A strange little crossover by Ranger Thorne

It's surprising how quiet an alley can be, even when you're running through it like a bunch of heavily-armed men were after you, which they were. After me, I mean. I can't really blame them, since I just snuck into their little sanctuary and stole one of their most prized possessions.

Of course, the fact that they had stolen it from my employer first doesn't really register with them.

A bullet takes a chip out of the wall as I duck around a corner. The alley comes to a 'T' up ahead and the light is slightly brighter. As I reach it, I come to a halt before slamming into the wall. Breathing deep and slow, I turn to look at the lowlifes that have managed to keep up with me until now. Seeing that I've come to a stop they smile as I smirk and wave at them.

"Hello, boys," I tell them in my best Mae West impression, which I'm told is really, really bad.

The tall skinny one runs the back of one hand over the lip I had split for him earlier as he pulls back the hammer on his gun. It looks from here like he carries a Lancaster .15 caliber the same as I do. He might be stupid but he has good taste in firearms.

"Give us the bag," he orders.

"Take it from my cold dead body why don't you?" I invite him.

Shaking his head, he tells me, "We might put a hole in it."

"Oh." Reaching into my pocket, I pull out a plastic bag with Elvis' last peanut butter and banana sandwich in it. I gently set it aside then stand back up. "Now?"

"Now." Raising his pistol, he and the others open fire.

Like I said, stupid. Why would I be standing there smirking at them if I didn't know something they didn't? Like, for example, the fact that three feet in front of me was a dimensional crossing from one set of physical laws to another.

The bullets come to a halt just across the barrier, but it takes several more volleys before they see what's happened. By then there's several bullets floating right in front of me. I gather them together and make a stack in my left hand. "Boys, boys," I say, "you gotta remember where we are. Guns don't work in every back alley in Cynosure."

"Sword do, Smirk," skinny says as he pulls a nice one out from under his coat.

"Yeah," I agree. "But why would I go in for a sword fight when I can cheat?" There were several confused looks at that. "Watch." I toss the fired rounds at them, then watch as their momentum is restored as they cross back into the dimension they had come from. Skinny gets two rounds in the head as he goes down, along with all but two of the others.

By the time I pick up my cargo and put it into my pocket the two unhurt are charging me with swords drawn. I consider pulling out my pistol and reaching across the barrier, but I'd only have time to get one of them. So, I wisely turn and run.

As I do I find myself thankful for the time I'd spent on the streets running from the slaver-pimps. Cynosure was never an easy city to learn, especially for a non-native like me. But the time on the streets had taught me how the city was laid out and made me tough enough to survive there. People knew that Daria 'Smirk' Morgendorffer was tough and smart enough to get the job done.

Even if it was to steal a peanut butter and banana sandwich.


Coming out of the alley, I see another group of goons approaching from the direction I was planning to go. Turning, I make tracks up the street, hoping I could find a nice place to avoid them. I felt my black cloak billowing behind me as I ran and for a second considered ditching it. But pride is a dreadful thing and I couldn't part with what amounted to part of my 'uniform.' I hadn't worn a uniform before I got drafted into the last Trade War, but now I preferred a constant image.

Black hooded cloak, Green turtleneck, black pants, gloves and boots. Good basic clothing. Oh, and the gun on my right hip and sword on my left. And the bandolier across my chest along with the hidden knives, grenades and other assorted 'tools of the trade.'

The meeting of the Daria Morgendorffer Fashion Statement Fan Club came to an end when I spotted an old abandoned building ahead. It'd give me a chance to ditch them inside or at least to only have to kill them one at a time.

I pulled out my trusty Lancaster as I approached the door. Despite the name, the Lancaster .15 caliber pistol is a nasty piece of work. The cylinder holding eight of the five inch long rounds has a 10 gauge shotgun in the middle. The two long barrels make the Lancaster almost 18 inches long, but worth it. I flipped the switch on the side of the pistol to the shotgun and shot the lock. It didn't give, but the wood was damaged enough to give when I slammed into it.

I was far enough ahead to have my pick of hiding places and opted for hiding in the closet under the stairs. As I waited I replaced the spent shotgun round then checked to make sure there weren't any holes in the wall where they might see me first.

As I expected, they spread out as they came into the house, with most going up the stairs. There was barely enough room, but I pulled up the hood and wrapped my cloak around me well enough that the man who opened the door and peeked in didn't see me plastering myself against the side of the closet. With a grunt he turned to leave just as I sprang forward and pulled him farther into the room. I almost managed to avoid getting any of his blood on my boots as I run my knife into his chest.

I quickly searched him but found only a cheap 9mm and 4 bucks. I did, however, slip a coupon for half off Old Iron Lung Smokes into a pocket. Hey, can I help it if he liked the same cigarettes?

Moving to the door, I peek outside to find two more of the best and brightest Cynosure's underworld has to offer standing at the bottom of the steps. Now I have the choice of either going to see if they have a back door, hiding until they think I've found a back door, or kill everyone in the home. Hmm, or I could just waste these two and make a break for it.

The sound of a squeaky stair causes me to whirl and throw the knife I still had in my hand. Had my aim been true, it would have caught the redheaded man in the chest. But it wasn't, instead hitting him in the throat. Eh, it works. He makes noise as he falls the rest of the way down the stairs, causing me to draw the Lancaster and throw open the door.

Being shot with a Lancaster, I found out years ago, is like being stabbed by a rapier that's attached to the front of a truck going very fast. Only the fancy recoil-controls on the gun keeps it from ripping your hand off. At least that's what a factory-rep told me once.

The two guards are still sliding into the street as I hit the bottom of the stairs and take off running again. I'm around the corner before anyone comes out of the building after me, but I don't stop until I'm almost a mile away.

Feels like twenty.

I wad the coupon up and throw it away.

After taking the time to reload the two spent rounds, I start off toward the Temple of Saint Elvis. Just a few blocks away I spot another group of ruffians waiting for me.

Oh, the fun never ends.

I find a fire escape that's been left down and make my way to the high ground. From here I make it across and look down to see that a group of five is on each street leading to the temple. Stepping back from the edge, I decided to indulge in the one vice that I've cultivated while in Cynosure.

"Got a spare?"

The words spoke volumes, especially since they had come from behind me. Swallowing hard, I held my pack of smokes over my shoulder and waited as one was pulled from the rest. I heard a lighter click and three puffs taken.

"Long time, Jane," I said. "Mind if I light up?"

"You promise not to try anything 'till we're done?"

"And ruin a smoke?" I didn't need to turn to know what I'd see. Jane 'Quickdraw' Lane wore one outfit and one outfit only. Her pressed black shirt was tucked into the tan pants. She had a belt that held a pistol, sword and the usual other items. Her dark brown boots came up to just beneath the ribbed pads sewn into the knees of the pants. She wore dark red gloves that matched the beret perched on top of her dark hair. I could hear her red-painted lips puffing on the cig from behind me as a gust of wind caused her long black coat to rustle just a bit.

We stood like that for a while, with just the background noise of Cynosure and our own puffing. Finally, though, we each tossed the stubs away before we burned our finger and I turned to face her. "Sure you don't want to just stand here and smoke until we get cancer?" I asked.

"No money in it," she pointed out as she winked one of her blue eyes at me. "Besides, I'm due to win for a change."

"Kind of a final win," I told her as I nodded toward the large gun in her hand. "Still, it's sad that you're on the wrong side."

"Funny," she said with a smirk, "from where I'm standing you're the one on the wrong side." She motioned with the weapon. "Wrong side of my gun."

"Actually," I corrected as I raised the small device I'd slipped into my hand as I'd grabbed my lighter, "I was referring to my grenade." Tossing it in her direction I ran for the stairs.

"Daria, you son of a --!" Anything she had to say after that was lost as the concussion blast tossed us around and threw me off of the roof. My momentum carried me across the alley and into another fire escape. Grabbing on, I pulled myself on then made my way to the street.

The confusion caused by an explosion nearby made the rest easy. Pope Tom IV was so pleased that I'd succeeded he immediately blessed me and gave me forgiveness for any wrong I had done while rescuing the artifact. Nice of him, I thought. He even paid me without complaining about it.

The door to the apartment was sticking again, causing me to have to kick the base so it would open after I unlocked it. Making sure it was closed and locked behind me I made a mental note to work on it so it wouldn't unstick so easily. I undid my cloak and tossed it carelessly over the coat already on the table as I stepped into the living room.

"Cute trick, amiga." Jane was in her usual place, the rocking chair in the corner. She'd obviously showered since our encounter, since her hair was still damp.

"Thanks," I replied. Going into the kitchen, I returned with two opened bottles of Old Drek. Handing one to Jane, I slipped into the easy chair I called home with a sigh.

"I take it you can pay your half of the rent this month?" she asked.

"Dropped it off on my way." I closed my eyes for a long moment. "Jane," I finally asked as I peeked over at her, "why do we keep doing this?"

"Guns for hire?" She shrugged. "It's what we do."

"No," I corrected, "work against each other. How many times have we both been to the U of Cyn Hospital because we were working on opposite sides?"

"Hmm, too many, I guess." Pointing the top of her brew at me, she said, "But if we're separate we've got twice the chance at jobs."

"But together we can take jobs that pay twice as much." Now I pointed my bottle at her. "Or, what if we simply tell each other what jobs we have so we don't end up on opposite sides again?"

Jane took a long pull on the bottle as she thought. "You mean we won't be shooting at each other any more?"

"Not professionally, anyway."

Smiling, she leaned back and began to slowly rock. "Well, at least I won't have to worry about being the reason I need a new roommate." Leaning forward, she held out the bottle. "Deal."

We clinked bottles then sat in silence. It lasted fifteen minutes before we started arguing about supper.