Closed RP The Cost of Justice

This RP is currently closed.


Rainfall drizzled lightly onto Matthew's prone form as it contoured into the rock feature near the rear of the residence, the cold drops seeking to sap the heat from the man's body. Were it not for his poncho liner and layers of clothing, as well as sheer hatred and determination, Matty might have started to feel cold a few minutes after laying on the rock. As it were, he couldn't care less. What was about to happen needed to happen and part of him felt bad for what he was about to do, though the other part knew that he had no choice if he was going to keep people safe.

Nestled against the rock and held firmly into his shoulder was Matthew's AR-10, chambered in .308, the barrel mere inches above the rock face. The optic's illumination was turned on but kept low. Matt didn't need to blind himself in the poor light conditions and he really only needed enough illumination to see the reticle past the interior light and the few outdoor lights that lit up the rear patio. His pistol's suppressor dug ever so gently into his side and Matt adjusted himself slightly, moving the thigh holster away from the rock. Looking through the reticle, the now-renegade detective could see the occupants of the house quite clearly and he could see through to the front door. One of the few benefits of Baker having this much money, an open floorplan and glass windows, thought the detective with a grim smile, silently celebrating the little victories even though it was far from a joyous occasion.

He had yet to lay eyes on his target but that was to be expected because Matt had only just fully got set up and he was sure that Baker was busy taking a shit in a gold toilet or plotting how to molest more kids. It didn't matter, the second that Matt had a shot, he was going to take it. He'd already estimated his range and dialed in his scope to take account for the holdover. His suppressor would reduce the noticeably loud crack of a gunshot to a less noticeably loud crack and hopefully buy enough time for Matt to police his brass and de-ass the area. Now it was a waiting game and Matt had nothing but time.

***One Hour Earlier***

"I promise you, everything will be okay," said the detective, doing his best to calm down both dad and daughter as they heard the news that they were in serious danger. "We have no way to confirm who sent the threat but there's no way it's not related. Budget cuts mean that we can't spare any officers and I'm not supposed to be here, though I can spare an hour or two because I'm supposed to be interviewing you and processing the house for evidence. I plan on staying here as long as needed but I can only do so much."

The next twenty minutes passed without much incident, though that's only because the terrified cries of the girl and her father had subsided and they were doing their best to watch a Disney movie. Matt had taken to doing perimeter checks, ensuring all of the windows were locked, and monitoring the street for any unusual traffic. It was both the most boring and the most hair-raisingly and anxiety-inducing assignment he had taken in some time. He hoped that bluffing to any would-be attackers that Pittsburgh PD was on the case would deter any future threats but he knew better than to underestimate Donald Baker.

And so Detective Matthew Jones stood in the front window of the home, his Pittsburgh PD Detective badge swinging freely around his neck. He had come here on his day off to warn the Jenkins about the threats to their lives. He'd had an hour approved by the on duty Lieutenant because of his handling of the case and the fact that nobody else was available to inform the family. He was musing how to convince the brass to form a protection detail when he saw a man in khaki cargo pants and a hoodie making his way towards the door, his hand inside the hoodie as if holding something.

If I call this in, I'm going to be laughed at for being terrified of a Mormon or some shit,
thought the detective. Drawing his duty pistol, he moved to the front door and swung it open. "Show me your hands!" shouted the detective, taking aim at the man. The assailant froze momentarily before fleeing back towards the street. Pulling the door closed behind him, Matt took off after the man, who reached his waiting getaway vehicle before Matt could close the distance. He noted the make and model of the vehicle, a black Tahoe with partial plate Z8I, and he ran towards his parked charger. While his assigned vehicle, an unmarked Impala, might struggle to keep up, his Hellcat had no issue closing the gap enough to follow the Tahoe but not close enough to be obvious.

", yeah," Ava stated flatly into her little Bluetooth ear piece, her phone in her hand as she anxiously awaited a proper time to end the conversation and hang up.

"You know he was always worrying about you, Ava," the gravelly yet slightly feminine voice on the other side answered, "Ever since the incident, most of the boys did."

"Yeah, but you worried before all of that," the prosecutor fired back with a smirk. The rain had been streaming constantly for hours it seemed, but the strength of it waxed and waned. When she'd begun her walk from the courthouse, it had been hammering, but now, only three blocks later, it was a light drizzle. The clouds above promised more of the same cycle, but her trusty black umbrella was keeping her mostly dry. Ava silently cursed her choice of attire today: a pressed white dress shirt under a tailored blazer protected her arms and chest, but the matching black knee-length skirt, hose, and low-heels did nothing really to keep her warm or dry. Her own pride was really the culprit as she could have simply ordered a ride back to the office, but she wasn't about to show any kind of weakness to the other attorneys. While it did play a factor, the situation was less misogyny and more "can't tough out a little Pittsburgh drizzle?".

Mom was droning on and on about how worrying about her was "her job" or something right as Ava turned the corner to her office's parking garage. She saw the blacked out Dodge Ram Van roll up alongside her, but her initial thought was "I'm fuckin' walkin' here, asshole". Only once the side door slid open and three men in ski masks jumped out did Ava Hunt even begin to realize her predicament.

"Call you back!" the ADA shouted as she hung up and pocketed her phone. Once more, she was quite thankful that her favorite work skirt had little pockets. Now, proficient kidnappers might detect a few red flags coming off of their intended target:

1. The target didn't look particularly afraid. Tense, sure, but there wasn't any pupil dilation, screaming, or shouting.
2. The speed at which the phone went from her hand to her pocket was a bit too fast. In fact, the first thug out of the truck only saw what he assumed to be her slapping her hip while the other two didn't see it at all.
3. Her facial expression didn't really change much even as they leveled weapons at her.

"You're coming with us, lady," the first and largest of the three announced, brandishing a rather large taser in front of the prosecutor. His two companions flanked around to surround her; one was armed with a nightstick and the other flashing a pistol, a Glock 19 to be precise.

It took every ounce of willpower the woman possessed to not laugh. Others might not find it so comical, but here she was getting kidnapped by a bunch of nobodies in a parking garage. Logic and reason caught up with her at that point soon after. AND here's where the conundrum began for Ava Hunt, Assistant District Attorney and not a superhero: how to get out of this without revealing her definitely nonexistent powers that she didn't have. The sight of a fourth man inside the van leveling an assault rifle, specifically a heavily modified AK variant, at her answered that conundrum.

She couldn't.


That hard reasoning left Ava in the rather unfortunate position of having to go along with this bad charade. She would have laughed if it wasn't so sad on a broader scale. Then again, on a grander scale than that, the humor was coming back around.

No. Focus. You're a powerless normie female prosecutor getting kidnapped next to your office. What do you do?

Well, first thing's first. Ava let out a high-pitched scream. Even Mom might have gotten a chuckle out of that one, but that acting class in the 90s must have really done something because the thugs began to laugh at her.

"Ain't nobody comin' to save you, Ms. Hunt," the one with the nightstick said as he brought his weapon down on the backside of her right knee. For the briefest moment, the impact seemed a bit too solid to him, but the woman started going down so it must have just been his imagination. Maybe he was getting out of shape. The thug in front of her with the stun gun then lurched forward to jam the weapon into her neck. After all, that's what he'd seen in the movies.

Ava stiffed for a moment before going limp. Her body collapsed entirely and she hit the asphalt with a thud. The trio outside of the truck began scooping her up and throwing her in the van while the man with the AK yelled at them to hurry up.

"OK, for being a bit on the thin side, this bitch is heavy as fuck."

"Maybe she's one of those secret gym rats. All muscle."

"Her ass does feel pretty solid. I'm talkin' like zero jiggle here. Bitch could probably crack a walnut or two."

"Whatever, man, just get the hood over her head and the zip-ties on like Mr. Baker asked."

While the men fussed over "securing" their prey, the "unconscious" Ava focused on her breathing exercises and not on the men's ungentlemanly assertions about her body. It had been tough enough for her to fake losing consciousness from the stun gun's zap instead of yelling a stream of curses that would have made a nun faint. Embarrassment at both the situation and the men's haphazard groping of her body welled up inside her chest, but her sheer willpower held out long enough for the hood to be placed over her head. Feeling the blood rush to her cheeks, Ava swore that she'd get some semblance of vengeance on these idiots somehow.


Ava supposed it might be an odd thing for a kidnapping victim to finally reach the home of the person who had ordered their abduction, but the conversation during the entire ride over had been one of the worst experiences of her life (and that included being blown up in low-orbit). The discussion between the hired goons had started at an R-rating about her body and the bodies of other women only to devolve into some very disgusting X-rated nonsense. That had lasted at least 20 of the 30-minute drive. The final 10 was regarding their boss and their guesses as to what he was going to do about the prosecutor. They'd even started a betting pool on whether he was going to just kill her, rape her and kill her, or give her over to the guards for them to rape her then kill her. It was...rough to be forced to listen to such things. Luckily they'd finally regained some semblance of composure as the vehicle slowed to a stop.

Even more fortuitous, her enemy had decided to do that most typical of villainous activities: gloating. As Ava was dragged out of the van, she heard a rather disgusting voice clearly in front of her.

"Let me see the whore's face. I wanna make sure you bumbling idiots grabbed the right one."

The black hood came off abruptly. Exterior house lights flooded her vision. The mansion was sizeable. Three floors. Probably had a furnished basement too. And in front of that was a well-dressed short fat balding man who Ava recognized easily.

Donald Baker held a martini in one hand as he smiled broadly, his chins all twisting as he did to make it seem like he possessed several mouths.

"FANTASTIC! Great work, boys! Alright, let's get her inside. I've got plans for this nosey slut."

The thugs carried the "barely conscious" woman up the steps and into the main house. Modern-design. Hardwood floors here and there. Carpet and tile elsewhere. Typical "I have too much money and I don't know how to settle on a single design"-style. The walls were white, but one could be forgiven for not noticing as there was shit wall to fucking wall throughout the house. Some of the shit probably qualified as art, but a lot of it was random nonsense that Donnie probably thought made him seem tough. Hell, there was even a painted portrait of a much taller and muscular Donnie Baker wrestling a bear to the ground.

Fat chance. He probably can't wrestle his fat ass into his undies without help.

Ava was unceremoniously dropped on a small white sofa on the second floor, an area she assumed counted as the living room. Donnie himself sat in a large plush chair across from her while some of his thugs took flanking positions. Her brief glimpses whilst pretending to be half-conscious around the house counted 22 guards, but she guessed there were probably more all around the grounds. Her situation was getting a little worse. She'd never guessed that Baker had gotten so paranoid to have this much security around him at all times.

Probably because of the little girl's dad. Got his ass beat so bad he doesn't feel safe at home now.

Masking her smirk with a groggy groan, Ava attempted to sit up. Her wrists, bound with a couple black zip-ties, itched a bit from the sweat building between her flesh and the shitty plastic. It wasn't hard to make a show of trying to escape from such mighty restraints. The woman thought of her acting as akin to playing with children, and like children, they bought it.

"Welcome to my humble home, Ms. Hunt!" Donnie began, "I'd offer you a drink, but I think it'd be a waste at this point, don't ya think?"

"Good evening, Mr. Baker," the ADA answered with a false slur in her speech, "You know any complaints against the court's rulings need to be made when court is in session, right? I'd have figured your attorney had advised of this beforehand."

When it doubt, bullshit your way out.

Pittsburgh, 2023
There he is, thought Matt as the portly form of Donnie Baker exited one of the rooms obscured by a hallway. While it would require him to move, Matt was more than capable of shooting down that particular hallway. Luckily, the detective had no need to move as Baker made his way down the hallway as fast as his disproportionate legs would take him. He was having a conversation with an underling, though Matt could no more hear what was being said than he could let Baker walk away from here. Whatever the topic of conversation, Donnie seemed to be in a great mood and Matt only hoped that the underlings were lying about taking care of the only remaining witness of his crimes.

The barely illuminated reticle remained over Baker's form as he walked, the glass etchings telling Matt that, as soon as he pulled the trigger, the sick mind of Donald Baker would be splattered across the wall and, with it, all of his hopes, dreams, memories, and sick perversions. As much as Matt wanted to pull the trigger now, there were too many variables. Baker was moving and, while Matt knew that the glass wasn't bulletproof, the bullet still had to go through glass. Baker's men were walking around him, as if excited children telling their parents that their report card was all A's. The open tip match boat tail hollow point rounds would have no issue with that, though Matt knew better than to take the first shot that presented itself. An amateur took the first shot that they were given, a professional took the perfect shot and was willing to wait hours to make that happen.

And then the front door opened. The entrants, blocked slightly by Matt's angle on the house, appeared only as many pairs of feet. As more people crowded into the house, though, and his angle on the scene improved, Matt saw the thugs carrying the form of a female, though she was slung over the shoulder of the goon. He sighed into his rifle's stock, trying his best to stop the warm air from becoming visible clouds. Whoever she was, she was liable to become collateral damage whenever Donnie's brains took the form of mist as the goons would almost assuredly take out their anger on her. Luckily, by doing so, they would demonstrate some of the illegal activities of Baker and his friends and Matt would take that little bit of evidence and turn it into enough reason to look at everything Donald Baker had ever done. Hopefully, it helped families of whoever he had victimized but, at the very least, it was one more reason to help Matt sleep well at night.

And then they sat the woman down and, while it was only a side profile, Matt recognized her in an instant. It was Ava Hunt and she looked in horrible condition. If Baker went after her, the little girl, and her family, who else did he send goons after? Did he send anyone to my house? He'd have found it empty aside from some trash that needs to be taken out. Maybe he thinks I'm too stupid to be held accountable. Unless he went after Cecilia. Fuck. Either way, Matt had to act. He couldn't stay up here and hope that Baker hadn't gone after his daughter and he couldn't kill Baker without knowing for sure. He sighed and swore yet again, crawling backwards with his rifle until he was no longer in line of sight of the residence. At that point, he stood and, carefully making his way down the rock, ran back towards his car.

As soon as he got to the waiting Midnight Blue charger, he unslung his rifle and popped the trunk. He threw the AR-10 back into its case and locked it up before grabbing his plate carrier and throwing it over his head. It had barely stopped moving when he secured it in place and began stuffing 5.56 mags into his pouches. With his current setup, he could hold 6 mags on his carrier and a 7th on his belt, as well as 2 pistol mags each on his carrier and his belt. He grabbed four flashbangs and stuffed them into various equipment holders on his plate carrier, careful to make sure they wouldn't get snagged whenever he chose to grab them. He unlocked his AR-15's case and, grabbing the rifle, slung it over his shoulder. Matt grabbed his shooter gloves and slid them on his hands before donning a balaclava and his electronic earpro. As he closed the trunk, Matt turned on the amplifier of the earpro to ensure his hearing would be protected but that he'd hear them coming regardless of where they came from.

Matt took off at a full sprint around the front of the house. The back was too exposed and was way too open, Matt would be spotted and gunned down before he ever made it to the patio. The sides were better but had no real doors and Matt was far from small enough to go through a window. That left the front, though it wasn't the only reason that he chose the front. His many years of SWAT callouts had helped him learn that many of these houses had a junction box on the pole outside the house. While he figured Donnie would have backup power, it would take time to kick on and Matt just needed the element of surprise. He knew his odds weren't well against over twenty goons but he had no choice but to fight on their terms, not if he wanted to know if they'd targeted his daughter.

As he arrived at the junction box, he pulled the door open. He wasn't an electrician and it all looked French to him, though he saw a fuse and pulled it as hard as he could. Just in case the fuse was only part of it, Matt shot the contents of the box three times, closed the door, policed his brass by putting them in his pocket, and began running for the front door. His rifle was in the high ready stance, it's stock already in his shoulder and red dot sight illuminated, though the magnifier was swung off to the side. It was almost go time.

With every ounce of her mental willpower being poured into suppressing her rising rage, Ava Hunt couldn't quite suppress her giggles as Donald Baker slapped her multiple times. She watched as he winced in pain after each blow as he wondered in his blind rage why this woman felt like a flesh-covered statue.

"Sorry, Donnie, but your love taps aren't going to get you anywhere with me," she stated mid-laugh, tears forming in her eyes as her emotions roiled behind them, "How about we it a night, eh?"

On some level, Ava knew that her suggestion wouldn't work, but it couldn't hurt, right? A sudden jolt of pain followed by intense burning on her right shoulder taught her otherwise. One of the goons had decided to hit her with the stun gun again. If the man had any sense, he might have taken note of the fact that she hadn't lost consciousness like she had when he and his buddies kidnapped her earlier. Instead, the jackass laughed at her pain. Prick.

The prosecutor looked back at Donnie and felt some semblance of dread build up within her chest as she saw what he now had in his hands: a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Piece of shit looked like it had been signed too, but she couldn't tell by who. Supposing it didn't matter, Ava grit her teeth and prepared herself for the blows...that didn't come.

Instead, the lights went out suddenly. Naturally, Donnie and his goons began shouting in a cacophony of collective idiocy before Baker could actually issue some orders to figure out what had happened to the power. As for Ava, her own unique biology allowed her eyes to adapt rather quickly. A window of opportunity had opened here, but the problem was that she didn't know who had done it. There was a chance, however slim, that it was the proper authorities. Counting to three silently, Ava ruled that out. SWAT liked to kill the power then hit in the confusion. The emergency power starting to kick in sealed that deal as well. Low-level lighting along the edges of the floorboards gave off a dull red while some of the exterior flood lights kicked on. If she had to guess, Ava would call the overall light levels being 10-20% of their original value and it was patchy.

Maybe a small team? Bet they're not here for me. Not great.

"Why the fuck aren't the lights back yet?!" Donnie shouted. His guards gave various half-assed excuses as they just milled about for the most part. Three guards, those with any semblance of intelligence, went to check on the main power controls while another said he was going to check on the back-up generators.

In the chaos of the moment, Ava appeared to be mostly forgotten. One of the guards nearby had moved between her and Donnie which was, for these guys, rather intelligent. She wondered if Donnie had to pay extra for this one at Goons'R'Us.

Possesses TWO whole brain cells. Limited edition.

Several of the guards had busted out small flashlights and began doing what Ava was sure they considered to be a security sweep. However, it was tough for her to not laugh at their ineptitude and idiocy. One of the mouth-breathers was literally checking inside the cabinets in the kitchenette while another was sweeping his flashlight back and forth along the ceiling.

Whatcha gonna find up there, champ? Your dignity? Nope.

"Pick the bitch up and bring her with us. We're going to the Panic Room. Just to be safe. Gives these fucking morons time to do their fucking jobs."


Pittsburgh, 2023
Matty's body hit the exterior of the house with enough force to make him reconsider going to the gym the next day, a dull ache resounding through his entire left arm. Tactically, it made sense. He was alone with nobody to cover any of his vulnerabilities, which was all of them. He had no rooftop snipers, nobody pulling rear security, nobody setting up a perimeter around the residence, and no ambulances on standby. He had nobody. He was alone. And so the small, temporary, pain was worth it to avoid getting shot on his way from the power box to the door. He breathed three times, each slower and longer than the last, in order to calm his body down and prepare him for what he had to do. Few people could rival the professionalism and skill of their local SWAT team unless they'd had prior training and, for the most part, those guys tended to either stay under the radar or light up like a Christmas tree in the investigatory spotlight of the Pittsburgh PD.

On the exhale of his last breath, Matt moved back from the door and, keeping his rifle pointed at the door itself, delivered the strongest kick he could muster. It was a kick he had delivered countless times, both in training and on actual SWAT callouts, and it was one that came easily to him. Right under the door handle, keeping his knee slightly bent to avoid hurting himself, and doing his best to kick through the door. It was a brutal kick, though it relied on the deadbolt not being locked. If that was the case, Matt had already decided to go through a nearby window but he hated going through windows. The last time he went through a window on an actual call, he cut himself on the glass and the element of surprise had been lost. The suspects had barricaded themselves in the back room and clearing the crackhouse turned into a brutal firefight rather than the anticipated easy takedown.

To Matt's surprise, the door burst open, splinters raining into the residence as the damage to the door frame and the door itself produced tiny fragments of both. Without waiting another moment, Matt made his way into the house. His flashlight was on the strobe feature, though he controlled it with the pressure pad just behind the light. Each squeeze would cause a strobing flash of light intended to disorient any aggressors, messing with their night vision and hopefully slowing down their target acquisition and lowering the chances that they hit any shots they might get off. As Matt stepped through the door, though, he found two such aggressors, one positioned right behind the other.

Gently pressing on the light's pressure pad, the strobe feature performed well even as Matt lined up the center of the first man's chest with the reticle on his red dot sight. They were both carrying flashlights and looking bewildered even before they were stunned by the detective's weapon light. Before the first man could react, Matt gently pulled the trigger towards him, carefully released enough pressure to reset the trigger, and pulled it again. The bullets hit home, dropping the first man like a sack of potatoes. Even as he fell, Matt could see the blood blossoming from his chest and could almost guarantee that he had hit the man's heart with the first round. The gunshots were loud, though Matt's suppressor and his electronic earpro did their jobs and ensured that Matt could still hear. He needed to know where people were moving, what they were saying, and what they planned to do and the best way to do that was by protecting his hearing. Plus, it didn't hurt that the electronic headset amplified every sound below a certain decibel level.

The second man hadn't even gotten a chance to react when Matt placed the reticle of his sight on the man's nose and gently pulled the trigger again. It was the center of the man's T-zone and, as the bullet struck him, the shot did exactly what it was supposed to do. The man fell as if he were a marionette whose strings had been cut, his entire body going limp at once without so much as a millisecond to realize what was going on. The pink brain matter splattered on the wall behind where he had been standing gave further indication that the death had been quick and painless. Three shells in the entranceway, six rounds total thought the detective as he mentally kept track of where he had shot and how many rounds he still had in his magazine. If he was going to get away with this, he needed to ensure that he had every variable in his favor.

As Matt stepped over the corpse of the second man, careful to avoid stepping in any spilled blood or brain, he rounded a corner in enough time to see a third man. This one was reaching for his waistband, a shocked look on his face as the strobing light illuminated his form against the backdrop of the staircase. Matt gently pulled and carefully reset the trigger four times in quick succession as he looked at the man through his red dot sight. The first round went low as Matt pulled the trigger while still aiming upwards at the man on the staircase, striking the man's right thigh. The second was higher and slightly more centerline, ripping through the man's lower abdomen. The third struck his chest just under his heart, likely shredding his diaphragm and lungs and definitely knocking the wind out of him. The fourth, higher than desired because the man had started to fall, hit him in the center of his neck. A sickly gurgling noise was all that escaped from the man as he tried to call for help or, worse, reinforcements, though the thudding of his body as it fell down the stairs was likely more than enough to alert any nearby adversaries.

Matt quickly headed up the staircase, careful to pie off his angles and keep himself covered as well as he could. He hated staircases or, rather, he hated any fatal funnel. Doorways, hallways, staircases, and the like tended to kill more officers than shooting in an open room or across a field. It's why speed and violence of action were essential and Matt might not have been the fastest but, at the time, he was easily the most violent motherfucker in the house. As he made his way towards where he had last seen Baker, Matt exchanged fire with three more goons. None had hit him, though the crack of bullets around his head never got easier to handle. With every shot, Matt made a mental note with where he had fired from, where he had been facing, and how many rounds he had fired. He had to collect all of that brass and it had to be done quickly before responding officers arrived, otherwise the risks of this whole situation got a lot higher. A single casing couldn't link the rifle to him because, aside from range days, none of his weapons had been used before but Matt didn't like the idea of leaving anything to chance.

By the time he rounded the last corner and laid eyes on the retreating form of Donald Baker, located just inside what appeared to be a panic room, eight goons lay dead and two more were out of the fight and dying. Matt had reloaded on the move, his magazine full before he rounded the corner. Staring at the disgusting form of Baker through his optic, Matt couldn't help himself. "
Tell your men to surrender, Baker! It's over! If you give up, I'll make it quick!" His voice was gruff by default, though Matt made a conscious effort to fill it with as much bass as possible. It was his commanding voice, used hundreds if not thousands of times during his time on the department. It wasn't quite barking, though the bass-filled boom of an aggressive voice tended to get more compliance and had the added benefit of keeping Matt from being easily identified by suspects if he encountered them out on the street after a warrant or after they posted bail.

If I get tased one more goddamn time, I'm gonna have to break some promises and fucking skulls

Ava Hunt swore silently as one of Baker's goons carried her into the Panic Room. Once again, the bastard had tased her in the hope that she wouldn't put up a fight. To Ava, it was rather insulting how cautious these pricks were before carrying her anywhere; even more so when they commented on her weight as they did it.

Just let me be a simple damsel in distress for like five fucking minutes and quit fucking tasing me, god...oh...oh no...

Barely peeking through her feigned state, Ava saw a figure that was clearly a young child in the corner of the room. Female. Blindfolded and tied up. Young. Probably somewhere between 5 and 8. Donald Baker taking another hostage wasn't great for Ava's situation, sure, but this particular hostage made things 1000% worse. Seeing her clearly, Ava knew the girl was 6. Hell, Ava knew the girl's birthday was next month. Her father had asked Ava what she thought would be special for his little girl's birthday.

Cecelia Jones, only daughter of Detective Matthew Jones, was softly crying in a secluded room deep within Donald Baker's mansion.

Breathing. Yes. Breathe. Breathing exercises. Calm. Calm. Calm better. Down, girl. You swore. Remember Mom. Remember what you promised. No, don't look at the girl. No.

Deep within her heart, from the very pits of her soul, wanton hate bubbled and boiled with the vehemence of a stirring volcano. Doing what she could to mitigate such a call to violence that seemed to churn and froth within her very blood, Ava focused on the sound of her own lungs as they themselves tried desperately to fight the sheer all-consuming rage.

Meanwhile, Baker continued spouting orders to his ever-shrinking number of idiots with weapons. The sound of suppressed gunfire made its way through the halls as well. Going by the counts, ol' Donnie was losing men and losing them fast. The lack of much other sound told Ava that it was a small team at most. The chances of them being friendly to her was lowering by the second.

Not important. Cece. Focus. Game face, girlie. You gotta get that kid out of here.

Some might find it amazing how some people can simply set aside base feelings such as fear and doubt when given a clear goal in a desperate situation. Many people might fold in such dire straits; mentally collapse into a sad puddle of ineptitude and shock. Ava Hunt was not one of such paltry stock.

Analyze. Devise. Assess. Decide. Act. A-D-A-D-A.

The Panic Room was limited in space but not quite small. The center had a large recessed couch ring while the upper tier had a few chairs along the sides. TV monitors lined the room and a security station was set up on the far side opposite the massive vault-like door. Three guards inside plus Baker. Yeah, she could probably handle that small of a group. Her muscles clenched as she was dumped into the recessed couch. The moment she landed, Ava was going to spring into action. The fools would not know what hit them...


Was that?

Ava landed on the couch, but quickly sat up to look out of the still open vault door. A heavily armed masked man was yelling at Donnie. A second passed. The prosecutor might have laughed if the situation wasn't so tense. The assault on Baker's compound...was by one fuckin' dude.

"You fucking asshole!" Donnie yelled, "Do you have any idea who I fucking am? Goddamn it, bring me the girl!"


One of Baker's goons dragged poor Cecelia over...with a pistol to her head. Yep. There it was. The fucking Rage was back.

"Now let me tell you how this is gonna go, motherfucker!" Donnie announced with a sadistic grin, "You're gonna put your fucking guns down or I'm going to fucking shoot this little bi-"

That was as far as he got, or at least that was all Ava cared to really hear. The zip-ties she'd been restrained with popped off like they were made of wet tissue paper.

One heartbeat.

The nearest guard to her was pointing his AK towards the lone warrior outside the room. The poor fool had the strange thought of "How did I end up in the air?" before he slammed into his coworker. Specifically he collided with the coworker who had been holding the little girl at gunpoint.

Two heartbeats.

Ava dove for the child as the two men fell into a heap. She grabbed her in a bear hug, and held her with a safe-ish amount of force as she came to a roll with the little girl beneath her. The former hero wondered if she could survive a few rifle or pistol rounds at this close of range. Probably not, but she doubted they'd kill her immediately.

Three heartbeats.

Swearing she'd live long enough to ensure little Cece's safety, Ava tensed her body and waited for the shots to hit her exposed back and legs. She also silently begged for forgiveness from Mom.

Old bat will never forgive me for this shitty of a plan.

Pittsburgh, 2023
People like Donald Baker always felt as if they ran the world. To some, they actually might. The harsh reality of the situation is that their need for control was a direct reflection on their inability to control themselves, the world around them, or their very upbringings. And so, when Donnie began barking orders, they fell on deaf ears. That is, until Matt recognized the girl being manhandled into position by one of the incipient corpses. His eyes narrowed, vision focusing even as his eyes made micromovements to take in as much information as possible. Right now, it was all business. His breathing slowed, mind working overtime to force him to focus on business. He knew he could, no, he would lose control after Cece was safe. Finger off the trigger, that's good. Smith and Wesson, probably 9mm. His friend has an AK-47, no, that's a 74. The magazine gives it away. No sight but he does have a flashlight on it. Baker is visibly unarmed. If I take out the pistol man, Cecelia has a chance because nobody else is aiming at her. I'll take a round from the AK but, so long as he doesn't hit my face, I'll be okay. It'll take Baker a second to know what's going on, I'll take out AK man and wound him if I need to.

As soon as Matt took a deep breath, ready to execute the man who held his daughter at gunpoint, he suddenly didn't have to. For some reason, that man was flying through the air and Matt couldn't adjust his aim fast enough before the flying man hit the AK goon, sending them both sprawling to the floor. Matt took advantage of the confusion by shooting Baker in the left knee, the bullet forcing the man's leg to snap back and causing him to fall to the ground. Matt began to run towards the panic room, though the last iota of control that he had allowed him to slow himself down to a tactical jog. Stay focused, Cecelia is still in there, he thought, his reticle bouncing slightly with each step. He was scanning the room as he approached it, looking for any signs of Donnie drawing a weapon or any of the combatants getting back into the fight.

Matt entered and tactically cleared the panic room just as the two men were starting to get up. They had finally figured out that working together would get them detangled faster, though it didn't matter. "Turn her away and cover her ears, ma'am," said Matt, trying his best to disguise his voice even as he felt himself losing control. He rarely lost control anymore, not since he sobered up and not since he'd started seeing his therapist, but it still happened. He never lost control on his loved ones, though he would lose control for them. It was part of the reason he wanted to switch to homicide because most of his cases involved gang members, drug dealers, and the like. Most of the time.

Matt lined up his rifle with the forehead of the man who had been wielding the AK-74 and pulled the trigger, the 5.56 round quickly ending the man's life. To Matt, he hadn't done anything wrong. He had pointed his weapon at an armed assailant and, while Matt wasn't going to let him live, he wasn't going to punish him for following his orders and training. The other man, however, had to suffer. Matt unslung his rifle and tossed it to the side, over the writhing form of Donald Baker and towards Ava. Just in case something happened, he wanted her to be able to defend herself and, more importantly, his daughter.

Matt picked up the goon's pistol and turned him over, pointing the gun directly between the man's eyes. He said something, though Matt's ears had long since turned off. The goon was gritting his teeth and Matt placed the barrel of the M&P9 onto the man's teeth. "Open up," commanded Matt, rage gleaming in his eyes. The goon shook his head and Matt simply frowned, his eyebrows creasing in obvious displeasure at being disobeyed. Using his left hand as a hammer, Matt struck the back of the slide with as much force as he could muster, slamming the first 3 inches of the gun into the man's mouth and shattering his teeth as he did so. "So you think it's okay to hold little girls at gunpoint? You think that's acceptable?" Matt couldn't hear the response, though the tears streaming from the goon's eyes and the smell of urine in the room gave Matt all the answer he needed. "It's okay, I forgive you. I think you've learned your lesson. You won't be doing it again, I know that now." Matt waited until he saw the relief in the goon's eyes before he pulled the trigger, the pistol much louder than the suppressed rifle that Matt had been using. Were it not for his earpro, he might have been deafened. The goon's skull kept the round inside of it even though the skull itself had shattered into many large plates. Blood and brain matter began flowing out through the man's nose, ears, and mouth.

Turning to Baker, who had taken his belt off and used it on his leg as an improvised tourniquet, Matt knelt right on top of his wounded leg. Matt reached for Baker's right arm with his left and, when Donnie began resisting, Matt struck him across the face with the magazine well of the M&P9. In his daze, Baker was unable to further resist and Matt placed the pistol in the man's grip, making sure to get his hand and fingerprints all over the weapon. Just as Baker began to actually try to grab the pistol again, however, Matt punched him square in the jaw and pried the weapon away from him, tossing it away with a clatter.

As soon as the weapon was safely out of reach, Matt sat directly on top of Baker's chest and began punching him with as much force as he could muster. He felt every toned muscle lash out at once, bringing forth the fury that only a pissed, hurt, and concerned parent could hope to match. The first few punches stunned Baker, though each subsequent punch began doing more and more damage. Teeth were knocked out, his nose broken one way and then the next, and eyes blacked by the force of the punches. Matt felt bones crack beneath him as his violent outburst shattered the man's orbit and dislocated his jaw. The entire time, Matt glared at Baker through the eye slit of his balaclava, eyes dripping with venom and unbridled rage.

When Donald Baker went limp after a minute or two, Matt stopped only to check a pulse. He still had one. He paused for a moment and delivered yet another punch, though he finally recognized the white hot pain that had been building up in his hands. He didn't dare take off his gloves, though he knew that he had likely broken something. It didn't matter, the only thing that mattered was that Baker was still alive. Matt stood and, as if lining up for a field goal, took a measured and forceful swing at Baker's head with his right foot. The impact sent Baker's head to the side with a sickening thud and Matt began stomping on the man's face with as much force as he could muster, trying his best to kick not only through Baker's skull but the floor beneath it.

Matt stopped only when his leg ached from exhaustion, the burning of each muscle fiber combining with the pain in his hands to bring the man back to reality. He didn't care if Baker had a pulse, the damage was done. He wouldn't walk again, probably wouldn't talk again, and definitely wouldn't hurt anyone again. Matt pulled his knife from its holder on his plate carrier and, ripping the man's bloodied shirt open, carved "AB" on the man's upper right chest and carved a few runes on the upper left. He wiped the blood on the cleanest part of Baker's clothing and replaced the knife in its holder before standing upright. He had to make sure Cecelia was alright, that was all that mattered now.

Four heartbeats.

Ava faintly noticed the sound of the suppressed rifle, but it didn't measure up to the deafening roar of gunfire and agony that she'd readied herself for.

Five heartbeats.

Ava was still clutching the child when she heard a sentence that would later bring tears to her eyes when she remembered it.

"Turn her away and cover her ears, ma'am."

Acting purely on instinct, Ava rose up to one knee and wrapped little Cecelia up in a strange modified full-Nelson; her hands clasped over the child's ears while lifting the kid by squeezing her torso between her forearms. The child weighed almost nothing in her arms, and the former hero was careful to not exert too much pressure on her tiny body. Pointing the still-blindfolded Cecelia away from the mystery man, Ava was about to turn her head and shout at him when a blur of black and metal rushed by her. The third guard had hidden behind the vault door as the assassin rushed the room and had apparently decided that the job just wasn't worth it anymore.

This could be bad.

Turning back to see the mystery man sticking the guard's own pistol into his mouth, Ava rapidly decided that he wasn't going to be much help. It would be easier to stop a moving train than it would be to stop a crusader mid-crusade. Well, that wasn't really her problem right now. What was her problem was little Cecelia Jones' safety. She noticed the dropped rifle near her feet, but quickly decided she couldn't grab it and hold Cecelia as she was so she left it behind. Moving quickly to the end of the hallway, Ava heard the pistol shot behind her but chose to ignore it for now. Luckily she was far enough away that the shot didn't absolutely deafen her, but it still wasn't pleasant. An even less pleasant sound was coming from the stairs and ground floor beyond. The guards from outside had returned to the house.

"Heeeeeyyy there, beautiful," Ava said as she set Cecelia down and took off her blindfold, "Do you remember me? I'm Ava the Prosecutor! I help your dad put the bad men away, remember?"

The girl's eyes were a deep red as she'd been crying with fear for a while, but she bravely wiped them away and nodded affirmatively. Ava reached down and ripped the zip ties off of her hands and feet quickly. She then slammed open a nearby closet door.

"OK, beautiful, well the bad men are mad at your daddy and I, so we've got to play a fun game against them. You're going to hide in here and do everything you can to not make a single noise. I want you to cover your ears and focus on your breathing. You do not come out of this closet until I come get you, do you understand?"

Cecelia nodded as she breathed raggedly in an attempt to not cry. Ava smiled as best she could under the circumstances as she lifted the little girl and hid her behind some old luggage. There was a blanket in there as well that she swiftly draped over the girl. Closing the door behind her, the prosecutor said a wordless prayer to whoever would listen that the girl make it out safe and sound.


Fuck. The guards. Ava could hear their heavy boots slamming on Baker's expensive hardwood steps as they charged up. Looking around, Ava saw naught but overpriced furniture and a lot of dead bodies. Heavily armed dead bodies. She dove over behind one of the couches and grabbed the AR-15 slung around one of the dead guards there. Quick mag check. Full or at least full-ish. It had been a while since she'd held one of these things, ok? Mag replaced. Seated. Charging handle. In battery. Dear God don't let me fuck this up. Oh hey, ear pro.

The goons had reached the top of the staircase and were trying to clear the immediate area around them. Ava had laid herself alongside the couch and could see their boots and legs as they moved around. Four goons. Dicey, especially with body armor covering their torsos.

Wait. Their legs. Oh, this was dumb. Ava had seen this in movies, but not in real life. Would it even work? The assault rifle in her hands did have a full auto toggle on the side. Oh this was a bad idea. The sounds coming out of the Panic Room were echoing slightly in the now-eerily quiet house. The guards whispered something about the Panic Room and began moving in a line towards the adjoining hallway.

Well, now or never, right?

Ava quickly braced the rifle and herself as she took aim at the guards. Specifically their feet and shins. Squeezing the trigger, the assault rifle began to spew forth hate and hot metal in short bursts. Ava was glad she'd decided to tuck the little ear buds into her ears or she would definitely be deaf right now. Screaming filled the room as 5.56x45mm NATO shredded the feet and calves of the two front goons. The third began firing wildly before a round deflected off the floor, spalling as it did... right into his crotch. The burning pain in his nethers caused him to drop the floor, his face now acting as an excellent target for a three-round burst from Ava. The fourth pulled back behind the corner at the staircase, spraying wildly as he did.

Now, Ava would like to say that she was very in control of herself. Even in her old days, Lady Liberty was a respectable hero who saved lives and was an American icon! She would stop the bad guys every time and capture them without killing. Well, at least the public thought that. The government had worked very hard to maintain that as well. After all, she was their poster child for justice and the American Way. Ava herself liked to believe that she was, all things considered, the hero the public believed her to have been.

All of that was thrown out the window when one of the errant shots went through the closet door somehow. Logical thoughts such as "It was a ricochet that didn't even really pierce the door" or "The shot hit the top edge of the door and Cecelia was only 4-ish feet tall on a good day" seemed defenestrate themselves immediately after Ava's ideals. That white hot visceral rage from earlier in the evening was back and had seemed to double in its fury because now... now it wasn't just Ava. Now it was a sweet little six-year-old in danger.

Truthfully, Ava didn't even remember how she'd suddenly had that foolish goon in her grip. It was as though she'd blinked and suddenly she was twenty feet away, holding the remains of the guard's vest in one hand as his unmoving form dangled from the ceiling. The rage began to subside when one of the injured guards around the corner said something about a monster. The darkened room blurred for a moment before Ava noticed the strange wet and stinging sensations in her right hand. Removing it from what used to be the man's face, she numbly shook the blood, brain, and bone matter off before turning on the last wounded goon. His eyes went wide as he reached for his sidearm, but the sickening crunch of his windpipe and spine shattering in her steely grip ended that threat.

Now seemingly alone in a room full of dead men, Ava looked down at her right hand. The skin wasn't broken, but the bones in her knuckles felt a little tender. Looking over, she realized it was because she'd not been hitting the man's face but rather the support beam under the floor under his skull.

"So much for therapy helping... oh fuck Cece!"

Spinning around, she ignored all else as she dove for the closet door.

"Cece! It's OK! You can come out!" Ava announced in her best attempt at masking the shaking in her voice. The little girl threw the blanket off with a quickness as she ran into the older woman's outstretched arms.

Pittsburgh, 2023
The pair reached the closet at the same time, Ava's voice telling Cecelia to come out. Matt watched as she ran into Ava's arms with a speed that he remembered fondly. He used to come home from work and she'd meet him at the door to ambush him as soon as he got out of his car. When she was two and toddling around, she used to leave slobber marks and fingerprints on the screen door. She always had a certain way of screaming 'Daddy's home!' that made the day's worries melt away, especially when combined with a loving hug or kiss and a hot shower. More often than not, he'd fall asleep on the couch with Cecelia tucked underneath his arm as they watched a movie or HGTV or, if he won the contest for 'Who Got The Remote,' a documentary of some sort.

He hadn't heard 'Daddy's home!' in some time. He had lost count of the amount of shifts that he'd worked where the only sound he heard as he exited the car door was a dog barking. He had lost count of the amount of shift that he'd worked where he fell asleep on the couch alone or, more often than not, struggled to sleep. He'd gotten used to the quiet, of course, but the constant silence at his house had a funny way of making itself known. He knew that the quiet of being alone was better than the quiet of walking on eggshells or, worse, the arguments but he still remembered the date of the last time he'd heard 'Daddy's home!' and scooped Cecelia into a bear hug.

Right now, he envied Ava even though he knew he shouldn't. It's not her fault, thought Matt as he struggled to hold back tears. Now is not the time. Cece doesn't recognize me and Ava's the one who saw to her safety before going off on her own rampage. I couldn't even check on my daughter before I...Not now. Keep it together.

The thoughts almost overwhelmed him. Almost. Instead, Matt forced himself to focus on the task at hand. He looked around at the gore and wished that Cecelia hadn't thrown the blanket off of her head. He walked towards the closet and grabbed it, offering it to Cecelia and, more importantly, Ava with a trembling hand. The pain helped him focus on what he needed to do and it kept him from focusing on the fact that his daughter had been kidnapped. He hoped to God that his ex-wife didn't know, if only because that was going to bring too many questions.

As if on cue, his phone rang. Brokenheartsville by Joe Nichols played from the admin pouch of his plate carrier, muffled by the various contents of the pouch and the pouch itself. He gave Ava a knowing look and, if his phone hadn't betrayed his identity, his phone certainly did. He'd used that ringtone for years and he'd had to interrupt more than one meeting to take a call from Ashley. He sighed and opened the pouch, swiping the green answer button before bringing the phone to his ear.

"Cecelia is gone!" cried the voice, obviously distraught. Ashley continued on, though Matt wasn't able to understand it as he tried to formulate a reasonable excuse for why her daughter was gone without notice. She must have just gotten off of work, thought Matt as every gear in his head spun at the same time. When the voice finally stopped, Matt heard a deeper voice from the background. And of-fucking-course Keith has to put his nose in everything. I'm pretty sure he should be more worried about the ten points on his license.

"Ashley! I'm sorry, I got the weekends mixed up and I thought it was my weekend to have her so I picked her up from school. We're out looking at Halloween costumes right now and I already promised her dinner and ice cream but I'll have her home in a few hours. What? No, I'm not rushing over there. Do you want to explain to our daughter that you're so beholden to that calendar that I can't even see her for a few hours? We have joint custody. Yes. No, the only reason she stays with you is that we both agreed when we divorced that your schedule was better for her. Keith, I need you to stay out of this. I'm not doing this right now. I will have her home in a few hours and if you disagree with that, call the cops. Just because I'm a cop doesn't mean...Well then you'll just have to wait. Make Keith take you to dinner or something, I don't care. I'll text you when I'm on the way."

Matt ignored the pair of voices on the phone as he took it away from his ear, tapped the 'End Call' button, and placed it back in his admin pouch. "We can talk about this later, Ava, but I really need your help. We need to collect all of my brass and get out of here. I give it one, maybe two minutes before cops are dispatched and we might have seven minutes before they get here depending on how busy they are tonight." Matt rattled off where he had taken his shots and which way he had been facing and split the rooms so that it would be fair and equal, though he didn't wait for Ava to reply before he started policing his brass.

It's always an odd feeling when someone can feel the world literally moving under their feet. It's as though everything around you is going to just sweep away from you while you're left behind.

At least, that's what Ava Hunt thought it felt like. After all, she felt it right now as she attempted to mentally process the fact that fucking Matthew Jones... no... Detective Matthew Jones of the Pittsburgh Police Department was the masked man who'd committed this massive rampage tonight. Of course, she wasn't in any shape to really argue. After all, he'd saved her and Cece at the very least. On the other hand, something about the timing of all of this was already gnawing away at her. If this was a proper hostage rescue, it wouldn't be just Jonesy...

Her already growing suspicion proved validated by his lies to his ex-wife, and became cemented with his somewhat desperate plea.

"Bold of you to assume they're on their way at all unless you called them, Detective," Ava responded, the cold sarcasm edging towards venomous before she restrained herself, "Just get the kid and your shit. I'll make the call myself. Police will get more interested than they should if there's just an absolute bloodbath here. I . Mysterious team of meta vigilantes showed up. Killed everyone but me. One recognized me from the papers. They wiped the security tapes, too."

Ava walked over to one of the corpses and ripped out a smart phone from his pocket. The lock on the phone was active, but that didn't inhibit emergency calls.

"Yes, my name is Ava Hunt, and I've been kidnapped...yeah...I think I'm at Donald Baker's mansion. Yes, that Donald Baker," Ava spoke as she walked with the phone in hand to the front door. She spoke with the operator for a few minutes before saying "I think they're still here" and hanging up abruptly.

"There. Now you can start your timer. Plus the Feds will be involved now. Nothing I can do about that, I think. Anyway, get the fuck out of here. We'll discuss this Monday."

Ava found a sink in the kitchenette and began washing her hands. They were a little bruised, but nothing horrible. The blood and gore being removed helped. Plus the zip-tie imprints were still on her wrists from when she broke them.

Fuck this was going to be a long night. Wait, what is...her phone...seriously, the idiots didn't take it from her? She pulled it out of her pocket and swore.

"Heyyy, Mom... I was just about to... yeah... ummm, yeah... yeah... Donnie... Donnie Baker... you know, that child SA case I was working on... so... yeah... yeah, I know... yes... yes, I know... listen... I just... yeah... ye-... I... so...yeeeeeeaaaaaah it's... no, it's fine... NO, tell them to waive... you... hey... HEY... list-...listen...LISTEN... so, I might need a favor."

Pittsburgh, 2023