Mission to Myrkr

Shortly before the Battle of Naboo…

Boba Fett looked around the throne room of the Hutt crime lord Jabba, most of whom was still on his throne.

The rest of him, however…

Hutts were notoriously hard to kill; their biological systems were highly resistant to poisons, their thick, rubbery skins were virtually blaster-proof, and on top of that, nearly every Hutt in the galaxy was rich enough to afford an entourage of bodyguards and other minions that realistically amounted to little more than sentient shields.

There was little defense, however, from a thermal detonator, particularly when the explosive was inside the Hutt; the assassins had managed to smuggle the device into Jabba's food, where he had consumed it without a second thought.

Now Boba Fett stood in the midst of the consequences, watching with a dispassionate eye as the various denizens of the palace broke open the food and liquor stashed around the palace and had themselves the wildest party Tatooine had ever seen. Anyone who was sorry Jabba was dead was well on their way out of here by now, and the rest of the palace's denizens were either stealing anything that wasn't nailed down or drinking and dancing themselves into a stupor.

Fett himself was mildly sorry to see Jabba go, but only because the Hutt had paid handsomely. Increasingly, Jabba had been giving Fett ridiculous amounts of credits to keep him around the palace, convinced that one of his rivals in his clan's crime syndicate was trying to kill him.

As it turned out, he was right; in fact, Fett himself had discreetly aided the assassins, since he was being paid to do so both by their mysterious employer and none other than Darth Vader himself, who had his own reasons for wanting Jabba dead.

Fett had just set his ship, the Slave I, to send a transmission to the Emperor confirming the crime lord's death, and was now biding his time until he received a reply.

The hunter calmly watched as the crime lord's former servants looted the throne room around him, his gloved hands casually curled around his blaster rifle. Fett had no interest in any of Jabba's treasures; he had more credits than he would ever need from a prosperous career of going after the most high-value -and therefore most challenging- targets.

This had been an easy mission, in fact as close to a vacation as Fett could allow himself. For the last six months, Fett had stayed around the vicinity of Tatooine and Jabba's palace, ostensibly on guard duty in between short missions, but in actuality, he had been taking advantage of Jabba's connections to further expand his already impressive network of informants.

Boba Fett paid very well for useful information, and so a number of Jabba's lackeys, sensing the end like mynocks deserting a leaking ship, promptly switched their… flexible allegiances. Fett's private network of informants now rivaled most intelligence services. In fact, he had a number of agents within Director Isard's own Imperial Intelligence Service; IIS agents regularly made discreet copies of their reports to send to Boba Fett. Even Darth Vader did not know just how much Fett truly knew about the way he ran the Empire; if Fett were motivated by some foolish idealistic concept of justice, he could easily have become one of the Rebel Alliance's most valuable assets.

But the cold, hard reality was that the Empire paid better and mostly kept order strictly enforced, and so Fett continued to accept their contracts. In a galaxy torn by war, there was plenty of opportunity for a purveyor of violence for profit…

An indicator inside Fett's helmet beeped twice, and tiny letters flashed across one corner of his HUD to inform him that his ship's long-range comm had received a reply from the Executor.

Fett left the drunken revelry behind, headed back to his ship.

When he was sealed inside the impenetrable walls of Slave I, Fett headed up to the cockpit to look at the transmission. He remotely keyed the message to play as he entered the cockpit, watching the small holoprojector mounted at one side of his console flare to life as he sat down.

Grand Admiral Thrawn appeared in blue-tinged miniature. "Excellent work, Hunter Fett," the recording began. "Please remain at Tatooine until the Executor arrives; I wish to speak to you personally."

Fett allowed himself a smirk beneath his helmet. He had a guess as to why the alien Grand Admiral wanted to talk to him; Fett had made a few preliminary investigations of Myrkr while he was waiting for the assassins to act, and Thrawn likely wished to discuss his findings with him.

The Executor would take the better part of a day to get here; Fett went to work, keeping busy until it arrived.

As the massive Super Star Destroyer Executor settled into orbit around the sandy sphere of Tatooine, accompanied by an Interdictor cruiser to keep ships both in and out of the system while the Emperor was there, Boba Fett guided his starship into the flagship's cavernous hangar bay.

He quickly made his way through the corridors of the city-sized warship to Thrawn's command room, where he found the alien commander standing near one wall, gazing at a large painting hung there.

"The Kuati are an interesting people," Thrawn said by way of greeting as Fett entered the command room. "They are, of course, genetically human, but their culture is unique. Your race has always fascinated me in that way; some human cultures are as different from one another as they are from the alien species with which they share this galaxy. Though they make up more than half the galaxy's population, humans do not share a unified culture. They cannot even agree which of their numerous worlds is the one from which their species originated."

"It doesn't really matter where humans came from," Fett said dismissively. "What matters is where they're going."

Thrawn turned to him with a slight smile. "A surprisingly profound insight, Hunter Fett." His features shifted into a more businesslike expression as he slowly moved to the center of the room, hands clasped behind his back. "The Emperor has business on the planet below," Thrawn continued. "From what I understand, this is his homeworld, and he has… sentimental reasons for initiating the takeover here."

Fett nodded gravely.

"However, you and I have business to conduct," Thrawn went on. "I wish you to acquire live specimens of the creatures whose images and genetic samples you sent me in your last report on Myrkr."

"Vornskrs and ysalamiri," Fett confirmed. "You want them for your experiments."

Thrawn nodded in confirmation. "Despite Lord Vader's personal beliefs which couch it in religion, the phenomenon known as the Force must be explained biologically and scientifically. From what little information I have been able to collect on the fauna of Myrkr, these ysalamiri appear to have some sort of effect on the Force, pushing it away from themselves somehow. Their natural predators, vornskrs, in turn appear to use the Force to track their prey."

"So you want to use these creatures against Jedi?" Fett said. "Use the vornskrs to track them and the ysalamiri to cut them off from the Force?"

Thrawn gave an approving nod. "Exactly. Although Lord Vader and his Sith Order appear to have entirely eradicated the Jedi Order aside from Luke Skywalker and the traitor Mara Jade, there is still the possibility that weapons against Force-users may still someday be needed. I believe in preparing for every possible contingency."

"Like if Vader someday decides you've outlived your usefulness?" Fett said darkly.

"I am more concerned about his apprentice Darth Nova, but yes, the possibility has occurred to me," Thrawn admitted.

"I've never gone in for all that superstition," Fett said by way of agreement. "Personally, I think the galaxy would be better off without the lot of them; history is just one long power struggle between the Sith and the Jedi, and everyone else keeps getting caught in the crossfire."

"You are not alone in that assessment, Hunter Fett," said Thrawn. "But that is a discussion for another time. You have your assignment."

Fett nodded and turned to go, leaving Thrawn behind with his art.

Several days later, Boba Fett stood working in the cargo bay of Slave I, which was parked in a clearing deep in the jungles of Myrkr. After a few days of study and experimentation, Fett had worked out a way to safely transport the small, reptilian ysalamiri, and so had a number of specimens on nutrient frames in several of his prisoner cages. Getting the vornskrs onboard, however, would prove somewhat more difficult.

That was where his 'partner' for this operation came in.

Thrawn had assigned Malysa Kolos to assist Fett on the mission. She was clearly not happy about it, but since Thrawn apparently had something on her -and so did Boba Fett, for that matter- she had no choice but to obey. Lord Vader's trusted aide was an ambitious young Sith, and had gotten herself into a bit of trouble about a year ago. In return for not revealing that she had once attempted to kill Vader's apprentice, both Fett and Thrawn frequently made demands of the young woman, forcing her to carry out clandestine missions in their respective interests.

"Are you sure this is the only way to do this?" the young Kuati woman demanded, standing just outside the cage in which Fett was working, her arms crossed and an irate expression on her face.

"It's the fastest and easiest," Fett replied, giving her a cold look through his visor as he finished hooking up the last nutrient frame. "It's in both our interests to get this job done quick, so stop complaining and get ready."

Kolos gave him a venomous glare as she pulled off her black outer robe, then bunched it into a ball and hurled it up into the open cockpit hatch. "Easy for you, maybe," she snapped, adjusting her black and dark gray tunic and trousers before stretching her leg muscles. "I'm the one that has to run around in the jungle and get chased by a pack of vicious predators."

"Force-users attract their attention," Fett reminded her. "They'll find you quick, so once they start chasing you, run as fast as you can back to the ship, and I'll stun them."

"I know the plan," Malysa said irritably. She tapped the lightsaber at her side. "I will defend myself if they get too close, though," she warned.

"Just make sure at least three or four live ones make it here," Fett said, pointing to the exit hatch with one gauntleted hand. "Now move."

Kolos glared at him one last time, muttering an uncomplimentary word in her native language before she left the ship, jogging off into the jungle.

Boba Fett set to work on his traps, ignoring the insult. Despite her attitude, both of them knew very well who would be the victor in a fight. Kolos' posturing merely served to soothe her Sith ego against the humiliation of being forced to serve another.

Fett allowed himself a scoff as he set up one of his portable blaster turrets in a key location outside. The only difference between Sith and Jedi he could see was that at least the Jedi didn't constantly fight amongst themselves in a never-ending struggle for dominance. The galaxy was little different with the Sith in charge in place of the Jedi; at least Vader was blunt enough to simply do things instead of consulting the largely useless Senate, but corruption still reigned at all levels.

Those were just the facts of life in a hard galaxy; Fett saw little point in trying to change things the way the Rebels did. Instead, he simply did what was necessary to secure his own future.

Malysa Kolos slowly made her way through the oppressively dark Myrkr jungle, her every sense and perception on high alert.

Be cautious, the voice of her Jedi teacher whispered warningly within her mind. This place is hostile to our kind. In the days of the Old Republic, the Jedi wisely avoided this planet as much as we could.

I can see why, Malysa replied. The Force feels very strange here. It's hard to get a sense of anything.

She walked on in silence for several more minutes, until again the voice of her Jedi teacher entered her thoughts. Up ahead, 'said' Master Qui-Gon. Three men. They know you're here.

Smugglers, probably, Malysa replied. Only criminals come to this place by choice, I would assume.

"Hands up!" a gruff, threatening voice suddenly said four meters ahead of her and to the left.

Malysa calmly raised her hands, watching as the man who had spoken and two others emerged from the foliage and moved toward her, blasters in their hands.

One of the men, a tall, well-dressed human male with dark hair and a trim beard, seemed to Malysa to be the leader. He eyed her thoughtfully, his sharp-witted mind moving behind his penetrating blue eyes.

"Now here's a curiosity, boys," the man said to the others. "What's a lone Sith Knight doing in a place like this without an entire division for backup?" The leader holstered his blaster and crossed his arms over his chest, continuing to gaze at her. "I know you're not here looking for us, otherwise we'd have picked up the aforementioned Imperial division. That makes you either one, a spy checking us out before the rest of your Imp colleagues arrive, or two, an idiot who doesn't know how dangerous this planet is for your kind." He grinned. "I'm leaning toward 'idiot', myself."

"I'm not here for you," Malysa said. "But my disappearance will be noted. If you let me go, I'll forget I ran into you. My backup doesn't need to know anything about it."

The leader laughed sardonically. "Young lady, I didn't get to where I am by believing anything a Sith says to me. The only thing that keeps me from having Chin here shoot you right now is curiosity as to what you're really doing on Myrkr."

"I'm here investigating some of the local fauna," Malysa said. She raised an eyebrow. "Look, I'm not here to hurt you. Can I put my hands down now?"

"Get her lightsaber," the leader said to the one he had identified as Chin, a large human male with dark hair arranged in a Froffli-style haircut.

Chin moved forward and grabbed Malysa's lightsaber off her belt, then stepped back and handed it to his boss, who turned it over in his hands, looking at it briefly before looking back up at Malysa.

"All right, you can put down your hands," he said amiably. He gestured at the forest around them with Malysa's lightsaber. "The lovely creatures in these trees will keep you from trying any of your little mind tricks, so as long as you don't make any sudden moves, you'll be fine." The leader crossed his arms again. "Now talk, Sith."

"Like I said, I'm here to investigate a few of the local animals," said Malysa, dropping her arms to her sides. "My master is interested in their effect on the Force. I'm here to take a few specimens, and then I'll be on my way."

"And which master would that be, Knight Kolos," the leader said, surprising her. "Darth Vader or Grand Admiral Thrawn?" He smirked. "Yes, I know who you are. You're part of the Executor's crew, and a personal aide to Lord Vader besides. I even know you're from Kuat and that you used to be a Jedi until Vader captured you at Tatooine. More recently, you managed to get yourself into a bit of trouble with Boba Fett, and you've been doing odd jobs and feeding him information on the side for around six months now."

"How could you possibly know all that?" Malysa said, astonished.

The dark-haired man merely smiled enigmatically. "I'm extremely well-connected," he said. "I have to be, in my chosen career." He gestured with his other hand, and his men lowered their weapons. "I believe you, Knight Kolos," he said. "Now that you've explained why you were sneaking around out here and triggered my perimeter sensors, it falls to me to decide what to do with you."

"Like I said," Malysa cautioned, "if you let me go, no one has to know you're here. But I'm not alone here, and it will be noticed if I don't report back within the hour."

"Well, you're not here with stormtroopers, otherwise there'd be a few with you," the smuggler chieftain observed. "That means your backup is either another Sith or a special forces squad."

"Or Boba Fett," Malysa retorted, enjoying the surprised looks on all three men's faces. "It's his mission, actually; I was assigned to help him." She cocked a challenging eyebrow. "Now, do you really think killing me is worth him coming after you?"

"Now why does Vader have Boba Fett out here chasing vornskrs?" the leader said to himself. "He doesn't even know we're here, does he?"

Malysa knew he did, but decided this could work to her advantage. "And he doesn't have to," she encouraged. "But when he finds out, he's probably going to come after you." She shrugged. "If I were you, I'd think about moving your base before Vader and Thrawn decide to drop a garrison here to follow up on Fett's investigation. The Grand Admiral's up to something with your little friends in the trees here, and I wouldn't want to be in his way when he comes here for more."

"She's right, Boss," said the other man. "If Thrawn wants them little lizards for something, this whole planet's gonna be crawlin' with Imps 'fore the month is out." He glanced over at the leader. "It ain't safe here no more."

The leader nodded. "Well, even if it was offered just to save your own skin, that's some valuable information, Miss Kolos." He tossed Malysa her lightsaber, which she caught with both hands. "Fair's fair," he went on. "You're free to go, on the condition that you don't tell your armored friend back there you ran into us." He narrowed his eyes in warning. "We've got turbolaser installations on the ground and several heavily armed ships," he said. "It'd be wise to keep this little meeting a secret until you're off-planet."

"Thank you," said Malysa, as she clipped her lightsaber back onto her belt. "By the way, if you're looking for a new place to hide, I suggest looking up Lando Calrissian. Mention my name; he'll hook you up with someplace good."

The leader frowned. "Now how does a Sith like you know Calrissian? Are you implying you're secretly an Alliance sympathizer?"

Now it was Malysa's turn for an enigmatic grin. "You know I used to be a Jedi," she said. "The Rebellion needs all the help it can get."

"This is a big risk you're taking, young lady," said the smuggler chief. "How do you know I won't turn around and sell you out to the Empire?"

"Because someone doesn't get a reputation like yours by stabbing people in the back, Mr. Karrde," Malysa said with another grin. "If there's such a thing as an honorable criminal, it's you."

Talon Karrde laughed, showing no surprise that she knew who he was. "I suppose that's as fitting a description as any," he agreed amusedly. "Tell you what, Kolos," he said, looking over at her. "If you ever get tired of being a double agent, there could be a place for you in my organization."

"I'll think about it," Malysa said with a smile. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go help a bounty hunter catch some vornskrs."

"Happy hunting," Karrde said with an answering smile. He and his men turned and vanished into the jungle.

Good work, Master Qui-Gon 'said' within her mind once they had left. Perhaps the Force guided you here for a reason.

Perhaps, Malysa agreed.

Boba Fett raised his blaster rifle when his ship's perimeter sensors beeped, drawing his attention to the motion tracker in the upper corner of his HUD. Six organics, moving toward him rapidly.

As he had suspected, the lead blip on his motion trackers turned out to be Malysa Kolos, who came running out of the jungle with her red lightsaber blazing, looking over her shoulder at the pursuing canines that nipped at her heels.

Fett fired at the lead vornskr, enveloping the sleek predator with concentric waves of stun beams. With a whimper, it slumped to the ground, rolling over with its momentum until it came to a twitching stop next to Slave I's hull.

The blaster turrets Fett had set up automatically targeted the rest of the pack, and after a brief storm of blue light, the other predators lay unconscious on the jungle floor.

Breathing heavily, Kolos approached, switching off her lightsaber as she neared Fett's location. He noticed several large gashes in her tunic, but only one, a comparatively small tear on her shoulder, showed signs of a wound beneath it.

"Those things are vicious," she said, reaching up to wipe away the sweat on her forehead. "Almost got me a couple times."

"Help me get them into the cages," Fett said by way of reply.

Kolos let out an annoyed sigh. "You're welcome," she said irritably.

Fett simply returned her gaze without emotion. "Move."

When they rendezvoused with the Executor, Boba Fett left the unloading of the specimens to Kolos and the Imperial cargo crew. He headed up to Thrawn's command room, where the Grand Admiral waited, examining a piece of art in his collection, an abstract sculpture this time.

"I see your mission was a success," Thrawn said as Fett entered the command room. "Payment has been transferred to your account."

Even as the alien commander spoke, Fett's helmet computer confirmed his statement, alerting him to a deposit in his holding account.

"I think Kolos was up to something while we were there," Fett said. "She hardly complained at me at all during the entire trip back."

Thrawn smiled slightly, looking at Fett over the top of the sculpture. "Young Kolos is indeed 'up to something', as you put it," he said. "Leave her to me. For now, I have another task for you."

"I'm listening," said Fett.

"Against my advice, the Emperor is taking the flagship, alone, to the Naboo system, where he intends to remain for at least several days on some errand he will not describe even to me." Thrawn moved around the sculpture to stand a few paces away from Fett. "I will compensate you for your time if you remain in the vicinity of that system while we are there so I can use your vessel as a relay to the rest of the fleet, should the Rebels take advantage of the tactical opportunity this provides them."

"All right," said Fett. "But I'm a busy man; my time isn't cheap."

"Of course not," Thrawn replied. "But I wish to make the precaution anyway. Lord Vader was most specific in his instructions, but regardless, I cannot leave this vessel open to attack."

Fett shrugged. "It's your money. I'll head straight there from here."

"Thank you, Hunter Fett," said Thrawn. He turned back to the sculpture, and Fett took this as his cue to leave.

On his way back down to the hangar, Boba Fett mulled over what Thrawn had told him, combining this with what he already knew. Several of his informants had warned Fett that something big was about to go down in the Imperial command; Fett took this to mean one of the Grand Admirals or one of the other higher-ups was plotting a coup attempt.

Vader's bizarre move of sequestering himself at Naboo opened the door for an attack; that much was definitely true. Fett ordinarily didn't take pointless watch-guard missions, but this was shaping up to be anything but pointless. Either the Rebels or whoever was organizing the Imperial coup would be fools not to take advantage.

And Boba Fett would be right in the middle of the action, ready to reap the rewards.


Author's Note: I know, I said I'd be launching this collection months ago, but I've mostly been focusing on one of my other fics in an effort to finish it so I can devote more attention to 'OMS: The New Jedi Order', which I will be launching soon. I know better than to try and write two large, plot-heavy stories at the same time; both tend to suffer a little when I do that, so I try to avoid it whenever possible. But rest assured, I'm only about ten or twelve chapters from the end of that other story, so I'll be getting back to work on this AU very soon.

I have plans for two more Boba Fett oneshots for this collection, further telling the story of what he was up to during 'Part III', as well as a few ideas set during the twenty years between 'Part III' and 'The New Jedi Order'.

As I mentioned in my note at the end of 'Part III', this collection is open to submissions. While I will be writing a number of stories myself, if you would like to write a short story set in this AU, please let me know, and I'll be happy to discuss ideas with you. To keep things organized, all stories will be posted here, by me, but you will of course get full credit. I'll be acting as the editor, correcting spelling and grammar, and making sure everything stays consistent, but other than that, you're free to write about anything you like. After these first three stories, I'll be posting a summary of the state of affairs in the galaxy following the Treaty of Alderaan, as well as some short outlines I've come up with for this collection, if you need ideas to get you started.

Finally, since it's early enough in the story that I can easily make changes, I have a contest for you: Ben Skywalker will be a character in 'The New Jedi Order', but due to the changes in this AU, he'll be closer to Jacen and Jaina's age. I'm considering giving Luke and Mara one or two more children, so if you have suggestions for names, either include them in your review of this chapter or send them to me in a PM. I'll take the suggestions I like best and put them in a poll in my profile, where you can vote on them for a month or two while I'm finishing up my other story. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Until next time, thank you for reading!