"You need something dangerous done? Call Hunter . . . If you have the cash, she has the flash!
The third book in the Hunter Caine series.
[excerpt from Hunter Caine: Tomb of Souls]
I’m Hunter Caine. I’m a soldier of fortune—some might call me a mercenary—who does her level best not to get herself killed. I take all kinds of jobs: treasure hunting, protectin’ folks, savin’ folks, even some stone-cold killing if the target makes some sense. On this occasion, I was doing a little bodyguarding for a group going about a treasure hunt. They were museum types, looking to loot some native cave on Planet #4 to show it off to rich folks back in Corporate Space.
We were looking for some damn thing called the Soul Crystal. It was nothin’ but a planet #4 legend, some said. But my employers were damn sure it wasn’t no such thing. Truth was, that others had gone huntin’ for it, and lots of folks disappeared doing such. I was beginning to reckon we were in for a similar fate. We’d been on the trail for days, weaving in and out of mountain passes, and the stunted forests that covered the planet, following some map they’d brought from their Archives back in Chi-town on Earth.
It was late. I was bone tired and pissed off at the never-ending trek we seemed to be on when I rolled up my blue-dreads on the back of my head, crawled into my fart sack, and lay my noggin’ down on my pistol rig. At that point, it was easy to divine why previous hunters had disappeared without a trace.
The fact is . . . it should have been obvious when I signed up for the gig with that bunch o’ well-meanin’ museum folks weeks ago, back in Perdition. Ignoring the fact that the Soul Crystal was probably nothing more than myth, a sort of intergalactic fountain of youth that attracted every treasure hunter in the Frontier, the imbecilic plan our particular mission had undertaken was on display for anyone who wanted to see, probably like every ill-conceived mission before it. It goes something like this: when do-gooders, like these fools from the Chicago Museum of Intergalactic Cultures decide to go skipping around the cluster on some damn treasure hunting scheme, they invariably run afoul of the two cardinal rules of grave robbing, those being, number one: be fast, and number two: don’t get seen.
I suppose I shouldn’t be so ornery about the whole thing. At least the idiots were predictable, and I, truth-be-told, shoulda known better. This team of wannabe tomb defilers was determined to make me crazy.
They made ineptitude their calling card.
For weeks, we’d spent our time making sure we flushed those two rules so far down the damned shitter, we’d forgotten all about them: the long-ass trip here, stocking up on supplies for days and days, hiring porters and guides, the never-ending trek across the waste, the interminable, mealy-mouthed bullshit dealt out by the irascible, if absolutely steaming hot Curator, Doctor Polly fucking Evans.
I was fit to be tied.
By the time we left Rehvik’s Peak, the only somewhat viable settlement on the backside of Planet #4, everyone on the surface knew what we were doing and where we were going.
All that to say that when our perimeter siren squealed a damned banshee’s warning into the silent desert night, I was on edge and ready for a fight. That is if I hadn’t just fallen asleep and started a rather appealing dream about redheads, strawberries, and just a smidgen-little dose of White Scog.
Startled from my zees, I threw off my sleeping cover, strapped my pistol rig on my hip, and grabbed my Sharps Particle Carbine. I considered grabbing my protective vest, but there was no time. I rushed outside the portable shelter into the darkness.
Well and good, finally—a little excitement!
I was quite prepared to cause some trouble.