DISCLAIMER: Star Wars (although I fervently wish otherwise) is not mine

DISCLAIMER: Star Wars (although I fervently wish otherwise) is not mine. Neither is (although it would be awesome beyond belief) Boba Fett. Nor are any of the other characters in this story, not even the one's I made up. If Lucasfilm wants 'em, they can have 'em, with my blessings and cheers! (Besides, the girl's pretty annoying. At least if you're a bounty hunter.) This book ties in around and between (and upside down and alongside and inside out and counter clockwise and…shutting up) the Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy: The Mandalorian Armor (excellent book, best of them), Slave Ship, and Hard Merchandise. However, you'll more than get it even if you haven't read those. And I don't' think it gives much if anything away that happened then, so if you plan to read them, this shouldn't spoil it.

STAR WARS

The Saga of the Rapier's Blade:

"Points of Dispute" (book 1)

Chapter I:

Now, fourteen years after Return of the Jedi

In a deserted, out of the way asteroid field in the Outer Rim near Tatooine, Foreran, an aspiring bounty hunter, watched and waited. And worried.

The merchandise wasn't what made this assignment more challenging than any other was. It was the level competition. Which was very deadly indeed, Foreran reminded himself for the tenth time in the last five Standard Minutes, and renewed his vigil. If the…other hunter he was worried about had seen him…Foreran shuddered. The possibilities were just as unpleasant as they were endless. But that's what made this merchandise so promising. There was a law that applied to this job, in particular and bounty hunting in general: The bigger the risks, the bigger the payoff. And every hunter, from the top of the trade to the rookies who never made it past their first job knew it. Even…the other hunter, the one Foreran watched so carefully for. Wait! Is that him? Foreran sighed in relief. No, it was just a false alarm. Even he wasn't crazy enough to do that. After all, even the most foolhardy of smugglers, bounty hunters, and spacers wouldn't fly right into a comet's tail for anything! No, not even he would do that. Foreran relaxed and raised the microbinoculars he had lowered in surprise back to his one eye. He glanced at the comet once more; such a beautiful sight. But beautiful sights wouldn't save his hide, he reminded himself, and started to turn and scan the rest of the empty, black, star-filled space. But…what was that flying out of the comet? A piece of debris—with laser cannons?! What—oh nooooooo…

* * *

Foreran's cry of anguish died as abruptly as it had started, the pieces of the late bounty hunter's ship clicking lightly as they banged harmlessly into the hull of the Slave V. Boba Fett disliked all the so-called bounty hunters that died so easily. Still, he supposed it cut down on the number of amateurs crowding space, racing around like frantic Bituni Hen-fare. There were certainly enough of them, lately.

Fett turned his deadly attention to other matters, which the supposedly observant Foreran hadn't noticed. The Hound's Tooth II was lurking just behind a nearby asteroid. It would be easy to simply vaporize the ship…but Fett had his own agenda concerning Bossk. One which involved keeping the stupid, snarling Trandoshan around. For the time being, and, of course, provided that the scaly reptiliode didn't get in his way. With the Trandoshan's stupidity, there wasn't an overly large chance that Bossk could do anything Fett couldn't handle. Of course, he'd proved to be almost more trouble than he was worth back when Fett was still dealing with Xixor's mistake, but that was the past, and Fett had no use for the past where it didn't concern the present. The moment was all that mattered. Anything else was just details. Details that could kill you, if you worried about them too much. Then again, what else was there but death in a bounty hunter's profession?

Calmly, Fett aimed both his smaller ion cannon and Proton Disintegration Mod 0.9 at the same spot on the large, hulking asteroid. He targeted by sight, which was more accurate in instances like this than the computer. Although he had reprogrammed it himself, it still couldn't recognize items such as asteroids as threats. At the same moment, he fired the ion and the Proton Disintegration. The asteroid exploded, and Bossk's ship went tumbling out of control, dead in space. Fett could almost hear the Trandoshan cursing in surprise and anger as he flailed about in his ship. He could also imagine the animosity Bossk would be practically radiating at him. Giving into emotion like that was one of the stupider things a sentient creature could do. It could also be one of the messier ways to get yourself killed. All electrical and navigational systems on the Hound were down. It shouldn't take Bossk very long to rewire them from that—Fett hadn't felt the need to power up any of his higher weapons—but it would be long enough. Especially given the amount of time Bossk would probably spend on useless and pointless displays of anger before even starting to repair his ship.

Boba Fett turned his attention to another "asteroid"—but this time it was no such thing. Although it wouldn't show up on any legal scanner, and on only two types of (very expensive) illegal ones, Fett wouldn't have had much trouble noticing the oddness about it even without his high-tech equipment. To a trained eye, the asteroid stuck out as much as a lake would on Tatooine. The edges had been welded down, and the surface was dully scratched, allowing faint glimmers of metal to shine through. He supposed Bossk wouldn't have noticed, but that bumbling idiot could hardly be counted as a "trained eye" for anything. Except, maybe, hand-to-claw killing.

With a carefully modulated shot, Fett blasted the asteroid into atoms, and then cruised on in in-time to blast the engines out of the small, one-man craft attempting to power-up quickly enough to take off. Less than forty-two seconds later, the sniveling merchandise was in Fett's holding cage, and the Slave V was on its way out of the system and into hyperspace with a full thirty seconds left before Bossk had repaired any of his ships systems. Boba Fett shook his helmeted head. That creature was so slow. It would be amazing if he could've ever reached the same height in their chosen trade that Fett had, even if the Bounty Hunter's Guild was still around for him to lean upon. Even had Fett himself been gone. Which, of course, would never happen. Or at least, certainly not the way these pitiful creatures were progressing. It had taken a mere fifteen seconds to foul-up that last attempt. Disgusting.

If only someone had had a little more skill, Fett might have faced more challenging assignments. Boba Fett wondered if Xixor's "replacement" was getting any better; it would be about time. Xixor…now there had been a true fool. A challenging enemy, very true, but still a fool. Then again, "fools" were usually the most dangerous type…