Outside, the sun had set and Randall attacked the ghoul on the Penthouse floor of the Lucky 38.
The ghoul went for his pistol but Randall was quick, leaping for the old ghoul and kicking him in the center of his chest. Up here on the second level of the Penthouse, a railing was behind the ghoul and he went over it. Randall dashed down the stairs, towards the center console, as the Securitrons in the room came alive, eager to kill the intruder.
He pulled out the device Shrike had given him—a circular disk with pronged feet on one side—and slapped onto the side of the console. The disk immediately began to spin and, as it did so, the Securitrons stopped, their single wheels spinning in place.
“Fuck yeah.” Randall thumped his chest.
Randall watched as the overhead lights dinked-off, one-by-one, shrouding the room in complete darkness.
“Hey!” The ghoul shouted from somewhere in the Penthouse. “Who turned off the lights?”
Randall reached up and pulled his goggles back onto his forehead and suddenly the dark room grew bright to his light-sensitive eyes. Regular day light, even flashlights, hurt Randall’s naked retinas. If anyone else were to wear his goggles, it’d be like they were completely blacked out. And that was because they basically were. He needed the barest smidgen of light to see. It made the dark his greatest ally.
And just now, all the lights in the Lucky 38 had gone off.
The ghoul wandered into view, revolver out. He was waving his weapon around widely, searching for noise or a moving shadow. Randall slunk towards him.
The Corvega rolled to a stop in North Vegas Square. Josey and Cass stepped out of it, scanning the rubble strewn environment. Not many buildings were left standing.
“Where you think she’s hiding?” Josey wondered, looking up the building next to him, a high rise the denizens of New Vegas had dubbed ‘the Gray.’
“She’s a coward.” Cass sneered. “We’ll find her the last place we expect.”
A head poked out over the lip of the roof and looked down at Josey from the top of the Gray. He frowned.
“Cass, someone’s up there.” He said, pointing. Cass looked up and they both watched in disbelief as the person jumped off the side of the building. Halfway down Josey recognized her.
“Move!” He shouted, diving aside, as Shrike crashed into the roof of the Corvega, squashing the vehicle beneath her with a deafening crack. Josey shielded his head as the windows shattered and glass rained down on him.
Shrike stood up from center of the wreckage. The car looked more like a boulder had landed on it than a five foot, hundred and ten pound woman.
“Josey Wales.” Shrike hopped down from the car, towards Josey. She snagged the door by its shattered window and tore it off its hinges. “You showed.”
“Didn’t give me much of a choice.” He said, standing up slowly. He shrugged his rifle off his back, into his hands.
“No, I didn’t.” Shrike agreed.
Josey raised his rifle and opened fire, as Shrike swung the car door at him. The bullet took Shrike in the chest, but that was all he got off as the door wacked him in the chest, sending him flying backwards.
Now, ordinarily, Josey reckoned he’d be dead within the next second, except he had two things in favor: his armor and his own cybernetic enhancements. Nothing as rigorous as Shrike had, launching her from human to superhuman, but light augmentations acquired from a life of travel and injuries. In the Big Empty, when captured by the Think Tank, they reinforced his spine, chest cavity, and skull. So, when he collided with the hard, concrete wall of the Gray, instead of snapping his neck or ended up brained, he felt only a dull thump.
Josey hurried to his feet to watch as Shrike launched the car door at Cass, who was now only managing to stand and then quickly ducked behind the squashed Corvega once she saw a car door flying for her head.
“Cass!” Josey shouted. She looked up at him from the ground, shielding her head with her arms, machine gun pinned beneath her. “Get inside!”
Cass picked up her weapon and took off running as Shrike approached. The Corvega sat between her and Josey and she kicked it aside. The car skidded down the street, throwing up a shower of sparks behind it. Josey’s bullet, the one shot he’d got off, was embedded in the breastplate of Shrike’s armor. It’d hardly penetrated.
Josey had a sinking sensation he’d grossly miscalculated.
“She won’t get far.” Shrike promised Josey.
“You ain’t gonna get a chance to hurt her.” He took aim at her face but Shrike seized the gun barrel with casual ease, twisting it aside. She shoved her weight against the weapon, striking Josey in the chest, before jerking it from his grasp. She broke the rifle over her knee and tossed the two pieces aside.
“Nice try.” She smirked. She grabbed him by the mask of his helmet and lifted him from the ground. Josey bit down hard as his neck hyperextended, the pain only doubling as she smacked him against the side of the Gray. Shrike held Josey up by his head with one hand, pinning him to the building. She didn’t even seem to be exerting herself.
“It was a good effort.” Shrike said, tightening her grip. Her fingers rent the metal of Josey’s helmet like it was puddy. He felt it tighten against his face. “But nothing could have stopped me.”
Josey tried to tell her what he thought of that but he found he wasn’t able to presently move his mouth and it only came out as a snarl.
“Because after what you cost me—” In one smooth motion, Josey drew his revolver from inside his duster, pressed the barrel into Shrike’s neck, and squeezed the trigger. Whatever armor lay below Shrike’s skin wasn’t able to deflect the high caliber round and Josey was rewarded with a spray of blood and asphalt beneath his boots.
Shrike staggered away, holding her throat—half of which was missing. Josey shot her again, firing quickly from the hip, this time in the knee, then the stomach, the stomach again. He aimed for where the armor didn’t cover, shooting chunks of flesh out of the woman.
Shrike bent over, about to fall. Josey looked down the barrel of his revolver and shot Shrike in the head. She collapsed to a knee.
Josey strode towards her. With deft movements of his hand he removed the spent shells from his revolver, filling it with fresh rounds from his bandolier, and faltered as Shrike unsteadily stood. Josey watched the bullets wiggle their way free of Shrike’s skin and fall to the pavement. She stretched her neck and felt at where her esophagus had been pulverized.
“That hurt.” Shrike noted. Turning back towards Josey, she lifted her gauntlet towards him. He did the only thing he could do. He ran.
Randall dragged Raul with him through the building. The elevator had been shut down along with the lights by Shrike’s device, so he had to make do with walking.
Raul followed Randall, definitely against his will, as he pulled along by the knife blade embedded in his shoulder.
“Can’t you cut an old man a break?” Raul groaned. He’d stopped trying to pry the knife loose once Randall had tied his hands together and kicked him in the head a few times.
“No can do, brother. Gotta kill all of you.” Randall shrugged. “Sucks to be you.”
In the Cocktail Lounge, among the many set tables, Randall heard voices.
“Raul?” A man, followed by a second.
“Raul?” Slurred, deep. Super mutant.
The ghoul begin to shout.
“Here! Watch it, there’s a guy! He stabs!”
Randall tore his knife free, eliciting a pained shout from Raul, and dashed away as a man in a suit of power armor stomped up, followed closely by a Nightkin.
Randall frowned. Looked like the fun was over. He had to call in the big guns. Leaving them, he retreated back towards the stairwell, planning to climb the Lucky 38 once again.
Josey slammed the doors shut behind himself and shoved a nearby couch across the way.
Cass was inside. She had her gun trained on the door and had nearly blown Josey’s head off when he’d sprinted in.
“Are you alright?” Cass asked, noticing the current state of his head, in that it seemed squashed inside the dented helmet.
Josey undid his helmet’s strap and pried it off his head. The air was cool on his skin and his hair stuck up, damp and matted. He’d been sweating hard. “Shrike’s coming.” He panted, tossing the helmet aside.
“We need to move. Now.”
Cass didn’t waste words and they made for the stairs as the entrance was blown in behind them, the doors turned to splinters and the couch turned to stuffing by a shockwave from Shrike’s glove.
A shockwave slammed into the wall behind Josey’s head just before he made it into the stairwell and took the steps three at a time. He didn’t dare look behind himself.
Cass was at the top of the stairs. “We need to split up, she can only chase one of us.” Josey whispered, already winded. Long gone were the days that he could spent hours walking the desert. “I go one way, you the other. Whoever she doesn’t go after loops back and gets the drop on her.”
Cass only nodded, taking his orders at face value. Josey’s quick thinking had gotten them through situations like this before. He knew she’d trust him to do it again.
They each went a different direction down the hall. Josey watched Cass’ back until she disappeared. Then he took up position as far as he could from the stairwell with it still being visible and aimed his revolver at it. He’d only lied to Cass a little bit. She’d have protested if she knew he’d make himself the bait.
Shrike appeared at the top of the stairs and Josey opened fired.
Blue, brilliant, three-dimensional images spilled from Shrike. Shapes, people. Holograms filled the corridor, blocking Josey’s view of Shrike, and began to make their way towards Josey. He backed away, pistol raised.
“This ain’t gonna go how you think it will, Shrike.” Josey called into the swarm of holograms. “Whole lotta people tried to put me in the dirt. Disappointed them all.”
“I don’t handle disappointment well.” Shrike’s voice replied. He wasn’t able to place its location. “I’ve waited nine years for this, Josey. Spent all that time preparing for this. Words won’t save you.”
Josey’s back hit the end of the hallway.
“Nothing will.” Shrike emerged from the holograms, foot extended in a flying heel kick. Josey fired a single shot, missed, and then rolled out of the way. Shrike hit the fall feet first and back flipped off it, landing in a combat stance. Josey lost a precious second by just stopping and staring dumbly at the display, but recovered and once again turned to run. The hallway continued on his left and he booked it. He passed by several rooms, once sleeping quarters by the looks of them, but now abandoned.
An invisible shockwave slammed into Josey’s back, knocking him off his feet, but Shrike wasn’t the only gymnastics-capable one, and he managed to tumble into a roll that got him back up and moving without much time lost.
He ran, coming across another flight of stairs. Josey ascended it as fast as was humanely possible. He fired several blind shots behind himself before reaching the top. This was the third floor, the only thing above him was the roof. He was running out of places to run and Shrike wasn’t getting any weaker.
Josey tried to think out a possible strategy, something he could use to his advantage. It was nighttime out, but the building wasn’t dark—electric lighting kept it so. This building had power.
Josey moved quickly, searching for a fuse box. He ran his hand along the walls, threw open doors. This floor was also full of former sleeping quarters as well and Josey found a utility closet that had been converted into a bedroom. The closet’s former identity was obvious from the exposed wires that came out of the ceiling and led into the room.
He darted inside, quietly closing the door behind himself. A single bed took up much of the room, although its occupant had deemed there was space for a metal cabinet turned wardrobe, wooden chest, and a dining table with a single chair. Josey wondered where the building’s inhabitants were. Had Shrike killed them all?
There was no time to dwell on that now. The wire converged behind the wardrobe. Josey pushed the wardrobe aside as quietly as he could and spotted the fuse box. He flicked one switch on it then paused, thinking better, and flicked a second—the lights in the utility closet turned off. With the room now dark he stood behind the door and waited. The first switch had turned off a light in the hallway. It would alert Shrike and she’d come looking for the source of the electricity much as Josey had.
It wasn’t much later Shrike pushed the door open and stepped into the room. Josey didn’t hesitate. He raised his revolver and shot her point blank in the back of the head.
Josey didn’t know what mistake he’d made, if Shrike had heard him, seen his reflection, or something equally ridiculous, but in the instant before he fired she threw herself to the floor. The bullet missed and cracked into far wall.
But Josey wasn’t out of ideas—he threw himself against the side of the wardrobe, grunting with effort, pushing for all his was worth, and managed to topple it onto Shrike. She turned towards it and raised her hands to catch it, but it was too little too late. The wardrobe fell, trapping her beneath it. No matter how strong she was, without leverage she was incapable of lifting anything
Josey moved frantically as his patchwork plan came together, reaching for the wiring that hung from the ceiling. He shoved his revolver into its holster and tore the wiring free with gloved hands, rapidly trying to get enough length loose so that he could connect it to the metal wardrobe that had pinned Shrike.
He heard the edges of the wardrobe drag on the floor behind him as Shrike began to push the heavy piece of furniture off her. Josey tore the wiring free and whirled towards the wardrobe, holding the frayed wiring out in front of him like a cross to ward off evil.
Shrike eyes darted between him and wiring and she grit her teeth against whatever pain she was experience and shoved. The wardrobe did not rise much, only an inch or two, but it was enough for Shrike to free her arm. Josey lowered the wiring to the wardrobe just as a shockwave rose to meet him, launching the Courier back. The wiring swung away, suspended from the ceiling over Shrike.
Josey hit the opposite wall hard. Without his helmet to protect him he cracked his head against it and fell to the floor seeing double.
Shrike had almost slid free of the wardrobe and in one last ditch effort Josey scurried across the floor on his stomach, desperately reaching for the wire. He closed a hand around it, but Shrike was free. She grabbed higher up and with all her strength tore the wire completely from the ceiling and pressed the exposed circuit into the side of Josey’s face.
Randall emerged into the Presidential Suite and made his way to the master bedroom of the place. The Courier’s room.
“Lotta good toys in here.” Randall murmured. But there was one in particular Shrike wanted.
He took his time picking the locks on the weapons’ crates. Once inside, though, he was disappointed. Not really, the shit in there as nice, but it wasn’t the shit Shrike wanted. He pulled open several more wardrobes, a few drawers, before coming to the room’s desk. He pulled the desk drawer open and pulled out a strange looking device—something that belonged in a science fiction movie. Maybe an alien’s gun. Or a shrink ray.
It was the “transportalponder.” Stupidest fucking name ever, but Shrike told Randall it made people teleport. Was how the Courier got back and forth between the Mojave and the Big Empty. Was how he could get to others places, just chose not to.
Randall unscrewed the bulb at the front of the ‘gun’ and tossed it aside. He pulled out the one Shrike had given him and screwed it in in its place.
“Inside help.” He murmured. “I get it.”
He pulled the trigger.
The resulting surge of electricity sent every nerve ending in his body on fire. He would’ve screamed but his muscles had all locked up and he bit down hard on his own tongue, drawing blood. Not for the first time today he was thrown into a wall, smoking like he’d been set on fire, feeling spit dribble out of his mouth. He hit the floor with a thump and was still.
Shrike ran a hand through her hair, smoothing it out, and approached the prone Courier.
She grabbed Josey by the collar of his duster and turned him over, seized his jaw, turned his face towards her so that she could see if he was still alive. He was. And conscious.
“Only one man has ever gotten that close to killing me.” Shrike said. “I promised myself no one would again.”
She gripped the top Josey’s armor and dragged him by it, out into the hall.
“Without these implants I’d be dead. I got old.”
They ascended the stairs, up the roof. In the distant, they could see Vegas all a light. Josey stirred, groaning. He feebly pulled at Shrike’s hand. It was like trying to wrestle concrete.
Shrike walked to the edge of the roof of the roof and tossed Josey at her feet. His arm dangled off the lip of the roof, over a forty foot drop.
“Wales?” Shrike crouched over him. “Can you hear me?”
He tried to lift his head to glare at her. He got about halfway and then gave up.
“You can. Good. Do you want to know why I did this to you?”
“Yes.” Shrike conceded. “I’m a monster. I’ve done… unforgivable things. Things I wish I could take back. My whole life has been death. I’ve killed for money, for my country. Sometimes for myself. Not everyone I killed deserved it. Some of them did. You certainly do. But I’ve never killed for the sake of killing, as you might believe. Only ever with purpose.”
Josey shook his head. “Liar.”
Shrike frowned at him.
“Killed… a child… no purpose in that… s-senseless.”
Shrike threw back her head and laughed. It was a sound of pure, genuine amusement. Josey was horrified by it.
“You believed that? Where’d you hear it? The NCR? Your A.I.?” She smirked. “Randall?”
Josey said nothing and Shrike continued.
“I grew up in a family that loved me, Josey.” Shrike said, sounding candid. She looked out at Vegas. “And I loved them. I knew I’d do anything to prove that love, even though it was never asked of me. Among them was my younger brother, who I loved the most. But he created problems. Picked fights. And one day, in one of these fights, there was an accident. A child wound up dead, by my brother’s hands. He was so young, much more so than me. It would destroy his life. And there was my opportunity to prove what I had always known and felt.”
Shrike smiled, a sad, nostalgic expression. “I told people the child killer was me. And I was right—it destroyed my life. I suffered things no woman should have to suffer. Was made to do things no woman should have to do. I lived my life ostracized, alone. Hated. I was a disgusting curiosity. Someone who had murdered a child and then gone on to pursue a life of killing. But you know what gave it purpose? What gave meaning to everything I had endured? That my brother was alive. Was living of his choice, a choice protected by me. He was the one thing that made my miserable existence worth it.”
Shrike’s gaze settled on Josey. “And then you killed him.”
Josey had listened to her story enraptured by it, finally getting the answers to his questions. But he still had one more. “Who?”
“Does it matter?” Shrike asked. “You won’t care. It won’t ease my pain, or yours. You’ll justify why you did it. The who doesn’t matter. With a single bullet you invalidated everything I’d ever done. ”
She stood up. “What matters is that you understand why. Purpose, Josey. Yours is Vegas. Mine was my brother. You killed him. It’s only fair you get the same treatment.”
She grabbed him by the flaps of his duster and held him out over the edge. Josey’s head lulled, still weak from the shock, but he could see clearly enough. Peeking out of the stairwell was Cass’ head.
“But before I kill Vegas, I still need to finish with you.” Shrike said. Josey looked down. He high up. Probably high enough that it was reasonable to suspect he wouldn’t survive the fall. But Cass was here now, waiting for her moment. He needed to stall.
“And after that? What’ll you do? Walk away from it all?”
Shrike shook head. “No. There are others like you. Legends of the wastes who think themselves superior to the rest of us. I’ll find them, kill them too. No one deserves the kind of power you people wield.”
Josey cracked the widest shit-eating grin he reckoned Shrike had ever seen. “You arrogant bitch.”
Shrike grip slipped, nearly dropping him in her surprise. “What?”
“This is it? Best you can do? I been shot in the head, had my heart and brain cut out, experimented on, poisoned, enslaved, and nuked. I walked the Divide, cracked the Sierra Madra, conquered Nevada. I killed Caesar in the heart of his own fucking fortress. You think a forty foot drop, a little electricity, and some punches is gonna do the trick? You ain’t near my level.”
“You’ll feel differently down on pavement.” Shrike said.
“Coward. Ain’t even gonna do it yourself.”
Shrike hesitated and it apparently had been the moment Cass was waiting for.
“Shrike!” The assassin looked over her shoulder and Josey looked past her.
Cass’ machine gun sat top of the stairs, bipod unfolded, her eye pressed to the sights. She squeezed the trigger.
The machine gun spat out ten rounds a second, shredding Shrike’s armor and the flesh beneath. She dropped Josey and he cried out, managing to raise his hand at the last moment and snag the edge of the roof. Above him Shrike staggered to the roof’s end, bleeding from numerous gun wounds, and fell over side.
Josey watched her tumble through the air and hit the pavement below, limbs splayed.
“Jose!” Cass’ face appeared above him and she reached down. He swung his free arm up. She grabbed hold of his hand and pulled as he tried to his best to kick his way up, and gradually she pulled him back onto the roof. Josey’s inertia transitioned from vertical to horizontal and he came spilling over the side, into Cass.
“You alright?” She asked, laying a hand on his face.
“Been better.” He smiled, terse. “The hell took you so long?”
“I got lost. Place is a maze.”
They shared a smile before Cass quickly composed herself and they awkwardly separated. They shuffled to the edge of the Gray and peered over it. Down below, Shrike appeared to be moving, joints popping back into their proper places.
“Come on! Won’t you just die?” Cass shouted down at her.
“Ain’t gonna beat her here.” Josey said. “We need to run. Now, ‘fore she’s back on her feet.”
“Whoa!” Someone spoke behind them. Both Cass and Josey turned around to come face to face with Randall Clark. He was dropping his goggles back over his eyes.
“Randall?” Josey stated the obvious, incredulous. “What… where did you come from?”
Randall grinned at them and held up the device in his hand. “Look familiar?”
Josey glanced from Randall to what he held. The Big Mountain Transportalponder. “You…” Josey slowly pieced together what was going on. “You’re working with Shrike.”
Randall snapped his fingers at Josey. “Got it.”
“This whole time.”
He snapped them again. “No doubt.”
Josey’s confusion turned to sudden anger. “Doc Mitchell… Dean… Sarah… Shrike doesn’t use knives.”
“Guilty, brother.” Randall stuck the portal-gun in the back of his pants. “’Cept the girl. Shrike did that herself.” Randall frowned. “Where is she? You’re supposed to be dead.”
“She took a long walk off a short ledge.” Cass said, nodding to the edge of the roof.
Randall walked past the pair of them, uncaring to the rage plain on Josey’s face. He looked down at the limp form of Shrike.
“Ah, man.” Randall bit his lip and looked genuinely angry. “I needed her.”
“Bought to get a whole lot closer.” Josey growled, drawing his revolver. His limp hand fudged the draw and he only succeeded in knocking his own weapon to the ground as Randal looked on in amusement.
“Good stuff.” Randall grunted, going over to take Josey’s revolver. “Needs practice.” He bent down to pick it up. Cass’ set her pistol against the side of his head.
“I’d think twice before you do that.” Randall warned her, growing very still. "I don't like people pointing those things at me."
She pressed the barrel of the pistol into his temple. “Stand up. Slow.”
Randall grinned disarmingly and did as she asked, holding his hands up by his head. “Easy, little lady. Ain’t doing anything.”
“You killed Dean, Doc. Lied to us. Might as well have killed Sarah.”
“Didn’t want to.” Randall said. “She made me.”
“Why? What’s she got on you, Randall?”
He smiled, setting his hands behind his head. “Wish I knew that myself.” He whipped the goggles off his head and swung them, knocking the pistol away from him.
He dove for Cass, eye closed, before she could take aim again. He grabbed her wrist, pinning her shooting arm to her side, and punched her in the side of the head, hard enough to make a man Randall’s size pass out. Cass sagged, going limp. Randall let his grip slacken, thinking her finished.
“Cass!” Josey cried, trying to get to his feet. His legs were about as sturdy as wet noodles.
“Ain’t gonna kill her.” Randall said, letting her go. He pulled his goggles back on. “But can’t have anybody shooting me.” Cass had been playing possum, however, and the instant she was free it was like a jolt of electricity had gone through her (a feeling Josey knew well). Randall sidestepped as she fired off two shots at him and then rolled to avoid the third she sent towards his leg, trying to slow him down.
His hands passed over his sheaths mid-roll, Cass’ pistol tracked him, and as he sprung to his feet Cass faced him, pistol ready. A single shot ran out and she froze. Slowly, the pistol slipped from her fingers and Randall slid his knives out of her back. She fell first to a knee and then onto her stomach
Josey screamed her name, but it only came out as a wordless howl.
“I warned you.” Randall spat. “Goddamnit. I fucking warned you.”
He stuck his daggers back into their sheaths and fired the portal-gun again. He vanished without so much as a flash of light.
“Cass.” Josey crawled towards her, setting his elbows in the gathering pool of blood. “Please. Be alright…” He murmured. “Please.”
He forced himself into a sitting position and pulled her onto his lap. He looked at the twin wounds, mirrored in her sides. The knives had found their way perfectly into the gaps of her armor. Undoubtedly fatal—both arteries had been cut, several organs ruptured. Death was guaranteed shortly.
“Jesus.” He glanced away and stuck a thumb into his mouth to bite down on.
“Josey.” She beckoned him, weakly. “Is it bad?”
He struggled to find words.
“Yeah, it’s bad.” She decided.
“It’s alright, Blondie.” She said. “Just gonna rest, is all. Nothing more than that.”
“Did it all for you. Left Sarah, Vegas…” He tried to put meaning into what he was saying what wasn’t able to.
“I know.” She said, halfway way between a consoling smile and a pained grimace. Her voice grew fainter. “Always knew.”
Josey tucked his chin into his chest and closed his eyes.
Somewhere in the distance, there was the sound of blades chopping the air.
Shrike popped her arm back into place, rolled it a few times to make sure it still worked.
“Thought you were ghosted back there.” Randall said. He sat on Josey’s desk.
“It takes more than that to kill me.” Shrike said. “Much more.” She held out her hand. “The portal-gun.”
Randall tossed it to her. “See why you wanted that thing. Useful.”
“More than you know.” Shrike said. “Where are they?”
“They’re all in the penthouse.” Randall said. “Planning how to deal with me. They ain't expecting you.”
Shrike nodded and then vanished.
The penthouse was as dark as the rest of the Lucky 38. The Courier’s companions had set electric lanterns out on their conference table.
The 1st recon sniper, Boone, was giving orders.
“Arcade,” he spoke to the man in the Enclave power armor, “you’re going to go down to the basement, try to reset the power. Lily, you and Raul are going to search the building for Randall. I’m going to stay here and try to get Yes Man back online.”
The lights abruptly blazed to life, momentarily blinding everyone in the room. When their eyes adjusted, someone new was standing at the head of the coffee table.
She was not a large woman. She wore a suit of black and white armor. A high-tec, glowing contraption surrounded her left hand, she wore a disrupter glove on her right. A burn scar marred one side of her face. They didn’t have to guess who she was.
“Shrike!” Arcade shouted, and she jumped over the conference table, at Raul, who was drawing his revolver. She seized his head, lifted him from the ground. He dropped his revolver to pry at her hands and began to scream.
Shrike’s squeezed and with a sound like a balloon popping, her palms came together. Raul's headless body fell aside and she faced them, splattered by gore.
The Nightkin screamed and launched itself at her, pulling a massive sword made from a Vertibird’s blade off its back. Shrike bowed underneath the first swing of the sword, turned aside as the Nightkin obliterated the floor next to her in an overhead chop. The Nightkin raised up the sword a third time and brought it down at Shrike’s head. A shockwave projected from Shrike’s glove to slow the blade and she caught it.
The Nightkin leaned into the sword, trying to force it down, and then shouting in surprise and dismay as this tiny, thin human began to turn it's weapon back towards it.
The Nightkin whimpered once, muscled trembling, and at the apex of the struggle, when the Nightkin's strength failed, Shrike ripped the sword from the Nightkin’s grip, spun, and rammed it through the mutant’s stomach. It took a half step back, and Shrike kicked the pommel of the blade, driving the sword in up to its hilt. The creature fell.
The remaining two men opened fire once their line of sight had cleared. She repelled their gunfire with a shockwave and approached Arcade. Once he realized his pistol wasn’t working, he tried to club Shrike with it. She parried the blow with her forearm and punched him in the helmet. Her fist dented it and he reeled backwards. Shrike followed up with a combination--jab, jab, cross--each blow folding metal.
Arcade fell off balance, dropping his hands, and Shrike took the advantage. She grabbed fistfuls of Arcade’s armor, the metal crumpling between her fingers like foil, and lifted him over her head. Shrike’s arms quivered, strained, and Arcade let off a lone, warbling scream just before he was torn in half. Shrike nonchalantly tossed the pieces of Arcade aside, each trailing bowels and entrails.
She closed in on Boone, who shot at her again, but a hologram stopped the bullet and a shockwave relieved him of his rifle. Shrike palm-punched him in the chest, throwing him off his feet, into Yes Man’s console. Boone the hit floor and noticed something he hadn’t seen before. A little device, clinging to the side of the console. He reached out and pulled it free.
As if flicking a switch, the Securitrons, standing stationary along the fringes of the Penthouse a moment ago, lurched into action. Holograms exploded from Shrike to absorb the sudden onslaught of munitions and she charged the nearest robot. Boone knew that wouldn’t hold her for long, so he did the only thing it seemed one could do when faced with Shrike.
Josey lay Cass' body down gently and passed a hand over her eyes to close them. The Vertibird touched down on the rooftop behind him. Before the blades had even stopped spinning, a man stepped out. He wore a clean, pressed black suit. He had slicked back dark hair and forgettable, lean features.
"Josey Wales." The man called as he approached. He reached into his coat and removed a folding piece of leather. He opened it, revealing an official looking badge and card for only moment, before the it disappeared back inside his coat again. "I'm Agent Miller, with the Office of Science and Industry."
Josey said nothing, too mentally exhausted to process this.
"You need to come with us." Miller said. "My people will secure Ms. Cassidy."
Josey didn't move.
"I'm your only chance at getting Shrike."
Finally, the Courier took a step forward. And then another.