"This was a trap." Finn said unnecessarily.
The blonde man smirked at him. Finn had the impression that had the man worn glasses, he would've pushed them up the bridge of his nose. "Why go to the trouble of trying to catch you on the outside when you were bound to come here sooner or later to rescue your friend?"
He stood up from his desk and approached the edge of the containment field. "But where are my manners? I know you, but you don't know me. I am Fuego Massani, leader of the Blue Suns."
Finn didn't respond. He was keenly aware of the Blackstorm's weight on his back, but even if the singularity could pierce the field, there was no way to use it against Fuego without killing all of them in the process.
"Not to make light of your previous actions, but you must've made someone pretty angry." Fuego said, casually walking around the energy barrier. "The price on your capture is pretty impressive for a thief-turned-repairman. What did you do?"
"You tell me." Finn replied with a glare.
Fuego chuckled. "Now, now, Finn. Don't be a sore loser. As for your transgression, I would have to guess that you've come into contact with an item that the owner would clearly like back."
"I'm not a thief." Finn replied reflexively. The sight of Fuego grinning made him realize that he had made an error.
"Oh? So that wasn't you who led the group that broke into the Polaski Center and drained our credit account? The people you didn't manage to save seemed pretty sure in the end. Devon and Jimmy … good lads. A shame, really."
"You tortured and killed them." Finn replied, anger beginning to swell inside him. Devon and Jimmy had been little more than teenagers at the time.
"A message had to be sent." He told Finn sharply. "If we just let it slide, the others would view us as weak and attack. They'd fail, but that's not the point."
As Fuego took a moment to compose himself. Finn took advantage of the silence to ask, "So who is it? Who put the price on our head?"
"You don't know? Huh. I find that strange. How could you possibly get over a million credits on your head and not know?"
"Quite easily apparently." Finn said dryly.
Fuego frowned at his tone. "You really don't know, do you? I'm not sure if I should think you're lying, or are simply an idiot. Either way, I suppose it doesn't matter."
Tired of the conversation, Finn activated his omni-tool, only for Fuego to tell him, "Don't bother. It only responds to my omni-tool."
Finn tried to hack into the energy field projector anyway, but Fuego was right; it was locked up tight.
"It would be pretty silly to give you such an easy way out.” Fuego commented, a cruel smile on his face. “Of course, let it not be said that I'm not fair."
He stepped back behind his desk and activated his omni-tool. The energy field went down moments later.
Finn started forward immediately, but Jake was faster. Bunching up just behind the desk, he leapt at Fuego only to impact another force-field that ran across the space between the final two bookcases.
As he fell to the ground with a loud yip, Fuego laughed. "Did you truly think I'd really be that foolish?" I may have widened your cage a bit, but don't question that you are still in a cage."
He gestured towards the door, adding, "I've got every member of the Blue Suns from the Gaza District in this building, and several guards watching that door. The moment it opens, they will sound the alert. If you truly think you can take them all on, then by all means, go."
"What about your bounty?" Finn asked him.
He shrugged. "The bounty said nothing about you being alive."
Finn swore inwardly; Fuego had them right where he wanted them. The knowledge that he had fallen so easily for such a simple trap stung Finn far more than he wanted to admit.
Mannon raised her rifle suddenly and fired a single shot from her assault rifle. The shot sped through a narrow gap in the bookshelves, ricochet off the ceiling then off a statue in the back corner, whizzed by Fuego close enough to make him take a swat at it as though it were a fly, and smash into a small console on the back wall.
The field died instantly. Mannon closed the distance between herself and Fuego in a matter of seconds. Fear evident on his once calm face, Fuego reached behind his desk for something we couldn't see.
That was a mistake. Mannon caught Fuego by the hair and banged his head into the book he had been reading. As she pulled him back up, his hand bumped the book and sent it tumbling to the floor.
Mannon looped an arm around Fuego's neck, her assault rifle jabbing into the man's side. Looking at Finn, she nodded firmly.
"Nice shot." He offered weakly, a bit stunned by the rapid turn of events.
She accepted the compliment with a quick nod. "Think they'll shoot through this guy?"
"Maybe." Finn said, rubbing his chin. "Still, he looks like he could stop a few bullets."
Fuego's eyes went wide. He opened his mouth to speak, but all that came out was a squeak.
"Hey, Finn! Aren't you reading this?" Jake nudged the hardbound book that had fallen towards Finn.
Finn picked up the book and smiled when he noticed the title. "'The Crusade of Sir Tirager Vespere, Knight of Justice'. Thanks, Fuego; I lost my copy when your business partners blew up J-27."
Fuego didn't reply, though that may not have been voluntary; Mannon had him in a choke hold after all.
Finn pulled the Blackstorm off of his back. After activating it and checking the power supply, he asked, "So, you guys ready to get out of here?"
Two soldiers were staring at the twin doors that led to Fuego's office.
"Man, this sucks." The first one said.
"Easy, there." The other said calmly. "He wants us here, and here's where we're gonna stay."
After a few moments, the first guard turned to the other, asking, "Do you hear that?"
"That sound! It's like a high-pitched whine that keeps getting louder."
They both slowly turned to the door, no doubt coming to the same conclusion.
As the doors slid open, a massive singularity shot forward at a surprisingly slow pace like a massive black cannonball. The guards were swiftly snatched up and carried along as the singularity continued floating across the corridor, picking up anything loose in the hallway as it passed. A few more Blue Suns made the mistake of sticking their heads out of the nearby rooms, only to get yanked away as well. The now massive singularity hit the far wall and froze there for a few seconds before exploding, sending the goons flying in all directions as it blasted a massive hole in the wall.
"Hell yeah!" Finn shouted, motioning for Mannon and the others to follow him as he ran down the hallway.
Mannon had to move a bit slower because of Fuego, but fortunately, they reached the hole in the wall before anyone showed up to investigate. Just to be safe, Finn shot a singularity upstairs and downstairs. When the singularities exploded, they took most of the nearby stairs with them.
"Hey, Jake!" Finn asked casually. "Think you could get us a ride?"
"No problem!" Jake leapt through the opening, despite the fact that they were at least three floors off the ground.
Turning to face Fuego, Finn asked, "I don't suppose you'd tell me who wants me so bady, would you?"
Mannon loosened her hold on his neck enough for him to speak. "I don't know, I swear I don't know!"
A taxi floated up to the hole in the wall, its door swinging open to reveal Jake at the controls.
"I got him." Finn told Mannon, motioning for her to get inside while keeping the Blackstorm aimed at him.
Mannon shoved the lanky human aside and quickly hurried past Finn.
Fuego stood perfectly still, terror in his eyes as Finn took aim with his Blackstorm. With an evil grin on his face, Finn said, “Well, I guess this is goodbye."
"I'll give you anything you want, Finn; money, weapons, vehicles … you name it, it's yours, just please don't kill me!"
"Kill you?" Finn let out a laugh. "How do you think I keep the Blackstorm singularities from affecting me? It's got a built in shield emitter than keeps it from drawing in anything with five or so feet. It's the explosion you gotta look out for, and I couldn't hit you without blasting myself."
Just as Fuego started to relax, Finn took aim and started charging up a shot. Fuego let out a shriek and threw himself aside. He needn't have bothered; Finn wasn't aiming for him. The singularity shot down the long hallway and into Fuego's office, where it pulled literally thousands of books from their shelves before finally detonating. What little of the books hadn't been immediately vaporized slowly floated down in a million burning fragments.
Horrified, Fuego looked up at Finn, who said, “That was for Jimmy and Devon; two of the finest friends a guy could ask for."
After raising the Blackstorm in a mock salute, Finn hopped into the cab and closed the door behind him.
"Ha!" Jake said, holding out a metal paw which Finn promptly fist-bumped. "Now that was an exit!"
"Are they going to keep chasing us?" Mannon asked worriedly.
Finn let out a chuckle as he and Jake switched places. "Definitely. Strap in, folks!"
The cab zoomed away in the direction of Afterlife like a thing possessed. With Finn at the helm, it wove through the lines of traffic and old apartment complexes until it the Gaza District was behind them. It wasn't long, however, before Finn spotted several ships emblazoned with the symbol of the Blue Suns closing in on them.
"Looks like they got some of those Kodiaks running." Finn said aloud, more to himself than anyone.
"Can you shake them?" Mannon asked him, her face a bit pale.
"I dunno." He replied with a grin. "Let's see if the UT-76 models move faster than the flying bricks back in the Alliance."
Finn pushed the cab as fast as it could go, swerving from side to side randomly to make it harder for the Blue Suns to get a bead on him. They took a few shots at him, but Finn made sure that none of the shots came even close.
As more Kodiaks joined in the hunt, Finn began to have more and more difficulty avoiding fire. A few shots skimmed the top of the cab, but only caused superficial damage.
"We need cover." Finn said grimly. "Hold on, everybody!"
Finn brought the cab into a steep dive into a district he wasn't too familiar with. There were buildings, there was thick traffic, and it was close, so it would have to do.
Six Blue Suns Kodiaks followed behind him, still slowly gaining. There was another vehicle behind them, some kind of heavy unit transport. Finn suspected a mech of some type; the Blue Suns certainly had plenty of them.
"All right." Finn muttered. "Let's see if you can keep up with this."
Finn steepened his dive through the thickest parts of traffic as Mannon and Jake clutched each other in fear as they clipped more than one other vehicle in their path. Purposefully rising up and falling down as abruptly as he could, Finn's course was nothing sort of chaotic, yet luck seemed to be in their favor.
The Blue Suns following him weren't quite as lucky. More than one Kodiak caught the edge of an oncoming car, one taking a direct hit to its engine and falling into the district below as smoke trailed behind it. Another crashed when Finn dove towards the ground and pulled up at the last second, a scant few meters from the surface. He even managed to lose a few of them by sliding through the narrow space between two buildings; the cab received more than a few bangs, but the Kodiaks that followed either smashed into the building, or got stuck between the buildings.
Unfortunately, he couldn't shake them all, and several more had already joined the group behind him, the heavy transport hanging back a safe distance. Glancing to either side, Finn noticed that several had broken off and were trying to flank him on either side. If he didn't do something, they were in serious trouble.
"Jake!" Finn said, moving out of the driver's seat. "Take the controls!"
"What are you going to-" Mannon's eyes went wide as she saw him ready the Blackstorm. "No, Finn, you can't! There are innocent people around here!"
"I know." He said calmly as he reconfigured the heavy weapon. "Don't worry; I'm setting the singularity to quick detonate; it should take care of the vehicles behind us. Jake, get us above the traffic so I don't accidentally suck in anything not Blue Suns."
Once the cab rose above the cloud of traffic, Finn opened the side of the cab and braced himself against the door. Taking aim as best he could while holding the Blackstorm, he launched a singularity at the group tailing them.
Ironically, the altered settings made the singularity all the larger. It hit the first ship, immediately drawing in all ships near it into a cluster and swiftly detonating.
Unfortunately, not all of the ships were fully inside the sphere of detonation; bits of the front-most ship were blasted away by the blast, colliding with the back of the cab.
The impact shook Finn from his position. With a yelp he slid out of the door, the Blackstorm’s strap thankfully catching on something inside the cab. He looked up to find that the something was Ensign Mannon.
"Oh, no you don't!" She said through gritted teeth as she tugged him and the gun back into the cab. "You haven't finished getting us out of this yet!"
"Thanks" He told her gratefully as the door swung shut. "I owe you one."
"You'd better get to repaying that." Jake warned him. "We just lost our main engine."
"Can we get to the ground?" Finn asked, quickly moving to the control seat.
"Oh, we'll be getting to ground one way or another, I think."
Unfortunately, Jake was right; the main engine was completely offline. The emergency thrusters were active, but must've taken some damage as well; they couldn't compensate fully at the speed they were going. Gritting his teeth, Finn said, "Everyone strap in; this isn't going to be pretty!"
It was all Finn could do to avoid traffic as the cab fell. The cab had emergency lights, so most other vehicles took care to give them a wide berth. Soon, they were past the brunt of the traffic and were falling towards the street below. Fortunately, most people on the ground had noticed the problem and had quickly cleared the road.
Finn tried to soften their landing as much as he could by rerouting all remaining power to the engines, but the cab still hit the ground hard enough to jar every bone in Finn's body. The cab scraped along the ground for a few dozen feet before finally sliding to a stop.
After a few moments, Finn breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed in his chair. "Another good landing."
"You call that a good landing?" Mannon asked incredulously.
"Launchpad would." Jake said, sounding a bit shaken.
"Hey, any landing I can walk away from is a good landing." Finn replied as he tried to open the door. The door was jammed, but he managed to get it open with a good kick.
Jake stumbled out of the car and into the street. What few people had stayed to see who was in the car quickly left at the sight of the Blue Suns armor Finn was wearing, leaving the street little more than an empty road of abandoned store fronts.
"You okay, bro?" Finn asked Jake.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Jake replied, his voice quavering slightly. "Are we on the ground yet?"
Grinning, Finn said, "Well, at least we managed to-"
No less than eight Kodiak shuttles landed around the wreckage of the cab. In moments, what seemed like a small army of soldiers were surrounding Finn, Mannon, and Jake.
"Uh oh." Finn muttered. He considered going for the Blackstorm again, but he knew he'd never be fast enough to get them all.
Mannon glanced at Finn, saying, "This doesn't look good."
"We've been in worse."
Finn considered the question for a moment. "Well, we could be in worse one day, right?"
She flashed him a small smile. "Look, if this doesn't work out, I just want you to know I appreciate that you came after me."
"Of course I came after you." Finn told her. "We're family."
One of the Blue Sun soldiers stepped forward, shouting, "Drop your weapons, or we will open fire!"
Jake and Mannon both gave him a nod. Bracing himself, Finn said, "I think not."
The lead soldier's eyes narrowed. As he opened his mouth to no doubt order his troops to fire, the heavy transport landed behind him.
Slowly, the back of the transport fell open, revealing a dark room that was strangely filled with mist. From the confused looks on the faces of the soldiers, Finn realized that they weren't expecting this.
As the figure inside slowly stepped out of the transport, Finn's jaw dropped.
"Bad-assedly; Rock and roll, scum!"
"Darsan?" Mannon whispered, the disbelief in her voice matching Finn's thoughts precisely.
It was Darsan, though they could barely tell; he was almost completely covered in armor, and multiple assault rifles were mounted on both sets of his legs in addition to the several heavy weapons mounted on his back. A glowing visor floated in front of his eyes, no doubt a targeting system for the weapons, but it was the red-velvet pimp hat with a massive blue feather in the brim and a leopard-skin band that edged his appearance over the edge into surrealism.
One of the Blue Suns made the mistake of taking a shot. Almost instantly, all of Darsan's assault rifles opened fire.
Seeing an opportunity, Finn aimed his Blackstorm behind him and sent a group of soldiers flying with a well-placed singularity while Mannon managed to take out a few of the soldiers that had been flanking them. Jake opened fire as well, his buster cannon firing bursts of energy as he rushed at the soldiers, occasionally stunning one with an electrical spark from his monitor.
Darsan continued stomping forward like a living tank, blasting anything in his path to shreds. The aiming system he was using was incredibly precise, allowing him to fire directly around Finn, Mannon, and Jake without hitting them a single time, though that didn't stop the three of them from giving him a wide berth.
When final Blue Sun had fallen and the dust had settled, everyone slowly approached Darsan as his arsenal slid back into their respective standby positions.
"Smug; now that is how you do it." Darsan told them as his visor vanished.
Mannon hugged his arm, saying, "Thank you, Darsan. We never would've gotten out of that without you."
To Finn's surprise, Darsan blushed. "Bashfully; it was nothing. I only wish I had not left you behind."
"You came through in the end." Finn said, patting Darsan's shoulder. "I like your new hat, by the way."
"Delighted; it is a nice hat, isn't it?"
"It's just adorable." Mannon told him, giving him a kiss on the cheek and making his face go even more red.
Jake wagged his tail end happily. "So we made it! We're in the clear, right?"
Finn opened his mouth to respond when a bright spotlight appeared around all of them. Three gunships slowly descended around them. Finn tried to make out any gang signs on the ships, but the light was nearly blinding.
One of the ships landed. After a few moments, a familiar face climbed out.
"Eri!" Finn called out, taking a step forward. A burst of fire from one of the gunships made him quickly step back.
Eri gestured at one of the ships, which quickly backed off. Glancing around at the carnage that surrounded the denizens of J-27, he shook his head and said, "I thought I told you to take the stealthy route, Finn."
Finn shrugged nonchalantly. "I got bored."
"Finn!" Mannon hissed, elbowing him in the ribs. She winced when her elbow hit his armor.
Eri looked at each member of the group, his eyes lingering a bit longer on the heavily armed Darsan. With a sigh, he said, "Come on, all of you."
"Where are we going?" Finn asked suspiciously.
"Straight to Afterlife. Aria wants to talk to all of you, and she's in no mood for a rain check.”