A short story C.T Herron & Greg Provan

Loic took a turbo lift right down to the poor sectors, down to the bottom where the buildings met the ground, as with most planets on the rim the higher you were situated the better the conditions, the poor sectors, however, had their uses. Loic felt more at home down with the criminals, thieves and poverty rather than the affluent flamboyance of the upper levels with the predictably materialistic denizens. Drops of rain found their way down to him and he walked, ground cabs came humming past and advertisements flashed on the huge wall boards attached to the immense buildings that stretched into eternity. It always seemed wet in the poor sector to Loic, wet and dark, as the tawdry artificial lighting gave off poor illumination.

He fingered the bejewelled stud in his ear, then had second thoughts, removed it deftly, and slipped it into his pocket, a beacon for would-be muggers in this downtrodden sector. Running a hand across his balding, glabrous head, his beady blue eyes flitted and flickered, seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go, he had one aim in mind, one mission to accomplish, one of the only reasons one would venture so far down into the lower levels alone and unarmed, sweat lashed from his forehead and tickled his eyes, each bone in his body ached as though it were being crushed in a vice while being hacksawed simultaneously. He knew what he needed…

A soothing sibilant susurration somewhere in the Stygian alleyway to Loic Monerat’s side, he shivered involuntarily, but padded forward with mock confidence nonetheless. His jittering fingers betrayed his angst, ceaselessly fingering his empty holster but a blaster wouldn’t help him where he was headed, it would be rendered inoperable before he was twenty paces from the right door. One side of the damp street was lit by a weak neon glow, drinking houses, the other was framed in a rubicund tinge, a weak mist served as a screen to both fornicators and passing voyeurs. Such delights could wait though; ruefully Loic pushed passed a couple of ecclesiastics who were in a stake of sinful drunkenness. He picked one of their pockets on the way past, his fingers were still nimble despite his affliction..

..Mustn’t think about the affliction, he thought. The sickness, like the azotic, unctious gunge of the streets, was settling in deep and visceral now, he could feel his stomach cramping up, sending retching, stabbing bolts through his insides, loosening his bowels in the process. He braced himself against the pain, as if to reassure this to himself, he pulled his collar round his neck. It was hibernal in the poorer quarters at this time of year, and the cold was only made fiercer by his infirmity.

The twenty credits he had just lifted from the passing dipsomaniacs, added to the thirty already in his possession, would get him in where he needed at the very least, then the real work began, he slipped the chips into his pocket with the others, his ‘safe pocket’, impossible to pick. Doing a job like this unarmed, seemed like lunacy, or impetuous suicide, but Loic knew weapons would only raise suspicion, put them on the defensive straight away, he had to go in surreptitiously, and when he struck, he had to strike swift and precise, alacritous like the slitherettes he used to see in the deserts of Tattooine. But the job was secondary on his mind, it could not even be attempted until he assuaged the aching in his bones and muscles, and only one thing would scratch that particular itch – spice – beautiful, golden, warming, healing spice, it was all he could focus on. Through the ethereal mist, glimmering darkness, and the blurring of his vision, his destination came into sight…a figure stood close by, his face seemed ugly, leering and reptilian in the Cimmerian shade…

The towering Trandoshen bouncer studied Loic through orbless inky black eyes, the alien gaze as unsettling as the creature’s hulking form. Trandoshens were a pitiless species devoid of morality and compassion, there’s was the rule of the gun. They regularly found work as bounty hunters, assassins or muscle. They possessed a certain low cunning, as Loic knew only too well. The famed bounty hunter, Bossk, had been on his tail since he bungled robbing that casino on Ventus 6. His stubborn pursuer somehow never seemed far behind despite Loic making every effort to disguise his movements.

As Loic reached the distance of a few paces the Tranodoshen’s mouth opened, a warning hiss, violence was now imminent. In a feat of prestidigitation he adroitly flashed a series of hand signals, communicating he was a spice runner and thieves guild ally. The brute moved aside. Loic was greeted by a wall of smoke; his seasoned eyes quickly took in his surroundings. As spice dens went it was perfunctory, the dimness was disturbed only by a single artificial flame, on makeshift pallets and rickety chairs a selection of miscreants, cut-throats and vagabonds were in various stages of torpor. Loic fingered his empty holster once more. There was a buxom serving wench in one corner behind a makeshift wooden counter. She ran a dirty cloth over the wooden top but served to only move the grime from one area to another.

“Spice and a drink.” Loic said to her, quiet and hoarse. She eyed him for a long second till he slid over a pile of credits. She took them with a disdainful snort of her porcine nose. Loic would have liked to have slapped her fat greasy face but instead meekly pocketed his spice and shuffled over to an empty booth, drink in hand. It was at last time..

…habitually he would sit behind a table, facing the door, back to the wall, with his hand circumspectly positioned on his blaster, but as this only served to remind him of his nakedness, he clasped the free hand on the cup of firewater. He didn’t even need to smell the beverage to confirm it was firewater, that drink was the only drink that was ever served in spice dens. People weren’t here for the drink anyway, a basic mixture of ethanol and octane, little or no flavouring or sweetener. Closing his nostrils he knocked the drink back with a grimace, the califacient slid down his throat, burning at his insides as it went, it served to settle his stomach and calm his tremulous hands.

He just needed them steady to do the spice, he’d been agonizing for this moment since his feet had touched down on Eriadu, the shavit-hole of a planet he currently occupied. The only thing this planet was famous for, was being the birthplace of that treacherous bastard Tarkin. It was about to become famous for something else though…but first, the spice, glorious spice.

He inspected his purchase, wrapped as it was in greasy, recycled loub paper. This is the lower levels of Eriadu’s main port of trade, he wasn’t exactly expecting glitterstim, what in fact he got, was a low grade cut of ryll, bastards, he’d have to double the dose, he did so and washed it down with the dregs of firewater.

The spice took effect almost immediately; everything took on a warm glow, as if the den was macerating in golden sunshine. As the toxins took course through his veins, he slouched back, savouring every second, luxuriating in its magical effects. His mind became focused now, no distractions, the spice hit massaged the knots out of his psyche and he felt reborn and rehabilitated, ready to take on anything, and he’d have to be. This self-appointed mission would earn him enough credits to pay off the Hutt cartel and clear his prodigious debt to them, the casino job was supposed to have done it, but that had gone wrong, horribly, horribly wrong. It seemed like lately, every time Loic fixed a problem, another two presented themselves. The spice had took the edge off the worry, but he had to act fast, now, while he was feeling confident, soon the effects of the ryll would wear off and the pain would return.

As he rose, a Trandoshan entered the den and his heart jumped a little, but he quickly noticed the yellowish hue to the creature’s scales and realised it wasn’t Bossk and relaxed, all these Trandoshans looked the same to him. He had impulsively reached for his blaster, once again noticing its absence…on his way past the bar he alleviated an Anomid and a Mirialan sitting there of their spice, nobody noticed and he put his head down and walked on, pocketing his prizes with a lopsided grin…

Satiated, Loic stepped through the puddles, through the endless disenchanted streetwalkers; pick-pockets, recidivists, the weak and unfortunate. Everyone had a story; always a great unfairness was dealt them by the sardonic gods, some or other fabled injustice. Loic blended in. People didn’t pay much attention to him and this served him well. The downpour steadily seemed to lessen. Gazing heavenward, Loic watched lairs of hover cabs line the sky nearly all the way to the top of the huge structures that made up the city. The poor sectors were somewhat deceptive, some of the richest business men in the city lived and worked in these parts and some of the most ostentatious and affluent houses could be found if only one knew where to look. The thing was; why would burglars and thieves look for game amid the poor districts? instead they would scale the heights to the real wealth. Also there was a certain honor among the thieves and scum of the poor districts, they preferred to steal from the rich, as they were the ones they hated. The higher you lived the more powerful you were and living with the street rats, scum and drug addicts reminded them of this feeding their impetus for revenge.

When Loic had been a spice smuggler, in the heyday of the Kessel mines (the misshapen, asteroid-like prison-planet where the galaxy’s chief supply of spice was mined) his constant dalliance with the drug, handling it, smelling it, seeing it, getting its fine dust on his clothes and in his hair, being surrounded by it on his ship every day, lead, he believed, to a propensity for the substance. He dabbled more and more in its intoxicating properties and found that mild doses of the drug took a lot of the pressure and stress off the often-tumultuous job of spice-running, it helped him keep his cool under duress, it focused his mind when navigating particularly tricky flight paths. Kessel was in a part of the galaxy that was perilous to fly through, in the outer rim territories, near Hutt Space, and the dangerous Celestial Maw, accidents can and will happen, and when your brains are fried on heavy spice addiction they are even more likely.

Loic had been spice-running for the Hutts about a year and he had been taking the spice himself for about three months when it happened. He was shipping some particularly pure grade spice from Kessel to a moon along the Trellius Trade Route. Foolishly not noting the purity of the spice he took a rather large hit and overdosed, passing out at the controls of his ship. Eventually the ship was clipped by an asteroid and was sent hurling on a collision course with the nearby planet Formus. Loic regained consciousness with just enough time to jettison his escape pod, the ship was a write-off and crashed with all its load into an ocean on the almost-deserted planet. The Hutt Loic was running this spice for was a particularly disreputable gangster by the name of Sarkraa, a rare female Hutt boss, Hutts are hermaphrodites but some seem more feminine and some seem more masculine, Sarkraa was feminine but no less lethal than any of her more masculine counterparts. Loic cost her over a million credits’ worth of spice, not even taking into consideration the street value of the drug. Hutts are not known for their forgiving nature and Loic had to steal a ship and flee, he was left destitute, impecunious and with a bad spice habit to try and kick.

He spent several months detoxing in self-exile on the isolated planet of Draethos, with its cragged mountains and deep cave systems it offered him refuge. When he finally returned to galactic civilisation many had suspected him dead. He kept a low profile, eking out a paltry existence picking pockets on the dusty and arid streets of frontier towns around the Tira Desert on planet Sorrus, he fell quickly back into the habit of using spice again as it was ubiquitous among the kind of company one keeps when making a living as a bandit, and it took the edge of the hard knocks of life on the street.

After about a year, somehow, somewhere, by someone, he had been identified, he didn’t know by whom, but it was obvious they had informed Sarkraa as she placed a bounty on his head that was big enough to choke a bantha, big enough in fact, to attract the attention of one of the galaxy’s most redoubtable bounty hunters, Bossk. Loic had barely escaped Sorrus with his life and Bossk had never been far behind him since…

He could make everything right, but it required credits, a lot of credits, more than a hundred years picking pockets in Tira could ever get him. There was something else though, if he could do something to appease the crime lord Sarkraa, then she may give him pass. There’s only one thing Hutts like more than food and credits and that’s power. Inner-fighting between Hutt clans was endemic, they are a war-like species and terrorists to many other planets, but they do as much killing over power-struggles within their own clans as they do capturing and enslaving colonies and planets. Sarkraa owns the second largest portion of Hutt Space, her stranglehold ranges from Cyborrea all the way to Nar Kreeta, her territory makes up a sizeable chunk of Hutt Space. Her province though, is not even half as big as a Hutt named Okkra’s, whose region of Hutt Space runs all the way from Keldooine to Ganath. Sarkraa had long been jealous of and hated Okkra’s superior wealth and dominance. With him out of the picture, she could govern the largest Hutt mafia in the known galaxy.

And that was when Loic had came up with his plan. If he did this favour for Sarkraa, took Okkra out of the picture, it would be worth more than twenty million times what she lost when Loic’s gaffe had caused the loss of a million credits’ worth of product. Loic wasn’t a killer, he wasn’t big and he wasn’t strong, he was more suited for stealth, wiry and short, but he was streetsmart, he knew how to handle a blaster and he usually managed to avoid trouble quite adroitly anyway. So it was a lot for him to take on, the assassination of a Hutt lord, but the famous Hutt Jabba was killed, it was rumoured, by a mere woman, if she could do it, so could Loic.

When he got to Eriadu last night he had lost his blaster in a game of Sabaac, it was an expensive custom made weapon and the pang of regret over its loss filled him again. He hadn’t bothered to replace it as he knew he would be disarmed before being allowed to enter the event he was en route to anyway, and he would be leaving in too much of a hurry to reclaim it at the door. So he would have to do this another way, he could get a blaster from almost anywhere once the job was done. The event he trudged along the pluvial streets to, was a dinko fighting arena, dinko fighting was a favourite gambling pastime of Okkra’s, it is a bloodsport in which small, but vicious reptiles are pit against each other and spectators bet on the outcome. He had information that Okkra was attending one such event here tonight, it was the only reason he had even come to this backwater rock in deep space, he had to get close enough to Okkra to kill him and get Sarkraa off his back, and therefore Bossk too. His nostrils flared as he inhaled a deep breath of the malodorous, still air, steeled himself, and crossed the dank street to the building where the vile and detestable Okkra should be…

The buildings dilapidated facade spoke little of the internal happenings, but the security crew outside certainly did. Hand signals and bluster alone couldn’t steer Loic past the barrel-chested Gamorean guards. The rough beasts frisked him with expert hands, robbed him of his meager supply of credits and all but hurled him forwards into a group of irate Nicto who had obviously taken umbrage at being disarmed. Loic robbed one of his money pouch on the way past, the Nicto would find, when it was too late, his blaster was not the only item to be taken from him. A raucous din was coming from down a steep passageway, there were a few people loitering around no doubt engaged in haggling, gambling and dishonest schemes. Loic ignored them and pushed forward till he reached a circular balustrade, filled with roaring degenerates impatiently shouting for the next two frenzied reptiles to be pitted against one another. Okkra, Loic could see, rested his elephantine enormity on a platform raised above the balustrade. He was flanked by mean-faced henchmen, and, of course nobody had asked them to give up their arms.No one man, certainly not Loic, was going to tackle a gaggle of goons and Okkra head on, blaster or not.

Secrecy not scandal was his best ally. He pushed further round the balustrade. There was a commotion below as two handlers prodded another two reptiles into the arena with cruel barbed spears. A gap-toothed reveler leaned precariously over the edge of the handrail, Loic nudged him guiltily on the way past. The man howled with terror on his way to the red sand below. The crowd roared with their amusement, as did Okkra, as the unfortunate new arrival was torn to pieces by the warring reptiles. Loic found what he looking for a narrow stairway, leading upwards.

The timeworn stairway led to a chamber where the scaffolding above the pit could be accessed. There was a sturdy oaken door blocking his access but the lock was no match for the veteran lockpick. Even in such an age of vaunted technological miracles the old arts still proved useful. Okkra was either foolish enough to leave the door unattended or more likely the guards were watching the blood sport below more concerned with their wagers.

No weapons were permitted into the premises tonight, but what of previous nights, where guest much lest auspicious than a crime lord were the only concern for an underpaid and disinterested security? It had been little trouble for Loic to smuggle in a hand-held cross brow on one such night. The mechanical device was small but powerful; a well aimed bolt would puncture Okkra’s girth with ease. The bolts may have been small but they were cruelly designed and deadly. Okkra knew he had enemies, he took precautions but he had grown sloppy, Loic could tell. He may have been safe in his own private palace, surrounded by yes men and sycophants but here Okkra should have been more aware of his surroundings. But instead the Hutt perpetually sucked greedily form his massive double-chambered spice-bowl. His prodigious spice habit had robbed him of his cunning and foresight, he was more concerned ordering around his minions to fetch him more drinks and delicacies than he was with security. He had a security team, the usual mercenaries and some former bounty hunters. Former bounty hunters likely more satisfied with a regular income than roaming the galaxy chasing dead-beat hustlers and ghosts. The spice didn’t help, they were all at it, and when the boss himself was perpetually imbibing it didn’t set much of an example to the rest.

Loic cut through the shadows like an ethereal wraith, he moved round a hoist wheel and climbed onto a scaffold walkway. Depending on what the premises were being used for there was sometimes stage-hands and performers using the scaffold but this night Loic could see no other. He moved to a suitable vantage point and where he had a good shot of Okkra. The bodyguards were scanning the crowd on the balustrade but none thought to look up. Loic fancied he could get a bolt right through one of Okkra’s half-shut eyes such was his marksmanship. One bolt could well be enough but he planned to send another into his skull to make sure. Loic felt a frisson of nervous energy flash down his spice-ravaged spine. Up until this point he had been calm, detached, the spice had seen to that, now faced with the prospect of murdering one of the most infamous crime lords in the galaxy he felt his bowels turn to water. Where his hand had been sure it was now unsteady, where is resolve had been strong it was now riddled with doubt.

He was a dead man unless he assuaged Sarkraa he remined himself. This murderous act would certainly make up for his lost shipment, when he presented her with the murder weapon. Sarkraa was ruthless but a pragmatic creature she remained. Loic would be rewarded. He steadied his breathing, it was time, there was no turning back. He took aim with his crossbow and inhaled. Just then in the arch of his peripheral vision something moved. He sat up in alarm crossbow at the ready. But he was too late. A huge form landed next to him on the rickety scaffold walkway. An enormous scaled fist swatted the cross bow out his hand another seized him round the throat lifting him from the ground up to eye level with his assailant. Loic felt as if his windpipe would be crushed but through the pain he could make out the reptilian face of Bossk. He was wanted alive that was the only reason his head was still attached to his body. He tried to think fast before he lost consciousness, instead of using his two arms to grip Bossk’s great wrist – lessening the strain on his neck – he maneuvered his spark from his pocket. Heating pipes of spice were the only reason he carried the thing but in desperation he flashed it in front of Bossk’s face. The grip was broken, the Trandoshen’s super-sensitive eyes were unsuited to such close brightness. Loic rolled from the scaffold struggling to breathe. He landed roughly on the chamber floor but he wasn’t in a position to nurse his wounds. His trick had bought him but little time. Bossk was leaping from the scaffold, fast on his heels.

Loic was now faced with an unsavoury decision, it was much more than fight or flight, he had to decide very quickly whether to run, run from months and months of hard planning, smuggling the crossbow in weeks ago, paying for the information about Okkra’s plans to go to the dinko fighting, everything! These thoughts barely had time to formulate, something far deeper and colder resonated in the back of his head. Bossk landed with a heavy thud just a few feet from him, but he had been expecting that, what he hadn’t thought about was what was behind him, where had he landed, he didn’t even need to turn around to see, he could feel it instinctively, a strange, hot tickling sensation across his back as if it sensed danger regardless of the eyes’ input to the situation. He knew the situation was bad because Bossk hadn’t immediately advanced on him and it was reaffirmed by a low guttural growling emanating, almost purringly, from just over his left shoulder. The two dinkos behind him circled round, observing their quarry. Dinkos were small, when you compare them to something like, say a Krayt Dragon, but they were big enough that they could take a man’s head off with a bite – these particular dinkos were caged, tormented and starved and antagonized by their cruel owners in order to make them ferocious and brutal fighters. Okkra’s booming laughter echoed around the arena accompanied by the cackles and guffaws of his entourage. The Hutt lord’s spiced senses had been slow to catch on to what was going on, but now he realised he was getting a little extra bloodsport for his credits and he was delighted. Shoving another writhing, squirming, live squid-like creature into his drooling, crooked maw, his eyes twinkled from beneath hooded lids and he clapped his small chubby hands against his repulsive slug-like mass gaily.

It was all over. The last thing Loic saw was the dinko lunging on an undeviating trajectory for his throat. He didn’t run, he didn’t even try to dodge, he just clenched his eyes shut and froze in horror, a wamprat caught in the headlights.

Then there was the unmistakable sound of a blaster going off and the flash of it shined through his eyelids leaving fractals on his retinas. He opened his eyes – the dinko lay convulsing on the sandy floor, a charred blaster hole in the side of its neck, another shot from the blaster and the second dinko rolled to the floor to join its predecessor. Bossk has shot both Loic’s reptilian aggressors; of course, he wants me alive, thought Loic. He took too long to react to the new situation, and there was nowhere to run regardless, Bossk set his blaster to stun and the last thing Loic saw was a bright blue flash, before the all-encompassing blackness.

A long time appeared to pass in the black inky void of Loic’s subconscious.

His hearing faded in before he opened his eyes and he listened carefully to his surroundings to assess where he was. He could still hear the crowd at the fight, off in the distance, muffled through walls, he was obviously in some sort of back room. The fetid smell alone told him immediately that Okkra the Hutt was in close proximity, and sure enough the Hutt’s booming voice spoke out in guttural Huttese, which Loic understood perfectly from working with their kind for years.

“You mean to tell me that, this, this cretin was making plans to kill me?” Loic then heard Bossk reply in his hissing, sibilant, croaking snarl,

“He was, but I stopped him, he is my bounty so now I must leave with him.” It wasn’t so much a request as an affirmation.

“No, I’ll pay the bounty, plus a little extra to facilitate the deal, I have some fun torture methods in mind for this one.” The crime boss issued a declaration of his own.

“It’s not as simple as that.” There was a silence that hung in the air before Okkra asked, simply,

“Why?”

“The bounty for this one is high, over a million, an additional quarter if he is alive.”

“Really?” Okkra purred, there was a slobbering, he must have been stuffing something into his gluttonous mouth, Hutts never stopped eating. Loic dared not open his eyes for fear it would attract attention to him. His body ached in several places from the fall from the rafters. “Who has posted the bounty?” Inquired the Hutt lord, another silence, before Bossk answered grudgingly,

“Sarkraa.” Loic fancied he could see Okkra’s rimy, slitted, yellow eyes light up at the mention of a rival clan’s Hutt’s name.

“Is that soooooooo.” He held onto the last vowel and growled it out.

“Listen,” said Bossk, you could tell by the bark he said it with that he was through playing around, “you know, and I know, I am not leaving here without my bounty, I went through a lot of trouble to get him here, I saved your life, let’s call it quits.” Loic cringed; he was definitely stuck between a rock and a hard place here. Nobody messed with Trandoshans, they hunt Wookies for their pelt, who hunts Wookies for chrissake! And Bossk wasn’t just any Trandoshan, he was the most notorious and feared of all Trandoshans, and one of the best bounty hunters in the galaxy. On the other hand, Okkra was a powerful and nefariously well-known crime lord, Loic doubted either would back down and he would be ripped to shreds in a tug of war between them, literally, like a toy torn between two fighting dogs, his future suddenly looked very short and bleak.

“I only have your word that he was trying to kill me,” said Okkra, “why would some scrawny humanoid from who-knows-where want to kill me? Tell me that and I’ll consider his release.” A low growl from Bossk told that he was running out of patience. He could kill Okkra in a heartbeat, right now, but Okkra was likely surrounded by at least sixty minions, a lot of whom were guards, of all species and skills, Loic knew that Bossk wouldn’t fancy fighting his way through that lot with a live hostage in tow.

“He was trying to get in favour with Sarkraa by assassinating you. He owes her a large debt. That is all.”

“You’re implying that Sarkraa wants me dead?” It was a loaded question, the Hutts were cutthroat among themselves, but they remained a united front against outsiders.

“Not actively, but this pathetic human decided it was what she would like and acted alone.”

“Well I can’t let this worm get away, an attempt on my life can not go unpunished, I must make an example of him, publicly, as a message to any other would-be assassin.”

“He’s only a would-be assassin because I stopped him, otherwise you’d be dead you fat oaf!” Loic felt the tension building, he didn’t need to open his eyes, it was palpable, he sweated and struggled not to move and betray his consciousness, he barely breathed, this squabbling over him like he was the last slice of roast shatual at a barbecue was driving him crazy, he wanted to scream but couldn’t, it wouldn’t help at any rate. All he could do was sit and speculate whether he’s to be fed to the dinkos by Okkra or to Sarkraa’s pet Nexu…

Now, this is one hell of a volatile situation, thought Loic as he chanced opening his eyes to take in his surroundings. They were in some type of brick and marble antechamber, hexagonal pillars the same shape as the baronial wall. Bossk was not five paces from him with a blaster in one great fist; the blaster was more like hand-cannon, It would have taken Loic two hands just to lift it to his chest. One shot from such a weapon would blast Okkra in half. Okkra knew this. Bossk had the drop on him, there was no way he could give the signal for his minions to take out the bounty hunter, despite how subtle, without Bossk getting a shot off first. Bossk was a ruthless battle-hardened killer, largely fearless, but even he knew the odds were stacked against him. An entire posse of Okkra’s remorseless killers nervously fingered their weapons. Bossk’s reputation would drive a little doubt into their heads but their weight of numbers told, one opponent against many. Surely there could be only one victor? They understood Bossk’s predicament. Bossk was duty-bound to take Loic back to his client. He may have listened to a pay off from Okkra some deal, but bounty hunters worth their salt tried to avoid that where possible, you could easily get a reputation that you weren’t to be trusted to carry out a hunt to the end and were liable to change your outlook every time something enticing was dangled. Besides Okkra wasn’t going to pay double, not at the exorbitant rate Bossk alleged. He would lose too much face in front of his goons and that couldn’t happen. Show weakness to your underlings and inevitably one or more of them start getting cute, thinking they can muscle you out or take you down. Also, Okkra wasn’t prepared to pay an obscene amount of credits for a piece of space trash that had tried to kill him. Okkra wasn’t prepared to lose face, neither was Bossk. Something had to give.

Loic was crumpled on the floor, the pressure in the room was palpable, it suddenly felt very hot. He felt like he was in an underground oven, right over hell’s kitchen. The most important thing was, despite being a little bashed around, he was fit enough to run. All he needed was an opportunity. The chamber housed two exits, one situated behind Okkra and his men, the other at the far side of the room, an archway leading to somewhere unknown. But unknown was better than stuck between Okkra and Bossk.

Bossk maintained eye-contact with Okkra, starting to take slight side-ward steps toward Loic. His hand-cannon was centred always on Okkra’s hide. Kneeling down the bounty hunter gripped Lioc round the back of the scruff of the neck.

“He’s mine, I’m taking him out of here.”

Perhaps Bossk had the slight upper-hand, one Move from Okkra and he would be killed. But Okkra was notoriously stubborn.

“Don’t be a fool bounty hunter. You’ll never make it out of the building and you know it. You’re good but you’re no Boba Fett. How do you expect to get to ground level when I have men in every passageway? I’ll not hold a grudge, Bossk, I may even have a bit of work for you. But right now you put down that gun do you understand?”

Bossk understood only too well, as soon as he dropped his blaster he would be vaporized by Okkra’s trigger-happy henchmen. It was incredible one of them hadn’t opened fire unbidden. Okkra understood also, he knew Bossk had to pay for his audacity. He couldn’t let the trandoshen slight him like this and get away with it. Loic understood also, only to well. It was a lose-lose situation. He was as good as dead. That was why, with nothing left to lose, he decided to really add some fuel to fire.

Loic felt like his head was on fire, sweat lashed from his bald pate, his neck encircled in Bossk’s terrible iron grip. The mighty cold-blooded reptilian could snap his neck like a match stick but Bossk had other concerns. Loic decided to add to them. In a blur of movement he reached to Bossk’s belt and snatched a grenade and rolled it along to floor towards Okkra’s goons. Everyone in the room froze for second not quite taking in the enormity of the occurrence. As the grenade rolled ever closer to the gap-mouthed cut-throats Bossk was the first to react. He fired off his blaster into the midst of the assembled goons and dived for cover behind one of the pillars, dragging Loic with him. The laser blast punched through several of Okkra’s men leaving burning holes where their chests had been. The frag grenade detonated a millisecond later with a near deafening boom, immense heat washed over the room. Bossk hissed. Loic cursed his bald head covering its peeling flesh with red hands. Limbs, blood and gore sprayed in all directions. The detonation had taken out a portion of Okkra’s henchmen but there plenty left. Laser blasts started coming at them in small burst until a stream of fire ensued. The pillar protecting them wouldn’t hold out much longer. Bossk had one hand round Loic’s tunic with the other he unclipped another grenade and rolled it towards his assailants. A laser blast took him in the top of one his wrists but it wasn’t a direct hit. Nonetheless the trandoshen howled in pain and anger. Loic thought then, through frustration alone, Bossk was going to bite his face off. Instead he fired a couple of shots off and when the grenade exploded he dashed for the exit at the far end of the room. Okkra’s men were disorganised, disorientated or dead. A couple of laser blasts came at Bossk and Loic but they made it to the other side of the room and through the archway. Bossk stole a glance in his retreat, hoping to see Okkra’s corpse but it appeared that the Hutt had managed to slither off before the second grenade went was unleashed.

“Move or die.” Bossk thrust Loic before him through a winding upward passageway. Loic obeyed. There was no telling if Bossk would at any minute decide the most important think was saving his own scales and liquidate Loic on the spot. The passageway branched out, neither of them knew exactly where they were going but it was obvious that they were below ground level. Bossk marched Loic before him by the nape of the neck, his claws dug in painfully Loic’s skin but the trickster wasn’t in a position to moan about it. They heard footsteps guttural cursing coming from the round the corner. Bossk palmed Loic back against the wall and waited. With the footsteps coming ever closer Loic could only wonder at what violence would be unleashed. His heart beat in his chest like a funeral drum. Terrified he could do nothing but impotently bare witness. Just then a trio of Gamorean guards rounded on them, Bossk used the moment of surprise and lashed out a huge fist. The first of them fell with half his face ripped off. Reputably fierce, fearless and powerful, to their credit the other two Gamorean’s didn’t miss a heartbeat. One of the green-skinned beasts swung his pike at Bossk’s head and the other swung a mighty blow to the bounty hunters midriff. Their strength was prodigious. Bossk was unimpressed, the blows had no discernible effect on the trandoshen except enraging him further. Loic thought about running back the way they had come but knew Okkra’s men were hot on their trial. In the moment he had wrestled with his indecision Bossk had dealt with the two Gamorean guards, one’s throat had been ripped out and the other’s brain was smeared down the wall. A snarling, frenzied, blood-crazed reptilian face goaded Loic further into the labyrinth underbelly of the arena. Loic didn’t know how he was going to get out of this one. He had gotten himself in a few undesirable situations before but this was the pinnacle.

It was too soon yet for his life to flash before his eyes – but it seemed like it was, the early loss of his father Luc Courleciel Monerat, to the tail-end of The Hundred Year Agincourt War and what brief and faded flashes of memory he still possessed of the man’s face, his uniform, his overstated moustache and goatee. Then thoughts flared to his ecumenopolis home planet, Coruscant, in the Core Regions, an incandescent planet, beautiful and visibly vibrating from outer space. His last thought though, before Bossk dragged them into a turbolift, was not of his mother’s sweet face, but of spice, beautiful, all-consuming spice, he thought hungrily of the two bags he had lifted from the patrons of the spice den, nestled in his ‘safe’ pocket, he wished he could just have one last hit before……that’s it!

…Bossk stabbed him into the turbolift and Loic stumbled and connected roughly with the wall inside. A laser blast came screaming forward, the dragon-like bounty hunter sensed it and crouched but Loic wasn’t so fast, the bolt seared past his ear, scorching his skin, already blistered from the grenade blasts, the shot hammered harmlessly into the wall behind him but it left him blinded and discombobulated for a few seconds. Bossk’s return fire was precise, cutting down three henchmen one after another, as the rest of Okkra’s motley mafia began to pile down the corridor they had just left. The turbolift doors started hissing closed and just as the gap was about to close Bossk fired off some cover shots and hopped back into the lift with Loic, leaving a grenade rolling down the platform as he did so. After a few seconds of the lift rising upwards, there was a muffled boom from below and the elevator vibrated with the force of a nearby explosion, but continued upwards, seemingly undamaged. Bossk had hit the button for the docking bay – the basilisk-like bounty hunter was almost safe, Loic was about as safe as a wamprat in a Rancor pit, but the cunning captive had a plan…

…He had a plan, but did he have the mettle to execute it, now that they were in a confined space, Bossk was even more terrifying than ever, he looked as if he had grown an extra foot and his fangs an extra inch since they entered the lift. The sweat on Loic formed a thick, cold layer that stung his eyes and saturated his tunic. Terrifying tales of the treacherous trandoshan told over tankards in taverns trickled through Loic’s memory now; Bossk, the name itself was Dosh for ‘Devours His Prey’, Bossk’s father had named him that after Bossk’s first act upon hatching was to devour each of his unhatched siblings. Bossk was possibly the only bounty hunter to have ever bettered Boba Fett in combat, and he was famed for his exploits throughout space; prowling the Kashyyyk system hunting Wookies, tracking down and destroying Jedis, and being personally hired by the likes of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine to do their most important work.

Loic trembled hysterically, if he was going to do this he’d have to do it just right, as the doors opened, but what he was about to do was going to require a surplus of courage. Bossk’s repellent odour was by far the most pleasant thing about him; 6ft 3in, 113 kilograms, armoured green-hued scales, yellow eyes that gleamed, devouring everything in their field of vision with their pernicious gaze. Rows and rows of needle-like yellowed fangs, rotten with the decaying flesh of the trandoshan’s meals, usually live victims.Three enormous claws on each hand that might as well have been daggers; a flick of one of Bossk’s overextended arms could disembowel a wampa. All this before you even get to the Relby-v10 micro grenade-launcher clutched to his chest, as well as his additional flamethrower, grenades and standard-issue blaster, all situated about his person. Yes, this was going to take boundless bravery from the bedraggled, beaten, bloodied and burned, spice-bum Loic Monerat.

It was now or never, besides, what choice did he have, a ping and a green light indicated they had reached their floor, the docking bay where Bossk’s famous ship, a modified YV-666 Light Freighter named The Hound’s Tooth would be situated. The Hound’s Tooth was a flying 4-man prison, Wookie slaughterhouse, and warship, famed and feared throughout the Galaxy, and that was going to be Loic’s current destination, where he would be locked up and delivered to Sarkraa. He could not let that happen, at all costs, even that of his life. Loic had been nervously fingering the two wraps of glittering spice in his pocket, briefly regretting the waste of spice, but recognising it as his only option, he waited as the doors slid open and Bossk turned to drag him out and then Loic let fly….

Twin bags of spice caught the trandoshan tormentor squarely in both of his bulging, bloodshot, bug-eyes. The creature staggered back, clawing at his face, ululating agonizingly, spice burned like a motherfranger if it got in your eyes, Loic knew this, he darted beneath his oppressor’s wildly flailing and deadly-taloned Ophidian arms, and dashed out of the turbo lift, the outside air hitting his lungs like an elixir as he sprinted forwards, frantic, desperate freedom lay just ahead…

Loic bolted from the tormented Trandoshen as the scaled bounty hunter impotently padded rough useless hands to it’s burning eyes. Bossk cursed in a terrible sibilant voice, a soul-jarring ululation which promised nightmare revenge. The docking bay was a half open affair, about halfway up one of the many great thrusting city spires, which like pins from some greats beast’s back, stabbed at the misty sky. The surrounding towers gave a weak Loic an unwelcome vertiginous effect, bile roiled in his pigeon chest but sheer terror gave impetus to his suede and leather boots. The bounty hunter’s ship was at the far end of the docking bay landing, some how even it almost exuded an almost palpable alien malevolence. Bossk had acquired the ship, modified it suitably, after Han Solo and his wookie co-pilot, Chewbacca, had destroyed his previous ship. The Hound’s Tooth sat like a sleeping creature of prey, dirty tan reinforced armor plates bolted to an elongated hull. Who could guess at what horrors had taken place inside that hull? Bossk was famed for his hatred of Wookies, as were most Trandoshens, one of the few species to match them in strength. How many of the great proud beasts has Bossk skinned and tortured inside that hellish ship.

Loic had a decision to make. For some reason he remembered voyeuristically spying on his sister’s amorous encounter with an impassioned rebel officer in the family mansion. It was strange why in situations of duress the brain would ponder unrelated fripperies. Loic had to make a split-second decision, a skilled thief, he could hot wire his way into most ships and cruisers but the Hound’s Tooth was an unrealistic acquisition. If there was a chance he could steal it, given the ship’s powerful engines, he could escape to the other side of galaxy before anyone knew it. But Bossk was a professional, before Loic had set foot on the ship’s cargo ramp it would recognize an intruder and zap him with some or other cruelty. In fact, Loic noticed in horror, the ship was showing signs of life. Lights were coming on – no doubt Bossk had a voice activated control system – despite the Trandoshen’s anguish he was moving to ready himself. On the other side of the hangar were some skiffs and light hovercrafts. These were Loic’s only chance.

Just then several things happened at once: The Hounds tooth dropped a laser cannon which spun seeking Loic who had to dive bald-head first along the floor to avoid the fire; several of Okkra’s guards had pushed through into the hangar, some firing on Bossk’s ship redundantly, and the most quick-witted at Bossk himself who was hissing behind a pile of palliated cargo crates. The Hound’s Tooth advanced AI system registering blaster fire turned its gun onto Okkra’s goons. Several were immediately consumed in bursts of conflagration. Bossk could dally no longer, still in unutterable pain he forced himself forward, firing off blind shots behind him, towards the safety of his ship’s hull. As the bounty hunter reached the entrance ramp a laser blast tore through his shoulder, spraying the outside of his ship with his pustulent oozy blood. Bossk rolled in unceremoniously and the blaster-immune door shut behind him. The ship made a light corkscrew, somewhat unsteadily, taking fire from an array of Okkra’s goons. Their feeble blasters were no match for the Hound’s Tooth’s armor. If they had any cunning they would have bolted back inside and faced Okkra’s wrath – as it was, Bossk sent them a volley of incendiaries killing them all instantly and turning the docking bay in a charred scrap heap.

Loic flew in between buildings on his stolen skiff. His shivering hands managed to get the light craft hot-wired just before the Hound’s Tooth took to the air. Rain smacked down on his bald head and ashen face as frantically he tried to master steering the vessel away from the outsides of the great towers. In abject horror he stole a glance behind him to see Bossk wasn’t far behind him. Loic’s skiff was sleek, small and maneuverable, but Bossk was an expert pilot, it was only a matter of time before he was caught. In desperation he raced through a stream of hover cab traffic trying to cover his tracks. It was no doubt useless as Bossk would have his ships signature already identified and tracked but it might buy him time. He made a couple of break-neck turns and dips, to mix up his trail. He heard a mighty crash as the Hound’s Tooth scrapped along the side of tower, sparks poured off the ship’s hull. Then Bossk came head-on into the stream of hover traffic. His laser cannons unloaded as he spun his ship in Loic’s wake leaving a rain of smoldering carnage behind him. If the bounty hunter was angry before his wrath would now be truly godlike.

In a few brief seconds, no more trickery could save Loic, the Hound’s Tooth would be in a firing position. They were nearing gap in city structures and no cover was soon to be had. He could try dipping and spinning his craft but Bossk, vision impaired or not, wouldn’t be conned for long. Given Bossk’s umbrage he wondered whether Bossk was now just out for revenge alone and would just blow him out the sky, probably not, but it was possible. But no doubt the Hound’s Tooth would equipped with a mini tractor beam of sorts and he would be pulled in. He also knew though that once caught Bossk would likely torture him in that hellship. Loic had gambled plenty so far, it was time for another roll of the dice. He careered straight into the side of one the great towers of the business and finance sector. He ducked behind the front of the skiff an clutched on in desperation, trying to hide his face from the falling shards of glass that came down like a descent of attacking crystal insects. The skiff spun and battered along the floor, smashing consoles and control panels till it eventually came to a rough halt in a midst of smoking wreckage and unfortunate employees. Somehow Loic was still alive, he didn’t have the gumption to take stake of his wounds, his first thoughts were of the bounty hunter. The Hound’s Tooth – too large to follow – hovered outside the breach. What would the Trandoshen do? Loic could only guess, but right now he had to flee with all due alacrity.

Shards of glass crunched under his feet like crystal insects, dazed he bounced from wall to wall trying to find an exit. More through luck than instinct he found a lift. He turned to look back through the breach in the building, a jagged maw of ruined glass. The smoldering wreckage of his skiff lay wreathed in smoke and fire. Some of the sector employees were screaming, but mainly only the ones unharmed. Loic watched a man pull hands away from his glass-ruined face trying to make sense of the flaps of skin and blood. The lift doors opened and Loic fell in and mashed the buttons of the lower floors but before the lift could descend a security guard blocked the door.

‘Hey, you.’

The guard was a sturdy brute, lantern jawed and evil-faced. Loic looked back at him through bloody eyes, the guard inspired little fear in the degenerate smuggler, it was Bossk alone who fueled his terror. The guard reached for a baton at his side. Loic feigned indolence. The guard swung the baton for a braining stroke but Loic blocked the blow and snapped the wrist behind it. Relieving the weapon, he gave a murderous blow to the guard’s temple his body slumping to the floor. The lights in the lift were flashing red and amber, the audio system babbled something indiscernible, something about no turbo lifts to be used in emergencies. How the hell else were you meant to escape a situation on the 500th floor, use the fucking stairs? The smuggler’s feet started feeling wet, he looked down realizing it was the blood oozing from the guard’s caved in skull. Loic took the guard’s firearm and emptied out his pockets into his own as the lift descended. The doors slid open revealing an assemblage of concerned hirelings. 2nd floor.

‘Are you alright?’ Asked the first

‘What happened up there?’ Asked the second

‘Get the fuck out of my way.’ Loic snarled at the third leveling the blaster at their stupid faces.

They shrieked and ran in indeterminate directions.

‘Shut the fuck up.’

Another guard was making his way along the corridor towards the commotion, weapon drawn but unaware of his imminent death. Loic hid in a doorway till he was satisfied the blaster was primed. As the guard approached he leaned out and fired. The laser bolt hit the guard square in the face, a gruesome sopping of brain and seared skull fragments splattered the walls.  He took his weapon too, now with a blaster in each hand, streaked in gore, he kicked open a door and made for the main stairwell to the foyer.

Loic eyed the scene, from his vantage point on the upper level, people bustling, rescue teams, law enforcement, evacuating employees. There was a grandiose stairway leading towards the foyer centers ostentatious architecture, a manufactured permacrete monstrosity as soulless as the greedy employees and their slaves who bled their life away in tedium. Loic was about to take the stairs but in his mania he had forgotten the sight of a bloody rogue with a blaster in each hand was not the best way to avoid attention. If he could just make it outside the main door, past the mesh of confusion he could easily hotwire a vehicle and elude the bounty hunter once and for all. But he knew he was foolish if he thought Bossk had given up in him. Driven by a depthless alien rage the Trandoshen colossus would be formulating a plan. Just what his methods were Loic couldn’t guess but he knew staying in the once place wasn’t wise. He heard the lift chime somewhere in the back of his awareness. He decided to ditch his blasters and wander down towards the main entrance and pass himself off as an injured employee. He turned and froze in bowel-quivering terror. It was Bossk. Somehow the creature had got himself into the upper levels his bounty hunting instincts bringing him to his prey. A medical team bearing a stretcher bumped Loic as they passed him at the top of the stairs, this nudge broke his reverie. He brought up the two blasters but he had been crippled by fear for too long, Bossk closed the gap between them with surprising speed before Loic could right himself. A long arm took Loic in the chest, lifting him from the ground, his tattered shirt wrapped tight in black scales. Bossk threw his enfeebled junkie form, all but weightless to the Trandoshen, against the wall. The game was over. Loic was out cold.

An awareness of pain, disembodied, terrible preceded a wretched awareness of self, before finally a cavalcade of broken nightmare memories came to the fore. In those terrible moments Loic realized he was doomed. He was being roughly dragged by a foot. He opened his eyes gingerly. Pain flared in his brainpan the torture control room for all his injuries. He wanted to die. The haze left his vision. He tried to call out for aid but the sound caught in his throat. There was sky above him, titan red, a cool breeze caressed his face, a pleasurable sensation hidden and trampled over by layers of pain. He strained his neck for a view. Bossk looked down at him. Like a demon out of the pits of some reptilian hell. Absurdly Loic felt no fear as he studied his tormentor; olive green skin, scaled and rigged, a porcine nose above a hungry cavernous mouth, nest of small sharp yellow teeth, and two black and yellow eyes devoid of discernible or comparable emotion such as compassion or mercy. But fear once again reached Loic’s heart when he spied what was behind the towering creature. The Hound’s Tooth.

‘No…No..No…’ He pleaded as his fate slowly began to dawn on his fractured consciousness. How Bossk had gotten him out of that finance building, past all the security and agents he couldn’t know. He probably blew a hole in the wall and just walked right out, with Loic over his shoulder. But that didn’t matter now. No. All that mattered was going into that ship. That hellship. The worst place in the universe. Loic fancied he understood a glimmer of depthless cruel satisfaction pass over those ophidian eyes as Bossk fed on his suffering. The blaster-battered thick armor door to the ship slid up and a ramp descended.

‘No…I’ll do anything.’ Loic cried.

Bossk reached down once more and gripped Loic’s leg. He dragged the smuggler into the ship. The door slid down once more. Sealing shut, sealing Loic inside before the ship took to the skies in a fiery blast from the engines.

The stench was unutterable. An inhuman fetor indescribable, stomach churning, insufferable. Before he knew what was happened the bounty hunter lifted him onto a wall brace and secured his arms in a cruciform position where he hung for an indeterminate time as Bossk padded somewhere deeper into the ship no doubt setting his course. Loic shrieked, struggled as though he could wake himself from a nightmare but this was real. This was as real as it gets. You could walk through your life in a daze be it apathetic or drug-induced but there were moments of ice cold clarity, crystal awareness that everyone experienced, usually in dire circumstances. He wept as he scanned the chamber, an octagonal design. The dead body of a creature hung from the wall, a Wookie if Loic wasn’t mistaken but the unspeakable treatments visited upon the once proud beast had left the fur piebald, the underlying skin flayed and corrupt. The other wall braces were empty but the floor reflected the litanies of Bossk’s trade. Layers of dried blood and fur, severed digits, effluvious gore and filth.

Just then, a glint in the shadows caught the smuggler’s eye. There was a tight cell in the corner of the chamber, there were two furry hands gripping the bars. Loic found two white eyes peering from the darkness. What Loic seen in those eyes crushed him utterly, it was soul shattering. In the shadows it was hard to say but the Wookie looking back at Loic was relatively unscathed thus far other than its capture, but the eyes told the real story of its excruciating ordeal. An abyssal misery of vanquished hope and resignation to hellish humiliation torture and death. Had the Wookie witnessed the demise of its friend, the ruined form hanging from the opposite wall brace? Yes. The eyes told the harrowing tale. The wookie would be next, or maybe Loic but it’s time was nigh and hope had forsaken the creature. Loic, desperate, thought of escape of combining forces with the wookie, some stunt or trick but as though the creature were reading his mind Loic could see it had ceased such fantasies. It had seen too much, witnessed too much horror.  Loic hung there, weeping, weeping till he eventually passed out. He woke up to the sound of his own screams…the torture had begun.

Bossk didn’t just torture people, he injected a perverted sense of creativity into such activities, as Loic was about to find out. Now Loic had been through a lot in his life, a lot of pain, but he had never been tortured, and he was scared, he didn’t even have a very high pain threshold, he wasn’t tough, he was just cunning and crafty, but you can be as cunning and crafty as you want, it’s not going to help you when a Trandoshan has you strapped to the wall of his ship as he hurtles through hyperspace. What is it they say? In space no-one can hear you…

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!” Loic didn’t have time to finish the thought as Bossk stabbed a talon into his chin.

“Just checking you’re awake,” said Bossk in his harsh guttural tones, “screaming already? We haven’t begun”. This offered very little comfort to Loic. Bossk removed his own boots, as if getting comfortable, and tick-tacked across the deck with his feet’s claws tapping out a staccato rhythm on the steel. He approached the incarcerated wookie and pressed a button by its cell door, a high pitched tone started to pulse throughout the ship from hidden speakers. Bossk grinned a toothy grin as unctuous as a Dagobah swamp and as wide as the Belgaroth Asteroid Belt. “They hate that noise, some frequency that hurts their ears, that will keep him busy while I do you”. Do me? Loic had nothing left in this life to look forward to.

The worst thing was, Bossk wasn’t seeking information, he wasn’t looking for a confession, he was going to torture Loic simply for the pure enjoyment of it, if there was information to reveal or a confession to make Loic would be spilling his guts like a drunk pilot in a cantina, but rather Loic would probably just be literally spilling his guts. The reality of the situation caused his stomach to lurch and he threw up what was left of its frugal contents down the front of his tunic.

“You see,” rasped Bossk as the wookie wailed and the noise blared behind him, “there are many ways I like to torture captives. Take them down to a desert planet, put them in a wooden tub with just their head sticking out, smear kete nectar on their face to attract the sparkbees and zingbees to sting them and the kubindi ants to crawl on their face and bite them. The subject is also forcefed so that after a few days he is standing in his own excrement, after a few more days the maggots and the worms begin to devour their flesh, and then I can watch them slowly die, being eaten alive over a long period of time. I do enjoy watching a slow death, it’s relaxing. Unfortunately space bum, I can’t kill you, you’re bounty is worth too much, and I only have until we arrive at Huttspace to deal with you, so we’ll just do this the old fashioned quick way…”

Loic thought about how Jabba the Hutt used to impale his victims by making them sit on a sharp spike, then would allow their own body weight to slowly impale them over days, that was considered a bad way to go, at least Loic had one thing on his side, this was going to be quick, for some reason the thought didn’t offer much comfort though.

With a sharp hiss of metal a lethal looking curved blade was unsheathed from a  scabbard on the wall. Bossk tested the edge with his scaled finger and satisfied turned back to the trembling spice smuggler who had fluids escaping from more than one source of his body. “Sakkra wants you alive, but she didn’t say you’d have to have your arms and legs.” Noting the fear welling up in the orbs of Loic’s widening eyes Bossk added, “Don’t worry, I’ll start with the small stuff first, the ears, the teeth, the nose, the fingers, the toes, I’ll work my way up to the arms and legs so that you can get used to it… And they say I’m not kind?” Taking an ear between two clawtips Bossk stretched it out and prepared to slice it off.

“Your wookie’s escaping.” Said Loic, Bossk stopped, scowled and looked behind him to the wookie cage. Sure enough, the stress of the noise frequency being played was driving the wookie insane. Insane enough to bend the bars of its cage slightly, this required immediate attention from the Trandoshan as left unchecked the wookie may escape and spoil his fun.

“Excuse me,” said the bounty hunter acerbically and approached the cell. He started to unlock the barred door. “I’m moving you to a more secure cell, no funny business or I’ll skin you and I’ll go back to your tribe to wipe every single relative of yours off the face of Kashyyyk, same way I did to your wife over there.” Gesturing to the wookie on the wall, the prisoner however was not listening, too concerned with the stabbing pain in his head caused by the noise.

As soon as the door was opened the highly-strung wookie pounced, but Bossk was ready and he sidstepped hip-tossing the creature across the room with apparent ease. The wookie landed and rolled, came back up flailing, and ran at Bossk with its arms windmilling. Bossk caught the beast square across the jaw with a rough backhander followed by a jab that floored the wookie again. It rose back to its feet, choking and clutching its throat where the jab had connected. “Suddenly you’ve got some fight in you!? At the most inappropriate time! How inconvenient.” Snarled Bossk, he lifted the wookie with his crocodilian strength and went to launch him against the wall, but the wookie struggled and kicked and managed to connect Bossk with an elbow above the eye. Dropping back to its feet the wookie wrapped both its huge furry paws round the lizard’s thick branchlike neck and started to strangulate him. The bounty hunter rasped and gnashed as the oxygen was squeezed from his windpipe, his eyes bulged and his nostrils flared.

Sensing he was losing control Bossk lashed out with a talon that opened the creature at the throat, with blood cascading from the wound the wookie used its last dying minute to choke the lifeforce out of the Trandoshan, Bossk went limp and the wookie tossed him aside. Then he staggered towards Loic, apparently with the intention of freeing him, but he was losing blood fast, it formed in large puddles behind it as it staggered forward. A mere arms-length from Loic the large, grey-haired wookie finally succumb to its injuries and slumped to its feet below Loic, before rolling over, motionless, all animation had left the creature’s soul, and it had that look of eternal peace on its face as it slipped into the netherworld and left its troubles and stresses behind.

This was frustrating, seconds from freedom Loic’s luck had run out, the wookie lay pooling dark blood below his feet where he dangled, a few spasmodic twitches were the only motion left in the dead beast. Loic looked over to Bossk, his captor may be dead but he was still a captive until the unmanned ship inevitably left hyperspace and crashed. No sooner had Loic thought this than something caught his attention which curdled his blood, freezing it in his veins. A movement, almost imperceptible, but there nonetheless, the movement of Bossk’s ribcage as he caught shallow intermittent breaths, the bastard was still alive, the wookie had sacrificed his life to kill the Trandoshen but he had only rendered him unconscious and prolonged Loic’s sinister fate. Loic had preferred it when he thought the ship was going to hurtle uncontrollably into a collision, now the possibility of torture was back on the cards, and that was just a precursor to what Sakkra had in store for him. Not for the first time that day, Loic hung his head and wept like a brokenhearted child, the fat glistening globs of his tears, fell in what looked to Loic like slow motion, onto the blood-drenched carcass of the wookie below him.

Then, a buzzing replaced the high-pitched frequency that had drove the wookie crazy, the buzzing was an alarm, indicating they were approaching Huttspace, the wookie hadn’t died in vain, it had bought Loic precious time and saved him from torture…

TO BE CONTINUED…

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