"Yup," I said.
"How do you know?"
"Worked once? And you expect--"
I gave her The Look.
"Okay, okay!" she said, sitting back in her chair. "Don't freak."
I turned back to look out the palm-sized clean spot on the dirt-caked window of the abandoned office building.
Two blocks north of us loomed the southeast towers of Winn Town, Southside's ten-block collection of 20-story residential high-rises. Six stories below me sat abandoned storefronts and the occasional gutted metal hulk that would've passed for a car in a nicer part of town.
Not here. Not in Southside.
At the end of the block a hundred meters away, Renaldi's BMW sat half-on, half-off the curb at the corner of the intersection, its trunk angled toward me. In the front seat, a pair of figures.
Good. Everything in place.
"So where--?" Natalia began.
Then I felt it. A dull thrum that rumbled up from the floor and through my legs.
"Right on schedule," I said and turned to look up the street.
The aerodyne swung around the corner at the other end of the block. It hovered above the intersection, level with the tops of the other buildings along the street, two stories above me. I could see the faint outline of the pilot in the cockpit, lit by the amber glow of the instrument panel. Its searchlights raked across the outside walls and finally swept up the street and found the sedan.
The aerodyne's chaingun swung into place and howled, spitting fire into the sedan. The car bucked under the impact, spraying chunks of metal into the air.
Then the gas tank caught and a fireball rocketed out of the trunk with a dull whomp, flipping the car up and over.
I squinted against the flash and made a mental note to pick up flare compensators for my optics when this was over.
The sedan fell back to the street on its roof, flames licking the chassis. A moment later, the aerodyne dropped altitude and started up the street toward the car.
The first time around, these guys assumed Mouse and I were dead. They weren't going to make the same mistake twice. They would make sure they had prepared for every possibility. Of course, they'd never dealt with me.
I tugged at the window latch and yanked. It slid open, grinding along its runner, and a blast of cool air mixed with the sweet-sour reek of garbage whipped at my face.
The aerodyne passed under the window.
"Stay here," I said to Natalia. Then jumped out.
A vertical fall is one thing.
A vertical fall onto a moving object is another.
I could hear Murphy's voice in my head: "What the hell are you thinking?" Murphy preferred simpler approaches. But I was never a simple kind of gal.
I landed on top of the aerodyne in a crouch. It shuddered under me and suddenly came to a stop. I heard a door slide open to my left, saw a pair of black-gloved hands grip the edge of the roof and a helmeted head pop up. The secman went saucer-eyed -- not everyday that a meter-ninety of dark-haired Amazon lands on the roof of your aerodyne.
He stared. I cracked my boot into the middle of his face. His head snapped back and I heard his scream fade as he plummeted to the street below.
I swung into the cabin just as another helmeted, black fatigue-clad secman went for his sidearm.
One of The Twins, Bonnie, leaped into my hand and spat four times, thunder echoing in the enclosed space.
He crumpled in a heap against the bulkhead.
The other Twin, Clyde, sprang into my left hand as I spun toward the cockpit.
Both Twins nuzzled up against the heads of the pilot and co-pilot.
"Hi, choom," I said. "Come here often?"
"Fucking bitch--!" The co-pilot reached for his gun.
They never learn.
Bonnie roared again, belching fire. The co-pilot's head sprayed gore and gray matter onto the cockpit wall. He slumped in his seat. The pilot whimpered and threw his hands up. The two-way radio at my belt crackled.
I slid Bonnie back into my shoulder rig, keeping Clyde trained on the pilot, and pulled the radio out.
"Oh my god!" Natalia's voice said. "It worked. Those stupid mannequins in the car worked."
"Told you," I replied.
I still don't know what Fast Eddie was doing with a bunch of department store mannequins. Not my business.
At least he came through for me and Mouse. Again.
"Meet us below," I said into the radio then clicked off and turned to the pilot. He whimpered again. I gave him The Smile. Slightly less threatening than The Look. It just makes people uneasy.
"Set us down," I said.
* * *
The pilot told me everything I needed to know. He was surprisingly cooperative.
Then again, the threat of serious bodily injury from twin hand cannons and a scattergun pointed at your face can loosen just about anyone's tongue.
My cellphone chirped just as he finished talking. I motioned for Natalia to keep the shotgun trained at him, holstered The Twins, then pulled out my phone and stepped into the aerodyne's cabin.
"The Marina," he said. "Pier 42."
"We'll be there," I said and hung up.
Then I picked up the equipment-filled duffle bag I'd found next to the body of the secman in the cabin.
"What now?" Natalia asked.
"We take the aerodyne."
Natalia nodded then gestured to the pilot. "What about him?"
I thought a moment.
Through the cockpit windows, Winn Town stared back at me. About as inviting as a trip to the bowels of hell.
I drew Bonnie and aimed her at the pilot's head. He recoiled.
"You're going for a walk," I said. "But first, take off your clothes."
"What!" he said, spit flying from his mouth.
I shot him The Look.
He peeled off his uniform.
(to be continued...)