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Old 10-13-2008, 08:24 PM   #1
Inyri
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A Graceful Exit

A Graceful Exit

Written for the monthly topic Breaking the Rules.


"What's a guy like you doing here when you could be out there taking real bounties?" the man behind the counter asked, leaning against the counter and staring down the taller, larger man.
"Shut up and get the list," the larger man barked impatiently, resting his hand on his blaster. It was a probably a violation of the bounty hunters' creed somewhere to kill a bounty office employee for being obnoxious, but he considered it all the same.
"Here you go," the man said, returning with a datacard. The bounty hunter quickly snatched it away from him and walked in the opposite direction, ignoring the muffled string of expletives from the attendant. He continued walking the short distance to his ship, happy to be able to lock himself inside away from prying eyes and flapping jaws. He sat down at a desk and popped the datacard into the reader.
He sighed as he finished looking over the bounties. "All crap," he complained to himself. "Nobody puts out real bounties anymore."
Darrow Greiss had picked up bounty hunting during the Mandalorian Wars, when tensions and bounties were high. At war's end, however, the money train ended. Neither the Sith or the Republic seemed willing to pay bounties anymore, meaning the bounties that remained were private bounties. Normally this would be fine, since private bidders generally had far more open pockets, but for some reason there hadn't been any big-name bounties for months. It wasn't possible that they didn't exist, they simply weren't being offered to bounty hunters.
"Or maybe they're being offered to other hunters," Greiss said to himself with a low growl. He would find out what was going on. He would have to or he would be out of business. He decided the best place to start looking would be Nar Shaddaa so he set the coordinates in his navcomputer and waited for the local spaceport to grant his departure clearance. It's sure taking them long enough, he thought to himself as he drummed his fingers on the console. Finally after nearly a half hour of waiting the controller announced he was free to leave.


Nar Shaddaa was just as grimy as ever. Greiss nearly had to cover his nose to avoid gagging on the stench of the landing pad. Perhaps something had died there recently, he mused silently. It's not as if anyone would notice. He had set a few surprises near the landing ramp to his ship in case any of the locals thought they might snag themselves a free ride, and once he was confident he was not being followed, watched, or otherwise paid attention to he set off in search of answers. Where to first, though? The cantina was a good choice, although he could take the direct route and ask the Exchange. Greiss shuddered at the thought. He loathed the Exchange with every fiber of his being. Not only did they play dirty, but they rarely displayed any finesse with their work.
He decided to visit the cantina first, hoping that perhaps some decent bounties might be posted and he could forget about his self-appointed mission. When he arrived the air was thick with the scent of alcohol, body odor, and a variety of other things he couldn't -- and frankly didn't want to -- place. Greiss first passed by the bounty postings. Nothing. How surprising. He quickly realized he would get no information from the cantina denizens as half of them were Exchange muscle (making them utterly useless) and the other half were too drunk to know their blaster from their ale.
Greiss only too happily exited the cramped confines of the cantina in search of one of the various hidden Exchange bases on Nar Shaddaa. Calling them 'hidden bases' was a bit of a misnomer since the Exchange made no attempt to hide their operations, knowing that no one in their right mind would try and shut them down. Even so, the designation seemed to appeal to the less intelligent members of the Exchange's ranks so they went on being 'hidden' bases, even though every half-brained mercenary from Tatooine to Corulag knew the location of almost every single one. Of course knowing the bases' locations was one thing; getting in was something altogether different.
As Greiss drew near one of the main Exchange outposts he straightened his body armor and made sure his blaster was secure but easily accessible before approaching the guard. "I want to see your boss," Greiss said forcefully but with a slight degree of diplomacy. As much as he loathed hired muscle he knew this man was his only means of an audience with the local Exchange boss. His other option would be to kill the guard, but killing the hired help rarely worked in his favor.
"Get lost, spacer," the guard said without making eye contact.
Greiss moved in front of the guard, standing up to his full height which was a full head taller than the other man. Greiss narrowed his eyes and put a hand on his blaster. "I want to see your boss, now."
The guard finally looked up at Greiss, shrinking slightly as he met the bounty hunter's unyielding glare, but still he said nothing.
"It's a shame you're not cooperating with me," Greiss said indifferently as he turned away. "I wonder if you've got any bounties on your head."
That did it. "Hang on," the guard said, moving to catch Greiss so quickly that he nearly tripped over his own feet. "Visquis doesn't like to be bothered but maybe I can work something out."
"That's more like it," Greiss said approvingly. Even so he would have to check if the man really did have a price on his head. He guessed it would be an easy mark, even if the price wasn't right. He turned his attention back to the guard. "Shouldn't you be going?"
"O-oh, right," the guard said, backing up and quickly disappearing into the base. Silly of him to leave the door unguarded, Greiss thought to himself as the automated door opened with a whirr. Greiss kept his hand firmly on the handle of his blaster as he walked through the dimly lit halls.
"You!" the quarren Exchange boss bellowed as he saw Greiss enter his chambers. Visquis turned his attention to the guard who stood only feet from him. "All I asked you to do was guard the door!"
"S-sir, I just thought--"
"Kill him," Visquis ordered. One of his bodyguards stepped forward and dispatched the door guard with a single blaster shot. So much for that bounty. Visquis leaned down over his desk and pushed a small button next to the speaker. "Have a new guard placed at the front door."
"Shall I take care of this one as well?" the bodyguard asked, glancing at Greiss.
"No, I admire the courage this one showed," Visquis told him with a dismissing wave of his hand. "Who are you, bounty hunter?"
"Darrow Greiss."
"And why are you here?" Visquis continued.
"I want to know why the Exchange is withholding its bounties," Greiss replied, making sure to sound confident. It was harder than it seemed when he was surrounded by armed Exchange muscle. He considered himself to be a talented bounty hunter, but if this all went to hell he would be in vast amounts of trouble.
"You are very brave for a human," Visquis said with a hearty laugh. "Exchange bounties are privately contracted to ensure quality."
Greiss gritted his teeth as he weighed his options. He would either have to settle for low bounties or he would have to demand to work for the Exchange. Neither option sounded appealing, but his situation made the choice a bit easier. Breaking into an Exchange outpost was sure to be a death sentence unless he was willing to provide this quarren with something. He took a deep breath before looking the quarren in his watery blue eyes. "I want a shot at those bounties."
"Oh really?" Visquis asked. "And why should I allow that?"
"I'm good at what I do," Greiss assured him. "I've never let a bounty get away and I'm more than capable of tracking down any slime you need captured or killed."
Visquis was silent for a moment, likely debating whether to hire Greiss or have him shot. He breathed a sigh of relief as Visquis motioned for the bodyguards to leave the office. "I have heard of you, Darrow Greiss," Visquis said, stepping behind his desk and folding his arms over his chest. "You have never expressed an interest in working with the Exchange before. What has changed?"
"It is purely business," Greiss replied. "You have the work I need."
"Once you work for the Exchange you always work for the Exchange," Visquis told him flatly. "Are you willing to accept this?"
"Yes," Greiss answered after a moment of hesitation.
"Very well," Visquis said with what might have been considered a smile if his face wasn't full of tentacles. "Your first bounty will be provided to you on your way out. Don't disappoint me, human."


Greiss frowned as he stepped off of the landing ramp of his ship. The bounty was high, but the information provided to him was sketchy at best. The datapad instructed him to find Davik Kang on Taris for more information on the bounty and so there he was, taking in the stale air of the Taris upper city. Greiss was not used to planets where nary a non-human could be found. In fact he found it rather to his liking. Perhaps he would visit Taris more often.
"You here to see Davik?" a burly and somewhat unclean man asked at the exit of the starport.
"That's right," Greiss affirmed.
"Come with me," the man ordered, leading Greiss to a speeder parked nearby. They flew the short distance to Davik's sprawling estate, a welcomed change from the dirty, dark Exchange bases on Nar Shaddaa. Greiss actually found himself somewhat less wary than normal as he allowed himself to take in the attractive architecture and designs of the estate. His guide stopped in the middle of a large relatively empty room. "Wait here."
Greiss waited patiently in the large room, expecting the Exchange boss to arrive any moment. After a short wait a man did enter the room, but it most definitely was not Davik Kang. In fact the man's face was painfully familiar. Greiss's hand instinctively dropped to his blaster.
"Wasn't expecting to see you here," the other man said casually with a slight smile.
"Nord," Greiss hissed in disgust. "Why am I not surprised?"
"I go where the money is," the rival bounty hunter explained, "just like you, it seems."
Greiss was about to reply but held his tongue, realizing Nord was right. They were both after the same thing, although Greiss was well aware that Calo Nord's newly-attained reputation preceeded him. If Greiss wanted to get any work he would have to prove that he was just as capable.
"I see you two know each other," Davik said from the room's entrance. "I can already tell you must be a bounty hunter of equal caliber as Calo!"
Greiss flinched at the comment but maintained his silence.
"So Visquis told you about the bounty then?" Davik asked. "You'd be doing me a personal favor by taking care of this while Calo is busy with some of my other bounties."
Greiss once again flinched, his hatred for Calo Nord nearly boiling over. "I'm eager to get started," he said instead, taking several deep breaths to calm himself.
"The man is a wealthy resident of the upper city named Feyed Walson," Davik continued. "His business interests have come into conflict with my operation and I'd like him to be quietly removed."
"I'll take care of it," Greiss promised with a nod.
"Good," Davik replied with an oddly intimidating smile. "Your payment will be waiting for you when you complete the job."
Greiss ignored the smug stare of his rival as he turned to leave the estate. He would waste no time in proving his worth and he would wipe the grin right off Calo Nord's face. He had one of the guards fly him back to the city and he began his search for the mark.


It was taking longer than he expected to find this Walson character. Obviously the mark wouldn't be as simple as Davik had made it sound; Walson seemed fully aware of the bounty and was in hiding. Why Davik wanted him 'quietly removed' was anyone's guess. Everyone Greiss talked to seemed to know about the bounty but no one knew where Walson might be. Was this some kind of test? If it was Greiss wasn't sure how he was supposed to pass, unless the test was just to see if he could find a mark in hiding. That would be no problem. It would take time, but he would find the man.
It had already been three days without so much as a clue as to the man's whereabouts. Greiss wondered if perhaps he had fled the planet, which would make the bounty all that much more of a headache, but a quick trip to the spaceport put that concern to rest. Not only had he not been to the spaceport, but by all accounts he hadn't even left his house since the bounty had been instated.
Perhaps he hadn't left his house. Greiss couldn't think of anywhere else to look so he decided a quick sweep of the man's home might shed some light on the situation. Finding the house was simple since everyone knew where he lived. Getting into the house proved problematic. Greiss wasn't worried about the local authorities -- he knew they wouldn't bother picking a fight with the Exchange -- but the building itself literally seemed barred shut. Unfortunately Greiss wasn't the type of bounty hunter to carry every type of explosive imaginable so blowing the door open was out of the question. It was just as well; explosives tended to be loud.
Greiss decided to go with the direct approach, namely the front door. He reached into one of his belt pouches and pulled out a small device, one of his very expensive and very illegal electronic lock breakers. After a few moments he was able to break through the security encryption on the door's lock. With a satisfied smile he placed the lock breaker back in the pouch and entered the door. Just as quickly as he had entered he jumped back out, barely avoiding several streams of blaster fire from a pair of automated turrets. So much for being quiet. Greiss was begining to reevaluate his distaste of explosives, realizing a grenade would be much quicker than taking out the turrets one by one, but since they didn't seem to be tied into the same computer system as the door lock he saw no other options.
Greiss carefully poked his head around the edge of the still open door just enough so he wouldn't trigger the turrets' motion sensors. He was unfamiliar with the model but was easily able to break them down into their component parts in his mind, quickly deciding how best to incapacitate them without becoming a charred corpse. He pulled out one of his heavy pistols and carefully took aim, firing at the first turret. The first blast scored the armor plating just above the power supply, while the second punctured the plating and ignited it, causing a loud explosion and a fairly heavy cloud of smoke. Greiss ducked back out of the doorway just as the second turret began to fire, barely evading the stream of energy.
Greiss took a deep breath before leaning back into the line of fire, quickly snapping off a pair of shots. The first one splashed off of the armor plating but the second struck the targeting device. Without the ability to target the turret was useless, leaving Greiss with no more immediate threats. Of course if Walson was bright enough to leave turrets guarding the door he was sure there were several other booby traps he would have to disarm.
As it turned out there were no other traps. There were no other traps that were still functioning, that is. Greiss found the remains of several now disarmed traps, leaving him to wonder who had been there before him and how they had managed to get in, not to mention he couldn't help but wonder if they had discovered anything.
As Greiss poked around the estate he noticed a number of things seemed to be out of place. It was clear that another bounty hunter had somehow managed to gain entrance into the building, but it seemed equally obvious that whoever this person was did not have the training or experience that Greiss himself posessed. Unless the mark was incredibly sloppy and disorganized it seemed whoever had been in the building had rifled through most of the drawers and cabinets. Various objects were knocked over and datapads, datacards, and pieces of flimsiplast were littered across the floor.
Greiss briefly picked through the mess but found nothing of any value. The location of the mark was still a mystery. Greiss moved out of the main office and into the next room, which seemed to be a large kitchen or dining area. His eyes dropped to a small speck on the floor. He barely had to bend down to recognize it by its dark red color; it was definitely blood. As he scanned the room he now noticed several more droplets on the floor leading into the next room.
As Greiss stepped through the doorway he immediately noticed the body in the far corner. He reached over to turn on the light. The body was definitely not Walson's. In fact he had no idea who it was or why it was there. Perhaps it was the body of whoever had entered the estate before him; the freshness of the body seemed to suggest he was correct. The cause of death seemed to be a surprisingly well placed blaster bolt to the back of the head. This man hadn't even gotten a chance to fight back before he was killed.
It didn't take Greiss long to decide that there was nothing helpful in Walson's home. The seemingly random corpse in the back office did confuse him, though he had no clues to suggest who the man was, why he was dead, or who had killed him.
Greiss rounded the corner into the main room, intending to leave the estate and begin his search again elsewhere, but stopped as he felt a sharp pain in his neck. He reached up to feel the source the pain and winced as he felt a familiar metallic object. His eyes darted to the estate entrance.
"Kyber darts," Calo Nord said with a smile. "I had them made special so you wouldn't die too quickly."
Greiss suddenly felt his knees begin to buckle and he had to lean against the wall to keep upright. He glared at the other bounty hunter. "You killed him."
"Officially you killed him," Nord replied, "and killing another hunter is a violation of the bounty hunters' creed."
"You slimy son of a-"
"So that bounty that was mysteriously placed on your head this morning gives me the perfect opportunity to get rid of you," Nord continued.
"You, you set me..." Greiss slumped to the floor, no longer able to feel his legs. His vision was beginning to blur but he could still see that smug smile. His only regret was that he would never have a chance to see Nord get what he deserved.
"You know, I do feel kind of bad about this. You're a fellow bounty hunter, so I owe you at least this I suppose," Nord said after a moment. Greiss could hear him pull his blaster out of its holster but couldn't summon the strength to say anything. "I'll give Davik your regards."

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Old 10-17-2008, 09:49 AM   #2
Bee Hoon
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Inyrikins! <3 You wrote a fic of medium length!

I liked it Language is good and flows nicely, except for the occasional teeny-weeny bit of awkwardness. Greiss and Calo seem to have a colourful history, but unfortunately, it's only hinted at. Is a prequel ever coming?;p After all, Greiss seems to loathe him quite impressively!

The plot was fairly straightforward, but presented nicely, and the fic has a great Star Wars feel to it. I especially liked the description of the cantina on Nar Shaddaa, and the wry humour in describing the Exchange's bases. Good job!



The sun goes down and the sky reddens, pain grows sharp.
light dwindles. Then is evening
when jasmine flowers open, the deluded say.
But evening is the great brightening dawn
when crested cocks crow all through the tall city
and evening is the whole day
for those without their lovers

-Kuruntokai 234, translated by A.K. Ramanujan

[Fic] Shreds of a Dying Belief
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