|From My Cover Art|
A couple words of explanation:
This is the sequel to a novella published some years ago by Yard Dog Press. The original is called For the Honor of the Hunt and explains how Britta and Teon got together. The biggest part of the background is that the world, Andradora, was settled as a matriarchy, but has recently given up that status to join the Inner Worlds Council. That means men are, technically, equal.
It's not been an exactly smooth transition.
Britta is one of the top Bounty Hunters, licensed by the government to hunt criminals. When she took Teon as a partner, it upset a few people.
I hope to put the two stories, For the Honor of the Hunt and The Hunter and the Hunted out in ebook format. I hope you enjoy this piece!
The Hunter and the Hunted:
It was just our luck that Teon Delphison and I were out to dinner -- together -- when all hell broke loose in Elegis.
We were not on a date. This was a business meeting and we held it at the nearest decent restaurant. We had spent all day on a Hunt in the city and tracked down two out of three of our quarry. With the Elegis transportation system down for the third day in a row -- they said restructuring -- it had been case of hiking all over hell, and then waiting while Andradora Force sent out someone to pick our catches up. Payments were late on three earlier bounties and even Teon looked annoyed about working for nothing.
Everything was going to hell on Andradora. I wanted to blame men -- our usual scapegoat -- or the interference of the IWC.
But I knew the truth. We all did. Drought in one area, flood in another, bad management of government funds and general bad luck had fallen on the world. We asked the IWC to come in because we needed their help, and we were willing to give up the matriarchy and go to them as equals, rather than beggars. They would have sent supplies anyway; The IWC doesn't let humans starve just because we don't agree politically. We went with our pride intact and accepted their rules, admitting to our own mistakes. Otherwise it would only be a stopgap, and we'd be back begging again in a few years. We had to believe that joining the IWC and sharing in the common community would help.
Things could have been worse than they were now. That still didn't make them good.
Teon and I were tired, bad-tempered and hungry. Winda turned down having a meal with us and decided to go home instead, which proved the better choice. She's office help. She wouldn't have done well when things went bad.
"Brought your boy in for some food, did you?" Kashin smirked as we came in. She sat with three other hunters over at the side of the room. I looked their way and shook my head. My luck to find them here.
"Actually, I'm buying," Teon said and met Kashin's look.
I almost stepped in and protested. This wasn't a date. But hell, that got such a startled look from the three women it was probably worth it.
I glared at him when we sat down, though. "You want to ruin my reputation?"
"Hell, Britta -- you have me for a partner. What worse can they think?"
He really didn't have to remind me.
We ordered and went back to work, sorting through lists of potential jobs, looking over finances, considering new equipment. I still wanted to get Teon set up with an implant and linked into the comm system, but the medtech said his injured ear wasn't ready for it, and she didn't want to risk the hearing in the good one. I'd give it another month and we'd try again. He seemed willing --
A loud beep came from the screen behind me. I spun and watched the vid go from the mindless drivel that passes for entertainment today to a flashing Emergency Emblem.
It couldn't be good, of course, but the fact they interrupted --
Annette NiRose's face appeared on the screen -- the top local reporter -- and that meant something drastic. All other sound in the room stopped. I glanced once at Teon and saw the same worry in his face that I felt. I don't know why I expected some other look.
"Approximately twenty-three minutes ago, a half dozen men in masks, broke into the office of Councilor Agila NiShalla and killed her --"
People began to shout.
I looked around and back at Teon. "Pay the bill. Let's go."
He nodded, already shoving a cred chit into the slot. I saw Kashin look our way, her face red.
"Damn bastard men --"
She started our way. I shoved Teon towards the door, but he didn't go far. I turned to growl something impolite -- but I found him guarding my back because we had other trouble heading our way.
He could have made it out the door without me. He could probably run for cover fast enough to get clear. He stayed and guarded my back.
I almost hit the spot behind my ear to tell Winda to get us some help, but she had left the office when we did. We were on our own.
"Don't be so damn stupid!" I suddenly shouted as someone took a swing at me. I blocked the blow and kicked -- hard enough I might have cracked a knee. I didn't care as the woman went down yowling. I needed to lessen the odds here. "We had nothing to do with that stupidity!"
"The hell you didn't!" Kashin said. She got in my face, but she didn't swing, so I held back, and backed up a step, nudging Teon that way, too. "It's freaks like you, working with men and giving them weapons --"
"Or maybe its women like you, taking your anger at the world out on the wrong people that are pushing this." I looked back at the screen. "No, there's something more going on. Hell -- I hate to speak ill of the dead, but Agila NiShalla was the most useless, lazy councilor to ever sit in the government, and even you said something about it the other day, Kashin!"
She stopped and blinked, but the anger came back. "Just proves the men are stupid --"
But someone else took her arm. Some of the others backed off in haste.
"Get your boy out of here," the restaurant owner said. He had a laser pistol in hand. "Go now."
We had a clear way out. I wanted to stay and argue with these bigots. But we headed out into the late afternoon heat. Andradora Force aircars swept over us. I could hear shouts elsewhere.
"This is crazy. What the hell --" I turned on Teon ready to snap at him.
He was leaning a little to the right, a hand on his side. Blood spread against the cloth while I looked.
"Oh hell." I caught hold of his arm and started away from the door. "Who did it?"
"One of Kashin's friends while they had your attention." His breath caught. "Damn good with a knife."
"Anka. We should have --"
"Gotten the hell out of there," he said and turned his head a little to look at me. He'd gone white and clammy. I needed to get him to help. "That was a place ready to explode. I didn't want to be caught . . . caught in the middle, unable to --"
"We need to get to the clinic," I said. I caught his waist because he was starting to go down.
"Not the clinic. Not on a day like this."
His words made me rethink the situation. He might be right -- a clinic run by women would not help. But hell -- I wasn't qualified to take care of a wound like this, and I didn't want to see him die.
Even so, I headed for the office. It was closer. I could get someone to come there. He might be right -- because I could hear sounds out there already that didn't bode well for any well-known male on the street. Right now, Teon Parason was about the best known up-and-coming male in the city, outside of a few government flunkies.
It was probably going to get him killed. And me, too, for being stupid enough to take him on as a partner. This wasn't going to work --
More government vehicles swept over us as we headed up the hill toward the office building. I didn't pay much attention until one swung back around and dropped down so quickly it startled me backwards a couple steps. Teon and I almost went down, and I was ready to curse whomever --
The door opened part way and Milisin's head popped out.
"Son of a dog," she said, shaking her head. "I feared it was the two of you."
"Need to get him to help --" I said, panting.
"Damn. What happened?" She stepped out, grabbed Teon from my hold and had him into the aircar before I could answer.
"Knifed down at the Digs," I said. I threw myself into the car with him, afraid she would take off without me.
"Bad day to be out, sister." She snapped the door shut.
"It wasn't when we went for dinner." I saw the way she looked back at me. "Business, Milisin. Business. You people will drive me crazy. Need to get him to help --"
"Not clinic," Teon whispered. Still conscious, then. Good.
"Not the clinic," Milisin agreed. She'd taken us up and turned. "Port. Get him off the streets and out of the reach of these people."
I almost protested. The port was a long ways off -- but I was thinking in terms of traveling on foot. Milisin was asking for entrance to the grounds and medical help for a wounded male before I could have gotten Teon up to the office, let alone gotten him any help.
Medtechs were already waiting when we got out. I turned to say thanks to Milisin but she slammed the door closed and headed up again. By the time I turned back, the medtechs were talking in words I didn't understand and taking Teon off. I followed and one of the people stepped back to talk to me. A woman, tall and short haired, and of a rank I didn't know since I don't pay any attention to such things.
"Do you know his name?" she asked, taking out a pocket comp.
"Teon Parason. He's my -- we work together."
"Teon -- Oh hell. He's the hunter, then? And you must be Britta NiGwen?"
I looked at her, both startled and uneasy. "Yes."
"Explains why they brought him here." She stopped and looked back at the city. So did I. I couldn't see the trouble, but I could feel it. "This isn't going to go well."
She was damned perceptive for an off-worlder.