Part One

by Bryan Feir, Mathieu Roy and Mike Schiedel

As soon as Falcon met them in front of the 93 underground, Raven led her and Adam to a side street a few blocks away. The place was dirty, and the slight acid drizzle wasn't helping, rivulets of dusty water dripping down the wall and an old roadsign, which by some miracle hadn't been picked up for scrap. "No parking between 8 AM and 6 PM," it read. Too bad no cars had passed in that street for years. There was some graffiti on it, too, maybe a gang tag.

Raven leaned on the Harley and looked Falcon over. She wore the coat and bodysuit again, accessorized with a holstered Assault Pistol and a bandoleer of ammunition. Her golden, raven_shaped locket twinkled just above her breast. She folded her arms and spoke. "Hope you came perpared."

Falcon was dressed similarly to before, full armourcloth brown bodysuit, but this time the helmet was closed and sealed. She patted a few bulges over her body, one of which was obviously a pistol of some sort and a couple of which were pre_loaded magazines. Her voice was slightly muffled by the helmet as she nodded and said, "As prepared as I'm likely to get right now."

"Okay, here's the deal. You are going to take a VIP and her bodyguard __ that's me and Adam—to the intersection of Twelfth and Brook, in the Wastes. Once there you'll be given a package which you'll have to deliver, alone, to a place I'll name once we reach our first destination. We'll be waiting at the finish line. Sounds good?"

Falcon nodded, and slipped onto her bike with a smooth, practiced motion. "Sounds good. I take it I'm leading the way to the first stop?" After waiting for the nods, she looked around at her own bike and the two others, then continued, "Okay. I'll want the two of you behind me, about two cycle lengths back, one on each side..."

"There's only one bike," Raven interrupted her. "I can't ride on my own, so I'm going with Adam."

Falcon did a minor double-take, then nodded. "Right, I remember now. Okay, Adam, just stay behind me but off to the side so I can keep track of you in my rear-view.

"I'll warn you now that I'm not overly familiar with that section of town, and you know as well as I do how long maps stay valid around here once you're out of the core areas."

Raven chuckled. "That's part of the test, Falcon, so to quote the cliche, it's your problem."

Falcon nodded. "Understood." She looked Raven and Adam up and down carefully for a moment, then said, "And I presume it would be poor form to inquire into what the two of you are armed with, or much into what my clients are doing here at all, so with that I think it's time to go." She climbed onto her motorcycle, waiting for Adam to do the same.

Climbing onto the Harley, Adam held it steady for Raven to climb on behind him. Snagging his helmet he fit it over his head, dropping the mirrored visor into place.

Raven climbed behind Adam, and took hold of the handlebars. She nodded to the syntheric, then announced, "Ready."

Falcon started up the motorcycle, sending commands to the on_board computer to pull up a map layout. Twelfth and Brook... right about there. Of course, the map was based on the last official map of the area, before any of the buildings collapsed, or alleys were plugged by garbage and cars, or the like. Well, as long as she stayed to the main roads, and watched for any obvious gang markings, there should be no problems.

Taking a quick check to both mirrors to make sure both the people she was 'escorting' were in view behind her, Falcon opened up the throttle and started on her way down the road.

Pausing to make certain Raven was in place, Adam guided the big bike out into the street behind Falcon.

Sitting on the bike behind Adam, Raven watched Falcon, noting how she picked her itinirary and the pace she set according to the surroundings.

The trip went quietly for the first while; Falcon kept an eye on the passing scenery with a touch of paranoia in her gaze. She'd been out of the Zone for several months while working for Fantoma, which could be an eternity in the shifting politics of the local gangs. There were always a few safe paths, though; areas policed by some of the larger gangs that wanted to keep peace, neutral zones that nobody dared touch for fear of everybody else around them ganging up on them, and regions that just weren't worth trying to control. She'd got a crash course in politics while stuck with the Tenth Street go-gang, though she didn't know too many details outside of their territory and neighbours.

Falcon deliberately chose a path that covered some streets she knew. Both their starting and ending points were relatively stable, but some of the spots in between were otherwise. Falcon was pondering this as she started leaning into a turn taking her to the thoroughfare, and saw a spray tag on a wall that she recognized: what looked to be sort of a silver sunrise. What on earth were they doing up here? She started slowing down, braking gradually, and reached up to turn on the radio... then realized a problem.

Bringing her bike to a full stop quickly just before she got to the tag on the corner, Falcon waited for the other bike to stop as well. She popped the faring and stepped out. "Well, one thing I forgot right off the top: you two got a radio? We should set a frequency to communicate on if something comes up."

"There's one on the bike with wireless speaker_mics in the helmets," Raven said. "The bike acts as a base. It's even got pretty decent range in case we ditch the bike."

Falcon nodded. "Sounds good. How about Frequency 143.5 megahertz, with a simple inversion scrambler?"

"Can you set that up, Adam?"

Adam made an adjustment on the front console of the Harley. "Frequency set." He hesistated an instant. "How does one set up an inversion scrambler?" he asked.

Falcon hmmed. "You have any sort of encryption or scrambling gear on that radio?"

"'Course it does. It's a corp model." She grinned. "Of course, we haven't read the manuals."

Falcon shook her head. "Okay. I'd rather not spend too much time on this, especially not out here; we'll keep it unencrypted for now, and just maintain radio silence as much as possible."

"Also, we've got a problem." Falcon pointed to the tag on the corner of the building. "This signifies the 'High Gear' go_gang. This is fairly fresh paint; they're new in this area. They're also one of the better equipped and more actively annoying go_gangs, mainly because they can get away with it as often as not. Unfortunately, if they've managed to take and hold this strip, getting around them is going to be nearly impossible without going at least an hour out of our way, because a lot of the other streets around here are too damaged to ride through at much speed.

"I'd suggest risking it. The thoroughfare is by far the shortest distance, and if we move at a good clip, we should be through before anybody who might care notices."

"It's your call, Falcon. If you think the rewards are worth the risks, then lead on." Raven's face was inscrutable under the motorcycle helmet. "Just remember, it reflects badly on you if we end up needing to fight."

Falcon nodded. "Granted. And I will do whatever I can to avoid such a fight. On the other hand, we are in the Zero Zone. There's unlikely to be a perfectly safe path between where we started and where we're going. This was the safest path I knew of; I wouldn't have thought the High Gears would have moved in so quickly. At least we have some prior warning." Just before she turned to get back on the motorcycle, she added, "Besides, if there weren't a chance of a fight, you wouldn't have need of a bodyguard and a guide."

Raven grinned. "Good point. So let's say a bit of gunplay is okay, but if I have to, um, intervene, you lose points. Fair enough?"

"Sounds reasonble."

The trip down the thoroughfare started off uneventfully enough. After a quick check to make sure the radios worked and they could understand each other, Falcon suggested to keep silent unless something went wrong, in case one of the local gangs could detect the transmissions. Both bikes were running at high speeds to get through the region as quickly as possible, only capping their speed for safety reasons on the poorly maintained road.

They were just over half-way down the road when another set of bikes started roaring up behind them. Falcon flicked the radio on. "Damn. Okay, all High Gear gang members have cyber-enhanced reflexes, and tend to be daredevils. I don't know how good your reaction time is, but be careful if they get too close."

Raven clung to Adam for dear life as both bikes roared down the thoroughfare.

Adam grumbled something that—perhaps fortunately—wasn't picked up by his helmet mic. Driving and attempting to fire a sidearm at the same time didn't look like it was going to be fun. He nudged up the Harley's speed another notch, and hoped like hell Raven was at least shielding herself.

Falcon's voice came over the radio, "Stay out of the line directly behind me." Cutting the transmit, she muttered to herself, "Let's see how they like this." Checking the rear-view displays to see where everybody was, she sent a few mental commands through the helmet to the bike. She felt a quiet click behind her as the mechanism was armed, followed by a soft 'thoomph' as the smoke grenade was launched from one of the rear tubes.

A couple of members of the go_gang started to split off as they saw a small object flying towards them, but most didn't have the time to avoid the sudden wall of smoke that blew up in front of them. That slowed them down some, but several members of the gang just sped right through the smoke and kept on coming...

Raven concentrated, extending her shield to cover most of the back and sides of the bike, shielding Adam for any return fire as well as herself. Hanging tight to the replicant with her right hand, she took her Assault Pistol in her left and held it at the ready. Though it was a big weapon, the large, self-propelled rounds could be fired with very little recoil, a definite plus when shooting one-handed on a moving vehicle.

Falcon cursed loudly to herself as the gangers kept coming; she only had one more shot before the Go-gang got too close to Raven and Adam to risk lobbing grenades around. The full armour coverage on the bike made firing off a pistol difficult while moving, and the bike itself didn't have external guns, just the launchers. Which meant once they got too close, she was going to have to close in herself. She switched loads, and fired off a second grenade, this one producing a loud explosion and a concussive force that knocked several of the slower bikers down, scattering them out on the road.

Unfortunately there were a few with more balls than brains, who were already too close to Raven and Adam to get more than the fringes of the blast. A pair of them pulled up close to the Harley, one on either side, with a few others spreading out nearby. One of the ones to the side starts balancing a relatively small rifle on his handlebars, and pings a couple of glancing shots off of Falcon's bike's armour.

Releasing the left handgrip of the Harley—his right hand required to keep the throttle steady—Adam grabs the grip of the Seburo SMG hanging from its shoulder strap. Grateful that he'd chosen a weapon suited for ambidextrous use, he flicked off the safety and brushed the side of his armoured coat out of the way.

Sticking the muzzle of the gun out under his right arm, he glanced to the side to let his smartlink lock in the firing angle for the front tire of the bike on that side.

Triggering a burst from the weapon, he watched the impact points walk their way from hitting the speeding asphalt to the tire, then to the wheel hub, instantly blowing it to twisted shards.

The cycle wobbled, then the front wheel turned over hard, and the biker and his 'bitch' both went flying off the front as the bike rapidly burned off its inertia by friction. The recoil from the gunfire sent the Harley into a slight wobble as well, however, and it lost some headway against the pursuing go-gang.

One of the go-gangers trailing the Harley finally got his shotgun ready while Adam was distracted, and fired wild, hoping to take out the tires of the bike. His aim went high, buckshot slamming hard into Raven's shields.

The force of the lead pellets slamming point_blank into her shield jarred Raven. She lost her grip on Adam and grabbed reflexively for him. Her left hand involuntarily tightened around the assault pistol, firing it; the armor_piercing mini_rocket went right through the biker, who fell sideways, right into the Harley. Adam managed to keep control of the bike, but Raven, her balance already imperiled by the shotgun blast, pitched sideways over her seat. She hit the ground hard, her hardened kinetic shield drawing sparks, and rolled off painfully, expending the velocity she'd had when she fell off the bike, until she slammed into a wall and lay still.

Falcon saw what looked to be Raven go bouncing off, and snarled. This was -NOT going to look good as part of the assessment. She prayed the tires were going to withstand what she was about to do, and slammed on the brakes. A very slight lean to one side sent her into a controlled skid, twisting the bike around as she slowed down in a two-wheeled version of a classic 'bootlegger reverse'. As she turned almost completely around, before she had a chance to actually stop, she opened the throttle again, tires screeching as she started accelerating in the other direction, directly into the oncoming go-gang.

As Raven's weight was abruptly wrenched from the back of the bike Adam was forced to grab the handlebars with both hands to keep the bike from going over. To make matters worse, the SMG clattered from his grasp as he did so, lost instantly under the squealing tires of the barely-in-control Harley.

Not as good a driver as Falcon, Adam contented himself with laying down a strip of rubber as he braked precipitously. Shuddering to a halt, he whipped the bike around by sheer force of muscle and wrenched the shotgun from its holster on his back.

"RAAAAVENNN!" he bellowed, his deep-bred training gripping him at the base of his brain, compelling action. Raising the pistol-grip weapon, he began pumping off shots at the oncoming gang.

The first shot ripped through the engine of the lead bike, the armour piercing, discarding sabot slug blowing a head_sized hole out the back, igniting the gas tank in a burst of flame. Jacking a new shell into the chamber, he fired again. This shot missed, gouging a deep furrow in the tarmac and ricocheting into the nearby buildings, but the third and succeeding rounds took a devastating toll on tires, engines, and people alike.

Unfortunately, this only accounted for an additional five gang members before the weapon was empty. Throwing the gun aside, Adam sat back down on the Harley's seat and popped the clutch, laying down another rubber trail as he accelerated back towards the oncoming go_gang.

Even as he advanced, his tally of gang members came up a bit short. Even considering those Falcon had knocked out of the chase, the one Raven had dropped even as she fell, and the ones he himself had eliminated, there were less bikes around than his earlier sight of the gang should account for. For whatever reason, some of the go-gangers were conspicuously absent.

And so was Raven.

Falcon's voice came loud and clear over the radio, if Adam was in any position to hear it. "Don't waste your ammo! Follow me!" The large brown motorcycle raced forward, doing a fast skid and turn just in front of the synthetic, and zipped off to the side towards one of the exits from the thoroughfare. "Chase them while the trail is still warm."

Sub-vocalizing 'infrared mode' to the helmet, Falcon took off down the side exit, following what she could see of the heated exhaust from the previous bikes, already dissipating in the turbulent air between the broken buildings.

Weaving the Harley to avoid the hail of gunfire filling the air, Adam followed in Falcon's wake, wincing as a shot pinged off one of the Harley's exhaust pipes and a second one thudded with rib-creaking impact into the side of his armoured coat. Maintaining control of the 'cycle, Adam unholstered his matte black Silvergun and began spraying some deterrant fire in their wake.

Falcon frowned as she drove forwards at a speed a little higher than was really safe with the road conditions. She couldn't keep following the exhaust trail for long; one good gust of wind and she'd lose it. Turning up the sound gain on the helmet, she thanked whoever had tuned the active noise cancellation system to the motor, making it nearly inaudible from inside the bike and letting her hear the noise outside. Wouldn't help in tracking directions much, but at least would let her know if she was close.

Turning the radio back on, she called to Adam, "You got any way of tracking her?"

"Not yet," the synthetic growled in reply.

"Okay. I'm doing what I can right now; would rather not give details over an unsecured channel yet. Unfortunately this is getting into their core turf, they know it better, so be careful." She flipped the radio onto scan mode, to see if anybody around here was radioing their progress along.

Falcon had never been deep into the High Gear territory; they tended to be rather irritible sorts. On the other hand, since they liked riding fast, at least they hadn't gone all_out in making the area an impenetrable maze like some gangs did.

As Falcon leaned heavily into another turn, pulling around the corner, the radio scanner caught something that she only got the tail end of, something about " into position." Muttering a few choice phrases, she decelerated the bike slightly to try and track what was being set up, and flipped the radio back to their own pre-assigned frequency to just say, "Trap."

"Check," Adam replied tersely.

The image enhancers finally picked up two people on the nearby buildings setting up a careful crossfire. Gunning the bike, she abruptly pulled forward faster than they were expecting, causing them to miss with the first round of shots while they tried to track her. A few shots got close, a couple even glanced off the armour shielding of the bike, and then Falcon signaled the bike's computer and a pair of concussion grenades flashed out, taking out the two gunners.

Adam, meanwhile, slowed slightly, allowing greater space to open up between the two bikes. He emptied the rest of the clip of his Silvergun behind him at the pursuing gangers, receiving a shot in the arm in return that was turned by his armour but briefly numbed the limb nonetheless.

Falcon herself continued moving, letting Adam catch up as he would. Unfortunately, the greater movement around here had confused any attempts at tracking the bikes moving previously by their exhaust. Now she was moving almost entirely by guesswork. And she guessed, by the attack there, that they were getting close.

Shaking off the numbness, Adam accelerated through the now-defunct ambush. Steering with one hand, he ejected the clip from his gun and awkwardly slid another into place before returning to his slightly aimless course in an attempt to avoid further gunfire. All he could do was follow Falcon and try to delay pursuit—he was trained to entertain his owner, not find her...

Falcon pulled around the next corner quickly to duck out of the way of the next round of gunfire. Unfortunately, she only had eight grenades, and she'd already used half of them. And the launchers only fired backward. Great for covering your tail while running, but lousy while attempting an assault. If she wanted to start doing Zero Zone runs for a living, she was definitely going to have to look into mounting forward-facing guns.

Ignoring Adam for the most part, Falcon judged the likely core of the hideout by which direction the thugs seemed to want to keep her from going. Not a perfect method, but should be good enough against people like this. Slamming hard on the accelerator, Falcon leapt forward on the bike, popped a wheelie, and ran up and over the simple barricade the gunmen were hiding behind. Heading straight towards the big garage door, which was just being locked down, Falcon dropped a smoke grenade right in the middle of the punks with the guns, went into a fast skid, and spun around to launch her last fragmentation grenade right at the base of the garage door.

The hole in the sheet metal door resulting from the explosion was quite satisfying after the frustration of earlier. Hopefully she wouldn't need much more in the way of explosives, all she had left were glue-bombs...

Adam gunned the Harley towards the barrier, despite the fact that the massive bike likley couldn't duplicate Falcon's feat of going over. As smoke billowed out around the makeshift obstruction, Adam drew his combat knife with his left hand and jammed it into the hog's gas tank, twisting to form a substantial rent.

Only a few metres from the barracade, Adam threw his leg over the bike's chassis so as to be sitting side_saddle. Laying the bike down on its side, he thrust himself up and away from the sliding machine, diving over the barrier as the fuel_leaking Harley hurtled into it with a crunching impact.

Adam landed in the inner yard and rolled, bleeding away the momentum of his high_speed ride, sliding to a halt even as the Harley's gas tank went up with the <<crump>> of a combustion explosion. Flipping himself to his feet, he sprayed a burst from his Silvergun into a charging gang member, felling him.

Diving forward with bullets spanging against the concrete all around him, Adam came up with the ganger's gun, some SMG he didn't recognize. The synthetic ran to join up with Falcon, trading fire as he went.

The thunderclaps of distant explosion and the scream of tortured metal splitting open, somewhere away, brought Raven to a semblance of consciousness. She moaned and stirred, her thoughts still hazy. Garrulous guffaws brought some clarity, and a vague remembrance of her predicament. Then the cold steel of a blade laid against her cheek woke her up instantly.

"Oooh, she's awake. Good." The man who held her pinned down was a tall, burly ganger, made bigger by the bulges of cheap muscle augmentation. The surface traces of a shoddy skin reinforcement job made figuring out his heritage difficult. "Don't wanna start the party without her, heh?" Raven knew what the hasty, clipped speech meant __ her captor was high on some stimulant, maybe Slash. Laughter around her warned her that he wasn't alone __ but she couldn't bring herself to turn her head to watch, instead watching the reflected light on the knife as the man took it off her cheek and slowly turned it into his hand.

"Now, where we gonna start?" The man with the knife pulled down on Raven's shirt to tighten it, then used his blade to cut the neckline, widening it and exposing her cleavage. "Now ain't that purty?" he said, leering at the exposed skin. He placed the cold steel against Raven's breast.

The young woman was staring at him, her expression of fear and shame, lots of confusion, and even a bit of anger. The thug gave her a toothy grin and slid the knife along the body to her waist. "What next? Up, or down?"

Raven couldn't answer, barely heard the question. On an intellectual level she might have understood what was happening, but any logic was blocked by the flood of emotion crashing over her. Memories of the first man she'd ever killed, Little Eddie, whom she'd all but torn apart... She'd caught him forcing himself on a woman, and it shook her to the core. But the thought that she might find herself in this situation had never, _ever_ occured to her. She still thought she was a goblin, but she was more an angel now, and demons would slowly shred an angel's wings, delighting in the suffering, when they'd only kick a goblin like they would a mangy dog.

The knife went up, slice her shirt apart, meeting the earlier cut. The ganger spread the garment apart, revealing Raven's breasts and bra. "Whoa, good show!" he said as some of his cronies whistled in appreciation. The exposed skin flushed redder as shame pushed confusion aside in Raven's mind. "That's sure gonna be fun," said the man, leering.

Raven just stared in his face, mouth gaping, lost in confusion. Even as her mind registered every detail of what was happening, it refused to acknowledge the why, didn't take the step further. She saw a ganger run up from outside, crying in alarm, but felt strangely detached from the new arrival. He said something to Raven's captor, got rebuffed in response, started on another track, then stopped abruptly and looked down.

For some reason Raven followed his gaze, and saw the broken beer bottles and metal pipes and other debris slowly slide away from her, unaided. "What the frag?" the ganger asked, and Raven almost asked herself the same question, before the Power finally made its presence known in her mind, manifesting as a sudden surge of anger, rising exploslively in a massive burst that she automatically, reflexively contained.

She closed her eyes, pushed out her surroundings to concentrate on the struggle. She'd often wondered if the esper power within her had a consciousness of its own. When it was at its strongest, it seemed to bring her most basic, most aggressive emotions to the core, and feed them even as it fed off them. She'd taught herself to control it and shape it, and especially to hold it within—though when it was as strong as it was now, she barely could, and had to fight it tooth and nail. Was she mastering her own anger her own outrage, and the Power was just rising as a subconscious response to it? Or was the Power an entity in its own right, a second mind in her body, a primal force?

And did it matter? Mounting rage, her own or the Power's, her own AND the Power's perhaps, banished fear and confusion. Raven opened her eyes, glared in the face of her tormentor. It was ridiculous! This man counted on the fear of a helpless victim, and though her own fear had paralyzed her, but angel or goblin, she was far from helpless. Her face twisted in rage and she snarled at him. The thug's free hand moved to pushed her down and he brought the knife near her throat. "Whoa, little girly, calm down. Don't struggle now, I wouldn't wanna mess your purty..."

His sentence ended in a wet gurgle. Raven lashed out with the contained Power, and the ganger took the full brunt of it. Under the tremendous force, the muscle replacement and strengthened skin tore as easily as Raven's shirt had under the metal knife. The man was thrown away, flipping in mid_air and sprinkling blood over Raven, his gangmates and the floor. He hit the ground thirty feet further and slid twenty more, trailing gore all the way, until he slammed into a wall and came to rest.

Falcon ducked back behind some cover just to the side of the garage doors she'd blown open, and popped the faring up enough that she could stick her arm out and start firing with the pistol. The grenade had at least bought her and Adam some breathing space, though it wasn't going to last for long.

Adam had taken care of most of the various guards and sentinels along the way, so they weren't likely to have too much of a force behind them, but the fact that they had to slow down now that they'd reached the edge of the central encampment left their backs open. There were a few people just inside the garage door taking pot shots at her, and she didn't want to go inside to search and open herself up to a crossfire until she figured the area was clear.

The good thing currently is that most of the gang members who were good shots appeared to have been out on guard. The people left in here were mostly hopped up on something, which made them poor shots, but unfortunately left them too stupid to know when to fall down after being shot.

Falcon was just getting ready to start the push inside the building when a muffled explosion sounded from deeper inside the fenced_off area, followed by rather loud sounds of fighting. Her helmet picked up definite screams, and it wasn't long before the sounds penetrated even the fuzzed heads of the gangers here, distracting them from the fight.

"Adam, I think Raven's just woken up. And I don't think she's happy."

"Good," he grunted, burning off the last of the clip from the SMG he had acquired somewhere. Ignoring the resultant screams coming from within he slung the empty weapon aside, drawing both his Silvergun and a three foot rod from inside his coat. "Neither am I."

Raven telekinetically picked herself off the floor to a standing position, her rage pushing out even the memories reminding her that she had a working body now. Broken glass and chunks of rocks alike were lifted off the floor, just from the side_effects of the amount of power she was holding, barely leashed, awaiting release. All around her gangers either drew weapons to fire at her or turned tail to run, depending on how high on Slash they were. Raven let out a bloodcurdling cry and let go of the tremendous force she held, barely bothering to direct it.

Ceiling and floor alike were shredded like paper in the wake of the esper bolt. The force took two unfortunate mooks with it, not slowing a whit as it carried them both across the building, smashing them both through the wall, and hurling bricks, rocks, debris, and both their broken bodies outside.

Three of the thugs, too high to register what was happening, fired a few shots at her. Raven swatted the first two rounds away like annoying gnats and ignored the rest, as whirlwind created by her barely controlled power deflected them away from her body. Her fists clenched, and likewise the Power, visible only by the dust it was raising, clenched around her attackers, crushing them in a grasp stronger than iron, and all the more terrifying because try as they might, there was nothing to fight against. Terror finally overtook the drugs, and the gangers screamed in horror and agony for a few seconds before their bones snapped noisily under the onslaught.

Letting them fall to the ground like rag dolls, Raven scanned the building for more enemies, her rage totally unspent and the power tugging at her, begging release. She saw that most of the gang had the sense to flee, and were struggling to open a garage door. Raven inadvetently helped them, not that she really cared. Her next lash shredded the door, the floor in front of it, a good part of the wall around, and three mooks who were standing in front of it. Stampeding like panicked cattle, the gangers ran outside screaming.

Raven followed, flying vertically a few feet off the ground. It was not a conscious decision. Anger ruled her now, and pursuing her tormentors to punsih them was purely instinctual. Her esper motion was far faster than any terrified dash, and she caught up with the gang easily. She made a slashing motion with her hand, her body guiding the power, since her mind was beyond that. Some of the group --she was beyond counting—were flung sideways, into a building. One slammed right into the wall and slid down, leaving a trail of blood; two more smashed into a barricaded display window, sending shards and broken boards flying.

What was left of the group she was pursuing was at last reaching their bikes, and maybe a chance of escape. Raven would not allow it. She lifted her hand, and in response the motorcycles—all of them—rose quickly into the air. The gangers stopped dead in their tracks. Raven slashed her head down, and the bikes followed, crashing down on the heads of their owners.

Panicked screams and mad dodges ensued. One rail-thin ganger could do little more than shield his face with his arms before a motorcycle fell right into him, backed by all of Raven's esper power. Another, more agile thug dodged and dived and managed to avoid the falling motorcycle by a few inches. It didn't save him. The metal hitting the pavement with such force drew large sparks, and the gasoline leaking from the ruptured tank abruptly took fire.

None of the fuel tanks had survived the impact unbroken. The blazed quickly spread, following the trail led by the slicks of fuel, a mixture of gasoline and ethanol. The ground, the motorcycles, even the bikers, everything was wet with petrol. The agile ganger who'd dodged his bike went up in flames; he didn't even manage to get up, screaming and rolling along the ground, only picking up more gas and spreading the fire faster. The gangers scattered, most of them with a limb on fire. A short ganger paused to take off his burning coat; he became the next unfortunate to catch Raven's attention, and with a flick of her wrist she hurled him straight back into the blaze.

That bunch was well and thoroughly beaten, but Raven still heard gunfire in the distance. Someone was still fighting, and the Power wasn't sated. If anything, it seemed to enjoy being so loosed, and had grown more insistent. Raven clenched her teeth and went to the still_raging battle. Flight was too slow for her tastes; she simply willed herself there.

Falcon ducked back behind her shield and slammed her last clip into the .357M Desert Eagle. As a rescue operation, this was not going as well as she would like.

She'd tried to make a bid through the garage door while the people there were distracted by the sounds from further inside the compound, but someone got smart and propped a motorcycle up against the inside of the hole in the garage door. That kept her from just pushing through easily, and with Adam busy covering her back from guards, he wasn't in a good position to distract the people inside. Which left her and the few people inside the building in a Mexican stand_off, taking pot_shots at each other.

Falcon wasn't sure when she realized that the occasional crash and scream from further inside the compound stopped. The people inside the garage seemed to have noticed it too; at least, there was some sort of loud debate going on in there. She frowned for a moment, looking back at Adam to see how he was doing.

That was about when an explosion from inside blew the garage door clean off.

For a frozen instant in the aftermath of that explosion everything was silent, and still. Then the garage door, warped and cracked by the explosion that had hurled it from its frame, heaved and lifted. Adam stood up, hefting the twisted door over his head as he rose beneath it, then tossed it aside with a crashing impact that sent dust swirling into the air. He staggered slightly, his leathers grimy and his hair in disarray, then was spun about, caught in the shoulder by a round as the firing hesitantly started up again by the gangers who remained outside.

Righting himself, the replicant threw himself aside as more rounds ripped through the space where he had been standing. The pistol in his right hand spat return fire, stitching bloody impact holes across the chest of a kid who couldn't have been more than fifteen.

The kid went down without a sound even as Adam dropped his empty Silvergun. He darted a glance about in hopes of seeing whether or not Falcon was okay, then sprang in a massive leap across the yard, covering a good twenty metres in a single bound to close with the remaing group of four gangers coming across the yard.

Falcon was lying in a rather uncomfortable_looking heap next to the barricade she had leapt over earlier, with her bike on top of her legs, both having apparently been thrown against the barricade by the explosion. Occasional movement of her chest indicated she was still alive, and maybe even still conscious, but she definitely wasn't enjoying it.

More gunfire erupted from within the garage; thankfully it wasn't aimed outside, at the vulnerable Falcon or Adam, and it had a erratic, frantic quality, the regular, drawn_out stacattos broken by ominous pauses. Then another loud crash, and the garage wall burst outward, bricks flying in all directions, torn apart by a esper force that also carried two bodies outside, where they sprawled among the debris, old and new.

Three more gangers came out of the hole, backing off quickly as they fired at something inside the garage, inside and up high. Raven came after them, floating above the air, her clothes torn and ripped, face covered in blood and sweat, shield lifting brick powder, her dishiveled hair coiling like the snakes on Medusa's head, her glaring eyes bearing such rage that it seemed any who looked upon them would be turned to stone, like the monster of Greek legend...

And the gangers were indeed petrified, by fear, when she lifted a hand and clenched her teeth, and they didn't muster the courage to dodge when the street erupted under them, tearing pavement and bodies apart and up in the air, to fall wherever they may, already forgotten by the black_haired girl who was their doom. She looked over the scene, saw the dead bodies, saw Falcon and Adam, maybe, but she didn't acknowledge their presence. Perhaps it was just as well.

She turned in the air with the stormy quality of anger, and slowly swooped down to the level of the hole. Fire arced from the breach, spinning in the air at the heads of bottles. Molotov cocktails. The solid glass shattered against Raven's shield; their flaming liquid contents found less purchase against the kinetic barrier, and splashed inside before the unnatural wind blew it away, some of it briefly igniting Raven's clothes.

She screamed in rage and pain, face upturned to the sky, and clenched her hands above her head. Then gaze and fists came down, and in response a crack appeared in the garage's roof, suddenly, from one side to the other. Raven's balled fists trembled from the tension, her breathing shallow, as the Power left her in earnest, smashed what little was left that supported the ceiling, the walls, the building...

The garage collapsed into itself all at once, walls bringing the roof down with them as they fell inwards, burying whoever within still lived. And Raven fell as they fell, her shield blown like a candle, her descent just as abrupt, and hit the pavement with a weak moan. As the rumble of the collapse subsided, as the dust settled, again all was silent and still, except for Raven's quiet sobs.

Everything seemed too quiet in the aftermath of that orgy of destruction. After a moment of shocked paralysis, Adam covered the distance to Raven so fast he wasn't sure he touched the ground. Sliding to a halt beside her, he dropped to the ground and cradled her gently against him. "There there," he said inanely, stroking her tangled hair. "There there."

Raven stirred at his touch, lifted her arms to hug him, and cried quietly into his chest. Her clothes were ragged, and her shirt had been sliced up the front. Blood from her nose mingled with her tears on her face, but she seemed otherwise unharmed.

With a loud groan, Falcon started to pull herself out from under the worst of the wreckage. A good push got the bike upright to the point where the kickstand could prop it up. Her armour had at least saved her from any serious broken bones, even with the explosion, but she was going to be in serious pain once the adrenaline started to wear off.

She took a quick scan around the area. All of the gangers were either dead, too badly injured to do anything, or had been intelligent and fled. The area was a complete disaster zone, the garage having finally collapsed and scattered bits of rubble all over. There were several fires, one of which looked to be what was left of Adam's Harley. Nothing that seemed to be an immediate threat, which was good; none of them were in any shape to defend themselves right now.

A quick look over at Raven sobbing caused Falcon to sigh. First thing that went through her mind was, 'Well, there goes my evaluation.' She did maintain enough presence of mind to not _say_ that. It probably wouldn't be taken all that well.

Falcon took a step towards them, and winced. That ankle might not be broken, but it was definitely sprained from the way she landed. Walking over a little carefully, she stopped next to both of them. "We'd better get going, before anybody here manages to gather up some courage. Adam, there anything you want to salvage from your bike before we go?"

Raven was still hugging Adam, her chest heaving from her sobs. Her entire body shook from emotion. If she'd heard Falcon, she gave no indication.

Adam didn't even glance at the wreckage of the Harley. "Nothing to salvage," he said, stripping off his armoured coat and draping it around Raven. Hefting the suddenly frail-seeming girl easily in his arms, he looked around at the thoroughly destroyed hideout.

"Now what," he asked Falcon, his manner crisply professional despite the way he protectively cradled his owner against his chest. "We need to get out of here, and Raven's in no shape to do it for us."

Falcon nodded, and started walking back towards her bike, waving Adam along as she moved, even with her evident limp. "My bike is still drivable, though I wouldn't want to take it at top speed. Three people inside is going to be tight, but I'd rather not take the time required to see if there's anything salvageable from the gang's equipment."

The faring of the bike popped open as Falcon approached, and she hopped onto the seat. She slid forward a little, then patted the slightly higher seat behind her. "If you don't mind Raven sitting on your lap, you can probably both fit here. Just be careful."

Adam nodded and carried Raven over to the modified [bikename?]. He smoothly lowered the traumatized girl down into the angled saddle, then climbed on himself with a hesitant movement that showed he hadn't escaped the running battle unscathed.

Falcon tapped a control, and the bike's faring slide back down into place, bumping into Adam's head in the process. While everybody could just fit in, Adam would likely have a serious crick in his neck if they had to stay like this for long. Another tap, and a map of the area they'd been through came up on the display, with a crooked line drawn through it; Falcon started up the bike, and began to follow the line back to where they'd left the thoroughfare.

The ride back was slower but relatively uneventful. Aside from a couple of people who took off for cover as they passed by, the area might as well have been deserted.

As the thoroughfare came into view between a pair of buildings, Falcon brought up the next point. "Are we going to be continuing to Twelfth and Brook to pick up the package, or should we call the whole thing off for now?"

Seated behind Falcon as he was, Adam's mixed reaction of surprise and pleasure wasn't visible to her. "Miss Clark's safety is paramount," he replied cooly. "If you would please take us to Clark street, there is a clinic there where we should go."

Falcon nodded, and pulled onto the thoroughfare, cutting across the median at the first place where she could to head back in the other direction. The trip back was quiet, save for the rumble of the bike's engine. After nearly half an hour, weaving through a succession of slowly narrower streets, she finally got up near Clark street. "How far along Clark Street are we going, and is there anything I should know about the place?"

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