Our apologies, readers. John had a brain fart and buggered up the posting of the prior part and the subsequent part. Fixing it now!
Zane stood between the scientist and the saboteur, who had slipped a gun out of a neatly concealed shoulder holster.
“Oh, come on, Zane. Don’t be like that,” he said, taking a casual step forward. “You guys find a car, head home to your puddle jumper, and leave me here with this weasel and we’ll call it a day? You know as well as I do that if you try and escape that it’s going to end the same way–this nerd is going to be in the ground, and you guys will have nothing but bullet holes for your–”
There was a sound of metal screaming against metal, and Mari was looked over to the car just in time to see Jayna rip the car door off its hinges and in one motion hurl it at the man in white.
“Run!” said Jayna, pulling Aaron out of the car. “That won’t slow him down for long!”
They heard the man cursing up a storm behind them as they took off out of the lot.
“Who is that guy?” said Mari, as they beat feet out of there. “That suit looks like it cost more than Songbird did.”
“He calls himself Johnny Deuce,” said Jayna. “We’ve… crossed paths a time or two.”
“And is he typically trying to kill you?” she asked, as Zane jogged towards a nearby pickup, and within a few seconds he’d unlocked it.
“I mean, to be fair, he isn’t trying to kill us now,” Zane countered, as Jayna ambled into the back.
“No, he’s trying to kill me,” said Aaron. “I knew that Harkness Industries was trying something! I just didn’t think they’d be so… so underhanded as to pay someone to assassinate me!”
“Well, if they hired Johnny, they certainly spared no expense,” said Zane. “They definitely wanted you super dead.”
“So why didn’t Zane just do his scary-shooty thing and be done with it?” said Mari.
Zane let out a sigh. “I can’t,” he said. “He’s… family.”
Mari blanched. “Sorry, I think I still have some shrapnel in my ear. Did you say he’s related to you?”
“That story is long,” said Zane sheepishly. “And complicated. And long. But for now, suffice it to say, I could try my scary shooty thing on him, but I’d probably be just as likely to walk away with a bullet in my head as he would be.” He pushed the car hard down the street, away from the vacant lot and out towards the residential area.
“I’m going to call Ash, we may have to find some dirt to land on,” Jayna said from the cab of the truck. “Keep Aaron’s head down. Hate to find a bullet in that!”
“Oh, Ash is not going to like that,” Zane muttered.
“I imagine he’ll like what’ll happen if he doesn’t even less,” said Mari, peering out behind them. “Granted, I don’t know him as well as you do, so-”
Mari was interrupted as a hole appeared through the window.Another vehicle barreled around a corner, and a white-sleeved hand clutching a handgun protruded from the driver-side window.
“Mari, can you roll down the window?” Zane asked. Mari complied; by the time she had it halfway down, Zane had his sidearm aimed, firing two quick shots.
The tires both ripped open like they’d been peeled and Johnny’s car spun behind them, flipping once before standing still. Zane winced, but didn’t make any move to turn around.
“Think he’ll give up?” said Mari.
“Johnny doesn’t give up,” he said. “Not until the inconvenience to him outweighs what he’s getting paid to kill the target. We have to make that happen.”
“Here, Ash is on,” Jayna said, handing Mari her device.
“Zane, Jayna told me that Johnny is chasing you guys and the package who happens to be a person and that you’re getting shot at. I feel as if there are a number of things that have changed since I gave you the plans for this mission.” Ash said, his voice a little too calm over the phone.
“Tell him to yell at us once we’re back in space!” shouted Jayna. “Zane, weapon!”
“Look, can you help us or not?” said Mari. “Because if not, I have some serious freaking out that I need to get back to.”
Ash seemed to step away for a moment. In the background they could hear a number of systems beginning to boot at once and the engines beginning to whine. “Head to the coordinates I’m about to give you. I’ll be waiting. Try not to draw too much attention to yourselves and for God’s sake don’t start a fire fight with him!”
The sound of another gunshot echoed.
“Any other pearls of wisdom?” snapped Mari.
Ash hesitated for a moment. “You’d be better off on foot–he’s going to blow you out of the water in that car if I know anything about Johnny, he’s got another slug with your name on it.”
“He doesn’t even know my name!” protested Mari, but Ash was already off the line.
“He’s probably right,” said Zane, as he turned a sharp corner. “Everyone get ready to bail.”
Zane pulled them into a gas station, and the four of them quickly got out of the car. “We should probably split up,” Jayna said, looking over the horizon for a car coming their direction. She saw a pristine white coupe darting around the corner. “I’ll take the package back to the ship, you and Mari go the other way?” Jayna suggested.
“…No,” said Zane, after a moment. “That’s the smart thing to do.”
“…and that’s… bad?” said Mari.
“It’s what he’s expecting us to do,” said Zane. He stopped and scratched his head for a moment, face screwed up in thought. “We need to do something stupid.”
Jayna reached around in the truck bed until she found something she could use as a melee weapon, and came back with a pipe. “I don’t like ‘something stupid.’ We need to be moving yesterday.”
“I know, but we gotta go as a group, on a really empty back alley.”
“That… is a terrible decision,” Aaron said.
Zane smiled. “I have a plan,” he said, dashing off.
Aaron’s face fell. “I’m not reassured,” he said.
“I’m told you get used to it,” said Mari.