Tatooine, 25 BBY

"Captain, we're coming out of hyperspace now." One of the many men who piloted the Kappa-class shuttle Ono turned and faced his captain. "Orders?"

"Bring us planetside." The captain commanded. "We'll drop off our cargo, get our pay, and then we can enjoy ourselves."

"Yes, Captain." The man replied, turning back to his controls, passing the order along to his comrades.

The captain leaned back in his chair, smirking. Very soon he would deliver the cargo full of spices to Jabba the Hutt. The credits for this job would let him retire and he could wash his hands of the filthy Hutt forever. A nice villa on Alderaan, maybe, or Naboo, somewhere under the Republic's control, somewhere he would be safe from his enemies. The captain felt his smirk grow. Oh yes, the sooner his men reached Tatooine, the better.

"Sir, the scanners have picked up a small ship behind us." A narrow- faced Rodian called. His Basic was garbled and broken, but it was passable enough. The captain repressed a shudder. Whatever world he chose to retire on, he would make certain that the inhabitants spoke Basic.

"It's probably just another cargo load." The captain assured his crew. "His Mightiness has quite a booming business, you know."

Several of the crew members chuckled and nodded, relaxing. None of them used their real names, if they used any at all. They knew each other only by faces. In their line of work, names were a dangerous thing to give away. The captain didn't care who worked on his ship; they were all going to be dead in a few hours anyway, or sold off into slavery. The deal the captain had with Jabba meant that every time he brought spices back to the Hutt, he would get all the money. There would be no dividing it amongst the crew members, no haggling and bargaining. Jabba would sell the crew into slavery or have them fight to death in one of his arenas while the captain got rich.

Tatooine grew in the window, a swirling mass of dry browns and yellows. Almost there. The captain smiled. So close.

That was when the Ono groaned loudly and rattled, nearly dislodging the captain from his chair. Everyone looked around, bewildered, for the source of the commotion.

"We're being shot at!" The narrow- faced Rodian screamed. "That ship is shooting at us!"

"Put up the shields!" The captain bellowed. "Quickly, quickly! Once we enter the atmosphere, they won't dare follow!"

"Shields are up!" Someone cried below.

"We're going at full speed!" Another shouted.

"How far until we reach the atmosphere?" The captain demanded. Another blast rocked the shuttle and the lights flickered. The shields were losing power rapidly.

"Not far, sir!"

"Then move your damned asses! I want this bucket of bolts going at maximum!"

"Yes, sir!" The crew tried to coax every bit of power they could find from the engines, but with the enemy ship bearing down on them and blasts rocking the Ono, the shields were sucking up too much power.

"Faster!" The captain practically screamed. He mentally damned himself for not mending the shuttle's cannons; they were locked in the forward position, and now it was too late to turn around and fight back.

"The shields are gonna give!" The Rodian screeched. The Ono trembled as if to emphasize his point. The attacking ship was right on top of the shuttle, shooting with deadly precision, whittling away at the shield with all the strength they had in their guns.

"To the escape pods!" The captain howled, desperate. The Ono was going to give before they reached the atmosphere and Jabba's protection, the spices would be lost, but some profit could still be made from the crew.

"The shields are gone!" Someone screamed. The shuttle itself was taking the brunt of the blasts and pieces of it could be seen tearing off into space from the window. The Ono was rocking and shuddering furiously, breaking apart even as the crew scrambled to the pods. The captain reached for the locks, ready to disengage them and open the pods. He stopped for a brief second to look out the window, watching his shuttle falling to pieces, and saw a single proton torpedo, outdated by at least a decade, hurtling towards the window. With a sound like crunching bones, the torpedo punched through the window, shattering it, and careered through the ship, tearing out the other side and erupting into a fireball that illuminated everything. The captain was thrown into the wall, his body clattering and breaking with the force off the impact. He choked on blood, dazed, and found that he could barely breathe.

Space rushed in the Ono and gravity and lights went out, but the shell of the ship and several of its inhabitants were burning, casting flikering light into the dying cargo ship. Floating inside the fractured shuttle, the captain watched his attackers descend in their ship, blood dripping into his eyes. In the ghostly firelight, surrounded y his dead, dying crew, his lungs collapsing, the captain managed to make out the name on the side of the ship that bore down onto the Ono. He took a shuddering breath, the last his body could manage, and silently prayed to the smuggler's gods for mercy.

The Red Lady descended on her prey.

***

"Cap, she's loaded!" A merry- faced man on the Red Lady smiled and clapped a tall man on the shoulder. "We hit a big one, my friend."

Standing on the bridge of his small, deadly ship, Anakin Skywalker smiled. "Yes we did, Kitster. Yes we did."