Galactic Bounty Hunter Ch. 01bykingkey©
Desirée O'Toole's naked body was wrapped around me as I enjoyed the aftermath of our recent lovemaking. While basking in the afterglow, I thought back to the events that led to meeting Desirée, and her brother, Daniel.
My name is Tom O'Connor, and I am a licensed bounty hunter. You see the year is 2474 and mankind has spread to the stars. In fact, we've now settled on over a thousand worlds. Surprisingly, though, we met very few other races that were nearly as advanced as ours. We did find, out in the fringes, traces of older civilizations that were actually a lot more highly advanced than ours, but so far we hadn't run into any. Of course humans are very warlike outside of the human empires the border areas the planets were pretty much lawless.
Now don't get me wrong. Man, being what he is, still has a lot of paranoia, especially about the possibly an advanced race attacking us. So the Imperial Navy was huge. Unfortunately there was not enough budget left over for much of a peacekeeper force. That's where the bounty hunters came into effect. You see, it was a lot cheaper for them to post the bounty, than it was to maintain a large peacekeeping agency. Now most bounties were for outlaws, but a bounty could be placed on almost anything. A lot of bounties were on stolen or lost goods, or to gather information.
Anyway, I hadn't always been a bounty hunter. Actually, I was orphaned at eight years old, and went to live on Proxima Centauri Four, with my grandfather. He was a retired Galactic Marine Master Sergeant who lived on a small farm outside of the township of Sweetwater. Being a retired military sergeant, he also doubled as a town constable. After taking me in, he proceeded to teach me the value of hard work in keeping up the farm.
After I came home from school one day with a black eye and two bruised ribs given to me by the school bully and his three friends, my grandfather proceeded to teach me self-defense. As I grew he began instructing me in weapons.
Life with my grandfather was great, until one day after I had come home from school. I found my grandfather, dead, sitting in his easy chair.
After the funeral, I figured that I would just continue to live on the farm. But in this, I soon found that I was mistaken. It seems that grandfather did not own the farm. It was actually part of his retirement, and was owned by the town. It was his place of residence, and was provided for him, as part of his pay for his work as a town constable. This meant I would have to move within the next thirty days.
His best friend was the only lawyer in town. After the services, he gave me a letter addressed to me in my grandfather's handwriting. I found that my grandfather had left me 500,000 Galactic credits, and a letter urging me to consider joining the Galactic Marines. Grandfather further wrote that he had already been in contact with his old unit, and had secured me a place in it.
I know that with most 17-year-old boys, the first thing they would do after coming into that much money, would be to blow a big chunk of it on girls and fast vehicles. Very few would do as I had done. Firstly, I took the majority of the money and put it in a high interest money market account. Then, savings book in hand, I went to the bus depot. I caught a bus to the big city, where there was a Marine Recruiting Office.
Once there I marched straight up to the Marine recruiter, a large sergeant missing his right leg below the knee, and showed him my grandfather's letter. This didn't seem to impress the sergeant much, until another recruiter, who seemed to be the sergeant's boss, came over and read the letter himself. After he was finished, he turned to me.
He said, "Was your grandfather Master Sergeant Tom O'Connor?"
After I confirmed my grandfather's name, the first sergeant turned to the staff sergeant and asked if he knew my grandfather?
"I know that there have been a lot of Marines, who have won a Galactic Star. However, there are very few that have won it twice, and lived to collect it," the staff sergeant said.
The staff sergeant then turned to me and said, "I see you're planning on carrying on with the family tradition. I just hope that you're half as good as your grandfather was. Let's just get the paperwork filled out, then we can swear you in. We can't promise you what unit you will be in, but I'm sure you will make your grandfather proud."
I told him he needed to read the letter again, as my grandfather had secured a place for me in his old unit. That was the only unit I would accept. If he could not guarantee me that unit, he could just forget about my joining the Marines.
And after making a few calls, it was confirmed that there was a place reserved by my grandfather, in his old unit. That is, provided I could pass everything at boot camp, and come out in the top ten percent of my class.
As they were filling out paperwork, they got to the portion about age. They found out that I was only seventeen years old. That started another problem, but I told them if they'd look at a little closer they'd see I'd be eighteen, the day after tomorrow.
"If all else fails, we can just do the paperwork, and I'll get me a room. I'll come back, the day after tomorrow."
This started another discussion, until it was pointed out that by the time I reached the planet where the boot camp training school was located, I would be eighteen. Since the standard procedure was to re-swear everyone in, there should be no problem.
And so it was that I spent the next six years of my young life as a Galactic Marine commando. I actually enjoyed the time I spent with my unit, but I seemed to have a huge problem with the officers with which they kept sticking us. It's hard to put up with some butter bar shave-tail who, in his ignorance, is going to get you or your men killed. Finally, just before my six-year enlistment was up, we were on what turned out to be my last mission.
A new lieutenant gave the platoon the most asinine order I'd ever heard. He surely would have killed everyone in the platoon. I changed his orders for my squad, and we got the mission done, with no casualties.
The lieutenant was very upset.
Instead of taking credit for a job well done, he had me put up for a court-martial for disobeying a direct order. The court-martial turned out in my favor, sort of... They determined that I had done the right thing, but they still found that I was guilty of disobeying a direct order, no matter how stupid it was. So that was the end of my time in the Galactic Marines.
After my discharge, I kind of wandered around some. I was doing odd jobs when I stumbled across this 'Town Bulletin Board', while searching for my next bit of work. One section was titled: "Wanted". It had a list of people, what they were wanted for, and the bounty that was on them.
Naturally, I started reading through the list. I discovered two that I recognized. Using a small amount my savings, I went to a pawnshop and bought a small needle gun, hoping that I could keep it from blowing up in my hand (the previous owner had not kept the gun in very good condition).
As needle guns were legal on almost all planets (because you could set the power for different conditions) it would be great, as all I wanted, was to capture someone. I would set the power on low, with tranquilizer darts as secondary munitions. Lethal force with the power set up high, and explosive darts, were available with the flip of a lever.
Considering the condition of this gun, I was hoping I would never have to use it. I made up my mind that unlike most bounty hunters, if I could, I'd bring them in alive. Most thought it was easier and less trouble just to bring them in dead. However, I wasn't that cold blooded. Plus, it seemed that the bounty hunters that operated that way, soon had bounties on their own heads.
Going after the first wanted man turned out to be a piece of cake, after I got the drop on him. He came along very peacefully. He was wanted on this planet, and that made it so much easier. All I had to do was drop him off with the planetary authorities, and collect my reward.
I found out that it was not that simple. It seems that only a licensed bounty hunter could collect on the bounties. Since I wasn't licensed, I was just a private citizen doing his civic duty.
This really pissed me off, and I told them that if they weren't paying the bounty, I might as well just turn him loose. They laughed at me and said if I turned him loose, and I would be guilty of aiding and abetting, and would be going to jail myself. So I asked them how much it was for a Galactic license, and they told me that it would cost me 100,000 Galactic credits.
Hearing this, I almost went into shock. Then I got to thinking that if I went into the bounty hunting business, there was at least a chance to make some real money. Even with all these odd jobs, I was just barely keeping my head above water, with a place to sleep and food in my belly. So I handed him my credit chip. I told him to go ahead and grant me a license.
100,000 credits poorer I said okay now you can pay me the 20,000 credits that were offered for the guy. They laughed at me and said they were very sorry, but this guy was brought in by a non-licensed bounty hunter.
Seeing that I could not win this one, I thought I had at least I learned something. As I turned to leave, one of them stopped me and handed me a small booklet that read: "Guidebook and Rules for Galactic Bounty Hunters". He then told me that it would be a good idea to read it, to help keep from getting a bounty put on myself, if for no other reason. Looking through it, I discovered quite a few things I did not know.
1. Only a licensed bounty hunter or law officer may collect rewards (This explains the reluctance of those law officers to pay the bounty on the first man I brought in.)
2. A prisoner, upon being turned over to the proper authorities, may post bail of at least double the posted reward.
3. Planetary bounties are payable only on the planet of posting.
4. Most bounties are payable only if the subject of the bounty is alive, unless otherwise specified.
There were quite a few other rules but most of them were minor, in comparison to those four.
After going through the booklet, I headed toward where I knew the second wanted man normally hung out. I had seen him several times in one particular bar, down by the spacedocks. However, I wasn't sure how I could get to him in the bar, as I would be outnumbered by so many. From the many times that I had seen him in there before, I knew he was very popular. It would be hard to arrest him while he was drinking, as he was always with his friends. Heading over to the bar I came up with a plan. Since I had observed this man usually drank beer, all I needed to do was wait until he had to head for the Men's Room, and capture him there.
As soon as I got there, I scanned the room, looking for my target. I noticed him being led upstairs by one of the whores that worked in this bar.
I made a quick change of plans. I thought if I'd give him a few minutes upstairs, I could literally 'catch him with his pants down.'
Since the wanted poster had listed him as normally armed and dangerous, this might be the ideal way to nabbing him, without a shot being fired.
After about five minutes, I burst into the room, seeing his hairy ass pumping his whore as hard as he could. I really didn't have the heart to stop him right then, so I waited for him to finish. As soon as he was done and rolled off of her, I arrested him. I secured him with a pair of old handcuffs that I had also bought at the same pawnshop where I had bought the needle gun. Looking over at the whore he'd just finished with, to see if she was going to give me any trouble, I found that she was the ugliest woman I had ever seen... one whom I would not fuck, even to win a bet.
I took him down the back stairs after taking all of the back routes. We arrived back at the planet authority office. Taking him in I confronted the same two officers as before.
Going up to them, I said, "I have another one for you. This one's worth 50,000. And just to make sure that you remember..." I produced my license.
"Damn, that was fast! If you got this one for 50,000 credits we should get a discount because it was so easy."
As he started counting out the credits I noticed it was in local money.
Stopping him, I said. "The poster says 50,000 Galactic credits, not local credits.
"What difference does that make 50,000 credits is 50,000 credits!" the first one said.
"50,000 local credits are the equivalent of 10,000 Galactic credits! You two already cheated me out of 20,000 Galactic credits, and you're not going to do it again. I read your little booklet. I know that the 20,000 Galactic credits I had coming you two have probably split between you by now.
"That's slander! How'd you like to spend a little time in our jail? The first one said.
"Maybe we should take this up with your commander, or better yet, the planetary governor?"
It seemed quiet that pair down that I would have the balls to go over their heads, to a higher authority.
So to try to make amends they said, "How would you really like to make some big money? We got a tip on where another wanted man is hiding out. This man has a bounty on him of 750,000 Galactic credits. He is wanted dead or alive, since he is extremely dangerous. He normally has four or five others with him. They also have large rewards posted on them. We would go for them ourselves, but our commander refuses to let us, being as dangerous as these guys are supposed to be. He thinks that we don't have near enough men, and that he would lose over half of us in attempting to bring them in.
I thought to myself that this was probably too much for one man to do, but it wouldn't hurt to go scout out the situation. I had been in some long odds before, while in the Marines. There might be some way to do this. I'd have to just go and look over the situation, myself.
After getting the information from the two officers on where these guys were holed up, I went to scout the situation. Upon arriving and looking through the dirty window, I saw my target, along with three others, eating at a small kitchen table. I watched them for a few minutes, and determined that they were the only ones there.
I took out the small needle gun. After switching it to tranquilize, I kicked the door open and began firing. I hit the first three with the tranquilizer darts.
Then my piece of shit needle gun misfired, sending an explosive dart into the side of the fourth man. It blew out a small chunk of his side. Seeing this, the man promptly surrendered, knowing that I had to drop on him.
I quickly secured the prisoners, and checked on the fourth man he was not as seriously injured his what he thought. The dart just blew a big chunk out of his side missing his vital organs and that if I could stop the bleeding more than likely he would live.
I put a pressure bandage on him. With him thinking that he was dying, he started confessing to all kinds of sins and crimes. One of the crimes to which he was confessing, was a robbery that he pulled on Cyrus Three. He had framed another young man for the crime.
When he started all of this confessing, I had pulled out my communicator, and set it for video recording. From what he was telling me there were probably several other bounties on him besides the original 500,000 Galactic credits.
After securing the men, I transported them back to the planetary authority's office. Walking in, I confronted the same two officers and showed them my prisoners.
"Damn, I can't believe you got them all, and only one of them is wounded!"
"Yup, I caught them off guard while they were eating so they didn't even have their weapons with them. I still need to check on the rewards posted on them but I know that you owe me of least 1,500,000 Galactic credits, if not more."
They laughed at me a little and said, "You need to read at the booklet again the rewards are posted payable on the planet that the reward originated from. And that's Cyrus Three, not here."
"What is the big difference? They did the crime and their wanted. Why do I need to haul their asses all the way over to Cyrus Three to collect?"
"They wrote it that way because of the crimes that they did. If it was against the Imperial Government, then it could've been paid by any planetary authority, because then the Imperial Government would reimburse for the rewards. However, since these crimes were against a Planetary Government, then the rewards are to be paid by that same government. We used to try to pay the other planetary government's rewards, but it took forever to be reimbursed, so most planets have just quit doing it. About all you can do, is find some way to get their asses over to Cyrus Three, and collect."
I was really starting to get upset. Here I thought that this was going to be a way to make some good money. So far, all its done is cost me a lot of my savings! Now, it looked as if it would cost a lot more.
Checking with the two officers, I asked if there was any way they could lock them up while arranging for transportation to Cyrus Three. They said that they could, although they would have to charge me a hundred credits a day, each, for feeding and housing them.
I then asked what about the clause where they can bail themselves out. They told me that the way the clause works, the perps have to be able to come up with double what the rewards were. Then what the planetary authority would do, was pay me the price of the rewards, so I wasn't out anything. They would keep the balance.
More than likely, that would not happen, since the rewards were so high. They didn't think that the prisoners could come up with the bail money. Then I asked what about if they escaped? I was told that an escape would be covered by insurance, so I still would not be out anything.
Checking around with the liners and freight outfits, I found that booking passage for these men would cost me almost as much as the rewards! This was really starting to get me discouraged.
Then one outfit told me of this other man, who had an old space tug for sale.
After checking it out, I found although it was old, it was still space worthy. After investigating further, I found that although it had the range to make it to Cyrus Three, its environmental system was rated for only four people, not six. There was no way to make it there, as we would run out of oxygen and would have CO2 poisoning, long before we got there.
After telling the owner this, he thought for a minute. Then said that he had a half dozen cold sleep chambers that he could throw in on the deal.
This sent a shudder up my spine. Although cold sleep was widely used with the military, and some opted for it during long space voyages, there was still some risk to it. About one in ten thousand died during the trip, and there was almost a one in a hundred chance of brain damage, due to the cryogenic process.
However, seeing as this was about my only choice, and remembering the nature of my prisoner's crimes, I decided to go for it. So, three hours later (and with about three quarters of my savings gone) I was the proud owner of a fifty-year-old space tug.
Next, the one thing I still dreaded, was hiring a pilot for it. Turning to the owner, I asked him for recommendations.
He said, "Hell, son, there ain't nothing to it. It's mostly automated. Do you have any experience at all as a pilot?"
I told him that about all the experience I had, which was while I was still in the Galactic Marines Special Forces. I said that mostly I had handled landing craft, which did not really require much navigation.
"That's more than I expected. She might not look it, but this little tug has still got one hell of an AI computer aboard her. With just a couple of hours of sleep training, and a good check out flight, we can have you certified as a pilot."