Sunday, April 15, 2007

Just 'cause - Chapter 15 - Feuer Frei

The problem with screaming down a "Should be a three-lane highway" road - while being pursued by a pair of genetically-engineered killer children - can be traced to a phenomenon invented straight after the road and the horse cart: the traffic jam. In theory, the police cruiser - a Chevrolet Trailblazer with the cop package - should have had a speed advantage on the Hand of Glory jeep. Unfortunately, Rowena was far too busy swerving through traffic to take much advantage of that - although the addition of her cruiser's signal lights at least inclined some drivers to clear the road for her. If there was one good thing about the whole situation, it was that Freyja and Freyr couldn't open fire on her.

Then she saw the back window of the car next to her explode into a million little pieces and remembered that the kids were sociopaths.

She swerved the car onto the road's emergency lane and kissed guardrail - a horrible grinding sound, but it let her bypass the worst of the congestion. With another yank, she brought the car clear of the rail, let out a long-held breath and switched to fifth gear, bringing the car up to top speed.


"We are losing ground."
"I know, sister. Hold on."


With gained distance and an emotional disagreement with meeting high-speed death, Rowena decided to even her pace a little bit and make a plan. Driving shoulder all the way was definitely out, so she resolved to pull back onto the street at the next opening. Well, there was the opening, and then there was the two-ton Hand jeep screaming at her small car with murderous fury. The banging-up of Rowena's ride continued apace with the driver's side as the two vehicles fused into one screaming behemoth, just soon enough to force Rowena's cruiser back against the rail and onto the next exit. The gestalt rode the exit ramp like a Flipper trick shot, bouncing from guide rail to guide rail in a festival of sparks. Rowena had the sense to drop her seat back just as another shotgun blast crashed through the side windows and showered her with glass.

Frantically trying to reach something, she finally found the USP on the passenger's seat, grabbed it with her right hand and sent a double-tap through the shattered window. That, at least, seemed to keep Freyja down and allowed Rowena to briefly look up over the dashboard to see where they were going. That done, she snapped the seat back up, dropped the USP out the window and used her free hand to quickly fasten the seat belt.

Then they crashed right through the barred front door of an abandoned factory.


Mark was having the un-time of his life watching Brazilian TV. Great, another telenovela! - Pass, he thought, and switched channels until he got stuck on a local news broadcast. He didn't need to speak Portuguese to figure out that there was a car chase in progress, as filmed from a news chopper.

As a hitman, Mark had learned to trust his instincts. He snapped up from his chair, then looked to Gray.

"Start the chopper," Mark said, grabbing his guns.


Rowena never blacked out - the adrenaline was burning little holes into her veins, and she could follow the world spinning around her car with terrifying clarity. The airbag deployed faithfully, arresting her forward motion - she fought it off even as the car twisted, flipped and squeezed into the factory's main hall. Finally, it came to a skidding stop.

She left yesterday's peaches in the car.

With some effort, she managed to unhook the safety belt and climbed out of the, well, wreck. The sirens were slowly fading into a slow death, sounding like the distant footsteps of a giant until, finally, the wreck's electronics gave in. For all the damage to her ride, the Hand jeep was even worse off. It was overturned, its axles broken and its engine compartment caved in where it had met a structural beam of the factory hall. She could make out Freyja buried underneath the jeep, apparently still breathing. Rowena reached for her PT92s and found the holsters torn from her shoulders - her fatigues were torn up, with several bloody lacerations all over her body. This would start to hurt soon; for now, Rowena had to press her advantage. She drew the stiletto from her boot and set to make sure Freyja would never wake.

She'd barely taken three steps when she saw the jeep shudder; a horrible groaning sound echoed from the vehicle until it finally rolled off to the side, even more twisted from the forces that had been brought to bear against it. Freyr stood there, his eyes bleeding from the effort; lifting a whole car was a dicey proposition for all but a few Avatars, and a bootleg physical adept had to push his limits to even move one. He looked like he was burning everything he had to stay upright; without thought, Rowena flipped the stiletto around and hurled it, but it wasn't intended as a throwing knife - she did manage to stick him in the leg, but that was more annoyance than serious damage. He growled, furious like a wounded dog, and grasped his G36.

Rowena started to run.

Shots followed her as she sprinted up the stairway to the factory's mezzanine; she found cover behind a large printing machine and considered her situation. With the stiletto wound, Freyr couldn't jump high enough to reach her here; she crawled over to a large tool cart and pushed it toward the stairs, where it came crashing down and got stuck in the railing, blocking that way up. Rowena crawled back to the machine and crouched down; all she had to do was wait for the laws of biology to catch up to Freyr's injuries.

There was a loud clang above her; Rowena saw Freyr's G36 tangled in its dummy line over a structural beam, used like a grappling hook. The Hand's efforts to improve its field technology were admirable, but inconvenient, to say the least. Rowena growled in frustration; however, she took a deep breath, stood up and got a running start toward the handrail of the mezzanine. With one gargantuan leap, she reached the tangled up G36 and latched onto it; even a psion had to follow the rules of physics occasionally, and Rowena was - with all due respect for her figure - a good deal heavier than Freyr. The beauty of this plan didn't hit Freyr right away, though Rowena's foot did. With a twitch of his muscles, he released the winch on the dummy line, giving it as much as he could - but Rowena still hit the ground and hooked the line into a nearby pulley, then took off with the G36, pulling the line taut. Freyr slammed into the ceiling, with only his arm thin enough to slip between beam and roof; his arm was painfully hyperextended, and Rowena really put her back into it. She found another pillar to secure the line and wrapped it up into a nice, solid knot. She couldn't figure out how to detach the G36 from the line without cutting it, but a small, shiny piece of metal caught her eye - the Stiletto. She went over to collect it, picked it up and weighed it, enjoying the sight of Freyr struggling to free himself.

"Enjoying the view?" she shouted, a grin on her face. Freyr kept struggling, but even he knew that this wasn't a good situation - disconnecting the line would drop him all the way onto the hard factory floor, and he wasn't nearly fresh enough to try and soak that impact.

"Du Dreckfotze!" came a cry from the jeep; Rowena saw Freyja climb out of the wreck, her left foot sitting at a horrible angle and her pale little face ripped to shreds from a close shave with the windshield. At this moment, Rowena was glad to have flunked German. She took off again, sprinting for the G36, while Freyja painfully reached behind her back to grab her shotgun. With the G36 in hand, Rowena racked the bolt and aimed down the reflex sight. "Eat me," she said, and pulled the trigger.


Freyja cracked a grin, as much as her face was still able to express anything; she grabbed a small pendant dangling from her neck and waved it around.

"You can't shoot us with our own guns. That's the point."

Rowena's frustration unloaded itself with a primal scream. Brandishing the stiletto, she ran towards Freyja, intent on doing a little improvised stabbing therapy. Freyja brought up the shotgun; Rowena had enough self-control to jump aside, but the gun breathed flame, and the Hand fatigues she was wearing were only flame-retardant to a point. Screaming and hollering, she crashed to the ground, tucking and rolling to put out the fire. Freyja's shotgun cycled with a hearty manual ker-chunk! and ejected the sizzling hot Dragon's Breath shell. Rowena got up from the ground, with new pain to show for her efforts, and spotted two things. One, the burst of flame had set fire to some of the stored materials in the factory - the place would be lit up in minutes. Two, she'd dropped the stiletto, but there was a small piece of loose rebar lying next to her. She heard Freyja's shuffling footsteps closing in; the girl levelled her shotgun at Rowena.

"Any last words?"

Rowena's hand snaked out for the rebar...

"Sua mãe é uma puta!" Rowena shouted; using the rebar, she whacked the gun away and sweep-kicked the girl right in the ribs, leaving her to stumble backwards. Rowena righted herself, stepped on the shotgun's dummy line and favored Freyja with another series of kicks before snaring the line with her foot and kicking up the shotgun into her own hands.

"Can't shoot me..." Freyja managed to say, but Rowena simply whipped the gun around and gave the Child of Eve a taste of composite stock, shattering her jaw. Freyja tried to reel the shotgun in again, but Rowena saw that coming; she turned on her heel, laid the shotgun on her shoulder and used it as lever to toss Freyja over her head, letting her hit the ground with full force. The little body of the Hand soldier was shattered almost beyond repair now; Rowena grabbed the dummy-lined shotgun, wrapped the cable around Freyja's neck and put the shotgun back into its sheath. Without further words, she stabbed the rebar through the trigger guard, painfully pinning the gun to the girl. Finally, she gave the dummy line winch in Freyja's sleeve a good kick, shorting it into retrieval mode.

Rowena couldn't calm down until she'd seen the little bitch choke to death. Centered again, she noted the rising flames with faint detachment; Freyr began to shout from above, still stuck between beam and ceiling.

"Freyja! Freyja! Schwester!"

Rowena looked back at the corpse, then up. Her voice was brutally even when she spoke again.

"Burn," she said, then walked out.

Freyr cried out further, but got no response; finally, he drew his combat knife and eyed it with a strange sort of detachment.



Gray's chopper hovered over the burning factory; with the Shop leader himself flying the bird, it fell to Mark and John Done to do the spotting. Done watched a HoG half-track ride down to the factory's front gate. Without further ado, he reached into his little box of guns and retrieved a Milkor MGL grenade launcher.

A risky shot. But if it came down to it, he'd take it.


When Rowena burst out of the factory through a window, she rolled to a stop and slowly righted herself. There was not a thing in her body that wasn't hurting, all adding into a dull roar throughout her nerves that had her brain going "Yeah, I get it, PAIN!" She was bloodied and blooded, stumbling over the concrete and aching for this day to end. Seeing a row of HoG soldiers at the gate almost broke her.

She was so far beyond frustration that she just stopped walking.

Leutnant Pantoja climbed out of the half-track, then walked in front of his men to face Rowena; he held up his hand, signalling them to hold their fire.

"Where are the children?" he asked in his accented English.
"All grown up," Rowena replied, flat and monotone.

"LEUTNANT!" came the scream from behind Rowena, and when she turned, she saw the definition of grotesque - Freyr, burnt and shattered and missing a good deal of his right arm. Rowena realized in horror that, unable to reach the wire, he had cut off his own limb. His legs were shattered from the fall, and he walked unsteadily, from pain or a concussion or...take your pick, Rowena thought, for Freyr was broken as a doll could be.

In response, Pantoja grabbed his sidearm and shot twice.

Rowena opened her eyes to find that she was, against all odds, not dead. Freyr, however, now had two more reasons to finally give up and die. She looked at Pantoja with a confused expression, but the Leutnant just holstered his gun and nodded to his men. The Stormtroopers unmasked, all natives of the area. The only one there who was close to the master race was busy gurgling his own blood.

"I let you escape once," Pantoja said. "I can do it again."

Rowena nodded to him; he replied in kind. He wasn't sweating at all when he turned to his men, who secured their weapons and jumped back on the half-track. They faded into the distance with a roar, as if they were trying to wake up the city to its wounds. Rowena simply stood, dumbfounded; she remained so while the chopper landed, up until Mark hopped out and ran up to her with a first aid kit.

She looked up; he froze in his tracks a meter shy of reaching her.

"I'm...I'm dizzy," she finally said; in lieu of letting her collapse, Mark grabbed her arm, laid it on his shoulders and helped her walk back to the helicopter. Even seeing Dennis Gray at the controls couldn't faze her anymore; instead, as they sat down, she laid her head back and closed her eyes.

"No sleeping on the job, kiddo. C'mon, stay with me."
"I'm awake," she said, her eyes snapping open, but she kept her head rested back. Shortly, her eyes wanted to close again; she tried her best to fight it off while Mark began to dress the worst of her wounds.
"I'll need you to tell me what the fuck just happened here," Mark said, "and then I'll buy you a drink."
"I'm not legal..."
"Do you think anybody cares down here?" Mark asked; Rowena's mind briefly flashed pictures of the two Children of Eve and their small, mangled corpses.
"Are you hungry?"

Rowena smiled.

"I could eat..."

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