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"Down!!" Ocelot yelled, whipping around to shove Dr. Hildebrandt toward the couches while at the same time yanking the Ingram back out from inside his coat.

The three newcomers moved quickly into the room and fanned out, weapons raised. All three wore armor and helmets similar to those worn by Winterhawk and Ocelot. Two were humans (one male, one female) and the third, towering over his two companions by almost a meter, was a troll. Ocelot got a quick impression of an assault rifle in the hands of the male human, and the troll carried a shotgun. The female human, on a quick glance, seemed to be unarmed.

"Drop 'em!" the human with the assault rifle yelled. "We're takin' Hildebrandt!"

"Great," Ocelot muttered under his breath at Winterhawk, his SMG trained on the three. "Nobody said anything about a hostile extraction."

Winterhawk had taken a position near Hildebrandt, who had ducked down behind the nearest couch. He chose not to answer.

"Come on, give it up," the troll said, his deep, rumbling bass carrying easily through the room. "There's three of us and two of you. The doctor comes with us and nobody gets hurt."

"Do you know these people, Doctor?" Winterhawk whispered from his vantage point behind a second couch.

"There's another company that's after me," the ork said through his teeth. "I turned 'em down. Didn't like their offer. I guess they don't take no for an answer."

"Well, then--we'll just have to make sure that they don't get their opportunity, won't we?" 'Hawk said.

"You got ten seconds," the male human said. "Make up your mind, or we're gonna blow you away. No need for that if you just cooperate." The troll emphasized his friend's words by bringing his shotgun around to cover Winterhawk.

Unfortunately for the troll, though, he couldn't see 'Hawk's hands. Forcing himself to ignore the large gun barrel he was looking down, the mage formed the pattern for a spell in his mind, then cast it with a quick gesture that was hidden from the troll by the couch.


The trideo unit, situated on a low table at the front of the rec room, slid off the table and hit the floor with the sound of splintering glass.

The troll spun around with the shotgun to identify the source of the noise, and the two humans started visibly. This was the opening Ocelot needed.

Diving behind cover with his wired reflexes on full alert, Ocelot fired his Ingram at the male human. The air was split by the staccato phhtt-phhtt-phhtt of the sound-suppressed SMG as the human was struck repeatedly and slammed back into the wall. Blood smeared the wall, but the human was still up. Hurt, but not out.

Winterhawk, meanwhile, flung a spell at the troll, and was rewarded by the sight of his opponent staggering back, clapping his hands to his head with a bellow of agony. His gun, attached to a lanyard, dangled from his coat as he fought to get his bearings.

The human woman had taken cover and it now became apparent why she wasn't armed. The trideo unit that Winterhawk had shoved off its perch rose from the floor and launched itself at 'Hawk. He dived sideways, but not quite fast enough. The trid unit smashed into his shoulder, sending pain shooting up and down his arm in a red flash. She's good, he thought as he dropped down behind the couch and out of her sight, clutching his injured arm. Figured out that she's not going to hit me directly with magic. He knew he was going to have about the same chance of hitting her, and hoped that Ocelot had noticed what she'd been doing.

Ocelot had. By now, everyone had secured some sort of cover, either behind couches, in doorways, or around corners. His gaze darted around the room, taking stock of the situation. The troll looked like he was in sad shape. He'd retrieved his shotgun, but was holding it in shaky hands. The human samurai had taken two bullets, one in the shoulder and the other in the right arm. Couldn't count him out yet. The human woman looked fine, though she didn't seem in any hurry to put herself in the line of fire. Across the room, Dr. Hildebrandt was huddled up behind one of the couches; he looked scared but not petrified. Behind him, Winterhawk crouched, pale, holding his arm protectively against his body. The trideo unit, smashed into pieces by now, lay next to him. Not good, but 'Hawk would be okay. And he'd made their mage reveal her powers.

Ocelot knew they didn't have long. If they didn't get this situation under control quickly, they'd have the complex security to deal with in addition to this runner extraction team. At best, they wouldn't get Hildebrandt, and they'd lose their chance to try again. At worst, they'd be captured or killed. To Ocelot's mind, prison and death were approximately equal in their undesirability. He wished they had brought more lethal weapons, but that couldn't be helped now. At least he had spare ammo for the Ingram.

The troll, injured and desperate, popped out from his hiding place just enough to spray the room with his shotgun. "NO, you idiot! You'll kill--" the woman yelled, just in time for the troll's barrage to cut down one of the stunned trideo spectators. The unconscious man made a low strangled sound and then was silent, his body nearly cut in two by the shotgun.

"No, damn it! I'm not gonna let anybody else get killed over me!" Hildebrandt yelled savagely, raising up from behind the couch. "Put the guns down and I'll go with you!"

Simultaneously, Winterhawk rose and flung another spell at the troll, who screamed and dropped like a rock, blood leaking in great rivulets from beneath his helmet.

"Two on two now!" Ocelot yelled. "Give it up and get the hell out of here, or you're dead!" He shifted his gaze over toward 'Hawk and Hildebrandt. "Come on! We have to get out of here now."

"Right," Winterhawk agreed. He was as acutely aware as Ocelot was of the imminent danger represented by the complex's security guards.

Hildebrandt was down behind the couch again, staring at the body of the dead man killed by the troll. He seemed distracted, out of it. That was dangerous. If the doctor went to pieces, Winterhawk knew that he and Ocelot wouldn't be able to get him out.

Ocelot had an idea. This had to end now. Stowing his SMG once again inside his jacket, he drew his Narcoject pistol and took aim at the samurai. Too late, the sam realized what Ocelot had; he ducked back behind his cover, but not before the tiny dart hit him in the unarmored part of his neck. The toxin took effect almost instantly: dropping his gun, the samurai teetered and keeled over with a loud crash.

That left only the female mage. "'Hawk?" Ocelot called.

"Yes, I'm here."

"We have to go." He pointed at where the woman was hiding, around a corner. "Cover me, okay?"

'Hawk nodded, shifting position a bit so he could get a clear view of the corner, trying to ignore the lancing pain in his arm. He was sure it was broken. He forced himself to concentrate on shielding Ocelot from any spell that the mage might throw at him.

Ocelot stood, holding his Narcoject pistol on the mage's hiding place. "Your buddies are down," he called to her. "Like they said-- you got ten seconds to make up your mind."

"You'll just kill me," came her bitter voice from her hiding spot after a moment.

"Not if you come out," Winterhawk said, slowly pulling himself to his feet with his good arm.

"How am I supposed to believe that? You already killed Ronbo."

Ocelot glanced nervously at his chrono. Too long. "You're stalling," he said. Motioning for Winterhawk to keep talking, he began moving silently toward the far side of the corner, where she couldn't see him.

"You'd better get out here," Winterhawk said, picking up on Ocelot's intent. "It'll go much easier for you if you do. You--"

Piffff! With inhuman speed, Ocelot was around the corner. The Narcoject pistol spoke again, followed by a muffled thump of the mage's body hitting the floor. "Okay," Ocelot said, re-emerging into the room. "Let's go."

Hildebrandt was staring at him. "You didn't kill her, did you?"

"No--but she'll be asleep for a long time. Him too," he added, indicating the bleeding samurai.

Hildebrandt stared at the dead troll, then looked at the dead man on the couch. The other two spectators were still unconscious, slumped on the couches like they were peacefully asleep. The doctor closed his eyes briefly, as if steeling himself for something, then turned back to Winterhawk and Ocelot. "Okay. Let's go."

Ocelot nodded. "Sorry," he said quickly. He headed for the door, kicking himself for how things had gone. He knew that it wasn't his or 'Hawk's fault, but that didn't make it any better. He hated noisy jobs with lots of bodies.

He hoped this didn't bode badly for the rest of the run.

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