The Hunt Begins
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....
A galaxy divided! Following the Battle of Yavin, tensions rise between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Inspired by the Rebellion’s victory, more star systems are choosing to aid in their struggle to defeat the Empire. But the Sith Lord Darth Vader has become obsessed with finding aspiring Jedi Luke Skywalker, the young rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star.
Meanwhile, in the Outer Rim, where the Empire has no jurisdiction, the vile crime lord, Jabba the Hutt, has placed a bounty on Han Solo, a smuggler who has allied himself with Skywalker. Intent on collecting the debt owed to him by Solo, Jabba has hired the most fearsome bounty hunters in the galaxy to track him down. Little does he know that the one who succeeds will find an even greater prize….
Jabba Desilijic Tiure had been one of the leading crime lords on Tatooine for hundreds of years. A vile and grotesque slug-like Hutt, he delighted in making money in any way that he could – and torturing anyone who stood in the way of his profits. He tended to operate through bounty hunters and middlemen so the Empire wouldn’t trace his crimes back to him. Everyone in the Outer Rim knew better than to upset Jabba, or face his wrath.
Jabba resided in a palace located near the Dune Sea on Tatooine. The palace was comprised of a large, round central rotunda with a taller spire adjacent to it. Long ago, it had been a monastery for the religious order of the B’omarr Monks. However, the monastery was overrun and the monks were driven into the lowest dungeons. Jabba converted the monastery into his palace/fortress, covering the exterior with sand-colored ditanium plates and installing extra security systems and employing dozens of guards.
As he approached the palace in his ship, Slave I, Boba Fett eyed the palace with distaste. He regarded Jabba and his band of cronies to be disgusting gangsters, and wished to have nothing to do with them. The only reason he took jobs for the Hutt was because of the difficulty of the jobs and the high price they paid. When Jabba contacted him the other day, he told Boba that the promised bounty would be more than he had ever collected.
The gruff voice of the palace’s space controller spoke on Slave I’s intercom system. “We ‘ave you on our scopes now. Identify yerself.”
Boba pressed the microphone button and replied through his Mandalorian helmet, “This is Boba Fett. I have an audience with
“Do you ‘ave a landin’ permit?”
Even though the controller couldn’t see it, Boba shook his head. “I’ve never needed one here.”
There was a brief silence as the controller scanned Slave I. Finally, he said, “Wait a minute. I’m pickin’ up ‘igh explosives in yer cargo bay. What are they for?”
Boba was obviously becoming annoyed, for he responded flatly, “If you don’t let me land right now, I can show you.”
The controller was outraged. “Is tha’ a threat? If you so much as think about ‘armin’ the mighty Jabba, you can spend the rest o’ yer life in the dungeon if yer lucky! I ain’t lettin’ you anywhere
near ‘ere with tha’ cargo.”
“What if Jabba ordered the explosives? Would he be happy to hear that you turned away his valuable delivery?” Boba was sure that that would end the conversation quickly.
It did. A few seconds later, the controller said, “You ‘ave permission to land.”
Boba didn’t say anything more, but continued to pilot Slave I toward the landing pad in front of the rotunda. “I’d say that went well, wouldn’t you?”
In the seat next to him, his copilot crossed her arms and said, “You know, maybe next time you should consider being a little less threatening. That guy could have easily shot us out of the
“Not this ship, sister. I could have the shields up and the lasers firing before he could hit us. Besides, you know how good of a pilot I am.”
Ashla shrugged. “If you say so.”
As fearsome and mysterious as Boba Fett was, his partner Ashla was even more so than he was. Ashla Fett was an adult Togruta female with red skin, yellow face markings, and white montrals with three lekku head-tails decorated with wide purple stripes. She wore a black jumpsuit, two bandoliers over her chest, a utility belt, and dark brown boots. She was armed with a sniper rifle slung over her shoulder, two blaster pistols contained in holsters on her belt, and two daggers tucked into hidden compartments in her boots. If her arsenal wasn’t intimidating enough, her agility was unmatched. She had amazingly quick reflexes, acrobatic skills, and a great deal of tactical intelligence. No one knew anything about her past, except that she had been working with Boba Fett for the second half of her life. Even her true name was unknown. She went only by Ashla Fett to conserve her anonymity.
Slave I angled downward towards the palace. There was a flat mesa in front of the rotunda reserved for short-term landing.
And Boba had no intention of staying long. Once they were close enough, Boba rotated the ship onto its flat back for landing. His
modifications to the ship included a gyroscopic cockpit, so that the crew of the ship would always remain upright. Boba shut everything down except for the emergency power systems, just in case they needed to make a quick getaway. Once they were certain that Slave I was safe, Boba and Ashla exited the ship through the entry hatch.
Apparently, the air controller was still suspicious of the bounty hunters, for as they approached the palace’s main gate, several green-skinned porcine Gamorrean guards hobbled up to them, holding their vibroaxes ready. Most beings agreed that these pig-like humanoids did not make for formidable security. Although they were big and strong, they were also fat, slow, stupid, and
incredibly disgusting. The guards continued to point their axes at Boba and Ashla even as they reached the massive brown metal door. Boba knocked and a circular panel slid open, allowing a gatekeeper droid to appear. The droid was basically a fist-sized sphere attached to a long arm, and its single photoreceptor surveyed the visitors up and down.
Boba explained, “Jabba the Hutt has requested our presence. He is waiting for us.” The droid, according to its programming, didn’t think it needed to hear any more. The arm retracted back into its panel and with a long creaking sound, the heavy door slid slowly upwards. Once the door stopped rising, the bounty hunters walked in, followed closely by the Gamorrean guards. The group was then greeted by Jabba’s majordomo, Bib Fortuna.
Bib was a pale-skinned Twi’lek with red eyes, sharp teeth, and two lekku head-tails wrapped around his neck. He gave a command in Huttese to the guards, ordering them to stand down. And then he told the bounty hunters to follow him.
Bib led them into Jabba’s main audience chamber, where dozens of aliens drank, talked, listened to the profane songs being played by the Max Rebo band, and watched the scantily-clad Twi’lek slaves dance alluringly. Sitting on a raised dais in the middle of the room was Jabba the Hutt himself. He was approximately 1.75 meters tall and almost 4 meters long, including his tail. He had olive-green skin and a tan belly, a wide mouth, and large orange eyes. His total weight was approximately 1,300 kilograms. To meet his nutritional demands, several chefs worked around the clock to feed him. An orange Kowakian Monkey-Lizard named Salacious Crumb sat at Jabba’s side as a pet, although he personally enjoyed watching the Hutt deal with his enemies. Jabba often smoked his hookah pipe and ate frog-like Gorgs from a bowl.
Boba and Ashla stood in front of the dais while Bib Fortuna whispered into the Hutt’s ear. Once Bib had finished speaking, Jabba addressed the bounty hunters in his low, rumbling voice. A protocol droid standing next to Jabba interpreted his Huttese into Galactic Basic. “The most gracious Jabba welcomes you to his palace. He is pleased you could come.”
“We’re not here for a visit,” said Boba. “I was told you had a job for us.”
Jabba laughed and explained the situation. The droid interpreted, “You are familiar with Han Solo, the infamous smuggler? He owes Jabba greatly for losing a spice shipment. He promised to pay up a year ago, and now Jabba has lost his patience. He wishes for you to track down Solo and bring him before the mighty Jabba.”
Boba and Ashla knew all about Han Solo. Solo was a young smuggler who once worked for Jabba. However, while carrying a valuable spice shipment for the Hutt, Solo was forced to jettison the shipment to avoid being captured by an Imperial Star Destroyer. Outraged, Jabba had demanded that Solo compensate him for the lost cargo. Solo continuously promised to repay him, giving more excuses and more promises, but he never came through.
Boba asked, “What’s in it for us?”
Jabba answered and the droid translated, “There is a very handsome bounty on both Solo’s head and his friend Chewbacca’s. If you succeed in your mission, Jabba will be more than happy to reward you for it.”
The two bounty hunters looked at each other, silently asking for each other’s opinion. When they both nodded, Boba turned back to Jabba and said, “You got a deal, Jabba. We’ll find Solo and his friend, and bring them both to you.”
Jabba chortled happily and wished them good luck. With their business completed, Boba and Ashla left the palace and returned to Slave I. Once they were aboard, Ashla commented, “Solo’s always been slippery when it comes to debts. He won’t be easy to catch.”
Boba responded, “Who cares? No one can hide forever, and we’ve got the brains and the tools to outmatch him. We’ll find him eventually. Besides, think about the money. You’re always talking about settling down and enjoying life.”
Ashla nodded her head. “Yes, I do want to live a quieter life. I’m tired of always running around scooping up criminals. I want to do what I’ve wanted to do for many years now; I want to retire.”
“And you can do that. With the money we get from this job, we can get a permanent home, start a family, and have everything
you want. I can help you, Ashla. All you have to do is say the word.”
Ashla smiled and raised an eyebrow. “Are you proposing to me? After all these years, you suddenly pluck up the courage to ask that question?”
“So you’re saying you don’t want to get married.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then you do want to get married?”
Ashla laughed. “You’re not making this very romantic. But, I’ll give you an answer: Yes. I’ll do it. But first we need to find Solo.”
Boba sighed in relief. “Glad we got that out of the way. I suggest we split up. We’ll cover more ground that way.”
“Well, for that, I’ll need my ship. Hopefully, it’s fixed by now.”
“All right,” responded Boba, “I’ll drop you off at the shipyard and then go get some supplies.”
“Okay, but remember, you’re paying for the repairs since the damage was your fault.”
“Hey!” Boba yelled defensively. “That wasn’t my fault! I didn’t know the stabilizer was loose.”
Ashla rolled her eyes. “Obviously, since it was in perfect shape when you flew it. It’s just a coincidence that it decided to break when I flew it after you.”
Slave I’s repulsorlift engines fired, lifting itself into the air. Then the ship rotated forward and soared away from Jabba’s palace at high speed.
Deep in space, several wedge-shaped Imperial Star Destroyers hovered while hundreds of TIE fighters and shuttles flew around them. Each battleship was 1,600 meters long and boasted elite shielding and engine systems, along with over 120 weapons. Each ship was designed to inspire fear in all who opposed it. But as terrifying as the Star Destroyers were, they were nothing compared to the flagship of the Imperial fleet.
The Executor was a Super Star Destroyer, about twelve times the length of a regular Star Destroyer and with a sharper wedge angle. The Executor had more engines with higher power, boasted 5,000 turbolasers and ion cannons, and could complement thousands of fighters, shuttles, and tanks and millions of Stormtroopers. Coupled with the ship’s state-of-the-art shields and titanium-alusteel hull, the Executor was virtually
unstoppable. And the ship’s commander alone could make anyone cringe with fear.
Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, had served the Emperor since his rise to power. Vader had participated in the brutal murders of hundreds of Jedi Knights, the former guardians of peace and
justice in the old Republic. Vader wore a black leather suit with shining armor and a cape to match. On his chest was a control panel that allowed him to operate his suit as needed. His most terrifying feature was his black mask and helmet. His mask was shaped in the likeness of a skull, and his helmet completely covered his head. Various rumors had been created to explain the helmet, but no one wanted to know if they were true for fear of facing Vader’s wrath. The Sith Lord was renowned within the Empire for using the mysterious Force to strangle people who displeased him. The only two people in the Imperial hierarchy who could command Vader were the Emperor himself and the late Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin.
Vader maintained his personal quarters aboard the Executor, although his belongings were sparse. His room was dominated by a spherical meditation chamber that was completely pressurized when closed, allowing Vader to survive without his helmet. There was a communication system in the chamber that allowed Vader to speak directly to the ship’s bridge, although he
still preferred the officers to report to him in person.
Admiral Kendall Ozzel hurried down the hallway towards Vader’s quarters. He knew that it was unwise to keep Vader waiting, and even more so to deliver an empty report. He desperately hoped Vader would accept the progress he had made, but on the other hand, they still had no idea where the rebels were. Ozzel stopped in front of the doors to Vader’s quarters and inhaled deeply, attempting to compose himself for his meeting with the dark lord. He hoped that if he remained calm and confident, perhaps Vader would accept his report.
The doors slid open and Ozzel strode into the room. The black meditation sphere was closed, but Ozzel had a strong suspicion
that Vader was inside. His suspicions were confirmed when the top half of the sphere was lifted from the bottom half. They weren’t perfect halves, however; trapezoidal sections protruded from the bottom of the top half, giving the chamber the appearance of the head of a monster, with Vader sitting in a chair inside its mouth. Vader’s mechanical breathing was interrupted by his deep voice. “Admiral, have you made any progress?”
Ozzel stood at attention and reported, “Lord Vader, one of our Star Destroyers has intercepted a Corellian counselor frigate with two starfighter escorts. We strongly believe that they are allied with the Rebel Alliance.”
If Vader was the least bit surprised, he didn’t show it. “Where were they headed?”
Ozzel hesitated for a split second to choose his words carefully. “Actually, the ships were destroyed, and the passengers we captured refused to talk. So they were executed.”
Vader stood and strode menacingly toward the admiral. “Who gave the order to destroy the ships and the prisoners?”
Ozzel stammered, “Uh, it was me, my lord.”
Vader stopped less than a meter in front of Ozzel. “You should have known, Admiral, that the rebels will not easily succumb
to interrogation. You should have ordered your men to follow the ships. They could have led us to some of the rebel leaders, or even one of the rebel bases. Now, we are no further than we were before, because of your failure.”
Ozzel instinctively stepped backwards and his eyes widened in fear. “I – I assure you, my lord, that it will not happen again. I will personally see to it that next time-“
“Next time?” repeated Vader, “Should I allow there to be a next time? Can you rectify your mistake?” Vader raised his hand and held his thumb and index finger three centimeters apart.
Immediately, Ozzel grasped his throat and began to choke. He rasped, “I will… not… disappoint you again… my lord.”
After a second’s consideration, Vader lowered his hand, releasing his victim. “I hope so, Admiral, for your sake.” Ozzel bowed and hurriedly left the room. As he did so, Vader said, mostly to himself, “The rebels are becoming stronger. I can feel their resolve growing. The destruction of the Death Star was a declaration of open war. And the pilot who fired that fatal shot, he was strong with the Force. If a Jedi has joined the Rebellion, he could be a threat to us. He must be hunted down and destroyed at all costs.”