Dust: Chapter 17 Part 5

I was actually grateful when the Machine-Gunner straightened up out of his pain and unloaded a burst into PR’s chest. PR hit the dirt like a sack of crap.

A simple ‘No’ woulda been enough.” The Machine-Gunner tilted his weapon back to rest on his shoulder. “You think they would’na briefed me on what that unit was capable off?”

I shook off the hot buzz in my head and looked around for Kitty. She had, wisely, dashed off when Atom turned on the static-burst.

Fuck” I whispered to myself. Cautiously I turned my wireless back on. [Tachi we’ve got a problem.]

[I’m almost with you. What’s the bother?]

[Kitty’s run off with Atom. I don’t know where she is.]

Tachi was quiet for a moment. [I think I see her.]

[Don’t give her any chances.] I warned. [The only reason I don’t have Atom is because I let her get away with too much.]

[A gentleman does not shoot an unarmed woman in the back.] Tachi replied tersely and hung up.

I caught a sigh before it could pass my teeth. I peeked around a sever tower with my Smartgun in case the Machine-gunner heard.

He hadn’t. But something did manage to catch his eye. In a flash he spun around and put a burst towards the doorway.

Then I noticed Kiru kneeling in the doorway, just under the line the Gunner’s burst cut through.

She held her hands up above her head but didn’t look at all worried.

Peace.” She said, her voice modulated through translation software. “No need to shoot. We are on the same side.”

The Machine-Gunner corrected his aim. “Like Hell.” He spat at her. “Y’all got pulled off this assignment. Ya ain’t got no business here.”

Kiru lowered her hands and slowly rose to standing. Behind her, Crocman and the Hair Guy melted into the room. “We are not here for the unit.” Kiru explained, deliberately keeping her shoulders loose and her knees slightly bent. “We are here for an old associate of ours, the one who stole the unit in the first place.”

The Machine-Gunner just snorted at her. “Bullshit.”

Then he opened fire.

Kiru launched herself into the air. Crocman dived behind the nearest cover. Hair guy didn’t react in time and took the full brunt of the Machine-Gunner’s burst to the torso, the armour-piercing rounds punching straight through his chassis.

Kiru flipped over most of the room, covering the distance between her and the Machine-Gunner so she could bring her foot down and axe-kick him in the face.

The hit forced the big Texan back a step, but by the time the Machine-Gunner had completed his one-step retreat Kiru sprang up from the ground like a jungle cat and lashed out with her wires.

By instinct he raised his machine-gun to block the attack and watched as the lines coiled around it. With a muttered curse he threw the gun at Kiru, sacrificing it to gain another step away from her as Kiru pulled her strings and tore the big gun into a thousand metal shards.

I was so absorbed in watching the pretty fight in front of me that I completely forgot about Crocman until he barged into my side. I slammed into the server tower next to where I’d been hiding. I recovered and looked up at him, taking his confused look to mean barrelling into me had been as much a surprise to him too.

Crocman composed himself and put up his guard, scanning me cautiously with his visor and keeping his distance. If he was taking me this seriously he probably hadn’t recognised me yet.

Unfortunately a careful Crocman stood a decent chance of killing me. I needed to rectify that.

I pushed off from the server tower and let my empty sleeve reveal itself, then I made it blatantly obvious. “Crocman? Kiru hasn’t killed you yet? Mate, you must be fantastic in bed.”

I gave him a second for his translation software to work it out for him. I used that second to snap my PD-9 to hip height and squeeze off a long burst into his gut.

Crocman lunged through the hail of steel-cored armour-piercers and swung his own monofilament whip at my neck, just like every other time he’d ever tried to kill me.

I dived into the clear spot beside the wall, away from the lethal wire, catching myself in a roll at the other end. I quickly spun around and let my momentum carrying me onto my back so I could put a second burst into Crocman.

Crocman flourished his monowire in front of him and for a fleeting microsecond I thought I saw him slice one of my bullets in mid-air. Then he came at me. Crocman stomped at my legs and I pulled my knees up to my chin to make myself a smaller target. Then I rolled away from him, tried to get around quickly to shoot him again but he was already on me.

His left hand shot out and caught me in around the throat. I brought up my gun for a point-blank shot, but he snatched the barrel before I could jam it in his gut and pulled it out of the way as I hit the trigger. He pulled back and yanked it right out of my hand.

Crocman put his shoulder into it and raised me an inch off the ground before throwing me onto my back. I tried to break my fall but failed. I hit the ground hard and felt the wind rush out of my lungs.

I sucked in a new breath and looked up at Crocman. And for the first time, ever, I saw him smile.

Yeah, that’s not good.

Crocman threw my PD-9 up in the air and waved his hand through it, causing it to separate into two pieces on the diagonal.

<Do you see?>” He growled at me. “<You are nothing. Everything you have, I can take away from you. Until the only thing left is a weak, simpering, mortal.>”

I’d managed to catch my breath in all this time so I held up my hand at him. “<Thanks, but I’ve had enough speeches for one day.>”

And like I’d found the switch I got him back on ‘Angry mode’, which was good. I know what he’s going to do when he’s angry.

He slashed at my arm and I got it the hell out of the way. When that didn’t work Crocman dived onto me, trying again for a ground and pound.

I got both legs up toot-sweet and kick-threw him off me, then threw my legs back up over my shoulder and rolled up onto my feet again.
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