Lawg Skrak sat in the dingy booth, silently surveying the rest of the cantina. His booth faced the main entrance, enabling the bounty hunter to view who was coming and going. At the moment, an Ithorian and a small, lumpish creature Skrak couldn’t identify were entering. He glanced at the dancer’s stage. Taara shook her head. No, these weren’t the two who had contacted her. But then, Taara didn’t know what they looked like. Being Force-sensitive, she would sense them before seeing them. Skrak returned his gaze to the bar. The Ithorian glanced his direction, then turned to face his drink. The unknown creature muttered something to his taller companion, then headed towards the back of the establishment. Skrak figured it was intent on a game of sabacc or one of the other games of chance the bar had to offer. The bounty hunter groaned, and opening the mouthpiece of his helmet, took another sip of his drink. Placing the cup in front of him, Skrak checked his chronometer. According to Taara, these two sklagheads were supposed to have been here over fifteen minutes ago. Skrak shook his head, then decided to give these two very wealthy sklagheads the benefit of the doubt. Five more minutes, he thought. Five more minutes, then I’m out of here. Last thing I need is to be spotted. Skrak figured he had to be crazy to come back to Ujennat 4 so soon after his biggest failure. If one of Krell’s men were to see him, Skrak and Taara would have to beat a hasty retreat. Krell “the Smell” Parenson had recently hired Skrak to capture a young man named Ecco Wyld, who had cheated Parenson during a game of sabaac. In addition to quite a large amount of money, the brash young Rebel had dive- bombed Parenson’s headquarters in his X-wing, causing considerable damage. Skrak had pursued him across the galaxy, inadvertantly getting caught in the middle of a power struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. The two powers had been frantically racing around the galaxy trying to find some cubes that, apparently, were capable of doing anything. Once Lasso Antilles, captain of the Rebel group, had one in his grasp, he accidentally opened a rift in space, freeing the Kol’Mranna from their otherdimensional prison. The Kol’Mranna, creators of the cubes, had then proceeded to destroy any evil that they sensed in the area. Skrak, luckily, was perceived as merely misguided, and the Kol’Mranna let him live. Using their advanced teleportation technology, the Kol’Mranna then zapped Skrak, ship and all, to the planet Hoth. Skrak flexed his cybernetic left hand. His real hand had been lost while on Hoth, during an encounter with a Wampa Ice Creature. The bounty hunter had used his pay to buy the replacement and to repair his ship. Parenson, needless to say, was not impressed with Skrak failing to cap- ture Wyld, and spending the undeserved seven thousand credits he had paid the bounty hunter in advance. “Skrak.” Lawg Skrak glanced up, startled out of his reverie. Taara Hentt was sitting at the table, looking absolutly delicious in her skimpy dancer’s outfit. Skrak hadn’t usually worked with partners in the past, but this beauty had saved his life shortly after he escaped from Hoth. She had wanted nothing in return but to prove herself as his partner. Skrak had agreed. He never could say no to a woman with dark hair and blue eyes. Those eyes were looking worriedly at him now. “Skrak, I don’t like this. They’re almost twenty minutes late. I’m starting to think this was a bad idea.” Skrak nodded towards the door, which had just creaked open. “You know, sweetheart, I think you’re right.” Taara turned to glance at the entrance. Standing in the doorway were two assassin droids. Flanking them on either side, were four lumbering Gamorreans. The droids were jet black from head to foot and on their right shoulder was the patch of a red skull. Krell Parenson’s insignia. Damn, thought Skrak. This was a trap, and I blundered into it like a rank amateur. The droids surveyed the cantina, seeking their prey. The conversational din of the tavern died completely as it’s patrons dived under tables and behind pillars. Obviously, Krell’s droids were a regular occurance on Ujennat 4. Finally, one of the droids stares fell on Skrak and Taara’s table. They headed towards the two, the Gamorreans fanning out around them to block off any chance of escape. “You are Lawg Skrak, bounty hunter, are you not?” one of the droids asked, pointing a blaster at Skrak. “Who wants to know?” “Answer the question truthfully, or you and your companion shall be in- cinerated.” To stress it’s point, the second droid leveled it’s blaster at Taara’s head. Skrak groaned, something he seemed to be doing alot these days. With- out knowing it, the droid had just flaunted his only weak spot. If anything were to happen to Taara, he would… “All right, all right. Yes, I’m Lawg Skrak. Just put the blaster down.” Skrak placed both hands on the table, showing the droids he was willing to go peacefully. The first droid hauled Taara out of her seat by the arms, while the second continued to converse with the bounty hunter. “Lawg Skrak, you are in violation of Rule #1A-35G of the Intergalactic Bounty Hunting Code….” “I ain’t a member of no fraggin guild!” Skrak interupted. The droid ignored him and continued, “Please come with us. I remind you again, resist and be incinerated.” Again the blaster was pointed directly at him. Skrak got up slowly, arms in the air. He hated to give up without a fight, but he was hopelessly outnumbered. Krell’s assassin droids were some of the best ever manufactured, and Skrak didn’t feel like testing them out. Especially while one of them had a blaster to Taara’s head. He looked over at Taara. Those icy blue eyes were staring calmly at him, as if trying to assess exactly what he was going to do. I wonder if she can use the Force on droids, Skrak thought to himself. He’d have to ask her sometime. If there were to be future sometimes. The droids and their pig-like companions started to slowly lead Skrak and Taara towards the door. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the first droid whirled and blasted the Gamorrean holding Taara. The huge creature hit the floor with a crash, overturning a table on his way down. The second droid, not knowing what was wrong with it’s counterpart, just stood there, dumbfounded. Then it stiffened with understanding. Walking quickly towards Taara, it backhanded her violently. Her head snapped to the side, and she slumped to the floor. The first droid, regaining control of it’s faculties, grabbed Skrak by the throat, just as the bounty hunter was about to grab for the fallen Gamorrean’s blaster. Skrak could swear he felt something crack as the droid lifted him off the ground and slammed him viciously into the wall. Droid Two stared thoughtfully down at Taara’s unconscious form, searching it’s files. Finally, it glanced upwards, looking directly at Skrak. “Taara Hentt, daughter of Vrogal Hentt, Jedi Knight. Intriguing. A Force-sensitive. Master Parenson will be most pleased.” It nodded to it’s companion. Skrak felt the droid’s grip tighten around his throat. At least that answers my question about whether or not Taara can affect droids with the Force, the bounty hunter thought as darkness slowly engulfed him.
Skrak slowly regained consciousness. Opening his eyes, he felt a sharp, stabbing pain in the back of his head. “Somebody turn off the fraggin lights!” he croaked, to nobody in particular. “Good! You’re awake.” Skrak turned his head to the left and saw Taara crouched beside him. She reached over and brushed his hair out of his eyes. “How’re you feeling?” she asked. “Like I’ve been trampled by a herd of crazed Banthas!” Skrak moaned, pushing himself into a sitting position. Another stabbing pain, this time just beneath his right arm. “I’m positive I’ve got a couple of broken ribs. How ’bout you?” Taara smiled. “I’ve felt better.” Her hand went up to her left eye, which was black and swollen. Skrak swore someone would pay for that. “So,” he asked, “has Krell shown his ugly face yet?” Taara nodded. “He was here about an hour ago. He came in, looked at us and left. I was still pretty groggy at the time,” she said. Again, her hand went to her eye. “That blasted droid slugged me pretty hard.” “That was a neat trick you pulled,” Skrak said, trying to stand, then thinking better of it. “I didn’t think you could affect mechanicals with the Force.” “Just their bodies, not their minds. Even that took a lot out of me,” Taara murmered quietly. “I was stupid to pull a stunt like that. I could’ve gotten us both killed.” Skrak just smiled and glanced around the cell. Dark, dank and smelly, just like every other cell he’d ever been in. “And I see we’re in Krell’s dungeon,” he said, looking back at Taara, who simply nodded. “Skrak, if we don’t get out of this, I just wanted to let you know that I….” A clanking noise came from the door, interupting Taara. A key had just been inserted in the lock. “It’ll have to wait, sweetheart. Looks like our host is about to pay us another visit.” The door to the cell swung open, and two giant Gamorreans entered the room, both weilding wicked looking axes. Behind them came a being with pale pink skin and beady red eyes. A thin, white fur covered his body and slowly became thicker above his pointed ears. The being smiled, showing a mouthful of small, pointed teeth. Skrak groaned. Krell “the Smell” Parenson. The most vile Jenet in the known galaxy. He was known as “the Smell” simply because of the Jenet races’ incredibly keen sense of smell, which Krell had used to locate all sorts of illegal spices on about ten different planets. This, in turn, had made him a very rich man. Krell chuckled. “Ah, Skrak, my friend. What a sorry sight you are on this fine day.” His whiskers twitched briskly as he spoke. “Although your taste in companions has improved.” He glared greedily down at Tarra, who nervously pulled the ratty blanket she’d been provided closer around her scantily-clad body. “And I see you still hang with pig-scum,” Skrak spit angrily, averting his eyes to the Gamorreans. One of the guards took a step forward, but Krell held him back. “Charming to the last, as always,” Krell said. He turned to Taara. “I understand you are a Force-sensitive, my dear. How intriguing. I can put you to good use. After I’ve dealt with your boyfriend, of course.” “Go to blazes, you disgusting sklaghead! I’ll die before I work for you!” Taara screamed, closing her eyes. Suddenly, both of Krell’s feet flew out from beneath him, and he landed on his back with a crunch. Parenson rolled over and growled, glaring angrily at Taara. For a minute, Skrak thought it was over for both of them. Instead, Krell just laughed. Getting up and brushing himself off, he said, “Good, good. I do so like a female with spirit. It makes them that much more fun to break.” He stressed the last word heavily, smiling down at Taara. She spit at him. Chuckling softly to himself, the Jenet again directed his attention to the bounty hunter. “But business first, Mr. Skrak. Do you, or do you not, have the seven thousand credits you so unjustly stole from me?” Although the pain from his broken ribs was almost overwhelming, Skrak stood up quickly. Facing Krell, he said, “You know perfectly well I don’t.” Krell shook his head in mock sadness. He turned as if to leave, then spun with incredible speed and punched Skrak in the mouth. The bounty hunter staggered backwards a few steps, but managed to stay on his feet. “I don’t like cheats, Mr. Skrak. I hired you for the simple task of capturing a snot-nosed youngster and you failed. In addition to letting Mr. Wyld escape,” he uttered the Rebel’s name with utter loathing, “You then steal from me. What were you thinking? That I’d forget? You know we Jenet hold grudges a very long time.” Krell stared at Skrak, expecting an answer. Skrak wiped at the blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. He wasn’t about to give the Jenet crime-lord the satisfaction. “Very well. You are sentenced to death, Lawg Skrak! Tommorrow morning at 0900 hours.” Seeing the look of dismay on Taara’s face, Krell smiled. “Oh, don’t worry, my dear,” he said. “I’m a sporting fellow. I’m challeng- ing him to a Deathmatch. If he wins, you both go free. However, if he loses, well….” Krell giggled evily, “he’ll be dead and you’ll never leave this planet again.” At that, Parenson turned to leave. Skrak yelled after him, “You’re gonna be sorry you ever met me, Krell!” Krell just laughed at him. With the Gamorreans behind him, the Jenet left the cell. The door slammed shut with a loud crash. Skrak and Taara stared at the closed door for a long time afterwards.
The next morning, Skrak was pulled roughly to his feet by two of Krell’s assassin droids. Instantly awake, his eyes darted around the cell. Taara was gone. “Where’s the woman?” he yelled at one of the droids, who said nothing. “Put this on,” one finally said, handing Skrak his uniform. Skrak looked his suit over. The wrist blasters were gone, as were most of the other useful items he’d built into the uniform. At least the jet- pack was still intact. “What am I supposed to do with no blasters?” he asked. “Once in the arena, you and your opponent will be provided vibroswords. They are all the weapons Master Parenson will allow,” the droid on his right informed him coldly. “Now please place your hands behind your back.” Skrak did as he was told, and the droid placed shackles over his wrists. “My opponent! I thought you were programmed to always refer to him as ‘Master Parenson’.” Skrak already knew what the droid’s reply would be. It’s black head swiveled to face the bounty hunter. “That is true. Your opponent, however, is not named Master Parenson.” The droids pushed him roughly towards the door. I’ve got a very bad feeling about this, Skrak thought, as he was hauled down the corridor towards the arena.
Taara scanned the openair arena from Krell’s viewing box. I hope Skrak’s alright, she thought, as Krell entered the box and sat down in a huge ornately decorated throne. He motioned for Taara to sit in one of the two smaller chairs to either side of him. “You should feel privileged, my dear,” he said. “These two chairs are reserved for my dear friends, Ploovo-Two-for-One and Syze Fromm. Nobody sits here but them.” Krell smiled that disgusting smile that made Taara want to punch his teeth in. “Oh, what a privilege,” she snarled. “I get to choose from a scumbag’s seat, or a dead scumbag’s seat.” Taara turned away from Krell, once again facing the arena. “No thanks. I’ll stand.” Behind her, Krell’s face darkened. “Very well. Have it you way. But be wary of how you speak to me, woman. You are going to be spending a very long time with me here on Ujennat 4.” His mouth twisted into a lopsided grin. Just then, the crowd that had gathered to view the Deathmatch started cheering wildly. Taara saw Skrak being led into the arena by two droids. The bounty hunter was looking around at the thousands of spectators, and shaking his head. Finally, his gaze rested on Taara, and he visibly relaxed. Krell stood and waved his arms in the air, signaling for silence. Once the crowd had quieted down, he picked up the voice amplifier that had been resting on the arm of his throne, and spoke into it. “Welcome, everyone, to the Deathmatch of you lifetimes!” The crowd went wild. Waiting for the cheering to die down again, Krell began to caress Taara’s long, dark hair. She jerked away from him, body tensing for action. Taara glanced down at Skrak, who shook his head ‘no’. She relaxed then, realizing the bounty hunter had something up his sleeve. But what? The crowd quieted. “Today, for your viewing pleasure, we have Lawg Skrak, bounty hunter. One of the deadliest in the universe!” Krell’s voice echoed throughout the arena, and through the rest of the palace, as well. One of the droids removed the shackles from Skrak’s wrists, while the other handed him his vibrosword. Skrak immediately tensed, ready for any- thing. Krell’s voice continued, “Mr. Skrak’s opponent today will be none other than….” Parenson paused for effect, before going on, “…Garogg the Barabel!” At this, the audience jumped to their feet, cheering and frantically waving their arms in the air. Across the arena from Skrak, a large durasteel door slowly lumbered open. Out of the shadows stepped the biggest Barabel the bounty hunter had ever laid eyes upon. It’s black, keratin scales shone in the afternoon sun as it’s tail swished majestically from side to side. Garogg, brandishing his own vibrosword, smiled wickedly at him, showing off his mouthful of needle-like teeth. Skrak sighed. He had never liked this reptiloid race, and it looked like he was about to gain a few more reasons not to. Krell, much to the crowds’ pleasure, yelled, “Now let the Match begin!” Skrak barely had time to raise his blade before the Barabel was on him. Falling to the ground, the bounty hunter lifted his sword to block Garogg’s slice, which would have severed Skrak’s head quite neatly from the rest of his body. Sparks from the electrified blades showered down on Skrak’s face, momentarily blinding him. Wish they’d given me my helmet back, too, he thought, blinking quickly to clear his vision. The Barabel lifted his sword above his head, which turned out to be a mistake. Able to see again, the bounty hunter delivered a vicious kick to his opponent’s solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him and giving Skrak the chance to get back on his feet. Recovering, Garogg growled loudly and marched towards Skrak, death shimmering in his eyes. “Not much for conversation, are you, lizard-lips?” the bounty hunter taunted, deftly sidestepping Garogg’s charge, and narrowly avoiding being knocked off his feet again by the Barabel’s swinging tail. That’s when Skrak noticed that Garogg was also wearing a jet-pack. Nah, don’t even think it, he thought. You’ll probably end up getting yourself killed as well. Garogg whirled around to face him. Skrak managed to get a hit in on the Barabel’s left arm, but the sword just bounced off the heavy scales. The hunter gulped. His sword was running out of power! In the stands, Taara angrily turned to Krell. “Why, you lousy… don’t you have any honor at all?” Krell chuckled happily. “None at all, my dear. None at all.” Meanwhile, Garogg had gotten ahold of Skrak and had lifted him off the ground. The Barabel was squeezing the bounty hunter as hard as he could, causing Skrak’s injured ribs to crack even more. He grimaced with pain, and slowly lifted his blade. If I can do this before I black out, Skrak thought, I’ll retire and be- come an honest businessman. Skrak smashed the handle of his blade directly into Garogg’s right eye. The huge alien bellowed in pain and released the bounty hunter, who landed hard on his behind. The crowd roared it’s approval. Skrak glanced over at Garogg, who was bent over, clawing at his face. Yeah, as if I’ll ever be an honest anything, he thought, getting quickly to his feet and charging at the Barabel. The bounty hunter brought his blade down swiftly, severing the fuel- line on the Barabel’s jet-pack, all the while thinking, Ah, well. Ya gotta die sometime. Skrak boosted the power on his vibrosword as high as it would go. Seconds later, a spark ignited the pack’s power cell. The resulting explosion threw Skrak clear across the arena. Garogg was incinerated completely. The crowd sat in stunned silence, clearly not ex- pecting the Mighty Garogg to be defeated so quickly. If at all. Taara gazed down at Skrak’s unmoving body. “Come on, Skrak,” she whis- pered, a tear rolling down her cheek. “Get up, already.” A minute passed. Then two. Then five. Still Skrak didn’t move. Krell grinned at her. “To bad, my dear,” he growled. “Not quite the outcome I’d hoped for, but it’ll do.” He clapped his hands twice, and the cleanup droids rolled out into the arena to remove what was left ot the combatants. Parenson then turned to face the audience. “There you have it!” he bellowed. “Two deaths for the price of one. Don’t ever let it be said that Krell Parenson doesn’t strive to entertain!” Expecting loud applause, the Jenet was surprised at the ensuing silence. “What the…” Looking down into the arena, Krell was surprised to see Skrak struggling to his feet. The bounty hunter staggered once, then regained his balance. Straightening his back, Skrak slowly walked towards the startled gangster, until he was standing directly beneath him. He pointed his cybernetic left hand at Krell, and said simply: “You lose!” Krell laughed loudly. “Now, my dear boy. You honestly didn’t believe I was going to allow either of you to leave here alive, did you? Win or lose?” The Jenet laughed even louder. “No. I’m not stupid!” Skrak snapped. He was still pointing his left hand at Krell. “What are you planning on doing, Skrak?” Krell said, holding his stomach, and wiping a tear from his eye. “Are you going to point at me until I simply fall over dead?” Parenson could hardly contain himself. Suddenly, it all clicked into place for Taara. He does have something ‘up his sleeve’, she thought , wondering why she hadn’t pieced it together sooner. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do, you sklaghead,” Skrak said calm- ly, opening his left hand up one finger at a time, revealing what appeared to be the barrel of a blaster sticking out of the palm. A laser bolt shot out of Skrak’s hand, hitting Krell directly in the forehead. The Jenet crimelord fell backwards and landed with a wet thud on his throne. His whiskers twitched twice, then nothing. Krell “the Smell” Parenson was dead. Firing up his jet-pack, Skrak launced himself up into the box, landing beside Taara. “I always knew that hidden blaster would come in ‘handy’,” he said, grinning broadly. Taara groaned at his sick humour, and smacked him in the back of the head. Lawg Skrak turned to face the audience, which was talking loudly amongst themselves, trying to figure out exactly what had just happened. Picking up the voice amplifier, Skrak spoke loudly, “There you have it! Two deaths for the price of one!” He paused, and smiled at Taara before continuing, “Don’t ever let it be said that Lawg Skrak doesn’t strive to entertain!” The crowd was silent for a few seconds, then sprang to their feet, screaming, whistling and yelling his name. Many of them started heading out of the arena and into the rest of the palace. What better time to loot a rich and powerful crimelord than immediately after his death? Amidst the excitement, Skrak staggered and fell forwards. Taara held him upright, whispering to him, “Come on, Skrak. Let’s get you back to the Death Gundark. I’d really love to change out of this degrading dancers’ outfit, and you….well, you look like you need at least a week’s sleep.” “You know what, sweetheart?” Skrak said, as she helped him towards one of the now-unguarded exits. “I think you’re right!”