Situated at a terror-inducing height above the roaring and tossing of the dark, angry waves, the landing deck of the Kaminoan cloning facility had been desolate and deserted for a long while. Naturally, there should have been something of a stir when the sleek, shining ship cut through the death-black clouds, streaking like a meteor across the ash-black sky; but, as there were no living organisms to confront this strange new development, the fighter descended without incident.
Only one man lived here; or rather, many of the same man. But they were all securely contained within their respective transparisteel vats, silent and sleeping, only to be revived if the current copy of Starkiller failed to complete its primary objective. His sole objective, in fact.
Project Starkiller was bred to kill – and his creator had a list of very specific kills in mind.
That was where the new ship's pilot came in.
His identity was largely unknown, as there was no one to immediately confront him upon his transport's landing. The face behind that vibroblade-scarred, blaster-burned, grenade-seared, shrapnel-scratched, Mandalorian helmet was only familiar to his client: and he liked it that way.
The pilot's identity?
To begin with, he was sentient, to be sure.
He was hardly another member of the common rabble scattered about the galaxy.
He wasn't a smuggler, either; he had no time for such petty endeavors. He wanted Republic credits, yes – but honor meant something to him, and honor was something that scruffy smugglers and criminals sorely lacked.
He was not a scientist – those had left Kamino long ago, having completed the necessary research for cloning a sentient being of a high midi-chlorian count. Well, truth be told, they hadn't technically left. They had been... taken care of.
Lord Vader preferred to keep his secrets to himself. Unfortunately, the escape of his latest Starkiller initiate had... complicated things. In response, Vader had contacted the only man he could truly trust.
A man whose fighter's silhouette now emerged from the dense, thick covering of cumulonimbus clouds gathered above Kamino – the wings coming into view, now the cockpit, now the remainder of the craft, its surface illuminated by the forked bolts of lightning that flashed growlingly across the atmosphere at uncertain intervals.
The pilot of the fighter closing in was, if one was willing to extend the definition just slightly, a human. Perhaps not entirely – but then again, it seemed like most of those privileged enough to have been born human either would lose or had already lost that quality somewhere in the wars.
Yes, the pilot was human. But not in the way that Lord Vader was human – that hideous fusion of machine and man, breathing like a dying Podracer, glowing with switches, buttons, icons, and regulators, like a control panel instead of a person – but nor was the pilot human in the sense that a true man would welcome him as one of them.
The pilot of the fighter was, in fact, a clone.
A clone of a dead man.
Maybe he had more in common with Project Starkiller than he gave himself credit for. It was, truly, a shame that Starkiller was to be enslaved all over again. The pilot had a hunch that under more favorable conditions, they might have made good allies.
That's what happens to Force-sensitives, the pilot reflected as he carefully directed his ship closer towards the ground. Another flash of lightning left him half-blind for a split second, and he had to adjust the angle of the fighter's wings in response. A deafening roar shook the heavens, and then the dark swallowed it whole once again like a ravenous beast. Cold expanse, sunless and starless, hung over the cities of Kamino.
Light and dark: eternally locked in conflict.
Such was the fate of Jedi and Sith alike.
Always slaves to Light or Dark, the pilot thought. Never free.
The pilot thanked the forces of fate he had been born a soldier. He was an outsider, to be sure – a lone wolf, a pariah, a one-man army.
Not that it mattered to him.
In his better moments, the pilot recalled his father's hand upon his shoulder, his father's unquenchable fire of a heart, his father's hearty chuckle at the jokes of his son. In his darker moments, the pilot chose to forget them.
A shadow of a smile formed beneath his helmet as he considered what the higher powers would say of that which he had become.
He was one man. Fate had decreed that it was so, and he had relentlessly carved a name for himself in spite of it.
"One man,"the pilot chuckled to himself, recalling the Galactic Army's motto, "but the right man for the job."
The ship's engines quieted, turbulence swirling wildly around it as it neared the landing deck.
The pilot squared his shoulders and set his jaw. His half-smile deepened into a hard line. His eyes, momentarily alive with a mercenary's fire, became cold stone behind his T-visor.
Now, to business.
The Jedi target would fall. Of that, the pilot was certain.
The only question left was how much damage would get wreaked along the way.
The ex-Jedi in question had managed to break loose of the Dark Lord's bonds, tear his way through a well-armed battalion of stormtroopers, and take to the skies in one of the facility's own TIE fighters. Thus, the pilot had received a transmission from Lord Vader himself, detailing the assignment: find the most recent edition of the late Galen Marek, and teach him to acquiesce to his proper Master's grisly wishes.
The Jedi's previous resilience and impressive escape didn't bode well for a tracking or reconnaissance mission, let alone a capture or a hunt.
On the other hand, the pilot reminded himself, I've never cared about the odds.
The Jedi must be taken down. Taken down, and made to obey the orders of his superiors'.
After all, Darth Vader was growing tired of training madmen.
The pilot's ship landed with a spray of clean grey steam, its turbulence superheating the wet deck below so that wisps of smoke curved up and away from the base of the descending aircraft. The pilot cut the engines quickly. No need to draw too much attention. He leaned over to the control panel and activated his craft's cloaking device. Then he glanced outside the transparisteel viewport, trying to get a feel for his surroundings. There was nothing to be seen but clouds and rain and durasteel.
With a resigned sigh, the pilot squared his shoulders and stepped outside into the blinding, icy sheets of rain. He couldn't help but get the feeling that he didn't belong here.
Then again, nothing belonged here.
Nothing but shadows of a dead man, overseen by the shadow of a man whose heart and soul was equally dead.
The pilot's ship, the Slave I,was as alien to this place as a Jedi Knight to the fringes of the lawless Outer Rim. Amidst the seamless, smooth design of the Kaminoan facility – sterile, white, and cold – the Slave I's battle scars were all the more acute.
The Slave I was a ship that wounded and been wounded. It had the damage to prove it. So did its pilot. Machine and man alike had both been taught a hard, cruel lesson by this messed-up galaxy: armor would take the wounds.
And the bounty hunter who piloted Slave I had been building armor around his heart, soul, and body for a very long time.
A lifetime, in fact.
Boba Fett strode silently and confidently towards his rendezvous point, his boots clacking hollowly against the rain-soaked landing deck. He kept his blaster braced against his shoulder, gloved fingers ready to yank the trigger at a second's notice.
Fett had worked missions for Darth Vader before, and he had never quite managed to predict the Sith Lord. Betrayal was second-nature to the hulk of burned flesh and sick, glistening, cyborg armor; the death toll in his wake fell like dice in a Sabaac game, Imperial lives laid out like cards upon a gambling table, surrendered for a higher objective. And Fett didn't like being part of a game – regardless of what side he was on.
For now, he was a key player. Later on, perhaps not.
Boba Fett kept his gun at the ready.
In the distance, his grotesque form obscured by the thick mist and crashing rain, his cape billowing out behind him in the stormy whirlwind, Lord Vader stood ready to receive him. "Fett," he acknowledged. "True to your word."
The bounty hunter nodded, closing the distance between them in only a few brisk strides, and then he knelt, head lowered, at the feet of his employer. "At your service, my Lord."
A/N: Let me start by saying a gigantic THANK YOU! to my two reviewers. This chapter would not have happened if not for you.
I've shaken things up a bit, here, switching to the third-person omniscient as opposed to the first-person POV of the Starkiller clone. I wanted to do something with Boba Fett, so I started writing a brief narration that would lead up to his canon cutscene meeting with Darth Vader – but that intro went on for two and a half pages, so it became this. Maybe I'll write the cutscene later on.
I really, really appreciate the feedback, you two. You know who you are. Constructive criticism, comments, and support alike – it all meant so much to me. Especially when I clicked to your profiles, and realized (to my shock,) how much older you were than me. Getting positive feedback from someone your age really meant something.
Also, if you're looking for another Star Wars fic to read – my largest project currently is titled Why I Breathe. It's about three Jedi – Padawan Julia Star, Padawan Aaron Earthshaker, and Jedi Knight Kherev Ra'shah (all OCs) – as well as a rogue clone assisting them, called Thirty-nine (also an OC) – as they struggle to find meaning and hope in a world gone wrong, ripped apart by Order 66. Did I mention there's also an evil, immortal warrior called Darksaber who's seeking revenge on any and all Jedi? Oh, and a romance? And action? And it's getting SUPER LONG?
Hahaha... sorry for that rant. But if you want to check out Why I Breathe, feedback on that means more than anything.
I swear, if not for your fantastic feedback, this chapter would not have happened. Please R&R this latest update!
May the Force be with you all!