Spectre: Spent my time doing my OJT before graduation along with reaching Mythic and Legendary to MLBB and CODM respectively. Which is why I went for a short break.

Watched Tales of the Empire. All I could say it's pretty mid. Especially to Barriss and Morgan's stories after it was hyped so much. So no chance in ever appearing in this fic or the planned spinoff.

Chapter 45: Negotiations

The great door slammed shut behind them with amonumental crash that echoed through the dark cavern.

For a moment the two frightened robots stood there without moving; then, haltingly, they stepped forward. They were immediately joined by three large Gamorrean guards where they ushered the two droids down the dark corridor without so much asa nod. When they reached the first half-lit hallway, one of them grunted an order. Artoo beeped a nervous query at Threepio.

"You don't want to know," the golden droid responded apprehensively." Just deliver Master Luke's message andget us out of here quick."

Before they could take another step, a form approachedthemfromthe obscurity of a cross-corridor: Bib Fortuna, Jabba's right hand man of his enterprise.

"Even after all these years, Bib continues to serve Jabba longer than expected"

"Jabba has little patience when it comes to failure, so I could see Bib maintaining his post through his skill in both his work and dealing with Jabba"

He smiled thinly as he stopped before the two droids ."Die wanna wanga." Threepio spoke up officially. "Die wanna wanaga. We bring a message to your master, Jabba the Hutt."

For a moment the two frightened robots stood therewithout moving; then, haltingly, they stepped forward. They were immediately joined by three large Gamorrean guards where they ushered the twodroids down the dark corridor without so much asa nod. When they reached the first half-lit hallway, one of them grunted an order. Artoo beeped a nervous query at Threepio.

Bib shook his head emphatically. "Nee Jabba no badda. Me chaade su goodie." He held out his hand toward Artoo.

The small droid backed up meekly, but his protest was lengthy series of beeps.

"Artoo, give it to him!" Threepio insisted. Sometimes Artoo could be so binary. At this, though, Artoo became positively defiant, beeping and tooting at Fortuna and Threepio as if they'd both had their programs erased.

Threepio nodded finally, hardly happy with Artoo's answer. He looked apologetically at Bib. "He says our master's instructions are to give it only to Jabba himself.

Master Fisto cupped his chin with interest, looking over at his fellow Jedi. "What do you think?", he asked them. "Do you think Master Kenobi may have taught him a bit of his skills as a negotiator?"

"I am inclinded to say that he may as well have as a means to reinforce the patience that young Luke has if we are going to compare him to his father", Master Tiin spoke out in response, wanting to see how this goes.

Bib considered the problem for a moment, as Threepio went on explaining. "I'm terribly sorry. I'm afraid he's ever so stubborn about these things." He managed to throw adisparaging yet loving tone into his voice, as he tilted his head toward his small associate.

Bib gestured for them to follow him. "Nudd chaa." He walked back into the darkness, the droids following close behind, the three Gamorrean guards lumbering along at the rear. As Threepio descended into the belly of the shadow,he muttered quietly to the silent R2 unit, "Artoo, I have abad feeling about this."

The two droids stood at the entrance of the throne room, looking in. "We're doomed"

The room was filled, wall to cavernous wall, with the animate dregs of the universe. Grotesque creatures from the lowest star systems, drunk on spiced liquor and their own fetid vapors. Gamorreans, twisted humans, jawas—all reveling in base pleasures, or raucously comparing mean feats. And in the front of the room, reclining on adais was the notorious crime lord Jabba the Hutt.

"Ugh...it looked liked he didn't age one bit...", Ahsoka uttered in contempt and mild disgust at the crime lord. "I'm still surprised that he had lasted this long"

"A man and his vice are soon departed, Ahsoka", Obi-Wan merely told her.

Shafts of light from above partially illuminated the drunken courtiers as Bib Fortuna crossed the floor to the dais. The room was composed of an endless series ofalcoves within alcoves, so that much of what went onwas, in any case, visible only as shadow and movement. When Fortuna reached the throne, he delicately leaned forward and whispered into the slobbering monarch'sear.

Jabba's eyes became slits... then with a maniacal laugh he motioned for the two terrified droids to bebrought in."Bo shuda," wheezed the Hutt, and lapsed into a fit ofcoughing. Although he understood several languages, as a point of honor he only spoke Huttese. His only suchpoint.

The quaking robots scooted forward to stand before the repulsive ruler, though he grossly violated their mostdeeply programmed sensibilities. "The message, Artoo, the message," Threepio urged

Artoo whistled once, and a beam of light projected from his domed head, creating a hologram of Luke Skywalker that stood before them on the floor. Quickly the image grew to over ten feet tall, until the young Jedi warrior towered over the assembled throng.

All at once the room grew quiet, as Luke's giant presence made itself felt.

"Luke...", the voices of both Anakin and Padme said at the same time, watching as their future son had significantly grown compared to the farmboy they had seen just hours ago. The son, of whom they considered to be the last hope of the galaxy, stood strong at his quest to rescue his friends.

A value that he inherited from his father.

"Hmm, stronger in ability, he is", Yoda observed with a keen eye at the boy. "A fully fledged Knight, he could be"

"If he had both Masters Kenobi and Yoda guiding him in his path as a Jedi, who are we to say thay he does not?", Shaak Ti mused, equally curious as to how far Luke had gone in his training.

Mace, however, was unconvinced. "But the question remains as wether or not he is ready to face two Sith Lords on his own, especially with an Empire at their beck and call"

Ahsoka sighed, seeing through Windu's words. "As Captain Rex said, experience outranks everything. And they certainly have them"

"Greetings, Exalted One," the hologram said to Crime Lord. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight and friend of Captain Solo. I seek an audience with Your Greatness, to bargain for his life."

"Knowing Jabba, he is not so easily to be bartered with", Saesee Tiin pointed out. "Especially if it is something personal like that with Han Solo"

At this, the entire room burst into laughter which Jabba instantly stopped with a hand motion. Luke didn't pause long. "I know that you are powerful, mighty Jabba, and that your anger with Solo must be equally powerful. But I'm sure we can work out an arrangement which will bemutually of my good will, I present to you a gift—these two droids."

"Hang on, what?", Rex stuttered in surprise.

Threepio jumped back as if stung. "What! What did he say?"

"At ease, Threepio", Anakin commented a the golden droid on the screen. "This is part of Luke's plan. I'm sure of it"

"Likely the primary plan to begin with", Plo Koon then spoke up. "If that fails, then it is certain that he has another that will serve as a backup should matters become more concerning than they are now"

Luke continued. "... Both are hardworking and willserve youwell. "With that, the hologram disappeared.

Threepio wagged his head in despair. "Oh no, this can't be. Artoo, you must have played the wrong message."

Jabba laughed and drooled. Bib spoke in Huttese. "Bargain rather than fight? He is no Jedi."

"Frankly because that is not how we do due process", Obi-Wan quipped harshly at Jabba's second-in-command.

Jabba nodded in agreement. Still grinning, he rasped at Threepio, "There will be no bargain. I have no intention of giving up my favorite decoration." With a hideous chuckle he looked toward the dimly lit alcove beside the throne; there, hanging flat against the wall, was the carbonized form of Han Solo, his face and hands emerging out of the cold hard slab, like a statue reaching from a sea of stone.

"First plan is a bust, they're going to need a second one if Han is going to be rescued at all", Ahsoka spoke out loud.

"Likely to buy them some time. We still have yet to see Luke or Leia make their move after all", Kit Fisto added

Artoo and Threepio marched dismally through the dark passageway at the prodding of a Gamorrean cells lined both walls. The unspeakable cries ofanguish that emanated from within as the droids passed echoed off the stone and down the endless catacombs.

Periodically a hand or claw or tentacle would reachthrough the bars ofa door to grab at the hapless beeped pitifully. Threepio only shook his head. "What could have possibly come over Master Luke? Was it something I did? He never expressed any unhappiness with my work..."

"I have the feeling he did that because he wouldn't count on Threepio holding the truth if he cracked from the pressure", Obi-Wan pointed out.

"Knowing him, I have to say it's possible", Anakin agreed with him.

The court of Jabba the Hutt roiled in malignant , the beautiful creature chained to Jabba, danced in the center of the floor, as the inebriated monsterscheered and heckled.

"I'm guessing things haven't improved a lot for the Twi'lieks", Rex uttered in pity, remembering how the Clones fought side by side with them at Ryloth.

"Master Secura wouldn't have allowed this if she is still around at this time", Kit Fisto added.

"And given that she wore a different uniform as a means to fight known stereotypes like this one, I have to say she would", Master Mundi agreed to that.

Threepio hovered warily near theback of the throne, trying to keep the lowest profile possible. Periodically he had to duck to avoid a fruithurled in his direction or to sidestep a rolling , he just laid low. What else was a protocol droid to do, in a place of so little protocol?

Jabba leered through the smoke of his hooka andbeckoned the creature Oola to come sit beside him. Shestopped dancing instantly, a fearful look in her eye, andbacked up, shaking her head.

Luminara kept her best to carry her stoic visage, recognizing the scenario before her. "It appears she had carried unfavorable memories between her and Jabba"

Master Bilaba recognized this too. "And I fear this would not end well for her. Especially if Jabba does not tolerate defiance in his palace"

Apparently she hadsuffered such invitations became angry. He pointed unmistakably to a spotbeside him on the dais. "Daeitha!" he growled.

Oola shook her head more violently, her face a mask ofterror. "Nachuba negatorie. Na! Na Natoota."Jabba became livid. Furiously he motioned to Oola. "Boscka!"

Jabba pushed a button as he released Oola's she could flee, a grating trap door in the floordropped open, and she tumbled into the pit below. Thedoor snapped shut instantly.

A moment of silence,followed by a low, rumbling roar, followed by a terrifiedshriek was followed once more by silence.

The audience bristled at the unfortunate fate that the dancer had suffered. Anakin's face grew into an ugly frown at the Crime Lord, having witnessed how many slaves were at Jabba's beck and call, yet could only do little against people like him.

Jabba laughed until he slobbered. A dozen revelers hurried over to peer through the grate, to observe thedemise ofthe nubile dancer. Threepio shrank even lower and looked for support to the carbonite form of Han Solo, suspended in bas relief above the floor. Now there was a human without asense of protocol, thought Threepio wistfully..

His reverie was interrupted by an unnatural quiet thatsuddenly fell over the room. He looked up to see Bib Fortuna making his way through the crowd,accompanied by two Gamorrean guards, and followedby a fierce-looking cloaked-and-helmeted bounty hunterwho led his captive prize on a leash: Chewbacca, the Wookiee.

"There's Chewie!", Caleb called out in relief.

"And Boba Fett", Mace added. "I suppose a rescue attempt by him was also apprehended"

Threepio gasped, stunned. "Oh, no! Chewbacca!" The future was looking very bleak muttered a few words into Jabba's ear, pointing tothe bounty hunter and his captive. Jabba listened intently.

The bounty hunter was humanoid, small and mean: a beltof cartridges was slung across his jerkin and an eye-slit inhis helmet-mask gave the impression of his being able tosee through things. He bowed low, then spoke in fluent Ubese.

"Greetings, Majestic One. I am Boushh."

It was a metallic language, well-adapted to the rarefied atmosphere of the home planet from which this nomadic species answered in the same tongue, though his Ubese was stilted and slow. "At last someone has brought me the mighty Chewbacca..." He tried to continue, but stuttered on the word he wanted.

Padme looked over at Anakin intently watching the newcomer before them. "Is there something wrong, Ani?"

"Nothing, but that Bounty Hunter felt to familiar all of a sudden"

With a roaring laugh,he turned toward Threepio. "Where's my talkdroid?" he boomed, motioning Threepio to come , the courtly robot ordered him congenially. "Welcome our mercenary friend and ask his price for the Wookiee."

Threepio translated the message to the bounty hunter. Boushh listened carefully, simultaneously studying theferal creatures around the room, possible exits, possible hostages, vulnerable points. He particularly noticed BobaFett—standing near the door—the steel-masked mercenary who had caught Han Solo.

Boushh assessed this all in a moment's moment, then spoke evenly in his native tongue to Threepio. "I will take fifty thousand, no less."

Threepio quietly translated for Jabba, who immediately became enraged and knocked the golden droid off the raised throne with a sweep of his massive tail. Threepio clattered in a heap on the floor, where he rested momentarily, uncertain of the correct protocol in this situation.

Jabba raved on in guttural Huttese, Boushh shifted his weapon to a more usable position. Threepio sighed, struggled back onto the throne, composed himself, and translated for Boushh—loosely-whatJabba was saying.

"Twenty-five thousand is all he'll pay..." Threepio instructed. Jabba motioned his pig guards to take Chewbacca, as two jawas covered Boushh. Boba Fett also raised his weapon. Jabba added, to Threepio's translation: "Twenty-fivethousand, plus his life."

Threepio translated. The room was silent, tense, uncertain. Finally Boushh spoke, softly, to Threepio. "Tell that swollen garbage bag he'll have to do better than that, or they'll be picking his smelly hide out of every crack in this room. I'm holding a thermal detonator."

The audience were surprised at this bold action, especially when dealing with the likes of Jabba the Hutt of all people in negotiating.

"Not the proposition I am expecting", Kit Fisto said, glancing at one of his fellow Jedi. "If anything we could expect this to come from Skywalker"

"I'd prefer to be subtle when it comes to that Master Fisto", Anakin defended himself. "But that doesn't mean that's off the table if it could work somehow"

Then, slowly, a satisfied grin crept over his vast, uglymouth. Fromthe bilious pit of his belly, a laugh rose like gas in a mire. "This bounty hunter is my kind ofscum. Fearless and inventive. Tell him thirty-five, no more—and warn him not to press his luck." Threepio felt greatly relieved by this turn of events.

He translated for Boushh. Everyone studied the bounty hunterclosely for his reaction; guns were readied. Then Boushh released a switch on the thermal detonator, and it went dead. "Zeebuss," he nodded. "He agrees," Threepio said to Jabba. The crowd cheered; Jabba relaxed. "Come, my friend, join our celebration. I may find other work for you." Threepio translated, as the party resumed its depraved revelry.

Gamorrean guards led Chewbacca through the unlit dungeon corridor. A tentacle coiled out one of the doors to touch the brooding Wookiee. "Rheeaaahhr!" he screamed, and the tentacle shot back into itscell. The next door was open.

Before Chewie fully realized what was happening, he was hurled forcefully into thecell by all the guards. The door slammed shut, locking him in darkness. He raised his head and let out a long, pitiful howl that carried through the entire mountain ofiron and sand up to the infinitly patient sky.

The throne room was quiet, dark and empty, as night filled its littered corners. Blood, wine, and saliva stained the floor, shreds of tattered clothing hung from the fixtures, unconscious bodies curled under broken furniture. The party was over.

"Now is a good time for a rescue mission to begin", Obi-Wan mused, finding the situation to be advantageous for Luke and his friends to exploit.

"Only thing that would throw a wrench at that if luck was on Jabba's side", Mundi added.

A dark figure moved silently among the shadows, pausing behind a column here, a statue there. He made his way stealthily along the perimeter of the room, stepping once over a snoring Yak Face. He never made asound. This was Boushh, the bounty hunter.

"That explains why he had his designs for Jabba before", Master Tiin mused. "He took has business with Captain Solo"

"I guess it would mean he had to be affiliated with Luke and the others", Depa pointed out from earlier. "Given as to how he had directed the protocol droid with that to say to Jabba with confidence"

Boushh walked over to the case, studying Han, and then turns to the controls on the side of the coffin. Looking over, he activated a series of switches and, after one last look at Han, slid the de-carbonization lever.

The casing began to emit a high-pitched sound.
Anxiously Boushh peered all around again, making
certain no one heard. Slowly, the hard shell that was
covering the contours of Solo's face started to melt
away. Soon, the coating was gone from the entire front
of Solo's body, freeing his upraised hands—so long
frozen in protest—to fall slackly to his sides.

His face relaxed into what looked like nothing so much as a death-mask. Boushh extracted the lifeless body from its casing and lowered it gently to thefloor.
He leaned his gruesome helmet close to Solo's face,
listening closely for signs of life. No breath. No pulse. With a start, Han's eyes suddenly snapped open, and he
began to cough. Boushh steadied him, tried to quiet him —there were still guards who might hear.

"Being encased by Carbonite must've taken a toll of him", Padme spoke in concern for the smuggler. "Could we expect any severe sickness for him"

"Hibernation Sickness is a common ailment if the person is subjected to it from long periods of time", Luminara answered for her. "Apart from exhaustion, weakness, dehydration, dizziness, memory loss, and temporary blindness that would take place, I would say he would be fine after a short period of time"

"Guess we could say we're a bit lucky we didn't stay for long when we went to go to rescue Master Piel back at the Citadel", Ahsoka mused to Anakin, Obi Wan and Rex.

"Quiet!" he whispered. "Just relax."

Han squinted up at the dim form above him. "I can't see... What's happening?"

Boushh tried to reassure him. "You're free of the carbonite and have hibernation sickness. Your eyesight will return in time. Come, we must hurry if we're to leave this place."

Reflexively Han grabbed the bounty hunter, felt at the grated face-mask, then drew back. "I'm not going anywhere — don't even know where I am." He began sweating profusely as his heart once again churned blood, and his mind groped for answers.

"Tough luck, Solo. But he's the only person you could trust for now", Rex snarkily commented to the former smuggler.

For Anakin and Padme however, they watched closely as they felt a deeper connection to the Bounty Hunter in front of them.

"Who are you, anyway?" he demanded suspiciously. Perhaps it was Fett aftera ll.

The bounty hunter reached up and pulled the helmet away from his head revealing, underneath, the beautiful face of Princess Leia. "Someone who loves you," she whispered, taking his face tenderly in her still-gloved hands and kissing him long on thelips.

"Ah, that explains it", Kit Fisto mused with a smile. "No wonder 'he' personally went for Solo"

Anakin allowed a grin to spread on his face, having seen this woman that he grew to view fondly alongside Padme. Apart from her brash and determined nature, her care for her friends and loved ones equalled to that of Luke, traits that he inherited from his father and mother. And he had no qualms to admit that he was proud that the galaxy have welcomed someone so loving as her.

Even if the person she loved was Han Solo, a man whom Anakin still had issues he couldn't properly explain.

"With Solo rescued, all they need to do is rescue Chewbacca and the others before Jabba would know what was going on", Plo Koon pointed out.

Shaak Ti agreed with him, although she sensed something amiss. "Let us hope it goes that way..."