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Redeeming the Alien Bounty Hunter: Chapter Two

Tonzul

My first indication that my scheme had worked was when I was punched awake.

There hadn’t been any warning. One second, I was in the middle of a dream — a hunt back on my home planet of Mtoain. In the next, bright pain exploded across my face.

I jerked up out of my bed, still half in the dream, only for a foot to catch me in my stomach in a brutal kick. I wheezed out, curling over myself.

“Get up, scum,” said a rough voice. Hands grabbed me, pulling me all the way out of my bed.

I’d been taken by surprise, but I was no weakling. Ignoring the pain, I surged up, knocking my assailants back a few steps. 

“What is this!?” I yelled, “Who are —”

I stopped as I focused on my attackers. They were two Mtoain males, like myself. One younger, about my age, one older and more powerful. Both stood a few steps away, looking pissed off.

For the first time, I felt a flutter of hope in my heart.

“You are Tonzul?” the older one demanded.

“Yes,” I said.

The younger one spoke, anger snapping in his voice. “You are accused of crimes against the Federation, and all sentient beings.” His top lip lifted up into a sneer, and he nearly spat the next words. “Namely, slavery.”

I close my eyes, pained.

“Do you deny it?” the elder one said.

“No, how could I? It is the truth.”

The elder one frowned, confused, but still very much disapproving. The second one grinned as if in triumph. 

“Tonzul, you are officially under arrest —”

“There’s just one problem,” I said, cutting off the younger, brash Mtoain.

Both stiffened, clearly thinking my hovel of a sleeping room was somehow booby-trapped. 

The elder spoke first. “What problem would that be?”

“I don’t actually have a bounty.”

“What is this?” the younger one snapped. “Of course you have a bounty!”

But the elder frowned. He turned to his younger partner. “Yndon, did you check this bounty against the official Federation galactic records?”

“Why should I? The bounty came through our guild’s channel.”

“You should do that,” I said. “It’s good practice.” I held up my hands in a peaceable gesture when both men scowled at me. “I assume one of you has a hand link computer? Do it now. I promise I won’t fight or resist if the bounty comes up. Which it won’t,” I said, adding a quiet, I hope.

There’s always the possibility I actually did have a bounty on my head. After all, I worked with several of the slave syndicates. Someone could’ve easily tied their crimes to me.

It didn’t matter much to the slowly grinding wheels of the Federation’s justice system that my work hadn’t been of my choice.

“Yndon…” the elder growled. “Do it. I’ll keep an eye on this scum.”

He looked at me, meaningfully.

I rolled my eyes. The one called Yndon frowned, holding out his arm with an attached hand link computer system. He typed on the screen. After a few moments, he scowled, glanced at me, and quite obviously retyped the query.

I wasn’t the only one watching him. The elder growled under his breath. “May the elder trees preserve me…” he muttered.

“This isn’t my fault, Landri,” Yndon said. “The bounty came through our guild’s computer systems! They’ve always been trustworthy before.”

“That’s my fault,” I said. “I spoofed the arrest warrant.”

Now I had the full attention of both of them again.

“Why?” Landri barked.

I took a breath. There was a lot gambling the next few minutes. My whole life, really. “Because I have major information on major movements within the criminal underworld.”

“If that’s the case, why didn’t you pass them on to the relevant authorities?” Landri asked, his eyes narrowed.

I shook my head. “Why would they take the word of someone who worked for slavers? I may not have an official bounty on my head, yet. But any ambitious bureaucrat in the Federation could enter one in. No,” I said with a shake of my head. “I won’t take that chance. In addition, I’ll only pass this information on for a price.”

“You are completely without honor,” Yndon snapped.

“Honor is reserved for those who have a choice in the matter,” I snapped back, stung. He wasn’t entirely wrong, but I disliked having it thrown back into my face.

Landri, although annoyed I may have wasted his time, seemed to be much more business minded. It made sense. If everything I heard from him was true, he’d started his own bounty hunter guild on Station Four. It was doing quite well, too. It wasn’t everybody who had the strength of personality to unite a crowd of nywosi.

“Where are you from?” Landri demanded. 

“I am nywosi from Mtoain just like you.”

“You aren’t anything like us.” Yndon spat to the side.

I glared at him. “As soon as I got out to space, I found my circumstances… Desperate. It’s a long story which doesn’t matter, but in order to make credits, I dealt in shipping and receiving from the criminal underground.” I shook my head. “I didn’t see — or, perhaps, I didn’t want to see, the specialized freight I’d shipped were actually people. I never saw the shipments, you see, they were just line items on a computer screen.”

“So you looked the other way,” Landri said.

“To my shame, yes.”

Yndon growled under his breath again.

“What has changed?” Landri asked.

“One of my clients let slip what was in their cargo hold,” I said. “And I couldn’t deny what I’d already half-expected.”

“If you had any honor at all, you’d’ve searched out the truth long before then,” Yndon said.

I bowed my head. I had no argument. It was true. Although I’d never participated in the capture of the slaves, imprisoned them, or owned any myself… I was still part of the system that had ripped their freedom away from them.

“Yes,” I told Yndon. “And I’ll work the rest of my life to wash off the stains of blood from my hands.”

“You can do that in Federation prison,” Yndon growled.

Landri held up his hand, silencing the younger man. “Enough.” He turned to me. “I’ll ask one more time. Why have you gone to the trouble of bringing us here?”

This, at least, was easier to answer. “My clients—who I now know of as slaver syndicates—have gotten nervous after the capture of one of the most powerful slavers in the quadrant. His name was Ilai.” I held Landri’s gaze steady. “I understand one of your people was the one who finally took him down.”

“Tadraa,” Landri confirmed. 

I nodded. “The remaining slavers want to do one last big score to last them until the heat from guild bounty hunters dies down.”

“A big score?” Yndon repeated.

I shrugged. “My best guess is it’ll be a large raid on a planet to capture many new slaves.”

Both men growled low. I didn’t blame them. It made me sick all over again to think of what else I’d missed simply because I’d refused to see. 

Well, now my eyes were unblinded. I’d set things right. I had to.

“I know who they’re going through to do it. I know all their back channels, all of their contacts. If your guild intervenes, you’ll be the heroes of this part of the galaxy and capture several important bounties at the same time.”

Yndon snorted again.

I couldn’t read the expression on Landri’s face, other than he seemed skeptical. “You mentioned payment. What do you expect to receive in exchange for this valuable information?”

“Simple,” I said. “I wish to join your bounty hunting guild.”

“Absolutely not,” Yndon barked.

Landri held up his hand for the other Mtoain to keep the peace. Yndon bristled. “You cannot possibly consider this, Landri. This man has no honor. He will turn on us the moment a new opportunity comes up… that is, if this so-called information is worth anything at all!”

“I’m not saying I believe him,” Landri said. “But I am… intrigued.”

He gestured again, this time to his own computer link system. A slight buzzing I hadn’t been fully aware of in the room, stopped. No doubt, they’d set up several explosive traps and gas knockout canisters within the room that would activate if I attacked further.

Good thing I was on their side. Even if Yndon didn’t want me to be there.

“You have made your offer,” Landri said to me. “Now here is mine: Provide proof of everything you’ve told me. Then, you may keep any bounty you claim when you stop the slaver’s raid.”

Ah, this would be a test of my skills as much as a test of truth. It was fortunate that before my administrative job had brought me in contact with the slavers, I’d tried my own hand at bounty hunting. True, I hadn’t much success at the time, but I’d been low on equipment and funds.

And my life and what little self-respect I had left wasn’t on the line. It was now.

“I agree,” I said to Landri.

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