Author's Note: I should mention that the 5th scene down involves something some readers might find disturbing. It starts in italics, so if you don't particularly like certain dark, mature themes, you may want to skip it. I didn't go into exacting details, though, but enough. This is the it, though, the final chapter of Salvation. Thank you to everyone that has been reading, and offering encouragement through reviews and marking as Favorite, Alerts, all that stuff :)
Cyrus Temple, Commander of the Special Tactical Anti-Gang unit, kneeled in the cold rain, placing a single red rose at a grave in Steelport's cemetery. His long, dark trench coat rippled in the wind.
"Those punks denied you a Veteran's burial, Kia," he said quietly. "And they took you away from me. Your heart was in the right place, I know it."
His phone rang, and he flipped it open with a sigh, standing up. "Yes, Senator?"
"Public opinion is faltering for the Saints, and gang violence is still at record levels," Monica Hughes told him. After a moment, she sighed. "After that ship in Salander, I'm authorizing the use of the Daedalus, bring the Saints down once and for all, Commander."
Senator Hughes hung up, and Cyrus Temple allowed himself a small smile.
Johnny flipped through the channels, but couldn't find anything he wanted to watch. He felt a sudden weight on his shoulder, and glanced over.
Ljubica was fast asleep, and using him as a pillow.
"Nice to know you're fuckin' human after-all," he said with a chuckle, muting the TV. They were alone in the main living room, and when he put his arm around her, she snuggled against him.
Jane Valderamma appeared on-screen, and a banner scrolled along the bottom. It read, 'STAG Returns to Steelport.'
"Who the fuck is STAG?" Johnny asked out loud.
Ljubica stirred next to him, murmuring, "Some military assholes, we ran them out after a rogue in their ranks tried to blow up Magarac Island, with Shaundi, Viola, and Mayor Burt Reynolds."
"Wait... the Burt Reynolds?" Johnny asked, excited.
Ljubica nodded against his shoulder. "Burt-fucking-Reynolds is the Mayor of Steelport. He's fucking awesome."
"Fuckin' awesome is right!" Johnny cried. "So why is he lettin' these STAG assholes back into the city?"
Ljubica sat up. "Wait, back in? Mother fucker!"
"This gonna be a problem?" Johnny asked.
"No, we just get to kill a lot of assholes with the most wonderful toys, now," Ljubica replied. "Though they blew up our last headquarters."
STAG N-Forcers filled the streets of Steelport once more, F-69 VTOLs patrolled the skies, and Cyrus Temple watched the redeployment from his high rise base of operations. He wore his heavy armor, and it felt good to be back in the saddle.
The door to his office opened. "Report," he ordered.
"All units deployed across the city, Commander," his new second told him with her French-Canadian accent. "They've already met with some resistance from the Saints, but nothing we can not handle."
She was about Kia's age, and the troops called her Ice Princess behind her back. Her hair was a pale blond, tied up in a severe bun, and her eyes were the faintest shade of blue possible. Her skin was nearly pure white.
"Thank you, Nathalie," he said. "Any news on their new hideout?"
"No, Sir," she replied. "We're still looking."
Commander Temple nodded. "What is the ETA on the Daedalus?"
"There was an unexpected malfunction with one of the propulsion engines," Nathalie said crisply. "They are making repairs underway."
"Very well, thank you," he replied. "Dismissed."
The door closed, and Cyrus continued staring out the window. "Where are you hiding you heartless bitch?"
"All right everyone, listen up," Ljubica announced, standing on box. She wore her leather riding pants, boots, and a black tank top. Her hair was up in a bun, held in place by two violet hair sticks. "STAG is back in town, and I want them gone."
Johnny stood by her side, and the rest of her lieutenants were nearby. The rest of the room was filled shoulder to shoulder with Saints.
"This crib should be considered unsafe," Ljubica went on. "Kinzie, find out when they plan to hit us here."
"On it," the hacker replied, already tapping away at her laptop.
"Manny, I want you to hit the streets with a crew and feed them false leads," Ljubica said, and he nodded, motioning for several Saints to follow him.
"Pierce, keep them from kidnapping Shaundi this time?"
A chuckle went around the room, and Shaundi glowered.
"The rest of you, go fuck STAG up in the streets. They need to know we aren't fucking around with them."
After everyone had left, Johnny tapped Ljubica on the shoulder. When she turned, he kissed her, fingertips gently cradling the back of her head.
Ljubica closed her eyes while kissing him back, and heard herself whimper softly as need coursed through her. Her heart was racing, breath quickened, and she pressed his free hand to the small of his back.
She pulled away the barest of inches. "My house, my rules," she breathed.
Johnny smirked, tickling the fingers of his free hand down her back, and while she was distracted, twisted his hand free and gently grabbed her hip. He began trailing kisses along her neck, and Ljubica felt something low in her body tighten as a soft moan escaped her lips.
As Ljubica tilted her head to the side, affording Johnny more access, teeth brushed against the supple flesh of her neck, and she tensed up. Memories came flooding back, remembered pain blossomed, and she pushed him roughly away.
"Shit, Ljuba, I didn't mean..."
Ljubica shook her head. "No, every time I think I am being ready, something happens, and memories return."
"It's okay," Johnny said. "And I mean that, all right?"
"Better me than Pierce, he'd just bitch about not getting his dick wet," Johnny said with a chuckle.
That made Ljubica laugh.
"But seriously, no pressure," Johnny told her.
"Johnny, I don't know if I can even give you anything worth waiting for," Ljubica said quietly.
"Boss, there ain't nothin' you can't do," Johnny shot back. "I'm done with these stupid hos looking for a night with Johnny Gat. I want you."
Ljubica smiled faintly. "I could dress you as a girl, maybe that would help."
"I'd make one ugly woman," Johnny retorted, laughing.
"Come to bed with me tonight," Ljubica said quickly.
"Ljuba, you freak out any time we kiss, or I touch you wrong," Johnny said somberly. "You sure that's a good idea?"
"I didn't say come fuck me tonight," she said wryly. "I said come to bed with me. When I fell asleep earlier, apparently I felt safe enough in my slumber to use you as a pillow."
"Fair enough," Johnny replied. "It's a date."
"Let's head to Burns Hill," she told him. "Not even Cyrus Temple would dare attack a nuclear facility."
Ugly, twisted faces leered at her. Pain, shame, and fear were everything. Ljubica's heart pounded in her chest, and the bright light overhead kept the rest of the room in darkness, though she heard the screams and cries of the other girls.
Pain twisted through her insides as each man violated her, some with his own body, others with some cruel tool devised for the purpose. It didn't matter, they all left behind the same feelings of hatred, anger, and humiliation in their wake.
Ljubica cried into the dirty, soiled rag she was gagged with. She pulled at her bonds, but they were too tight, cutting into her skin. While the rest of it was going on, other men poked her with knives, pinched her flesh with pliers, or applied other manners of cruelty.
Distantly, Ljubica knew this was a nightmare, and that distant part of her mind hated it for coming tonight. But the rest of her was transported back in time, and try as she might, there was no waking herself up out of this hell.
Suddenly she was free, and though she knew the outcome, Ljubica ran anyway. She ran and ran, knocking a man aside in her flight to freedom. And then arms wrapped around her, and she was trapped again. She struggled, felt someone's face crumpled under her foot, but they forced her to the ground, pushed her down, and the horror was beginning all over again.
Ljubica woke violently, jerking awake, and struggling and kicking frantically. Johnny immediately let her go, and she rolled out of bed, taking the blanket with her to cover up.
"Holding me is bad," Ljubica said, panting slightly.
"I did it in my sleep," Johnny replied. "Sorry."
"Is it like that every night?" he asked.
"It used to be," she admitted. "For a long time, but usually it's no more than a few times a week, sometimes several times if it's bad."
Ljubica smirked. "You're telling me nothing new. I know your arm was around me on the couch, and I was okay, then."
"You weren't havin' the worst nightmare I've ever seen from the outside then, either," Johnny retorted. "You were screamin' in Russian or some shit. Nyet, nyet, over and and over."
Ljubica sat on the edge of the bed. "I was saying 'no,' Johnny."
"Look, I can go sleep on the floor, or couch, or somethin'" Johnny told her, touching her shoulder. She didn't flinch.
"I won't be sleeping anymore tonight," Ljubica said.
"It's only two in the morning, Ljuba," Johnny said.
Ljubica nodded. "I know. But trust me, I won't be able to fall asleep again."
Johnny didn't like it, but kept his mouth shut.
"I will go elsewhere so that you can be sleeping again," Ljubica said, and started to get up.
"I'd rather you stayed," Johnny said. "Tell me about it?"
Ljubica closed her eyes, but nodded. "You will be the only person alive that knows. Not even Kinzie knows this."
Johnny sat up in bed, attention suddenly focused on her.
"When the great USSR fell, my family escaped to what was then Yugoslavia to be living with family there," Ljubica began quietly. "Naturally, we found ourselves trapped in the civil wars that embroiled the area around the same time."
"That's... that really sucks," Johnny told her.
Ljubica nodded. "A cousin of mine was killed in the fighting, and his brother Niko and I sought to avenge him."
"No wonder you're such a bad ass, if you fought in a war while just a kid."
Ljubica smiled mirthlessly. "Cousin Niko and I both discovered just how depraved humanity can be in that war, Johnny." She didn't want to go on, but wanted Johnny to know, and so she did.
"We were separated, Niko and I, and there were reports of his unit's decimation. I was captured by the enemy."
"Shit," was all Johnny said in response.
"I was taken to a camp," Ljubica went on, hearing voices as her demons tried again to take hold, to take her back to that place all those years ago. "The men were like animals."
Johnny's eyes widened. "Fuck, no Ljuba, you couldn't have been more than-..."
"I was a girl of thirteen," Ljubica admitted, barely audibly, but the room was so silent it sounded painfully loud. "The atrocities from both sides of the conflict were great and horrible indeed. I was in a camp for weeks, months, living in terror and unthinkable squalor. I don't even fucking know long, and it happened every day, many times, and frequently many men..."
Ljubica shook her head. "It was horrible, disgusting... My shame and self-loathing knew no bounds."
"Fuck, months?" Johnny asked, angry. "How did you survive?"
Ljubica nodded, old feelings of shame and rage swirling through her. "I eventually escaped and killed them. All of them. I spent a lot of time pissed off at the world, and hating myself. I finally tried to kill myself once, after considering it many times. Cousin Niko kept me from doing it, and for many years later I took risks simply because I didn't care if I lived or died. My aunt and uncle sold everything so I could come live in this country, away from all that."
Johnny nodded. "No one should have to suffer like that."
Ljubica chuckled. "Pierce was the first man I've tried to be with since then."
"Damn," Johnny said.
"I know you're not them," Ljubica said gently, closing her eyes against the visions, but they were behind her eyelids, too. "My aunt told me to lay with a man who would be gentle, but I never could do it. I still haven't. Part of me wonders if I would have hurt Pierce, badly, if he had agreed to go to Safeword."
"No offense, but I ain't ever going there with you," Johnny said with a chuckle.
Ljubica released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. "So, now you are knowing why."
"Thank you," Johnny told her. "I mean that. Why haven't you talked to anyone? Like a doctor or some shit."
"There was no one for us to be talking to," Ljubica told him. "It was war and things were ugly. All sides were pointing at the other, claiming they were the ones to be starting it, but every side was committing horrible atrocities in those conflicts."
"I definitely ain't gettin' back to sleep after that," Johnny admitted. "This explains why our hos are treated so well."
"Im sorry," Ljubica replied. "And yes, it is."
"Quit apologizing, that ain't like you," Johnny shot back. "And I'm glad you told me, I want to try and understand, ya know?"
Ljubica smiled softly. While everyone wanted to know about her, it was always for selfish reasons. This was the first time it seemed like it was about genuine concern.
"I forgot to set the DVR to record Nyte Blayde," she admitted. "But I have Bobby and Amber on DVD."
"You and that fuckin' show," Johnny grumbled. "But you got yourself another date."
Ljubica picked up her phone as it rang. "Go Kinzie."
"They aren't planning to attack us at any one point," the hacker told her. "I'm still looking for their plan, but that's not it."
"Keep me informed," Ljubica told her and hung up. Turning to Johnny, she said, "Let's go to the Broken Shillelagh and see if any off duty STAG assholes are flapping their gums."
Ljubica and Johnny sat at the bar. She wore her new Mamba jacket unzipped over a purple tank top, and Johnny was just in jeans and a black t-shirt. They were trying to be somewhat inconspicuous.
"Seems like this is not where they are hanging out," Ljubica muttered, taking a sip from her beer.
"Can't win 'em all," Johnny shot back. "At least the beer is cheap." He threw a dart and hit the bullseye.
It seemed the very air around them started to vibrate, a deep thrum felt more than heard. The building itself began to shake, and patrons started screaming as they rushed for the exit. Ljubica and Johnny pushed their way out, and stared at the sky in disbelief.
A massive flying fortress hovered over the city. VTOLs launched from it's decks, and heavy cannons fired at the city below. Bombs started falling, and the aircraft began launching missiles into any building they felt like.
"The fuck!" Ljubica shouted over the noise.
"I guess if they blow up every fuckin' buildin' we're bound to be in one of them," Johnny shouted back.
"Fuck that!" Ljubica shot back. "We're breaking their little toy!"
Ljubica's phone rang. She pulled it out, and saw that it was Pierce.
"Boss, you better find a helicopter. Taking that thing out is all on you," he told her.
Ljubica hung up, placing her headset on her ear in case she got a call on the road. "Come on, Johnny."
The pair rushed to her Phantom and hopped on. Ljubica thumbed the ignition and wrapped the throttle around as soon as it purred to life, the front end rising in a wheelie before setting down hard. She clicked up through the gears, racing through the streets towards the old headquarters, and Johnny held on for dear life. A bomb exploded behind them.
Ljubica's phone rang again, and she hit the answer button on the headset. It was Oleg this time.
"I'm trying to get people to shelter," he told her. "But it's chaos down here."
As soon as that call ended, Kinzie was calling her. Ljubica leaned her motorcycle as far over as it would go, screaming around a corner.
"I can't get into any of the systems on that airship," Kinzie told her. "I'll keep trying, but no promises."
Ljubica thumbed the nitrous control, and her X2 surged forward with a vengeance. She wove in an out of wrecked cars, and twice a bomb exploded nearby, the shockwave sending them careening to the side. So far she managed to keep her motorcycle wheels-down, but the number of cars she had to avoid was growing.
Finally, she saw the penthouse in the distance. The sidewalk looked clear, so she used the handicap access on a corner to ride up onto it, and wrapped the throttle around. As they neared the parking garage, she slowed just enough to not hit the wall as she turned down into it, and forgot to put the side stand down when she and Johnny got off her cycle. It crashed onto it's side as the elevator doors closed.
Ljubica took Johnny's hand and ran to the helipad. Without hesitating she climbed into her Saints Vulture, flicking switches and pushing buttons as Johnny closed the canopy behind them.
"I need your toughness today, baby," she cooed as the rotors began to pick up speed.
Ljubica lifted off the helipad and worked the controls, heading straight for STAGs massive flying fortress. A VTOL reared up before them as the pilot switched to hover mode, and Johnny was already firing at it with the gunship's powerful cannon. The STAG fighter exploded, falling from the sky.
"Nice shooting," Ljubica told him.
The Daedalus loomed before them. Saints in purple Tornados engaged STAG VTOLs in the skies around it, but the heavily armed fortress ignored them, seeming intent on wreaking havoc on the city below.
"Those turrets are a problem," Ljubica said, lining up with a battery just left of the Daedalus' nose. She launched a wave of rockets at them, and the Vulture vibrated as Johnny brought the cannon to bear on the battery to the right.
"Now, that should make things easier," Ljubica said when they were finished, adjusting the pitch of the rotors. The mighty gunship began to rise up over the Daedalus, and she placed a call to Kinzie.
"I'm not hurting it enough, Kinzie, we need to try something else."
"Just be careful," Kinzie told her.
"This thing is a beast!" Johnny called.
"I have an idea," Ljubica said, flying over the hover carrier. "It's crazy, but I think it'll work."
"You had me at crazy!" Johnny retorted, opening up with the cannon on a Crusader tank that started to fire a laser beam at them.
As Ljubica searched for a place to set down, she felt her helicopter becoming slower and slower to respond. Not much, but it was adding up as battle damage slowly took it's toll.
"Hang in there, sweetie," she urged, stroking the console in front of her. "Just be giving mama a little more."
"There!" Johnny called, pointing to an open landing pad. He shot at another tank, turning it into a flaming hulk of scrap metal.
Ljubica eased the damaged gunship down onto the pad, patting the controls and leaving the rotors spinning. "Good girl."
Ljubica and Johnny jumped down out of the canopy, and were immediately under fire from STAG soldiers' laser rifles. Ljubica jerked her Shepherd free of it's holster and jerked the slide. Johnny was laughing beside her, Tek-Z rattling off burst after burst into their enemy. The incendiary bullets lit them on fire, and the gleam in his eye brought a smile to her face.
Ljubica saw her first target. A rack of large bombs beckoned thirty yards away. "Johnny!" she called, and that was all she had to say.
Johnny popped a fresh magazine into his weapon and started his killing again. Ljubica worked her way towards the bombs, using the structure of the carrier for cover when she could.
As she set the first bomb, Ljubica shook her head. "It'll take a lot more than this."
"Right on," Johnny retorted, finally catching up to her.
Ljubica spotted another rack of bombs, but it was on the other side of the flight deck, and across a large expanse of empty air.
The pair sprinted back to the Vulture, and Ljubica vaulted into the cockpit. Quickly working the controls, she flew across the gap, wincing as the attack chopper took more damage. The stubborn helicopter still managed to shrug it off, and the Saints' leader was able to set it down on another empty pad. This one was much closer to the bombs.
"Let's go," Ljubica said, hopping down out of the cockpit. Johnny was close behind, loading a full magazine and sliding the action of his SMG.
Johnny fired on the few STAG actually near them before his feet even hit the ground. "I love these new bullets!"
Ljubica smiled, and shot a STAG commando in the throat when he appeared from behind a crate. He fell to the ground, writhing and gurgling. Rolling her eyes, she planted the second bomb. "At least one more," she mused out loud.
Ljubica and Johnny dashed back to the Vulture, and again took to the air, the tail control sluggish. "Come on, sweetie, hang in there for me!"
As Ljubica lifted higher, looking for another juicy target, the sheer size and power of the Daedalus became apparent.
"Holy fucking shit!" she breathed, and the raw lust in her voice made Johnny look over at her.
"Did you just cum in your pants?" he asked crudely.
"Your tax dollars at work," Kinzie told her before she could respond with something scathing.
"Money well spent," Ljubica replied, still sounding excited. "I could kiss Cyrus for bringing this to me, I almost hate to destroy it."
"When this is over I'll steal the blueprints from the DOD," Kinzie replied. "A few years, we can probably build our own."
"Kinzie you are my favorite person!" Ljubica gushed. "Ever!"
"That mean I got competition?" Johnny asked, chuckling.
"Can you be giving me a death machine?" Ljubica asked in response, smirking. "Evidently Kinzie can, and she also is likeing hardcore gangster rap!"
"All I got is an eight inch cock, but you don't seem to want that," Johnny shot back.
"That's not fair," Ljubica began, but was interrupted by an alarm in the cockpit.
"RPGs!" Johnny shouted, but Ljubica was already working the controls, weaving her damaged gunship through the onslaught.
One grenade found a target, though, exploding against the belly of the aircraft. The blast rocked the Vulture violently, like the hand of an angry child with his toys, but the armor held. A plume of smoke erupted from the engine, and an alarm sounded, shrill and urgent. The display in front of Ljubica alternated between flashing 'DAMAGE ALERT!' and 'CRITICAL DAMAGE!' in Russian Cyrillic.
The STAG troops on the platform below began to reload.
Ljubica unleashed a barrage of rockets of her own down on them, and Johnny started cackling as he opened up with the cannon. Within seconds they were all dead, burnt and broken bodies being flung haphazardly in all directions. She set the nearly-spent helicopter down, and they ran over to a miraculously unscathed rack of bombs.
"Three is good, but four is better," Ljubica said to herself as she planted a third bomb.
"That's my girl," Johnny said with a grin.
An RPG exploded nearby, the force of the blast flinging them through the air as if they'd been backhanded by a petulant pimp. Ljubica saw how big of a drop she was over and sighed.
"Fuck," she said, falling through the air.
Ljubica landed hard, a cry escaping her as her right ankle was wrenched over, twisting badly. As her side hit, she felt a stabbing pain lance through her, and her head swam after crashing into the deck. She rolled for several feet before coming to a stop on her back.
Ljubica lay there for a few seconds, and then got up. She grit her teeth against the pain, blinking furiously to clear her vision.
"Ljuba!" Johnny cried, trying to help her. She shooed him away.
"Not now," she growled. She had one more bomb to place, and saw just where it needed to go. Limping badly, she made her way over to the rack of bombs and set the charge.
"Nothing could survive this blast," she said.
"The people dying below are on you and your Saints," Cyrus Temple's voice said, broadcast from a loudspeaker. A black F-69 hovered into view over the deck of the Daedalus.
"You fired on the city, Cyrus," Ljubica shouted. "I came here to stop you!"
"You just had to keep fighting your turf wars," Cyrus retorted. "After burning that cargo ship to the keel, I didn't have much of a choice, did I?"
Johnny fired a burst from his SMG at the VTOL's canopy, but seemed to do little damage.
"You'll never get off the Daedalus alive!" Cyrus shouted. "You drove Kia to insanity and killed her, I'm putting you down!"
"They left us plenty of weapons," Ljubica said, noticing an Annihilator and a minigun. "Nice."
A microwave laser beam streaked across the ground, leaving destruction in it's wake. Ljubica stumbled as she dove out of the way, pain flaring in her injured ankle. She braced herself on a crate for a moment, and then picked up the Annihilator. She placed it on her shoulder, taking aim.
"Minigun, Johnny," Ljubica ordered, and fired.
The RPG smashed into the tail of the F-69, but it didn't seem to take a lot of damage.
"I've been a soldier longer than you've been alive," Temple said derisively. "You can't defeat me."
"Watch her," Johnny said smugly, turning his attention to the STAG soldiers that started showing up.
Ljubica heard the Minigun spool up and she let herself grin, loading another RPG into the weapon. As Cyrus wheeled around she fired again, scoring a hit on the left wing, but still the aircraft remained in flight.
"This is temple. I need help on the deck."
Ljubica's grin widened. She was hurting his precious VTOL after-all. She fired again, but the deck beneath her heaved violently, and the sudden weight on her ankle caused it to fail. She fell to her hands and knees, and the pain in her side bloomed. Her RPG sailed very wide.
"Explosions on the deck!" a voice called over the Daedalus' announcement speakers. "I repeat, explosions on the deck!"
"Right... o-on schedule," Ljubica managed. The pain in her side was intense, and her arms shook with the effort of keeping her from collapsing onto the cold steel of the deck.
"I'm detecting systems failures all over that ship," Kinzie said in her ear, voice full of worry. She'd heard everything that had happened. "Tell me you're getting out of there?"
"Patience, Kinzie," Ljubica told her, finding the strength to get up, using the Annihilator as a makeshift cane. "I still have work to do."
Ljubica shifted her weight onto her left ankle, put the RPG launcher back on her shoulder, and scanned the skies for Cyrus.
"All personnel to your escape craft!" the voice announced from the fortress' speakers.
"Abandon the Daedalus!" Cyrus Temple ordered. "I repeat, abandon the Daedalus!"
"The Daedalus is dead, Cyrus!" Ljubica shouted. "Now it's your turn!"
Ljubica fired her last RPG, and it ripped through the tail of Cyrus' F-69, shredding it into scrap metal.
Cyrus let out a long, drawn out "No!" as his craft spun out of control. Rolling wing over wing, his aircraft slammed into the deck on it's back, sliding over the edge and falling out of sight.
Ljubica saluted. "Nice landing, Cyrus."
The Daedalus rocked again, and Ljubica dropped the Annihilator, falling against a crate. Johnny dropped the minigun and rushed over to her.
"You all right?" he asked.
Ljubica nodded. "And with time to spare," she said in response, quirking a wry smile.
As the stricken airship leaned to one side, Johnny and Ljubica looked around for a way off. They'd never make it to her Vulture in time.
"There!" she cried, pointing at an F-69 in a small hangar.
They hurried to the VTOL as fast as Ljubica could manage. Her limp was a little better, and she took the pilot's seat when they arrived.
The Daedalus heaved violently. Ljubica got the STAG fighter into a hover, and the flying fortress finally started coming apart. 'Startup sequence, initiated.' The computer's feminine voice said.
"Hold on!" she cried, slapping her hand down onto the button to convert into jet mode. The craft hung in the air for a moment as the transformation took place, and she rammed the throttle forward just as it finished. 'Jet mode, activated.' The powerful turbines spooled up and left a trail of fire behind them as they raced away from dying carrier.
"Dates with you sure are excitin', Ljuba," Johnny quipped.
"Always," she shot back. There was an explosion behind them, and looking over her shoulder, the Daedalus was falling apart, huge pieces of it crashing to the city below. Buildings were on fire, partially collapsed, or razed to their foundations. She frowned at the sight.
"Wreckage of the Daedalus just hit the Mayor's office," Kinzie told her quietly. "I'm sorry, I know how you felt about Mayor Reynolds. But there couldn't have been any survivors."
Ljubica sighed. "Kinzie, round up every Saint we can find," she ordered. "We're going on a field trip."
Jane Valderamma stared at the cameras of Channel 6 News' main newsroom. Like everyone else, she was shocked by STAG's attack on the city, and their unlikely saviors.
"Even in a place that is no stranger to violence, today's assault on the city stands as the blackest time in Steelport's sordid history," she reported. "While the government has yet to comment on the attack, we have a report."
Automatic gunfire rang out in the studio, and Ljubica strode into the room with her Lieutenants at her back.
"No one runs, no one gets shot, understand?" Ljubica announced, handing her Krukov to an aide. "Sorry."
She grabbed the headset mic of a nearby tech. "Kinzie, you in the booth?"
Kinzie leaned over a mic on the desk. "All set."
Ljubica moved to stand next to Jane, beckoning a makeup assistant over. The woman powdered her face, and then Ljubica waived her off.
Ljubica stared hard at the camera for a moment, and someone in a side room added 'Local Psychopath' to the banner TV viewers were seeing. "I got a message for Monica Hughes and her stooges," she began. "Dear bitch," she went on, motioning forward with her arms. "Steelport is under new management, and we don't answer to you. This is foreign soil, now."
After the briefest pause, she went on. "Come at my city again, and you'll go home in a fucking box!" she said, pointing angrily at the camera for emphasis. Glancing over at Valderamma, she added, "Back to you."
Jane looked scared, eyes going wide as she tried to smile for the cameras.
Ljubica walked off the stage, and Pierce handed her Krukov to her. "Not bad," he said. "You could be a weatherman or some shit." They headed for the exit.
"I may have laid it on a little thick," Ljubica replied.
"Well, you did just create a city-state," he retorted.
Ljubica chuckled. "Good point. Hey, that reminds me, this place is going to need a new mayor. How do you feel about public office?"
"Horrible idea," Pierce said, but his tone betrayed him. "I'm in."
"Then let's get to work," Ljubica said, opening the door to leave.
The old headquarters had finally been repaired, and to celebrate the penthouse's reopening as the Mayor's office and the victory over STAG, a party was being held. The overhead dance strobes flashed and spun, loud music pumped from the sound system, and both Saints and strippers were everywhere.
Ljubica leaned against Johnny, nursing a beer. The party was in full swing, and Shaundi had dragged Pierce onto the dance floor. More than one pair of envious eyes watched them, but hers was not one of them.
"I still can't believe he's the mayor," Johnny grumbled.
"Would you rather he be coming back to Stilwater with me?" Ljubica asked playfully.
"Fuck no," Johnny shot back, taking a long pull from his longneck.
Josh Birk sat down next to them, spreading out and taking up space. "So, Boss, changed your mind, yet?"
"No. You're coming to Stilwater with me, Birk," she told the actor. "Shaundi needs a break from you."
Josh cross his arms in a huff, but said nothing.
"You're lucky you ain't dead, Birk," Johnny said, pulling a beer from the tray of one of the roving stripper waitresses. "And you still might have an unfortunate accident."
Josh edged away from them. Johnny blamed him, at least partially, for the mess with the being arrested and the Syndicate.
"Let's blow this popsicle stand," Johnny suggested. "I know somethin' we can do that's lots more fun."
"Where would you suggest we be heading, Mr. Gat?" Ljubica asked coyly. Her head was beginning to get fuzzy.
"Your room," he said bluntly.
Ljubica grinned, nodded, and left her beer behind as she wove her way through the ground, leading Johnny by the hand.
Ljubica closed the door behind them, and Johnny pulled her into a kiss. Passion crashed over them both, and she tried to devour him. With a growl, Ljubica grabbed both his wrists and walked them over to the bed.
"You sure about this?" he asked cautiously.
Ljubica nodded, eyes hungry. She tore his shirt off, marveling at the chiseled body beneath it. They kissed again, losing themselves in each other, and one by one articles of clothing were tossed into a pile. Her upper body told a tale of gunshots, knife wounds, and some burn scars for good measure.
Ljubica pushed Johnny onto the bed, straddling his waist and pushing his hands to the mattress by his wrists.
"You're absolutely sure?" Johnny asked. This was the furthest they'd ever gotten, and it was usually him on top with women, but for her, he'd do whatever she needed.
Ljubica nodded hurriedly, body flushed with her mounting passion.
"Just shut up and let me do this my way," she said, low and deep, hunger straining her voice.
Johnny grinned back at her. "Yes, ma'am."
Ljubica looked around her room. It was empty of all her personal belongings, though the bed and everything else would remain behind. She eyed the bed fondly, remembering the previous night's passion, and joy.
"Earth to Boss, time to go," Shaundi said, and Johnny laughed.
"Don't interrupt," Johnny told her. "She's rememberin' how good I was last night."
"You're an asshole, Johnny," Ljubica quipped, shouldering her duffel bag.
"Guilty," Johnny shot back.
Ljubica looked Shaundi in the eyes intently. "Take care of Pierce, okay?"
Shaundi nodded. "You know I will."
"I know I can count on you," Ljubica said in response. "Come on, Johnny."
"No airplanes, right?" he asked. "You said we were drivin', remember?"
Shaundi laughed. "You're scared of flying?"
"Fuck right I am," Johnny grumbled. "You die on a fuckin' airplane and tell me how you feel about flyin'."
"Relax, we're taking my Blade," Ljubica told him. "It is, how you say, a comfort rig?"
Shaundi walked them to the elevator. "You take care of him for me," she said, nudging Johnny in the arm.
Johnny put an arm around the glamorous Lieutenant. "You come visit when you can, all right?"
Shaundi nodded, and the elevator doors opened up. "Get out of here, you two, before you stay for another day."
Ljubica and Johnny rode to the parking garage in silence. As the doors opened again, her purple Blade was the only car left in the garage. The rest had been sent ahead to Stilwater, along with most of her things, and her all aircraft. Even her Vulture had been found on the streets of Steelport, still intact but heavily damaged. Manny was getting good at repairing helicopters, too.
Ljubica popped the trunk and set her bag inside.
"So, this is it," she said, sounding wistful. "Today we go home."
Johnny grinned. "Feels good, don't it?"
Ljubica sat in the driver's seat, taking a moment to smell the leather. She shut the door, and Johnny shut his. The Blade started a little hard, she hadn't driven it in awhile, but it ran smooth.
As Ljubica eased out of the parking garage, Johnny turned on the radio.
'We've got a special treat for you today on KRhyme,' the station's announcer stated. 'We're kickin' it old school all weekend long! Now we all know this next one…'
A bass guitar slid down, falling into a groove. It was joined by a clean guitar on top, laid back and smooth. A woman started singing in the background.
'Yeah… clear enough for ya? (Is that right),' the song started. 'Hahahaha. Yeah.'
"Man," Johnny whined, reaching for the knob.
"Touch it and I will be keeping that hand as a souvenier," Ljubica growled in warning.
Johnny sat back, crossing his arms.
'Why niggaz look mad (Is that right?) Y'all supposed to be happy I'm free! Y'all niggaz look like ya'll wanted me to stay in jail, hahah! Hoe bustaz.'
Ljubica headed out onto the highway towards Stilwater, grinning. She loved this song.
'Picture me rollin' in my 500 Benz, I got no love for these niggaz, there's no need to be friends…'