Nothing But Shadow

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RaithDuhal
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Nothing But Shadow

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:33 am

So here's my story...it's the first one I've ever done so don't be too harsh on me ;) Hopefully you guys can give me lots of input! Opinions on every little thing are great, but obviously the characters/story/conversations, etc. would be wonderful to get more insight on ^_^ I plan on doing more of these, so everything you guys can add to it will help me be that much better next time! Thanks again guys =-)

And here's a link to where you can chat/comment about the story! Please feel free to say anything and everything you want! I am excited to talk about every little aspect!

http://sw-e.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2 ... 34#p228434

(I posted this story in the Old Republic section as well, but saw this place and figured it would be an appropriate place to post it! ^_^)

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RaithDuhal
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Re: Nothing But Shadow

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:33 am

PART I

It’s funny how slippery the ground seems when doom is at your heels.

This was one of the many thoughts in the terrified mind of Reynald Juur as he hastily scurried down the next dark alleyway, staying just ahead of his heated pursuit.

Sure, he had gambling problems, many people did; why did they have to come for him now!

He was so close to his break, he could taste the next big score every time he rolled those dice in his hands!

If only they were more understanding, give him another few cycles, he could pay them back tenfold!

That was little consolation as a blaster bolt scorched inches above his right shoulder into the eye of a smiling half-naked Twi’Lek dancer on a poster in front of him.

Quickly, he pivoted right into another alley, peering frantically over his shoulder as his legs carried him as fast as they could…right into a trash can.

The world rushed up to meet him…and then he knew only darkness.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Yent grinned, throwing his facial horns and forehead ridges into a pattern resembling a rock beaten by countless millennia of sand.

“Nice catch, Buck.”

He grunted menacingly as he heavily elbowed a sturdily built human garbed in sleek light armor.

The bounty hunter returned the grunt as he appraised his newest mark, splayed across the alleyway; unconscious where he had crashed heavily into the ground.

Buck was not his name. It began as Scum, then Scumbucket, then Bucket, then just Buck.

He felt nothing towards the name, just as he felt nothing toward the man.

While he would have loved to end the Nikto’s life and that perpetual snarl on his face, he was in no situation to do so, and it seemed he never would be.

He found himself sighing.

“Not bad, Raith.”

Jori grinned as he clapped the bounty hunter playfully on the shoulder.

“Took him cleanly, only had to fire a warning shot, didn’t even have to break a sweat”.

Raith grinned in spite of himself at the older man’s praise.

While he in no way enjoyed his service to Gurji the Hutt, Jori had been like an uncle to him; watching out for him in an otherwise uncompromising environment.

Though there was no love lost between the two, there was respect. They had each others’ backs in a knife-in-your-back world.

Raith swifty moved to tie up the unconscious man; one of the hundreds he had similarly captured in his years of work. He made sure not to hurt him, or tie too tightly; only enough to secure him so he wouldn’t resist and be accidentally killed.

Gurji paid slightly better for bringing them in alive.

Raith told himself and others that was why he did what he did…but to himself, he knew he didn’t want to kill those who did not deserve it.

He had no quarrel with this man; he might have even been friends with him in another situation.

But this was his situation.

He was a bounty hunter, the mark his prey.

Raith turned to look at the two men; so different in appearance and personality, yet united by their work for the despicable Hutt.

They weren’t here to help him, they were here as an insurance policy; Yent never failed to remind him of that.

He didn’t like either of them, figured he never would, but he had worked with these two for most of his days, and there was a certain comfort in that.

A small one, but that was as much as he could hope for with his lot in life.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

He was back in that small apartment.

The grey duracrete walls were slightly cracked, the yellow paint had long ago faded.

Somehow, it seemed to fit the mood of the place.

His sister smiled across from him, her brown eyes twinkling with a fire no hardship could stifle.

He giggled in excitement, knowing their game about to begin.

They had played “Hide and Scout” for all their young life, one hiding and the other having to track them down.

Half the time the giggling gave them away.

Half the time their father scolded them and locked them back in their room.

This time would be different; he would find the best hiding spot he could!

He’d sneak behind the building behind the dumpster; Isawen would never find him there!

Raith stealthily sneaked out of their small bedroom, peering into the kitchen and living area for signs of his father. As his sister’s voice slowly counted down, he knew his time was limited and swiftly dashed across the rough floor and out the battered front door.

Pausing quickly outside, he noticed something was wrong.

Where was his father?

He should have been on the couch watching his holodramas.

He quickly jettisoned the thought from his mind though; he was going to win this game!

As he stepped onto the trash-littered street, he looked up at the stars and took a moment to catch his breath.

What he would give to be able to travel those stars with Isawen, free from the grime of this place.

Maybe one day father would take them away…maybe one day they would find a better life together.

Thoughts for another time.

For now, victory was going to be his!

Turning down the alley behind the building, the young Raith quickly ducked behind the dumpster; knowing Isawen would not take long to exhaust all options within the small apartment.

Minute by slow minute creeped by, and Raith knew his victory would soon be at hand. Before long, she would be shouting in frustration and he could return triumphant!

However, it was not her voice he heard moments later, but his fathers’ along with two others speaking hurriedly in hushed tones. He slowly peeked around the corner of the dumpster and watched the proceeding action carefully.

The first man was one of the largest men Raith had ever seen.

In the dim light, Raith could make out a large scar across the man’s face, from his right ear to his chin.

Scar-face poked his father in the chest and put his face inches from the smaller man.

“Listen, scumbag, you haven’t been paying us the credits we’re due, and Gurji does not wait for payments.”

As if the point required more emphasis, he grabbed the smaller man by the throat and threw him to the ground.

Raith squirmed in place as he watched his father get abused, but for some reason he knew that if he moved now, he would die.

The point became obvious when the second thug drew a blaster pistol and leveled it at his father’s head.

The Rodian’s tapered snout twitched as he wasted no time on diplomacy.

“You pay us now, or you die”.

Raith’s life was forever changed with his father’s next words.

“Listen! WAIT! You can have my kids…The boy is tough and his sister is a pretty thing. Gurji can use them however he wants. Please, just let me live!”

The boy’s mouth went dry as he slipped and fell to the ground in shock.

All three men turned to face him.

Then he knew only darkness.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Raith shouted as he awoke from his nightmare, covered in sweat.

The darkness was not his friend.

As a bounty hunter, the night brought him the advantage against his prey.

As a person, he feared it more than anything else.

He steadied himself against his firm bed as his eyes slowly registered their surroundings.

The grey duracrete walls and floors were reminiscent of his old bedroom, only colder, for there was no paint to fade.

He slowly slid off from his cot and eyed his locked door.

He was a slave.

That burden was no less onerous now than it was the day he was first taken from his home to Gurji’s palace on Hutta.

As he looked outside the bars of his door down the slave “housing” corridor, he was reminded again what separated him from the others.

Gurji treated his slaves well, he gave them food, he gave them “protection”, he gave them men and women…he even gave them spice.

Of course, Gurji didn’t “give” them anything.

He paid his slaves credits for their labors.

And then he generously would “loan” them the extra credits for him to provide them with luxuries.

Of course, the slaves never lived long enough to repay the debt.

They were slaves in everything but name; glorified “servants” with chains of money rather than durasteel.

Raith was different, slowly but surely he had been saving credits.

Of course, he was paid more than most of the other slaves; he was very good at his job, and had always been loyal.

Plus, Gurji knew he was not only paying off his debt, but his sister’s as well.

As Raith slowly began his disheartening trek down the hall towards the armory, he couldn’t help but think of the corpulent crime lord he would soon be approaching.

He knew Gurji had another job for him; he always did.

When he was prepared, Gurji threw in a few extra credits.

Pride was not an issue when a being owned your life.

As he walked down the spartan halls, he noticed the slumped shoulders of his fellow slaves and gave a few of them smiles of encouragement.

The blank looks they returned revealed the tamed gleam in their eyes.

He felt pity for their weary souls.

They didn’t deserve this life any more than he did.

But pity did not amount to action.

Raith needed every credit he could get just to get himself and his sister free; he couldn’t be concerned with the fates of the others.

That didn’t make it any easier to look into their empty eyes.

Finally he reached the armory, well defended by Rodian and Gamorrean guards.

Vibro lances in hand, Tantel armor shining on their bodies, their eyes were as cold as stone.

Raith smiled grimly as he passed, knowing that deep down the guards of this place feared him.

With the checkpoint behind him, he swiftly approached the cluttered desk of the elderly clerk.

The ancient Duro gazed at him with his beady red eyes before a sarcastic smile spread across his lipless mouth.

“Good to see you, Raith”.

The bounty hunter grinned without humor and gestured with two fingers over his brow in greeting.

“Fine morning on this slimehole, eh Bol?”

The old man wasted no time on pleasantries.

Straight to business; he would do his Neimodian cousins proud.

“Nothing out of the ordinary; you want the usual gear? Light Plasteel Composite Armor? Blade in the left wrist, flamethrower on the right? EE7 Carbine with your sight and grips?”

Raith flashed a friendly grin and winked at his long time colleague.

“You know me all too well.”

The Duro only snorted in response.

“I know your work all too well.”

The bounty hunter threw his hands in the air as if there wasn’t anything they could do about it.

“Regardless, we’re both cursed.”

“I can’t dispute you there.”

Raith quickly strapped on his sleek black armor and grabbed the carbine before sliding it into the holster on his back. He slid a holdout blaster into his hip holster, made sure his knife sprang cleanly out of his left wrist, and took a few stretches to make sure the armor fit properly.

Satisfied, he turned to the Duro as he prepared to meet his nefarious master.

“All good here, I’m off to see the boss…take care of yourself Bol.”

The Duro nodded and shooed him out of the room.

“You too, be careful out there, kid.”

As Raith began to walk away, he stopped and looked back to the old clerk.

“It’s almost over Bol, I’m almost there.”

For what seemed like the hundredth time, Bol smiled in reply and winked.

“I know, kid, now don’t keep Gurji waiting.”

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

As he entered the Grand Chamber of Gurji’s Palace, Raith took in the familiar sights and smells.

Foods and furniture from all corners of the galaxy were in this room, and the slaves were no less diverse.

Wookies, Rodians, Twi’Leks, Niktos, Humans, Bith, Bothans, even a few Mon Calamari.

They danced, served food, played music, and massaged patrons all across the hall.

Sometimes they were nothing more than footstools for their patrons.

At its head lay the corpulent slug with his many chins, playing with his newest slave whilst sliding slimy nunas down his throat.

Wasting no time, Raith strode through the amoral morass to reach his mighty “liege”; that he may rid himself of the place all the sooner.

He noticed his sister in the crowd, softly swaying to the gentle tune of a Bith and Twi’Lek musical duo.

She flashed him a brilliant smile as he tossed her a wink in reply.

Every time Raith saw her serving this slimeball, his resolve grew stronger to give her a life where she… no… they, could know happiness.

Thoughts for another time.

As he neared the great Hutt’s throne, Raith bowed low in obeisance.

“What would you have me do?”

Gurji boomed a loud laugh across the chamber, curling his lengthy tail and bringing his grubby little hands together before him.

“My boy, you never cease to amaze me with your endless success. You always bring me my prey still breathing; your father did not know your value.”

Raith smiled but inwardly seethed.

With his dramatics, Gurji fancied himself the cliché holovid villain…

“It’s nothing.”

The slimy slug’s eyes blinked slowly as he considered his experienced associate.

“Surely you deserve more than simply credits! Spice! Luxury! Food! Women!”

Raith’s cold stare was more than answer enough.

“Men,then, perhaps?”

Again the great Hutt let out a loud belly rattling chortle.

This time the bounty hunter’s stare could freeze an inferno. The Hutt wasted no more time and quickly motioned for his majordomo.

Out came the Toydarian Culjo, his wings flapping frantically in a simpering display to appease his lord.

He quickly looked to the bounty hunter and motioned for him to follow, before turning around and flying to the back exit towards the hangar.

Raith knew something was different about this mission as he walked slowly past the opulent throne.

Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Jori shadowing him, and a sharp pain in his side was the tell-tale physical abuse that verified Yent’s presence.

“Looks like we have adventure before us, eh Buck?”

The bounty hunter kept his pace as he purposefully ignored the harassment.

“Looks that way Yent, how did you figure that one out?”

The vicious alien glared daggers at the younger man’s back before donning his cruel imitation of a smile.

“Don’t be smart with me, Buck, Gurji won’t dock me credits if I bring you back any worse for wear.”

Raith smiled at the threat and knew it for the bluff it was. Nonetheless, his torment had only increased in the years he had worked for Gurji, and he was sure it would only get worse before it got better.

Winding through the labyrinthine complex, they finally arrived at the hangar bay, where ships of various size and states of repair were taking off, landing, and being worked on.

Throughout the hustle and bustle, the tone of the place was one of business; and not of the respectable kind.

The flitting Toydarian turned to the bounty hunter and regarded him quizzically.

“You do good work, eh? Gurji got good job for you this’a time!”

Raith spread his hands to stop the excitable alien before he began. This wasn’t a unique pitch from Culjo.

“Let me guess…we fly somewhere, find somebody, scare them, shoot at them, and then they come back here to face some unspeakable punishments?”

“Well…uh…yes, but there’s more to it than that!”, with this, the Toydarian ducked in closer and whispered in excited yet hushed tones, “This time, it’s Jedi!”

Now that was a change.

Gurji didn’t usually touch Jedi.

He didn’t like the way they interfered with his line of work, but he knew that as long as he didn’t step on their toes, they were unlikely to get in his way.

Something was strange about this.

As if sensing the younger man’s hesitation, the Toydarian elaborated.

“Yeah…soo...you see, we had some trouble with these two Jedi wise-guys who were trying to shut down a particularly profitable operation on Coruscant.”

He fingered his scraggly-bearded chin as he shifted his shoulders, as if shaking off the dirty business.

“They muddled where they shouldn’t…and our boys had to…let’s just say, put them down. Only one of them got away! But not before killing a lot of men and ruining a lot of good product. You gotta find this guy and take him down, we don’t want no more trouble with those Jedi!”

Raith nodded his head calmly and shrugged as he spread his hands.

“Find the Jedi, take him down, bring him back. Nothing but another day. Where was he last headed for?”

The Toydarian sported a crooked-tooth smile as he continued his briefing.

“Ord Mantell, his family lives on the place, maybe start there…Good luck finding him in that hellhole though.”

The Toydarian handed him a datacard with as much information as Gurji’s slicers could find on the Jedi from the surveillance on Coruscant…wish wasn’t too much.

Raith grabbed the data card and slid it into his datapad before winking at the grumpy alien.

“Always knew you for an optimist Culjo.”

Not missing a beat, the blue-skinned alien quipped a reply.

“Always knew you for a wise-ass.”

The bounty hunter grabbed his heart in exaggerated surprise.

“So you do know me! I’m touched.”

The Toydarian adopted a bemused expression before smirking slyly.

“You done? Get out of here before I tell Gurji you’re going to run on him.”

Taking the sham in stride, Raith strolled towards their shuttle across the hangar.

As he stepped onto the boarding ramp, he turned to Jori and Yent.

“This won’t be easy. I’ve never faced Jedi before, but if half of what I heard is true….”

Jori shook his head and motioned to get onto the transport.

“Don’t worry, Gurji has faith in your abilities.”

Raith grinned and shot back.

“Sure he doesn’t just want me dead?”

Yent’s facial horns splayed across his face as he snarled viciously.

“Not as much as I do.”

As the three boarded their YT-270, the stock freighter groaned like an angry gurrcat as the engines purred on.

Strapping himself in, the bounty hunter knew that somehow, this mission was going to change his life.

Maybe this would be his big break.

Maybe after this, Gurji would give him his freedom.

Maybe he would only find his death.

Sometimes, Raith didn’t know which one he would prefer.

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RaithDuhal
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Part 2

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:34 am

PART II

Nirma and Julin Polist lived a humble life in their small urban home outside Ord Mantell’s primary starport.

Their aspirations were few beyond their son being happy and having each other. They got by day to day, which was more than most on this despondent planet could say.

It seemed that conditions in Ord Mantell reflected those in the galaxy at large these days.

War, violence, and injustice seemed to lurk around every dark corner. All one could do sometimes was just hold tight to those things one held dear and try to find happiness.

That is what the Polist family found themselves doing as they sat down to eat their dinner.

The light above them cast shadows throughout the room, as if their very home could not be sheltered from the darkness of the times.

Their plates had a small brown slab of meat with a yellowish paste on the side. Nuna steaks were not the tastiest morsels in the galaxy, but they were filling and it was more than most families on this planet could say they enjoyed. The yurgo beans that the paste consisted of provided most of the nutrition for the poor on Ord Mantell. It could grow in darker areas and required little water or maintenance, and when it was mashed up, it didn’t even taste that bad.

They heard more blaster shots outside and knew that the street violence was stirring up again.

Gang fights over neighborhoods were only getting fiercer as the spice trade profited in these desperate times.

However, rather than fade away, it seemed the cacophony was only getting closer.

The plates shook slightly as the house was buffeted by shockwaves from the impact of a fragmentation grenade across the street.

Finally, there was silence.

The eyes of the family were upon the door, intent upon the sounds of the conflict, ignorant of lurking danger behind them.

The calm was broken along with their window as a red blur smashed through the back of the room and into the middle of their kitchen. Before the family could even react, a blaster pistol was being aimed at their heads.

Enjoying the sport, the intruder fired a warning shot inches above Nirma’s face; right into the portrait of a young man on the wall.

“Move and you die.”

The front door was thrown open as two humans sauntered in.

The first was of average height but clearly well muscled; wearing light armor that hardly inhibited his quick movements. His dark eyes shone with a bright intensity as he swiftly scanned the room before sliding his carbine out of its holster and taking a position at the door.

The second man was a bit taller and much older, his grey eyes shining brighter than the remains of his tattered grey hair. Grizzled with age and scars that told of tales and experiences many others would not have lived through. He turned to the armored man and patted his shoulder as he walked forward to address his angry compatriot.

“Easy there Yent, we don’t want to scare these folks to death. It’s much too early for that.”

The red Nikto’s face curled up into a snarling visage, displaying his prominent facial horns.

“Stow it Jori, I call the shots.”

Jori grinned and turned to look at the armored man, rolling his eyes when the Nikto could not see.

“See what we have to work with Raith? It’s a wonder we ever accomplish anything.”

Raith grinned at the joke, not truly finding it funny, but thinking of emptying his EE7 into that wrinkle-faced scumbag.

“His ugliness has its uses; our intimidation grows by leaps and bounds through his appearance alone!”

The Nikto flattened his mouth flaps, as close to a smile as his species could get, and stepped quickly over to the couple.

Nirma shrieked in fear but was silenced by a lightning fast backhand from the brutal alien.

She crashed out of her chair onto the floor, her hands clutching her bleeding cheek. Julin stood up in protest, but as he raised his hands Yent was already in motion, throwing a hard punch to his stomach before a swift uppercut to his jaw sent the unfortunate man to the ground in a battered pile.

Before the fight had even begun, it was over.

Raith watched the innocent couple writhing in pain on the floor and grimaced inwardly.

Say what you want about Yent…wrinkle-face could fight.

But this wasn’t true fighting.

It was bullying at its worst, something Yent craved more than any spice.

Jori shook his head and walked over to the red Nikto before firmly gripping his shoulder.

“Enough, Yent. You’ve gotten your anger out, now we can actually start.”

The villainous thug flexed his muscles and cracked his neck slowly. Coldly eyeing the older man, he slowly nodded and backed away.

Jori lowered himself to his knees and gently offered Nirma a hand before lifting her back up to her seat.

Julin managed to painfully drag himself back into his own as he watched this intruder destroy what little happiness he had worked so hard to achieve.

The older criminal spread his hands in peace as his face drew up in his roguish grin.

“Now now, my good people. So sorry about all that, we don’t want to use violence, but you see this is a very pressing issue.”

He adopted his disarming smile before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a datapad.

“You see, we’re after an associate of ours. He ran into some trouble with our boss and he needs to be brought back into the fold. Have you seen this man before?”

He played the datapad in the view of the couple and waited to see their reaction.

Raith noticed that while outwardly they both seemed neutral towards the picture, the woman had taken a furtive glance towards that photo Yent had shot.

Keeping his carbine locked onto the exchange, he took a few small steps to bring him closer to the photo.

Shifting his view from the enfolding scene, he grabbed it and quickly looked it over.

A man in his later teens was pictured, his dark hair closely cropped and his grey eyes shining with pride.

He looked the picture perfect soldier. Motivated. Strong. But he wasn’t wearing any uniform he could discern. Interesting…

“I think we got something here Jor.”

Raith tossed the photo to the older man, who caught it without even looking back.

“Thanks, kid.”

Giving the photo a quick glance, Jori put it in front of the family and spoke with a calm voice…but one that hinted of dark retribution should they fail him.

“Tell me who this is.”

Julin cleared his throat and Nirma looked down at the floor. Neither budged after that.

“So…we must do this the hard way hmm? I do so hate doing that.”

Jori looked at Raith and shrugged helplessly, then gave the signal to the barbaric red alien.

Wasting no time, Yent threw his pistol to the ground and began binding both of the couple to their chairs.

For what seemed an interminable time, their pained screams were heard as he burned them…cut them…beat them...stabbed them…sliced them…and crushed them.

Raith watched every moment of it.

He was horrified by the sheer brutality of the savage Nikto, and even more appalled by the knowledge that this could truly go on for days.

Yent knew what he was doing.

He wasn’t killing these people; he was simply making them experience more pain than they had ever known while still remaining functional.

Finally, Jori raised a hand, stopping the violent brute’s fist in midair.

“Enough.”

The vicious Nikto stepped back and admired his bloodied hands, proud of his handiwork, before cracking his neck and picked his blaster pistol back up.

Jori then drew his own and calmly leveled it right at the forehead of the bloody woman.

“I am truly sorry…but this is the only way your husband is going to talk to us.”

He turned to look Julin in the eyes as he pressed the pistol deeper into her skin.

“Where is the boy?”

Julin stuttered in absolute fear.

“Y-y-y-you knew he was our s-s-son?”

The older man wasted no more words on games.

“Of course we knew. Now tell us where he is and I can make this a lot less painful for you both…please.”

As Jori glanced into the woman’s determined eyes, he knew this was not going to be easy.

How stubborn people could be; why couldn’t they just cooperate?

Life was so much easier when people just folded bad cards.

He tightened his grip on the pistol and acknowledged that he was doing this for the right reason. If she would only tell him what he wanted to know, this never had to come to pass. This wasn’t his fault.

Nirma knew her end was upon her when she looked at the cold man’s arm.

His muscles were tense, ready to spring.

She had lived a long life of mediocrity, yet ultimately she had found happiness with her beloved Julin and her strong son.

She did not fear death; she would protect her boy no matter the cost.

Unfortunately, he did not feel the same way.

A panel in the floor suddenly slid away and a man jumped straight out of it, impossibly high.

A yellow blur flashed and then there was no more threat to his mother.

Jori shrieked as he looked down at where his hand had once been.

How was he going to play cards now?

This was his last coherent thought before he was flying back into the wall and collapsing into a bruised pile on the floor.

Raith watched, stunned, as the Jedi threw Jori back into the wall with nothing but a motion of his hand.

What power he had.

That power wouldn’t save him from the bounty hunter though.

He knew he could shoot the distracted Jedi. Knew he could shoot him in just one of 17 places and he would be crumpled on the ground within moments.

But for the first time in his life, Raith hesitated and held his shot.

In the end, it didn’t matter.

Yent didn’t hesitate.

The Jedi was magnificent in his dispatching of Jori, but he had made a critical error.

In the few moments he had taken care of the older man, Yent had shaken off his surprise and leveled his blaster. Before the Jedi could fully face him, he had already pumped three bolts into the unfortunate young man.

Rukar Polist had not known such pain in his entire life.

He felt as if his insides were going to implode as he felt sharp blasts of agony in his right arm, shoulder and leg.

His lightsaber clattered noisily on the duracrete floor as his body quickly followed suit. As he began shaking uncontrollably, his head tilted to the left and he saw his mothers eyes filled with tears.

She was so proud of him.

He wished he would live long enough to see them again.

He fought to stay conscious through the pain, but the darkness called him.

As they watched their son’s eyes close, Nirma shrieked in grief while Julin could only stared dumbfounded.

The pained silence was broken by the nefarious red-skinned bully.

“Well damned if I am not one talented shot; you could learn a little something, Buck.”

Yent twirled his pistol in his hand as he talked. He turned to the grieving couple as his voice took on a more menacing tone.

“Your son has wounded my partner…I may not like the guy, but there are repercussions.”

His mouth flaps flattened again in that terrible imitation of a smile, and he lowered the pistol to Nirma’s head.

She stared up at him with grief in her eyes, but no fear of death; only anger that her only son would suffer at the hands of these brutes.

Her last thoughts before the blaster sounded were of holding little baby Rukar in her arms.

The blaster rang out in the night, the crisp sound of compressed energy released in a terrible display of destruction.

The heavy thud of the resulting corpse hitting the ground completed the devastation.

Julin could not open his eyes to face the sight of his murdered wife; the smell of burning ozone alone was enough to make him vomit. The dull sound of the corpse might as well have been the lid of his life being closed. Tears slowly streamed his face as he came to the realization that everything he loved was gone.

Where was justice in this galaxy?

The silence in the room dragged on for what seemed like eternity…before Raith slowly lowered his carbine.

The corpse that had once been Yent had a tidy hole burned straight through its head from ear to ear. Raith smiled in spite of himself.

Sure, Yent could fight, but Buck was better.

He stood there for a few moments, contemplating the repercussions of his actions.

He was a dead man.

He had killed one of Gurji’s associates.

One of the very “handlers” that were supposed to keep him tame.

It didn’t matter that Gurji hated Yent as much as he did; he had betrayed his master. But that paled beside the anger and fear interwoven with his next thought.

Isawen.

Gurji would have her killed…worse, he would have her tortured and spice-addicted.

He had held this over Raith’s head since he was a little boy, and he knew it was more than a bluff.

But she was one of his best dancers, and she brought him many credits from her tips.

More importantly, Gurji knew if he laid a hand on her, the bounty hunter would do anything and everything in the galaxy to kill him.

Gurji knew Raith was a dangerous man to make angry.

The conflicted slave knew it was possible to go back and make peace.

He knew he could bring this Jedi before the great slug and make amends.

But as he watched the tears stream down Julin’s face, he also knew he couldn’t do it. He didn’t want to do it.

This was his one shot at freedom.

Jori stirred against the wall and shook the torn bounty hunter from his reverie.

“I feel like I tangled with an angry ronto…even Jyleesa didn’t leave me feeling like this in the morning…what the hell happened here, kid?”

The older man glanced across the room at the cooling corpse of his former partner.

The bounty hunter couldn’t help but grin at the reference to one of Gurji’s more…‘accessible’…slaves.

“The bastard got wrinkle-face too?”

He whistled in appreciation before grunting in obvious pain as he tried to rise. He swiftly abandoned the maneuver as more trouble than it wass worth. Instead, he looked down at where his hand used to be, and smirked.

“Always did wonder what one of those mechanical hands would be like.”

This time when Jori looked at Raith he saw something different in his eyes…the Jedi didn’t kill Yent.

In those fiery dark eyes, he saw the brute’s death.

He saw his own too.

“So, what’ll it be, kid? You know he’ll kill the girl.”

The armored man calmly shook his head in reply.

“No.”

The older man furrowed his brow and shrugged.

“You going to do me in as well?”

The bounty hunter slowly walked over to his long-time associate and regarded him with his hand resting on his holdout blaster.

Jori lowered his head to the ground, ashamed that this would be his end.

When no blaster sounded, he tentatively looked back up to see Raith extending his hand to pick him up. The older man accepted it and struggled to find his feet once more.

He knew he liked the kid for a reason.

Raith ensured Jori could stand before letting go. Throwing his arm around the wounded man’s shoulder, he walked him over to the door before ducking in closer to calmly whisper to him.

“You can go Jori, but tell Gurji something for me.”

Jori nodded gratefully and grinned, then grimaced in pain and held his left hand.

Through gritted teeth he grunted.

“Name it, kid.”

“Tell him if he so much as touches a hair on my sister…or brings men or spice anywhere near her…he will only live long enough to regret it…I’ll see him when I can pay for both our debts.”

Jori clasped the bounty hunter’s forearm with his good hand as they looked into each others’ eyes.

The two men nodded, and the old handler swiftly walked out the front door; to return to the life they both wanted to leave behind.

Raith watched him go and felt his chest tighten a bit.

That might be the last time he saw Jori.

For some reason, that made him sad. Was his old handler the closest thing to a friend he had ever had?

Thoughts for another time.

The bounty hunter walked over to the Jedi’s parents and removed their bonds, then reached for the kolto stimpacks on his belt. Nirma whimpered in fear as he reached for her, only relaxing as the rejuvenative stimulant pumped its healing agents into her veins.

Moments later he was preparing to use his third on the downed Jedi when he paused.

The young man had nearly taken out Jori in the time it took an average soldier to blink. The hunter in his veins considered the predicament and he turned to regard the slowly recovering mother.

“Is your son a trustworthy man? I didn’t live this long to die rescuing my own mark.”

She didn’t hesitate in responding; her boy’s life depended on this.

“Yes, he only recently came back to us…but he’s a good boy. He’s just…confused.”

Raith nodded, deciding he could puzzle that one out later, and injected the Jedi in the arm.

Rukar groaned and rolled over onto his back, his sharp grey eyes regaining their focus. As they settled on the bounty hunter above him, he called to his lightsaber and felt its comforting metallic grip in his hand.

Before he could activate his sulfurous blade, the bounty hunter firmly crushed his wrist into the ground as he lowered his face to better address the Jedi.

“Don’t resist. I’m not the one who hurt you.”

While every muscle in Rukar’s body wanted to end this scumbag’s life…he noticed the armored man’s eyes, and for some reason he found himself trusting him.

Was this the “will of the Force” his master had so often mentioned?

He relaxed his muscles and released the saber as the mysterious intruder lifted his foot and offered him a hand.

He took the proffered hand and strained to pick himself up; Raith lifted him easily and clapped him on the shoulder.

“You’ve got some nice moves; Jori won’t be forgetting that for the rest of his days. What’s your name?”

“Rukar. Rukar Polist. Thanks…for saving me. For saving my family. ”

“It’s nothing.”

Raith turned to look at the door. Wondering where he would go next.

His eyes then found Rukar’s battered family; Julin tenderly holding his wounded wife in his arms, consoling her that everything would be okay.

He averted his eyes until Rukar shifted back into his view.

“It’s not over though, is it? They’ll be back for me with more men, and more guns.”

It wasn’t a question.

Raith nodded and absently wondered why he was still here. His job was over, his employment terminated, and his sister needed to be freed.

He should be pursuing better paying work to get her off Hutta as soon as possible.

But Rukar needed him, his family needed him…and Raith wasn’t going to abandon more people to the great Hutt’s cruelty.

Rukar gripped his lightsaber tightly and clenched his jaw.

If they meant to take him, he would make them pay for it many times over. His master had always warned him against anger…but look where that had gotten him.

One look at Raith removed the notion from his mind.

If just 3 men had so thoroughly beaten him, what chance did he stand against an army?

For the first time in his young life, the Jedi felt truly defeated. Even in the horrible debacle on Coruscant, he had made many thugs pay with their lives and only the appearance of those damn droids had driven him off.

His advantage then was he had nothing to lose; now he had his family back.

He glanced at the bounty hunter who was rapidly interfacing with his datapad, then glancee back at his family who had begun to collect themselves and approach their wounded son.

“I’ll be okay ma, don’t worry.”

As if in protest, he winced sharply as he shifted his shoulder to hug her.

His mother’s eyes looked plaintively into his own.

“What are we going to do now, Ruk? We have nowhere else to go.”

The young Jedi was without answers, but could only look to his unlikely savior.

“What are…wait, you never told me your name?”

The bounty hunter absently continued to interact with his datapad as he responded.

“No. I didn’t…It’s Raith.”

The Jedi’s brow furrowed in confusion.

“Raith? No last name?”

His savior only snorted.

“None that matters.”

Rukar shrugged it off as a discussion for another time, when death was not so certain.

“What are we going to do?”

Raith dropped his datapad to his side as he looked the young Jedi in his steel-grey eyes.

“We? Who said I was going with you?”

Rukar smiled at the bounty hunter’s stubbornness.

Even one untrained as he could see that the Force veritably swirled about the man; there was a good in him that he could not bury if he tried.

He repeated the question.

“What are we going to do?”

Raith considered his options.

He could take the family to a hiding place in some armpit of the galaxy, and then go find his own way.

He could still just leave them here while he tried to find them safe haven.

They could take the fight to Gurji...and all die trying…

There was really only one option.

“We get out of this place. They know you live here and they’ll be back. If not for you, then for your parents as leverage.”

Rukar nodded stoically but furrowed his brow again in confusion.

“But…where will we go?”

Raith looked up at the younger man and it was clear that his mind had been made up.

He motioned for the family to follow him and then started for the door.

He had known all along what they were going to do.

There was only one option.

“Home…”

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RaithDuhal
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Part 3

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:36 am

PART III

The stars shone brightly in the night sky, softly throwing shadows across the trash-strewn street.

Somewhere a cat hissed as a spice-head stumbled past.

The miniature Womp Rats were a problem in this part of town, and only an excess of Correlian Swampbrow Cats could turn the tide.

One such cat found itself perched upon the ledge of an outlying apartment as its neon green eyes surveyed the scene below it.

Four humans walked along the barren sidewalk.

Heading the group was an armored man, a sleek black carbine in hand, his eyes scanning the streets.

To his right walked a tall man, his stature stiff and upright, and his eyes straight ahead.

An older man and woman were holding hands as they walked shortly behind the others.

The cat blinked as it watched the display and thought it interesting to see so many people out on the streets at once. It never saw more than one or two, and was quick to rub against their legs in the hope of food.

Something different was in the air tonight.

The cat scampered off the ledge; perhaps it could find a rat for its meal. Perhaps it would go hungry.

It was not the only being on Ord Mantell facing such a fate.

The group stopped as they approached a forlorn looking tenement building.

The durocrete walls were pitted where blaster bolts had torn chunks from them. Patches of graffiti were strewn across the walls alongside pictures and games from the poor children who inhabited the place.

Still, lights and sounds of habitation defied its run-down appearance.

Raith took a deep breath as he looked at the defiant building.

Twenty years.

It had been twenty years since Gurji’s slavers had dragged him from his home with his sister in tow.

He hadn’t wanted to come back.

He didn’t want his father’s blood on his hands.

One look back at his wounded companions reminded him of why he was here.

Gurji would have eyes watching the spaceport; there was no way they could leave the planet when they were in their current state. They needed a place to rest and restore their bodies and spirits before deciding on their next course of action.

That didn’t make this any easier.

Rukar watched as his mysterious companion stood scrutinizing the building.

The bounty hunter was particularly hard to read.

Any impressions he could glean through the Force were hazy at best; even though it practically swirled around the armored man.

However, he didn’t need the Force to sense the inner turmoil within the bounty hunter, and knew he could only wait until his conflicted companion was ready.

Raith finally took his first step onto the stairs leading up to the front door. The taller Jedi moved to join him, but the bounty hunter shook his head and waved him off.

He needed to do this part alone.

At the door, he swiftly typed in the password to enter the building. He smirked to himself as the light flashed green and the door slid open.

Of course it hadn’t been changed. It probably hadn’t been changed since this building was put up.

As he stepped into the place, it was just as he remembered it. The tattered walls covered in faded green paint. The large dent prominently displayed at the top of the stairwell from when his father had smashed their sonic cleaner during one of his withdrawal episodes. The dirty russet carpet smothered with remnants of more bodily fluids than any sentient being could count.

He was home.

All he had to do was walk up those stairs and knock on the door…but he wasn’t ready, and he knew it.

Convincing himself that he had to ensure his father still lived here first, Raith walked forward to knock on the door directly in front of the entrance.

His hand hesitated at the threshold of the door, as his whole body wanted nothing more than to be gone from this place.

He grimaced at his own cowardice.

He had never failed at getting his mark, and yet he couldn’t even face his own past. What kind of a man was he?

Thoughts for another time.

Hesitating no more, the bounty hunter firmly rapped on the door three times and waited patiently for an answer.

He sensed he was being looked at through the screen in the door and grinned. His hair on the back of his neck always went up when he was being watched.

The door slid open to reveal a young human woman. Her emerald eyes sparkled in stark contrast to her porcelain skin. She idly flicked a hand in her light auburn hair as she honed her gaze into the bounty hunter’s dark eyes.

When she examined his handsome features, her smile practically shone.

There was something different about this man.

“Can I help you, sir?”

Raith felt as if he had been punched in the stomach by an angry Wookiee.

His mouth went dry.

His body tingled with the warmth of a thousand suns from head to toe.

And for the life of him, his tongue refused to act as anything other than an impediment on the space lane of communication.

He opened his mouth but no sound came out.

His cheeks burned as if he had been stranded in the Dune Seas of Tatooine.

She blinked her eyes and smiled even brighter at him, amused at the trouble this stranger was having.

She didn’t leave the apartment much with her father ill; but as she considered this handsome visitor, she wondered if that had more downsides than she had previously thought.

Was she blushing?

She decided she would wait for him to respond, for it would not do to embarrass him further. The fact that this situation was also amusing was the Blumfruit berry on the top.

Rukar wondered what was taking the bounty hunter so long.

Surely it wasn’t so difficult to knock on a door?

He closed his eyes and reached out with his senses.

It didn’t take long for him to stumble upon the firestorm that was Raith’s thoughts.

The taller man recoiled and opened his eyes again. Clearly he had stumbled upon his friend in a more vulnerable state than usual. The Jedi smiled as he considered the pictures in his companion’s mind…

He would need to ask more about those later.

Meanwhile, Raith mentally screamed at himself.

TALK YOU BUMBLING BUFFOON!

He hadn’t felt so helpless since he had first watched his sister dancing before the fat slug.

What was coming over him?

Was this some poison the insidious Hutt had placed in him? Waiting for the bounty hunter to betray him before its vile contents spilled into his veins?

For some reason, the thought of death scared him more than it ever had before when he stared at this beautiful woman.

Finally, Raith loudly cleared his throat and coughed.

“Uh…sorry, I was just…wondering, if you knew… who lived right upstairs?”

His mind couldn’t keep a thought in its head for more than a nanosecond.

His heart raced faster than Gurji’s prize racing kaadus.

This had to be poison.

The young woman smiled gleefully in response.

“Yes, actually. He’s an older man…Mr. Duhal.”

Raith flinched at the name.

Noting the bounty hunter’s unease, the young woman instinctively extended her hand to his armored forearm to reassure him.

“Is something wrong?”

Raith averted his gaze as he blushed deeper than the night’s sunset.

“It’s just…”

Why was he so helpless before this stranger?

He felt as if his soul was laid bare.

He took a deep breath, steadying himself, and looked into those magnificent green orbs.

“He’s my father…I’ve been…away…for a long time.”

She beamed back at him with that smile that melted his heart and made his knees feel weak.

“That’s so wonderful!”

As she gauged his reaction, she realized it was anything but.

Still, she didn’t want to leave just yet…she had never felt this way before and was not going to let it be squandered away.

Nothing could be taken for granted; happiness was hard to find in the galaxy these days.

She looked eagerly into his deep brown eyes, flecked with fiery red.

“Are you planning on staying?”

“If he’ll let me…”

Raith turned and pointed back out the front door.

“Some friends of mine were in the area and need to rest for a few days. I figured that now was as good a time as ever to try and talk to the old man again…”

He broke off his sentence as he stared back into her eyes.

Those bottomless pools of emerald and cerulean drew him ever deeper into their depths.

Satisfied, the woman smiled.

“I’d be glad to bring you and your friends something to eat in the next few days?”

Raith returned the smile and felt his cheeks burn again.

It didn’t bother him as much this time.

“I’d like that.”

She nodded her head and the bounty hunter turned to leave before she called to him.

“Wait!”

She blushed deeply at her own boldness. Too late to be embarrassed now.

“What’s your name?”

He smiled at her and her insides went to mush.

What was coming over her?

“Raith.”

Their eyes embraced across the room as she hugged the name close to her heart.

“I’m Melyna…Good luck with your father; I better get back to mine.”

She flashed one last brilliant smile before closing the door and resting her head against it.

Today was a good day.

Raith smiled as she left his view; it didn’t leave his face as he slowly walked up the stairs to face his past.

He wasn’t so scared any more.

Three firm raps on the door sounded on the upper floor of the building.

The bounty hunter heard shuffling and grumbling as the lock was fiddled with on the other side.

An older man, his skin pale and nearly hanging from his face and his sunken eyes bleary in withdrawal, grabbed him and looked up at him.

Realizing it wasn’t who he was expecting, he let go and backed away into the room.

He raised one feeble arm in protest and pointed accusingly at his unexpected guest.

“W-w-who are you? W-w-why are you here?”

His lips trembled as spit bubbled on the end of them.

Raith surveyed his pathetic excuse for a father and took another deep breath. Images of his sister flashed through his mind and he clenched his hands in anger…before newer images of Melyna replaced them.

He released his hands and walked into the room, closing the door behind him.

The silence in the room grew heavy as the two men sized each other up.

Father and son had re-united.

But to the two men, the other was just another stranger.

“It’s been 20 years.”

Tears streamed down the older man’s face as he realized the implications.

Was the child he had abandoned back to claim vengeance? Would he finally get what he had deserved all these years?

Raith was no Jedi, but he didn’t need the Force to see the utter misery in his father’s eyes. He was as much a slave to his spice as Raith had ever been to Gurji.

“Jay…I need your help. I have some friends that are wounded, and they need a safe place to stay. We have nowhere else to go…please.”

His father had failed him and his sister once before…he would not do it again.

“Son…”

The older man, his face covered in tears, stumbled clumsily across the room and threw his arms around his son’s strong shoulders. He sobbed into Raith’s armor, mumbling apologies for a lifetime of wrongs.

Raith threw an arm around his father while the older man vented his emotions. After several moments, the he removed himself and looked his son in the eyes.

“Whatever you need, my boy. This is your home again.”

The bounty hunter didn’t miss a beat as he shot back his reply.

“It’ll be my home again when Isa’s freed.”

His father flinched at the hurtful comment, but took it in stride.

He deserved it. He deserved a lot worse.

Raith walked out from the room and down the stairs. He paused to wipe the touches of moisture at the corner of his eyes before approaching his companions.

Rukar was just finishing another story of his training on Coruscant when the bounty hunter appeared atop the entry stairs. He motioned for them to follow before ducking right back in.

The younger Jedi shook his head in minor frustration and put his arm around his mother to help her get up the stairs.

Raith was a man of few words when he wanted to be.

*************************************************************************************

The next four days passed swiftly as the tired companions rested from their ordeal. Though the place was not very homely, the yellow paint faded to practical non-existence, it was safe…for now.

Nirma and Julin slept on the floor in front of the couch where his father slept. Rukar’s large frame rested rather uncomfortably curled up in the bounty hunter’s old bedroom. Raith had taken his father’s room.

He didn’t want it, but his father had pressed it on him; he knew that the man needed to pay his son back however he could.

As Raith turned to his side on the lumpy bed, his tired eyes fell upon the well-worn nightstand.

A half-broken holoclock was there, no longer able to display the time on the ceiling. Next to it laid a partially cracked picture frame. On it was the beaming visage of his mother in happier times.

He felt a hollow emptiness in his stomach when he looked at that picture.

The woman he never got to know.

He shook his head and shrugged it off.

Thoughts for another time.

He closed his eyes as he slowly draped his feet over the bed; absorbing the sensation of cold spreading through him as he laid his bare soles on the chilly duracrete floor.

They were alive at least…who knew how long that would last.

A knock at the door shook him from his trance. The bounty hunter only grunted in acknowledgment as he slid his black infiltrator pants on.

Rukar walked into the room and nodded at his companion before settling at the edge of the bed.

He was no longer in his Jedi robes, but had switched into civilian clothes. His dark green vest meshing with his dark brown utilitarian pants and undershirt making him look as if he had walked straight out from the dark forests of Kaashyyyk.

Raith paused as he took a moment to inspect the younger man.

With his tall and well-muscled frame, it was clear the man was bred to be a fighter. His broad shoulders, handsome features, and determined gaze completed the picture; he certainly looked the part of the noble Jedi warrior.

But beneath the surface lurked the scars of a troubled soul.

Raith slipped his flex-form undershirt over his head and sat down next to the distracted Jedi.

The two men watched the paint on the walls fade away before their eyes as their thoughts took them across the universe.

Rukar’s mind wandered back to that day that had changed what had seemed to be a pre-determined life set out before him.

Raith found himself thinking of freeing his sister…and of Melyna.

Shaking himself from his brief reverie, the older man turned to his preoccupied companion. He narrowed his dark eyes as he watched the Jedi in contemplation.

Finally, he could wait no longer to ask the question that had bothered him since he had heard Culjo tell him his mission.

“What happened?”

Rukar only grunted in acknowledgement; he had been waiting for this question since that first night they spent in this place.

“You mean what led to you and your former ‘friends’ being sent after me?”

The bounty hunter said nothing, but his blank stare stood in clear opposition to the Jedi’s terminology.

The young Jedi sighed deeply and lay back on the bed to stare up at the ceiling.

As his eyes slowly followed the tiny nooks and crannies along a crack in the foundation, his mind took him back to that fateful day.

*************************************************************************************

It was as if the oceans of Manaan spilt forth from the heavens in one long, drawn-out deluge of tears.

The two Jedi looked up at the sky and murmured amongst themselves as they waited for their contact.

They had been tracking down the spice cartel responsible for the rampant crime in some of the lower districts of Coruscant for the last several months.

Too many people were dying. The Order itself had finally stepped in and ordered them to look into the matter.

Rukar had been so excited at his first real assignment, but his master seemed vexed that the Order had taken so long to act in the first place. The further their investigation took them, the more death and desperation they had seen.

This was not a matter that could wait any longer.

Master Or’dana had seen to it that many of the thugs that took advantage of the poor folks would never again do so. Rukar had contributed rather substantially himself, and it was his pride at these thoughts that brought a grim smile to the younger Jedi’s face now.

Even with the situation as dreary as it was, it seemed that they were slowly making progress. They had their foes scared, and it would not be long before they swept them all into the gutter where they belonged.

The older Jedi shot his apprentice a reassuring smile and nodded in the direction of their contact.

“Come, he’s this way.”

Rukar shook his head in disbelief as he quickened his pace to keep up with his experienced master.

“How do you do that, master?”

The older man grinned as his addressed his padawan.

“Focus. Concentration. You must expand your senses and feel the living world around you.”

Rukar looked away and sighed. He had heard the same mantra thousands of times, but it had not made it any easier for him to grasp.

“You spend all your time working on your lightsaber routines and discipline of the body, but stray from your studies on discipline of the mind.”

The younger Jedi furrowed his brow in frustration before continuing.

“But, master, how can we defeat the enemies of the Jedi Order if we are not strong enough to fight them? My thoughts alone won’t hold the blasters of these thugs at bay.”

“Again, your beliefs are misplaced. You underestimate the power of the Force, young one. In time, you will learn.”

Rukar sighed deeply once more.

In time.

Always in time.

He wanted to learn NOW.

He had spent his young life training to be the best he could be; and it was utterly frustrating to him that his mental acuity could not be as easily honed as could his skill with his blade.

As they rounded the corner around some old stacked cargo shipping crates, their contact finally came into view.

The younger Jedi jettisoned his negativity from his thoughts and cleared his mind. Meditative practices might not be his strong point, but he knew how to keep himself ready for battle.

Their target was a portly Sullustan, his comical jowls causing him to resemble a wide-mouthed caricature of a Kowakian monkey-lizard.

His large dark eyes searched frantically around him as he bled waves of anxiety through the Force. Even to Rukar’s lesser-trained perception, something was clearly amiss.

As they stood before their contact, the older Jedi knew without calm certainty that something was wrong.

The Sullustan was scared.

More scared than he should have been of two Jedi whom he knew meant him no harm.

The younger Jedi alertly monitored the enfolding situation while his experienced master spread his hands reassuringly and spoke to the squat alien.

“Ghaj, it’s good to see you again.”

The alien nervously danced his fingers across his prominent belly and looked plaintively at the elder Jedi.

“I’m…I’m sorry Morlen. But…my family…”

The human’s encouraging smile quickly faded from his face to be replaced by a serene yet stern stare.

“What have you done, Ghaj?”

The Jedi reached out with his senses to search for the anticipated ambush. He noticed the presences of several humanoids, but none hostile…not yet.

The Sullustan turned his eyes one last time upon the two men and shook his head sorrowfully.

Morlen Or’dana sensed the waves of palpable fear roiling off the small humanoid. Then, suddenly, the fear was replaced…

…by resolve.

The Jedi’s breath caught in his throat as he realized what was about to happen.

He reached out with the Force and thrust with all his might…just as the alien pressed his stubby fingers to the trigger.

And then, he knew only pain.

Rukar found himself hurtling back, thrown sharply by an unseen power as the ground rushed up to meet him.

Dazed, he shook his head as the world around him slowly started to reassert itself from one large wet blur. As he picked himself up from the rubble, the rain washed a grimy smear of blood from his cheek as he turned to where Ghaj had been only moments before.

In his place stood a 10 meter blast pit…all that remained of the little alien.

Rukar frantically scanned the area for his master before closing his eyes and letting his senses look for him.

*************************************************************************************

The elder Jedi slowly cracked open his eye to survey the carnage of the explosion.

Crates both whole and charred had been blasted in every direction.

Torn and ripped durasteel filled his distorted vision.

His right arm hung limply at his side where it had smashed heavily into the durasteel crate at his back.

Suddenly, he knew he was moving…he felt nothing, but sensed that something was removing him from the wreckage.

His head felt so heavy…as the Jedi’s neck slowly lolled to the side, he realized the full extent of the damage.

His left leg and arm were gone...the force of the explosion violently ripping them from his body.

He tried to remember what the pain had felt like, but found he couldn’t summon the energy. He knew without looking that the left side of his face had been similarly devastated, and understood why only his right eye had obeyed his command to open.

As his body slowly continued to fail him, he found himself laying flat on the ground, the dark Coruscanti sky slowly swaying above him. The rain beat down upon his fallen form, and he closed his eyes to try and find what little sensation he could from it.

When he opened them again, his apprentice knelt over him, frantically speaking to him, begging him to get up.

The older man looked at and reflected on his padawan for what seemed to be the last time.

He was so strong, both physically and in the Force. Morlen knew without jealousy that his pupil had the potential to be one of the best; remembered forever in the Jedi Archives…

In time, he would become the man he was meant to be.

Master Or’Dana happily accepted that he could take a small amount of credit for his apprentice’s future. This helped steel himself against the fact that it would not be his fate to watch over the young man any longer…he had done all he could for him.

In his last moments, the older Jedi was smiling.

*************************************************************************************

Rukar watched in terror as his mentor’s eyes lost their luster. He sensed his master’s life depart his mortal coil, and it left him feeling emptier than when he had been taken from his parents nearly 14 years ago.

He reverently closed his master’s frozen blue eye and placed his good arm over his heart. The knowledge that his master was now one with the Force brought him little comfort.

The patter of rain on his back mimicked the rage building within the young man.

Why had his master been taken from him?

Why must everything he loved be taken from him?

There was no justice in this.

The Jedi abruptly lifted his head and narrowed his eyes as he suddenly sensed near-tangible malice around him.

He muttered to himself as he swiftly drew his lightsaber from his belt.

“I have a bad feeling about this…”

His spine tingled with anticipation as he listened to the familiar snap-hiss of his sulfurous yellow blade engaging.

The front of the storage crate in front of him rapidly unhinged and crashed forward onto the water-kissed ground.

From it emerged five grimy looking Humans and a Weequay with its trademark rough skin. Wasting no time, they quickly drew their blaster pistols and opened fire on their surprised foe.

Blaster bolts scalded the air around him as Rukar found himself wildly ducking and weaving as he desperately batted them away.

One such deflection found its mark in the face of one unfortunate thug and he tumbled to the ground in death’s sweet embrace.

Realizing he could not hold his ground for long, the young Jedi urgently scanned the area for an escape.

He found it as the Weequay lifted his arm to throw a fragmentation grenade his way. Deftly motioning with his left hand, Rukar disarmed the thug and dropped the grenade at the feet of he and his grubby comrades.

Unfortunately for them, the grenade was anything but disarmed.

The ensuing explosion tore shrapnel through their unprotected bodies, and four meaty corpses plopped to the wet ground as thunder boomed hungrily overhead.

The Jedi roared triumphantly as he looked at his handiwork, exulting in the satisfaction of avenging his master.

However, victory was not so easily won.

Not far from their dead companions, seven more thugs swarmed atop one of the cargo crates for the higher ground.

They rained shots upon him, and only by summoning every last ounce of his focus and substantial physical ability was he able to deflect and dodge their blasts.

Rukar knew he lacked the skill and energy to keep a perfect defense up for long though.

He pivoted to the right and swiftly batted back three bolts in quick succession. He rapidly reversed his grip, taking the lightsaber’s hilt in both hands as he picked off another flurry of shots.

He grunted to himself as perspiration began to crawl down his strained face.

They just never stopped coming.

His senses tingled as he flipped to his left, intercepting another two bolts in mid-air, his arms never ceasing their graceful dance. He ducked beneath another particularly ferocious barrage and rolled along the ground near the corpse of the fallen Weequay.

Looking at the corpses of his victims, fear slowly crept into the Jedi.

He did not want to die as his master had…he had too much he wanted to do…and he would not allow his master to be un-avenged.

As hope began to sputter out painfully within him, he caught his salvation out of the corner of his eye.

Batting two more blasts from the air, the tiring young man rolled to the side into the decrepit cargo crate where his former ambushers had been.

He closed his eyes and focused with everything he had upon the fallen side of the crate, and it responded by slowly lifting up before him.

The vengeful warrior stood up and calmly walked shielded behind it as he slowly stalked towards his foes. Their fire was as unrelenting as the falling rain, and the durasteel began to glow orange with signs of melting as he steadily approached.

Finally, a voice called out amongst them and their fire ceased.

“Hold yer fire, boys!”

A small but wiry man stepped in front of the others before pointing a crooked finger at their foe.

“Lower yer shield, Jedi. We meant ye no harm.”

The younger man only snorted in response, the humming of his lightsaber the only other noise audible over the din of the watery deluge around them.

Seeming not to notice his opponent’s obstinate resistance to his words, the criminal continued.

“We just wanted yer boss…throw the shield away away, and ye can go…or better yet, join us! The pay’s good, and our client has particular… ‘affection’ for yer kind.”

Rukar’s grip tightened on his lightsaber in fury at the insolent man’s callous disregard for his master’s life…and yet he couldn’t help but grin grimly to himself at such childish charades.

They meant to kill him when he lowered his shield, and he knew it.

The thing was nearly slag already, and perhaps they meant to save themselves a few blaster packs.

He gritted his teeth and prepared to finish the contest when he was interrupted by the man’s voice again.

“Fine. Have it yer way. We only wanted to save ye from dyin’ like a piece of scum like yer friend. Seems like ye want it that way though!”

With that, the villainous fiend laughed wickedly. Behind him, his cronies snickered their approval.

Pure righteous rage boiled within the young Jedi as he dropped the shield to the wet ground so he could stare into the face of his foolish foe.

The smaller man trembled as he looked into those hate-filled eyes…eyes that promised death without mercy or restraint.

He wanted to tell his men to open fire but he couldn’t quite get over the lump forming in his throat.

Rukar gestured and the man lifted into the air, his face turning darker and darker shades of red as he struggled in futility to breathe against an unseen force.

The Jedi closed his hand together and the man’s spine collapsed in on itself as his feet pressed into his face…then he was falling and crumpling to the ground in an unceremonious pile.

His lackeys could only stare open mouthed at the raw display of power, and found themselves grabbing for handholds as the crate which they stood upon slowly bent in on itself. Within moments, the structure had practically formed a U. The two sides clanged together loudly with a quick whoosh of air…and a large crunch.

The rage filled young man lowered his hands and dropped the bloodied debris crashing to the ground. He breathed in deeply as the rain slowly washed away the slaughter…

But his rage was not nearly sated.

*************************************************************************************

On a rooftop not far away, a dark-robed man slowly lowered his electrobinoculars and bared his teeth in a feral smile.

This had turned out better than he could have expected.

He turned to his right and examined his two associates.

The first was Rannek Sarat, a human man, tall and sturdily built, with countless brutal scars marring his gritty unshaven face. Where once was his left arm, now stood a prosthetic cybernetic replacement.

To his right stood the deadly Sorn Talloe, lithe and beautiful but with a coldness about her that made Hoth seem a jungle paradise.

The robed man spoke coldly as he appraised the two Humans.

“Your men have not performed as expected.”

Rannek grimaced at the disapproval in his master’s voice.

“Your Jedi was stronger than we anticipated… There was little more we could do.”

The dark garbed man wasted no more time considering his failed associate and instead placed a gloved hand under his chin in thought.

“Indeed. He is powerful…”

His voice trailed off as he considered the possibilities. He turned to look coldly again at the scarred man.

The unshaven man’s face went ashen as he feared retribution from his powerful overlord, but instead he saw the glare turn to his female companion.

Sorn turned to the eight battle-ready men behind her and motioned for them to prepare for combat. Yet before they could load their blasters, the robed man raised a hand in protest.

“Enough. No more men. Send the droids.”

Grinning wickedly, she drew a datapad and punched in a sequence of commands.

Their eyes glowing ominously red, the three assassin droids grabbed their blaster rifles and headed towards their target; their single minded devotion to completing their objective driving them implacably forward.

*************************************************************************************

The Jedi heard the sound of mechanical movement and felt his powerful muscles instantly tense to their battle readiness.

His lightsaber artfully weaved lazy circles ahead of him as he prepared to meet his foes.

More nerfs for the slaughter as far as he was concerned.

He did not have to wait long, but it became clear that surprise was not his opponents’ foremost concern as he was greeted by their sarcastic sounding metallic voices.

“Statement: We have come for you Jedi.”

“Addendum: If you will simply turn yourself over, you can make this much easier for all parties involved.”

“Smug Query: Will you surrender?”

Ahead of the hunted Jedi appeared two ancient retrofitted HK-50 assassin droids, their rifles aimed straight at him.

He was dodging before their first shots even rang out, quickly batting away everything they could offer as he charged them head on.

Only his finely honed reflexes saved him, as he suddenly found himself dodging to the left as a barrage of laser fire blasted where he had been only moments before.

A third droid was bearing down not far behind him…they had tricked him into thinking there were only two.

Even with rage flooding his veins, a realization dawned on him.

He was outmatched.

A Jedi’s precognitive abilities were lost on mechanical beings he could not predict.

Rukar knew if he did not escape now, he would not live to see his master avenged.

His concentration was lost as he felt a stinging burn in his shoulder fling him to the ground.

As he heard the droids approach his downed form and level their rifles at his head, he shot into the air, impossibly high, over the heads of the two nearest droids and over the pile of crates behind them.

Turning back quickly, the Jedi felt the burn of two more bolts scorch his waist.

Luckily they were only glancing blows, but he could not depend on luck for long.

His rage offering him deep pools of power, he reached for some of the nearby durasteel debris and launched it at the following droids. As he heard the satisfying crunch of metal crushing metal, he turned and ran with all the energy he could muster.

*************************************************************************************

The dark-robed man put down the electrobinoculars again and turned to his associates.

He said nothing, but his silence was as threatening as any words he could have otherwise been.

He turned without a word and walked off the rooftop; his shuttle waiting ominously on the barren landing pad the floor below.

This had turned out better than he had expected.

*************************************************************************************

The Jedi ran as swiftly as he could, the Force pumping in his veins. It was only after hours of pursuit later that he finally lay on the ground of a seedy hotel floor.

He was safe, at least for now...but he could not remain here, not when he had so many enemies. Nor could he return to the Jedi Temple, or even the Order at all; he had lost his master and used the dark side in revenge.

No…there was only one place he could go…

*************************************************************************************

Rukar opened his eyes and stared again at the ceiling. He had droned on for what felt like hours, and the bounty hunter watched him still with those dark fiery eyes.

“…and that’s how I got here.”

Raith fingered his chin as he processed the new developments.

That explained why he was alienated from his Order. And why the younger man didn’t seem at all like what he had expected of a Jedi when he first was assigned the mission.

He didn’t quite know what to make of his mysterious new friend, and the thought unsettled him. He was dangerous…unstable even…but what other choice did the bounty hunter have.

He was the only ally he had left.

“You did what you had to do to survive. No one would hold that against you…”

He turned and placed a hand on the taller man’s well-muscled shoulder.

“Your master was killed; why should you wish to join him?”

The bereaved Jedi pondered the cold yet pragmatic wisdom of his puzzling friend’s words.

“Yes…but my master would disagree. I embraced my anger, my hatred, my fear, and I used them to kill.”

The younger man looked grimly down at his hands as if the blood on them was material.

“I stepped on a path they warned me never to take …”

The bounty hunter’s fiery dark eyes stared at the Jedi with sympathy before he clapped the younger man on the back and placed both hands on his shoulders.

“If they told you to jump out of your speeder while in the Coruscanti hover lanes, would you?”

Rukar blushed at the foolish suggestion. What sane sentient being would ever do that?

“Of course not!”

Raith smirked at the answer he had expected.

“Then why do you so blindly follow whatever the Order tells you?”

Rukar’s head snapped back as if he had been slapped by his companion’s harsh words.

Appreciating the predictable reaction, the younger man’s worldlier companion continued.

“Follow what you believe is right, what you believe is just. Don’t give your faith so ignorantly.”

The Jedi inwardly seethed at the bounty hunter’s cold logic.

How dare he insult the collective wisdom of thousands of years of Jedi masters!

Still…the younger man could not deny the reason behind his words.

“I…”

The Jedi sighed in distraught.

“It’s hard… You have masters and older Jedi telling you about everything your whole life. They make it all seem so…reasonable. Not that that makes it any easier…”

Now it was the bounty hunter’s turn to sigh.

“Listen…you do what you have to…you do the best you can in a given situation.”

His voice took on a more serious note as he continued.

“You can’t do any more than that. There’s no sense doing the ‘right’ thing if it just gets you killed.”

He turned to look the Jedi in the eyes as he spoke with cold serenity.

“Those men were brutes. Criminals. Killers. You gave them what they deserved.”

He paused as he took a moment to gauge the younger man’s reaction.

The Jedi only stared blankly ahead as he considered his companion’s words.

Taking the blank stare as permission to continue, Raith did so.

“Admittedly, your tactics might have been brutal…but you saw what they did to your master. They only got what they deserved.”

While it made sense, the cold rationale bothered the young Jedi.

“No…”

He shook his head in denial as he pounded a powerful fist into the bed for emphasis. His eyes locked again with his pragmatic companion’s before continuing.

“I couldn’t just do that. I mean how far could that logic take you? Are there no higher principles to be answerable to? I mean…would you kill your own mother if it let you live?”

The cold look in the older man’s eyes frightened Rukar. Yet those cold eyes didn’t completely conceal the betraying twitch that had briefly crossed his face.

“Yes…If there was no other solution to the situation. And when the opportunity presented itself, I would kill every being responsible for putting me in such a position.”

He took a moment to collect himself before continuing. However, his voice took on a more reverential tone as he muttered his next words.

“She wouldn’t want me to die for no reason…if I was in such a situation; she’d be dead regardless of what I did.”

The Jedi shook his head as he conflicted with his own inner demons. Finally, he grabbed the bounty hunter’s shoulder and practically yelled in frustration.

“And what about the dark side? It’s not some lie my masters use to scare me or keep me controlled...”

The younger man shivered in fear and placed a firm hand on his own knee to brace himself.

“I feel it…like an itch begging to be scratched…it wants to be embraced…for me to revel in its power.”

Raith grunted in acknowledgement. He had seen enough of the dark side in the nature of sentient beings alone to know the truth in the Jedi’s words.

He placed his hand comfortingly upon the younger man’s shoulder before speaking softly.

“The dark side…evil…it’s nothing but shadow.”

As he spoke, he swept a hand through the hair as if driving the darkness away.

His eyes caught the last remnants of Ord Mantell’s sun beginning to fade away as he completed the motion.

He watched it thoughtfully for a few moments before speaking again.

“Shadow can’t hide from the light. You do enough good…you burn as brilliantly as you can…you banish the shadow from all corners of the galaxy.”

The Jedi furrowed his brow in confusion.

“But…where there is light, is there not shadow?”

The bounty hunter’s firm resolve took the younger man aback as he looked into those smoldering eyes.

“Not if the light is bright enough.”

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RaithDuhal
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Part 4

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:38 am

PART IV


Raith sat in his father’s living room as he watched his new Jedi friend converse with his now-recovered parents.

Try as he might not to, he found himself reflecting on his own parents.

The mother he had never gotten to know.

The spice-addicted father who had given his own son and daughter to slavery to feed his cravings.

They had given Raith part of who he was, at a genetic level if nothing else. But he never had any true parents his entire life. The closest he had was…

No.

Never him.

He shook the thoughts away as his father entered the room and threw his arm amiably around the bounty hunter’s tall Jedi friend.

It seemed as though he had finally gained some control over his habits; he hadn’t touched anything in the eight days they had spent with him. They hadn’t talked much, but it seemed that there was finally going to be an opportunity for their relationship to begin anew.

Raith smiled in spite of himself.

His father might be the only family he had here now, but it seemed like he had someone who could be his family of the future.

Melyna had dropped in daily to join them for meals she had prepared herself.

She had laid his soul bare before her, and in return had laid much of herself bare before him.

Raith’s cheeks warmed and a devilish smile crept across his handsome face as he pondered how lucky he truly was.

Her compassion and sweet demeanor were only matched by her seemingly boundless beauty.

For the first time since he had been taken from this very place, Raith felt true happiness.

While she was certainly the greatest thing in his life, she was not the only new development.

He had become close friends with the Jedi during their daily musings on their lives and the galaxy at large. None of this removed him from his burdensome predicament with Gurji…but for now, he had more peace than he had ever hoped to find given the last twenty years.

The bounty hunter laid his neck back on the creased cu-pa hide couch and relaxed his eyes. Melyna would be by soon with whatever delicious morsel she had concocted that day.

His senses slowly began to blur as he let himself drift off into pleasant relaxation.

But relaxation was not in the pazaak deck for the bounty hunter.

His finely-honed muscles suddenly tensed and he cracked an eye open to nondescriptly scan the room.

He instantly noted Rukar’s concerned gaze staring straight at him. The two men exchanged glances but said nothing. They both knew what was afoot.

Danger.

The Jedi closed his eyes and reached out with the Force.

He had always had trouble with this part of being a Jedi, but he knew that while his friend was talented in many aspects of combat and survivability, only he could do this.

His senses quickly flowed out from the building to scan the area outside, where he felt seven presences moving swiftly along the streets towards the entrance.

Their intent was clear as their malice roiled violently around them with the blunt ferocity of a Tatooinian sandstorm.

His eyes snapped open and he quickly flashed seven fingers to the bounty hunter before motioning outside the door.

Raith nodded his head in recognition and silently slipped from the couch with the predatory grace of a Correlian narglatch.

Rukar swiftly drew his lightsaber and took a defensive position at the doorway as the bounty hunter ducked into his room to retrieve his armor and gear.

As he hurriedly slipped his sleek composite armor on around his flexform underarmor, Raith’s only thoughts were of the woman he had come to love.

These people were here to do him harm…they weren’t hurting anybody else.

He knew that speed was necessary, for every second that passed brought those around him into greater danger. He quickly finished strapping on his armor, grabbed his trusty EE-7 and threw his ammo bandolier around his shoulder as he ran out into the main area. He joined his Jedi friend at the door before the two briefly considered their plan of action.

“How far?”

The Jedi closed his eyes briefly and concentrated.

“200 meters. Closing fast.”

The bounty hunter donned a grim visage as he nodded in affirmation.

“We’ll let them come to us then. We ambush them in the atrium.”

Rukar clapped his shoulder and stepped out from the door, realizing they both knew their strengths and would manage their own tactics in the battle to come.

The agile Jedi ran down the stairs and positioned himself in the dark corner of the room, out of view of the doorway.

He was pretty sure he knew what his friend was thinking; the bounty hunter would pick them off from above and draw their fire, then he would dart in from behind to cut them down.

As the footsteps outside drew nearer, the two warriors prepared for a battle in which they both had much at stake.

People they loved depended on them.

That only made them more dangerous.

As if attempting to drive the point home, commotion below him nearly brought Raith to his knees in frustration.

Melyna and her father opened their apartment door with the night’s food in their arms…just as the first thug smashed through the tenement’s entranceway.

The brutish Gamorrean snorted in barbaric glee and hooted in the direction of his newfound prey. His well-muscled arm drew a wicked vibrodagger from his belt as his tusked grin showed the porcine alien’s designs.

As he began to stalk towards his prey, Raith took a deep breath to steady himself.

He had not wanted to blow his cover so quickly; he had planned on catching them entirely off-guard with suppressing fire and a nice fragmentation grenade.

But he was not going to risk losing Melyna; damn the consequences.

As he prepared to turn the corner and take his shot, a commanding voice shouted from the entranceway:

“Enough Jurv!”

The Gamorrean abruptly stopped his murderous approach and dropped his large hands to his sides. He grunted in disapproval, shooting the father and daughter a menacing glare, before returning to the entranceway, seemingly cowed.

A large Klatooinian strode through the entranceway, glaring menacingly at his porcine subject before turning a charming smile upon his two apparently helpless victims.

With his flat, vaguely canine muzzle, the smile looked anything but genuine.

He stood tall for one of his already tall species, with a commanding presence at over 2.1 meters. His dark coarse skin displayed prominently on his wrinkled face as his dark eyes stared coldly beneath pronounced brows.

His last five lackeys quickly assorted themselves around him in the entranceway; three rough-looking humans, a tusked, walrus-faced Aqualish, and a triangular-headed Arcona with the tell-tale golden eyes of a salt-addict.

Though they brandished their blaster pistols in a show of force, the young woman stared at them with her head held high, un-intimidated.

Their huge leader slowly strode over to the pair before looking to the elder man.

“Is Mr. Duhal here?”

The old man looked to his young daughter and wondered if this would be the last time they both still lived. He glanced back to the Klatooinian and glumly nodded his head in assent, and pointed upward to the floor above.

The large alien nodded and then motioned to his porcine associate with a jagged smile.

“Now, Jurv…you can kill them.”

Melyna screamed but was cut short when a louder shout from above startled all in the room.

“NO!”

Raith turned his stunned gaze to see his father defiantly walking out from his old room, on a clear course to confront the fiends in the atrium below.

The bounty hunter shook his head, but his father only paused briefly to look into his son’s eyes.

Raith knew from the look in the older man’s eyes that nothing he said would dissuade him.

Still, he had to try.

“Jay-…Dad. Don’t go out there. They’re here for me…You don’t need to do this.”

The older man only shook his head in reply and patted his grown son on the shoulder.

Raith noticed a tear slowly gather in the corner of his father’s eye and lowered his gaze to the floor in respect.

With that, Jayson Duhal strode from his apartment with his back straight and his head held high. He stared down at the alien who had for so many years kept him a prisoner to the spice addiction he had given his own kin to feed.

“No more Drekk. Let them be. I’m the one you’re here for. I haven’t paid you, and I’m not going to. Take me to see Vilmarh, and I’ll work it out with him.”

The large alien only snarled before drawing his blaster pistol and leveling it at the impudent human.

“No. He said dead was fine.”

Raith could only watch in horror as three blaster bolts buried themselves in his father’s chest.

The old man fell back to crash heavily into the wall behind him and slump unceremoniously to the floor. His head slowly turned to the side and his eyes gazed one last time at the son he had so horribly abandoned.

He tried to apologize, but could not find the energy to form the words. As his eyes glazed over, he saw the look in his son’s eyes…

He would not die un-avenged.

The bounty hunter was shaken from his reverie by another scream from his beloved. He heard the struggled breath of her father and the porcine grunts of their Gamorrean assailant and knew he had little time.

Not only did he need to act quickly to save Melyna; he knew his Jedi comrade would not stay his hand for much longer.

Raith dashed from the doorway to the top of the stairwell, drawing his carbine and firing in one smooth motion.

Before his first shot had even found its mark he had trained his carbine on the large Klatooinian and fired a warning shot across his brow.

Drekk froze in place and raised a hand to hold his men.

The corpse of Jurv cooled on the ground across the room; a grisly hole burned through his thick-skinned forehead.

Tears streamed down Melyna’s face as she held her bleeding father in her arms.

The bounty hunter took a moment to make sure his enemies made no movement before shouting down to the young woman.

“How is he, Mel?”

Her continuing cries told him all he needed to know, though it was her pain that wounded him more than any blaster could have.

He turned back to the large alien and shouted down to him.

“Why are you here?”

His wrinkled muzzle splayed in a wicked grin as the criminal scoffed at the question.

“The old man. He was always a poor customer. Now, let us go or else there will be more trouble…and more bodies.”

The bold alien motioned to his men and rolled behind one of the pillars holding up the second floor balcony.

As the thugs began to scatter and open fire on the exposed bounty hunter, he rained a volley of death upon them with calm and precise shots.

The shortest of the humans scurried two steps to his left before his face melted under a barrage of three well placed blaster bolts. His scorched body tumbled to the ground, bearing witness to the incredible skill of his deadly foe.

The Arconan only had time to lick his lips in salt-hunger before two neat craters were burned through his chest. He clutched them, trying to hold his life in, before tumbling into the darkness of death.

Another one of the humans, sporting a scraggly beard, leveled his pistol and fired off two shots before he fell to the ground holding his newly-smoking throat.

Raith gritted his teeth as he ducked to the ground for a moment’s respite.

Blaster fire continued to pour into the durasteel railing of the balcony as his enemies attempted to suppress him.

He knew they meant to take Melyna to force his surrender, but he needed a moment to collect himself.

While his armor had deflected one of Beard’s shots, another had hit him in the crease of his left shoulder, and he was now both stiff and burned.

He poked above the railing and fired haphazardly at his foes, keeping them on their guard and away from his beloved.

As blaster fire continued to pour into his cover, he knew he was running out of time.

Considering his predicament, he remembered he was not alone in his fight.

The bounty hunter took heart as he grabbed a power pack from his bandolier and reloaded his carbine.

*************************************************************************************

Rukar knew he could delay no longer as the Aqualish moved to take the distressed young woman.

The Jedi punched out with one of his outstretched hands and the tusked humanoid found itself being violently thrown into one of the durocrete pillars used by its companions for cover.

There was a sickening crunch as its spine snapped upon impact, and the alien’s four eyes shone no more.

The last human turned his squinty-eyed gaze upon the battle’s new arrival and fired a flurry of shots at the no longer hidden Jedi.

Rukar arms became a blur as he angled and darted his blade to intercept and bat away every bolt as they came.

However, their pace was so frenzied that he only had time to deflect them rather than redirect them. He knew he could not keep up his defense for long…but his problem was solved for him as the thug ineffectively clicked his trigger again and again.

The Jedi smiled as he threw his lightsaber at the fiend, cleaving the outmatched thug in two before the blade circled back en route to his hand.

It never made it there.

The large Klatooinian had ceased firing at the bounty hunter and instead launched himself at the Jedi.

Rukar’s hands came within centimeters of closing on his hilt when he felt a painful explosion in his right side as the alien’s heavy boots collided with his waist.

The tall Jedi collapsed to the ground in agonizing pain.

Though struggling to draw breath and think clearly, he knew that if he didn’t rise now, he would share the fate of his former master.

He opened himself fully to the flow of the Force and used its revitalizing energy to restore some of his strength. He quickly rolled back to his feet, though he clearly favored his side.

The alien grinned evilly as he considered his weakened foe. What good was the mystical Force against his physical might?

Delaying no further, the large alien feinted a left hook at the Jedi’s jaw but instead came across with a strong right cross.

The Jedi angled his elbow to deflect the glancing blow and returned the strike with a swift kick to the alien’s left knee.

Drekk grimaced in slight pain but easily shook it off. He squared his fist and delivered a walloping smash to the Jedi’s stomach, followed by another kick to the Jedi’s sore side.

Rukar backed away a few steps as he gasped for air. Even with the Force filling him, the Jedi was struggling.

The Klatooinian was good.

Usually Force-sensitives could read the surface thoughts of their foes to anticipate their next moves, but the alien was too hard to read.

It would not be long before the alien’s superior size and strength proved too much for the young Jedi to handle.

Rukar feinted in for a quick strike, and smiled as the alien bit. Drekk ducked to the left to avoid the phantom blow, only to catch the true strike heavily to his stomach. The alien only smirked and stood up straighter to stare down his smaller opponent.

Rukar’s face fell as he watched his foe’s non-reaction.

Even with his Force-enhanced blow…the alien was as unresisting as a reinforced durasteel wall.

Drekk’s face suddenly became blank as muscles spasmed uncontrollably across his large frame.

The Jedi’s opponent fell to his knees and collapsed to the ground with a loud thud. Behind him stood the armored bounty hunter, fingering a small dagger with electric current running along its edge.

The Jedi grinned at his friend before bending over to grab his lightsaber. As he fastened the blade back on his belt, Raith ran over to his blood-covered lover and cradled her in his arms. He slowly rocked her while whispering soothing words as her terrified body shook in his arms.

Rukar looked away from the display and walked over to the downed alien. He glared menacingly at him for a moment before kicking him hard in the side. He gave him another hard kick for good measure and rolled him over to face the ceiling.

“Did you kill him?”

The bounty hunter softly kissed Melyna’s neck before turning to address his younger Jedi friend.

“No…we need some information before I do that.”

*************************************************************************************

Raith picked his bereaved lover up into his arms and carried her upstairs to lay her gently in his bed. He kissed her on the forehead and softly whispered that he would be right back.

When he came back down the stairs, the bounty hunter had only death in his eyes and his mind.

He walked without pause over to the downed behemoth and kicked him firmly in the side. The alien softly groaned in protest and lolled his head to the side.

The bounty hunter wasted no time on trivialities and drew his stun knife from his utility belt. He smiled coldly as he activated the trigger and the electric current buzzed back on, arcing slowly across the deadly blade.

Raith stared at its eerie white glow as it paralleled the dance of anger within his tormented soul.

Nobody hurt his girl.

He pressed the blade on the alien’s neck and watched impassively as the large humanoid’s entire body convulsed in agony.

Rukar observed the display with un-judging eyes.

His friend needed this.

The Jedi masters could say all they wanted about vengeance…this scum deserved no better.

Raith paused and removed the dagger from his foe’s neck. He allowed the villainous thug to rest a moment more before he stabbed the blade into the downed Klatooinian’s leg and activated the current again.

This time the alien shook so violently that blood slowly seeped from his flattened nose.

Finally, the bounty hunter withdrew the blade and wiped it across the thug’s leathery cheek, leaving a jagged incision as he did.

Delaying no longer, he picked up the alien’s head and stared coldly into his dark eyes.

“Tell me where to find your boss.”

Shockingly, the alien drew back his flat snout in a grin and snickered wickedly. The bounty hunter’s armored fist responded faster than Rukar’s eyes could follow.

Once.

Twice.

Five times.

Raith violently threw the bloodied head back to the ground and kicked the alien in the side again, feeling a rib break before his armored boot.

Drekk groaned and slowly turned his head to spit out wads of blood along with what was left of his teeth.

The bounty hunter strode over to his companion and whispered to him.

“He won’t talk.”

The Jedi’s face curled up in surprise at the statement.

“How could you know that already?”

The bounty hunter shrugged noncommittally.

“I’ve seen his like in Gurji’s dungeons. Those Klats are loyal. That one in particular is an idiot. He won’t talk.”

The cold look in the man’s eyes scared the Jedi no small amount. He noted never to cross his dangerous friend.

“So…you’re just going to kill him?”

The bounty hunter smiled grimly. The younger man couldn’t quite interpret what that meant.

“He’ll make himself useful.”

With that, the bounty hunter calmly stalked over to his prey. The bold alien flashed a tooth-less grin and was promptly kicked across the face with an armored boot.

Raith felt, more than heard, the alien’s cheekbone smash beneath his toe.

The bounty hunter lowered himself on his knees next to his victim and calmly whispered in his ear.

“I know you’re not going to tell me anything…But this is for the pain you’ve caused Melyna.”

As he spoke, he dove his dagger deep into the alien’s stomach and flicked the current on.

Drekk’s muffled screams could be heard across the street as his body quaked uncontrollably.

The sound of his boots repeatedly slapping the durocrete floor brought a cold smile to the bounty hunter as he held the blade firm.

He watched blood drip freely from his prisoner’s mouth before flicking the switch back off and ripping the blade from the wound.

The armored man stood watching as the alien’s muscles continued to twitch and recoil. Smoke softly wafted from his partially fried skin.

This time, the alien had the wherewithal to not smile.

Raith noticed a small dark form next to the alien’s neck and realized that the thug had bitten off the end of his own tongue. The bounty hunter only snorted and wiped the blood from his blade on Drekk’s pants before sheathing it back on his belt.

Drekk lay on the ground for many long moments before Rukar looked to his friend for further explanation.

The bounty hunter nodded in his direction and motioned him over to their fallen foe.

“Stand him up.”

The tall Jedi deftly lifted the badly wounded Klatooinian and ensured he could stand on his own two feet.

Satisfied, he backed up a step to respond to any sudden movements.

The bloodied alien turned his head to his armored foe and stood as tall as he could. He then spoke brokenly, pride evident in his tone.

“Nothing. I won’t help you.”

The bounty hunter grinned in response and laid a hand on his holdout blaster as he spoke.

“I only want you to send your boss a message.”

The defiant alien shook his head as he stared with hatred at the smaller man.

The bounty hunter’s smile left his face as he unholstered his blaster.

“I didn’t say we needed your obedience.”

In one smooth motion, again too fast for the Jedi to follow, Raith drew his pistol and fired two bolts into each of the insolent alien’s knees.

The thug fell hard to the ground before he even knew what had happened.

He stretched his powerful arms and painfully dragged himself towards his enemy to take whatever vengeance he could before an armored knee smashed into his face and he found himself falling backward.

As the Klatooinian fell, Raith motioned to the Jedi and caught his lightsaber in mid-stride.

The alien slowly propped himself up so he could see his foe when he realized the bounty hunter was hovering only centimeters from his face.

Raith stared impassively at the villain before sliding his finger over the activation switch of his friend’s sulfurous blade.

“This…is for my father.”

Realizing his end was nigh, Drekk tried to seem confident as he defiantly muttered his last words.

“Vilmarh will have your head.”

The bounty hunter smiled coldly as the humming blade deftly swooped across the large alien’s neck.

As the bloodied head rolled across the corpse-laden floor, Raith grinned in spite of himself and nodded at his Jedi friend before tossing back his lightsaber. He muttered under his breath as he walked back upstairs to tend to his grieving lover.

“It won’t be the only one.”

*************************************************************************************

The chubby Twi’lek hurried down the underground halls of the cantina with his package in hand. His head-tails wriggled in nervous anticipation as he brusquely walked.

He knew the Boss didn’t like to be disturbed after dinner, but this particular delivery seemed pressing enough to demand his attention.

The walls shone at five meter intervals along the pathway, but it did little to change the eerie demeanor of the place.

Perhaps it was the plain beige ferrocrete walls that bore silent witness to the depravity of the organization that called this place home.

Perhaps it was the dried blood stains.

Drugs, slaves, prostitution, extortion…they ran the gamut of vices, and all under the watchful supervision of their ultimate benefactor, the corpulent and slimy Gurji the Hutt.

It was hard to forget this fact as Gurji’s many loyal Gamorreans lined the lower halls around the Boss’s office.

The green-skinned alien finally neared the crime lord’s door when two of the porcine guards crossed their vibro axes and barked (or more appropriately, oinked) a command in their guttural native tongue.

The heavyset Twi’lek lifted his prize before their beady eyes and swayed it for emphasis.

“For the Boss.”

The Gamorreans looked at each other, then back at the Twi’lek.

Their axes did not budge.

The portly alien sighed heavily and made slow exaggerated movements to better appeal to the porcine humanoids more “basic” intelligence.

He thrust an index finger into his chest, then into the package, then into the door, before thrusting two fingers on the sides of his head in a crude imitation of horns.

The guards oinked their understanding and stepped to the side.

Sighing again at his misfortune of having such dull coworkers, the green-skinned alien pushed his way through the door and was met by the site of the villainous crime lord sitting at his desk, his hands clasped together.

“Ah, Kylto, my dear and faithful associate. What have you brought before me this wonderful evening? I do hope it is important...for your sake.”

The Twi’lek’s tapered lekkus trembled timidly at the predatory tone of his master’s voice.

He was very well aware of what happened to those who disturbed his master without sufficient reason.

It always took him days to clean up the whole mess.

“A gift, Boss. From a Mr. Duhal.”

With that, Kylto placed the wrapped gift on his master’s spacious Rhommamoolian marble desk and stepped back.

The crime lord smirked as he pondered the package. Had Drekk gained a sense of humor on his newest assignment?

His smile quickly left his face as he ripped the package open to find himself staring into the face of his most loyal enforcer.

Not only was he dead, he had clearly been savagely mutilated before the end.

This affront to his honor and that of his organization would not be tolerated. Loyal men like the large Klatooinian were as hard to find as Correlian pink diamonds.

The menacing crime lord turned his baleful gaze on his Twi’lek associate.

“How did we get this?”

Kylto quivered in spite of himself and couldn’t quite contain the tremor in his voice.

“One of our pushers had it brought into h-h-his shop not two hours ago. T-t-two rough looking guys. H-h-he immediately contacted us and I saw to its delivery m-m-myself.”

His master smiled evilly as he considered this new development.

“Well…this insult cannot be allowed my dear Kylto…”

The crime lord stroked his chin as he considered his options. It wasn’t long before the sides of his lips curled in a devilish smile as the solution dawned on him.

“Fetch me Torian. I have a feeling things are going to become much more interesting.”

The Twi’lek’s face momentarily went white at the mention of the fearsome brute’s name.

“T-T-Torian, master? B-b-but is he really necessary?”

The crime lord’s eyes flashed in anger at being questioned. His terse reply was as sharp as a vibroblade.

“Someone needs to check on our dear Mr. Duhal to make sure Drekk didn’t fail entirely. Then he can pursue these two mystery gentlemen who seem to desire a very painful death.”

The terrified alien bowed in obeisance as his head-tails squirmed uncomfortably. He quickly turned on his heel and strode toward the exit when his master’s voice stopped him.

“And Kylto…”

The Twi’lek froze in place as fear gripped his heart in its cold embrace.

“Do not question me again.”

The green-skinned humanoid spine tingled in pure terror at the deathly frigid tone of his master before he stepped out of the room.

Perhaps a trip to the refresher was in order before summoning the nasty fiend.

*************************************************************************************

Relath-Vom took another deep hit of Neutron Pixie and exhaled slowly.

The Weequay’s contented expression looked nothing less than bizarre on his leathery, wrinkled face.

He turned to his Rodian comrade across the small trash-littered room and grunted in Huttese as he passed the bowl.

“There’s nothing like getting high on this stuff, eh Navik?”

The Rodian’s black multifaceted eyes looked dazed as he glanced at his weathered companion. His tapered snout twitched in anticipation of his next hit as his suction-tipped fingers eagerly grasped the bowl.

The spice-fiends’ shock was total when their door smashed into splinters and an armored man stood glaring at them down the barrel of his carbine.

“Don’t you guys know that stuff will kill you?”

Four flashes of his carbine ended the discussion prematurely, leaving Raith to calmly survey his handiwork as he re-holstered his weapon.

The two low-lives’ blackened corpses lay sprawled across the two small couches in the dank apartment.

Spice of various kinds lined the walls and floor. Muon Gold, Gunjack, Tempest, Yarrock, and some Neutron Pixie.

This was no small operation despite the seeming lack of intelligence of his two fallen foes.

The bounty hunter sighed solemnly as he considered his surroundings.

War made people afraid.

When people were afraid, they made stupid decisions.

All this spice did was worsen the lot of more and more people as the net spread and tightened around them.

Rukar walked into the room moments later and grinned at his friend’s deed.

“Not too shabby. Why the overkill though?”

“They were taking hits of their own product. I deemed it cosmic justice.”

“So that’s the price for stupidity these days?”

The bounty hunter smiled in return and clapped his friend on the shoulder as he walked out of the place.

“Grab the spice, we’ll burn it outside.”

The Jedi closed his eyes and opened himself to the Force. He reveled in its warm embrace as he slowly went about moving the spice from the room to their small fire pit outside.

Raith grinned at his friend’s sluggish pace as he lit the fire.

“Seems like you need the practice, huh?”

Rukar’s sordid response would have suited any of Gurji’s smugglers that Raith had grown up around.

Minutes later, the two warriors stood over the pile of burning spice and somberly watched the horizon.

Neither spoke, but neither had to.

They were men with death wishes, and only blind luck, or the Force, could save them now.

The younger Jedi cleared his throat and looked back at their handiwork in the shoddy apartment.

“We’re doing well. It might feel small, but for the first time in my life I feel like I’m helping people. I’m doing something that actually matters.”

The more experienced bounty hunter only snorted in response before turning more introspective. After a few moments, he spoke.

“Too bad that whatever “good” we might do required the death of my father.”

Silence fell over them both as they each considered the statement and its implications.

Finally, the Jedi turned to his friend and spoke softly.

“You’re doing right by him, you know…We’re ending the cycle that made you a slave. We’re helping to end the circumstances that got your father into this mess to begin with…that must mean we’re doing something right.”

The bounty hunter said nothing as he stared into the burning embers of their spice-fed fire.

The silence stretched on for several moments before he nodded to himself and solemnly responded.

“It feels good to stop the evil I had so long abetted.”

The Jedi opened his mouth to interrupt but Raith raised a hand to stop him.

“Okay…perhaps abetted is too strong a word. But I made no move to stop it then. I might as well have given my consent.”

The bounty hunter pondered his next words before speaking again.

“For the first time in my life…I’m scared. I never had so much to lose...Of course I wanted to protect Isa, but the truth is, Gurji needed her as much as I did.”

He took a deep breath before continuing.

“Now…now I have something I would give my life for…Someone…”

Raith turned to his friend and looked into his strong grey eyes.

“You know I’d do anything to protect her.”

It wasn’t a question.

Rukar only nodded his head in assent before the bounty hunter continued.

“This Vilmarh put her in danger, and I won’t rest until it’s over. After that…after that I’ll worry about Gurji.”

The Jedi nodded in understanding and gently laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“You know I’ll follow you wherever this path leads.”

The bounty hunter turned a quizzical look on his friend and patted his arm to show he appreciated the gesture.

“But what about the Order? Your training?”

Rukar sighed as he softly kicked the slow cooking embers.

He turned his back on his friend and looked up at the glowing stars.

How innocent they seemed. So far removed from the troubles of galactic civilization. So far beyond the moral complexities that defined sentient existence.

“I’m not sure yet…I never really fit in with their ideals…They’re not wrong, but I’m just not sure if they’re right…for me. Perhaps if Master Or’Dana…”

The Jedi stopped and discreetly wiped his eyes with his sleeve. Disguising it with a cough, he cleared his throat and turned back to face his companion.

“Listen. We didn’t choose this mess…Gurji thrust it on us both…”

He sighed softly before continuing, knowing that wasn’t the full motivation of either of them.

“And…I want to help people. You’ve shown me how I can do that now…I won’t leave you to do this by yourself.”

Raith nodded and looked his friend in the eyes. No thanks were needed, and they both knew it.

They turned back to watch their fire slowly eat away at the cancerous wares as they considered their next move.

The bounty hunter spoke first.

“It won’t be long before he sends a message…or a messenger.”

The Jedi nodded his assent as Raith continued.

“We might be taking out his small players, but sooner or later his operation will be in greater danger. He’ll try to put a stop to us long before that happens.”

Rukar only smiled in reply and emphasized his friend’s wording.

“He can certainly try.”

*************************************************************************************

As the gargantuan human strode into the battle torn atrium, he admired the display of marksmanship and skill.

Blaster scorch marks and blood stains lay strewn about the floor where their owners had fallen days before; their bodies having since been buried outside.

The goliath sucked in a deep breath and smiled wickedly.

How he loved the smell of carnage in the morning.

Surveying the room further, the giant noticed a large concentration of dried blood across the floor near the entrance.

The brute slowly stalked over to it as he withdrew his datapad.

He input a series of commands and a small emitter withdrew from the device. Taking it in his massive hands, he slowly scratched samples of the blood into the emitter before sinking it back into the datapad.

The device rang moments later, having performed the diagnostic, and the hulking human examined the report.

He smiled grimly to himself. So it was here that the mighty Drekk was finally taken to task.

His long-time rival had been a nuisance to Torian since he had first enlisted with Vilmarh over twenty years ago.

He grunted as he realized that it was here he had performed one of his first shake downs for his then-new employer.

As he further examined the room, he couldn’t help smirking as he admired the handiwork of the mysterious killer. These men barely had the opportunity to relieve themselves before they were put down.

Pacing near the bottom of the stairs, he noticed several blaster burns in the wall above and moved to take a closer look. A small trail of blood against the wall was all that remained of one of the casualties.

That was all Torian needed for a proper analysis.

Scraping the dried blood into his emitter, he waited impatiently for the results he hoped to receive.

The beeping signal moments later confirmed his suspicions. So the flat-nosed alien had actually succeeded.

Who would have guessed given the condition his head was in.

The hulking human grinned wickedly and turned to his men below.

One objective was accomplished.

Now the fun began.

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RaithDuhal
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Part 5

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:38 am

Part V

The squid-headed Quarren ran down the dark alleyway as fast as his legs would carry him.

Pursuit was heavy on his heels and he knew without looking that if he hesitated, he would be dead before he hit the ground.

His tentacles flailed in terror as he turned another corner and saw the reassuring sign of his hideout.

The Dirty Rodian.

Kruluuk had always laughed the name off as idiotic when speaking to his men, but all that was quickly slipping through his suction-tipped fingers as his pursuit’s footsteps sounded louder behind him.

He bolted through their cloth-draped door and thrust a finger at the nearest Nikto guarding the entrance.

“-being followed…Alert the-”

The Quarren only had time to turn his head at the deadly snap-hiss sound behind him before a sulfurous yellow blade cleaved him from head to groin.

The two sides of his body dropped to the ground with a meaty plop.

The terrified Nikto stood paralyzed with blaster in hand as he stared helplessly at his dangerous foe.

That hesitation was all the opening Rukar needed.

With a motion of his hand, the orange-skinned alien catapulted towards him…right into his waiting blade.

The thug groaned as he felt his innards disintegrate beneath the unyielding beam of energy. Then he was falling.

The Jedi watched as his second victim crumpled to the ground, his abdomen torn open where the blade had hewed his falling corpse.

He smiled grimly and peeked his head under the cloth-draped door. His armored friend calmly strode the last few steps to the entrance and joined him within the grimy establishment.

“You’re missing all the fun.”

Raith only response was a grunt as he eyed the bisected Quarren.

“Your handiwork? Not too bad.”

Rukar smiled and shot a sly wink as he deactivated his lightsaber.

“He was practically pissing himself when we chased him. I don’t think he realized we only wanted to find where he and his friends kept their product.”

The bounty hunter walked over to the fallen Nikto and gave him a small kick to make sure he was down.

“That’s the wonderful thing about criminals…Cowardly and afraid, always willing to give up their friends to save their own necks.”

The Jedi nodded in agreement but furrowed his brow as he remembered a distinct exception.

“What about that Klat ten days ago?”

Raith snorted in response.

“Him? He was just stupid.”

They both shared a laugh before shuffling in the rooms beyond brought them back to their task at hand.

Raith turned to his friend and gave a small shrug as he cocked his carbine on full-auto.

“Well, I guess we gave them enough of a head start.”

Rukar smiled and flexed his fingers over his lightsaber. With a familiar snap-hiss he summoned forth the deadly yellow blade. It gracefully weaved in a deadly dance of light as the Jedi honed his reflexes for the second round of his battle to come.

Finally, he nodded at the armored man.

Together, they dashed into the next room to a hail of blaster fire.

*************************************************************************************

The nefarious crime lord sat before his marvelous marble desk as he considered the man before him.

More bad news.

These two mystery men hadn’t stopped at killing his most loyal enforcer.

No, they had systematically been hammering away at his suppliers and pushers across Ord Mantell.

Now, they even had the audacity to strike at one of his most successful clubs?

Kruluuk had been one of his more productive employees. Vilmarh had provided him with over twenty security guards to ensure it stayed that way.

The Dirty Rodian brought in his higher end clientele, and it was they who bought his more expensive, high-quality spice.

Now they were all dead. Their spice had been burned. The club had been torched.

Didn’t they understand that this was HIS planet!?

The crime lord’s face was as impassive as the stone statues of Korriban as he stared menacingly at this impudent thug who dared deliver more bad news.

He couldn’t help but smiled inwardly though as he considered whether Kylto had arranged for this other man to be here. The Twi’lek was crafty and had certainly seen his master’s wrath first hand.

He supposed it was a good thing that he surrounded himself with smart associates.

Yes. Kylto would live…but he would have to clean up the mess from his unfortunate messenger.

*************************************************************************************

The two men walked calmly down the streets of the bustling marketplace as they sought their contact.

The Toydarian was loud, rude, and annoying, but his information was solid and despite his best efforts to make it seem otherwise, it was clear he cared for the people of his planet.

It hadn’t been too hard to track him down when they began their initial crusade. Raith’s years of bounty hunting had paid off; he knew how to ask around.

People always knew who had information.

If they didn’t, sometimes one had to be a bit more…convincing.

Zerko’s shop wasn’t too far away when they stumbled upon a young boy, his youthful face smattered in scrapes and grime.

His small hands plaintively grasped the Jedi’s pants as he looked up at the tall man’s face.

The boy’s eyes welled with tears as he solemnly implored him.

“Some credits, sir….please…I’ve lost my parents…I have nothing…”

Rukar got down on one knee to lower his considerable height and gently patted the boy on the head. He turned back and motioned to Raith for some credits before softly grasping the boy’s shoulder and looking into his street-hardened eyes.

Awfully hard eyes for such a young boy.

Then again…he had lost his parents at a young age.

He and Raith could commiserate.

As the bounty hunter handed the credit chip to his Jedi friend, Rukar held it just out of reach of the young orphan.

“One condition…how did it happen?”

The boy looked curiously at the two as if seeing them for the first time.

“These bad men came and took them away…”

The boy looked as if he was going to succumb to tears again, but instead bit his lip and continued.

“I tried following them…they took them to this big building with a large monster thing on it.”

The two looked at each other and imperceptibly nodded their heads. Only one place fit the description.

The Rowdy Ronto Ranger.

The name hinted at humorous occurrences, but the place had anything but.

Zerko had told them about it but they had brushed it off as too dangerous. Parents took their children there to play their games while they combed the basements getting high on spice.

Neither of them had wanted to risk collateral damage, but they had come too far to stop now.

The boy had hit a nerve in the two of them, and the danger didn’t bother them as much as it might have.

They would step on Vilmarh’s nerves until he contacted them. Perhaps this would finally be enough.

As the vigilantes strode down their path of vengeance…the young boy was smiling.

*************************************************************************************

He wasn’t the only one.

The crime lord smirked evilly as he pondered the news the Twi’lek had brought him.

Their operations had been cut by 23% in the last month alone.

Normally numbers like that would have meant the death of numerous associates; those responsible or just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But Kylto was smart enough not to bring only bad information to his master, and it was the second revelation that brought the current nefarious grin to his face.

It seemed things were finally going according to plan.

*************************************************************************************

As Raith stepped inside the wicked establishment, he heard the lighthearted din of children playing and the small talk of their adult overseers.

How ironic that a den of such evil could be concealed by such innocent joy.

The two men approached the concierge droid as they cautiously scanned the entrance for security cameras.

Spotting the lone sentry, the bounty hunter drew his ionization suppressed holdout blaster and let fly a blaster bolt in one smooth action.

The droid raised one of its mechanical arms in protest before the Jedi’s humming blade sent its head to its new home on the ground.

The warriors froze in place as they listened for any signs of trouble.

…Nothing…

Satisfied that they had not yet been discovered, they leaned on the concierge desk and conferred on strategy.

The bounty hunter spoke first.

“Same strategy as usual. Though this time I shout for everybody to get down. Anybody who doesn’t…”

Raith laid a hand across his carbine as his jaw tightened resolutely.

“I burn ‘em.”

The Jedi sighed and threw his comrade a sarcastic wink.

“I’m to be the blaster magnet again, am I? Sooner or later our roles will have to be reversed, my friend.”

The bounty hunter calmly leveled his carbine at his friend’s forehead and clicked the trigger before Rukar could even blink.

The Jedi’s stunned expression turned into a grin as he laughed at his friend’s sometimes-morose humor.

Raith smiled back and fired his own wink.

“Maybe when you can match my shot, pal.”

Rukar re-activated his sulfurous yellow blade with its familiar snap-hiss as he prepared for their upcoming bout.

The bounty hunter clapped his friend on the shoulder as they prepared to enter the main room.

For a moment, Raith feared it would be the last time he saw his friend. He shook his head to regain his battle focus.

Thoughts for another time.

As they stealthily snuck through the entranceway, they noticed a low-lying wall along their left side. A fiery red bantha-hide path along the corridor blazed into the main play area where the multi-colored lights reflected off what walls they could see.

Realizing the wall wouldn’t conceal his friend’s large size; Raith motioned for the Jedi to bend lower and advance along the wall while he covered him and slowly followed suit.

The Jedi gradually advanced along the wall as his companion’s carbine trained upon him.

As his friend neared the halfway point, the bounty hunter surveyed the layout of the environment around him. Deciding there would be no threat until they broke past the corridor, he quickly rushed to catch up.

He froze in mid-step as he felt a cold hand tightly grip his stomach. One look at the Jedi told him all he needed to know.

*************************************************************************************

Rukar’s whole body went numb as he felt a sudden sense of wrongness. How had he missed such a large disturbance in the Force? Was he so blinded by his desire for vengeance? What was happening to him?

He shook his head to regain his focus. Those thoughts were luxuries reserved for times when death was not so imminent.

He started to shout at his vulnerable friend but found himself lifting from the floor.

And then he was flying.

*************************************************************************************

Raith could only helplessly watch in horror as the explosion ripped through the wall where his friend had been.

How had he been so blind?

Of course this was an ambush.

It was too easy.

Too coincidental.

They had made it personal and gotten overconfident.

He only hoped it wasn’t an irreparable mistake.

The bounty hunter found his thoughts interrupted as he was blown back from the shock wave and crashed to the ground heavily.

The explosion that had seemingly doomed his friend was instead his salvation.

Where he had stood only moments before, a hulking durasteel pillar now lay; bathed in the smoky remnants of the environment it had so thoroughly demolished.

Raith coughed as the dust settled across the blast zone. Noting a sharp sting on his face, he sluggishly wiped his cheek with his hand.

Blood.

Some of the shrapnel from the explosive round must have nicked him.

The bounty hunter gingerly drew his carbine as he lay on his back in the rubble. Cocking it on auto-fire, he could only pray that his friend was okay.

What had they gotten themselves into?

*************************************************************************************

The giant human tightened the gargantuan muscles in his arm and felt his weaker prey’s life ebb away in his hands.

He fed on the fear and anger from these weaklings who considered themselves worthy of accompanying him on his mission.

One final squeeze with his massive hands snapped the man’s neck like a twig.

Torian tossed the foolish corpse to the ground and smiled cruelly.

He had told the man to wait for his order to fire. The shot might have been a good one, but that didn’t matter.

Nobody would spoil his amusement. These men were HIS to kill.

The goliath’s villainous smirk spread across his scarred face as he grabbed his large scythe-blade.

While usually wielded with two hands, the monstrous humanoid could swing it expertly with only one massive paw. Its large cutting blade granted it a large kill zone; given the brute’s naturally long reach, it seemed unfair.

Of course, his opponents didn’t live long enough to bemoan that.

The behemoth noticed his armored opponent stirring and flicked a switch on his belt as he raised his blade.

Now the fun began.

*************************************************************************************

Raith watched blankly as his gigantic opponent stalked toward him.

His mind flashed with images of a large man throttling his father before tossing him to the ground like a bag of refuse. He remembered that wicked scar from his right ear to his chin prominently displayed on that cruel face.

It seemed the last twenty years had added more than their number of additional ones.

The bounty hunter knew he didn’t have the luxury to reflect on the past, and hastily drew his carbine.

The giant was only paces away when he leveled it at his foe’s head.

Raith smiled grimly as his finger tightened over the trigger and unleashed a deadly torrent on the savage brute.

His surprise was complete when the bolts dissipated into the thug’s energy shield.

Torian smiled smugly, reveling in his moment of triumph as he lifted his curved blade above his head.

Unfortunately for the brute, Raith had some experience with portable energy shields.

While they were undoubtedly valuable against whatever element they were designed to protect against…they weren’t immune to everything.

A quick thrust of his boot launched a pile of dusty remains of the former ferrocrete wall into the huge man’s eyes.

The giant ferociously thrust his blade down, narrowly missing the agile bounty hunter as he did so.

Raith watched in nothing less than astonished admiration as the brute cleaved fully into the duracrete floor. He hardly hesitated as his tremendous muscles bulged and ripped the blade back out.

His ferocious snarl spewed spittle into the bounty hunter’s bloodied face as Raith urgently considered his next course of action.

He knew one wrong move meant his innards would be pouring onto the ground courtesy of that deadly blade.

His mind raced as he considered his options. He could charge, and die…He could fire his carbine, and die…He could run, be chased down, and die…

The outlook seemed grim.

Of course…the bounty hunter forgot one important fact.

He was not alone.

Raith raised his carbine defiantly and gritted his teeth as he stared down the barbaric behemoth.

Torian smiled wickedly in response and motioned his foe forward with his free hand as his blade twirled expertly in the other.

The bounty hunter’s only warning was a quick flash of movement behind the giant.

Fortunately for Raith, the hulking brute did not share the same notice.

He watched as a large section of the torn ferrocrete wall launched across the former corridor to collide squarely with the wide back of the giant thug.

The monster’s eyes went wide in shock and pain as he tumbled forward a few steps towards the waiting bounty hunter.

In the mean time, Torian’s associates opened fire on the newly-revealed Jedi, keeping him occupied as his hands deftly batted away the incoming bolts.

Knowing he couldn’t help his friend, Raith took his opportunity and drew his vibroblade from behind his back while simultaneously sliding his hidden vibrodagger out from his left gauntlet.

As he ran past his falling foe, he slashed downward with his dagger and raked his blade across the thug’s broad shoulders. Completing the windmill maneuver, he launched himself onto the beast’s back and drove both cutting blades deep into his flesh.

Instead of falling to the ground in his death throes, the hulking menace reached a massive arm over his shoulder and firmly gripped the armored bounty hunter.

This time he was better prepared and shifted to launch away, but the giant’s grip was as unyielding as a tractor beam.

Raith looked up as he found himself on a crash course to meet the wall. He saw Melyna’s beautiful green eyes staring back at him as he fell into darkness.

Rukar watched from across the corridor as his friend’s armored form met the wall and limply slumped to the ground.

Rage boiled within the frustrated Jedi’s body like superheated molten metal preparing to enter the forge.

All he wanted was to do some good in this galaxy. Why must he lose everything he came to care for in the process?

The Jedi lifted his arms as he felt the dark side’s cold embrace course through his body. It filled him like an overflowing vase, quenching his insatiable thirst for power.

His eyes stared coldly at his foes as four jagged pieces of the shattered wall raised into the air.

Before they had time to even react, their shattered bodies littered the floor of the children’s playground.

The Jedi smiled grimly as he turned to his left and saw the gargantuan brute eyeing him with barely suppressed fury. He watched as the giant slowly reached back and tore the bounty hunter’s vibroblade from his own flesh.

Rukar’s smile left his face as Torian grinned cruelly and snapped the blade in half over his knee.

Casually tossing the broken debris to the side, he began his predatory stalk towards his next victim.

The young man could only watch in frozen terror at the unstoppable menace that was his opponent…

What the hell WAS this guy?

Another blaster bolt rang out and blazed over the Jedi’s shoulder as the rest of the brute’s men joined the fight.

The giant turned to them and screamed in anger.

“NO! HE IS MINE!”

The fire abruptly stopped before it had even begun.

The two warriors faced off only steps from each other as the haunting sounds of children at play filled their ears.

The Jedi smiled at the absurd situation and spotted the sound system responsible in the center of the room.

He gestured slightly with his off hand and it promptly crumpled into a pile of useless slag.

Eerie silence fell over the battlefield as the hate-filled foes stared each other down.

Torian’s yellow-rimmed pupils glared holes into his opponent’s steel grey eyes.

But Rukar would not back down.

His friend’s broken body stood testimony to his mighty foe’s prowess, but he would not be denied his vengeance.

Torian’s grip on his blade tightened as his powerful foe burst with sudden alacrity into his considerable range.

His potent blade swept downward to cut him down but was intercepted by the humming yellow lightsaber of his dexterous foe.

The two traded blows for what seemed like eons in a duel to decide the ultimate warrior.

The Jedi thrust his blade straight forward only to be forcefully picked off by the gigantic warrior’s agile parry.

Torian reversed his momentum and brought his blade back across the Jedi’s side before he had time to react.

Rukar nearly lost his concentration as he felt the vicious blade neatly slice open his hip.

He fell to one knee as he nonetheless deflected two hastened follow-up slashes from the relentless giant.

His mind struggled as he realized the inevitable resolution of their conflict.

He was just too strong.

All that they had done would be for nothing as this beastly man stripped from them everything they had worked so hard for.

They had been so close.

But Rukar was not as weak as that. Master Or’Dana had always had faith in him, had seen the greatness in him…

Death would not be his fate. Not this day.

He opened himself to what power the Force could offer him and felt it pour into every fiber of his being. It was as if the radiance of the stars filled his veins. But like a dam containing a raging river, he could only funnel such power for so long before it consumed him.

His blade struck lightning fast as he assaulted the monstrous human with every last ounce of energy and skill he had.

Four rapid strikes to the brute’s knees brought his massive blade low as the Jedi followed with a swipe of his saber across the brute’s shoulder.

The Jedi smiled as he renewed his assault.

That was for Raith.

*************************************************************************************

Torian felt burning agony explode across his nerves as the nefarious saber deeply gashed his shoulder. He managed to bring his blade up to deflect two more weak blows before another quick slash crisped his left leg.

Still, the Jedi relentlessly came on.

It was all the giant could do to keep him at bay. A quick strike sneaked through his guard and caught his hip as the massive warrior stumbled and fell to his back.

The time for games was over.

*************************************************************************************

Rukar shouted in victory as he raised his humming blade for the finishing blow.

But then he noticed something about the way his foe smiled.

The giant thrust one massive hand forward and the Jedi catapulted across the room to smash heavily into the ferrocrete wall.

His last conscious thought was the predatory look in those yellow eyes.

*************************************************************************************

The brutal giant slowly raised his powerful body and dusted off his blood-stained tunic.

One glance at the limp form of his foe told him all he needed to know about who the victor was.

He stalked back over to his remaining five men as they fearfully watched his approach.

The senior of them smiled in pure fear as he attempted to appease his terrifying superior.

“Well done…you never cease to impress us with your tremendous prowess.”

The badly-wounded warrior only grunted as he grasped the man’s neck and stared straight into his eyes.

“I-I-I only meant to compliment…*choke*…you.”

The smaller man struggled as he sought some escape from certain doom.

“Ar-Aren’t we taking them back to the Boss?”

Torian slowly nodded his head as he harshly released his chokehold.

The smaller man bowed his head gratefully as he attempted to make himself useful to his dangerous companion.

“Do you need our help collecting them?”

The giant smiled that cruel smile of his and shook his head.

The five men stared at each other nervously as they each pondered their career choice.

“Is there any way we can help you?”

This time, pure dread filled the men’s stomachs as they saw the look in the brute’s eyes.

That was the last thing any of them would ever feel as their life force drained from their bodies. It coalesced into dark pulsing bolts of energy that poured into the bleeding giant.

Torian stood with his eyes closed as he embraced their pain as their lives were snuffed out by his will.

When he opened them again, his wounds had mostly been healed.

Blood no longer poured from the smaller punctures in his back.

He moved his shoulder, could step on his left knee, and his hip no longer ached.

He smiled grimly to himself as he remembered his favorite part of the Code his master had taught him.

Through strength, I gain power. Through power, I gain victory. Through victory, my chains are broken.

The Force shall free me.

As he flexed his fingers and grasped his blade tightly, the brute stalked back to his last victim.

The Jedi still lived.

He would see to it that that was no longer the case.


Raith felt a soft hand gently stroke his cheek as he opened his eyes.

Kneeling over him was Melyna, her beautiful smile as radiant as all the suns in the galactic core combined.

A smile bloomed on his face as he bathed in the warmth of her incandescent love.

As much as he wanted to enjoy his situation, the bounty hunter knew something was wrong.

He shouldn’t be here.

Neither should his lover.

The last thing he remembered was…

His eyes burst open as he groaned in pain. He was still lying in ferrocrete debris from the pillar’s thunderous fall.

He turned his head to the side as he unceremoniously spit out blood.

As his face rested on the coarse rubble, he noticed movement in the corner of his vision.

He gingerly lifted his head to watch as the lumbering behemoth headed for something in the corner of the room.

Somehow, the massive humanoid was no longer bleeding.

The bounty hunter tried bracing himself on his left arm to get a better look but felt the sharp stinging pains of fractured bones screaming at him to cease.

He stubbornly fought through the pain. He needed to know if it was who he thought it was.

As he watched, the shape slowly stirred.

Rukar.

He was alive.

Raith wanted to shout in frustration as he realized he could not hope to stop the fiend from killing his friend before his own eyes.

He collapsed to the ground and laid his hand across his chest.

Cursing himself for his impotence, he fingered his bandolier in frustration.

He was helpless. Useless. What good was he if he couldn’t even save his friend?

As this last thought hammered at his self-worth, the bounty hunter’s hand strayed past one of the fragmentation grenades on his bandolier.

He had one chance to save his friend.

And if he missed….it wouldn’t matter anyway.

Unhooking the explosive and adjusting its setting, he paused as he realized he couldn’t brace himself on his left arm again.

He was too badly wounded.

Cursing in aggravation, the frustrated bounty hunter forcefully pounded the ground with his fist.

As he did, the grenade clicked as it went live.

The bounty hunter somberly grinned as he considered his predicament.

Was this one of those signs from the Force that Rukar made mention of?

He hadn’t the time to consider any other option.

With one deep breath to steady himself, the bounty hunter cocked his arm and let his friend’s salvation fly.

*************************************************************************************

Across the room, the Jedi slowly picked himself up as he tried to regain the use of his motor functions.

He spotted his lightsaber several paces away and reached out his hand for it.

Nothing.

He collapsed with his hand still outstretched as he considered his dilemma.

He had drawn too heavily on the Force and was too exhausted to even call his lightsaber to him. He had no chance against the brute this time around. As the footsteps drew nearer, he didn’t know if he ever had a chance.

No.

He would not go down with only a whimper.

He summoned what energy he could and lunged for his weapon. As the humming blade spewed forth, he threw himself into a series of desperate maneuvers for a quick kill.

His revitalized opponent mockingly grinned and batted each strike away as if it was child’s play. He taunted his Jedi foe by waiting until the last possible moment before rejecting each blow.

Finally, one quick stroke broke through and clipped his shoulder. The brute showed no outward reaction before retaliating with such a forceful blow that the Jedi’s lightsaber flew from his hand.

Rukar could only stare into those rabid yellow eyes as he felt his throat tighten.

*************************************************************************************

Torian gestured with his massive hand as he choked the life out of his weakened prey.

As darkness began to creep into his vision, the Jedi saw a small object in the corner of his eye.

The preoccupied giant was too distracted to notice the danger until it was too late.

The bounty hunter’s throw was on target.

The hulking brute felt a slight tap on his shoulder before all he knew was pain.

The darkness called to him.

This time, there would be no resistance.

*************************************************************************************

The Jedi could only watch in bewildered astonishment as what was left of the hulking brute toppled to the floor.

Where had once been his scarred head and massive musculature now stood a bleeding pile of meat.

His former victim stared, disgusted, at what had moments before been a worthy foe.

His skull and much of his back and right arm had been blown apart. What was still attached was riddled with shrapnel.

Rukar ran a hand along his arm and felt several punctures of his own.

He’d have to yell at his friend for that later…for now he was just grateful for his life.

He remembered the fallen form of the bounty hunter and realized that he was in worst condition than the Jedi was.

Gathering what little reserves of strength he had left, he left the butchered corpse of his enemy and ran across the debris covered room to join his battered companion.

Raith smiled grimly as he waved his ally over.

Rukar couldn’t hide the distress on his face as he eyed his friend’s wounds.

He clearly had broken his left leg and arm where he had smashed into the unyielding wall. He likely had a rib or two broken as well by the way he clutched his chest.

The bounty hunter grinned weakly as he considered his weary companion. He closed his eyes and rested his head as he spoke.

“Did I get him?”

The Jedi nodded solemnly in spite of his friend’s inability to see it.

“You did…” The Jedi smiled as he made an addendum, “Got me a bit too.”

Raith smiled at that and faintly laughed.

“Good. Worked out just as I planned.”

Rukar smiled as he softly wiped moisture gathering in the corner of his eye.

They both knew what was happening. They had heard the commotion. Vilmarh had more men waiting in case of this scenario, and they had only moments before their escape would be cut off.

The Jedi laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder and squeezed affectionately.

Raith nodded, his eyes still closed, as he clapped his own hand on his companion’s.

“You take care of her, you hear me?”

Rukar didn’t need to answer. It wasn’t a question.

When the bounty hunter opened his eyes several moments later, he found himself staring down the barrels of two blaster rifles in the hands of leathery-skinned Weequays.

He closed his eyes again as he reflected on the pain he would soon endure.

Pain was nothing.

His vengeance was not yet sated.

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RaithDuhal
Posts: 34
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Part 6

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:39 am

PART VI

As the villainous crime lord anxiously paced across his office like a hungry Correlian Razor Cat, his mind reeled at the news he had received only moments before.

Finally, he had them.

Well, one of them.

That didn’t bother him much though. Breaking prisoners was just one of the many skills in the fiend’s grim repertoire. Soon, he would have the other foolish vigilante who dared risk his wrath.

Despite his confident exterior, it only served to conceal the conflicted mind lurking underneath.

Yes, he had one of them…But the two had single handedly taken down his ultimate trump card.

Nobody on the streets had dared test Vilmarh’s men since he had first enlisted that brutish giant over twenty years ago.

Any who did were found throttled, butchered...or worse.

He sighed as he realized that his previous power could never quite be the same. He had been given the brute as a gift, and he dared not ask again.

The crime lord’s body involuntarily shivered.

Torian might have scared him, but Vilmarh would never willingly speak to his dark patron again.

He was shaken from his reverie when his green-skinned majordomo appeared in the doorway.

The Twi’lek’s head-tails wriggled in excitement as he eagerly bowed before his master.

“Boss, come with-”

“Where is he!?”

Kylto rocked back a step as he considered the uncommon outburst from his nefarious superior.

Vilmarh was not so easily shaken.

The Twi’lek quickly filed away not to underestimate their new prisoner. Few things could rattle his master so easily.

Wasting no more time, the portly alien stepped out from the doorway and motioned down the hallway.

“He’s in interrogation room one, master. Orrtugh is with him now…preparing him for you.”

The crime lord was hastening out of the room before the green-skinned alien had even finished his sentence.

He smiled evilly as brusquely walked down the ominous hall.

It was time their new friend learned some respect.


What was happening to him?

The Jedi softly combed his fingers over his exhausted face as he examined himself in the cracked refresher mirror.

His skin had begun to turn paler, hollower… Small lines faintly traced along his eyes and cheeks like wicked spider webs.

It wasn’t much. But it was there.

He couldn’t shake off the image of that gargantuan monster’s fanatical yellow eyes staring daggers into his own.

He had seen too much of himself in that fiend that day. He didn’t know what to do with that knowledge.

What would have happened if his bounty hunter friend had not saved him?

If he had struck that evil beast down in anger, would he have been no better than him?

He shook his head vigorously at the notion, as if he could somehow knock loose the blood he had so eagerly spilled alongside his friend.

They had convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing.

It all felt so righteous.

How could it have been wrong to stop the evil that was plaguing the streets and lives of all the innocent inhabitants of this planet?

He looked back up into the mirror.

His eyes lost their focus as a tentacled humanoid pointed at him with fear in his gaze. The Jedi watched powerlessly as a pitiless reflection of his own smiling face cleaved the sentient in two. His shadowy replica glared intently at him and laughed cruelly. On the floor, the twin halves of the Quarren stared blankly upward, both dead eyes trained on him. They bore into his soul.

Murderer.

He splashed cold water onto his face as he shouted in frustration.

He had abandoned his friend.

Yes, Raith had told him to go; reminded him of his obligations to Melyna and his parents.

That didn’t make it any easier to look himself in the mirror.

Behind him came a stirring from the beaten up bed.

Melyna’s soft voice enveloped his ears. When he heard her speak, it wasn’t hard to see why his friend would do anything for her.

“Rukar? Was that you? Is everything okay?”

Anger burned within the Jedi’s tall form as he fought to control his reaction.

Of course everything wasn’t okay. He had failed his friend, just like he had failed Master Or’Dana before him.

No more would die because of him.

He turned to face the beautiful woman with fury in his eyes.

The fuel was instantly ripped from his flames as he gazed upon her tear streamed face and red-rimmed eyes.

Rukar embraced her in his strong arms as her body wracked in tears that would no longer come.

She had no more to give.

He buried his face in her silky auburn hair as he too grieved for his dear friend.

Finally, he released their hold and gently laid his hands on her shoulders.

“He’s not dead yet Melyna.”

She turned her angelic face upon him and shook it softly, a rogue hair gently falling across her brow.

“How can you know that?”

The Jedi’s jaw tightened as he delicately clapped his hands on her shoulders and looked into her shining emerald eyes.

“The Force. I can feel him. He’s in pain, but he’s alive…”

He clenched his jaw in frustration and turned his back on her as his grey eyes scanned the ceiling’s many stains and fractures.

“I…I can’t leave him there…”

He turned his conflicted eyes upon her once more as he plaintively pleaded with her to understand his pain.

“But I can’t go after him…”

The young woman rocked back on her heels as she attempted to understand her tall companion’s predicament.

“I might not have been a Jedi for long but I learned enough about the monster I could be…I can’t…I can’t risk it…Not even for him.”

He blew out a long, slow breath as he carefully considered his next words.

“When my master died…I felt darkness within me I hadn’t known before. I saw what I could become. I can’t let it happen again. I just…can’t…”

He punched the ferrocrete wall firmly for emphasis. It cracked slightly under the forceful blow, dusting the ground below with its rocky fragments.

As he unfurled his fist the Jedi noticed the beginnings of blood slowly drip from his cracked knuckles to the dust-covered floor.

As he watched the first drop swiftly soar to the ground, he somberly spoke to his suffering friend.

I’m sorry…I can’t follow on your path any longer.

He turned and strode out from the room as Melyna watched the blood gather along the floor. She felt as if it were her heart bleeding instead.

Who would save her love now?


Raith’s haggard body shook as another meaty fist solidly impacted his cheek.

A groan of pain escaped his cracked and bleeding lips as he slowly swayed in circles around the barren room.

A rigid durasteel chain painfully restrained his wrists above his head; the captive bounty hunter felt as if it would rip his arms from his body.

The thought did not diminish as another hearty slam to his stomach caused him to quake in seizures of pain.

His Gamorrean torturer smiled that ugly tusk-filled grin of his as he lifted Raith’s head to face the room’s one door.

How he hated that fat pig-faced piece of bantha poodoo.

Straining his one not swollen eye, the bounty hunter could barely make out a horned red-skinned humanoid stride into the room.

His immaculate garb and professional demeanor marked him as the boss of this place, of that Raith was sure.

He took a step forward to better eye his captive as a breeder would his prize Bantha stud.

He was followed shortly after by a green-skinned Twi’lek, his head-tails twitching along his shoulders as he glanced nervously at the sight of their battered prisoner.

Kylto fingered his chin as he considered the bounty hunter. He certainly looked the hero. With the proud set of his eyes and the defiant tightness of his jaw, he wouldn’t make this easy for his boss.

Of course, that didn’t matter.

His master was a very patient man.

After surveying his hostage’s beaten form, the crime lord strode only centimeters from his face before he donned a fanged smile.

“So this is one of the mighty ‘heroes’ who so valiantly fought to destroy all that I have worked for?”

His prisoner’s face remained expressionless before spitting blood into the monster’s face.

Vilmarh smiled cruelly as he slowly drew his bejeweled dagger and drove it deep into the bounty hunter’s stomach.

Raith bit his lip hard to stop from crying out in pain. Blood cascaded over his lips to join the puddle gathering beneath his feet from his gushing abdominal wound.

As the wicked crime lord withdrew his dagger, he leaned forward to wipe the blade off on Raith’s torn tunic, whispering as he did so.

“I’m going to make this painful for you, my dear new friend. You’re going to tell me who your partner was and where to find him. One way or another.”

Raith coughed as blood streamed down his mouth. He grinned in a macabre display of gore as he painfully retorted.

“I knew you Devaronians were stupid, but to kill your prisoner in the first hour?...”

He coughed yet more blood and hung his head painfully before continuing.

“You’ll get nothing from me.”

Vilmarh drew his lips back in a cruel smile and motioned to the porcine alien.

“Orrtugh, do patch up our good friend please. He’ll need to be ready for round two.”

He turned from his prisoner and began to walk from the room before stopping at the cusp of the door.
Twisting his head back to smile wickedly at the bounty hunter, he threw a villainous wink.

“That’s what they all say, hero. By the end, you’ll be singing the same tune as the rest of them.”

With that, the Devaronian sauntered back to his office.

Raith grimaced as the Gamorrean clumsily injected him with the first of many kolto stimpacks. He felt the needle shooting the healing agent into his veins as the regenerative microbes went to work on his torn body.

He flashed a weak smile at the majordomo as he, too, turned to leave.

Kylto stared expectantly at the prisoner before responding.

“What do you want?”

The bounty hunter’s morbid laughter shook his body before he abandoned it as too painful. He switched his speech to Ryl to bypass the dim porcine torturer’s understanding.

“Nothing…I just hope you know you’re next.”

The Twi’lek’s face froze in fear as he pointed his finger at his chest.

“Me? You’re mad; as shown by what brought you here in the first place.”

“Suit yourself. I know I’d never trust the Rancor that feeds me.”

Raith calmly winked with his one good eye before cringing painfully from another kolto shot.

Kylto took the opportunity to swiftly extricate himself from the room. As he did, his thoughts were haunted by the captive’s chilling laughter and that foretelling wink.

Not for the first time, the Twi’lek considered his career choice as he paced ominously back to his own small office.

As the footsteps slowly faded in the hallway, Raith smiled grimly to himself.

The seeds had been planted.

His only hope now was that they found the sunlight to grow.


Rukar stared at the dark evening sky as the orange sun slowly began to sink into the distant twinkling skyline.

What was happening to him?

He had always been a fighter. He had never backed down from a challenge. Why was he so afraid now?

He cursed himself for his weakness as he closed his eyes and felt the gentle breeze kiss his face.

As he did, he saw Torian’s rabid yellow orbs staring back at him in the darkness.

The Jedi’s eyes bolted open as his breath became haggard in dread.

He would never be that beast.

And yet in their vicious battle, he knew that the giant had seen in him a kindred soul.

A fellow warrior who gave his all to come out on top. Who let his passions empower and drive him to greater achievement.

He shook his head as he watched a transport freighter slowly lift off from the spaceport. Its repulsorlift brought it to sufficient height before its aquamarine ion engines kicked on and hauled it into the atmosphere.

As he watched it leave his sight, Rukar knew he, too, had to go. He couldn’t keep himself here.

He was too dangerous to those around him.

If that weren’t enough, he probably already had another bounty on his head.

He sighed heavily as he considered the man he would leave behind.

The man that had become his friend and helped him learn more about the man he was becoming.

Melyna walked out onto the rooftop behind and called to him.

“What is it, Ruk? Have you decided? Are you going to him?”

She couldn’t quite keep the hopeful excitement out of her voice at the last question.

What wounded him the most was that he knew where his friend was being held. He had shadowed the group that took him to a popular cantina. He could attempt to save him…but it likely meant suicide. The place was stacked with guards…it was just too risky. And if he survived…he didn’t want to know what monster he might become.

While it killed him to hurt her more than she already had been, the Jedi solemnly shook his head as he looked into her betrayed eyes.

“I can’t…If I went to him now, I’d be no better than the mindless brute that led to his capture.”

He looked down to the ground as moisture gathered in his eyes. He blinked them away.

No time for that.

“We’re getting out of here. I’ll get my parents and then we’re heading to the spaceport. Gurji can try whatever he wants; all I want is to go somewhere where we can escape all this. If I stay here…”

He trailed off and left the threat unspoken. He didn’t know what would happen.

That was the scariest part.

The beautiful woman stared coldly into his eyes as she straightened herself to her full height to address him.

“So this is how you repay the man who saved your life?”

The smart hurt worse than he anticipated, but the Jedi took it in stride and laid a hand gently on the bereaved woman’s soft shoulder.

“Melyna…He told me to take care of you. This is the best I can do…I’m sorry. We can’t stay.”

Not backing down, she put her hands on her hips and shot him a defiant glare.

“And where will we go? Gurji’s thugs will still be after you, Raith told me as much. We’re not safe without him. We need him, Ruk. Only when he sets everything straight with Gurji will we all be safe…”

The tall Jedi swallowed his pride as he shrugged helplessly.

“Listen. I know what you’re saying, and I can’t refute any of it…but I can’t stay. I’m a danger to you and my parents if I do. I’d go by myself but I promised him I would take care of you. Please…for Raith.”

A lone tear traveled the length of her soft porcelain cheeks before beginning its long descent to the rooftop below.

She nodded her head glumly and mournfully turned and walked back down the stairs.

Rukar shifted back to the sunset behind him and sighed heavily. He spoke to the winds and prayed they found their way to his beleaguered friend.

“I’m sorry, Raith…There’s no other way…I’ll hold my promise to you; I’ll take care of her…”

The tall Jedi sniffled as the tears fell shamelessly from his cheeks.

This time, he let them.

He longingly reached his hand out as if cupping the sun’s fading rays, preserving what last hope he could for his comrade.

“I’ll see you on the other side, my friend.”

With that, he turned his back to the glowing rays and somberly walked to the stairwell to gather his companions.

Behind him, the sun completed its journey to darkness and sank beneath the horizon.


Raith doubled over in pure agony as another harsh blow to his stomach forcefully found its mark.

The Gamorrean cracked his fingers with glee and snorted as he wiped the blood clean from his spiked vibroknuckle.

The bounty hunter’s breathing came in ragged gasps as he struggled to stay conscious. His eyes lazily followed the porcine alien’s movements as he went to the table to gather another one of his torturous implements.

Raith bit his lip and concentrated what energy he could on keeping his muscles tensed.

He had to make this good, he had only one chance.

The green-skinned Twi’lek’s lekkus twitched uncomfortably as he watched the bounty hunter suffer. Did he have to be here to watch this? The display was nothing more than a brutish gore-fest and he wanted no part of it.

As he stared at the prisoner’s face, he knew something was off. He was clearly in pain, but something was going on. He might have said something days before, but he grown to admire the strong-willed prisoner.

He was defiant to a fault. Never once had he wavered or given any indication he ever would.

The displeasure it caused his master was quite amusing to the head-tailed alien. Never had he seen him so perturbed.

Perhaps the loss of Torian had made Vilmarh more scared than he had realized.

The Gamorrean finally oinked his approval as he found his appropriate tool. It seemed he would use a jagged bone saw to slowly slice into different parts of the vulnerable bounty hunter…grisly business.

Kylto snorted as the bounty hunter shot him another wink.

The captive had been intimidating him for days now, and his claims of the majordomo’s danger did not seem to go without support.

Another smuggler had been slaughtered today at the crime lord’s behest.

Apparently there were grumblings in the ranks of displeasure at his managing of the vigilante situation.

Many of his men had been killed, including their two most powerful enforcers. There was some doubt as to the Devaronian’s ability to keep his operations under control with such little muscle left.

The Twi’lek got lost in his frightening train of thought when sounds of a struggle brought him back to reality.

The prisoner had his legs wrapped tightly around the massive Gamorrean’s neck as he endured a rain of blows from his torturer’s muscled arms.

Kylto drew his blaster, setting it to stun, before a harsh crack announced the end of Orrtugh. His bulky body fell heavily to the ground as his murderer grinned coldly at the only witness to the deed.

Before the Twi’lek fired, his defiant foe taunted him.

“Good luck telling this to your ‘master’.”

As the concussive blast shocked his system, Raith’s body went limp and hung flaccidly from the durasteel chain that restrained him.

The terrified alien slowly holstered his blaster while staring at the corpulent corpse of the Gamorrean thug.

What was he going to do?

He had to tell Vilmarh, but it would likely be his own end…The karking bounty hunter had been right all along.

As the Twi’lek bobbed along the hallway to his master’s office, his lekkus trembled in pure fear.

He had no other option...His only other escape lay in the prisoner slowly swinging from his bonds.


“He’s dead?!”

The humbled majordomo nodded his head glumly and kept his eyes trained on the burgundy carpeted floor.

The red-skinned Devaronian trembled in wrathful fury as he considered the development.

Everything was crashing down around him. These two do-gooders had come in and ruined his operation, his muscle, and his men’s faith in his ability to manage it all.

He would tolerate this no more.

An example had to be made. If he couldn’t get them both, he would make them pay however he could.

He turned his burning anger upon his cowed associate as he grabbed the front of the Twi’leks shirt and threw him forcefully into the poshly decorated wall.

The horned alien pointed a threatening finger at his majordomo as he shouted at him with death in his eyes.

“And where were you during all this? I don’t tolerate failure in this organization!”

The terrified Twi’lek hid his face behind his hands as he stammered a reply.

“B-B-Boss…I was there, b-b-but when the prisoner kicked the saw out of Orrtugh’s hand, i-i-it knocked me out of my chair…When I l-l-looked up, it was over…”

As the crime lord moved to draw his dagger, the green-skinned alien shouted an addendum.

“I took him out! I shot him with my blaster, he’s hanging there now, boss…please.”

The Devaronian smiled cruelly and rested his hand upon the jeweled dagger’s hilt as if making up his mind.

Kylto soiled himself in terror as he sat hunched upon the carpeted floor. He prayed Vilmarh didn’t notice…he’d have him flayed for that offense alone.

Finally, the crime lord raised his hands and ominously loomed over his downed associate.

“Go make yourself useful, my dear Kylto…I’m going to pay our friend one last visit.”

As he watched his nefarious master leave, the Twi’lek’s lekkus continued their terrified trembling.

He couldn’t live like this anymore. He had to do something. He struggled to lift himself from the floor and started for the door.

As he walked out from the room, Kylto took a deep breath.

He wondered how good it would feel to finally be free from the Rancor’s grasp.


Raith’s eyes slowly opened as another stunning slap to his face woke him from his stupor.

He found himself staring into the feral grin of the nefarious Devaronian who had brought him to the brink of death innumerable times in the last seven days.

The bounty hunter knew something was very wrong when he stared into those anger-maddened eyes. He gulped nervously as he considered the repercussions of his actions

Had he pushed him too far?

He noticed that the Twi’lek was nowhere to be seen, and wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad one.

The crime lord lazily traced the handsome features of his prisoner’s face with the razor sharp blade of his exquisitely decorated dagger.

Raith closed his eyes so as not to watch the deadly display.

Moments later he felt the cold edge of the blade gently rest upon his eye lid.

The prisoner briefly pondered the life he had led and found himself feeling empty.

One thought would not leave his mind.

Melyna.

Her beautiful face looked longingly at him every time he closed his eyes. Her smile warmed him from his head to his toes. He wasn’t ready to lose her. He wasn’t ready to give up.

Not yet. Not like this.

He opened his dark brown eyes to glare at his hated foe when he noticed that the Devaronian had backed off and was listening intently to the growing din outside.

Raith smirked and decided to do his best to keep his opponent off balance.

“Concerned, scumbag? Sounds like you got a small civil war on your hands, huh?”

The frightened crime lord turned his gaze upon his captive and glared with hate in his eyes. A wicked sneer spread across his face as he spoke in a calm voice…that promised certain death.

“Sarcastic even when your own doom looms? You’ve certainly made it entertaining, hero.”

As the red-skinned alien expertly twirled his dagger, a concussive blast sounded from outside the room, knocking him to the ground.

A bulky Gamorrean stumbled into the room with his Arg’garok in hand. He squealed in fear before turning to the door with his bulky axe ready to strike.

He never had the opportunity.

The crisp twang of a blaster rang out and the smoking corpse collapsed to the ground.

Raith’s mind raced.

What was happening?

Was this his salvation? Or only his death by the crime lord’s rebellious servants?


As the fetid smell of ozone filled the room, the disheveled crime lord lifted himself from the floor and stared in shock as a dark form stood in the doorway.

He hadn’t survived so long without being adept at negotiating, regardless of the circumstances.

He had many things to offer: wealth, power, spice, women.

The potential opportunities ran through the Devaronian’s head as he considered the angle he would play.

Who knows, maybe he could even profit from the situation. The horned alien’s face drew up into a confident sneer.

As his mysterious visitor cleared the door, the crime lord’s face fell.

The snip-hiss of a sulfurous yellow lightsaber broke the silence in the room as the tall figure advanced.

Vilmarh reached out his hand in an attempt to calm the intruder when the humming blade swooped down to meet him.

As the scalding sword connected with his neck, he only wondered in bewilderment how his security alarms hadn’t detected the intruder.


Raith watched with dumbfounded eyes as the villainous fiend’s horned head rolled to the ground beneath his feet.

In his last moments, the former crime lord seemed quite perplexed.

The bounty hunter smiled as he felt his Jedi friend’s eyes upon him.

“You came for me? You’re getting soft on me, Ruk.”

Rukar smiled as he playfully punched his captive friend in the stomach.

Raith winced in feigned pain and shot his friend a wink.

“Do me a favor and get me down from here? My arms are about ready to fall off…Melyna would have your head.”

Nodding his affirmation, the tall Jedi steadily cut through the thick durasteel chain.

Plopping to the ground gracelessly, the bounty hunter lightly brushed himself off before staring at the vacant doorway.

“Wait…who shot the-”

Answering his question for him, his beloved Melyna strode through the doorway with a blaster in hand.

Her radiant smile shone brighter than anything he had ever seen. The fluorescent blooms of the Dathomiri Riiqi flower could not so much as hold a candle to her beauty. Raithe felt his love for her warm his entire battered body.

As he stared into her beautiful green eyes, it was easy to remember what had kept him strong throughout the torturous ordeals he had endured.

As his Jedi friend’s strong arm picked him up and went under his shoulder, he smirked and looked appreciatively at his friend’s beloved.

“She’s a heck of a shot pal, you’ve got some firecracker.”

Melyna beamed back at his praise before moving to deeply kiss the man she had thought she lost forever.

Rukar’s cheeks reddened at the ferocity of their passion.

He purposefully looked up at the ceiling as he tried to put his mind elsewhere lest he make his two friends uncomfortable.

As blaster fire sounded further in the halls, he gave his newly freed friend a light tap on the shoulder.

“Raith? Let’s get space out of here shall we? Sounds like things are wrapping up elsewhere.”

The bounty hunter ceased his kiss to lay an arm around his lover’s shoulder for support. Turning to his savior, he nodded his affirmation.

“Let’s go. Together.”

As the three walked out of the chamber, the Jedi abruptly drew his lightsaber and spun to the left.

Kylto stood with his arms raised in peace as the humming blade lay inches from his exposed throat.

He gulped nervously before pleading with the three companions.

“I’m not here to hurt you. Please.”

He stared in particular at the freed bounty hunter, who gave him a small nod.

As Rukar lowered his lightsaber and disengaged the blade, the Twi’lek continued.

“I was in the security room when your friends arrived. I took out the guard and ensured the alarm wouldn’t be raised…”

He took a deep breath as if realizing for the first time what it was he had done.

“That…that psychopath needed to be put in his place. I’m done with this life…Thank you…”

He paused as he considered the former prisoner.

“I never got your name?”

The bounty hunter grinned at the notion before he replied.

“Raith. Raith Duhal.”

The former majordomo nodded thoughtfully and extended his hand.

“I won’t forget you. You’ve given me the opportunity to get out of this place.”

Raith shifted his shoulder to shake the chubby alien’s hand appreciatively.

“Take care of yourself…What’s going to happen here now?”

The Twi’lek’s lekkus wiggled uncertainly as he shrugged.

“They’ll winnow themselves down until there’s nothing left to pick over…It won’t be hard for me to slip out.”

The bounty hunter nodded and turned to leave with his companions.

As he watched them go, Kylto placed a hand on his prominent belly and nodded thoughtfully.

Raith Duhal.

He turned with a smile on his face as he began the long walk to Vilmarh’s emergency exit tunnel.


Ten days later, the two friends walked back from the marketplace to their abandoned hotel.

Rukar smiled as he considered his companion’s renewed vigor.

He had his body back thanks to the kolto stimpacks he pocketed from the torture chamber.

He even had his armor and gear back thanks to a small detour to the crime lord’s armory.

In the last ten days, the group had finally had time to relax and be at peace. They had enjoyed the closest thing to normalcy that they had had since their adventure began.

Unfortunately, it seemed that peace was not to last.

Raith had known their time was short; his business with Gurji loomed over him like a gigantic predatory Dantooinian Graul.

The tall Jedi felt something lingering in the Force. A sense of wrongness fell upon him like a heavy blanket of fog.

He turned to his friend to warn him, but he, too, sensed something amiss.

The bounty hunter drew his holdout blaster and took a position outside the front door. Rukar took one opposite him, his lightsaber poised to activate the moment he was ready.

Raith nodded at his friend before smashing into the door, his pistol leveled at the unwelcome intruder.

His surprise was total when he found himself staring at a taller man, his grey eyes squinting from his wide-mouthed grin. His balding grey hair was sleeked back, giving him the look of a professional, albeit a shadier one.

He pointed at the two companions and gestured with his fingers in the likeness of a pistol.

His other arm ended abruptly in a stump.

“Bang! You’re dead Raith.”

The bounty hunter only stared in disbelief as he slowly reholstered his holdout blaster.

The taller man threw his hands up in a cocky sign of confusion and donned his roguish grin.

“What? Surprised to see the old man again?”

Raith crossed the room swiftly and clapped his friend on the shoulder before embracing him firmly.

Breaking the greeting, he crossed his arms across his chest as he considered his old handler’s presence.

“What brings you here, Jori? How did you find me?”

The older man only shook his head and made a sharp clicking noise with his tongue.

“Come on Raith, have you forgotten how long we worked together? I know how you think, kid. We received the reports of what happened to Vilmarh’s operation and I smelled you all over it. It didn’t take long for me to figure out where you’d be.”

The bounty hunter only nodded slowly in understanding at his colleague from a life that seemed long gone.

“So it’s that time already?”

Jori nodded, his expression quickly losing its mirth.

“He won’t wait any longer, Raith. He’s thrown your sister in the dungeon.”

The younger man’s expression quickly changed to one of vengeful anger before his old friend raised a hand to hold him off.

“He hasn’t touched her…but he has an offer for you...”

He paused as he breathed in deeply. Apparently, the offer did not sit well with the old handler.

“Apparently, you pissed him off pretty good with this Vilmarh debacle and he’s lost his ‘great patience’…”

Raith motioned to his friend and waved him off.

“Stow it, Jori…What is it the fat slimeball wants from me?”

Jori took another deep breath as he paused to better illustrate the gravity of the situation.

“He wants you for the girl, kid…You’re to turn yourself over to him. I think he wants me to imply you’ll be chummy again and resume your duties…but I think you’re heading for the dungeons.”

The younger man’s face remained expressionless.

The bounty hunter’s old handler threw his arms up helplessly and shrugged.

“I’m only the messenger, kid. I’ll take you back to him when you’re ready…he’s given you three days to respond.”

Raith sighed heavily as he considered the situation.

He turned to his Jedi friend who instantly interceded.

“You don’t have to do this, Raith. I’ll go with you. We’ll put an end to this together. Once and for all.”

The bounty hunter only shook his head and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“No, my friend, it’s not that simple.”

Raith slowly turned to grudgingly walk up the stairs and tell his beloved the grim news.

As he stood at the precipice, Rukar tried once more to convince his comrade.

“Please. For Melyna if nothing else…”

His friend looked back, his love for them both clear in his eyes.

But the set of his jaw reflected his stubborn determination.

He shook his head and looked into his friend’s steel-grey eyes.

“This ends now.”

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RaithDuhal
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Part 7 (I)

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:40 am

PART VII

Another bone-crushing blow sounded eerily from within the dank torture room.

Buried beneath hundreds of feet of rock, the prisoner’s cries fell upon only the barren stone walls.

The captive could only groan helplessly in pain as his cheekbone shattered beneath the unyielding force of the Gamorrean’s meaty fist.

Raith turned his face to glare defiantly at his torturer, only to have his aristocratic nose splattered across his cheek by a powerful backhand.

The prisoner’s head hung limply in agony as the porcine humanoid drew forth a wickedly serrated blade. He fingered it hungrily before deftly slicing a thick piece of nerf leather for practice.

Satisfied, he turned his tusked-face back on his victim as he stalked over to stand before him.

He slowly teased the prisoner’s exposed skin with the wicked sword before abruptly hacking at one of his chained legs.

The bloody limb fell heavily free to the floor as the captive let loose a blood curdling scream of torment.

His powerful muscles strained against the bonds connecting him to the ceiling as he sought immediate reparations for the cruel deed, but he found no purchase. As he turned his bloodied mouth to his nemesis, he was met by his foe’s gore-covered blade.

The Gamorrean only oinked in malicious glee as he thrust the sword deep into his prisoner’s unprotected throat.

Raith could only stare in disbelief as his life left him…a throaty gurgle escaping his lips as he sagged heavily against his bonds; his body spasming in its death throes.

Moments later the corpse only gazed blankly at the floor as dark blood pooled beneath it.

The corpse abruptly turned its head to stare balefully at the intruder it knew to be there.

Its rabid yellow eyes glared in sheer malice as a cold smirk slowly spread across its lifeless face.

*************************************************************************************

Rukar’s eyes bolted open with the quick automation of heavy duty blast doors.

The tall Jedi quickly sat up and set his feet on the cold ferrocrete floor to center himself and regain his composure.

Sweat beaded his furrowed brow as he considered the grisly nightmare. Was the Force telling him something?

This can’t be happening.

He had already almost lost his friend once; this couldn’t happen again.

The young man covered his tired face in his powerful hands as he groaned in frustration.

What could any of them do? It was too late to stop this now. Gurji wanted Raith back in the fold before, but now they had shut down the operations of a powerful lieutenant of his. An example had to be made lest the great Hutt look a fool before one of his own former slaves. Isawen was the pawn that would pay the price if the bounty hunter ran…and in the end, it’s likely they all would. Raith was doing the only thing he could…but that didn’t stop the Jedi from trying to change his mind.

He heard the soft footsteps of the bounty hunter’s agile step as he approached his door. A firm rapping announced his presence before he spoke through the door, concern unconcealed in his voice.

“You okay in there, Ruk? I heard you scream.”

The Jedi’s response was immediate.

“I’m alright…thanks. I need to talk to you though…”

The bounty hunter quickly entered before shutting the door. At the Jedi’s behest, he sat at the foot of the aged bed while the younger man sat at the other end, propped against the wall.

“Raith…you can’t do this. That scream you heard…”

His face cringed in disgust at the brutal end he had bore witness to.

“If you go, you won’t leave there alive. You have to know that…”

The bounty hunter only nodded his head grimly in response as he pursed his lips together in thought.

“You know I have no other option, Ruk… My sister will die if I don’t. We’ve pushed him farther than he possibly could allow without repercussions…”

He took a deep breath and slowly blew it out as he stared blankly at the bleak floor. His hand slid back and forth across his stomach as he spoke.

“Death doesn’t scare me…It never has. I’ve been a slave…death would have only been a release. But now…seeing you, or Melyna, or my sister hurt….that scares me…”

He turned to look into his friend’s steel-grey eyes as he calmly spoke his next words.

“Ruk…I’ve never even had a real home. When I was a kid, my father was so high on spice all the time…Isa and I barely got by…and Gurji…”

He paused as he punched the bed in simmering anger. After another deep breath, he continued.

“I have to set this straight. For you. For my sister. For Melyna…”

He looked at the ceiling as he spoke over the lump forming in his throat.

“I started this… I’ll be the one to end it.”

The Jedi could bite his tongue no longer and interjected before the bounty hunter changed the subject or left.

“Raith, we’re not little children that need to be coddled. We’re your friends…you’re family. We don’t want to lose you just so you can protect us.”

The bounty hunter patted his friend’s leg affectionately as he lifted himself to stand at the foot of the bed.

As his friend stood, replete in his sleek black composite armor, Rukar felt like he was staring at the ominous specter of death itself.

Raith looked at his companion and nodded his head goodbye before starting from the room.

The Jedi knew his friend was going to bid his beloved farewell, and didn’t envy him the emotional torment in the slightest.

As he watched the bounty hunter step through the door, he felt his heart sink into his stomach.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be the last time he saw his steadfast companion.

He buried his face in his hands again as his mind fought against the events swirling out of control around him.

This can’t be happening.

*************************************************************************************

Melyna turned her angelic face as Raith entered the room.

She bit her lip to stem the tears she knew would come as he wrapped her up in his strong, comforting embrace.

His soft kisses fell upon her tender neck as she sobbed helplessly into his shoulder.

He paused and spoke gently in her ear as she clung vulnerably to his muscled body.

“I’m…I’m sorry baby. I love you more than anything…but…”

He stopped speaking as he nuzzled her neck affectionately. It felt as if his heart ripped in two as he reluctantly pulled himself away to look into her gorgeous green eyes.

“I have to go. For you. For us. I won’t lose you to Gurji and his thugs, Mel. I have to protect you.”

She plaintively laid her hands on his chest as she looked at him with her innocent eyes.

“I can’t lose you…they’ll kill you Raith. Please…don’t leave me…”

The bounty hunter turned away and found himself gulping for air as he tried to accept the unbearable burden of his lover’s grief.

He turned back to her and kissed her deeply as the lovers hungrily pulled each other closer.

After what seemed an eternity and yet was truly only a moment, Raith painfully tore himself away from their tender embrace and kissed her forehead.

Her smile could outshine the brightest star in the galaxy as she stared lovingly into his dark brown eyes.

He softly stroked her porcelain-skinned face as he returned the amorous gaze. A rebellious tear streaked defiantly down his cheek as he couldn’t help but tenderly brush the rogue hair that seemed to always fall across her flawless brow.

He pressed his head against hers as he held her hands tightly, not wanting the moment to end.

But he knew Jori was waiting for him.

He pulled her to him to kiss her deeply one last time, a kiss that left his toes tingling, before turning to make his departure.

She caught his hand and brought it to her lips before he slipped from her life as quickly as he had entered it.

As the door shut behind him, she collapsed to the ground in a heartbroken pile.

Her heart recoiled as it struggled to accept the circumstances around her.

This can’t be happening.

*************************************************************************************

The great Hutt’s heavily lidded eyes blinked slowly as he considered his flittering majordomo.

So, his pet was finally returning home to his master after making a nuisance of himself.

Gurji threw his massive head back as he slid another Tatooinian Gorg down his throat and belched loudly. He enjoyed the frog-like creature’s slimy membrane as it slid down his gullet.

Culjo flapped his wings anxiously as he waited for his master’s next command. Jori had contacted him only moments before, and it was clear that things were about to become more interesting in the Hutt’s palace.

The gigantic slug motioned with his left hand and the Toydarian instantly left to fetch his lord’s favorite pipe.

As he waited for his winged lackey, the crime lord’s eyes found his most prized slave as she gracefully swayed before her many starry eyed patrons.

Isawen had an innate talent he had not seen in all of his five hundred years.

Anyone who watched her dance found themselves mesmerized; lost in the spell of her lithe body and agile gyrations.

The great Hutt had lost count of how many contracts he had finalized with favorable conditions having entertained his guests with his favored slave’s charms.

It would be heart breaking to see her go when her brother returned.

The crime lord smiled as his favorite pipe was presented to him by his loyal majordomo.

He waved the Toydarian away as he filled the pipe with his prized Kuatian tabac.

As the smoke poured forth from large slug’s lipless mouth, his face slowly lifted into a villainous grin.

When her brother returned, he meant to make him pay.

Nobody crossed Gurji the Hutt.

*************************************************************************************

As the stars stretched out before them and the viewport became enveloped in the soft blue glow of hyperspace, Raith laid his head back on his seat cushion and closed his eyes.

The older man tried to sooth his clearly stressed friend as best he could.

“It’s a long way to Nal Hutta, kid…take the time to try and enjoy the rest.”

The bounty hunter only snorted and pounded the dashboard in frustration.

An alarm bleeped throughout the ship in response before Jori quickly stretched over and undid the mishap.

Throwing a reproachful look on his younger companion, the old handler shook his head before relaxing back into his seat and closing his eyes as well.

Raith’s thoughts did anything but let him relax.

He had left her.

He had left the single greatest thing he had found in his relatively short life, and yet he had done it to ensure that she could keep on living.

He could only sigh deeply as he considered how difficult it was to make such a sacrifice.

Noting the bounty hunter’s difficult time, the older man cleared his throat before speaking.

“Listen, kid. Don’t sell yourself entirely up the river just yet.”

He paused briefly as he straightened his back.

“Remember, Gurji may be a vengeful slug, but he’s a smart one. You were incredibly productive for over 10 years, and brought him more marks in better condition than any other hunter he could find in the galaxy…you’re worth a million times your weight in credits. He won’t so easily discard that…”

He fingered his unshaven face as he muttered to himself.

“At least, I don’t think so…”

Raith nodded as his old friend spoke.

Of course there was the remote possibility that he got out of this unscathed.

But it was only a slightly better alternative than death.

Being beneath the yoke of that wicked slug seemed a fate worse than demise now that he had his freedom.

If that weren’t enough, he would also be denied the woman he loved more than life itself; now that he had her, he doubted that living without her would be any better than dying.

Raith closed his eyes and desperately tried to find what peace he could.

He was doing this for those he loved. Melyna, Isawen, Rukar…After this, they, at least, would all be okay.

As his breathing slowed and he drifted into restless sleep, he saw Melanie’s beautiful face beckoning him not to leave her.

*************************************************************************************

As Jori watched his younger companion’s chest slowly rise and fall in sleep, he shook his head in wonderment at the poor man’s fate.

Given to the despicable slug as only a child to live a life of servitude…only to taste freedom, find love, and have it all snatched out from under him like a cruel cantina joke.

The older man had seen many loathsome things in his life. Had perpetrated a few of his own unfortunately. But it wasn’t until he saw this young man going to meet his fate that he considered why it was he went along with the Hutt’s villainous schemes.

All it did was hurt more and more people…and yet it was all he knew.

He had been hired on when he was a young homeless boy on the streets of Tatooine, begging for scraps of food from prospectors looking for the newest mineral deposits. He had taken to pickpocketing those that had a few too many in the cantina, and one of the Hutt’s men there picked him up for the potential she saw in the young boy.

He shook his head soberly as he reflected on all the evil that he had done or allowed in the many decades since.

As he watched the cerulean depths of hyperspace enfold the ship in its planar embrace, he resigned himself to his lot in life.

He convinced himself he was too old to change…had lurked too long in the shadows to step out now. As he glanced back at the sleeping bounty hunter though, his façade developed its first cracks.

The young man’s quiescent face was stained with tears.


As they entered the opulent Grand Chamber of Gurji’s Palace, the bounty hunter re-familiarized himself with the lavish surroundings.

The smells of spices and foods from across the galaxy tickled his nose and teased his taste buds.

The sight of the many slaves quickly dispelled what small joy he took from the scene. Their cowed statures and tamed eyes lit slightly at the sight of their defiant comrade.

Only slightly.

Some nodded as he passed them; the powerful Arrikabukk bowing his shaggy Wookiee head in greeting. Raith gave a small smile as he walked by, but he knew he could not delay.

The Hutt’s great patience was at its end.

As he passed the last few groups of sycophants, he found himself standing before the great throne of the bulky slug.

His sister laid at the Hutt’s tail, a chain around her neck tying her to his great bloated mass.

The bounty hunter smiled confidently as he stared into the crime lord’s vertically-slit orange eyes.

The Hutt stared imperiously at his former charge as a wicked grin crept evilly across his grimy face.

“So, my boy, you have finally returned…”

Raith only stared back defiantly, raising his chin to better look the Hutt straight in the eyes.

The slimy crime lord let out a nefarious chuckle as he addressed his rebellious former servant.

“You have caused me much pain and grief since your departure, my boy…lucky for you, your sister has kept me calm with her…delicious charms.”

The menacing Hutt took a moment to slowly run his thick tongue along his lipless mouth.

“Many times I considered sending my other bounty hunters after you…”

The former slave only stared impassively, knowing the bluff for the feint it was.

The crime lord chuckled again, slightly more nervous as he did so. Finally, he clapped his hands together to silence the throng seated around the chamber.

“Girl! It’s time we honor our bargain with your brother…”

Isawen obediently bowed her head and stood before the great Hutt, only a few steps from her gallant sibling.

“The agreement was that you hand yourself over to me, and your sister is freed…yes?”

Raith solemnly nodded his head as he stared coldly into the devious crime lord’s scheming eyes.

The Hutt’s corpulent body shook as more of his insidious laughter echoed across the cavernous hall.

“Very well…she is freed…”

His lipless smile took in his entire massive head as he turned his wicked gaze upon his favored dancer.

“…But I’ve already seen to that, my boy. I have tripled her pay that she might stay on with me for a profit…it’s a tough galaxy out there, you know.”

Raith could only stare dumbfounded as his sister’s eyes met his.

He had so many questions to ask her, so many things to tell her…would he ever have the chance now?

The former slave’s hand went to his bandolier as he moved to activate his fragmentation grenades. If Gurji wanted to screw him, he had to know that there were repercussions.

As if on queue, a tall human strode out from the crowd and swiftly moved to restrain the bounty hunter.

The bounty hunter only had time to briefly touch the ammo belt before he felt his body spasm and collapse to the ground.

His sister shrieked and reached for him, but the chain around her neck kept her firmly by her employer’s side.

As the taller man lifted and propped him up before the slimy Hutt, Raith considered the joy the thug must have been feeling.

So, Craxis had finally gained the notoriety he had so long sought.

The man had been his chief rival for the ten years Raith had been Gurji’s most productive bounty hunter.

The cruel man’s face was nicked in countless scars from his vicious hunting methods…in stark contrast to Raith’s stealthy and merciful tactics.

One particularly ugly scar slashed downward across his lips, giving the malicious human’s smile a grimly macabre quality that sent chills down onlooker’s spines.

As he straightened his prisoner out, the disfigured man stooped his neck to whisper into his fellow bounty hunter’s ear.

“I haven’t forgotten the scar you gave me. Soon it’ll be my turn, meat.”

Raith couldn’t quite contain a shiver at the cold chuckle from his old rival’s mutilated mouth.

The Hutt’s stare burned with malice as he considered his insubordinate former servant.

“Still you resist, my boy…And so your sister will share in your punishment…Nothing outwardly scarring, don’t worry.”

The unadulterated fear in his sister’s eyes stabbed at Raith like a cold dagger into his insides.

He thrust his head out to shout in retaliation when a sharp blow to his neck ended his struggle.

His last conscious thought was Melyna’s beautiful crying face…mouthing goodbye.

He fell limply to the floor, the darkness enfolding him in its soul withering taint.

*************************************************************************************

Rukar’s eyes followed the young woman’s frenzied steps as she paced across the room like a caged Dantooinian Kath Hound.

Finally, he could take it no more and thrust a hand out to hold her put with the Force.

The incredibly tortured woman turned her head to stare at the Jedi in utter surprise. Her expression quickly turned to infuriated anger as she narrowed her eyes and prepared to scream at him in frustration.

He raised a hand to stop her before she could begin.

“Melyna, agitation and stress won’t help us, or him…”

Her response was to boldly stride over and slap away his upraised hand. She then pointed her finger accusingly at him as her voice raised in ire.

“How could you say that? He’s lost to us, Ruk…”

Tears began well in her emerald eyes as she vented her frustrations.

“How can you be so calm!? We have to do something!”

As she finished, she buried her face in her tender hands as she shook with the tears that seemed to endlessly pour from her anguished body.

The tall Jedi’s face fell as he considered his dear friend’s grieving beloved. He gently laid a hand upon her shoulder and tried to console her.

“Listen…I know we’re helpless here…we’re both scared for him…but he told us to stay here where we’re safe. He’s doing this for us…for you above all. He’s giving himself over to that scumbag to protect us…”

Rukar couldn’t help but grow frustrated at their impotence and abruptly stepped away to punch the ferrocrete wall.

As the dusty fragments crumbled to the floor, the Jedi had an idea. He quickly turned to his companion and put his arm around her shoulder.

“Hey…”

She turned her reddened and puffy eyes upon him in confusion, and yet in their gleam he saw the faint traces of hope.

“Alright…we both know we can’t sit idly by; we have to try to help him.”

He took a moment to gather his thoughts before nodding his head to himself.

“We’ll go to the spaceport, see if we can’t find some freight ship or smuggler or anything that’ll take us to him…We have to try.”

Melyna’s face lit up like Coruscant’s night sky as she turned to him in glee.

As the two companions quickly hustled out of the old tenement building, the air around them felt lighter, and they found they could finally breathe again.

They were going to save their friend.

*************************************************************************************

As his feet lamely dragged on the cold stone floor, the prisoner considered the exquisite agony pulsing throughout his battered body.

Raith wasn’t sure if his veins were fuller of blood or kolto at this point.

He had been savagely beaten and brutalized over the last two days, courtesy of his dear old adversary. It was obvious where Vilmarh had learned his torturous tricks though…Gurji meant to keep him alive and aware of all the horrors being committed to him. He faced endless hours of torture followed by intensive kolto injections that punctured his veins like a swarm of Dathomiri Blood Flies.

He cringed in pain as Craxis tugged his arm painfully and tossed his charge into the small torture chamber.

The bounty hunter’s head connected heavily with the unyielding floor and he found himself seeing stars as he felt blood slowly drip down his brow.

The scarred man only grunted in satisfaction as he picked up his rival and firmly clamped his wrists and ankles in their durasteel manacles.

Raith found his limbs splayed in an X; utterly vulnerable to the disturbed whims of his torturer.

Wasting no time, Craxis coldly slid on his spiked vibroknuckles and stalked over to his helpless prey.

He smiled that cold macabre grin of his before launching into a quick flurry that left the bounty hunter recoiling in agony.

Raith felt a rib crack under the forceful blows, and felt nasty wounds in his right bicep and left thigh bleeding freely. He bit his lip to fight the pain before glaring hatefully at his antagonist.

“Nice, Scarface…not bad…for an amateur…”

He began to chuckle before a stunning blow to his chin nearly cracked his jaw. His head hung limply as he slowly regained consciousness.

When his dark eyes opened again, they were met by the sight of a wicked vibrodagger spinning in Craxis’ hand…only inches from his pupil.

The prisoner held his breath as he attempted to control the fear that knotted his stomach like an icy fist.

The taller man began to slowly trace the cruel blade along his foe’s exposed body, drawing tender slashes in his defenseless skin as he did. Finally, the blade rested along Raith’s heart and paused, as if poised to strike.

The bounty hunter only gritted his teeth and stared his hated foe in the eyes as he spoke forcefully.

“Go on, do it. I know you’ve been waiting for ten years for this moment…do it.”

Noting the hesitation on his torturer’s face, the prisoner continued.

“What? You afraid of what the slug will do? Come on Crax…don’t tell me you’re stupid and ugly?! Gurji sure does pick ‘em huh?”

His frustrated rival drew the dagger back as if preparing to thrust it home before he stopped and regarded his prey quizzically. A moment later, another cruel smile crawled onto his grisly lips.

“I see what you’re doing…you want me to kill you now to save yourself the pain and frustration you’re going to experience the rest of your short, miserable life. No no…I know my place, meat. ”

The tall man quickly placed the vibrodagger back on the table as he moved to leave the room. He stopped behind the prisoner and drew back his hand one more time.

Raith grunted in agony as sharp pain exploded into his back. He felt his life blood draining out of him as the vibroknuckle’s spiked surface pierced his kidney.

The pain quickly multiplied as he felt multiple kolto stimpacks injecting into his veins.

The healing agents coarsed through his bloodstream with all the subtlety of a raging inferno.

They burned as they went to work on his many wounds; he wanted to scream as he felt his kidney painfully rebuild its cells with the aid of the miracle curative.

Finally, he sagged against his bonds and watched the blood slowly gather at his feet…he couldn’t help but reflect again on how much of it was kolto at this point.

The taller man leaned over to whisper grimly in his prey’s ear.

“I’ll be back, meat. Don’t bleed out too much on me. You’ll need it later.”

As he strode from the room, his unnerving laughter echoed across the deep halls.

Raith winced at the comment and twitched involuntarily. It had only been two days, and already he doubted he could hold out for too long.

He heard his sister’s screams as her vicious overseer tortured her with his insidious poisons.

Gurji knew not to damage his prize’s outward flesh, so he subjected her to hallucinogenic visions to terrify her into obedience….and placed her within listening range of her brother.

The prisoner could only grit his teeth in frustration as the cold manacles rubbed his skin raw. How much longer could he take this? Gurji would keep his body alive…but his mind?...

Raith looked dejectedly at the floor as he heard another of his sister’s high pitched screams.

How much longer would they have to suffer?

*************************************************************************************

The tall Jedi ran his hands through his short hair in frustration as he pondered the developments of the last few days.

Nothing.

They had found absolutely nothing.

No smugglers, no freights, no traders, no transports…nobody was going to Nal Hutta in the next thirty days that would take on passengers and take them to the part of the planet they needed…

He gently laid his muscular arm across Melyna’s tender shoulders as they both looked to the stars; grasping for what last tendrils of hope remained.

She turned her delicate face upon him as she whispered softly.

“Ruk…what can we do? We’ve looked for three days now…”

Her face fell as she glumly looked at the ground.

The Jedi stoically continued to stare defiantly at the stars, as if daring them to deny him the chance to change his friend’s fate.

His jaw tightened as he came to the realization that his friend would be dead, and there was nothing he could do about it.

He briefly sported images of taking a ship by force and blasting their way to Nal Hutta…but Rukar knew he could not let his anger control him.

Torian’s baleful yellow eyes flashed across his thoughts before he shook them away.

They had tried…done everything they could to look for aid…

The tall Jedi stood trembling in outrage as his mind accepted what his heart refused to.

There would be no help for the beleaguered bounty hunter.

*************************************************************************************

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RaithDuhal
Posts: 34
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Part 7 (II)

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:40 am

Part VII

A sharp ringing blow to his stomach doubled the prisoner over onto his knees.

As he turned his head to look at his foe, he found a boot connecting heavily with his chin and sending him onto his back.

Raith groaned painfully as he reached a blood stained hand up to check his jaw.

Not broken, though it seemed agonizingly close.

The agile bounty hunter flipped back up onto his legs and readied his muscles as he prepared for the next round of combat.

Craxis had bored of simply beating his helpless former rival; he opted instead for a different method to deliver pain.

Rather than have his prisoner tied helplessly by durasteel bonds, the taller man wore Tantel armor as his unarmed and unarmored foe maneuvered freely.

The added challenge thrilled him, and only made it that much sweeter when he dominated his weakened opponent.

The bounty hunter’s villainous foe loomed threateningly over the battered captive as he raised his arms in preparation for their next attack sequence.

Raith shouted in anger as he launched himself forward and thrust both arms around his opponent’s slim waist.

Caught completely off guard, Craxis slammed heavily into the stone wall and crashed to the ground in a pile with his foe.

Seizing his opportunity, the prisoner moved to throttle his nemesis before the armored man sent another heavy boot into him, this time finding his ribs.

Raith rolled with the blow but still found himself staggering in pain. He winced as he tried lifting his left arm and abandoned it as a waste of energy. Instead, he hungrily circled his wicked opponent as he searched for any opening in his defenses.

Unfortunately, there were none.

Craxis was good, and he knew better than to leave himself vulnerable to his very deadly foe.

The bounty hunter delayed no longer and swooped in to launch a flurry of blows with his right arm. He felt his knuckles bleed as he launched strike after strike to the most vulnerable areas of his enemy’s armored body.

His durable adversary gritted his teeth as he took the punishment before sending another powerful kick to his captive’s stomach.

Raith crumpled to the ground in agony as his breath suddenly left him. This time he didn’t have the luxury to turn to his foe before another strong kick sent him spinning and crashing into the rocky walls.

His head lolled to the side as his blurred vision allowed only a partial glimpse of the scene developing around him. As he saw his foe’s armored boots glide across the floor in his direction, he closed his eyes to avoid the sight of inevitable pain to come.

He felt the brush of wind before his opponent’s foot collided with his cheek and sent him mercifully into the darkness.

*************************************************************************************

Craxis smiled wickedly as he considered his fallen foe.

How weak the bounty hunter seemed. It was as if his will to fight was not even there anymore.

He shook his head abruptly as he considered his prisoner’s newly-swelling cheek.

No. He would not survive if he ever underestimated his dangerous rival.

The tall man found himself fingering his wicked scar across his mouth as he reflected on his mistakes in the past.

He grunted as his foot struck the helpless captive in the ribs again.

His adrenaline played out, the brute drew three kolto stimpacks from his belt and proceeded to inject the downed prisoner.

Satisfied that he had obeyed his master’s commands to not kill him and leave him in relative good health for each round of torture, he grabbed his opponent’s leg and proceeded to drag him back to his cell.

A depraved smile crept back onto his face as he did.

He hoped that when the slug finally decided to kill him, he would have the pleasure of doing it himself.

*************************************************************************************

The prisoner slowly cracked open an eye as he heard the clicking of footsteps echoing across the cavernous hallways.

Rubbing his cheek, he noted that the swelling had already dissipated.

That kolto was some crazy stuff.

He groaned inwardly as he considered his rapidly approaching foe. Was his old rival so eager to end his life that he would disobey the great Hutt?

He found himself staring at two beaten black boots as he turned to regard his visitor.

His surprise was total when he heard the familiar voice of his mysterious guest.

“Ouch, kid. You look like you tangled with an angry Wookiee.”

The bounty hunter only grinned as he playfully retorted.

“You should see the other guy.”

They both shared a laugh before the visitor’s face turned grim.

Noting the change in his guest’s face, Raith turned a questioning brow on him.

“Jori, what are you doing all the way down here? Doesn’t Gurji have you running smuggler’s shipments?”

The older man only shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly as he spread his arms in ignorance.

“I’m here to take you to the boss, pal…I’m sorry…”

The prisoner’s face fell before he realized the strange tone in his former handler’s voice.

“Jori, you’re not telling me everything-”

He found himself interrupted by the grating sound of his EE-7 carbine sliding through the rails of his prison door.

His old handler stood with his arms crossed as he regarded his former charge.

“Courtesy of old Bol.”

Raith could only stare dumbfounded as he tried to process what was happening. He heard the click of his door being unlocked before it swung open noisily on its rusty hinges.

He turned his frantic eyes upon the older man as he stumbled over to lay his hands on his shoulders.

“Jori, you can’t do this. You’ll be killed…and so will Bol. I can’t allow you to do this.”

The grey-eyed man firmly gripped the bounty hunter’s own shoulder with his weathered hand as he looked him in the eyes.

“Kid, you can’t control what I’m doing. I’m not doing this for you…this is my only ticket out of here. If I help you escape, he’ll want to catch you more than me.”

The old man winked playfully after he finished, making it clear that he knew his excuse was flimsy at best.

The younger man could only smile as he clapped his friend on the shoulder in appreciation.

“Thanks, Jori…I owe you.”

The former handler flipped his DX-14 pistol expertly out of his holster before checking the energy supply and sliding it back in.

“I just hope we live long enough to call you on it, kid.”

Raith only nodded somberly in reply.

A shrill scream echoed from lower down the halls and caught the two men’s attention. The older man shot a questioning look at his newly freed companion; who only nodded in response.

It was time to free his sister.

*************************************************************************************

Guurk had always been at the top of the food chain under Gurji.

He had led a comfortable life as his dungeon keeper and master "information gatherer"…at least that was the job description.

The huge alien was just very good at beating things up.

His toughness allowed him to fear nothing from the Hutt’s other lackies. His thick skin, courtesy of his Houk heritage, served him well from the weekly brawls he enjoyed in the mess hall.

As he opened the cell to administer the second dose of poison to the traitor's sister, he took a moment to take in the sight of the restrained female.

While never having any attraction to the far too delicate constitutions of humans, she was undoubtedly a remarkable specimen of her species, and the brutish alien couldn’t quite help but stare.

He noticed the sound of shuffling behind him and turned to see the traitor slowly ambling towards him with his old handler holding a carbine in tow.

The hulking alien’s flabby jowls shook in confusion before he barked at the handler.

"What’re you doing, old man?"

He stormed over to the two and smashed his meaty fist into Jori’s shoulder, driving him forcefully to the ground.

As he turned his beady yellow eyes to Raith, he saw his own death in the bounty hunter’s cold, dark stare. The alien quickly drew his arm back for a strong thrust, hoping to overpower the weak human before he could resist
.
However, the agile prisoner easily dodged the clumsy blow and landed a solid kick to the hulking alien’s stomach.

The tough biped grunted as he received the punishment; he wasn’t badly injured, but he had lost his hopes of quickly ending this fight.

As he thrust his powerful arms in another sequence of blows, his face fell as the bounty hunter managed to evade each strike only nanoseconds before it would land.

The Houk relied on his extraordinary strength to win his bouts…he wasn’t prepared for a contest of agility or endurance.

He threw an overpowering blow at the bounty hunter’s stomach only to meet the unyielding surface of the rocky wall. He felt some bones splinter from the tremendous impact, at the same time feeling the bounty hunter painfully land three solid kicks into his own stomach.

For the first time in the last 45 years, Guurk knew fear.

He slowly backed up to the wall, his jowels quivering. He thought of begging for his life but knew the consequences of failing Gurji.

Straightening his spine, he attempted to look bold.

He had won hundreds…thousands of fights. This was one weakling human.

He strode forward, his confidence returned. Guurk was a veteran fighter.

He was good.

He was brutal.

He lasted almost 3 minutes.

As Raith moved to unchain his sister, the large alien’s bony-ridged head slowly poured blood onto the floor. The beady yellow eyes stared blankly at the ceiling in disbelief.

He was good…but now…

He was dead.

*************************************************************************************

As the hulking corpse cooled on the floor, Raith finished freeing his sister and hugged her in sheer relief. He quickly stopped though to hold her at arm’s length and look her sternly in her dark eyes.

Eyes so similar to his own.

“Isa…why did you do it? Why would you agree to stay on with that slime?”

His sister’s face reddened with shame at having to face her brother.

He had always been so strong…how could he possibly understand?

She turned her eyes upon his and spoke firmly.

“Raith…what other choice did I have? Now that he had you, he could set me free only to snatch me back within the hour…I did what I had to to survive…”

Suddenly, her eyes fluttered and she spasmed as her last drug dose took effect again. She screamed in terror at the apparitions assaulting her before fainting into her sibling’s arms.

The older man looked to him and shook his head.

“Gurji’s a sick bastard. We’ll make him pay.”

The bounty hunter only repeated the same gesture in return.

“No. We get out of this place. That’s all we can hope for.”

After speaking, he stroked his stomach as he pondered their options. After a few moments, he got an idea and turned to move down the hallway towards the upper levels.

The old handler raised an arm in protest, making it clear he wanted to know what his companion was thinking.

The bounty hunter turned to him before throwing a wink.

“We’ve got some allies to free.”

*************************************************************************************

Juknuk raised his powerfully muscled arms as he stretched his tired body.

It was the middle of the night, and Gamorreans were not known to be the most energetic creatures in the galaxy.

As the guard opened his tusked-mouth in a prolonged yawn, he felt massive hands press themselves around his throat.

He let out a small porcine squeal before his neck snapped and he gurgled in his death throes.

After dropping the alien’s corpse to the ground, the mighty Arrikabukk raised his potent arms and softly howled in triumph.

Raith quickly put a finger to his mouth to silence the powerful Wookiee as they stealthily made their way through the third checkpoint.

He turned to Jori as the older man stepped next to him.

“So far so good, Jor.”

His old handler nodded and whispered in return.

“One more checkpoint and we’ll be at the hangar. We jack a ship and space out of here.”

The bounty hunter nodded in return and motioned for the troupe of slaves to follow them quietly.

He did a quick head-count but found that they were one short.

Raith turned his head to his companion and opened his mouth to speak when alarms blared throughout the compound.

So, Gurji had a spy within the slaves to make sure they didn’t revolt…or at least ensured he would know if they did…clever.

The two men turned to each other in panic and shouted to the slaves.

“RUN!”

The palace erupted into mayhem as guards shuffled around in panic, trying to buckle down on a slave revolt they had never expected.

The Gamorrean guards raised their arg’garoks and blasters as the group passed, but were met by the deadly accurate flashes of Raith’s carbine.

The blackened corpses of over thirty of his victims stained the pristine floors of the palace along the desperate group’s route to the hangar.

Just as they prepared to round the last corner to the hangar, Raith suddenly felt something was wrong.

Not sharing the same warning, Jori and two human slaves turned the corner and were promptly greeted by heavy blaster fire.

The bounty hunter could only watch helplessly as his friend took a blaster bolt to the hip and shoulder before collapsing to his back.

The two slaves were less fortunate; each was the target of at least twenty blaster bolts that practically incinerated their bodies where they stood.

Raith quickly ducked out and tossed two fragmentation grenades into the hangar bay entrance to suppress their fire before grabbing his old handler by his shoulder and pulling him to safety.

Jori gritted his teeth in pain as he pressed his one hand to the wound in his shoulder.

“Kark me…”

The bounty hunter put his hand on his wounded companion’s other shoulder as he looked at him with concern.

“Jor…are you gonna be alright? Ari can carry you…”

Raith blew out a breath through his gritted teeth as he considered the remains of the two unfortunate slaves.

“I don’t like our chances of assaulting that hangar…”

The old man shook his head grimly.

“Kid…this is the end of the road…”

He took a deep breath as he steadied himself against the pain.

“The sewers…get them there; you can jump from the pipes feeding into the waste rivers…It won’t be pretty, but you can get out of this place at least…figure the rest out once you’re out there.”

He coughed softly and grabbed the bounty hunter’s hand with his own.

“Kid…get out of here…enjoy your freedom…for both of us…I’ll keep these guys off your back.”

The bounty hunter pursed his lips to fight his grief and nodded in affirmation as he shook his friend’s hand firmly. He gave the older man’s shoulder a strong clap as Jori drew his pistol and braced himself against the wall as best he could.

As the old handler began taking potshots to keep his foes’ behind their cover, Raith turned to the remaining slaves and addressed them.

“Listen up. We’re heading into the sewers and getting out of this place through the waste river. It’s not going to be easy or pleasant…but it’s freedom. Now let’s get out of this place.”

With that, he shot one last look at his brave companion and saluted him with two fingers to his brow. Jori nodded his head in response before continuing his potshots.

As their feet pounded on the immaculate floors as they headed back down into the lower chambers, Raith’s head was spinning with the events swirling around him.

He had lost…well, would shortly lose, one old friend…but it seemed that he was on track to be reunited with his more important ones.

A small smile cracked the bounty hunter’s grim façade as he thought of seeing his beloved.

His muscles gained another jolt of energy at his thoughts of her, and he spurred the troupe to keep on running.

As they neared the entrance to the sewers, Raith stopped the group to make sure everybody was still okay.

In the distance, he heard the increased pace of footsteps echoing across the rooms.

It seemed Jori had done the best he could.

Pursuit was coming.

*************************************************************************************

The thick flow of sewage water beneath the group’s feet surrounded them in an abysmal morass of fetid odor. Nonetheless, it could not deter them from continuing their hurried pace throughout the labyrinthine tunnels.

Raith drew his face up in disgust before analyzing the situation they found themselves in. He hadn’t been here before, but he knew the outside of the palace; the sewers emptied out from one large drain into a waste river below.

That was their escape route.

The bounty hunter stopped briefly to hear the continued splashes of feet behind them.

Their foes were drawing nearer as the fleeing slaves began to tire.

The former slave shouted encouragement as he hurried alongside them. Jogging up to the front, he matched the pace of the slaves’ impromptu leader, the massive Arrikabukk.

The Wookiee grunted in acknowledgement before a loud howl loosed from his furred mouth, urging the group to quicken their pace further.

Raith clapped him on the shoulder in appreciation before the splashing behind them seemed to grow louder. One look back told the bounty hunter all he needed to know.

They were out of time.

At least twenty Gamorreans ran after them, waving their hefty Arg’garoks as if to remind their foes of the inevitable massacre to come.

Raith raised his carbine over his shoulder and fired three shots as they continued to run at full speed. Three porcine thugs fell to meet the putrid stream beneath their feet as death reached up to embrace them in its frigid arms.

Grinning in grim satisfaction, the bounty hunter turned the corner and pressed the troupe onward. He could hear the roaring sound of plummeting liquid and knew that their exit lay only one turn away.

A few steps ahead of him, a wide-eyed Twi’lek dancer tripped over floating debris and crashed headfirst into the rushing stream of filth. The other slaves didn’t so much as throw a glance in her direction; their freedom was too close for them to risk losing it now.

Raith didn’t hesitate as he bent over and picked her limp form up. Her sweat-rimmed face gazed up at him in heroic admiration as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder to steady her up.

His eyes found hers as she shot him a look of appreciation…only to be replaced by the stillness of death as two blaster shots rang out from farther down the tunnel.

The bounty hunter stared in anger and disbelief as her smoking corpse slipped from his arms and plopped to the ground with a dull splash. He turned his gaze to the end of the tunnel to see the villainous perpetrator.

He found himself staring at the gruesomely scarred face of his former rival.

Craxis grinned wickedly as he waved his blaster in a mocking greeting.

“Raith! So good to see you again…It seemed like we almost lost you there…”

The taller man fingered his chin as if thinking something over when movement behind his adversary had his pistol raising again.

Raith reached out a hand to stop his Wookiee friend. He knew that if the large alien interfered, his cruel nemesis would execute him mercilessly. He spoke to the powerful warrior without turning his head from his hated foe.

“Get out of here Ari. Take the rest of them and get out of this place…Now!”

The huge furred humanoid nodded his shaggy head in obeisance before turning back down the corner to the assembled slaves.

The bounty hunter gritted his teeth as he sized up his opponent.

Craxis only shook his head as he sported another gruesome grin across his scarred face. As if in answer to his opponent’s confused expression, he snapped his fingers and waited. Moments later, an older man was thrown by one of the Gamorrean lackeys into the reeking current at his feet.

The human turned his eyes on the bounty hutner down the hall and gave a half-hearted wave.

Raith grimaced as he recognized the face…and the handless-wave.

Jori.

The cruel taller man placed the barrel of his pistol under the older man’s chin as he spoke to his prey.

“Game’s over Raith. You had your fun. It’s time to come back into the fold. Come over here and turn yourself in, and your friend lives.”

The bounty hunter shook his head in frustration as he realized the futility of his position.

As if to drive the point in further, he heard the thrusting sound of repulsorlifts down the hall and feared their only escape route was now lost to them.

Coming to the same realization, Craxis smiled wickedly as he further taunted his foe.

“You hear that, meat? That’s Gurji’s hunters…fencing you in. You really think you ever stood a chance?”

The filth-covered older man abruptly bit down on his captor’s arm before being smashed in the face by the taller man’s free hand.

Craxis turned upon his insolent prisoner with his macabre smile and leveled his pistol at the old handler’s face.

The older man managed to scream at his ally before the crisp sound of a blaster bolt echoed across the tunnels.

“Run, kid-!”

Raith could only reach out helplessly as he watched his foe ruthlessly execute his old friend. Jori’s name caught in his throat as he tried to scream but couldn’t.

He couldn’t let his sacrifice be in vain.

The bounty hunter turned and dashed with every ounce of energy he had down the tunnel. Craxis’ blaster bolts scorched the air around him before he found himself whirling around the corner where the slaves had been only moments before.

He found himself staring at the assembled servants with the great Wookiee at their head as they spoke to two armored Trandoshans with blaster rifles threateningly pointed at the throng. The whimpering of the slaves echoed throughout the cavernous tunnels as the younger man struggled with the icy ball forming in his stomach.

This couldn’t be happening. Not after all that had been sacrificed to this point. They were too close.

He stared angrily at the hovering scout shuttle waiting outside the tunnel exit as he willed for it to disappear.

He closed his eyes and tried to swallow with the huge lump in his throat when a thunderous explosion shook the tunnels. The group found themselves knocked off their feet as the scout shuttle suddenly careened into the side of the edifice and exploded in a fiery ball.

Raith slowly opened his eyes to see a sleek jet black freighter hovering where the scout shuttle had been only moments before.

As the landing ramp slowly lowered, his view became obscured as the giant Wookie lifted the two reptilian slavers in each arm. Their throats snapped with hardly any effort before he tossed their bodies aside to join the refuse sweeping through the channel.

As he turned to regard the downed bounty hunter, he caught two blaster bolts to the chest and fell hard to the wet floor.

Raith stood to see his nemesis smiling as he lowered his pistol.

Craxis quickly ducked back around the corner as the bounty hunter responded immediately with a flurry of shots of his own. He continued to provide covering fire for the rest of the slaves as he made his way towards the downed warrior.

He shot a quick glance at the freighter to see the last of the slaves quickly stepping onto the ramp and running inside.

Standing there to aid them was a tall male Jedi with a beautiful woman with auburn hair and deep green eyes at his side.

Raith’s mouth dried as he searched for the words he wanted to say. He knew his immediate concern was to help the Wookiee get onto the ship before they could make their way out of here, but all he wanted to do was hug his two dear companions.

Finally making his way over to the gigantic humanoid, he surveyed the great Wookiee’s wounds before nodding and offering a hand.

Arrikabukk painfully used the much smaller human as leverage and lifted his massive body up before he began shambling over to the ship.

The bounty hunter joined him as he walked, firing intermittently over his shoulder at their pursuers all the while.

As they neared the ship, his smile took in his entire face as he looked appreciatively at his friends.

“You came.”

They both smiled brightly at their beloved comrade before Rukar’s face fell in alarm. He quickly motioned and pulled the injured Wookie into the ship with a powerful Force thrust before he fell back from a blaster bolt to his shoulder. Melyna looked helplessly on as she stared at the limp form of the Jedi.

Realizing that his friend had been hit by a stun bolt, and knowing the next was meant for him, Raith screamed at them.

“Ari! Get them in the ship and get out of here! If you don’t leave now, we’re all dead!”

The bounty hunter shot one last look upon his beloved and mouthed “I love you” before he felt three bolts hit him in rapid succession.

As he slowly fell to the ground, he saw Melyna’s beautiful face disappear as the landing ramp closed and the ship’s ion engines kicked on.

Before the darkness enveloped him fully, a small smile blossomed across his face.

*************************************************************************************

The young woman battered her gentle hands on the landing ramp floor as she mournfully pleaded with the vessel’s pilot.

The green-skinned alien remained impassive as he steered the craft forward.

Melyna turned her face to the slowly-recovering Jedi as he stirred on the floor. He groaned in protest before turning to her.

“What…where’s Raith?”

His companion only shook her head in dismay.

Rukar stood immediately and braced himself against one of the walls. He shouted to the pilot in anger.

“Kylto! Turn this ship around! We’re not leaving him!”

Though his lekkus trembled in fear, the Twi’lek defiantly shook his head in refusal.

“You heard him shout to the Wookiee. He wanted this…”

The alien paused as he considered his weak reasoning.

“We’re dead if we turn around anyway. They now know this isn’t somebody loyal to Gurji piloting Vilmarh’s old ship…”

This time he paused in sorrow resignation.

“We had one chance…I’m sorry. I wanted to save him too… I owe him…”

The tall Jedi punched the wall in frustration as he looked longingly at the landing ramp.

The place he had last laid eyes on his dear friend…

He offered his hand to the grieving woman as he turned towards the forward viewport.

Melyna blindly took it as she let herself be led to the cockpit.

She couldn’t shake the feelings welling in her stomach though.

What was going to happen to her beloved?

*************************************************************************************

Raith found himself thrown roughly onto the immaculately manicured marble floor before the corpulent Hutt.

Gurji glared at him imperiously with his cat-like eyes. His cruel laughter boomed across the hall as he considered his insubordinate prisoner.

“Ahhh, my boy…how you entertain me…”

The Hutt’s booming voice quickly took on a more menacing tone.

“You have cost me my slaves…including your sister. For that, torture is not enough…You will be given no more opportunities for liberation. As for your sibling…she will be mine again.”

The bounty hunter moved to leap at his former overlord when he felt himself caught by some invisible power.

He strained his strong muscles but found he had no ability to move. Finally, he sagged against the unseen force and abruptly dropped to the floor.

From behind the great Hutt strode a black-robed man, his features obscured by his ominous garb.

Raith noted the black hilt of a sword and a spiked lightsaber on the man’s belt and knew he was dealing with a powerful individual. He turned his head back to the large slug and spat at him defiantly.

“You won’t have her back, sleemo. I’ll die first.”

A cruel smile spread across the great slug’s lipless face as he enjoyed the display.

“That’s the idea, my boy.”

With that, the powerful Hutt motioned to his guards.

Raith didn’t bother resisting as the powerful Gamorreans dragged his willing body several meters away from the Hutt. There, they vigorously chained his four limbs to the floor with thick durasteel bonds.

The bounty hunter stood, chained, as he glared with hate at the fat slug.

The robed man spoke briefly to the crime lord before he began to calmly walk towards the restrained prisoner.

Raith’s body stiffened in fear as the hair rose across his arms, neck, and legs. This man wasn’t just formidable…something about him was disturbing to a very deep level.

The mysterious individual stood only meters from him when he stopped and surveyed the chained man.

The bounty hunter felt as if his mind was being invaded as he felt icy tendrils course through his brain. After what was only moments but seemed an eternity, he sagged against his bonds as he felt the intruder’s presence suddenly vanish.

He could almost feel the man’s cold eyes staring at him beneath the veil of his robe.

For some reason…it seemed like the man was smiling.

Without another word, the mysterious figure walked from the room and into the halls leading to the hangar.

The prisoner sat there a moment and wondered what knowledge had been gained by the shadowy man.

Finally, Craxis walked in front of him, twirling his dagger all the while. He stopped just before him and leaned in to whisper to him conspiratorially.

“Raith…I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

With that, he calmly slid his dagger into the vulnerable bounty hunter’s abdomen before wickedly ripping the blade out.

Raith only smiled and spat blood into his foe’s face before involuntarily wincing at the massive pain from his hemorrhaging wound. He remained standing despite the tremendous agony, and straightened his spine to look his nemesis defiantly in the eyes.

The wicked villain sported his macabre grin as he matched the cold stare. Without pausing, he drew his blaster and aimed it at the rebellious bounty hunter.

“Kneel, meat. Beg for your life like the hound you are.”

This time Raith made no move to respond, and got the pleasure of seeing his former rival’s face cringe in frustration.

The taller man swiftly strode over before slamming the blaster’s hilt across the impudent man’s face.

Again Raith only stared back impassively, not willing to give his foe the satisfaction he so dearly desired.

The scarred man’s voice rose as he screamed shrilly at the chained man.

“You will kneel, meat!”

The pistol struck again and again, but the bounty hunter stubbornly stood his ground and accepted the punishment stoically.

Finally, Craxis’ patience wore out and he leveled the bloodied blaster at his foe’s face. He spoke through gritted teeth, his frustration evident in his tone.

“Fine. You seek to deny me my fun? I’ll take matters into my own hands.”

His fingers danced across the trigger before he abruptly lowered the blaster and fired twice.

Raith bit his lip to stop from crying out in agony as his kneecaps blew out from the scorching shots. He quickly collapsed to the ground where he writhed silently in pain.

His wicked foe stood over him smiling cruelly as he surveyed his handiwork. He looked back to the great Hutt who gave a small nod of his head.

Finally, after all these years…his rival would be no more.

Raith’s vision began to blur as darkness slowly yawned in on the edges. He felt the blood streaming from his mouth as his body began to lose its functionality. Then he sensed himself being roughly lifted up and painfully rested on his blasted knees.

His eyes slowly settled on the scarred face of his former rival as he heard words but was unable to process them. Soon the tall man only blended into the background as the bounty hunter saw his beloved’s face smiling at him.

She opened her arms in welcome, waiting for him, yearning for him.

He tenderly reached out to take her hands when he felt an explosion of pain in his ribs.

Melyna embraced him tightly in her arms as the bright light yawned around him.

In his last moments, Raith was smiling.

*************************************************************************************

Craxis grinned wickedly as he moved to pick up his fallen foe. He lifted him forcefully onto his badly wounded knees and stared coldly into the bounty hunter’s dark brown eyes.

For some reason, it seemed as if Raith was no longer present, for his eyes showed no sign of anger or pain. Strangely…there was a sense of calm.

He looked back to his master for permission before continuing. The corpulent slug gave a small nod of his head in affirmation.

He took a few moments to survey his victim’s injuries before he grabbed the man’s collar and pulled him close.

The vicious man’s face drew up in a snarl as he spat in his foe’s face.

“Any last words, meat?”

The injured man’s only response was to tenderly reach out his hand as if longing for something.

The tall man straightened his arms, setting his foe back onto his knees as his forehead creased in confusion.

Craxis shot a bewildered look at the Hutt before the great slug barked at him.

“Why isn’t he dead yet!?”

The taller man nodded before quickly sliding his dagger into the bounty hunter’s ribs.

As he felt the wounded man’s body began to stiffen as he succumbed to death, the cruel man smiled wickedly and lowered himself next to his rival’s ear.

“I was always better, Raith.”

A small beep was the only warning he had.

In his last moments, Craxis was confused.

*************************************************************************************

Gurji stared impatiently at the ongoing execution across the room.

He was not going to lose his former slave again, this ended here and now.

Craxis looked back to him for permission to continue, and the corpulent slug nodded his head slightly in affirmation.

His focus was interrupted as a short human, his security director, approached from the side and whispered to his liege.

“My lord, we have a situation…”

The great Hutt turned his massive head to his minion and blinked slowly.

Assuming that that was his sign to continue, the short man did so.

“It appears that during their breakout, the bounty hunter met with the armory keeper, Bol, and ordered him to set det charges across the palace…”

The Hutt snorted in displeasure and glared at the human.

“Of course, we put down the old Duro…but none of us are trained to disarm explosives, and we are not sure of the extent to which they have been spread…the whole armory is cleaned out…”

The Hutt motioned at Craxis in reply.

“He will handle it after he finishes.”

His cat-like eyes watched as his wicked associate took his time with the prisoner.

Growing impatient, the great Hutt noticed the tall man staring at him and barked to the cruel bounty hunter.

“Why isn’t he dead yet!?”

The scarred man nodded before driving the dagger into the prostrate captive.

The great Hutt watched appreciatively as the former slave slowly succumbed to death’s grasp.

He had no warning when suddenly the world went white.

In his last moments, Gurji shat himself.

*************************************************************************************

Rukar cried out as he felt his friend’s life leave him. He turned his watering eyes on his tender companion as she buried her face in his shoulder.

Raith was gone.

The tall Wookiee let out a mournful cry at the loss of the brave warrior. Isawen wiped the tears that streamed from her eyes as she draped an arm around the Wookiee’s waist. He laid a powerful yet consoling hand upon her soft shoulder as she shook silently.

In the cockpit, Kylto gritted his teeth in frustration. Now he could no longer repay the debt he owed the man.

As he turned his head and looked back at the grieving friends, he knew that by helping them he would be doing right by Raith’s memory.

Perhaps that would be enough to atone for his past misdeeds.

Rukar didn’t bother to stem the tide of tears that cascaded down his cheeks as he mourned for his dear comrade.

At last, his friend was finally home…but who would help him work against injustice in the galaxy now?

The path that lay before the young man seemed empty without his bounty hunter friend joining him.

The Jedi felt something else though.

His friend was not the only life that had just winked out…and he sensed something beyond that, nagging at the edges of his perception…

Something…dark.

*************************************************************************************

As he watched the great Hutt’s palace explode in a fiery conflagration, the dark robed man couldn’t hide a small smile.

The bounty hunter had surely been determined.

It took some serious boldness for somebody to implant high-grade baradium charges into their body on a dead-man’s fuse.

The fat slug had been a useful contact, and certainly a lucrative one…but he had proved stubborn far too often, and his greed had begun to grow to unmanageable lengths.

He almost considered what would have happened if he had revealed the prisoner’s trap to the annoying Hutt.

A small smile crept across his face as he wondered what the corpulent alien had looked like in his final moments.

His trail of thought was interrupted as he noticed a ship wink out as it jumped into lightspeed far in the distance.

This time, his smile took in his entire face as he considered his newest pawn.

As he began to dial in his own hyperspace coordinates, he reflected on what had recently transpired.

He had lost his powerful apprentice…but now things were beginning to become interesting.

Things were turning out just as he had foreseen.

*************************************************************************************



EPILOGUE

As they watched the sun set on the horizon beyond, Rukar gently laid a strong hand on Melyna’s tender shoulder. She looked back up at him and smiled softly as she laid her own hands on her prominent stomach.

The Jedi was the first to speak.

“He’ll be loved…I know Raith will be proud of him.”

The woman smiled at the mention of the life within her pregnant belly.

“I know he will…”

She trailed off before looking to the taller man with a raised eyebrow.

“Ruk…Is it really over?”

The younger man nodded and grinned reassuringly. She had asked him many times over the days since their beloved friend’s death, and yet it never bothered him to repeat the same answer.

“Of course…Raith did what he did for all of us. To give us a new future…”

Melyna nodded as she had every time, smiling at the sacrifice made for her…for their son. She knew it wasn’t the entire truth, for she did not miss the concerned way the Jedi watched the horizon.

Rukar took a deep breath as he considered the implications of his friend’s death.

A huge criminal operation had been destroyed by the work of his bounty hunter companion. And yet he had not obtained the closure he had expected.

Rather than feeling released from the consequences of his actions, he instead felt something darker looming over him.

He shrugged it off as much as he could…guessing it to be his anxiety at the thought of coming to terms with the Jedi Order.

But he felt something else, lurking just beyond his vision…

For some reason, he got the sense that his journey was only beginning.


THE END

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RaithDuhal
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Re: Nothing But Shadow

Post by RaithDuhal » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:43 am

Really hope everybody thoroughly enjoyed the story! Please add any thoughts/opinions/ideas/comments on any part of it =)! Or just add your own two cents...

Here's the link again to the discussion thread. Or heck, discuss it here!

http://sw-e.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2 ... 34#p228434

Yes, for those who were REALLY interested and enjoyed it (of which I always hope there are many) I am already working on the sequel =)

The more comments I get, the more motivated I am to keep writing it faster and better!

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