"I should have known!" Jet barked, his gun aimed right for Spike's heart. "Of course you knew about this. Goddamned syndicate prick!"

Spike froze, his gun on a kill shot. Not the heart. The neck was a deadlier target this close. Every breath was a harsh rasp through his nose. His finger massaged the trigger of his Jericho. Through clenched teeth he snarled, "I am dead!"

"You lied to me!" Jet took a step forward leading with the gun. "Thought you were another bounty hunter, a damned good one too!"

In a low growl Spike punched each word, fighting not to pull the trigger. "I—am—a—dead—man!"

The intense glare locked Jet in his steps. Slowly, Jet lowered his Walther, numb shock washing over his face.

Spike held the stance for half a minute longer before his hand lowered to his side. His shoulders slumped forward as he hung his head in the hollow victory.

Neither said a word. Slowly Jet made his way around the puddle of blood and picked up the remote from the desk. "This little thing was the cause of all this?"

Trading his gun for the lighter in his pocket, Spike lit a cigarette and tapped his shoe against Topaz just to be sure. She didn't move. Well, he didn't want to repeat her mistake. Where had this streak of luck come from? She'd mopped the floor with him years ago.

Jet held up a map. "Hey, looks like she marked out the locations. These should be easy to recover now. Maybe they'll give us the full five-million even though you blew out her neck."

Spike ambled to the desk and peered over Jet's shoulder. Damn. Should've let her push the button. He eyed the green light, his fingers itching to reach out. One touch and if those devices were in the right place the entire foundation of the Red Dragon Syndicate would be cut down in one blow. Buried in the rubble of their own building as the ground turned to sand beneath.

Vicious would do it. He closed his eyes and shuddered. No! I'm not like him! I couldn't stomach that shit, that's why I left.

"Spike, hey, you still with me?"

He opened his eyes. Jet hovered there waving a hand inches from his face. Spike grabbed it and shoved him aside. He threw Topaz's body over his shoulder. "Come on. Let's blow this joint."

"We still have to retrieve the relays."

He called over his shoulder. "You have a map. See you on the Bebop."

"Howdy there, pardners! All 300,000 bounty hunters in the system, how y'all doin'?" Punch yelled over the broadcast show.

On the bridge, Spike worked through a routine only partially listening to the background noise as he delivered a roundhouse into the air. Through the windows the hyperspace stars raced by in streaming stripes. Jet had mumbled something about where they were headed hours ago. Spike didn't give a shit. Anywhere but Mars. Granted, leaving only lessened the chances that the syndicate would hear he was still alive. They may be based in Tharsis, but that hardly meant their reach didn't extend throughout the system. All he could do was stay alert and try to make it harder for them. It was still only a gamble of time before they found him.

For the moment, the odds seemed in his favor. That was never truly a blessing, as he'd seen it.

" … a crisis was averted on Mars when Jet Black of the Bebop nabbed one Topaz. A mean little White Tiger minx with a plan to extort Tharsis."

"Oh my, Punch! Thank the stars for this handsome cowboy! Isn't he dreamy?" Judy cooed.

"Like I had nothin' to do with it." Spike grumbled between punches.

"What was that, partner?" Jet glanced up from the console.

"Nothing." He shoved his hands in his sweatpant pockets and padded over to the screen staring idly at the pair.

"Too bad for Jet though, only half the reward since there was a big ol' hole in her neck. Remember cowfolks, a bounty is worth more alive than dead!"

Spike snorted, "Yeah, but a cooperative corpse is easier to carry in."

Jet leaned on the console toward Spike with a crooked grin. "Say, where you headed now?"

"Hadn't really thought about it." He shrugged. "Don't really care."

Tossing a handheld com into the air, Jet watched as Spike caught it and blinked at the screen.

"You're joking, right?"

"You'd be good at it." Jet grinned. "Besides, it gets kinda lonely out here. I could use a partner. So … what d'ya say? Partners?"

Spike eyed him sideways. "And the second that the I.S.S.P. puts a price on my head you'll know what bunk to find me in."

"You're supposed to be dead, right? So why would they?"

"Don't they do a background check or something with this application for a license?"

"You have a license to fly your Swordfish, right?"

Spike glanced away.

Jet glared. "Oh, that's the first thing we're fixing."

"We? Hey, there is no we! I didn't say yes yet!"

" … our next bounty is for an embezzling scumbag. The company is real eager to get their hands on his one folks. The bounty is a 10-million woolongs for this creep! A drop in the bucket compared to the 800-billion he embezzled. Last seen in a stolen craft pictured here …"

Spike and Jet glanced at the screen. A second later, the craft soared over their head in the hyperspace tunnel. They both did a double take.

"How long does this take to go through?" Spike held up the application.

Author's Note: This story was crafted trying to keep in mind as much of the anime series 'hints' as possible—what few we manage to get. My idea was to try and explain how they met in as seamless as way as possible with the original material. Jet is meant to seem a bit out of his element in this one, as we know he eventually settles into being Spike's backup most of the time. Spike is intentionally not as humorous most of the time as I figured two weeks wasn't enough to cover his reeling. Though I have seen the fanbase argue over which if his eyes is fake, I have declared it his right due to my own observations that were confirmed in the remarks in the official anime guidebooks. I hope you guys enjoyed my take.

My series "Dragons of the Darkwave" (of which there are two) preclude this. Part 2 butts up right at the beginning.