They're called hunters. Professional mercenaries licensed to track down, arrest and even kill criminals. For years, they have been keeping the peace, putting the scum of the earth behind bars, or in the ground. But after years of success and dipping crimes rates, trouble is brewing. In times of chaos, the hunter is king, but in times of peace, they are a total liability!
"As every citizen of this great nation is probably aware, today we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Libertarian Act. For many this day is a time of celebration, but for others, it is a time of sober reflection. At the time of its passage, the Act was designed to curb the growing problems of violence that were sweeping the country. In America's inner cities, crime continued to escalate, schools became the sites of increasing gang violence, and in time, the problem began to spill over into every community. No one appeared to safe, and no place seemed untouched. Under the burden of a crushing national debt and a crumbling social structure, both state and the federal officials were at their wits end to find a solution. The Libertarian Act responded to these problems by giving private citizens the power to enforce the law. Following on the heels of the Safe Streets Act, the Libertarian Act repealed the use of the National Guard to enforce the peace, and gave official sanction to bounty hunters and vigilantes who were now permitted to track down and arrest offenders. With one stroke of the pen, the life of every known or suspected criminal in America became redeemable for money. Those who were willing to adopt this often dangerous, sometimes glamorous, life applied for licenses, and bounties were paid out to those who brought offenders in, dead or alive. The question we are asking ourselves today is, after twenty years of vigilante justice, is the Libertarian Act still needed?"
Gord sat and tried not to let the annoying sound of Tyson sucking his spaghetti distract him from the TV. The investigative journalist was getting to end of all the background junk and was about to get to the good stuff, the stuff that involved them. Grabbing the remote, he turned the volume up a few notches and leaned forward in his seat.
"It's coming!" he yelled, pointing to the set.
"I'm standing here with a group who calls themselves the Watchmen..."
"Yes!" Gord yelled. Tyson continued to eat his food, eyeing the TV with only mild interest. Across the room, Janey continued cleaning the assorted gun parts she had lain on the table and shook her head.
"Relax, Gord!" she ordered. "It's just another human interest story."
"Yeah, but I get to talk this time. The last time they came around, all they wanted to do was to talk to Tom."
"What good is it, anyway?" she retorted. "You had your face covered the whole time?"
"Shut up!" he demanded, pointing at the screen. "My parts coming up!"
On the screen, a black hooded figure stood next to the reporter, a microphone in his face, trying to look tall and threatening. Underneath that hood, speaking in a low, husky voice, a bounty hunter attempted to speak his mind.
"It's all about freedom, about the protection of our rights and our homes from those that would do them harm," he said.
The reporter brought the mike back to her lips and asked: "So is it fair to say you see yourselves as the last line of defence against the problems we see in our streets?"
"Yes, ma'am. I do."
She moved next to the hooded figure that stood next to him, a taller, heavier man who kept his big, dark arms folded across his chest.
"What about you sir? Why did you get into this business?"
A deeper, gruffer baritone voice replied: "Cause' it's where the money is. Plus I think the crooks are the ones who oughta' be afraid, not us."
"Do the men you hunt fear you?" she asked.
"Oh yeah!" he replied.
"What are your reasons, ma'am? Do you see many women involved in this line of work?"
"Some, but not nearly enough. It's still very much a man's industry." "Is that why you joined?"
"Yeah, pretty much. I didn't want to leave all the fun to the men. Plus, we girls got a lot more to fear being on the street alone. I don't think the guys in this business understand that too well."
"Do you find it hard dealing with the men in this business? Are they tolerant of women, do you find?"
"It depends. I think they look at themselves and think it's their manly duty to solve these problems all by themselves. I figure I'm here to remind them that they can't do it alone, and... we have as much business being here as they do."
"What about your colleagues? Do they work well with you?" "They do, but only because they know they better."
"Ouch!" Tyson said at her. "Careful girl!"
"She spent a lot of time on you," Gord complained. "I had the most to say."
"Yeah, you were the one who kept trying to hog the mike," she came back.
"Yeah, whatever. Just listen."
The shots on the screen moved back to some panoramic views of city streets, crumbling schools, and old riot footage. For a moment, Gord phased out as the report got into more background stuff.
"At the time, analysts cited the nation's crushing debt and the crumbling social system as the cause of the situation. For decades, the inner areas of America's greatest cities were known for their violence. But soon, citizens saw the problem spill over into smaller urban and even suburban areas. After a short-lived stint with martial law, the federal government found that the cost of keeping soldiers in the streets only exacerbated the debt situation, and created conflicts with the citizenry. The Libertarian Act was seen as a compromise that would be pleasing to both civil liberty advocates and an angry citizenry demanding action."
"Here I am! Here I am!" Gord yelled again.
"One of the things that makes this country of ours great is that we believe that the government's got no business controlling our lives, telling us what to do. I think that this law recognizes that. It simply places in the hands of the people what is already theirs to begin with..."
The camera cut again to a shot of the reporter in another area of the city. Gord threw his hands up in frustration.
"Damn it! I talked for like five minutes, they only used a bit of it!"
"What are you gonna' do?" Tyson asked, taking another mouthful of spaghetti. "Can't hog the limelight forever."
"But of course," the reporter went on, "not everyone agrees with the Libertarian Act or its provisions. We were speaking with one such person earlier today who prefers to remain anonymous, who claims that the act endangers the very social fabric of our community."
The next shot was of a pixelated face sitting in a dark room, the voice garbled to conceal its true sound. The three of them leaned closer to listen to this critic, whoever he was.