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Shinra's Finest - Midgar's own boys in black
A good old Friday night fire fight... 
14th-Sep-2005 04:20 pm


It was around one o'clock in the morning when Jack finally decided, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the people trailing him were not going to let up or come forward until he made it easy for them. Which in his experience could mean one of two things: either the conversation they wanted to have with you was real private, or they didn't want anyone else around to hear the gunshots. He'd already figured out that they were professionals - he couldn't lose them through the Friday night crowds outside the Wall Market - and that at least one of them was from Midgar and the rest had been here a while. They picked their way through the alleys and the twisted sheet metal shacks and the ruins of the old city with the speed and skill of any kid raised there, and they did it without letting him get a good look at them or even falling behind. Jack knew the slums as well as anybody around, and someone behind him knew them almost as well as he did. There had to be at least two; one to watch him from either side.

There was more than one reason to wander around the slums as much as he had: if they were doing it because Luca had managed to off some of their buddies in the club a couple of hours ago, it was the best way to find out who they were. The members of any gang on the streets were going to have territory that was off-limits to them, as a rule. Where they wouldn't follow Jack would tell him more than where they would. But from the looks of things there wasn't anywhere they weren't going to be a step behind him; one of the first lessons Jack'd give any new recruit was that - aside from the Turks - there was only one type of people that could go through the slums wherever they pleased. Even the Don's men wouldn't be tresspassing where they weren't wanted.

And that made him wonder if this had less to do with Luca and more to do with him. If that was the case, though, there were better ways of going about it - besides, wasn't anybody that knew Jack was going to be down here tonight, nobody but Luca and maybe Baldur. Didn't make any sense to him, unless this was tied to what happened in Kalm, and somehow it seemed way too early for that.

The roaming block party Jack had been following for the past little while in Sector 5 - if these guys were willing to tail him all night, the least he could do was have some fun while they were at it - was starting to break up; a winter storm was coming, the kind that could freeze drinks and kill the mood, and everbody could hear it in the way the wind whistled through the gaps in the walls out side the lower city. Storms were pretty common in the winter in Midgar - Jack had heard somewhere that they picked up off the ocean and swept across the barren plains around the city now because there was nothing to get in the way, breaking on the mountains across from Junon. Sometimes they were strong enough to penetrate right up to the central pillar and rattle the buildings around it like they were going to break apart. Tells you a lot about man and nature, his mother used to say, that this would happen even in the biggest city in the world. Years later Jack had the chance to see one from the top floors of the Shinra tower, and Heidigger had gone on about the aerodynamic outer shell and how you could barely hear the storm from in here, let alone feel it - tells you a lot about man and nature, he'd said. To Jack, who'd seen both worlds, it just said a lot about man. Still, down here it was enough to send everyone packing and that meant Jack had to make a choice: either stay in the center of the crowd and let it take him safely to the station and the upper city but having nothing more than a few vague details to report about this, or stick around and find out what was going on.

Now that they had to stay close to him or lose him in the press of people, Jack figured he just might be able to get a better look to help him decide if the second option was likely to get him killed. He kept his eyes straight forward and slipped his cell phone out of his jacket, switching it to video mode and keeping it mostly in his sleeve at his side. He let the timer run down after a couple of sweeps of the crowd behind him, then ducked into a bar to get a good look at the shots he'd taken.

It wasn't exactly the finest piece of film ever captured by man, but it was enough to pick out the member of the crowd who were facing the wrong direction, didn't quite have the right posture, didn't fit in, and zoom in on them. It was too blurry to tell much aside from that they were well-dressed - in the slums, that meant clothes that were fairly new and fairly clean - and armed. A cross section of the weapon confirmed his ealier suspicions; a well-made semi-auto machine pistol, not the kind of thing you would own if you didn't have the money, or if you didn't know how to use one. Looked familiar somehow, though - did Shinra make those? Or did they used to, back when weapons production was all they did?

Jack didn't know. He should probably know, and it irked him, but the truth was that Jack didn't care much for guns. No where near as useful or deadly as they were made out to be, not unless you were carrying some military-issue fully automatic doomsday machine that was bigger than a man's torso and almost as heavy, with steel-tipped rounds that would wake everyone within miles if you ever fired it. With most of the tiny little handguns to popular in the city these days, you'd be better off picking up a big rock and throwing it at someone - more accurate and probably do more damage besides. But no, people loved guns, because guns made you invincible - or at least you felt like it - on top of making you stupid and lazy, at least in Jack's experience. Even people like Drake and Zhi, who should know better, loved their guns - though admittedly Drake preferred magnums, the kind that would turn someone's head to soup and had recoil that would break the wrists of someone not used to it, and Zhi used military pistols, like the kind his persistent friends were packing.

Jack never carried one unless the assignment required it. It wasn't like people hadn't been pretty damn good at killing each other before guns were invented - even when they were given a target, getting into a fire fight meant they'd botched it somehow, something they should have avoided with a little imagination. For some people, Jack supposed, it was like a rite of passage and the first weapon they'd ever owned and the only thing they could imagine killing someone with, but the first time anyone had pressed a gun into his hand and told him it was for protection - he was 13, then - it only drove home just how useless it would be if anyone ever did decide to just walk by and shoot him. Or grab him from behind and break his neck. Vincent Valentine, the now almost legendary corporate assassin and one of the first Turks, had a few things to say about guns in his Rules of Engagement - a manifesto on urban combat that still circulated around the Shinra offices and most Turks could quote by heart - all which Jack agreed with.

1) Silencers, don't.

Or 'nothing sounds like silenced gunfire quite like silenced gunfire'. Turks used them sometimes, but hopefully with the understanding that just because a weapon is silenced doesn't mean someone won't hear it. And know exactly what it is.

2) Suppressive fire, isn't.

Or 'suppressive fire works both ways'. If you use covering fire your opponent can use it back, and then neither of you is getting anywhere in a hurry.

3) He who shoots first, wins.

If you're close enough for your weapon to be useable - which for handguns meant almost close enough to punch the guy, in Jack's experience, unless you were like Drake or Luca and spent all your free time at the firing range - the first person to get a shot off is almost always also the last person to get a shot off.

It wasn't just the weapons themselves, it was the whole culture of guns that bothered Jack. They possessed the magical ability to turn grown men into a bunch of giggling schoolgirls showing off the latest gadgets on their cell phones - but whatever he might feel about them, he wasn't carrying one now and his tails were, and he couldn't for the life of him figure out where he knew those from...

But Drake had said one of the rookies was a weapons' specialist or something like that, hadn't he? Jack made it a point never to forget a name once he'd learned it - bad for business, otherwise - and he could sure use the input now. The crowd was almost gone now; if he was going to stay he'd need backup, but if they saw more Turks they'd probably take off - he was going to need to time this real well. Had to make contact, a potentially fatal proposition, before the others arrived but not too long before. He switched functions to text and sent off a quick message to Baldur. He was gambling that she was still up, because Luca was almost certainly still out of it, and that she knew Hadrian's contacts better than he did.

Jack grabbed a drink and ducked out of the bar, no longer trying to lose them, and headed past the Sector 5 station. He had a location in mind for this little encounter - according to the Rules being able to choose the terrain was as good as superior firepower, if not better, most times. He didn't worry about Baldur being able to find him. Drake would hire anyone who didn't have the street sense to know they could ask just about anybody for a couple gil where a Turk went.

To the north of the Sector 5 station was the burnt-out shell of an old elementary school, built back in the days when the mayors of Midgar still talked about 'reclaiming the slums' in their election campaigns. When a new mayor came into office with his eyes on the money about the plate and not much else, the funding dried up and the thing was left abandoned. By mutual agreement - not to mention common sense - the blocks around the stations were nobody's territory, so the building was left to whoever wanted it.

Jack could remember it before the fire, almost a decade ago now. Remember his mother telling him to never, never go near that place as a kid. Hell, most adults knew better than go near it, especially at night. He'd been inside it a couple times when he was older, and nothing convinced him more that his mother was right.

When the leader of the Prowler's two kids went missing, a boy and a girl of six and seven if he remembered right, last seen around the place, the people of the slums finally decided to do something about it. He enlisted the help of the Cromwells from Sector Four and they descended on the place and tore it apart, then set it on fire with makeshift Molotovs and gasoline when they were satisfied they'd killed everyone inside. Of course, anyone who used it for business had gotten word of it hours before and taken the night off, so the two gangs got pretty much just the people they'd intended to.

Everything that could burn, had burned, leaving only a maze of rusted metal framework for walls and grates on the floors and ceiling. It would probably fall apart entirely someday, but Jack hoped that day was still a while off. His dress shoes clanged loudly on the corroded steel as he went directly to a room at the back. It was pretty dark in here - only the faintest rays of light from the shops outside and the tracks around the station made it all the way through the ruins. Just enough to make out a few objects in the pitch blackness of the basement below the grate: a woman's shoe on a broken metal desk, a child's doll caught up in copper electrical wires.

On the streets they said you could hear the voices of the two kids here sometimes, at night. All Jack heard was the distinctive clatter of hard-soled shoes on steel and the howling wind. Another reason he'd chosen this place - they'd have to be ninjas from Wutai to walk softly enough in here that he couldn't hear them, and now he knew there were three of them and not two. If there were any more waiting outside, they'd be too far away to be useful if the guns came out. Tipping over his drink from the bar, he splashed the liquid over the grate in front of the only entrance and up to the back of the room.

He'd searched through the place some time after the fire, to see if anything could be salvaged, and they were right where he remembered them - a group of mostly melted old tires, rolled in by someone who wanted to smoke the place out before it went up in flames. Jack stepped cautiously up unto the black rubber, reaching into his coat. A knife in one hand, a swift bolt in the sleeve of the other, held out over the wet grate. It might mean everything, might mean nothing - especially if Baldur and Hadrian didn't show up in time.

The footsteps stopped, and a voice from the darkness brought memories of the twisted corpses in Kalm flooding back. Jack swallowed, hard. "Funny one of Shinra's dogs would pick this kind of place to die. Fitting, isn't it?"
Comments 
10th-Oct-2005 04:04 am (UTC)
Ally... Jack was pretty sure that couldn't be the Ally he knew, though it spoke volumes about pain-induced hallucinations that he imagined for a second that his Ally was going to come around that corner in a suit and tell him she was a Turk now. Still wearing one of those little fluorescent plastic bracelets.

The other man sat up beside him, and he could feel more cure magic - the decent kind, not the over the counter painkiller thing before - which made him wince a little. Not because it hurt, but because the flaw with gunshot wounds and materia was that they were both going to need the bullets out, which meant a fun trip down to the hospital later to cut open the newly-healed flesh.

On the plus side, though, neither of them were going to bleed to death down here. Jack liked that.

Two more shots. Ally? He could only hope that whoever came around the corner next was friendly - he wasn't sure either of them could get out of here under their own power. He wanted to ask him how he'd come here and why he'd gone in after Jack, but he wasn't up for much in the way of conversation right now. "Hah, that one's... prob'ly gonna be okay. 'S the other one that's fucked up real bad."

He gripped the bloody knife in one hand, ready for who came next - if anybody. All Jack could say was that they better be wearing a suit.
18th-Oct-2005 01:33 am (UTC)
Seung's smile was weak as he stood up next to him. Out of habit, he reached to adjust his glasses...only to remember they were no longer on his face. Instinctually, his hands then traveled to the dirtied ponytail to tug it over one shoulder and continuously stroke at it nervously.

He wasn't looking forward to going and getting the bullets removed, but there was no way he'd had the time or the tools to remove them here. He should have been more prepared... Seung was incredibly disappointed in himself.

"I... I'm very sorry if I made this situation worse," he whispered, centering his gaze on the floor in between their feet. And he was only just now noticing that his bare feet were incredibly cold...and standing in a puddle of blood. He'd have to be careful not to slip.

"I'll try to make it up to you, Mr. Jack."
24th-Feb-2006 07:14 am (UTC)
"'S all good." Jack groaned, sincerely hoping that it would be. Baldur and Hadrian were sure taking their sweet time; if they didn't get here soon - or didn't get there at all - he and Dr. Slant-eyes were going to have bigger problem than a few bullet wounds.

Such as more bullet wounds.

Jack pulled himself forward across the grate, sure he got cut a couple times but too exhausted to feel it, and grabbed the downed man's gun off the floor. His vision was too blurred from blood loss to hit the broad side of a train, but it was better than nothing, and he was willing to bet all the gil he had on him that the medic didn’t know how to handle one.

“If you know how keep this guy down you’ll make it up to me right now.” He gestured with the weapon. “The breathing one, not Mr. Crispy.”

The materia he’d used was a temporary measure – Jack’d seen guys sleep it off in minutes, or wake up when the first big noise came around. And when that guy woke up he’d be in much better condition than either of them – assuming that the medic was good for anything other than a body shield in the first place – no way Jack was going to take him down like this if he missed. There was no way of knowing if the third one was alive – he didn’t want to come out of this with nothing but a couple of corpses to show for it.

He checked the clip – six rounds left, but only one or two of them would matter. Shit, he’d been counting on the other Turks to show up in short order. “’therwise, we’re-“ The blond’s vision dove and swam; hitting home that he hadn’t slept in twenty-four hours, had nothing to eat in more than half of that aside from dust and thrill, blood loss notwithstanding. “Gonna’ have to kill…”

Jack barely managed to push the gun into the other man’s hands before everything turned grey, then black, and toppled over into unconsciousness.
24th-Feb-2006 07:34 am (UTC)
Seung's eyes were as round as saucers when he not only heard Jack's words, but felt the slick metal of a gun pushed into his hands right before the bigger man collapsed...on top of him. And down they went again, with Seung on the bottom.

The story of his life.

"Nnf..." he huffed as he sat back up, cradling Jack's slumped form in his arms and quickly checking his pulse. He was happy to find that he wasn't dead, but the blood loss had taken a serious toll. He most certainly had lost more blood than even Seung. Or maybe there were even more things that were causing the condition. Perhaps malnutrition? He didn't really look that hea--

Oh God that man was waking up.

Panicking, Seung stared down at the gun in his hand. No WAY. Shoot a man? Just the thought made him want to faint. There was also the option of pistol whipping him... But no way. Still, Seung didn't lack all common sense, and actually shoved the gun into his coat before gripping Jack around his torso to try and drag him off of the scene. His bare feet slipped a few times in the mess of blood, but he wasn't quite as weak as he looked, and actually got Jack out of the room and down the nearest hall before getting extremely tired.

He could see a few people's shadows around the corner, and that made him freeze. More enemies? Or perhaps help that Jack had spoken of? How was he supposed to tell?

Well... He knew that the room he had just come from definitely had enemies. So he had to risk this one, and continued pulling Jack in that direction, praying he was making the right choice. Jack needed serious immediate attention, and this just wasn't the best place for that. Not when danger lurked around every corner.
25th-Feb-2006 06:05 am (UTC)
Ally heard noises in the corridor behind her, and turned from the other Turk to see what it was. She hoped it wasn't more of those guys - she wasn't sure how much more trouble she could handle in one night. Even hanging around with Asher wasn't this bad - usually - and he practically lived trouble.

Luck was marginally on her side this time. It was Seung, dragging...Jack. Shit. This was very deep into the realm of Not Good. Her hand went for the chain with her Cure materia on it, only to come up empty. Starting to panic, she tried to think back...she had lent it to Naomi, and then...left it on her bed, thinking she wasn't going to need it with Asher gone. Shit.

She rushed over to them, the man on the floor forgotten. They were both covered in blood - the brightness of Seung's on his white coat made her stomach drop a little. Trying to keep her voice steady, she quickly looked over Jack before turning to Seung. "Is he gonna be okay? Are you?" Damnit, this was her fault. She shouldn't have gotten Seung involved - he couldn't handle a mugger, much less this. She fought back the tears that begin to well up in her eyes. She didn't need this, not now.
25th-Feb-2006 06:16 am (UTC)
Seung smiled in immediate relief when he recognized one of the people coming for him. At first the footsteps had made him tense, but when he saw Ally's face, he relaxed and settled down on his knees, clutching Jack in his arms as he tried to regain his strength.

"Ye--yes. I'm fine. Mr. Jack lost more blood... I've closed up the wounds, but he might need blood transfusion, and the bullets need to be removed." From the both of them. He looked back down to Jack, guilt washing over him. Maybe it wouldn't have turned out like this if he hadn't gone ahead of Ally. He was happy to see that she was okay, though...

He didn't recognize the man with her, but he was wearing a suit like Jack's. When he heard someone yell an oath from the end of the hallway where he'd just come from, he looked rather panicked again, and his voice trembled.

"Miss Ally. One of the men woke up. I wasn't able to...to harm him. I really think we need to leave. Now." Even with the gun in his coat, he couldn't imagine using it to shoot.
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