Halaius found it hard to call himself a hunter. Of all the innumerable qualities the hunter possessed, he had none of them. No graceful strides, no legendary patience, and certainly no feel for the pulsing rhythm of his prey. When he stopped to listen nothing reached him but the dull hum of a hyperspace engine, the clatter of crew, and the creaking of an aging hull. Those who hired him and those he worked with threw around the term bounty hunter easily enough, but the truth of it was he was a hunter as is the man in the middle of a forest, cold, shivering, with an empty stomach and only a club and tattered rags to his name. Bludgeoning the first animal stupid or slow enough to remain near enough for him to reach.
Only this man was driven towards greater prey. He ignored the rabbits and the deer and set his sights on the mountain lion, because stirring beneath that hunger was the insatiable drive for conquest and the undeniable need to serve. Slaying the lion would grant easy nights for those of the village he long ago left. He found it hard to call himself a hunter, but he hunted. There were no lions in the deep dead space for him to club, but there were other threats and other challenges. Things much more frightening and much more dangerous. A dark jedi was prey enough for a thousand legendary and fabled hunters and more than enough to slay the lot of them.
Everytime Hal looked into the mirror slab on the bathroom bulkhead the questions came flowing free, and for every question, an insult. Why would he take this job? What a fool he is. How will he ever accomplish such a feat when he barely had the skills for a minor criminal? And what will happen to her? But the questions, the doubts, the insults, the fears, underneath it all thrummed the ever present thrill of the hunt, and the need. Always the need. The necessity bore its way into his very fabric until he felt as a computer must feel. Do I want to do this, no matter how exciting? Probably not. Will I? Of that there was no question, no doubt.
So here he floated, aboard the bridge of a half destroyed pirate vessel that could barely contain atmosphere. Amidst cold and hard men, those who knew no pity or mercy, hunting.
“We can jump any time you’re ready, Hal” one of the other men said. He didn’t recognize the voice, never having taken the time to get to know most of them. The point had been lost on him when he realized most if not all of them would be slaughtered. No reply was given, and they waited. Floating around the command deck, some tethered to their stations, others holding on to the computers in front of them. His eyes followed the seams of a crack in the viewport and he imagined it as his journey. Long and twisting, and there, a 90 degree turn of fate when he had managed to secure this vessel and her crew. A fortune, or a curse, one might say. His father had always told him though, one mans trash is anothers treasure, and this vessel was all he had. It might as well have been a super star destroyer when he got his hands on it.
“I won’t sit on my ass all day while you float about, jump this fucking ship Makia” it was the first man again. Hal turned his sunken gray eyes on the pirate. The man’s face was beaten like none he had ever seen. An eye missing, a scar running the length of his face, and everywhere chips. The nose told the tale the best though. It was crooked and bent, but not by any natural means. It had been broken and reset so many times that whatever shape it had once held was now a distant memory. He wore simple unassuming garb, a few odd pieces of leather or metal, and on his belt a blade and a blaster pistol. When Hal locked eyes with him there was only fire and defiance. None of them feared him, he knew that. Nor did they respect him. A fat bounty brought them together and pushed them forward, but the binding force of it all was ignorance. Ignorance of what Jedi could do. What they were capable of.
Halaius didn’t imagine he could have inspired much dread if he tried as it were. He was old now, far older than he had been when he had joined the Federation. His hair was gray and his face sunken. It had never really occurred to him until he had tried to get out of bed one morning and found himself in pain. When the gravity had failed it had been a blessing.
“Not yet” he said, his voice deep and harsh.
The other man bit back venom, “Why not, exactly?”
“We’re meeting another ship. I want them there first”.
“Sounds like a genius plan. Go in one at a time. Why don’t we just cut our throats now?”
“Just do what you’re told”
“Do what I’m told? Do you think you’re the boss here old man?”
The truth of it was they were dead either way, but his plan had some merit. The other ship contained a vital piece of equipment that would prevent hyperspace jumps from any other vessel close enough to be affected by it, but had no fighting capabilities of its own. The end goal was to get aboard Thrakis’ ship, after that the ability to stop hyperspace jumps didn’t matter. If he could bait one or two salvos of missiles and laser fire maybe they’d have a better chance of reaching their target in one piece.
“Fuck this” the other man said. He unhooked himself from his station and propelled himself to the navigation console. The other crew swiveled their heads to look, but the tension on their faces made it clear it was less about curiosity and more for safety. This was a fight waiting to happen. Halaius cursed to himself, he only wanted another 30 seconds. He looked around the bridge. A dozen lives. They were a degenerate disgusting lot, but amongst a dozen there had to be an outlier to make the effort worth it.
“Stop” he said.
“Fuck off” were the only words the other man said as he floated. The bounty hunter wrapped his hands around the edges of the navigation console, pushing Makia out of the way. She floated for a brief moment before her tether went taught.
Twenty seconds. That’s all he wanted. The plan wasn’t really worth it, but there was the sting of pride.
‘I am no good man’ he thought to himself before he whipped the blaster pistol from its holster and fired. The other hunter was quick though, and with a twist of his wrists spun himself out of the way of the shot. It flew free and struck another crewman behind him, cracking the poor souls’ thin armor and killing him almost instantly. In seconds the only person who didn’t have a gun on him was Makia, who pulled herself along her tether back towards her position.
It would have been easy then to let them kill him, but as if guided by a mind of its own his free hand found its way to his belt and grabbed the thermal detonator there. The fire came, a steady stream of blaster shots his way. They slammed into the armor of his sealed suit and sent him careening backwards. He flicked his wrist as he went, sending the thermal detonator towards the viewport. The thud of his back hitting the bulkhead signalled the end of the shooting, and the other man who had so nimbly dodged Halaius’ shot grimaced as his fist slammed into the console. “Takes all sorts” he muttered.
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