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Story One: The Capture

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The Hollow Earth is a place of adventure and legend, mystery and danger. Long before the characters in this legend descended into the crust of their home, they were at a party, trying to enjoy the end of one year and the start of another. This was their first step.

This writing prompt is to encourage you to write up the story of your capture by the Nazis. I thought about that being the Session 0, but if the dice interjected too much randomness, then I might end up with a character who is left behind, or I have to contort to make it happen. 

Instead, I thought I would offer a chance for you guys to show of their character’s personality and personal style. Write up how the Nazis grabbed you from Times Square. Feel free to use whatever method you’d like for your capture: trickery, drugging, beatdown, whatever. You can work cooperatively or alone on a story. 

There are a few limits:

  • The men grabbing you are all white, mostly blond, and all in street clothing.
  • They speak English to you, and German amongst themselves.
  • They’ll avoid police involvement as much as possible.
  • The story ends with your character being rendered unconscious in some way.

 

I’ll award 1 or 2 XP for completed stories. The more you show who your character is, facets of their life, and hints of their personality, the higher the reward. Feel free to use Resources that you plan to buy later when you return to the Surface World, or Resources that you would have access to now but will lose after an extended stay in the Hollow Earth.

Post the story to this thread to keep them in one place. This writing prompt will remain open, and players are free to do it or not. Happy Writing!

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The noise of excitement generated by the crowd pumped up and down like roaring waves on a beach. One person stood at the fringe of that sea of people, not contributing to the volume or the excitement. Ali had a heavy hooded red winter coat on over a long shirt, and black snow pants over long pants. The weather had been cold enough to justify the extra layers, but right now he had his hood down. At a moment like this, one could feel subsumed into the crowd, just disappearing as one among many. Ali liked that feeling at the moment.

Better to just be one of the New Year celebrants right now than Ali Badren.

Supposedly, it only counted as henpecking when it was from your wife. But Ali wasn't married and he was pretty sure what he had gotten from his parents qualified. Questioning how his studies were going, what plans he had made for when his residency came, offering strong-worded - and not entirely optional - advice. His mother and father hadn't graduated out of being helicopter parents even though now Ali and Leyla were adults.

Leyla had taken a backseat during their discussions, though she was likely just grateful to not be the focus of their attention. She was in college, yet to have to pick a major. Would she have said no if they insisted what it should be? Would she have told them to stop? Ali didn't know, because the uncomfortable fact was, he was old enough to vote, to drink (not that he did so), to drive and soon to be entrusted with the responsibility of the health of patients, but apparently not old enough to stand up to his parents.

Ali felt angry. At them, and at himself. The truth was, he was feeling overworked, lonely and too much festering inside. He turned around and walked away, not sure which street he was walking on, but anything would do. He needed the cold air and time to think.

Several blocks down, Ali caught the lights of the area illuminating a church, its sign at the front saying it was Roman Catholic. Not open, he observed with a sigh. Spiritual advice might have helped. Growing up in an interracial and interfaith family, a Muslim father and Catholic mother, Ali had responded by adopting both religions in a syncretic, flexible fashion. He attended services at either a church or a mosque, abstained from pork and alcohol (and went kosher with other meats) and celebrated Ramadan and Christmas with equal fervor. After all, God was the God of the book, Bible or Koran.

"Someone help! Help!" When the shout broke in, Ali realized he was alone on the street, except for the man yelling from the entry of an alleyway. Ali rushed over and got a look at him. White man, blond hair. "What is it?"

"My friend needs a doctor!" The man shouted frantically. "He's having problems breathing. There's no time for an ambulance. You have to help him!" "I will." Ali agreed without a moment's thought, following him into the alley. This was why Ali admittedly would likely have chosen to be a doctor anyway, even if Amin Badren hadn't expected his son to follow in his footsteps. He wanted to help people.

Looking back, it should have been a flag that a complete stranger on the street knew Ali was in the medical profession without even asking. But Ali hadn't questioned in then. He hastened over, seeing a man on the ground halfway across. The patient, his symptoms were...

A stabbing feeling lanced into his neck. A syringe, Ali realized. In moments his body seized up and hands caught him as his body began to collapse. The supposed victim began to get up. The last thing Ali heard was the bells and peak roar, signaling the beginning of 2019.

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New years eve, Times Square. Not where she wanted to be. As surreptitiously as she could the swiped her thumb across the phone screen and looked down with her eyes only while the Hostess, Gabrielle Somebody or other kept going on inanely talking to a  few dozen audience die hards sitting at the National Geographic booth overlooking the Square and the giant ball which would be dropping soon.

Morgan Clark, known as MMC to her many fans, which she had to admit were not as many as when she had been a teen, sighed deeply. These numbers suck, she thought as her phone vibrated from an incoming text. It was Lewis, her manager, //These numbers suck!!!!///.

The video blogs from China had all done well and those had been raw barely produced. What on earth had prompted Nat Geo to debut the new series on freaking new years eve. These numbers could sink her gig with the cable channel. China had been expensive to begin with and they had gone over budget on top of that.

Morgan looked up from her phone and out at the crowd. All this was not what she had wanted. She wanted to make her mark yes, be the first to find something climb somewhere not be a floor show or a commodity. The world was too damn small now. All the mystery was gone there were no mountains left to be the first to climb. All the records that she could have made were done. Now all she could hope for was to find something no one else had thought of and frankly, she wasn’t that imaginative.

“Morgan?”

Morgan glanced up and over to Gabrielle, who was looking at her expectantly. “Sorry, the excitement from the crowd, overwhelming. You were saying?”

Gabby smiled at her then at the camera, “I was saying that now that the Great China Trek is over whats next on the list to conquer?”

Morgan smiled at the camera, good fucking question, was the thought but not what she said. “Well Gabby, China was grueling, we spent 7 months there making the show that Debuted tonight, and almost every day of that was a 16 – 18-hour day. Right now, we are just taking some time off to rest and recuperate.”  She looked back at the host. “But don’t you worry we have some ideas on the board.”

Gabby leans over and rests a hand on Morgan’s leg, even though it was sisterly made Morgan uncomfortable. “Can you give us a little hint?”

Morgan looks at the camera, “Well I have been thinking about a possible trek to the South Pole. As you know the harsh weather and terrain has always been a huge factor in exploring the frozen continent and while aerial expeditions have been made overland exploration has fallen behind since to original historic journeys o the early 20th century. So That is a possibility.”

“Fuck,” the shows producer cursed, “that is not going to happen. Go to something else and get Morgen in here.”

A few minutes later Morgan was coming into the control room “Paul, I sear to god if that bitch gropes me again I will fucking deck her.”

“Back here Morgan,” Paul Davis motioned her to the back of the control room. A scowl on his face quieted her faux rage. “Morgan, how many times do we have to tell you Antarctica isn’t going to happen. The cost,  getting permission, the risk…”

“Permission! For god’s sake Paul it doesn’t belong to anybody it belongs to everybody. We don’t need fucking permission.” It was an argument they had had before, more than once. The South Pole was the last frontier on the planet, the last place she could hopefully make her mark secure her immortality. And so far it has been an impossible goal.

Paul shook his head, “You know what I mean you can’t just park your ass on the beach and march inland. And I don’t know why I am explaining this again. You’re not going to Antarctica.”

“Maybe not but then again maybe I won’t go with Nat Geo.”

“Oh my god, don’t tell me you’re still talking with that crackpot. He’s a freaking loon Morgan.”

---------------------

“She mentioned it on air?”

The man speaking to the empty room was talking in German, and talked with a quiet voice.

“Ja Kapitain, what are your instructions?” That voice came through a speaker and mad the person on the other end sound tiny.

The man in the empty room stroked his beard thoughtfully for a few seconds. “Don’t wait. Take her if you have the chance, if not, terminate her.”

“Ya Vol!” came over the speaker phone and he could almost imagine the snapping of the heels on the other end.

------------------------

The argument went on for several minutes well after the show had gone back on air. It was an argument that they had had before, and as usual Nat Geo held all the cards, they paid the bills and she danced the tune.

Morgan needed some air, so she grabbed her coat and headed out of the mobile broadcaster booth where all the network and TV shows where showing their version of New Years Eve. Outside it was cold, not the coldest she had ever been but still bone chilling the noise was incredible there were so many people packed into the square that she had a hard time comprehending them all. She made her way down to the edge of the crow bundled up no one recognized her and even if she hadn’t of been clothed against the cold, she doubted any of the revelers would have anyway.

She made her way to a stand that was selling coffee and hot chocolate as she bought a chocolate for an outrageous price, she noticed a man standing at the end of the cart. What struck her as odd wasn’t that he was watching her, which he was, but that his cloths looked odd, out of place. He was wearing and Overcoat that was grey and a hat of all things. Not a winter hat like some of the crowd sported. But an honest to god fedora. Combined with the overcoat it just looked so odd and out of place. As she moved away back to the edge of the crowd the man followed her and kept up his watching of her and it wasn’t until she felt something small and hard poke into the small of her back that she realized he had been decoying her.

It wasn’t the first time she had had a gun stuck into her ribs but it was the first time it had happened in the states. The person with the gun pressed close against her back and a head wearing another hat came into her peripheral vision.

“Do not scream fraulien, do not try to run, do not do anything but cooperate with my instructions. I do not wish to hurt you, but I will at the first indication of noncompliance. Nod if you understand.” The voice was spoken loud enough to over come the crowd but still only be heard by herd. The man, she was sure of that, spoke perfect English with a slight German accent which would have given away his nationality even if he hadn’t of called her Fraulien. Her eyes searched around until they spotted a policeman, she had been in situations before but this she felt was different. Morgan nodded.

“Good, now I want you to follow the man over there, the one who was watching you, his name is Bob. Bob will go slowly. Again, do not try to be heroic this is not a film, I will shoot you if I have too.”

With a breath Morgan started after Bob who led her away from the crowd. Kidnapping these days rarely ended in death unless you were in far east country or some of the islands still plagued by religious strife. These guys knew her and were after money she was sure of it and so cooperation was the key at this point. As she followed Bob, the gunman stayed very close so much so that they looked like a couple huddle together against the cold. She figured that she could probably get away with disarming him with out getting shot but the crowd mad that a gamble and then she started noticing other men tracking along with them. All of them wearing the same coats and hats.

Who were these guys?

Bob stopped in front of a metal door which was beside a shop he waited for her to get close before opening the door she saw stairs going up to a second floor. Bob held the door for her and gunny. She could see no one else in the stairway this could be her chance as he stepped in she could spin and move to the side she could disarm and trip up gun boy and then dart upstairs she would have a chance. She tensed to do that and only registered Bobs hand coming up at the last moment before he sprayed something from the can in his hand and her world went black.

 

 

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So far, everything had gone perfectly. Admittedly, she'd spent nearly a week getting the treasure hunt set up across the Square and two weeks before that convincing the group that it would be fun and not something they'd get arrested for. She hadn't been able to make it too arduous - after all, most of the group was far more couch potato than fantasy medieval adventurers like their characters, but she'd found good places to hide "monsters" (usually plushies wedged somewhere out of the way or left with bemused shop owners) and all the treasures were cute little bags of candies or chocolates so everyone would want to keep going. 

"C'mon Teagan! We can't fight a beholder! We're not high enough level!" The complaint came in over her bluetooth headset as she watched the group at the Starbuck's across the street from her. The "beholder" was sitting gamely on the counter while several baristas laughed and watched the group pout over her choice of final boss. She'd found an Etsy shop that sold D&D monster plushies - that's what set off her entire 'Night of a Thousand Battles' idea in the first place. Where am I going to put all of these when we're done? Maybe up in the display case in the living room? It's not like Dad is ever home to see I moved all of his fish trophies. 

The fact that the group of six was already holding a dozen or so other plushies and was dressed up like the Ren Faire had a bastard child with GenCon made her giggle again. Her own flowy dress was elf-Tolkien inspired, with a heavy cloak on over it because December in New York was far too cold for fun fashion. "Oh, buck up guys. I've given you long rests between each fight and potions and stuff in the treasure. Don't be idiots and you'll be fine. You can do this. And dinner's on me when you're done." 

Marty rolled his eyes, glancing around because he knew their puckish GM had to be somewhere nearby. She never missed a show and this was just so her. "At least we're at a Starbucks. I need coffee before Telran gets disintegrated by a New Year's surprise beholder." 

"I coulda made it a New Year's surprise tarrasque," she teased back. 

Evie hissed at Marty, "I like my warlock, Marty. Don't give her ideas!" She also glanced around, but couldn't spot her friend in the crush of people. "And I want Veselka after this. My feet are killing me. And Andrew is cute and working tonight."

The rest of the group rolled their eyes but didn't protest. Veselka was a twenty four hour restaurant with good food and Andrew was cute. "Tell you what," Teagan said over the group chat, "if you guys can take out the beholder without any of you going down, I'll even open a tab for everyone, my treat!"

The group shouted in appreciation, pulling the soft and squishy beholder over to a table after grabbing a few drinks. Character sheets were pulled up on Roll20 and initiative's rolled. They waited for Teagan to add in the beholder to their virtual tabletop and get the combat underway. After a minute, Alex frowned and prompted, "Teagan? We're all here. What's up?"

Thirty seconds rolled by. "Teagan?"

"Maybe she went to the bathroom?" Marty offered up, frowning.

Evie snorted, "She doesn't turn her phone off for that, remember?"

Rachel stood up. She was the quietest of the group, playing their monk and still a bit shy about hanging out. "Teagan?" She gave it a few seconds, then pulled up her friend locator app. Six quick steps brought her to the edge of an ally between the Starbucks and a boutique clothing store. Laying on the ground next to the bluetooth earpiece was Teagan's phone. The glass was covered in spiderweb cracks down one side and the stats for the beholder glowed softly from the screen. As Rachel bent to pick it up, the phone locked itself - she'd been gone for five minutes exactly. 

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“Pardon me, herr?”

Not a phrase that should trigger alarm in the 21st century, even in New York, he would reflect later.  Crossroads of the world, greatest of all cities – at least if you were a New Yorker, LaHaye supposed.  Personally, he preferred New Orleans or Savannah, but then he supposed he’d spent too long in warm climes and was spoiled for the balmy winters in his native Louisiana.

“Ve are vondering if perhaps you can assist us, ja?”  asked the bespectacled man with the tourist map and the moth-eaten suit.  “Zis map, it is gut, but does not give ze local eye.”

He should have known something was up.  Really, really should have known.  Not because of the accents – decades had passed since German accents were a warning sign to the once-Allied powers.  But because why, out of all the thronging residents of Times Square on New Years Eve, would a pair of German tourists approach an American currently with a beer in his hand and trying to bump notables with a pair of girls who were dancing at an impromptu street-meet sort of affair.

With a sigh, the pilot had given up on the two ladies – who were probably unaware he’d even been trying in the press of the mob, and focused on the two gents.  Himself dressed in a fleece-lined leather coat and white scarf against the New York winter, he felt that their clothing was threadbare, to say the least.  Poor bastards must be freezing.

“Ve are trying to find our hotel before the – how it is said – ze ball drops, ja?”  Spectacles asked.  He was a tall, thin sort with pale grey eyes behind the steel-rimmed glasses.  His companion, similarly tall with a bulkier frame under the coat, had remained silent with his blue eyes fixed on the shorter, slighter aviator.

“Sure t’ing, man.”  LaHaye had drawled with just a trace of his birthplace in a voice that flight school and the Air Force had been unable to smooth away.  It mostly came out when he was drunk, or angry, or turning up the charm, but right now he was just a little buzzed and, nice though the two German fellas seemed, they were not the kind of person he turned up the charm for.

He remembered finding the spot on the map they were looking for, and ingrained courtesy (they were guests in his country, and that was practically the same as guests in his house, as his mama would say) had led him to offer to act as a guide.  And so he was hustling ahead of the two German fellas, away from the main thoroughfare and down a side street, when the small party had turned a corner and been confronted with three bulky thugs who, he recollected, had been wearing the same slightly out-of-date clothing as his companions.

Even so, he didn’t see the cosh coming in time, before it filled his vision with starbursts and dropped him to one knee.  As the five men had moved in, he’d popped up and smashed his bottle full into the face of Spectacles, who’d screamed and cupped his face in his hands, and then his feet were kicked out from under him.

They weren’t that good at working a man over, he recalled. They kept getting in each other’s way a lot, cussing up a storm in German in between grunts as their boots kicked the fight out of him.  An single Army Ranger he'd gotten into a fight with once had put him out in half the time.  Still, it was four on one and only a minute or two of beating before Spectacles’ companion, the big fella, had bent down with the cosh raised and turned the lights all the way out...

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Note: This was a collab between Max and I for Siobhán's and Juno's shared capture story.


Siobhán strummed her guitar for the last time as she stood alone in front of the mic stand on the frigid stage (despite the best efforts of the heaters), her eyes closed and her face awash with emotion as the lyrics flowed through her.

♪♫ because your story is still... unfinished. ♫♪ she sang, grasping the mic and holding the last note for an impressive length of time as she vocally toyed with beautifully. Anybody watching could tell that to sing like she just did in the cold December New York night, was due to liberal amounts of talent and skill, not just the large scarf the beautiful, young blond had masterfully wrapped around her neck just so to, to provide warmth but still look effortless and fashionable. Siobhán was like issues of Rolling Stone and Vogue rolled up in one. 

The crowed erupted into a cheers as Siobhán let go of the last note, the already jovial atmosphere of the New Years Eve party in Times Square only heightened by the live music performances, such as the world debut of Siobhán's new single. The young blond opened her eyes and smiled as she slung the acoustic guitar behind her. She then bowed and blew kisses to the cheering crowd for several moments before finally waving and walking off the stage into the wings and the awaiting care of Juno Rayes and the small protection detail.

For her part, Juno was torn between watching the stage and, you know, doing her actual job. Siobhán had a presence that was hard to ignore, for all the cool reserve Juno worked so hard to project while on the job. Besides, there wasn't really much else to look at. You couldn't see the audience from backstage with all the forelighting, and no one would be getting backstage without getting past Simon or Neil, the other two on the detail. One was on each of the entrances to the backstage area...the cast/crew door and the loading dock around back. Someone might try to vault the stage of course...that's what Juno was there for.

As Siobhán finished her set and started to leave the stage, Juno pressed the little activator stub on her earpiece. "She's wrapping. How are we looking out there?"

After a second Simon, at the cast/crew entrance reported, "Pretty quiet. A few walkbys, no one suspicious."

Neil then said, "Hold on. Someone's coming over. Tourist I think, got a foreign accent."

Juno motioned for Siobhán to follow her and started leading the way to the dressing room. Neil's message wasn't too concerning. You got that sometimes at jobs like these, with public contact. People saw a guy standing at a door and got curious. No big deal.

Even so, she felt a curl of something in the pit of her stomach.

Simon's voice came back over the earpiece, sounding amused. "You too? I bet I get rid of mine before you do."

Both of them?

"Simon, yours have an accent too?" Juno asked.

"Yeah, German I think. Hang on, let me..."

Abruptly Neil's voice came back on, loudly, "...get the package out! There's three and they're ar..."

He cut out abruptly.

Juno whirled around to stare past Siobhán into the dark of the backstage towards where she knew the loading dock was. "Simon," she called, "Disengage and fall back to rendezvous point." Silence greeted her. "Simon?"

Shit.

Her eyes focused on Siobhán then, and she shook her head. "Something's gone wrong," Juno said with artificial calm. "I need you to stay close to me, do exactly what I say without hesitation. Crisis mode. Got it? This way."

She guided the singer past the dressing room and towards one of the narrow stairways that led up to the 'technical' level of the backstage, where stagehands could set lights from and operate any manual cues they needed to. A little high ground seemed useful at the moment...

"What? Here? Now?" Siobhán asked rhetorically as her eyes went wide with surprise. She had noticed some time ago that though the vast majority of her fans were absolutely wonder, there was a strange, tiny minority that was obsessed, or even worse, with her, hence the protection detail and self defense classes.

"Ugh! It must be some perv thinking they are gonna get a kiss at midnight." she said with a slight shudder.

"Talk later. Move your ass NOW." Juno directed firmly which caused Siobhán to be slightly taken aback. She was certainly not used to be spoken to in such a manner, but at the same time she could see the urgency and even, was that fear?.. in her eyes.

"Put your hand on my shoulder and stay right behind me." Juno directed as she drew and readied her pistol, but kept it close to her body. 

Siobhán nodded quickly and complied, resting her hand on the bodyguard's shoulder as her own fear began to bubble up inside her at the though that the bodyguard thought the danger warranted drawing her weapon. Siobhán closely followed Juno with her free hand gripping the neck of the guitar slung over her shoulder and hanging behind her, so as to keep it from hitting things.

Juno moved with purpose, her senses sharp as she kept alert of her surroundings as she began to move towards the proverbial 'high ground' through the equipment, stacks of cases, and coils and lines of various cables winding around the floor like serpents. It was dark backstage even on a good day, and being nearly midnight certainly did not help the pair navigate, but it did conceal the movements of others backstage until one stepped out from behind a large stack of hard cases for transporting gear.

He was a blond man with a strong jaw, not overly muscular, but certainly quite fit from the way he wore his suit. Immediately Juno's gun was aimed right at him.

"Step back!" she commanded with a firm, authoritative voice.

The had a confident smile that reeked of smugness as he held up his hands and approached slowly.

"I said STEP BACK!" Juno warned again, intensifying her tone.

"Be calm, fräulein." the man said in a  clear German accent. "Violence is uncalled for. Surrender your veapon and-"

The sound of two gunshot echoed backstage, though they were hardly noticeable above the sounds of the next performance, but at this range, Siobhán had hardly ever heard something so loud, causing her to shriek and jump.

The man went down instantly, falling back and way from the pair.

"Molon labe, asshole." Juno said mostly in Greek to the man as she heard Siobhán shriek again and release her shoulder.

Juno spun around, bring her gun to level on another, very similar man holding Siobhán and using her mostly as a shield. 

"Drop ze veapon, fräulein. I vill not ask again." the man instructed in an even thicker German accent than the last.

"You can't have her! She's gonna be my wife!" a man yelled in perfectly normal American English from behind the man holding Siobhán as he was grabbed  and yanked away from Siobhán and thrown down.

Without hesitation Juno leveled her gun at the apparent German and felt herself get grabbed from behind.

'Damnit! He must have had a vest!' she thought to herself as the first German wasted no time in going directly for her gun, twisting and slapping her hand against the hard case, causing her to drop it.

"She is gonna be MY wife! We will live and die together! Tonight" the third man, apparently American and a psycho fan said as he lunged for Siobhán, only to be tackled by the second German.

The pairs scuffled and struggled for position for several moments as Siobhán got back to her feet, which seemed to get the attention of the man Juno was grappling with, giving her an opening to strike him right in the groin, which sent him crumling down to the ground in a heap... right atop her gun.

"Shit! Run!" Juno instructed, grabbing Siobhán's wrist and taking off in a new direction leaving the fray behind them.

All hope of hiding out while the police came were gone. These guys were aggressive, and they'd paid the price for it, but it didn't slow them down at all. Were they German? What the hell was that even about? Juno dragged Siobhán, who...to her credit...had calmed down enough to keep quiet and focused, through the backstage area to the set of doors that opened up to the wings of the amphitheater outside.

Footsteps behind her. Time was too goddamn short.

Juno and Siobhán burst out of the backstage door, hitting it loudly enough to draw eyes from a few nearby seats even over the noise of the performance onstage. More importantly though, it drew eyes from a tall, blonde man leaning against a pillar nearby. He immediately began to move towards the women.

Could be an usher. Can't take the chance.

She tugged Siobhán again and set off running at full tilt away from the concert. For a moment Juno felt her heart lift; they were free of that goddamn deathtrap!

Three men swiftly coming around back though, from about where the rear entrance door to backstage would be. They must have been called in...radios maybe. Footsteps behind, this was a race now.

"Move it!" Juno shouted, and very intentionally paced herself to run alongside Siobhán, even though she could have run faster if she'd pushed herself. Almost immediately she could tell her charge wasn't going to make it. A couple of the men chasing them were just faster than her, and her conditioning wasn't up to just sprinting madcap across the park.

A desperate plan formed in her head. Run farther. Let the faster ones separate out. Try to take them down quickly before the other three caught up. She...might be able to handle three on one, depending on how good they were. If not, she could delay them while Siobhán got more distance, then disengage and catch up.

"Keep running," Juno urged Siobhán. "No matter what. Keep running as fast as you can."

For an agonizing few minutes they kept running, and the faster two pulled farther ahead of the others, and kept closing distance. Abruptly Juno wheeled a sharp left to circle around and plowed into one of them. The other one hesitated, and when he looked to be starting up after Siobhán again, Juno launched herself at him and shoved him forward, making him stumble.

By that time the first one was picking himself back up again, so Juno whirled around and threw a kick at his midsection. The pursuer saw it coming and shifted himself to catch the blow on his abdomen instead of his ribs...but it still forced the air from his lungs and forced him to pause in getting up.  No time to rest though. Juno immediately whipped back to face the one she'd shoved and found him already moving in on her. He was winded though, from the run, and his punch was sloppy as hell. She caught his arm on either side of his elbow and brought her knee against the joint with brutal force. The sound wasn't just a crunch, it was a wet ripping noise. Followed by a hoarse scream.

The first one was on his feet then, but his eyes went to his companion, who was now on the ground, rolling back and forth in agony clutching his ruined arm. Juno took advantage of his moment of distraction to take off running again. There were more than three more coming up she could see now in the circles of light from the park's lamps. There were a lot more. She had to get to Siobhán, now.

For someone who didn't work on cardio every day, Siobhán did really well. Maybe it was a singer's lung capacity, or maybe Juno just underestimated the value of panic, but the pop star was still running when Juno saw her next. Not at a pace Juno would have liked, but still running. She'd almost caught up, could hear her breathless gasps, could see where the park ended just ahead...when a black SUV pulled over and drove up onto the sidewalk and onto the turf.

Should have told her to turn somewhere once she got clear. Jesus, who are these guys?

There were way too many of them, way too well coordinated to just be fans or kidnappers. Paramilitary group of some kind? Why the hell would something like that be after Siobhán of all people??

"Siobhán, wait!" Juno shouted. "Break left! I'll...I'll..."

The SUV doors opened, and three more men got out. The passenger side door let out another man, wearing a black overcoat. He looked older than the others.

She shook her head. That plus the driver. Too many.

"...I'll catch up. Go!"

The taller one's face twitched a little. "As much as I vould very much enjoy to see vat you vould do now," he said with a much more pronounced German accent than the others had had, "Zis spectacle has become far too public, and threatens to put us behind schedule."

His lips curved in a hard, barely-there smile.

"And vee can't haf zat."

There was a coughing noise, and a twinge of pain in Juno's upper thigh. Like bee stings, almost. She glanced down, saw darts and wires, and started swinging her arm in a desperate attempt... An electric buzz, and Juno felt her muscles clench as one, then go slack as the taser hijacked her nervous system and drowned out her brain's feeble signals.

The tall man took his hands from his pockets. In one was a hypodermic needle. He motioned with his head in the direction Siobhán had staggered away in. She couldn't see her, but these guys were fresh, and Siobhán could barely jog now.

She could feel the pinprick of the needle when the tall man hunkered down next to her.

"Do not fear," he said smugly. "Zis...confusion you feel vill end soon enough. You vill learn your place."

Siobhán shrieked as she saw two of the men coming after her at full sprints. She reached down deep, looked for some wellspring of energy that might let her ignore the pain simmering in her thighs, and the feeling of weight that had settled over her. There was none. She'd given it her all.

All she could do was scream weakly as heavy hands grabbed her from behind. She struggled and fought, but they held her with infuriating ease. A wet cloth was pressed against her mouth and nose, a gag she thought. But then the heavy chemical smell, almost like a hospital but far, far stronger. Siobhán had just enough time to realize she was getting dizzy...and then slumped over unconscious.

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