Dust: Chapter 17 Part 1

Chapter 17: Why you don’t mess with Texas


I got my crippled arse down to street level and legged it towards the fence. I was out of shape, nine days sitting around had taken their toll on my stamina. By the time I reached the chain-link I was breathing heavy. I whipped out my tin-snips and got to work on the wire, leaning in with my shoulder to hold them steady while I snipped with one hand.

I had a spot picked out where two car wrecks on the other side allowed me a tiny space to crawl through. In a few seconds I had a hole big enough to fit myself and crawled inside.

Which was a lot harder than I’d anticipated, somehow I’d forgotten that I’d be crawling through as a tripod without my right arm. I did the best that I could and came out the other end of the chassis in the carrot bed.

[God damn it.] PR barked over the cype. [They got a fucking tank out there, break out the LAWs.]

As I pulled myself out of my hole I saw a surplus Bradley infantry fighting vehicle roll in through the breach they’d blasted in the wall, followed by a couple of armoured pick-up trucks. A Bradley is hardly a tank and more an APC with a turret cannon, but in the heat of the moment I doubt it mattered to PR.

The Bradley rolled onto the grass, a squad of SS mercs taking shelter in the cover it provided.

The return fire from the school building fell silent for a moment while the Bradley turret swung in their direction and opened a hole in the wall with its main cannon.

The SS mercs inside the fence cheered.

Then the defenders in the school responded by launching a barrage of light anti-tank rockets. Too weak to even scratch the armour on a proper main battle-tank, but more than sufficient to crack open Security Solutions’ Bradley like a giant steel egg and spill the burning, molten yolk all over the sports field.

[That’s the end of them.] I cyped Tachi as I kept low through the vegetation.

[Just in time.] Tachi replied [They have bigger fish to fry now. Take a look.]

I waited at the edge of the vegetable garden while Tachi patched me into the live feed from his tech scope. The first cyborg was everything I expected: Tall, built like a pro-wrestler and swinging his custom M240 around like it was an airsoft gun. The second one was a freak show, it had a pair of lower shoulders under its main shoulders that extended out into a second pair of arms, each hand holding an SMG. It also had a cybervisor in the back of its head, giving it a 360° fire-arc.

Unlike the Silver Sentinels, (which I suspected was what these guys did as a day job), these two cybergods wore black battle dress uniforms over their armoured bodies. Even without them the sheer volume of weapons, ammo and webbing they wore would have concealed any hint of metallic nudity. I’d heard rumours when I was researching Night Watch that they had a black-ops team called the Rangers but until now that’s all I thought they were.

They, were, devastating PR’s regular troops. Back-to-back they circled around each other in the middle of the courtyard and engaged targets on all sides. Four-arms blasting away with his SMG’s and performing flawless tactical reloads and the Machine-gunner punching high-velocity, sabotted, armour-piercing ammo right through house-bricks and into targets behind.

Then one of PR’s boys brought a leftover LAW to bear against them and let it fly.

The pair detected it immediately and dived out of the way.

The rocket ripped out a giant fistful of asphalt and scattered the remains across the courtyard.

PR jumped back on the horn. [Everyone fall back. Fall back to the Head office.]

[Yeah.] I said when I decided I’d seen enough. [So I’m not going that way.]

[Try going through the gymnasium.] Tachi suggested. [It connects to the rest of the classrooms through the cafeteria. Right now PR’s people have more pressing matters than getting a bite to eat.]

I couldn’t imagine they were desperate to hit the court either. Tachi’s feed moved to a view of the vegetable garden.

[Ah yes. I forgot. Where are you again?]

[Can’t tell, keep your eyes on the gym in case anyone comes out.]

I kept to the edge of the garden and stayed low, hoping I just looked like a gust of wing brushing the bushes around.

Turns out I didn’t. When I’d almost reached the gym a bullet cracked passed my ear and I dived for the ground. When I pulled my head up out of the dirt I saw two of SS’ stragglers open fire in my direction. They must have been pinned down before the defender’s priorities changed.

When I went down amongst the tomato plants and out of sight one of the SS mercs started sweeping the field with his carbine on full-auto while his companion circled around to get a clear shot at me.

When the first guy’s magazine ran empty the second one stopped circling and kept up the spray while his mate reloaded.

Pity the guy hadn’t the brains to stay down. Tachi put a round just under the curve of his helmet and into the light Kevlar of his collar, blasting through the dense fabric and into the soft flesh of his throat inside. The second guy’s mag ran dry just at that moment and he froze.

Thanks to Tachi’s scope feed I popped up with my PD9 pointing right at him and pumped a burst through his visor. He joined his friend belly-up in the cabbage-patch.

I dropped back down into cover. [Any more?]

[Nothing I can see.] Tachi replied. [The path to the gymnasium is clear. I’ll take up a better position once you reach it.]

I got up and ran to it. I was sick of skulking around in the bushes.

I made it to the gym’s side door, reached up with my foot and pushed down on the slide-bar, while pointing with my PD-9.

The door swung open to reveal two of PR’s regulars, who saw me right away. One brought up his shotgun. I put my Smartgun’s cross-hairs on his face and pulled the trigger.

Just before the door swung shut I saw the rounds hit their mark, popping open his head like the cliché firecracker in a watermelon.

I got myself out from right in front of the door just in time for it to burst open with my victim’s friend. The guy levelled his assault rifle at shoulder height and caught sight of me to his flank. I squeezed off a burst and caught him in the arm of his support hand, giving me the half-second I needed to pump another two-bursts into his torso and drop him.
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