Doghouse Blues

Near Dark (4th January 2181: 3.50 pm)

4th January 2181: 3.50 pm

Moe fealt very lonely in the darkened room. Even with the gunfire ringing outside he had a horrible feeling that he, personally had a lot more to worry about. The man lay very still on the bed, and although he hadn’t yet plucked up the courage to approach, he had a horrible feelng that he was dead.

Seeing all that he had seen, doing all that he had done, this logically should not have been an issue for Moe. But Moe wasn’t being logical at the moment. Ever since they had arrived the dark cloud and brooding forest surrounding the hotel had started to bother him, and the looming heights of the surrounding Carpathians had only added to his sense of unease.

He had seen enough old horror movies to recognise this unease for what it was: simple fear. What if vampires were actually real?

Oh sure, he knew that that some mutants were vampires, and that this mark was a supposed mutant. At least one Strontium Dog-Durham Red- was a vampire like mutant. She was an evil bitch, and gave him the creeps, but she did not hide from daylight: she was actually a mutant. Well, at least he’d always assumed she was.

This was different: although the warrant card said otherwise, this Ivanna sounded like the real deal. And what did she want all that blood she’d stolen for? To sell on? To whom? He shuddered.

As often happened in such situations, the voice that Moe called Emeric started speaking to him in perfect Oxbridge English. In his delusional state, Moe imagined that the others could all hear it too.

“Consider Moe” said Emeric. “If this Ivanna really is a vampire like you’ve seen in the movies, then she can’t be seen in mirrors. What if that means she also can’t be seen through, say, electronic sensor goggles. Like ,for example, the one’s you’re all wearing?” The voice went silent.

Trembling Moe fumbled in his pocket for the small pencil torch he carried.He reached up and lifted up his goggles, clicking on the narrow beam. Lying naked on the bed next to the man was a woman, and she was covered in blood. She sighed and shifted position. Moe shrieked.

“She’s here! She’s here! If you take the goggles off you can see her. She’s here”" he wailed.

“Shut up Moe we’re kind of busy” hissed Clarissa. “Cuff her and wrap her in a blanket or something.” A burst of needler fire cut off her comment. Moe was alone again.

The form on the bed sighed again, and seemed to be stirring. Gulping, Moe reached into a pouch for a set of binders, and tip toed towards the form on the bed. Trembling he reached out, and in his nervous funk dropped the restraints with a clatter. As he reached down Ivanna opened her eyes, which he saw were feral and pure red. “Noooo!” he screamed, fumbling for his pistol as she sat up.

There was a burst of blaster fire and Ivanna shuddered, and then slumped back onto the bed again.

“Put a sock in it Moe. Bind her and wrap her up. We need to go.” Clarissa was shaking her head at him, her goggles now lifted up. She turned back to the firefight. “Hurry up!”

“They’re keepin’ their’eads down now” called Anwyn. “Got us bottled up good. Waitin’ for backup probably.”

“It’ll take a bit of time to arrive. Another ten-20 minutes maybe” said Clarissa. “All in the main room and shut the doors”.

“I suggest I take the girl down with me. My wire launcher will take the strain of the two of us. Any of the rest of you got one?”asked Clarissa. Moe and ’Enery shook their heads.

“Nothin’ like plannin’ eh?” said Anwyn. “I got my grav chute: I can get down fine.”She produced the small handheld unit from her belt, and pushed her hand through the grip.

“Fine.”said Clarissa. “We two go down, stash the Dollymop and come back up the stairs. We take them down from behind, while ’Enery and Moe do a breakout. We pick up the girl and run to the pickup. Questions?”

While the girl was bound up in a bundle, Anwyn tested her Grav Unit and then jumped,slowly floating the six floors down. It was now after four, and starting to get dark anyway; it was unlikely that there would be any danger from sunlight towards their captive.

Clarissa fired her wire launcher into the stonework above them, and with Ivanna strapped across her front, abseiled herself down using the web plastic safety grippers. Anwyn was waiting below and they carried the bundle between them, stowing their captive under the canopy of the trees on the northeast side of the hotel. Slipping back into the crowd gathered in the foyer (there were no guards evident now), the two slipped up the stairs to the second floor, and then carefully made their way back up towards the sixth.

Crouched in the cover of the stairwell were two men, and getting the drop on them Clarissa and Anwyn took these out very quickly. Moving quickly up the stairs they managed to drop two more before they realised what was happening.

At the same time ’Enery burst out of the apartment, immediately attracting a volley of covering fire. He was knocked back to the floor but was miraculously unhurt, his thick hide saving him once again. Seeing his opportunity Moe raced out of the apartment, jumped on the table of one of the book stalls and launched himself over the rail and down into the central stairwell, landing behind Clarissa and Anwyn.

The firefight continued between the Dogs and the three or four still conscious gunmen. Some of these seemed to be the sharp suited hotel guards (“mafia thugs” thought Clarissa), armed with Needlers, while the remainder seemed like casually clothed henchmen, armed with slug pistols. Either way after a few moments the superior armour of the Strontium Dogs prevailed, and all was finally quiet on the sixth floor. Without further pause they raced down to the first floor and burst their way into a rear facing apartment, and dropped down into the woodland below.

Making their way in the darkening gloom around the rear of the hotel, Moe was directed to pick up the wrapped bundle that was Ivanna. “You may as well be of at least some use” said Clarissa tartly.

Peeking out from the woodland edge, they crossed the slippery access drive to the eastern side of the car park, their feet crunching in the crisp snow. Hopefully they would be able to make it directly to the pickup point, and the alternate trees and stone planters, as well as the packed cars, provided a decent amount of cover.

Clarissa spotted something and froze, alerted by the sound of slamming vehicle doors. Marching towards the hotel across the car park were were a group of eight burly men in suits and dark glasses: “Reinforcements” she guessed, and slipped towards the woodland edge.

The others started looking around, but a sharp cry went out as one of the men caught sight of the burly ’Enery. Moe scrabbled behind one of the stone planters and hid.

While half of the men engaged Clarissa, Moe and Anwyn with their Needlers, another group made their way across the south edge of the car park till they were below the group, and then made their way closer towards them using the cover.

Clarissa took several hits, but her armour managed to keep her on her feet, and one by one the firing group were taken down by the stun beams. As the second group approached from the south ’Enery too started to soak up damage, but eventually the superior weaponry of the Strontium Dogs took its toll. Moe remained cowering behind the planter.

Shooting him a contemptuous glance Clarissa ushered the group on towards the pickup point, and a call to the Dog House led to a crackling blur, before once again they stood in the Teleportation Room, awaited by a few nervous techs and a dozen burly Security Guards, who escorted them to the Directors office.

“So how’d it go?”asked Harvey.

“We got her alright” said Clarissa, “Alive and well.”

“Been monitoring the local bands”, said Harvey, “Quite a bit of disruption down there, the locals are going Ape.”

“Not our fault Harvey. What the intell. didn’t say was that the place would be packed out with a Freak Convention” explained Clarissa. “They gave us the wrong room number too. That’s religious nutcases for you.”

“Anyone hurt?” asked Harvey.

" A lot of stunner hangovers" said Anwyn, “And a few minor injuries on some bystanders. No one dead though.”

“Hmppf. We’ll deny all involvement anyway. You’re shipping out soon aren’t you?” queried Harvey.

“Yep. Off to the Outer Sectors” said Clarissa.

“Ok fine. That should keep you out of the way for a few weeks. Keep a low profile till then: and I never sent you on this anyway so no chatting to the others. Clients instructions.” Harvey counted out their cash, and waved them out.

Comments

While looking at the floor and shuffling his feet, Mantis Moe asks Harvey in a low, quasi-pathetic mumble if he could get a commendation for protecting the target whilst in a hail of gunfire. Remember, if she was even scratched no one would be paid. If there was no such commendation then 1,000 credits would suffice.

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