Disclaimer - This crazy bunch belongs to Deep Silver and Volition! I don't think they would be happy with anyone else at the reins.

Went a bit long this time. That's not too bad, right? I'm also crossing my fingers for E3 next week, because who knows what Deep Silver's going to pull out.


Part 21


It was darker now. She knew it was due to adjusting to the room below, but the space ahead made her hesitate as she tried to pick out any signs of movement. The first few steps out of the elevator were cautious, but as she traveled down the path to where Johnny was, she picked up speed. He shouldn't have had that much of a lead on her, but she couldn't find a damn thing.

"Johnny?" She came to a stop and listened, then heard something close to a cough further down. Pocketing the hard drive, she kept moving, almost hitting a full run when she noticed the shape on the ground. "Johnny!"

He was in the middle of pushing himself back up when she skidded to a sloppy stop by him. She couldn't see him clearly, but she could hear him breathe, and it hadn't been this labored before.

"Johnny, talk to me."

She put a hand on his shoulder and heard him spit on the ground. "Fuck. Give me a sec." He shook his head hard and got up, only to stumble into her. "Maybe two."

The weight on her as she tried to right him nearly threw her off balance, but she wouldn't let go. "You're such a fucking liar. Fine. I'm fine, he says!"

"I am. Didn't feel off when I waiting for you to try on the whole motherfucking store before. Didn't feel that when we came in here either." He sucked in a breath and coughed. "Not until this fucking thing, but whatever."

A thought occurred to her. One tied directly to a certain someone with an easy grin and she felt her nails dig into Gat's jacket. "I'm going to kill him."

"What?"

His glasses were sliding down his nose and V caught the incredulous look in time to snap her mouth shut. "Nothing. Now please tell me you don't need me to carry your ass out of here."

His fingers tightened around her arm as he stepped back. "Out? Change of plans?"

"I...found something over by the elevators. I also might've gone downstairs for a bit."

"Shit, you did that fast. Anything down there?"

"Computers and equipment. I didn't want to stick around, trust me. Being the only person poking around's more than a little creepy so I grabbed the first thing I could and ran back up here."

"And now you want out?"

"Well," she started, then gained traction when she noticed the blood on his face. "Yeah. I want out. We've done our recon. There's weird shit here that needs clearing, and we'll do that with a flood of purple to back us up. I also really need to get on Blue about this."

"Blue." Gat chuckled and let her go. "Kid's strange. Knows a lot."

"He's connected. It's not a bad thing to have around."

"But you're cool with him?"

"God, you two." She crossed her arms and felt her mouth quirk up."Troy asked me the same thing."

"And?"

"I do. He's been honest so far, and the info's been good. Can't ask for much more than that."

He didn't reply, but the small grunt he gave didn't come across as negative. He did, however, turn to look right at her, and she had to resist the urge to fidget in place. "Sure?"

She nodded. "Yeah. You're welcome to give him the third degree later if you'd like, but I have a feeling Troy already got to him."

"Might pass on that then," he said, frowning. "So, boss."

Her eyebrows went up. "Gat?"

"About this getting out thing..."

Roaring began to echo in the halls, far off, but not enough for them to miss it. V's eyes went wide and she tugged hard on Johnny's sleeve. "That's definitely a thing that's happening."

"You got a fast way, or are we doing this the fun way?"

"Hey, fun can be fast. Who doesn't like a quickie?" The roar went off again and she pointed back to the way they came. "Aw, fuck. Trucks. Go for the trucks!"

Johnny stuck to her as she ran, nearly colliding with her when they both rushed for the driver's seat, but she threw her body against the door when he tried to pry it open.

"The fuck, V!"

"I'm driving. You can snap at me all you want, but driving just ain't happening for you right now, Gat."

He reached for the handle again, his step forward putting him right into her space. "Move."

"Johnny." She tilted her head up to meet his eyes. "You're a better shot than me by a landslide. I need someone in the other seat that can light them up if they follow. You get me?"

The handle opened, shifting the door enough to make her start, and the lenses of his glasses were the blackest she'd seen them. Nothing could get by. "They're going to follow."

"So where would you rather be? Behind the wheel of this, or in the other seat with a loaded gun?" She leaned forward and flicked at the handgun holstered at his side. "No one better, Johnny."

She felt the door close behind her with a click, and he raised his chin. "Keep it straight. Also, on the pavement."

"You got it, boss," she joked, leaning back against the metal. "Any other requests before we have a million guns pointed at our heads?"

"Yeah. Keep the fucking volume down unless it's good. You start singing in the middle of this and I'm taking the wheel."

She gasped. "You wouldn't."

"Try me," he said, stomping off to the opposite side.

When she yanked open the door and twisted the key, she crossed her fingers and hoped it would start. It took a few seconds and some extra turns, but when it kicked on she whooped and threw on her seatbelt. "Anything?"

His eyes were on the path behind them, his gun out and ready. "It's getting louder."

"I was afraid of that." She adjusted the mirrors and slapped on the radio, cranking the volume up high. "Let's do this."

The first van came screeching down when V threw the car into reverse, and she peeled out in an arc that had Johnny swaying as he leaned out to open fire. None of the shots broke through the glass on the front and side, but V didn't wait for them to lower the window for him to get a better shot.

He jerked again, falling back in his seat as she hit the gas, and when he continued to use every colorful name in the book she knew she'd earned it.

"Straight motherfucking line, V!"

"I know!"

She curved to the right as they went up and Johnny spun on her. "That's not fucking straight!"

"I know!"

She shrieked when another van bore down on them and spun the wheel hard to the left to avoid it. It clipped the tail of their truck, causing the tires to screech as they slid along the pavement, but they coasted through it, her grip on the wheel stronger than ever.

They shot out of the garage onto the street, and sure enough two vans lumbered onto the road after them. Johnny leaned out of the window again, leaping up as soon as they were back under daylight and she blinked to clear her eyes.

Calm and cool, V. Calm and cool.

She slammed on the horn and zipped through the space made for her on the road, her mind running through the list of short cuts in the area. There were a few, but it became a gnarled knot between listening to Johnny's hail of bullets and the sound of crunching metal.

The light ahead went from red to green, and she didn't slow down, only sped up. They flew through, the tires leaving the pavement for a second, and she couldn't breathe until they touched the ground again.

Then it hit. The perfect out. The path ahead weaved all the shopping centers into knots, and if they could find a way through and ditch the car to blend in they would be golden. She tugged on the back of Johnny's coat. "Hey, get in here, because I'm turning!"

He crawled back in – his hat long gone - and turned to her. "What?"

The turn almost made him drop his gun, and she muttered, "Please work, please work," over and over as they crammed themselves down the alley. "Are they behind us?"

"No," he ground out, breathing heavily.

"Okay, I need you to move with me when I stop this. Are you able?"

He undid his seatbelt, and V almost yelled at him to get it back on. "Blow me."

"I'll take that as a yes." She made her way back, and her eyes kept on going to the mirror when they were trying to go to him. "Grab anything you think looks important, because we're booking it."

The move that planted them in a nearby parking lot had her hurriedly unbuckling, and she hopped out only to immediately scramble away due to the van that came crashing through. It slammed into the neat line of cars and came to a shuddering stop.

The doors on the sides opened, and she didn't wait for them to move to open fire. They had the advantage now, and with Johnny already in position, the two picked off the men in black before they could get more than five shots off. The driver was last, and Gat closed the distance before she could. He threw the door open and the man in the front only had time to say, "Wait," before Johnny put a bullet in his head.

"Whoa, hey!" She ran up next to him and frowned. "We could've used him."

"Maybe. Or maybe not. Can't trust any of these fuckers." His forehead was covered in sweat and V tried to put a hand on his arm only to have him shrug her off. "I'm fine."

"Oh, I'm real fucking reassured. One-hundred percent."

She dodged his glare as she rifled through the pockets of the man in front, trying to keep her eyes off of Gat's handiwork. A random set of keys, followed by gum, and soon his wallet. She pocketed that and went to check the others as sirens sounded in the distance, but paused. She dragged the body out of the front seat and pointed at the seat next to her. "Get in."

"You serious?" he asked, his mouth hinting at a grin.

"After losing our Raycaster and dealing with these assholes? You bet your ass I am," she said, turning the keys in the ignition. "Motherfuckers got to learn that if they dangle shiny things in front of me, I might just decide to take them."


"No."

"Oh, come on," Dee said, her voice rising. "You know it could work. He's been running in circles for the last two hours and I'm seeing openings left and right."

"I want you to keep an eye on this guy, not tail him and throw him into the trunk of your car. That's not going to leave a good impression, or make him inclined to talk." Troy gripped the steering wheel tighter at the thought, and sighed. "We need to play it safe."

"Safe isn't going to get results, Troy. I've seen this guy, and he's like a sack of wet tissue paper. I could break him by spitting at him for God's sake."

"Dee. Reel it in, or I'm getting someone else."

The hard tone left her quiet for a minute, then he heard her huff. "All right. I'll watch. I want your fucking ear later tonight, though."

"Fine. Head to the mansion and we'll go over it. Good?"

"Sure, boss."

She hung up and Troy felt a slow ache start beneath his temples.

He had options when it came to this. Lot of options, and lots of people that he could've asked to be posted on this job, but Dee was good. When she was given a job and told not to treat it with kid gloves, she never took that statement lightly, but this job came with a caveat. One that only he and V knew.

He'd gone through the story multiple times, checked and double-checked himself before even breathing a word of it to her, and he still felt like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Johnson was a lead. He'd told her that first, then slid into the next without even flinching. Facts were easier to handle, and now was no exception.

Stilwater PD needed a new chief. Ultor was putting pressure on them, and he'd caught word of a few people they had their eye on. He'd wanted patterns. Patterns and a routine that he was able to slip into and interrupt without making too many waves. What he didn't want was Johnson bolting, or anyone catching wind of the top candidate he'd deliberately left out.

Dee was good. But Dee was also Dee, and when she saw a good chance to push she often did. It was one of many reasons she and V got along so well, and he'd relied on that trait before, but now was different. Everything had been thrown so fucking far off base it made sense that no one was one-hundred percent calm, but he had to get a grip. You could only get so worn down before fucking up, and he'd done enough of that lately to last a lifetime.

He brought his car to a stop in the garage out back, and wondered just how bad it'd look to walk inside with two cigarettes lit. His pack was out and bouncing between each hand when a Saint ran up to him, and Troy threw the stub down to stomp it out for a new one.

"Hey, uh, I've got a message for the boss."

"She still out?" he asked, lighting the cigarette with a flick of his wrist.

"No, she's in, but when she ran in with Gat it looked bad. Like she'd be holed up for a while. I didn't want to hold onto this until-"

"Whoa, hold up," Troy cut in, "how bad?"

"Like she was fucking dragging him bad. I don't know the whole thing, but..."

Troy didn't even feel his legs start to move. He went on pure autopilot as he wound his way back to the room they'd designated as the place for minor medical attention, and the sound of arguing as he got closer told him he was on the right track.

"It's not even thirty minutes!" V shot, her voice coming across loud and clear. "You can sit in one spot and wait for Suze, because I'm not having you drop dead on me later."

Johnny's voice was harder to pick up on at first, but the closer he got the less trouble he had. "We've done this already, and if I'm going to spend thirty minutes on my back, it's going to have to come with a better argument than that."

"Fainting's not normal, Gat."

"I didn't fucking faint. I needed a moment."

"Where I had to pry you off of the ground. Argue all you want, you're staying put until a doctor walks into this-"

Troy didn't bother to knock when he entered, but Johnny caught him immediately. "Great. You're like a fucking magnet."

"Yeah, when you come in and spook people enough to tell me on sight," Troy snapped, walking up to the two of them.

V had her hands on her hips, her hair tangled and wilting as she continued to blow it out of her face, and he had to take a second look at her getup before moving to Gat. None of it fit her usual prereqs of functional or casual, but the dark button-down shirt and pants fit her like a glove, though he had no damn clue where her shoes had gone. Johnny had something in the same theme on, though the traces of blood staining the white was what caught Troy's eye first. That, and Gat's irritated expression as he leaned back into the couch, but that wasn't unusual.

Seeing Johnny back here in less than twenty-four hours wasn't either. The shot to his knee had him bouncing in and out of the place between jobs when the local doctor was able to get a hold of him before, and it looked like now was going to be yet another one of those times.

Troy opened his mouth to start in on them, but stopped when V cut in front of him. "Hey, can you keep him busy?" She glanced over her shoulder at Johnny then leaned closer, placing her hand on his chest. "He really needs this, and I need to get back to Matt ASAP."

"...Sure," he said, his eyes flicking between the two as he kept his voice down. "And you're fit to go?"

"I'm fine. The worst thing I did was get winded, and the only thing that's good for that right now is the one thing I don't want to give up." She eyed his cigarette, but shook her head when he started to reach for his pack. "You're supposed to discourage me, not enable me, chief."

She ran a finger along the chain around his neck and Troy cleared his throat. "I'm a shit role model, remember?" That got a grin out of her, highlighting the gloss on her lips, and he tried to return it. "I want to talk later, though. Once we're both done."

She nodded, unsure, but curious. "Sounds serious."

"Could be. Figured we could go over it and decide how bad."

"Great. Gotta love complications. Yeah, later works," she said, walking around him, but spun so she could face them as she left. "I'll call when I'm done, but you better not let him get out. Got it?"

Johnny flipped her off, and Troy chuckled. "You're the boss."

When she disappeared around the corner Troy pinched his cigarette between his fingers and leveled a look at Gat. Johnny returned it, but the sunglasses made it tough to keep track of his eyes. They always did, and Troy had a feeling it was entirely intentional.

He leaned forward to get a better look at him, and Johnny immediately waved him off. "Get out of my face. Bad enough when she does it."

Troy didn't move. "The fuck happened out there?"

"You want to guess? Get it in one, and I might have something to talk about."

He let out a heavy sigh and stepped back to start pacing. "You pissed off Ultor. I don't even have to guess. The question is how close you cut it, but you're both here and not locked up or dead, so...I'm guessing better than the last time since there weren't any rockets around for you to fire off." He paused and held a hand up. "Warmer or colder?"

"Fuck you," Gat said, an edge creeping into his voice. "They're buying up property at Nob Hill. Building shit. We found a building they were using as a cover and V cleared us out."

"Before you could blow it?"

"She caught me early. A fucking shame."

"Considering your track record? You're both lucky there was a building to leave."

Troy started when Johnny stood up, but when he rocked on his feet instead of grabbing him, Troy didn't back away. Gat's jaw tightened, and he sat back down. "Just keep on pushing."

"And what?" Troy asked, his brows creased together. "You'll actually break my jaw this time?"

"Don't tempt me," he muttered. "Could always try again."

"Try. Right." He watched Gat remove his sunglasses to rub his eyes, and by the time he put them back on, Troy couldn't keep the frown off of his face. "Something did happen out there, huh?"

"You see anything off? Everything's still in the same place."

"Yeah, and that would be great if you weren't swaying like you've been on a bender. I'm not leaving until Susan gets here, so drop it."

Johnny leaned back to rest on the couch, flinching, but only for a few seconds. "Nag, nag, nag. You're like a broken record. At least V knows when to stop."

"Well, I'm not here to hold your hand and make you comfortable. Not officially, at least. You got to ask first."

His lip curled, but there wasn't much to the snarl. "Oh, fuck off. I know you're trying to piss me off to keep me up."

"Is it working?"

He closed his eyes and shrugged. "You're getting there."

Troy walked over again, his arms folded in front of him, and frowned. "You're looking bad, though."

"Weak," Johnny said, pillowing his head under his arms. "Try again."

"I'm serious. You're flying Saints' colors all over. That takes talent."

"I'm good at what I do. Nice to hear you acknowledge it."

Troy rubbed his eyes and resumed his pacing. "I'm trying to piss you off, remember? Not pay you a fucking compliment."

"Try harder. Though the mixed signals aren't half-bad."

"Okay." Troy counted to five then looked right at him. "You really don't give a shit sometimes, do you?"

That got Johnny's attention in no time flat.