Boba Fett sped through the desolate sands of Tatooine. The two suns of the planet, side by side, were to his back as he made his way toward the busy port of Mos Eisley. He had left earlier in the morning and it was now mid afternoon, and he hoped to make it back to Jabba's Palace before nightfall. Even Fett knew that the hostile spaceport only got worse after the day hours.
The only sound Fett could hear throughout the desert was the slightly loud humming of his hoverbike, picking up a cloud of sand behind him as he sped forward. He knew better than to let himself slacken around here, even with its peaceful air about it. There was a long list of things that could kill a man on this planet: scavengers, Tusken Raiders, kell dragons. There was also a rumor of there being a live Sarlaac somewhere on this planet. Not to say he was worried, but caution was a necessity. The last thing he needed was to be killed on this wretched planet.
He let his thoughts run back to the work ahead. Jabba the Hutt had called the bounty hunter in the day before, requesting a job from him. Apparently a man, called Turaak Stul, had "taken leave" from his job taking a total of an even thousand credits with him. Rumor about the palace was that he was headed to Mos Eisley to buy a cheap ship and get off the planet as quickly as possible. That had been two days before Fett was called in. He also figured that Stul should still be somewhere in the port, even three days later. Buying even a cheap ship was not always the easiest job for anybody. And with the money he had on him, Stul would have enough for lodging at one of the more convenient establishments. Why anyone would want to stay in Mos Eisley overnight was beyond Fett.
The hunter looked across the horizon. He was quickly approaching the spaceport and figured to be there in about five to ten standard minutes, not long at the rate his speeder was at. Maybe he would be done with this job sooner than he had thought. The sooner he got off this dirtball the better. This was not the first time he had been to the Mos Eisely spaceport, but each time he saw it, it seemed to get more and more busy. This visit was no exception. He could clearly make out the growing buildings and structures that made up the establishment, over which hovered large transports and ships of varying sizes. Large herds of dewbacks and banthas trooped about the outside of the city's outer wall and speeders could be seen zooming about inside the port itself.
A few minutes later, Fett pulled his hoverbike into the port itself and docked it in a small alley, away from the notice of peeping eyes. He was glad he had left the Slave I back in an abandoned docking bay by Jabba's Palace. His last encounter with a "hostile" bounty had crippled his security fixtures and was now open for looting. In this scum filled spaceport, anyone could get lucky and steal his ship in any one of the cheap bays around here.
Fett scanned the streets throughout the open roads. His helmet's sensors picked up every living thing throughout the walkways. He did not have to worry about overcrowding; anywhere he went he was always
avoided. People feared him, a natural trait that came with his reputation. They knew who he was, and they knew they wanted to avoid any contact whatsoever with him. It was known how ill patient he could be on a hunt and natural instinct told them he was not to be confronted.
As the hunter walked, he noticed an open-bar cantina, owned by a humanoid named Wuher. It was the busiest and most popular cantina in the port, inhabited by most local sentient beings. It was always crowded with different peoples and pilots from across several systems. If Stul was going to go anywhere, chances were he'd go here.
Before he entered, Fett checked the power readings on the blaster at his side. It was always wise to have a weapon ready if you went anywhere in this port. Anything, truly anything, could be going on when you come in.
The cantina itself was very dimly lit, mainly to cool the boiling temperatures outside and to suit aliens that were prone to react to very bright light. Fett was comfortable in his Mandalorian armor, built to accommodate the wearer according to body and room heating, allowing full access to both blistering hot or extremely cold environments. One of the many reasons Fett wore this armor everywhere he went.
At the sight of the killer's entrance, a band in the corner played a quieter tune, nerved by the bounty hunter's presence. There was a slight murmur throughout the crowd, at least among the ones sober enough to realize who stood before them. When Fett walked to the front of the bar the beings around him parted, allowing him full access to speak to the entire cantina.
Already watching him intently, the cantina became eerily silent as Fett took out a portably holoprojector and pressed the button on the top. A full-scale image of a young man, looking in his mid-thirties, came into focus in front of the hunter. Fett spoke in heavily accented Basic, loud enough for all to hear. "I am looking for this man, one Turaak Stul. He is wanted by Jabba the Hutt for thievery in service." He paused briefly, allowing the crowd to look at the image. "If I find that one of you is giving this fugitive succor, I will kill you on sight. Does anybody have information on where I can find this man?"
One Bothan walked up to the projection, squinting at it, his ears twitching in concentration. He turned to Fett and spoke in a gargling voice; "He was in here the day before yesterday, looking for a place of vacancy. He left, but then came back the next day for a drink. But that was when…he came in."
This time there was a louder murmur from the crowd, but with a gesture of Fett's hand, they were silent again. He turned off the projector, and walked in front of the alien, close enough to frighteningly intimidate the much smaller being. He spoke one word: "Who?"
The creature began to break into a cold sweat and he stuttered frightfully, "He…he came in here faster then anyone could see…moved, like a…a…ghost. He was cloaked in black. No one…saw his face."
A Rodian, older and slower than the younger ones seen in the port, turned from his seat, standing. He said a few phrases in Rodese. "He knocked him unconscious with one kick. Drug him off before any of us could reach a blaster."
Fett could feel something resembling rage erupt within his body and he contained himself from showing his inner anger. In a steady voice that had taken him years to keep the same, he asked, "Did he say where he was going?"
The Rodian made his way toward the door of the cantina, but turned before going. "He didn't make a single sound. But just before he reached the door, he started laughing and kept repeating, 'That fool… I am ten times better than he!' Can't say it made sense to me… "
Boba Fett left the cantina silently. Several thoughts ran through his mind as he made it back to his bike. Someone…someone…had had the nerve to take his hunt. And mock him as well. Anybody knew the Bounty Hunter's Creed strictly forbade the interfering in another hunter's contract. Evidently this one figured himself above the Creed…but no one escaped Fett in the end. He vowed to himself that he would make this traitor pay for his disobedience to the Creed…
Several calculations ran through Fett's mind as he made his way out of the port. He figured that since this was a one-man job, somebody in Jabba's service must have heard about it and taken it for himself. It was not the most intelligent thing to do, but anybody in Jabba's service would want to make a good name for themselves. It made work both safer and easier. But this person had a good idea what they were doing. They knew how to be a professional.
This man might have made a good bounty hunter, Fett thought as he made his way back to the Palace. Perhaps he might have even rivaled him sooner or later. But what still puzzled him was who could be behind this. There was a long list of people who would have liked to see him humiliated, but only a scarce few who would have had the nerve to actually act on it. Most people, even in the service of the Hutt, knew better then to work against Boba Fett. Perhaps the Twi'lek, Bib Fortuna? He was known to be a crafty one, so were all the creatures of the Twi'lek species. No, the witnesses had said that it was a human, and Fortuna already had enough of a reputation being Jabba's majordomo. He was the only one who would get close enough to hear of the bounty hunter's job. If not him, then who?
Fett's mind seemed to throb with the mystery, filling each crevice of his system with an increasing fiery hate. If there was anything more important to him than money, it was his reputation. This situation may stunt his record with the Hutt, knowing that someone had actually beaten him to the catch. Whatever merchandise had a large enough bounty was usually in a way promised to be his. The larger the bounty, the more to the top of his priorities it became. Especially if it was one of the Hutt bounties, which usually ended up being the most profitable, he put his whole attention into it. Perhaps after this dilemma, it may come to be known that his "attention" may not be enough to get the job done.
Then there would be more problems with the Bounty Hunter's Guild itself. The inside bounties may be assigned to the quoted better bounty hunters, Bossk, Dengar, perhaps Zuckuss. Bossk was already getting sharper and better. Perhaps soon he would take Fett's place. And Dengar was already equal to Fett as far as bodily prowess, his physical enhancements giving him an unnatural edge in the hunt.
Boba Fett felt his skin crawl at the thought of being replaced. Ever since the two at Mos Eisley had told him about this fool he had been sure to keep his cool. So had he always been able to do, even when the worse of hunts would grind at his nerves. But now…now he could feel the boiling anger rising, and he hoped upon everything moral that he would be able to keep it in check. But he also knew that this renegade had to be dealt with. Dealt with before this ordeal could leak out.
The trip back to the palace went faster then the trip there. Maybe the night air made it cooler, rather than riding in blistering heat. Maybe it was Fett's angered power that made the speeder go faster, he couldn't tell which.
Fett arrived at Jabba's Palace a bit later into the night. Were it not for the artificial light fixtures outside the building, the entire setting was pitch black, the darkness dotted only be the dull light of the stars over the wastelands. It would have been later, if the hunt had actually taken any time. There was that crawling feeling again. He took a few breaths and walked towards the entrance door. Sensing the presence of the man, the small watcher droid came out of its fixture in the door and turned on. Resembling an eyeball, it hummed slightly and hovered in front of the bounty hunter, then said a few phrases in a protocol language.
"Speak Basic," Fett commanded.
Again there was a period of silence as the droid searched its databanks to find the requested vocabulary. It then spoke in a raspy, metallic voice, "Empty-handed, are you not, Boba Fett?"
Fett's hand moved faster than even the droid's sensors could catch as he grabbed the machine roughly by the attachment that kept it on the entrance doors. His voice was not angrily loud, but deathly low as he said, "I have had a very bad day. Would you like to feel as bad as I do?"
When he let it go, the droid hovered for a moment, searching through more of its vocabulary. "The other came in after you went out."
Fett did not have to ask who the droid was referring to, he knew the answer. And suddenly all the pieces came together; it made perfect sense. This vigilante's leverage was not personal gain, but to degrade Fett in the best possible way. It would have made a perfect set up. Hide out, hold the bounty, cash in only after Fett had left, making it look like the hunt had only taken him a very short time.
The entrance doors slid open with a slow hiss. Boba Fett walked calmly through the dark corridors he knew would lead to Jabba's Main Audience Chamber. Down some of the more dank halls, he could hear frightened, painful screams. Down others, slow drawn out death moans. He knew that these people probably deserved what they received. Most were the thieves, the traitors, the scum. But down one he felt something strange, and his skin crawled slightly, almost as a forewarning. Fett dismissed it carelessly…he had things he had to attend to now. He had no time for queasy feelings.
He finally entered the Chamber from the flight of stairs leading down from the Corridor Level. There were stories that once the whole Palace had been a spiritual temple of the Bo'maar Monks, who believed in an eternal life of spiritual thought. This was then accomplished by surgically removing one's brain, allowing it a permanent place in a nutrient filled jar, only allowing travel through the use of spider-like machines. There were rumors that the monks were still allowed to usage of the Lower Level for their studies.
But any example of holiness was definitely distinguished from the Audience Chamber now.
As Fett came into the large rotunda, he was incredibly grateful for the expensive air filters he had inserted into his helmet. The body odor of the Hutt, along with the sickeningly rank smell of blood and alien made him ponder how any living, breathing sentient could stand being in a surrounding such as this. Most who came into the Chamber wore breathing masks or space helmets. Any oxygen breathing human without such would probably turn ill from the incredibly strong odor.
Even in the later night, Jabba's residence was as active as ever. Of course many beings were already passed out and perhaps a few had left to their rooms. Anybody would choose even Mos Eisley over this rotting scum hole during the night. The band played louder then ever, the dancers jumped lithely through the air, spinning and spiraling as if made of water. Jabba made them dance day and night, anytime he felt the need for entertainment. Were their performance not to his liking, they would suffer the fate of being dropped through the grate in the floor. Fett was one of the few who actually knew what lay under that door: a partially starved kell dragon, caught by an expert hunter. There were rumors that Jabba was in the process of buying a more ruthless creature, a Rancor, but had not done so yet.
Boba Fett came in silently, through the front entrance. He did it deliberately, hoping to catch the vile Hutt's attention. Of course, Jabba could see all that happened in the room from his perch in the center. Laying on a large platform, big enough to allow twenty humans to sit comfortably, the huge slug-like creature lay on his side, watching everything with a natural hunger. Nearby, a translator droid stood, patiently and somewhat unwillingly waiting to receive any instructions.
Jabba looked down at the bounty hunter. He laughed suddenly, a sound that echoed throughout the Chamber like thunder. The room seemed to become silent, until all that could be heard was the insistent bellowing sounds. He then stopped and clapped his stumpy hands together twice. The band quickly disappeared, picking up their instruments and ushering them out of the room. The dancers retreated from the center, hurrying to return to their respective positions in the room. The translator stiffened slightly and stood ready to speak for the Hutt.
Suddenly, Jabba began to speak, his booming voice resounding into every corner of the room in guttural Huttese. "Seems like someone finally got the better of you, Fett." Jabba said with an air of mocking about him.
Fett could feel his hand move instinctively toward the trigger of his blaster. He found himself overcome by a temptation to just up and shoot the Hutt where he lay. But he managed to keep his emotionless posture and speak in a calm, flat voice. "A casualty. And it would be easily rendered if you would tell me who brought him in."
Jabba grew suddenly serious. "And why should I do that? Perhaps this new bounty hunter could be better then you, Fett? Maybe I just might use him as my primary hunter and not you? You flatter yourself to think you can make decisions for me…"
He didn't think Fett would notice, but Jabba's hand moved ever so slightly toward the control panel that would open the grate beneath him. But Fett's motion sensors picked up even the small amount of movement. Quicker then anyone could see, he fired a single shot that landed in front of the platform. "If I meant to hit you, I would have. Now I want the information I asked about. Now. Or your lackeys are going to have to try to put you back together after what I do to you."
Jabba seemed to tense up and he smiled nervously and his tail twitched a bit frantically as his mind worked to find something to say. "Now Fett, you know I really wouldn't replace my favorite mercenary. I was merely…stretching. Yes, you know how my nerves get. Merely a slip of the hand I assure you!"
Boba Fett lowered his gun and let his arm relax ever so slightly. He knew that the Hutt would not try anything while he was on guard. "Now tell me exactly what happened earlier today. Who is this man I heard about?"
"He came in right after you left. I don't know how he got in, the guards said they didn't see anyone come in through the main entrance. He came in alone, dragging Stul over his shoulder. He wore a fighter's uniform, no armor, just the jumpsuit. It was pure black and he wore a cowl over his neck and face. When he demanded the bounty, naturally I was suspicious. I mean, I would never give up your bounty, my friend. Naturally I decided it would be best to take care of him promptly, so I pulled the grate out from under him. Amazingly, he grabbed onto the door as he swung down. It was the most incredible feat I had ever seen, rather well for a human."
Fett nodded once. Not many of the professionals he knew had knowledge of what Jabba kept in the pit, let alone were capable of a feat such as that. And barely any knew that they were going down until it happened. Not until they were falling down the abyss into the waiting jaws of the kell.
Jabba then continued. "He flipped back up to the floor, Stul still slung over his back. He then pulled out not one, but four thermal detonators! I was so frightened, I wish you were there to take care of that stranger. He demanded not only the payment, but also a room for the night. It still frightens me to think that creature is still in my own abode. If I'm correct, he should still be in the first Level, in Chamber SL-2, across the corridor from where Stul is being kept. I had no choice but to pay him! You must understand the circumstances, Fett…"
The Hutt kept babbling incoherently as Fett departed from the Chamber and started to make his way for the Corridor Level he had just left. He could hear in the distance the band begin again, and the noise of the audience beginning another round of drinks. The sounds followed him back up the stairs to where he would find this scum and make him pay…
Fett did not expect this…
He was back downstairs, standing outside the door that would lead to the man's room. Strangely he also felt that strange feeling again as he made his way to the level. Years before in his training he had made sure to make himself devoid of all feelings of nervousness. No, this was definitely something else…
He decided best to holster his blaster. He wanted to be ready for whatever may be awaiting him, but a quick death was not something he wanted to give this scum. He checked all his other weapons, detonators, blaster, darts, everything he had on him. Who knew what he might have to use? He reached down and attached the gun to its slot, clicking the holster sideways. For a moment he stopped to notice how eerily silent the room was. Not even the sounds of footsteps could be heard inside.
Boba Fett listened silently for a few moments before touching the panel on the side of the door. He was surprised to find it unlocked and it opened practically silently and he stepped in. He was not ready for what was waiting for him and immediately cursed his impulsive action as he felt the power behind an awaiting attack.
A flying kick knocked him speedily into the wall outside the door. Standing in front of him, a few inches shorter than himself, was a man in a fighter's gi. He recognized it directly from a jump suit, for it was more airy and loose. It was pure black, allowing him to blend in with the shadows of the dimly lit hallway. He still wore the cowl, covering most of his face so only two icy blue eyes shown into his sight. His arms were crossed over his chest and Fett could see his muscles and stocky body heave as he breathed.
The fighter stepped up slowly, and then bowed, chuckling slightly as he did. "I apologize, my friend. I did not realize it was you until after the attack. I heard the click of your rifle and thought it was one of those Gamorrean axes. I very much despise those guards. I hope I did not seriously harm you."
Boba Fett had to admit he was surprised. This man, a man who had possessed the nerve to steal his bounty, had the strength to keep himself from being eaten by a kell dragon, the reflexes to openly attack him, now appeared in a friendly greeting? This man has no idea who he's dealing with, Fett thought to himself. He retrieved his blaster from his belt and pointed it towards the man as he stood up. "You collected my bounty. As an offense to the Bounty Hunter Creed and the Guild, I shall punish you for your ignorance. Not only on an official level, but as a personal payment I mean to take care of."
The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a small counter. "Ah, you speak of this." He threw it to the ground between them. "Take it, it's yours. I don't need it, I already have enough. But I wanted something else…"
Fett kept his gun level to the man and cocked his head slightly to the side. "And that would be?"
"You. I wanted you, Jaster Mereel. My friend, my companion," he said, closing his eyes for a moment and looking down to the ground.
Boba Fett felt his knees weaken as he let what this man, whom he had never seen nor heard before, call him by his true name. His name when he was a Journeyman Protector on his home planet of Concord Dawn. His name when he had a true place to call home. His name when he was exiled from his planet…
The renegade reached up, deliberately slow, and removed the hood and cowl. He stood for a second before fully removing it, almost unsure of what may come of his decision. He took it off, along with a breathing apparatus that had turned his voice deeper and stood before Fett in true form.
Were Boba Fett not already devoid of all emotion, this may have broken him.
Standing only in the fighter's uniform before him, unmasked, was someone he remembered almost vividly in his mind. A woman, a woman stood before him. His only real companion before being exiled from Concord Dawn. When he left the planet and donned the armor of the ancient Mandalores, he left everything behind him and went forward rather then linger back.
He had never given a second thought to Teaa.
They had never become serious about one another. She was a fellow Journeyman, like him. A warrior, like him. Ruthless, cunning, agile. Deadly. In every way like him except for sex. She was named properly, for Teaa meant "Essence of War." They had always fought side by side against the scum of their homeworld, until an explosion put Teaa in the Med Hospital. It had been because of their Superior Officer's orders. And Fett had made him pay…with his life. The whole reason behind the actions that lead to his exile.
She had been younger then. Her hair had been shaved to military standards. It now was tied back away from her face. It was not the Teaa he remembered, but a full grown woman that now stood before him. When she spoke, her voice had a coldness that had come naturally from the years of intense training she had clearly gone through. "After you left, I couldn't stay. I wanted to give you some messages from a few people and I knew somehow I would have to find you, let you know how much it was worth working with you, learning from you. Boba Fett." She stopped, chuckling softly. "You chose a name wisely. One who Brings Justice. It took me seven years to find you. I became a wandering spirit, weaving in and out, gathering information to find you."
Teaa turned away from him and walked back into the room. She picked up a sheath and pulled out a yard long swordblade. She swung it expertly, through cutting arch, stabs, and throwing techniques. She then stopped, putting it back into the cloth and slinging it over her shoulder onto her back. "I studied for three of those years the arts of ginku-ta'. A lost art, but when one knows the right people can still learn it."
Fett's numb mind began to work again and he lowered his rifle. "Now what will you do? Now that you have found me?"
She smiled at him and put back on her cowl. "I guess part of that is up to you. I respect the Creed and now, and as that person I am at your mercy. But in all truthfulness, I thought this may be the only way to finally find you."
Boba Fett reached down and picked up the fallen credit counter. He handed it back to Teaa. "Here, take it. You have earned it. But we still must figure out how to pull this off."
She took it back, almost a bit reluctantly. "Yes. I do not wish to cause any more damage to your image. My intentions were not to do so, but now that I know of you and how you are, we may go our separate ways. I respect your way of life now, and I can go on knowing that you are safe in your own way."
Suddenly, Fett's helmet picked up a figure moving down the hallway. Teaa had already sensed it, drawing her blade from the sheath. It was one of the Gammorean Guards. He approached both of them, talking speedily in his native tongue. Fett turned to Teaa, saying, "Jabba wishes to speak with me."
The Guard continued. "No," Fett said. "He wishes to speak with both of us."
As the two warriors walked back to the Audience Chamber, Teaa continued on about her long search for him. As they walked, it felt almost kindred and Fett could feel the strong bond that had already started renewing itself between them. It was just like so many years ago… and for some reason even in his loner's state of mind, it was a welcomed feeling.
His mind snapped back to reality as he heard Teaa's voice. "After your trial and exile, Rebel forces had surrounded Concord Dawn. Being dependant to the Empire, we turned against the Alliance. There was constant war between the planet and it's new enemy. We really could have used you."
"You said you had messages for me. What of my family?" Fett asked.
Teaa's eyes trail to the floor. "I kept an eye on them for a while. After you were forced to leave, your brother, Proj, joined the Protector Corp. He always hoped to grow up like you. Your father disowned the both of you. He couldn't understand what he saw in you, he always said. And he scorned your brother's choice to follow your path. You know how he was.
Your mother became sick. She missed you terribly. Wished that you could have grown up better. It was almost as if you had died to her."
Fett could feel something in his gut turn. He forced himself to ask, "What happened after that?"
Teaa looked at him for a few seconds, almost to prepare him for what she was going to say. "The Rebels bombarded the planet's main capitals. Proj was killed in the Battle of Tydon, when they were trying to seize the Home Base. And your home was caught in the crossfire."
Boba Fett felt a feeling of emptiness overcome him... his entire body flooded with loss. When he left his world he now knew he had truly left everything behind. He also made a vow at that moment that he would not allow himself to ally himself with the Rebellion. Ever. If that is what truly happened, then so be it. The Rebellion would be destroyed sooner or later. And when it did he knew he would relish in it.
His thoughts were left behind as he once again entered the Chamber for the second time that night. The sound was loud again in a droning way. He knew that the aliens were even less sober then before. He walked alongside Teaa as they stood before Jabba once more. The Hutt clapped his hands together twice and it became generally quiet in the room. Fett noticed that some aliens were getting in a fight near some dancing girls, but he didn't let them distract him from what the Hutt began to say.
This time when Jabba spoke, there was a hint of amusement. "It seems the two of you are at a stalemate. Two equally matched opponents for one career. That is why I have a contest for the both of you. A final fight, a duel we shall say. The last one standing becomes my top hunter. The other…must become my slave."
Teaa and Fett exchanged glances. It was a challenge neither one wanted to take. There was no way to avoid it, and there could be no real winner. Teaa put one hand to her head. "I wish someone would just strike me dead right here."
Suddenly there was a shrill scream to the right of the platform. The fight between the aliens and the dancers had gotten out of hand and a green humanoid had thrown one of the women toward the platform. Nobody had seen it coming when she landed on the control panel to the grate…
The doors swung from underneath them and Teaa tried to grasp the door, but to no avail. The action had caught both of them off guard. They plummeted roughly to the sandy ground of the pit. Looking around, she noticed Fett had landed a few feet away. A stream of liquid battery strewn from his crushed jetpack and he heard him curse. It had cushioned his fall, but now they had no way to get out of the pit!
There was a low growling sound from a dark shadow in the earthen chamber. Suddenly, the kell dragon came out, slowly advancing toward the two. Fett pulled out a blaster and walked backwards, putting a large amount of distance between himself and the beast. Teaa had already unsheathed her blade and was advancing to the opposite side of the cave.
The kell was literally huge, as big as at least three dewbacks. It walked sideways in a crab-like crouch, on four sharply clawed feet. It had three horns on its lizard head which bent back to reveal deadly serrated teeth. It had a bony back, ridged by a protruding backbone. It ended in a sharply spiked tail. By the fire in its yellow eyes Fett could tell it was angered by the intrusion of these two, but at the same time was powered by a hunger as it smelled their odors.
It moved slowly, snapping it's mouth open and shut, as if to taste the air. It moved slowly toward Teaa first, evidently the smaller and weaker of the two. Fett fired a few stun shots toward it, trying unsuccessfully to slow it down. It only became more angered and ran faster toward her. Teaa bent down, preparing all her strength for a leap. With a warrior yell, she flipped onto its back and jumped, slicing down toward the neck. The kell easily sidestepped and flipped its tail toward her.
She successfully blocked it, but it dealt a glancing blow to her knee and she groaned in pain. She knew that if she didn't move fast with her good leg, it could be the end. Fett fired another blast, this one on a higher power boost. The animal turned away from its current prey and headed toward him at a quick pace. The agile hunter jumped to the side and fired a blast into the animal's eye. It reared up on its hind legs, showing a full height of about ten to twelve feet. Its roar was almost deafening.
Teaa stood and crouched down low, preparing for a jump to the back. She flew through the air in a blur, kicking into the animal's back with her bad leg bent beneath her body and forced her blade into the animal's back. It did little but sway the kell slightly. It squealed a bit in pain from the sting and turned, it's eyes and mouth open to the already bloody opponent.
She pulled back the swordblade…and pulled again. Teaa cursed as she realized that that it was stuck between two bones in the back. She let it go and flipped away from the beast, directly before the animal crouched down again. It knew that this prey was now unarmed and the struggle would be short. Teaa glanced down at her still bloodied leg and reeled a bit in dizziness, but managed to stay focused. "Hey, Mereel! A little help would be good right about now!"
Fett jumped between the two, drawing his blaster, now set to the highest power. It would be enough to obliterate a human, but would it work on this beast? He fired toward the neck of the creature. It whined and seemed to sag before falling in a smoking heap to the ground.
Teaa moved forward to see if the animal was truly as dead as it looked. She grabbed the blade stuck in its back and gave it a good hard tug. It came out with a shoop and she dragged it to the ground to clean it off. Turning away from the fallen animal, she sheathed it again. "Just like old times," she said with a cough.
Suddenly the kell flipped its tail, regaining its footing easily and leapt at the woman. She barely even turned to look before she was pinned to the ground as the full weight of the beast weighed down on top of her. She could feel it crushing her and for the first time, she felt fear overtake her; she could barely manage consciousness. She let out a painful scream as it bit down on her shoulder. It took Fett less than three seconds to quickly fired off two more shots into the animal's throat. It was dead this time.
But the damage was already done. The complete weight of the animal had borne down so hard on her that the internal damage was pretty much unmanageable. She was also loosing blood from both the wound in her shoulder and in her leg. As he crouched beside her, Fett knew it was over quicker than it had begun.
Teaa looked up at him. Her breathing was labored, and she was knowledgeable to know she wouldn't make it. She reached painfully into her pocket and gave Fett a small round disk. She spoke very softly, and it was forced out with all her energy behind it. "This…from our planet…I wanted to give it to you…" She managed out a small laugh. "Guess now's as good a time…as ever."
Teaa shuddered for a moment and then she was still. Fett felt something electric in his body. The only one he had ever cared about, ever, was gone. And he knew it was caring, not just a working relationship. He picked up her broken body and carried it silently out of Jabba's Palace. He did not listen to the sounds of the Chamber, or the moans in the dungeons, or the screams in the torture chambers. They all seemed blocked out, almost like right then he was in his own time, separated from everyone and everything.
He walked out and mounted his bike and rode out into the farther Dune Sea. Fett did not want to just bury the body. He knew how a womprat might catch the smell of decaying flesh. No, he wanted to do something else. He built a pyre out of stones that littered the desert and used his flame launcher to light it. He watched as the flames danced through the otherwise dark early morning and sighed. This felt much more fulfilling.
After it had burned down, he mounted his bike and rode back to his ship in the bay. He couldn't tell if the night itself had taken hours, minutes, seconds. Time had changed for him, it seemed so much more drawn out. As he took off from the planet, he pulled out the small disk that Teaa had given him. It was her last request that he have it and he managed a small smile beneath his helmet. "I guess now is as good a time as ever."
It projected a small screen in front of him. It blinked in static for a moment, but then evened out. Teaa stood there, wearing the normal uniform of the Protectors. It was the Teaa he remembered from so long ago, the girl he had left behind. She smiled and waved. "Hello, Mereel. I can't even tell you what it's been like since you left. I'm filming this at least three weeks after your trial. The other Protectors and I grieve the loss of not having you here. You were a guiding light for us to follow." She paused and looked to the side. She laughed, saying, "Proj is killing me to talk to you, so I'm going to hand the cam over to him now."
She walked off screen. Soon another man was in front of the cam. He had scruffy blond hair and a distinct face. He was a handsome man compared to Fett, his older brother. He smiled and turned around, showing the Journeyman uniform of the younger ranks. "Pretty sweet, huh Jast? I hope that I can do as much as you did with the corp." His voice lowered, almost quivered slightly. "I can't tell you what it's like not to have you here. We all miss you. Even Pops, though he won't show it. He can't understand why I would want to join the organization that threw you off the planet. Somehow I know your okay wherever you are. But I want to tell you, as a brother, that I understand…"
Teaa came back on the screen. "If you have this, chances are something has happened to me. Were I still alive I would have personally relayed these messages. I'm sorry I did this to you Mereel. And I wanted to tell you especially." She paused and put her hand behind her head, searching for the right words. "It was always something more, my friend. It wasn't just business partners. You…were like a brother to me. And even if I'm dead now, I won't forget you, Jaster Mereel. Ever."
The screen blinked again and Fett felt his throat constrict as he saw a new image. Teaa's voice still narrated off-screen as he looked at the figures of four people, standing together and smiling. One was an older man, strong and tall with a dark complexion. Another was a woman, humble and small, holding hands with the man. The other was a young boy, with styled blond hair and a childish grin. The last was another boy, matured and grown into manhood with long auburn hair and a Journeyman uniform with his arms crossed and a smug smirk on his face.
"I thought you might want to have this, Jaster. It was the only picture of ya'll I could find. Sorry if it's a bit out of date," Teaa's voice cut in. Fett ran his fingers along the outline of the couple. His mother and father. Then he touched the small boy, Proj, his younger brother. But he pulled his hand away from the older teenager. This image actually scared him slightly…it was a face no one had seen for ages. A face no one would probably ever see again. His face.
The projection blinked again and went off. Fett sat for a few moments. He let what he had seen roll around in his head for a few seconds. He wouldn't forget Teaa. And he wouldn't forget Proj. Or his parents. Or his planet, Concord Dawn. He would work, he would strive, he would live. He would not let them be forgotten easily. When work would get harder, or the trips lonelier, he would remember. And he would go on. Boba Fett finally reached over and picked up the disk and put it in a small, locked compartment of his central control panel. He wanted to keep this for as long as he could.