“Enough of this. Who in the bloody dust of Mars is coming?” Gent was fed up with half-truths and omissions.
“All I know is they’re called the Ares Corporation. They have holdings in several cities at least.”
Mega-corporations spanning across cities often had more power than most governments. Troops couldn’t easily cross the wilderness between cities without their fancy nanotech gadgets, but money and information could. Everything was cheap on Mars, even life. Currency was the deadliest weapon of all.
As Duran stepped out into the late afternoon sun, he could hear a throbbing hum slowly building in intensity. Townsfolk were littering the street, gaping. At first it looked like another storm was approaching, but as it got closer, Duran saw three low-flying aircraft throwing up dust.
Blackstone started barking out names. His voice had lost all trace of friendliness. Duran was almost as surprised as the townspeople who’d lived with him for years.
“Get your rifles, don’t just stand there gawking. And get behind cover.”
Everyone who could hold a gun rushed to get one. All told, there were ten. Not exactly a small army. Duran reached behind him and rested a hand against his sword handle. He turned to the old man.
“This isn’t your fight. You should get your people inside, underground if you can.”
“You know how these kind of people operate as well as I do Duran. This is our best chance.”
“Well, at least let me get their attention.”
“I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll be damned if I let a bunch of mercenaries fly in here and take anyone or anything,” Gent said, loudly working the action on a rifle. “Here, take this. On the house.”
The bar owner held out the gun to Duran. Duran just shook his head and turned back to the approaching aircraft.
“No thanks. I’m alright.”
Before Gent could protest, Duran jogged forward toward the approaching aircraft.
Duran increased his speed. His legs pumped faster and faster and soon he was flying over the loose earth and dust. The aircraft were close enough now that he could see more details. Each one was a small chassis surrounded by four helicopter propellers shrouded in metal cylinders. The four propellers shifted between the vertical and the horizontal to give lift or thrust. As he watched, the engines changed position and the two craft on either side of the formation peeled off. They’d spotted him.
The roar of the engines got louder and a wave of red dust was sweeping towards him behind the gunships. The craft directly in front started to turn to the side, revealing an open side door with a mounted gun sticking out. He could see the soldier, or mercenary, or whoever he was, aiming at him. Duran didn’t have much time, so he sucked in a deep breath and hoped what he was about to try was going to work.