Avenged by the Alien Bounty Hunter: Chapter One

Yndon

It was too early in the morning for politics.

With a slug of energy goop in hand, I hooked an ankle around the stem of a chair, pulled it around, and flopped down in it. I downed the goop in one long pull. Ugh. I knew that the vendor cart I’d picked it up from looked suspicious, but he’d promised the drink would be strong.

He didn’t mention anything about it being so thick, it was chewy.

Pulling a face at my own bad decision making, I glanced across the table to see my fellow Mtoain bounty hunter, Maza, watching me with a smirk on his face.

“You got that from Lower Deck Three, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, yeah.” He’d given me the lecture several times already on buying from unlicensed vendors. But Space Station Four was out at the edge of what most considered civilized space. That meant unless you wanted to pay credits out the nose, you didn’t get choosy.

Maza opened his mouth and I cut him off, not in the mood for a lecture. Yes, I was one of the youngest Mtoain bounty hunters but I could wipe my own ass without help, thanks.

“Do you know what this meeting is about?”

Maza’s face fell. “Not a clue.”

I glanced around the room, cataloging who was here, who was gossiping, and who was listening. “Bet Khenja’s new mate is pregnant, and he wants to crow about it to us single Mtoain.”

Maza smirked back, but before he could reply a heavy hand fell on my shoulder.

“Why? Jealous?”

I glanced up to see one of the senior hunters. Paktal, I think his name was. He shrugged off his shoulder. “Of what? If I wanted a mate, I wouldn’t be out here in the middle of space.”

Even a mate as… enticing as Deanna.

I was very careful to keep that thought clear from my face. No one with sense lusted over the boss’s mate, and some instinct deep down told me that Deanna and I would never make a good match. Still… There was a reason why human women were regularly captured and enslaved from their backwater home world.

The door to the meeting hall opened, admitting the last few stragglers as well as Landri, Khenja and his mate.

Instantly, I blanked my expression from jeering to professional and arrogant. Across the table, Maza looked Deanna over, up and down. No tell-tell sign of pregnancy, but who knew how it worked with humans? I was a bounty hunter, not a doctor.

There was some good-natured grumbling as the other Mtoain bounty hunters picked their seats and sat. Above, the environmental control vents hissed as it recognized a full room of adult males (and one scrumptious female) and adjusted its air scrubbers accordingly.

Landri waited at the head of the table until most of the conversations died down. “Thanks for coming in, everyone. I know this time of the morning was suboptimal for many of you.” He casted an amused eye to the low ranked dead end of the table, where I and the other new hunters sat.

“What’s going on, boss?” one asked.

“Suck up,” I muttered under my breath to the low growling chortle of Maza.

Landri cast me a swift glance my way as if he’d heard the comment but could not identify the speaker. Then reaching over, he gestured Khenja forward so that they stood at the head of the table as a unified team. Deanna looked on proudly.

My inner eyebrows rose.

“Khenja and I are going to use the proceeds of his most recent bounty to file the paperwork to form a guild,” Landri said.

There was a moment of brief stunned silence — I was not the only one who was taken off guard — before a ragged cheer went up from the rest of the group. I joined in, enthusiastically.

This was very good news. I was new to bounty hunting, but already knew I’d hit a jackpot with this outfit. There were definite advantages, economical and prestige wise—to be a part of a guild. And to get on the ground floor of one as it was starting… well. Those were once-in-a-lifetime events.

Landri held up his hand to quiet us down.

“Naturally, the hunters who have been with us the longest will get the full stake.” Another cheer, this time with some back-slapping.

My end of the table was notably silent. I myself felt my hopes plummet and frustration take its place. I should have known better than to entertain a brief flash of hope. New guys always got shorted. It had been that way on Mtoain, too, which was why I fled for space the moment I qualified for a Deh-Ria ritual. A sour taste invaded my mouth.

I opened my mouth and spoke without thinking about it. Bad habit. “What about the rest of us?”

A couple of harsh laughs from the more senior Mtoains answered that question. My expression darkened.

I also didn’t appreciate the soft look of sympathy Deanna sent my way. As a human woman, she no doubt knew what it was like to be at the bottom and what it took to earn your way up.

Landri flashed a tight smile. “You younger hunters have not been forgotten. You will have the option to give up a percentage of your credit taken to earn guild support.”

“So we have to buy our way in.” My voice was just short of a snarl. Maza and a couple of others muttered their own agreement.

Landri extended a hand to gesture around the room. “We have all bought our way to our current standing, in one form or another. The elder hunters have purchased their places through their loyalty and dedication. You don’t get to jump to the head of the line just because it seems unfair.”

Some of the more senior hunters looked proud at his words. I tried and failed not to glower.

“If you still object to the pay scale,” Khenja added, “You can choose to stay out of the collective.”

I snorted. What, and start fresh at a new outfit at the very bottom in seniority? That was not going to happen.

Khenja’s words caused a ripple of laughter from the more senior Mtoains. I had to raise my voice to be overheard.

“What would it take to buy my own stake?” I shot a glare to the upper part of the table. “An equal stake?”

Landri and Khenja exchanged a look. Khenja nodded as if in agreement and Landri turned to me. He crossed his arms, radiating ‘smug’ from every pore. “We’re a small guild seeing as we’re just getting started, so an equal stake won’t be worth much.” He paused, holding the moment. “Ten million credits.”

I choked. That was twice the amount of the last bounty that I had brought in.

But I had my goal set now. What was the point of fighting and scraping only to rent the privilege of guild security? I had no doubt that under Landri and Khenja’s leadership, the guild would thrive. If I played it safe and waited for seniority, the buy-in amount could be twice that or more by the time I had years under my belt.

I stood, acknowledging Lendri with a head bob that stopped just short of formal. “Only ten million credits? That’s reasonable.”

“I’m glad you think so.”

Lendri turned in mute dismissal and I sat down. I could feel Maza eyeing me speculatively, but I didn’t turn his way. My mind was filled with ideas—something high risk, high reward was needed.

Because I swore I would do whatever it took to gather those credits, even if I died trying.

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