The HMS Clarent slowed as it approached its destination: an abandoned airfield right out in the middle of the desert. Some time ago, it was used to refuel smaller aircrafts, or as a storage space for cargo from said smaller aircrafts before the bigger aircrafts came by to pick them up and transported them to their destination. That was a time that is now forgotten – left behind in a world that was getting faster and faster with each passing day.
Forgotten as it was, one might have imagined that the airfield would be a lot dustier and unkempt that it looks. A thick layer of dust was over the surface of the concrete landing space; but then again, a thick layer of dust was over everything else.
The airship slowed as it made its descent, its thrusters powering down and then turning to face the boiling concrete. Small hatches opened up on the underbelly of the enormous ship, comically small wheels extending out of these hatches; and with surprising grace for an airship its size, the HMS Clarent landed with a gentle sound of its wheels coming into contact with the simmering ground.
From within the darkness of the unused hangar, men in uniforms came stepping out into the blistering heat to greet their latest batch of goods.
‘Hey!’ the marauder’s voice was a pebble against a stone wall as the Swordsman closed his eyes to concentrate. ‘Don’t fall asleep on me, mister! If you haven’t noticed, our ship is landing.’
When the Swordsman showed no indication of hearing her words, the girl raised her voice: ‘Aren’t you going to do something? HEY!’
‘Be quiet,’ he said, unmoving. Eyes shut. ‘I’m thinking.’
‘Well, think faster!’
‘Word of advice…’ the Swordsman began, pausing deliberately so that the girl might shut up and listen for once in her life, and then said:
His eyes snapped open, revealing a gaze strong enough to break cinder blocks. With an audible click, the bolts inside the locks to their cages came loose, and the cage doors swung open before the both of them, creaking slightly as they did.
The Swordsman stepped out of his cage, nonchalant. The marauder girl sat in her cage, staring dumbly at him for a beat; then stumbled out of her cage, bewildered.
‘How–’ she fumbled with her words, ‘How in hell did you do that?!’
‘Quiet,’ he said, stepping carefully towards the hydraulic doors. ‘Someone’s coming.’
With surprising obedience, she obeyed. She stood close by – close enough to react quickly, but not so close that she would inhibit his movements if the Swordsman had to move suddenly. True enough, there were the sounds of dull footsteps coming from the room beyond, then stopping on the other side of the heavy door.
The light above the door changed from red to green, and the familiar dim blue light came on over their heads. The Swordsman strode right up to the doors as it hissed open.
The men never it coming.
Damien Watts was once a promising young man, and in another life, he might have grown to become a successful commander within His Majesty’s Army. In this life, however, the only promises he gave were ones that ended in blood.
After a brief stint of cracking down on the international drug trade, Damien figured that he could achieve a lot more in both fame and fortune if he acted as an independent agent. That, plus the added benefit of not being assigned to mind-numbing routine chores in the military, eventually resulted in him leaving the armed forces; and with a little start-up help from friends that he had made during his time in the army, he soon found himself able to act as the independent contracted he had wanted to be.
Some others might call him a bounty hunter; but what’s there in a name? He did what he did, and he did it well; better than most of the folks he knew in the military, in fact – only short of those who made it into the Special Forces.
‘Cutting edge technology, my foot,’ he said, observing the Sonny punch in the code to open the hydraulic doors. ‘How is it that the Royal Air Force can afford a retinal clock-in system, but not a cargo hold that can be opened from the outside?’
‘Relax,’ Sonny said; and as he pushed the last of the code into the system, the display flashed green, and the doors opened with a hiss.
Presence. He could sense it. Call it intuition; a sixth sense; electromagnetism – whatever. The fact was that as the hydraulic doors opened to give them access into the cargo area, Damien felt a presence lurking just beyond the door, and before he even knew it, his hand had already reached for the gun by his hip.
‘In just a few minutes,’ Sonny continued rambling on, ‘We’ll all be done and rid of th–’
The large man came barreling out of the doorway as soon as it was big enough for him to leap through. Damien’s revolver came up in a flash, and it took conscious mental work to keep from pulling the trigger in the confined space. He had been quick enough to sidestep, to back away, creating distance between him and the Swordsman; but Sonny had no such luck.
WHAM! The Swordsman caught Sonny by the throat and slammed him into the near wall, then swung the unconscious soldier’s body in front of his, holding him up in a chokehold.
BLAM! Damien made a bullet hole in the wall next to the Swordsman’s head.
‘Next one will hit,’ Damien promised. ‘Let him go. Now.’
He had only managed to spin his head when the girl rushed him, her body low as she did. For a moment, he was pinned painfully against the near wall as the girl’s momentum took him into it. In a fair fight, he would have made short work of the marauder girl, and she would have a bullet planted into her brains within the next three seconds; but as he knew from many years of experience, there were no such things as fair fights.
Before he could bring his knee up into the girl’s ribs, the Swordsman’s fist came hard and fast.
There really is nothing philosophical about close combat. Hit fast, hit hard, always go for the head; and if at all possible, try not to lose yours in the process. Damien understood this; and unfortunately, so did the Swordsman. The first blow spun him wildly, and he lost his grip on the gun. When the second blow hit, the darkness overtook him.
Damien wasn’t awake when he hit the floor.