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STARWARS BOUNTY HUNTERS: War For the Underworld #1Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars, or any of its properties ([Legends and Canon material alike] the Characters, the Planets, events, ships, gear, etc. Mentioned in this story). All those belong to George Lucas, Lucasfilm, and Disney. I do however own the original characters: Drel Semaj, Rimas Guri, Dia Scafer, Weeza Kam, Lam Dlonyer, IA-9, Gan Tik, Ximus Zajex, Nex Ukted, Org Hesh, Funjall the Unforgiving, Oeshell Cingaergg, Tothisk the Slimy, and the Mandalorians: Jacga Ehpal, Fel-Cree, Colsc Hepal, and Nerak Kavu-Kattu. This story is for entertainment purposes only. Thank you and enjoy.STAR WARS BOUNTY HUNTERS:WAR FOR THE UNDERWORLD***Chapter 1 After finishing his approach to the planet Batuu, the Mandalorian Bounty Hunter, Drel Semaj, began the landing sequence for his ship, the Mythosaur. The D5-Mantis Patrol craft finally touched down on the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost. Once the 29-year-old bounty hunter locked down his ship; a necessary precaution in his line of work; he made his way through the crowded streets of Merchant Row. He remained ever vigilant as he passed vendors, and shops of all kinds, always on the lookout for any suspicious characters that could potentially become a threat. His dark grey Beskar armor, accented with touches of red in various places, reminded any who crossed his path that he was a hunter, not easy prey. Many who encountered him on the busy street kept a safe distance, even ducking into shops to avoid him altogether. His long dark grey cape blew back behind him as he continued down the stony streets with one destination in mind: Oga’s Cantina. As Drel entered through the large wide door of the dimly lit cantina, he was met by the sights of smugglers, pirates, bounty hunters, locals, off-worlders, and citizens of various species standing around at narrow tables talking amongst themselves and enjoying all the food and drinks the bar had to offer. Music filled the cantina, as Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes performed their widely known hit, “Mad About Me” for the patrons of the crowded establishment. It was a catchy tune, but one that he’d heard far too many times for his liking. He tuned out the music as he scanned the cantina for his contact. In his head, he went over all the exits and items he could use to defend himself if things went south. Hints of old blast marks scorched into one or two of the permacrete walls of the circular building were clear reminders of just how quickly that could happen; the locals claimed that the marks had been left during a skirmish when Darth Vader and a blue-skinned Imperial Officer had personally paid the cantina a visit several years ago. Drel spotted his contact, Rimas Guri, seated at a booth on the far side of the bar, playing the classic variation of Sabacc with a Rodian Smuggler. The dark-skinned human male wore a brown duster that bore the crest of the Bounty Hunters' Guild on it, which indicated he was a guild agent. “Sabacc!” The dark-skinned man exclaimed to the Rodian in front of him and revealed the cards in his hands. The Rodian cursed angerly and threw his cards on the table. As the Mandalorian approached, Rimas turned to the Rodian. “Get lost.” He said. “I’m tired of winning your money.” The Rodian began to sweep his credits back toward his side of the table. The Guild Agent noticed this and pointed his drawn blaster pistol at the pea-green-skinned Rodian. “Ah, ah, ah. Leave the credits.” He said. “You lost them fair and square.” “E chu ta!” The Rodian swore and walked away from the table empty-handed. “Well, if it isn’t the Blood-Shadow of Mandalore.” Rimas said, once Drel reached his table. “Have a seat, My Friend.” As the bounty hunter took a seat, Rimas collected his winnings. “Fancy a game?” Drel shook his head. He’d known for a while that Sabacc was a favorite pastime of the Guild Agent. There’d been rumors that Rimas had once beaten famed Weequay pirate, Hando Ohnaka, in a game with an extremely rare Idiot's Array, despite the pirate’s attempt to cheat. “Suit yourself.” The Guild Agent said, as he placed the deck of cards back in the pocket of his duster. Drel placed a tracking fob on the table. “You work fast.” Said the impressed Guild Agent. “I wasn’t expecting you for another week. I assume you’re here to collect the bounty on your latest quarry?” The bounty hunter nodded slowly. “Good. The Guild will inform the Hutts once the quarry has been offloaded from your ship. ‘May even brighten their week.” The Guild Agent placed a small sack of credits on the table in front of the Mandalorian. Drel looked around the cantina. There were only a handful of bounty hunters there. “Oga Garra doesn’t usually allow Guild business under her roof.” He stated. Rimas gave a small smile. “In this case, she made an exception, which doesn’t happen often, believe me. The Guild has already paid her a small cut for allowing us to use her establishment for this special business arrangement.” He waved the bartender over. The bartender, a human man named, Nodlia, walked over from behind the bar’s decorative brass work and made his way to their booth. The older bartender had been working in the cantina long before Oga had come into possession of it; even bartending for it as far back as the Clone Wars. “Nodlia, another Bespin Fizz for me, and whatever my friend wants.” Drel only stared at Rimas; his helmeted head betrayed not an ounce of emotion to the man seated across from him. “I’ll take my next job.” Rimas waved the elderly bartender away. “Of course...” He said. “Then, I’ll get right to the point. After what happened on Tatooine a few days ago, the Hutt Council has been hiring extra bounty hunters from all over the galaxy to take out some high-value targets that are threatening their influence over the criminal underworld.” Drel was confused. “What happened on Tatooine?” Rimas looked surprised. “You really don’t know, do you… Jabba Desilijic Tiure is dead.” “What?!” Drel exclaimed in a hushed tone. “How?!” Rimas lowered his voice. “All I know is that he was killed while aboard his Sail Barge somewhere near the Dune Sea. They found the wreckage from the explosion not far from his palace, by the Great Pit of Carkoon.” “Have they hired Fett for this job yet?” Rimas looked even more surprised. “Fett was there. From what I’ve heard, he’s dead too.” “Dank Farrik!” Drel swore. The Mandalorian bounty hunter, Boba Fett was considered one of the most feared hunters in the galaxy for years; one who actually lived up to his reputation on countless occasions. Jabba’s murder was shocking enough, but Fett’s death was even harder to swallow. “What’s the bounty?” He asked? “Whatever it is, I’ll make short work of it myself.” Rimas chuckled. “No doubt, no doubt. But this isn’t just any job, hunting bail-jumpers and smugglers. No, this is the real deal. With Jabba dead, the other Crime Syndicates, like Black Sun, or the Pykes, will try to seize control of the Underworld in his absence. The Hutt’s aren’t taking any chances with this. The Guild has specifically stated that this is at least a two-man job.” There’s always a catch, Drel thought to himself. I haven’t worked with another bounty hunter since…her. “You’ll be going after two Crime Syndicates. I’ve already hired another bounty hunter to assist you with this job. Someone who’ll be able to infiltrate both organizations without drawing too much attention.” Drel was surprised, but he didn’t let it show. It wasn’t too often that the Guild assigned bounty hunters to work together without prior warning. However, this job was very important, and the Guild wanted to make sure it was done right. A job like this meant lots of credits, and he’d make sure he lived long enough to earn his share of the bounty. Still, he didn’t like the idea of working with another bounty hunter. “Who?” He finally asked. “Drel Semaj…” said an all-too-familiar voice from behind him. Immediately, Drel drew his WESTAR-35 from its holster and pointed it at the owner of the voice. The bar suddenly went silent, as its patrons froze at the sudden disturbance. Before him stood a blue-skinned Twi’lek woman clad from the neck down in durasteel Mandalorian armor that she’d acquired from the Black Market, with a modified Mandalorian helmet tucked under her arm. A DE-10 blaster pistol in her free hand was pointed right at Drel’s helmeted head. Her beauty, a real credit to her race, gave her the guise of a frail, helpless, and submissive Twi’lek woman; though her icy-blue eyes were cold, harsh, and those of a hunter. With an attractive smile and caress of her slender fingers, she could lower the defenses of many beings foolish enough to dismiss her as a threat. Drel was not one so easily fooled. “Dia Scafer.” He said. “’Haven’t seen you in a while.” “Oh, believe me, Love. I’m only here because the money’s good.” “Lower your blasters! NOW!” Ordered Rimas, standing up abruptly. The two bounty hunters hesitated, before slowly lowering their blasters; not taking their eyes off each other for a second. Rimas looked around at the stunned patrons of the bar. “Lover’s quarrel.” He said coolly. “Sorry about the disturbance. Drinks are on me.” With that, the Guild Agent tossed two bags full of Batuuan Spira Credits over the bar to Nodlia. The local patrons quickly went back to their business after ordering another round of drinks. Rimas turned back to the two bounty hunters and sternly gestured for them to take a seat at the booth. “Kriff!” He said, as he let out an annoyed sigh. “You two are going to get us kicked out of here with a stunt like that! I heard you two had a rocky history. This isn’t going to be a problem, is it?” The blue-skinned Twi’lek with icy-blue eyes looked at the Guild Agent innocently. “No problem on my end.” She said. “What about you, Love?” Drel let out a low aggravated sigh. “No problem.” He finally conceded with potent distain in his voice. Satisfied for the moment with their answers, the Guild Agent turned his attention back to business. “Now then…” Rimas said. “let’s discuss the particulars of the job.” The Guild Agent pulled out a holo puck and a tracking fob from his pocket and placed it on the table. He lowered the tone of his voice. “This is your first target…” He activated the bounty holo puck. A small hologram of a Pyke male hovered above the table. “…Weeza Kam. One of many Black-Market Arms Dealers working for the Pyke Syndicate. Recently, it seems Marg Krim has made him the top liaison for acquiring weapons and recruiting mercenaries and pirates for the Pykes.” Rimas eyed both bounty hunters closely, before continuing. “Since Jabba’s death, Weeza Kam has been very successful in building up an army in the Criminal Underworld. I hear he has gained the support of the Zann Consortium and other criminal organizations for the Pyke’s war with Black Sun, with the assurance that the Pyke Syndicate will generously compensate all its benefactors once they control the Underworld. Word has it, he’s even been able to procure an impressive number of Combat Droids used during the Clone Wars; not the B1s, mind you, I mean B2-series Super Battle Droids in good condition. And their ranks keep growing.” The Guild Agent switched off the puck; the Pyke’s image disappeared. Neither bounty hunter said a word, as Rimas continued. “Weeza Kam has become a major player in the Black Market. He has the means of recruiting and supplying an army to use against both the Hutt Cartel and Black Sun. ‘We take him out of the equation, and the Pykes lose some of the primary resources they need to contend with Black Sun. The Hutt Council wanted the weaker of the syndicates dealt with first, while they’re not at full strength.” “Do the Hutts have a preference on how they wanted the target delivered?” Dia asked. “No.” Rimas admitted. “Their only instructions were to “Take him out of the equation”. The interpretation of that is up to you.” The Twi’lek smiled wickedly at that news. “My favorite kind of job.” “However, the Hutts were very specific about one thing, though. Whether you deliver the targets for these jobs alive or provide proof of termination, the exchange must take place with the Grand Hutt Council in-person on Nal Hutta.” “You still haven’t told us what the bounty is.” Drel said, ignoring the blue Twi’lek. “The bounty on Kam, is 22,000 credits…” The Guild Agent said, “That’s 11,000 credits each.” Drel let out a sigh. It wasn’t an exceptionally prodigious sum by any means, but it was more than enough to keep his ship in the air for another month or two. Now, the only thing left to do was locate their first target. “Where can we find him?” He finally asked. Rimas lowered his voice a little. “There have been rumors that Kam has visited Depatar, the City of Masks on the gas-planet, Genarius, on several occasions, meeting individually and discreetly with various leaders from different crime organizations and gangs that they’re trying to make their allies. From what we’ve gathered, the Pykes have sent Kam as their representative to meet with Lam Dlonyer and his pirate gang, the Summa-Verminoth. “It sounds like Dlonyer and his crew have been hired by the company Syndicate One to deliver a massive shipment of weapons from Valgauth to Genarius, where it will be picked up by Kam and his men.” The Guild Agent frowned. “Getting to him won’t be easy. In addition to the disguise that he will undoubtedly be wearing, I’m told he’s been traveling with an armed escort of mercenaries almost everywhere he goes. They too, will most-likely be disguised.” “That doesn’t leave us many options, does it?” Drel said. The odds of finding their target dropped significantly. “Not at all.” Rimas agreed. “There’s only one place on Depatar where Kam has definitely been seen without his mercenary bodyguards or his disguise. Several of our sources have confirmed that after each of his deals, Kam has been spotted frequenting the Twi’lek Healing Baths in the city. The establishment has a strict no weapons policy and does not welcome an armed escort on its grounds, so he’s sure to be alone.” Dia smiled. “Seeing as this plan seems like it’s going to rely oh so heavily on me, why don’t I just take the tracking fob with me on my ship and meet you on Depatar once I have Kam.” As she reached for the tracking fob, Drel quickly grabbed her wrist. “I don’t think so. The moment she has Kam, she’ll run off and claim the bounty herself. Either we take my ship and split the bounty fifty-fifty, or the deal’s off.” The Twi’lek smiled coyly at Drel. “You drive a hard bargain, Love…but I guess, given how big this job is, I can see your skepticism. I suppose I could stomach working with you for a quick job or two. I just hope you still have what it takes to take on a group of Underworld mercenaries, while I’m busy capturing the target.” “I fought an entire garrison of Imperial troops during the Purge on Mandalore a few years ago. I’ll be able to handle any cannon fodder the Pykes send my way.” Said Drel. “Besides, it’s not my performance we should be worried about. Let’s hope you make a better seductive Twi’lek slave girl than you do a Mandalorian-pretender. I mean, any true Mandalorian would’ve been able to tell the difference between real Beskar armor and that durasteel knock-off you’re wearing.” There was now a raging fire in Dia’s icy blue eyes, burning with the heat of a thousand suns. The cocky smile she wore on her face, was suddenly replaced by a seething scowl. Drel had struck a nerve in her. She barred her teeth angerly at him. “Let’s take this outside! Then, I’ll show you who should really be considered a true Mandalorian.” She said, drawing her small vibroblade. Drel had already activated the vibroblade built into his Mandalorian vambrace. The blade hummed loudly. Before either bounty hunter could make a move, Rimas was on his feet. “Enough!” He said, slamming his gloved hand on the table. He rubbed his forehead with his other hand. “I was hoping the two of you could do this job like professionals for the Guild, but it looks like I was mistaken. Apparently, I need to tag along to make sure the two of you don’t end up killing each other.” Neither bounty hunter made any objection, though Drel was not too keen on the idea of having a representative of the Guild breathing down his neck during a job. It was just another person he had to worry about potentially getting in his way and blowing the job altogether. But his hands were tied. If the Guild Agent’s presence ensured that Dia Scafer was on her best behavior during this temporary partnership, then so be it. The Mandalorian nodded and made no attempt to talk the dark-skinned man out of coming with them. He was not a politician. If a representative of the Guild wanted to personally oversee this mission, then there was no point in arguing. “Now that we’ve settled that, I’d say it’s time we got a move on.” Rimas said, gesturing to the exit. “Lead the way.” “After you, Love.” Dia said, in a tone that feigned politeness, but in truth, held mockery at its core. As the group exited the cantina, Drel kept one eye on the Twi’lek bounty hunter to his left and his gun-hand within range of his holstered blaster. If she tried anything, he’d be ready.*** A few minutes later, the trio approached the outskirts of the outpost, where the Mythosaur waited. The old patrol craft stood at 58 meters tall and 68 meters wide, with an impressive length of 74 meters. Painted just above the cockpit, on the hull of the ship was a large Mythosaur skull, a traditional symbol used often in Mandalorian culture. For a craft that dated all the way back to the days of the Old Republic, it was in remarkable shape. Rimas was awestruck the moment he set eyes on the massive craft. His jaw hung open as he tried to find the words to describe what he was looking at. “I don’t believe it…” He finally said. “This is what you’ve been flying?” Drel nodded. “’You know how old this rare-beauty must be?” Rimas continued, still gazing with mouth wide open. “It looks like it hasn’t aged at all. Where’d you find one in such great condition?” The Mandalorian ignored the question. “She’s had a lot of work done on her, with some special modifications. All you need to know is that she’ll get us wherever we need to go.”Dia looked unimpressed. “Eh, looks like you managed to keep the Fossil in one piece while I’ve been away. The Fossil: A backhanded nickname she’d given his ship when they first started working together. It was a nickname she knew the Mandalorian hated. “Can’t imagine you’ve had an easy time flying it by yourself since I left.” The Twi’lek continued. A delicious grin formed on her face. “You don’t just let anyone behind the controls of your ship, Love. Your new copilot must be someone you really trust if you’ve had them flying with you for almost a year. Hmmm…I wonder who it could be.” Drel said nothing. Instead, he tapped a few buttons on his vambrace. A moment later, the ship’s main entry ramp, located at the rear of the ship, lowered slowly. Without waiting for his companions to follow him, the Mandalorian bounty hunter climbed the ramp and boarded his ship. Dia and Rimas followed him soon after. The first thing the Guild Agent realized as he entered, was how spacious the Mandalorian’s impressive ship was. The lower deck itself was very open. On the left side of the loading area, there was a ray shield containment unit for temporary holding. On the right, there was a small carbon-freezing unit with five of Drel’s latest bounties; each preserved in it and magnetically mounted on the wall. There were also a few other rooms attached to the lower deck that had been closed off; most likely crew quarters and such. A few meters above his head, was a large, suspended walkway on the upper deck of the ship. Drel made his way up a long open staircase, followed closely by his companions, to the main hold on the upper deck. There was a large holo-terminal in its center, accompanied by some comfortable-looking seats. Another walkway toward the rear of the ship led to Drel’s personal quarters. “Make yourself comfortable.” Drel said to Rimas. Dia looked around at the main hold. “’Doesn’t look like much has changed since I left.” She said, preparing to take a seat. Before any of them could sit down, the door to the upper engine walkway suddenly whizzed open, revealing a silver RA-7 protocol droid armed with a EE-3 carbine rifle. The droid had the rifle pointed directly at Rimas and Dia. “That’s new.” Said Dia. “You have exactly two-minutes to vacate this ship, before I proceed to blast both of you full of holes.” The droid said, in a surprisingly feminine, yet monotone voice. It noticed the Twi’lek bounty hunter palming her blasters. “Make a move, Tailhead, and you’ll be dead before your blasters even leave those holsters.” The Twi’lek was surprised by the protocol droid’s violent and derogative behavior. “Stand down, Eye-Ah.” Drel said calmly, stepping between the droid and its targets. “It’s alright. They’re here on Guild business.” The droid looked at Rimas and Dia, then back to Drel, before finally lowering the blaster. “Very well.” The droid said, setting the rifle on a nearby table. “Apologies, Master Drel. I thought you were being held captive by a pair of criminals. It appears I was mistaken. You bring so many unsavory strangers onboard this ship, one can never tell which ones are not criminals.” “Is your droid always this friendly?” Rimas asked, making no attempt to hide the sarcasm in his voice. “Only on good days.” Answered Drel. “Usually I-A-Nine just shoots first without warning.” “’Seems cross-wired, if you ask me.” The Twi’lek said under her breath. He ignored her and gestured toward Rimas. “Eye-Ah, this is Rimas Guri. He represents the Bounty Hunters' Guild in this sector. Try not to shoot him. I’d rather not have a black mark on my record.” Next, he gestured to Dia. “This is bounty hunter, Dia Scafer. We need her alive for this job.” The droid inspected the blue skinned Twi’lek from head to toe. “This is the traitorous Twi’lek Mandalorian-pretender you once worked with? The one who attempted to unlawfully acquire armor belonging to two deceased members of your Mandalorian clan, before attempting to perforate your vital organs to further entertain her nonsensical delusions of grandeur?” Drel gave a subtle nod. “Oh dear…” IA-9 said. She moved closer toward Dia. “If you should once again attempt to bring harm to Master Drel during this partnership, I will be the inexorable instrument that delivers your excruciating death.” “Charming.” Dia said. “’Looks like your programmer charged extra for etiquette.” She turned to Drel. “Since when have you ever expressed an interest in owning a droid?” “Since I ended our partnership and kicked you off my ship.” Drel replied frigidly. “I decided to get a copilot who I didn’t have to worry about betraying me every time I took a job.” “Sounds boring.” Dia said indifferently. The Mandalorian was losing his patience with his former flame. “Let’s get one thing straight, Dia.” He said pointing a finger at her angerly. “We are not partners anymore. This job doesn’t change that. You are only here because you have to be. The moment we’re done working this job for the Hutts, we go our separate ways. Understand?” The Guild Agent let out an uncomfortable cough. With all the tension between them, the two bounty hunters had forgotten that he was still standing there. “If the two of you are finished, I’d like to remind you that we are on a schedule.” Rimas cut in. Drel nodded. The Guild Agent was right. They needed to get moving. “You’re right.” He agreed. “Eye-Ah, prep the engines. Set a course for Genarius. I’ll join you in the cockpit shortly.” The silver droid turned and exited through the doors from which it had entered. The hydraulic door closed behind it with a low hiss. “Strap in. I’ll be back once we’ve entered Hyperspace.” The Mandalorian once again turned back the Dia. “’I catch you snooping around my ship while I’m gone, you’ll deal with me.” “Ooh… ‘Sounds like fun, Love.” She cooed. “Just like old times.” Drel turned and followed where the droid had exited, leaving the Twi’lek-Mandalorian-pretender and Guild Agent alone in the main hold. *** After passing through the conference room and entering the ship’s command bridge, Drel took a seat at the flight controls in the cockpit, while IA-9 ran one final systems-check of the patrol craft in the seat next to him. He flipped a few switches, on the control panel. The Mythosaur hummed with life; its engines heated up. Slowly, the ship lifted off the ground. It hovered in the air, as its third retractable armament foil extended out from below the ship. Soon, the ship flew past the enormous shadowy spire for which the outpost had received its name and exited Batuu’s atmosphere. There was a moment of silence between the two. Drel eased the ship’s thrusters, while IA-9 finished punching the final calculations into the navicomputer. She was the first to break the silence. “How you could have ever formed a romantic bond with that Twi’lek woman is quite beyond me. I don’t trust her.” Drel chuckled. “You don’t trust anyone that I bring onto this ship who isn’t you, Eye-Ah…” His tone shifted, “…But I don’t trust her either. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we can pull this job off without her.” The droid shook its head. “Organics…” The Mandalorian bounty hunter touched two more buttons on the control panel. “Making the jump to lightspeed in three…two…one.” The Mythosaur, thrust forward, before finally entering Hyperspace.***Chapter 2 Once the Mythosaur entered the bright glow of Hyperspace, Drel took a few extra minutes to double check the navicomputer. When he was satisfied with everything, he returned to the main hold, where Dia and Rimas were still seated. His Mandalorian helmet was tucked under his arm, leaving his face on full display for the others to see. The Mandalorian ran his fingers through his dark brown hair and brushed the matted hair to the side. There were a few scars on his face near his chin; signs of past conflicts. Although Drel was clearly in his late 20’s, a handful of stress-lines scattered near his eyes made him seem years older. The Guild Agent looked at Drel with mild surprise at seeing his face.“So, it’s true…” Rimas said, “…You do remove your helmet.” A small smirk formed at the right side of Drel’s face, revealing a deep dimple in his cheek. “Most Mandalorians do, though there are a few zealot groups that still follow the Way of the Mandalore and choose to never remove their helmets in front of anyone.” “Interesting…” Dia gave Drel a seductive smile. “I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve seen that handsome face of yours.” Drel ignored the Twi’lek’s compliment. “We should reach Genarius in a few hours. For the time being, you’re welcome to use many of the ship’s facilities, but the engine room, weapon’s vault, and my personal quarters are off-limits. I don’t have much in way of food but there should be some left-over stew with blue milk and spotchka, if you get hungry. But first, I suggest we come up with a plan.” “I agree.” Rimas concurred. The Mandalorian took a seat and tapped a button on the holo-terminal. Immediately, the hologram schematics of the floating city of Depatar appeared. It resembled an urchin with many spiky protrusions about it. “Like Bespin, Genarius is a gas giant occupied by several large floating cities. Depatar is one of them. It’s the ideal location for Kam to meet discretely for his black-market deal with Lam Dlonyer.” Drel explained. “There’s a reason it’s called the City of Masks. The city has a law requiring all its visitors to disguise themselves once they’ve landed. In doing so, they ensure the identities of all parties involved in illegal activities on the city remain anonymous.” “What are all those spiky columns around the city?” Dia asked. “Each one of those spikes is a private landing pad.” The Mandalorian replied. “Depatar makes a massive profit requiring all its visitors to purchase a number of permits while exploring the city, including docking permits. Many criminal organizations forego doing their business in the City of Masks unless they have a wealthy benefactor funding them during their visit.” Drel scratched the back of his head and frowned. “I may actually lose money on this job because of all the expenses.” “Don’t worry about that.” Rimas chimed in. “The Guild will cover the cost of any necessary permits needed once we land. With the Hutt Cartel funding this job, the Guild will get its credits back in no time.” That made Drel feel a lot better about this job. Rarely did a bounty hunter have to pay for such things out of pocket for a job. “That settles one problem.” Drel said. “Once we land, Eye-Ah will remain on the ship while Rimas pays for the docking permit and accompanies me in the city, in the event I need any other permits. “Which brings me to our next problem: the city requires that a Professional Permitor be assigned to escort visitors wherever they go during their stay. So, I won’t be able to cover as much ground while I search for Kam. I’ll have the tracking fob with me, so we can narrow our search.” The Guild Agent looked unconvinced. “I don’t know. This seems like a big risk. There’s a chance you won’t get to Kam before the deal goes down.” “That’s where Dia comes in. Depatar has been known to regularly accept shipments of new Twi’lek slave girls from all over the galaxy for the many forms of entertainment in its facilities…including its Twi’lek Healing Baths.” Drel turned to Dia. “When we land, you will pose as a new slave transfer from Nar Shaddaa. You will be taken by a city official and placed in the Healing Baths, where you will keep an eye out for Weeza Kam. If he’s a creature of habit, he’ll most likely show up there once he’s concluded his business with Dlonyer. It will be some time before Dlonyer’s crew is able to finish loading all their Black-Market goods onto Kam’s ship.” “Interesting plan, but what’s to keep the city from sending me somewhere other than the Baths?” Dia asked. “I doubt they’ll send you anywhere else if we tell them that the Hutts specifically wanted you assigned to the Healing Baths.” “Smart move.” Dia said with a smile. “No one wants to upset a Hutt.” Drel looked at her with a seriousness in his eyes. “This next part is very important. When Kam arrives, you’ll activate the tracking beacon built into the bracelet of your disguise to confirm he’s there. Keep him entertained until I arrive to intercept him.”There was a look of disgust on the Twi’lek’s face at the idea of entertaining the Pyke. Drel continued. “I know how you feel about the Pykes, but I want him taken alive.” Dia pouted. “Oh, you’re no fun.” “Alive.” Drel repeated sternly. Dia held up her hands in surrender. “Alright, alright! I’ll keep the scum alive.” The Mandalorian continued. “Once we have Kam, we’ll need to get him back to the ship as quickly as possible without alerting his men.” “What are you planning to do about the weapons shipment?” Asked Rimas. “I doubt the Hutts will be happy when they find out the Pykes still acquired the weapons they ordered.” “While I’m with Kam, I’ll try and sweet-talk him into telling me what platform his ship is on. You can send that droid of yours to attack his ship before it leaves the planet.” Drel gave a small smile at the idea and nodded. “’Looks like you have this all planned out.” Rimas said. “I knew the Guild had made a wise choice coming to the two of you with this job. When you both aren’t trying to kill each other, you work well together.” “Don’t expect this partnership to be a regular thing.” Drel said. “As far as I’m concerned, this is the last time Dia and I ever do a job together again.” “Duly noted.” The Guild Agent said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe you mentioned there was some leftover stew and spotchka? It seems I’ve worked up an appetite.” “Of course.” Drel said politely. “Dia should be able to direct you to the ship’s dining area. That is, if she still remembers the way.” The Twi’lek shot him a dirty look, which Drel ignored. “I suggest both of you rest up. We’ll need to be sharp once we reach Depatar.” Drel said. “If you need me, Rimas, I’ll be in my personal quarters.” The Guild Agent nodded and followed Dia back down the steps to the lower deck. Drel turned and made his way to his personal quarters. After removing his armor and locking it in the closet, the Mandalorian fell asleep on the large bed in his room.*** Drel tossed and turned under his covers. Suddenly, he was back on Mandalore fighting against the Empire to liberate the planet with the rest of his clan during the Great Purge. He’d lost track of how many Mandalorian clans had assembled to fight the Imps for that battle. On the ground, the Imperials had already started deploying hundreds of AT-AT and AT-ST walkers to support their ground forces during the attack. The Empire had sent three legions comprised of stormtroopers, shock troopers, jumptroopers, and death troopers to meet the Mandalorian resistance in the field. Overhead, the sky was filled with a massive fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers. Countless TIE fighters spilled out of the large Imperial ships and engaged the Mandalorian Kom’rk-class starfighters in the air. Streaks of blaster bolts danced across the sky; ships on both sides exploded in fiery explosions. Back on the ground, Drel fought alongside the members of his clan as waves of stormtroopers fired at them. The Mandalorians put up a valiant attack; one truly worthy of their legendary warrior reputation. Drel watched a Red Mandalorian by the name of Jacga Ehpal; often referred to as The Red Death, by the members of his clan; manned a refurbished Mandalorian Battle Harness. Ehpal had been using the impressive vehicle during large assaults after becoming a Mandalorian Warrior to compensate for his birth defect which had rendered his legs unfit for the traditional form of combat. He was absolutely lethal with it, destroying squads of stormtroopers and even a AT-ST with it. Not far from where Drel was fighting, one of his friends, Fel-Cree was fighting off a squad of four death troopers all on her own. She was holding her own against the elite troopers. Once she had felled her opponents, Cree’s Rook-style Mandalorian helmeted head turned back to Drel. “Pick your jaw up off the floor, Drel.” She said. “There are Imps to kill. We still have Mandalore, and I intend to make sure Bo-Katan lives to rule it!” As the fighting continued, the Mandalorian forces were able to eliminate many of the Imperial ground forces, at the expense of many of their own warriors. The tide was beginning to turn in their favor. It looked like the Imperials on the ground would once again be outmatched by the might of the Mandalorian resistance. Using their jetpacks, Drel and Fel-Cree flew over a battalion of stormtroopers and landed on top of an AT-ST. As they opened the top hatch and dropped some thermal detonators inside, an Imperial sharpshooter shot Cree, hitting her in the neck, between the helmet and collar armor with near impossible precision. The female Mandalorian collapsed in his arms. Before the small Imperial Walker exploded, Drel flew them both to safety. Fel-Cree was not in good shape. He needed to get her out of there if she was going to have any chance of surviving her wound. She had minutes at most if they didn’t get her a stim-pack quickly. Drel contacted his ship with the headset inside his helmet and radioed one of its pilots. “Nerak, bring the Mythosaur to our position! Cree’s been hit! She needs a quick evac and medical attention! Have Colsc Hepal takeover flying for you! I need you to help me get her onboard!” “Understood.” Nerak Kavu-Kattu answered. The Mythosaur quickly sped toward Drel’s location and landed a few meters away. As the ship’s main loading ramp lowered, a female Mandalorian wearing sapphire-blue Beskar armor and a Mandalorian Pilot helmet with a silver visor hurried to meet Drel with the last of their stim-packs in her hand. Drel passed Fel-Cree’s limp body off to Nerak. They had not arrived in time to save his wounded Mandalorian friend; not even the stim-pack would be able to bring Cree back now. He quickly turned around to return to the battle, but before he made it halfway back down the ramp, a powerful blast from the turbolasers of an overhead Star Destroyer struck the ground, obliterating Jacga Ehpal and his Battle Harness from existence a hundred meters away. The stunned Mandalorian did not even have time to process what had just happened to The Red Death, once every turbolaser and orbital cannon in the Imperial fleet fired on the planet’s surface. Mandalorian and Imperial ground forces alike were decimated. The Imperial blockade did not care that it was killing its own men. It seemed that if the Empire couldn’t have Mandalore again, then no one could. The pale white sandy surface of the planet instantly was transformed into glass by the heavy cannon-fire. Drel quickly turned back toward the Mythosaur and ran back up the ramp. “Colsc!” He shouted into his headset. “Get us out of here!” The Mythosaur hovered over the ground for a moment, while it retracted the main loading ramp. During that time, a nearby death trooper had taken advantage of the chaotic situation and fired his weapon at the Mandalorians on the retracting loading ramp. Before Drel could even react, Nerak shoved him out of the line of fire and took the blaster-bolt in full, hitting her in the gaps between her armor plates. As she fell backwards, she dropped what remained of their stim-packs onto the floor of the patrol craft, where they shattered completely. Part of Nevak’s armor had also punctured her left lung from the close range of the blast, making it extremely difficult for the Sapphire Mandalorian to breathe. There was no way for anyone to heal her. Before the loading ramp closed completely, Drel saw thick black smoke pouring from the domed roof of Mandalore’s capital, Sundari, while the astronomical aerial bombardment ensued. Carefully laying the grievously wounded woman on the floor of his ship, Drel quickly removed Nevak’s helmet. The young Mandalorian had long blonde hair and skin as pale as the sands of the planet’s surface. The life in Nevak’s eyes rapidly faded away. Ultimately, she died a minute later in his arms.*** Drel woke up in a cold sweat. He slowly sat up in his bed. Instinctively, his hand had already found its way to the WESTAR-35 pistol hidden under his pillow; his fingertips touching its smooth metal. The mild grogginess from his sleep quickly dissipated, but he could not bring himself to lower his guard just yet. Something within him became acutely aware that he was not alone in the dim lighting of his sleeping space. In a flash, the Mandalorian had his weapon drawn and fixed in front of him. Although he felt slightly exposed without his armor, he was far from helpless without it. As the automatic lights in the room slowly adjusted and became brighter, Drel could make out the silhouette of a humanoid standing near the foot of his bed; he had a sneaking suspicion he knew the identity of the intruder. “Still having nightmares, I see…” Dia Scafer said with a hint of sadness and pity in her voice. The true-born Mandalorian was not amused. “I thought I was clear when I said my personal quarters were off-limits.” The Twi’lek’s voice took on a more playful and seductive tone. “Oh, come now, Love…It wasn’t always off-limits to me. Don’t you remember?” The lights finally stopped at their normal brightness. To his astonishment, Dia was not dressed in the durasteel armor she’d been wearing earlier; instead, she was wearing the same seductive slave girl disguise she’d worn during their first job together while hunting a Dug that owed Decca the Hutt a large sum of credits. He’d forgotten how stunning she looked in it. The deep-blue silk-velvet midriff top trimmed in gold fabric still fit her slender form nicely, hugging her curves like the fine strokes of an artist’s brush on a canvas. The matching blue silk headdress on her head was further complimented by strands of gold ribbons tied around her lekku and contrasted with her smooth blue skin. A deep-blue velvet skirt had been sewn to the front and back of the almost see-through pants that cascaded down her toned shapely legs and stopped at the silk ankle-high boots that covered her feet. On her arms, gold bands twisted around the tops of her arms and stopped just shy of her elbow. Lastly, a gold bracelet was clasped around her left wrist. In that outfit, she looked completely breathtaking. Drel had to remind himself not to get lost in whatever game of seduction Dia was playing to manipulate him into getting her way. She was very skilled at utilizing this role to make herself even more deadly. What was more surprising was how disarming she could be without being armed at all. “I see you put together your disguise.” He said. In truth, he’d forgotten that she’d left it aboard his ship when their partnership ended. She smiled, still trying to weave her web of manipulation around him. “I found this tucked in the cargo hold, right where I left it.” The attractive Twi’lek swayed her hips and did a slow graceful spin. “If I remember correctly,” She said, “you always seemed to enjoy seeing me in this outfit when we were together…” “That was a long time ago…” He said, working very hard to maintain control of his senses. He was feeling a mix of emotions he’d not experienced for a while. The blue-skinned female smiled at this, and attempted to move closer to the bed, only to be stopped by Drel. “That’s close enough.” He said, still pointing his pistol at her. “Now, I’ll ask you again, ‘what do you think you’re doing in here?’” Her attitude suddenly changed as she dropped her manipulative performance. She now seemed slightly conflicted. “I don’t know.” She confessed. “Seeing your face and putting together a plan before a job… It reawakened something inside of me. It just felt like old times…” Dia slowly sat on the edge of the bed. There was something different about her disposition; a softness and gentleness that he had rarely seen, even when he trusted her. She gently ran her hand across the soft bedsheets, before continuing. “…When it was just us and the galaxy. Taking jobs wherever we wanted. When things were different between us. Don’t you ever wish we could go back to that time, Love?” There was a genuine sincereness in her voice that Drel had not anticipated. “Everyday…” He said under his breath in a voice that was so quiet, it was almost inaudible. “We could fall asleep together… for old time’s sake.” The beautiful Twi’lek leaned in closer for a kiss. Part of him would have welcomed the idea, if not for the pain in his heart. “No…” He said before their lips could touch. “You’re here on business. That’s it…I think it’s time for you to leave.” There was pain in Dia’s icy-blue eyes. She stood up and turned to leave. After two steps, she stopped. “I made some mistakes back then. Many that I can’t take back. But I loved you…” Those words stabbed deeper than any blade ever could. “I know…” Drel said sadly. “There was a time when I thought the world of you. But you changed.” “Where did we go wrong, Love?” He could not bring himself to answer her, nor did he even know where to begin. This all seemed like it was coming out of thin air. Did she genuinely believe everything she was saying, or was this another deception? It was becoming harder to decern truth from fiction the more she spoke. “Why can’t things just go back to the way they were between us?” Dia continued. “You know why.” Drel finally said. “I can’t trust you. There’s always a hidden agenda with you. You play the caring lover when it suits you, then use an arsenal of manipulations you think will get you your way. I’m not buying any of it.” That accusation really stung. “You really think you have it all figured out…” She said, as a tear slid down her cheek. The Twi’lek took another step toward the door. “Why’d you do it?” Drel asked. “Why’d you try to steal the armor? No more games, Dia. I want the truth.” Dia turned around. “Ever since the day a group of Mandalorians rescued me from the Pyke slavers that kidnapped me and tore me way from my family, I’ve been fascinated with your culture. I wanted to be Mandalorian too. When I got older, I sharpened my skills for years as a bounty hunter, hoping that one day I’d have the chance to prove that I have what it takes to be one of you. “Then I heard about the Purge on Mandalore, and how many Mandalorians died in that battle. I was convinced the Empire had killed every last one of you. I thought that my dreams of being a Mandalorian had died with Mandalore. Then I came across you, Love. “I thought that if we worked together long enough, I’d be able to prove to you that I was good enough to be a Mandalorian too. I tried everything, but no matter what I did, I was never going to be considered a Mandalorian in your eyes. Despite all that, I admired you, respected you, even cared for you, in a way I’ve never cared for anyone else before.” There was anger growing in her voice as she continued. “Eventually, I realized you’d never see me as your equal. You held the armor of your dead clanmates in higher esteem than you did me. I finally decided that if I couldn’t be your equal, then I’d just have to prove I was better than you. I was done looking for your approval, so I decided to take the Beskar armor that you held so dear and prove to the rest of the galaxy that I am Mandalorian!” Drel suddenly realized the real reason she had paid him this unexpected visit; she was looking for the same Beskar armor she’d tried to steal before. “But you didn’t get it. I caught you before you could even get away with it.” He spitefully pointed out. “And even if you had, you still wouldn’t have earned the right to wear it! Did you honestly think that theft and manipulation would somehow give you the right to call yourself a true Mandalorian? A true Mandalorian lives by a code of honor. You have none! “Whatever feelings I had for you before, were outweighed by the fact that you lost my trust forever the moment you attempted to steal from me! You are a disgrace to the very culture you idolize.” “Look where that honor got them, Love.” Dia scoffed. “A culture on the verge of extinction and an entire planet glassed by the Empire.” The true-born Mandalorian grimaced. “Get out.” He said coldly. “If you ever sneak into my room again, it will be the last thing you do.” The Mandalorian-pretender made her way to the door. “Oh, and Dia…” The Twi’lek paused in the doorway. “…If you were looking for the armor you tried to steal the last time you were aboard this ship, you should know that I moved it to somewhere you’ll never find it.” Dia turned with a darkly amused smile. “I don’t need that old armor of yours anymore, Love. There are plenty of other ways to get Beskar these days…” With that, she exited. ***Chapter 3 A few hours later The Mythosaur dropped out of Hyperspace. It made its final approach toward the gas planet. Inside the Patrol Craft, Drel and Dia waited in the conference room near the ship’s command bridge and waited for Rimas to join them. Dia was still dressed in her slave outfit. The only difference to her costume was that she had added a long chain to the slave collar around her neck. Drel had thrown a large hooded poncho over his beskar armor. He continued to wear his Mandalorian helmet, though with the hood covering it. Covering the front part of the helmet was a Mythosaur mask, with a visor cut at the eyes. To avoid further suspicions, Drel had decided to leave his Z-6 jetpack on the ship. In its place, he strapped his EE-3 carbine rifle to his back as a backup weapon. It never hurt to be prepared. Finally, Rimas entered the room. Both bounty hunters looked at the Guild Agent as he entered. He had the most elaborate disguise of all. Not only had Rimas covered his exposed skin in light purple paint and colored his hair dark purple with temporary hair dye, he had also added excessive prosthetics to his face, ears, and feet. His eyes were covered by mechanic goggles. To anyone passing by, he looked like a male Lasat. To maintain his cover as an agent of the Bounty Hunters' Guild, he had replaced his brown duster with a vest. His custom blaster pistol still hung at his side on his belt. Dia chuckled at the sight of him. “’Looks like you really committed to your disguise, Guri.” Rimas looked a bit self-conscious about his appearance. “Well done.” Drel said. “You really look like a Lasat, Rimas. No one will recognize you.” He looked a bit more comfortable after hearing that and gave the Mandalorian a nod of appreciation. Dia handed the Guild Agent her twin DE-10 blaster pistols. “Be a dear and keep these safe for me.” She said. Rimas carefully tucked both pistols into his belt. Once the Guild Agent had finished placing Dia’s weapons on his person, Drel gestured for them to follow him. He led the group into the command bridge and took a seat in the pilot’s chair. Taking the controls, he steered the Patrol Craft toward a floating city that matched the hologram schematics they’d seen during the briefing a few hours ago. A voice came over the ship’s subspace transceiver. “Depatar Control to D5-Mantis Patrol Craft. Please state your business.” Drel touched a button on the controls in front of him to reply to the transmission. “Patrol Craft to Depatar Control, requesting permission to dock. We have a new Twi’lek slave transfer for your Healing Baths from Nar Shaddaa. Other than that, our business is our own.” “You are aware of our policies for visiting the City?” “We are.” Drel replied. “Very well. Proceed to pad 1983. We’ll send someone to greet you. Enjoy your stay at the City of Masks.” “Thank you. We will.” Drel replied before switching off his comms. The Mandalorian turned and looked at Dia and Rimas. “Everyone know their jobs?” The two nodded. “Good.” He looked at IA-9, who was seated in the co-pilot seat. “Eye-Ah, stay on the ship. Make sure no one boards while we’re away.”*** A few minutes later, the Mythosaur landed on platform 1983 where a Snivvan and two guards armed with electrostaffs were waiting by the platform’s lift. Drel and Rimas walked down the main entry ramp in their disguises with Dia being led closely behind them by chain. Her hands were bound by stun cuffs. When they got closer to the Depatar greeting party, Drel gave a harsh tug on Dia’s chain, causing the Twi’lek to nearly stumble. The Snivvan, who Drel could only assume was the Professional Permitor that had been assigned to them based on the Badge of Permitor that he wore, smiled and bowed. “Welcome to Depatar. I’m Gan Tik, your personal Permitor. ‘Here for all your needs. How long can we expect you to be staying with us?” “One cycle.” Said Rimas. “Very good.” The Permitor said, typing the information into the datapad in his hand. “Now, if you’ll be so kind as to transfer 200 credits for your visitor permit.” The disguised Guild Agent transferred the credits from the Guild’s account via his personal encrypted datapad. “Thank you.” The Snivvan Permitor eyed the blue Twi’lek. “Such a beautiful specimen you have here. I’m sure we can find a place for this beauty somewhere in our city.” “Our Hutt employer was extremely specific. He wanted this slave assigned to the Twi’lek Healing Baths when we arrived.” Drel interrupted. Upon hearing of Hutt involvement, the Permitor became far more compliant. “Of course, we are more than happy to make sure that your Hutt employer’s wishes are met. Please allow me to add the correct permits required for this business transaction to your code cylinders, once you provide additional payment, of course.” Drel gestured for Rimas to pay the Permitor again. The disguised Guild Agent looked at Drel, then reluctantly paid the Permitor again. He did not look happy about doing so. “Thank you.” The Snivvan said. “You will receive your payment shortly.”There was a small ping on the Guild Agent’s datapad, indicating that the city had sent a payment to his account. “There you are.” The Permitor said with a smile. He turned to the guards. “Show this beauty to the Healing Baths.” One of the guards took Dia’s chain from Drel’s hand and forcefully led her to the lift with the second guard. “This way, Slave.” The three entered the lift. A moment later, the lift doors closed, and it hummed with life. “Are you certain we can’t just leave her here when we depart?” Eye-Ah said over the private comm-channel in Drel’s helmet. “I for one will not miss her.” The statement didn’t even warrant a response from him. Drel shook his head. That droid, he thought to himself. Despite the monotone voice and robotic exterior, there were times when IA-9’s banter almost seemed human. The disguised Mandalorian straightened up and kept his focus on the mission. “It will take a few minutes for the lift to return.” The Permitor said. “While we’re waiting, perhaps I can add more permits that you may need for your visit to your cylinder. What’s the nature of your business here?” Drel leaned in closer. “Hunting…” He placed a sack of credits into the Permitor’s hand. “…For your discretion.” The Snivvan’s eyes were full of understanding, as he discreetly pocketed the credits. “Of course, Sir.” He said. “I will que up the usual permits used by all our bounty hunter visitors.” He looked at his datapad. “Let’s see…Ambush permit, Weapons permit, Self-defense… I’m assuming you’ll be using lethal force…” The disguised bounty hunter said nothing, he only stared at the Permitor. “…I will just put you both down for that.” The Snivvan man said uncomfortably. “K-keep in mind, t-there will be an additional fee for each victim.” He finished totaling up the cost. “For the two of you… that will be 950 credits.” Rimas looked outraged. “950 CREDITS?!” He looked at Drel, who slowly nodded. “Ah, fine!” Rimas grumbled, transferring more credits on his datapad. “Thank you again.” The Permitor said. “Give me a second and I’ll get you each your code cylinders.” A moment later, a terminal released two code cylinders. The Permitor handed each of the men a cylinder. “Please keep these with you at all times.” The lift finally returned. “Ah. Here is the lift. Can I take you anywhere in particular today?” he asked. “Yes.” Said Drel. “Where would one go for a larger than average Black-Market deal?” *** Lam Dlonyer walked through the many hallways of Depatar on his way to meet with Weeza Kam. He grumbled under his breath. This job had already turned out to be an expensive one; though he was glad that a majority of the expenses had already been taken care of by the criminal organization known as Syndicate One before they had left Valgauth. The one-eyed Nautolan was wearing a Quarren mask over his face. It was hard enough to see their Permitor guide with his good eye, now he had to do it while wearing a hot stuffy mask! The things I do for money, Lam thought to himself. This job had better be worth all this trouble. He still didn’t understand why he and his men couldn’t have met the Pyke somewhere that didn’t require them to wear a disguise; but he wasn’t the one in charge of the meeting arrangements. His job was to ship the goods, broker a deal, and get off world. He’d have no problem doing that. With everyone around him in disguises, it wasn’t like there was anything to really see here. Lam’s group passed by a pink-skinned Twi’lek slave girl that was wearing a dress that left little to the imagination. He smiled to himself. On second thought, maybe this arrangement wasn’t going to be all THAT unpleasant. The Permitor led them into a large, crowded room filled with all manner of disguised aliens. Many of them stood about, while others gathered in long narrow booths with two entrances: one for each party. Inside each booth was a long slender business table. Lam was led to one of the booths and was told to enter from one end, while his six bodyguards waited outside the entrance until he and the Pyke had concluded their business. Once he and his Permitor had entered their side of the booth, the pirate captain took a seat in the chair at one end of the table. The syndicate had been very specific in their instructions for the meeting: Lam was to meet on Depatar and only do business with someone wearing a large bowl-shaped hat and a bull rancor mask covering his face. The Nautolan gazed across the table. Seated in a chair on the opposite end of it was someone matching that exact description. Even so, he was still not convinced yet. “How do I know you’re the one that I’m supposed to be meeting with, Friend?” He asked skeptically. The disguised alien held out a long thin arm. Lam could sense the Pyke’s growing annoyance; as well as traces of Spice; using the chemical-sensing tendrils on his head. Based on the high chemical signals the Pyke was giving off, the alien across from him did not appreciate the Nautolan’s skepticism. “I should walk away for being asked such a stupid question…but since you require proof…” The disguised alien flashed a medallion with the crest of the Pyke Syndicate on it. “…Convinced?” the Pyke asked, tucking the medallion back under his cloak. “I am now.” Lam said, kicking his feet up and resting them on the table. He put his arms behind his head and relaxed. A voice came over the speakers in the booth. “If you both would kindly place your code cylinders in the ports located on the table in front of you, we will get this meeting underway.” Both the Pirate and the Pyke did as they were told. Once their code cylinders were placed in the ports embedded in each end of the table, the computer scanned the permit codes in each cylinder. The voice returned. “Permits accepted. You may proceed with the business dealings.” “Shall we begin?” The Pyke--who Lam was now convinced was indeed Weeza Kam-- asked. “Only if your credits are good.” Lam laughed. Though Weeza Kam was wearing a mask, the pirate could tell he was not amused. The Permitor behind Lam, shifted uncomfortably at the pirate’s lack of decorum. “Sir,” he said, “would you kindly remove your feet from the table and behave in a more professional manner?” The Pirate eyed the Permitor. “You’re not being paid to give lessons in business etiquette,” Lam said. “I’m a pirate, Friend. We’re known to misbehave. Now, get back there and keep your mouth shut, or I’ll hire myself a new Permitor who will.” The Permitor took a step back and remained silent. Lam turned his attention back to Weeza Kam. “Let’s get on with this deal.” Kam said, as politely as his annoyance would allow. “The organization that hired you promised the Pyke Syndicate a large shipment of weapons. I’m interested to hear what they’re offering us.” The pirate gave a cocky smile from behind his mask. “I’m glad you asked…”*** Drel and Rimas followed their Permitor into the Black-Market Dealing Area. The disguised bounty hunter used the tracking fob to help him locate Weeza Kam. The small device blipped a little faster. Drel turned to Rimas. “Kam’s somewhere in here.” He whispered. The Guild Agent nodded. “It’s not going to be easy finding him in here with all these people.” He turned to the Permitor. “Where do the larger Black-Market deals usually take place?” The Snivvan Permitor pointed to the booths. “Most of the larger deals take place in our soundproof booths. This way we ensure no one other than the parties involved in the business transactions overhear the details of the meeting.” Drel shrugged. “’Guess we’ll have to try those then.” As they casually walked up and down the many rows of booths, the tracking fob began to blip quicker; its small light began to flash. Kam was close. The Mandalorian switched on the infrared visual display inside his helmet. Sure enough, there was a heat-signature that matched one of the Pyke species, in the third booth at the end of the row on their left. Drel subtly pointed at the booth, as not to draw attention to himself. “He’s in there.” He said. The bounty hunter turned his attention to the twelve bodyguards standing at the entrances to the booth. “’Looks like Kam is meeting with Dlonyer as we speak. He’s not alone. I count two refurbished BX-series droid commandos accompanying four mercenaries outside Kam’s entrance and six of Dlonyer’s crew at the other entrance. All of them are heavily armed. We’ll have to wait until Kam’s alone to make our move.”*** “Now that you’ve heard what we’re offering your organization, I think it’s time to discuss price.” Lam said. “As you can tell, I’m carrying quite the variety of quality R and X class weapons on my ship.” “Yes…” Kam said. “…I’ll take the whole shipment for 23,000 credits.” “Don’t insult me with such a low price.” Lam said, making a wounded gesture with his hand. “My employer was abundantly clear. They will settle for no less than 40,000. I believe 55,000 seems like a fair price.” The Pyke shook his masked head. “For what you’ve shown me? I think not.” “50,000.” Lam countered. “Be serious.” Kam chuckled. “Oh, I am. You see, my crew and I were promised a share of the profits.” The Pirate said. “It’s not easy shipping such a handsome assortment of weapons across the galaxy, under Imperial noses.” “You make a fair point.” The Pyke said, putting his hand to the chin of his mask. “Hmm…49,000 credits. Final offer.” Lam thought for a moment. The offer was still generous, but what was in it for him? “…I’ll throw in two crates of fresh Spice from Kessel for you and your crew, in addition to your share of the profits.” Kam added. That’s more like it! An added bonus! This deal is working out rather nicely, Lam thought. “Deal!” The Pirate exclaimed. “Wire the credits and I’ll have my crew start unloading the goods.” “A crew of Depatar loading droids will arrive to take the crates off your ship and transfer them to the correct destination.” The Permitor standing behind Kam said. The Pyke stood up. “It will be some time before your crates are aboard my ship. I wonder if you would join me in visiting the Twi’lek Healing Baths. My treat of course.” Lam smiled under his mask. He’d gotten paid, was given an additional bonus, AND was invited to a bathhouse swarming with beautiful Twi’lek women. This was the best business arrangement ever. He’d heard about the Twi’lek Healing Baths on Nevarro but had never had the opportunity to experience it first-hand. While this wasn’t exactly Nevarro, Lam was not about to turn down such an invitation. “It would be my pleasure.”*** From a safe distance away, Drel and Rimas watched the two parties exit the booth at the same time. Both sets of bodyguards casually followed Kam and Dlonyer from behind. Rimas began to follow the group before he was stopped by Drel. The Guild Agent looked confused. “Aren’t we supposed to follow them?” Drel shook his head and gestured to another group of four mercenaries that were following Kam from another direction. Behind them, another group of six walked past them and followed the other groups. Last to follow the groups were two B2 droids wearing nothing more than a long cloak, which did little to conceal what they really were. “Kam’s bodyguards…” Drel whispered. “If we move on him now, we’ll be gunned down long before we reach him.” “What do you propose we do then?” Rimas asked impatiently. “Stick to the plan…” Drel said, cautiously eyeing the droids as they walked away. “…and let Dia work her magic.”*** Disgusting, Dia thought to herself as she watched the other Twi’lek slaves in the bathhouse interact with countless guests of varying species. Absolutely disgusting. The section of the bathhouse that she’d been assigned to exclusively catered to male visitors. How many of these poor girls have been ripped away from their families and sold into slavery, or worse, had willingly agreed to serve as slaves, she wondered. The fact that they allowed themselves to be used in such a degrading way to entertain visitors as nothing more than eye-candy was enough to make her heave. She’d been waiting in the facility for two hours. Needless to say, it was not all bad. The scenery was actually quite pleasant. In this section of the bathhouse was a young wroshyr tree from the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk which was surrounded by small rock formations and an artificial waterfall. There were some colorful nontoxic fungus-like plants on the other end of the bathhouse accompanied by vines that hung down from the ceiling above. There were even a handful of plants that she’d never seen before. There were many different pools in the bathhouse filled with mineral water, blue milk, bacta, as well as other liquids. There was a light cloud of steam in the air that covered the entire spa facility. As Dia looked around the area, she noted that most of the Twi’lek slave girls were either kneeling outside the pools and baths massaging, scrubbing, fetching drinks, or entertaining the male visitors with idle chatter while dressed in elegant slave clothing that did more than turn heads; some slaves wore nothing more than bath towels wrapped around their shapely bodies, concealing what little modesty even a slave had. Others were seated inside the pools. Dia had learned right away that slaves were not permitted to enter any of the pools unless invited to do so by a visitor. Many of the visitors used these interactions as an opportunity to flirt with the exquisite beauties whose skin came in a wide variety of colors; somethings she planned on using to her advantage. Thankfully, she was allowed to continue wearing her slave attire in the steamy bathhouse. It was humid and beads of water droplets clung to her smooth, delicate skin. The thin fabric of her disguise was now soaked with moisture and precipitation from the facility. The beautiful bounty hunter was not sure how much longer she could wait for her target to show up. She could only feign a polite smile at the testosterone-driven visitors sending interested glances in her direction so many times. She nearly jumped for joy when she spotted her target entering the bathhouse, accompanied by the one-eyed grey skinned Nautolan pirate that he’d concluded business with. She watched as both men placed their disguises in secure lockers. After they put their clothes in the lockers, the two men made their way to the pools. Lam Dlonyer stepped into a pool filled with mineral water and placed his waterproof comlink on the edge of it. Weeza Kam had left his comlink in his locker with the rest of his belongings. He still wore the Pyke medallion around his neck as he stepped into a pool of green water. As soon as the pair entered the bathhouse, the other visitors suddenly became uncomfortable--even with the distraction of the beautiful women around them-- and quickly gathered their belongings and exited as quickly as possible. It was as if the Pyke had visited the Healing Baths so often that he had say over who stayed and who had to leave. Dia turned to an orange-skinned slave and acted oblivious to the Pyke’s identity. “Who is that?” She asked in Twi’leki. “Is he a king? He must be someone important if everyone else must leave when he arrives.” The orange Twi’lek looked nervous. “You should not ask such things. It will only get you into trouble.” She answered in Twi’leki before nervously scurrying away with most of the other Twi'lek girls. It seemed as if Weeza Kam’s many visits to Depatar had given him powerful influence over this establishment. The Pyke had indeed earned an intimidating reputation. Dia watched as the one-eyes pirate motioned for a pink-skinned Twi’lek attempting to exit the pool to stay with him. “Come here, My Beauty.” Lam said in a sweet and inviting manner. “One as beautiful as you, deserves to relax with me in these pleasant waters.” The pink slave still looked hesitant to accept the invitation. The pirate held out his hand. “I promise you have nothing to fear. I was only interested in entertaining your pleasant company.” The pink-skinned girl slowly inched closer to him. Lam pointed at a yellow-skinned Twi’lek standing behind him outside the pool. “You are welcome to join us too.” Needing no further invitation, the Twi’lek dropped her towel and joined Lam and the other Twi’lek in the pool. The pirate casually placed his toned arms around the shoulders of both girls as all three of them soaked in the relaxing waters together. “It cannot be possible for beauties like you to be fully Twi’lek. No…” He said in a gentle and charming voice. “…The two of you must have a touch of Diathim in you, for you truly are descended from angels.” The two women giggled and scooted closer to the pirate. Smooth, Dia thought. Very smooth. “Slave...” Dia looked around. “Slave...” The Pyke called again, this time louder. She suddenly realized that Weeza Kam was talking to her. This may work out better that I thought, she told herself. “Yes, Sir.” She said submissively in Basic, using her natural Rylothian accent. Kam eyed her. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you in here before.” He said. “I am a new arrival.” The Pyke smiled a wicked smile. “You will do. Come here.” Dia strode toward her target, selling the illusion of a being of beauty and grace with each step she took. “Run along and bring me something to drink.” Dia bowed slightly. “Yes. Of course. Right away.” As she turned, she discretely tapped the hidden beacon on her bracelet.*** Elsewhere, Drel received an alert on his vambrace. “What is it?” Rimas asked. “Dia just activated her beacon. Kam must be in the Twi’lek Healing Baths.” The Mandalorian turned to their Permitor. “Is there a back entrance to the Twi’lek Healing Baths? Some way we can enter without being noticed?” The Permitor was hesitant. “I’m not really supposed to say…” He sighed, realizing his concerns about protocol meant nothing to them. “…There’s a servants’ entrance in the back, but it’s off-limits to visitors.” Drel placed a hand on the blaster on his belt. “Show us.”*** Dia returned with a glass of Andoan wine. She elected to not slip something into the Pyke’s drink; it would be easier to get information from a conscious target. She handed him the glass of wine. “May I be of some other service?” The Pyke took a sip and let out a sigh of relief. “It seems my many business negotiations have become far more stressful than I anticipated. Massage my shoulders.” Dia got to her knees and began massaging the repulsive Pyke’s narrow shoulders. “Oh, you are tense.” She said, continuing to use her natural accent. “You must be an important man if you were sent to do business on Depatar, Sir.” This seemed to inflate the Pyke’s ego. “Mmm…Yes…You could say that.” Kam’s muscles began to relax a bit as the Twi’lek continued to massage him. Every fiber in the bounty hunter’s body wanted to vomit. She hated many things in the galaxy, but there were very few things she hated more than Pykes. It was hard to believe that she was massaging one. She wanted nothing more than to draw the hidden dagger-which was tucked near the hinge of her bracelet- and end the scum’s life then and there; but she needed to find where his ship was, so the others could destroy the weapons shipment before it left the system. Weeza Kam exhaled his total relaxation. Dia’s skillful hands were working their magic. Kam turned around and looked at the Twi’lek slave. “You’re very skilled, for a slave.” He said. “I haven’t felt this relaxed in months. I am not easily impressed.” “Thank you, Sir.” The Pyke continued to stare at Dia, studying her for a minute or so. He leaned in closer and cupped her chin with one hand. “They say your people are the most beautiful in the galaxy. There are few species that rival the grace of the Twi’leks. You are a beautiful one, Slave.” He noticed a small scar just under her left cheekbone near her eye. “Hmm… ‘Looks like someone damaged part of the goods when they handled you. What is this mark from?” Dia looked away. “One of my former masters gave it to me during a beating when I was very young.” Unlike most of what she told the Pyke, this time, there was no need to lie. Her thoughts traveled back to that distant memory; Being kidnapped by the Pykes, beaten when she made the smallest of mistakes, and beaten more severely when she refused to do the bidding of her captors. Those were dark times. “Pity…Your master must have lost some money because of it when he put you up for sale. No one enjoys receiving a damaged product.” He caressed the scar with his thumb. His touch made her skin crawl. “…But I’m sure your remaining beauty allowed him to salvage a majority of the profits from your sale.” Kam’s eyes surveying her form was making the bounty hunter feel uncomfortable. She felt dirty, downtrodden, less than a living being. She wanted to cover herself up and hide from his selfish gaze, but she had to continue to play the part of a submissive servant. The Pyke held up his empty wine glass. “It seems my cup is empty. Why don’t you fetch another bottle for me and grab another glass while you’re back there? I want you to join me for a drink.” Dia shifted nervously. “Forgive me, but I do not believe my new masters will be pleased if they find out.” Kam smiled wickedly. “But it will please me.” He said. “You’ll find I have a great deal of influence in this city. Far more than your masters. I’m sure they will allow it.” Dia did as she was told and returned with another bottle of wine and a spare glass. After filling their glasses, the two sat on the edge of the green pool and dipped their feet in. The warm green water was surprisingly soothing. The Pyke continued to stare. “There is something different about you, Slave. You’re not at all like the other slaves here. I can’t put my finger on it. I’m tempted to purchase you myself and take you back to Oba Diah so you can continue serving me.” This was something Dia had not anticipated. In fact, it was the last thing she wanted. “Can you do such a thing?” She asked. Kam smiled again. “As I’ve said…I have a lot of influence here.” He pointed to his locker. “Bring me my comlink.” The Twi’lek bounty hunter walked over to the Pyke’s locker and after Kam gave her the code to it, she returned with his comlink. The Pyke switched it on. “This is Weeza Kam. I will be purchasing one of your new Twi’lek slaves in the Healing Baths. Take the necessary credits out of my account and make sure she accompanies me to my ship on pad 1997 when I depart.” Kam turned to the pirate, who had been otherwise distracted by the two Twi’leks in his arms. “You should consider joining the Pykes, Dlonyer. I’ll see to it that you and your crew are paid handsomely. What do you say?” The Nautolan chuckled. “You drive a hard bargain, Pyke. Though, it’s not really my style. I prefer to do my business untied to a single organization. I enjoy my freedom.” “Should you change your mind, you have until I reach my ship.” Kam said. “Then, my offer expires.” More steam began to cloud the bathhouse. Although the others did not seem to notice the slight increase in the room’s temperature, this sudden change did not escape Dia’s observation. Weeza Kam pulled the blue-skinned Twi’lek closer to him; For Dia, it was much closer than she would have liked. To add to her disgust, the Pyke began running his long four-fingered hand up the Twi’lek’s arm and caressing her warm smooth skin. Another cloud of steam filled the bathhouse and with it the temperature had noticeably increased. The newly added steam was steadily making it more difficult to see across the room now; Dia could barely make out some of the exotic flora that she’d been able to see only a few minutes ago. There was no denying that the room was getting warmer. The steam was becoming more like a thick blanket of fog. The Pyke began to cough a little after inhaling some of it. He tried to fan some of it away and cool himself off, but his effort made little difference. “That’s enough steam!” Kam called out to whatever Twi’lek slave he imagined was controlling the room’s temperature. “I came here to relax, not to be boiled alive!” He turned back to Dia and attempted to act as if nothing had changed. As his fingers continued to climb up her forearm, Dia had a feeling she knew where the filthy slimeball of a Pyke was going to discretely attempt to touch next with his unwelcome caresses: Her lekku. It was well known throughout the galaxy that a Twi’lek’s lekku were one of the most sensitive areas on their body. Many Twi’leks considered these fleshy head-tails a very intimate spot. To touch a Twi’lek’s lekku without their permission was an unspeakable affront. Dia remembered back on Ryloth, the penalty for doing so was losing the hand that had touched it. Weeza Kam was treading on dangerous ground. As his hand moved closer, Dia quickly drew the thin dagger from the hidden sheath in her bracelet, lifted the Pyke to his feet, and held the serrated blade to Kam’s throat, all within a split second. “I won’t give you that pleasure, Sleemo!” she said, dropping her Rylothian accent. Kam was both surprised and outraged. “How dare you raise your hand against me, Slave! This is the last mistake you’ll ever make!” He began to raise his comlink to call for some backup. *CHOOM! * Suddenly a red blaster-bolt soared into the room and hit the comlink in Kam’s hand, knocking it onto the wet floor. The line was dead before the call could be made. The Twi’lek girls in Lam’s arms let out a shrill shriek at the sudden disturbance. They quickly ducked their heads down and hugged the Nautolan more tightly for protection. Before the pirate could stand up, a fully armored Mandalorian entered the bathhouse from the servants’ entrance. He had a WESTAR-35 drawn; its barrel still smoking. Dia smiled and let out a subtle sigh of relief. “Well, you took your sweet time.” She said as Drel entered the bathhouse. “I had everything under control.” She had to admit, she wasn’t sure how far the Mandalorian had been when she’d activated the bracelet beacon. She’d taken a big risk by pulling the dagger on Kam, but there was no way that she was going to give the Pyke the satisfaction of touching her lekku. If Drel had not shown up when he did…Well... He was here now that was all that mattered. Drel had already removed his poncho and Mythosaur mask before he’d entered. In the steamy room, he almost looked like a bodiless shadow. “’Looked like it.” He said, though his tone implied otherwise. Kam waved his hand frantically at Lam. “WHAT ARE YOU WAITNG FOR, YOU IDIOT! HELP ME!” Lam looked at the Mandalorian, who had become more visible now that some of the steam had escaped through the servants’ entrance. He also noted the smoking blaster that was pointed in his direction. Unarmed and at this distance, there was no way the pirate could put up any kind of a fight without getting killed. Still in the pool of mineral water, the Nautolan raised both his hands in surrender. “I know better than to pick a fight with a Mandalorian…” he said. “…Especially one with a blaster pointed at my head.” “Smart choice.” Drel said. He looked at Dia, his blaster still pointed at the pirate. “We need to move. I’m sure someone heard that.” With his free hand, he tossed Dia a pair of stun cuffs. The Twi’lek bounty hunter caught them with her free hand and locked both of the Pykes hands behind his back. “Where’s Rimas?” “He’s waiting for us.” Weeza Kam scowled at the bounty hunters. “You both are dead!” he hissed. “My men are going to—” Before he could finish, Dia spun him around and struck him hard in the throat with the palm of her hand and knocked him out. Kam collapsed on the ground. Drel picked the unconscious, towel-clad Pyke off the ground, threw him over his shoulder, and carried him out the door as he and Dia quickly exited the bathhouse. *** Lam Dlonyer watched the bounty hunters exit. He had no idea what just happened, all he knew was he wasn’t being paid to do anything about it. Besides, he was much too preoccupied with the beautiful Twi’lek slave girls wrapped around him to get involved. The sound of footsteps echoed against the walls of the room. A few minutes later, a large group of armed bodyguards in disguises entered the bathhouse through the main entrance. They spread out and searched the room for the Pyke but found nothing. One of them approached the bathing pirate. “What happened? Where’s Kam?” He asked in a serious voice. Lam gestured to the servant entrance doorway. “If you hurry you might catch him.” The pirate said. The bodyguards hurried though the door and followed where the bounty hunters had taken Kam. Soon, Lam was alone again with the two Twi’leks. There was a chime from his comlink. It was one of his Patrolian crewmates, Ponyo Gell. “Everything alright, Captain? We heard some commotion.” The grey-skinned Pirate Captain picked up his comlink. “Everything’s fine, Ponyo.” He chuckled. The Patrolian sounded confused. “You sure, Captain? We could send some of the crew--” “No need.” Lam interrupted. “You and the boys stay where you are. I’ll let you know if I need anything.” He switched to a different com-channel. “Dlonyer to Moon’s Shadow…” His second in command, Thrak Zanabi, a Ovissian male answered. “Captain?” Thrak’s voice said cheerfully over the comlink. “’Nice to hear your voice again. What can I help you with?” “Did the Pyke’s payment go through without any trouble?” “I’ll say it did! Ryjo’s just started divvying it up.” “Have you loaded those containers of Spice on the ship yet?” “Yes. Everything’s loaded and in the cargo hold.” “Good. We’ll start heading back to the ship. We’re done here.” After switching off his comlink, Lam pulled the two Twi’leks closer to him. “How would the two of you like to join me aboard my ship. Maybe I’ll buy you both and set you free.” The two Twi’leks giggled excitedly and nodded their heads; their lekku bounced happily. “I think there’s room for both of you in my crew. I have a feeling the life of a pirate will suit you two perfectly.”***Chapter 4 Dia and Drel sprinted down the hallway with Kam’s bodyguards hot on their tail. Rimas and the Permitor stood waiting on the other end of the servants’ access hallway. As the two bounty hunters reunited with the Guild Agent, a hot blaster-bolt whizzed over their heads. “’You bring me my toys?” she asked, taking cover behind a stack of supply crates for the Healing Baths. “I still got them.” Rimas said as he tossed both of the Twi’lek’s DE-10 blaster pistols to her from the back of his belt. Drel fired his WESTAR-35 at the approaching bodyguards, hitting two of them in the chest. As the other bodyguards witnessed the two men fall to the ground, they decided to find cover behind some of the other crates and continued firing at the bounty hunters. “Did you find out anything useful from the Pyke?” He asked Dia. “I did!” she said, returning fire at their enemies. “Kam’s ship is docked on pad 1997. His crew should have the majority of the weapon shipment loaded by now.” The Mandalorian handed the towel-clad Pyke to Rimas. “Here…Take Kam. We’ll take care of his bodyguards.” The Guild Agent tossed the limp Pyke over his shoulder. Drel switched to the headset in his helmet. “Eye-Ah, prep the engines.” He said. “We have Kam. We’re making our way back to the ship. We’ll need a quick getaway as soon as we’re aboard.” “Is that blaster-fire I hear?” the droid asked. “Just prep the ship!” he switched off the com-channel in his helmet and continued to fire at the bodyguards. The Permitor was flabbergasted. He covered his head and was crouched low to the ground as blaster-fire struck the wall just above where his head had been seconds ago. “I should remind you that there will be a fee of every—” “Shut up and keep your head down!” Rimas ordered, cutting the Permitor off. He drew his modified blaster with his free hand and started firing at the bodyguards. He blasted one of the guards with such force that it knocked the man’s mask off and revealed the Deveronian mercenary behind it. The horned mercenary collapsed on the ground with a loud groan. The bounty hunters quickly retreated into the next hallway hoping to lose their pursuers, but this did not slow down the bodyguard mercenaries in the slightest. A moment later, the mercenaries were following close behind them. The other mercenaries were packing some serious firepower. One of them must have been a Wookiee because it towered over the other bodyguards. The Wookiee was wielding a Kell Mark II heavy assault rifle; a weapon that packed quite the punch. As the massive creature pulled the trigger, a powerful explosion erupted from its barrel. The impact left a huge, charred dent in the wall. Had Drel not dodged out of the way in time, he doubted even his beskar armor would have saved him from such a powerful blast. The Mandalorian grabbed the EE-3 carbine rifle slung over his back where his jetpack usually rested. After quickly switching the rifle’s settings to three-round burst fire, he aimed it at the Wookiee and fired. His attack wounded the Wookiee’s right arm, causing it to drop the heavy weapon it was holding. The wounded Wookiee roared with rage. He began to charge at Drel with vicious intent. Before he made it ten steps down the hall, he was hit in the head by another round from the Mandalorian’s rifle. The massive creature collapsed on the ground. Drel’s group continued to make their way back toward the lift to their ship, sprinting up several flights of steps in the process. As the fight moved into a more populated section of the city, nearby visitors were forced to dive for cover. The remaining bodyguards continued to follow the bounty hunters into a larger hallway; a handful of other disguised visitors drew their own blasters and started firing at both groups. Drel figured they were either unsure who had started the scuffle, or simply joined in for the sheer thrill of partaking in a firefight. The gunfire headed in Drel’s direction was steadily increasing. He was not about to shoot any civilians who were not directly involved with the bounty on Kam’s head, which was clearly stated in the Bounty Hunters’ Code. Fortunately, he did not have to worry about them for much longer. The handful of visitors stopped firing when they noticed the same two B2-series battle droids that Drel had seen earlier, suddenly step in front of the other mercenaries. Both droids had the crest of the Pyke Syndicate painted over their faceplates. This was enough for the other visitors to flee from the warring groups. Drel noticed one of the droids aim its wrist-cannon at Dia. Usually, he would not have worried about the Twi’lek bounty hunter, but the revealing slave outfit that she was currently wearing provided her with absolutely no protection at all. The droid fired. Drel quickly wrapped both his arms around Dia and shielded her body from the blasts. His beskar armor did its job, protecting both its wearer and the Twi’lek in his arms. Although the armor had protected both bounty hunters from the blasts, Drel still felt the powerful impact of the attack against his back. He grinded his teeth together as the force of the impacts bruised his back. Dia looked up at him, completely unharmed. There was something in her icy-blue eyes that he had not seen before: gratitude. For all the disagreements they’d had and all the intimate moments they’d shared--even before they’d become rivals-- having the proud Mandalorian-pretender, Dia Scafer, look at him in a way that was completely void of scorn and deceitful manipulation was something new for Drel. Unfortunately, now was not the time to get sentimental. The Mandalorian felt a rush of adrenaline overcome the pain in his back. He quickly spun back around and faced the two droids, wielding his WESTAR-35 pistol in his right hand and his EE-3 rifle in his left. At the same time, he fired both his weapons at the nearer of the two droids. Instead of aiming his rifle at the droid’s thick head or torso, the seasoned Mandalorian fired at its knee joint. The droid--who Drel could only assume had not seen much action since the Clone Wars--suddenly felt its rusty left knee joint break free from the leg beneath it. No longer able to evenly distribute its weight, it crashed to the floor on its side. Before it had the chance to fire its wrist-cannon again, Drel turned his right wrist and sprayed both Super Battle Droids with the flamethrower on his right vambrace. The aged metal that made up the bodies of both droids quickly melted under the intense heat that consumed them. The organic mercenaries behind them were forced to take a step back as the fire flashed in front of them. Dia used this distraction to her advantage and fired a volley of blaster-fire at the other mercenaries. Her aim was impressive, as she had soon killed most of the remaining organic mercenaries. Their next problem, however, was the twin Commando Droids charging toward them. Rimas turned to their Permitor, as he and his companions sprinted toward the lift. “GET THAT ELEVATOR OPEN!” He said tossing his code cylinder to the Permitor. The Snivvan Permitor tried to put the cylinder into the data-port, though it proved especially difficult with shaking hands. “COME ON! QUICKLY! THOSE DROIDS ARE STILL COMING!” Dia shouted anxiously. Unlike the B2-battle droids, the BX-series droid commandos were far more agile. They dodged Drel’s gunfire with graceful acrobatics and drew their vibroswords from the sheaths on their backs. “I’ll hold them off!” Drel shouted before charging toward the droids. The Mandalorian had to switch from ranged attacks to close hand-to-hand combat. Using the fibercord whip and grappling hook on his left vambrace, he was able to ensnare one of the droids’ legs. This only bought him a few seconds while he dropped his pistol and activated the vibroblade built into his right vambrace, then used it to slash at his attacker. The first droid quickly side-stepped the Mandalorian’s attack; meanwhile, the other Commando Droid had freed its legs from the fibercord with its vibrosword and was already running to assist its counterpart in fighting Drel. Rimas noticed this and quickly passed the unconscious Pyke over to Dia. “Take Kam. I’ll go help Drel.” Before she could object, the Guild Agent was already sprinting toward the two droids. The first Commando Droid had knocked Drel to the ground with a sweeping kick. It thrust its blade downward toward the Mandalorian bounty hunter, who quickly rolled out of the way and got to his feet. Before the first droid could deliver another attack, Rimas quickly body slammed it against the ground. The sharp vibrosword fell out of its hand the moment its metal body collided with the hard floor. The Guild Agent quickly recovered the sword before the droid could retrieve it. Spinning the vibrosword in his hand, Rimas swiftly turned and parried the second droid’s attack with it. Drel dispatched the first droid with ease by thrusting his vibroblade into the neck stock below its head, destroying it. After picking up his pistol, he watched in amazement as the Guild Agent went toe-to-toe with the second Commando Droid. Although it lasted surprisingly long against the Agent’s powerful attacks, it was ultimately rendered harmless when Rimas buried his own vibrosword into the droid’s head. The droid’s body collapsed on the ground with a loud clang. With the destruction of the two droids, the last of the bodyguards had been killed. Dia stood dumbfounded by what she’d just witnessed. Drel was equally impressed by the Guild Agent’s hand-to-hand fighting skills. “Not bad, Rimas.” He said. “Never took you for a fighter.” Rimas smiled and picked up the other vibrosword. “Wouldn’t expect you to. My days of fighting in the fighting pits aren’t exactly public knowledge…but that’s a tale for another time.” He placed both swords on his back and headed toward the turbolift door. “’Kam still alive?” he asked. “Unfortunately…” Dia replied. “Good.” Drel said with a nod. “Let’s get him aboard the Mythosaur.” The lift doors opened with a ding. The Snivvan gestured to the lift. “If you step this way, we’ll get you back to your ship.” The group entered the lift and rode the rest of the way up in silence. *** When they finally returned to landing pad 1983, the Permitor stepped between them and the Mythosaur. “Before you’re allowed to leave, I’m afraid there is one final order of business to attend to…” he said, “…Paying your additional fee for the self-defense permit you purchased. I mentioned there was an additional fee for every victim you leave while defending yourself, did I not?” Rimas sighed. “Alright, what’s the damage?” “You’re required to pay an additional 200 credits for each of the victims you either killed or wounded while your group defended themselves. Unfortunately, I can’t let you leave Depatar until the fee has been paid.” The Guild Agent let out a frustrated groan as he pulled his datapad out of his vest pocket. “What’s the final total then?” “By my count…you killed eighteen visitors during your stay. That will be 3,600 credits.”“3,600 CREDITS!” Rimas repeated. “That’s correct.” The Guild Agent looked like he was about to fling the Snivvan Permitor over the side of the landing pad. “Just pay the man.” Drel said. “We have Kam. Now we need to get moving before Kam’s ship gets off-world.” Reluctantly Rimas transferred the credits over to the Permitor; he muttered several Hutt insults under his breath as he did so. The Permitor checked the payment on his datapad. Once the confirmation when through, he gave the group a small smile. “Thank you for your business.” He said. “On behalf of Depatar, I hope you enjoyed your stay at the City of Masks.” Drel could tell the Guild Agent wanted to say something to the Permitor but held his tongue. The Mandalorian tapped his vambrace and lowered the main entry ramp. The group quickly boarded the patrol craft and closed the ramp behind them. “We’re aboard, Eye-Ah.” Drel said over the ship’s intercom. “Get us over to landing platform 1997 as fast as you can.” He turned to Dia and Rimas. “Put Kam in the containment unit over there and turn on the ray shields. Make sure you put a spare jumpsuit in there for him. None of us want to continue looking at him wearing that towel. When he wakes up, he can put it on himself. Once he’s contained, meet me in the command bridge.” Without another word, he sprinted up the steps to the upper deck and hurried to the bridge. ***Chapter 5 The Mythosaur quickly took off and sped toward landing pad 1997. As it got closer, a large Pyke ship about the same size as an Imperial Acclimator Assault Ship was beginning to take off. Apparently, word of Kam’s capture had reached their ears. Drel looked at the ship through the cockpit window in front of him. “There it is.” he said “Eye-Ah, follow that ship!” Dia and Rimas quickly entered the bridge. Drel pointed at the other controls behind him. “Dia, I want you working the retractable weapons foils. Rimas, keep an eye on our shields. I’ll man the forward cannons. We can’t let that ship deliver those weapons to the Pykes.” The Twi’lek and Guild Agent quickly took their seats at their designated positions and strapped in. The Mythosaur began its attack run. As it flew over the Pyke ship, its retractable weapons foils targeted the enemy crafts communication array and fired. Before the Pyke ship knew it was under attack, its communications had already been knocked out. Realizing what was happening, it raised its shields and returned fire at the D5- Mantis patrol craft. Powerful blasts from the enemy turbolasers rocked Drel’s ship as they attempted to hit it. The speed and quick maneuverability of the ship allowed it to easily evade the heavy barrage from the Pyke cannons. It quickly reversed thrusters and turned around for another attack. “Switch to ion cannons. Target their shield generator.” Drel ordered. As the Mythosaur charged at the Pyke ship, it switched its power to its forward ion cannons. The small craft evaded the enemy defense turrets and fired its ion attack at the shield generator. The blast of ion energy punctured the Pyke shields and hit its target. The shield generator sparked with electricity before shorting out. “Their shields are down!” Rimas cheered. The Pyke ship was now exiting the gas planet’s atmosphere. The larger shuttle was attempting to get clear of the planet’s gravity well. “What’s going on?” Rimas asked. “I’m picking up a massive energy surge from the Pyke ship. Drel was all too familiar with what that meant. “They’re getting ready to make the jump to hyperspace. Dia, take out those engines! We can’t let them get away!”The patrol craft quickly swung around to the back of the larger ship, where there were no defense turrets. “Eye-Ah, put everything into our weapons!” The Pyke engines were beginning to glow brighter, indicating it was close to making the jump to hyperspace in a few minutes. The Mythosaur continued to attack the engines, but there was no way they’d destroy all of the engines before the Pyke ship make the jump to lightspeed. “We’re running out of time!” Rimas shouted. Drel’s pulse was racing. They maybe had seconds to take out the engines. If that wasn’t enough, they also needed to get clear of the ship in the event that it did make the jump to lightspeed. If they were anywhere near those engines when the Pyke ship engaged its hyperdrive, the Mythosaur would be torn apart. He was left with no other choice but to start moving away from the enemy’s engines. Suddenly, a heavy volley of proton torpedoes and turbolaser-fire flew over their ship from behind. Drel had to maneuver his ship quickly to avoid getting hit. Luckily, the attack from the rear was so intense that it destroyed the last remaining engine on the Pyke ship. The large ship suddenly stopped, unable to make the jump anymore. “What just happened?” Asked Rimas. “Where’d that attack come from?” A voice came over the subspace transceiver. “This is Captain Lam Dlonyer of the Moon’s Shadow. ‘Looked like you were cutting it close there, wouldn’t you say?” Drel was surprised to hear the pirate’s voice. “I’m assuming you’re the same Mandalorian who captured Weeza Kam…” Were the pirates here to help the Pykes? Drel wondered. He looked out the window and spotted the pirate’s ship. The Moon’s Shadow looked like it had been comprised of two old ships. Its back half was that of an Arquitens-class light Republic cruiser from the days of the Clone Wars, while its front half looked like the bow of a C-ROC Gozanti-class light cruiser had been welded to the back half, creating a unique looking ship. The symbol of a Summa-Verminoth was painted on its hull. The Mandalorian bounty hunter was just about to turn the Mythosaur toward the pirate ship to attack, but the voice suddenly returned. “…Before you start attacking my ship, you should know that I have no love for the Pykes. Go ahead, Keep Kam. We will not stop you. “We are simple pirates trying to make an honest living dishonestly. The last thing we need is to get caught up in some kind of war between syndicates.” Drel tapped the comms button on his controls. “What is it you want then?” he asked. “To make a profit of course!” Lam laughed. “We’ve already been paid, but my crew and I can’t help but feel swindled by the Pykes. So we will be taking those weapons back for ourselves and making a profit elsewhere. Maybe the Rebels will be willing to pay a higher price for our goods. “Here is my proposition; let us board the ship and take back the weapons we sold to the Pykes…and anything else we find of value…Destroy the ship and be on our way, while you take that Pyke scum with you to whatever crime lord wants his head and fly away. Everyone wins!” Drel looked at Rimas, who was also considering the pirate’s offer. After a moment, the Guild Agent gave a nod. They already had Weeza Kam. If the pirate wanted to steal their weapons back from the Pykes, then there wasn’t really a problem. “I’d say that sounds fair.” He replied coolly. “Excellent!” The pirate said. “We’ll take care of the Pyke ship.” “She’s all yours.” Drel switched off his transponder. He turned to Eye-Ah. “Set a course for Nal Hutta.” After pressing a few buttons, the Mythosaur quickly made the jump to lightspeed. *** A few minutes later, Drel took off his helmet and set it on top of the control consul in front of him. He suddenly winced as he laid back in his seat. With all the excitement and adrenaline coursing through his body, he’d forgotten about the fresh bruises on his back and arms. Dia noticed the discomfort on Drel’s face. “You alright, Love?” Drel got up and began to limp toward the door. “I’ll be fine. ‘Just some bruising on my back and arms.” The Twi’lek quickly got to her feet and used her bodyweight to help steady the Mandalorian. “Let me help you to the Med Bay.” She turned to Rimas. “Stay with the droid.” “’You sure?” “Get us to Nal Hutta.” Drel told the droid. “It shouldn’t take too long. I’ll be back when I’m patched up.” As the two bounty hunters exited the bridge and made their way to the Medical Bay by the crew quarters on the lower deck, Dia suddenly kissed Drel’s exposed cheek. The Mandalorian looked at her; confused by the unexpected gesture of affection. “That’s for saving my skin twice back there.” The Twi’lek said. “You’re my partner on this job.” Drel said. “I try and keep the people I work with alive until the job’s done.” Dia stopped and looked him in the eyes as they finished walking down the steps to the lower deck. She was surprised to hear him call her his partner again after all this time. “But why? You hate me. You could’ve let me die at any point back there and taken Kam to the Hutt’s without me.” Drel met her gaze. “You’re my partner.” He reiterated again slowly, to emphasize his point. “I thought you knew me better than that.” Without saying another word, the bruised Mandalorian continued a head to the Medical bay, leaving Dia alone at the foot of the stairs.***Chapter 6 The Mythosaur touched down on the hot, swampy planet, Nal Hutta. The Hutt homeworld was just as unsavory as the slugs themselves. The entire landscape was nothing but endless mist-covered bogs. The air was humid and fetid; a stench none of them wanted to bear any longer than they had to. Fortunately for them, the greasy rain was not falling when the ship docked in Bilbousa, the capital city. Rimas had mentioned that the last time he’d visited the planet, the rains nearly ruined his famous duster; it had taken several washes until it was finally back to a wearable state. After unloading Kam and the other bounties that he’d captured for the Hutts prior to taking this job, Drel, Dia, and Rimas marched the nefarious Pyke Arms Dealer toward the massive palace of Gardulla the Hutt, which resembled a huge fungal pod. Having ditched their disguises during the flight all of them were now in their usual attire. As they entered the palace, which hosted most of the Hutt Council gatherings, Dia placed her special Mandalorian helmet over her head. She wanted to be seen first and foremost as a bounty hunter; the Hutts were notorious for collection slave girls of her species, so the less she looked like a Twi’lek, the better. They were led by some Nikto guards to the Main Council Chamber. Drel noticed that the closer they got to the chamber, the more nervous Weeza Kam was becoming. The arrogance and confidence the Pyke had exhibited on Depatar was now completely gone. Finally, they were permitted an audience with the Hutt Council. As they entered the chamber, Drel noticed several Twi’lek slave dancers accompanied by a Human and Togruta slave, a pair of female Theelin and Deveronian singers finishing their performance for the Hutts. The music stopped when the group entered with the Pyke. Rimas stepped forward so he and the others were standing in the center of the circular room. “Pardon our interruption, Oh Mighty and Esteemed Members of the Hutt Council, True Masters of the Criminal Underworld. May I first offer my most profound condolences after hearing of the loss of the Mighty Jabba. May whoever is responsible for such an appalling crime be—” A female Hutt wearing a feathery hat interrupted the Guild Agent. “Tagwa, tagwa. Bee nop lo. Haku doo uba brought?” A TC Protocol droid on the upper shelf translated. “The Most Venerable, Oeshell Cingaergg, would like to know what you have brought the Hutt Council.” “I was told you received our message before we arrived.” Rimas said. “We have brought you the Pyke Criminal, Weeza Kam. A lowlife arms dealer who has been plotting with enemies that have sought to usurp your illustrious criminal empire out from under you during this difficult time.” The Hutts were clamoring amongst themselves. A red skinned Hutt covered in many Hutt tattoos spoke up next. “At eesgoo, jee-jee doo bu noolish Pyke arms oealah whooh bah nueled bu teowing threat of waaz our enemees. Which of uba oom-sponsible bringing beet valuoole prize?” “Funjall the Unforgiving, is glad to hear that you have caught the Pyke Arms Dealer and wishes to know which of you is responsible for bringing the Hutt Council such a valuble prize.” Rimas smiled and gestured toward the two bounty hunters standing beside him. “These two bounty hunters have come together to bring you such a prize, Oh Great Hutts. On behalf of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, I have the privilege of formally introducing Drel Semaj and Dia Scafer.” Drel stepped forward and gave something of a half-bow; he was still recovering from his injuries after all. “It is an honor to be standing before you, Distinguished Hutts.” He said. “Never have I seen such a gathering of wise and powerful individuals gathered in such a grand multitude.” A pale green Hutt wearing the medallion of the Besadii kajidic spoke up. “Uba doo oone bu Hutt Cartel teeat service todaee. Jee-jee widd see lo uba add paid choy uba owed. Stang bu prisonah norward.” “Tothisk the Slimy thanks you for your service to the Hutt Cartel and assures you that you will be paid the bounty in full before you return to your ship.” The droid said. “You may bring your prisoner forward.” Drel gave the cowering Pyke a shove forward so that he was standing before the Hutt Council on an exceptionally large tile on the floor. “As an added reward, each of the Hutts gathered here are prepared to make a considerable donation to the Bounty Hunters’ Guild for your assistance in this matter.” “You are most generous.” Rimas said. “Words cannot express my thanks.” Gardulla the Elder was the last to speak. As she spoke, the droid translated what she said into Basic. “The Hutts have more use for you. While you have delayed the efforts of the Pyke Syndicate, the Hutts cannot allow other criminal organizations to continue to side with their enemies. It will take some time to elect a new head of the Hutt Cartel that will take over Jabba Desilijic Tiure's criminal empire. “During that time, they ask that you continue to bring them their enemies to remind the galaxy who the true rulers of the Underworld are so they can make an example of them.” Drel heard the sound of deep laughter slowly rising. Soon, the rest of the Hutt Council joined in the bellowing laughter, as it echoed across the walls of the chamber. He noticed the Hutt Elder slam her hand on a switch located in front of her. A moment later, a trap door beneath Weeza Kam’s feet opened up and sent the Pyke plummeting into darkness below. There was a loud monstrous ROAR from the darkness. Although the bounty hunters and the Guild Agent couldn’t see what was happening, the terrified screams of the Pyke were abruptly cut short. Rimas leaned in closer to Drel and Dia. “All that, just so they could kill him themselves…” “I could’ve killed him myself.” Dia said, listening to the last of the Pyke’s screams die away. “…Still, this death is much more satisfying.” Once the laughter and screaming had died down, Gardulla spoke again. “Uba oom-adee hunt uta-sha next alarry, bountee hunters?” “What did she say?” asked Dia. “She asked if you both are ready to hunt your second target.” Rimas translated. “I did mention that there was a second part to this job.” Both bounty hunters looked at each other, then nodded. Even though their partnership was far from ideal, they’d agreed to see both parts of this job through to the end. “We’re ready.” Drel said to the Protocol droid. “Very well,” the droid translated. “Acquiring the Pyke was only the beginning. The Pykes had influence, but their syndicate was hardly prepared to go to war with the other Syndicates. Your next target has both the influence and the means to fight a war with the Hutts.” Drel had an idea who they’d be going up against, even before the droid said the words. It still didn’t mean the job would be any easier. The next Syndicate that Hutts wanted them to go after was one that had a strong foothold in the Criminal Underworld and was the only organization that could truly contend with the Hutt Cartel. “For your next job, the Hutts would like you to infiltrate and acquire an operative working for Black Sun.”TO BE CONTINUED… (Check out Part II: "Star Wars Bounty Hunters: War For the Underworld #2" [Link below in the description])

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:iconsallyandme:
SALLYandME Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2020
Thanks a lot for accepting my request!!!^^
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nshahriar Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2020
Wanna Join & submit plz
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DaughterRootless Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
I can't find the button to request membership
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LizRenKnight Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2017   Digital Artist
Should be at the top of the page.
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DaughterRootless Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
thanks you!
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Ewa-a-nie-chce-spac Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2017   Writer
To which folder should I upload a Reylo-inspired fanpoem?
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LizRenKnight Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2017   Digital Artist
You can add it to the Reylo art folder :D
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Ewa-a-nie-chce-spac Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2017   Writer
Thank you :)
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LizRenKnight Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2017   Digital Artist
:iconnpplz:
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Ewa-a-nie-chce-spac Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2017   Writer
May you open the join requests for members? :)
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