Old memories smothered him as he walked out the door with a couple packs of protein gel, some spare microchips, and a new water filter. The store automatically charged him when he crossed the threshold. Red numbers in the upper left corner of his vision told him exactly how much money he’d spent. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, he saw six muscle-bound thugs eyeballing him. The biggest one looked like he’d had artificial muscles injected, or else he was on some serious drugs. Either way, he didn’t look like he was particularly concerned with side effects. He probably focused more on beating people senseless with his giant fists.
“You came to the wrong town Duran Grey. They’ll pay for you quite nicely here.”
So he was dealing with mercenaries. It seemed like every time he came to a new city the mercs were even bigger and even dumber.
“You realize they pay nicely for me anywhere, and yet here I am.”
The leader of the pack and a couple of his underlings looked confused. Apparently he needed to break it down for them.
“Whenever a city wants to grab me, they always send in the mercs first to try to soften me up.”
A few of the sharper minds in the group swallowed hard. They knew his reputation. The big bad just flexed his chest muscles and turned to the scrawniest of the bunch, still muscular by any normal standard.
“Read him the warrant.”
After a stammering start that earned him a scream from his boss, the man read the words that Duran had heard times beyond counting.
“Duran Grey, you’re under arrest for unsanctioned private activation of a Foundry.”
It was the one sin still recognized on Mars, everything else was fair game. Of course, until Duran had come along and managed to crack one open, no one had really thought about it since the Landing. Foundries were the dead eggs that had been meant to hatch and turn Mars into the world that Ol’ Blue could no longer be. Capsules filled to the brim with nanotech, each one of the few that’d actually been brought online had formed one of the cities that humankind huddled in and around.
The war had destroyed the equipment for using them and killed the people who knew how. So they just sat out there, some in the middle of farm fields, some out in the dead zones. Constant reminders of everything that was just out of reach. Until Duran had used one. He didn’t know how exactly, and he often asked himself why it had to be him. That was his great crime, and why every government and militia on the planet was constantly after him. Whoever controls the Foundries, so the thinking goes, controls Mars.
“You hear that Grey? You’re under arrest.”
The burly leader looked a heck of a lot more confident than his subordinates.
“Gee, no one’s ever tried to read me a warrant before. I guess that’s it for me.”
For a second, the leader actually thought he was being serious. He was angry when he saw a couple of his own crew were smirking along with their target. He reached for his belt. As his fingers neared a nondescript looking black case, a handle popped out. As the box left his side, it split down seams that hadn’t been there before he’d touched it and started reforming into a new shape. By the time it was pointed at Duran, it was very clearly a pistol.