Jessie Doris aka Snake Eyes Jessie was once a member of the Colonial Marines, but vanished following a classified mission. It wasn't until two years ago that she resurfaced as a bounty hunter of the GILA guild. With her impressive skills, she quickly gained recognition in the bounty hunter community, successfully completing numerous perilous missions. Jessie underwent extensive cybernetic enhancements, with prosthetic replacements for both arms and her right leg. Even her heart was replaced with biomechanical components, providing her with heart muscle strength surpassing that of an ordinary person several times. Combined with artificial adrenaline, this allowed her to gain explosive power and lightning-fast reflexes in a short time. Jessie's electronic eye granted her precise aim-lock capabilities, while her prosthetic arm provided stability, enabling her to accurately dispatch multiple targets in quick succession. Any adversaries who underestimated her and relied on numbers soon met their devastating defeat.
However, the prosthetic modifications had unintended side effects, causing Jessie's personality to become unstable. Her temper could easily spiral out of control, matching the explosive power of her enhanced body. This led to numerous unintended consequences, including a confrontation with the security department responsible for providing bounties. Medical expenses consumed almost the entirety of her earned bounty that time, compensating the police officers she had incapacitated.
Lately, Jessie's once-dominant presence has been overshadowed by another skilled bounty hunter named Ellen. Ellen repeatedly managed to seize the bounties that Jessie had targeted. Frustrated by this, Jessie exhausted most of her savings to acquire Arnold, a general intelligence AI, in an attempt to regain the upper hand in her rivalry.
A former member of the Colonial Marine Corps, Ellen McKnight vanished after participating in a covert operation alongside Jessie as part of the Marine Corps Special Forces. Ellen resurfaced during her pursuit of Ugly Jack, the mastermind behind the Silverback heist. Seizing the opportunity created by Jessie's assault on the gang's base, Ellen stealthily eliminated Jack. When Jessie eventually discovered him, she realized that Ellen had beaten her to the punch. This pattern repeated in subsequent encounters, with Ellen consistently outmaneuvering Jessie. The common training and combat experience allowed Ellen to understand Jessie's tactics very well, and her excellent strategy allowed her to beat Jessie every time.
As a bounty hunter, Ellen also underwent numerous prosthetic enhancements. While not as extreme as Jessie's, her choice of high-quality prosthetics and equipment provided her with considerable advantages. She knew how to leverage these advantages effectively, turning the tide in her favor.
Within the Skull bounty hunter guild where Ellen found her place, she remains a mysterious figure. Most members only catch glimpses of her during bounty collections, and few have the opportunity to engage in conversation. She is generally perceived as reserved, but those who have managed to exchange a few words with her sense an underlying wisdom.
Considering their past connections and the frequency with which Ellen appears in Jessie's targeted bounties, it seems inevitable that a showdown between the two skilled bounty hunters is on the horizon.
The Lost Bounty
“Sergeant Scipio's urgent voice blared over the intercom, warning the second car in the convoy, 'Don't reverse! It's an ambush! Push the 'Trieme' to the side of the road!” Fueled by adrenaline, two soldiers dashed out of the lead armored car, and the flames in the car burned more and more intensely. Just as the trailing truck strained to shove the burning vehicle aside, the ammunition in the armored car exploded, launching its turret into the air like a soaring rocket. The truck's cockpit was obliterated as well, leaving behind a scene of total devastation, blocking the entire road.
Gunshots pierced the air from multiple directions, bullets raining upon the convoy. 'Everyone, disembark!' Scipio commanded, but before he could finish, another deafening boom shook the convoy. A rocket struck the rear armored car, engulfing it in flames. Soldiers and workers scrambled out of their vehicles, seeking refuge in the nearby ravines. Scipio, instead of taking cover, sprinted towards the largest truck in the convoy.
“Where's Father Lucius!?” he demanded.
“He's still inside!” the fleeing truck driver yelled over his shoulder.
Scipio forcefully swung open the door to the container attached to the trailer. His expression turned to sheer terror as he retrieved a pistol, pointing it at the figure situated at the container's far end.
“Father, this isn't part of the plan. Not here. Please, put it down.”
A gunshot echoed, and a surge of blue energy rippled outward from the container, engulfing everything in its vicinity.
A few hours later. Jessie drove with excitement, observing the scenery outside. The setting sun cast its final rays on this barren land, ushering in the encroaching darkness. She reveled in her recent successful negotiation.
“The kingdom's army is truly loaded. I never expected them to agree to such terms.”
Arnold responded “The price you asked for far exceeds the usual rates. If they agreed, there must be something even more valuable in that convoy.”
Jessie mockingly retorted, “Dude, you're just a program with backup files at home. I'm a living, breathing human. I can't come back from the dead. And coincidentally, those in the convoy are also living beings who don't wish to die. It's only logical for them to pay any price to save their lives.”
“As a bounty hunter, the value of a life is only realized once a bullet pierces the target's head” Arnold quipped.
“Hahaha, you're right, you bastard. Send out the drone now.”
“The hatch is jammed. Manual release is necessary.”
Cursing, Jessie pulled over to the side of the road. The vehicle she drove was a patched-up Tomahawk armored vehicle, a mere shell of its former self. Bounty hunting may promise substantial rewards, but upgrading equipment with those earnings feels like throwing money into a bottomless pit. Jessie ascended the side steps, climbing onto the vehicle's roof, where the drone hatch was located at the front. With the aid of her enhanced prosthetic arm, she effortlessly lifted the deformed hatch, launching the drone into the air with a whoosh. It swiftly sped off into the distance.
“Proceed with caution and wait until I identify the attackers' leader.” Arnold advised.
“That's too slow! How can you be sure Ellen won't outmaneuver me again? I've spent all my savings to buy you, and now I'm even saving on bullets.” Jessie argued, revealing the weapon concealed beneath the canvas on the roof—a 12.7mm Gatling machine gun mounted on an automatic turret.
As Jessie's car raced through the land, veiled in the embrace of the night, the sky descended into a profound abyss of darkness. Focused on the screen before her, Jessie inserted bullets into the clip of her rifle while the drone relayed crucial information to the car's display. Night vision imaging unveiled a desolate landscape, illuminated with eerie clarity. Strange wreckage, remnants of a bygone civilization and its adversary the AI army, lay scattered like tombstones across the battlefield turned cemetery.
"Jessie, two vehicles approaching from the side," Arnold warned.
Before Arnold could finish, bullets struck Jessie's car door, resonating with metallic clangs as the armor deflected the onslaught.
"Permission to return fire" Arnold swiftly requested.
"Granted" came the response.
Arnold expertly maneuvered the Tomahawk's automatic turret, unleashing a torrent of precise shots. One of the chasing vehicles burst into flames upon impact, careening off the road and into a nearby ditch.
"Hahaha! Take that, suckers! Keep firing, finish the other—Arnold!?" Jessie exclaimed.
"Negative, the gun is jammed."
"Shit!" Jessie was suddenly thrown aside as a bullet pierced one of the tires, causing the car to skid uncontrollably. Thanks to Arnold's skilled driving, the vehicle managed to avoid flipping over. After a violent struggle, they finally came to a halt. The pursuers also stopped, and four armed men closed in, surrounding Jessie's car on three sides. Among them, one wielded an RPG launcher. He squeezed the trigger, propelling rocket toward Jessie's vehicle. Yet, when the smoke cleared, the armored car stood unscathed, leaving everyone dumbfounded. Unhurriedly stepping out of the open car door, Jessie blew the smoke away from her gun barrel.
"Fool! How could you expect something this slow to hit?"
"She shot down the rocket!? Fire!" The sound of gunfire echoed, but before the three men with rifles could pull their triggers, they collapsed to the ground. Witnessing this, the man who had previously held the RPG dropped his weapon and raised his hands high.
"Oh, aren't you guys from the camp I raided last week? Seeking revenge for your boss, I presume? How did you know my location?" Jessie pressed her gun against the man's temple.
"Yes... Yes, madam," the man stammered. "A bounty hunter gave us this."
He retrieved a display screen from his pocket, a standard drone signal receiver, which displayed a communication window revealing Jessie's location. The caller's name was marked on the window: Ellen.
"Son of a bitch!"
With caution, Ellen approached the stranded convoy. She had accepted a bounty to eliminate the bandit leader who had ambushed the convoy. However, upon reaching the location, she found nothing but abandoned vehicles and burning wreckage. Whatever had transpired here, she had missed it. She speculated that the convoy's occupants might have been taken captive by the bandits, but she hoped to discover some clues or even survivors. As she drew nearer to the convoy, an unusual noise caught her attention—a faint static sensation that made the hairs on her body stand on end. Following the sound, she arrived at a container tucked behind a large truck. After surveying the area, Ellen cautiously pried open the container's door, revealing a dimly lit laboratory brimming with instruments and equipment. At the far end, something trembled. Keeping her rifle secured at her back, she raised her pistol and slowly advanced into the container. Eventually, she discerned that the source of the shaking was a person, his back towards her. The person wore elegant attire adorned with religious symbols.
"Father Lucius?" Ellen recalled that there was a VIP in the convoy during the briefing, and the client demanded that his life be saved at all costs.
"Yes," the man responded, ceasing his trembling, but he still faced the wall.
"I'm here to rescue you. Please come with me," Ellen kept her gun trained on him.
"It's too late. You can't save me, or even yourself," he stated, standing up and turning around. However, as the man turned, Ellen realized the other side of him is also his back.
Taken aback, Ellen quickly took a few steps back. "Who are you? No, what are you?"
Suddenly, a violent explosion rocked the container, shaking it with a powerful shockwave. The lights flickered uncontrollably. The faceless man raised a hand, and a tremendous force struck Ellen, throwing her out of the container. Struggling to her feet, she witnessed an unimaginable sight before her eyes.
The previously darkened night sky now resembled dusk, with the dying sun casting a reddish hue. A colossal tank rumbled past the convoy, rendering the vehicles mere toys in comparison. It unleashed a barrage of missiles and unleashed deafening cannon fire. Ellen turned her gaze in the direction of the onslaught, peering into the darkness. The explosions illuminated the outlines of ominous figures—the bringers of doom that had ravaged the old world. Red beams of light targeted the tank, causing its surface to melt layer by layer, exposing its inner machinery, and eventually revealing flesh of its pilots. The tank halted, thick smoke billowing from within, before erupting into a violent explosion. Reacting swiftly, Ellen sought cover behind a nearby truck as debris struck it, creating metallic clanging sounds.
Ellen realized that this doomsday battlefield couldn't be real. It had to be some form of virtual reality, yet the scene felt undeniably authentic. It couldn't be a mere projection or conventional technology. Could it be a dream? But she vividly recalled the process of arriving here. How could a dream seamlessly blend with reality? And who had orchestrated this dream? The more pressing question was how to escape this surreal realm. She sensed that everything was connected to the faceless man she had encountered. However, as she attempted to return to the container, she discovered that the convoy had vanished.
The scene shifted, transporting Ellen to the entrance of an abandoned military base. A weary-looking Marine emerged, carrying a bag and covered in multiple wounds, blood staining his form. Ellen recognized him instantly—it was Captain Cody, the leader of the covert operation she and Jessie had been part of years ago, tasked with recovering an artifact from the bygone civilization. But before her eyes, a beam of red light shot forth from behind him, cutting Cody in two.
"You left them to die! You abandoned them!" a voice called out from behind.
"No, you're the one who fled. You don't remember!" Ellen slowly turned around, her hand resting on the pistol holstered at her waist. This was the first time she had come face to face with Jessie in years. Ellen studied Jessie intently, noting the mechanical prosthetics adorning her arms and right leg—a testament to her experiences over the years. Jessie also locked eyes with Ellen, their gazes meeting. The pupils of their electronic eyes flickered with projected light simultaneously. As bounty hunters equipped with similar gear, they both knew that the other had them locked in their sights, ready to shoot at a moment's notice. They stared at each other, the air around them seemingly frozen.
"Are you a real person?" Jessie's voice broke the silence.
"Finally noticed, huh? It seems you're real too. You've changed so much over the years. This can't be a dream created from my memory."
"I don't know what the hell's happening here. Those tanks and mechs from earlier looked real."
"I don't know either. It seems you witnessed the same scene. This must be some kind of artificial construct. The question now is how do we escape?"
"Hey, if you promise not to take my bounties in the future, I'll help you."
"Sounds like you think you have other options."
As they conversed, the surroundings shifted once again, returning them to the scene of the ambush on the convoy. Bullets rained down from all sides. The two quickly sought cover, separating to evade the onslaught.
"Are these guys real or fake?" Jessie raised her rifle, her biochemical heart accelerating as she unleashed a rapid barrage of bullets at three enemies. One fell, while the bullets passed through the other two as if hitting empty air. Ellen also opened fire, seizing the opportunity as two enemies overlapped, dispatching them with a single shot.
"Damn it, there seems to be an increasing number of fakes."
"I'm running low on bullets."
More enemies emerged from all sides, their encirclement tightening. An armored enemy charged toward Ellen, wielding an axe, but a single shot obliterated his head. Ellen's left hand folded down, revealing a concealed hand cannon integrated into her forearm.
As desperation set in, a falcon appeared in the sky, its feathers reflecting a strange metallic sheen. With the falcon's arrival, certain enemies on the ground began to flash blue halos.
"The ones marked are the real ones!" Jessie exclaimed.
"What mark? I can't see it."
"Jessie, please ask Ellen to grant my data transfer," a third voice interjected.
"Arnold!? Haha, how the hell did you find us?"
"This dream-like vision seems to affect only humans. I've noticed your abnormal behavior, but I couldn't communicate with you until I found a way to hack into the dream signal. It appears the signal controls your senses."
Ellen and Jessie, now armed with the acquired data, swiftly eliminated all the real attackers. The fake ones vanished into thin air.
"Analyzing thermal imaging, there's still a sign of life in that container."
"It seems the magician is inside. Let's witness the source of this magic."