“Bounty hunters, we don’t need their scum,” I heard one of the Imperial Commanders mutter to a subordinate, from my vantage point above the control trench. Scum? I gave a thought to dropping down to his level and asking for a clarification on the insult, but I was out-gunned in the way a flashlight is against a black hole and opted for discretion. The other bounty hunters and I were the most dangerous trackers in the galaxy, and we had raced to the Imperial Star Destroyer for a once-in-a-lifetime job. I didn’t want to screw it up before I even started.
I was a million parsecs and a million years from home. Yeah, I guess the story of how I travelled in time and space is a good one, but that’s not the one I’m gonna tell you today. Remind me some other time?
I had adapted to life on the edge of the universe and made a nice career for myself as a hunter, specifically one that hunts people for money. I use the term with a sarcastic tone, because the pricks I pursue are often almost as bad as the ones that pay me. Speaking of people, I wasn’t alone. My hunting buddy was a little brown furry beast who, in the right costume, could pass for a child’s stuffed toy. He is from a tiny forested moon planet populated by thousands of the primitive critters whose only use in the universe is target practice. That, and maybe stitched together a nice throw rug. T’raxx was an exception; a cruel creature with no love of the Empire, he has a skill at urban and wilderness tracking that makes him very valuable. He’s my partner and my best friend.
We stood alongside the other bounty hunters awaiting orders aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer, but it wasn’t a team effort by any stretch of the imagination; we all sought the reward offered by the Empire. It was every man for himself- not to say that the others were human, or even males. Some, like EYE GEE 88, weren’t even living creatures. I still owe him for poaching a job from me on Tapper 12, a few months ago. He looked at me with red eyes and a smug expression that pissed me off. How does a robot look smug? I don’t know, I just knew he was gloating. I bet he’d make a nice coat rack.
T’raxx nudged me and I realized the boss had been speaking and I missed the pep talk. I tuned in as he was warning a particularly-effective rival against disintegrations. I chuckled to myself. What the green-helmeted dummy didn’t know was that when he beat me to the last target, I simply sniped him from a distance with a Lucarian disruptor rifle. I was distracted again, almost instantly, as I admired the intimidating fashion choice of the my employer. I made a decision to get myself a cape as soon as possible. Black. Definitely black.
T’raxx snickered with glee, his eyes wide and crazy with anticipation of the hunt. I, on the other hand, was more interested in the two-hundred thousand galactic credits being offered for the prey, some farm boy from a dust planet full of sand farmers that I never heard of. T’raxx asked me the same question I was thinking. I replied, “I don’t know what the kid did to cheese off the Empire, buddy. And I don’t care. Sounds like easy money.”
Once the boss in the cape was finished talking, we scrambled for our ship. The bay doors of the battle-scarred, refitted Tribellian ferry opened and the access stairs lowered. At the top of the stairs waited the former sex droid, now translator and communication specialist, 6D9 4U2. The droid was old, but very useful. I dashed up the stairs and barked orders at the purple cylindrical robot. “Start searching communication chatter in the area. We’re looking for a kid named Sky Fucker.” T’razz gave a correction that sounded more like a dog trying to bark “I love you” than actual words and I corrected myself, “Right. What he said. Walker not Fucker.”
As we prepared for take-off, our other robot, a red painted, humanoid, piloting-assistant ‘bot entered the cockpit. “Sirs, I have some bad news. I’m afraid damage from our last firefight has left us without the ability to attain lightspeed.”
I didn’t believe him for a second. “Sit down and prepare for launch, JK. And no more comedy,” I said as I sat down. JK-PO was very useful, especially when preparing mathematical coordinates, even if his attempts at humor often made me think of turning him into an expensive coffee maker.
What we didn’t know at the time is we were being followed. EYE GEE 88, rather than do his (Its? I always think of the piece-of-shit robot as a guy) own work, he had dropped a tracking device onto the floor that T’razz had stepped on. As if racing against a half dozen of the best bounty hunters in the universe wasn’t enough, we were being followed by the most dangerous robot ever created. And he still owed me money.