Date: May 15, 2013
A bounty hunter in yellow armor pursues a dangerous foe.
"What If? Get in the Game - Hunt on Mogrundas IV"
Ripjaw needed to lay low for a while. His species, a reptilian race known for their savagery and cunning, had been all but wiped out when they first clashed with the larger, more civilized Galactic Federation. Those surviving either pledged to live as peaceable citizens of the Federation or fled to backwater worlds where they could, for a few generations at least, continue their feral existence as they pleased. Ripjaw was the offspring of the latter, born and raised in the swampy wilds of Mogrundas IV. After his parents died, he'd become a vagabond amongst the Federation's seedier outposts, working as an enforcer and hit man for various criminal enterprises. He'd finally struck on a big score, but it involved a murderous rampage in a small colony. Afterwards he'd returned to Mogrundas IV to hide out. To him, the pestilent bogs and murky caves are his backyard, but to anyone else they're a morass of natural traps and deadly creatures. Nobody would risk chasing him through the dense wilds just to avenge some rural colonists.
Except, apparently, for the hunter in yellow armor.
Ripjaw had spotted the hunter's gunship approaching Mogrundas IV and tracked it as it made landing not too far from his hideout. He observed from a distance as the bright red helmet and yellow armor emerged, followed by some sort of small black…cat-monkey-thing. Ripjaw couldn't really tell what species the hunter was underneath that armor, but whatever it was, it looked puny enough. Still, he was too intelligent to take on an armed opponent head-on if it could be helped, and besides, this was a rare opportunity. Toying with this hunter could help him pass days of his exile, Ripjaw figured. Let the games begin.
And games it had been, for a while. Ripjaw left tantalizing trails all over the bayou, always leading into some dark pit or deadly predator's lair. His knowledge of the terrain and natural agility allowed him to reach places the hunter could not, thus assuring that their paths would not cross. He watched from a distance, making bets with himself about whether the hunter would emerge this time. Over time, though, he came to dislike these mental gambles, because he kept losing…then worse, started winning because he was betting in the hunter's favor. >.< The hunter even slew old Bloodgut, the ancient but formidable spider monster Ripfang had often fled from in his youth. He figured he could've done it himself nowadays, if he wanted to, but it was unsettling.
What was stranger was that the hunter seemed to be getting stronger. With every venture into the unknown, that armor came out looking a little different, an augment added here, a subtle shift in color there, a brighter glow of ambient energy. Ripjaw couldn't figure out where the hunter was getting such technological enhancements in this uncivilized world; the only signs of previous intelligent inhabitation were statues of bird-like creatures buried here and there, which his parents had always treated with revulsion and apprehension.
Even more troubling, the hunter's ability to reach places was increasing. Ripjaw awoke one morning atop a plateau he'd thought unclimbable by anyone without claws, and saw the hunter striding inward from the cliff's edge. THAT was unacceptable, and Ripjaw decided he'd have to ambush the hunter while sleeping before the same happened to him. This proved threatening, however, because the hunter and the cat-monkey slept in turns, and his instincts told Ripjaw that the hunter's camp would be a hazardous place to attempt combat.
So Ripjaw decided to choose his own battleground. He fled into the deepest caverns he knew, leaving a clear trail for the hunter to follow. He found a deep pit with a pool of caustic slime at the bottom, the accumulation of the cave's acidic denizens. There he curled up and waited, knowing that the hunter's metallic footsteps echoing through the tunnels would awaken him long before there was danger.
And now, the hunter has arrived.
There are no words to begin the encounter. The hunter drops from above and lands on one of the ledges over the acid pool with a heavy CLANK. Ripjaw slits his eyes and glares across the gap at the small but potent figure, the gaze returned by an expressionless visor. Ripjaw gives a primal roar, then swings a scatter blaster up and fires at the hunter. The hunter leaps from rock to rock to evade the angrily buzzing shards of super-heated metal. A few fragments connect and leave scorch marks on the armor, but it holds strong. Suddenly a scratching weight drops onto his back. Ripjaw snarls and cranes his neck around to snap at the cat-monkey, who jumps away back into the darkness. Then Ripjaw feels the blaster being struck from his hands, and turns to see the hunter wielding a pair of short energy blades and the gun in two smoking halves on the ground.
If the hunter expected Ripjaw to surrender, that was a mistake. With the ferocity of a cornered beast, he lunges and bites down over the hunter's helmet. His momentum carries them both off the ledge and slams the hunter back into the cave wall. Ripjaw's claws grate into the rock, halting his downward momentum, and he wrenches his head back, flinging the hunter behind him. The hunter flies into open space and plummets toward the caustic pool below.
Four tendrils of energy emerge from the base of the space armor's back and latch onto surrounding rock columns. The hunter's fall is arrested just above the toxic sludge. The tendrils flex and bunch, then begin carrying the hunter back up out of the depths with lanky grasps of the pillars and walls. Ripjaw draws a backup pistol and tries to knock the hunter back down with peppering shots. The hunter swings around a column to take shelter, disappearing from view.
Ripjaw jumps back to a ledge. Pursuit into the lower reaches of the pit is probably what the hunter wants, Ripjaw thinks. Those energy limbs would give the hunter superior mobility amongst the vertical spaces, and Ripjaw would be the one more likely to fall into the pool. He's better off waiting on high ground for the hunter to come to him, and meanwhile…that blasted cat-monkey's probably about ready to pull another trick. >E Ripjaw tastes the air with his tongue, trying to catch the cat-monkey's scent. Once he has a suspicion of the creature's general direction, he starts blasting the wall to force it out of hiding. The cat-monkey's silhouette stands out in the flashing of the energy bolts, and Ripjaw adjusts his aim to take out the little pest.
Suddenly one of the energy tendrils snakes up and curls around Ripjaw's wrist, jerking his shot awry. Ripjaw clenches the ground with his feet and yanks his arm upward, pulling the hunter up over the ledge. He slashes with his other hand, but the hunter takes the pull in stride, twisting in midair to avoid Ripjaw's claws. The hunter tumbles around Ripjaw, the energy limbs yanking at Ripjaw and supporting the hunter as the metal gauntlets and boots bludgeon Ripjaw's scaly hide. Ripjaw fights with blind fury, his clumsy swings and stomps unable to match the hunter's confusing movements. Finally the tendrils gather underneath the hunter and push upward, propelling both of the hunter's boots into Ripjaw's chin in a mighty kangaroo kick. Ripjaw sails out into space, then falls helplessly toward the scalding acid. But the hunter leaps out after him, two of the energy tendrils retracting back into the armor and the other two extending further out. One anchors itself on the ledge, while the other reaches out and wraps around Ripjaw's ankles. Ripjaw swings downward at the end of the long line and collides into the wall with a terrible *CRACK*!
When Ripjaw comes to, he's in a holding cell aboard the hunter's gunship, securely bound to a restraining rack. He looks through the stasis field in front of his cell and sees the hunter checking the ship's systems in preparation for take-off. "…Who ARE you?" Ripjaw rasps.
The hunter turns and removes the space armor's helmet, revealing the head of a human woman with fiery red hair and sharp green eyes. "I am the Huntress. That is all you need know."