Dust: Chapter 22 Part 3

I was confused for a moment as I tried to work out where ‘port side’ was on a circular floating city.

But I could see the bridge to my left clear enough.

[But Atom’s not going that…]

Something in the corner of my eye got me to look back towards the end of the park. Where I saw two figures in black long coats jump from a nearby tower. They landed in a crouch and drew themselves up to their full, considerable height before brandishing their machine guns.

I pulled myself up to a kneeling position behind the park bench.

The two triad enforcers, you could tell from their monovisors and tattoos, levelled their weapons at Atom and the merc and barked at them in Cantonese.

<Stop right there or die.>” The first one yelled.

<And you. Drop the piece.>” The second one yelled at the merc.

Atom and the Merc complied, but the merc stayed tense, ready to make a move.

I couldn’t tell if Atom was still smiling, but the way he held his hands up, even from behind, looked more ‘What? Me worry?’ than ‘Don’t shoot.’

Then a third dark figure fell from high atop a tower. And landed on the first.

Kiru put her feet either side of his bald head and drove her heels into his shoulders, where his collar bones would be if he were still flesh. Something, likely a great many things, snapped loudly and he collapsed, Kiru riding his broken body to the ground.

The second enforcer took his eyes off the merc to face Kiru for only a second. Before the merc’s pistol flew from his hip and planted a heavy round into his temple. The enforcer tried to turn back to open up with his machine gun when everyone else started to move.

Atom bolted for the bridge like a kid who’s just heard the starting pistol at an athletics comp.

The Merc tossed a pair of flash bangs at Kiru and the enforcer, then took off after him.

And I got up from behind the bench and joined in.

[Moe-moe, he’s going for the bridge. Where’s that boat?]

[It should be right underneath the bridge now.]

[Damn it. He’s been leading us around this entire time.]

[What are you going to do?]

Atom reached the middle of the bridge. A ramshackle structure made of scrap metal, but all painted yellow to make it look uniform. Orange life rafts and other scavenged safety equipment lined its railings.

Atom climbed onto the side, looked out over the canal to see that the boat was where it was supposed to be, then glanced back towards the merc. He smiled at him, then dived right off the side.

The Merc rushed to reach the same point where Atom had been.

Then Kiru no Yubi sprinted out across the bridge. The Merc spun around with his pistol up and squeezed off a shot at her. But Kiru fired her heels, dived right passed him and straight over the edge.

By the time I reached the bridge, the merc had secured a grapple line to the railing and jumped over himself. By the time I reached the middle the boat was no longer underneath us. Not that jumping from this height wouldn’t have been suicide. As I watched Atom’s boat sail on I saw the stunt-industry standard box-rig he and Kiru must have landed on. The three of them danced around the cardboard structure as they tried to kill each other.

[Dust.] Moe-moe said. [What are you going to do?]

[It’s a trap.] I said. [Atom’s pulling something, I know it, he’s led us here the whole time. If I get on that boat I’m playing right into his hands.]

Then Joni Facineroso’s voice joined her on the cype. [And if you don’t get on that boat you ain’t leaving this island alive. All I have to do is tell the head Tong that you’re the one responsible for all this and they’ll throw everything they got at you. You hear me?]

My shoulders sagged. I was dead either way. Again.

I looked around for something, anything that could get me down from here in one piece.

Three options presented themselves to me: On the oil rig side of the bridge just at the end of the canal was a crane that could reach down to the water. Running parallel to the metal bridge was what looked like its predecessor, a rope bridge that when I squinted, looked like it was actually made out of gaffa tape. Cut one end and I could swing down to the water or at least close enough that I could let go without risking crushing myself when I hit it. Swinging over an open canal doing my best Tarzan impression was actually my least favourite option.

In the end I ran towards the Rapture end of the canal where the mini-freefall lifeboats were set up. Being designed by billionaires, Rapture splurged on the best safety equipment because they were expecting it to be their safety being protected. Much like with the gardens, the Bō shì‘s were happy with those as they were, the only change being that more safety equipment had been added.

Down in the canal, Atom’s boat picked up speed. In the hopes of fighting on an open space, the Merc got his monomachette out again and sliced through the ropes holding the box-rig together.

I revved up my speed and legged it towards the freefall launcher as the cardboard boxes separated and started falling over. The constant hum of the engines and the increased speed knocked over the outer layer, exposing the partially crushed boxes Atom and Kiru had landed on.

I reached the launcher and flew up the ladder to the first hotdog-shaped orange pod. One last glance towards the canal showed me that Atom’s boat was just passing the lip of the Old Rig and began heading out onto open ocean. I closed the door behind me, scrambled into the pilot’s seat, strapped myself in, ignored the automated voice instructing to do all of the above, broke the glass over the release panel and yelled “Bombs away.”

The magnetic locks clacked open like a giant snapping its fingers and the payload slid loose and out into open air. I gripped the seat beneath me and set my jaw for impact.

An unbearable second of anticipation drew out as long as it could just to piss me off and then the pod nose-dived into the sea. I was grateful for my chair’s anti-whiplash strap for another whole second before the arse end of the pod said hello to the salt water as well.

The pod gave itself a moment for diagnostics before the control locks were released and command of the pod transferred over to me. The on-board GPS started looking for the nearest safe destination to direct me towards, but I had other ideas. Grabbing the wheel I turned it towards Atom’s chartered boat and yanked back the throttle (which helpfully had the word ‘THROTTLE’ written along it in English, French and Chinese like most of the controls before me).

Steering took a little getting used to, it wasn’t as similar to driving a truck as I would have liked, but I got the bloody orange hotdog alongside Atom’s boat and popped open the top hatch. I climbed out the hole and shakily stood up on top. Spray kicking up from the sides of Atom’s boat battered at my face as I struggled to keep my eyes open and find something I could jump for.

Now, from the comfort of my barstool, it strikes me as ludicrous that out of all the options I’d had back on the bridge this one had actually made the most sense.

Then I saw the Merc’s grapple line waving loosely in the breeze, a thin high-tensile line amongst a wash of salty foam.

Why the hell not?

I jumped.
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