Heathen brought the fighter down to hover in the canyon of the deserted moon, kicking up a sandstorm underneath them. Unstrapping himself, he leaned out to tried to scan the entire view above him, frantically changing his angle to try and spot whatever it was coming down.
“Why the fuck would bounty hunters be after us? We were careful, skítkarl!”
Muninn remained still in his seat and tapped at his left-hand panel, scanning the area.
“If someone hadn’t been so adamant not to pay off the bounty board controller before we left…”
Heathen slammed a his palm against the flight panel, causing the stationary Vulture to shudder.
“A million isn’t that much of a bounty! Who collects that shit?”
He got up and started making his way up the steps into the belly of the ship.
“Land the ship – we’re doing this face to face,” he snarled.
Muninn’s head whipped around in horror.
“That’s a fucking Anaconda! You’re just gonna walk up and beat the shit outta the bounty hunter?”
Heathen looked down at the panic in Muninn’s face, smirking, as if he knew something the kid didn’t.
Muninn paused, looking at the confidence on Heathens face, hesitating. Then, with an expression of regret mixed with amusement, he pulled the throttle back and settled Huginn to the ground.
“This better be good.”
Heathen went into the bunk area and sat on the bed. Sliding a panel aside, he punched in a code.
“Make sure you keep your suit pressurised, this moon isn’t exactly human-friendly. And make sure to take cover if rounds start going down.”
He hit the enter code and a hatch opened with a hiss.
“Now help me get this on.” Heathen pulled the hatch open.
Muninn stared in wonder at what was revealed. “How long have you had that?”
Heathen flashed a smile. Momentarily, he looked younger – less like a battle-hardened soldier, and more like a man in his late twenties, a child at heart.
Then it was gone, and Heathen’s face dropped into a frown.
“Shut up and help me get it on.”
* * * * *
Muninn tried his best to remain calm as they paced over the dusty surface of the moon, kicking up swirls of rocks and sand as he followed Heathen. If he had known that the man kept mementos from the days he was a marine he would have been sure to move them to Heathen’s flat… Although, this time, he was glad he hadn’t.
The walk to the Anaconda and the waiting crew felt endless. Muninn kept stealing glances at what his pilot had been hiding – the heavy magnetic boots and the plates of thick painted alloys that reflected the fading sunlight in a brilliant white, making the scratches and deep gauges prominent.
To his left hip was a classic revolver, and to his right was his axe, holstered in a special sling. Heathen’s head was enclosed the the battle helmet painted with an evil grimace and sinister eyes. As the pilot had put it on Muninn had glimpsed the sophisticated HUD on the inside of the visor, feeding the wearer with information about the battlefield.
In the distance stood the Anaconda’s crew, armed to the teeth with all manner of lethal-looking items.. A small, lithely-built man broke their line and came out to meet them.
“We can do this three ways,” the small man began. “You get in our hold and we take you back to Sol to be put on trial. You run and we hunt you down and kill you. Or, you stand and fight, and we kill you.”
Muninn looked up at Heathen but couldn’t see anything under the tinted visor. Heathen paused, as if considering what the little captain was saying.
“I’ve got a fourth option for proposal,” he replied finally. “Pit your three best fighters against me, blades and pistols, but no long range shooting. They win? You get my dead body to drag back, and my engineer goes free. I win? I don’t kill you and the rest of your crew.”
The captain shook his head, smiling.
“No deal, the bounty is for you and the crew of your ship. The engineer is to come with us.”
Heathen remained silent, inscrutably pondering his options. He looked back at Muninn. His voice was shaky through the mask amplifier.
“If I die, run.”
He looked back to the captain and spread his arms out, as if beckoning for the credit chasers to come get him.
“Deal! The kid stays. Send out your men.”
The captain turned to his men and gave them a nod. Three of the biggest of the crew laid down their weapons and drew knives of varying shapes and sizes, keeping their pistols holstered.
Heathen grabbed his axe from his sling, getting a feel for the weight and balance of it, shifting the ornate wooden handle in his grip. He loosed his pistol and pulled back the hammer.
He only has six shots with that thing.
Muninn unclipped his holster, tensely watching events play out.
The men got within jumping distance before they made their first move. The man on the right leaped at Heathen, stabbing his knife towards the weak spot of Heathen’s armour between the shoulder and the helmet. His wrist met with an axe handle, hooking his direction away from Heathen and driving the knife into the leg of the guy standing next to him. That’s where things became clear this wasn’t going to be one-sided…
Or maybe it was?
The dance began. Wild stabs met with blocking blows from armoured gauntlets and hooking counters with the axe. For someone who was technically disabled, Heathen could move. He kept giving blows with the flat of the blade, batting aside punches to tell the hunters that this prey wasn’t to be messed with.
Then the first one drew his pistol and aimed at a soft spot on the back of Heathen’s armour. Before Muninn could shout out, Heathen dived out of the way as the crack from the gun reverberated through the thin atmostphere. The Remlock helmet of the bounty hunter who not two seconds ago was behind Heathen shattered in a tiny explosion of blood and glass.
The man inside slumped to the ground. His last barely-audible gasp for air froze on his face.
Heathen glanced down at the body, then looked up at the pistol.
“Now look at what you did.”
A moment later the blade of his axe met the leg of the man with the pistol.
“Serves you right,” he tutted cheerfully as the man screamed, grabbing his leg in panic.
Heathen looked over at the third man, who was backing off a little. Glancing back to his captain, his body language pleaded for help. Heathen stepped menacingly towards him, forcing him into hand to hand combat, swinging and thrusting his axe at the unwilling giant.
The man threw a fist at Heathen’s helmet, and Heathen pulled the trigger of his pistol. It wasn’t until blood droplets started trickling down the other man’s flight suit that Muninn realised that the shot had been angled upwards, past the ribs, and into the heart.
Heathen stepped back from the dead man and looked over at the captain. He nodded. Then, as he turned to face Muninn, the man with the injured leg reached up, grinning evilly, and stabbed Heathen in the thigh.
“Heimskr skítkarl!” Heathen dropped to one knee, leveling his pistol at the knife-wielder.
“Stupid, bitching, cunt.” He emptied four rounds into the prone man’s head.
The other bounty hunters watched this play out. As the last of the three contenders died, they raised their weapons and started unloading ammunition in Huginn’s direction, advancing in a line.
Rounds bounced off the hull behind them. Muninn dashed to grab Heathen.
“We need to get the hell outta here!”
“No shit, kid!”
Grabbing Muninn’s hand, he pulled himself up and they hobbled frantically towards the ship. As they reached the ramp, Heathen slumped again.
“Boss!! Now isn’t the time…”
Blood – everywhere, white armour splashed with the spreading deep red.
Muninn grabbed his pistol and fired back at the bounty hunters, again and again. After some seconds he realised that the hammer was just clicking away. He tossed the gun aside.
Hooking his arms under Heathen’s shoulders, he heaved with everything he had. Slowly he pulled the lump of man and metal into the ship. He punched the hatch control console and, as the hatch lifted ponderously, rushed to the control panel and frantically began to power the ship’s systems.
“Sorry boss, no time to strap you in.”
Muninn engaged maximum lift to the thrusters. As the Vulture wheeled around to face the Anaconda, he took the opportunity to unload several multicannon rounds into the exposed thrusters of the powered-down Anaconda. Then he tilted the nose skyward and boosted to break orbit.