I had never intended to join the military and I had sure as hell never expected to join the Rebel Alliance. Coronet City on Corellia had been were I grew up and everyone in the family expected me to go into business just like dear old dad. He was something of a shipping magnate, owning somewhere around twelve percent of Corellian Engineering, so I never had wants for anything growing up.
When I was twelve, I stumbled across the old holodrama Hunter. You may remember it, although it was twenty years old then and may be impossible to find now. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, it starred some impossibly handsome actor who ran around the galaxy bringing back criminals to be put in jail. He was a bounty hunter and I fell in love at once.
Admittedly, the show was cheesy and predictable but I was twelve and barely knew better. I saw a life forever barred to me, a life that was exciting, rewarding, and honorable. When I told my parents that I wanted to be a hunter, they laughed and told me it was a phase I would grow out of. I think they were still thinking that when I left home at seventeen and hooked up with a grizzled old man who called himself Cypher. In retrospect, I was lucky to have met up with someone like him; he had morals, which is a lot more than I can say about some of the hunters out there.
I never learned his real name but he taught me pretty much everything else. By the time I was twenty, I was walking death with any kind of blaster and nearly as mean with vibroweapons. The RB-16 was a favorite of mine, though Cypher called it impossible to control. I kept at it though, until I could tear apart an Imperial dactarie while it was still in the air.
My dad disowned me when I turned nineteen, mostly because my growing reputation as a hunter was starting to affect his mercantile efforts, but also because I had not come running back home for help like he expected. A cousin of mine stepped in to take my place in the business and I lost track of family affairs. My only friend had turned into the RB-16.
The highly romantized view I had of the bounty hunter business died sometime after I turned twenty-one. Cypher had been getting old, I guess he was about fifty-five or sixty then, and he was outdrawn by this glitbiter we had decided to bring in. The punk couldn't have been more than sixteen standard himself, but he drew like a pro, blasting Cyper in the head with a DL-44 before the old man had even gone for his own weapon. I had drawn back-up in this case and got there too late to do anything but pick up his body and move on. That damned glitbiter was long gone but I swore that I'd find him and bring him in. It took nearly two standard months but I fulfilled that vow. The warrant was dead or alive and a corpse didn't give a body as much trouble.
With Cypher dead and my money starting to run low, I turned to the Imperial hunter network for targets. They worked out okay, despite their obvious disdain for me and my profession. I was eventually assigned a sweeper team for intelligence work; it consisted of a Lieutenant in ISB, a Lieutenant from Imperial Intelligence, and a Lieutenant from COMPNOR. It took me about two months to get a handle on the three, and about twice that long to get their damned infighting under control. All three of them hated me from the start, mostly because they felt their "amazing" talents were being wasted by being assigned to a lowly Bounty Hunter. As for me, I had slipped into a type of walking coma; they gave me the assignments and I completed them. Looking back, it's amazing I never became a glitbiter.
There were some good times sandwiched between the dark depressions. Most of those times came after a successful and dangerous hunt, when I turned to women and lum to recover my sanity. Although I hadn't realized it at the time, I had turned into one of those remorseless killers that Cypher had loathed so much. In fact, it took the death of twenty-three innocent people to snap me back to sanity.
My twentieth hunt was bad in the beginning and only got worse. I was still half-drunk when the Intel team gave me the dossier and that should have been my first clue that something was bad. Had I been sober and sharp, I would have noticed the inconsistencies in their data-docs right from the start. Instead, I was still thinking about this Twi'lek girl I'd met the night before and just rubber-stamped my approval of the hunt. After all, how much trouble could a single spice runner really be?
According to the data-doc, Ulicx Vinaq was a Devaronian who was known to be a serious spice transporter and had evaded capture on no less than six occasions. He had killed two other hunters when he bugged out of Coronet City last month, and he had been linked to the death of another less than a week ago. The three Lieutenants had confirmed his location at a fairly disreputable establishment through slicing into his cred-sticks; they intimated that our "friendship" had caused them to contact me instead of the local police, and, with me being unfocused, I bought it.
The establishment in question turned out to be a hotbed of anti-Imperial activity, but was limited to peaceful demonstrations and sit-in kind of stuff. Having dropped out of society almost altogether, I had not even noticed Alderaan's fate and walked into one such demonstration fully armed and looking for a fight. Two bully-boys, neither more than 18 standard, got in my way and told me, rather forcefully, that I should leave. Instead, I broke one's jaw with a right hook and dropped the other with a well-timed kick. The demonstrators almost instantly backed away, terrified or just intimidated by my overly aggressive stance.
Vinaq was indeed on the site, but his TracSheet had been seriously altered to make him appear more intimidating than he actually was. He was, however, armed with a hold-out blaster, and he stupidly drew it on me. His shot was wide but it ignited the powder-keg inside the hall. Every single one of the "peaceful" demonstrators went for weapons and, before I knew, twenty people were firing shots at me.
I over-reacted. My –16 came down and I sprayed wildly as I backpedaled from the building. My brain had finally started to work and it recognized that I was someplace I did not want to be. When I reached the door, I had left five or six on the ground, dead or dying. That didn't stop the rest from firing with renewed enthusiasm, and a couple shots clipped me. Survival instinct kicked in and I left the building post haste, tossing in a thermal detonator to discourage pursuit. I was totally unprepared for the result.
The TD went up like a mini-nuke, having apparently landed next to a fusion stove. It destroyed the entire building, killed everyone inside and threw me about twenty meters. I was still conscious and quite happy at the result when the building's sign hit the ground next to me. The words on it shattered my world and lit a fire of rage inside my belly that nearly burned me alive.
UNIVERSITY OF CORELLIA (DOWNTOWN) – FINE CRAFTS DEPARTMENT
All three of the Lieutenants had disappeared when I came calling and the secretary of the Hunter Liaison Department was surprised when I threw down my Imperial credentials on her desk. An Imp Navy guy got in my way as I left and I knocked him to the ground. I was barely aware of anything beyond my anger.
That and a sickening feeling of having turned into the enemy.
The HoloNews spun the story well. A group of Rebel dissidents had destroyed themselves when the explosives they were constructing went up like a thermal detonator. Even in my rage I had to admire the Imps ability to turn a massacre of peaceful students by a battle-hardened bounty hunter into a slam on the fledgling Rebel Alliance. What bothered me the most was how no one else seemed to care. They even interviewed a family member of one of the dead and she admitted that her sister had had treasonous political views.
The first of the three Lieutenants that I killed was the ISB man. He lived in a posh part of Coronet City and stupidly answered the door when I knocked. His eyes went very wide with fear when he opened it and I was waiting with the –16. I didn't wait to see if there was anyone else at his home.
The second was the Intelligence man and I got him while he was visiting a spice runner. Actually, that isn't entirely true. I merely announced my presence, identified the man as Imperial Intelligence, and then watched when the spice runner blew him away.
The COMPNOR man was the hardest to take down and, in the end, nearly got me killed. By the time I started hunting him, he had already figured out that I was the man responsible for his associates' deaths and had taken steps to neutralize me. He posted a bounty of fifteen thousand credits for my head, identifying me as responsible for the death of both men. I fended off three individual hunters, both with Imperial affiliation, but nearly got taken by a group of four. Fortunately, hunters who kill Imperials were viewed in a good light by most of the lowlifes on Dewback Row and my ass was pulled out of the fire by a couple of glitbiters, if you can believe that.
With the death of those four, the rest of the Imp-affiliated hunters had decided to leave me alone. COMPNOR tried to jump system and lose me that way, but I got him at the starport. Instead of my usual –16, I used a high-powered sniper rifle that one of the hunters had tried to take me out with. At two klicks, I shot him through the left eye. I was gone before the stormies even found my hooch.
Now with a twenty-five thousand-credit bounty on my head, I decided to disappear. Pooling my remaining money, I acquired a false identity and booked passage to the Brak Sector.
How was I to know that I'd meet destiny there?