[Originally written by Aleverii]
“This is the part where you break my nose, right?” The bounty hunter asked as he sat in an interrogation room on a ship in orbit of the Imperial Fleet. “No? How about a whiskey sour then? No, I didn’t think so. Okay, look, either let me light a cigarette or I’m walking. ...Yes, I’m aware it’s quite a long walk back to the station air locks. But, technically, it’s not cold in space. Vacuum is an insulator. OW! Uhhkhay... Dat was mah nohz.” “This is in your file, but, sure, I’ll humor you. Mom runs freight from Korriban to Kaas. It’s not really all Sith, archeology takes infrastructure, y’know. Excavation equipment, stasis rigs, regular stuff too, food, clothes, water, waste dumping. Dad’s a clerk in the ‘burbs of Kaas. Big sis works with Mom on the ship, little sis has some Imp job, but I couldn’t tell you what she actually does. No, I mean I don’t know, it’s apparently really boring. Yep, all alive and well. See ‘em when I can.” “I joined the Imperial Army, the first time, mostly because my granddad did. The family was real impressed when I made sergeant. Then I got shipped out to Hoth. Standard orders, I won’t speculate about that. Plenty of the guys said some Sith Lord found something he wanted to investigate, or that we were bait for a Jedi. Look, I don’t speculate about that. I will tell you that the brass stayed on their ships in orbit while we froze our asses off. It was bad. It got worse.” “We were well supplied, COLD, but well supplied. How cold? Kid tried to throw a thermal detonator, but his fingers were frozen shut around it. It ended predictably.” “This is the part the folks still call the accident. But that makes them feel better, so it’s fine with me, I’m lucky to be alive., but that’s probably a misnomer. We got ambushed, there might have been a Jedi, I don’t know, it was dark, lightsabre and a blaster look pretty much the same when you’re getting mowed down. We got a fair number of troopers; but they chewed us up too. Most of my guys didn’t make it out. I took a bolt to the spine, and then about twenty more. Broke my spine in four places, then I bled out, and then I froze to death in a snow drift.” “Two of my guys dragged me out, dumb kids, they didn’t make it. I got passed off to a medical company sitting on crates of combat augs and looking to unload them, because they don’t get paid if they don’t install the things. I spend the next eight months going between a kolto tank and physical therapy.” “When it’s all over, I find out I get stuck with the bill because I’ve been dismissed. ...Yeah. Incidentally, the lungs are worth more than a small condo in Kaas city, so, no, I’m not worried about lung cancer. Liver’s still standard issue.” “Bounty hunting ends up being the only thing I can find to make the payments and keep the bounty off MY head. Didn’t see home for a while after that. Got to see some places I’d have never seen. Mostly bombed out places. Met a girl too. That didn’t work out.” “So, that’s it. You renewing my contract?” The hunter flicks a business card onto the table. It reads: "Calain Aleverii. Robots Punched. Dangerous Game. For Wookie Lube Inquiries, Please Contact the Calain Aleverii of The Promenade, Nar Shadaa Spaceport District."
“I showed up to my first job in a barn coat, with a weekend special blaster. I was way behind on the anti-rejection drugs, and my new left arm had started shaking and sending me all sorts of screwed up signals. Point is, I couldn’t hold the blaster rifle, and I could barely hold a knife.” “The mark was small time, stim junkie living in a hovel on Hutta, way out in the boonies. I got brought on because I knew the guy, he could get cybernetic drugs on the cheap. It was a four hour ride to this little industrial plant and the company town around it. Me and two other mercs hit the guy’s place. He’s got a couple of goons, but they’re all hopped up on junk. One of them freaks out, bites one of the guys I’m with. Bites him. And this guy isn’t some Trandoshan Bloodmaw or something. He’s just some swamp-living stim junkie. And he bites out a man’s throat. It got ugly after that.” “The other guy’s catatonic, but he’s clutching something and my guy think it’s a bomb or something. So he tries to get it away, and the kid. Yeah, junkie’s bodyguard is like, maybe thirteen. The kid hangs on tight until he takes a couple pistol whips to the head. Turns out he’s just holding an empty jar of nut butter full of toenails. I don’t even want to know.” “This is one of the things I envy the Jedi for: those guys get showdowns. You will never find a dealer that hasn’t had a shower in two weeks sitting on a throne surrounded by snacks and slave girls. You will find him in a filth encrusted bath room shooting up into his crotch. And then he goes for a shotgun, and I get clipped in the leg but it doesn’t hit any meat. Repairs eat up most of my cut of the bounty but the rest keeps the bills paid.” The hunter lights another cigarette with the roach of his last. “You meet a lot of bounty hunters that trade on their armor. How shiny they keep it. Mandos love that shit. They advertise on never taking it off, or how no one that sees their face lives to tell, but it’s all bullshit.” “Armor is heavy. It’s hot. And not like long underwear and two coats hot. Actual burns hot. But you wear it because when a lunatic clips you with a shotgun, you don’t want to bleed out in a stim house.” “I’ll save you the details, but here’s the short version. First you take a cold shower, cold because it gets your skin cooled down. Then you put on a... ahem, waste disposal piece. Then underwear, some hunters like to brag they go commando. But there aren’t any neural pickups in that area so I got one word for them: chafing. Anyway, tight underwear, think bike shorts. Sports bra for the ladies. Athletic cup. Chafing.” “Undersuit comes next, that’s got all the nerve pickups, which feed into a couple of jacks that plug into the hard suit. Oh, and remember to feed the waste tube through. Soft armor goes over that, and this is where it starts getting hot.” “Exoskeleton next, check all the hydraulics, because if there’s a bad filter, or a bad line then you hose yourself down in pee when it breaks. Exoskeleton tightens dow, and once the plating is on, it’s like wearing a ski boot on your whole body. Sure, it enhances your strength, but that’s just so you can carry it around.” “And that’s just getting into the armor. To go to work shooting at thirteen year olds with jars full of toenails. In flop houses in the worst parts of the galaxy. Because somebody put some credits on a head. Now tell me you want to hire the guy that can sleep in that gear.”
He snuffs out his cigarette and looks up “I’m not talking about the girl. That case is closed. I know you’ve got it marked as a security risk. It’s done.” After a moment he slumps back in the uncomfortable spoon of plastic vaguely offered as a chair. “The only thing war makes is monsters. Torturers, gun runners, guys like me. It breaks people. Ordinary kids get up in the middle of the night, hike to some village and mow down as many locals as they can find, just because. Artillery sets habs on fire, shell casings break down and seep into the water supply, and whole generations of babies get poisoned. Then somebody writes up a contract, counts out some more money, and gets it all rebuilt for the next round. And eighty years later, there will still be loose ends, massacre shooters, guards at concentration camps, a few of the big wigs that got fatter off arranging it that don’t leave their estates because they know everyone’s gunning for them.” “Something like seventy percent of all shots fired in combat aren’t fired to hit. You can put a kid through boot twenty times, but people are hard wired not to kill each other. So when the chips are down, everybody shoots high, or they spray and pray, or whatever. But they’re not praying they get a kill shot, they just want it to end. They just want to go home.” “When I died, I lost a lot. But I’m glad limbs can be replaced and nerves can be rewired That wouldn’t be the last time my guts got spilled. They can make machines to pump your blood, but they can’t make a cybernetic heart. I don’t know how much I have left; so I’ll cling to every shred of humanity I can.” “ There’s no word in the military for ‘peace.’ Sometimes there are ‘strategic drawdowns.’ You can be ‘systemic allies’, or have ‘no ongoing hostilities.’ But the engines of war never stop. They just keep producing monsters. I hunt monsters. And you’ll hire me because unlike just about every other option you’ve got, I know exactly what I’m doing. It’s not honorable, it’s not glorious, and it doesn’t make you a better person. But I’ll do it, because I’m already a monster” “So don’t thank me for my service. Don’t welcome me into the crew. Don’t salute. Don’t pin a medal on me. Don’t give me a rank like I’ve earned some kind of Doctorate in murder. Just send me the bill.” The chair scraped against the floor. The hunter takes his coat from a rack and sets another cigarette between his lips. He shakes his lighter extinguished and as the embers fade away, the glowing tip and acrid smoke remain the very last source of light.