What can a bounty hunter do in this galaxy?
Quite a lot, would you believe? In the United Republic of Cyrannus there's always been several rats just laying around, waiting to strike. And let's not forget the dozens of civilizations the Cyrannus Galaxy has, none of which will admit that they're too scared to fight the Republic head on, and so us bounty hunters gotta do their dirty work. I'm an honourable soldier, but in most cases I don't care who or what I fight, only that I do the job well, and get paid better. I'm a tool of someone else' ideologies and plans, but unlike a soldier, one that's allowed to decide for itself.
Normally I take most big jobs, especially if they'd do something that could, I dunno, cause a huge galactic war in Cyrannus that could affect the entire Gigaquadrant, but this one was tricky. I had to be asked to perform the same task by two people, and even then it took persuading before I took the job. So how'd it start? Like all things, I was just chilling in a cantina.
I was sat in the same old cantina with the same old trophies of the same old Cyrannian wildlife, watching the same old pole dancers dancing to the same old music with the same old bartender yelling insults at the same old people. Orbispira's same old tourists brought the same old entertainment and the same old friends spoke to me in the same old competitive matter. But for once, I wasn't listening to the same old rumours.
"Éaltar Gauisa, old pal!" I never forget a face, old Nexatru turning up, but what did he want?
"Sup Nexatru," I responded, "how's the Confederacy of Allied Systems treating ya? I hear you boys've gotten big."
"That's right," he responded, "we're beginning to make a name for ourself in this huge galaxy, and every day more people seem to sympathise with our cause."
"Good to hear I guess," I said almost sarcastically, not caring at all. "What use do they have for you?"
"Eh, not much," he said nonchalantly, "though they managed to use me as a military commander and diplomatics guy, especially since I told them that I was related to the Nex Prophet from the Trucinex War."
"I guess you also told them you used to hang around scum like me," I said, with no expression on my face or in my voice. "And I guess they thought as their 'diplomatics guy' that I'd be just the dude to get them to do some of their dirty work." Nexatru's eyebrows raised.
"Always know when someone wants you, eh? Yep, the Confederacy's got a job for ya."
"Great. Which Republic guy do I have to kill next?" I made it very clear in my sacrcastic voice that I didn't wanna do some Confederacy crap.
"Well, I won't be doing the talking," Nexatru said. "My superior, Garlboz, would like to talk to you instead. Come this way, into the lounge."
"Aww," I said disappointed, "there was gonna be a thug brawl here that I wanted to watch. No matter, make it quick."
Nexatru took me inside, turned on a hologram, and left. No idea why he left, and I felt uneasy in such a tight space with just a hologram. But I've been used to this stuff before, like when one of my clients tried to force me to work for them to kill some rival crimeboss. But the Confederacy were some rich people, not even I knew how powerful the people they had on their side were.
"Well, Éaltar Gauisa," Garlboz said. "You've made quite a name for yourself in the Cyrannian underground. Tell me, what is the most wanted bounty hunter in the galaxy doing in the very center of the Cyrannian Republic?" I shrugged.
"You implying hiding with some other rats around the Outer Rim is a place for a bounty hunter? It's boring when you've got no one to escape from around here, and also, Orbispira is where all the galaxy's fun begins and ends.
"Is that so?" I already didn't like this guy, his grin seemed to be the one a common deceptive villain-type would have, and I could tell by his expression that he wanted me to do something pretty big. "Because I've got a job for you that, should you accept, would earn you billions, if not trillions, in cash. How do you feel about becoming the richest individual in Cyrannus by sparking a huge war?" I simply folded my arms, siting in a chair with no expression on my face.
"Just tell me what you have in mind before I consider." Garlboz raised an eyebrow.
"Hard to convince, eh? I'll take your help any way I can get it." He paused, and I could just tell he was about to give me some story. "The Cyrannian Republic is a corrupt government, the Federation of United Worlds needs a new order, a new rule, and the Confederacy of Allied Systems are the only ones who can provide that new, fair rule, and bring true peace to Cyrannus. We've used economic and diplomatic means before, but we feel the only real way to show the Cyrannian Republic's weakness is to blow them up from the inside."
Garlboz paused, obviously expecting me to show some reaction.
"I'm listening," I replied, to keep the conversation moving.
"Good," he said in a calm, manipulative tone, "because what you're about to hear is for your ears only. In order to expose their weakness, I feel that we must engage in all-out war. My superiors don't feel the same way, but many Trucinex and Basileus individuals, such as Zillium himself, have persauded me that it's the right way to go about it. Most of the Confederacy are against going to war, believing that it'll just bring us down to the Republic's low level and diminish our reputation, and I agree. So the only way to expose their weakness, and to engage in war without needing the consent of others, would be if the Confederacy didn't begin the war..."
I got it.
"So," I said, "you want me to kill some Republic guy, or to blow up some Republic tower or symbol?"
"You've caught on, then? No, I'd rather you make it look to the Republic like the Confederacy would have done it and not some well-trained bounty hunter, yet look to the Confederacy like the Confederacy couldn't have done it for reputation issues. You've got a perfectly capable cruiser, with the ability to bomb Orbispira-"
"Not interested," I cut in, with a straight face. Garlboz' eyebrows raised.
"Is that so?" I could tell from his tone of voice, which seemed only slightly sharper, that this guy wasn't about to give up. "You're the only one who can help us, my friend. If you don't want to help, then maybe I could find other means of persuading you..."
"What'll it be," I asked, "bribery or blackmail? Higher price or a form of torture, I'm guessing."
"Oh you're good..." I awaited something to happen, as Garlboz stroked his chin. "Well, I've got nothing. Discussion closed."
What the hell had just happened? It was only natural for me to wonder that, but I was pretty sure I'd made it very clear that I didn't care for the Confederacy's cause, nor did I care for the Republic's. But I should have known that wasn't the last I'd hear.
I left the lounge, into the main part of the cantina, and saw several bottles smashed, two people screaming at each other, and tourists running away.
"Aww," I said, "what did I miss?"
But it was time for me to head off. I left the cantina, flew off to my appartment out in a more quiet part of the city, and then I just sat at home and relaxed. Ah, life is good. Most people wouldn't be able to return to their appartment in the city they'd bombed, but I live in that appartment even now.
Course, I woke up the next day. It was raining outside, pretty heavily. I got myself prepared for the day, when the door rang. Some Libertus woman who looked like she was important. Hey, she was outside in the rain, the least I could do was let her inside.
"Ah, Ealtar, thanks for letting me in," the Libertus woman said. She was tall, and spoke with a quite calm voice yet it was still sharp and to the point. "I am Senator Mizio of the Cyrannian Republic. PLeased to meet you, Ealtar Gausia." She held her hand for me to shake it, but I didn't, and she put it back.
"How'd the Republic find my location? And what do you want?" I asked.
"The Republic didn't find your location," she said, "I did. And what I want is a job." I nodded my head.
"Tell me what you've got in mind," I replied. "And what're you doing bringing that girl along?"
We went into my house, in the dining room, and all sat down to talk round a table.
"So, Mizio," I said, with no expression in my voice, "tell me what you have in mind." Mizio sighed.
"For many years," she began, "I've designed warships and weapons to protect the Republic, and become Cyroenia's senator for my work. My work is always used for the good of the Cyrannaian people, when we protect our home from oppressors, and bring justice where it is needed."
"I see..." I said, "and how does that concern me?"
"Because something's not right," Mizio said. "An armed group is arriving near the Core Worlds, and intelligence suggests it is funded by the TSOIB."
"TSOIB? You mean the Confederacy's involved?"
"Yes," Mizio said, "and if they're involved, they could be planning an all-out war. And if my weapons weren't made to protect from this, what were they for? I've pleaded with other senators, and they've refused to help." Mizio pleaded. "You must show the other Senators that they're wrong! You must show them that we should fight against them!"
I simply sat their, sipping the Cyrannian wine, not showing any care.
"I won't fall for a sob story," I insisted. "If you've been trying to persuade the other senators that way, it explains why they weren't interested either." Mizio shook her head.
"You don't get it..."
"I do get, senator." Yes I was getting snappy, but what gives? "I'm a bounty hunter, not some 'dog of war' as you think. If you want to persuade them, then you should hire some proffessional diplomat. Though I'm surprised you're a senator if you're not capable of persuading me yourself without some sob story."
Mizio went silent.
"You know," she began, "I've not been completely honest with you."
"ALl right," I said, "now I'm listening."
"The Cyrannian Senators have all been wondering whether war is the best option," Mizio explained, in a much calmer tone than before. "I personally think that going if a war's going to happen, which looks likely, then we should go for it now, rather than later when both sides will have stronger weapons and the war will be more catastrophic."
"Conflicting ideologies will always cause a war sooner or later," I said.
"Exactly," Mizio said, "which is why we should begin the conflict now. The Republic's economy and current weaponry are at its peak, and if we continue to just leave them be, they'll convert more people to their cause. And what's more, the Federation of United Worlds needs a strong government in power, and the only way for the Republic to stay as that strong government in good position of power is through war. So a war at this stage can only be beneficial for us, as it is inevitable anyway."
"So," I cut in, "you want me to start that war for you?"
"Yes, exactly. If the Cyrannian Republic didn't start the war, then our reputation wouldn't diminish. It has to look like the Confederacy started the war."
"And let me guess," I said, "you want me to bomb Orbispira?" Mizio raised an eyebrow.
"You're good," she said, "but I've not explained yet why you should take the job..."
"Come on," I said, tired of this. "You think I'd fall for a sob story?" Silence.
"No," Mizio said, "I had good reason for my 'sob story'." I was intrigued. "We're being watched, you know. The Confederacy and the Republic have connections everywhere through several criminal networks that people are working with. One of your old friends, Nexatru, has connections with the Ottzello Galaxy's criminals, the Zaarkhun Consortium, and has been planning something with them. That just shows how deep their connections are. Currently I've activated an electromagnetic device that can deactivate any cameras nearby, but after that sob story and seeing you say no, they'll overlook this conversation."
I paused for thought.
"So," I began, "you're saying that the Confederacy's connections will somehow monitor Cyrannus?"
"I'm not just saying that," Mizio began. "The Confederacy will control Cyrannus one way or another. In the current 'digital' age, the flow of information around Cyrannus is completely free, with anyone being able to access any information at any time. Trivial information rumours...information that is unfiltered, growing at an alarming rate. According to many officials, it can only slow social progress.
"History isn't recorded in genes, should it be passed on?" Mizio was still talking, and I found it difficult to follow her conversation. "We all keep pictures, records, memories, but does it pass on to later generations? A small percentage of the whole is selected and processed, not unlike genes really."
"So," I began, "you're saying that that's a bad thing? Controlling that seems to be a process of censorship."
"The Republic's government has often talked about this issue, but it seems that word has leaked out. With all their connections, our intelligence officials have narrowed down the Confederacy's plan to controlling content and creating conext to suit them. They'd control Cyrannus one way or another.
The digital society furthers flaws of us organic beings, and selectively rewards development of convenient half-truths. The untested truths spun by different interests continue to churn and accumulate in the sandbox of political correctness and value systems. Everyone withdraws into their own segregated community, afraid of a larger forum, leaking whatever information, or 'truth', suits them into a cesspool of information. Nobody is invalidated, but nobody is validated."
"What are you talking about?" I was confused as all hell.
"It's simple," she continued. "Like with genetics, unnecessary information must be filtered to stimulate the evolution of us as beings. That's what the Confederacy wants to do. Wade through a sea of garbage, retrieve valuable truths and interpret them for later generations to something that suits them. They'll decide for themselves what we should believe and what we should pass on."
"And if they can't have their war..." I suddenly realised what she was planning to stop. "So you think you'll fool them this way?"
"That," she began, "and I was demonstrating that I can interpret 'truths' in different ways to you so that I'd explain to you later. But this stuff is all very deep, and I'm not even sure the entire Confederacy are behind this. But they're at the origin. And we need you to start a war to stop this."
There was quite a long silence.
"I don't get most of what you've said," I began, "but I'll bomb them for you. But it'll cost you."
All the co-ordinates were set. All the calculations were made. My ship was armed with a weapon ready to blow up several helpless civilians. I flew over my destination. Most people would, by this point, be nervous. As I flew past al the other civilian traffic getting on with life, it almost made me sad that I was about to blow them up. Almost.
"You're doing the right thing, Gauisia," Mizio said on communicator.
"I don't care what's right at this point," I replied, "us bounty hunters are just tools. We shouldn't decide what is right or wrong once we've taken the job. Once that contract's signed, the only thing we can be sure of for absolute certain is the mission." I changed to communicator to Garlboz, just to let him know.
"Well, well," Garlboz said on communicator, "you've decided to take the job after all?"
"Yes," I responded, "and you'd better pay me."
"Of course I will," Garlboz replied, and chuckled to himself. I was just a few metres away. A few more...
Éaltar had flown off to a space station out in the Mid Rim. He was in a cantina, conversing with another figure. It was Garlboz.
Garlboz - Well, Éaltar, you've done well.
Éaltar - I've done the job, what else could I do?
Garlboz - True. Well, the Great Cyrannus War has begun, how do you feel?
Éaltar - I don't.
Garlboz - That's the right answer.
There was silence.
Garlboz - Y'know, we could use you for some more missions. The Confederacy may well have a contract for you, if you're willing to help us.
Éaltar - Huh. If I'm offered anything, I may feel like it. But at the moment, with all this money, I just want to chill. I don't care anymore; I've gotten involved in politics too much today.
Garlboz nodded, and there was another silence.
Garlboz - You gonna watch the Zaarkhun games? I hear there's something big for this season. If you get a ticket here, we can watch it live.
Éaltar - Not interested.
Garlboz - I see.
Éaltar - You know, I've noticed something. Mizio could never have spoken to me, none of the Republic know my location, I made sure of it. She said "the Republic don't have your location, I do". In fact, come to think of it, I heard she was working on a new starship in the time she was supposedly talking to me.
There was a silence.
Éaltar - And Garlboz, aren't you meant to be back with the rest of the Confederate officials? You are, according to Confederate files, you're there right now.
There was a silence, and Garlboz got up. He left something behind for Éaltar, and left. Éaltar read it, examined it carefully, and smiled.
Éaltar - It's all right. Your secret is safe with me... Tyrómairon.