Livin' on the Edge
The Hunter and the Girl
“Mesh’kent, Mary and Jeshik!”, the man exclaimed under his breath. “Would you take a look at that!”
“Yes, I see her,” replied his partner, leaning against a wall next to a bank of lockers. This cretin knew him as Dannick Terissian, but the thought of himself simply as, Hunter.
“I ain’t never seen no Lekky ‘tang as tasty as that. And you know, what? I don’t generally go for brain tails.”
Hunter noticed that the man actually seemed to be rubbing his palms together and licking his lips. If he’d had a tail, it would be wagging at this point. Fascinating.
Hunter did his best to stay in character.
“That’s our mark, you idiot. You’ve been looking at pictures of her all damned day.”
“Yeah, but there’s vids and then there’s real life, you know? Stosh!”
There were times, Hunter thought to himself, when it was a real pity that some jobs required him to work with other people. He didn’t enjoy working with people. Especially people he didn't know or select, personally, for a job.
But the credits on this gig were too good to pass up. Even if the odds of Imperial heat were considerably larger (by an order of magnitude, he calculated) on something like this. Still, the job was almost over. The charges were in place and the only thing left was to make sure the mark boarded the shuttle.
“Seems like such a frakkin’ waste, dontcha think?” the man muttered.
“They call it the circle of life. You’re either the hunter or the hunted. Predator or prey. And you know what happens to prey?”
“Hell, I ain’t religious or nothin’. My uncle, he was into all that Jedi shit, for all the good it did him.”
“No, bantha-brains, not ‘pray’…’prey’. You know what? Never mind. I don’t even—”
Hunter stopped mid-sentence. Something was wrong. He replayed the last 30 seconds over in his mind, quickly scanning the footage. There. A Twi’Lek bum on a bench 40 yards away, trying a little too hard not to look this way. A Rodian with a suspicious bulge at his hip, making eye contact with Dipshit here as he walked toward the loading platform. And, yes, a shuttle worker whose coveralls didn’t quite fit and whose shoes were entirely too expensive and free of scuffs.
“Like I was sayin’,” Dipshit continued, “she’s an awful sweet treat. Seems downright wasteful to just throw her away like this.”
Hunter drew his blaster, but kept it down at his side, covered by his duster. He loaded the requisite trajectories for complete termination but hoped it wouldn’t come to that. There was always a chance. 13.657 percent, in fact.
Hunter decide to take the initiative.
“What’s the plan, fucktard? You and your friends thinking of nabbing the girl for a good time? Or are we planning to sell her to the Hutts?”
Hunter saw the man’s shoulders tense, just for a moment, and then relax as he turned his head slowly. Dipshit’s face was lit by a sheepish grin that was marred by the tell-tale black and brown nubs that passed for teeth among those who liked to freebase their spice with lazing crystals.
“So what if that is our plan?” he said, defiant now. “Why the hell do you care? She’s gone die on the shuttle anyway. What’s the difference?”
“The difference,” Hunter replied, stressing each syllable as he brought his blaster up so that the tip of the barrel was just visible under his coat, “ is a matter of professionalism. The job is to make sure the mark boards the shuttle and then to blow the shuttle and make it look like a rebel attack. Nothing more. Nothing less. Those are the parameters.”
“Well, what if we’s got, you know, differnt para-meters?” the man sneered. “Like, orders you ain’t even knowed about?”
Hunter swept the platform – the girl, now in line at a kiosk; the derelict on the bench, doing something with his hands (assembling a weapon?) underneath the blanket; the Rodian, edging behind a column, to give himself cover; and the shuttle worker…fuck, where was the shuttle worker?
The surge of electricity would have destroyed any non-hardened droid. As it was, the spike overloaded Hunter’s primary circuits, which shut down immediately in an attempt to avoid damage to his systems. Simultaneously, power was rerouted from one of eight strategically located battery packs to control his isolated secondary system. It was just a backup, designed to keep the lights on until the surge and any attendant heat could be dissipated along his ceramel plating.
Unlike 99.9 percent of droids in this situation, Hunter would survive, but he did lose gross motor function for the duration of the reroute and reboot of his main systems. He sank slowly to the ground, into a sitting position against the lockers, and the shuttle worker pushed his hat down even further over his face.
“Lookey there,” Dipshit laughed, “our metal buddy looks like he’s takin’ a nap.”
“Well, he ain’t wakin’ up ever again,” said the shuttle worker, whose accent and intonation marked him as being from the same backwater on Tatooine that spawned Dipshit. Brothers? Cousins? Both?
Hunter waited patiently for his survival subroutines to run their course. He would regain motor function in 180 seconds – an eternity to him, but still vastly better than the truedeath these cretins had intended for him. In the meantime, he collected what sensory data he could while crumpled against a wall with his hat covering his face.
A voice over the com, making the last call for boarding…
The distant “whump” of a muffled stun blast, perhaps under a blanket…
“Damnit, Darla,” – Dipshit’s voice - “you done had too much to drink again…”
The hum of the shuttle’s engines, as it begins to leave the station…
A voice over the com, announcing the next shuttle departure in 15 minutes…
Hunter cocked his hat back, stood up, and surveyed the platform. No sign of the girl or Dipshit’s crew. An internal timer subroutine told him he had 247 seconds before there would be a very loud noise and a wildly inhospitable environment for anyone without the right papers.
As he sank into the plush seat in the back of the taxi, Hunter thought about where this left him. He did not envy the fate in store for that unfortunate girl. Yes, she had been marked to die in the shuttle explosion, but, all things considered, that would have been preferable to whatever Dipshit and his crew had planned for her. Still, Hunter thought, he should have …
A starburst lit up the portion of sky visible out the rear window of the cab. A second or two later, the rumble of a massive explosion swept over the poorly insulated passenger compartment.
…plenty of credits in his account (a quick check confirmed that the payment had just been deposited) and no need to take another job any time soon. Hunter was not in the habit of working for free. And the girl would likely be dead (or close enough as didn’t matter) by the time he found them. Hell, even if she wasn’t, Hunter found it interesting to contemplate what, if any, professional obligation he might have at this point to make sure that he “finished” the job.
But he wouldn’t really be working without compensation. No. Revenge was its own form of payment. There would be an exceeding surplus of utility in making Dipshit pay for his transgressions. Hunter began loading information extraction subroutines, as well as data on what percentage of a human’s skin could be removed without actually killing the subject. Surplus utility, indeed.