One month has passed since Zolph Vaelor averted the Valkoran's attempt to summon the Forceless Archfiend, Crysomn on Polus. However, the Valkoran are turning their attention to other resources besides the Archfiends. Somewhere in Valkoran Space, Maesterus has gathered an ensemble of bounty hunters for an important mission.
A group of bounty hunters was assembled on the command bridge of the Valkoran warship, Doomsayer. There were hunters of many species including but not limited to humans, Trandoshans, Gands, Kubaz, and Duros, but three hunters stood out the most. Bom Pintor, a Skakoan equipped with a pressure suit reinforced for combat, helmet and a blaster carbine; Maushh, an Ubese covered head-to-toe in black armor armed with a rifle and a bladed polearm; and Gahmah Raan, a green-skinned humanoid wearing a helmet that covered his entire face, armed with a sniper rifle, two blaster pistols and switch-blades on his arms and was not as heavily armored as the other hunters on the bridge.
A Valkoran-made astromech droid entered the command bridge and approached the hunters. It then displayed a live hologram of Maesterus. Maesterus then spoke.
"You're probably wondering why I called you all here. Since you're good trackers, I obviously need you hunt someone for me." The astromech droid then changed the projection of Maesterus to the projection of a Sullustan. "Menbar Mun. He is a Galactic Alliance scout that has gathered some intel on our key installations not too long ago. He's currently stopped to refuel and repair his ship at New Harnaidan on Muunilinst. I need you to intercept and capture before he can return to Alliance command." The hologram then switched back to Maesterus.
Gahmah then spoke. "Not that I'm uninterested in a big fat paycheck, but why waste credits on big guns like us?"
The other bounty hunters freaked out. Bom Pintor then spoke to Gahmah in a panicked tone, with the pitch on his suit's vocabulator drastically changing. "Keep quiet, Raan!"
Gahmah continued to asking Maesterus. "Wouldn't it be more economically convenient to just send some of your own agents to silence him?"
Maushh then chimed. "Are you TRYING to lose us this job?!"
Gahmah then him answered casually, "Hey, I'm just asking. He wouldn't have hired us if the job were that simple."
Maesterus then answered Gahmah, "A very good question, Raan. I specifically want Mun alive. Aside from not wanting to get a reputation as a murderer and getting intel from him, he's part of another plan I have. Mun knows he's already a target after going through our territory, so he's posing as a cargo hauler. However, he knows someone will find him out eventually, so he's enlisted a Jedi for protection, specifically Zolph Vaelor. I've hired you people specifically due to your experience with Jedi and Jedi-killers. I want you to bring him to me too, preferably alive. Once you have them, I want you to deliver them to interrogation center on Kratzar. That is all." The transmission ended.
Gahmah then smugly told the other hunters, "And you grumps were worried I was screwing you out of a job."
Pintor then asked him. "Why do you have to scare us like that? Giving obvious solutions before the job almost guarantees losing it!"
"So says the guy who relies on his biological weakness to get his prey."
Pintor then spoke angrily, with his vocabulator temporarily reverting to Skakoverbal before changing back to Basic, "You watch your tongue, lizard!"
"I'm technically not a reptile." Gahmah said cooly. "Besides, the Creator already predestined this hunt."
Maushh then spoke to Pintor. "From what I hear, Gahmah Raan's also a Spice addict, so that's probably just a hallucination of his."
Pintor asked himself and Maushh as Gahmah left. "How the hell did this whack-job become a bounty hunter?"
Meanwhile on Muunilinst, Zolph Vaelor has met up with Menbar Mun near the wreckage of Old Harnaidan.
"Okay, Menbar, I'm here." Zolph said to the Sullustan. "So what do the Valks want with you that guarantees dragging me out here to this Yuuzhan Vong wreck site?"
"I've got some info on their bases of operation." Menbar spoke.
"And possibly some Archfiend locations, too." His comlink then chimed. "What is it, Grein?"
Grein's voice came out of the comlink. "We've got problems. Some contacts of mine have given me the scoop on some bounty hunters the Valkoran recently hired, and their ships have docked here in New Harnaidan."
"I knew they'd send someone after me!" Menbar panicked.
Zolph then asked, "Please tell me, are any of these BHs Boba Fett?"
"No. I don't think Fett would want to get involved with groups like this these days."
"Thank the Force
" Zolph said in relief.
"However, I'll kick our back-up plan into motion in case you fail to protect Mun."
"Don't worry, I'm not screwing this one up
this time." He then ended the chat.
"What do you mean 'this time'?" Menbar asked with worry.
"Some of the people I've been assigned to protect out in the open have died before
but usually not through any fault of my own. As long as you don't, say, walk between me and guys trying to kill us, you should be fine."
"Oh, don't worry. I'm not that stupid. I do have some combat experience since I am a scout."
"But remember, you're their target, so let's play this safe."
One hour later, Zolph and Menbar were still outside Old Harnaidan.
"Is it really this safe out in this unpopulated area?" Zolph asked himself. A piece of debris then broke off part of Old Harnaidan's outer walls and nearly fell on Zolph, causing him to freak out. "Okay, now that I think about it, a war-torn city is probably one of the most clichéd places for a fugitive to be hiding out. We should probably be somewhere less conspicuous." He then asked Menbar, "Does New Harnaidan have a notable Sullustan population?"
"Not really native, but some come here now and then."
"I guess we're better off blending in the crowd."
They were then interrupted by a modulated voice from behind. "Too late for that, Ponytail Boy." They then turned around and saw Bom Pintor in front of the old city gates with his carbine pointing at them. "I figured you'd be skipping town, and what's a better place to check than the original Harnaidan."
Zolph then told Menbar. "See? What did I tell you: very clichéd hiding place. Now go somewhere safe, but don't get too far from me." Menbar then ran into the wrecked city.
Pintor then spoke again. "Oh, don't worry; the Sullustan is wanted alive; however, my employer wants you too, but I don't have take you in alive."
"I'm guessing Maesterus didn't tell you that he wanted you to bring me in alive?"
"He did. He just said 'preferably', so I don't think he'll mind if I bring him your corpse as proof."
Zolph then sighed in disbelief. "I'm guessing he worded the briefing poorly."
"Either way, make this easy on yourself, lie down, and let me shoot you."
"Well, I say blast you." Zolph then ignited his lightsaber and pointed it towards the Skakoan.
you do realize that damaging me in any way is a terrible idea?"
"And why is that?"
"If you damage this suit in any way, I will explode, taking you and your mouse-eared client with me. Either way, you lose."
"If you're going that far, why not just take me prisoner? I'm already no match for you." Zolph said sarcastically.
"Because if I do, you're most likely going to escape my custody, and a dead Jedi is 100% unlikely to do that. Any last words?" Pintor then clicked his gun.
"Before you kill me, let me get this straight: you're blackmailing me with a biological weakness of yours that is fatal to both of us, and you've most likely done this to your targets and other competing hunters to keep them off your claims."
"I don't care either way; it's a foolproof way of getting the job done."
"Now I know how a Skakoan like you became a bounty hunter: you're just a spineless coward who can't really fight and just get his prey to give up."
Pintor then got angry. "Oh, I can fight, alright! Why do you think I reinforced myself, increased my mobility and gave myself combat training?! Because of these types of situations!! You're beginning to irritate me as much as-!" He was then interrupted by blaster bolt that came from far away, breaching his suit.
"No! Someone actually had the guts to hurt me! Someone actually thinks they can take my bounty from me!" the Skakoan panicked before he started to decompress in his own suit due to the breach. His suit then exploded violently.
Zolph immediately put out his hands and used the Force to contain the explosion. What was left from the explosion was some charred bio-matter and pieces of the Skakoan's armor. "I guess he forgot that we Jedi can do that."
He then called out. "Hey, Menbar! It's safe now!"
The Sullustan came out of hiding and then noticed Bom Pintor's charred remains. "What the hell did you do to him?"
"I didn't do anything to him; I just kept the explosion from spreading. Apparently, at least one of the hunters is trying to off the others to trim the competition. Good news for us is we're going to have less of them to worry about."
"Same plans as before running into that guy?"
"Yes. I have a friend there that can offer some additional protection."
The two then headed back towards New Harnaidan on foot.
Heading back to New Harnaidan, Zolph and Menbar dealt with more bounty hunters sent after them, either being dispatched by Zolph or being dispatched by the ambiguous assassin.
The two eventually made it back to the city, but it was not bustling with as much life as expected.
"I thought it would be more populated." Zolph said.
"To be fair, New Harnaidan isn't that fully developed yet. I mean, it only started developing around the end of the Yuuzhan Vong War." Menbar answered him.
"Or maybe some of the hunters are paying them to take shelter to make it easier for us to stick out when we get back here."
Zolph then immediately sensed something, yelled "Look out!" and pushed Menbar to the side. They looked on the spot where they were once standing and noticed a tranquilizer dart. "We've got a sniper!"
Another dart flew towards them, but was promptly avoided. They then looked up and saw Maushh up on a walkway with his rifle out. Zolph responded by Force Pushing the black-armored Ubese off the balcony. However, he survived and quickly got up on his feet.
"Okay, Menbar, my ship's close by." Zolph told the Sullustan, who then fled.
Maushh tried to fire another dart at Menbar, but Zolph promptly slashed it with lightsaber. "You're going to have to deal with me first." He told the Ubese.
"It'll be my pleasure." Maushh responded as he switched cartridges in his rifle. He then fired a blaster bolt from his rifle.
Zolph immediately deflected the shot. "Oh, come on! You should know sniper rifles don't work up close!"
"I know." He then fired another shot while Zolph had his guard down, but Zolph reacted quickly.
"Oh, you're gonna have to do better than that!"
"Very well." Maushh then switched back to a tranquilizer cartridge, put his rifle away and then drew out his polearm. "I guess we'll go with melee weapons then." He then struck at Zolph who parried his blows for a few seconds.
They eventually locked blades, and while locked, Maushh quickly pulled out his rifle and fired a tranquilizer into Zolph's abdomen.
"What the- very sneaky, chump!" Zolph retorted.
Maushh then fired a few more tranquilizers into Zolph before bringing him to the ground. He then put away his rifle and walked towards Zolph, preparing his polearm.
Zolph watched him as he as we about to strike a deathblow, but before the blade could even strike, a blaster shot came from the left and hit Maushh in the head, causing it to explode into many pieces and leaving a stream of smoke coming from his neck as his lifeless body fell to the ground.
"Okay, that was pretty gross. But that was pretty close, too. Any longer and I'd be dead." Zolph said as he got back on his feet, but still weakened by the tranquilizers.
Out of a back alley came the source of the blaster shot: Gahmah Raan. "Howdy." He greeted Zolph.
"Give me a break! I just got out of a fight and I can barely move!" Zolph complained to him.
"Don't worry; I'm not going to kill you like all these other idiots."
"So let me get this straight: you've been killing the other hunters just because they kept trying to kill me. Well, at least someone got the memo. So I take it you're now going to capture me?"
"No, you're just a bonus objective."
"Yeah, right. First off, you just said you killed the other guys to preserve me. Second, I highly doubt your employer considers me a 'bonus objective'."
"Okay, you got me. But I will tell you that your mousy friend is currently taking a nap in my cargo hold."
Zolph then tried to make a run for it, but Gahmah quickly shot him in the legs with both blaster pistols.
"Hey, I wasn't done talking! Before I go, I'd like to say your encounter with Bom Pintor was as much of a cop out as how you dealt with Cryosmn."
"The Skakoan I made explode
oh wait, that one was my fault! Oops!"
"And how did you know about Cryosmn?! I thought that was confidential information!"
"A lot of know people about that, just like this chat we're having right now."
"But there's no one else around."
"You don't need to worry. From my experience, the people of the galaxy are somehow disconnected from those people."
"Whuh?" Zolph uttered in confusion.
"But I need to go drop off my cargo. Chances are I'll be seeing you not long from now, probably a week or two. See ya!" He then walked away as Zolph was still immobilized.
Grein came from elsewhere towards Zolph.
"By the looks of it, you screwed up." Grein told Zolph.
"You don't have to rub it in." Zolph told her in an annoyed tone.
"I'm only stating the obvious. However, it's not too late to undo your mistake."
"My mistake?! What were you doing while I was doing all the legwork?!"
"Preparing our back-up plan in case this happened."
Zolph then calmed down. "Oh yeah, I forgot about that. What was this plan?"
"I'll discuss it when we get back to the ship, because you're apparently not in good shape right now."
Zolph was lying on the cot in the Blazing Manta's medbay, with Bacta patches on his legs.
Zolph then asked Grein. "Okay, now that I'm healing up for this back-up plan, what did you do?"
"I put homing beacons on the hunters' ships. That way, we'll know where to find Menbar."
"Grein, I'd like to apologize for accusing you of laziness. You're more helpful than you make yourself out to be."
"No harm done. I just don't want you to get the habit of me solving all your problems. I mean, you won't be fit for taking on the more powerful Archfiends if you can't do some things on your own, and there will be times where I'm unable to help you."
"I can understand that."
A console in the cockpit started beeping like crazy.
Grein then reacted. "Well, looks like the Vriknash is taking off. I guess that's my cue to follow it."
"It's Gahmah Raan's ship."
"Speaking of, do you know anything about him?"
"Well, I know the Alliance hired him to fight during the Yuuzhan Vong War."
"I've read his background before this war, but I didn't know he was this...eccentric."
"I also hear he's a Spice addict, so don't let his more outlandish mannerisms get to your head."
"Well, that explains some stuff, but he seems pretty healthy and sane for a guy on Spice. Still, how did this nutcase even become a bounty hunter?"
"He's just good at his job."