[Disclaimer: Cowboy Bebop was created by, and is copyrighted by Yadate Hajime in association with the legal entities Sunrise and Bandai. The world, landmarks and characters are used without permission but no material profit of any kind is being made from the following work (though it does amuse me to abuse said characters). Sunrise and Bandai reserve all rights to Cowboy Bebop material, but all of the situations unique to this work of fan fiction are property of the writer.  Bang.]

[Another fic with a Daisy Chainsaw title.  Woo.  Thanks to everyone who reviewed Dog with Sharper Teeth: those were wonderful reviews.  I'm quite grateful.]

Lovely Ugly Brutal World

            Spike was aware that arguments with his partner were destined to be one-sided.  When Vicious made up his mind about something he might make slight modifications to make life easier on Spike, but he never actually budged unless concrete evidence was provided.

            "A soliloquy would be fun," he insisted, walking lazily down the hall of flimsy gray cubicles, gesturing pointedly at the door across the room.  It was one of the few doors that actually owned its very own permanent wall.

            The men and women working hard, and quietly, in their drab cubicles could not help but wonder at the fairly loud tone Spike used or the sight of his wrinkled coat.  The white haired man at his side, outfitted in a suit and clean coat, looked unremarkable by comparison.

            "It will give them time," Vicious commented dismissively, his shoes making no sound at all on the thin carpet, "for their instincts to revive."

            Particularly futile arguments were those that even slightly resembled abstract concepts, which could not be influenced by solid facts.  However, Spike wasn't the type to give up, especially if he was being humored.  Vicious didn't have to argue with him, after all, he often made that obvious by not replying.

            "You said in the elevator that they don't even have any instincts left." 

            Vicious nodded.  "I did.  They don't."  He looked to his left, where Spike was walking almost shoulder-to-shoulder with him.  "But you'd keep going until their new lives arrived."

            Dark eyebrows rose while brown eyes feigned deep hurt.  "Cold.  You don't even believe in past lives."

            The white-haired man nodded in agreement.  By then they were right outside the laminated door, while behind them several of the office's occupants were watching them over their soulless partitions.  Vicious reached for the door latch, "But I do believe in lives that are past."

            Spike shrugged, pulling a pair of double barrel sawed-off shotguns from under his coat and snapping them up to waist level.  "I guess I can't argue with that."

            "Good," Vicious replied, turning the latch and pulling the door open on silent hinges.  "After you."

            The screaming was released from a hundred throats behind them as Spike's double ought buck shot released the executive's flesh, blood, bone, and charcoal gray suit from the normal confines of organic order.  Entropy was the moment's name of the game.  Red mist saturated the air; the man's body slammed the window behind him with the concussion of the point blank blast.  Meanwhile, Vicious' hand and arm were absorbing his Desert Eagle's recoil with the help of the gun's ridiculous, but necessary, triangular counter weight.  Eagles and shotguns; they were syndicate classics.

            The men flanking Spike's target lost the backs of their heads to Vicious' bullets, and equally undue force, before they could pull their own guns.  Unfortunately, the men flanking the door had much more time.  Steel was raised, tendons tightened, and bullets were begging for their own say.

            Like a conductor of some macabre symphony, Spike swept his shotguns out wide, one right underneath his partner's arms as he began to pull back into the room wherein lay their screaming audience.

            Two blasts sounded as one, followed by two more in rapid succession. 

            Spike joined Vicious outside the newly decorated room.  "What shall we call it?"  He asked, pondering the grisly scene.  "The Red Room?"

            Narrow eyes flicked over Spike's blood spattered coat, noting the concentration of blood on the left sleeve, the way the red fluid ran over the valleys and folds of the crumpled cloth, then back into the room.  The bodies weren't even twitching; the blood was not pumping, but spilling.  "Rust in Puce."

            A laugh ripped from Spike's chest, eyes reflecting pure enjoyment and not a little pain.  "I wouldn't figure you for a poet or a comedian."

            The lean man turned, all his movements economical and purposeful.  "Don't start now."  His left hand, free of his heavy handgun, curled around a fold of Spike's coat as he took long strides back down the way they came.  "No time."

            The shotguns rattled as they hit the floor behind them, empty of packaged death.  Vicious' hand let go of Spike's coat as the two of them made swift time for the elevator but the other pulsed repeatedly on his gun as he compulsively felt for a better grip.  He hadn't counted on getting so much blood on his hands, but the room was smaller and filled with more men than they'd expected.

            "Elevator better be waiting," Spike murmured through gritted teeth.  His left arm was losing the initial numbness from being shot.  He shed his coat and pulled his twin pistols from their holsters before the pain could set in.

            They rounded a turn and found the elevator doors gaping open, one of Vicious' many throwing knives still jamming the door open.  The only problem was the jump-suited maintenance man tugging at it with dogged determination.  Spike booted the man aside, knocking him on his back and dislodging his blaring headset.  "You'll ruin your hearing," he warned sternly.

            Vicious only yanked the knife from the floor and dragged Spike in with him.  He had hit the button for the 35th floor before they'd left the elevator only a few moments before.  There was supposedly a member of building security holding it for them, but the cold man wasn't big on trust.  The doors closed in front of the maintenance worker's horrified face as Vicious jammed the appropriate button with the weighted barrel of his gun.

            "A witness," he commented dryly, shoving his gun and knife into his belted slacks.  His pale hands, striped in red, dove into his suit coat, emerging with a somewhat bulky bandage. 

            "That should be plural," Spike shrugged, tearing off his left sleeve and offering his arm to Vicious.  "This is going to slow me down."

            The backing was torn off and fluttered, unwanted, to the elevator's carpeted floor.  Spike's sleeve wasn't even off his arm before the pad was pressed firmly to his bleeding bicep.  "It will slow you less in the long run."

            "True," the fluffy-haired man replied, hissing at the pressure.  He glanced at the lit floor display while his partner made sure the medical patch was affixed appropriately.  "Shouldn't we be catching the first bank of elevators at the 35th floor?"

            "Mm."  Vicious made a last adjustment to the patch, insuring it would rest as flat as possible against Spike's skin.

            "No layovers, right?"

            Vicious finally paid attention to the line of questioning and flicked an iron-colored look up at the bank of floor numbers.  Starting at the 35th floor, they were lighting up in a straight line, swiftly reaching their own descending light.

            "So much for buying the opposing team's security," Spike sighed, stripping off the sleeve and finding a better grip on his guns.  He was already running strings of options through his mind.  He wasn't worried about being double-crossed or getting killed, his life was like that.  Saved from one situation by one equally deadly.  The important difference was that he had a partner to work with and worry about.

            Vicious' eyes were narrow anyway, but when his mind started working on the same wavelength as his instincts, they seemed to narrow even more.  There was a time, before the aptly named man had created a very minute area of trust for Spike, when the look had made him wary.  Now it was the exhilarating sign that said the ride was about to get totally out of hand.

            "Tell me something, Spike," came the low, growling voice.

"Sure," Spike nodded amiably, playfully twirling his mirror-image pistols around his index fingers.

"Were they doing the windows today?"

            Spike stopped the guns and shook his bemused head.  "Can we call that Plan C?"

            "We can.  Until then, we make own decisions about what floor we get off," the other man snarled, whipping out his gun and knife.  To emphasize his point, he slammed the emergency stop button with the Desert Eagle's heavy grip, bringing their ride to a somewhat jolting halt between the 46th and 45th floors. 

            The doors parted automatically, allowing the two to slide a yard down, feet first, into the 45th floor's lobby.  Their shoes clattered and scraped on the marble flooring of what appeared to be a law firm unrelated to the syndicate holdings above and below it.  They didn't pause to ponder their good fortune or their obvious lack of security tags.  Though Spike paused to smile at the firm's lovely receptionist.  She might have even been intrigued were he not so bloody and was Vicious not pulling the trigger on one of the largest handguns she'd ever seen. 

The blast of the gun came almost as immediately as the explosion of the firm's normally sturdy glass barrier.  Vicious never paused to make the shot, just sprinted headlong into the slivers of cubed glass.  With little extra incentive to flirt with a shocked receptionist, Spike sighed at his overly serious partner's utter lack of sensitivity and followed him into the scattering cloud of glittering safety glass. 

The gun blast and relatively unnoticed sound of breaking glass heralded the two gunmen as they barreled though an inner reception area and broke right for a hallway with a glowing exit sign at the rear.  Vicious slammed an attorney, unlucky enough to be in the hallway at the time, bodily into a wall when the man couldn't get out of the way fast enough.  The attorney might have fallen completely to the floor if Spike hadn't steadied him as he made his way past, too.  "Don't play around," Spike grinned, pushing off and saluting jauntily with a gun.

The man was still catching his breath and gazing in shock even after the two disappeared into the building's concrete stairwell.  It would be quite a while before he noticed he was missing anything. 

The stairwell was resounding with rapid footsteps, sometimes punctuated with a louder collision when either Spike or Vicious were halfway down and could recklessly jump to the next landing.  They made quick time, passing a floor every few seconds. 

Vicious thought on the fly, running contingencies through his mind in case they should hit a Syndicate impasse.  He knew the best course of action was to plan ahead, but he wasn't yet convinced he was overestimating the opposition.  His idea had been to take the stairs down to the 34th floor and grab the elevator there, but he was certain the staircase would be filled before they got to that point.  However, he'd made one fatal mistake that would see them shooting their bloody way down to the rival syndicate's levels.  They only had a security pass for the syndicate, not one for the law firm.

"Spike," he breathed between timed gasps for air.  "Do you have frags?"

"Nope," Spike laughed raggedly from behind.  "I have a concussion grenade, but I want to save it for a special occasion."

If he didn't need to watch the stairs, he would have rolled his eyes.  "You'll save it for when we hear them on the steps?"

"No," Spike snorted, "I think we should save it for after that."

Vicious risked his footing to glare at his belligerent partner.  "That isn't going to be possible; we're stuck here until we hit a Black Tiger floor."

When Spike grinned toothily in response, Vicious' knee jerk reaction was to blast the man's fluffy head into another show of fine red mist.  That reaction faded when Spike saluted him with a gun and security pass.  "Just say when."

Despite unofficial ribbing concerning Vicious' icy visage being too brittle to withstand smiling, the aptly named man did just that.  "Thieving bastard."

"Old habits die— "  The clatter of a can hitting and rebounding across the landing they were headed for interrupted them.  Spike grabbed a rail, despite his mostly full hands, and jerked himself to a stop.  Vicious was already committed to jumping the last six steps and could not escape impact with the opposing wall or the canister beginning to erupt in fire and gas. 

"When, Spike!"  The pale man shouted, propelling himself backwards, toward his partner, but not before he kicked the can back down the stairwell.  Vicious was taken with violent coughing, but still managed another shout as he leapt up the stairs two at a time.

Spike didn't need to be told twice.  He raced back up a flight of stairs to a door marked 37 and pressed his hot pass to the security pad.  He felt, rather than heard the heavy bolt shooting back and heaved it open in time for the stairwell to erupt with bullets. 

Eyes streaming and bloodshot from the tear gas, Vicious was more than happy to quit the stairwell.  He let Spike pull him through and slam the door shut.  Vision next to useless, he continued to let Spike lead a few more long strides until he heard him say, "Water fountain."

Spike hit the button while Vicious found the water and let the frigid stream wash out his iron colored eyes.  It was only barely tolerable, but a blessing next to the gas.

"Hope they don't have a pass for this place," Spike murmured, but he knew that while their attackers might not have such a pass on them, it would take very little to procure one.

"They don't need one," Vicious snapped, whipping his head back from the water.  An arc of water droplets followed the irresistible force of his motion.  "They can walk in from the elevator, as we did."

Spike nodded absently, watching for people to hit their hallway.  Every now and again he couldn't help but worry about the ordinary people that were often written off as collateral damage.  His partner would say that nobody was so ordinary to warrant concern, but then Vicious was hypocritical enough to save Spike's life on occasion.  As it was, he did not comment, only stood watch as his partner shed his coat and rubbed at his eyes with his remarkably clean, white cuffs.  He hoped he wouldn't think anymore about collateral damage; it would endanger both of them.

"Okay?" Spike asked.  A rough edge to his voice betrayed sincere concern as he glanced at his partner's red eyes.  It wasn't often the two of them actually found themselves with such completely shitty options of escape.  He wondered if their get away car was going to be waiting if they got out.  A glance at Vicious watch informed him they still had a couple minutes: the hit was only three minutes prior.

"Little blurry, but no time to shake it off," Vicious replied and shrugged, "At least I still have both sleeves."

The rudimentary joke lifted Spike's flagging spirits.  The dark-haired man twirled his pistols and slipped them into his pants' pockets.  Luckily the patch covering his injury was medicated with painkillers or the flashy move might have cost him.  "You're not making it out of here clean."

Vicious nodded, draping his jacket on Spike's lean shoulders to cover the missing sleeve, injury, and the continued grip on the two guns.  They were still spattered with fresh blood, but a quick glance wouldn't reveal them.  With an air of purpose and authority, they headed down the hallway.

"By the way, Vicious," Spike murmured as they walked.  "What now?  Clowns in the stairwells and elevators."

"Plan C," Vicious remarked obliquely, straightening his slate necktie in a show of calculated disregard.  It looked perfectly natural despite the massive handgun still in his hand.  Spike noted the knife had finally made it back to his boot.

"Of course," Spike sighed.  "South side."

The white-haired man nodded his reply as they were already headed in the appropriate direction.  It was somewhat eerie to continue down the hallway as if they had no worries; at any moment the staircase door could slam open and a spray of bullets could be chasing them down.  Running, though, would alert the firm's security team, which was probably on the Black Tiger take.

At the end of the hall the two paused, each glancing their own direction.  The view was the same either way: a long bank of offices along the building's perimeter with sets of legal secretaries in adjacent cubicles.  They both scanned their respective sides, looking for their next opportunity.  It was as they were straining to hear the distinctive sound of rubber on glass over the clacking of nails on keys and mostly feminine voices conducting their business, that they heard a yell behind them.

"Shit," Spike commented in a matter-of-fact voice he'd perfected over the years of hard living.  Vicious surged to the right in reply.  This time he didn't need to drag his partner along; Spike was only a step behind him. 

They raced down the outer hall, leaving shocked looks in their wake.  Spike pulled his pistols out as they went, while Vicious kept his Eagle in hand.  When they found what they were searching for, the white-haired hit man actually sped right past it.  It was Spike who skidded to a jumpy stop on the firm's red carpet. 

Sensing Spike's stop, Vicious also skidded to a halt and ran back to the office his partner was aiming his guns into.  He could see the fluffy-haired youth scanning the office just before he started plugging bullets.  The spray of glass and sudden breeze went well with the well-aimed blasts.  They both ducked into the office and slammed the door shut.  Spike locked the remarkably sturdy door as Vicious vaulted the desk and a cowering lawyer.  Satisfied with the prolific safety glass, Vicious reached outside for the black cables swinging outside the building. 

Acting on instinct, he grabbed the gyrating cables in one hand before blasting the lawyer's head all over the underside of the desk with the gun in his other.

"Vicious!"  Spike exclaimed in disapproval.  The cold man ignored the reproach and offered a cable.  Spike would have to get over it.

The two stowed their guns and took better grips on the cable.  Spike was instantly relieved that he was wearing his gloves, though they were unfortunately fingerless.  When he noticed his partner wore no gloves at all he winced.  While friction was certainly a welcome part of How Things Are, it was also, quite apparently, about to be a terrible bitch.

"Ten floors," Vicious stated firmly, and then they leapt out into the air, hoping the joker way up above them on the thin lift wouldn't give them any trouble.  The last thing Spike wanted to do was wack a window washer.

The wind was strong thirty-seven floors up.  It whipped at their clothes and set their hair in a frenzy of rebellious activity: something Spike was, at least, familiar with.  Had the two of them been better prepared for the activity, they might have found the wind and the rapid descent somewhat pleasant.  As it was, the cable was more forgiving than rope, but it was still peeling layers off their hands and/or fingers.  Shooting was going to be less pleasant in the immediate future.

The pain blistering quite literally up from Vicious' hands was incredible.  It provided him an incredibly tight concentration on their insane descent.  He watched and counted floors with pinpoint focus. 

And then his cable jerked and gunfire resounded from above them.  He heard Spike cursing wildly and attributed it to a new bullet.  There was something to say for instincts whether they were injured or not: as one, Spike and Vicious shoved off the side of the building one last time, held their cables with one hand, while drawing a gun each.  Spike covered them, shooting up at their pursuers, nearly ten floors above them, while Vicious took his turn at shooting out the windows they were about to sail through.

It was fortunate they went back into the building when they did, for Vicious' cable was severed just as his feet cleared the window.  Without the cable to guide his trajectory, the white-haired man crashed haphazardly into the spacious break room before them.  Spike collided with a table but generally rode his momentum into a wall, where his lanky arms absorbed the brunt of his body's force.  This, of course, hurt like hell thanks to his previous injury.  Vicious was far less dignified, slamming through tables and chairs and sliding across the tile floor on his side, taking some of the chairs, which tangled in his long limbs, with him.

The plethora of syndicate file clerks and administrative assistants in the room stared in shock as Spike pulled his partner from the knot of chairs and broken tables.  He didn't have a chance to ask if his dazed partner was okay or not; Black Tiger file clerks did not, as a rule, carry fire arms, but the administrative assistants were a different breed.  Perhaps they didn't all pack, but neither Spike or Vicious were prepared for a break room shoot out.  The two broke for the doors before anyone decided to fill them full of lead.

There was time, though very little, to exchange glances as the two ran down the outer hallway at full tilt.  Though Spike had cursed wildly outside, he was not newly injured.  Vicious, however, had left a bloody handprint on Spike's one-sleeved shirt and had picked up a scalp wound in the furniture wreck that was turning his hair a rapid pink on the left side of his face. 

"Plan D," Spike gasped as they pounded down the hall, shoving aside mail clerks and vaulting their carts as they cropped up.  "What is it?"

Vicious pointed his bloody gun at an omnipresent, glowing, exit sign.  They blew past the elevator bank as he gestured.  "We must," he coughed in reply, "keep them guessing.  Keep their forces split up or we're dead."

Spike said a prayer to the gods he didn't believe in that his partner was right and they would not, in fact, get splattered across the hallway when they wrenched the stair door open.  Showing deference to the bloody mess that was Vicious' hands, Spike tore open the door to the concrete stairwell.  If there'd been more time he'd have been relieved when a spray of bullets did not rip his partner in half when bolted past and down the stairs.

In a show of their near panic and adrenaline, the two took the stairs two at a time as well as vaulting down halfway to each landing.  Though he was watching his footing again, Spike still noticed the door numbers as they threw themselves down the concrete spiral.  Twenty-eight, twenty-seven, twenty-six, twenty-five, twenty-four, twenty-three—

A door slammed above them.

"What if we're already dead," Spike choked, "and we're actually just repeating this scenario for each of our sins?"

-- Twenty-two--

"The floor numbers are far too low for that."

-- Twenty-one--

A door slammed below them.

The twentieth floor's door was seized.  Vicious practically slammed his hip against the wall as he pressed the syndicate's security tag in his slacks' pocket against the plate.  Spike nearly sobbed in relief as he felt the bolt slam open.  Before he could open it, though, his partner squeezed off a couple shots off up and down the gap running all the way down the middle of the stairwell. 

The door was heaved open with all due haste as corresponding fire broke out in the stairwell.  "Squeeze play?"  Spike asked as they slammed the door shut behind them.

Vicious nodded, leaning against the metal door.  "Since we're not shooting, maybe each group will assume the other is us."

Spike was doubtful, but Black Tigers were notoriously trigger-happy.  It was a diversion, if nothing else, and they would have to take advantage of it.  In another show of athletic ability, the two raced back down the hall in the direction of the elevator bank.

They found no opposition on their way to the elevator and found it in remarkably quick time.  Vicious jabbed the call button with a violent motion of his elbow and cursed under his breath when they were relegated at staring between the four sets of doors when one did not immediately arrive.

It took a matter of seconds for an elevator to arrive; enough time for Vicious to clean his hands off on his slacks and for both to reload their guns.  There was also enough time for them to begin to feel the incredible weight of their physical expenditures begin to edge in at the perimeter of their endurance.

When the elevator came, Spike held it and hit the call button again.  He motioned for Vicious to send the second one down to the first floor lobby.  It was both a decoy and a deterrent for anyone who might be so unfortunate to call theirs at the wrong moment.

The doors weren't even fully closed on the decoy before the two rushed into their own metal lift and Vicious hit the button for the second floor.  Spike sighed.  They would be shooting more glass and jumping out another window.  More than likely, there would be a welcoming committee on the second floor anyway, but probably considerably smaller than one that might wait in the main lobby.

In the confines of the elevator, Vicious spared a look at his partner.  "Would you call this a special occasion?"

The less serious man nodded and fished in one of his baggy pockets.  "I'd say so.  Any last requests?"

"Two," Vicious remarked, turning away from Spike and leaning back, resting his shoulders against his partner's. 

For a moment, Spike thought Vicious had actually gone soft in the face of death, that he was going to admit, in some small way, he was going to miss his partner's crazy ways.  "Anything," Spike murmured respectfully.

"Perfect," Vicious all but purred.  "Get the grenade ready and then brace your back against mine."

Spike chuckled quietly.  No, Vicious was still Vicious and the fight was still on.  As usual, his partner only played to win.  "Sure.  Just one thing, Vicious."

"What?"  The two hit men each placed a foot against the opposite wall and pushed their backs together more fully.

"You have a light?"

Vicious smiled the only real smile he had, which would generally be mistaken for a sneer on anyone else.  "Do you have cigarettes?"

Before either of them brought their other leg against the elevator wall, they both reached into their pockets.  Vicious brought out a blood stained lighter and passed it back under Spike's arm.  On his other side, he found Spike offering one of the most pathetic and twisted cigarettes he'd ever been witness to.  They traded quietly, though Spike couldn't help chuckling at the sight of the lighter. "Mao always says our priorities are screwed up, doesn't he?"

"He does," Vicious replied smoothly, taking his lighter back, "but I think he's referring to me, Spike."

When they were both lit up, the two pressed all their weight against each other's back and brought up their legs.  It didn't take them long to walk up the middle of the elevator, but turning sideways, so they were parallel against the ceiling, was tricky and entailed the use of one hand each to steady themselves.

The elevator was moving fast and the two hardly had time to take more than a couple pulls on their deformed cigarettes before they felt it begin to slow on the approach to the second floor.  As the elevator settled, just before the doors opened, Vicious tucked his tie into his collar, not wanting to give any more indication than necessary that they were hidden at the top of the elevator.

Inevitability, the doors began to slide open with very little noise, but had there been any it would have been drowned out by the sudden onslaught of overwhelming gunfire.  Hundreds of bullets sped into the elevator and impacted with the metal and wood fittings.  The force of the bullets coupled with the flying debris, created a whirlwind, littering the two hidden hit men with splinters and saturating their clothes with the smell of burning metal.

The barrage went on for far longer than either of them expected, leading both Spike and Vicious to assume they were either dealing with amateurs or people who had already heard the other elevator was the decoy.  Either way, they found themselves deeply disturbed by their proximity to the overwhelming use of force.  Had they been standing in the elevator it was certain the two of them would have been ripped limb from limb.

The wasted lead only renewed their adrenaline rush and fed a high sharper than sex, more natural than Red Eye, and with nothing in the way of guilt either could bring on.  In the moment before imminent death, Spike and Vicious were more alive than at any other time in their lives. 

In unbearable slow motion, the elevator doors began to close.  The firepower paused as someone scrambled to hit the call button again; which struck both hit men as odd.  Spike took that opportunity to pull the ring on his concussion grenade: a noise that went unnoticed.  The sound of three approaching footsteps took the place of a countdown and then Spike tossed the grenade through the newly opened doors. 

A shout, curse, more gunfire, and then an explosion rocked the floor and the elevator.  Despite the bruising pressure they were exerting on each other, the violent rocking of the elevator shook the two Red Dragons down like a child looking for the prize at the bottom of a cereal box.

Leading with their guns, they exploded out of the elevator, turning back the death meant for them.  Most of the Black Tiger welcoming committee was trying to recover from the grenade blast and were of little concern as the two rushed past like the embodiment of a force of nature gone terribly mad.  Those with quicker reflexes, who avoided the return fire, managed to sweep their Kalishnakovs across the way as the pair cleared the lobby. 

Running fast and hard did not save them from hot lead.  Spike's momentum kept him heading around the corner, into the final corridor leading to glass and the street, when the first bullet bit into his right shoulder, spinning him violently in order to take the second in a burning line across his shoulder blades.  He slammed into a wall, but, thanks in large part to his martial training and natural instincts, kept his feet.  What kept him going, was the sudden, equally violent, jerk as a pale hand sank hard fingers into his left forearm and propelled him along.

Spike didn't even feel the pain, all he saw was the floor to ceiling glass ahead of them with the midday sun streaming in to light their way.  He imagined they'd run out along a bridge of reflected light and glittering glass. 

Time seemed to speed up when he was shot, but when he recovered, time slowed down again.  Each step was an eternity when one's back was open to the enemy.  This time there was more hallway and less desks without even benefit of flimsy partitions, but no one sat at them.  They did not find a perimeter of shocked and frightened faces to flank them as they passed.  Instead, there was a wave of paperwork thrown up with the force of their wake.

Steady blasts began to erupt from nearby.  Spike was somewhat shocked, in a detached fashion, to realize they were from his pistols and Vicious' Desert Eagle.  Before them, glass was exploding outward.  They were so close it was easy to imagine it was wind from outside blowing their hair back from their faces.

Then came the explosions from behind them.  Spike spared an arm and twisted around to shoot behind them.  As he did so, he saw Vicious doing the same in mirror image.  Though Vicious preferred killing people in as close quarters as possible, the man was not a bad shot, especially for running and shooting behind at the same time.  Spike was equally skilled, but to really hit any of their opponents in their situation, they were better off relying on luck than skill.  Fortunately for them, luck was always on the dumb side when Spike was involved.  Two Tigers went down as they came in reach of the gaping window.

They both turned in time to make the hardest leaps of their lives.  Time sped up again for the initial few steps leading up to flight and then slowed to a near stop as they jumped out into the air above the street.  Spike momentarily wondered what they were going to hit.

Vicious had his eyes fixed on the street below them, as he sailed above the tightly packed city street.  All he was hoping for was avoiding being hit by a car, but he'd settle for finding their ride.  He was annoyed, therefore, when he was hit, instead, by the lead he'd somehow assumed he'd left in the glass and steel monolith behind him.  Possible death shattered bone and burrowed into muscle and softer tissue.  The last of his cigarette rode the spray of blood that issued from between nearly colorless lips.  The force of the impact spun him forward as they headed for the asphalt outside the building.

Spike hit the hood of a taxi, waiting to take a passenger.  He was happy that it took the brunt of his fall and easily rolled over to the opposite side of the cab, landing in a crouch and taking cover.

In a better showing, despite injury, than what he'd performed in the break room incident, Vicious hit the top of the cab and somersaulted into the taxi's would-be passenger, who absorbed the worst of the impact, and then slammed his back against the cab's door, closing it.  Another spray of blood coated the inside of Vicious' mouth and out his nose.  Noting the new relative uselessness of his left arm, he raised his arm and wiped the blood from his mouth.

Spike was already holding the cabbie at gunpoint.  Unfortunately for them, the glass was wisely bulletproof and the cabbie was uninterested in becoming a getaway vehicle.  Their momentary cover began to pull into traffic, forcing them to find new cover behind another, parked directly behind the first.

"Where the hell is our getaway?" Spike snarled around the butt of his still present, though now unlit, cigarette.  He tried knocking more politely on the window of their new cover, but the cabbie had seen them arrive on the scene and gunned his engine, ripping away from the curb.

"How do you feel about the subway, Vicious?" Spike asked in frustrated exasperation.  It was unusual for his partner to ignore his questions, so when Vicious simply joined him behind a third cab, he took that as his answer that they should eventually find a cab in the long line opposite the building they'd jumped from. 

The third cab hadn't seen their arrival, but the woman inside shook her head violently when she took in their bloodied state and the pistol Spike was knocking with.  However, she didn't announce their presence to the gunmen beginning to pour from the syndicate building by pulling away into traffic.

Spike was beginning to think they'd have to crawl down the whole line of cabs before they'd find a willing driver or at least one with a window down.  It was a relief, when a cab door down the line actually opened up and a blonde head sporting black sunglasses leaned out.

"Your regular ride decided not to wait," the blessedly familiar voice intoned coldly as the back door opened for them. 

"Probably because we're such bad tippers," Spike answered in a rush of hard-hitting relief.  He climbed into the back and Vicious followed in a more sedate manner than the situation called for.  Instead, it was Spike needlessly ordering Julia to get them the hell out of there.

The woman gave the rambunctious man a hard over her sunglasses via the rear view mirror.  "Shut up and let me drive, Spiegel."

"Oh?"  Spike smirked, leaning over the seat as she began to pull the car casually into traffic.  He flicked on the radio, but before he could turn it up too loud, the window separating driver from passenger began to rise.  Spike took the hint and sat back, but leaned forward in his seat.  "Are you always this naturally cold, or did you catch it from Vicious?"

The car advanced into the chaotic traffic everyone on Mars habitually complained about.  "Are you naturally stupid or do you practice?"

Spike shrugged and winced; with the adrenaline wearing off, the blinding pain from his latest injury was beginning to insinuate its presence into his immediate consciousness.  Rather than answer her return question, he began to reach over the partition.  "I need a kit or something."

"What happened?"  Julia asked, handing back a larger-than-standard-issue medical kit.

Spike took it and took Vicious' continued silence as contemplation.  "Best I can figure, our inside security sell-out must have gotten caught soon after he decided to turn on us," he popped the kit open and drummed his fingers on the sides in time with the radio, "but he got whacked before he could spill his guts about what was going on.  Typical Tiger itchy fingers.  The elevator didn't work for or against us after a certain point and our security pass worked the whole time.  Getting out was complete insanity.  We should be dead."

"How close to dead are you two?"  Julia asked, her tone rising slightly above her business-like absolute zero.  "Vicious?"

Vicious coughed lightly, a wet sound that drew Spike's eyes instantly to his pale partner.  The dark-haired man's eyes grew very round at the sight that greeted him.  "Vicious?"

His partner's lips were pink with blood, a color on anyone else's face that would seem natural.  "I could use a surgeon," he remarked sourly.

Julia swore and slammed her foot on the gas, eliciting all manner of blaring horns and oaths from other drivers.  "Idiots!"

Spike tore through the medical kit.  "Vicious," he commented in a concerned voice that also managed to verge on fear, "you have no choice but to survive this."

For a third time in the last fifteen minutes, Vicious defied the limits of his own nearly non-existent goodwill and smirked somewhat distantly.  "Oh?"

"Yeah," he said, cracking a lop-sided grin in return.  "Because who'll take care of Julia then?"

Vicious snorted, alarming Spike with the trickle of blood that ran down to his lip with the act.  "Who ever is the first," the pale man replied jokingly, "to step over my dead body."

Spike couldn't help but feel chilled by what should have been an amusing comment, but he laughed anyway.