Two years he had been searching. Whispered rumours had finally brought him here, a town on the edge of nowhere that most folks called Methelis, but those who lived here called it Hell, and for good reason. The smell of sulphur was never far away, a dim yellow stain which clung to every surface and left every meal tasting of bad eggs. It was always strongest when the miners passed by, when it billowed from their clothes and hung thick in the stale air.
It was not the mining of it that burned the lungs and left the landscape around Methelis barren, however, but the refinery five miles away where plumes of the smoke filled the air and rained down acid. Everyone who lived here wore respirators and goggles. Everyone who lived here was looking to escape somewhere, though some believed whatever it was you were running from wasn’t nearly as bad as living here.
Running from something, that was the only reasons someone would come here willingly. That, or a nice, fat bounty.
It was her eyes, gold with brown flecks, which drew his immediate attention, marking her as one of the few remaining GCs, genetic-cyborg hybrids. He caught sight of them for barely a second when she pushed her goggles up to wipe mud and sweat from her face. Then she was gone, disappeared into the sea of rags and respirators; miners just getting off shift.
Carin Lan left a few bills on the counter beside his empty plate, calibrated his gun, and slid into the crowded street. Two years of hunting were going to pay off at last.
He followed from a distance, more because the crowd was too thick than because he wanted to. He would have to get her alone before he made a move, last thing he needed was to draw too much attention to either of them.
The group of miners split, some heading toward the barracks, some to the best place to get the cheap RED liquor that was as likely to blind you as it was paralyze you, but absolutely guaranteed to get you piss-ass drunk for as little money as possible. Carin followed those going to the barracks; no GC would touch RED, played hell with their cyborg components.
He eased his gun into his hand as he pushed forward, the crowd thinning once they were on the side street. A scrap of cloth was tied around her wrist, he had seen it when she wiped her face. He just needed to find it again and he’d have her.
One of the miners moved away from the others, toward a run-down old shack with a sign outside that read simply “Repairs”. He caught sight of the fabric at her wrist. Carin quickened his pace, catching up to her just as she reached the door and pressing the gun to her back.
“You know what this is,” he said, voice muffled by the apparatus covering his mouth. She nodded once. “Come with me.”
He put a hand on her arm and steered her toward the alley. Her body was stiff but she did not resist. Down between the repair shop and an abandoned warehouse was a door that lead down to a dry cellar. He pushed her down first in front of him.
“Word is, the going rate for a GC is 20k.” She wasn’t stupid, that was certain enough, not if she’d managed to live this long. But she’d gotten careless. The glimpse of her eyes – she should have known better. “Man could live easy on a bounty like that; not many would be likely to turn down the opportunity to bag one.”
She had stopped at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for him to descend as well. When he put a hand on her shoulder to get her moving again, he realized his mistake.
She dropped out from under his touch fast as a bucket full of ore down a mine shaft. Before he could even put his finger on the trigger, she had brought a leg up, foot catching him full in the groin.
He doubled over, gasping for air that refused to be rushed through the dirty filter of his respirator. She arched her back up, getting her feet under her again and shoving off the floor. With no time to dodge, he took the back of her fist full-on to the side of the head as she spun around to face him. That dropped him to his knees.
With a fist in his hair, she brought his face down to meet her knee twice, cracking his goggles. He hadn’t realized he had let go of the gun until he saw her pick it up and train it on him.
“Give me one reason,” she said.
He sat back on his feet, panting heavily and bleeding from where the rims had cut above his eye. With both hands, he slid his goggles up.
“Folk like us,” he said, struggling to raise his eyes enough to be seen, eyes which looked just like hers. “We can’t be too careful.”
She lowered the gun. “You need to take your own advice.” A roundhouse kick to the head knocked him out cold.