When he got up, Jacob was feeling better, energized even. The drugs were working wonders, nursing his body back to health at a breakneck pace. But a dark cloud hung over his thoughts. His pool of credits was drying up, and the supplies he bought were expensive, using up the last of his reserves. After the attack on the rebel base, Jacob spent his time recovering. Under better circumstances, doctors would’ve taken every shard out in a day, prescribed some medication and he’d be back to normal in a blink of an eye. Worst case scenario he’d have to amputate, and, if the system’s tech level was high enough, have it replaced with one of those fancy cybernetic limbs. But there was no team of doctors here to fix him up. He had to rely on his own skill and some luck to crudely perform surgery on himself. It was awful, having to dig out each individual piece. He was forced to do it without anesthetic too, because that was a luxury he just couldn’t afford.
Jacob was itching to get back in action, and only had one goal in mind: kill Tara Harmon. He vowed to get revenge for his fallen brothers-in-arms, and do what nobody in the galaxy seemed able to. But in order to attack her, he needed equipment. Lots of it. Military-grade armour, rifles, ammo and explosives were just a few things on his shopping list. But things here weren’t cheap, and Tara’s guards were working hard to keep weapons out of civilian hands in this part of the planet. Maybe on the other hemisphere, these items would be easier to get a hold of, but then he’d have to travel through a massive warzone. Deciding that wasn’t worth the risk, he started from the basics. He scavenged a bounty tracker and began cleaning up the planet, one criminal at a time, slowly working his way up to better gear.
The shock baton he swiped from a small-time drug smuggler, the flight helmet was taken from a thief and he stitched together his own robes from scraps of cloth. He saved up for an Enforcer handgun which arrived, to his dismay, without any ammo, so he scavenged magazines from downed thugs and reached a sort of equilibrium, carrying enough ammo to use in a pinch, and buying a new battery for the baton every several days. He needed a big score, and when he heard about Brewer, he was certain he’d found it. Instead, someone else beat him to the punch, and he had to use whatever funds were left to patch himself up. His pistol was low on ammo too, only filled with two rounds left in the magazine and nothing else.
He sat down in front of his personal terminal, another necessary expense. It was an old thing, no holographic display and instead projected images on a clear glass screen. Normally these older models had clear glass interfaces, but this one was dusty, scratched and suffered from a massive crack along the screen. Images flickered in and out, disrupted by the fracture and Jacob tapped the glass in a half-hearted attempt to fix it.
“Come on…come on, you piece of crap. Work, dammit.” he muttered.
Suddenly the image stabilized, and Jacob began surfing the local system network for possible contracts. There were lots of thugs, low class scum he could deal with, but he was looking for bigger fish. GalCop rewards were nice, but private, contract work always paid better. The thought that he was woefully underequipped crossed his mind, but he was desperate, and needed the money to make up for the credits he blew on medical supplies.
There were plenty of targets, but very few he could actually do. Ones that were either in space and needed a ship, something Jacob didn’t have, or innocents who were getting in the way of mobsters, people Jacob didn’t want to kill. But there was one that caught his eye, it was relatively close but scarce on details. The rendezvous point was a bar in Citadel City and promised a 2000 Cr reward. Jacob didn’t have any other options and decided he’d take it. It was a gamble, but he hoped this one would finally pay off.
Aerater planetary surface, The Marauder, Citadel City
Jacob hadn’t expected to be here so soon. In his mind, he imagined that he’d burst through the city’s walls, guns blazing and cutting a path straight for Tara’s Citadel. Armed to the teeth, he’d cut down hundreds of her guards until he fell or managed to put a gun to Tara’s head, bringing her down with him. None of that happened, and instead he entered through the main gate and walked into the Marauder Bar without a single confrontation. The bar was dimly lit from warm lights and was full of people, like civilians who just wanted to let off some steam, criminals that scanned the bar, eyes shiftily jumping from person to person, and large groups keeping to themselves. Jacob spotted one of those groups sitting in a booth near the entrance, quietly observing the other patrons.
A person was wearing combat armour and leaning on a wall next to the entrance, staring at a ComPad and looking up now and then to watch for any new arrivals. At first glance Jacob thought she was a guard, but the armour didn’t display the same symbol as the other bouncers, and was undoubtedly concealing weapons under her plates. It was an odd place to be waiting and Jacob walked over.
“Uh, I’m here for the contract.”
“Oh, okay.” She looked up from the display, sizing him up from head to toe. “You don’t have much gear.”
“I’ll manage.” he said.
She shrugged and scrolled down on her device. “Name?”
“Jacob Moreno.” he said.
She typed quickly, recording the name on the pad.
“Eliminate your target and we’ll transfer the credits to you.” she said without looking up.
“Do you have any intel on him?”
“Your target’s name is Sam Glover.”
Jacob waited, expecting more. “That’s it? Do you have anything else?”
“They’re in this bar. Good luck.”
Jacob sighed and turned to scan the patrons. Where to start? There were too many people here and he needed a lead. He noticed someone at the counter watching him and she turned away, pretending to be busy. Jacob was surprised to find that he recognized the person and walked up to her, sitting on a nearby open seat. He’d seen her face from just a brief encounter, though it was only a recent one. In fact, they’d only seen each other the day before.
“Fancy meeting you here.” said Jacob.
An amused smile spread across her face. She didn’t look at him though, she was busy staring intently at one of the far booths.
“How’d you know where I am? Are you following me?”
“Nope, just lucky I guess. I’m here for business.” he replied.
“Ah. You didn’t happen to talk to her on your way in, did you?” she asked, gesturing at the armoured figure standing next to the entrance. Someone big, bald and burly walked up to her and she began briefing him too. Jacob realized that they were all here for the same contract.
“Aw, crap.” he muttered. “I really need these credits. Look, do you think you could stay out of this one?”
“No can do.”
“I wouldn’t be doing this if you hadn’t stolen my bounty. I had him.” he said, annoyed.
“Oh really? It didn’t look that way to me. Seemed like he was about to shock you silly, then – I don’t know – parade your dead body around like some kind of trophy. But everything worked out, didn’t it? You’re still alive, and I got my bounty. It’s a win-win.”
Jacob hunched forward, still feeling bitter as he surveyed the bar. Lone patrons, suspicious looking individuals – there was a lot of people, an overwhelming amount of suspects for a single person to go through.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a plan for this, would you?” he asked. “Some kind of special approach?”
“Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. But that’s none of your business.”
“Well, if we’re both here for the same contract and you’re not going to back off, then uh, do you…want to work together? Y’know, split the bounty?” he tried to sound hesitant, like he was struggling with the idea, but had no intentions of sharing.
“Now there’s a thought. Why work alone when I can have thug bait dragging along?”
“Hey, I can handle myself.” Jacob began.
“Riiight.” she said sarcastically.
Jacob’s hand absently went to his shoulder. “Well, you weren’t really catching me at my best. I’m not so sure about you though. Maybe you can handle a rifle, maybe you just got lucky. Can you hold your own if you have to get up close?”
“I can fight. And I know my way around a gun. I’ve got a Javelin sniper rifle, kitted with compensators and a Galactic Armaments ident scope, variable zoom. I know what I’m doing.”
Jacob nodded, impressed. It was some serious gear. “Okay, well then how ‘bout it? Should we tackle this one together?” he asked, bringing the conversation back on topic.
“Maybe. I’m thinking about it, but I don’t know much about my possible sidekick other than that he’s terrible at fistfights.” she said with a grin. “Tell me, of all the jobs in the galaxy, why pick bounty hunting? You don’t really look geared up for it. You mentioned it was for the credits, but anyone can say that. Do you hunt because you like killing, the thrill of the chase, or are you one of those deluded jackasses who think they’re doing everyone a favour by murdering criminals? What are you fighting for?”
Jacob let out a long breath. Flashes from the rebel base raid popped into his head, never really leaving him, as they occupied his thoughts for nearly a month. He hadn’t talked to anyone about it, but it was gnawing at him, and he felt he needed to say something about it. The answer was clear in his mind, but it wasn’t safe to for him to uncover his secret. Not directly and not here, not while he was in the belly of the beast.
“Well, not that long ago, I was fighting for a cause.” he began. “I didn’t need credits but I had a purpose, friends, allies, and we were working towards a common goal. But then in a flash it was all taken away.” he swallowed. “I want justice for what happened, and I want to see the person responsible pay for what they’ve done.”
“Well, don’t bore me with the details.” she said dryly.
“That’s all I want to say about it. When I’m done I can tell you more, but by then you’ll probably have it figured out.” he replied cryptically. “How about you? Why’re you bounty hunting?”
It was her turn to look serious and troubled. She didn’t start talking right away, and she seemed to struggle with formulating a sentence. “When the blockade fell, thousands of outlaws were displaced here. They forcefully set up their rule wherever they could and they used us. We were a resource, free labour and expendable. The ones you saw in Tarina, they had it easy. For the rest of us… those thugs abused us and I– I lost people I love, people I’ll never get back.” She clenched her jaw and tightened the muscles in her cheeks, giving her a determined look. “I hunt because I do myself a favour whenever I put those pirate and rebel scumbags down. And that’s all I will say about it.”
“Okay, I won’t press it.” He raised his hands, backing off from the subject. As he was secretly pursuing a rebel goal himself, he kept a mental note to avoid talking about it.
“Honestly, I’ve got not plan. I have no idea where to start.” she admitted. “I wouldn’t mind having some help with this one. You don’t seem too bad yourself, I might actually split the bounty.”
Jacob lifted the corners of his mouth in a faint smile, glad to have two minds together for this job. But, he felt a twinge of guilt due to his original, selfish intentions. He buried it quickly though, and went right back to business.
“Alright, then let’s go find this Sam Glover.”
“What the hell?!” Their conversation came to an abrupt halt and she stared at him suspiciously, eyes narrowing into slits. “Is this some kind of damn joke? What the hell are you playing at?”
He was taken aback by her sudden hostility. “What? What did I say?”
“Are you tailing me? Did you plant a bug when I wasn’t looking?” she demanded.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Who’s this guy to you?”
“That’s me, dipshit. I’m Sam Glover.”
“Oh…oh.” Jacob leaned back on the stool as the revelation sunk in. “Then what the hell’s going on here?” he frowned.
They didn’t notice the burly man approach until he muscled his way in between them, lifting Jacob up by the collar.
“Excuse me.” said the man, as he shoved a scanner at his face and waited for the result.
Once it was finished, the words ‘MORENO, JACOB’ appeared on the screen. He read the name and pocketed the device, wearing a smile of satisfaction.
“Bingo.” he said, drawing his arm back and punched Jacob hard.
He was flung back to the opposite side of the counter, smashing into glasses and bottles as he collapsed on the ground. All around the Marauder, people jumped up at the noise, either stepping back or instinctively reaching for concealed weapons. The other bounty hunters glanced around the room, quickly identifying their peers by experience and picked out people making the slightest twitches towards holsters and sheaths, or others who clenched their fists in anticipation for a fight. The hunters knew they were all competition, all here for the same reason, and decided they weren’t going to leave empty-handed. A heavy layer of tension fell over the bar, only noticed by the most situationally aware.
Another sound of shattering glass came from the counter and one of the more inexperienced hunters, twitching with nervousness, mistook it for a gunshot. The hunter whipped out a compact submachine gun, let out a cry and began spraying shots around the bar, and in an instant, all the other hunters sprang into action. They were suddenly armed with guns, knives, clubs, and fists, and sparked a vicious free-for-all throughout the Marauder. The bouncers jumped in too, futilely trying to break up the melee. In the booth near the entrance, the group turned to face each other and one member spoke to the others over the ambient noise.
“That’s our cue. Grab your gear and let’s move out. Clock’s ticking.”
The group members nodded as they reached for sleek black operator helmets and readied their assortment of rifles. They stuck to the wall of the bar, avoiding the brawl and reached the office door, swiftly breaching then disappeared inside.
Jacob struggled to get back up on his feet while the big man vaulted over the counter to continue his assault. He felt himself being lifted up again and the massive hunter slammed him against the shelf, shattering countless bottles of cheap liquor. He was tossed onto the counter and the brute’s fingers curled around his neck and he brought one fist back to repeatedly hammer Jacob’s face. The punches, the lack of air, it was too much. Jacob’s sight was blurring and blackening and dark spots buzzed around the corners of his vision. Channelling his strength, Jacob reached for the Enforcer tucked away in his pants. He pressed the barrel into the man’s gut but while his fingers fumbled for the trigger, the man yanked the pistol out of his grip and tossed it aside.
“Nice try.” he said, and raised his arm for the next blow.
“Yeah, nice try, shit-face.”
The man turned and faced the speaker and his eyes widened in horror as he realized what happened. In the heat of the moment, he completely forgot about the person sitting beside his target. He assumed she was just some nobody, unlucky enough to be sitting next to his mark. When he carelessly tossed the handgun, it landed right in front of her. Sam picked up the gun, expertly twirling it in her hand then wrapped her palm around the grip and slid her finger under the trigger guard, barely taking a moment to aim before she squeezed off a single shot.
It struck the man’s cranium, crackling over his skin and he spasmed, muscles rapidly relaxing and contracting before he finally sunk to the ground. Jacob got off the counter, greedily sucking in air to his oxygen-deprived lungs. Sam walked over to him and passed his handgun back.
“Shame you keep it on stun. Would’ve been a lot more satisfying if he popped.”
Jacob took the pistol from her outstretched hand. “Thanks. I owe you one.” he said between breaths.
“You owe me two. That’s the second time I’ve saved your ass.”
“There won’t be a third, I promise.”
The Marauder bar was in absolute chaos. There were at least a dozen ongoing fistfights, tables were overturned and being used as cover from gunfire, and bodies, both dead and injured, were beginning to pile up.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Jacob started, “but I do know something’s up. We need to work together if we want to make it out of here.”
Sam nodded in agreement, her feelings of doubt and mistrust slowly ebbing away.
Some hunters were thrown out of the brawl and they looked around the bar as they caught their breath. They settled their sights on Jacob and Sam, deciding that they, standing harmlessly to the side, were easier targets.
“Looks like trouble.” commented Sam.
Jacob flicked out his shock baton, extending it into his palm. “So I’ve seen you shoot, and you’re good. But can you fight?”
“Oh, I can fight.” She drew her own weapon, a Nova Industries ‘Firestorm’ machine-pistol and rushed forward, unloading a flurry of shots at the approaching hunters.
The secondary decimated the enemy numbers and the hunters, lacking high-tier body armour, had little protection from the barrage of low-calibre rounds that tore through them with ease. She targeted the distant ones first, knocking them down before they could react, but now several hunters were within punching distance, and she changed her method of attack. She tackled the next hunter and fired point-blank while he was pinned on the ground. Swinging her legs forward, she connected with another hunter, whose own leg gave out with an audible snap. She threw her fist at his head, which was now level with hers, and swiftly knocked him unconscious. In a flash she was up again, jamming a fresh magazine into her weapon before moving to the next opponent.
Jacob incapacitated the first two hunters with ease, the charge from the baton making short work of his attackers. Before he engaged the third however, he realized the other hunters were surrounding him in a predatory circle. His free hand instinctively went to his pistol, fingers nervously brushing the texture of the weapon’s grip. One shot was all he had, nowhere near enough to deal with all the hunters. Even with his shock baton, there was no way he could overpower them all. He mentally created an image of his environment and searched for some way to gain an advantage.
And he had it.
Suddenly he raised his pistol, taking aim at the hunters behind him. They dove for cover, breaking their formation and Jacob ran through the newly created gap, making a beeline for the bar. The hunters ducked behind whatever cover they could find out of fear of being shot, then followed him when they realized he wasn’t firing. He vaulted over the counter and turned around to see how his pursuers were keeping up. He raised his Enforcer again to buy himself a couple more seconds, and the hunters dove out of the way once more, though less frantic this time. They were beginning to doubt Jacob was willing to shoot at them at all.
He ducked under the counter, out of their line of sight. They were moving too fast. He needed to give himself more time, he noted as he fumbled around for a distraction. He grabbed two large bottles by the neck and chucked them well over his opponents’ heads. The bottles shattered on the ceiling, showering the hunters below with liquor and glass. They took cover, covering their heads and necks from the falling shards. They recovered and approached the bar carefully, anticipating another attack. None came, and when they were close enough, they peered over the counter to pinpoint their target. But Jacob wasn’t there.
He slipped away, unnoticed thanks to his distraction and the surrounding brawl, and camped out behind an overturned table which offered a clear view of the bar. Pistol raised, he saw them approach the counter, so focused and oblivious that they didn’t see him hiding nearby. He saw them glancing over the counter, and knowing that they would wise up to his ruse, he decided they would have to be close enough. So he pulled the trigger.
The shot connected with one of the countless bottles resting on the shelf, igniting the contents inside. The flaming alcohol exploded out of its container and landed on other pools of liquor from previously broken containers. As the heat intensified, more bottles shattered from the pressure and combusted as well. It started a chain reaction at the bar, and in moments it transformed into a massive inferno. Some of the hunters suddenly leapt back and collapsed on the ground, dazed. The others didn’t move out of the way in time, and the sudden heat ignited the alcohol that soaked into their clothes. They ran off, screaming and groaning in agony as the flames scorched their flesh.
Jacob stepped away from his hiding spot and lunged at the stunned hunters with his baton. He quickly knocked out the downed figures and saw the electricity crackle with each strike. The hunters were beaten, and Jacob grinned at his handiwork. Took them down with a bullet, his baton and little else. The battle was dying down, and suddenly a thought popped into his mind, filling him with worry. Where was Sam? He lost track of her in the heat of the battle. Did something happen to her?
He felt pressure on the back of his skull, the unmistakable sensation of a gun barrel being pressed into his head interrupted his thoughts. Two rapid strikes hit the back of his knees and he collapsed to the ground. He twisted his neck back to catch a glimpse of his attacker and he recognized her instantly.
She froze, taken by surprise. She studied his face, trying to recall where she’d seen him as her battle instinct ground to a halt.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, realization striking her as he got up, “I’m not really used to working with someone.”
A heavy calm descended onto the Marauder. Bodies were strewn everywhere and scorch marks dotted the walls, infusing the air with the scent of gunfire. The injured hunters let out soft moans as they rolled in pain on the floor. Shards of glass were littered everywhere, scattered along with toppled tables and chairs and Sam and Jacob stood in the middle of the carnage, standing breathless over the bar’s occupants. They were all lying on the ground, motionless, except for the armoured woman who was slowly walking towards the duo. Sam and Jacob went on alert, suspicious at what might be thrown at them next.
The group of operators walked out of the office and into the ruins of the bar, smoke trailing out of the barrels of their rifles. One of them pressed a detonator and the back room of the Marauder was obliterated with a muffled blast. They stopped in front of them, sizing them up from head to toe, expressions hid behind their helmets. Jacob watched the newcomers, feeling unease at this uncomfortably long faceoff. The one Jacob first met at the entrance of the bar spoke first.
“Well, I’ve got to admit, I’m impressed.” She said, still toting the ComPad. “We never expected anyone to actually win.”
Sam was dumbstruck. “What? You planned this?”
She shrugged. “We have our own agenda, and we needed a diversion. Apologies for the deception, but it was necessary.”
Jacob’s gut churned, still wary.
“Usually, we’d go in and get out, and prefer not to leave anyone still standing, but today…”
One of the operators stepped forward and removed her helmet, a broad smile on her face. “Today, we’d like to make an offer. To both of you.” She paused, extending a hand before she continued. “I’m Captain Langley.”
Jacob and Sam responded with a firm handshake.
“Let me back up a bit.” she said. “We’re an elite task force, contracted by the most influential beings in the galaxy to deal with problems they can’t handle. We’re not aligned with any faction, and while I suppose you could label us as bounty hunters, we’re more than that. We are a collection of individuals, all here from various backgrounds but we work together to achieve our goals, like some universal task force. We are among of the best of the galaxy. This line of work is dangerous, and as you can see –” Langley glanced at her other team members, “– we’re pretty short on manpower. As operative Zhang mentioned, we were impressed by your combat abilities. We would be glad to have your skill set with us, and we can offer you whatever you need in return. What do you say?”
“Anything that gets me off this dump sounds good to me.” said Sam, interested.
“But what if we refuse?” asked Jacob. He caught Sam shoot him a look, and he quickly changed his question. “Er – I refuse?”
“Well, I can’t stop you from doing that. But I suggest you take it. Look, we offered you two thousand credits to come here, but we weren’t really expecting to deliver. I hate to break a promise, and if you join us, you can make more, much, much more with just a few contracts. Consider this your payment.”
“Well, I’d like to be a part of this.” said Sam as she stepped forward.
Captain Langley beamed. “Excellent. And what about you?” she asked Jacob.
He took a moment to think about it. It was a great opportunity for him to fast track his way to top of the line gear. However, regardless of what they said, they were bounty hunters. They rarely let anything get in the way of their prize, and he was concerned at what kind of morals would need to be left behind. Just one contract, he told himself, two at most. The less he was around these people, the better, and when he was finished, they could drop him off on Aerater and he could begin to plan his assault on Tara Harmon.
“I’m in.” he said at last.
“Glad to hear it. If you’d refused, we would’ve went with our usual policy.” She drummed her fingers on her sidearm, driving the point home.
Langley strode over to the door, leading her team outside. “Shall we?”
Aerater spaceport, Citadel City
The squad walked the short distance from the smouldering Marauder bar to Aerater’s spaceport, during which Captain Langley gave her two new recruits a quick briefing of their current task. She explained they were hunting targets on a hit list, but it was constantly being updated, so this was turning out to be one of their longer jobs, one that was unpredictable and had no clear ending in sight. They entered the spaceport, passing crowds of people hovering around the lobby. They moved with purpose and entered the massive hangar, passing countless makes and models of spacecraft.
“So you’ve got a ship?” asked Sam as they moved through the hangar.
“Oh yeah, it’s really something. We’re quite proud of it.” said Captain Langley.
“What kind is it?” asked Jacob, curious.
“Well, I suppose I could tell you,” she said, slowing to a halt, “or you can see for yourself.”
They stopped at one of the landing pads, standing in awe at the ship before them. It was a jet-black Boa 2 Cruiser, covered from top to bottom with a matte finish and bristling with guns. Twin beam lasers were mounted under the ship’s nose and a military laser was resting on top, more cannons were mounted on each side of the hull, making the entire craft look like a miniature warship. Slight variations in the exterior indicated that this was far from a stock Boa 2. The outer hull was sleek yet unassuming, but the interior was heavily modified, and under its metal skin, the ship radiated strength and energy, rippling under its black frame. This was a ship that was no doubt fast, powerful and deadly, though it wouldn’t be one to show off.
“There she is.” said Langley with pride. “What do you think?”
“It’s a sweet ride.” commented Jacob.
“Fully decked out. She’s quick, nimble, and armed to the teeth. We sacrificed a lot of cargo space to give her the extra juice, so it’s a bit cramped inside, but we weren’t really using all that space anyway. With a good pilot at the helm, she could give a GalCop behemoth a run for its money, in theory. But in practice… we’ve held our own against two.”
Sam let out a low whistle as the team entered the ship. Langley looked back and motioned for the two to come up.
“Welcome aboard,” she said as Jacob looked around the interior, “the Artemis’ Will.”
Last edited by my ammo crate on Mon Feb 29, 2016 1:45 am, edited 1 time in total.