Slavers, Din thought. Practically a cliché on the Outer Rim. Other Mandalorians had warned him about overfriendly travelers. About too-sweet favors, or offers of easy work, in a galaxy still plagued by the slave trade. Din hadn't remembered those warnings, and the Mandalorians that gave them weren't here to help him now. So he would fight for himself – correct his error. No other option existed, besides a firsthand introduction to slavery.

He counted the footsteps as they ascended the stairs. Two pairs, two steps at a time. Liddec and his impatient friend had arrived at Din's door. As it was slid open, he trained his pistol on the opening.

"Where did he-"

"This doesn't seem like the right room." Though low-voiced and authoritative, Liddec's friend sounded unmistakably feminine.

"But look. Those are the weapons he came in with," Liddec said.

"Then where-"

Din interrupted their conversation with a shot from his blaster. He heard Liddec scream and drop, clutching a smoldering wound in his shin. The Mandalorian lunged upright, taking the entire bedframe with him. It was thrown forward at Liddec's friend, who punched a blaster shot of her own through the material. Din felt the molten shot pass a finger's width from his shoulder.

The heater followed the bed, as Din hurled it through the doorway. It smashed on the floor with a burst and whoosh of flames, and both enemies recoiled toward the stairs. The woman clutched her cloth mask close across her nose, green eyes blazing.

Din lunged out after them and fired again, flare-red rounds glancing off an impressive set of armor. Liddec had been unprepared for a firefight, but his friend – another human clad in heavy plates – stood unfazed by Din's attacks. The armored figure drew a stun baton and struck. Din ducked under the enemy's path and rose with a kick square to her chest. She tumbled down the stairs, and her blaster clattered away.

Shouts and footsteps sounded downstairs. Din heaved a breath, preparing to take on the entire gang. He seized Liddec by the scruff of his jacket, hoisting him at gunpoint.

Liddec's friend had found her footing, hunched at the end of the staircase. The other men had assembled around her, brandishing weapons of their own.

"Bring the ferry," Din demanded. "Or Liddec gets it."

"You think we'll just let you walk out here?" One of the men bellowed.

"Your friend's life depends on it."

The slavers hesitated, glancing among themselves. None of them had lowered their weapons.

"You want to see him dead?" Din threatened, pressing the blaster close to Liddec's temple.

One of the slavers raised a gun. Not a blaster, something sleeker and small. Din felt a needle hit his neck, followed by a current that seized every muscle and nerve. Shaking, he sensed his grip on Liddec tightening. His grip on the blaster tightened too. He watched the trigger compress, helpless to move the blaster off-target, to relax his finger against pulses of electricity. Liddec screamed, thrashed against a body that refused to budge.

Din fired. Liddec's exposed head was reduced to paste. Gasping a constricted breath, Din collapsed stiffly onto his back.

The slavers raced upstairs, cuffing his wrists. Din's blaster was ripped from his hand.

"Leave the body," the woman ordered. "We take him to the ship. Now."

A boot cracked against Din's head, blanking his consciousness.

He awoke to the creaking and rumbling of the ice ferry, smelling the fumes of industrial fuel. Cleated treads carried him and his captors over a wide expanse of ice and dirt.

Din looked around. He was sitting in the back of the ferry. It was lined with port windows and bristling with armed slavers. A single bulb swung from the ceiling, barely lighting the chamber.

Most of the slavers were silent, picking over Din's weapons, though a few, including the woman, chatted by the driver's seat.

"Come on, Vee. You think it could've been done some other way?"

"It doesn't matter, Rokin," the woman answered, wiping a few scuffs from her armor. "Liddec was green, and now he won't be taking a share of the credits."

"But Liddec negotiated the rate. Plus the Zygerrian seemed to like him," Rokin said.

"Favoritism annoys me. We're better off with him dead."

"I just hope it's worth it," a third interjected. "The armor's expensive, isn't it?"

"All of theirs is. And the weapons alone will set us up nicely."

A laugh from the third. "And here we thought we'd be stuck here for weeks plucking farm girls from their beds."

As the slavers talked, Din took stock of his condition. The dart in his neck was gone, and with it the stinging electric current that had paralyzed him. But he was still shackled, and his guns were out of reach, in the hands of his enemies, no less.

Din's eyes raced over his limbs. Even the blade strapped to his leg had been removed. Only his vambraces remained….

So the slavers had been careless. Too careless to recognize a pair of flamethrowers tucked into the plating.

"Hey, is he awake?"

Din smacked the vambraces together, and set fire to the ferry's interior. Chaos erupted, as some of the slavers dove through the portholes. Vee snatched Rokin's arms and took cover behind him, and another man ducked under the driver's seat. Everyone else succumbed to the flames.

The cone of fire dimmed at first, then flickered. Din jerked to the side as Vee took her chance to aim and shoot. He charged her, driving his boot against Rokin's charred corpse to knock her back. Her aim faltered as a second shot pierced the roof.

"Fire!" Vee yelled. "Hit him, you-!"

"We can't kill him!" A yell from the driver's seat.

Din grappled with Vee's weapon arm. He pressed down with his boots, trying to work the blaster free with his cuffed hands. The woman squirmed away, pulling back to fire again. Din felt a hot bolt of energy pierce his side.

"Wait!"

Din looked over to see the driver aiming another dart. He dove forward, evading the shot. Vee was upright, training her blaster, and Din rolled on his back, kicking out to knock her feet from under her. Righting himself, the Mandalorian rushed the driver's seat, bashing the slaver's head against the wall. A dart misfired into the windshield, and its user was out cold.

Noise behind him, movement. The slavers who had leaped out the portholes were crawling back in. Din pushed the engine into overdrive. Its rumbling ascended into a scream, and smoke filled the interior. He seized the wheel, and then….

Vee shot again, and Din felt his leg buckle. The wheel was jerked sideways. The ferry rocked, groaning, and in spite of everything, the slavers outside held on. Din looked down. Dark blood raced from a fresh wound in the back of his knee. On pure adrenaline, he turned, slamming his shackled hands against Vee's head. Her covered face rebounded on the windshield. Din kicked, and she fumbled her blaster. He leaped for it, stumbling as his injured leg dragged.

Just as his fingers touched the handle, the ferry centerpunched a clifface of ice and rock, smashing into a hundred pieces.

Notes:

-codeine dreaming on loop got me through this chapter

-apparently electro-darts are a thing in the star wars universe? so i used that here

-feel free to comment your thoughts or predictions!