Dog Run: Coming Home

Jhonen was about to go in to attack The Wendigo as he reared at Ink, but he found himself blocked by a sudden red blur that turned into Crystal. She had her combat knife in hand and went to work on The Wendigo's legs, severing his Achilles tendon. The muscle snapped up into the wendigo's upper leg like a massive rubber band, The Wendigo howled in pain. Yet continued to focus on Ink as he tried to pummel the slippery shadow with his hammer.

This proved fruitless, however as soon Ink had introduced some sort of grenade into the beast's exposed innards. Desperately, The Wendigo clawed at himself to try and extricate the acid grenade. But it was already too late. Soon The Wendigo was a heap of smoking flesh on the ground before them.

Jhonen stared at him. Relief washed over him. He felt Boston's spirit finally come to peace and he went to the corpse. The first thing Jhonen did was cleave The Wendigo's head from his smoking body with his sword. Then he took it by the scraggly black hair that flowed out from behind the dragon skull helmet, and held it aloft.

Howls erupted into the cavern. The Pack had lost their leader. The chaos that was already ensuing grew more intense as Pack started running away every which way, dogged by gristles and continuous shots from Anna. Though soon even she saw there was little point in this gesture as many of them toppled over the edge and into the chasm below in a fit of panic.

Jhonen regarded the beast's head with a disgusted look before tossing it into the chasm. Then he went to his radio. "Wrecker, this is Daddy. The Rabid Dog's been put down. Gather your Hammer and head home. The hunt is done." Then he turned to the others as he returned his sword to its scabbard. He first went to Ink and assessed the damage of his broken arm. "Nothing a good doctor can't patch up." Jhonen said with a smile as he pat Ink on the shoulder with pride. "You earned yourself an extended vacation, Ink."

Then he turned to Anna and Crystal. "Good work both of you. Now head through the Syndicate tunnel. This place is still too hot with the gristles about."

"What about the pack?" Anna asked.

"Ink's the new alpha now." Jhonen said with a smirk. "They won't dare come near us."

Anna noticed the venomous hatred Crystal was still spewing towards The Wendigo's corpse, she reached out to Crystal and touched her arm. "Crystal...? We need to get out of here."

Soon the team was running down the Syndicate escape tunnel and on their way out of that godsforsaken catacomb.

---

Queenslayer Base - Later That Day

Everyone was licking their respective wounds. Dr. Brennan had been busy all afternoon. Ink had the worst of it with his broken arm. Anna was enjoying a cold beer and relaxing tunes as she sat in her new quarters at Queenslayer base. Dastan was snoozing near her, his belly full of nasty Pack meat. He kept belching up odd bone ornaments every now and then. It was gross. Anna had the cargo bay door to her quarters open so she could breathe in the fresh night air, and to kick these bits of bodily debris over the edge and into the sand below.

She felt a little stupid at the moment. Though Jhonen had praised her for what she did, he did take her aside and reprimand her for her reaction to Dagger being spotted. She'd panicked, admittedly. And it wasn't becoming of a good dragoon. But Jhonen had let her down easy, and she was determined to do better next time. Even still, she hated that she'd fucked up like that.

She listened to the music and sipped her beer. Happy at least that The Wendigo was no more. And that they were one step closer to ending The Crimson Kingdom.

---

Hilda was cleaning the blood from Bonecrusher, it had taken some effort to get the beast back to QB, but now that Hilda had some time on her hands she was already making plans for upgrades after finally getting to use the beast in the field. Next time she'd install solar cells to keep the fucker from dying after only a half-hour.

Then she got a ping on her tac-com. A message with a "?" for an insignia. She frowned and hailed Jhonen.

"J." Hilda said. This was a secure channel not even the other Queenslayers were privy towards. "Whisper's wanting to talk."

Jhonen paused for a moment. "Send the signal to my quarters."

Jhonen was busy cleaning Boston's blasters when he'd gotten the call from Hilda. So when the ghostly hologram of the entity known as Whisper showed up, he didn't even bother standing up from his seat.

Whisper was an odd contact that Jhonen had made some time early on during his hunt for The Crimson Queen. Someone who was very interested in seeing him succeed. The hologram didn't show the man's true appearance. Though Jhonen was aware Whisper was indeed a man. Instead it was a vaguely humanoid figure made of light blue light with a question mark on its face.

"Jhonen." Whisper said, his voice warped by an electronic scrambler.

"Whisper. I take it you heard about The Wendigo?" Jhonen said.

"I did. Very impressive. Pack have been spotted wandering the desert aimlessly according to my sources in The Syndicate. Dragoon are already mopping up the stragglers."

"Good to hear." Jhonen said, putting his pistol down and looking at the ghostly figure. "I take it you didn't call me just to congratulate my team and I?"

"No. I'm here because something cropped up on some feeds of mine. Something bloody happened at the Citra-Corp headquarters on Mars. Lots of security dead, and one executive I've been told. And you'll be interested to know who sliced and diced them."

Jhonen knew immediately who Whisper was talking about. "The Hand..."

"Bingo. Apparently this exec pissed off The Queen. I did some digging and found something you need to see." Whisper raised a ghostly finger and an image popped up of a man. Grizzled and clearly a veteran. The name of the picture was Jack Dark. "This man was hired by Citra-Corp to kill you it seems. I had to do some serious digging for this information. It was kept almost completely off the record."

"Dark Bail Bonds..." Jhonen frowned. "Just a minor bounty hunter from the looks of it."

"Jack Dark is no minor league bounty hunter. But he isn't your problem. The problem is that someone in Citra Corp wanted you dead. Wonder why?"

"I've had suspicions that The Queen had dealings with them." Jhonen said. "But they wouldn't do this, she'd never allow it."

"I think that's why the janitor at Citra is busier than usual. Someone did something behind The Queen's back."

It all fell into place. "Boston's death triggered the entire dragoon force to come after her. If she's got dealings with Citra they'd be mad at her for letting this game she's playing get in the way of their illegal operations on Jericho. Someone tried taking me out to fix the situation and got killed for it."

"That was my deduction as well." Whisper said. "But it gets worse. Word coming down the grapevine says there's a bounty on Jack Dark placed there by the Queen Bitch herself."

Jhonen gestured at the file Whisper had presented to him and read though it. He stopped when he saw the image of a younger woman, perhaps even a teenager, walking alongside him.

"That's his daughter, Joanna. She works with him." Whisper said.

Jhonen's eyes narrowed. "His daughter." He got up from the desk and went to the nearby locker in the back of his quarters. He opened it, revealing a wall of bionic arms, some of them old, others more ornate and decorative, and some that looked far more deadly than the one he currently had on. Jhonen disengaged the safety lock on his arm and removed the arm he currently had on. Then selected one of the more decorative arms. It was white with artistic etchings on its surface that looked more like tattoos. Hilda was particularly proud of this one due to the artistry. He locked it into place. The fingers went through preliminary movements to synch up with the nerves in his arm. Soon he had full control. Then he went and grabbed a heavy leather coat and put it on.

"What do you plan to do, Jhonen?" Whisper asked.

"Jack Dark and his daughter are in danger because of me..." Jhonen picked up the blaster he'd been cleaning and checked it before sliding it into a hidden shoulder holster in the coat. "I intend to rectify that."

---

Hilda saw Jhonen march into the garage dressed in more casual clothing, his coat and arm were the dead giveaway. She knew it meant he was going into a public place.

"Need to buy another tacky shirt before we head off to Clarke Island?" Hilda asked with a smirk. Though it quickly melted away when she saw the look on his face. "Jhonen what's wrong?"

"I have some business in Jericho's Landing that needs to be taken care of." He went to one of the spinner cars in the garage and hopped into it. "You all can head to Clarke without me. Just drop Noriko's name and they'll set you all up."

"What's happening, J?" Hilda knew something was wrong.

He smiled at her reassuringly. "Just need to take care of a small problem that popped up. Nothing to worry about. I'll see you at Clarke Island." Then he winked. "You better pack a bathing suit..."

Hilda chuffed. "Yeah, me in a bathing suit. That'll be the day."

Jhonen smirked and shut the door on the spinner before heading out towards Jericho's Landing.

---

The Queen sat in her throne chair and stared out at the city before her. The air was thick and hot in the room. The slave girls lying on the large bed in the center of the room were eyeing her suspiciously. They were scared, afraid of the thing that had entered the room.

The Alpha Female stood at the bottom of the steps leading to The Queen's throne. She had her lover's hammer in her hands. They were shaking.

"So Jhonen and his merry men put down my dog..." The Queen smiled more. "That's impressive."

"He took my mate..." The Alpha Female spat. "Butchered him! I will feed on his blood."

"You will do no such thing." The Queen said. The Bitch bowed her head. "Jhonen won this round... And by the rules of The Game..." She got up from her chair and turned to face The Wendigo's bitch. She produced a handgun and fired a single shot that blew apart the bitch's skull. The Wendigo's claw hammer crashed onto the floor, cracking the black floor panels under its weight.

The slave girls didn't cower or scream. They just set about cleaning up the mess. "Besides, Lanstrom's dolls are growing far more grotesque with each passing year... And now she's stopped answering my calls..." The Queen tsked. "Wont do at all..." She went back to sitting at her throne and stared out at the city. "Point to you, my love. My dog wasn't a match for you. Now you must face my toys and their maker..."

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