Of Scavengers and Smugglers - Chapter 3

Of Scavengers and Smugglers - Chapter 3

Of Scavengers and Smugglers Ch. 3

For the next few weeks, Rey and Jakson worked to put their plan into action.  Rey scavenged for parts and Jakson devoted all his time to cleaning and repairing those parts.  It took a few days to find a steady rhythm, but they soon had managed to build up quite an impressive supply of parts.  The number of parts Rey brought to Plutt daily had increased as well, primarily because she was now scavenging for two.  Unkar Plutt didn’t mind one bit, as he could see a marked increase in the number and usefulness of the parts he purchased from Rey.  As such, he left Rey and Jakson alone for the most part, which was just fine with them.  Yet despite this small victory, the couple decided not to push their luck, and refrained from being seen in public as much as possible.  All things considered, life on Jakku had never been better…

*****

“Almost… there…” Jakson grunted.

“Unh… holy fuck, don’t stop, Jak,” Rey moaned.

The couple had been making love for hours that evening, as it was the first night after Rey’s cycle.  This allowed the couple to have as much sex as they wanted without fear of her becoming pregnant.  When she had arrived home that evening, Rey practically threw herself at Jakson, riding him right there on the floor of his kitchen.  After their first orgasms, the couple took a short break to devour some food, but was soon at it again.  Though they had started on the sofa for about an hour, they soon decided to transition to the bedroom.  Now late into the night, Jakson’s body was starting to tire from his many orgasms and the vigorous nature of their lovemaking.  Still, as he stood at the edge of his bed, he found the strength to push through for one last glorious climax.

“Shit… shit… yes, yes, YES!  OH REYYYYYYYY!”

“AHHHHHHHHHH!  YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”

Breathless, the pair erupted in a giggle-fit due to the sheer amount of time they had wasted away that night.  Jakson moved to lie down beside her, stroking her soft hair and kissing her forehead.  Rey responded with a few sweet kisses of her own, moving from his knuckles to his shoulder and neck.  Finally, she pressed her lips to his in a long, passionate embrace.  As they parted, she gazed deep into his blue eyes, beginning to feel more courage than she had ever felt before.  It was time.  She knew she wanted to say it.

“Jak… I… I lo-”

“Shh!  You hear that?” he cut her off.

“What?” she asked, alarmed by his mannerisms.

“Outside.  It sounded like… a swoop bike.”

“Let’s check the cameras.”

Jakson grinned as they moved over to his main computer, now outfitted with a security system, courtesy of Rey.  She had managed to hotwire a few cameras and had connected them to his ship, allowing them to keep an eye out for approaching trouble.  As Rey powered on the cameras, Jakson slipped on some clothes and holstered his blaster at his side.

“Got something.  A pair of swoop riders out back,” Rey said.

Approaching the screen, Jakson’s heart sunk.  “Shit… it’s the Irving Boys.”

“Your former partners?”

“The same.  But how the hell did they find me?!”

“Who says they found you?  They could be here for any number of reasons,” Rey tried to argue.

As soon as she finished speaking, a loud thump came at the rear door of the ship.  “Jakson!  We know you’re in there!”

“You were saying?” Jakson mused to Rey.  “Stay here in the bedroom, out of sight.  I’ll handle this.”

“No!  I’m going with you!  There’s two of us and two of them!”

“Yeah, but unless you own a blaster you’ve never told me about, you won’t stand a chance.  Stay here.  Once I’ve got them distracted, get to your speeder and get out of here.”

Looking him square in the eyes with a stern expression, she told him, “I’ll not leave you behind.”

“I’ll be fine.  Trust me,” Jakson replied with a wink.

As Rey dressed herself and retied her hair back into her signature buns, Jakson climbed the ladder to the top hatch.  He cracked it open before crawling silently along the top of the shuttle and peering over the edge.  With his blaster in hand, he soon spied his former partners below.

There they are… Toursant and Vanver Irving.

The human twin brothers were each over six feet tall, and armed to the teeth besides.  They had tanned white skin that was further darkened by the dirt and dust they accumulated.  Their faces were obscured a bit by thick, dark brown stubble.  Toursant carried a DH-17, capable of rapid-firing any foe into submission.  Vanver, on the other hand, preferred to blow his enemies away with his modified CA-87 shotgun blaster.

“Maybe he ain’t here,” Toursant wondered.

“Naw, he’s here.  Ya hear me, Jakson!?  Get out here!” Vanver replied.

As they waited for a response, Toursant glanced around, catching a glimpse of Jakson on top of the shuttle.  “Look!  Up there!”

“Drop your weapons,” Jakson commanded, aiming his Bryar pistol at the pair.  They did not, but his vantage point did cause them to hesitate.

“No way out, Jakson.  You’re outgunned,” Vanver replied.

“Maybe, but you both know as well as I do that I’m sure to kill one of you if this comes down to a firefight.  The only question is… which one of you would survive?”

The brothers looked uneasy at this prospect; neither was certain that they wouldn’t be the one Jakson targeted.

“How’d you find me?” Jakson asked, taking advantage of their hesitation to buy Rey some more time.

“You really think we wouldn’t install a tracking beacon on board a ship like the one you stole?” Vanver answered.

“I deactivated it.”

“Yeah, but we had an override switch,” Toursant said.  “Took some doing, but we finally managed to reactivate it and find ya here.  Once we’re done with you, we’re takin’ our ship back!”

“And believe me, we ain’t here to take prisoners.  You’ve cost us a hell of a lot of money, Jakson.  But if we kill you ourselves, we don’t gotta lose any more of it to pay off your bounty,” Vanver agreed.  “Ya shoulda just done your job.”

“No way in hell was I doing that.”

“We paid you good money to transport our cargo!” Vanver roared.

“Twi’lek girls are people, not cargo!!!” Jakson screamed, his anger exploding from within him.  “I signed up to be a smuggler.  I never signed up to be a slaver.  I made that perfectly clear when you first hired me.”

“Whatever helps ya sleep at night.  Just remember… they’re all dead because of you, not us.”

“That’s a load of shit, and you know it.”

“Then it seems we’ve reached an impasse,” Toursant sighed.

“Guess so…”

As the trio continued their tense standoff, Jakson’s ears perked up at hearing the cargo bay door opening.  He knew that Rey was powering up her speeder.  The brothers looked at each other in confusion for a moment, allowing Jakson just the opportunity he needed.  Taking careful aim, he fired two shots in quick succession towards the brothers’ swoop bikes, disabling both of them.  They returned fire, but Jakson had already scampered to the side of the shuttle and jumped down onto Rey’s speeder with her.

“Don’t let ‘em get away!” Vanver yelled.  Firing off a pair of shots from his shotgun blaster, he struck the wing of the shuttle, causing several fragments to break off and fall to the ground.

“Heads up!” Rey warned.  She tried to swerve as best she could, but Jakson was still hit in the head by the falling debris.  He managed to hang on, but soon fell completely unconscious from the blow.

“Hang on, Jak. Just hang on…” Rey pleaded, racing off into the desert.

*****

Six months earlier

“An excellent ship, Jakson.  She’ll do the job well.”

“She’s never failed me yet, Vanver.”

Jakson prepared to begin his transport mission with his YT-2400 light freighter, the Longshot.  The life of a smuggler was always exciting, and he had seen some incredible sights in his travels through the galaxy.

“Are we ready?” Vanver called out.

“Yep.  Cargo’s loaded on board,” Toursant replied.

“Already?” Jakson asked in surprise.

“Provides an added level of protection for you.  You haven’t seen the cargo, giving you plausible deniability,” Vanver explained.

“Alright then, I’m off.  Running late as it is…”

“Good luck, Jakson.  And don’t worry; we’ll be following right behind you.”

Entering the ship’s cockpit, the copilot, a repair droid designated LE-MA5T3, welcomed Jakson.

“Leema, we ready to take off?”

“Yes, sir,” she replied.  “The fuel tank is full, and our flight path has been charted, extending approximately sixteen parsecs.”

“Very good.  Let’s get underway.”

The thrusters roared, the engine hummed, and soon the Longshot had exited the planet’s atmosphere.  A short time later, hyperspace had been achieved.  All the while, the Irving Boys followed behind Jakson, ready to provide backup should the need arise.  Some time later, Jakson picked up an odd reading on his charts.

“Huh… Leema, you see this?  Looks like we have an unexpected meteor shower coming up shortly.”

“Indeed.  It would be wise for us to exit hyperspace as we approach it to navigate it safely.”

“Agreed.  I’ll inform my partners.”  Hitting the comlink, Jakson radioed over to the Irving Boys’ ship.  “We’ll be needing to exit hyperspace in a moment; got an unanticipated meteor shower up ahead.”

“Understood.  We’ll do the same,” came Toursant’s reply.

“Roger that.  Longshot out.”  Taking a firm handle on the ship’s controls, Jakson prepared to make the necessary adjustments.  “Alright, here we go… now!”

Flipping the switch, Jakson cut to the ship’s sublightspeed engines.  The Longshot lurched from the sudden change, throwing Jakson forward in his seat a bit.  Still, he was a skilled pilot, and this seemed as nothing to him.  As he relaxed, he could have sworn he heard cries of surprise, or perhaps fear, coming from the cargo area in back.

“Leema… did you hear that?”

“It sounded as if someone was screaming, sir.”

Standing, Jakson replied, “Take the helm.  I’ll go check it out.”

Drawing his Bryar pistol, Jakson crept through the hallways of his ship, ready for the first sign of trouble.  Reaching the secret entrance to the cargo hold, he punched in the security code and slid away a hidden wall panel.  Pausing, he could hear whispers and murmurs from within the hold.

“Freeze!” he commanded, stepping into the doorway with his blaster drawn.

“Don’t shoot!  Please!”

Blinking twice, Jakson was surprised to discover a group of fifteen beautiful Twi’lek women of varying colors.  They were huddled around the edges of the room, their fear evident on their faces.  One of them stood near him, her hands up in a nonthreatening manner.

“Who are you?  How did you get onto my ship?” Jakson demanded.

“We… we were placed here by the Irving Boys,” their leader, a blue Twi’lek, said.  “We are to be transported somewhere for work.”

Seeing the skimpy clothes the women wore, Jakson replied, “Work… or enslavement?”

“They are one in the same, as far as we are concerned.”

“Oh no… no, no, no, this cannot be happening…” Jakson grumbled.

“What is wrong, Captain?”

Sighing, he answered, “I was told I was to transport cargo, not people.  Excuse me, I have to go call my partners…”

Arriving back in the cockpit, Jakson immediately reached for the comlink.  “Toursant?  Vanver?”

Jakson?  Everything ok?” Toursant replied.

“Deal’s off.  I never signed up to be a slaver.”

Jakson, don’t be stupid.  Put your ship back on course… or else.”

“You’re a real pair of bastards, boys.  I’d say it’s been a pleasure working with ya, but I’d be lying.  Over and out.”

“Sir?” Leema asked.

“The cargo we’re transporting… is a group of Twi’lek slaves.  I can’t do this… I can’t…”

“Sir, you are clearly in distress.  Perhaps you should lie down.”

As he finished speaking, the ship was rocked by a near miss of blaster fire.  “Belay that suggestion, Leema.  Get us out of here, I’m going to man the guns!”

“Understood, sir.”

Sprinting to the gun well in the center of the ship, Jakson smiled to himself at his preparedness.  A ship of this size would normally need two gunners, but Jakson had managed to modify the weapons systems to allow either operating chair to use both sets of laser cannons.  Climbing the ladder to the top cannon, Jakson strapped himself in and activated the targeting systems.

“There they are,” he muttered, spotting the Irving Boys.

As they approached in their Allanar N3 light freighter, the Fireball, Jakson adjusted the cannons and opened fire.  The Fireball retaliated almost simultaneously, peppering the Longshot’s hull with blaster fire.  After a few more volleys, the ship was rocked by a powerful hit.

“Leema, status report!”

“We are hit, sir, but flying strong.  The shields are still holding.  They appear to be attempting to disable us, as they are not targeting vital areas despite ample opportunity to do so.”

“They don’t wanna lose their ‘cargo’, it seems… Well if they won’t go for the kill shot, I will!”

*****

“You managed to stop him yet?!” Toursant yelled.

“Tryin’ to!  He’s fast, and fighting back!” Vanver replied.

“Just careful where you hit him!  We’ve got a hell of a lot of product on that ship, and we can’t afford to lose it!”

Vanver continued to fire in short, controlled bursts, peppering the non-vital areas of the Longshot with laser fire.  He soon scored a hit, rocking the ship and throwing it off course a bit.  Jakson recovered, retaliating with several volleys of blaster fire and concussion missiles.

“Shit!  He’s firing missiles at us!”

“On it!”

Vanver fired the cannons with precision at one of the missles, destroying it.  The second was avoided thanks to the deft maneuvering of Toursant, putting the Fireball in position below the Longshot.

“Alright, let’s see him get to us now!”

*****

“Sir, they seem to have navigated below the ship, out of range of the upper laser cannons.”

“I’m aware of that, Leema!  In fact, I was counting on it!”

Flipping a switch on his targeting computer, Jakson took control of the lower laser cannons remotely.  As he did so, a camera in the lower gun chair projected the view from below onto a screen in front of him.  He took care to not tip off the Irving Boys to his plan until it was too late for them to react.  Waiting, they pulled closer to his ship, continuing to try and disable it.  As they came within range, Jakson fired a volley of concussion missiles from the lower turret, scoring three direct hits on the Fireball.

“Got ‘em!!!” Jakson cheered.

“Direct hit, sir.  Their ship has been damaged severely; one of the missiles managed to take out their shield generator.”

*****

“Goddammit, we’re hit!” Toursant cursed.

“How bad, bro?”

“Shields are out, and… oh shit.  All thruster control is gone, too!  I’ve got no control of this thing!”

“WHAT?!”

“We gotta bail out; we’re on a collision course with the Longshot!”

Hesitating for only a moment, the brothers soon grabbed what they could and made for the escape pod, launching as soon as they got onboard.  As they hurtled through space, they watched through the porthole as their ship drew closer to the Longshot.  Soon, it struck the bottom of the hull.  Jakson’s ship began to break apart from the blow, both ships self-destructing on top of each other.  Just before the ships were engulfed in a massive explosion, Toursant could have sworn he saw an escape pod flying out in the opposite direction of theirs.

*****

“Sir, their ship is on a collision course with ours.  Impact is eminent.”

“Oh god, no… can we destroy it with the turrets?”

“There is not time, sir; the ship is too close.  You must escape.  I will keep us stable until you are away.  It has been an honor to fly with you.”

Sighing, Jakson tearfully replied, “You too, Leema.”

Sliding down the ladder of the gun well, Jakson exited back onto the main deck of the ship, dashing to the cargo hold.  Opening the wall panel, he immediately motioned for the Twi’lek women to rise.

“The ship’s going down; we’ve got to bail out!”

Just as he had spoken, the Fireball struck the Longshot, throwing everyone to the ground.  Alarm sirens began to go off, and Jakson could hear the ship beginning to falter.  Picking himself up, he helped the nearest girl to her feet, recognizing her as the one he had spoken to earlier.

“We have to go, NOW!”

“Is there enough space for us all?” she asked.

“I’ve got two escape pods, should be plenty.”

The Twi’lek followed him down the hallway towards the escape pod entrance hatch.  Punching the control panel, Jakson’s heart sunk at what he saw.

“Shit… launch mechanism has been damaged, only one pod is functional.”  Opening the hatch, he motioned to the group of Twi’leks gathering behind him.  “Get in.  As many as are able.”

“Captain, there is not enough space for everyone,” their leader replied.

“I know, but I’ve got to save as many of you as I can.  Get in, I’ll launch you to safety.”

The blue Twi’lek glanced back at her friends, and they all seemed to communicate in silence with their head tails.  As she turned back to Jakson, she said firmly, “Either we all go, or none of us go.  I will not abandon any of my sisters, and they feel the same.  You are a good, honest man.  You do not deserve to die when you attempted to save us.”

“If you think I’m leaving you here-”

“You have no choice,” she replied, forcing him back into the escape pod.  Without a word, she closed the hatch and activated the pod, blasting Jakson off into space with a sad look on her face.

“No!  Stop!  Don’t do this!” Jakson tried to protest, but it was too late.  He now saw his beloved Longshot through the porthole, beginning to fall apart before his eyes.  As the two ships finally exploded, engulfing his copilot and those poor girls, a part of Jakson’s soul died with them…

*****

“And that’s it… now you know everything.  After my escape pod landed on Jakku, I found an old warehouse owned by the Irving Boys and stole that freighter, intending to go on the run with it.  As bad a shape as it was in, though, I wasn’t leaving this planet, and decided the best thing to do would be to head for Niima Outpost and disappear.  The Irving Boys had placed a bounty on my head, saying I was completely responsible for killing all those girls.  I knew every bounty hunter in the galaxy would be out to collect.  Fast forward, and here we are…”

“With you, I doubt that’s everything, Jak,” Rey said, treating the cuts on his forehead.

“I’m just so sorry I got you into this… you don’t deserve to get caught in the crossfire…”

“Jak, hush.  Even if we weren’t romantically involved, I’d help you against the Irving Boys anyway, no questions asked.”

“Thanks, Rey.”  Sitting up, he looked around Rey’s makeshift home, wondering if this might be the end for him.  “They’ll be here soon.  No way they won’t be able to track us, even with their swoop bikes damaged.”

“Perhaps, but they’ll have a hell of a time once they get here,” Rey said with a grin.  “I’ve set up every trap imaginable outside my home.  If it’s just the two of them, they won’t even survive the approach, I’d wager.”

“Maybe, but don’t underestimate them.”

As they spoke, the familiar sound of Jakson’s speeder bike approached from outside of the AT-AT.

“Ok, show time,” Jakson muttered.

Peering out from a crack in the hull with blaster pistol in hand, Jakson could see the silhouettes of the Irving Boys against the morning sun.  They stood atop a hill, calling down to him.

“Jakson, come on out!  Nowhere left to run; just take your punishment like a man!” Toursant threatened.

“How confident are you in your traps?” Jakson asked Rey.

“They’ve never failed me yet.”

Smiling, Jakson shouted back to the Irving Boys, “You want me?  You’ll have to drag me out!”

Jakson watched with anticipation as the pair began to work their way down the hill towards the AT-AT.  As they approached the feet of the vehicle, Rey pushed a button on the wall near her, activating a trio of shock grenades at the feet of the Irving Boys.  They staggered and yelped in pain, the electric shocks taking them completely by surprise.

“The fuck was that!”

“Shit… they must have this place hotwired,” Vanver surmised.

“Was that it?” Jakson asked.

“Not even close,” Rey replied.

Pressing another button, Rey activated a pair of mini turrets, which began firing upon the Irving Boys.  They evaded and took cover behind the foot of the AT-AT, but were pinned down for the moment.

“Alright, enough of this shit,” Vanver seethed.

Gripping his shotgun blaster, Vanver waited for a lull in the laser blasts. When they paused, he popped up from his hiding spot and blasted one of the turrets to smithereens.  After repeating the process with the other turret, the brothers had decided that enough was enough.

“Time to change the game,” Toursant said.

Pulling a thermal detonator from his pocket, Toursant activated the timer and tossed it at the belly of the AT-AT.  The distinctive beeping tipped the occupants off to what was happening.

“GRENADE!!!” Jakson shouted as the pair dove for cover.

The detonator soon exploded, blowing a hole in the side of Rey’s home and exposing them to the Irving Boys’ assaults.  Rey pressed the final button on her control panel, yet nothing happened.

“Bloody hell… that blast damaged my last countermeasure!  We’re sitting ducks!”

“Get to your speeder, Rey.  I’ll cover you,” Jakson instructed.

“No!  I’m not leaving you!”

“You’ve got nothing but your staff, Rey.  You need to get to town.  Find Unkar Plutt and tell him what’s going on.  If you tell him they’re out to take back the freighter I gave him, I bet he’d be willing to send his guards as backup.”  The pair then ducked as a few blaster bolts struck the side of her home.  “Get out of here!  I’ll keep you covered!”

“Fine.  At least take my utility knife; you might need it.”

“Thanks.  Good luck, Rey.  I’ll see you soon.”

Rey sprinted towards her speeder outside, protected by a rapid series of blasts from Jakson’s Bryar pistol.  Powering the vehicle up, she climbed aboard and sped off towards Niima Outpost.

“She’s running, bro!  Jakson’s all alone!” Toursant crowed.

“You’re a fuckin’ dumbass!  She could be goin’ for backup; get after her!” Vanver scolded him.

Realizing Vanver was likely correct, Toursant made for the speeder bike they had stolen from Jakson and took off after the girl.  Vanver, meanwhile, began targeting Jakson with his shotgun blaster, forcing Jakson to remain at a distance as best as he could.

“Shit… he always has been trigger-happy,” Jakson muttered.

Finally, after four shots, Vanver had to pause to prevent his weapon from overheating.  Jakson preyed on the opportunity, popping out of cover and firing several light, yet accurate shots at Vanver.  Two grazed the foot of the AT-AT he hid behind, while the third managed to wing Vanver in the shoulder.

“You fucking prick!  You’re gonna pay for that!” he roared in pain.

“Ah shit,” Jakson swore, seeing Vanver target him again.  He dove back into cover just as the first blast struck near him.

*****

Rey sped through the desert, praying she would be able to bring help in time to save Jakson.  As she adjusted course towards town, her speeder was rocked by a near miss of blaster fire.

“What the hell?!”

Glancing behind her, she spied Jakson’s speeder bike, now piloted by Toursant Irving, his blaster pistol in hand.  She adjusted course again, knowing she would need to lose him before reaching town, or else she would be in serious trouble.  As good a pilot as she was, Rey knew the speeder bike chasing her was far more maneuverable and had incredible acceleration.  Getting an idea, she turned her path towards the north, approaching a large, open field.

“Get back here, girly!” Toursant shouted, drawing closer to Rey.

Firing another couple of shots, Toursant managed to strike the hull of her speeder, slowing her down considerably.  Now almost on top of her, he accelerated and pulled alongside Rey.  As he was about to blast her, the girl pulled out a quarterstaff, jousting with him as they flew through the desert.  After a couple of swipes, she managed to knock his blaster out of his hand.  While Toursant worked to keep his balance, Rey was able to adjust her speeder and get some of her speed back, pulling away from Toursant once more.

“You ain’t gettin’ away that easy,” he muttered.

Keeping a tight grip on the controls, Toursant activated a speed boost, rocketing forward and beginning to catch up with Rey.  Pulling alongside her again, he now began to ram her with the side of his speeder bike.  Her speeder was larger than his, though, and far more stable.  Still, after a few well-timed kicks, Rey was struggling to keep from falling off.

“Are you insane?!  You’ll kill us both!” Rey shouted.

Toursant refused to let up, trying everything he could to throw Rey from her mount.  Seeing no other option, she pulled out her quarterstaff once more, prodding and jabbing at his face at every opportunity.  He replied by grabbing on, trying to yank her off with it.  Rey was ready for this tactic, and managed to keep a tight grip on her speeder.  Pulling back with all her might, she took Toursant completely by surprise at her strength.  His hand flailed about, trying to grab something of the speeder bike, but it was no use.  He flew from the bike, landing in the soft sand with a thud.  At first, Toursant was thankful for the sand, but soon realized why it was so soft: he was sinking into it.  The pit he had landed in was drawing him towards its center, and he could do nothing to gain any traction to pull himself out.

“Here!  Grab on!” a voice shouted.

To his utter shock, Rey was crouching at the edge of the sand pit, beckoning him to grab her staff so she could pull him out.  Toursant had no idea why she would try to save him, but reached for her nonetheless.  Finally managing to grab the strap of the staff, he struggled with everything he had to try and counteract the sinking sands.

“Come on!  Don’t give up!” Rey tried encouraging him.

Even as he had a grip on the strap, it was tenuous and weak, and his body was still shell-shocked from being thrown off the speeder bike.  Toursant pulled with all his might, but the sand was too strong.  His sweaty palms finally got the best of him, and the staff slipped from his grip just as his face began to disappear below the surface of the sand.  He screamed and shouted in desperation, but no sound came out.  Soon, the desert had completely swallowed Toursant Irving.

“Shit… bloody awful way to go…” Rey muttered, turning back towards her speeder.

*****

Jakson and Vanver continued their duel, the latter keeping the former on the defensive for the most part.  Jakson dashed and rolled between various areas of cover, just managing to avoid Vanver’s shotgun blasts.  As Vanver’s rage grew, so did his recklessness, as he now advanced on Jakson’s position.  This gave Jakson a slight opening to fire off a few shots at him.  Unfortunately, Vanver had anticipated this, and dove forward into a roll.  This allowed him to close the distance between them and avoid Jakson’s attack all at once.

“Not good enough, Jakson!”

Knowing Vanver was almost on top of him, Jakson spied Rey’s final trap that had failed to activate: a large, electrified net positioned above her home.  Taking careful aim, he waited until Vanver was under the net before firing off a precision shot.  This severed the pulley holding the net up, causing it to drop onto Vanver, catching him by surprise.  Unfortunately, the net was not electrified, as it had not been activated properly by Rey’s security system, but it did manage to slow Vanver down.  As he struggled to break free, Jakson fired into his chest.  Vanver guarded on instinct, and the blaster bolt hit his shotgun blaster instead, rendering it inoperable.

“Shit!  You fucker!” Vanver seethed.

“Now we’re talking,” Jakson whispered to himself.

As Vanver finally managed to toss the net off of him, Jakson emerged from his hiding spot, preparing to finish his rival.  In desperation, Vanver flung his useless weapon at Jakson, causing him to flinch and swat it away.  As he did so, Vanver charged him, tackling him to the ground and forcing Jakson to drop his blaster pistol.  Vanver stunned him with a few wild punches before beginning to crawl towards the blaster.  Jakson grabbed onto his leg, trying desperately to keep him away from the weapon, as it would mean his certain death.  Vanver answered by kicking Jakson in the face before continuing towards the pistol.

“Now you’re dead, Jakson!” Vanver cheered as he snatched up the weapon.

Jakson knew his only chance of surviving would be to avoid being shot, as Vanver preferred using his shotgun blaster due to his terrible aim.  In contrast, the Bryar pistol was exceptionally accurate, requiring a skilled operator to maximize its potential.  Rather than put his hands up as Vanver had expected, Jakson took off running towards the leg of the AT-AT.  Vanver attempted to kill him, but his shots were way off target, flying behind Jakson as he ran.  In frustration, Vanver flipped a switch on the pistol, activating its charge shot mode.  Trying his best to take aim at Jakson, Vanver let loose the powerful shot, but it still flew over Jakson’s head.

“Missed me!” Jakson taunted, now beginning to climb up the AT-AT.

“Well, take this!”  Vanver steadied his aim, pointed at Jakson's chest, and pulled the trigger.

Click.

Nothing happened.  Vanver tried once more.

Click.

“What’s wrong, Vanver?  Is the charge dry?”

“Shut up!  You’re still fucking DEAD!!!”

Vanver tossed away the useless pistol and sprinted after Jakson, scrambling up the leg of the AT-AT.  Soon, both men were atop the hull of the massive walker, staring each other down.  With both of their blasters now useless, Jakson knew it would come down to single combat.  Preparing for Vanver’s inevitable attack, his pulse raced as he saw the smuggler pull a dagger out of his pocket. Jakson responded by drawing Rey’s utility knife from his belt.

“Yah!” Vanver grunted, thrusting at Jakson.

Jakson sidestepped, slashing at Vanver’s arm with his own knife.  His attack connected, but only cut into his jacket, missing his flesh.  Thinking quickly, Jakson used his off-hand to deliver a pair of crushing punches to Vanver’s side, striking him in the kidney.  Vanver staggered away from Jakson, but remained undeterred.  Jakson now went on the offensive, slashing from the side at Vanver’s face, but his attack was blocked by Vanver’s arm.  He retaliated by targeting Jakson’s torso with his knife, though Jakson managed to grab his wrist just in time, stopping the attack.

“You’re good, Jakson… but not good enough.”

As Jakson relaxed his knife arm, Vanver brought his blocking arm down below his waist.  After tossing his knife into his left hand, he slashed at Jakson, catching him in the abdomen.  Jakson panted and heaved, knowing he was lucky to escape with his life.  He had no time to recover, seeing Vanver charging once more and slashing at Jakson from every direction.  This action began to drive him back towards the head of the AT-AT.  Knowing he was now on the edge of the walker’s body, Jakson waited for Vanver’s next strike, deflecting it and stabbing his knife into Vanver’s already injured shoulder.  As his rival winced in pain, Jakson leapt over the neck of the walker and onto the side of the cockpit.

“Get back here!”

Vanver followed right behind him, rolling as he landed and bringing him face-to-face with Jakson once more.  Jakson pressed his attack, stunning Vanver with a couple of punches to his wounded shoulder.  He then attempted to impale him with his knife, but Vanver managed to grab Jakson’s wrist.  The smuggler moved to slit Jakson’s throat, but Jakson caught his wrist just as the knife was at his neck.  The two men struggled for what seemed like years, neither conceding an inch on the other.  Finally feeling Vanver begin to weaken from his previous wound, Jakson managed to deliver a swift kick to his groin.  Wincing in pain, Vanver disengaged and stumbled backwards.

Jakson now had the opportunity he was waiting for.  Dashing forward, he ducked under a frenzied haymaker before finally stabbing the smuggler dead center in the chest.  Vanver’s eyes bulged in surprise, his knife clattering to the hull of the walker as his body began to lose strength.  He instinctively grabbed Jakson by the throat, but his hands were too weak to do anything short of brush against him.  Pulling the knife from Vanver’s chest, Jakson stepped back and allowed his rival’s body to fall to the desert sands below.  As he landed with a thud, Jakson breathed a sigh of relief.  Vanver Irving was finally dead.

“Jak!”

Turning to look into the distance, Jakson’s heart leapt at what he saw.  “Rey!  You’re ok!”

She ran towards the walker from her speeder, a trio of Niima Outpost guards following right behind her.  Jakson scrambled across the hull of the walker, sliding down the leg as she approached.  He wrapped her up in an exuberant hug, thankful that she was alive and unhurt.

“What happened out there?  I saw Toursant go after you, but…”

“I’m fine.  He caught up to me, but I managed to pull him off the speeder bike in the fields north of here.  He fell into a pit of sinking sand.  He’s gone, Jak.”

“Vanver’s dead too.  Just killed him in a knife fight.  Thanks for that, by the way,” he said with a grin, handing Rey’s knife back to her.

“Anytime,” she said, planting a sweet kiss on his lips.

“Jakson, over here with us.  You’re under arrest,” one of the guards ordered.

“Wait, what?” Jakson asked in confusion.

“No!  You can’t arrest him, this was all self-defense!” Rey protested.

“This is by direct order of Unkar Plutt himself,” the guard replied.

Two of the guards restrained Rey as the third placed Jakson in binders and loaded him into their prisoner transport.  They soon made way back to town, with Rey following right on their heels the entire time.

*****

“You’re lucky I don’t kill you where you stand!!!” Plutt roared.

“The hell are you so worked up about?  Everything worked out just fine!” Jakson replied.

“Just fine?!  Do you have ANY idea how much you almost cost me today?!”

“Stop, let me in!” came a muffled voice.  Soon afterwards, Rey burst in through the door to Unkar Plutt’s office.  “You can’t do this!”

“Sir, my apologies.  She managed to push past us.  I’ll escort her out,” a guard said from behind her.

“No need, she’ll just break in all over again,” Plutt said, waving the guard off.  Turning his attention back to Jakson as the guard left, he growled, “She is the reason the events of today are completely unacceptable.  The combination of her and the freighter I acquired from you are worth a small fortune, and I could have lost both today!”

“The Irving Boys are dead!  Nobody else even knows about that freighter!” Jakson protested.

“So you say, but you also said that your past life would not come looking for you here.  You said you would be able to completely disappear in Niima Outpost.  Why should I believe you now?”

“With the Irving Boys dead, the bounty on my head dies with them,” Jakson said, trying to remain calm.  “Nobody’s left to pay out on that bounty, so there’s no reason for anyone else to come after me.”

“That is not a chance I am willing to take any more.  I have no qualms about killing you to protect my most valuable assets,” Plutt said, aiming his blaster pistol at Jakson.

“NO!” Rey protested, placing herself between Jakson and Plutt.

“Stand down, girl.”

“I will not.  I… I love him.  I won’t let you do this to him.”

“I’ll not jeopardize everything I’ve built here over your frivolous affections for him!”

“What if I ignore those feelings?  What if… I end my relationship with Jakson, and promise never to see him again?  If I do this, will you spare his life?”

Unkar Plutt paused, considering this offer.  As Jakson tried to protest, Plutt growled, “Hush.  This is no longer in your hands.”  The hulking alien eyed Ray for several moments before continuing, “If you do this, know that my men will always be watching you, and him as well.  Should they find even the slightest hint of contact between the two of you, he dies.  Agreed?”

A tear streamed down Rey’s cheek as she whispered, “Agreed.”  After wiping the tear from her face, she said, “I need a moment… to say goodbye to him.”

Grunting, Plutt stood and walked towards the door to his office.  “You have five minutes,” he said, slamming the door shut behind him.

Rey turned towards Jakson, pulling the binders off of his wrists.  He rubbed his tender skin, massaging the area that had been clamped down on by the restraints.  Gazing into her eyes, Jakson brushed her cheek with his fingers.

“Rey… why?  Why would you do that?”

“Because I love you, Jak.  I would do anything for you… including never seeing you again, if it would save your life.  I’m sorry, but it’s the only way.  Please, don’t be mad at me.”

“I could never be mad at you, Rey.  But… why do this?  There’s nothing else forcing me to hide here, so let’s go!  Let’s get a ship and run away.  Together.  We can live wherever we want, away from the Blobfish and his goons.  Please, come with me.”

Tears flowed from her eyes, as she replied, “No.  I… I can’t.  My family will return for me, someday.  I’ve got to be here when they do.  I’m so sorry, Jak.”

“You… you’re sure?”

“I am.  I have no choice.  My place is here.”

Sighing, Jakson replied, “Then so is mine.”

“What?”

“Rey, I love you.  I’m not giving up on you, or us.  Sooner or later, Plutt will slip up.  When he does… I’ll be there.  We’ll be together again.”

“I… hope you’re right…”

*****

The next several weeks were the toughest of Jakson’s life. He saw Rey every day, yet could do nothing, not even wave hello from a distance. Anything of the sort would result in a swift response from Plutt’s guards. Everywhere she went, they followed close behind. During that time, Jakson didn’t live; he just survived. Plutt became increasingly stingy with his rations, though Jakson had built up a decent supply of food so he wouldn’t starve.

One day, as he walked through Niima Outpost, he noticed that Rey had a visitor accompanying her: a small, white and orange BB unit droid.  This struck him as rather odd, and he wondered where she might have run across such an acquisition.  Taking great care, he followed her at a distance, keeping an eye on her as she approached the concession stand to trade her parts for food rations.  Though Plutt offered little for her scrap, he seemed to be quite interested in the droid with her.  Jakson’s jaw dropped when he heard him offer sixty portions for the droid; that was almost two months worth of food!

Jakson watched as Rey considered the offer, then took her meager rations and told Plutt he couldn’t have the droid. Jakson immediately worried for her, seeing Plutt mutter something into his radio before slamming his window closed. Jakson kept Rey within his sights as she returned to her speeder, but soon saw he had nothing to worry about. As Plutt’s guards ambushed her and attempted to take the droid, she gave them a resounding beating with her quarterstaff.

Just as Jakson celebrated her victory, the droid beside her seemed to notice an approaching danger, beeping in alarm.  Rey glanced in the direction the little droid indicated, spying a dark-skinned human male.  The unknown individual took off running, and Rey soon gave chase.  By the time Jakson had caught up, he saw her pinning the man to the ground and calling him a thief.  Seeing as she had the situation under control, Jakson continued to hang back, watching them converse.  After a few moments, the man said something to the droid, which made it appear to hang its head in sorrow.

As Rey helped the man up and talked with him a bit more, Jakson turned and noticed a truly terrifying sight: First Order stormtroopers.  They were pointing towards Rey, appearing to recognize the droid as the target they were after.  Rey and her mysterious companion picked up on this and took off running.  As they sprinted through town, a pair of TIE fighters zoomed in overhead, taking out a few structures with their laser cannons.  Jakson took cover, then saw Rey, the dark-skinned man, and the droid dashing for the edge of town.  As he looked for a way to help her, he noticed another group of stormtroopers moving to intercept them.

“They’ll never make it out,” he realized.

Springing to his feet, Jakson managed to get behind a stack of storage containers.  Biding his time, he waited for the group of stormtroopers to run past them on the other side.  Once they passed the containers, Jakson toppled them onto the soldiers, stopping them dead in their tracks.  Smiling to himself, he saw Rey and her crew arriving at the shipyard in the distance.  Now playing the part of an innocent bystander, he ran to the other side of the containers and offered help to the fallen stormtroopers.

“Officers!  Are you alright?” Jakson asked with concern.

“Ungh… yeah.  Yeah we’re alright,” their commander said, rising to his feet.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No, no we know what we need to do now.  Move along.”

“Yes sir,” Jakson replied with a friendly smile.

Off in the distance, he now spied the old YT model freighter he had stolen from the Irving Boys taking off, Rey no doubt at the helm.  Unkar Plutt ran out in a fit of rage as she made off with the ship, but Jakson couldn’t help but smile at seeing her finally get one over on the hated Blobfish.  As the old ship flew off into the distance, Jakson decided he had been on Jakku long enough, slipping out of town unnoticed to look for a way off this planet.  A few minutes into his walk home, he watched as Rey’s ship finally broke the atmosphere, taking off into outer space.

“Take care of yourself, Rey,” he whispered.  “I’ll never forget you…”

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