Once I managed to get my act together, I started moving again. Sticking to the rooftops proved to be the best plan. That didn’t mean it was perfectly safe, though. It just meant that there were fewer screamers, and I could physically toss most of them off the edge.
“I wish you would stop doing that,” MC texted to my eyepiece. “These people still might be able to be saved.”
“I understand,” I said through gritted teeth as I used a zipline to cross a larger-than-average gap between two buildings. “But I’m outnumbered here something like four hundred million to one. I don’t have the luxury of doing anything but fighting as hard as possible.”
There was a pause, where I could imagine the hacker rolling her eyes and sighing. “Fine. That makes sense. But you are not allowed to kill Artemis, all right? Or Isaac.”
“Why would I? I’m not going to be anywhere near NHQ.”
“Yeah, speaking of which…” The text on the screen faded until it was barely visible, and a translucent map appeared. “This is your current position.” A blinking dot appeared. “Estimated. The satellites are proving frustrating.” A red arrow pointed roughly in the direction I was going, just at a slight angle. “And this is where your dorm is. Although I still think going back there is a bad idea. It’s crawling with screamers.”
“I need my guns.”
“No, you need guns. They don’t have to be your guns. Actually… if you get other guns first, you’ll have an easier time getting yours, if you still want them.”
I nodded. She had a point, and it was a testament to how tired and stressed I was that I hadn’t thought of it myself. If I was going to survive until the others got back, I needed to get weapons as fast as possible.
“Point me towards the nearest gun shop,” I requested firmly. The red arrow instantly turned at a ninety-degree angle, and I changed direction to match. The roof was connected to the next building by a disturbingly precarious bridge made of a handful of wooden planks.
“By the way,” MC texted when I was still concentrating on crossing the bridge. “I still haven’t been able to get a hold of Derek and the others.”
I bit my lip as I tried to balance, but found a reply for her anyway. “What about anyone outside the city? Shaohao, or Tsiolkovsky station?”
“No, we use the same satellites to communicate with anyone outside the city. With those three disrupted, we’re cut off. Though I wish I knew how we were disrupted. You’d need a jammer the size of a small moon to cut them off completely.”
“Think simpler,” I advised as I stepped onto the relatively firm ground of the roof, and found my heartbeat slowing back down to healthy speeds. “My dad always says that while everyone’s looking for some complicated solution that involves hacking and high technology and so on, they never think to ask if maybe just a few guards got bribed instead.”
“Uh… okay. Not quite sure what you’re referencing there, but there are no guards on the satellites. They’re completely unmanned. 5 o’clock.”
I threw myself to the ground, causing the baseline girl coming up behind me to tackle nothing but empty air. She howled in rage as she scrambled to her feet, a very strange sight in the soundless half-world I currently inhabited. She raised a pistol, but before she could do anything smart, I ran forward and kicked her as hard as I could in the chest, sending her tumbling over the edge.
Screamers with guns. I had seen more than a few of them, but they were still disturbing.
“That’s… hoo…” I was breathing hard; I knew I should have grabbed a bottle of water or something, but there hadn’t been any safe places to stop. “I’m all right… so, what I meant was, just try and think simple. They couldn’t use a jammer. So what could it be?”
A long pause.
“Mechanical failure,” she finally texted. “Probably not natural, but yeah, if she was careful, she could have rigged an explosion on all three simultaneously.”
I had no idea how Elizabeth Greene would have gotten into space, slipped past the orbital defenses, and slapped a few C4 charges on three different communications satellites, but I was tired of arguing about it. “See? Doesn’t that make more sense than managing to sneak a moon past your sensors?”
“Well, they’re Tsiolkovsky’s sensors.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Fine, you’re right, your way is easier. Occam’s Razor. This is the gun shop.”
I stopped dead; I had been in the middle of a run-up to try and leap to another building, one only ten feet away but without any easier means of reaching it. I glanced around for the stairwell down, and found it. “Which floor is it?”
“This one. The roof.”
I blinked, hand on the door. “What, seriously?”
“Yes, behind you. Under the awning.”
Huh. I had noticed the shadecloth strung up in a corner of the roof, but had assumed it was just some ghoul’s nest. “Anyone in there?”
“Not that I can tell. But I just have phone GPS to go on, so be careful.”
As it turned out, we were both paranoid; there was nobody there. But I’d much rather be paranoid than dead or screaming.
The shop was tiny, basically a street vendor except for guns. Well, there were a half-dozen handguns and a rifle, but mostly there were just boxes of ammo. Cheap, reliable stuff, nothing like Canian incendiary rounds or god slayers for my St. George.
I picked up a tiny little gun with a barrel that was only a hair longer than the grip. “I’ve seen this somewhere before.”
“It’s a Hellion 87-609 Six.”
I nodded in understanding. “Right, Mitchel had one—wait.” I tapped the eyepiece. “You can see through this thing?”
“Barely. Is that really a problem?”
“No, but…” I was frustrated and indignant, but couldn’t come up with a good reason to be angry. “…I’m a private person, that’s all.”
“Whatever. You’re pragmatic enough to get over it. What other guns are there?”
Now that I knew she could see through the thing, I was careful to give her a good view of the wares through the eyepiece. “I recognize the Occisor—”
“That’s actually an Occisor Mk. 3, not a Mk. 2 like Derek and Laura have.”
“Well, close enough. I recognize that, and this thing—” I picked up a heavy pistol, etched all over with fanciful designs of gears and other industrial symbols. “—seems familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it.”
“That’s a Black Knight ZF740.”
“…that’s not the one that explodes, is it?”
“You’re thinking of the ZF750.”
“Okay, good.” I pulled out a magazine, looking for a label. “It’s 4.5, right?”
“Yeah. The Occisor is 6.00 mm, though, and the Hellion is 3.00 mm.”
I frowned. “No swapping ammo, then.”
“Not with those, but that St. Jude is 4.5 mm.”
I spotted it immediately. All Necessarian weapons were sleek and slender, with an ergonomic grip and a digital ammo counter right under the sights—even if it was just using iron sights, like the Jude.
I put that next to the Black Knight. “Anything else 4.5?”
“No. That Crisis 09091949 is 4.4, though.”
“…that’s not helpful.” Guns from BOB’s Crisis line were pretty distinctive, what with having a large quote regarding the individual crisis in question engraved on the barrel, but the number alone was virtually indecipherable, and there were two Crisis pistols in front of me.
“You want the Sault Crisis,” MC texted. “The one on your left. The Crisis 04181976—sorry, the Reiner Gamma Crisis—shoots poison microflechettes. I doubt that will be much use, even if you can find some ammo for it.”
Yeah, she was right. “Okay, what about this thing?” It was an assault rifle of some type I had seen before, a sleek, streamlined design that tapered down to a point for the muzzle of the gun. In fact, if you ignored the magazine and the grips, it almost looked like they wanted it to look like a sword.
“That’s an Oplo Xifos. A Dagonite weapon. Well, when I say Dagonite… Oplo used to be a Dagonite company, and in many ways still is, but they’re expanding their operations to people with more normal needs, and their original customer base is shrinking.”
“MC, I don’t need a full history of the company or whatever.” I checked the mag. “6.0. Huh, that should work. It’s interchangeable with the Occisor, right?”
“Well, Occisor ammo won’t work underwater, even if you put it in a Xifos, but otherwise yes. Should still work if filled with sand, though.”
I wanted to ask for details an that little tidbit, but decided against it. “…right.” I started grabbing guns and stuffing them in a backpack that was under the cabinet. “I’m taking the Black Knight, the Occisor, the St. Jude, and the Xifos.” Even as I started dumping ammo into the backpack, I paused. “…and the Crisis.”
“The Reiner Gamma? I told you, you won’t be able to find ammo for the 04181976.”
“No, the Sault Crisis.” Crisis guns were reliable, according to Kat, and I could afford a few boxes of 4.4 ammo. “Just a quick question though—that one is named after the Sault-au-Cochon bombing, right?”
“Okay, just checking. Shortening the name was throwing me off.”
“I’m surprised you even know about it. It’s not exactly a well-known event.”
“My mom’s Canadian.”
“Ah. Yes, as I understand it, that’s where the name came from.”
I stopped shoveling ammo, blinking and re-reading the text three times. “…the name comes from my mother?”
“No! One of the designers is Canadian. Or was.” Even deaf, I could practically hear her laughing.
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, yes, that makes much more sense.”
“Anyway, there are a few restaurants in the building below you, and only about a dozen screamers. If you clear the place out and barricade yourself in, you can hold out until I get a hold of Derek and Laura.”
“All right, that sounds like a plan.” I was too hungry to do long-term thinking right now. I needed food, and maybe a bit of sleep. At least rest—my wounds were aching again. “Where’s the nearest screamer?”
“On the floor directly below you.”
“All right.” I slipped the backpack on, checked the magazine on the rifle, and cleared the chamber with a satisfying click.
“Let’s get to work.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 223)
Yes, there is a logic to the number designation given to Crisis line guns. No, Adam doesn’t know what it is. He really doesn’t pay as much attention to the history segments of his Applied Firearms class.