Dust: Chapter 17 Part 6

Across from me Crocman hit the ground, rolled with the momentum and ended up in a low crouch.

Our gazes locked, cybervisor to tech specs.

I reached down to the small of my back and pulled my only remaining weapon. My survival knife.

Crocman bared his teeth at me and spread his fingers, officially the only time ‘jazz hands’ has looked threatening.

Then we rushed each other.

Crocman threw a backhanded wire at my head and I ducked under it (like I’d done every time) and tried to grab Crocman by the waist. But Crocman hadn’t used his wires this time, it’d just been a feint while he threw a left cross where my head had been. Soon as he realised I was up to my old tricks Crocman ripped back the punch and slammed his elbow into the back of my head.

Despite my pain editor, everything went a little hazy for a second while Crocman grabbed my shoulders and threw me into the wall before following up with a side-kick.

I bounced hard of the wall and got my head together enough to take one step to the left and avoid getting snapped in half by his foot, which cracked a dent in the wall panel the size of a dinner plate.

I grabbed Crocman around the torso and moved to get my hip under him, but the haze in my brain slowed me down and Crocman brought his kicking leg back down, shifted his weight and thrust me back-first into the nearest server tower.

I got a second to breathe and Crocman put his reinforced knuckles into my solar-plexus, forcing the air from my lungs. A right-cross from Crocman sent one of my teeth flying off into the wide blue yonder. It felt like I’d taken a glancing hit from a baseball bat. I peed a little.

Then Crocman brought that same hand back the other way, letting fly with his monowhip to finish me off.

But that last punch to the face hit me harder than we both realised and I found my right foot slipping out from under me, I dropped down onto one knee and slumped against the server tower and Crocman’s hand passed overhead.

Except it didn’t completely pass. It got caught halfway through. Later on I discovered that the cord had sliced into the corner on the server tower but the fingertip had bounced off the side so the wire got caught. Turns out there are downsides to a razor sharp cutting wire too thin to see with the naked eye. Crocman yanked at the line and the wire cut into another random part of the tower, trapping the finger even more.

A gasp escaped me. Someone up there obviously forgave me for the porn channel. I planted my other foot, shot up inside Crocman’s guard and buried my knife into his armpit. At the same time I threw my shoulder into his solar-plexus (or at least where it would be had he not had a chest like a wall safe) and pushed against him.

As I forced Crocman back and the monofilament wire extended out behind me my knife found what it was looking for, the ball hinge in his shoulder joint. My blade slipped into the gap, locking his arm in the outstretched position. Then I rammed him into the wall.

Crocman laughed and pushed back. I put my full weight into him, trying to force him back onto the wall, but he pushed right through me and went for another step.

So I helped him. Before he could work out what I was doing I stopped pushing and started pulling.

I grabbed his collar, put my foot on his chest and rolled onto my back.

The loose, outstretched wire coiled around the arm Crocman couldn’t move and as gravity took its due and pulled the line taunt it cut clean through the wrist: Realskin, plastic casing, steel skeleton, fibre-optics and all.

Crocman didn’t notice at first, he landed upside down and quickly rolled over to get back up.

I stayed back and tried to catch my breath. Crocman went back into his fighting stance and finally noticed his missing hand. He hesitated, shoot a look at the server tower and saw that his hand had decided to stay behind.

I wanted to say something witty like “I can take away your toys too.” but with my jaw all smashed up it came out more like. “Muh dahn taak…” And I stopped before I embarrassed myself further.

Crocman screamed at me, tore my knife out of his shoulder socket and ran at me with it.

My mind raced. ‘How the hell do you disarm a knife when you’ve only got one arm?’

My brain didn’t come up with an answer in time. He thrust the knife out at my stomach. My hand move of its own volition, catching Crocman at the wrist and directing the knife towards the space beside me. The rest of my body caught on to what my hand was trying to do and put my back into his chest and kept pulling on the knife hand. Throwing him over my hip and putting him on the ground yet again.

Crocman immediately moved to sit up and I stomped on his face to keep him down, twisting the knife out of his hand before stepping away from him.

Crocman swore in his native tongue (literally imploring me to die shitting) and shot back up to his feet.

I waved at him with the knife hand.

Crocman froze. His eye-line seemed to alternate between looking at my face and my knife.

Then without the slightest hint that it was coming, he ran away.

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