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|Black Stetson (standard:science fiction, 2002 words)|
|Author: Nathan K. Vu||Added: Sep 21 2002||Views/Reads: 2141/1391||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|It's a SF story about a bounty hunter in the big city.|
She was scared, a tormented face blazing through the bright neon of the city markets in the middle of the night. Hawkers cried about their goods, little children scurried the streets and neon sign and hovering billboard jostled for prime position in the night sky but she was not distracted. With the determination of a wounded lion she stalked slowly through the market and into the embrace and darkness of the night. Far overhead the sky was a steely black and light from low-flying planes and newly built space stations pierced the sky and struck the ground. As she walked into the light she saw something, a scratching at the edge of shadow that was immediately dismissed as a figment of a frightened mind running on adrenaline. She was scared and continued to walk. The scratching at the edge of shadow emerged, a man in a grey coat wearing a black Stetson. There was nothing unusual about this man, his average features allowed him to blend into the crowd and follow the woman in absolute anonymity. As the man walked, he felt a stab of pity for the poor woman; she had no idea what was coming for her, she probably knew she would die but how remained a mystery. If this man had his way, she would be told and she would be given the peace of absolute certainty. These feelings, like the scratching seen by the woman, were immediately dismissed. For this man, to live is to kill and to not be able to kill is to die. Her legs grew weary and she almost collapsed to the street with fatigue. Above her head blazing neon sign and hologram emerged like an angel descending and pointed to a region not far from her. A hotel, a haven, a dirty and sleazy beacon of hope in a city of bright lights where the fear followed and rode on her shoulder. She decided to go there, her strength renewed as if she were reborn; the hotel would be her salvation. The hotel had splintered wooden floors and the wallpaper was peeling off in thick clumps. Motes of dust flew at her, so small they were, motes of dust like people in God's eye. She walked to the receptionist, a short and stocky man with thinning hair and a pale complexion; even in the cold he was sweating profusely. "I'd like a room please" the woman said, her voice sounded desperate but also had a musical lilt. "$10 for the night" the fat man said in a deep, booming voice. "I'd like a week please" "Cash up front, also a $5 retainer" the man said, smiling as he did so. Like most other denizens of the city, he could smell the fear and knew how to capitalise on it. "Fine but how is my safety guaranteed?" "Me and Mr. Johnson here will keep you safe enough" the man replied. Mr Johnson, apparently, was a silver shotgun with an imposing 3-foot barrel that looked like it fired small grenades. The woman smiled, knowing she was safe for the moment. The man also smiled, knowing that he extorted a small profit tonight. The man entered a small bar where bright pictures of young ladies hung on the dimly lit walls. These ladies, in turn, were holding cameras and taking pictures of the city in the daylight. The man, Parker, wondered how these pictures would look when developed and why these women took those pictures. The bartender walked over to Parker and asked him, "Wanna beer?" "No thank you" Parker replied "I don't think you understand, mister. You must buy a beer or the boys get angry" The boys, it appeared, were a group of muscle-bound and tank-topped men standing by the front door. Parker thought he could win, but didn't want to cause a scene; Parker was a professional, after all. "Beer then" Parker said and the bartender nodded. "Could I ask a question?" "Sure" the bartender replied, apparently revelling in the old cliche of the sympathetic and ever wise bartender. "Those ladies, why are they taking the pictures?" Click here to read the rest of this story (119 more lines)
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