It was quiet; the only sounds were the faint hum of the ship's idling engines and the purr of the air vents. Outside, stars sparkled like a thousand twinkling jewels scattered across the black velvet of space. The Bebop hovered in a locked orbit around the tiny, rundown station. Out here, they just didn't get a lot of traffic. The asteroid fields had played out their ore years ago and the decaying base didn't have the option like the former miners to pick up and seek more bountiful pastures.
It was barely even a station anymore, catering only to those travelers either so desperate or so lost that they couldn't find a better port. A small populace still clung to existence on the metallic desert island, some working to keep the systems functioning because that's what their parents or grandparents had done. Some preferred to shun the hectic life that flourished near more prosperous population centers, playing out their years in the quiet backend of an all but abandoned system.
A few merchants still made regular deliveries out here, keeping the station's citizens in such goods that they were willing to pay for. Those visits were growing few and far between; even the bars and brothels had seen a serious decline in business over the last few years.
Which was probably why they'd gotten the tip in the first place. A wanted fugitive had been seen in one of the shadiest whorehouses on this miserable little speck of habitation. The local proprietor had recognized the individual, he wasn't one you'd forget easily, and called a contact who'd had a contact, who'd had a friend by the name of Jet. Their luck had been just piss-poor enough lately that the Bebop's crew was willing to spend the fuel to get to the remote base and pay a hefty finder's fee to the owner of the whorehouse if they were able to take the fugitive in. The possibility of a twenty million bounty head couldn't be ignored.
A faint beeping sound startled Faye out of a fitful sleep. She turned and looked blearily at the display. Bebop's systems were already engaging the auto-dock as Jet's ship was heading in. Computers spoke to computers, adjusting Jet's trajectory and servos whined as docking clamps opened to accept their returning prize. Faye thumbed the comm open and stifled a yawn. "Hey guys, did you get him?"
"Yup," Jet's voice answered, sounding tinny on the channel. "Twenty million sitting right here."
She grinned, oh but she had plans for her share. "Have any trouble?" she thought to ask after a moment. A touch of her finger brought up the prisoner's file. Hijacking, piracy, assault, assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to maim, she read.
"No trouble at all. Has to be one of the easiest tags we've ever made," Spike laconic voice answered her.
Faye scrolled down the sheet, frowning. Didn't seem like it should have been an easy one, you don't get bounty like that for pissing in hotel swimming pools. "Arson, resisting arrest, assault on a peace officer, robbery, vandalism...who is this guy?"
"What's that, Faye?" She'd forgotten the comm was still on. "I can't believe he didn't give you any trouble," she answered. "Have you read this guy's file?"
Jet gave a snort of disgust. "Of course I read the damn file, I expected trouble too, but he's quiet as a kitten right now."
"Murder, manslaughter, rape, destruction of public property," she muttered. A real winner. "And check this out," she grinned, wondering why they hadn't mentioned it earlier. "He's wanted on over fifty separate counts of public intoxication, possession of illegal substances and," she couldn't hold back a snigger. "One count of lewd conduct with a duck!"
Jet didn't answer and Faye pouted a little, figuring they were busy with the docking procedures. She rolled lightly to her feet and stuck a cigarette between her lips. Anyone with a rap sheet that interesting was worth a look.
She reached the deck just as Jet and Spike were exiting the ship, each had a foot clutched under an arm and were dragging a man's limp body along the floor. Faye frowned, he had better be alive, they'd lose a considerable percentage if their bounty died before they could turn him in.
"What did you do?" she demanded. "I thought you said he was no trouble, did you have to beat him unconscious or something?"
Spike just gave her sour look. "I told you no, he was unconscious when we got there."
"Dead-ass drunk," Jet grunted.
She peered behind them, they were dragging the guy face down and she had to laugh at their expressions. Jet and Spike continued to pull their unresisting captive along until they got to the nearest holding cell. Moving quickly and in perfect unison they propped the drunk up against the wall, shackled his feet together, then his ankles to the wall. His wrists were already bound in front of him, not that he'd noticed being passed out. Jet even went to the extra precaution of winding a thin, unbreakable cable around the man's waist and locking it into place. Restrained as he was, the guy would be able to lay down, sit up and stand. Absolutely nothing else.
"Is that all necessary?" Faye asked sarcastically, smoke from her cigarette winding around her face.
"You read his sheet," Jet answered. He tugged once more on the cable to make sure it was secure and turned to start programming the visuals that would keep an eye on their new friend. He wanted full surveillance on this loser. The reports had been very clear about it. This guy had been caught and escaped no less than six times in the last year. Having already spent so much time and currency getting a hold of him, he wasn't going to take any chances.
Spike made one last check of their prisoner for concealed weapons. He didn't even have a gun on him when they took him in, being bare as the day he was born. Spike grimaced, he'd paid extra to the madam to have a couple of her girls take care of putting the guy's clothes back on, something they'd done with no few comments and giggles. A light snore filled the room as he pushed the guy over so he was laying on his belly. No good to have him puke and die in his sleep. The prisoner belched loudly and mumbled something illegible before growing quiet again.
Faye edged past Spike to peer a little closer. "Pretty hair," she murmured. "I've never seen such long hair dyed silver before. Before Spike could intervene, she'd stepped up and grabbed a handful of the hair and lifted the prisoner's head. "Oh he's pretty all over," she smirked, looking at the young man's handsome features.
Reaching across her, Spike grabbed Faye by the wrist and shook her arm. "Hands off, Faye. That's a dangerous twenty million you're playing with."
She pouted and flicked a bit of ash on his shoe. "I never get to have any fun," she grumbled. She cast another appreciative glance at the unconscious man and saw something twitch in his hair.
"God, what's that?" she squeaked.
Jet chuckled. "His ears, Faye. Those are his ears."
She stared. "They look like Ein's," she breathed, trying to get a closer look. "Spike, those are DOG ears!"
Spike grinned at her shock. "You didn't read his whole file, did you? That's why he's called the Hanyou. Claims to be half human, half youkai alien."
She glared at him, she wasn't a complete idiot. "Youkai don't exist," she snapped. "That's a bedtime story for spacer kids."
Jet made a gesture that said take it outside and Spike stepped out of the holding cell, closely followed by Faye. He had to smile at the annoyance in the woman's eyes. "Then you tell me where he got the ears."
She scoffed at him. "Duh, surgery, some kind of alteration. Hell, I don't know. Couldn't be that hard to make a pair of fake dog-ears. A lot more plausible than that he's really half youkai, everybody knows they aren't real."
"And that's exactly what they want you to think," Jet said calmly. Spike and Faye stared at him.
"You aren't serious," Spike said, his smile slowly fading from his face when he realized Jet was exactly that.
Turning and locking the door while he keyed in the alarm, the ex-cop turned bounty hunter turned to regard his two younger partners. "I've seen a lot of strange things while kicking around this universe," he told them. "Some stranger than others, some not so bad. All I can tell you is that the government doesn't want you to believe there's such things as youkai. Demon aliens, ones that can look as human as you and me, some living among us. You think the stupid fools that put stupider fools in office want to think about that?"
Faye's eyes narrowed. She wouldn't put it past them to be pulling her leg, the odds were good they were doing just that. Only normally Jet didn't like to work so hard at thinking up stories, not without a better reason than just having a laugh at her expense.
"How do you know about it then?" she demanded. "If it's supposed to be a big old secret then you shouldn't know either."
He shrugged. "Used to know a guy who worked in military intelligence. Flew long-range ships, out to the edge of the known system, very top secret. He told me once he was on a test run and had a complete computer failure. Nothing could explain it and he sat out there, no comm, no way to call for help and watching his oxygen supply dwindle. He was dead meat and he knew it."
Faye was hanging on his words, her mouth open and the butt of her smoke dangling from her lip. Even Spike was paying attention, but without so much expression of incredulous disbelief. Jet had to smile at having caught their attention.
"Well?" Faye asked. "What happened to him?"
"He was drifting, starting to black out from the o-supply cutting off when a ship came up alongside him. It hooked him in, did something to make his computers start squawking and screaming for base to come and find him. He passed out a minute or so after his distress beacon went off. Next thing he knew, his oxygen was charged and a fleet cruiser was hauling him in."
"Then what?" Faye said with a rapt expression.
Jet shrugged. "Not much, he said he swore up and down his psych eval that he'd been rescued. They said he had to have been dreaming. He described the ship that had come across him. They said no such thing existed. He said youkai aliens had saved him. They kicked him out of the program, then threw him out of the military. Said he'd been using hallucinogenics while on duty, had blood samples that proved it. Only he swore he'd never touched the stuff."
"According to him," Spike said dryly. "Sounds like your friend might have been yanking your chain, Jet."
Jet nodded easily. "Could have been, he was pretty drunk when he told me the story. I felt kinda sorry for him, gave him some cash so he could find himself some place to stay. Then one day I found him dead in his room, overdosed on some kind of pills."
Jet's eyes narrowed. "Only problem with that is, guy said he couldn't swallow pills. Made him gag, they always had to give him injections when he was up for his meds. I didn't think a guy who couldn't take pills would have chosen that for his way out."
Spike snorted and tucked his hands in his pockets as he rocked back on his heels. "Well, I don't care what he claims to be. He's a twenty million bounty head to me and he could tell me he was a fairy princess and all I'd say is yes, your majesty." He grinned and nudged Jet. "Let's get the hell out of here, the sooner we drop off our friend, the sooner we can start spending some money."
Faye nodded. "I'm for that! There's just one thing still bugging me about that guy..."
Spike raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"How do you commit lewd conduct with a duck?"
The pounding in his head was making him wake up. Stubbornly, he tried to will the pain to go away, wanting just a little more sleep before he started in on the girls again. Damn, one thing he hated was the way he could metabolize alcohol so fast. In order to even catch a buzz, he needed to five times as much as a normal human.
And he usually kept going until he passed out or ran out of liquor. He knew he wasn't a pleasant drunk, his brother had mentioned that fact on several occasions, but he figured he wasn't all that pleasant when sober either. Sighing at the loss of unconsciousness and starting to feel the urgent need to piss, the hanyou named Inuyasha opened his eyes and sat up.
This was not the whorehouse he'd passed out in. His overly sensitive nose wrinkled, no, a whorehouse might smell better. He tasted grease and oil in the back of his sinuses, old working machinery, old cooking smells and someone definitely needed to overhaul the sanitation system. Glancing around, he decided he was probably in a lock up. As if the pretty bracelets weren't enough of a hint. Great, nailed again. He sighed and leaned his head against the wall. "Maybe I should give up drinking."
One holding cell looked pretty much like another in his opinion, having become something of an expert. This was more like a small metal closet, only a bunk to sit on and the light was low. Figuring it was time to introduce himself to his erstwhile captors, Inuyasha stood up, stretched lazily and started kicking the wall. Hard.
"Hey you bastards," he hollered cheerfully. "I gotta take a piss, you mind?"
A fizzle of static. "San-bucket on the floor, idiot."
He looked around and saw it tucked under his bunk. He smirked then. At least he had their attention now. "What kind of hole is this?" he growled as he worked to unzip his fly. "Even the tank on Mars is nicer than this."
He managed to relieve himself without pissing on his feet, damn handcuffs. If he hadn't had so much practice doing just that he probably would have whizzed all over the floor. Not that his cell didn't already stink bad enough. "Hey, don't I get a phone call?"
"Ah fuck you, goddamn cops," he grunted. Inuyasha considered ripping the restraints off at that point but decided against it. He was sure he could break them, that and the silly cable holding him to the wall. "I got rights, you assholes!"
"Not on my ship, punk."
Ship? That didn't make sense. He listened hard then, trying to identify the craft he was on by the sound of its engines. It sure didn't sound like an enforcement cruiser he'd ever been on. The smells, the shabby metal walls, it wall suddenly clicked in Inuyasha's brain and a pleased smile lit his face.
"You aren't cops, are you?" he asked. "Bounty hunters?"
Silence greeted his comment and Inuyasha took it as a confirmation. Chuckling he sat back down. "Goddamn cowboys," he said, amused.
This was going to be fun. You could fuck with bounty hunters. They were usually stupid and greedy, more concerned with counting the money they thought they were going to get than really paying attention. Cold sober now, not his favorite state, the headache had already faded to a distant memory. "Hey assholes, what's my bounty up to these days?"
Again with the silence, this could get old. With a threatening scowl he stood up, sure they had visual on him, and started kicking the door again. The metal bent under his foot a little more each time. It wouldn't free him, but he was left with precious little other ways to vent his frustration.
"Knock it off, asshole."
He grinned. "What's my bounty?"
A pause. "Twenty million."
"That's it?" he said, outraged. It was an insult, it was a joke! He had to be worth more than that. He was the Hanyou, son of the greatest youkai pirate ever born.
"Hold out for at least forty," he snarled, his claws twitching.
"Are you out of your fucking head?" a new voice demanded.
Hmmm...female this time, he thought. Young one by the voice. He shifted tactics and sat down, looking morose and pitiable. "I'm innocent," he started, making his golden eyes round and puppyish. "I've been falsely accused, made to pay for crimes that aren't mine. If you're interested in justice, miss, you'll listen to my story before turning me in."
"I'm not interested in justice," she said and Inuyasha heard a shushing sound from the male. "I'm only interested in the twenty million they're going to give me when I turn you in."
"Our twenty million, Faye," the masculine voice said again. "And quit fucking talking to him, that's what he wants." Inuyasha hid another smile. Faye was her name, he would use that to his advantage.
"Don't tell me what to do," the woman snapped peevishly.
Inuyasha shook his head. "You tell him, honey!"
He shrugged and stretched out on the bunk. "So when's mealtime?" His stomach was yawningly empty. It was too much to ask that they might have good food. "You can't starve your prisoner, you know."
"Hell if we can't," the male muttered. "Just wait. You be quiet and quit kicking the door and we might just bring you something."
"Fair enough." Make them think you're negotiating, he thought, closing his eyes and relaxing. With any luck he'd be out of here in a few hours. His fangs glistened with his smile. Dumb ass cowboys.