It was raining on Nar Shadda.
The rain made the mutlitude of blinding neon colored light waver and shimmer - it was easy to convice oneself on a night like tonight, you were dreaming.
The Taxi set down on the apartment megaplex's landing pad and a figure exited. Dressed in a long brown coat and a wide helmet, with a dirty face and piercing green eyes, the man's small, wiry frame suggested an easy mark to the building's local gangs. But one glance at the well maintained blaster at his side, or the dangerous economy of movement that marked his passage, and the gangs let him pass. On Nar Shadda if nowhere else in the galaxy, surface impressions could get you killed, after all.
Vandrel Thrace knew the local gangs had him marked from the moment he stepped into the building. "Outsiders" always brought out the vultures. He didn't mind, so long as they'd backed off long before he reached his destination. Glancing down at a data pad, he double checked the apartment numbers to be certain he had the right one. Unlimbering his blaster, he took it in a one handed grip, breathed deep, and then brought his right left up and forward in a savage kicking motion.
In most modern apartment complexes, the doors would have been made of a metal compound for fire safety reasons. In Nar Shadda, where profitability beat out safety regulations, the doors were made out of a thin and generally weak timber clear cut on Hutta. Thus, his boot managed to send the door shattering inwards in a shower of splinters.
His mark lived alone according to his information, so he only had to worry about the one hostile...assuming he didn't run. He didn't, a dishevled man with teeth all but black from Death Stick usage came roaring around a corner out of the bedroom with a rusty blaster in a two handed grip.
Vandrel knew most of his contemporaries - especially those sanctimonious Mandalorians - prefered to "play" with their marks. Oh, the Mandos might dress it up in honor and fairness, but Vandrel never bought into the feel good clap trap.It was a game to the others, a proof of their own superiority. He could name off five different Bounty Hunters who would have seen the weapon and allowed the guy to get a shot off "in fairness".
Then again, most of the others prefered to wear suits with armor more akin to a battle droid.
Regardless of reasoning, Vandrel wasn't like that. The minute the mark came around that corner bellowing like a pissed off gundark, Vandrel brought his own pistol down, levelled it on the center of the guy's mass, and put three bolts in rapid succession into the guy's torso. The mark jerked backwards, blood spraying from his mouth, and collapsed in a heap.
Vandrel returned his blaster to its holster, let go a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, and then almost leap on the ceiling as a cry came from behind him. Pivoting on his feet and bringing his blaster back from its holster at the same time, he cursed his complaciency knowing that there was no way he would complete the turn before he was shot in the back by the mark's accomplaice. But he did finish the turn, and when he did, all he saw was a frightened male youngling in a shirt three sizes too big, staring wide and watery eyed at the corpse in the bedroom doorway.
That was when the cry Vandrel heard registered. It wasn't a shout of rage, but a horror struck "Dad!"
"Look, you never told me the guy had a kid!"
Vandrel made a face as the hush com he was speaking into replied back. He glanced sideways at the kid sitting next to him in what used to be his father's air car. It didn't seem right, leaving the kid in the apartment with no door with the gangs on the loose, even if that raised a interesting question of what to do with the youngling.
"Yeah. Yeah. Well maybe next time it'd be nice to know *ALL* the details of the job." Vandrel shot back then sighed. "Let's just settle up."
A credit chit ejected from the car's computer terminal and Vandrel took it, and glanced it over.
"Yeah, that's everything. Pleasure doing business with you." Vandrel said in tones that fooled no one, and killed the circut.
"What did my dad do, mister?"
Vandrel glanced over at the kid who finally had spoken. He wasn't looking at Vandrel and that was fine with him. This whole situation was way too awkward for him.
"Truth be told kid, I have no idea." Vandrel replied, eyes locked on the air lane ahead.
"So...what? You just get paid to kill someone and you don't even want to know why?" The kid shot back angrily.
"Pretty much.," Vandrel replied calmly. "Look, kid...you live on Nar Shadda. Even if you never left that hole in the wall you and your dad lived in, you have to know the galaxy is a cruel meanspirited place. Your dad had the misfortune of irritating someone who had the money to deal with him."
"And me? What am I supposed to do now?"
"Not my problem, kid."
"Liar!" The kid whipped around serpent fast, glaring daggers into Vandrel's profile. "If I wasn't your problem you wouldn't have dragged me out of the apartment to begin with!"
"If I hadn't dragged you away, the gangs would have eaten you alive when they looted the place." Vandrel replied. "And I'm not even exaggerating there. Depending on the gang, you'd be lucky if all they did was eat you."
The kid frowned, crossed his arms in his oversized shirt, and went back to glaring out the window.
"Where are we going?" He finally asked.
"I'm going back to my ship." Vandrel said. "What you do is up to you."
They travelled in silence for a time before the boy finally spoke again.
"Could I come with you?"
"What?" Vandrel's response was not as surprised as it might have been.
"I've got nothing left on Nar Shadda, and since you did kill my dad it seems only fair..."
"Kid, I don't owe you a damn thing." Vandrel replied harshly. "Be grateful I even bothered to do this much. You want to be a Bounty Hunter? That's your business, but I'm not charity. If you want a free piece of advice though: Life is cheap. Nowhere in the galaxy is that more true then here, but it's the univeral law of the galaxy and you'd best learn it fast."
The air car settled down, and Vandrel powered down the systems, still not looking at the boy and the boy not looking at him.
"Bounty Hunting isn't glamorous kid. You asked me why I didn't ask about your dad, and the reason is I've got enough ghosts following me around I don't need to add any more to the tally. I'm good at killing and not much else, so that's why I do what it is I do, but never for a minute think I do it because I *want* to."
The door to the air car opened, and Vandrel stepped out. The boy listened to him get out, but still made no move to get out of the car or even face his father's killer. The tears were falling down his face to hard for either of that - causing the lights from the billboard next to the pad to shimmer as if in a dream.
"Another life lesson kid," Vandrel leaned in to the open air car and spoke softly. "Bounty Hunting also doesn't have much in the way of a retirement plan. One day, I'll take a job and be too slow or miscalcuate, and then I'll be the corpse on the floor and no one will miss me when I'm gone."
The air car door shut, and the boy heard the Bounty Hunter's muffled footsteps fade into the distance. When he finally had the courage to turn his head and look, he saw a credit chit sitting on the seat Vandrel had vacated. He took the chit in his unsteady hands, and his eyes widened as he saw how much a person was willing to pay for his father's life.