Chapter Six – Outrank
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Chapter Six - Outrank

“A samurai in motion outranks everyone.

The complexity in this situation lies in deciding if you should run with them, or in the other direction.”

--US Core of Special Ordnance Disposal - Technicians Manual, 2050


I almost fell asleep as Gomorrah drove us across the afternoon sky. We received a few warning calls as we left New Montreal’s flight space, mostly automated messages telling us that we were shit out of luck if some flying aliens decided to munch on us, but a few calls actually came in with actual people on the other end, again to tell us that we were on our own the moment we left the area immediately around the city.

It wasn’t illegal to move (after all, some folk were going to leave no matter what, and if they left, that was fewer mouths to feed) but it was pretty damned stupid to try and cross any distance while no one was around to protect you.

Telling the nice concerned people that we were samurai was usually enough to reassure them that we knew what we were doing. Although one guy from an insurance place insisted that he could sell us great travel insurance and I ended up hanging up on him.

I had a lot of reading to do about the situation over in Burington, but I got bored of reading reports on my augs. It wasn’t exactly a strain to use the fake floating screens projected onto my eyesight via my augmentations, but it also wasn’t as easy to focus on those. I could be looking at pictures of kittens or girls with nice butts.

Burlington was about forty-five minutes away, if you flew in a straight line with no traffic. With Gomorrah behind the wheel testing her new Fury’s engine, it took ten minutes, and half of that was spent decelerating.

“We need to travel somewhere further,” Gomorrah said. “Maybe across the ocean?”

“So that you can push the acceleration to the max?” I asked.

“We barely hit three-fifty an hour before I had to start slowing down,” she complained. “This beauty can go a whole lot faster. I’m talking fast enough that the planet’s curvature becomes an issue.”

I shook my head, but I was pretty happy for her. If Gomorrah’s fun came from burning things and going fast, then I could get behind that.

“There’s the city,” she said with a gesture ahead of us.

I sat up straighter, pulling out of my slight slump so that I could see the place we’d be dealing with, with my own flesh and blood eye.

Burlington matched up to what I’d seen pretty well. It was a smallish city, with a large downtown area in its southern end and a sprawl of homes and estates around that. Even from the air it was pretty obvious that this was a place for the semi-well-to-do.

Gomorrah flew a wide circle around the city, and I took note of a few things that hadn’t shown up in the first pages of the report I skimmed.

From what I read, most of the resistance was located in the downtown portion of the city, which made sense. That area basically sprouted from nothing. It went from a few streets with apartment buildings and little stores, to suddenly a wall of larger complexes and buildings that stuck out of the landscape like sore, stainless-steel thumbs.

They weren’t anywhere near as big as what I was used to. My own building was on par with most of the skyscrapers here, even, and it was obvious that they lacked the sort of elevated platform set-up that a proper megacity had.

Still, there was a kilometre-wide square of larger commercial and high-density housing which was, in turn, surrounded by barricades and defences. I saw lines of barbed wire next to flipped-over hover cars and debris being used to create a wall. Lots of greenery in that wall too, but I’d inspect that once I was on the ground.

The problem was that the downtown area wasn’t the only defended one. A section of the city near the lake had a few dozen armed cars around it, some actively moving around , and someone had set up guard towers and cement blockades with gun nests behind them.

They looked a lot more professional than the downtown defences.

“That’s going to be trouble,” I said.

“That’s going to be your trouble to sort,” Gomorrah pointed out.

“Are you happy about that?” I asked. “Because I’m pretty sure I’m not. I don’t like politics.”

Gomorrah shrugged. “You’ve handled them well before.”

“I threatened to shoot the mayor.”

“Yes, and?” she asked. “That’s exactly how a samurai does politics well. With collateral damage. Personally, I don’t have the constitution for it.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

She hummed. “I think I’m too used to listening to people in authority? I grew up with nuns telling me how and when to do everything. Franny was always the rebellious one. I can follow along with a bit of antiauthoritarianism, but it’s not something that comes naturally to me.”

“You’re really painting me as a rebel here,” I said.

“You’re not?”

I chose not to argue that point, sensing that I’d probably lose. But really, I wasn’t that rebellious, was I? “Land downtown, there’s more people there. Bet they have more problems that need solving. Did the report say they have a headquarters?”

“They do. There’s a mall. It’s central to the area, so I suppose it makes sense to use it as a staging area,” Gomorrah said.

We flew down and through the downtown area. There was some traffic out, but it was exceptionally sparse. No call outs or warnings came as we slid to a halt over a busy road. People in hoodies and jeans were moving around, carrying boxes onto vans or shuffling around in little teams with shovels and picks.

There was some organisation. People were wearing bands in different colours on their arms, or tied around their heads, and usually people with the same markings were together.

Our arrival caused something of a shift, mostly because Gomorrah parked half-on and half-off the sidewalk right in front of the building. “Nice place to park,” I muttered.

“I don’t want anyone scratching the paint,” she said. “That might set off the Fury’s self-defence mechanism, and I don’t want flambe’d civilian on my conscience.”

“Hey, I’m not a parking cop,” I said. “You can argue with them about it.” I adjusted my coat, made sure my helmet was on straight, then loosened my shoulders .”You ready for the spotlight?”

“Always,” she replied.

With that, we pushed the car’s doors open and stepped out. This Fury was a little taller off the ground, which was nice. It made my exit a lot easier, and at a glance, it looked like I’d need to make a good entrance.

One thing became immediately clear now that I was on the ground. These people weren’t doing so good.

It wasn’t just the cheap, work-dirtied clothes. Those were normal in a situation like this. It was the look on their faces. They looked one part hungry, one part desperate, and all tired. I don’t think ‘hopeless’ has an expression, exactly, but what I was seeing now was pretty damned close to that.

We were the hope these people were waiting for. It put a bit of weight on my shoulders to discover that so suddenly. This was a city of a hundred thousand, and they were relying on five of us.

There was a group of police officers milling around the entrance in full riot gear and army surplus junk. They straightened up as we approached. “Hey,” I said. “Where’re the local samurai at?” I asked.

“Uh,” the one I addressed said. I saw the gear clicking in his head, waffling between two choices. Be a normal police officer and use his own authority to try and bully me, or act like a proper human being when faced with something bigger and scarier and just give me what I wanted. “They’re both inside, ma’am,” he decided. “By the McDonalds.”

“Thanks,” I said.

I stepped past him and entered the mall. It was surprisingly busy inside. Someone was brushing broken glass aside into a large heap to one side while others were stacking clothes into boxes which were being carried out by others. It looked like properly organised looting, mostly carried out by young adults and older teens with yellow bands.

Gomorrah and I walked across as if we owned the place, and we were followed by a wake of whispers and pointing.

Honestly, I felt pretty damned cool at the moment. I just hoped that we could earn all that coolness in the next few hours, because as I entered the food court and found three people arguing next to a tipped-over table, I was getting the impression that it wouldn’t be all that easy.


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