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Black Stetson (standard:science fiction, 2002 words)
Author: Nathan K. VuAdded: Sep 21 2002Views/Reads: 2141/1391Story 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?" 



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