The Hunt by Matt Lao (Page 6)

            “For all we know I could be older than you!” exclaimed Demora.

“You certainly don’t look the part.”

“It isn’t exactly easy to tell your age from your looks.” Talon was locked in a battle of wits with his own partner. Apparently, the gunslinger had already run out of ammunition.

“Alright. You’re giving me a headache,” grumbled Talon.

“I thought you couldn’t get headaches.”

“Leave it to an electric magician to find a way.” Talon turned his gaze to Vert’s skeletal remains. “Let’s throw this mess on the Endurance before our friend here wakes up again. And put him in the cargo hold; I don’t want ashes on the leather.” By the time the commotion was over, Earth’s moon had finally reached a crescendo. The insurmountable stars still poked holes at the edge of the universe, unafraid and unmoved by Lady Demora’s mighty display.

The steady whine of the ship played as song, as background static. Demora held control of the Endurance; Talon had figured that she preferred flying over autopilot. The ship’s cabin was quite spacious, despite its deceptively minimalistic hull design. Inside the cabin, there was enough space for mirrored bench seats, and provided enough room for a cargo section. The pilot’s seat sported dual cup-holding action. Twin antimatter engines (which Talon had “borrowed” from the Vanguard research team) were nestled and hidden within the ship’s V-wings. In the distance, Dune Harrow had become nothing more than a dot, a small mark in the endless carpet of dust and sand.

To the naked eye, the Endurance would be rendered invisible in the air of the desert night. Only when the knife-like ship cut through the clouds would one be able to spot Talon’s crown jewel. Being akin to it himself, Talon sometimes wondered what the Endurance thought as it soared. The gunslinger pondered that, perhaps to his ship, there is nothing but the climb in this world. Nothing but the steady ascent. A race set in directionless space, spiraling forever into infinity. Talon had no desire to reach the finish line.

After surrendering the controls to the Endurance, Demora finally slouched into her seat. From her pocket, the storm-caller revealed something that resembled an identification card. The card wasn’t pristine or shiny. The lamination was torn and frayed. The ID’s details were grayed and worn. Only two aspects of the card had been spared by time’s wrath: the name, “ISHTAR COLLECTIVE”, and the face of a young woman with crimson red lips, violet hair, and skin as white as snow. Talon couldn’t help but feel empathy for the woman in the photo. While remaining collapsed in the chair, Demora broke the silence.

“Why a gun?”

“Pardon?” Talon had asked, completely dumbfounded.

“Why do you choose to empower your firearm? We’re fountains of energy. We have the strength of nature at our fingertips. And yet, you renegades always trust your weapons with your own power. Because of this, you’re not nearly as devastating as other Guardians. Despite the inherent weakness, you persist.” Talon closed his optics.

“It’s not about trust,” the gunslinger quickly clarified. “I know that us outlaws aren’t nearly as flashy or powerful like the rest of you. But we don’t care about ‘unraveling the mysteries of the universe’, and most of us don’t have the discipline or self-control to be in a room with other people without pickpocketing half of them. We just want to survive.”

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