Dust: Chapter 20 Part 3

Kitty took in slow breaths, her teeth clenched in pain. [If you hadn’t come, would the Doctors have followed you in here?]

I shrugged.

[I don’t think they would have.] Kitty said. [I think I owe you a bit more than an apology.] She looked down at her immobile feet. [Why did you help me?]

[Atom.] I said. [He fucked with you, just like he fucked with PR, just like he fucked with me. I listened to Sakazato’s dev journal. Turns out Atom’s always been a manipulative little bastard. By the time I found out I couldn’t warn you, you’d never have believed me. There’s still more things I’ve learned about Atom that you won’t believe, but none of it’s going to make a difference.]

[Not if we just sit on our arses playing ‘poor me’.] Kitty snapped. [Get me off this bench and put me in one of the Humvees, they usually keep the keys in them. We could be halfway across Flint before they even realise we’re gone.]

[But where would we go? How would we even drive? I’ve only got one arm and you’re in too much pain to talk. You really think you can keep it together to change gears for me?]

[I want to try.] Kitty said. [You just want to sit here and die, but yours isn’t the only life that’s over when they get back. I sold them out, Atom fucking me over at the last minute doesn’t change that. I need you to help me or they’ll happily kill us both so they can get their precious ‘closure’.]

I shook my head, she wasn’t listening. [No, it’s not going to work. We don’t…]

[We don’t have time to sit here and debate. We’re resourceful people, when we’re not moping around. Just because I don’t have all the answers right this second doesn’t mean we can’t work them out when we get there.]

She was wrong. The guard at the gate would stop us, or shoot us, or the lynch mob was going to catch us trying to escape and have us punished. Then I realised they were already going to do that. So if I was going to die either way, I may as well get on with it.

[Alright.] I said as I moved over to her bedside. [Put your arms around my neck.]

Kitty did, wincing only a little from the effort. I reached under her legs and between the two of us we carried her from the bed to the pool ladder. I hoisted Kitty’s dangling legs up and over the edge of the pool to the floor above us, hoping Kitty didn’t cut herself on the glass shards, then Kitty reached out for the safety bar and pulled her body up the rest of the way.

With some effort, I climbed out after her.

With the aid of a mechanic’s trolley I dragged Kitty across to one of the fixed up Humvees and opened the door. Kitty grabbed my neck again and I raised her up and into the passenger seat.

As I was moving around to the driver’s side I got a call from the last person I expected to speak to at that moment.

[Hey Jay. Can it wait? I’m sorta in the…]

[NO IT CANNOT FUCKING WAIT!]

Okay, I said to myself. Jay is angry. Jay is never angry. This shit must be heavy.

[Alright mate. What’s going on?] I climbed into the driver’s seat.

[What’s going on? Your colleague Tachi is talking to the fucking Chinese behind my back.]

That dispelled any lingering mystery as to who our buyer was.

[Wait, did you say ‘Tachi?’]

[DO NOT play innocent with me. This isn’t a courtesy call.] Jay had his Sheer Khan voice on. The one that lets you know he’s going to bite your head clean off your shoulders and swallow it. [This is to let you know I am right now burning the reputation of you, Tachi, Noodles, Kitty and anyone else with whom you may be associated.]

[Tachi went behind your back and called Sinotech? What did he ask for?]

[Do not try my patience Dust.]

[I’m trying to avoid getting executed by ghetto freedom fighters in Michigan and you think I’m being difficult? Do you know what Tachi talked to them about?]

[He entered into an arrangement to deliver Atom to them directly.]

I sat in the driver’s seat, my hand hanging on the door handle, not moving.

Son of a bitch.

Kitty rolled her head around to see me. “What are you doing?”

I was about to explain it to her when I heard a dark, female voice call out over a bullhorn.

“Alright Fucker.” Was her heart-winning opening line. “We got guns all around the building. Come out now and die quick. Make me break a sweat for this and I will flay the skin off your back and feed it to you.”

[I’m going to have to get back to you Jay.]

I turned to Kitty. “Do you know if this thing has its own loudspeaker?”

Kitty pointed to something that looked like an old CB radio. I picked up the hand piece and pressed the button, a quiet burst of white noise sounded above my head. “Testing.” I said.

My booming electronic voice echoed across the swim centre, but probably didn’t get much further.

“Perfect.” I finally closed the door and started up the engine.

“Alright, I know you can hear me.” An aggravated Kitty said through gritted teeth. “Talk to me.”

“We’re going to negotiate.” I told her.

“Are you Insane?”

“Here’s hoping.” I said as I threw the Humvee into reverse.

I hesitated for a second. “Though just in case we do have to Butch and Sundance our way out do you want to see if you can log into the remote turret.”

I backed the truck right up to the doorway and spun it around to aim the loudspeakers outside.

“Facerino?” I called down the loudspeaker. “That you?”

Facineroso.” She corrected. “You’re damn right it is.”

“How’d you end up in charge?”

“I survived the airstrike. Promised PR’s people my protection. And right now I’ve got another contingent on their way from Detroit to provide it.”

“That makes sense.”

“So what ‘choo you gonna do Mr… Dust is it? What kinda name is that? I got a lot of itchy trigger fingers out here. You gonna come out and let these people get on with their lives or you gonna make them earn it?”

Not even Kitty could see it, but I cracked a grin. “I’m going to make them an offer.”

I gave it a beat to set in, then launched into my pitch. “You guys want someone to take your pain out on? I can give you a shot at Atom. You want to rebuild your lives? I can give you a share of the 1 billion nuyen Sinotech is going to pay for his recovery. And if you want to honour PR’s memory and the cause he died trying to advance, I’ve got the development notes and construction plans to build your own Atom from scratch. Everything PR was trying to achieve, all that super-hacker stuff is still within your grasp.”

Then a stray thought came to me. I had an all or nothing gamble to try and my arse was the dice.

“And lastly. You’re low on numbers, many of your soldiers died in the airstrike. For that all I can give you is myself. In exchange for not killing me or Kitty, I will offer my services as a soldier, thief and electronic warfare operator for a minimum of ten years. But for all this I’m going to need a few things from you in return…”
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