Set about two months before the episode "Supertroopers". See my profile for the timeline I use.
This story is based on the song "The Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. It is set shortly after Supertroopers: Aspirations (to be found in the M section of this page).
A prequel to the episode "Supertroopers". How did Jackhammer get involved in the plan to steal Batch-22?
Thanks to Robyn for beta-reading.
Disclaimer: 'The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers' is copyrighted by Hearst Entertainment, Inc.
This is a work of fanfiction, and I make no profit of it.
Risin' up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive
Jackhammer went down when the stegosaur's tail, swung at full force, collided with his upper body, but he did not stay in the dust. He was up before his adversary could even blink, and a sonic blast took the Ezre warrior out of the saddle, leaving him unconscious or dead on the stony desert ground. The stegosaur charged again, lost in blind animal rage, and Jackhammer dodged it, raising a cloud of dust that would confuse the giant reptile. Then he shot it at point-blank range.
The remaining five Ezre warriors on their smaller reptile mounts that looked like triceratopses hollered unintelligible words, but he didn't know if in terror or defiance. He was paid to take them out, and after a year and half of the quiet on Nebraska and the other half a year it took him to establish a reputation as a mercenary for hard jobs, he took pleasure in the wild fight.
Tortuna was no man's land with plenty of local warlords willing to pay for the muscle to take out their rivals. It was an ideal playground for him. No one would call the Space Navy if he used his powers.
An Ezre warrior tried to spear him from behind, but he grabbed the spear and yanked hard. The warrior toppled off his mount and after rolling over the ground three times remained still.
Jackhammer missed someone to watch his back in fights. This one was easy, but a short while ago he had stood alone against a whole tribal coalition of warriors, and in such a dangerous setting he would prefer having someone beside him. Yet the Supertroopers had disbanded after they escaped from Wolf Den, and there were no signs of a reunion.
Another warrior hurtled his spear at Jackhammer, but he caught it easily with his left hand and threw it back at his opponent. The weapon impacted with a thud against his attacker's chest, and the warrior fell backward.
Back at Wolf Den, they had been trained to fight in teams. He had always been able to trust Stingray to keep his back free, and Darkstar and Gooseman would look out for their fellow combatants in a battle simulation. Even Killbane and Shimmerer could be trusted to only shoot enemies and not stab their team members in the back. But now things were different.
Galloping at breakneck and their weapons raised, the three remaining warriors attacked. Jackhammer made the ground explode below them with another sonic blast. Two triceratopses broke off the assault; he shot the third one between the eyes. At that distance, the hit was not lethal, but the animal howled in pain and threw off its rider. The remaining two warriors turned tail and fled.
He holstered his gun and dusted off his leather clothes. He watched the four fallen bodies for signs of movement, but none stirred.
Things were indeed different now. He had seen Stingray and Darkstar on Nebraska, but they wanted to lie low and were not interested in teaming up with him. Shimmerer and Killbane both had their own business and would only contact him if it suited them.
Gooseman was a whole different matter. Even after he had heard that Gooseman was a ranger now, even after Killbane had confirmed that Goose was hunting the other Supertroopers, Jackhammer had trouble believing that little Shane who would rather take five shots himself than allow any of his teammates to take only one would turn against his own kind.
But then, they all did what they had to in order to survive.
He looked one more time at the scene of the battle he had just won and the dead bodies littering the ground, then he mounted his robosteed and galloped back to Tortuna City.
Shimmerer had sent him a message that she was interested in talking to him; he knew she liked manipulating people, but with Killbane in town, he was not too concerned that she would try to play tricks with him. She'd always had clear preferences in that area.
So many times, it happens too fast
You change your passion for glory
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive
The ride back to Tortuna City was a winding path through the mountains. He had no trouble backtracking the route he had taken out to the Ezre tribal lands, but he kept up his guard. The terrain was all too well suited to rocket launcher attacks. He also did not want to run into a tyrannosaur mother with her young. He was not sure whether the giant reptiles of Tortuna were related to Earth's long extinct dinosaurs, but they certainly looked like them and had a voracious appetite. Maybe some crazy Earth scientist had taken refuge on Tortuna and recreated his childhood toys in real size. He had heard rumors that Max Sawyer had hidden on Tortuna before he bit the dust for good.
Life on Nebraska had taught Jackhammer a different type of caution than his training on Earth had. Back at Wolf Den, he had always been on alert against unannounced inspections, middle-of-the-night calls to arms or treacherous battle simulations where the real training did not begin until you had given everything you had in what you thought was the last fight of the day. But the dangers of the real world were incalculable. You never knew what menace might spring up next. He had tried to lie low on Nebraska, make his living as a lumberjack and avoid the towns where he knew Galaxy Rangers might show up. Before the hyperdrive spread them thin across a wider galaxy, there had been just too many Galaxy Rangers on Earth's colonies, either patrolling or gathering scientific data. He had made contingency plans for every eventuality until he realized that that such a life was not worth living. He felt like a wolf dragging a donkey cart. So he ditched caution and reached for the rewards that risk could bring. When the Andoreans brought the hyperdrive to human settlements, he stole a ship and set out for his own adventure.
But a wolf without his pack was nothing. Supertroopers were strong, yet even the strongest soldier could be taken down by superior numbers or treachery.
Supertroopers had been trained to lead, but every leader needed people he could trust.
Earth government had established a firm rule, a system built out of the shambles that the environmental catastrophes and civil unrest of the 21st century had left behind. He hated those who hunted him, but that did not keep him from acknowledging things that worked. In the past nine months, he had seen many war-torn worlds that lacked any form of solid government. He was well qualified to help establish that form of government, and he could take a share of the power for himself and whoever wanted to come with him.
It's the eye of the tiger, it's the cream of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watchin' us all in the eye of the tiger
Night had fallen when he reached Tortuna City. He met Shimmerer in the Sundown Bar. He spotted her immediately at a table in a dark corner. She had always liked skin tight outfits, but her style had gotten even more revealing since she had left Wolf Den. Of course, there was nothing that would hinder movement. She was a Supertrooper, after all.
"What do you want?" he asked bluntly when he stepped up to the table.
Shimmerer took a moment to look him up and down. He was suddenly very conscious of the dust and of the many patches on his clothes.
"Brainchild and Killbane have a plan for a … class reunion," she said, as calm as if she were really just talking about an ordinary reunion of former school mates.
"Are you in?"
He had not expected that. He took a seat at the table with her and motioned for the waitress droid to bring him some lemonade.
"You mean you want those of us who are still free to meet – in one place?"
There was a risk in concentrating all Supertroopers in one spot, but it might be worth it. They all had talents and contacts that complemented each other.
"Not only those," she purred as she leaned forward. There was a conspiratorial glimmer in her eyes, and he automatically scanned the room for suspect listeners.
There was no one close, and the loud speakers were blaring 'I Kissed an Outlaw and I Liked It' at full blast, making their conversation relatively safe.
"You want to bring – outsiders?" he asked cautiously.
She laughed a short throaty laugh. It wasn't a pleasant sound.
"No, we want to bring those who are still _in_ the cold _out_."
She couldn't mean that. His muscles tensed at the mention of the cryocrypt.
"You want to go to Earth? That's suicide!"
"We have a plan," she said and smoothed her see-through red dress. "But you don't have to come if you're afraid."
Apparently unconcerned what his answer would be, she used one hand to play with her silver necklace.
"A solid plan?" he asked, still doubtful. If there was a real chance… The news coverage about the Supertrooper incident had been thin, but he had learned that those who did not escape were frozen. It was the ultimate humiliation for Supertroopers, who had been trained and bred to master any type of physical skill: to be suspended immobile, unaware, in a state between life and death.
Shimmerer looked him straight in the eyes, all signs of complacency gone.
"We've stayed alive this long."
He nodded. Anyone who had made it beyond the first three months when the Space Navy had hunted them like rabbits was among the best.
He could hide like a scared rabbit, or he could live like a Supertrooper.
"Who else is in?"
Face to face, out in the heat
Hangin' tough, stayin' hungry
They stack the odds 'til we take to the street
For we kill with the skill to survive
"Besides Killbane, Brainchild and me, there is Gravestone. I've contacted Amina, but she hasn't replied."
He nodded solemnly.
She smiled. "Good."
"When do you plan to attack?" They needed to be prepared. Taking on Earth security wasn't a walk in the park.
She put a finger to her lips. "Shh. There will be a meeting tomorrow night at the Isis Parlor. Ask for Larry's party. Wolfgang Adler is on the guest list. For now, I'd be more interested to hear if you know of anyone else … whom we could invite."
He immediately grew suspicious.
"How do I know you don't just want to settle an old score?"
She made a disapproving tsk sound and rearranged her hair. She wasn't taking him seriously.
"You..." he began in anger, but she immediately snapped to attention, and the cold look in her eyes told him she was ready to fight if need be. He leaned back in his chair, forcing himself to stay cool.
She kept staring at him for a full minute. None of them gave in. Finally, she said, "Now Darkstar and I may have had our differences, but compared to what we're facing now, I'm inclined to chalk them up to sibling rivalry. She and Stingray would be invaluable in this enterprise."
He considered her words. Given the odds they were facing, it seemed indeed unlikely Darkstar would have any interest to pursue her old feud with Shimmerer, and the latter had moved on to more exciting targets; it was also unlikely that Darkstar would defend any action by Walsh or the BWL as she had done in the past. Things had indeed changed.
Darkstar had asked him not to contact Stingray and her, but he was almost sure she would be interested in this endeavor. He knew for certain that Stingray would be.
"I know which planet they are on, but they didn't leave me contact details."
Shimmerer shook her head and flicked some imagined dust particles off her golden polished nails.
"That's so like Darkstar. Well, but I'm sure Stingray will allow you to find them."
"I will need to go there personally." Darkstar was cautious, and he respected her for it.
"I can leave in three days at the earliest."
"Do you need any money?" she asked.
Anger rose in him again. He slammed his hands on the table She was belittling him.
"I have enough!"
She shrugged, seemingly unconcerned by his outburst.
"That's good. I make so much money that I can't even spend it all."
She hadn't changed. Being free had just magnified her faults. But he knew that in her own twisted way she cared about her people.
"I'll see you tomorrow. I have some preparations to make," he announced.
She nodded and sipped the last bit of her cherry drink.
When he was already halfway across the room, she called after him.
"We'll need to do some very fancy maneuvering in space, not to mention we might face the Navy; I hope you are keeping your practice up."
He squared his shoulders.
"I'm better than ever."
Risin' up, straight to the top
Have the guts, got the glory
Went the distance, now I'm not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive
They had refused!
Anger was still churning in him when he made his way from Tortuna's busy spaceport to the underground base they were using for their clandestine Supertrooper meetings.
He had expected that Darkstar would be hard to convince, but that she would refuse to even speak with him after he had outlined their plan to Stingray was outrageous!
He had found Stingray easy enough by following the trail of bruised flesh and angry people that his run-ins with anyone who dared insult him left. Stingray was a courageous fighter and a genius with explosives, but he didn't know how to control his temper, and that just wasn't a good trait for an energy manipulator – or anyone who could handle a blaster.
Jackhammer hoped the two love birds would be happy watching the grass grow where they had settled. May it grow over them!
Stingray had told Jackhammer he had just taken a job with one Mr. Laramie and would not jeopardize Darkstar's and his safety by leaving so soon again. Jackhammer could not see the logic in that argument, but trying to change or even understand Stingray's reasoning in anything where Darkstar was concerned was absolutely pointless.
Stingray and Darkstar could rot in the hole they had chosen while he and the other Supertroopers reached for glory! They didn't need that pair. The Supertroopers would fight and they would win!!!
The eye of the tiger…