Dark Night

A heavy bass beat is heard outside the building. The sky is cloudless and although it is night, no star can penetrate the glow of the city. Neon blues and reds light the thumping, musical building, and a green neon sign hangs over its entrance. "Limelight" it says in cursive lettering.

The girl walks down the sidewalk alone with her head held high. Her red hair is cut short, just over her shoulders. The low cut black shirt reveals the girls curves, and the electric blue micro skirt shimmers with every step she takes. As she nears the door of the neon club, a dark-skinned, muscle-bound bouncer steps out of the door way.

"Name," he greets her gruffly.

"Joanna Dark," she replies curtly. He crosses a name off the list after giving it a glance, and shoves his thumb over his shoulder.

"Thanks," says Jo. She joins the line just inside the outer door. The line moves slowly as Joanna listens in on the couple in front of her. They're a somewhat odd pairing; the guy's dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, while his slim date has a revealing sparkling white dress. The line moves forward and the couple reaches the counter as the person before them leaves, and pushes through the swinging doors into the depths of the thumping club.

"Entrance for two please," asks the girl.

"Hey I like this song!" her date exclaims as he pulls out his wallet and hands the clerk a few bills. "Come on Hun, let's dance the night away!" They enter the club giggling like school kids, and Joanna steps up. Lights embedded in the glass counter shift colors, going from green to blue and tinting the spiked blond hair of the boy sitting behind it.

"Well hello there, you look like you're in for a hot night!" the young man says to her.

"Maybe I am, or maybe I'm hitting the bar soon as I get in," she replies with a coy little smile. "Alone." He flashes her a charming grin as she pays the entrance fee, twenty five dollars.

"You know if you're just planning on being lonely the entire time, then maybe I could pay you a visit while I'm on my break. He says, still smiling.

" Hmmm… Maybe you could…" she replies teasingly as she heads through the door into the raving club.

o

"Dual Magnums, extra clips, Kevlar vest…" Jack goes through his arsenal, strapping holsters to his waist. He has to stoop low in the dark back of the Uhaul van as he pulls on his body armor. He feels the van slow down and bounce twice as it goes over a speed bump and turns down a road, and he pokes his head into the front. "So John, what kind of jobs do you usually take?" Jack asks the driver casually as he twirls a combat knife in the air and slips it the sheath on his leg and sits down in the passenger seat.

"I get all sorts of jobs." The middle aged blond man behind the wheel replies. "Mostly work comes from the private sector, but our little mercenary corporation is beginning to get some government jobs. Sometimes those are the most rewarding in a monetary and moral sense."

"A moral sense huh? So when you get a job you don't like…"

"I turn it down. I refuse to allow our corporation to aid the likes of terrorists and rogue nations," he pauses, "I also try to avoid jobs that cross people I've had previous good relations with. Not good for business eh?" laughs John. He steers the van down another street, and stops on the side of the road next to an alley. "Alright, this is the drop off point."

"Ok, thanks," he says pulling out a wad of cash and a map. "The money is all hundred dollar bills, this is you first installment. Now, I want you to drive the rest of this gear over to a small warehouse on river view street over here." Jack points to a road on the map. "Just leave it on the loading dock. There'll be an unmarked package on the door. That's the rest of your payment." He hands the map to the driver. "And now, I must take my leave. You've done a great job."

"Thank you sir. Stay alive and maybe you can keep me busy in the future eh?"

"Will do. Have a good one." With that, jack opens up the passenger door, and climbs out. He walks around the back of the van as it takes off down the street, its taillights glowing and fading away. He walks down the trash littered alley, past the dumpsters. He reaches the fire escape of a building, pulls down the ladder, and begins the climb to the roof.

o

Hundreds of people covered the dance floor and many were jumping up and down in what seemed like choppy stop animation due to the strobe lights. Jo pushes her way into the crowd, looking for a place close to the wall of speakers and the DJ. Hot sweaty bodies surround her all moving in rhythm to the techno music. Everywhere there is skin, the thump of the speakers, that loud buzz of conversation and the screams and whoops of delight. Bright lights flash off the crowd and lasers play across the clouds emitted by smoke machines.

Looking around, Jo grabs the nearest stag and pulls him closer to her. She begins dancing suggestively, as he just shuffles his feet, and waves his half bent arms in a lame duck attempt at dancing. She moves in and her hips circle, grinding into the boy as he put his hands on her waist and just stood there for a moment. He begins to sway awkwardly and stumbles over her feet. The music moves on in a hot beat and people hoot and holler throughout the crowd. Lights flash and move, creating patterns on the crowd and walls. Jo's partner stumbles again, and catches himself on her shoulder, almost toppling her too. She steps away from him, shakes her head, and disappears into the shifting sea of bodies.

o

He reaches the roof of the building. Lights from street lamps shine upwards into the air, leaving the rooftops dark. Jack looks north, and about two buildings down the lights are much brighter and colorful. He strides to the edge of the building, and luckily there's no gap, and no drop between them. Jack climbs over the rail, walks to the other edge and peeks over. Not so lucky this time. There's a six foot gap and a drop that's the same distance. Taking a couple steps back he runs and leaps. His feet hit the ledge, and he pitches himself forward, tucks, and rolls. Jack gets up on his feet, and notices the effect that the lights in the street below have on the ledge. They stream up, creating a faint wall rising up into the heavens as waves of muted techno music waft upwards.

Stealthily, Jack creeps over to the stairwell, and turns the knob. Locked! Quickly picking the lock, he opens the door and goes down the stairs. The hall is dark and quiet as he peeks around a corner. 'Single camera by the double doors at the end… There's possibility of laser tripwires. I should have brought my infra red goggles,' Jack thinks to himself. The pistol slips silently from its holster, and he attaches a silencer. Taking aim, he waits for the camera to turn away, and pops off a shot. The camera erupts in a shower of sparks and Jack enters the hallway. He eyes the walls as he creeps along, watching for sensors, or alarm systems.

o

Joanna finds herself sitting at the lime green bar off to the side of the dance floor, sipping a soda. She tips back the glass and finishes it off as a tall well built boy with purple dyed hair sits in the stool next to her. He motions to the bartender. "I'll have whatever she's having."

Jo gives him a funny look. "Living risky huh?" she says. "What if you can't handle what I'm having?"

"Well, you don't quite look like you're of the legal drinking age, so I figure that whatever it you just finished off can't be liquor. Actually, make that two, barkeep." The bartender pours two glasses of coke and slides them to the purple haired boy. "Here you go." He accepts the five dollar bill the boy offers him. "Keep the change." Taking one of the glasses, he holds it out to Jo, and she accepts it smiling nicely.

"Thank you, was there anything you want in return?"

"Just a dance from a pretty girl," he says as he drinks from his glass.

"Was that a pickup line?"

"I can use one if you want me to."

"No, no pickup lines please. I'll dance with you if you behave yourself." She holds out her hand, and the boy takes it.

"Ok, I'll be good." He grins wolfishly and starts leading her out onto the dance floor. As they are leaving the bar she sees the blond boy from the front counter enter and she waves at him, giving a smile that said 'you missed me' All over it.

o

Jack reaches the double doors without setting off alarms, or alerting any guards. He places his ear against it and listens for any voices or movement. No signs of either. He grips the handle, cracks the door open and listens. He opens the door more, and peeks in. All the lights in the office inside are off. Quietly, Jack enters the room and shuts the door behind him softly. Opening a Velcro pocket on his vest, Jack takes a headset out and puts it on.

"Chandra, I'm at the objective point. What am I looking for?" he whispers into it.

"It's about time Jack. I've been waiting for you to call me. What took so long?" Answers a young woman's voice in his ear.

"Would you believe me if I said we got stopped at every red light in town?"

"You must have been in the wrong district. Ok, you're looking for a set of files with the Data Dyne Corporation logo on it. It's supposed to contain evidence of their connections to the triads in Hong Kong. It's a recent file so this should be fresh info."

"Ok…" Jack walks over to the desk and looks at it for a moment. He reaches, picks up a pile of folders and riffles through them. "Dartmouth… San Diego Teleconferences… Datum Sphere…" There's nothing in the pile about Data Dyne. He places it back where it was before and picks up another, and another. Still there is no file. He lifts up the calendar mat and sees the file marked 'Data Dyne'. "Ok Chandra, I have it in my hand. Now I'll just…"

The words get cut off as the double doors bust open. Four men and women dressed in black body armor and combat helmets rush in, with assault rifles aiming wildly about the room. "Special forces, FREEZE!"

He hits the floor hard and stuffs the folder in his vest before pulling out his guns. "Jack what's going on…?" Chandra asks over the radio in his ear.

o

The couple weaves their way through the ocean of crowded dancers. Pushing their way into the center of the crowd, the boy twirls her around to face him and Joanna starts to wave her arms in the air, synchronized with the rhythm of the music. Her hips swayed to its pulse.

Closing her eyes, she turns around, and dances into her partner as he puts his arms around her waist. The people seem to get quiet to her until it's just her, the music, and the boy. Then it changes. The people are loud again and he's moving his hands too low, too far down for comfort. She moves his hands back up, but they drop down again almost instantly. She removes his hands and turns to face him.

"No." She says and starts to walk away. A Hand shoots out and grabs her wrist and she's pulled back to the boy she rejected with a yelp.

"You're not gonna leave yet are you?" His hand comes up to stroke her cheek.

SLAP her open hand leaves a scorching red print on his face. "Leave me alone." She struggles to get free as he grabs her shirt. Swinging her fist back to get in a punch, he catches it easily and bends her arm back. Joanna screams in fear and pain but it's lost amongst the loud music and screams of excitement from the crowd around her.

"Whoa, calm down girl. I only want to have a little fun!" He says in her ear, holding her tightly.

"Let me go you… PERVERT!" she screams. "HELP! HELP ME!" She twists and squirms, getting her leg into position to hit him in the sweet spot.

o

One of the trigger happy rent-a-cops squeezes off a couple rounds in Jacks direction. Popping one of his magnums over the edge of the desk, he returns the favor blindly and is rewarded with a heavy barrage of re-gifted bullets. "I've been caught in a firefight Chandra. Can't talk much." He waits while the cops shoot some more in his direction. 'Think fast.' Jack pulls a desk drawer open and finds a hand mirror and paper weight. Taking the mirror, he peeks over the desk and sees the four commandos spreading out. 'Think fast.' He sees the fire alarm right by the door and grabs the paper weight. He aims with the mirror and leaps up, fanning the trigger of a magnum and hurling the paperweight at the fire alarm with the other arm then quickly drops to the floor as sirens ring and the sprinklers blow.

o

In an instant, several things happen simultaneously. The music grinds to a halt, the lights snap on, and fire alarms wail. Distracted, Jo's assailant looks around, not processing the alarms. Joanna Dark thrusts her knee forward and connects, causing him to release her, and double over in pain.

"Aahhhrgh. You… Little… !" The boy's screams are lost in the flood of deafening boos and hisses. She doesn't hear any of it. Her mind has shut away all her senses, and is focused solely on flight. Escaping the bad man. Running. All she hears is her labored breathing, and all she sees is obstacles in her path. She plows her way through the crowd in no real direction, but away.

Suddenly, Joanna becomes aware that it's raining inside the club. Wet drops fall on her face and shoulders and the hissing of a hundred sea serpents can be heard. She looks up, and notices that the sprinkle system has gone off. People cry out and begin surging for the doors. Jo tries to go along with the flow, but the tide pushes her off to the side.

"NO!" She cries as she throws herself back into the crowd, only to be spit back out again.

o

One of the male commandos drops to the floor, screaming in pain, clutching a pulpy red hand. Jack ducks behind the desk again in time to avoid a bullet buzz cut. Lightening fast, he reloads his empty pistol and returns fire. Emptying the last of the ammunition for one of his magnums. Last chance. The other pistol is full, but there will be no reloading after this. He reaches to his belt, and pulls hand grenade from a pouch. He checks the mirror one last time, and sees that the commandos are fairly grouped together. Checking the area around him, he pulls the pin and hurls it at a corner. It bounces off the walls and rolls…

o

An explosion rips the ceiling open. Flames tear through, shredding tiles and scattering shrapnel throughout the club. Fire pours onto the floor extinguishes upon finding nothing to burn. The crowd screams in terror and the tidal wave crams and squeezes through the exits. Joanna is frozen in place. Too much has happened, is happening for her to process. A popping noise emits from the gaping hole in the ceiling and gets swallowed up by the noise and terror of the crowd. A man falls from the hole and hits the ground rolling. He stands up and points with his arm in the air at the place he fell from. Jo stares at the man not knowing what to think as he moves towards her and the exit.

'Who?' A thought enters her brain and about half the people have exited now. 'He's got a gun!' Her eyes widen as they recognize the object in the man's hand. He let's loose a few shots into the hole and turns towards Jo. 'Dad?' Her train of thought derails the instant she sees the man's face. "DAD?!"

Jack hears a familiar voice, and he recognizes the girl standing before him. "Joanna, what are you doing? Run!" He sprints towards her and grabbing her shoulder, he shoves the both of them into the crowd exiting the building. The surge of people pushes them through the doors, into the foyer and spills them out onto the street. The sound of music outside of the building is replaced by that of sirens. Fire alarms and strobe lights blare, and sirens of fire engines and police vehicles scream in the night. The neon lights still glow, street lamps and spotlights light up the block with artificial daylight.

"Dad… What….?" Jo stammers as he leads her down the sidewalk away from the club.

"Come on Jo, I'll bring you home. I promise I'll explain everything tomorrow morning once we've had a good nights rest and you aren't so frazzled." He puts a finger to his ear. "Chandra, we got out safe. I'll get the truck and bring Joanna home." Jack hugs his daughter and walks with her down the street.