|1447 Hours, August 31st, 2552
Kor Delban, Karava, Sangheili Colony
When the cantina doors swung inwards and the first thing to come through was a bloody, scorch-marked corpse, Rekka knew exactly who was coming in.
"By the Prophets," an elderly mercenary named Uran grumbled from his usual seat. "Must we go through this again?"
From behind the counter, Rekka chuckled to himself as a tall, half-cloaked Sangheili descended into his bar. A few patrons glanced his way, but most of the regulars knew the nameless stranger's style. As the barkeep approached, he kicked the body onto its back and crossed his arms, surveying the room from behind his visor. He was a relatively new face around Kor Delban, having turned up out of the blue roughly a standard monthly cycle ago in the aftermath of some terrible battle to the north.
"Good hunting?" Rekka asked, pulling out a handheld scanner to verify the kill. Out on a frontier world like Karava, justice could be meted out in many ways. With the war on, bounty hunting had become lucrative for those not serving in the military.
"As good as ever," the mercenary shrugged, sidestepping Rekka and pulling back his cloak. "This one gave me quite the chase."
The barkeep held his device over the dead Sangheili's face. It flashed for some time before settling on the file of a local criminal, wanted for theft and blasphemy. Not the most glorious of targets, but few were picky with who they pursued here. He'd been rather skinny, and lacking in armour. By comparison, his killer wore heavy protection; a full combat harness with reinforced plating and a rarely-seen helmet that assisted in the tracking of foes. Looking over the cadaver, Rekka found the cause of death: direct, sustained plasma fire. This was not the splash damage of rifle bolts, but the horrific, gaping hole burnt in by a particle beam weapon. This close, he could still faintly pick up the scent of burnt flesh. Suppressing his disgust, he stood up and held out the scanner for the successful hunter.
"Five hundred Gekz," Rekka let the bounty hunter transfer the money into his account before retrieving the device. "What did you use? A Type-27?"
"Fifty-two," he responded.
Rekka winced. "A painful way to die. Not that filth like this didn't deserve it. Help me with the body?"
It was a request he made to most of his customers who felt it necessary to bring their quarry in through the front entrance of his establishment instead of the more convenient side door. Most refused, having already done their work, but to the barkeep's surprise the nameless hunter nodded and took hold of the dead criminal's legs while he moved the arms. Together, they carried the body out into the back room and down another flight of stairs into the incineration chamber. Out here, a criminal did not receive funeral rites; flash-vaporisation via plasma generator was their fate. The pair of Sangheili heaved the body into an open wooden casket already laid out, and folded his arms inward. As Rekka closed it and slid the coffin towards the generator, he heard a low voice from behind him.
"May you find peace in the next life," the hunter spoke to himself, clasping his palms together.
"His kind warrant no prayer," Rekka snorted. "You are an odd one, Nameless."
"Is that what they're calling me?"
For the first time, Rekka realised how young this one was compared to most of the other mercenaries. While he hid it behind his thick armour and spoke only as often as he needed, maintaining an icy demeanour, there was no mistaking the mannerisms of a fledgling warrior. He considered chiding the hunter for this, but thought better of it; his legend had grown as quickly as his body count in Kor Delban this past cycle. Returning to the bar, he slipped back behind the counter and began pouring a drink, keeping one eye on the ever-watchful Uran, who glowered at them from his corner seat.
"Nameless!" the old Sangheili's hoarse voice sounded over the murmur of conversation in the cantina as he clambered to his feet. "A question for you!"
The hunter turned to face him, pulling his cloak around him. "Ask."
"I've watched, you, young one. Seen you peddle your craft here among men thrice your age; heroes whose renown you could scarcely hope to reach. Do you know what I see in you?"
"Nothing," Uran spread his arms as if delivering a sermon. "You, who dare partake in this most noble of undertakings, offer nothing back. You share no tales of your deeds, you share none of your spoils with your brother hunters, you share nothing, not even your own given name. And that is what I cannot abide: A living weapon, not a warrior."
The young hunter said nothing, and simply straightened up slightly under this barrage of accusations. The bar was silent, and every eye on the two. When it became clear that Uran expected a response, he sighed and spoke.
"You misunderstand me, elder. My deeds are shared by others, as you no doubt know. My spoils are my own, as I have no need for partnership. And my name is what you see before you."
Uran seemed a little taken aback, but took a few steps forward. "And what am I supposed to see but a whelp in armour, lacking in honour? As I've said, you are no warrior."
For the first time, the young Sangheili laughed. "No, I am not. I kill for pay because I must, and because I do not fool myself with delusions of grandeur. All I see in you is an old man unfit for proper battle, terrified at the inevitability of being replaced by the likes of me. Coward."
The hunter spat the final word with such contempt that Uran, already seething with rage, seemed stunned for a brief moment. He drew his blade with a roar and charged across the room. His opponent's right hand snapped up from beneath his cloak already clutching a glowing energy pistol, and let loose a single overcharged burst. Carried by the momentum of his blind, furious rush, Uran had no chance to dodge and was struck directly in the forehead. The old Sangheili hit the hard stone floor with a crash, the top of his head a smoking ruin. After a few seconds of absolute silence, the horde of onlookers erupted into shouts, praising and insulting the victor in equal measure. Cries of 'Nameless!' went up, and a few began to approach, sliding their hands towards concealed weapons.
As the crowd grew closer, the barkeep realised that the hunter would likely be killed if nothing was done. My name is what you see before you. Suddenly, Rekka knew what to do. He clambered up onto the bar, and pointed towards the mercenary, yelling over the din of the crowd.
"Don't you see! The Outrider won fairly!"
Outrider. Rekka had worked in this business for many years, operating on the frontier to bring criminals the justice the Covenant could not easily dispense. In this time, he had seen all manner of exotic weaponry and armour of every size, shape and colour. This one was no different, and while the dented, dusty green harness he currently wore might have been an unusual sight on Kor Delban, he knew its make all too well.
The crowd went quiet once more. Outrider. A name with meaning. Outrider. A worthy moniker for the likes of him. Outrider. Something that gave form to the nameless killer. They liked it.
"Outrider!" a cheer went up, and within minutes, the jeers and threats had turned to congratulations and praise. It was soon over, and the young hunter found himself heading for the cantina's back entrance. Before he left, he stopped by Rekka.
"My thanks," his voice was barely above a whisper. "This will not be forgotten."
"I should think not," Rekka crossed his arms. "So do tell me, what is your name?"
"It is as you said," Rora 'Marak halted in the open doorway, his armour gleaming in the sunlight. "I am the Outrider."