District 37 was a good place to be forgotten or lost. It was also a good place to kill someone, or be killed. The United Nations had divided the entire globe into Districts by 2037, China being the last to come over unwillingly to the global government model. With the years that followed, the world became one giant slab of buildings and efficiency. No matter where you went, it was all about everything being the same. At least, that was the theory. But of course it didn’t turn out that way.
Blocks, huge compartmentalized living structures, covered the entirety of Earth’s surface. Elevators gave the ability to travel up and down between Levels, and monorails took you from District to District. It was crude, and with time, the sweetest commodity was sunlight. The higher up you lived, closer to the sun’s rays, the more expensive the cost of living got. This lead to a clear cut segregation between the lower and middle classes, with the lower classes living in the lowest Levels of the Blocks. Closest to Earth, but furthest from light.
Kat Folland was a bounty hunter, a necessary evil to take care of the jobs The Order, the United Nations' law enforcers, couldn't fulfill. She worked for a bounty agency located in District 40. The pay per job was good, but the hours were staggered. You never knew when you're government-issued mobile device was going to vibrate and offer you a new Lead (as they preferred to call them). You had precious time to respond to the offer by tapping one of the Accept or Decline buttons. If you proved your worth to the agency, your contact info was promoted to a circle of contacts who got the offer messages thirty seconds earlier. It paid to be good.
And Kat had been one of the best.
But she was getting old. She could feel the pain in each of her joints, and it only worsened with each passing day. Being a bounty hunter had wreaked havoc on her body through the years, and she knew she couldn't keep at it much longer. Her best hope was to get out before she got herself killed trying to apprehend or kill a Lead.
The past six months she had been simply tapping Accept every time a new offer came in, not even reading the details. She was trying to squeeze in as many jobs as she could before her body really disagreed with her. She was saving up as much of the money she made for her retirement.
She figured she only had another month or two before she walked out for good.
Her mobile vibrated in her long overcoat, and she pulled it out after quickly verifying her fingerprint tapped Accept. While she waited to see if she was rewarded the Lead, she looked at a picture and read a short bio about the fugitive.
His name was Rancor Wilkes, he was an Off-Worlder, and half human. He lived in District 37, the most crime-ridden District on Earth. He was wanted for a series of rapes, sexual assaults and murders. He was preying on women, and just when The Order had tracked him down and brought him in, he escaped and lost himself in the fog of District 37. The Order stayed out of District 37, anyone with a badge was sure to die within seconds of crossing over into its borders.
She rubbed her hands across the base of her neck, and tilted her head, but the pain in her neck barely let up. She pulled some illegal painkillers from her pocket and quickly swallowed them with a dry mouth. She sighed and wondered if maybe this wasn’t the job for her to be getting. It sounded an awful lot like suicide.
Her mobile vibrated. A message appeared and read, “You have been rewarded the Lead. Good hunting.”
She climbed aboard the monorail in District 24, on Level 16. She was headed northeast to District 37, where she’d then plummet to Level 1. Rancor was located in the worst neighborhood in the world. District 37, Level 1. He would be right at home, and she’d be in a world of hurt if she didn’t get in and out as fast as possible. The job was paying well enough, but if she brought him back alive she could make triple the price and bow out of the business once the credits came through into her account. She knew The Order wouldn’t come to pick him up in District 37, so she’d have to smuggle him out. It would be easier smuggling him out alive, than dragging his lifeless body out. If she was caught dragging a dead body to another District, it would be a dead giveaway that she was a bounty hunter and her cover would be blown. She’d be dead and someone else would collect the bounty under the Citizen’s Arrest Statute.
The monorail came to a halt, and she stepped off into District 37. She found an Elevator and began her dissent. She was alone on the Elevator, and she pulled her mobile out to refresh her memory on the various spots he had been known to inhabit. The list mostly comprised of places he could find a hookup and potential victim. A couple of nightclubs called Interstellar Fantasy and Hyperdrive. Three brothels, four nude clubs, and a diner called Cup O’ Milky Way. She rolled her eyes at the last. The Elevator doors opened and she almost stepped out without looking, but a couple fell inside and brushed up against her. She quickly pocketed the government-issued mobile and saw she was only on Level 4. She’d have to ride it out with the lovebirds. She stayed close to the door, and didn’t look at them. She listened to them as a means to make sure they were not going to try and mug her.
“Hey, I don’t feel so good,” the Girl said.
“You’re alright, baby,” the Man said in a gruff voice, “I got something you can swallow when we get back to my place. It’ll clear you right up, and send you flying.”
“I don’t know, I feel dizzy,” the Girl said, “Are we falling?”
“Yes! We’re falling! Why is the Elevator falling?” The Girl panicked and pushed Kat out of her way and she pressed the button to stop the Elevator. “There!” She breathed a sigh of relief, after they all stammered about.
The Man caught Kat by the arm, who nearly through a fist in his face for touching her. But she looked up and made eye contact with him for the first time. It was Rancor Wilkes.
“Sorry about that,” Rancor said, “My date’s had a little bit to drink.”
Kat’s mind quickly ran the details of his modus operandi, and recalled that it was his custom to find someone he liked. Supply them with drinks, including a drug called Morphezipine which had been banned by the United Nations. It was a drug designed to be an upgrade to Morphine and something cancer patients could use to null the pain. The side effects were short term dementia, heightened sense of smell and often led to states of euphoria. It became a staple date rape drug, since the effects would help to confuse the victim and cloud their testimony with irrelevant and surreal details. Often victims would claim to have been raped by the devil himself, and would believe that they were chosen to bear the anti-Christ.
This young girl was apparently on her way to being one of Rancor’s next victims.
“It’s no problem,” Kat said, picking herself up, and gently removing his hand from her elbow. “Thanks. I can remember being that age.”
“Yeah?” He said.
“That was a long time ago,” Kat said, as she loosened the knot of her scarf around her neck. She was hoping the young girl wouldn’t give her any trouble.
“I hear that,” Rancor said, “I tell you what, she and I will get off at the next Level and take the stairs.”
“OK, thanks.” Kat said.
Rancor walked up to the girl and placed his hands on her arms, in comfort, and told spoke in her ear. “I tell you what, baby, let’s get off on the next floor and take the stairs. That, OK, baby? Baby?”
While Rancor waited for her response, Kat lifted the scarf over her head and wrapped the ends around her wrists. She counted to three and leapt at Rancor, raised the scarf over his head and brought it down tight against his neck and pulled back hard. She kicked the back of one of his knees and he collapsed to his knees. She knelt down and rammed her right knee into his spine. She pushed inward with her knee and pulled back with her arms, tightening the grip of the scarf around his neck. She held an impressive stance between him and the floor of the Elevator. Her back arched perfectly, one knee into the floor and another into his back. Her two arms pulled tightly against her torso, the pointing far behind her back. It was a stance she’d taken many times through the years, and it used to be like nothing more than doing a yoga pose. But now, it hurt. The resistance and number of victims had taken its toll. She could feel the pain in her left knee, as it dug into the floor. She could feel that her arms weren’t as strong as they used to be. Her lower back was slowly hurting worse and worse, a chronic pain that would never go away, even with the drugs. She started to breathe heavy, and knew she couldn’t hold it as long as she needed to knock him out. She was going to need help.
Kat looked up at the girl. The girl was still looking on the scene in shook. She had been completely blindsided by the turn of events, and Kat knew this must be hard for her to swallow. She was going to have to appeal to the girl’s human side. But before she could say anything, the girl raised an eyebrow and smirked.
“Well, alright, I’ll take it,” she said and then pulled out a knife and lunged into Rancor. She was stabbing him over and over in his stomach.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Kat began to yell at her, but nothing would phase the girl. “STOP. STOP.”
The knife kept going in and out, in and out. Kat could hear Rancor’s coughs and gasps for air, and she knew she was going to lose him. She removed her right knee from his back, and the three of them shifted a little. The weight all bearing down on Kat, and she felt a sharp pain shoot up her back. She screamed as she pulled her foot out from underneath the weight and kicked the girl off of Rancor. She couldn’t believe herself, she was trying to save him.
Her mobile fell out of her pocket from all the commotion and rattled against the floor. The girl saw it and looked up at her, “Are you a bounty hunter?” She asked Kat.
“Yes,” Kat said, gasping for air herself. She pushed Rancor off of her and slid him across the floor with her foot. She pushed herself into a corner of the Elevator and tried to catch her breath.
“Are you going to kill him?” The girl asked.
“No,” Kat said in between breaths, “I’m taking him back alive.”
“That won’t do,” the girl said, “Sorry.” She laid her knife on the floor and quickly pulled a pistol from within her purse.
Kat reached for her gun inside her jacket, but the holster was empty. She felt the pain in her chest before she heard the shot. It hit her just to the right of her heart. She looked down at the entry wound and saw the first of the blood pour out of her shirt. She looked up and saw her gun laying in the opposite corner of the Elevator. It had apparently fallen out during the scuffle.
The girl stood up and walked over to Rancor. She picked him up by his blood-soaked shirt and laid him against the wall. She stood over him, an opposing force with her gun in hand. Kat and Rancor had both completely misjudged the young girl.
“Do you know who I am?” The girl asked Rancor. He spit up blood, but didn’t answer. She bent over and slapped him with her gun across the face. More blood splattered. “Do you know who I am?” He shook his head. “Do you know Misty Landhaus?” She asked, but again he didn’t respond. His eyes were starting to shut and he looked like he didn’t have much time left. She slapped him with her gun again, “Do you know Misty Landhaus?” He spit up a lot of blood, recovered and shook his head. She leaned over and met him face-to-face, “Misty Landhaus was my baby sister. You killed Misty Landhaus. You killed baby sister. And now, look at you. Look at me. You’re dead. I killed you Rancor Wilkes. I killed you hard. And no one will miss you.”
The girl stood up straight and waited. She stood there and watched as every last ounce of Rancor Wilkes’ life drained from him. Kat admired the girl’s strength. She had hunted the hunter, for justice, and won. After she confirmed he was dead, she came back to Kat and sat next to her.
“You see what I had to do,” she said, “Sorry. Here.” The girl handed her two pills. “They’re Morphezipine, at least you can go out with a bang and no pain. It’s the least I can do. It’s all I can do, really.”
Kat nodded, but couldn’t raise a hand. The girl placed one pill in her mouth and she swallowed it dry. She put the other in her mouth, and she choked a little swallowing it, but got it down. Almost immediately she felt tinkling in her body where pain had once been. It was as if she could feel the medicine going to work on her body, one piece at a time. Where there was pain, tinkling slowly began to creep up, and the pain began to vanquish. She took a deep breath and within minutes her entire body was free of pain.
“I’m cold,” Kat said out loud, when she meant to think it.
“That’s death,” the girl said. She moved in closer to Kat and wrapped one arm her back, pulling her up against her and the other around her front which completed the embrace.
Kat’s head felt heavy and she rested it on the girl’s shoulder. “Thanks.”