Hunter

Corin is pretty much how Marek remembers it. Maybe it’s a little worse, if he’s honest with himself. The streets are still littered with rubbish, piles of which are stacked high in corners, as people mill about eyeing each other suspiciously. Most of them are armed, with a finger ready to pull the trigger at any moment. And sometimes they really do pull the trigger because of a look they don’t like or a tone someone has.

Bodies lie in darkened alleyways like offering. They’ll be picked clean before long by thieves and organ resellers, while the rain hammers down. It’s always raining in Corin, Marek thinks as he strolls down the centre of the wide street. On any other world he’d been in real danger of being crushed by cruisers or speeders, but not here. No one on Corin runs a vehicle, at least through the city and that isn’t part of one of the gangs.

Marek has to admit he has no idea what gangs even still exist in this city state, but from the looks of the metropolis on his way in the city has shrunk. Most expand but then Corin has never been like most cities, he knows as he continues down the street. Passersby make sure to move out of his way whether that’s because they know he’s a bounty hunter or not, he doesn’t know. They just know he’s dangerous. His physical appearance is more than enough proof for most people even in a place where none of the work is honest and nearly everyone is desperate.

Marek doesn’t like the fact that he’s going to have to visit one of old haunts, The Cantina of Sameena. He wonders if Sameena really does still run the place. It’s possible he knows, but then just as possible is she was killed and her cantina taken over. Few establishments in Corin change their names when their owners change. It happens too often and most of the populace are too limited in terms of originality to come up with a decent name for a bar, shop, anything really. It’s why The Cantina of Sameena is called what it is. After all, it was a cantina that belonged to Sameena; at least it had been when he was last here.

Marek has to admit he hasn’t missed this place though. Then again he can’t understand how anyone could, as he turns down a street heading toward the cantina. He knows he’s being followed and it neither surprises nor concerns him as his path is suddenly cut off by five guys that step forward from behind stalls to block his route forward.

Marek does and says nothing as he stands there, but he knows the route behind him has been blocked by the two guys that were following him.

“What’s your business hunter?” One of the men asks with a gruff voice.

“My own. Now get out of my way before you get hurt.” Marek replies succinctly and calmly.

He can see the men itching for an excuse to pull their slug pistols, which are hung from their waists like the cowboys of old.

“We’re the law here. If anyone’s getting hurt it’ll be you.” The gruff voiced man with a deep jagged scar on his left check says.

“Now what’s your business here?” The man then asks with a smile on only the right side of his face.

Marek guesses the cut to the guys’ face, which is now a scar, must have severed some nerves and that is why his smile is one-sided.

“I’m meeting someone.” Marek offers vaguely. He knows it won’t placate the men, he doubts anything will.

“Where?”

“Sameena’s.” Marek replies giving the shortened, local name for the cantina.

He knows better than to appear as though he is new here. In some places and instances it can help to play the: I’m new here card, but in Corin it’s a death sentence. It marked you as someone who might not be missed, at least for a while and by the time anyone would come looking there wouldn’t be much left to find, if you could find it at all.

“What business do you have with Sameena?”

“None with Sameena herself.” Marek explains rolling his hidden eyes as he speaks.

He’s getting bored of this and just wishes these thugs would get to the inevitable, quickly. Though, he does now know that Sameena really does still run her bar. It doesn’t surprise him. He just hopes he doesn’t run into her. They didn’t exactly leave on great terms. But then no one in Corin ever does. Friends often become enemies and business arrangements usually end in bloodshed and betrayal. It’s just the way in this city.

“So you’re going to her bar to talk business with someone else?”

“Is that a problem?” Marek asks. He knows it is, but he’s prepared for what comes next.

“Of course it is. Sameena owns this neighbourhood and no one, repeat no one, does business without her permission. And we enforce that, don’t we boys?” The scar faced man says with another lopsided smile.

“Yeah.” The other thugs groan is response, but not quite in unison. Some of the responses come later than others.

“Have it your way.” Marek says with a shrug of his shoulders and a brief shake of his head as the thugs go to pull their weapons. But Marek is faster as he turns side on to the two groups of men and with each hand tosses a trio of shock blades. The fans of electrified blades hit their marks and deliver a single painful pulse to three of the men. Two of the men are stood to the left of the scar faced man, while the third is one of the pair that had been following him through the streets.

But Marek doesn’t wait as he drops to his knee as soon as he has cast the blade fans and fires a single shot of one of his wrist mounted tasers. The electrified forks stab deep into one of the thugs’ hands before unleashing a body writhing pulse that sees his slug pistol drop from his hand. Marek swings his shock rifle off his shoulder and whips it round behind him. The wide butt of the rifle slams into the head of the last remaining attacker at his rear. The force of the impact knocks the man out cold. The thugs’ body crashing to the hard street surface as one of the attackers, not the scar faced man, fires a shot from his slug pistol. However, Marek has already dived out of the way and behind an empty stall. The few people in the street scream and run in response to the weapons fire. Many of them might be armed but they aren’t willing to engage. Marek isn’t surprised as a second third and fourth round slam into the wood of the stall, cutting deep wounds into it. The last round punches through the weakened wood and slams into the pauldron on Marek’s shoulder making a single chime sound as it ricochets back into the wood.

“Got him.” The thug calls with delight.

“That’s just his armour. Keep firing.” The scar faced man roars as he too fires his slug pistol.

Several more rounds cut deep into the wood of the stall, even managing to splinter through. But this time there is no chime of heavy round hitting armour.

“Is he down?” The thug without a scar queries.

“Go check.”

“Why me?”

“Cause I say so.” The scar faced man thunders as he reloads his slug pistol, cursing the fact that it only holds five rounds instead of the usual eight. He’d sacrificed quantity for calibre and in times like these he regrets it. Though the scar faced man has to admit these instances are seldom as he finishes reloading his weapon.

The other thug is edging forward, cautiously. He hasn’t reloaded seeing as he knows he has three rounds left, which at close range he is sure will be enough to put the bounty hunter down. He doesn’t know why Sameena wants this guy dead so much, but she’s offering a pretty penny for his helmet. Preferably with his head still inside. The cantina owner scares the thug. He’s known Sameena since he was a little boy picking pockets on the streets around her bar. Back then she hadn’t been a gang leader, but the cantina business had become difficult and Sameena had needed to diversify. At least that’s what she claimed whenever she’d been asked and he’d heard the response. He doesn’t know if it’s true, but he isn’t about to argue with her. Not after he’d once seen her relieve a working girl, she hates them being called any other term because it sounds cheap and Sameena hates cheap, and her pimp of their teeth, eyelashes and ears. They’d been caught keeping monies meant for her. The thug knows both are dead now, but their deaths had not come from Sameena’s hand, at least not directly. Instead they were killed because they couldn’t repay their loans. It’s common in Corin, especially if you’ve betrayed your employer and lost your livelihood and looks as a result.

The thug rounds the corner but much to his surprise the bounty hunter isn’t there. He turns back to face the scar faced man, Len, wearing a confused look on his face. He sees Len’s eyes go wide moments before the world goes black.

Len, the scar faced thug, watches the last of his band of thugs slam to the floor. He’d tried to call out to warn the man of the impending attack even as Marek punched the thug with his gauntled fist, in the back of the head.

But Len, no longer having the numbers advantage, isn’t about to wait around to be the next victim, so he turns tail and runs. Marek smiles beneath his helmet as he pulls one of his bolas and begins to spin it above his head until suddenly he unleashes it. The twin balls connected by a single cable spin round and round horizontally until they reach their mark. The cable wraps round Len’s head several times before the balls come to hit him in the face simultaneously. The impacts shatter his already nose as well as his front teeth. But Len is oblivious as the impact has registered him unconscious as his body is left to topple to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

Marek doesn’t check Len, or any of the other men. Instead he simply leaves them, after retrieving his shock rifle, and he resumes his stroll down the centre of the now empty street toward Sameena’s. He knows the welcome he’ll get when he gets there, but he’s prepared for it. He just hopes his contact, Iris, will still be there. He doesn’t like complications and Sameena is known for causing complications.

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