After about an hour at the cafe, Lily ran off to another job, and the group kind of broke apart after that. Derek and Akane had to make a delivery for a job, and Lizzy and Laura had something else to do. Flynn didn’t quite feel comfortable enough around us yet, so that left me and Adam all alone. One of the benefits of minimum classes on Friday.
I considered finding Alex, but decided against it. He was great, but angels still creeped me out, and the fact that I was technically his boss made things weird.
While I was still wondering what I should do to put off my homework a little longer, Adam stood up from the table, brushing crumbs from a croissant off his lap. “Well, I guess I have to go. Need to buy some ammo.”
I put my drink down. “Can I come? I wanted to look at some new armor, and I might be able to help.” I still wasn’t his biggest fan, but he wasn’t a complete moron, despite debacles like today.
He looked hesitant, but after a moment just shrugged. “Sure, why not.”
We paid our shares at the counter and headed out. Most gun shops are a little bit away from the middle of the city, probably because the students don’t usually buy from them. So we headed south.
We actually had to get on the light rail; like I said, the good shops are a bit farther away, but I managed to convince Adam it was worth it. He didn’t like the rail, probably because it was crowded enough that we had to stand, but he got over it. Ten minutes of bumping around later, MC’s voice announced our stop over the train’s intercom, and we got off at a small platform.
The central parts of…well, Central look like an open-air mall. They cater to students and workers from the server farms, and use lots of neon to attract attention. The stores themselves are small and nearly identical; if you want a bigger store, you usually have to buy an adjacent one and take the dividing door off.
Farther from the heart of the city, shops become less important. Most of the buildings are warehouses and other large, low-population structures. Its not quite close enough to Middle to get into actual apartments, but its far enough from the schools so there isn’t a constant influx of students.
The shop I led Adam to didn’t even have a sign; it was more a warehouse to pick up orders than a traditional shop. The inside was just a small lobby with a counter separating us from the sole cashier. He looked up as we came in.
He was a full anthro ave—a bird kemo. Aves were still pretty rare, not least because wings were still far beyond the reach of the toy maker. Even the feathers were a bit new. By Tezuka, when did that happen?
He was an eagle (their subcultures didn’t even have real names yet), with a large, strong yellow beak and white feathers on his head. I could see black feathers poking out of his shirt; I think that means he was a bald eagle, but I’ve never particularly cared about birds. His eyes tracked us, much like the predator they were based on, and he clicked his talons against the counter. He stared at us for a moment before his beak opened a little, in what I barely recognized as a smile.
“Ling? Is that you?”
I smiled back. “How you doing, Turgay? I almost didn’t recognize you with the feathers.”
He chuckled, brushing them back a little. “Yeah, I got them just a few weeks ago. Soaring Eagle footed the bill; I’ve been doing some work for her.”
“Adam, this is my friend Turgay Corvi. We lived in the same orphanage when we were kids. Turgay, this is Adam Anders. I’ve been doing some missions with him.”
Adam held out his hand to shake. “Pleasure.”
Turgay seemed surprised, but gingerly shook it anyway, careful not to hurt him with his talons. “Likewise.” He reached under the counter and pulled out a thick pad, designed to hold up against claws. “But you’re here for something besides introducing me to your boyfriend.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” I said, waving my hand airily. “Lily got him already.”
Turgay clicked his tongue. “Lily, Lily…oh, Lily? The one who got Malcanthet run out of town?”
“The very same.”
He looked at Adam with new respect. “Good catch, baseline. Or good job getting caught. Whichever.”
“Uh…thanks. But I really do need…”
The ave waved his talons. “Right, right, you need something. Guns or ammo?”
“Ammo,” Adam replied, clearly enjoying not having to engage in small talk. “For a 6-gauge shotgun.”
Turgay looked up. “A Saint George?”
“Oh, you’re in luck. The Dragon Slayer can handle some pretty heavy-duty shells.”
Adam bit his lip. “There aren’t…there aren’t actual dragons running around the city, right?”
The ave frowned. “Well…kinda. There’s a lace subculture called the dragons, but they’re mostly harmless. Gargants count, I guess, if you squint…it’s not important.” He held up one talon. “Let me show you something.” He opened the door and headed into the warehouse in a hurry, though he was careful to close the door behind him.
The silence didn’t last more than a second.
“So, you like Derek,” Adam asked in a completely failed attempt to act nonchalant. I just smiled.
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
“Not particularly. I’m just wondering why.”
I shrugged. “He’s nice and cute. Isn’t that enough?”
“And saving your life probably didn’t hurt.”
I grinned widely. “No, not really.”
“I’m just trying to figure you out.” He shrugged. “I mean, the other day you all but tackled him.”
“Laura beat me to it.”
“Heh, yeah. But I’m surprised you just gave up after that.”
I started. “What? No, I haven’t given up.”
He frowned. “Really? You don’t seem to have been doing anything.”
“No! I mean…” I paused.
He was right. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I was backing off a bit. I really did like Derek, and Akane wasn’t doing anything, especially since she was clearly attracted to Flynn. I guess I just hadn’t really thought it was possible. He was thick as a tree.
Well, that just meant it was a challenge.
Before I could articulate a proper response, Turgay came back, carrying a heavy box. He plopped it on the counter with a loud thud and opened it up. It was filled with boxes of shotgun shells.
“I brought out a few different kinds,” he explained. “First we have the dragon breath rounds. Very nice.” He unpacked one of the boxes and started pulling the shell apart, revealing a bunch of large ceramic beads. “The shot is filled with pyrophoric dust, which ignites on contact with air. They crack when they hit something, exploding in a burst of heat. These babies are great against swarms. I recommend keeping a few with you at all times.” He packed it up carefully. “Just make sure you store them someplace that’s not flammable.”
He pulled open another box, but didn’t unwrap the actual shell. “These are simple 6-gauge, steel shot shells. Anti-infantry. They’re somewhat armor-piercing, but don’t rely on them for that.” He rubbed his feathery chin. “Of course, with a six-gauge nearly everything is armor piercing…” He waved his hand. “Regardless. For that, you want one of these.” He pulled out another box and placed it carefully on the counter, as though that was enough of an argument by itself.
Adam opened the box; I noticed that they weren’t shells, but slugs. And big ones, too, designed to fit in a Saint George. “What’s so special about this one?”
“That’s a Teflon-coated armor-piercing slug,” Turgay chirped happily. “It will punch a hole the size of your fist in anything you shoot at. It’s perfect for the bigger monsters, like a brick-plated gargant. I’ve even heard of it breaching tank armor, though that’s probably an exaggeration.”
“Sounds perfect,” Adam said, nodding in approval. “I’ll take one of those, two of the dragon breath, and two of the normal 6-gauge.”
While Turgay started stacking up the boxes, I noticed something.
“What’s that one?” I asked, pointing to a mostly unmarked box in the corner of the crate.
Turgay glanced at it in surprise. “Oh, that’s my mistake. I think that was already in there. Pay it no mind.”
“No harm in showing us,” Adam pointed out.
The ave shrugged and took out the box slowly, almost reverently. He pulled out one of the shells very, very carefully.
It was shaped more like the slug he had showed us earlier rather than a shell. It had a larger than normal primer, and I could tell by the way he held it that it was heavier than it looked.
“This,” he said slowly, “is a Necessarian God Slayer. It’s not so much a slug as it is an RPG. Once it exits the barrel, a secondary fuse lights, igniting the rocket and giving it a huge boost in velocity. When it hits something, the depleted uranium nose gets pushed back, even as it penetrates the target. Once it reaches a depth of about an inch, the nose will hit the payload inside, activating it, and setting off another explosion. The uranium becomes shrapnel. All in all, this baby is better than a frag grenade.” He set it on the counter very carefully.
Adam picked it up and looked at it curiously from every angle. “I can’t think of how anyone would need something like this,” he muttered. “It seems like overkill.”
Turgay shrugged. “Definitely. But a good shot can take out a vehicle’s engine pretty easily, and these can breach tank armor. Very little can stand up to them. They’ve only been around for about a year; they might get a good counter for them sooner or later, but I’m betting on later.”
Adam put the slug down. “A box of those as well.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 26)
Totally not foreshadowing anything.