AN: Argh! Stupid finals got in my way of writing… Don't worry, I'll start updating more frequent. I promise good chapters, or you can smack me very hard.

Chapter 1

"Rio! Get your butt down here!"

I groaned and rolled over in bed. As usual, I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could avoid Mom calling me. This was a foolish assumption.

"RIO HAWKINS!"

"I'm coming," I half-moaned.

I rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth quickly, and then dressed. I would shower later, since I had to labor in the fields now. I ran down the stairs, and Mom shoved me a piece of bread and a bucket full of chicken feed.

Outside, the chickens gathered around me. I sprinkled some food on the ground, and then just dumped the whole thing on the ground. The chickens squawked and attacked the mound of food.

Afterwards, I started to weed the small plot of land we had. When the ground was weed-free, I began to transplant the young plants to the ground. There was mostly corn, but potatoes and pumpkin as well. When I was done, the sun of Scorpio II was high in the sky. I wiped the sweat off my forehead and went inside.

Mom served me lemonade and I sat down in front of the TV.

"Rio, do you have to watch those reports?" she asked.

"It's my job," I said.

There weren't really any new bounties, except for one on a store robber. It was only ☼30. The police would catch him.

Some time later, night fell. The nights of Angel Town were cold, clear, and quiet. If you left the doors open, a breeze would blow around your house and you could gaze at the stars. I didn't really care to do this, since I had been—and still was—scared of childhood legends that told of monsters that wandered through the fields and the desert.

Dinner was something that came from a can. For a moment, I pondered the fact that we weren't having good food as usual. Mom looked a bit weary. She poured herself a cup of over brewed coffee and sat down in front of me. She didn't make eye contact, just stared at her hands.

"What's wrong," I asked.

"Nothing, Rio," she sighed, "Don't worry about it."

I washed my plate and went upstairs. Mom was still at the table, staring at her cup of coffee. I shrugged and entered my bedroom.

I couldn't sleep. My lights were off, but I lay awake in bed. I was waiting for my mother's footsteps on the stairs. As more time passed, I grew worried. Mom was still downstairs.

I switched the light on, squinting. Luckily, my slippers were nearby and easy to access. I stepped outside my room and headed down the stairs, as quietly as possible. I stood on the landing and listened for Mom. She was sobbing.

"Ma," I called.

Mom looked up. "Rio? I didn't hear you come down…"

"What's wrong," I asked.

"I guess I should have explained it to you. Come here, Rio."

I went downstairs and sat at the table, like I had at dinner.

"When your father died," Mom sighed, "he left a lot of debts. The farm paid them off yearly, but as of lately, it hasn't been enough. This year, if I don't pay off ☼2500, Rio… they're going to take the farm away."

I tried not to gasp, but I felt a lump of ice forming in my throat. I remembered being born on the farm, and always have living there. When Dad died, life just went on. But I never knew of debts.

"Please don't worry, Rio," Mom sobbed. "I'm trying to bring in the harvest early so that we could get a bit more money, but it hasn't been going so well…"

I hugged my Mom. "I want you not to worry," I said. "I'll help you raise money from my bounties, and from my savings, too."

"Rio, I can't let you do that."

"I have to, Mom."

Mom looked up at me, teary-eyed. I could tell that she didn't want me to give up my savings, but at the same time, she was thankful.

I walked into town the next day. It was going to be necessary for me to get a regular job if I wanted to help Mom keep the farm.

"Hey, Hawkins!"

I groaned and kept walking. I wasn't going to listen to the blabbering of Angel Town's mercenaries. I wasn't really fond of them, especially Seroth Willing. He was a few years older than me, richer, and had a better career. That, and Seroth had a tendency of mocking me, calling "farm boy;" "mama's boy;" "funny hunter;" and the such.

"Hawkins!"

I turned around, "what, Seroth?"

"Heard you ain't gonna be a farm boy anymore."

At that moment, it took me all the effort in the world to resist killing Seroth.

"Right your grammar, Seroth," I growled.

"Ooh," he hooted. "Farm boy's a smart boy!"

I stopped for a moment to collect my temper. I could tell that Seroth was waiting, waiting for me to snap.

"Hey farm boy," Seroth said, "my dad said that when he gets your farm, you can still work on it!"

I snapped.

"Bastard!" I roared. I turned and lunged at Seroth. He didn't get to react and I pinned him against the wall of a tavern.

Seroth's eyes widened, but he wasn't shocked for long. He pushed hard against me and drove his fist into my stomach. I grunted and returned the punch to his face, cracking his nose. Seroth cursed and tried to kick me as I pushed him to the ground and punched him—hard.

"That's enough!"

The two of us suddenly stopped. A crowd had gathered, and the sheriff of the town was standing in the clearing made.

"Officer, Rio attacked me," Seroth quickly said.

"I did not," I snapped, getting up and brushing myself off.

"Oh, shut up," the sheriff snapped, "I saw the whole thing. And Rio, you should know better than to attack people at random.

"But I did—."

The sheriff wagged his finger at me. "Don't bother explainin', boy. Seroth here is a weakling, and you shouldn't attack him. Now, today, I'm letting you go, but you gotta promise me that—."

I didn't pay attention. I only cursed silently and turned away, walking quickly. My face felt as if it were on fire. I wasn't embarrassed, just annoyed.

I walked into May's Tavern, a little restaurant run by one of my friend's family. The place had been there for ages, but it had begun to succumb to Seroth's father's demands. Like my mother, the owners hadn't been able to pay their dues.

"Hey Rio," someone called, "come over here!"

I turned. Maria Giselle, the daughter of the tavern's owner, was waving frantically from the bar. She was one of the most spirited people I knew, always hyper and happy. She had brown curls that always bounced, and huge blue eyes that were always, well, huge.

"Hey Maria," I greeted.

Maria took a look at me. "Seroth?"

"Yeah."

"Well, cheer up," Maria said, "I found an awesome job for you. Can you do escort?"

I shrugged.

"Good," Maria grinned insanely, and pointed to a girl sitting at a table at the back of the tavern. "She's a reporter, and if you can get her to point B, she'll pay big."

"How much?"

"☼5000 at the job's end."

I thought for a moment. With that much money, I could probably buy the farm from Seroth's father altogether. I smiled to myself. Escorting was easy.

"I'll do it."