The things that stood out were the big painter’s sheet covering the floor and the massive revolver sitting on the desk.
To his credit, PR didn’t start with his back to the door so he could swivel around and declare that he’d been expecting me. He was actually talking to Kitty when I was first led into the room and they quickly put their conversation on hold.
“Hello Dust.” PR said. “I trust you’ve found our accommodations less agreeable this time around.”
Rembrandt brought me into the middle of the painter’s sheet and at PR’s nod pushed down on my shoulder, forcing me to kneel. I ended up at eye-level with the revolver on the desk.
“They’ve been fine.” I said. “All things considered. You’re not looking too bad yourself… for a Dead Man.”
PR beamed at me. “Good guess. How can you tell?”
I gave him a quick-once over with my eyes. “You’re the same size as a standard combat chassis. Just like Rembrandt and Duke and the others.”
PR’s beam became a sly, but dark smile. He stood up and loomed over me, his hand barely an inch from the revolver’s handle.
“You’re probably wondering why you’re here?” He said with deliberate slowness.
I nodded. I cast a nervous glance at Rembrandt.
“There are some things I need to know about you.” PR resumed. “You’re cuffed, but your legs are free and you’ve been led into a room covered by a sheet that’s normally used to clean up splashes of colour. I need to know: Are you the kind of guy who’s going to try to up and escape, take a swan dive out the window and kill yourself rather give me the satisfaction or will you try to get over this desk and kick at me, get in one last act of defiance.”
I glanced at Kitty for a second. She glared back.
“Would it make any difference?” I asked.
“Oh it’ll make all the difference in the world to you.” PR said matter-of-factly. “It’ll mean the difference between a shot to the face from a very big gun, as quick, clean and painless a death as I can give you. Or you can start something and Rembrandt can smash your head into a greasy stain on the floor.
I tried not to look at the painter’s sheet. “Right.”
PR returned to his seat. “So what are you going to do?”
I turned down to my left arm, bound to my hip by four links of chain. When I looked back up at PR I said. “I think I’d rather you use that .500 Magnum head-remover than Rembrandt’s steel-plated fists.”
“Good.” PR said. “But there’s something I need from you in return. I’m having some important people visit our community in a couple of days. We’re going to have some talks, I’m going to introduce them to Atom and if everything goes well their leader and myself are going to execute you together as a symbol of our solidarity. I needed to know if you were going to cooperate or not and I needed it be made perfectly clear what the consequences were if you tried to fuck with me again.” He leaned forward in his seat and shot his gaze right down my eyes. “Are we clear?”
I swallowed before nodding. “Crystal.”
“Good.” Then PR relaxed his shoulders and sat back in his seat. He looked up at Rembrandt. “You can give him a seat now.”
Rembrandt pulled up a chair for me and sullenly gestured for me to sit.
Carefully, I rose without the balance of my arms.
“Take those cuffs off him as well.” PR ordered.
Rembrandt made a face. But reached down at my wrist with the key and unlocked both cuffs.
“Now leave us alone a minute.”
Rembrandt looked like PR had asked him to give me a lap dance. “The fuck…?”
PR held up the big revolver. “We’ll be fine.”
Rembrandt stared at PR for a moment, then shot me a suspicious glance before leaving.
PR put the revolver back down on the desk, but kept his hand right next to it.
“I can’t speak frankly with him around.” PR explained. “Or any of the other Dead Men for that matter. They all see me as this ‘great man’ but I want to be honest with you for a minute.”
I immediately became suspicious myself but I tried not to let on. “What do you want to talk about?”
“I want to apologise.” PR said with a shrug, like he was sorry he cut me off at the lights.
PR took the blank look on my face as a sign to continue. “The situation out here is barbaric. Neighbours shoot each other over a can of beans, parents sell their daughters into brothels, there’s no point trying to run a business or maintain a house or even own a car, because they all get vandalised the moment you lower your gun. If something turns up and you can use it to your advantage, you have to take it or you’ll never have that chance again. Worse, someone else might use it against you.”
I nodded. “It’s also a place where if you’re going to fuck with someone, you better be prepared to get fucked back.”
Kitty snorted a laugh. “Something you should both be familiar with.”
PR went to give her a dismissive wave, but stopped as the hand came up. “Actually, that’s about right. My people hate you for what you’ve done, for what you brought to our front door. But I know it only happened because of what I did to you first. And for that I am sorry. But like I said about the situation here: If an advantage turns up, you gotta take it. When I saw what Atom was capable of I knew I either had to piss off two strangers or let more of my people bleed and die while we struggle with what’s left of the government and their mutli-billion nuyen masters. I didn’t like doing it, but it needed to be done.”
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