Authors: Joseph Anderson
Bounty Hunter – Soldier’s Wrath
The Bounty Hunter – Soldier’s Wrath
2013 by Joseph Anderson
Also by Joseph Anderson:
Bounty Hunter Series
Bounty Hunter stories are a series of novellas. Each story is intended to be
self-contained, like an episode of a television series. Although some names and
references are made to prior events, each story can be enjoyed on its own.
If, however, you prefer to read things
in order, the series begins with
The Bounty Hunter
you for your time and I hope you enjoy the story.
Adam Bancroft stood in the cargo hold of the ship
and narrowed his eyes at his partner. Burke set the girl down on the floor. She
was unresponsive—she stared blankly at the ceiling of the room and said nothing
as the bounty hunters spoke.
“We’ve done our job,” Adam said.
“I’m not leaving all those people
behind just because we weren’t hired to get them.”
“Geoff asked us to save his
daughter,” Adam spoke quickly. “There’s Kristen. We have her. We’re done.”
Kristen curled up into a ball on
the floor, hugging her knees to her chest. Burke looked down and saw that she
had been beaten recently. Her face was a swollen mess. Patches of her clothes
were blotchy with her own blood. Burke set his jaw forward.
“We were one door away from the
command room of the base,” he spat. “You’re going to leave them behind to get
away with this?”
“I only risk my life if I’m getting
paid for it.”
Burke looked like he had been
struck. He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, Adam had already
set his rifle on the floor and was loosening the straps of his armored vest.
Burke looked down at the equipment he was still wearing: bulletproof plates
strapped to his arms, legs, and shoulders, along with the same kind of chest
armor that Adam was removing. The protection was minimal but it was better than
nothing. Burke looked back at the rear of ship and heard the distant rattle of
gunfire from the slaver’s base. He wished he already had the advanced battle
aegis he had been saving to purchase.
“I’m going alone then,” he said
“Then leave me behind.”
Burke kneeled down and placed a
hand on top of Kristen’s head. The girl flinched and he felt his chest tighten.
“I’ll kill them all,” he whispered
to her. “They won’t get away with what they’ve done.”
The girl looked briefly at him and
then resumed staring at the ceiling. He got up and turned to the rear doors of
the ship. Adam shouted after him and he ignored the words as he stepped back
into the base.
The doors of the ship opened and
the roar of the base rushed to meet him. The corridor in front of him was on
fire and he couldn’t remember if it was started by one of his grenades or the
slaver’s henchmen. He felt no sympathy for hired thugs that would blindly
defend such despicable people as slavers. He raised his rifle and readied
himself to shoot to kill. He would offer no mercy.
The doors to the ship closed behind
him. He heard the distant sound of gunfire from somewhere deeper into the base.
The fire had caused the facility to erupt into chaos. It had been built on an
isolated moon and the base would be lost if the fires weren’t brought under
control. Burke hoped to use that panic to his advantage. He walked quickly down
the corridor, darting between the fires as he moved.
There was a connecting corridor at
the end of the one he walked through. Two guards appeared at the end of it,
visible only for a moment as they sprinted passed. He saw one of them glance at
him and then heard a shout a second later. They turned back into the corridor
but Burke was ready. He brought the mid-range scope of the rifle up to his face
and fired six times, thrice for each guard. The shots landed before they could
fire back, each of them tightly clustered around the guard’s chests.
He lunged forward to the end of the
hallway. He grabbed the guards by their legs and dragged them back and away
from the connecting corridor. More gunfire shuddered through the base and he
wondered at that as he put his back against the wall, not yet turning into the
next hallway. He and Adam had been the only invaders into the base. He didn’t
understand why he could still hear people firing their guns.
Two more guards, a man and a woman,
surged through the corridor and broke his thought. The woman must have seen
Burke in the corner of her eye and turned to face him. He raised his weapon
faster than her, firing another burst of shots into her and then into the man
behind her. He stepped forward to once again drag the bodies into the first
hallway. He saw that the man was dead but the woman was still breathing. A sickening
rasp emitted from her throat each time her chest raised. She stared up at him.
He thought of how Kristen had looked up at him moments before and raised the
barrel of his rifle to the woman’s head. He squeezed the trigger once and then
dragged her corpse to the others.
He turned and looked back down the
corridor as he reloaded his rifle. Over half of the weapon’s magazine had been
fired and he had plenty to spare fastened on the lower part of his chest plate.
He reminded himself of the route they had taken to find Kristen: turn left at
the first fork, then head straight and turn right into the large central room.
He remembered the large double doors they had seen as they carried Kristen out
of that room. The fresh magazine slotted into the rifle with a satisfying
crunch. He barely heard it as he took off down the hallway once again.
There were more fires as he ran
deeper into the base. Dead bodies that Adam and he had left behind in their
initial assault, along with the trail of empty bullet casings on the floor.
Burke didn’t slow down as he hopped over the bodies and dodged out of the way
of the fire. When he came to the right hand turn in the hallway, he came to a
complete stop and poked his head out for a fraction of a second. He saw a blur
of at least five guards and the impromptu barricade they had erected to protect
the room before he pulled back behind the wall. A clatter of gunshots smacked
into the wall next to him a second later.
One of the guards roared out a
warning to the others. Burke switched the rifle to hold in his left hand and
reached for the grenades strapped to the back portion of his chest plate. He
had three grenades in total and yanked two of them free. He knelt down and set
the rifle on the floor and held one explosive in each hand. Another wave of
gunfire pummeled against the wall before he pulled the pin on the first grenade
and released its lever. He threw the grenade immediately and didn’t pull the
pin on the second until he heard one of the guards cry out in response. He cooked-off
the second explosive for one second before he threw it.
The two explosions were lost
amongst each other. Burke held his hands over his ears and felt the vibrations
of the blasts through the floor more than he heard them. He grabbed the rifle
from the floor and whirled quickly around the wall then, springing from his
crouch into a sprint down the corridor as he brought his weapon up to his face.
The smoke of the grenade’s explosions was thick at the end of the corridor but
he stayed focused, looking for any movement through the dark cloud.
A muzzle flash flared from inside
the smoke. He turned to it as the series of bullets collided into the armor
plates on his left arm. He felt two shots deflect from the armor and then the
third slice through his arm. He ignored the hot wave of pain from the bullet as
he fired back, unloading the entire magazine into what little movement he could
see amongst the smoke. He reloaded quickly and was ready to fire once again as
the air cleared. He didn’t check his arm until he was certain all six of the
guards were dead.
The pain from his arm was worse
than the wound deserved. He grimaced as he pulled back the straps on his arm to
confirm that the bullet had carved cleanly through his flesh and hadn’t
embedded itself into him. Blood leaked down his arm; another scar, he thought,
as he stepped forward to the door behind the dead guards.
The door was closed and the sound
of gunfire grew louder as he neared it. He knew instantly then what was waiting
for him behind the door, as it had been the room that they had found Kristen
and the other captives that had been taken. The burning anger through his body
dulled the pain from his arm as he placed a hand on the door and shoved it
open. He raised his rifle and entered the room with the gun blazing.
There were dozens of cages
scattered around the large room. Some were tall enough to allow the occupants
to stand but not all of them. There were crates stacked haphazardly throughout
the room, full of horrible scraps of food that were given to the slaves when
the guards remembered to feed them. Burke didn’t need to look at the cages to
know what had happened. He moved with the rifle quickly instead, leading with
it to the guards bunched around each of the cages and making the most of his
time before they realized they were under attack.
He killed seven of the thugs before
he was forced to dive behind a crate and reload his rifle. He kept his head
down as the barrage of return fire slammed into the crate and punched into its
contents. The urge to dive away was strong as he felt some of the bullets
pierce through the crate but he forced himself to remain still, knowing that it
was better than being an open target. He grabbed his last grenade and threw it
immediately after pulling the pin. He counted in his head and sprung around the
crate as the explosion went off.
There were ten guards remaining in
the room. The grenade burst open and sent three of them to the floor. Burke
moved efficiently through those that remained standing. He aimed for the head
when he could and the chest when he couldn’t, firing in controlled bursts as he
bobbed the rifle up and down between each target. He downed another four before
he darted across the room and to another crate. The floor sparked and became
alive around each of his steps as the guards fired back. He felt another bullet
cut through him—his left leg, and he stumbled the final two steps to the next
crate and fell behind cover.
He reloaded the rifle and felt for
his leg. He had little time and ran a finger around the wound: the bullet had
sliced deeper than the first but seemed to have exited out the other side. The
pain was worse but he knew he was lucky. He shifted onto his stomach and
crawled to the side of the crate, poking out with the rifle and picking off one
of the remaining guards. There were two still standing.
A wave of shots came at the crate.
He both felt and heard the splattering of foodstuff being shredded behind him.
More than once he felt a bullet slap into the back portion of his chest armor,
shuddering through his body as the bulletproof vest held and protected him. The
feeling grated on his nerves, however, and he whipped around the crate before
the guard’s assault was finished, unwilling to risk being shot while behind
cover for any longer.
They looked shocked at his sudden
appearance, turning to him and firing as Burke fired back. He felt two shots
rip passed his head and more bullets flattened themselves against his chest and
shoulder armor. Each impact hurt even if the bullets couldn’t pierce the
plating, leaving broken skin and bruises behind. The guards had no such armor
and his shots sent them to the floor. He wasted no time in confirming the
kills, and shot more than one guard in the head as they lay squirming on the
floor. It was only when they were all dead that he gave pause to the room
Most of the cages had been full of
slaves when he and Adam had been there earlier. Now they were full of corpses.
There were no fires in the room but warnings still blared from the rest of the
base. Burke didn’t know if the slaves had been executed out of fear that they
would escape or simply for fun as the facility burned around them. He decided
he didn’t care what the reason was, and turned away from the dead bodies. He
knew the image would be one that stayed with him for the rest of his life and,
selfishly, tried to minimize its impact. He had already seen four dead children
amongst the bodies in the cages. He didn’t want to know if there were any more.
He marched to the double doors at
the end of the room. They opened after he crushed the panel next to the door.
Unlike the cold, stark walls of the rest of the base, the room he saw behind
the doors was lavishly decorated. The floor was carpeted in a rich red and
contained a mahogany desk on a raised platform at the back of the room. The
room was dimly lit compared to the larger room behind him. There were two
guards near the desk. Both looked up at the tall screen that stretched across
the far wall. A man’s face dominated the display.
“The fires are out of control,” one
of the guards said. “We need to evacuate.”
The man on the screen nodded once
and then shrugged.
“I’m already in my vessel,” he
replied. “Stay behind and see if you can solve this mess.”
Burke shot both of the guards dead
as he stepped into the room. He didn’t care what they had to say. The doors
closed behind him and he reloaded as he walked toward the desk. The man on the
screen looked down at him. Burke glanced to the only other door in the room and
recognized it as a connecting corridor to a small ship. He walked over and
found that the door was locked. He smashed the door’s panel, like he had done
to the other door, but it still remained closed.
“I’m perfectly safe,” the man said.
Burke turned to the screen. He glared
up at the man without raising his head.
“You’re a fucking coward.”
“Cowards live, so I suppose so,”
the man said.