120. NaNoWriMo Day 25

20

You may have heard this one before, said in a different way by a different man in very different circumstances, but when it came to the outlaw hunting another outlaw, many things stayed the same; so here it is again:

The Swordsman ventured through the maze of ancient ships, and the bounty hunter followed.

The bounty hunter and his companion, the soldier, had wrap-around shades on to protect their eyes from the blinding light of the sun that reflected off the desert floor. Damien loved them for how snugly they fit around his head, and how the lenses were close enough to his eye that he could still use his iron sights comfortably. Sonny loved them for how cool they looked.

Before they left the HMS Clarent lying in the sand, Damien located the panel at the bottom of the console in the pilot’s cockpit, opened it, and pushed a button that fired off a distress signal into space. Even in the age of lightspeed information transfer, the bureaucracy of the Royal Air Force meant that it would be probably three hours before anyone got around to doing anything about the distress signal; and Damien would sooner shoot himself than to just sit around and wait for those three hours.

He had time, and he intended to use it efficiently. When he saw the man with the hundred-thousand pound bounty on his head (double that, if the man was brought back alive) lying facedown half dead in the sand, he figured that it would be a cakewalk to keep the man alive for a few more hours, and then drop him off at Kowloon for a hundred grand – charity, considering that he was the one to do all the work. The girl, whom he had found in a similar manner at the base of a sand dune in the middle of a dust scooter wreckage could probably net him another twenty thousand. Enough to shut Sonny up about “his share of the money” or whatever nonsense that man had ready on his tongue.

They were his captives. His products. It wasn’t about revenge, or some similar petty thing that sent him out into the desert to hunt them both down. This was a matter of professional pride. He was a bounty hunter, and a bounty hunter was nothing if he couldn’t be counted upon to get the job done properly. If he could not get them alive (the man, at least), he would have them dead, plain and simple.

The desert air was still and stifling; but that also meant that there was no wind to cover the two’s tracks. A twin trail, left behind by the dust scooters, traced the way all the way into the horizon and disappeared behind it. So the bounty hunter and the soldier followed these tracks, trudging along at a steady, determined pace towards their targets, stopping for the briefest of moments every half-hour or so for Damien to look into the sights of his sniper rifle to check their surroundings.

‘Do you think she was telling the truth?’ Sonny spoke up after an hour-long silence, a golden time that Damien was enjoying quite immensely, unfortunately. ‘About– About Eric and the rest, being…’

“Dead,’ Damien completed his sentence. ‘Yes.’

‘Yes?’

‘Yes, I think that she was telling the truth,’ he replied wearily. ‘In fact, I don’t think that she was telling the truth – I am certain that she told us the plain truth.’

Sonny shook his head, making the sign of the cross as he did. ‘Bless their souls,’ he said sadly. ‘They were good men. Maybe not honest men, but good men.’

Damien, who couldn’t have cared less if one of those men were the second coming of Christ, simply grunted in response. Sonny was a good soldier, if not a little dull. If he had a cattle prod attached to his back that would administer a little shock into his body every five minutes or so, Damien imagined that Sonny could be a lot sharper.

‘It’s why we’ll have to get them, and get them good,’ Sonny resolved. ‘Put a bullet nice and clean in between their eyes, then another one through the eye, just to be sure. That’ll be a lesson to anyone who messes with us!’

Damien’s face made an involuntary, microscopic twitch.

‘Sonny?’ he called.

‘Yeah?’

‘Shut up.’

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