December 30th, 2199
Dante had fallen asleep in the back alley of a popular gambling den, concealed behind several layers of foam boxes and garbage bags. Sleep had come easily after half a night spent running, the spray-on packages soft and yielding compared to the asphalt below.
The alarm had been beeping at him for nearly an hour, but only now had he taken any notice of it. He sat up slowly, stretching and yawning. He peered sleepily at the wrist monitor's alert. His eyes widened and he jumped up with a loud curse, grabbing his effects and sprinting towards the door.
He slammed through, his weapon dinging off the steel door handle. The entrance was clear across the long cook room, masked by the steam of the great grey nutria-processing vats.
Dante ran forward, trying to decide which excuse would work best for Prophet, the suddenly found his way blocked by twin gorilla-sized android guards. He bounced off the one he had run into, staggering slightly.
"Where do you think you're going, monkey?" the android asked, clearly intending it as a threat.
I've had enough of your kind for today, Dante thought, resuming his movement towards the door. The same 'droid spoke, drawing a hand cannon that looked as big as his hand.
"Stop right there or I will end you!" the android with the pistol blared, cocking the gun.
Dante had almost reached them by then, and the android pulled the trigger, an enormous slug racing out of the barrel.
But Dante had vanished from the spot and the bullet glanced off a cooking basin, leaving a sizeable dent. The android looked around, bemused. Nothing.
It reached a hand up to calibrate its obviously malfunctioning sensors, and its head fell off at the first touch of the metal fingers.
The other android stared at its headless comrade, still perfectly balanced on its two feet. Then its own legs slid out from underneath it, and the torso clattered to the ground with a surprised screech.
And from out of nowhere, Dante reappeared, leaning casually against the wall.
He regarded the wounded creature with an analytical glance, then replaced the blade-ring he carried on his back. And then he walked away, talking without looking at the robot.
"You and your friend were in the way of a runner, who was in a hurry. If you live, never make that mistake again."
He reached the bottom of the stairs, and faced a brick wall. Subtle. He tapped the center brick, waiting for the few seconds it would take to shimmer and fade away.
When it did, two yellow, diseased eyes gazed at him through the hole and a wheezy, Cockney voice greeted him.
"Does your mother know you're down here, boy?"
Dante's lips twitched in irritation.
"Let me through. I need to talk with Prophet."
"I en't never heard of no Prophet, and we've got a full house tonight. There's no room."
Dante rolled his eyes and spoke in a sharp and annoyed tone.
"First of all, Molly never lets in more than 10 people, and even then just for the occasional party. Second, you're a terrible liar. I know there's nobody in here. Third, do you know what I am?"
The doorkeeper's eyebrows rose.
"And why should I let some fool kid like yourself in? Who the hell do you think you are?"
Dante was silent, considering the yellowed eyes with a strange expression. Then he turned around, walking back the way he had come. As he went, his jacket fell from his shoulders, leaving his chest and back bare. He stopped, turned around, and let the presentation begin
Within seconds, a grey coloring seemed to be spreading from his fingertips to the rest of his flesh, and as the eyes watched, all of Dante's visible skin had turned grey.
The doorkeeper gulped; he knew the penalty for angering a runner. Dante drew his lips back across his gums, putting on his best wolf face, and the door flew open with almost unnatural speed. The runner suppressed a bout of laughter and moved into the sewer tunnel, giving the doorman a friendly pat on the shoulder.
Molly's Saloon smelled as fetid as ever, a stench that had proved irremovable over the many years of its existence. The saloon was one of the many outposts in Omega's underground, an expensive watering hole for the higher-echelon mercenaries and criminals by day. Typically Dante didn't come down here, but he could ignore the waste of bullets that it might present, not hesitating as he opened the crimson door and entered.
The oiled click of a hammer froze the runner in place.
The bar was deserted except for one drunk, passed out on the counter, drool slowly pooling around his head on the stained oak wood.
And Molly had a gun drawn and cocked.
Dante moved forward slowly, making his presence known. He called out to the still figure behind the bar.
"Hey, Moloch. What's with the piece?"
Moloch glowered at him, then replied curtly, "I was told that oughtta expect free-range meat tonight. What the fuck do you want, Soldari?"
Dante tsked, still advancing. "I'm here to talk to Prophet, but that gun's making me jumpy."
Moloch advanced a step, and Dante stopped where he stood. Then the boy spoke, contempt filling his voice, glowering at the rolling mound of fat behind the bar.
"You won't hurt me with that, and you know it. And it's not worth the effort it would take to kill you if you did shoot me. So why don't you just put the damn gun down, let me go about my business, and go back to cleaning your faux-Victorian bullshit?"
A shot rang out across the bar, jerking the drunk up an inch.
Dante stood absolutely still, hands on the butts of his guns. A small drop of blood was trickling from a hole near his collarbone, the surface of the grey armor hardened into a thick shell.
The runner looked down at the wound as if willing it to close, and both men watched the bullet slowly slide out of the hole and fall to the floor. He returned his gaze to Moloch, who drew his greasy bulk up against the liquor shelf.
Quicker than could be believed, Dante ran to the bar, reached over, pulled Moloch onto the counter, and swept the chakram up to his throat, drawing the bartender so close he could smell his fear.
Moloch quivered in terror, hands prying vainly against the runner's inhumanly strong hands, alchohol clattering to the floor as he kicked and scrambled.
Dante's eyes blazed with anger, his teeth bared in a bestial mask, and he seemed snarl rather than talk as he said,
"An added benefit to being me is that my armor, loving bitch that it is, can protect me from everything short of a goddamn artillery shell if I see it coming."
He closed his eyes, breathing deeply for a second. Molly's struggles slowed to a feeble pull, strength evaporating in mortal dread.
"Moloch, you've been fucking with me since the day I met you, all those years ago. But you've never once tried to kill me."
He pushed the incredibly sharp edge of the ring against the man's neck, a bright string of blood blooming on the his pallid skin.
"So, think quickly now. Give me a good reason I shouldn't spare myself an particularly frustrating pain in my ass ."
Moloch gulped like a fish out of water, grasping for words that weren't there once his control was taken away. Dante grinned and spoke in a ferocious undertone.
"That's what I thought. Pray to whatever devil you like. He's gonna be roasting your soul very soon."
He drew back the disc to make the final cut, and felt the cold steel of a gun barrel press against his temple.