He took a deep breath to steady himself, and to get back some lost wind, when something that had been nagging at the back of his brain finally dropped full forward. Those rockets, the whine they had made, he knew that sound. It was seldom that any one hunter got to a bounty all on their own, or at least, not for very long. The call would go out on the usual channels and hunters from all corners would cowboy up and converge on the location. More often than not, it was the other cowboys you had to worry about. One in particular was an special thorn in Destyn’s side: an android that went by the initials G.C. (Grand Champion to his friends). If he didn’t know any better, Destyn would be convinced that G.C. was programmed to be his own personal gadfly. The two got along like colliding hydrogen atoms, but not nearly as warmly.
Those five explosions had to have been from G.C.’s heavily personalized quintpack. He just knew it. On more than one occasion the android had eagerly emptied his payload on an unsuspecting target just as Destyn had been closing in. More than once this led to a hefty fine on G.C.’s end, but with the language of the hunt, most notably the Dead or Alive portion, there wasn’t much could be done about the collateral damage incurred by the participants at large. Still, G.C. was an anomaly in that regard, seldom taking in a target alive, much less intact. He was lucky that so much of the bounty relied on DNA evidence. Half the time dental work wouldn’t even be a sufficient ID, so much did G.C. love his rocket packs.
That wasn’t the only place Destyn and G.C. differed, but it was enough to raise Destyn’s hackles at the mere thought of the heartless android. It could mimic human movement, alright, but it didn’t seem to have any room for finesse, or any care for who it took down along the way to a target. And if G.C. was already done bombarding the Sisters’, that meant there was precious little time to get to Bartholmè before he was a smear of gore at the centre of a smoking crater. Worse still, as the Butcher had so far not been one to go quietly, Destyn was more worried what he was going to do to any hostages that may have survived G.C.’s indiscriminate attack.As if on cue, Destyn heard a scream from a floor above. Swearing under his breath, he slapped his rebreather back over his face and willed his legs to speed him up the remaining three flights of stairs.
He rounded the last railing and had just entered the hallway leading to the matron’s penthouse when another volley of gunfire broke out, this time much closer at hand. He sprawled on the floor, rifle at the ready, ducking out of the way just in time for the spray from an automatic shotgun to take out the window directly behind him. In front of him, grinning his permanent rictus grin, was G.C., lazily swinging the gun in his left hand.
“Now, see, I figured Bart to have more’n one asshole swinging for him for sure,” the automated voice intoned, “but the asshole? Should’a known.” He pointed the barrel of his gun squarely at Destyn, gesturing with it for him to stand up. “On your feet, sunshine. And leave your weapon on the floor.”
Destyn scowled, but complied. This wasn’t the first time G.C. had gotten the drop on him, and while the android usually left him without any major damage, he had scars enough to know not to mess around with the homicidal idiot. He rose slowly to his feet, his hands up, palms facing out and empty.
“There’s a good boy,” G.C. cooed. He twitched the barrel of his shotgun to the right, pointing at a sooty door frame. “Through there, nice and slow.”
Destyn turned to comply, flinching when he felt the muzzle of the shotgun press against him in between his shoulder blades. He walked forward automatically, spurred on by the pressure on his back. When they got into the room, G.C. closed and bolted the door, lowering his gun and giving Destyn a kick to the seat of his pants that knocked him off balance. Destyn staggered, but remained standing, motionless except for his measured breathing. If he started to panic, he knew, G.C. would only up his antics, and he just did not have the time nor the inclination to play puppet all day.
“I’d’a figured you knew I was here, boy, what with how I took out the front door.” The simulated voice laughed, low and sinister. “Should’a seen them fireworks, I tell ya. A sight to behold.”
“Not all of us are interested in seeing how far we can go before the bounty comes around on our heads, you know.” Destyn looked over his shoulder, only to get a knock upside his right ear for the trouble.
“Not all of us are mincing little babies either, ya wimp.” G.C. moved around Destyn to face him, giving him an appraising look. “Just look at you. You’re getting soft, old man.”
“Oh for God’s sake, you’re twice my age at least you upjumped robot.”
This got a laugh. It wasn’t a happy one. “At least I make sixty look good.” He swung at Destyn, stopping just before he connected with his nose. He seemed satisfied with the lack of flinching on his opponent’s part. “Brave enough, but still no good with stairs, eh?”
“We can’t all fart our way onto rooftops like you, you bastard.”
“I know, I know, I hear it all the time from you jealous little meatbags. ‘Grand Champion, why can’t I be as grand as you?’” The stiff smile seemed to somehow grow even broader than it usually was. “If you had any sense you’d drop out of the game. There’s no place in the ranks for fleshy little losers like you anymore. It’s a machine man’s world now. Has been for some time. I’d’a thought you’d’a noticed by now.” He leaned against a table, his arms folded across his chest.
Destyn shrugged and lowered his arms. They had started to ache. G.C. nodded to a nearby chair, but Destyn just rolled his eyes, pointing over his shoulder at the locked door. “So are you playing hide-and-seek with the Butcher or what, exactly? Shouldn’t Mr. Robot be out there claiming his prize already?”
G.C.’s eyes narrowed. “He’s got too many hostages.”
Destyn was geniunely surprised, and his face must have showed it, because G.C. laughed again.
“Too many important hostages. We’re talking High Priestess shit, hoss.”
“So there is a limit on who you’ll shoot? I never thought I’d see the day.”
G.C. shrugged, the image of nonchalance. “Least when folks’re looking. I’m not out to get a hard bounty just to have to turn around and make a run for it. Some of us like to enjoy our earnings.”
It was Destyn’s turn to shrug. “So, what are you planning? Hiding out here until Barty-boy gets sleepy?”
“Actually,” G.C. stepped forward, taking Destyn by the right shoulder, “that’s where your ass comes into play.”
Destyn cocked his left eyebrow, but G.C. waggled his slender left index finger in his face. “No more questions. It’s time we finish this shit.” He gave Destyn a shove toward the door. “Get moving, decoy. I’ve got a bounty to cap.”