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Chapter 10[]

Dead Man's Hand: Second Star to the Right[]

Outskirts, Bolsun
Clan Wolf Occupation Zone
11th September, 3054

Natasha Kerensky advanced slowly and with caution, avoiding broken glass and spent shell casings that seemed to litter the ground. Evidently, the Resistance had been ready to defend their base, if needed, and once the initial shock had worn off, had started to put up a spirited if ultimately futile fight. It was somewhat shocking just how much damage an individual with an inferno launcher and no fear of death could do to even the most battle hardened of troops, as attested to by the number of burnt bodies she had to step around. But as suicidally brave as the resistance was, they were simply out-gunned and out-classed, and were being pushed back towards what looked like it had once been a bank of some kind. The buildings thick walls provided at least some protection, even as it was slowly turned to rubble by a near constant barrage of fire.

The Khan avoided the battle: it was too obvious that it was where the locals were making their heroic last stand against the invaders, so not the kind of place you'd find the average Mercenary.

A figure in mismatched clothes stepped in front of her, and she put two rounds through their center of mass, and a third through the head, dropping them before they had a chance to react. Collecting their dropped weapon, she was surprised to see that it was a Blazer rifle, an older weapon, long replaced by more powerful weapons. But, at short range, it could crack even an Elementals armor if it found a weak point. It was also extremely deadly against an unarmored human, she she took it, and the spare power pack, before continuing on her way.

"I need to find a new job." Joker groaned as she picked her way out of the remains of the window she had crashed through as the dislodged drainpipe had come free from the side of the motel. Far as she could tell, she had crashed through an upper window of the small house, landing in what seemed to be a bedroom, unfortunately missing the bed and landing on the floor. She could feel her back and shoulders starting to bruise, but otherwise she seemed reasonably okay: she a few small cuts and scrapes.

Then she rubbed the back of one hand against her forehead, and it cam away slick.

"I am not getting paid enough for this shit." she grumbled as she got to her feet, staggering for the door.

Stepping out onto the landing, she heard the unmistakable sound of crying coming from the room opposite, even over the ongoing sounds of the battle outside. Carefully opening the door, she was shocked to see two children, huddled in the corner, eyes wide and full of terror. It took her a moment to recognize them from the old photo she'd been given.

"Tobias? Kristina?" she asked, and they slowly nodded, so she knelt down before them. Trying to remember what it was like, dealing with the younger kids back at the orphanage. Trying remember how fully aware of how terrifying she must have looked to them, covered in blood and dust and she didn't want to imagine what else. "I know it's very scary right now; believe me, I'm just as scared as you are. But your father sent me to come find you and take you to him, okay?"

The mention of their father seemed to get a reaction out of the oldest, Kristina, but she refused to move. Looking around, she saw a paperback copy of Peter Pan laying on the floor.

"Okay, you can call my Wendy if you like, but we can't stay here, okay?" she did her best to sound reassuring as she grabbed a backpack, "I need you to get some of your cloths and anything else you want to bring with you, but we need to do it right now."

Somehow, and she wasn't sure if it was the tone of her voice or their desire to get away from the noise, but the children started to move. Kristina grabbed a bundle of clothes, while Tobias gripped an old Teddy bear and a framed photo like a drowning man gripping onto a life belt. Joker took the cloths and put them in the bag, packing in as much as she could, then slipped it onto her back before making sure that the two children were fit to travel.

"Okay, there's going to be some loud and scary things out there, but I promise, I will get you to your father." Joker reached out with one hand, "Kristina, take my hand, and then take your brothers, and don't let go, no matter what, okay?"

The young girl gripped her hand tighter than anyone else ever had, grasping her brother with the other, and the two children looked up at Joker with desperate hope in their eyes.

No pressure.

"Okay." she did her best to sound reassuring, "Let's go."

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