Friday, August 29, 2008

Showcase #92 (8/70)

Starker and his young lady friends had a great time in the resort city of Janus on Jupiter, but a wanted poster killed the mood:
100,000 Credits will be paid for the death of Starker, bounty hunter.
The Brotherhood of Space
"Didn't know the Brotherhood has that long a reach! No staying a little longer for you now! That means you've got to go and go now-- before some clown tries to collect-- and I don't want you two in the line of fire!"

Along the way to taking the girls home, Starker set his flyer on auto pilot and relented to their queries as to why he does it.

"--It all started out long ago-- 17 years ago to be exact-- 17 long years of fighting and catching this criminal scum... Hate them, yes, I guess I do. And with good reason-- a reason they gave me themselves! It started when my father, an asteroid miner made his find-- the thing most miners never find--" It was didanium, and a rich enough vein to insure the pair would never want again. It was also plenty enough to kill for, as a pack of claim-jumpers gunned the miner down in front of his son. The boy would have been next, had "Slops" not wanted kitchen help. "You know my rule-- no live witnesses-- but okay-- a kid can't hurt us!"

As Starker's first lesson in the galley, Slops threw him a beating, just to show who's boss. "That's what my life became-- brutality after brutality. Orders yelled at me-- and if I didn't move fast enough-- a boot or a fist reminded me to hurry!" As his fear gave way to hate, Starker began to watch the pirates in their pursuits, learning their various skills while mourning their many victims. Petty tortures, like Slago practicing knife throws with Starker-- William Tell style-- fostered a steely nerve. Starker continued to act the coward while training in secret: surpassing Slago with the blade, incorporating a variety of fighting styles, weight training, and learning every nook and cranny of their spaceship.

After turning eighteen, Starker beat Slops and tossed him out of the kitchen, claiming it as his own. This show of dominance was respected by the pirates, and besides, Starker turned out to be a better cook. After earning their trust for another two years, Starker enacted his master plan. He disabled all the life boats to prevent escape, then set a trap to snare his first pirate. Gaining a blaster, needle gun and a knife, Starker burst in on a card game between three pirates. "Things have changed in the last hour! I've come for you, Sergio-- you were one of the killers of my father-- You others-- I've got no quarrel with you-- so stay out of this!" The other two creeps weren't about to take Starker's advice, so they died with Sergio. "That's number one, Dad!"

Warning klaxons sounded as the captain became aware of the carnage via his closed circuit cameras. The hunt was now a two sided affair, though Starker was prepared. He knocked out the lights in the engine room, then waited for investigators. "Cyclops! He's one of the five who killed my father!" Starker dropped down from an overhead pipe and silently choked Cyclops to death between his legs. In the dark, Starker knocked out another pirate, then held his confederates at gunpoint before binding them. "If you're quiet, you may still come out of this alive-- but one sound out of you..."

Phase three of Starker's plan entailed releasing paralyzo-gas into the air-conditioning system, taking down most of the crew. That left only the pair watching Starker's progress with the captain. The trio donned sealed suits and split up after the kid. Slago found him first, but missed with a knife throw. Starker pulled the blade from the wall. "Let me show you how to do it, Slago? You do it like this!" Slumped dead on the floor, Slago made three of the five to be revenged against for a father's death. Dondor made four, as he was dead before he realized he'd missed shooting the agile Starker, whose own aim was true. "Only one more-- the Captain!"

Alone, the Captain thought only of escape the life boats couldn't provide. "I knew I shoulda killed you back there on that rock!" Starker made sure the only way out was through him. The Captain wasn't up to the task, managing only to nick Starker's shoulder before perishing by blaster. "That's the last one, dad... You can rest easy now!"

"Two days later, I herded the rest of the pirates, still groggy from the paralyzo-gas into the nearest space security patrol station... and as the stunned security police gaped in astonishment... 'There's seven D.O.A. still in the ship outside in your airlock.'"

"And that's how I became the richest bounty hunter around, because the rewards on that pirate crew totaled over two million credits. It also brought me to the attention of the Brotherhood of Space-- that and the years after have made me quite a thorn in their side!"

Starker finally dropped off the girls, laying over briefly to spend some time with the father that served him well in his investments. As he departed, he was blessed. "Good luck, Starker, and Godspeed!"

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