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Poor Target

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Feb 3rd, 2018


On the start of a long dark night


And cold, too. 


The woman was running down a bad street in a bad part of town. Wolverton. It bled drugs, it bled guns, it bled blood. And it looked like it would bleed this woman too. She was dressed in bad clothes, a little torn. She was running barefoot, and left a bloody footprint. 


All this, Arrowhawk saw in the dark streets. 


And behind her, a car, black like the night sky, headlights on and blazing full beam, a determined man at the wheel, his eyes fixed on the woman, his car gaining fast. He didn't look intent on running her down. probably. He did look intent on catching her...

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Arrowhawk clattered onto the roof tiles alongside the chase, moving at full tilt, cape flapping behind her as she kept pace at preternatural speed. She'd seen the woman running when staking out a building she suspected to be a front, and when she'd noticed the blood, noticed the car coming after her... well, she'd given pursuit by sheer instinct. 


The driver wanted this woman dead, and she had no idea why, but she was going to stop it. She leapt off the roof, clearing a good 60' of air without a second though, her feet clanging onto the roof of the car. Almost immediately, Arrowhawk felt herself sliding backwards, not immune to gravity. One gauntleted hand planted itself down and smashed through the passenger side window, her fingers gripping the metal roof firmly. "Pull. Over!" she barked.

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"Holy Mother of...Get out the godamn way you idiot!" screamed the Man at the wheel. 


He was in his thirties, maybe early forties, dressed in a black turtle neck and grey trenchcoat. He had stubble, long hair, and kind of grizzled good looks. Whilst he had a tanned skin, his eyes were a most brilliant silver blue, quite hypnotic in the moonlight. 


He slowed a little but not much, and pulled out a pistol he had been keeping by the passanger seat. 


"You don't have a goddamn clue do you? Idiot! You are going to get us all killed...get off the godamn car! I cant see where I'm going! I'm going to lose her!"

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Arrowhawk gritted her teeth and let out a sharp breath. Why did people do this. Why did they always feel the need to test out her patience. She gripped the roof even tighter, and edged forward, nudging herself toward with her feet. Her bow, clasped to her hip, clattered off the car roof as she moved. 


Then she raised a fist and casually shattered the windscreen of the car, peering into the car. Her own eyes blazed blue but one scarcely seen on Earth, an otherworldly piercing glare spiking out from beneath her hood. "I know you're going to lose her. That is why I leapt onto your vehicle.

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If the man thought anything of this threat, he didn't show it. 


"IDIOT!" he shouted. 


"I'M TRYING TO SAVE HER LIFE!" he screamed, almost apoplectic with rage. "Now get off of my goddamn car before I...oh hell!"


He slammed on the breaks. If he was inclined to show any courtesy or concern for the woman on his car and stop her from falling off, he sure as hell didn't show it. 


"I lost her!" he muttered, ignoring Arrowhawk. He gave her a death stare with those moonlit blue silver eyes. 


"If she dies, I'm going to come after you, idiot" he snarled. He held his gun but didn't point it at Arrowhawk. "She's being hunted, scared out of her mind. I was trying to get her out of the city but she got spooked. Now, she is all alone. Going to end up dead. Or worse..." he said, pure contempt in his voice. 



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Osla frowned under the cowl, but the darkness and her domino mask didn't let it show on her expression. Instead she showed her teeth. "And you thought the best way to help a woman fleeing for her life until her feet bled was to chase her down in your car?" She eased her grip on the roof, kneeling on the hood, keeping her eye warily on the gun. "What would you have done had you caught her? Mow her down and throw her inside?"


She fixed her eyes on the man. She felt a little bad for leaping to such conclusions, but that guilt wasn't going to help anyone in the here and now. In any case, this little incident had cost her a potential sting on the Scarpias. "Now, who is hunting her?"

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"Yeah, that was my plan, idiot" replied the man, getting out of the car. "I had it all carefully plotted out, I thought that chasing after her in a car in the middle of the night was the ideal way to get her all calm and collected..."


He looked behind him. 


There was the sound of dogs. 


"I had to improvise" he said, checking his pistol. "I didn't have the luxury of time, or planning. I was about five seconds ahead of the hunters, and now I have lost even that edge thanks to you" he said. "Don't think you are the smart one, here. You just screwed up everything and probably got that woman killed"


"As for who is hunting them. They are good. And we better get in the car..." he suggested. 

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Arrowhawk slid off the car hood and picked up her bow, letting it hang loosely at her side, keeping some vague attention on the driver while she looked off into the darkness. "Five seconds is perhaps two arrows, three if the Fates are with me," she said thoughtfully, not quite not talking to herself. 


She nocked an arrow and pulled the bowstring back to the corner of her mouth, training it towards the sound of the dogs. One eye glanced at the driver. "You can leave if you wish, but I think it would help your friend more to have her pursuit stopped than it would help her to flee a little faster. Don't you?"

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"At this stage, its screwed every way" replied the man. 


He climbed back into the car. 


"You hold them off then. Looks like you have a bow. Very handy against high powered sniper rifles, I am sure" he suggested. "Although you could sink a few arrows into the dogs and I wouldn't weep any tears. Not after seeing what those dogs do..." he said, grimly. 


"Best of luck. Ill be keeping an eye out for you. But the other one is on that poor target..." he said, sadly. 


"I bet she has gone to Shotgun Simon. About her only hope. If you manage to make it out of this with most of your internal organs intact, you can try going that direction. That is, if you want to be helpful for once" he said, and put his fut on the gas, taking off...


The dogs now, they sounded closer. And this was a thin dark street, with crumbling buildings on either side...

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Arrowhawk scanned the scene, seeing the dogs approaching, their handlers not far behind. Her keen night vision also caught the sniper covering them. These were no rank amateurs. But the people they were chasing didn't seem to be professionals. What was going on here? 


She drew in a long, slow breath, gently guiding her arm upwards, calculating for wind and for angles. Then she let go of the arrow, letting it fly, shooting off in the darkness to hopefully bring down the sniper before he could even take aim. Her armour was very resistant to bullets, but it wasn't impenetrable. A sniper rifle would be able to blow a hole clean through her. 

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The arrow sailed through the moonlit sky and snagged the sniper. She could just make out a grunt above. Some curses, and grim determination. 


"Got ya!"


The sniper rifle was silenced, although the dull crack could be heard. Pow!


And his aim was true. He was good. The bullet hit Arrowhawk, and would test that very resilience to bullets...


And meanwhile the dogs ran down the street. Nasty, attack dogs, angry and irritable, they seemed most keen to gnaw and bite, and they were egged on by the pick up truck behind them - its headlights full beam and almost dazzling Arrowhawk. It was difficult to see it properly, but from what she could make out there was one man in the driver seat, and two in the rear, leaning over the roof and carrying - what - crossbows?


"Out the way...now!" one of the men said. 


"Or you'll be crowmeat too!"

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Arrowhawk recoiled as a sniper bullet embedded itself in the armour plating just below her breastbone. She'd been on target, but clearly failed to actually bring the sniper down. And now the men and the dogs were scant feet away, she'd only have time to get off one more shot before they were upon her. 


She drew an arrow from her quiver, the head a roughly hewn geode rather than a metal arrow tip. She nocked it and drew it in one fluid motion, a trail of blue light following behind it as it flew over the dog's heads, missing every single one. It shattered onto the concrete behind them, a huge burst of noise and sound exploding out, like thunder and lightning striking simultaneously in a small Bedlam City alleyway.

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"Whats that? Argh!" screamed one of the men on the back of the pick up, dropping his crossbow to the road where it clattered still. He clutched his ears and tripped over onto his backside, still on the Pick up but quite disorientated. 


Crack! Another dull thud of the sniper above, who seemed to be enjoying himself. 


The Dogs barked furiously - perhaps the explosion of light and sound would have scared off any other dog, but these were furious ones - bred to salivate and kill. And that is exactly what they did, jumping up at Arrowhawk. 


The Pick Up truck went into reverse, and started screaming back down the street, colliding into trash and brick, scraping both sides and clipping one mirror clean off. Credit to the driver, he managed to keep it reasonably straight. 


"Damn it! Wheres the sniper?" yelled one of the men on the back of the pick up, firing a crossbow bolt quite wide. 

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Osla let out a yell of pain and rage, a high calibre round punching a hole clean through one of the shoulder joints in her armour. She staggered back, blood trickling down the front of the armour and across her emblem. Dogs leaped at her snarling, and for a moment, all she could do was fend them off, teeth sinking into the armour but not reaching skin underneath. 


Eventually, she bellowed "ENOUGH!", lashing out with her bow in one hand and just her fist in the other. She hurled two dogs against the wall, lifting them with her bow's haft and flinging them like they were golf balls. A third one, teeth clinging to her leg, was punched hard in the head, knocking it reeling to the floor. She took a couple of springing steps forward, shoulder aching with every little movement, as she leapt atop the fourth dog, springboarding off it to land on the roof, cape over her. To observers, it looked like she'd disappeared on landing. Instead, she'd activated the enchantment of Jormungandr, fading into the night air while she caught her breath, letting out a long ragged breath of pain.

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Now, up close (ish), she could see the sniper. He was a large man, over six foot, and broad shouldered. He looked strong and grizzled, dressed in a long overcoat and wearing body armour. He would probably be around fifty, at a guess. An experienced man, without any apparent loss of vitality. 


Most interesting was his eyes - although they could not be seen. He appeared to have a pair of thick high tech sunglasses on - which was pretty odd given the dim light here. Around the sunglasses a network of nasty scars could be seen. 


He pointed his gun casually in the direction of Arrowhawk, not quite on target, but not quite. He seemed not to see Arrowhawk. 




But Arrowhawk could see the way his rifle seemed to track her....


He could see her!

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Arrowhawk let out a second long ragged breath, trying to keep down the taste of bile in her mouth. It wasn't going to be a fatal injury, but it was certainly going to smart for a couple of weeks. Keeping the cloak's magic active long enough to keep the man down below in the alley from spotting her, she swiftly drew another geode-tipped arrow and drew a bead. Being able to see her even through the cloak's enchantment wasn't going to last long, especially when he had those goggles on.


Coming up on her haunches, she fired the arrow, letting it detonate, the noise and light of it noticeable in a block radius. Perhaps all this would attract more hunters, if a small miracle happened, maybe even the authorities would arrive. In the moment that didn't matter, as Osla used the temporary distraction to rush the shooter, becoming visible again as she crossed the rooftop in a blur.

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The flash seemed not to worry the man at all. He just grinned. 


"Those little tricks wont help" he said, voice deep and ridden with gravel. "I got my eyes burned out five years ago, and got something else welded in place. Don't try blinding a man without eyes..."


He backed off himself...slowly and carefully, until his boots hit the edge of the building. He was perhaps only ten or twenty feet away. 


He took a look down. Thirty feet to the street. 


"I'm still paying off the debt for them. So I gotta do what I gotta do..." he explained, grimly, before firing off another round into Arrowhawk...

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Arrowhawk reacted quickly as the man hefted his gun, crossing the distance fast and bringing her hands up to slap the barrel down and to the right... just in time for it to fire. The bullet would have missed had she been a millisecond quicker, but as it was, the shot grazed her side, carving a deep rivulet through one of the interlocking plates, and even more painfully a deep line along her side. 


She went to come up and strike her assailant, but found one her legs had buckled under her as she fought to avoid keeling over. The edges of her vision were wavering, and she could taste vomit in her throat from the level of pain she was in. Arrowhawk glared up at the gunman with her piercing blue eyes as she all too slowly forced herself to get up, to keep moving.

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The Sniper kept his rifle up but didn't fire again. Yet. 


"You got guts. Most people stay down when shot. I put at least two slugs in you" he said, voice soft low and raspy. "I don't mind killing, but I got respect for someone like you" he explained. 


"My job is just to clear the path. Protect the hunters. That's what I get paid for. Dirty business, but I don't mind gettin' dirty" he snarled. "Better than me moping around when I lost my eyes. But I got up and dragged myself out of the mess I was in. Bit like you..."


He glanced over at the pick up truck that was scraping away down the street. 


"I done my job. So I ain't gonna kill you. Just stay out of my way. If you can do that, I wont be putting a third round in you..."

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Arrowhawk kept her gaze level, but paused for a second. The battle lust was ringing in her ears, but so was blood loss and an incredible amount of pain. She settled on sneering at the gunman, bow held parallel with the ground, poised and ready to strike if he went to pull the trigger. She wasn't sure she'd be able to evade, or withstand a third shot, but she wasn't going to roll over and surrender. "You hit me three times. This would be the fourth shot. Third time lucky has ceased to apply," she managed through gritted teeth, her voice harsh and pained.


"Let us make a bargain. I will let you walk away if you tell me what on Hel's blighted breath is going on here. Who are the hunters and who are they hunting? I have no quarrel with you unless you foolishly press one." If the man was any judge, he'd be able to tell she wasn't bluffing.

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"Don't push your luck. You are bleeding. I can see it. I can practically smell it" he said, apparently confidently. The gun didn't move, and neither did he. 


"You don't let me do anything. I do what I want, and I will blow your brains away if you get in my way. We aren't doing a deal" he continued, confidently. "I am going to walk away from here, and you can either try and stop me, or you can walk away too. It doesn't bother me either way. My bullets come out of expenses" he said with a cruel smile. 


"The people I work for. They like hunting humans. Takes money to do that, and some spite. I killed before, and no doubt Ill kill again. But I do it for money, not sport" explained the Sniper. 


"Now, go and bleed somewhere else. I'm going to get back to protecting those rich kids and making them feel tough. The idiots..."

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Arrowhawk rolled her eyes behind her mask. "So petty mortal men with the urge to kill but without the stomach to actually do it on their own merit or for any cause. Excellent. Just what I'd like to be doing with my evening." She gritted her teeth and thought for a moment. "You know, I think it'd be best if I just stopped you."


She lunged forward and upwards, trying to get as much of her body underneath the long barrel of the gun as possible before rearing up, swiping upwards with her bow. A solid blow to the bottom of the chin would suffice to even the odds in this combat.

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Arrowhawk missed the chin but hit the shoulder. The man might have been fifty but he wasn't slow, even if Arrowhawk was faster. He grunted and moved to the left a little. 


"That all you got?" he said, bluntly. 


He was, however, in a difficult situation. Up against the side of the rooftop with no escape route, and a sniper rifle in his hands that wasn't much use this close. 


He dropped it and pulled out a knife instead. 


"Been a long while since I had to gut someone up close" he explained. But he wasn't quite so confident now. 


Even if he wasn't confident, he had pride. Steely, diamond hard pride. This wasn't some punk Arrowhawk could intimidate or expect to walk away. His previous gesture had been one of respect for Arrowhawk, not his own fear. 


He slashed at her. He was able, and strong, but whilst he was clearly a crack shot, he was not so skilled up close. 


"The interesting thing about these implants" he said, coldly "is that they record everything. So even if you tie me up, arrest me, knock me out..."


He grinned coldly. 


"I still have footage of you shooting at me first...."

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"You also have footage of you assisting some quite wealthy people in blood sports," Arrowhawk pointed out, casually reaching out with one hand. "While using a high powered rifle. So you'd have a suspicious missing  number of hours immediately prior to me shooting at you."  She shoved the man to the side, puffing herself up to her full height, glaring down at him with bright blue eyes. "A lot of effort just to get a recording of a known mercenary wandering around a city with high powered weaponry."


She lashed out at the side of the sniper's head in a fast brutal blow. "Don't try to blackmail me with this. I don't know what's worse, the foolishness or the cowardice."

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The bow clocked him on the side of the head.


"Its not about foolishness...or cowardice....it just about guts...." he muttered, before losing his footing. 


The sniper's knife fell out of his limp hand, and he fell back, out cold. It was almost in slow motion, his fall. But there was still a very nasty crack and thud as he landed, first on a trash dumpster, then on the street. There was blood, and there was bones. Possibly there was more, one couldn't tell from this height in this light. 


And it was a mercy he was out cold when he landed. 



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