Wolverine breathes some precious oxygen into Jessan Hoan’s mouth as they drift underwater in the harbor. By rights, they should both be history but fate’s a fickle dame. It will do the darndest things sometimes to keep the game interesting. Under the circumstances, Wolverine doesn’t mind one bit. Above the water, there is plenty of activity and it’s too risky to surface; not yet.
Jess and Wolverine had boarded a junk, skippered by Lee, a friend of Jessan’s. The crew was dead and the boat was booby-trapped. Wolverine moved quickly and instinctively, not even knowing what he’d done until he’d done it. He’d grabbed Jessan around the waist and thrown themselves overboard, as the boat exploded, killing Lee. Wolverine swam deep and as far as he could, sharing his breath with Jessan.
The pair finally surface in the lee of another junk. The sudden sensation of fresh air usually prompts an instinctive gulp-gasp reflex, which might give the game away. Wolverine clasps his hand over Jessan’s mouth to prevent it from happening. She’s smart, though, and knows this. She immediately realizes where they are and the need for silence. They see Lee’s boat in flames, lighting up the night sky. “Poor Lee,” whispers Jess, “The look in his eyes as I came through the door. Hard to believe we’re still alive.” Wolverine replies that they shouldn’t jump for joy yet. Roche’s punkboys aren’t taking anything for granted and neither should they.
The thugs comb the water for any signs of life but Wolverine and Jessan take their time heading for the shore, using boats crowding the Dagger bay anchorage for cover. Jess follows Wolverine’s lead all the way and does a pretty good job of watching their backs. She knows what she’s about. They clamber aboard a jetty and Wolverine tells her that the wharf’s deserted; he can smell no one around. He informs her that it’s now her move. She asks what he means and he replies that she’s the Tiger; the baby crimelord who’s challenging Roche for control of the Madripoor underworld. It looks like Roche has decided to end the war, quick as he can. She has two options: cut and run, or fight.
Jessan replies that, whatever her decision, it’s no longer any concern of his. He saved her life. That cancels his debt and he is free to go. Wolverine says that he’s a good guy and putting people like Roche out of business is his job. He doesn’t leave jobs half-finished. Jessan replies that she is just like Roche and he tells her that, if she is, then she’ll end up the same way.
(Madame Joy’s, later)
The relaxed atmosphere at Madame Joy’s has been broken by the arrival of a group of Roche’s punkboys. Madame Joy is angry at their intrusion but Chen doesn’t care and throws her over the balcony. He warns her that, if she wants to hook up with the Tiger, then she’d better be prepared to pay the price. He and the others round up Madame Joy’s girls and they tell them that it’s nothing personal; it’s strictly business. Their boss is making an example of them. ‘Operation Scorched Earth,’ he calls it. If you’re not his friend, you’re an enemy, and you die tonight!
One of the girls manages to slip free and runs into the street in her negligee. She screams after a police car and one of the punkboys tells Chen to get her. He asks about the cops, but they have been paid off and he begins to chase her. She is sprightly and gives Chen a run for his money, heading into a dark alleyway. Cigarettes have weakened Chen’s stamina and he loses her. Back at Madame Joy’s, the girls huddle around their mistress, as they punkboys prepare to kill them. One of the punkboys, meanwhile, sees a figure emerging from the shadows and thinks that it’s Chen but he suddenly realizes his mistake. Jessan Hoan pulls out a machine gun and begins firing, taking out several punkboys who get in her way. Chen is already dead and now it’s their turn.
The thugs are too rattled by their attack to shoot and Wolverine moves in on his slow and sloppy opponents. They’re used to opposition who don’t fight back. Wolverine does. He smashes the face of the first punkboy he reaches, whilst Jessan lives up to her namesake, as ferocious as a tiger and easily as deadly. She sprays bullets everywhere and, in less than a minute, the fire fight is history, along with all of the punkboys, except one.
Wolverine has purposely kept their leader alive and grabs him by the collar. He requires information about his boss and his plans. The guy spits in Wolverine’s face, not feeling particularly cooperative. He warns the guy that if he wants to play the hero; fine but, if he can’t persuade him to talk, maybe the girls can. He points at Jessan and Madame Joy’s girls, who aren’t very happy about things. The punkboy’s leader realizes his predicament and opts to spill the beans. He says that Roche knows who the Tiger is and is gonna make an example of his execution. “His?” questions Wolverine and lifts the guy against the wall by his throat. The thug adds that the Tiger is the saloon keeper, O’Donnell. Wolverine asks where he is and the guy tells him that he’s been taken to Roche’s villa.
He pleads with Wolverine not to kill him and, true to his word, Wolverine throws him to the ground instead, telling him he better run while he can. He takes the hint and prepares to flee, only for Jessan to stop him. She tells him that his boss got it wrong. O’Donnell isn’t the Tiger, only her friend. She shoves a dagger into his chest and he falls to the ground, dead. Jessan says he can tell Roche that, when he welcomes him to hell. She glances at Wolverine and says that he promised; she didn’t, and by all that she holds holy, Roche will get the same!
O’Donnell is outside, tied to a chair with his nose bleeding and looking far from all right. Sapphire Styx has her arm wrapped around Roche’s, who taunts O’Donnell by saying that the view from there is magnificent. A man could do worse than to have this for the last thing he sees. He put up a brave fight but he was outmatched from the start. He asks if O’Donnell has any last words before Razorfist does his duty. “Better watch yourself Roche,” says O’Donnell, “Don’t forget, the tiger is a cat and cats have nine lives.” Razorfist raises his arm, preparing for the execution. Roche says it’s an admirable sentiment and asks if they should put it to the test. Sapphire thinks it isn’t fair that Razorfist gets to have all the fun. Roche asks her to be patient; she’ll get her turn.
Razorfist brings one of his blades down on O’Donnell, but misses his ear by a hair’s breadth. Roche grabs O’Donnell by his blond hair and calls him a fool. After all the trouble he has caused him, did he think that he’d be granted so quick and clean an end? No such luck. For O’Donnell, the torment has not even begun. He hands him over to his inquisitor, telling him that, before he dies, he wants the whole city to hear him scream and know, once and for all, who is the master here!