Bounty Hunter (Fragments) (Set II)

It’s not like a bounty hunter can’t work for the “officials”.

Even though our existence is prohibited, if one is willing to bring in the “right” persons, toleration changes to adulation. In secret of course. “Officials” get their guys, take the credit and in private the bounty is collected. And a fair reward to, if whisper and rumour is are too believed. A cosy operation it is. And beneficial. The hunter gets imperial protection (for the most part) and given the bounty hunters company the “officials” have an inside source on numerous illicit activities.

For the most part. If the hunter messes up, it’s on them. An arrest usually follows, complemented with a show trial and possible execution. The state gets a publicity boost for it apparent action against criminals. Accountability is a rare creature. And if less than legal clients find out about legal connections just run. And keep running. Become a hermit.

For me, it’s just easier to work with the so-called “underclasses (of which I am one)”. Particularly after the incident.

~~~

Rookie mistakes.

The entire thing was full of rookie mistakes.

The scouting should have been better. Who was coming, who was going and any unusual activity.

I had got past the guards. I found my guy. I was taking him in. Then the police raid. He tried to run. In the middle of the fire fight since the syndicate had finally got their bearings.

Bounty. Dead or alive. It’s the only reason I fired. Well, that and he turned a gun on me. I should’ve restrained him immediately. God dammit. Rooting through his pockets I found it. The badge. Lasers gleamed brightly on its surface, momentarily. A cop. I had killed a cop. And there, watching, a SWAT team seeing a Sinornithoshan crouching over a fellow law man’s corpse.

So it wasn’t the only “official” I killed that day.

Getting out was tough. He was a pretty heavy guy.

~~~

Looking back the incident helped more than hindered.

My shooting improved. My scouting became unrecognizable from my earlier days. Sizing up situations became much more natural and instincts sharpened.

I wouldn’t be the bounty hunter I am today if not for that day. We’ll consider that a good thing.

Providing I’m not after you.

~~~

Bounty hunting ships are unique. They are not specially made for us (no company would dare do that). So we have to alter existing models. And every hunter will have their preferences.

Freighters. Slavers. Military craft. Shuttles. If it flies through space, a bounty hunter will use it. Freighters are particularly good. Lots of space, easily modified and it’s not that difficult to fit weapons systems. Often have a built-in hyper drive. Freighters are good.

Sizes vary but generally it’s a minimum of 15 metres long and up to 70 metres. Some are nimble, some are floating tanks. All that matters is it gets the job done.

~~~

I got lucky with my ship. Back home there was a military outpost. Ships used to refuel there, take onboard additional supplies and weapons and jump to other planets. Over time it was abandoned. It’s still there but the forest has taken it over, strangling it with vines as trees have pushed through the deck, wildlife converting living quarters into dens and nests.

As we would rest in our nests and leap branch to branch star fighters would skim the canopy before heading into space. I never knew where they went but watching them I wanted to go with them, explore the world beyond the confines of my arboreal life.

They left. One day while gliding over the swamps I saw it. An old fighter/bomber lodged in the trees. Suspended in vines with a tilted wing, the tip touching the water’s surface. It was intact; the structure looked to be well. I would like to say the crew died on impact but the skeletons missing limbs suggested otherwise. Fuel supplies must have run low cause there was no evidence of weapons damage (no surprise, this planet isn’t worth fighting over – natural pristine beauty is all we have – nothing economic.)

It appears only I knew of the ship. Lying undisturbed for weeks as it did. Braving the abandoned base I found some old tattered manuals and went back to the swamp. Working by night (with sub standard light) I stripped out the bombardier section and the bomb bay. Presumably they are still resting in the same swamp, corroding. One turret had the seat removed. Where ever it was possible I stripped the weight.

It was as light as I could make it. Taking what fuel was left at the outpost (a surprising amount – apparently people just got up and left) a test flight was a go. The craft was lying flat now, the vines cut. Pre-flight checks in accordance with the manual. And nothing. No sound. No motion. Just the howls of the swamp.

Forgetting the ignition switch. It’s a sad thing to do.

Light flickered, the engines flared and it hovered above the swamp floor. I slowly moved it to the canopy level, maintaining balance. While knocking a tree over. Two trees. Three trees. Sure it wasn’t more than three. Hopefully.

Outside of takeoffs (and landings) I had a knack. I could fly her level to start with and gradually, using the outpost as a base I flew up high, dived, stunted and looped. Taking off and landing came together eventually (observation towers may or may not have been damaged.)

After trading what little funds I had to a travelling merchant I had enough fuel to get off world.

With the working hyper drive, well, I got lucky.

~~~

La Maga’s changed.

Structurally she’s the same. But the engines, electronics, navigation, weapons and shields are all new. Or in the process of becoming new.

The forward turret had the seat taken out and replaced with a computer. Four lasers became two but have increased firepower. A second turret has been removed all together. Two fixed cannons have been fitted to the front of La Maga.

On the wings hard points have been removed (well, lost of them – enough left for missiles). She has a tri wing alignment. One large wing, supported by two smaller wings (hard points removed).

A new hyperdrive has been fitted and the engines have all new aerofoils – she moves like a straight up fighter now.

Inside where the bombardier section, turret and bomb bay used to be there are holding cells, a medical bay and a cargo space.

She has a flat head for a cockpit.

And I love her. So many close encounters, chases, escapes, combat encounters and light speed jumps. Shes lived through it all. Has the marks to back it up. It’s almost like she’s alive. The engine hum, the snap when she turns. It’s instant, organic. The turrets revolutions, the ticking of the computers. It’s emotive in its own vehicular way.

I love her.

~~~

Although we call ourselves bounty hunters, it’s not what we are limited to.

Gun running. Private eyes. Slaving. (Depending on weapons skill) Mercenaries. Anything and everything not covered under smuggling.

Myself – bounty hunting and gun running. It’s not much to carry a crate or two of rifles across the galaxy proving I have the space. Nice bit of scratch.

~~~

We don’t have many friends. It’s the nature of our business.

~~~

“You know those rifles are banned in 12 star systems? You know what
you’ll get if you’re caught?”
“Yeah. And you know how many I’ve killed. Rifles won’t make a
difference.”
“Fair point. Have a better one.”

~~~

The Sinornithoshan is still after him. I know it. Giving up isn’t his thing.

Was my thing though. Which normally would be a bad thing. But the two squealers in my cargo hold say otherwise.

Payday is a good day.

~~~

Serene moments.

There’s more than you would expect.

Drifting through space, autopilot clicks on (if my effort is lacking) and its staring into the blackness, counting the numberless stars, watching planetary orbits, the warm glow of a passing freighters engines, a nebulous gas clouds lazy drift.

It’s nice. Particularly after a hasty get away.

~~~

Space fights are fun. In a bat shit insane sort of way.

Lasers of reds, blues, greens and yellows streak past the cockpit, sear aerofoils, fade into the void.

Movement is sharp and constant – looping, twisting, rolling. Breaking hard inside, steep dives, stunting. Taking the right angles, in pursuit and in defence.

You’re locked in. Both of you. Looking for a mistake, waiting for one, trying to force one. Someone overplays it. Suddenly the lasers aren’t missing.

Debris hangs, an infinity of drift awaiting.

The competition makes it. Try and avoid the losing side. Won’t be coming home.

~~~

Some months after the incident, they jumped me off some backwater world. Four imperial fighters. They stalked, I spotted them. They didn’t know that. Maintained flying speed. They moved in. I cut the thrust, La Maga flipped back into the cluster.

Spread. One spun off, all control lost. The front mounted turret was activated. It swung sharply, firing a viridian salvo. An explosion followed.

Another craft had control but had lost sight of me. I moved in behind and fixed laser cannon combined with the turret. Its hull was consumed by a viridian combustion.

The other two circled around, locking on my tail. I couldn’t shake them. Luckily, La Maga being an ex-fighter/bomber she could take the punishment. Up until a certain point. I needed an out. The constant thud of laser fire was causing the shields to give way and the wings were already showing marks.

I dived. Steeply. They followed. Couldn’t hack it though. One pulled up in advance. The other followed. Couldn’t maintain. As it pulled up, I slipped in behind. Twists, turns. I fired. One left.

Even though his fighter was more nimble, Maga was tougher and had more firepower. The turret followed him, accompanied with the pleasing sound of the computer tracking device searching, then locking. An engine flamed out, the craft diving rapidly towards the surface. The turret fired again.

Four more. I had to maintain constant vigilance.

~~~

Data recovered from downed patrol.

“Diving, diving (other ship “pull up! I repeat pull up!
You can’t match it!”), diving still (pull up!) I can
make it (pull up!) –

“Argh, can’t hold it. (silence). It’s behind me. I can’t
shake it. Shit, a fighter/bomber and I can’t shake it.
(“coming into assist”) It’s too good. I can’t, I c – ”

[Sound of laser fire (seemingly illegally modified) crashing into the ship’s hull. Data record ends]

~~~

Try to avoid firefights.

Wish I had. So many times. Too many youthful indiscretions.

Now it’s find target, get in, make the catch, get out. Should always be the primary objective. Same in space.

If you can jet away (hyperspace or not) do it. Being alive and inconspicuous is a good thing.

But sometimes you have to shoot. Not the worst way to relieve stress.

~~~

Ship design based of the BTL-S8 K-wing assault starfighter: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/BTL-S8_K-wing_assault_starfighter

La Maga is one of my favourite characters in Julio Cortazar’s novel “Hopscotch.”

About skyraftwanderer

A person who enjoys writing short story things, poetry and other random things that come into my head.
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