Chapter One

I guess I should introduce myself to ya'll. The name's Kane- Kane Obelisk, and I'm what you'd call a hunter. It's what am, it's what I do... and it's just about all I've done these past twenty years since I was seventeen, when I busted me'n my partner, Matt Buntz, out of a governmental child-care facility.

Heh... only place I ever heard o' mining work referred to as 'child-care'. A more accurate title would be a 'governmental cheap slavery facility'- but I don't think that'd go over too well with the populace.

Anyhow, hunting is my life- and my way of getting a little bit of justice back in the world. And hey, who knows? If I'm good enough, I might just get my revenge on whoever it is got me stuck in that facility to begin with!

"Hey, Kane."

"Yeah?"

"We're getting close to another town... think we should stop?"

Kane shifted his gaze away from the clear blue sky overhead, across the sea of long grass- waving in the gentle breeze and parting before the jets of the hunters' cart, down to the growing outline of a town on the horizon. It was about five, maybe six kilometers ahead, and looked to be two or three times as large as the one they'd cleared of hellhounds the evening before.

"Looks like it'd be large enough to have it's own bounty board... what do you think?"

Matt shrugged, then adjusted the cart's course to go more directly toward the town. Judging by speed and distance it'd probably only be about five minutes out of their path, one way or another. And it wasn't exactly as if they had anything better to do.

The two arrived in town without any more than a normal amount of trouble from the surrounding beasts; after Matt put a few credit coins in a public parking stall, they locked in their cart and dismounted.

"You're gonna try to find a bounty board, right, Kane?"

Kane noted the wide, closed-mouth grin on Matt's face, and the mischievous glint to his coal black eyes, and gave a light chuckle. "Try not to get yourself arrested this time, a'ight?"

The pair laughed as Matt started heading towards a bar he'd seen coming into town- but Kane felt the need to bark at his friend's back, "Laugh all you want, but I'm serious... I had to give half a mint to pay off the jail guards last time!" If Matt heard him he made no sign of it as he kept walking.

With a sigh, then a chuckle, Kane headed off in the opposite direction. It was just one more sign of the many differences between the two, as they headed off toward their separate sources of attraction.

Kane's first, last, and only love was the hunt. So where was he headed? The bounty board. Generally located on the side of a town's police station if the town was large enough to have one at all, the bounty board was an electronic storage device. And in said storage device was a listing of every current bounty listed- from which Kane would choose his next hunt.

But where was Matt headed? The town bar- to find some cute girl drunk enough to cuddle and flirt with. Something that could, and often did, lead to trouble, as most drunk girls had an unfortunate habit of forgetting little, sometimes painfully important details... like their husbands. Ergo Kane's parting warning.

The two got along fine, though- Kane, being an above average hunter, made quite a lot of money. And as he had no real interests outside of his job... except for weapons, food, and a bit of drink, he had nothing to spend it on.

Matt, on the other hand- a mediocre hunter at best- would've been thrown into a work camp for his debts some time since- what with his fine clothes and company- had he not Kane's money to blow.

"Can I... can I help you, sir?"

Looking down at the bounty board's attendant, Kane gave a toothy leer. The attendant obviously recognized him, as he was shrinking back in awe. Either that or he was just trying to avoid the stench.

Said stench came from the fact that Kane lived and slept in the back of his cart. And, as the previous bounty's '900c per head' had been quite literal indeed, with the town taking only the heads, the cart's bed was also the current residence of about ten headless hellhound corpses, and a crapload of blood. All of which, quite frankly, reeked.

"Any decent bounties today?"

The attendant looked at the top of the board, then froze. Just another part of being a hunter- if you bring someone in alive, who doesn't want to be brought in at all, there's going to be one more person who wants you dead. The same with bringing someone in dead, when family or friends are left behind. So any decent hunter will end up, after years of work, with an above average bounty on his head.

With Kane being the third bounty on the board, his bounty nearing 5,000,000c, the attendant really did recognize him now. However, he got over the shock quickly.

"Am I to take it you'll want to avoid hunter bounties?"

Kane nodded. As a mode of making it easier to use, the bounty board was organized in descending rank of cost, (the only two names above Kane's being that of another hunter, and that of a known leader of the underworld) with registered hunters being clearly marked as such. And, as a normal business courtesy, the hunters' bounties were most often ignored, or used only as a way to measure one's level against that of another.

"Well, there's a Migune at..."

"No."

Migune was the name of the previously noted underworld leader; the underworld, as a whole, was generally more trouble to mess with than it was worth. At 10,000,000c... that was quite a bit of trouble. Even though Kane thought it'd make for a good hunt, it'd probably end up being his last.

"Okay... other than Migune, the highest, non-hunter bounty is 5,000c, for the delivery of Greg Miller- alive and unharmed."

Kane's grin widened. "I'll take it."

After tapping a few keys on the board console, the attendant handed Kane a print-out of the bounty's information, then questioned, "Will you need anything else today, sir?"

Kane didn't answer. And, looking down at the picture on the bounty sheet, his smile gradually lessened to a grimace. The clause 'alive and unharmed' was generally used for one of two things- the most common of which, that Kane had expected, was the retrieval of missing or kidnapped children. A job Kane enjoyed quite a bit, having a... somewhat altruistic desire to set things right with his work, and a great fondness for children.

With the picture of Greg depicted on the sheet being that of a middle-aged man, however...

"Anything at all?" The attendant was starting to get agitated, what with the stony silence- and the stench.

"Can you get a print o' my own bounty, and one of a man named Matt Buntz?"

"Are you... going after this man?"

"Nah," Kane laughed, "just lookin' for a couple souvenirs, and maybe a chance to check up on who's joined the quest for our butts!"

Looking over to watch as the attendant searched for the data, Kane noted with satisfaction that Greg Miller's bounty had already disappeared- another facet of the bounty board's functions. By simply taking claimed hunts from the national database, it almost completely eliminated the chance of having multiple hunters going after, and inevitably fighting over, the same head.

A moment later the attendant handed over the requested papers and Kane started back toward the cart... but decided to make a stop in a weapons store on the way.

With a mechanical bell ringing in the back as he stepped through the door, Kane was semi-swiftly greeted by a sweat-drenched, beefy man in heavily oil-stained clothes.

"Wha' cin'I do fer ya'?"

The man spoke in a heavy, seemingly drunken, slur- Kane doubted his competence. However, competent or no, the man was the only visible worker in the place. "Any specials today?"

"Oh! Ye-eah, I gotcha' covered, com'on right o'er'ere! The drunken shop-keep trundled back a ways into the store, cursing loudly at the shelf that 'jumped into his path', then returned with a large box, which he opened to display. "Firebombs! I jus' gottena new shipment- had twicea' many as we ordered, but'ey di'n't charge us none extra, so 'ey're half off!"

Without a word, Kane flattened the man with a solid punch, walked out of the store, and continued on the way back to his cart.

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Thanks for the review, meitnerium, I'll get on that stuff right away! But the review is lonely... T.T doesn't anyone else want to leave a review, and cheer it up? XD

And a note for anyone who wondered- if anyone- 1c, or one credit, is worth approximately .03 American dollars. (Or three American cents.) So, a 5,000c bounty- as an example- would be 150.00$.