I knew the other man was here, on one of the moons of Bogden. It was the perfect 'out of the way' place where someone could hide from a bounty posted on his head.
But not if I was involved.
Everyone knows and respects my reputation as the most feared bounty hunter in all the galaxy. And with good reason. For while my services are expensive, he got the job done. I am the fastest gun and most resourceful of all my trade. Some of the credits I earn from my captures are invested in the latest high-tech equipment, to further my options and resources. I am a walking armory.
My ship, the Slave I, had detected the lifeform's heat signature from afar, and there was no place to hide on the desolate moon but the caves. The small reader clipped to my wrist indicated a humanoid form in the nearest one. What luck.
The statements that I made earlier about being the fastest gun were not exaggerations. I am so fast that I even carry around a second blaster pistol to use to complement my primary blaster hand. My ambidexterity allows for me to handle either one with the same amount of impressive skill. It's been said of me that I could hit a garnant off of a shaak's rear without even singeing the huge animal, though no one has ever been within a twenty kilometer radius of me to check that rumor. I don't mind. I keep to myself. I enjoy the solitude. No one bothers me and I don't bother them - unless there's enough credits to make it worth my time. Usually there aren't, my services are rather expensive, as I said earlier. I wear the battle armor of the defeated Mandalorians. I carry their markings tattooed on my arms. I have earned the right to wear that armor, earned the right to sport those tattoos.
I am Jango Fett, the best bounty hunter in all the galaxy.
I drew the blaster slung close to my right hip and approached warily. I was almost certain there would be no danger - the scanner indicated that there was as much sweat coming off the cowering miscreant as there was heat - but I've not gotten to the top of the chain of hunters by being careless. Special pads lining the soles of my boots prevented my feet from making so much as a whisper as I tromped slowly through the ever-darkening tunnel. The sensors in the battle armor's helmet told me this lifeform was the only other one in the cave save myself. It was as if he was projecting an aura around himself to make even the furred rodents and annoying insects avoid him. But how ...? A flash of crimson off to the side caught my attention. I whirled, leveling the blaster and snapping off three shots in rapidity.
And found myself diving to the sandy floor as all three came right back at me.
I rolled onto my shoulder, drawing the second blaster as I went. I fired four shots from each, on both sides of the scarlet ... stick. And that was about the best I could do for giving the thing a name at the moment. I was about to use my gauntlet mounted grappling hook to ensnare the thing, when suddenly I found the dual blasters torn from my hands. They flew across the room and landed in a pile with a thud. But whoever it was or whatever it was that was in there most likely did not see the shots from my gauntlet mounted blaster coming.
The red-hued beam winked out like a snuffed candle, and I heard a gasp. Good. I fired up the exhaust ports on my jetpack and blasted had first into the humanoid's gut. Actually it only took me about three seconds at the most to cross the half kilometer space separating us. Another gasp, longer and louder this time, exited from what I knew now to be a man. I slammed him back against the wall. It was dark and I could not see his face. For some strange reason, the sweat and fear projected previously was gone, as if it'd all been a ruse. I ran through a few quick calculations in my head, I always did that when something did not go as I'd predicted. Not surprisingly (I am never surprised by anything, even abnormal circumstances) the oddly dressed character jumped to his feet by performing some kind of flip, though I'm sure I could have done it far more gracefully. I stared out him through the T-shaped visor of my helmet, wondering what to make of him and why he did not flee. I kept my right hand near the corresponding blaster handle, the left ready to flick out my wrist claws.
"Greetings, Jango Fett. Oh, don't give me that incredulous gesture, I do know who you are, just as everyone else does."
I nodded, my helmet swaying with the movement.
"Indeed, I did not expect that little surprise," he gave me a sardonic smile. "Nice little trick, with the hidden blaster. I have a hard time sensing inanimate objects."
Sensing? I thought.
"I knew you'd find me here. From the tremor I felt, I mean." The man paused to look at me, probably trying to discern if I had a look of disbelief on or not. As it was, he could not see one twitch, feature or scar. The helmet hid all that so very well. One of the justices of having a mask is that in their mind's eye people see you as entirely different from what you really look like, and are surprised to find they are wrong. I've seen images of me on 'wanted' or '30,000 credit reward if brought in' holograms, and I look nothing like what they have on there, and to my benefit. It wouldn't have mattered if the old man could've seen me or not, my face remains emotionless in business situations.
"Fine, so you knew you'd find me," I said in an uninflected voice, the helmet's voice synthesizer chip making me sound slightly like a droid. "What of it? Unless you've got a job for me or something my time is being wasted. I get angry when my time is wasted. And when I get angry, I kill that which I am angry at. Namely, you."
"Ah, but, my dear Jango-"
"Don't call me 'dear'," I interrupted him in a cold monotone. "And if we are to be future business associates, then you can call me Jango. Until then, let's leave it at Fett."
The old man waved a hand and continued, "Very well then, Fett, as it happens, I do have a job for you."
I leaned back against a boulder and folded my arms across my armored chest. "Let's hear it."
"I knew you'd be agreeable. I am forming an elite group of ... troops. And at some point I will need a template, once the initial tests are done. This army will be strong, well armed and well armored. But best of all, their independence will be dampened to the point where they will follow orders unquestioningly. But best of all, we'll have all the troops we need, because this army will be cloned.
"Cloned," I repeated warily.
"Exactly. I spoke of a template earlier. One from which all of our troops will be cloned. So we'll need a good one."
"What's it to me?" I asked.
"I want that template to be you," he replied.
"Me," I stated more than asked.
"Yes, Fett, you. You are the most feared and resourceful bounty hunter in the galaxy, and with good reason. You have the latest equipment and the intellect to use it. You seem to have a knack for getting out of tight situations using unorthodox methods. You are calculating and precise. All these things are just what we need in a new army.
"The Kaminoans have a rather elaborate and extensive cloning facility, and I've already arranged for you to come test it next week."
Obviously, this guy thought I would join up already. His pocketbook better be pretty deep.
"What makes you think I'll even want to join?"
"Oh, I have gone as far as to provide a little incentive. The Kaminoans have already agreed to give you a immense sum of credits as well as permanent living quarters on Tipoca City, the largest island on Kamino."
I cared nothing for the living quarters, I'd live in a vat of nerf waste if required. It was this 'immense' sum of credits that interested me. "And how much are we talking? How many credits?"
"The Kaminoans have generously agreed to a yearly sum of one hundred twenty thousand I believe. But this means you'll have to stay there, on Tipoca City. Surely one man can live off one hundred twenty thousand a year?"
"This man can't. Three hundred thousand a year, no less."
"That is rather expensive, Fett. While the people of Kamino could pay it quite easily, given the demand for clones these days, they may not agree to a sum that high."
"Then I don't agree to be kept there for a paltry sum," I stated flatly, refusing to budge on my demands.
For a few moments the bearded old man just stood there, gazing at me, but most likely considering his options to see if there was someone else in the galaxy he could pawn into becoming a perfect template.
After what seemed like a small eternity, he spoke. "I'll see what I can do. In the meantime, why not come and try it out? I can guarantee at least the one hundred twenty thousand just for doing that."
I didn't need to think about that one. I nodded once.
The old man looked pleased with himself. "Very well then!" I have a ship waiting and-"
"I'll take my own ship," I interrupted him. I wasn't about to get on a ship with a man I'd known only for seventeen standard minutes. And probably not with anyone else, for that matter.
"Fair enough. I'll placed the order for the 'Army of the Republic' as the Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, who met a sad and unexpected demise, I'm afraid. That is how the Kaminoans know me. You may call me by the name Tyranus."
"Fine. How long will the cloning take?"
"No time at all. Though at the rate myself and a certain third party wish to clone you, it will take a minimum of ten years for the entire army to be grown to adult stage and trained."
That surprised me. "Ten years?"
Tyranus obviously heard a bit of disbelief filter through my synthesizer. Or at least he thought he did. "Oh, did I not explain? The Kaminoans have developed a way to accelerate the growth rate by astronomical levels. The third party liked this as well."
"I see." I wasn't about to go into inquires about this certain third party. My clients' contacts were not my concern. I wanted only their business. And their credits.
"Well then," he continued cheerily, "that about sums everything up. I can tell you nothing more until you decide whether or not it is within your best interests to join us."
Again I nodded. "Very well."
The old man nodded back to me, then turned with a rustling of his robes. And for the first time, I caught a glimpse of the curved silver handle at his belt. He turned to me again suddenly, but he did not catch me by surprise.
"I do hope," he said, putting a touch of expectation in his voice, "that this is the start of a long and prosperous partnership. For both of us, of course." He added this as if it were an afterthought.
I gauged him, looking him up and down using slight movements. Trying to see if there was any deceit in his posture or expression was like trying to read my own features with my helmet on.
"As do I," I said finally, following him out of cave.
HTML formatting copyright 2001 TheForce.Net LLC.