DISCLAIMER – I do not own any Sonic the Hedgehog characters, settings, etcetera (anything copyrightedly relating to SEGA's works). Fang the Sniper / Nack the Weasel is property of SEGA, although some aspects of this story are my own work. Alterations to the Sonic universe in this story are not to be considered canon. Do not steal (forge in your or another person's name) or sell this story in any manner. I have a good lawyer. You may, however, place this on your website without permission. Please ask permission before using aspects of this story in yours. If sections of it look similar to another, please inform me. I'm no thief myself. Thank you, and enjoy.
By Rusty Dillingham
--Chapter One – The Hunter--
It's rather humorous, really.
I'm flat broke. I haven't eaten for at most two-and-a-half days. I need to relieve myself. I'll bet some deadbeat wannabe has followed my trail to try and take what's mine again. I have a headache and I think I'm getting a sore throat. The Queen is almost out of fuel. I've got a mosquito bite on my arm that's making me consider cutting it off. And this idiot won't come out from behind that damn bush.
Oh, and it's raining too.
I guess it isn't very funny at all, actually.
His leather-gloved, four-fingered hand moved up and rotated a screw on the rifle's scope, zooming in further on the bush.
Hurry up, damn it. I've got better things to do than sit here and wait for a no-class redneck with a horrible nickname.
Nothing stirred. The heavy rain fell across the brim of his hat, sending a waterfall across the portion of his face that wasn't sticking itself into the scope.
He had been situated there on the ground for at least fifteen minutes, with the small sniper rifle up to shoulder level, pointing its deadly tip downwards towards the random assortment of shrubbery where the target was. Having been tracking the target for what felt like a month but had actually been a few days, frustration began to peek out of its very compressed shelter inside him, and he felt his blood begin to boil. How long does it take for a guy to use a bush?
Behind him, the Marvelous Queen sat patiently, as though waiting for him to finish up with his business so it could take to the skies where it belonged. He had had to park the sleek, motorcycle-remniscent airbike a good ways back as to not let the target realize he was being followed, so he knew he couldn't miss when he would have to take the shot. If he did somehow get a case of quirky hands and the shot went wild, he'd have to run as to not lose the target.
And he was not a good runner.
The hard rain continued to pound against him, the bush, the Queen, everything. As he'd been lying on his stomach for the fifteen minutes he'd been there, his legs, feet, and part of his right arm that cradled the rifle's grip had all fallen asleep on him, but he wouldn't let a little thing like discomfort get this target away from him. At least he was alone – All he needed was for some jerkass to throw off his aim and blow things all out of the water for him. Fifteen thousand dollars down the toilet because of one mistake. Fifteen thousand dollars would be resting on one mistake's shoulders.
Swallowing, his grip on the end of the short rifle increased in tension, perhaps out of nervousness, but he had faith in his own abilities. He never missed. When he did miss, the shot hit some other vital organ. But this was just ridiculous. The target was on the other side of that bush, likely having the pleasure of relieving themselves, while he had to lay here on his belly, impatient, uncomfortable, and frustrated to no end. He could easily switch the rifle's firing mechanism to Auto and unleash a barrage of blasts at the stupid bush, but that would have been sloppy. He didn't do things sloppily. That was the work of an unprofessional, or an imbecilic newbie to the game. He wasn't unprofessional, nor was he new to the Hunt.
He sniffed quietly. It was likely the rain – He'd been laying there for a quarter of an hour, wearing nothing but his outback hat, his gloves, his gunbelt, and the leather, steel-calved boots that went up to his knees. The miserable weather was more or less the cause of his worsening sore throat, and now he was beginning to feel the early-stage effects of a common cold. For his part, he didn't care, though; he would bag the target before it got bad and began to affect his aim.
His black eye surveyed the bush through the scope further. This was taking too long. His hand again reached up and flicked a tiny switch on the scope's dark hull, activating the heat sensory technology instilled within it. It didn't help much, though – The bush was thick enough to the point where any sign of the target was lost amongst all the brush. Switching the scope back to its normal operation, he sighed slightly, sending a wash of icy mist into the atmosphere.
Wanted alive – Hemorrhoid the Hippopotamus, on fourteen instances of lewd behavior, two instances of identity theft, four on credit card fraud, countless on forgery. With a name like Hemorrhoid, I think I'd steal somebody else's name, too. I guess his stupidity is worth fifteen thousand dollars, though. Strangely large number for a piece of garbage like that – I guess someone is really unhappy with this guy.
Smirking at the thought – and then squinting in disgust at the realization of why the target likely had the name – he loosened his right hand's grip from the rifle's handle slightly, stretching his right hand's fingers for at least a little added comfort; to try and get the blood flowing further. The very last thing he needed was for his finger to fall asleep as soon as the target walked into the open.
He allowed himself to glance up towards the sky to see if the weather would be letting up anytime soon – But thick, gray clouds covered the normally friendly blue hue, showers of rain draping over the horizon every which way he looked. That, coupled with the massive downpour occurring right over him, didn't help things in any way for him. What a miserable day to be out on the job, especially while chasing some worm like "Hemorrhoid the Hippo." Just the realization made him cringe.
How did it come to this?
The pitiful nature of chasing somebody like the fool just beyond his crosshairs didn't pass his notice. With people like Sonic the Hedgehog out there, clinging to a self-satisfying sense of justice, crime was reaching a disturbing low. It made his job that much harder. He'd never have otherwise resorted to going after someone like this, if things were still the way they should have been. He didn't necessarily condone crime, but it did technically pay the bills for him when it was high.
He enjoyed the Hunt, but lately, it could make him sick with disgust and shame. Now was one of those times.
He tilted his violet head slightly to make sure the safety was indeed off on the rifle – again out of concern and precaution. Better safe than sorry, but the hippo likely wasn't packing means of self-defense anyway. He himself wouldn't be in danger, but the target would. That much was certain. All the target would be able to do would be to simply try and bolt, but he had the sneaking suspicion that the hippo wasn't exactly level with Sonic the Hedgehog, in terms of running speed. That was okay – neither was he.
The shrubbery bristled.
Everything around him froze as his eye again dropped to the scope. His grip on the rifle tightened; his muscles iced.
Again, the bush rustled, and out from behind it waddled a plodding blue hippo with a red vest and boots who looked to be in a great deal of pain. The first noticeable thing was that he wasn't exactly large like he had expected, albeit being a fat one, but he sure looked annoyed with something. His face was scrunched, but despite the obvious pain he was going through, he was still moving, and away from the bush – away from the rifle.
The scope's crosshairs locked right onto the hippo's fat right leg. His finger slowly gripped the trigger, and just when the leg was stationary for a moment during the walk, the finger tensed.
The blast from the small, midnight blue sniper rifle was a loud one, but before the hippo could even hear it, a flash lit up the grassy, rocky scene amidst the powerful rain, and a single ion bolt shot right into the big leg like a bolt of lightning. Hemorrhoid gasped and nearly toppled. The shot had been taken with expert precision, and the ion blast had penetrated the leg cleanly despite all the fat the hippo was carrying in it like he was retaining water.
"Son of a f--" Before the hippopotamus could finish cursing, another shot sounded off into the storm, and with the force of a missile, the ion blast tore into his left foot, sending pieces of the red boot flying. The hippo shrieked at the added pain he bore, and like a big wad of dough, he began plodding forth at the highest rate of speed he could run at – Which wasn't very fast at all. Still, it meant trouble, but not for him.
There he goes. The crosshairs kept on the target as the hippo took off. That was enough damage – He'd slowed the big criminal down enough to the point where he could catch him. Too bad the guy was only wanted alive; shooting him dead would have made things much easier. In any case, he had a job to do. And he had to do it now.
Struggling up from the wet grass, rifle in hand, Fang the Sniper went hunting.
Making a quick leap off the small cliff-like rising he'd been situated on, the bounty hunter bolted on after the hippo, immediately feeling his own dose of pain course throughout his legs amidst the steel-calved brace-boots he wore. Ignoring the problems, he blasted forth to catch up with the plodding crook – who, at the moment, was doing a substantial job of keeping the distance. Fang's eyes sharpened, and he raised the rifle as he ran. "GET DOWN!"
The target didn't slow in the least.
Figures, Fang thought. They always had to make things harder. Slowing to make sure his aim was true, he pulled the trigger again, the shot sounding off into the rain loudly.
The ion bolt smashed into the grass next to the target's feet. Startled, the hippo again shrieked and jumped awkwardly as he ran, but this tactic of Fang's didn't hold up the big guy very much. Frickin' hell.
The hippo sought to put more distance on the tenacious bounty hunter by racing around a small, rocky bend, but it didn't work out very well. Fang tore around the little corner like some Olympic runner on record sprint. He was gaining, and fast.
The chase raced on into a more confined section of the zone. Hemorrhoid lumbered around a set of oaks, through more of that shrubbery he loved to use so much, across weak streams of water present from the rainfall. Fang kept on persistently, frequently racing through second-hand shortcuts to try and keep the distance between the two of them from closing up. What annoyed him was that Hemorrhoid the Hippopotamus should have been a disturbingly easy catch – But Fang bargained with himself that nothing in life came easy, especially in his case.
Still, he was frustrated with the big tub of lard for even considering running. The target would never get away from this bounty hunter, and that should have been plainly obvious.
The hippo kept onwards through the rainy, foresty patch of the area. Across a larger stream he burrowed, struggling through the water while panting heavily. Fang was there in seconds, and without hesitation, the bounty hunter raised the small rifle again, this time pointing the deadly mechanism directly towards the criminal's big, obvious head. "I said, stop!"
It wouldn't work. The hippo still wouldn't stop his tread through the water, but he did seem to acknowledge Fang's ever-close presence. This much was obvious by the way his fat hand reached into his vest and fished out a compact, rock-sized contraption.
Goddamnit, he's packing--
The grenade flew through the air in a wide arc, and the hippo was already on the move to get further across the river. As much as Fang would have enjoyed killing the bastard on the spot for even trying to put up a fight, he wouldn't get any money if the guy was dead. How immovably frustrating, but at the moment, he had more important things to worry about.
He hopped slightly into the air and shifted his weight to the side as hard as he could. Onto the ground his lengthy, prehensile tail landed, and it sent the bounty hunter flipping off to the right in one quick motion. The grenade exploded less than a second after he'd taken off, sending trees, rocks, and dirt flying in every possible direction, coupled with an enormous boom and shockwave that blasted the victims even further. It was the shockwave that did the most damage to Fang, but all it did was knock his trajectory off-course. The bounty hunter landed on his shoulder, the grass not helping soften the impact much.
As he rose, it took all of his inner strength, but Fang somehow resisted the urge to blast the hippo's head off there and then. He started again to try and catch the clumsy oaf, but if he had any more of those damn things, it wouldn't be as easy as he'd first predicted. He wouldn't be caught off-guard again, though.
By now, the wanted crook was making his way past more oaks. Growing breathless, he checked over his shoulder, but there was no sign of the weasel-wolf pursuing him. Slowing, he came to a stop near a tree and hid behind it, trying to catch his breath as he panted over and over. He hadn't run like this in ages – if ever. Why in the world was he being chased? Were the police after him? Was it the government? Or perhaps the weasel was a GUN agent, intent on capturing him and using him as a lab experiment. Such a thought made him quiver, and for a moment, he felt a little more on edge. But he could slow the persistent little bugger down some.
An audible snap coursed through his ears. The hippo's eyes raced to the side, stifling a gasp, and he tried to focus on where the sound had come from as he struggled to control his breathing.
Fang knelt low to the muddy, wet ground, a shadow in the rain and the blue mist it brought about. Goddamn branch--couldn't take a step around here without walking on one of them and waking up all of Creation. Recreational hunting in this place must have been hell. He held the rifle up and put his eye into the scope, scanning the distance as he activated the heat sensory mechanism once again.
Despite a few signals, likely coming from random wildlife, there was no big, obvious bulge of heat that he could see. The predator in Fang snarled vehemently, and he switched the mechanism off. He'd have to do this the hard way. Stepping forth, he slowly made his way further into the set of oak trees where the target had blubbered into, his boots digging into the soft, slushy mud as he moved quietly. He kept the rifle up at shoulder level, keeping its tip pointed toward the ground while sauntering carefully through the oaks.
The hippopotamus took a deep breath and peeked out from behind his hiding place – and there was the bounty hunter, creeping towards his position slowly, his black eyes darting every which way, seeking out his target. The hippo swallowed – an exceptionally difficult task to perform easily at the moment – and examined the damage he'd taken. The blast that had cut into his leg was creating a sickening amount of pain. It had likely struck the bone, but he could deal with the foot injury. However, both were making it pointedly difficult to keep on running like he was. Neither wound seemed to be bleeding, though, so that was a plus. He wasn't exactly sure of why that was the case, but it worked out in his favor. Or did it? In addition to the obvious pain, both wounds also felt as though they were burning with every small movement, causing him to squint in agony.
His fat hand reached up into his vest, and he gripped another of the three grenades he carried with him at all times. The police had been after him before, but not like this. In any case, he carried them along to deter any pursuers – but this fellow chasing him, the small, three-foot violet wolf, or coyote, whatever the chaser happened to be, he'd already survived one grenade blast. Humph – No one could survive two. No one. The hippo would make sure of it.
The soft slush of a boot into mud was audible now. Hemorrhoid took another deep breath, and pulled the grenade's pin. He hurriedly thrust it behind him, into the rain behind the oak tree, making sure to toss it far enough so it wouldn't be of much harm to him and the oak he hid behind. Immediately after doing so, the clear sound of multiple, frenzied slushes was heard, and he couldn't help but give a quaint little smirk about himself.
With a ferocious boom, the grenade took out more oaks, sending bark and mud everywhere, effectively dosing the patch of forest in brittle. Now was the time for him to get out of here, and he wouldn't let himself look over his shoulder this time. Hemorrhoid took off from behind the tree, waddling forward into the drizzle.
Narrowing his eyes, Fang glared down at the crater the grenade had formed upon detonation from his position on a thick tree branch. The target was really asking for it, and the bounty hunter was growing enormously irritated with the damned hippo moron for his actions. He'd have to make sure he really beat some sense into the guy when he caught him – and by God, he was going to catch him. Now that the hippo had made two attempts on his life, Fang wouldn't let the crook get away. Never. Granted, he wouldn't have done so in the first place, but now it was a very concious thought.
His head shot up towards the sound of someone running through mud. Gripping the rifle harder, Fang leapt from the tree branch and continued on after the criminal, his determination rising rapidly.
Hemorrhoid sped through more hordes of shrubbery to try and disorient his pursuer, but as he turned one quick bend, he suddenly felt very woozy and disoriented. Slowing, the crook's face scrunched as the pain started to really get on his belly thanks to all the running he was doing, but before he could start grumbling to himself, he turned slightly and spotted the violet weasel-wolf bounty hunter racing up towards him.
Now he was mad. Damned if he didn't show that little peon a thing or two. Words never worked as well as big explodey blasts anyway. Angered to the point of pure, blood-thirsty murder, the hippopotamus again reached into his vest and pulled out his final grenade, and with a quick second to pull its pin and aim, he tossed it forth, right into Fang's path. The hippo immediately stepped backwards to distance himself from the blast radius. This would take care of the pursuer quite well.
And a moment later, it blew. He grinned. Three times equaled a charm.
Out of the rain flew the violet-furred bounty hunter, shooting right up and over the explosion. Fang had again launched himself off his tail only a hair of a second before the grenade had gone off, and now he was dropping right towards the crook.
The hippo's eyes widened. He turned to try and start off again, but before he could even put a foot forward, something slammed into his back with the force of a freight train. He was sent flying forth, and he landed on his face. "Oof!"
He weakly started to turn himself around on the ground for comfort, but there was Fang. Already, the weasel-wolf crossbreed was racing right up to greet him. The hippo frowned, despite his blatant, obvious fear of the very persistent, very armed, and very angry bounty hunter. "Who the hell are—"
Fang kicked him right in his big, blue face with his heavy boot's heel. "Shut up and get on your belly!"
"Ungh--!" All the hippo could do was turn over, his eyes the size of dinner plates. "Who ARE you!? Are you with the police!?"
Reaching onto his belt as he pointed the rifle skywards with one hand, the bounty hunter whipped out a high-tensile fiber cord. "Be quiet before I spring a leak in your head. Put your hands behind your back."
"You are the police!"
Fang smashed his heel directly into Hemorrhoid's spine. "GODDAMNIT, PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK!"
An agonized hippopotamus quickly obeyed. "What are you gonna do with me!?"
"You're spending the night with Bubba," Fang responded irritably, trying the hippo's hands together with the cord.
"Jail--I can't go to jail! You can't—"
"Last warning," Fang interrupted, shooting a look of hate at his captured prey through the storm, "if you don't shut up, I will end you."
The criminal lay there, frozen. He uttered not another word.
It would take some time and effort, but Fang eventually brought the hippo back to where the Marvelous Queen sat patiently. The airbike was still getting drenched, and the rain wasn't letting up at all. But jst being in the rain wouldn't exactly hurt it. Such an aspect was literally required in his line of work. Too bad it wasn't big enough to accommodate two people. A one-seater, the Queen was made for speed and reliability, and wasn't a machine that he'd use as, say, a moving van. Granted, he could have used a moving van for the hippo he was dragging along now.
Fang shoved Hemorrhoid over towards a grass-covered boulder, and he moved away from it a bit towards the sitting Queen. He switched his rifle's safety off and tucked it into a self-made holster near the airbike's leather seat; a holster he'd installed personally along with an assortment of accessories for ease of use. The hippo collapsed onto his rump and winced upon doing so. Fang rolled his eyes.
"Let me go," pleaded the hippo, an impossibly pathetic look on his face.
Fang glowered at him, annoyed and insulted that such a plea would even be posed. "Why would I do that?"
"I have friends. Friends like me who shouldn't be toyed with."
"I'm supposed to let you go because of that?" Fang crossed his arms over his chest and looked thoroughly unimpressed. "You morons can never think of anything else with which to threaten me. You always have friends. They proliferate dread and despair. I get nervous and shake in my boots. It's getting tiresome."
"I'm serious. They wouldn't appreciate what you're doing to me. They could find you."
"They would sorely regret it," replied Fang in so simple a tone it stunned the hippo.
"You shouldn't stir the wrath of people like them! It could get you in more trouble than you can handle."
Fang didn't answer. He reviled the very notion of chit-chatting with inferior bounties, and he loathed chit-chat enough as it was.
"I'm not kidding!" The hippo's big, fat head shook back and forth. "Don't you know what happens to people who tangle with bad sorts? I work for these folks—It's part of my gig. I sell them information on these people I, uh... well, you know. You have no idea what they're like! They'll come for you and give you what you've got coming."
"Maybe if I were already dead by the time they showed up, they'd have a chance," said Fang, growing irritated. "Your alleged companions are worth no more of my focus than a fly on the wall."
The hippo's expression grew even more pitiful. "But, but—don't you have enough enemies as it is? You're a bounty hunter, right? All you bounty hunters have enemies. These people—they kill men like you. They don't even blink while doing it."
"You don't even know who I am." Fang's gaze rested on his quarry, scorn alive in his eyes. "You are the most singularly pathetic creature I've ever had the misfortune of being in contact with. I've hunted things far greater and deadlier than you and your so-called friends. Not once will you or any of them, should they even exist, pose a significant threat to me, besides degrading the quality of my life."
Severely humiliated, the hippo's eyes sank. "You must be that... that... Nack the Weasel?"
Fang's eyes narrowed into slits. The hippo didn't fail to notice, and he swallowed audibly.
"Fang the Sniper. I'm not very surprised you haven't heard that name often. Only real criminals have."
"But... why are you after me? What am I even worth?"
"Surprisingly, you're a relatively high-value target at fifteen thousand dollars. I strongly prefer high-value targets to low-value, which is where your fat ass belong, but by some random act of God, here we are. Maybe when fools like Sonic the Hedgehog quit taking the law into their own hands, I'll start getting some better work, but for now, you and I will conduct a business transaction with the police. Now quit talking to me, because it's making me sick. Let's get moving."
"Oh, God—" The hippo's head shook again. "I can't go to jail. Not—no, please. Please, please, please—"
"Stop that. It's annoying. You're going to jail like all bad little fugitives eventually do when I find them. You should have considered the consequences before breaking the law like an idiot."
"But—but—w-wait! I, uh," a hopeful look came alive in the hippo's eyes, "I have money!"
His suspicions aroused, the anger in Fang's expression degenerated a tad, and he cocked his head a bit to the side.
"And it's more than fifteen grand. I've built it up through my career. Let me go, and you can have it all."
"Your career as a petty fraud?"
"Well," the hippo fidgeted, "yes."
"You're trying to buy me out with other people's money." Fang's expression was the closest a living thing could have to that of a demon's.
"Well, uh," now he was really fidgeting, "yes."
"Exactly how much," said Fang slowly, eliciting the exact reaction he wanted from the hippo before tacking on, "do you value your life?"
The hippo's look of hope slid from his face like an avalanche. There was no answer other than that.
"I can't be so easily swayed, you waste of skin. You might have gotten away with it, were I a lesser man with no appreciation of professionalism, like these other idiots who try to do my job and think they're any good at it. But you lucked out today."
The overweight hippopotamus whimpered quietly and stared at the grass beneath him. Fang glowered on, a feeling of hatred in him. He didn't like to bring hate into the equation when hunting his prey, but sometimes the quarry gave him no choice, with how it often conducted itself. Sometimes he would run into the kind of scum only seen in fiction—he'd see it for his own eyes, be right near it, feel the emptiness in its soul stretch a cold hand right into his. It was horrible sometimes, and he had only dealt with it simply because he'd successfully trained himself to do so.
"Do you know how pathetic you look right now?" Fang queried, in a tone as if he were asking for the time.
"I can't help it," whined the hippo, frustrated and embarrassed with his situation and treatment. "Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I never thought I'd get caught."
"Well, I just wanted you to know how much I hate you for bringing me down to such an undignified level. You're the sort of worthless bumpkin who commands the attention of dregs and drunkards who hunt for nickels and dimes, not the kind of money I usually bring in. So if you don't mind, I'd like to get this over with as soon as possible. Get your fat ass up."
The hippo just sat there. "You're horrible."
"No, you're horrible. I, on the other hand, am getting tired of having to talk to you." Resting his plated-gloved hands on the airbike's handlebars, the bounty hunter swung himself up onto the seat, gesturing to the hippo. "Let's go."
He didn't have to mention that if the hippo tried to run again, he wouldn't get far. But Hemorrhoid hesitated anyway, sending a vile look at the bounty hunter. Apparently, somewhere in his tiny mind, he'd decided that despite the bleak situation, opposing his captor would be a marvelous decision.
Fang didn't have anything to say in response to this. Instead, he reached down towards his gunbelt and pulled his .45 out of its brown leather holster, eventually pointing it towards the hippo.
That was enough. Hemorrhoid sighed and stepped towards the airbike.
A thought crossed his mind. "Where are we going?"
"Station Square," Fang replied blankly, rubbing his aching legs a bit with one hand. "Now stop talking or I'll bring new meaning to the term dead weight."
Hemorrhoid blinked. "But, that's gotta be ten miles from here!"
"I don't give a goddamn if it's on the moon. Start walking."
The hippo stood there a moment, sighed again, and started to walk forth. Behind him, the Marvelous Queen slowly rose into the air, its high-powered twin-engines sounding off as though to push Hemorrhoid onward. The rain continued to fall, strong as ever.
"Get me a cup of coffee, Bill."
Bill sighed. "Yes-sir."
Station Square's police department – the downtown precinct, anyway – was nestled right between the rowdiest show club in town and a parking garage. Not exactly the most glamorous location ever, but the city itself had little crime. If anything, Capital City and the world outside of Station Square was the real haven for the crooks inhabiting South Island. So it was that poor Officer Bill's daily duties had come down to kissing Sergeant Baker's ass and getting him the newspaper, coffee, men and women (the recruit kind), food, and the rest of the usual garbage he beckoned for.
At times Bill wished he could get out of this precinct and go off to get the crooks roaming around outside the city; to hunt them down like the bounty hunters he always heard about. That was the only way the department jails filled up anymore – From the work of the bounty hunters. Without them, the jails would go entirely unused, although they made a good home for Dirty Bob, the weird old drunk who enjoyed sleeping in the cells at times despite how no one ever really put him in there themselves.
Even though the department hadn't been of much use itself around town lately, the jails were still certainly getting their share of wealth. Jagged the Hyena, a loud, obnoxious, offensive-in-all-manners bounty hunter who carried an electro-rod and got a kick out of shocking babies with it, had come in just the other day with the Ed brothers, a trio of lizards – Ted, Ned, Jed – who each carried bounties on their faces the size of Capital City. With them around, along with the other crooks the Hunters had nabbed, the precinct was finally seeing some action, even if that action only really consisted of getting the prisoners food, toilet paper, newspapers, and whatnot. Why they didn't put Sergeant Baker in there too, Bill would never know.
"Bill!" Baker shouted from his office. "Coffee!"
Officer Bill began grinding his teeth. "YES, sir."
Josie, the precinct's attractive secretary and the only remotely-attractive girl in the whole place, suddenly looked up from her desk, eyeing the wide, double doors of the building.
The rest of the officers inside immediately came to attention and bombarded her with a horde of questions. "You okay Josie? What's wrong? Have a headache? You need an aspirin? Are you having a stroke? Want a massage? Foot rub?"
Secretary Josie couldn't even answer before the doors kicked open without warning. In flew Hemorrhoid the Hippo, hands still tied at his back with the cord and looking like he'd just picked a fight with Metal Sonic. He crashed onto the white tile floor in a heap, tears in his bulging eyes. "Help me! Someone please get—"
The fugitive's face ended up being shoved into the floor when Fang propped his boot up and rested it on the crook's head. "I trust this guy looks familiar."
Bill and the rest of the police staff were dead silent. All activity in the room had ground to an alarmingly sudden halt.
"Hungry hungry hippo here has had the pleasure of having his face posted all over the reward billings for numerous crimes, now including attempted murder on my behalf. The reward is fifteen thousand greens."
Silence. All eyes lay on the bounty hunter.
Officer Bill was the only one who could speak up, at first. "Is that really, uh... Hem-- the hippo?"
Fang's expression went black with aggravation. "Does it look like Dr. Eggman?"
"I found various forms of identification on him. Most weren't his. He had a driver's license in his name, and his picture. You can rest quite assured that I did my job right."
Bill just stared. The hippo's awful state didn't fail to reach his notice. An anxious feeling stirred inside him. "What, uh, what did he do? Kill somebody?"
"I'm sure you can find that out yourself. Who do I see for the reward?"
"You'll have to talk with Sergeant Baker about that." Officer Bill's eyes centered again on the hippo. He knew it wasn't wise to press the issue to the violent-looking individual standing before him. Bill didn't get paid enough for that. He juked a thumb toward one of the doors in the rear of the station. "He's in that office over there."
Fang didn't reply. He kicked Hemorrhoid right in his posterior, shoving the hippo further towards Officer Bill, and without uttering a single word further to any of them, he stepped away from the lot, still carrying the attention of the room. Ignoring them all, he headed up to Sergeant Baker's office door and flung it open without even so much as knocking first.
Sitting up in his chair, Sergeant Baker's old brown eyes widened slightly. "Who in the name of God are you? What the hell are you doing in here?"
People ask too many questions these days, the bounty hunter thought to himself. "Fang. You bozos like to call me Fang the Sniper."
The obese police sergeant blinked, scanning the man-hunter further. Barely three feet tall, Fang the Sniper was a fellow who was often looked upon as weak and meager to those who towered over him, but anyone who knew who he really was had something to fear in this half-weasel, half-wolf. Further noticeable was the .45 pistol situated in the gunbelt's holster the little fellow wore. The name Fang and the term sharpshooter were synonymous with one another. A deadeye if there ever was one, Fang the Sniper never missed, and was unreasonably quick on the draw as well. Sergeant Baker knew exactly who Fang was, and he knew what to fear – in a sense.
"You're not Fang the Sniper," Baker eventually stated after giving Fang a disturbingly long once-over. "You're Nack the Weasel."
Fang's fur bristled animatedly, and he clearly took the effort to keep from sighing. "Get your story straight."
"Get my story straight?" The dueling egos collided. "What—"
"Let's get this over with. I don't have time for this." The bounty hunter took off his outback hat and fiddled with the one side that was pinned up before shaking the entire thing slightly to remove it of some of the rain water. He was successful in this, and he was also successful in effectively drenching half of the paperwork on Baker's desk. "Hemorrhoid out there was worth fifteen thousand dollars to you and your army of yes-men. He's outside this office only because I had the nerve to degrade myself enough to go after a waste of existence like him. I'd like payment sometime this century."
Incredulous, Baker stared into Fang's black eyes. "Fifteen thousand dollars."
The bounty hunter reached around to his back and wretched out a sheet of water-drenched paper. Unfolding it halfway, he tossed it towards Baker, and as soon as it landed, it unfolded completely by itself -- A wanted poster, with Hemorrhoid's big, oh-so-beautiful face taking up the majority of it. Underneath the photo read the usual dribble about whether the target was wanted alive, dead, or (in some instances due to the department's astounding lack of brainpower) both, but what really stood out beyond the other aspects of the poster was the reward money. "Fifteen thousand dollars. Right there."
Baker took the poster in his and studied it intensely. "Wanted for fraud, identity theft, lewd behavior... Fifteen thousand dollars." The corners of his big mouth twitched. "I remember this! Hemorrhoid the Hippo! Oh, that poor bastard. How about that nickname?"
"Yes, ha ha, very funny." Fang failed to look at all amused.
"Ha, yes, well, ahem. Anyway. As for the bounty for him, it's kind of a strange story. This one was a special case."
One eyelid drooped on Fang's face. "Special case?"
"Yes, you see, the wanted poster says fifteen thousand, but in actuality, we're really only offering one thousand."
Fang stood there, entirely unsure of how to react to that statement.
"It's some bureaucratic nonsense, really. I think it's because this guy conned one of the captains out of their debt card account somehow, and the whole department just changed its procedures regarding this bounty. I don't really understand it myself."
There was no apparent reaction from Fang for a moment.
Then his eyelids narrowed, and his mouth sagged. "Very funny."
But big fat Baker's expression didn't change, and when Fang saw that, his eyes got bigger again. "You're joking, right?"
"I'm afraid not, Nacky. We're getting a little low on funds anyway."
Fang had never heard of anything like this happening before in his entire life. He could feel a hot, burning rage flooding through his entire body, but he somehow kept it in check. "How can you do that?"
Baker rocked in his seat and thought. "Well, you understand, crime is lower than it's been in the past, right? So, the department has been a little wayward with the way it hands out its checks. Too many promotions being dealt, and all that. Too many people taking paid vacations to Casino Night. Kind of obnoxious, since I got stuck with a lot of the paperwork. Now things are going down and we're having a hard time getting them back up. People losing their jobs, and so on."
"Sounds like you just got greedier than you could afford."
"Well, er, I suppose that's one way of looking at it. But we really are getting very low on money. The city hasn't increased our funding at all, too. We're working on ways to get it up again, but then you get all these bounty hunters running in here, collecting bounties... We just can't afford it like we used to. It's not looking good."
"So," Fang said, folding his arms, "what do you intend to do?"
"Well, we were thinking about proposing some money being transferred to us in taxes and from the fire depart—"
"About me, idiot."
Baker just sat there, staring. The complete lack of interest Fang had in the police department's affairs was clear as the sun in his eyes.
"I'm just trying to make you understand why we can't—"
"This is ridiculous. You expect me to hand over that tub of lard outside for a thousand dollars when that poster says he's worth more?"
"Well, actually, they probably already took him into custody. Let's see if I can figure out who you go to—"
"Are you trying to insult me, you blimp?" Fang interjected suddenly.
"What?" Baker actually jolted back as if he'd been struck.
"I'm the most dangerous man you've ever met, yet here you are, thinking you can stiff me out of fourteen thousand dollars. Are you on drugs?"
"Am I on candid camera? This has got to be a joke. Because I've never heard of anyone doing something so incredibly stupid before in my entire life. I've caught more people than you've ever met, you..." and Fang struggled for a moment to come up with something in his frustration, "bloated pissant gonna-be-stuck-at-sergeant-forever asshole! I'll bet the detectives come in here and crap in your desk every morning."
"You—" a flabbergasted Baker leaned forward, "you can't speak to me like that and get away with it! You little bastard, I should have you thrown out of here by every available officer—"
"You'll hand over that whole fifteen thousand if you know what's good for you!" Fang spat, jutting a finger right in the sarge's face.
"I just to—YOU CAN'T THREATEN ME, YOU LITTLE BASTARD! I'll post your goddamned face on a po—"
Fang wasn't interested in listening to the rest of Baker's spiel. In a flash, his hand dropped and whipped out the .45 pistol in one quick motion, and pointed its hollow tip level with Baker's face. The barrel centered on the small, confined space right between Baker's eyes, tightening the Sergeant's in the second he did so and, and the big man's chair groaned from his bulk leaning back in shock. Fang sneered.
"WHOAH, HEY, WHOAH!" Baker sputtered. "What the hell are you doing!?"
"I didn't come here to dick around this much," Fang responded. "I'm not leaving this building without fifteen thousand dollars. And I don't need a check."
"You can't point that at me!" Baker was much quieter this time, though. "What's your malfunction, you rodent!?"
"Stop being a jackass to the guy with the gun, and give me my fifteen thousand dollars."
Baker sat there, shivering eyes darting from Fang to the door. "You-- but— I—"
Chlick went the pistol's hammer into the cocked position. "I'm not talking just to hear the wind blow. You give me my money now."
Baker's lower lip quivered, the shock still sweeping through his nerves.
His brow furrowing beneath the brim of his hat, the bounty hunter kept the handgun pointed right at the Sergeant, his expression darkening. Both he and Baker knew full well that shouting out for backup wasn't a tremendously excellent plan, since the copper wasn't the one with the gun. Such an action could very well destroy Fang's already-rocky relationship with the law in both Station Square and Capital City, but he enjoyed the gambling life. Besides, he wasn't the one at fault here – Not in his mind. "You have thirty seconds to pay up. If I don't have fifteen thousand dollars by the time I count down, I'll take payment straight out of your face."
"What!?" Baker shrieked.
Fang didn't respond.
"You can't do this! It'll put you on the bounty list yourself! You'll have to find another way to make a living, and even if you do, you'll be hunted, just like what you're doing with all those criminals you bring to justice! Think about what you're doing for a minute!"
"I have no qualms about killing a client who tries to cheat me, even if they are wearing a badge. Twenty seconds left."
Baker leaned forward, perspiration marking his features. "Have you gone mad?! We don't even have fifteen thousand dollars! It's just like I told you--crime has been so low in this town, and we're struggling to feed our prisoners, we barely have enough to pay our employees as it is these days! I swear it's true! Damn it, believe me! You've got to!"
Baker stood up and commenced to royally freak. "YOU'VE GOTTO BELIEVE ME! I SWEAR TO GOD, IT'S THE TRUTH! WE DON'T HAVE FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! WE DON'T! DON'T DO IT! WAIT! WAIT WAIT WAIT!"
Fang's eye twitched.
"Don't!" Baker again pleaded.
The bounty hunter stood there.
"Here, here," the Sergeant murmured, looking much like a race horse on cocaine. He slowly opened one of the drawer's on his desk – despite Fang's tensing at this action – and opened a locked box, eventually holding up an envelope, growing quiet with his next words. "It's all we've got. One thousand. I'm telling you the truth."
His expression souring, Fang again sneered angrily, lowering the gun agonizingly slowly. His other hand swept out and snatched the envelope from the Sergeant, glaring at him all the while.
"You remember my name," the bounty hunter uttered, so quietly that Baker had to struggle to hear him, "and the next time I bring one of these diseased little bastards in for you to baby-sit, I'll be expecting the full reward. You don't know how lucky you are thanks to my good graces."
With that, he turned and headed towards the door, tucking the envelope onto his gunbelt as he placed the gun back into its holster.
But as he opened the door, Fang turned to look at Sergeant Baker once more. "And I trust you know not to bring this up with anyone."
And he left, leaving Baker to stand there, still in shock.