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Chapter 11[]

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

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

Natasha Kerensky edged forward, rifle at the ready.

She had seen one of the rebels stumble away from the ruins of the old bank. One arm clutching what looked like a fatal wound to the abdomen, the other a pistol of some kind. She had no idea where the woman was going, just that it was away from the fighting. So possibly in the direction of someone who was not taking part.

"Well, good luck at last." Joker smiled as she looked at the dented old ground-car sitting in the garage behind the house.

All four tires seemed to be inflated and in good condition, and there was nothing obvious about the vehicle that looked like it would draw unwanted attention. A quick inspection showed that the keys were missing, but it wouldn't be the first car she'd ever hot-wired. Thanks to her somewhat misspent youth convincing Kristina to let go of her hand and climb into the back seat with her brother had been difficult. Joker was becoming concerned that the sound of fighting outside was lessening. They'd need a distraction if they were to make their getaway.

With the two children finally secured in the back with their bags, Joker pried open the steadying column and found the wires needed. The car protested, then backfired loudly, belching out a huge cloud of smoke and soot, but eventually started running reasonably well. She was just climbing out to open the doors when one was suddenly opened, and a bloody Jokinen appeared before her. The woman's face was even paler than before, her very life blood oozing from her side, but the gun in her hand didn't waver in the slightest as it pointed directly at Joker's head.

"Going somewhere?" the resistance leader snarled.

"Away from here." Joker slowly raised her hands, "Get in, maybe we can get you to a doctor and..."

"We both know it's far too late for that." Jokinen snapped, pain fueling her anger.

"Look, I'm not responsible for this." Joker gestured to the back of the car, where the two children sat, terrified, "All I wanted to do was get them back to their father. That's the only reason I'm even on this planet."

"YOU COULD HAVE DONE MORE!" The other woman yelled, taking a half step forward, "YOU COULD HAVE SAVED US ALL!"

Outside, Natasha Kerensky listened carefully, suddenly realizing that she was hearing her daughters voice for the first time.

Raising her rifle she took careful aim.

"That was never an option." Joker shock her head, "Best I could have done was get some of you off-world. No way we had the firepower needed to kicked the Wolves off-world."

"THIS IS MY WORLD! MY HOME!" Jokinen snapped, the gun wavering slightly, "NOT THAT I'D EXPECT A MERCENARY TO UNDERSTAND THAT!"

"You're right. I don't have a home, or a family waiting for me." Joker gestured towards the children again, "But they still do..."

"The first casualty in any war is always innocence." a mad gleam appeared in Jokinens eyes, "Maybe they'll remember what they saw today, and they'll grow up to carry on the fight. But you won't be there to..."

A brilliant flash of ruby-red light almost blinded Joker as it passed code enough to her face that she could feel her skin start to burn. She stubbed backwards, almost falling into the open car door as she blinked to get her vision back. When she eventually did, she saw Jokinen laying dead on the floor, a smoking hole in the back of her head.

Scrambling into the car, Joker quickly put it in gear and pressed down as hard on the accelerator as she could. Protesting loudly, the much a buses old car lurched forward. Running over Jokinens body with a sickening jolt, then burst through the half open doors and into the night. It took all of her concentration to keep the car on the road. Which was little more than a dirt track, and she didn't see the older woman, standing beside the garage, rifle in hand.

"Run away, Little One." Natasha Kerensky watched the tail lights of the car fade into the night, then pulled a radio from her belt, "This is Khan Natasha Kerensky: the rebel leader is dead. Try and take some alive for questioning."

"Mearly observing, Quiaff?" Charles Dinour chuckled over the open channel, "I should have known that you could not resist the call to arms for long."

"Aff, that is me." the Khan looked at the rifle, "I am a warrior through and through."

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