The Merc.

An irritating squeak came from the hinges as I pushed open the door. I coughed as the heavy tobacco smoke invaded my airspace. This seedy bar was one of the last places I’d want to hang out in, but I had a job to do. The Albion police department had asked me to track down a mercenary by the name of Indgrhu. He had committed a series of robberies and an attempted kidnapping before leaving town. I tracked him to a United Federation city not far from the island, and I figured this kind of dump would be the best place to look for someone laying low. But I hadn’t anticipated that my targets bark would be as bad as his bite.

Somehow in the dim lighting I found my way to the bar and sat down. The bartender, a stout human with a handlebar mustache, walked over, wiping a dirty glass with an equally filthy rag. “What’ll it be, sir?” he asked.

“Nothing for me,” I said, reaching into my pocket. “Except maybe some information.” I pulled a photograph that had been taken from an Albion security camera from pocket. I slid it across the countertop towards the bartender. Without another exchange of words, he understood what I meant. Nonchalantly he nodded towards the corner at the back of the pub and walked towards another customer. I slid the photo back into my pocket and strode in the opposite direction towards the back of the room.

As if the rest of the establishment wasn’t dark enough, the farther back I walked the grimier and darker it got. Clearly, crooks and hitmen were not the best tippers, or the management wanted an atmosphere reminiscent of a rundown shack. Finally I made out the silhouette of my target. He was sitting at a small, circular table in the corner. His feet were up on the table and his chair was leaning back on two legs. There was a large bottle of some sort of alcoholic beverage and a well used ashtray on the table. His upper body was obscured by the shadows, but from what I could see he wore thick-soled black boots and jeans. I sat down opposite of him, trying not to start hacking up a lung.

“Are you Indgrhu?” I asked, trying to sound as casual as possible. I didn’t want him to make a run for it just yet, or worse try and shoot me. Besides, I did still need to confirm his identity.

He leaned forward into the light, giving me a better view of his body and facial features. He looked just like the one in the security picture. He was a wolf, his fur a muddled gray color; his fur also showed that he hadn’t properly bathed in a while. A deeply etched scar ran from the tip of his snout back to his left eye. He wore a black coat that extended down to his knees, the inside of which was lined with pockets filled with who-knows-what. He wore a dark grey beater over what was most likely a bullet-proof vest, though it could just as easily be concealing more weapons. A mercenary is one book you don’t want to judge by its cover. Staring at me with his eyes focused to the point that they were practically slits, he replied with a question of his own. “That depends… do I owe you money? Or are you a cop?”

“Neither,” I quickly replied, keeping my cool. After all, I technically didn’t work for the Albion police; I was just doing them a favor. However, I may have replied a little too quickly, as the well-seasoned mercenary quickly discovered my motive.

“That doesn’t change the fact that you’re trying to bring me in, now does it?” Indgrhu replied with a snarl. With incredible speed he reached down to grab the duel pistols at his waist. But I was no rookie either. I forcibly kicked the table into the air, obstructing his view long enough to duck under the table and gain an advantage. I sprang up and pushed the wolf against the wall, holding the gauntlet on my left wrist against his neck.

“Now just come quietly and we won’t have any trouble. Resist,” I paused, and then flicked my wrist which caused a knife to extend from my gauntlet. “And then you’ll have something to worry about.”

“Very well echidna, I know when I’m beat,” Indgrhu said with a sigh. He dropped his guns and I quickly kicked them to the side. Retracting my knife, I grabbed onto both his arms and held them behind his back. I reached for the handcuffs in my back pocket and snapped them over his wrists. I quickly exited the bar, telling the barkeep that he should probably take care of the pair of handguns in the back. Stepping outside, I swallowed the relatively cleaner air. After a thorough cleansing of my lungs, I activated my communication device so I could contact Albion HQ and the local police. I made the unfortunate mistake, however, of doubting a wolf’s strength.

With a loud metallic snap, Indgrhu freed himself from the handcuffs and proceeded to elbow me in the back of the head. I fell forward, but caught myself and spun around, ready to fight, and possibly dodge some bullets. But, to my surprise, Indgrhu had disappeared. I quickly scanned the area only to see a streak of silver flying towards me. I pulled up my gauntlet and blocked the projectile, a thin throwing knife. Suddenly Indgrhu jumped in front of me, a wider blade fighting blade in his hand. I drew my knife and swung upward. Indgrhu slashed downward, and our blades connected. Sparks erupted as metal grinded together. We both spun around, the metal ringing out in the empty street. I slashed with all my strength in an attempt to knock him the skilled fighter off balance, but my attack met nothing but air. I looked up and I found Indgrhu perched on top of a streetlight. He was throwing his knife up into the air and catching it as he spoke. “Like I said echidna, I know when I’ve lost. My hearing is acute as well, and the cops are on the way. However, I must thank you for the entertainment, that place was beginning to get boring.” Indgrhu threw his knife in the air again, and as soon as he caught it he sent whizzing through the air. It punctured the ground at my feet. “Until we meet again…”

“Wait, stop!” I called, but Indgrhu had already jumped off of the streetlight into an alleyway. I chased after him, but he had faded away into the dark corridor. Soon enough, the police arrived on the scene, but the one they had come to arrest had gotten away. When you decide to fight a wolf, you should be prepared for it to bare its fangs. And those fangs may bite deeper than you thought.

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