- "Go ahead and blow me up. But someday, you'll find out why they call me Payback."
Payback: The Tale of Dengar is a short story written by Dave Wolverton and featured in Tales of the Bounty Hunters, which was published in December 1996 by Bantam Spectra. As the title suggests, it concerns the backstory of the bounty hunter Dengar.
Dengar stood on a hill a kilometer away from Kritkeen's mansion and watched him. He listened to the pleas for the mercy of their people from Aruzan's. When the last one left, he stepped out of his mansion and walked onto his lawn. Dengar raced up to him and took his portable alarm off of him, telling him he was going to conduct a legal assassination on him per Section 2127 of the Imperial Legal Code. He gave him a blaster and told him he had three minutes to run. After talking for a minute, he ran. Dengar ran to a ravine, using his enhanced speed, and waited for Kritkeen to arrive. When he did, he hallucinated he was Han Solo, whom he hated, and took him to a steep embankment. He put a grenade in his mouth and threw him into the air. While he was still in the air he shot him twice and before he hit the ground the grenade detonated.
He stood there for half an hour. He heard the sound of a speeder, on it were two stormtroopers and a female Aruzan, Manaroo, that Kritkeen had called for earlier when he was in his mansion. They stop when they see Dengar, and he makes them remove their masks and weapons. He then makes the run down the embankment, taking Manaroo with him on the speeder back to his ship.
After narrowly missing an encounter with a squadron of TIE Interceptors launched from a lone Star Destroyer that was sitting in the planets orbit while leaving the planet, he leaves Manaroo on an obscure backwater world with a few hundred credits.
For the next few months he searched for Han Solo, and five more COMPNOR Redesign officials met brutal ends. He went to the planet Toola. He played in a card game, in which he talked with his card partner who suggested joining the Rebellion, to which he said they wouldn't accept him. He then went back to his ship. He found the navicomputer programmed and "Friends" written in dust on one of the monitors. He followed the coordinates, which led to a Rebel outpost. He passed their tests and accepted an assignment. He helped plan future raids, train teams of saboteurs, and upgrade attack swoops.
He was then assigned to go to the Hoth system. As he came out of hyperspace, he saw an Imperial Super Star Destroyer and six Star Destroyers, along with personnel carriers, Attack frigates, and TIE Fighters. He changed his transponder frequency so his ship would look like an Imperial Scout. He planned on going to the planet and finding Han Solo, but as he was following behind a squadron of TIE Fighters, an Ion Cannon blast from the planet covered his ship, shutting down all systems and power. He had pulled up enough though that he flew by a Star Destroyer, which pulled his ship in with it's tractor beams. As this was happening, the Millennium Falcon flew by on the horizon, firing at the Star Destroyer and being chased by TIE Fighters. When he was pulled in, he grabbed a blaster in each hand, wanting to take some stormtroopers with him since he was wanted by the Empire and get the death sentence. But as the door to his ship opened, a gas grenade landed a meter in front of him. He tried to hold his breath, but it was too late.
He was taken to an interrogation room, injected with pain-enhancing drugs, and had a scrambler fitted to his head. They broke into the logs of his ship and found out where he had traveled before and read his credit chips to find out what he bought and where he got paid. He was asked about his motives and working with the Rebels. After getting his death sentence, he sat in a cell for a day, plotting his escape. While he was asleep, Darth Vader came to him and said he would consider and reprieve of his death sentence if he hunted for Han Solo and brought him and his friends to him alive, and if he was pleased he might spare his life. But if he wasn't pleased, he would give him time to run, and then hunt for him. He accepted, and was freed. He went to a platform with other bounty hunters, and they listened to Vader's orders. Then they all left for ships. When he got to the ship, he found it fixed from the Ion blast effects. He then went into the asteroid field.
He began dropping sensor beacons on large asteroids, hoping they would detect movement. The Imperial fleet then went into hyperspace. A while later, one of the beacons reported movement. He went to the beacon, but as he did, he noticed something else was following the Millennium Falcon. A tightbeam transmission hit him, and Boba Fett appeared on his monitors. Fett told him sorry and that Han Solo was his trophy, and a binary code transmission squealed. A bomb detonated in the engine room, reducing his sublight engines to a pile of slag. It was placed to neutralize the ship, leaving Dengar alive.
Sometime later, Dengar arrived at Cloud City on Bespin. While getting ready to land, he spotted the Millennium Falcon on a platform. He landed at a repair platform and told the dockmaster that he needed repairs and would give a hundred extra credits if done in two hours. He went to the gambling chambers, hoping to find Han Solo there. A group of dancers was on stage, and he spotted Manaroo among them. He went to a table and ordered dinner and a pleasant wine. After she was done dancing, she came to his table, and said that she wanted to help him find Solo. He let her order dinner on his tab, and they talked. After a while, Lando Calrissian announced on the loudspeakers that Imperial troops were taking over the station. Gamblers began running for exits. After he finished his drink and decided that his ship probably wasn't finished yet, he went to look for Manaroo. He followed a corridor that went a large room, where six dancers, among them Manaroo, were being held captive by two stormtroopers. He shot them and then took her with him, while she was shocked at what he had done.
When he reached the docks, he saw a fresh coat of protective paint and all the micrometeor pits filled in, but no one was there to collect the payment. Instead there was half a dozen stormtroopers beside a light cannon. He threw a grenade at them, and then ran to the ship, got inside, and left.
Originally planning to go to Tatooine, Dengar shares a close experience with Manaroo, in which she shares her feeling with him via her Attanni. He then heads to Aruza, where he steals an Imperial prison barge and rescues a large amount of Aruzans.
Upon reaching Tatooine, he finds Han Solo frozen in carbonite, along with a happy Jabba. While there, Manaroo suddenly disappears, worrying Dengar. Later, he decides to try to assassinate Jabba, and finds a henchman willing to help with a bomb. Dengar soon finds out (via the Attanni Manaroo gave him) that Manaroo is being kept by Jabba as a dancing girl. Dengar's plan backfires, however, when Boba Fett finds out about Dengar's plan and reports it to Jabba. Jabba likes the idea of subjecting Dengar to The Teeth of Tatooine, and Boba complies, drugging Dengar.
After waking up from being drugged, Dengar finds himself in a desert, bound to the ground with bolted leather. He tests his restraints, but even with his cybernetic enhancements, he can't break free. He speculates on what The Teeth of Tatooine are, overhearing Boba Fett saying it earlier. After a while, a group of Tusken Raiders happen by, with two disembarking and watching Dengar. After a while of watching him, one pulls out a knife and starts cutting one of Dengar's restraints. One of his companions argues at the Raider to not to, with Dengar understanding that he said Jabba. Not wanting to interfere with Jabba's plans, the Raiders leave.
Dengar tests the restraint, but it is still too strong. Soon, he finds out what The Teeth of Tatooine are—sharp rocks soon start blowing by him, cutting him. Still with his body armor, Dengar has some protection, and eventually the rocks sometimes hit one of his restraints. Soon his rage build, and he breaks free. As he stands up, he wanders towards the direction of Jabba's Palace, but soon collapses. Curling into a ball, he prepares to accept death, but then suddenly feels Manaroo's feelings. He knows that she is searching from him (after escaping from Jabba's Palace), and he manages to flag her down.
After healing, Dengar must find a way to pay for the upcoming medical bills. Taking the Punishing One, he flies to the Great Pit of Carkoon, where he heard Han Solo was to be executed. Knowing there was a turn-of-events (from seeing the Millennium Falcon fly off when undergoing The Teeth of Tatooine), he hoped to find salvage at the site.
Upon landing at the site, he finds the wreckage of Jabba's sail barge and henchmen bodies, along with the sarlacc killed. He finds a burnt, naked body, and rolls it over with his foot, discovering the man is still alive. He takes the man back to his ship, and his repeatedly thanked by the man. Not understanding, the man reveals his identity: Boba Fett. Dengar, consumed with rage at being betrayed by Boba twice, starts to strangle him, until Manaroo comes out. He then sees that Boba had held a blaster to his chest, but had chose not to kill Dengar. Dengar takes his blaster back, and the two seem to be friends, with Boba agreeing to be Dengar's best man in his upcoming wedding with Manaroo.
While Darth Vader briefs Dengar and the other bounty hunters aboard the Executor concerning the capture of the Rebels, Admiral Firmus Piett says, "Bounty hunters. We don't need that scum!" In this scene of the film The Empire Strikes Back, he says, "Bounty hunters. We don't need their scum!" After Vader is finished speaking with the assemblage of bounty hunters in the film, Admiral Piett reports to him, "My Lord, we have them." However, in this story, the line reads, "Lord Vader, we have them now!"
In this story, immediately after this, the bounty hunters listen to Captain Lorth Needa shout orders to the crew of his Star Destroyer. In the film, Needa is aboard the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Avenger. Still, it may simply be that a transmission of the happenings on the Avenger's bridge was being broadcast aboard the Executor.
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