David's weapon was dry, a double barrelled shotgun, each shell
had claimed the life of a dog in the pack but there were six of
them. Jasper had claimed three of them. The last dog leapt at
him, it was black, a meter tall at the shoulder and weighed a
shitload more than David. Its jaws were open and growing ever
In adrenaline fuelled slow motion David backed up, lowering his
weapon with his right hand and drawing his knife with his left in
a reverse grip. David leant back, putting a foot back to steady
himself before thrusting with the knife.
Shwack. The Fairburn Sykes dagger sunk into the eye of the
canine, killing it instantly. The weight of the creature slammed
into him and he absorbed it with the help of his rear foot. He
slammed the creature to the floor.
Jasper gave an approving nod from across the decaying lobby, .308
bolt action in hand. David gave one last cautious look around the
decaying lobby before yanking the blade back out.
'Nice. We better scram. These dogs must have an owner.' Jasper
said as he changed magazines.
'Yep.' David agreed, replacing the shells in his own weapon.
They jogged into the space between the two staircases in the
lobby. To their left was a pair of double doors.
'You're not going to believe this.' Cain said, holding his mobile
as Chantell flew his private two-person chopper over the so
called 'rust belt' of Penrith.
'What's up?' Taylor replied.
'I just lost a K9 pack in Penrith. All six.'
Jasper whistled. 'You want some help?'
'Well, SHODAN tells me they were all killed by two bushmen, two
against two, that's fair isn't it?'
'Absolutely.' Cain could imagine Taylor grinning. 'If the two
killed that many dogs they must have some talent. Where are you
'I'm five minutes out. Sending you the location now.'
'Sweet. I'll be five minutes behind you.'
Cain hung up and pulled down his dark grey balaclava.
Chantellheld the helicopter hovering over the corrugated iron
roof of a building adjacent to the theatre where Cain's pack dogs
had died. Apparently it used to be a movie theatre of some repute
though it was hard to tell now. The giant factory behind the
theatre had run bust following the outsourcing boom and this part
of Penrith had been mostly abandoned. The rust and rot that
followed had resulted in the area being nicknamed the 'rust
Cain dropped to the roof, it had looked like the most solid
roofing in the area and it held his weight. The roof sloped up to
the edge of the building which overlooked an alleyway linking the
side of the theatre and the factory. He charged up the slope of
the roof, got to the ridge and went spinning onto his back as a
rifle round slammed into the side of his balaclava.
Jasper looked down the iron sights of his rifle with grim
satisfaction, working the bolt action. The pair had exited the
theatre into the alleyway that linked it to the factory at the
back. They used a one by one cover formation all the way and it
had paid off. Jasper had spotted the helicopter and sent Jack
ahead into the factory. As soon as the black clad figure emerged
on the roof Jasper had put a bullet in its head.
'Factory looks clear.' Jack called down from the steel stairs
that lead into the factory. 'You kill him?'
Jasper listened carefully, hearing the amused cackle coming from
where the hunter had gone down.
As his cackling subsided into giggles Cain tapped his earpiece as
the rubbery material of his balaclava regenerated. The smart
polymer had absorbed the bullet and held his neck in place to
avoid breaking his neck.
'How goes it?' Taylor asked immediately.
'I just intercepted a bullet with my face. Remind me to buy more
shares in Onyx.'
'So I was right?'
'Hell yeah mate, game on.'
Jasper swiftly dropped the notion of staying in place to put more
rounds in the hunter when it re-emerged. The cursed thing had the
high ground, wait for him to come down to the ground and then
pump a magazine into him.
Jasper ran up the stairs and inside the door where Jack was
waiting. 'Shotgun's not gonna be much use by the looks of it.'
'Guess not.' Jack said, looking inside the factory.
'I'll slow it down. You head inside and-'
'Look for a way to flank him. I know. I'm thinking an escape
route might be more useful.'
'Sure. If you can find one in there.'
'Alright. Stay sharp. Fall back after a magazine.'
'Will do.' Jasper said, putting in a fresh 5 round clip magazine.
Cain leopard crawled to the edge of the roof, PDR in hand, red
dot sight covering the hurricane fencing at the end of the
alleyway. All clear. He swiftly jumped up and over the edge of
the roof. Held onto the edge with both hands, dropped to the
ground and rolled into a kneeling position. Still all clear.
Then he heard Taylor's helicopter, it was one of the new one-man
models that he flew by himself. Taylor was like that.
Cain tapped his earpiece again. 'I hear you. They're in the
factory, you go in the front I'll handle the alley side.'
Taylor landed on the concrete driveway in his all-black craft. He
exited, Carbine in hand and locked the tiny helicopter with a
'bip-boop.' Looking down the Aim-point sight he advanced on the
factory, entering a lobby area through the large, open double
doors. The giant garage doors to the left and right of the lobby
looked far too secure to bother with.
The lobby was home to a small reception desk to the left and
various clock-on style machines on the right. At the other end of
the lobby was another set of broken glass double doors standing
ajar and pitch blackness beyond them.
Taylor took a knee and took his left hand off his weapon to tap
the left eye lense on his balaclava, green night vision clicked
on and his left eye had a near perfect view of the completely
empty interior of the factory. Well that's disappointing, Taylor
thought as he slowly made his way inside the huge space. The
actual machinery was no doubt sold for parts by the
administrators, a last gasp attempt to salvage some profit from
Jack kicked open the steel door that lead into the heart of the
factory. Staring down the top barrel of the shotgun he spotted a
figure silhouetted by the white light coming in double doors at
the other end of the space inside. He immediately fired a
cartridge at it and ducked back inside. Thanks to the darkness of
the room he was coming from he had relatively good night vision
and he could see there wasn't much cover between himself and the
Jasper dived into the darkness to the side of the entrance as the
air around him was filled with pellets from the shotgun. That was
sloppy, he told himself. You never hang around the entrance once
your inside, you might as well dance the funky chicken and sing
'shoot-me' at the top of your lungs. A couple of pellets bounced
off his Onyx suit before he could roll into a kneel and put his
scope over the area the shotgun blast had come from.
Nothing. Whoever was there didn't stick around and he hadn't come
inside either. No doubt about it, these particular Bushmen had
talent. Taylor smiled. Such a nice change from the usual noobs
who ventured into the outer suburbs of Sydney.
At the end of the alley was a large crate and a hurricane fence
covering two thirds of the end of the alley. The Bushman had shot
him in the head from behind the fence earlier. Cain carefully
walked around the fence, spotting the steel stairs and the figure
lying prone at the top of them. He ducked back behind the crate
just as a rifle round tore through the air next to his right ear.
What I wouldn't give for a stun grenade. Cain thought. Sadly the
hunting rules prohibited the use of explosives of any kind, or
cased ammunition or non-frangible ammunition or anything else
that could pollute the environment. Cain was a keen
conservationist, finding a morbid beauty in how mother nature was
slowly conquering the rust belt, but a simple flash-bang grenade
would make his life that much easier.
But where's the sport in that? He asked himself as he adopted the
time tested strategy of abusing his resource advantage. He
swat-turned around the crate, held the red dot over the sniper
and went crazy with the trigger, his armoured suit was just gonna
have to tough it out.
Totally saw that coming, Jasper thought to himself as he unloaded
three rounds into the trunk of the rapidly side-stepping figure.
Two of the rounds made giant craters over his chest and heart
while another slammed into the magazine pouches over his stomach.
His opponent was sending twice as many rounds back at him but
with nowhere near the same accuracy, not even hunters could be
that accurate while moving it seemed. The rounds flew over his
head and shattered to dust harmlessly against the conrete wall
Jasper was on his last round however which he hip fired as he
stood, covering his retreat inside. He ripped out the empty
magazine and threw it away, running to the right he called out
'cover!' as he put in one of his old magazines, only 4 rounds.
Across the room Jack took a knee and aimed his reloaded weapon at
the door Jasper had come through. As the hunter's head appeared
Jack fired one shell and pulled the barrel down against the
recoil, firing the second round just as the hunter's weapon
appeared over the top of the stairs. The pellets splashed across
the hunters face and chest, making tiny craters across it. The
hunter finally got its weapon to eye level and fired two rounds
as Jack leapt and rolled towards Jasper who had his rifle aimed
at the door at head height.
Cain put his back to the wall and swapped out his magazines. A
small red light was flashing on his eye piece telling him his
suit had nearly exhausted its ability to regenerate.
'Taylor wherever you are I need you to push through for a sec,
I'm low on juice.' He said with his hand on his ear piece.
'You're probably gonna come in through the door opposite me.
Slice the pie around to your left and you'll find them.'
'On my way.'
Taylor pushed, running across the empty space towards the door on
the opposite corner of the factory floor. When he reached the
door he began carefully sidestepping to the right, revealing more
and more of the room as he went around. He found the bushman with
the rifle on the opposite wall, swinging his weapon around to
face him and double tapped the trigger.
The bushman took a round to the chest; Taylor took a round in the
shoulder of his suit, the force of which was enough to send his
second round high to the right. The bushman slid down the wall,
dead from the force of a single 6.8mm round.
Cain came in sideways through the opposite door, lowering his
rifle as he stepped over the threshold and raising it. Cain's 6mm
PDR went off twice as Taylor came in the room. The other bushman,
the one with the shotgun, was dead next to his comrade with a
round in his shoulder and his head. The fight was over.
'Don't know about you but I'm gonna need an ice bath after this
one.' Cain said as he fireman carried one of the Bushmen up the
stairs into the theatre. The .308 rounds had managed to bruise
him several times through the Onyx suit.
'That's what you get for rushing things.' Taylor said behind him,
fireman carrying the other Bushman. Inside the theatre they found
the various pack dogs scattered around the lobby, some on the
stairs some on the tiles, one having apparently been stabbed in
They lay the bodies down on the relatively intact tiles around
the entrance to the theatre. They then collected all of the Dogs,
and made a pile before laying the fallen Bushmen on top.
Taylor grabbed two protein bars from his combat webbing as Cain
took out his phone. Accessing the application that ran the
nanotech network in all of the dogs. He had nicknamed the app
'SHODAN', it was mostly there to stop the dogs from attacking
people who had the nanotech implants necessary to be part of the
global economy. It notified him whenever the Dogs found new prey
and asked his permission to attack. It also had a self-destruct
feature which Cain was accessing now. It would carbonize the dogs
and the two Bushmen with them.
'Farewell gentlemen. Thank you for playing.' Cain said as he sat
down next to Taylor to chew on a protein bar and watch the
'What'll we do about the weapons and ammo?' Taylor asked.
'Leave 'em.' Cain shrugged. 'Somebody might find a use for them.'
They had found five rounds with the .308 and 3 shells with the
shotgun. Each bushman also had a 1911 pistol with 14 rounds of
'Somebody meaning other Bushmen.' Tayor said, throwing the
wrapper on the fire and crossing his feet.
'They don't have access to the global economy, where else are
they going to get weapons and ammo?' Cain asked, throwing his
onto the flames as well.
No I get that. You're just very keen to keep the Bushmen going
'They're good sport. If they all die out we'll have to hunt pigs
and rabbits like in the old days. That'll get boring pretty quick
'I guess it does give us something to do on a weekend. Looks like
you're in need of some new dogs.' Taylor said, nodding at the
gently burning pile.
'A whole pack gone.' Cain shook his head. 'They were experienced
too, they've killed five in the last two months. I'll order a new
pack when I get home.'
After a while Taylor spoke again. 'Ever ask yourself why they do
it? The Bushmen I mean.'
'Why they don't just join the economy? No idea. The original
Bushmen were all discontents from the service class so who knows.
Apparently a steady income isn't enough for some people. Shall we
head back?' Cain said, standing up, the flames were now embers.
'Might as ort. ' Taylor said, standing and stomping out the last
embers. With the quasi-pyre extinguished the two began the walk
back to the alleyway and then into the factory.
Cain tapped at his earpiece to signal Chantell to bring the
chopper back around. 'Meet at Kelly's bar in an hour?' he asked
as they walked the stairs into the factory.
'Sounds good.' Taylor replied.
'What about I bring Rosh, you can invite that Christa chick. Make
it a double date.'
'Well I don't know about that.'
'Oh go on. You two established a rapport at the compound.' Cain
said as they walked through the factory towards the double doors
towards Taylor's craft.
'That would be on account of the bullets whizzing past us.'
'Fortune favours the brave. Ask her. Call me when she says yes
and I'll call Rosh.'
'Don't want me as a third wheel eh?' Taylor smirked.
They walked out the double doors into the glaring sunlight. It
was summer, high twenties. Chantell had landed the helicopter
next to Taylor's smaller vehicle. The blades were still spinning,
she waved at them, her lips smiling, her eyes covered by the
visor of her helmet.
'Well if Christa says no, Chany is always keen.' Cain said,
nodding at his pilot.
'Your generosity knows no bounds.'
'You'd be walking in the footsteps of greater men.'
'Oh shut up.' Taylor said, unlocking his craft and opening the
door. 'See you at Kelly's.'
Cain opened the passenger door to his own chopper, making the
'call me' signal to Taylor's chopper as it took off. With a grin
he sat down next to Chantell.
'Good hunting boss?' she asked, spinning up the blades as Cain
removed his balaclava.
'Very. I may need you to dress up when we get back. You might be
coming out with Taylor and I.'
'Sweet.' Chantell said as they took off, her eyes following
Chantell took off her helmet, black hair rolled down to her
shoulders as she watched the helipad descend underground. Cain
swiped his hand over the door to 'the shed', an equipment locker
next to the helipad area which led into the mansion itself.
Implants in his knuckles opened the door and they entered.
Chantell hung up her helmet and began unzipping her flight
jacket; she had a black t-shirt underneath.
'So smart casual for tonight?' She asked as Cain unclipped his
'Maybe. Taylor will call me in a bit, I wouldn't get dressed
until then. Son of a…' Cain hadn't noticed that one of the .303's
had punched a hole in one of his magazine pouches, mangling the
rounds inside. Cain dropped the magazine on the bench next to his
webbing and PDR before following Chantell into the house.
The door on the right of the shack opened into the main open
space of the mansion which came in three levels descending down
the cliff. The top tier was an open plan kitchen and TV lounge,
the second level was an open gallery with bedrooms and bathrooms
on the left and a transparent wall on the right looking out over
the Pacific Ocean. The lowest level was another lounge area with
a wraparound window looking out over the local beach. It was an
average home for a knowledge class bachelor, the helipad was
exceptional but that was technically government property.
No time to admire the view, the flight in from Penrith had taken
20 minutes. Cain peeled off the top half of his onyx suit. The
bruises on his chest and stomach weren't so bad after all; a hot
shower might be more suitable. 'I'll be in the shower, keep an
eye on the phone will you?' he said as he walked into his room.
When he emerged 15 minutes later, clean, fresh and suited up in
black pants and a navy blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up,
Chantell was curled up on one of the couches on the bottom level,
looking at the ocean with the wafer thin house phone in her hand.
'Taylor called. He said meet at 6pm at Newtown and that Christa
was coming after all.' She said as he walked down the single step
from the second level.
'Sorry Chan, I wasn't actually expecting Christa to say yes.'
'Bah, I'll live. I'll see if Ben is around for a fuck after his
shift. Mind if we raid your liquor cabinet?' Chantell said,
looking up at him. She had grown fond of Cain's bodyguard over
Cain smiled. 'Knock yourselves out. How do I look?'
'Impeccable as ever boss.'
'You're too kind. Don't wait up for me.' Cain pulled out his
transparent smart phone to call Roisin.
By six o'clock it was still about 25 degrees and humid in the
city. The summer sun still found its way onto the streets, it
wouldn't get dark until after seven. Cain took the train into the
city to meet Roisin at the Newtown station. Since leaving the
compound Roisin had cut her hair off at the neck and dyed her
hair a lighter shade of brown. She wore a thin pink-red dress
with short sleeves and matching lipstick.
They met at the top of the stairs near the exit, hugged and
kissed, as she hung her arms around his neck her brown eyes
widened. 'What happened here?' she asked in her Irish accent,
poking his left temple.
He blinked. He'd forgotten about the round in the temple from
earlier, apparently leaving a bruise. 'I ran into some unusually
talented Bushmen out Penrith way.'
'What were you doing out there?'
'I lost my k9 pack.'
'Lost? As in dead?'
'All of them?'
'Yep. All six. But Taylor and I avenged them.'
'Well you could've called me. I haven't been hunting in ages.
Come.' They turned to walk down Kings Street.
'We aren't meeting them at the station?' Cain asked.
'No Taylor texted saying to meet at Thai-Tanic.'
'So he did.' Cain said, checking his own phone as Roisin linked
an arm around his. 'So how was your day?' he asked after a while.
'Not too shabby. Checking scripts, humouring chatty old ladies,
torturing the newest member of the staff. You know, pharmacist
'You just ooze job satisfaction.'
'Don't I just. I'm serious though, we should go hunting, just you
and me. If I can disturb your little bromance with Taylor for a
'Well if tonight goes well Christa might be able to distract him
from his brooding episodes which will free up my schedule
'Ah, so that's how you rationalise it. You're helping him get out
of the house.'
'So he's still raw about Lisa then?'
'I wouldn't say raw…numb. He's been morning for so long it's hard
to get him enthused about anything.'
'We'd better start drinking early then. Sounds like I have a
stake in him being as charming as possible tonight.' Roisin said
quietly, waving at Taylor and Christa as they approached
The two had been sitting at tables on the walkway. Taylor was
wearing a crimson shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a fedora.
Christa looked stunning as ever; bronze skin, and caramel eyes.
Her light brown hair had grown a few inches from the crew cut she
had worn at the compound. The men gripped forearms before hugging
the girls in greeting before they sat down to order.
Taylor and Christa began explaining how they had just discovered
how they had both been in the same stand at the same event at the
London Olympics in '12 and how they had both always wanted to
return. As they continued to merrily swap stories about their
times in England, Roisin and Cain exchanged a glance.
Roisin smiled at him. Life was good.