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CripDyke

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Today is an unlucky day...

 

and yet who is to say that we do not make our own luck? The need to use the restroom...luck? The security guard following one wearing a mask...luck? The ambush from behind...luck?

 

So perhaps what happens next, though tragic, should come as no surprise.

 

Again, four bullets fly. Perhaps the attackers were fools to have paused, but had they not, their blades would still have been slower than gunfighter's bullets. The wounded assailant is struck by only one bullet, though this is enough. Falling backward he throws his sword at Gunfighter's prone form. The weight of the sword is enough to pierce the hero's clothes, but the wound is slight.

 

The hostage taker, however, is not struck. One bullet passes over his head, another lodges in the shoulder of the security guard he holds. The knife does its horrifying work in response. Even a clean cut of the artery, however, is not an instant death, and as the guard is shoved forward - toppling over onto Gun - his eyes widen and his hand clutches his throat, trying desperately to stop the bleeding.

 

Gunfighter, wounded twice, is now pinned against the floor by the man he has failed to rescue. With only two steps to cross to reach his vulnerable foe, the hostage taker draws a sword similar to the others'. With gunfigher struggling desperately to free a weapon, it is unclear that there will be enough time to give challenge to his attacker's final blow...

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"####, this isn't going at all the way I planned it." Gunfighter thinks to himself as he sees the majority of his bullets miss their marks. "And now I'm jammed in here like this.... oh #### he's coming again. I gotta bring a weapon to bear!"

 

"If I survive this, I'm gonna try and find a way of hiding a M2 under my coat......" Thinks our hero as he sees his assailant closing in again.

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The wait is agony...

 

Seconds stretch out into minutes into hours until it seems like this moment of suspense has lasted days.

 

Working to free his left hand - closest to the oncoming assassin - Gun realizes the hopelessness of it. The assassin almost laughs at the futile kick of the hero's leg that misses by a score of inches, but his professionalism, and the helplessness of his target, permit him only a grim smile.

 

The kick, however, was never intended to strike the sole remaining sword-bearer. Instead, it shifted the body of the security guard just enough for Gunfighter to fire the pistol in his right hand. Two shots from an off-line gun. It seems impossible that either bullet might hit a target. Certainly the assassin pays no attention to the weapon, and Gunfighter himself cannot even see it. He can, however, feel it, and like his own finger, he can feel how it rotates through space. His propriaception extended through the barrel of the gun and even through the bullets as they speed through six feet of air.

 

Surprised, off-balance, gunfighter's shooting could not live up to his budding legend. But perhaps it is the extension of time in this long moment of suspense that allows his body to move with practiced patience. Now, with his mind calm, his bullets an extension of himself, Gunfighter's bullets both strike true in the center of the assassin's body.

 

The impact of the slugs is significant, causing the attacker to fall more sideways than forward, and a final blade falls to the floor - this time, hurting no one.

 

The slow moment snaps back into the rush of real time as a terrified guard can only utter, "Please, help me..."

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As the situation finally bursts into Gunfighter's mind, and the realisation that, while he came close, he managed to survive once again. He raises his head to the heavens and whispers a prayer. "Thank you." Then, the guard's moans penetrate the fog within his mind and Gunfighter surges into action again.

 

"PHRANC, can you hear me?" Gunfighter asks into his radio. As he does so, he mentally takes stock of how many rounds he has left. "If you can hear me, get SP Tac and some paramedics in here pronto. I'm in the bog, and I'm hurt. I've also got a security guard who is critically injured and is bleeding out in front of me. I'm pinned in place by a corpse." Gunfighter reels off the situation as fast and precisely as he is capable, the pain and blood loss starting to have an effect upon his normally precise and neat thought processes. "I need major backup immediately. They knew... they knew PHRANC!"

 

As soon as PHRANC has acknowledged his transmission, Gunfighter begins to try and get out from under the corpse pinning him in place. "Bet I'll be here when the cops and medics arrive, but I gotta try."

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"I'm here, Gun." Is PHRANC's calm reply. "I'm passing on all you information to Paramedics en route to you. It should only be seconds before the police from the parking lot arrive, but anything more you can tell me about your injuries and those of the security guard would be helpful."

 

Gunfighter relays what he knows, taking stock of his own body, but not able to free himself out of worry for the security guard clinging to consciousness above him.

 

True to PHRANC's word, it is only seconds b4 police from the parking lot arrive on the scene.

 

"Sweet Mary!" Yells one, slipping on the wet floor and landing in blood.

 

With the help of the two officers, the security guard is lain on his back. Even with all the drama, less than a minute has passed since he was cut. Pressure dramatically reduces the bleeding...but the flow of blood to his brain is still effectively severed. Within another minute or two, paramedics arrive and begin shouting terms that seem on some level familiar and yet on others very foreign to the gunfighting hero. "Thermo-electrics" is one word that seems both novel and out-of-place. Gunfighter works hard to understand it, thinking of the context...a fight? a bathroom? a wet floor? some blood that needs mopping? It slowly dawns on Gun that he's in shock and not thinking well, and yet he has loaded guns in his hands.

 

"You should take these. I don't think I can handle them safely right now," he announces to some officer or another. There may have been more to the conversation, people in uniforms asking him questions. It seems odd that they aren't very satisfied with his answers? But then maybe there was no more to the conversation after all. Certainly Gunfighter remembers nothing specific until...

 

...waking up in a hospital bed. A face nearby slowly resolves into that of Argyle Washington.

 

"You okay there, Gun? PHRANC told me you were pretty woozy and shocky for a while. Some loss of blood of course, but it looks like your biggest problem was the cut to your diaphragm. The muscles just seized up & you stopped breathing there for a while. Body's way of making sure a small diaphragm tear doesn't turn into a big one or something like that. The doc's can give you the Latin explanation. Me? I'm just here to welcome you back. Of course, I'd love to hear what happened in that bathroom, if you want to tell it. And I know that I have answers to at least two of your questions. So if you feel like conversation, we can talk. The docs are watching tho'," here Washington points out a nurse on the other side of the room, "and they won't let me talk to you anymore unless you say it's okay."

 

"So how do you feel? Want to chat or do you want to rest?"

 

Argyle's infectious grin is present even in this sterile place, even during this trepidatious moment as Gunfighter takes stock of his injuries. He doesn't actually feel any pain to speak of, but the exhaustion - and a deathly chill - penetrate to his bones...

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"Thank you again." Gunfighter thinks as his eyes turn upwards again. Then he turns his attention to Argyle. "To be honest, I'd appreciate the company." Gunfighter's smile is somewhat forced and weary, but the sparkle in his eyes is back with a vengeance. "But first I've a couple of questions, well three in fact."

 

He looks around the room, and not seeing his clothes etc he asks. "Where's my guns? I gave my pistols to a police officer in the crapper, but I don't see them... and also the ones I handed over at the train?" He then smiles again, with more energy this time. "How long was I out?"

 

Gunfighter's face then pales slightly, and his smile fades. "How's the guard?"

 

Gunfighter's concern is plainly visible on his face, but it's impossible to tell from looking at him that he's angry with himself, and ashamed. "I'm supposed to protect people. I allowed that one to get hurt. I should have fired immediately. Next time, I'll ask questions to the hole I put in the scumbag's head. So help me god!"

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Your guns are in a locked safe in my car in the parking lot. I'll take them over to SHOP HQ or SP TAC's, whichever you want. Those first guns from the other day were being held as evidence, tho' I think I can make the case for releasing them now that ballistic tests have been done. Today does tend to confirm that you're no bad guy, but we do have a job to do, even when a killing looks like self-defense.

 

How long were you out? Hey, not as long as I was after that 1000 foot fall - just 4 hours or so. They tell me you lost a bit of blood and the expanders go in cold. Lowered your core temp a bit and that slowed your waking up. They also say that no matter what you do, you won't really feel warm again til tomorrow.

 

But the guard. S***, now that's a story. New tech all over the place in the medical world. Hey, they can charge whatever they want, right? So they can afford to invent whatever they want. In this case, they lowered his temp on purpose with some portable electric-refrigerating blanket. I guess cold people do everything slower - even die. They say that bought them time, but the medics also did some phat splicing to give the biggest arteries and veins a fix right there in the field. Not the kind of thing that lasts, but it works to get people to the real docs without dying. They say he'll wake up tomorrow, but neuro-stuff... they'll have to wait a few days, maybe even a few weeks to make sure he's okay.

 

Hey, at least he'll wake up...

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Gunfighter breathes a small, almost inperceptable, sigh of relief as Argyle tells him about the guard. The explaination about the technology passes over his head somewhat, but the end result is the same.

 

"Only four hours you say?" Asks Gunfighter as he sits up properly in his bed. "That's not very long at all, in fact I've had splinters that've taken longer." Gunfighter smiles, the gloom gone and his energy returning quickly. In fact, he feels like he can go three rounds with Wyatt Earp. "I assume the docs will want to keep me in overnight. They usually overestimate their timings to keep the likes of us in bed longer than absolutely nessecary. Still, guess it's not the worst place to spend the night."

 

Gunfighter asks the nearby nurse to get him a drink, preferably a soda of some kind. The nurse gives him a funny look, but leaves the room finally in hunt of a soda for the recuperating hero. When the room's empty aside from him and Argyle, he beckons the police officer over.

 

"Argyle, you know my powers extend to firearms and them alone. I feel naked without one, so right now I feel pretty darn vulnerable." He pauses and looks the officer in the eyes. "I need a gun, preferably one of my SOCOM's but anything will do." He then holds up his hand to forestall any objections. "You know I know how to carry them safely, and you know I can be trusted... or at least you should by now." When he sees his argument hasn't swayed Argyle, he tries another direction. "Listen Argyle, I'm not like any other hero, I can't use sound waves to defend myself like Orca, and I don't have any power beams or anything like that. I'm alone here, and those thugs knew, or guessed, my one and only weakness. I don't want to be defenseless should they decide to come back and finish the job. I need a gun."

 

[GM deleted reference to Argyle Pacing]

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"You're not defenseless - we've got 3 officers here full-time til tomorrow morning & I'm sure you'll be released then," Argyle begins in a normal tone of voice but with a raised eyebrow he gestures behind his own head, then points to Gunfighter's pillow.

 

"You know, of course, that they don't let patients have guns... that's why I have yours out in the car," he continues while gunfighter reaches under his pillow and finds the familiar grip of one of his unfired weapons. He sighs -softly- with relief.

 

"But don't worry. We'll take good care of you." Argyle concludes with a wink just in time for the nurse's return.

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Feeling much more secure and confident now that his ability to defend himself, and others, has been restored to him, Gunfighter's shoulder's relax and he snuggles down into his bed. He then reaches out and accepts the diet orange soda from the nurse with a smile.

 

"You certainly are Argyle, and it's much appreciated." Says Gunfighter between slugs of his soda. "But I'll be happy to get out of here and continue working on our case." "When did I start thinking of it as our case?" "Speaking of which, any idea who those men I killed were?"

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Apologies for the supremely long delay incommunicado - got  myself a nasty infection after the last flurry of postings & got stuck recovering at the house of a friend who has no internet connection. Grrr. Feeling better now, the plot continues..

 

=============================================

 

"Not yet," Argyle answers... and it's the only answer Gunfighter has for some time.

 

Sleep takes the hero again - more than once, if truth be told - but he is ready come morning to begin standing and stretching. Either the doctors here are very good or Gunfighter's injuries were not as severe as he feared. Still, it takes very little of that stretching until he is clearly reminded that his ribs ARE broken. Not one to lie around waiting for action to come to him, however, Gunfighter searches the closets for his clothes and has the pants on before a nurse knocks, then sweeps in with barely a pause.

 

"Now, now. You can keep the pants if they make you feel any better, but the doctor won't be in on rounds for another hour or so and only the doctor can let you go. So might as well put the smock back on up top. And I have your drugs. You'll need these for the pain," the nurse notices a funny reaction from gunfighter standing tall despite many stitches and two broken ribs. "And to prevent infection, no matter how tough you are," she quickly concludes.

 

After cajoling Mr. Gun back to bed, she feeds him 3 pills and offers him a glimmer of hope: "Of course your police friend will be back this morning too."

 

Expecting Argyle, Gunfighter is mildly surprised to see Allen Estin enter the room only ten minutes later - accompanied by a man with golden-tan skin that seems dark against a white lab coat.

 

"Gunfighter, this is Dr. Li. He's not your doctor of record, he came by from Project Aquarius. He'd like to take a look at you, if you don't mind. He's a specialist in Aquarian health care. In fact, next to Dr. Jeanrette, he's probably the world's best." Estin sighs. "Not to mention, he's cleared higher than I ever will be. If you want to talk alone, that's fine, but first just have a listen to what he's got to say about the people that attacked you."

 

At Gun's assent, Li begins, "First, let me say I am happy and honored to meet you. Portland has a heroic history, and it seems you are destined to add a chapter of your own.

 

As far as your assailants, with some DNA testing, we can say that they are ethnically Japanese. Tattooing indicates a loyalty to a feudal Japanese Daimyo. Officially, of course, feudal power no longer exists & none hold title with power. The emperor's position, of course, is honorary but there is still a real power of influence from the mere aura of the office. Perhaps that is the case with these loyalty tattoos. In any case, the bodies are too young - and show no sign of abnormal aging processes - to have been born while the old system is still in place. So, someone still has power of a sort that is associated with the system. And if you're curious, I'm no expert in those symbols, so I couldn't tell you whom but it isn't a symbol that's ever been associated with the imperial family.

 

All three of the bodies were male and physically very fit. Additionally, they each had a modified tooth." Here, Dr. Li holds up a small speck of white. "Physiologically, sleep and coma are different processes. This device monitors body processes and injects cyanide into the blood if the body goes into a coma or dying process. I believe, though i'm not yet sure, that an RF tag is used to activate and deactivate the cyanide mechanism. What that means, I don't know," the doctor finishes.

 

Estin takes over from there: "The other big question that must be nagging at you is how they arranged that ambush. It wasn't exactly opportunistic." At this, Estin pauses again. "They rolled something underneath your car that released a gas. The gas was a diuretic: it would make anyone pee like a racehorse. It's not exactly a common device. Probably built special for whoever's up to this. We're hoping it can give us some clues as to who's behind this. In the meantime, we just know it means that you are the target now."

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"A target they know how to attack effectively." Says Gunfighter, his gravelly voice taking on a hard edge to it. "I got lucky before, I don't plan on counting on the hand of God any longer." Gunfighter moves his shoulders around, as if to test them, then he looks up at Commander Estin. "Commander, would you have any objection to an aquarian man who can shoot the pecker off a fly at 500 metres walking around your city packing heavy ordinance? Next time those bozos come after me, I ain't gonna waste time with chit-chat. And could you spare someone to watch my back? My training relies upon the buddy system, I've still not gotten use to this lone gunman deal yet."

 

Gunfighter then looks at the good Doctor. "You mentioned an RF tag doctor? Perhaps that could be used to trigger the cyanide prematurely? It's a cheap kill, but while I'm the target I'll take any kills I can get."

 

"Chemical warfare and germ warfare. What'll they try next, shooting me with a nuke?!" Gunfighter asks himself as he thinks about the 'pee grenade'. "Gotta hand it to them though, it's a novel way to disable an enemy. Definately time to carry ziplok bags in my pockets."

 

Gunfighter then looks up at Dr Li. "I've no objections to your examining me. As Commander Estin will attest too, I'm more than willing to co-operate." Gunfighter's smile returns, a mischievous one at that. He then turns his attention back to Estin. "Erm Commander, I don't know if Argylle mentioned it, but I'd like to be considered available to assist SP Tac and PPD SWAT should the need arise."

 

Despite conscious effort to not think about it, Gunfighter cannot draw his mind away from the pee-grenade and how lucky he'd been.... as well as Estin's words 'we just know it means you're a target now'. "How ironic, the predator turned prey. Well, as many soldiers have said, the best defense is a good offense. Especially when you have God on your side, blessing your shots and helping them fly sraight and true. That reminds me, what day of the week is this?"

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"Heavy ordinance? No, I don't have a problem. C.H.E.S.S. can even make it legal, how 'bout that? We should probably send the paperwork through this afternoon, I hear you're probably not long for this hospital. As far as a partner, sure, I can set you up. SP Tac is decidedly interested in this case anyway. If I lend you someone, though, they're not going undercover. This is too dangerous for me to ask anyone not to wear their hardtop. If YOU need any equipment, just let me know. As far as the city of Portland is concerned, you ARE part of SP Tac right now. Which reminds me," here Estin reaches into a pocket & pulls out a badge, "consider yourself deputized. PHRANC says you can still call me if you need me, so I'll leave you to Dr. Li," he concludes.

 

Gunfighter's morning is spent in interviews with Dr. Li & subjecting himself to tests, treatments, and injections. By noon Gun is feeling much better, reassured that his healing has beed accelerated by a factor of 4 through the doctor's work. The hero's own expertise in covert interrogation is not insubstantial, so he quickly catches on to the profiling nature of Dr. Li's questions. Of course, he submits ... but knowingly, understanding that this is a necessary step in gaining access to resources from any covert ops agency.

 

"You heal quickly. You could walk around this afternoon, but you'll hear faster if you rest. I'd recommend just staying put for another night...you'll likely feel as good as new in the morning."

 

For as long as Gunfighter stays in the hospital, PHRANC and others keep him updated at least every hour with new information. Some of the most interesting?

 

1) There was no attack on Yamata coinciding with the attack on Gunfighter in the lavatory

 

2) The security guard survived the critical stretch & is likely to make a complete recovery since the injuries were soft tissue and the blood loss was short enough to keep the nervous system alive.

 

3) Yamata's company appears to be working on a licensing deal with Vanguard electronics for Vanguard's holographic memory technology.

 

4) The Vanguard-MHI negotiations were very secret until the attacks spawned leaks to the media. Analysts are surprised Vanguard would be willing to give up its monopoly, tho' others cite difficulty overcoming Japanese trade barriers and tariffs as a reason to license the technology to a Japanese firm.

 

5) SP Tac suspects (but has not confirmed) that ShadowWolf is nosing around Portland after leads in the attacks. This last piece of information is confidential and not for media consumption.

 

6) Leslie Richter, Sr. is asking for a meeting with SP Tac to be briefed on the case and Estin has agreed to send Washington... and Mr. Gun, if he desires... at 9 am the next morning.

 

The physical evidence also is yielding interesting results: the blades used in the attack all predate 1940, as near as the State Crime Lab metallurgist can tell, and one sword dates to the 18th century.

 

As for Gun's question about quick kills, no such luck: the mechanism for releasing cyanide requires coma/dying metabolic processes to be detected. But it ALSO requires that the device be turned on by a radio signal. While it wouldn't be possible to kill these assassins by remote control, it WOULD be possible to prevent their automatic deaths when they get knocked unconscious.

 

Gun's not excited about the wait, but he can ask questions of nearly anyone through PHRANC, or simply wait for tomorrow and head back to Richter's office, this time with Lieutenant Washington.

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While lying in the hospital, Gun, through PHRANC, requests a SWAT trained officer from SP Tac to meet him in the morning. He's not worried about Estin's insistence that the officer wear armour and full combat garb. Afterall, if it weren't for his unique abilities, he's walk around in 47 layers of kevlar.

 

After agreeing to the trip with Argyle, Gunfighter asks PHRANC to submit a requisition request to SP Tac or any relevant organisation for a Light Machine Gun, preferably a M249 but any of the ones used by the US Military would be okay. He asks that it be modified to be more concealable (shortened barrel and stock). He also requests a Browning M2HB for storage in the trunk of his car in case he needs really heavy firepower.

 

While he's not entirely certain his requests will be granted, or if they are how quickly, so Gunfighter makes plans to alter his webbing sligthly so that his MP5K's are easier to access.

 

"Don't want to have to open up with an SMG from the start, but if these jokers are gonna try and take me out at close quarters then I'll need something heavier than a semi-automatic pistol." Thinks Gunfighter to himself as he rests in the hospital. He passes the time by cleaning the gun Argyle secreted into his room, under the sheet on his bed of course. Afterall, who needs to look in order to disassemble, clean and reassemble a pistol?

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Early the next morning, Argyle's there in an exquisite linen suit and carrying a small suitcase.

 

"Looks like you've been sprung & promoted on the same day," he kicks in, setting the case on the chair. "You got your breakfast yet?"

 

Gun, not having had any food yet and barely awake stretches as he responds in the negative.

 

"Well then, eat up!" Argyle encourages as another officer struts into the room - this one in full SPTac gear, with armored vest and EKP...and a paper bag, which she hurls at the bedridden gunfighter. "Sausage McMuffin & 2 hashbrowns. Doc Li didn't say anything about you being vegetarian, so I figured you could eat same as us. That's Shanna. She's your bodyguard and the best 10K runner Portland Police have ever had. Don't let her leave you behind."

 

Shanna jumps in at this: "After that breakfast? You gotta be kidding me lieutenant. I'd be hard pressed to run 5 k right now." The woman's smile is sly, but obvious. Clearly these two have known each other for some time. With a nod to her new charge she adds, "Nice to meet you, Mr. Gun. Don't you worry about me gettin out ahead of you unless the bullets start flying. I'm your wingman, you won't be going anywhere without me for the next few days."

 

"Except Richter's," interrupts Argyle. "Look, Gun, I know it's early, but we'll have to go soon. I brought you some clothes to change into since you only had that black gear. Great stuff for ops, I'm sure, but we thought maybe something different for the meeting would be more appropriate." Opening the case, SP Tac's XO reveals a uniform in dark blue with white trim that meets in a crossing pattern over the left shoulder. It takes Gun - familiar with most military and paramilitary uniforms around - only a few seconds to recognize it as a CHESS dress uniform. "We consider you auxillary SP Tac right now, but you're more appropriately a CHESS employee now. This is a gift from Project Aquarius. Pretty tough stuff. Carbon nanotubes strung into fibers. Won't do much to stop you from being bludgeoned but it's pretty hard for a blade or a bullet to punch through the cloth. That should do til they change strategies again, eh? And when you have more time with PHRANC you can work up your own color scheme."

 

"Why don't you suit up?" Argyle asks. "Then we can get on the road. I've got some old friends of yours in the car, I'm sure you're eager to get reaquainted."

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