Evil Horizon (Part 4)

Not all Hunters are created equal.

Atoma’s are often trained in one or two mastery’s, This Emblem is of a Regenerator/ Healer (Art work by Remidy James)

The forest was alive with life. The early morning sun had began its slow climb over the valley. The local area and crash site of the Pinto consisted of what was still known as pine trees. The sap from these massive trees had a very strong but pleasant scent. They had been merged with the DNA of redwood trees; which made them at the base easily 20-30 feet wide. 

The babbling brooks nearby had never known anything to interrupt their constant flow. Where the use of the “Planet Seed” had ended its influence on the planet is where it stopped terraforming. As little was known about this world; it was difficult to know if further terraforming edits were planned. It was also unclear who’s ownership the planet was under. Rumours implied that it was under the Atomas Dominion.

The Black had by now emerged from the drop pods and broken off into smaller 2 man hunting parties. It was a safe bet they were long since onto the trail of Jaecar. By no fault of his own; it was just a matter of time. 

As he now ran for his life; his memories of the same planet he at one time leisurely walked, he had to put aside. Its beauty and wonder were now relegated to the back of his mind now that The Black had found him.

Weapons fire pelted the tree next to Jaecar which made him change direction in a flash. Using his handheld weapons he sporadically fired blind shots into the thick forest.  Sadly with his location surrounded he was running out of options.

“O” where are they!?” Jaecar yelled behind his visor at his closest thing he had to an ally. The onboard computer marked targets on his HUD. 

“You are surrounded sir, however I have transferred all remaining power to your weapons. Please remember your weapons are out of date and may cause little or no damage to-” Jaecar interrupted.

“I know-I know! Just Keep tracking their footsteps!” A bright beam of energy clipped the mans left shoulder which sent him flying into a nearby tree. “You know, these guys have no honour, you DO remember they attacked with ranged weapons first O!?” he complained as he pushed himself off the ground. 

“If you are worried about battle field protocol sir, yes, they did not observe the rules of engagement. However I’d like to point out you are no longer a bounty hunter; it would no longer apply.” Finding himself in thick cover, he checked his shoulder. The blast had damaged mostly just his protective armour but a portion of the weapons fire transferred through and burned his shoulder badly. He winced and looked around for any other threats.

Like the rest of his armour, it had been blown off piece by piece over time. If he were an active bounty hunter, updates and maintenance packets would have been sent to his OBC. These in turn would be repaired every time he deployed it. However since this was not the case, his armour had less and less strength and his weapons followed the same pattern. 

The main core of his armour that gave him a boost in speed, stamina, and reflexes, was wired into his lower brain stem and spinal column.  The suit was more like a muscle than an item that could be worn. In this case likely though, it was the fact it hadn’t been used in years.

The human male cautiously raised his weapons and squeezed a few blind shots towards movement again. This time it connected with something on two legs and he could hear it fall.

Smiling slightly he stood to take another shot. Instantly though, another bright blast connected with Jae’s helmet. This caused his vision to blur.  He would likely survive.  He watched as his enemies  approached, knowing he was worth a lot of money, he wasn’t going to get a quick death.

They drug his limp body back to their commander like he was some wild animal. It, at the time, was funny to Jaecar that they had been hunting him for nearly an hour. Most of his friends only lasted minutes. He felt proud and superior in a way that he lasted as long as he did. Perhaps it was ego, or maybe it was vanity but; he had convinced himself he was unique. He chuckled loudly as they tossed his body in front of their Alpha.

The Alpha was a massive brute of a man. He was wearing a wild array of armour schemes. Everything from something around his neck that was only decoration; to possibly the most valuable; a Nevick Guardians sword. 

The Black hunters valued intimidation above all other qualities. They would do this either by their power in use of illegal weapons or by the way they looked. The blacked out armour stood out as different as opposed to the Nevick's wide variety of colours. It was apparent The Black took pleasure in looking dangerous and intimidating.

 Jaecar's eyes locked onto the sword and translated the family house gliph that it belonged to. He knew it very well, as seeing it made his heart sink.

“Like my sword Jae?” The alpha sneered. The sword carried Jaecar's family crest. It was the personal property of his sister. Glancing at the weapon he looked slowly back to the alphas face.

“My sister carried it better than you. You will never know the weapon's name, and what’s with this dogs breakfast of armour you wear? Pick a theme and stick with it. You will never truly be respected if your enemies are too busy wondering what waste disposal Anex you found that garbage at. Cause personally I am!” He grinned as his words made the massive man angry. Wulf screamed some multi syllable curse at Jae. 

A calmness settled into his heart that he couldn’t explain. He felt really good for insulting the large man. He even got the Legendary Hunter to curse at him. Little mattered to him now. The loss of his family and now his sister weighted heavy in his chest. He didn’t set out one day to stumble across the information that would literally unravel the mysteries of the universe. Like anything monumental in history; it just happened. His mind drifted back and forth from the moment he found himself in and the past.   

These elite hunters were hired to captured bounties dead or alive. To be more accurate though, this particular group commanded by an Alpha named Wulf, never really captured anyone alive. The Black hunters seemed to congregate to witness what was going to happen to Jaecar, even the forest grew oddly quiet.

A distant rumble echoed over the group of 14. Almost a pop, but more like thunder. The rookie hunter that Jaecar had pelted with weapons fire had since recovered from the damage inflicted. As he walked past the kneeling Jae, he kicked his foot out of his path. It bruised his ego a little that he didn’t even injure one of these ruthless men. He stopped listening almost as they threatened him more and more. 

What could have been his final words bubbled up on the inside of his mouth; but his onboard computer alerted him of a transmission. It was being sent directly to his fraction sensitive neural implant. The only persons that could do that, would be someone that was still an active bounty hunter. In short; he was no longer alone. It had been nearly 50 years since he heard the sound the implant makes. His mind became a literal hive of thoughts and speculations of what, or even who, this other hunter could be.

“I’m getting tired of talking to myself here Jae...” Wulf swung the family sword menacingly. Jae decided to bate Wulf by means of his ego.

“If you are going to kill me, just get it over with. If you are unsure of the process, the sharp point goes into me. Actually, it will be a relief to never see your face or the eyes of the monster you have become.” As these words were aimed at Wulf's ego, it may as well been his heart.

Bounty Hunters all have a very specific shielding when they are in battle. It's more like a static field that stops the use of a capture weapon. This weapon is able to download a person's mind and body into a digital file. This capture weapon made taking a bounty incredibly easier.  From there the hunter could access anything it needed to know about the prey; all without the worry or concern of the prey escaping or having to resort to torture to extract information. The prey's mind became a literal open book. This shield would never weaken or turn off unless their helmet was removed. As bounty hunters fighting bounty hunters became more and more common, this shielding stopped one bounty hunter taking out an entire legion of opposing hunters. 

This shielding wasn’t fool proof however. The capture procedure could still take place even with the shield up, if the opposing hunter penetrated the other hunters armour with their battle sword. Literally in an instant in that situation, the same capture process would take place. However few did this as it took great speed and planning or incredible luck. (If there was such a thing.)  Knowing all of this, Jaecar smiled as his enemy paused and mulled over his words.

Removing his helmet, he bent low and met eyes with his soon to be executioner. “I killed most of your family. I hunted down your entire crew, and now you are at the tip of your sister's sword. Once you are gone, I'll find the rest of your extended family. I will be what up roots your family’s tree.” Wulf tightened his lips as his arms began the swing that would end Jaecar’s life. 

In the next 2-5 seconds there were several flashes of bright blue neon light. One by one The Black vanished from sight. Completely unexpected the final two black hunters managed to fire off 2-3 rounds, one of which clipped the rookie in a vital area. In six seconds 13 hunters were vanquished. 

Jaecar sat motionless on his left leg. His armour folded up as it began to repair. As the pain began to set in he laid down on his back. A distortion began to form around the air above Jae. A dose of a powerful painkiller flooded his blood stream. “You can walk yes? This will help.” A voice echoed inside his mind.

“Yes I can walk.” Like a shadow, a humanoid figure appeared. It bent down and looked at the injured rookie hunter. The distortion took the form of Liam. He had his helmet locked in place. He took out a small blade and pried the logo of The Black Clan off of his enemy. Looking over to Jae, he tossed the emblem into his quick reflexing hands.

“Not all hunters are created equal I suppose,” Liam stated. He raised a handheld weapon. It fired a single round which made the body vanish. Confused, Jaecar’s mouth gaped open.

“For what its worth they all aren’t dead.” The standing bounty hunter said. Recoiling slightly Jae moved to his feet. Liam continued, “If it makes you feel any better, they all felt nothing.” He laughed as He took a knee and a few moments passed. A little dizzy he stood up. “I captured them by means of neural download. If you are done judging me, maybe you could help me get back to my ship? My name's Lock but I also answer to Liam. I’m here to take you off this planet. Listen, you can walk me to my ship or you can take the express route.” Lock pointed to his head with his capture weapon.  Smirking, Jaecar escourted the hunter. 

The pair walked the entire length back to the ship, without so much as another word. They knew who each other were. Anything else they could talk aboard the vessel. The Mercy had connected to Lock and scenced his proximity. 

As they approached the ship, Jaecar noticed the back doors were wide open. This wasn’t out of the ordinary. But he wasn’t 100 percent sure how this vessel worked, some technology was still above what he knew as fact. A ship opening the doors for the crew, while the crew was several kms away, wasn’t something he knew too much about.

Sitting down in the pilot's chair, the thrusters came alive and the doors cycled shut. Jaecar seemed a little lost as he cautiously sat down in the co pilots seat. Noticeably Lock turned his head, “I don’t have any candy, nor do I give free hugs... Sit your ass down, or I’ll sit it down for you.” Smiling nervously, Jaecar nodded and strapped in.

As they flew through the air, Liam's face appeared as the helmet rolled away. “SO... you ARE the information guy?” 

Nodding, Jaecar watched on as the pilot rolled and yawed its way through the atmosphere. “Yes that's me, The info guy.” He rolled his eyes slightly. 

Liam smiled and chuckled, “Whoever you are,  you are safe here with me and my...” He grasped for a word that one might use to call whatever they were; “Well they are my people for the moment.” Jaecar looked at Liam and smiled as he spoke;

“You are a freelancer aren’t you?” The pair grinned as the pilot nodded.

“Yeah I never missed being a freelancer. Pay was horrible, made me miss too many things in life I couldn’t pay to get back.” As the ship left the atmosphere and began its rapid climb Jaecar trailed off. “I liked having my feet on solid ground.” He checked over his shoulder looking back in the narrow cockpit seats.

Like a jet fighter of ancient earth, this ship had a two man cockpit. From there they had an amazing 280 degrees of view. The planet was massive enough that they both could see the emerald greens and blues splattered across the planet.

“Once we get back to the ship, you will meet Aiko. She’s strange but you can trust her.” Jaecar smiled a bit as his eyes focused on the ship now coming into view. As he had a suspicion and was a curious and impulsive person, he also calculated the mass of the ship. He had no proof yet, but he waited for the calculation to finish. 

“What about you Lock, can I trust you?” Lock's mouth opened like he had a quick and easy answer, but as the internal conflict began; he fell silent. Scoffing slightly the co-pilot smirked, “Very reassuring.” 

Breaking the mental block he said quietly, “I didn’t shoot you did I?” The Co-pilot began to recognize the make and design of the vessel. 

“This is your ship?” The pilot nodded as he wasn’t finished fighting his lies and truths. That and the calculations had been completed. The ship was carrying an additional 160lbs, including the weight of Jaecar. Someone else was on board The Mercy.

“I know this ship Lock.....” Jaecar pressed his face towards the window. Liam bit his lip and said nothing.

As Lock brought The Mercy around to the docking bay, he noticed everything was shut down. The running lights inside the hallways. The ship was in complete darkness. As the landing struts made contact on the docking bays floor, Jae stood by the back doors eager to get off the ship. As the doors whirled open, they both drew automatic weapons and began to stalk.

“I’m taking it, the fact it's dark inside the ship, isn’t to save power?” Confused, Lock shook his head and allowed his helmet to recover his face. Glancing and pointing his weapon at the Mercy’s double doors, he paused just long enough to satisfy his suspicions, but not long enough to make Jaecar ask questions. Moving on he looked to his investment and turned and touched Jae’s helmet. In turn Jaecar's armour rebooted and mimicked the armour Lock had in use.

“I went all the way down there just to get you, I need to stay alive. I updated some features on your armour, if you dont want to be a bounty hunter after all of this; I totally understand.” He patted Jae on the shoulder. “We honestly may be dead, but I totally understand.” 

Jae laughed slightly and then realized Lock wasn’t joking. “You’re not joking are you?!”

Despite the fact Lock was actually younger and less experienced, Jaecar was not ready to fight again in his current armour. The bay doors opened as their active camouflage allowed them to move nearly un-detectably through the ship.

Any access commands that Liam may have had, had all been revoked. He could barely open public access doors. Which also made him realize, The Meido is allowing them to move through the ship. When this thought crossed his mind; Lock stood straight up and scoffed. Jae confused tried to figure out why he wasn’t stalking anymore.

“Jaecar, the ship is leading us to where she wants us.” Confused, Jae stood.

“The ship is only an AI function it is not a plotting and scheming person.” Turning his head towards Jaecar. “Oh I wish you were right...”

They had stopped just a deck shy of the main bridge doors. They were 10 meters at least down the hallway. They watched on as the double doors that lead to the bridge opened slowly on their own. They were motion activated doors. 

They entered the dark bridge and glanced around. When Jae had left Aiko, she was in the Captain's chair. Now that he had returned, she was missing. The double doors closed behind them and locked. Lock the bounty hunter realized now he had run out of escape options. He was now committed to the out come, whatever it may be. He really didn’t enjoy commitments. 

A familiar voice flooded in from over head. “You retrieved Jaecar Moral? Very impressive.” Mia coldly acknowledged. “We will need him, when the time comes.” Looking around, he caught sight of the captains chair. There was someone sitting in it. Curious the two moved closer.

“Where is Aiko Mia?” There was no reply.

Raising his weapon he pointed at the back of the command chair.   “Mia! Where is Aiko Polaris??” Unsure what to expect, he stepped closed to the chair. He was within 10 feet now.

“That information is no longer important to you or your companion. Command protocols have been-“ oddly the selfrightious AI suddenly stopped talking. Then slowly from in front of Liam, leaving off where Mia stopped, the same voice continued but inside the body of this new form “Changed.” A figure stood up from the chair.

As the white haired bright green eyed figure walked towards the two men; they both froze not only in the sheer beauty this woman possessed but also because she was carrying Aikos Sword.

“Sit back down!” Jaecar yelled. “Hold it Jae,” Liam tried to calm the jumpy ally. Liam's eyes rested on the figure in front of him and squinted. 

“When I boarded the vessel for the first time, what was my objective?” The figure moved slowly towards the nervous hunter. Gritting her teeth it began to speak directly to Liam.

“Your mission was to use the chaos of the battle and implant a virus into my AI program.... you succeeded; I suppose I should be grateful?” Liam glanced over at Jaecar and lowered his weapon.

“This isn’t an intruder Jae, This is Mia... she's our... Our...” She turned her head and attention to Jaecar;

“I am Mia, I am the physical manifestation of this vessel.” Jae blinked hard and tried to understand.

“And what vessel is that?” The name of the AI meant nothing to Jaecar. Instantly and very happily, Mia responded.

“You are aboard The Meido.” He became weak in the knees and kneeled on the floor of the bridge. He blinked rapidly and looked around. 

“This is 'The Fear' ship?” He translated the Spanish word to English, and his knowledge of this vesset went from Fiction to Fact in record time. Mia happily replied;

“Welcome Aboard.” Her smile only served to fill his entire body with uncontrolable fear.

As these revelations were discovered, the doors to the bridge suddenly sprung open. The lock that held the doors closed had become brittle and snapped. The  large 400lb slab of titanium that served as the locking bolt did not do this on its own. As the doors slowly wound open, a small frame stood hands held out on either side. If one were to wager a guess at its size and mass; it looked like it could  weigh no more that 160lbs.

The figure was slender in form; likely female and of average height. It carried a sword over her back, and a weapon holster on the small of her back. She gracefully walked into the low lit room. She was wearing glossy silver and green armour. She wore a small amount of soft fabric wrapped around her waist. It gave the appearance of a tattered skirt. 

Standing near the android and Lock, she approached and began to remove her protective helmet. Her eyes were black with white Outer rims. Looking to Lock; “May your Blade never dull Bounty Hunter; I am Althea the guardian of Norvis Prime, You have trespassed on Atoma Soverign Soil. I am required to fine you and request for-“ 

Stopping in mid sentence Althea looked at the android and couldn’t help but notice a smug smirk. She too examined the sword she carried and then squinting her black eyes she slowly gaped her mouth.

“I should have never left...” she managed to escape from her mouth as she collapsed to the floor, followed by Lock and Jaecar.

Mia, the only standing entity, grabbed the limp arm of Lock and pulled him away and into another darker room. She seemed to hum a melody as she did this. The room was not empty, as Aiko was sleeping on top of a medical slab. She had been stripped of her armour and appeared to be otherwise unharmed.

“Survive, Em. Just survive.” She mumbled to herself as she deactivated the armour that protected Liam. The armour tried to resist but slowly Mia over wrote its “safe” protocol. The amour now viewed Mia as a trusted agent to complete maintenance or other procedures. “Survive, Em. Promise me.” She said as she sunk a large needle like probe into the center of Lock's head. His eyes flickered for a moment. She grew silent as continued with the task. Large glass like cylinders began to raise from the floor. 

Moments passed as Mia's eyes gradually stopped flashing. With a neutral face she turned to see the cylinders. There were about 15 in total. 13 of them began to fill with a white gas like substase. “Gosh, I don't know what to say boys,” her eyes twitched, “What would you do for me?” A flash of light in each chamber followed by the out line of a body.

She very pleased with her self had downloaded the bio files that were the bounties Lock had taken. She now had began to reanimate the lot of them. One of the chambers opened. A very muscular nearly nude man stepped out and approached the small Mia. He breathed like he had been exerting himself. “Who am I?” The man that used to be known as Wulf grumbled in a deep voice. Smiling ear to ear Mia stepped closer to the towering man. She gently touched his chest and smiled at the results of the process.

“Who indeed big guy...”

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Evil Horizon (Part 4)
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