Dead or Alive
* Chapter 1 *
Cold and lonely; these are the only words that can even begin to describe that night. A young boy of only ten years sat on the bare floor of the empty apartment. All was completely silent with the exception of the soft whimper of the boy as he cried. The tears came from the depths of his heart. This boy had experienced one of the most devastating losses a human being possibly can; the death of his father. To make matters much worse, his father did not die of natural causes; he was brutally murdered. Nothing was ever found out about the killer. His mother having died four years earlier, this boy, Barom, was left an orphan.
Barom sat, motionless in the cold apartment, completely oblivious of all things occurring around him. Minutes seemed like hours and hours seemed like days. Time dragged on like the weathering of rocks into sand. Most passersby did not have hearing sensitive enough to detect Barom’s soft whimper. All but one man passed Barom by. As soon as he heard the near-silent crying, he set out to discover its source. The man walked down a dim, clammy alley. Once fully immersed in the alley, he realized that there were three doors on either side of him. As he slinked down the alley, he listened for the sound. It grew slightly louder as he approached the second door on his right. He felt for the knob and turned it slowly. The door cracked slightly and a ray of light seeped through. He gently pushed the door further. Now there was a space between the door and its frame just wide enough for him to squeeze through into the small apartment. It appeared to be made up of a single room for relaxation and one small bathroom. One thing caught his attention. It was the faint silhouette of a boy. He moved toward him carefully not to frighten him.
“Why is a fine looking boy like yourself crying?” asked the man. Barom would not usually speak to people whom he had never before spoken, but having not seen anyone for almost a day, he was anxious to relieve himself of some of his grief. When Barom was through with his short, but tear-jerking story, the man said, ”I am terribly sorry to hear that such a horrible thing has happened to you.” Barom began to pay closer attention to what the man was saying.
“If you ask me, I think these things are meant to make us stronger. You look quite strong already.” Then he said the words that would forever change Barom’s life, “I am certain you are fit to be a bounty hunter.” On that day, Barom slipped out of the knowledge of mankind and would not become known by people again for some time.
* Chapter 2 *
The damage had been done. Nothing could heal that wound; nothing could fill that gaping hole. Barom found that if he had to live with this, it would be in his best interest to find a way to use it to his advantage, and that is exactly what he did. In fact, he has been doing that for almost thirty years. Barom picked up the skill of bounty hunting with unbelievable ease. It seems that the man was right about Barom. It is now his sole profession.
Most people would find themselves with an uneasy conscience, knowing that, for a living, they brought to an end, the lives of others. For Barom, this sense was dulled by the premature loss of his father. Life was of no real value to him, not his nor anyone else’s. The only value possessed by anyone else’s life was the reward for their apprehension. Barom has been living like this for so long, but he is quickly approaching the age of forty and is questioning his lifestyle. His very meaning in life is threatened.
He awoke just like he would on any other day. He stepped into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. His own face stared back at him. “Where have all the years gone?” Barom whispered, “I can hardly recognize myself. This line of work is tiring. I don’t know if I am cut out for it any longer.” Barom’s face showed the wear of many break-neck chases and he had countless scars located all over his body. He splashed some water on his face and got dressed. The first stop he had to make was a visit to Hassan, the closest thing he has to a friend and more importantly, his favorite weapon dealer. Upon entering the shop, Hassan greeted him with excitement. He had just received the F160 plasma pistol Barom had recently ordered and a new batch of wanted posters from the local authorities.
“It’s great to see you. I have excellent news,” said Hassan. “The pistol you ordered has finally arrived from Tabcon!” “That is good news Hassan,” said Barom. “Oh, I almost forgot, I got a brand new batch of wanted posters and thought you might want to take a look at them. I saved the highest paying ones for my number one customer,” continued Hassan. “Thank you, I’ll be sure to thumb through them right away. You have great timing, I am looking for work at the moment,” remarked Barom. While looking through the thin stack of papers, Barom began to get worried. These reward amounts were somewhat lower than he had hoped for. Toward the bottom of the stack was one sheet that really caught Barom’s attention. It was a man by the name of Snake. The reward for his capture, dead or alive, was $1,000,000. This was the largest reward he had ever seen. Barom had to get him. This would not be an easy task. Snake was wanted for assassinating three foreign ambassadors at a World Trade Conference and single handedly. It also said that he had a dragon tattooed on his ear. Though he knew it would demand extra caution, Barom was fully confident in his abilities as a hunter.
* Chapter 3 *
Before he could do anything, Barom would have to gather some information on where to find him. His best bet would be Dee. He always hangs out at Louie’s, a local pub and knows about everything before anyone else. Barom was thinking that, chances are, if anyone knew anything about this Snake guy, Dee would be the man. He was thirty minutes away and would waste no time getting there.
The pub was crowded that night, more so than usual, but Dee could still be spotted sitting on his favorite stool at the bar. He came over and sat down beside him. “Hey Dee, long time no see,” said Barom. “Yeah, and I would enjoy it if you could keep it like that,” replied Dee. “I really need some information on someone,” said Barom. “ Must I remind you of what happened the last time I gave you information. I almost lost my head to a couple of gunrunners!” spat Dee. “If you don’t give me the information I want, I’ll succeed where they failed.” Said Barom, with a grin on his face. “Fine, but this is the last time I’m helping you. What do you want to know?” asked Dee. Barom continued, “What have you heard about a guy named Snake?” With a curious look on his face, Dee replied, “All I know about him is that he is extremely powerful and no one dares to go anywhere near him. It is said that he is hiding somewhere outside of the city. If I were you I would not mess with this guy.” “I can take care of myself Dee,” Barom replied as he pushed back from the bar. “Keep your head down for a while,” Barom called over his shoulder as he walked out.
* Chapter 4 *
Barom was not exactly thrilled about having to go to the wastelands outside of the city, but he knew it was necessary in order to confront Snake. It was nearly a day’s ride to get to the wastelands, so Barom had to ride his motorcycle. He would rest up and then set out the next morning. He packed his gear that night and suited up for the challenge ahead of him.
By morning, Barom was well rested and ready to take on Snake, no matter how rigorous the confrontation would be. He leapt onto his bike and sped toward the edge of the city. After an uneventful drive, Barom finally reached the horrible place called the outskirts. It was barren, desolate. He could see why Snake would come here. No one would bother to come out here to look for him, much less, think he is stupid enough to go here of his own free will. Barom drove slowly, so he would not be heard. He had to find the place where Snake was hiding. He thought he would never find it, but Lady Luck showed him favor. In the distance, there could be seen, what appeared to be an outcropping of rock, the perfect shelter. Barom stopped his bike about a mile away and walked for the rest of his journey so that he would be harder to spot.
As Barom slowly approached the natural shelter, he began to hear a slight hum. It grew louder as he neared. He knew he had found his prey. Even though he used his greatest stealth he was still detected. “I could smell you coming,” said Snake at a whisper. “You know why I am here Snake,” said Barom boldly. “You have come to kill me, have you not?” hissed Snake. “Since we understand each other, let us get this over with,” replied Barom. Sword drawn, Barom advanced on his prey. Snake, not willing to give up easily, dodged Barom’s initial thrust and lashed out with his dagger, catching Barom’s shoulder. His arm drenched in blood, Barom back off to regroup. “Before we continue, I would like to know your name,” requested Snake. “I don’t see any harm in that,” replied Barom. “The name is Barom, Barom Stricker.” “I thought you looked familiar, your father was a push over.” At that moment Barom became engulfed with rage. “You killed my father!?” screamed Barom. “Why, what did he do to you!?” Snake answered, “Your father found out that I was the man behind the plan to disrupt world trade agreements. You see, I was left with no choice.” Barom had heard all he wanted to hear. Allowing his anger to overcome him, he rushed toward Snake. Snake took advantage of his emotions and easily brushed him aside, knocking him to the ground. Barom, recovering from the stunning blow, mustered up all of his remaining strength and thrust his sword up into the air just as Snake leapt toward him, ready to deal the final blow. Snake took the sword squarely in the gut impaling himself. Barom pushed him off and rose to his knees, staring down into the eyes of his vanquished foe. “Any last words before you die?” asked Barom. “I’ll tell your father you said hi,” chuckled Snake as he choked on his own blood. Barom cut off Snake’s tattooed ear as proof of the kill and left the body for the authorities to find. As Barom found his way back to his bike he thought to himself that the million-dollar reward was not as sweet as knowing he had finally avenged his father’s death.