Watch out for things that go too well
It was all too easy. His merchandise usually didn’t provide an address for pickup. But this one was foolish enough to have his bills sent home where the contractor was already fuming. Yes, the orbital surveillance on that planet was tight, not allowing anybody to land without an invitation and a place to stay. But the flight information system was outdated and buggy enough to swallow some quickly improvised records. The slice was rewarded with detailed navigation advice.
Surprisingly, the incoming space travel wasn’t concentrated on space ports but directed right to his pretended destination. “You’ll be attended to personally as soon as you land.” A friendly voice chattered and bid a farewell. With an icy “Roger” the tan skinned, scarred pilot clad in a blue body suit and silver armor cut the transmission. Jango Fett knew his type wasn’t welcome. ‘That’s getting too close,’ he decided, dropped below scanner level and wiped his entry from the flight information system. An outcrop in the vicinity of the resort would do for the landing. By dawn he would be gone.
From the co-pilot’s seat a firmly strapped-in Boba eyed the country side rushing through underneath the Slave I with curiosity. This was so different to the endless grey waves of the Kaminoan sea: rocky ridges rising from dark green woods, patches and terraces of emerald green and golden yellow fields and wavy meadows. Water presented itself in sapphire blue lakes huddled in between like jewels.
“Dad? Is there fish in those lakes?”
Jango cast his exited son a quick glimpse. “I suppose.” He had already expected that holozines, Kamino and an occasional visit of the training grounds wouldn’t fulfill his son’s curiosity for long. A hunter needed to blend in, move and feed himself in any possible climate. That would need some off-world excursions and scouting. Probably soon after this job was done. “But you need to find some sleep and I need to find the bounty. We will leave upon my return.”
“Why? It’s not even dark out there.”
“That’s because we are on another planet. But it’s already way past your bedtime. I have allowed you to stay up just to see the landing, remember?”
One of the first things Boba had learned was that promises had to be kept when he wanted to go hunting with dad. Now he felt disappointed and grown up at the same time. “Yes, dad.”
Jango smiled “That’s my boy.” He sat the Slave I down, prepared a head-start, tucked his son in and donned his helmet. A key on his wristlink closed and locked the hatch when he strode down the landing ramp. About five minutes later, Boba noted his missing bedtime-story. No story, no deal, no sleep... after another five minutes and the requisition of a box to reach the control panel, he entered dad’s key to the trusted Slave I. He had watched it frequently.
Meanwhile, the grown-up hunter found out that the resort was larger than expected, with dozens of thatched cottages arranged in a country side that looked too neat to be a work of nature. It certainly gave the guests a maximum of privacy. Normally, he would scan the area for the target or a terminal, slice into the resort’s info system and snatch the merchandise right from its room. Tonight his effort would consist of a glimpse at the holomap created from the Slave I’s scanner readouts, enhanced with his special guest’s given location.
The downside was the “alive and unhurt” in the contract. He preferred not to haul around the merchandise. Even with the foldable antigrav stretcher he had strapped to his backpack, living merchandise was heavy, not to mention noisy and messy. But a deal was a deal. Using the scanner array of his helmet, he carefully slipped from cover to cover. Apparently, most of the beings had assembled in two areas: some near the bright infrared marks that gave it away as a kitchen, other markings were obscured in pools fed by a hot well. Dinner time, obviously. No need to draw attention. Jango settled in. Sooner or later the merchandise would come to him.
Forty minutes later, his patience was rewarded. Two persons came down the canopied walkway with a lantern, chatting silently. A male and a female. The wood of the wide veranda gnawed under the weight, and then a sliding door swished open and close again. He switched back to infrared. A third, bright marking appeared when a fire was lit in the centre of the cottage, obscuring the vital signs some. He would wait for the house maid to leave, then finish the job and be gone before any of the staff noticed an intrusion.
Dull sound of mats hitting the ground. Rustling fabric. Low chuckle. Silence. Moaning, male. Heat sources down to two. Apparently, somebody else was going to finish first, which called for a record and made it two targets according to the contract. “Enjoy, could be your last” he snorted inside the helmet and threw a switch for recording. Half an hour later, it grew silent then the female voice emerged again. He got up to make his move, but had to dodge quickly at an unexpected swiff of the door. The socked feet of the assumed whore padded silently over the veranda then vanished on the walkway behind the cottage’s corner.
Jango came up the other end of the veranda, blaster drawn. He flanked over a low balustrade and pushed the slide door open, leveling the hand with dart-thrower at the drowsy target. Yes, that was the guy he was looking for. “What... ouch” The dart hit the centre of his bare, sweat gleaming chest, stinging like a bee when it discharged, “Time to go home to your wife.” Wide eyes showed no recognition of the gravelly voice. The hand that had reached for the dart dropped back on the mats with the rest of the limp body. Jango stepped into the room and pulled the door shut behind him. He checked the pulse and breathing rate, then assembled the anti-grav-stretcher and hauled the heavy unconscious body on it.
Meanwhile, the house keeper hurried back into the main house with demure little steps, fetched an artistically arranged dinner-tray from a kitchen assistant, a tea kettle and a bottle of warmed wine from the barkeeper and bid a good night to them before returning over the walkway to mend her cottage.
A boy cowering tensely on the walkway over the larger pond caught her attention: off-worldly clothing, dark mop of curly hair, tanned skin, solid black boots. She lowered in her knees, shifting the weight of the tray to her left hand and smoothed the narrow hem of her skirt against her ankle, squatting down to talk. “Are you lost?” her voice was low and melodic.
“No” came the boy’s short answer at the disturbance, a quick gaze rushed over her, then dropped back to the water. Some of the splendid red, white and black fish had turned away because of the light footfalls and the rising voices, but now they were back and even more assembling. Maybe that calm person wasn’t so much of a disturbance after all. “They are beautiful but stupid. Easy catch.” Boba retorted with a twitch of his face.
“They are tame. I feed them every morning, we don’t feed on them... and you think that your parents are going to miss you at dinner?” She added with a wink.
“I already had dinner.” The boy retorted, using the possibility for another question “Why don’t you eat them?”
“Oh, you are swift,” she smiled “We don’t eat them because their bright colors complete the pond. The pond completes the landscape. The land is our life.” She looked at him for comprehension “Take your time to find out for yourself. Just give me your name, in case your parents start looking for you.” - “Boba.” – “I’m Tomoe, nice to meet you.” She bowed, stood and side-stepped him to continue to her cottage.
The first thing she noted was the lack of light coming through the semi-translucent slide door. Surely she had given the fire enough nurturing and she had not been away that long? Tomoe kneeled and set the covered tray on the veranda beside her, “Sorry I have let you wait, Oniro-sama”, she announced herself briskly and slid the door open with one hand, switched hands in front of her body to push it open fully then bowed on the door step. She got no answer. Apparently, her guest was still resting.
She turned on her knees to pick up the tray and enter when something rose swiftly in the back of the room, a face obscured by matte silver metal and a T-shaped visor. She twitched and reached over the tray to steady the tea kettle from tumbling. “Who are you?” She rose to her feet, the kettle still hanging from her palm.
“Come in.” a low gravelly voice commanded with an outstretched hand while the other came up to level a weapon at her face. A jerk of her arm sent the kettle flying into his direction. It shattered at a roof beam, hot water splattering all over the place. Her dash to the left brushed past the dinner tray, sending the covers clattering over the wooden floor.
“Fierfek” Jango ran for the door, scurrying to near halt to clear one corner, then the next. Of course he could have unleashed a dart any time, but there hadn’t been the possibility of a clean shot. With each dart carrying a dose to render any large humanoid unconscious, one and a half dose could lead to cardiac arrest of such an under grown target. Though panic seemed to have stretched her legs and now the pillars and handrails of the walkway’s roof got into his line of fire.
Tomoe rushed down the walkway for help “Run,” she hissed when she grabbed the kid by the shoulders and hauled him to his feet. The boy struggled to free himself. “Assassin’s coming” she gasped, shoved him in front of her and ushered him into a run.
The quick heavy footfalls in her back told her that they would not make it into the safety of the main house. Not with the startled boy turning every second step to see what was behind them. “Down there, keep on running,” she commanded and shoved him to the steps leading down to the staff entrance. “Tomoe?!” She retrieved a sheathed knife from the folds of her wide silken sash and turned to face the attacker, blocking the branching with her body. She took a defensive stance, arms raised; her long fluttering sleeves obscured the sheathed knife clutched in her hands.
Jango’s hackles rose when he spotted a familiar form hauled along by the servant girl who had just ruined his evening. How did Boba get there? His annoyance was replaced by ice cold anger tinged with fear. “Bad idea.” he growled. Few were foolish enough to make a lonely stance against a Mandalorian warrior. But nobody threatened his son and lived. A trap? He scanned the surroundings.
“Leave him alone. He hasn’t seen a thing.” Tomoe tried to sound reasonable, her voice low and soft and slow. Any discussion would help Boba to escape. “He’s too young to be taken into account as a witness.” She did not turn her eyes from the black T-shaped visor, but listened for the boy’s dwindling footfalls.
“Turn him over to me or die.” Did she think she was protecting his boy from him? At least she was poised there like a Krayt dragon over its nest. The elaborate jet-black updo and hairpins had become a crown of horns, the silken wrap around her mid shimmered like the scales of an unfolding amphibian. Beautiful, deadly and ready to pounce at him.
“No,” the sudden silence behind her drove Tomoe to desperate measures, “Boba, run... RUN!” she yelled.
A flick of his wrist fired a dart. Proper target or not, Jango couldn’t have her alarming the whole resort. A blade flashed through the shadows of the roofed corridor in a clattering downwards arch, and then she rushed at him. The second dart embedded below her left collarbone. ‘Gotcha.’ Carried by the body’s momentum, the tip of the knife left a long scratch beside the visor as the length of her lower arm crashed against his chest plate.
He had managed to press his chin down on his chest just in time to prevent the blade from embedding into his chin and mouth before going up into his skull. His harsh shove and the dart’s effect knocked her to the ground hard. A quick kick removed the knife from the vicinity of her limp hand. “Boba, come here.”
Quickly, the boy scrambled up the steps, but then he slowed with his head hanging, picking up the disposed sheath. He offered it to his father who just removed the second dart from the prone form, pocketed it and then checked for life signs and weapons. His first dart was nowhere in sight.
“I’ll hear you later, now move it.” Jango hoisted up the limp body, rested it briefly against a pillar then threw it over his shoulder to walk briskly back to the cottage. Inside he dropped his burden on the anti-grav slide and activated it. Covered by nightfall he towed the double load back to Slave I. Boba trotted behind silently, clutching Tomoe’s lost knife to his chest. He felt that he had made a serious mistake.
Inside the freight compartment, Jango rolled the lithe female body aside to take care of the male who would wake first. The man’s loose robe and undergarments were frisked in an instant. Steady vital signs, no weapons, just a belt to remove before he put him into a cage and locked it. Jango turned to the woman. She was pale, her faint vital signs barely tangible with gloved hands. He ran his palm lightly over her neck and face, pulling a long pin from her updo. He whistled at its pointy tip. Her multi-layered robe and elaborate hairdo would take considerably longer. He put her into another cage for the time being and took Boba up into the cockpit for the lift-off.
“How could she find you and even know your name?”
“I just had a look around. Nobody cared… until she came along and spoke to me.”
“And you gave her your name?”
“Yes... she was somehow convinced that I was lost.”
“Never give your name away to strangers, Boba... and never leave the ship without my approval. You’ve seen how dangerous it is.”
“I won’t do it again, dad.”
Some time passed until Boba dared to speak up again
“Tomoe wasn’t frightening me before she freaked out and you shot her. Just curious... nice.”
“We deliver. Then we go home”
“And then... what happens with Tomoe, I mean.”
“I don’t know. The contractor has an issue with Mr. Oniro. The woman has taken a part in it, so she is to be included in the contract.” The problem had been named. Tomoe. His son’s sudden attachment puzzled him.
“Is she a thief or somebody... criminal?”
“No. It seems to be a personal vengeance thing.”
“Good, then I wasn’t wrong about her. But.... what did she do?”
Jango would not explain in detail to his five year old son what kind of evidence he had recorded for Mrs. Oniro and her relatives. By then, he wasn’t entirely sure that he had caught the right type of serviceable woman. The ferocious outburst didn’t fit the picture. Escaping the planet’s atmosphere and gravity well the Slave I jumped into hyperspace to meet the delivery co-ordinates.
Jango stood, “I have to check on her. Stay in the cockpit.” – “Yes.”