The days rolled by, seemingly a singular flow to those who experienced them. Events blended together, seemingly with no transition between each.
In a flash Dante had obtained his first job; had run his first race against Aaliyah; had obtained Daywalker rank; then it was his eighteenth birthday, the occasion celebrated with much fanfare from the whole Omega community; he had completed even more jobs, and in a blink he was standing in a back alley against a gang of heavily armed drug smugglers.
Aaliyah was out of town on a job, leaving him to do what he pleased in the meantime. He had been sent here to deprive the dealers of a shipment that would cement their place in the underworld of Omega. The informant had failed to mention military-grade weapons.
"And it's a runner, no less!" exclaimed the ringleader of the drug caravan, his fat yellow face nervous and excited as he observed the motionless Dante crouching on some rebar.
"I'm sure that armor of yours would make a fine trophy for me when I'm ruling Omega's drug trade!"
His woman was eyeing Dante with an appraising expression, fiddling with the weapon in her hands. Dante said nothing; he was too busy taking in the details of the scene.
Fifteen. Fifteen heavily armed and obviously well-trained Lone Walker mercs. I am going to kill Prophet for this.
He turned his head slowly, meticulously gathering and filing the various facets of the scene. The leader continued to rant gleefully, but his voice was far away from the runner.
The mercenaries are armed with SR-IL Rifles, flashbangs, and have underslung single-shot grenades. The ringleader has a double-setting Mark VI Iso pistol and fractal sword. The woman is carrying a Longshot, presumably with flechette rounds. Those knives at her side… flaying blades . Priority targets: leader, woman, soldiers. How to proceed?
Then the woman leaned over to the man, whispering in his ear, and he quickly focused on the conversation.
"Can I keep him, Lorenz? He's such a delicious specimen, and the runners are famed for their endurance. I want to see the color of his armor."
"We'll see. For now, we'll have to make him pay for making me late. You can do the honors." She purred and moved away from him.
Like hell you'll take me alive, bitch, Dante thought.
"Runner!" shouted the leader, "Come down here and we promise not to cut you to pieces with pulse fire!"
The leader shifted his weight, unsure of the runner's intentions, then shouted again.
"If you don't come down, these fine mercenaries you see before you will blast your body into small chunks of sizzling meat, fit only to be fed to carrion and sewer worms! We will scourge and burn you, then clone your remains and repeat the process until you can bear it no longer! We will destroy every piece, grind it into the dust, and make sure your name becomes the laughingstock of Omega! We will talk of the failed runner for years to come, and laugh at how your pathetic life was cut too short for further merriment!"
His voice, high and whining, rose to a shrill scream, showing Dante his true fear.
This pathetic shit and I both know I can destroy everyone here. The demolition jobs at Kappa City, Talon Rex, even the Pike's Peak Convoy Incident taught everyone that you don't mess with me. I've had enough.
"-AND I WILL PERSONALLY RIP YOUR HEART OUT OF YOUR CHEST AND MAKE YOU FUCKING EAT IT!" he screeched, spittle flying from his mouth and hands flailing spastically in the air. Dante suddenly snapped his face towards the gang boss, and spoke in a politely bemused tone.
"I'm sorry, I wasn't paying any attention. What were you saying?"
The leader's eyes widened with rage, and he drew a breath to scream an order. But Dante was already in the air, whipping out twin pistols and lining a shot to the little man's head.
By the time the runner landed, the leader was dead, his head a blossoming cloud of red mist.
The runner stood up slowly and looked at the consort, who was staring at her boss with a mixture of surprise and horror, red and grey flecked across her artificially pretty face.
When she brought her attention back to the mercenary, she was staring directly into the barrel of one of the .45s, a long tunnel of steel. His voice, strong and commanding, rang out into the space surrounding them.
"If any of you so much as twitch, the flechette rounds this gun uses will tear through her head and very likely spill those precious loads of DMS. You don't get paid if you fail a job, no? Now, drop your weapons."
The mercenaries remained motionless, guns cocked and ready. Dante's lips twitched in annoyance, and he spoke sharply to the soldiers.
"I also know that all of you will be executed to maintain company reputation if you kill your charges, even accidentally. So don't you dare shoot at me, because you will not only miss, you'll hit her with all of your rounds. DROP YOUR GUNS!" he roared.
They all set their guns carefully to the floor and held their hands in the air, looking at each other and muttering from behind black bandannas. Dante kept the gun pointed at the woman and slowly walked over to the pack androids. If robots could change facial expression, they would have shown gratitude as he cut the ropes holding the packets of DMS, spilling the expensive pink drug all over the concrete.
The androids huddled together, unsure of what to do and recognizing the threat of the guns at the mercenaries' feet. Dante walked back to the woman and pressed the gun against her temple, the click of the hammer loud as a gunshot in the silence.
"All of you. Leave now, or her brains paint the street," Dante barked at the mercs. They didn't budge.
"Are you stupid or just stubborn? Get out! Scram! Beat it!" Dante yelled.
"Let me go, you son of a bitch!" the woman suddenly snarled, struggling against his powerful grip. He raised his eyebrow.
"Took you long enough. And I can't do that until all of your merc buddies vacate the scene. Would you kindly give the order?"
She scowled at him, then opened her mouth to yell at the mercenaries.
A sniper rifle bullet passed through the roof of her mouth, grazed a lung, and exploded out of the base of her spine. Dante cursed and looked wildly around for the shooter. No one in sight, of course.
Damn it. It would've been good to take one alive.
Then the mercs opened fire, the laser shots burning past Dante before the shot had stopped echoing in the alley's enclosed space.
Dante dropped the body and propelled himself in a backflip towards the crowd of androids, reloading the clip on his guns as he went. The merc's fire followed him and connected solidly with the metallic huddle, metallic pings and screeches filling the air in the alley.
Several of the labor robots were torn apart before they could register the threat, and many more were killed as the rest rushed the mercenaries. But they served Dante's purpose; effective cover.
As the two battle lines met, the androids slammed into the mercs, a whirlwind of hydraulics and steel, screaming indistinctly in their fear and anger.
But it was the runner who did the most damage; at the first sound of his metal wall smashing into his enemies, he had jumped back into the air and started to pump out rounds from his guns.
The flechettes rained down on the crowd, tearing holes in flesh and steel alike, a shotgun spread making sure nobody was spared. Blood and oil covered the alley's floor, the screams of dying things filling the air. And through it all, the bang of the .45s drummed out the rhythm of death
And then it was over. All of the androids and all of the mercs were dead, splayed at odd angles all across the alleyway. All except one wounded 'droid, crawling weakly towards the street.
Dante holstered one of his guns and walked over to the wounded creature. He checked the other's chamber.
One round left.
He flipped the android roughly onto its back and stared into its metal face, eyes devoid of emotion and pity.
Its eyes were wide, hazel polychrome irises dilated as far as they could go, garbling out electric sound from a speaker as it held its hands in front of its face. Dante stood silently over it, the gun pointed between its eyes, for a long moment.
He almost looked sad as he whispered. "No witnesses," and pulled the trigger.
As he climbed onto a nearby slum house roof, fingers denting the metal where he gripped it, he touched the commlink in his ear. A dry, rasping voice greeted him.
"Dante. I assume the drug shipment was eliminated?" The runner reached the top and talked as he sprinted across the roofs.
"Everything worked out well enough; the androids killed almost all of the guards, and one of the leaders was killed by a sniper. I used the flechette rounds. No way they survived."
"Good, you're learning."
The voice hesitated, then asked, "Dante... did you manage to save any of the androids?"
The runner hesitated as he leaped the gap between two houses.
"...No. They were slaughtered by the mercenaries. Besides, they were expendable. You said it yourself."
The voice let out a rattling sigh. "Whatever you say, man. Find me at Molly's Saloon tomorrow. I have a job for you."
"Roger. Dante out."