Goodbye, Mister Sarvos

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The Zassarian Beer Garden, Junction City, Egalstrom
7:00 PM

Matt the reluctantly started walking toward the restrooms, and Tara followed (she made sure to grab her purse on the way). He led her to a small hallway, with the door into the mens' and ladies' restrooms on the right, and a high window at the end of it. "Can you help me up there?" Tara asked sweetly.

"Are you sure this is a good idea? I know you didn't get anything to drink since I never started a tab for ya, but you still seem kinda out of it."

"I'll be fine, just help me up."

Matt got down on one knee and cupped his hands, which Tara stepped on before he raised her up. Leaning against the wall and window with her forearms for support, Tara undid the latch and carefully lowered the window. Fully opened, the gap was just big enough for me or her to fit through; she stuck her head through the opening and gulped. The alleyway was so dark that she couldn't see the ground below, but she knew if would be a significant enough fall. This was going to hurt...

As she brought her head back in, she noticed that Matt was taking an appraising look up her skirt, and she wondered what he'd think if he realized she was older than his grandmother. "Matt... MATT!"

"Sorry, what's up?"

"When I say so, can you give me a good push?"

"Yup. You ready?"

"Nope, not yet." Tara carefully crammed her purse through the window, then lowered it as far as she could before letting go of it. She heard the ruffle of it landing on a garbage bag. Lovely.

Taking a deep breath to steel her nerves, Tara called out "Okay, I'm ready."

"Alright," Matt replied. "Three...Two...One..."

The bartender foisted her up with such force that her tush collided with the top window frame before she tumbled out of the window head first. Fortunately, Tara had just enough forward momentum that instead on landing on her head (which could have been fatal), she landed on her back. She landed on a pile of garbage, which cushioned her fall somewhat, but it was still a hefty enough fall that the impact took the wind out of her, nor did it do any favors for her battered brain cage.

"Tiffany, are you alright?..." Matt called out. "...Tiffany?!"

"I'm alive," Tara croaked.

"Whew, for a moment I'd thought I killed ya."

"Nope, I'm good, er, well, good enough. Nothing's broken at least."

"Okay, great. G'night Tiffany. Maybe next time you'll actually buy somethin', yeah?"

"Of course. Thanks for everything Matt. You're a real life saver."

As Matt returned to his job, Tara got to her feet and brushed as much garbage off herself as she could. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she was able to make out where her purse had landed. She quickly felt through it to see if anything of import was missing and feeling everything she could think of, namely, her phone, wallet, recorder, and handgun, she hoisted her purse over her shoulder as she tried to decide on her next course of action.

Her gut told her that Alexander was waiting for her in front of the building. That look he had given her before he had departed was not the kind that indicated that he was satisfied with the way everything had gone down. He had unfinished business with her, which was good because she had unfinished business with him. Of course, the unfinished business he probably had in mind was probably very unhealthy for her, but Tara was confident that he wasn't in as good a position to harm her as he likely thought he was... not if Sexy Beast had something to say about it.

The first Sexy Beast had been a horse that Tara had stolen from some peasants back on Aeran, and he had definitely been a stud by horse standards. Unfortunately, he had been unable to escape the Doom of Aeran, and so Tara had named any other animal or object with which she felt affection for Sexy Beast in his honor. The current object of her fixation was her midnight black handgun, which had risen to the esteemed position of Sexy Beast XXXVII several months ago after Sexy Beast XXXVI (who had been a poisonous frog who she'd kept in a jar to extract toxins from... long story) had died.

Concealing Sexy Beast inside the left pocket of her largely ruined coat, Tara emerged from the alley into the street from which the Zassarian Beer Garden was off of. Scanning the area, she quickly spotted Alexander standing in a shadowed area near the entrance to the aforementioned establishment. She couldn't see much of him from where she stood, but he appeared to be talking to someone on his cell phone.

Retreating back into the alley, Tara weighed her options. Her usual modus operandi was to stalk enemy agents until an opportunity presented itself to apprehend them, at which point she would capture, interrogate, and then eliminate them. She wasn't confident that her usual approach would work here, as Alexander was probably seeking to do the same thing to her. Furthermore, there was the fact that he seemed to be communicating with someone. If he was calling for backup, she could easily find herself in a fight she could not win if she tried to follow him. The other scary thing was that he seemed to be aware that she was not who she said she was, and reviewing the conversation in her head, she realized that he probably suspected her of being involved in the disappearances of his fellow agents. If he was reporting those suspicions to his superiors, she could find herself in a bind. Tara had lasted as long as she had by leaving little-to-no trace of her actions in the wake of her wrath. If word got out that she was actively hunting down Hontian agents, continuing her vendetta would likely become more dangerous (as if it wasn't stupidly hazardous already).

It was time to cut her losses. As much as she'd like to get more information out of Alexander, his continued existence was too much of a risk to her. Her mind made up, Tara retreated further into the gloomy alleyway until she found an appropriately hidden spot. After pocketing her gun, Tara reached into another pocket in her coat and pulled out an obsidian talisman. In the darkness, it was impossible to see the black trinket, but she could feel it's cool glass-like surface. Murmuring the incantation she had been taught, Tara held out the talisman, then began to draw a large, ovular shape in the air with it. When the talisman reached the point she had started, it produced a flash of light that sent a familiar jolt up her arm. The signal had been sent...

What Tara had just created (or mostly created) was a portal to the Crossroads. Well, it wasn't quite "to the Crossroads" yet, as the portal would only connect to the Crossroads once the guardian of the weird dimension, the mysterious entity that Tara knew only as The Being, approved of the connection. Tara preferred to dimension-hop using Darkstar portals, which were inter-dimensional gateways created by her mother's magic, and to Tara's knowledge, only Adora Coulter's bloodline could utilize the Darkstar. Apparently, the Being didn't consider Darkstar travel to be secure enough, and so he/she/it had insisted that Tara could only use the portal spell she had just used to travel to and from the Crossroads, among a few other conditions for using the Crossroads as a base. Tara had thought the conditions to be fair, for the place certainly seemed safe enough, which was rare for a multi-universal fugitive such as herself.

Unfortunately, it would probably take a few minutes for The Being to detect Tara's request and complete the connection. This had been why Tara had started creating the portal now. What Tara had in mind for her dear step-brother was going to be quite... messy, and she was going to need to be able to make a quick getaway.

Pocketing the talisman, Tara placed her hand on the concealed Sexy Beast XXXVII and walked back out toward the street. After glancing toward Alexander to confirm that he was still waiting for her near the front of the Zassarian Beer Garden, she found the nearest group of people and approached them. Naturally, the people Tara chose to mingle with were not terribly pleased to have a battered albino hobo who smelled of garbage standing near them, but she was able to make herself appear non-threatening and unapproachable enough to avoid a confrontation by looking at the ground, keeping her hands in her pockets, and hunching over a bit to lower her profile. Unfortunately, Tara had lost her hat at some point, so she couldn't conceal her unusual white hair as well as she would have liked. Thankfully, nobody commented on her appearance or smell, although some people tried to keep their distance from her. All in all, she didn't make much of a scene, and she was able to blend in with the crowd enough that only someone who knew where to look for her would spot her... hopefully.

Keeping with the crowd, Tara crossed the street and was able to get behind another group of pedestrians that were moving toward Alexander's position. Tara had learned that the 3 major ingredients to successfully sneaking up on a target were to make herself as hard to notice as possible, move fluidly and slowly in a direction that was not directed toward the target while in their cone of vision, and to not stare directly at her target. Most sentient creatures' eyes tended to be drawn toward motion and seemed to have an uncanny ability to know when they were being watched.

Using these 3 principles, Tara was able to sneak up on Alexander quite easily, especially since he was still having a conversation on his cell phone. Keeping herself hidden in the crowds until she was behind him, Tara silently made her way back across the street once the road was largely clear of vehicles. She was now only about 40 yards (35.6 meters) away from her quarry. Her pulse quickened in anticipation as she closed the distance; her grip tightened on her pistol, and time itself seemed to slow as all of her senses became more acute. Ahead, she could pick up what Alexander was whispering into his phone... "No, I promise you I will be fine. All your backup will accomplish will be to get us noticed. I will find out where she resides, and then we can make plans to stop her from..."

"Tiffany!"

It took Tara a moment to realize that she was the one being called out to, and another moment to detect the source, but when she did, her heart sank...

"Tiffany, I have your hat!" Matt shouted, waving said black fedora over his head to try to get her attention. Unfortunately, his antics also drew Alexander's attention, who, upon noticing Matt, started to turn toward the object of Matt's concern.

Tara was out of time. Just shy of 20 yards from Alexander, she was not quite within optimal firing range, but it would have to be close enough. She came to a halt in a shooting stance and whipped Sexy Beast out of her pocket. As she brought her pistol into firing position, hers and Alexander's eyes met...

Then she fired. Then she fired again. And again. The muzzle flashes illuminating the macabre deed helped Tara see that her aim was true as round after round of 9mm hollowpoint rounds struck Alexander's torso, his body shuddering under the blows of the expanding munitions. Firing at a rate of a little over two rounds a second, Tara unloaded 10 bullets into Alexander in 5 seconds, with the last shot catching him in the mouth as he began to collapse forward, blowing off a chunk of the left side of his face, which was unfortunate as she had been hoping to preserve his visage as much as possible for the benefit of the authorities. Her ears ringing from all of the gunshots, which probably could have been heard by everyone on the street, if not the entire block, Tara quickly approached her fallen foe as he lay twitching on the sidewalk and pumped an extra shot into the back of his head for good measure.

Then she noticed Matt, and her heart lurched at his expression of horror and disbelief. He was no longer waving her hat in the air but instead clenched it as if his sanity depended on it. She wanted to protest. Alexander was the monster, not her. She had saved them all from what he wanted to do to them. However, she could say nothing, and soon, he fled back into his bar as sirens began to blare in the distance. And he took her hat with him. That jerk.

Of course, Matt wasn't the only bystander who was unsettled by this turn of events. Most of the witnesses of her crime ran screaming as fast as they could, with one girl falling on her face as she tried (and failed) to sprint in high heels. Those that didn't bugger off and decided to stand their ground and look threatening, Tara waved her gun at to discourage them from trying to be vigilantes. She spotted Alexander's phone lying near his corpse and decided to take it. Maybe she could pawn it off or...

"Mr. Sarvos, are you there? What just happened?!" an effeminate voice yelled from the other side of the line. Whoever Alexander had been talking to must have heard everything. That must have been fun.

"Alexander, do you copy?! Alexander..."

"Alexander Coulter is dead, bitch," Tara growled. "You're next."

"Who is thi..."

Even as Tara hung up, she knew that she had made a serious error in judgment. Letting her prey know she was coming for them only gave them time to prepare, and Tara lacked the resources to overcome significant amounts of organized opposition. Something about the utter lack of appreciation from the people she was trying to help was really getting to her. Speaking of which...

As a police car, blue lights flashing and siren whirring came into view, Tara knew it was time to GTFO. Dashing toward the alley she had left the portal in, she heard the squealing breaks of what she could only assume was the cop cars, followed shortly by slamming car doors and a shouted order to, "Freeze!" which she completely ignored. When the cop realized she wasn't slowing down, he discharged his weapon, but thankfully she was able to duck into the alleyway without getting hit.

The police hot on her tail, Tara couldn't afford to slow down much, but if she walked past the portal, she was screwed. Of course, if the Being hadn't completed the portalway yet, she was even more screwed; hopefully, that wouldn't be the case. As she neared where she recalled placing the portal at, she could feel it's energy. Slowing down, she turned and fired a few shots wildly down the alleyway to keep her pursuers on their toes, then approached the portal. Just as the cops began to return fire, she leaped through the gateway and could feel herself getting pulled through time and space...

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