Dust: Chapter 22 Part 1

Chapter 22: Get back here you little shit

I landed on Rembrandt. He’d fallen in a heap on top of Edger and the pile of rubble their caving in the roof had made. Rembrandt groped for the machine gun my foot had knocked out of his hands. But when his fingers found me he tried pulling me in for a choke.

I put one of the Tri-star’s AP rounds into his shoulder. The massive hand-cannon sounded like a titan’s fist knocking on the gates of hell, but at least it disabled Rembrandt’s shoulder so I could slip away.

We’d landed in a maintenance tunnel under the markets, just like the kind you find in a shopping mall. I checked on Edger and Rembrandt’s remains and quickly wrote them off. Rembrandt needed another head replacement, not to mention the state of the arm, but Edger was even worse. From the string of bullet holes and fluids leaking out of his torso I guessed I wasn’t the first enemy Rembrandt had fought in the dark.

Then I remembered Kiru was still above me and took off down the corridor.

[Kitty.] I called down the cype. [I need a floorplan, where the hell do these corridors go?]

[I’m kind of in the middle of something.] Kitty replied tersely [Go annoy someone else].

I didn’t have the time to find another hacker’s details and call them. So I just ran down to the end of the corridor.

Pushing through a pair of fire doors found me standing in the middle of a T-intersection. I glanced left and saw nothing but corridor, glanced right and saw only a corner a few metres down. The same gunmetal-grey walls staring back at me either way.

I was about to flip a coin when I heard gunfire from my left and started running that way.

Then Moe-Moe’s voice appeared in my head. [Sorry Dust, Kitty’s taking on Atom, he’s tearing us a new one. He just came out of nowhere and started blasting everything that moved. He’s tough Dust, I’ve never seen anything like it.]

[What about you?] I asked. [What are you doing?]

[He got me in the first wave. My compy’s just a folding box of slagged silicon and copper now. I’m calling you from my Neupro.]

[Fantastic.] I said flatly. [Can I get you to do some research for me? Atom had to come in on a boat or an aircraft of some kind, can you look into Bō shì fēiyuè’s arrival records and find out how? I think that’s where he’s running to.]

The sound of something big and heavy crashing through the fire doors a few metres behind got me to look over my shoulder. Slice cleared the width of the corridor and his back came to a forceful stop in the wall opposite.

He dropped to the floor and brought his pistol up, his other arm hung uselessly by his side. He was about to hit the trigger when an almighty boom sounded from beyond the doors and hit his shoulder like a sledgehammer.

In the next instant Kiru dashed through the fire doors before they had a chance to swing closed and jammed the muzzle of her anti-material rifle into Slice’s gut.

Slice got out a gasp before she unloaded three rounds into him.

I legged it around the corner. After a further few metres I found a door with a gaping hole where the locking mechanism should have been and concluded I was on the right path.

My eyes adjusted to the bright tropical sunlight pretty quickly, allowing me to see Tachi’s body sprinting off into the distance and the merc hot on its heels.

Rapture’s original designers had intended for the area just outside the markets to be used as recreational space. Bō shì fēiyuè‘s inhabitants had different ideas.

Atom ran off towards the tennis courts, of which there were dozens. Being corporate types tennis had clearly been a big deal with the designers, you had fake grass courts, clay courts, rubber-paving courts, any kind of officially recognised playing surface and a few weird variations thrown in to spice things up. The current inhabitants couldn’t give two shits about tennis. The old sign outside the green chain-link fence now had ‘Pallet Town’ painted on it.

I smirked at the reference and kept running.

Atom slipped through the gate, dodged around some civilians and kept running. What had once been just a single door hand been enlarged to allow foot traffic to flow through. The merc didn’t even stop for the civilians and ploughed through them like a bowling ball.

It made my job easier, all I had to do was jump over their sprawled, prone bodies.

‘Pallet town’ had been aptly named. But while the materials had been improvised, a shanty-town this was not. Houses here had patios, upstairs rooms, outdoor dining and the workers moving Port-a-potties in and out on trolleys told you hygiene was being taken seriously.

It amazed me, unlike the Port Moresbians, who’d never known any different or the Flint-stones (Ha!) who’d had working-class prosperity torn from their grasp, the Bō shì‘s had chosen to live off very little and so did a lot with it.

Atom ducked and dodged his way between pallet tables and milk-crate chairs, having charged straight into a beachfront cafe. I smelt better fish and chips and ramen noodles than I had in the markets.

The merc bore down on Atom like a freight train, battering aside whoever got in his way and sending one milk-crate flying with a stray kick. The SMG in his hand discouraged argument.

I managed to gain some ground on them. Being able to deftly skip over obstacles like these. I vaulted a pallet table and dive rolled over a bench, maintaining my speed the whole time.

Atom slipped through a gate and ran into the residential section, while the Merc vaulted over the wall. I reached the wall myself and braced against it to line up a shot with my Tri-Star. While the Merc wasn’t dodging around I figured I might be able to simplify this chase a little.

I got the cross-hairs right in the middle of his back and took the trigger back gently.

If it hadn’t been for my new cyberarm, the recoil would have nearly broken my wrist.

Then he moved. Two civies suddenly appeared out of a doorway carrying an old TV and for the first time today he actually dodged around them. Startled by the way he burst upon them out of nowhere the two removalists jerked away from him, but held firm to their burden. Until my heavy armour-piercing round demolished the thick glass between them. Then they dropped it.

The merc heard the shot and glanced over his shoulder for a second. He looked me right in the eye and raised his SMG at me.

I got low behind the pallet fence and ran along its length as the light high-velocity rounds tore a jagged line through the wood behind me.

After a few seconds, when his mag ran dry, I vaulted over the side and gave chase again. I’d lost all the ground I’d made up at the cafe, plus interest.

While the merc loaded a fresh mag I put a pallet-house between us for cover and got my revolver up again. When we passed the house a window of visibility opened up between us and we raced to get our weapons on target first. In my haste I hit the trigger a heartbeat too early, the shot flew wild into the rushing colours beside us, then the Merc squeezed off his rounds and I heard the bullets crack past me at supersonic speed.

In the next instant there was another house between us and I got ready to shoot again. The merc didn’t bother waiting and opened fire. I realised when I saw planks of wood ripping open in front of me and slid underneath as he walked the fire back down towards me.

I ended the slide in a kneeling position and took aim at the merc again. But he disappeared behind the next house. In the excitement I took my best guess and pulled the trigger anyway. Blasting a hole clear through the house before I got back up and kept after them. The residents inside sat flash frozen, beer bottles halfway to their mouths as they tried to make sense of why two bits of wall just exploded.
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