your decision, love?" Ava immediately dropped her hands and stood still, wishing no damage to come to anyone except, perhaps, Odin'alro's head. The bounty hunter smiled his sarcastic, sickly smile again, ignoring the flames raging in Kahn's eyes as he pushed the U'Jen weapon dangerously (and painfully) forwards. "Good choice... now, we seem to have ourselves in a bit of a predicament here. You," here he indicated Deacon with another nasty jab of the blaster, "you *could* take the risk and try to blast me... but are you truly willing to chance that I just may be a faster trigger than your good self. And let's face it, you have a lot more to lose than I do... I can survive without my frontal lobe - but can you without your balls?"

Deacon almost snarled in answer, but the bounty hunter continued regardless, "I mean," here, he played upon securities of Kahn's childhood, "...could you ever beat Solo at a draw?" He could see the carpenter thinking about this, and grinned again, showing off white, straight teeth. "So, why don't we all just back away and set the blasters aside for a moment or two and see whether we can come to some sort of- " he paused here, "...agreement?"

********** "It's so lonely when you don't even know yourself..." - Knock Me Down, Red
Hot Chili Peppers
**********

"Well, I don't know how they got in here... and I don't know how they're gonna get out neither," whispered Kal to Yanni. Having finished putting the word about that Solo was up for a bounty-collection, they were staying well away from the action on their stocking-room floor.

It would be exaggerating to say that Odin'alro and Han's friends had come to a mutual arrangement to not blast one another: everyone was still rather jumpy and you could cut the tension in the air with a vibro-blade. Both parties had backed a little way away from each other, but again, that wasn't saying much seeing as Odin'alro had had a blaster thrust in Deacon's crotch just a moment or so beforehand.

"Look," said Luke, trying his best to diffuse the situation. "We could all quite easily walk away from this - Odin'alro, how 'bout *we* take Han- "

''' -And we let you live,''' injected Chewbacca threateningly.

Odin'alro obviously had a grasp of Wookeese, and he laughed outright. "Nah, I don't reckon that'll be happening... this is a big deal for me. Solo's too valuable for me to just hand over willy-nilly."

Leia came forward then, her voice calm and soothing - in diplomat-role, as her father always used to say. "Look, we can *buy* Solo from you, at a very good price... you won't be cheated."

"I doubt you'll be able to come up with the amount of credits this catch could possibly sell for," Odin'alro said lazily, as though bored of the conversation.

Luke could think of nothing in this situation to be bored or casual about! But then, he reckoned the U'Jen had probably been in many situations like this in his line of work. "Try us," the Tatooinian came back, a hint of a threat in his tone.

"Right-e-o," Ewol grinned again, "I reckon I could probably get Solo to fetch - within the range of... about 6 or 7 million credits..." he let this hideous amount of money trail off tantalizingly.

It took Ava a minute before she realised her mouth was hanging wide open, "No way..." she said, voice hushed. "He's worth all that?"

Odin'alro nodded, "This is the man who's got as many death-sentances across the galaxy as I've had hot dinners... Not to mention the prestigue I'll get for bringing him in; all the new contacts and charters that'll come flooding right in; my reputation would be unmatchable... need I go on?"

Leia felt her heart sink dramatically: there was simply no way they could come up with that amount of money. Even with the Rebellion's finances plugged and Han's own money, they were not even warm. What in the galaxy could Solo possibly have done in his lifetime that would put him in such bad favour and crank him up to such dizzyingly high stakes. ~I probably don't even want to know~ she answered herself succinctly.

Luke, meanwhile, had had an idea. He was concentrating very hard upon the heavy-looking stock box, precariously balanced upon the topmost shelf next to Odin'alro. His sharp eyes caught the slight tremor in the object, and he focused his attentions even more upon it, determined in his efforts, his will making the job a little easier.

"So," Odin'alro was saying, "With all things considered, then, *I'll* be taking Solo - *I'll* let *you* all live, and everyone's happy... except, perhaps Han-Jaim, who'll probably be pimped-out as a court-eunuch, I should imagine..." This casually-disgarded comment ignited already-heated tempers, and many things happened at once.

Deacon and the bounty-hunters both pulled their blasters at the same time, intent upon killing the other; Leia, sensing though some way or other some urgency, had begun to move to release Han from the bonds that held him; Ava screamed; Chewie roared; Luke succeeded in his task. The stock box came crashing down just as Kahn and Ewol pulled the triggers of their blaster, sending both shots wild as it landed upon Odin'alro, crumpling him and sending it's contents streaming out across the steel-crete floor. Both bolts detonated against the wall above the little office at the front of the stocking-room, and Kal and Yanni unintentionally ducked as they exploded above their heads.

Kahn turned, amazed, to Luke, mouth hung wide open and eyes wide. "You have a bit of the Force in your blood, kid?"

Luke nodded, feeling a little foolish all of a sudden. But there was no time for anyone to ponder the phenomenon of Skywalker actually having managed to bend the formerly-elusive Force to his own will: they had to get out of there. Chewbacca moved towards Han's sinking form - Leia had undone the binds that held him upright, but lacked the strength to keep him vertical as the tall, lanky pirate's full, dead weight fell on top of her. The giant Wookiee scooped up his best friend as though the Corellian were a rag-doll, cradling him gently in his massive, furry arms, dwarfing Han. And they made quickly for the exit, through the small office where Kal and Yann stood, waiting for them with the door open.

Kal Purno did not try to stop them, he just let events play out as they were wont. "I'm sorry about all this," he said quietly as the group neared him. "Didn't think it'd come out like this, you know?"

"Don't worry about it, mate," Ava threw him a white-toothed flash of a smile as they ran past them to the still-closed door, where Tellu already stood, keying in the open-code. There really were no hard feelings: the important thiing was that they had Han back without *too* much damage being done to him... it could have been worse.

Then, they were through the doors and into the dawn stree outside, Leia pausing only to grin at Yanni, and kiss him on the cheek. "Thankyou," was all she said, her pretty face thoroughly kind and greatful.

They thought they had gotten away with it, they thought they were finally safe, when they heard the distinctive shot of blaster bolts being unloaded. Leia barely had time to think about anything when Avatella screamed from her place beside the princess and stumbled, and fell forward, toppling to the muddy earth. She had been shot in the leg.

Deacon, seeing his best friend fall, cried out, "Ava!" and moved towards her, caring not for the danger still firing at them from behind. But Chewie was already there, and drew the injured chef to his chest using his free arm, and then lumbered ahead of the group at a full-pelt Wookiee-run, which was certainly a speed to be reckoned with. The carpenter left behind, enraged at the idea of both his friends being hurt, a slab of fury forming at the pit of his chest, whirled to face Odin'alro, who seemed to have survived the encounter with the stock-box, and drew his blaster again, firing without heed of Leia's cries of protest.

There was nothing else Luke could do, so he yelled for Leia to run. At first she hesitated, not wanting to leave her friends in such danger, but when a blaster bolt detonated against a wall next to her, showering her in plaster-crete and other materials, she fled, deep brown eyes wide and frightened.

Luke, on the other hand, felt a wave of courage surge through him and he drew his lightsabre and ignited it, a blue streak of defence, and he swiftly moved in front of Kahn, who was otherwise fully-exposed, and deflected each and every shot that was aimed at the both himself and the carpenter.

Odin'alro Ewol, desperate not to let his prize-catch get away, had dragged himself from his heap beneath the box, and had knocked both Kal and Yannilro unconscious in order for him to be able to recapture Solo. Rage had blinded him, and so his shot had gone atypically wild, and had hit the Globod instead of in the centre of the huge Wookiee's back. Now, though, he was pulling ahead of his previous mistake and was steadily gaining a little more ground with each shot, gradually advancing forward, posing a very big threat to Deacon and Luke, who would pay with their lives for their little stunt.

In the early, pale dawn, and with the flash of blaster bolts making it hard to see, all Kahn and Skywalker could make out was that the distant shape of the bounty hunter was silhouetted suddenly from an explosion of green light begind it, and then the figure fell, smoking, to it's knees. They ran forward immediately.

Kal Purno stood, a smoking Cevlon-blaster in his hand. His golden-brown eyes burned with rage, and he looked up as the pair approached. "No one wallops my lad," was all he said. It seemed Yann had taken a blow at the hand of Odin'alro. Kal then seemed to collect himself once more, and kicked Odin'alro's corpse, as if to check he was really dead. "You'd better make yourself scarce: this piece of ska'l has mates in high places, and every bounty hunter to general thief within a parsec and a half'll be wanting to claim your friend for himself... best you get Solo off-planet as quick as possible."

Luke nodded, then couldn't help himself and reached out to grab the Corellian's hand firmly, "Thanks, you saved our skins... we really appreciate your help."

The stocker looked mildly uncomfortable, and shifted his feet, "Well, it's my fault you were all there in the first place..." He cleared his throat, and looked at them again, nodding his head in the direction Leia had disappeared down, "Now get going, see to your friends..."

Deacon nodded, heart still racing, and began to leave, desperate to get back to his apartment and see to both of his best friends, to make sure they were all right and he wasn't about to lose them. "Thanks again."

"Not a problem, good luck in getting away," Kal threw over his shoulder as he entered his locker once more.

"You too," Luke murmured earnestly as he, too, began to run down the street. "May the Force be with you."

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Please, PLEASE review... and have a belting Christmas. AliciA.