Jacked Up

((MO-12 Depot, later that day))

Jack crept with his back against the wall of the compound. Slipping the guards had been easy, especially since evening was creeping fast on the world. He waited as the guard above threw a cigarette away, the sound of a hatch opening and closing letting him back up and take a running jump to the next level. Muscles flexed as he pulled himself up.

Okay... Now to place the tap...

"Hey!" He heard from behind. Jack had already stood and cursed his bad luck. He was not expecting another guard and was slowly raising his hands. "Who the fuck are you?"

True to form, the guard approached with his weapon raised. He did not answer as he listened to the footfalls. Four... Five.... he thought. When he heard the step that took the guard within striking distance, he whipped around like a hurricane. The guard found himself struggling to free himself from a lock, the rifle now maneuvered around to choke him. Jack brought his arm up and pulled on it with his other, increasing the pressure.

There was a squawk or two from the man as he resisted. "Shhhhh," Jack hushed, pulling him away from the edge. Below, a guard performed her duties by patrol. Slowly, the man he had passed out. Jack laid him gently down. He paused long enough to look down again.

The guard continued her patrol unaware of him.

With a quiet sigh of relief, he turned back to the tower. The comm dish sat up a bit high but he had a good throwing arm. One had to, especially if they did not want a grenade to blow too close. Reaching for his own bug, he drew back the wax on its flat side before slugging it as hard as he could. It sailed up before sticking just inside the concave lip of the dish.

Not wanting to be there any longer, Jack made haste out of there.

~~

Jack was well on his way home when he felt the tone in his ear. Reaching up as he turned the grav cycle to another road, he flicked it on.

"Dad?"

He went to greet her when it hit him that something seemed off.

"Jack, it's bad. I'm-I'm hit. I'm hit..."

He damn near crashed right there into a slower grav car at that. What had she done? Did she try and go after Cross? Or did whatever hare-brained plan of hers go wrong?

"Joanna!" Jack all but yelled, frightened for his daughter. "Joanna, what happened?! Where are you?!"

"Main district... Uh-third street? Fifth? I... I got shot-shot by a... Uh, killtract... "

"WHAT?!"

It was bad enough that they had to do this in the first place. Now they had a killtract against them? Jack felt his blood boil as he nosed over the car and took to air. He gunned the throttle, the engine roaring as he swiped his tac-link. He set it to track as he turned to the city. He was coming as fast as possible.

Joanna spoke once more, this time weakly. It threw his heart into his throat and only made that fire blaze hotter. "Dad, please... Please hurry..."

There was the sound of gunshots and the link clicked off. With a grim and determined look, he broke the speed limit three-fold. He tried raising her again but failed. Hang on, Jo! I'm coming, sweetie!

Then, something else happened. The link clicked back on but it was not Jo. His fingers were white on the handlebars as he listened.

"Jack. This is Jhonen Cross. I've got Joanna. She's safe. I'll be taking her back to my base of operations and get her to a doctor I trust." A moment's pause. "I know you were hired to kill me. But The Queen found out. The Queen doesn't want me dead, she wants me to suffer, and she'll kill anyone she thinks is a threat to her game. Including you and Joanna. I have no intention of letting that happen. I'm asking you to trust me Jack..."

He had no idea who this "Queen" was nor did he care. The target was actually on the line and possibly had shed some light on the biggest plot twist of the century. Yet, when the plan he had for Citra came to mind, of what he would do, nothing came to him. He felt his patience for all of this snap as he slowed down a bit.

He was getting his daughter out of this, one way or another.

"Fine," he growled into the comm. "Give me a beacon and I will-"

A sudden crack! sounded from the back of the cycle, making it fishtail through the air. He smelt faintly the smoke despite the wind and glanced behind him to see the grav coupler was on fire. Then he noticed the culprit: a single bullet hole that had punched through the thin metal there. Losing altitude quickly, he slowed as much as he could while raising the nose. Adrenaline pumped freshly yet he kept a focused mind.

NOW!

As the cycle skidded into the ground, he jumped off and rolled. He brought his revolver out and finished the roll, sloppily going to a crouch from excess force. Jack raised and sighted upwards as a car came close by, low to the ground and shaded windows open to reveal barrels of weapons.

Anyone else, they would have frozen. Jack did not.

The boom of his revolver kicked it in his hand, the round making an impressive crater of spider-webbed glass of the vehicle. Realizing he needed to get past it, he adjusted his aim. The second shot chipped the open window, gouging good chunk of bullet-resistant glass as he sighted again. The return fire came as expected and Jack moved again. He ran towards the car, making them have to aim down further. One foolishly leaned out and Jack obliged his idiocy with a third round. His head snapped back and he fell into the car, the dim whine of the cycle engines not enough to hide the sound it made.

Fuck, they got dermal... Jack thought as he aimed for the car's cycle units. Immediately, as if sensing what he was going for, the car sped up. It careened dangerously close to fleeing cars who had become embroiled in the firefight. Jack gritted his teeth and pulled the trigger three more times.

The fourth bullet lanced itself into the license plate. The fifth found purchase just a bit too high to get into the back left unit. The sixth found it. It was almost nabbed entirely by the cone but the result was a blowout of the unit. There was a crack! and the car suddenly tilted backwards and to the left. It slammed belly-to-bumper with another car, now spraying shrapnel and glass as both pirouetted in a dizzying and chaotic violence. The cars crashed to the ground as Jack picked himself up from where he had dove.

The assailant vehicle was starting to smoke, the aft engine already showing tiny flames. Jack wiped his nose of an itch and started towards the downed craft. A moon-clip came out of his pocket and he deftly reloaded, cocking his hammer as he got close. The windows were cracked, the only one actually destroyed being the one he shot. One of the mercs hung out of it, bloodied and barely breathing. He still had enough strength to look up and grin at Jack's grim scowl.

"Heh... You're... you're good... " he rasped, blood dribbling down his lips with every word. "She didn't say... she didn't..."

Jack deepened the lines in his face as he got closer. The bounty hunter grabbed a handful of hair and lifted the dying man. "Who?"

"You don't know?" asked the man, surprised despite everything. "You... Oh, she will enjoy... this... You are dead sir... Just a question of... How much you can take... Don't count on dear... Little Su-susie to save... your sorry ass..."

Jack glared at him and looked closer. No doubt, he hit this man with a shot. A single dent was seen in his armor. Jack raised the revolver and planted the barrel right against the dent. "You already hurt my daughter. It just became personal."

The man laughed, spraying spit and blood. "That ain't the first time! You ain't the... The first!" He laughed again. The laughs turned to bloody coughs that racked his body. Jack continued to hold the gun there.

"Don't worry," he said to the dying man. His voice was neutral. "I always put down dogs."

There was a single booming report and Jack turned away. He had taken two steps when he heard another car. He aimed up, cupping the pistol in readiness as the car in question came to land lightly before him. A man stepped out and Jack knew him.

He stared at Cross as he stared back. There was silence punctured only by the popping of growing flames. Jack kept his revolver trained on him. He still said nothing.

Behind Jack, metal creaked and groaned as one of the mercs regained consciousness. Out went the door, revealing a battered but thoroughly pissed off, steroid-fueled muscled nightmare of a man. Silver lines ran like veins through his arms as they bulged even further, a plastic pop heard from him as he twisted his neck to crack it. He let out what Jack could have only described as a primal call before slowly, menacingly stomping forward.

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