From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
"...so I say to him, 'Fancy a go, lad?', and he says to me 'Too right!', but at that point he was quite sloshed and I'm not entirely certain...hang on a tick, Patsy. Welcome to Royal London Hospital, sir. Might I be of service?"
Jack Hunter, adventurer and explorer, flashed his trademark grin, a lopsided smirk hidden by two days' growth of beard. His ice-blue eyes twinkled in a face browned by foreign suns.
"I think you just might, miss. My wife is having a baby."
The receptionist, a wide-faced, handsome girl with chapped lips, looked around Jack before gazing back up at him and smiling broadly. "And where is your wife, sir?"
Madeline was in the cab, working through her initial contractions by interrogating the driver. An agent of S.T.A.R.E., the Society for Terror, Anarchy, Ransom, and Espionage, he had attempted to gas them both shortly after they had entered his cab. Fortunately, Madeline had spotted the device, and had re-routed it to the front vents while feigning labor pain. Somewhat feigning.
"She's in the cab." Jack ran his hands through his jet black hair. "Should I go get her?"
"No sir, we'll send a gurney straight away. If you like, you can go back outside and wait with her." The nurse smiled broadly once more, and rang for an orderly. Jack spun, surveyed the room, and walked to the door with long, easy strides. No one watched him leave.
The driver was nowhere to be seen when Jack returned to the cab. Madeline was in the back, practicing her breathing and rubbing her belly. Her red hair hung down in her face. A garrote lay on the seat next to her. Jack picked it up and put it in his pocket.
"I'll take that. There are two S.T.A.R.E. agents in the lobby, and one woman trying to pass herself off as Pakistani, though she's obviously from Delhi. The receptionist looks okay."
Madeline shook her head. "Somebody slipped her a hundred pound note -- I could see it on her face from here. Watch the orderly."
"You watch him, darling. You're the secret agent."
Madeline smiled. "Director 6 rang. S.I.G.H.T. operatives are in place in labor and delivery, on the seventh floor."
Jack nodded. The Strategic Intelligence Group for Halting Terror was efficient and thorough, but slow. He and Maddy would be alone against any foes between here and the seventh floor, and Maddy was having contractions. Even so, she was one of the deadliest women on the planet, and the contraction made her cranky.
The orderly -- a towering man whose dark skin shone like obsidian against his white uniform -- pushed a gurney through the casualty department's swinging doors. Jack waved him over.
"Thank god you're here, man," Jack said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Jama ja kulu wa Rama-Shabba?"
"Rama-Shabba ja jaro!" the orderly responded automatically. His eyes widened briefly as he caught himself, before Jack slugged him across the back of the neck with the butt of his gun. The orderly slumped to the ground. Jack picked Maddy up and placed her on the gurney.
"Rama-Shabba thug," he said as he began pushing towards the door.
Madeline nodded. "Yes. This is going to be an interesting evening."
Jack Hunter -- who had survived a plummet over Victoria Falls, who had swum with piranha and hammerheads, who knew first hand the sting of curare darts -- paused to compose himself, his back against the delivery room door.
"Jack!" Maddy barked from inside, "Get your hide in here, or I'll set off that bomb in your boot!"
Taking a deep breath, Jack Hunter pushed through the door, a surgical gown over his trademark jeans and denim shirt. He walked quickly to Maddy's side and took her hand. Her hair hung in lank, sweaty strands as she grimaced through another contraction.
"Is there really a bomb in my boot?" Jack asked, when the contraction passed.
"Of course not, darling. But it got you moving."
Jack smiled. "I thought as much. It would have gone off last week, when Ali and I were caught in that eruption."
Madeline grimaced. The doctor looked up from between her legs and nodded curtly, his spectacles bobbing on his nose. "It's time. Mr. Hunter, would you care to observe?"
Jack had seen cannibal tribes dine (nearly on him), had seen sharks tear men to pieces. But this, he could do without. "I'm fine right here."
The next half hour was a blur. Madeline, refusing to scream (and she had been tortured by the best), grimacing through the labor and nearly crushing his hand. Director 6 peering through the window, concern on his thin features. The nurses hovering, moving swiftly in to assist the doctor and then withdrawing. Jack could feel their eyes on him often, but he paid it no mind.
Finally, a screech sounded from beneath the shroud over Maddy's legs. Maddy collapsed with relief, exhaling slowly. Looking over at her, Jack saw that she had her pistol clutched in her hand, the safety off. She looked at him significantly -- had he missed something?
"Congratulations Mrs. Danger, Mr. Hunter," the doctor said, standing. "You have a beautiful baby girl." A nurse held the baby up as the doctor cut the umbilical cord.
A cold ball forming in his belly, Jack smiled broadly and clasped Maddy's hand. "Look what you did, darling. She's beautiful."
Maddy nodded, a wary smile pasted on her face. "I don't think I did anything, darling -- she looks just like you."
The nurse holding the baby backed up -- not towards the waiting bassinet, but towards the delivery room door. Jack dropped Maddy's hand and took a slow step towards her. The nurse held out a warning hand, her eyes wide. For the first time (God! How dense he had been!) he saw the Rama-Shabba tattoo on the inside of her left thumb.
"Stop!" the nurse barked, her voice wavering with religious fervor. "Do not come any closer! The baby may live -- but she will live for Rama-Shabba!" She backed through the delivery room door, Jack keeping pace with her, but not closing.
As the pair entered the hallway, a dozen S.I.G.H.T. agents sprang to attention, their weapons trained on the nurse. Jack waved his hands, never taking his eyes from the woman.
"Don't! She has the baby! Let me handle this."
The nurse backed into the elevator. She turned her palm slightly, exposing the "Venemous Fang of Rama-Shabba" held against the baby's side -- a thin needle coated in deadly adder poison.
"Do not follow," she said. And then, as the doors closed, "RAMA-SHABBA JA JARO!"
Jack poked his head into the delivery room.
Maddy was being restrained by two nurses, and the doctor was attempting to sedate her.
"Go, you idiot!" she shouted, seething.
Jack winked. "I love you."
He ran to the end of the hall, where a window looked out, through a tree, at the parking lot. A white van idled by the casualty entrance. Jack backed up three steps.
"I hate this part," he muttered, and flung himself through the window. He was in free-fall for two floors, before he hit the tree. The branches slammed into his abdomen, breaking a rib, and he somersaulted backwards onto a lower branch. He bounced again, before catching a branch and dropping himself to the ground. Grunting, he rolled to his feet and streaked across the lawn, pulling his boomerang from beneath his belt.
A towering thug -- he could have been the orderly's twin -- stepped from the van as the nurse cleared the casualty doors. Jack flung the boomerang, sending it whistling through the air until it smashed into the thug's nose. He dropped like a puppet with clipped strings. The nurse whipped her head around, staring at Jack like a cornered animal, but she leapt deftly over the man's body and into the van. Over the screeching of tires, Jack could hear promises shouted to Rama-Shabba.
Jack ran, his heart pounding in his ears and the van a few torturous feet away, and accelerating. Desperately, Jack Hunter leapt -- and grabbed onto the trailer hitch. The pavement bit cruelly into his knees and legs, and then the burning fire of friction started as he was dragged behind the van.
With super-human effort, Jack clung to the hitch as the van went over a curb and onto the street. The cobblestone street. Jack rolled his eyes and gritted his teeth. He could hear the baby crying, and that gave him the strength to pull.
He achieved the bumper, and then pulled his feet onto the trailer hitch, when the van took a sharp corner, teetering on two wheels. As it slammed back to earth, Jack's hands slipped free, and he fell backwards, tucking his head to avoid breaking his neck. His left foot, hooked behind the trailer hitch, was all that kept him connected to the van.
Jack could smell his jeans smoking as his back and buttocks were dragged over the streets of London. His back was an agony. His knees, now facing up with the tattered skin exposed to air, burned horribly. But the baby cried, and Jack pulled himself up to a sitting position. Hooking his hands into the bumper, he launched himself upward -- grabbing the rear door handles, and flinging the rear door open. He hung backwards in space, the door waving too and fro with the movement of the van, his shredded back inches from the harsh cobblestones.
Kicking his feet up, Jack threw himself into the back of the van -- and into the arms of another Rama-Shabba thug. The huge man quickly latched his hands around Jack's throat, seemingly impervious to Jack's flailing arms and legs. Jack kicked him squarely in the groin, but the man merely laughed. Jack grimaced with irritation -- most Rama-Shabba thugs were eunuchs. His ears buzzing from lack of oxygen, Jack braced himself against the floor of the van, and then shoved his hips upward in a judo gambit that Maddy had taught him on their first date.
The thug, unprepared, toppled headfirst through the open door of the van. Jack didn't watch him go. Rolling forward, he grabbed the nurse (now driving) by the hair, yanking her head back. He drew his knife from his boot and held it against her throat. The baby, lying in the passenger seat, bawled horribly.
"Stop the van," Jack hissed through gritted teeth. "Stop the van, while I'm still in a good mood."
The nurse laughed. Her mask and cap had been lost in the chase, and the ritual scarring of Rama-Shabba gleamed in the dim light of early morning London.
"For Rama-Shabba, you will both die, Jack Hunter! The child's soul will feed Rama-Shabba! Rama-Shabba Ja Jaro!"
With the last, she whipped the Fang of Rama-Shabba into Jack's arm. He felt the acid burn as the needle stuck home. He jerked backwards, slamming the nurse's face into the wheel, and she slumped forward, unconscious. The van picked up speed as her feet pressed dumbly against the accelerator.
His head spinning -- from the recent choking or the venom -- Jack grabbed the baby from the passenger seat and, cradling her against his chest, leapt through the back door. His shoulder slammed into the pavement, bone cracking, but he remained in a tight ball around the baby as he rolled several more times, stopping finally in the middle of the street. Sirens sounded, blue lights strobed. Jack slumped backward, felt the baby wiggling against his chest. She bawled, cold and angry at the world.
Jack's feet went numb. But he'd been stung by adders before -- repeatedly, even -- and he felt that he might pull through. A policeman leaned over him.
"Bloody hell, mate!"
Jack grinned at him. "I could use a doctor."
"I should think so." The bobby knelt beside him. "What's your name, lad?"
"You pulling my leg?"
The bobby picked up the baby and wrapped a blanket around her. "And what's this lass's name?"
Jack groaned, his vision narrowing to a tiny tunnel centered on the baby. "Fiona. Fiona Danger-Hunter."