When You're a Bounty Hunter....
When you're a bounty hunter, you have to deal with certain things that don't show up on the job description. Take for instance this client sitting in front of me, a typical crime boss, who thinks that he's the boss of the whole of Neopia. He thinks that he can snap his fingers and anyone will jump to his beck and call; he forgot that I don't answer to anyone. It was giving me a headache.
“See, look here.” The Bruce waved a jeweled hand. “I need this Aisha quieted; she's getting in the way of my operation. Something nice and accident-like. If you do it right, we'll see about your pay.” He swished his drink, Dark Tea. Any good hunter would see that he was just showing off. He hadn't taken a sip of it; only brave or rash Neopians would drink Dark Tea on a regular basis.
I tried to look polite, but even the best of us have our worst faults. Mine is pretending to be polite.
“See, look here.” I leaned over the desk. “I do my job and do it well, but I require half up front. You don't get the best bounty hunter in Neopia just because you flash some coins.”
“I get half for the trouble of considering and researching your request. If I like it, I do the job and get the other half.”
The Bruce frowned at me. He wasn't used to people being anywhere but at his feet. “You have a lot of nerve...”
“You have nerve to demand anything but what I'm willing to give when you have a blaster aimed at that pretty little bow of yours.”
The Bruce's eyes suddenly found my blaster that was trained on him.
“Half then.” He handed over a bag of coins.
I gave a smug smile now that he knew his place. I took the tea, drained it in a gulp and walked out the door.
When you're a bounty hunter, the worst thing you can do is walk into a job cold. You have to know what's over the cliff before you jump off of it. I was resting on the side of a mountain, swinging my legs as I kept my binoculars trained on the door of the target. I was curious about this target. Most clients were specific about their targets. All the stingy Bruce had given me was a name, address, and order to stop her. That meant he knew next to nothing about the Aisha and was desperate. But then again, you had to be desperate to call Ylana Skyfire for help; I wasn't cheap or easy. The door opened and a Peophin walked out. I put an ear to the listening device I had planted by the door.
“I'll see you later, Dayna! I'm off to the training school!” the Peophin called.
“Bye, Sirenia!” several voices called back.
I chewed the Mint Rolls I had bought down the mountain. Shenkuu did have great food.
“Hey, Sirenia!” An Aisha flew out the door.
I sat up. This must be the target!
“Remember to bring back some fish for dinner.”
“For you, Racon, anything.”
I sat back. Or not.
Waiting was a skill that had to be learned. If you move too quickly, you give yourself away half of the time and blow the whole operation. I continued to nibble and swing my feet. I could wait all day. But I didn't have to, as it turned out.
“Kanuah's taking me to Krawk Island!” a young voice called through the earphone.
“Take care of Thief, Ash!” an older voice answered.
A few seconds later a Lupe, Seti, Griefer, and my Aisha walked out. I almost laughed out loud, a big mistake for a hunter. This was my target? The Aisha was small, blue, female, and as cute as a button as the expression goes. She held her brother's paw and skipped as he walked to a faerie racer. How could she be a threat to a crime lord?
I retreated to my own racer. The answer might be in Krawk Island. I planned on beating them there.
When you're a bounty hunter, following a target to get information is a carefully tuned art. Making sure they don't realize that you're following them is a big part of it. Not losing them is the other big part. I was sitting in front of the Golden Doubloon sipping Bomberry Grog waiting for my target to appear. I was only there half an hour when my ears picked up a familiar voice.
“Is Jubia going to be there today?”
“Yes, everyone's there,” a deeper voice answered back.
I looked over the rim of my grog to get a good look. The Lupe looked like he would have been more of a threat. Earrings, black fur, a tattoo, blue tail and hair, amber eyes, katana at his side, he could have intimidated anyone he bared his teeth at. The little Aisha stilled looked like a joke. Small, happy, innocent, wearing a flower circlet, she didn't scream bad guy.
Suddenly the Lupe looked my direction. I let my gaze wander past him. I could feel his eyes studying me. I looked casual.
“Ylana!” My heart almost stopped. I reached for my blaster, prepared to do the job and get away at a second's notice. I looked back at the Lupe, but he wasn't looking at me anymore. He was walking up to.... I blinked. Standing not twenty feet away was a blue Acara that looked just like me. Her bored expression, tattered scarf, and goggles all screamed me. When you're a bounty hunter, you have to be prepared for surprises and curve balls, but this was a little much.
“I have the boat ready.” The Acara nodded in greeting.
They began to walk away when a shopkeeper called to them. “Mornin'!” He waved. “Staying out of trouble, Ashalyia?”
The Aisha smiled at him. “Me? Trouble?”
The Moehog waggled a hoof at her. “You and that Griefer.”
They left. I strolled over the shopkeeper. “Know that Aisha much?” I asked.
The Moehog cleaned a glass. He eyed me. “Aisha?”
I produced a dubloon. He smiled. “My memory's a little foggy.”
Another coin appeared. “Ah, it cleared up.” He pocked the coins. “Yeah, cute little thing, you wouldn't think that she spends her spare time causing mischief.”
“Like pulling pranks on little neopets?” I asked.
He gave a coarse laugh. “Her? No! I'm talking big mischief. Did you hear about Jhudora's cloud catching on fire?”
“Yeah, she was furious. I didn't know that clouds caught on fire.”
The Moehog nodded. “That was Ash.”
“You're pulling my leg.”
“Nope. She also managed to break into Skarl's throne room and paint a smily face on a wall. But no one catches her and when they find her, she just looks too innocent to do that kind of thing.”
I tossed him another coin. “Thanks!”
I smiled to myself. This Aisha was a girl after my own heart. I wanted to meet her myself.
When you're a bounty hunter, you have the freedom to pick and choose your cases as long as you could deal with the clients that you turn down. I was seriously considering turning grumpy bow down. This job would be easy. A quick and easy job, easy money. But this Aisha was too interesting to stop without finding out what she did to the Bruce.
I was waiting in front of the house I had tracked her to. I sat in the shade of the tree waiting. The door opened, but the Acara, not the Aisha, walked out. She was carrying a sack full of food. She saw me as soon as the door was closed. We stared at each other.
“So, you're the real deal,” she stated. Her expression didn't change.
I slid off of the wall I'd been sitting on and walked up to her. “Yeah, what's the food for?”
“Spent some time in there?”
“Yeah.” She shifted the sack. “I wondered if I would ever meet you. If I did there was one thing I wanted to tell you.”
“I'm never going to be like you. I work every day to clear your reputation from my name.”
I was taken aback. Most people feared me or wanted to be like me. “That's pretty gutsy for someone standing in front of a loaded weapon. And I had the name first, by the way, so it's my name.”
She didn't even look at the blaster. “I guess we have something in common then, guts. You may have had the name first, but now you share it. I have half of the reputation.”
She walked off, not looking back. “Ash is in the back yard.”
Up to this point I was still on the fence about taking the Aisha out, but knowing that she was a friend of an Acara with my namesake gave me pause.
I walked around the house and found the Aisha playing with a fuzz ball of a JubJub. She caught sight of me and pranced up. “You look just like Ylana.”
“I am Ylana. The real Ylana.”
She frowned. “She's real too.” She smiled again. “Are you here for me?”
“Oh, I suppose you would like to shoot me or something now,” she said, pulling a mournfully face.
I almost laughed. “No, you're too interesting to shoot. But I am curious as to why a certain Bruce crime lord wants you out of the picture.”
She thought about it. Her Griefer came over to sniff me. She suddenly smiled. “Oh! That was the guy I borrowed some pots of darkness from!”
A Pot of Darkness was 500k on the Trading post, an expensive weapon.
“Yeah, see.” She stroked her tail and looked off into the distance. “I needed some for a special recipe to light a cloud on fire, and he had a smuggling ring of the stuff so I figured that he really didn't need all of the pots and if I did 'borrow' some from him, he wouldn't report it.”
“How many did you take?”
That time I did laugh out loud. “You are something special, Ash!” I slapped her on the shoulder. “I'll be keeping an eye on you. You may just be a good bounty hunter when you grow up.”
She smiled. “Maybe.”
When you're a bounty hunter, you have to be cold, indifferent. Sparing targets doesn't put food in your stomach. But sometimes certain situations call for a white flag, such as meeting a mini-me that doesn't want to be you, and a small, not-so-innocent Aisha that's capable of bringing havoc down around the ears of crime bosses. There are worse people and easier targets to catch.