Bullet Catchers

It should be stated that, given the political landscape of the day, people like Pluto and Tank weren't necessarily hard to come by. In fact, every idiot with a gun thought they belonged to "The Circuit," an unorganized network of mercenary groups that ran amok and caused more harm than good. With the fading of legitimate private security companies and a sudden and dramatic increase in lawlessness, it was only natural that assholes would rise up and get some sort of pseudo power. That being said, very few were as ruthless and well-versed as the famous group the media dubbed "Bullet Catchers."

Why Bullet Catchers? It wasn't because they were known for taking bullets. Rather, it was a typo that caused the name to catch on. Originally the report was supposed to say "bullet wasters," in reference to the amount of shots fired by militaries and law enforcement worldwide at this little group that failed to hit anything. It was a good slipup, though. The Bullet Catchers took the name and ran with it. Already with enough fame and work to stay busy, the catchy nickname garnered them even more attention and missions.

How were they supposed to know that their latest mission was going to be such a pain? They were typically contracted to help drug smugglers, occasionally assassinate high ranking officials, and sometimes they helped catch other bad guys. It was life-threatening but easy work. Never would they have expected to get a call from a government officially asking for his own daughter to be kidnapped. "We need to have a good excuse for war. She's only 14, it'll be easy. Hand her over when you're done," he'd said. Yeah, hand her over when they're done, sure. Except they never even got her out of the house.

Of course, that was Pluto's job. All he left the house with was a concussion. Naturally, when they got back to their little compound on Union Island, every single fellow Bullet Catcher made sure to haze him something good. Every chance they got to ping him in the head or give a good ribbing they took. Only a day had gone by since he'd returned and he was already itching to leave. He loved his buddies (well, mostly), but so what if he fucked up once? He'd succeeded a hundred times before.

These were the thoughts that paraded in his mind as he enjoyed a quick smoke while staring blankly out into the ocean. He'd placed himself on the second floor deck, facing the never-ending horizon. The sun was nearly blinding as it reflected off of the calm waters. No doubt the brightness wasn't doing much good for his still-pounding head. Regardless, he found few things as comforting as ocean waters, and for that alone he was thankful for their "home base" location. The blue sea, the slight breeze, the hot sun, and some nicotine? Sounds like a good day off to him.

Their home was a beautiful placed, rickety old building just near the shore of the island. With the rise of terrorism and the fall of western economic power, less and less tourists traveled overseas. For those places that relied on tourism as their main source of income, they nearly collapsed completely. This meant undocumented and unlicensed international military-for-hire groups grabbed land in such places and at fairly surprising rates. On Union Island, the Bullet Catchers were the only one to call it home. Strategically, they were too far out from Europe to be called there often. Still, with a place to park a few boats and a place to land a helicopter, it wasn't so bad.

"You're up early," a voice called from behind. No need for him to look to see how it was, as only one other person would dare to wake up before 0800hrs around here. Communications and computer expert Jibaro was known to be the first one awake, last one to sleep. Curious to find out what the youngster Pluto was doing awake, she perched herself on the railing next to him.

One last puff off the cigarette was taken before he tossed the butt off the ledge with an expert flick. There was no need to greet her. Despite being total opposites they clicked well together. Silence sometimes said more than words. A simple shifting of posture, movement of lips, or wagging of the brows displayed all either needed to know exactly how they were feeling and what they were thinking.

Pluto hailed from the now former Czech Republic and was documented as dead in the international database. Back there, they called him Jan Basko, and he'd been in and out of jail his entire life as the world around him erupted into war. A small frame and not the brightest mind prevented him from achieving much without a lot of effort. If he was good at one thing, however, it was people. Manipulating others was a natural talent he had. He got help from the fact most mistook him as being no older than fourteen, despite reaching twenty-two a few months ago. There was an arrogance to him that few could rival, yet his milky blue eyes gave him an innocent look few could ignore.

As for Jibaro, she had endured a different life. Growing up in a military family in the famous U.S. of A, she had not only spent several years in the United States Army, she'd led combat missions to great success. There was a sharp mind behind the combat helmet that adorned a flag for a country that didn't dedicate itself to her as much as she had dedicated herself to it. After a meaningless war escalated beyond her control, she'd abandoned the country that appeared to be falling apart from the inside. She was powerful and deeply respected by the Bullet Catchers. Sometimes they joked and called her "mom," which she begrudgingly accepted. It was better than "Staff Sergeant Tanisha Jackson."

Conversation was required after a long set of silence. "Anything on the Malta fiasco?" he asked.

Jibaro shook her head. "Nah, they won't say a word, you know that. It'd be easy just to say some terrorist no one ever heard of tried something that failed and they took care of him," she said.

He snorted, "Tchyeah. I guess now that I think about it, we never really know if what the gov says is real or not. Zkurvený život!" There was a long, dramatic sigh that followed as he slipped down and draped his body over the railing.

She didn't bother to ask what the hell he meant. While Pluto had grown up speaking primarily English, he was influenced by the culture around him enough that a few words and phrases slipped through. Learning what every slang term meant wasn't on anyone's job description. Often, when another Bullet Catcher said a strange thing, it was simply ignored. It was best to ignore each other's difference and pretend they were all the same; all fighting for the same nations, the same causes, and the same ideals.

"Ya look so… fuckin' cute with yer head wrapped, babe," Tank's incredibly drunk voice said. There was no time for Pluto to even face her properly before she practically laid herself on top of him and licked the small amount of dried blood that remained on his face. When he opened his mouth to protest, she stuck her tongue in there, too.

Beyond irritated, he pushed her away and shouted, "What the hell?! Kurva! You stink like alcohol!" Not only did she smell like alcohol, she tasted like it. The dramatic spits Pluto made after his screaming was his desperate attempt to remove it.

A strange and uneven intoxicated laugh was her response. "I haven't even… drunken yet. This mornin'," she claimed. No one tried to argue with her as she sauntered across the deck and plopped on a chair in a rather oafish manner. Next to her was a small cooler, which she popped open. Inside were a bucket of melted ice and a few cans of brew. She cracked one open and chugged about half of it in one swig.

Tank didn't have the same background as Jibaro or Pluto. There was no war in her history. Well, no war between nations. Since she had reached her early teens she was a fighter through and through. Addicted to amphetamines, she had no choice but to find a way to make money. There were three options that she had openly embraced: selling other drugs, selling herself, and participating in street fights. While she'd spent a few years in a petty street gang, she'd mostly taken care of herself. When a fellow junky bragged about his "friend" being a "mercenary," she asked to be introduced. The result was a meeting that got her off the streets and into some big time fun.

While both Tank and Jibaro were strong individuals, Jibaro had the discipline of a soldier. Tank was still at heart a teenager throwing punches in a back alleyway. Their motivations were vastly different despite coming from the same nation. Jibaro had something to prove; she wasn't just another minority that felt wronged, she wasn't just another woman that could be taken advantage of – she was a warrior first and a proud one at that. Tank had no qualms with being underhanded in her techniques; she served herself first and everyone else last, with no one to impress and no one to win over. It was the definitive difference between "I'll show you" and "fuck the world."

A loud disruptive burp from Tank finally got Pluto to turn and face her properly. With one leg thrown over the arm of the chair she was half sprawled out, exposing to the entire world the fact that all she had on was an oversized shirt and no panties. "Put it away," was Pluto's reaction to the sight.

By this point in their storied friendship, everyone knew everything about everybody. That included any habits and any body parts. Considering their mission was but a few days ago, the entire group was well prepared for Tank's several day drunken spree that almost always resulted in her spending many nights naked and puking. This was a regular occurrence.

Just to tease him, she lifted her leg even higher and dared to place her fingers between her legs. It had no effect on Pluto. In fact, when Jibaro started talking, he'd forgotten Tank was even there. Jibaro said, "You two might as well relax. I don't think we're doing any kidnappings again soon."

Pluto asked, "Do we have anything coming up?" It wasn't that he was particularly interested in helping, he was just curious. With his head injury, he was going to be out for a few weeks from any real fighting. He'd have to spend his days and nights flirting with what few tourists arrived and counting money.

Jibaro answered, "Dingo says a quick drop in over by Guatemala is scheduled. U.S. got word that someone is going to in to bust up the opium trade line."

"Can't have Miss America losing out on any drugs, eh? Fucking bastards. Think we could score a few kilos? Make a quick buck in Europe?" he asked. It didn't matter what her answer was. He was going to try it anyway. To demonstrate his complete disregard for her response, he pulled out another cigarette and lit it while she spoke.

"If you can smuggle it by without the U.S. noticing, sure," she said, unconcerned.

After savoring his smoke for a moment he said, "Fuck, the trade is so light on this side. The Golden Triangle is where it's at. We should fuck all that an open a jellie lab. Not many kids on this island these days but those rich snobs wouldn't mind a free candy to start, don't you think?"

Jibaro ignored his suggestion and instead said, "The Golden Triangle produces more, sure. But if they keep the Western trade routes open they'll keep the DEA in business."

"And people on the streets desperate for enslavement," he murmured. No one pretended to hear. He raised the cigarette to his lips and was about to take another puff when Tank popped up from her seat and snatched it away. There was no chance for him to protest as she took a hit herself. When she went to hand it back to him, he placed his hands up and said, "No thanks. "

Victorious in her pursuit, Tank kept the cigarette between her lips and threw her hands into the air. A muffled, jubilant yell snuck out. Then she managed to announce, "I'mma make breakfast!"

As she stumbled back inside, Pluto asked, "When is the Guatemala drop?"

"Doesn't matter. You're not going," Jibaro said. The sound of his angry growl was loud and clear. She had to applaud him on not complaining out right, but Pluto never really was the kind to do such a thing. "It's going to be a shootout. You honestly think we'd ask you to come along?"

"Who is going, then?" he inquired.

At first, she didn't want to say anything. Not because she was afraid that he would get angry, but rather because she wasn't in the mood to deal with his attitude. Still, she said, "Me, Arai, Tank, and Dingo."

"Fuck, so I'm stuck with Hadji and the bores. Shoot me now," he whined.

"The bores" referred to the three non-combatant members of their group. At the head of them was a man that wore tactical gear because he thought it looked cool, but he real was just a guy that landed them contracts. Somehow, he came through for them whenever they needed it the most and he was the man that got them all together to begin with. So despite being somewhat obnoxious, they'd lovingly nicknamed him "Moses." Always at his side was Rita, whose real name they never learned. A socialite that abandoned comfort for adventure, she was kind to them but a mystery to most. The last of the bores was their jack-of-all-trades mechanic whom they simply dubbed "Monkey." While all of them were moderately loved by the group, they were still rather boring.

Pluto let out another sigh. To this, Jibaro gave him a light elbowing. "Chin up, bucko. You could be dead."

Jibaro retreated back inside to check on Tank and ensure the house wasn't going to burn down. Left alone once more, Pluto admired the savage, raging sea. Once so calm mere moments before, it had shifted in a mere blink. Nations and people had done the same since the beginning of civilization. The way the moon controlled the tides, so did pleasure, money, and power control humanity. All he wanted, for just one moment, was to be the moon to the sea.