Winterhawk and I reacted almost simultaneously, our combat-trained
reflexes kicking in as the gangers opened fire. I dived to one side, my
hand already on the Predator in my pocket as I came back up behind cover.
'Hawk dived to the other side, shoving Meggie roughly behind a rusting
air-conditioning vent. The sound of gunfire rang out loud in the silence
of the night.
There were six of them that I could see. The ones that were still fully
visible were carrying pistols; hard to tell if they were heavy or light, but
from the sounds, I guessed a couple of each.
My Predator came around, the crosshairs from the smartgun link locking
in on the midsection of one of the gangers. I pulled the trigger, the loud
report of the gun punctuating the spray of red as the bullet drove into the
ganger's gut and dropped him on his butt. A second ganger took a shot at me,
but it slammed ineffectually into my armored jacket. Painful, but nothing more.
Across the roof, another ganger screamed and grasped his head with both
hands, his gun clattering to the ground. The telltale glow of a spell
blossomed around his head, blood seeping from his nose and ears. "Bloody hell!"
I heard 'Hawk yell as a gun went off, sending him ducking back behind his cover.
I couldn't tell if he was hurt or not. I didn't have time to check as another
bullet whizzed past my head.
This group of lowlifes was smarter than the ones that had accosted us
earlier that evening. Using the confusion as cover, they'd spread out
and were now shooting at us from four different places. Too bad they
didn't realize that with my wired reflexes, I was three times faster than
they were, and 'Hawk, with his boosted, was more than twice their speed.
One of them raised up to squeeze off a shot, only to be nailed by my Predator
before he could set up his aim. Even behind cover, their heat traces were
still visible with my thermographic vision.
"Behind you!" I heard 'Hawk call out. I whipped around before he could
finish his sentence, but the ganger was already screaming and dropping to the
ground, finished off by Winterhawk's magic. I nodded thanks at the mage and
turned back around.
"Anybody else?" I yelled to the world at large.
There was no answer. I could see the faint glow of the heat given off by one
of the surviving group, ducked behind a heat vent. The other was nowhere to
be seen. I watched him as he slunk off into the night, but didn't shoot. If he
was going to do the smart thing and get out of there, I wasn't going to murder
him. But if he got stupid and tried to shoot again, then he'd asked for his fate.
Winterhawk had apparently come to the same conclusion, because he was rising
up from his cover-spot. Now I could see that he was favoring his right leg; blood
welled from a wound in his thigh where the ganger's bullet had gotten around
his armor. "Heyyou okay?" I called to him as we both headed for the downed
form of Cap'n Jack.
He nodded, smiled tightly. "Never better, my friend," he said through gritted
teeth. "Seriouslyit's just a graze. I'll take care of it after we see
what the situation is with the Captain here."
Meggie emerged from behind the vent where Winterhawk had shoved her, testing
herself for broken bones. She hovered behind us as 'Hawk examined the ork, and
I scanned the roof for any more uninvited guests. "Is...is he" Meggie
ventured hesitantly. For her sake, I hoped Cap'n Jack hadn't bought it: with
Tommy gone, he was her only protector. He had a pretty nasty wound in his side.
"No, not today," Winterhawk said. He was on his knees next to Cap'n Jack's
body, staring at nothing in that peculiar way that I knew was magical. "He's
a tough old seadog, apparently. It's bad, but I can take care of it. Just give
me a few minutes." Without further comment, he began his healing spell.
I turned to Meggie. "We'd better not bother him right now. Does this happen
"You mean...people like that?" she asked, indicating one of the dead gangers
with a head motion. At my nod, she shook her head. "Nonot often.
Sometimes people think Jack has something valuable, and they try to take it
from him. Usually we just run away."
"Does he what?"
"Have something valuable."
Meggie shook her head and looked at me in a way that made me think of an
old-fashioned schoolmarm. "Of course not. If he did, do you think we'd be
here, running from people like that and finding our meals in dumpsters
behind restaurants? We just want to be left alone, that's all."
I nodded. I understood that all too well. Again, I felt a twinge of
regret at my gang past, but there wasn't anything I could do to fix Meggie's
problems. Everybody had problems, and everybody did the best they could to
deal with them. That was the way of the streets. Maybe it was the way of
Winterhawk finished his healing spell and sank back with an exhausted
sigh. "There," he said, satisfaction in his tone. "He'll be fine now. Just
needs to rest." As if to confirm the mage's diagnosis, Cap'n Jack moaned and
stirred, though he didn't awaken yet.
"I'll keep an eye out," I told Winterhawk. "You take care of that leg wound
before it gets bad."
Winterhawk nodded and took a deep breath, beginning another spell. I knew
healing spells were hard on him when he was hurt, but the alternative was
worse. Meggie settled herself down next to Cap'n Jack, lifting his massive head
into her lap like a mother comforting a sick child. I busied myself moving
around the roof area, picking up weapons off the dead gangers, always careful
to keep my friends in sight and my senses aware. By the time I returned to the
little group, 'Hawk had finished his second spell and was lying back against
a pile of trash fighting drain, and Cap'n Jack had opened his eyes and sat up.
I had collected four guns: two light pistols and two heavy.
"Arr..." Jack was saying, "I'm just glad you mateys were here. I might have
held off a couple of those scurvy dogs with Minnie here" he tapped the plastic
cutlass in his sash "but I don't think even Cap'n Jack could've handled
all of 'em by himself."
"I don't think we should stay up here," I said. I pointed at the dead
gangers spread out around the roof area. "Might have attracted attention."
I looked at 'Hawk, who didn't seem in any mood to talk right now, so I continued.
"Listen, Captain Jack, we need to know about Tommy. We'd love to sit here
and reminisce with you, but we're kinda in a hurry. If you could tell us,
then we'll call it even." I held out the guns. "You can even have these, if you
want 'em. Might make it easier to keep guys like that honest."
Jack's eyes widened at what I was offering him. Even a burned-out BTL chiphead
like him could see how valuable it would be to have a little arsenal like
that to protect him and Meggie. "Ye got yerself a deal, Matey," he said. "But
ye gotta remember that Cap'n Jack be in yer debt. Cap'n Jack never forgets a
debt." From somewhere beneath the pile of trash, he withdrew a half-full bottle
of dubious synthahol. "Let's drink on it, arrr."
"Captain, please," Winterhawk said, hauling himself up to a sitting position.
"The information. Where did you see Tommy last?" As was often the case when he
was injured or exhausted, his cheery and charming demeanor had evaporated. Maybe
it was the prospect of having to drink any of what Jack was offering.
It was Meggie who spoke up. "Jack told me he saw him at the Hurricane. Night
of the big fight."
I looked at her quickly. "Fight?"
"Arr," Jack agreed. "Tommy and me was at the Hurricane, all right. There was
a right proper brawl there two-three nights ago." He took a swig of his liquor.
"Tommy fought like a brave mate, he did. He was holdin' 'em off all by himself,
arr. I had to get back to me ship, so I left before things really got started.
A cap'n's got responsibilities, ye know. That was the last I saw of poor Tommy.
I hope he's not in Davy Jones' Locker."
I took a deep breath. "What was the fight about?"
Jack started to answer, but Meggie spoke first. "Just a bar fight, from what
Jack said. They happen around there all the time. I just hope nobody called
the cops. I hope Tommy isn't in jail."
"Arr, a fine battle it was," Jack agreed.
"Where is this Hurricane?" Winterhawk asked, trying to hide his impatience.
Again, Meggie spoke first. "It's on 85th, a few blocks from here. I think
it's in the book. I don't know the address. We can take you there," she added,
the reluctance apparent in her voice.
"No," I said quickly. "We'll find it." I handed the guns to Jack, except for
one of the light pistols, which I gave to Meggie. "You two take care of yourselves.
We need to get out of here. You should too. I don't figure the cops'll be down
here, but all those gunshots are bound to attract attention. I wouldn't come
back to this spot anymore."
Meggie nodded. "I'll make sure we get away," she said. I was beginning to look
at her in a new light: she might look like a frail old lady, but it was getting
clearer that she was the brains of this duo. "You go on. And thank you."
"Yeah." I looked down at Winterhawk. "You mobile?"
He nodded, hauling himself to his feet. To Jack and Meggie,
he smiled, but it didn't look as convincing as usual. "Pleasure meeting you. I'd
be a bit more careful from now on." With a nod, he headed slowly toward the ladder
"Come on," I said, catching up with him. "I think we have an appointment at
"Charmed," he said sourly. "The joys of this night will never end, I can see."