Dust: Chapter 21 Part 3

Then the lights kicked up again. Only they were black lights that brought out the sticks and anything else that had fluro on it in a vivid glow. Laser lights danced over the crowd who begun to gyrate as one seething, roaring mass to the music.

On a floating platform like this, even one as massive as Rapture, this many people jumping up and down at once made it feel like we were on choppy seas. Hell it probably created choppy seas.

I took a breath and eased my hand off the pistol-grip. All around me bodies bounced, spun and shook, I stood alone amongst the crowd. An island of stillness in the raging sea.

I stood out too much. Self-consciously, I tried to at least bounce from foot to foot.

[Anyone else got eyes on this?] I asked. [What’s going on?]

[None of Sinotech’s mercs expected this.] Joni said. [What about their ops?]

I looked out across the strobe-lit crowd and saw them sticking out worse than I had. [They’ve formed a circle around the techs. The boys and girls in black look like they’ll rock and roll if so much as a candy wrapper blows their way.]

Then the EWO got back on the horn. [He’s made contact. He says he’s coming out to meet them now.]

[He’s early.] Said Joni.

[Spotted.] Edger announced. [West entrance, heading to the middle.]

I looked at the western entrance and saw him. That ‘not Tachi’ look about him got my shoulders tensing.

Atom swaggered like a rock star, like he’s spent all his time watching us walk and thought ‘Man if I could walk, I’d do it in style.’ A smart case followed dutifully behind him on its little wheels.

He waved at Sinologic’s operators like he was about to shout the next round of drinks. Their operators gingerly parted to allow him access to their research staff, who presented Atom with a laptop and an interface cable.

[What they sayin’?] Rembrandt asked.

[They’re asking for proof that Tachi has the A.I.]

Atom beckoned for the smart case to come forward and it rolled up like a dog expecting a treat. He snapped his fingers and the case popped open, revealing a biopod inside. This one actually looked like Atom’s case.

Tachi’s body took the interface plug and jacked it into the biopod.

[So is he in the case or the prosthetic?] Joni asked.

[The case? Not a chance.] I said. [He’s wanted a body ever since we sprung him.]

[What if he’s faking you out and the prosthetic is just a distraction?] Joni asked.

[Because he thinks we’re dead. But even if it was for Sinotech’s benefit that case is too restricting. If Atom needs to make a break for it, he’d be stuck as soon as he found stairs.]

After a few moments Atom opened his arms in a ‘We cool or what’ gesture.

Then the senior of Sinologic’s researchers nodded at the lead operator…

…and bolted for the door.

[They’re springing the trap.] The EWO announced.

I’d kinda tumbled to that already and had my gun back in my hand before the mercs had started ‘decloaking’.

The Operators popped their cases open and armed themselves. At the same time three mercs melted out of the crowd, their fatigues changing to a camouflage pattern that announced them as ‘not to be fucked with’ even under these lights.

Then Kitty’s voice appeared behind my ear. [Transfer has started.]

‘Really?’ I thought. ‘Didn’t they just…’

Atom held up his hands in surrender. But the sly smile never left his lips.

Then the cogs in my head turned over another tooth. [He’s in the bank.] I said to Kitty, then jumped on the cype. [He’s making his move. Everyone hit the switch now!]

I reached into my Neupro and hit the macro I’d set up to disable my wireless card.

Unprepared for this attack Sinologic’s operators and mercs all stumbled back as one as Atom’s signature static attack washed over them.

Screams broke out amongst the ravers as Atom’s static hit them as well. So many grabbed their skulls and shouted that it actually drowned out the music for a moment. Panic surged through the tightly pressed mass. Some lay screaming on the floor. Others bolted for the exits, tripping over the first group as they went. Still others pulled their heaters from their jackets and started shooting. Between the darkness, the laser-lights and the cocktail of uppers, downers and hallucinogens they were likely on, targets were everywhere.

A fourth and final demographic hadn’t noticed any of this unfolding around them and just kept on dancing.

A guy right in front of me spun around with a gold-painted machine-pistol in his hands. Before his eyes could focus on anything I got my new PD9 out of my jacket and put two bursts into him quick-smart.

Sinotech’s boys were finally let off the chain. The lead op punched out bursts at fleeting targets as they appeared. Throwing out a burst here and there as silhouettes either raised something in their hand or gyrated too suddenly.

The mercs had done a lot better, the guys at ground zero had actually managed to fight through Atom’s static discharge attack and regain control. One reached out to grab Tachi’s body, while his companions went back-to-back and only shot at people in the crowd if they looked like they were shooting at them.

And out in the middle of it all, beaming like he was on more shit than the regulars, was Atom. He raised both hands to the heavens as glitter and sweat and shell casings sprinkled down around him.

Then a single shot, louder than anything that preceded it, rang out and the smart case exploded.
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