Just another day in the life of a ronin. Street mercenary. Gun for hire.
Me. Name's Kat.
A little boy in a dark green hooded sweatshirt, eight, maybe nine years old, bolted around the corner and dropped to his knees next to the man.
I stepped back from them. Pan and scan the aisles.
Empty and clear.
Scam? I'd heard of kids being used as distraction while some yahoo snuck up, jammed a blade into you back, and grabbed your creds.
Hell--I was one of those kids. Way back.
The man struggled to his elbows, gurgled something, and spit blood.
Then I saw the stain on the side of his jacket.
I started toward him.
"Don't. Hurt. My dad."
The boy. Voice monotone and emotionless. Suddenly between me and his father, both feet planted squarely, hands at his sides and balled into fists, staring up at me from beneath lowered brows.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention.
I held up my hands, palms out. "Not me, kid," I said.
The man coughed. "Please," he said, his voice a croak. "They can't get him."
Shades of Lazlar and the disk.
"Stay still, choom. We'll get you somewhere safe."
He coughed blood.
"Mouse," I said into the subvocal transmitter fitted into my ear. "Trouble."
"I know," she said. "Two mooks heading for the store. On my way."
"Copy," I said and turned to the man and the boy. "Whoever did that to you is coming to finish the job. Odds aren't in your favor so I'm gonna level the field. Stay put."
The Twins, Bonnie and Clyde--my pair of Colt-Springfield M2001 .45-caliber high-capacity pistols--cleared the double-holster shoulder rig beneath my black leather biker jacket and leaped into my hands.
I headed to the front of the store.
The door chimes burbled their happy tune and the two mooks strode in. Standard corp muscle. Big. Burly. Close-cropped hair. Dark suits.
There must a mook mill somewhere. Bastards all looked the same.
I leveled the Twins at them. "Far enough, gents," I said.
The two of them took a small step back.
Typical reaction when a meter-ninety of dark-haired Amazon in black biker leathers confronts you with a pair of .45-caliber hand cannons.
The clerk behind the counter made a noise between a yelp and a shriek. A buzzer went off. Then thick bulletproof glass panels dropped out of the ceiling and encased the counter. The clerk dropped out of sight.
The two mooks looked at each other.
Then stepped apart.
The Twins tracked them. One Twin, one mook.
Shooting two guns at two different targets and hitting both only happened in Mouse's vids. I may be a crack shot even without gun linkages. And I may be ambidextrous.
But I'm not magical.
Of course, the mooks didn't have to know that.
"I know why you're here," I said, "but it'll end badly if you try it. You need to leave."
"Don't know what you're talking about, Lady," said Mook Number One, on my left. "We're just here to grab some snacks."
"Nice try," I said. "Leave. Now."
"Listen, Lady--" Mook Number One's hand rose toward the front of his suit.
The door chimes warbled happily.
A subvocalized command flooded my body with adrenaline stimulators and the world slid into slo-mo.
Mook Number One was reaching for his gun and looking over his shoulder at the same time.
So was Mook Number Two, on my right.
Saw Mouse bolt in through the front door, low, wakizashi--Japanese short sword--in one hand. Ahead of her, a trio of throwing blades arced toward Mook Number Two.
Focus on target. Mook Number One, hand disappearing into his suit jacket.
The Twins roared and bucked, spitting fire and .45-caliber slugs.
Mook Number One took four rounds in the chest and crashed backward into a window display, arms and legs pinwheeling.
Quick glance toward Mouse.
She was crouched over a prone Mook Number Two, her wakizazhi buried in the man's chest.
Back toward Number One.
He wasn't moving.
Another subvocal command shut off my boosters. "Mouse?"
"Five by five, Kat," she said. "He's toast."
"Keep an eye out. I'll be back."
I holstered the Twins and went back to the man and the little boy.
The boy knelt over the man's body. He looked up as I approached, his face wet with tears. "My daddy's dead," he said.
I let out a loud exhale. "There were two men who just came in to the store."
"Men in suits?" said the boy.
"They were after us. After my dad."
"Not anymore," I said. "But you can't stay here."
He looked back at his father's body. "We have to leave him here, huh?"
"It's okay. You're right. There might be more of them. And the police will be here."
I fought back a grin. Smart kid.
Right on cue.
"Kat," Mouse called out from the front of the store.
"I hear them," I replied. Back to the boy. "Let's get you someplace safe--"
The boy got to his feet. "I have to find my Aunt Mo," he said. "Will you help me?"
"What?" I said.
"You're edgerunners, right? I'm only a kid but I'm not stupid."
The sirens were getting closer.
"Kat," said Mouse.
"Will you help me?" said the boy. "I'll hire you."
I checked my optic clock.
Ninety minutes into my day and I already had three dead bodies and a father-less kid wanting to hire us.
There's gotta be an award for this.
(to be continued...)
"Little Boy Lost"