The sun was low, sending shards of orange light through the dead forest, and
causing the layer of waist-high morning mist to glow. It was an enchanting
and ghostly sight.
Sebastian Blood crouched in the mist at the edge of the forest. He scanned
the trees, the digital sensor eye patch on his left eye projecting a detailed
vector image of the view ahead directly onto his retina. He could see
all that was hidden by the mist – exposed tree roots, small scurrying
animals, and the ruins of a small peasant dwelling complete with the ruins
of a small peasant.
Most importantly, though, he could see the approach of a fang serpent.
“Here it comes.” The bounty hunter whispered. “Headed
right this way.”
His earpiece crackled. “Are you sure this is the way it will happen,
“Trust me, Senator. This is how it’ll happen.”
“These are protected species, Mister Blood. There are grave repercussions
if you are wrong. The conservation lobby on this world is powerful. They
“I said ‘trust me’, Senator.”
“Very well, Mister Blood. The Jud’Da Republic is depending
on you. Good luck. Senator Wob’La out.”
The serpent was less than a hundred metres away now, snaking its thick
scaly body through the trees. Its mouth, dominated by a set of six uneven
fangs, was as wide as an average walrus, and opened and closed in rhythm
to its movements.
Sebastian Blood raised his launcher. He set the grenade threshold appropriately,
and then aimed at the fang serpent, targeting its head. A slight squeeze
of the trigger armed the launcher. It hummed quietly.
The bounty hunter waited – perfectly still and silent – for
the fang serpent to reach optimum range.
A second later the launcher’s range readout turned green.
Sebastian Blood smiled, and then fired.
With a thud and a whoosh, a small golf ball-sized grenade burst out of
the launcher’s muzzle. The grenade’s brief fifty-millisecond
flight was smooth and accurate, the tiny thrusters on its surface spitting
jets of gas to control the trajectory.
The fang serpent had very little time to comprehend the grenade as it
tore neatly through the skin and bone between its eyes. And it had no
time at all to comprehend the grenade as it detonated.
In an instant, a small but intense fusion blast vaporised the fang serpent’s
head, and sent out a pressure wave that cleared the mist within a fifty-metre
radius. The crack of the explosion reverberated through the forest for
several seconds before fading to silence.
Sebastian Blood put down his launcher, then stood and walked over to the
limp body of the serpent. The stump where its large head had once been
was smouldering like a cigar. A delicious smell of burnt meat filled the
air. The bounty hunter picked up a gnarled stick and prodded at the serpent’s
belly. As expected, the lifeless serpent did not flinch. Unusually, a
brief and muffled groan emanated from inside its gut. The bounty hunter
smiled. That was exactly what he had hoped to hear.
From a sheath on his belt, Sebastian Blood drew his standard-issue bounty
hunter battle knife, and then plunged it into the fang serpent’s
tough skin. He yanked the knife hard, cutting a two-metre gash in the
side of the serpent’s belly. A mass of entrails - accompanied by
litres of black blood - spilled onto the forest floor.
The bounty hunter waited for the outflow of innards to stop, then plunged
the knife in once again, this time slashing into the serpent’s stomach
lining. Two humanoids, covered in thick gastric fluid, rolled out of the
wound and slopped onto the ground. Both were wearing tight-fitting black
plexi-armour and facemasks. And both had hideous looking weapons strapped
to their backs.
“Just as I expected, Senator.” Sebastian Blood said as he
re-sheathed his knife. “Two Spunjj assassins, both armed with high
precision Thun’Da disruption cannons.”
“Excellent work, Mister Blood!” Senator Wob’La replied,
the relief obvious in his voice.
One of the humanoids was trying to reach the weapon on his back. The bounty
hunter reacted immediately. He drew his small pulse pistol from its holster
inside his jacket and fired. The humanoid’s hand vaporised in a
flash of blue. It moaned, gripping its smouldering stump with its other
hand. The two assassins looked up at the bounty hunter.
Sebastian Blood spoke to them proudly. “In the name of the Superior
Beings of the Great Hall of the Palace of Amino, I arrest you both. Resist
and I’ll bake your bowels to oblivion.”
The bounty hunter’s earpiece crackled “I’ve despatched
a team of agents to your location, Mister Blood. They should be with you
“Thank you, Senator.” Sebastian Blood’s wrist communicator
bleeped rapidly. Curious, he pulled back his left sleeve. A flashing red
envelope in the corner of the communicator’s display indicated an
incoming message of great importance. He touched the display and opened
the message. The letters ‘I.M.O.’ faded into view, followed
by several lines of text. As he read the text the bounty hunter’s
eyes widened. And so did his smile. “I must leave immediately, Senator.
I have been called away on urgent business.”
“No, Mister Blood!” Senator Wob’La said, worried. “You
are due to stay another week at least. Those two assassins will not be
the only ones!”
“You now know their ingenious, yet flawed, method of approach, Senator.
I’m sure your agents can protect you and your peers from brutal
“You are right, of course. I would still prefer a high-class bounty
hunter such as yourself to be present, but I’m sure you’re
business supersedes ours.”
With a whoosh, a small skycar descended rapidly and came to a swift halt
a few metres away. Five black-suited agents leapt off the car and grabbed
the two assassins. With cruel efficiency the assassins were stripped naked,
gagged, hogtied, and thrown into the car. The agents got back onboard.
As the skycar ascended, the agents waved. The bounty hunter waved back.
“Good luck to you, Mister Blood. We are in debt to you and your
“Thank you, Senator.”
Sebastian Blood turned and sprinted away from the forest and into the
mist of the valley below.