The bright white and steel-grey spires of Lewisnclarke glimmered in the midmorning sun. They were flying low and fast. Val was whooping over the radio whenever she skimmed particularly close to something. Looking out the windows to the east and west, Duran saw other helicopters converging on them. His computer woke up, painting the approaching dots in red.
“It’s okay,” Val said. “They’re friendlies.”
“Of course. I recognize the ugly voices over the radio.”
Duran tried to relax, but it wasn’t really working. The other two aircraft pulled up alongside them. Together they cut a wide swath through the last of the dunes outside of the city. The buildings on the outskirts were short and squat. It wasn’t until they moved into the city’s center that they had to start weaving between towering skyscrapers. The behemoths clustered closer together as they approached the Forge.
The Forge itself was small and unassuming. Just the shell of the Foundry that had birthed it expanded by an order of magnitude or so. But inside, in its guts, was all the nanotechnology that Ol’ Blue, the Earth, had sent to colonize the Red Planet.
That technology wasn’t really understood anymore, and it couldn’t be duplicated, but the Forges had been designed to be easy to use. The downside of the simplified nanotechnology was that it needed a control signal from the Forge that had created it to work properly.
Forges weren’t just great at building the giant structures that surrounded them. Weapons and machines of war could be made just as easily. Duran was in more danger now than he’d been in a long time. When he visited cities, he stuck to the edge, as far away from the control signal as possible.
This close, within sight of the Forge, they could throw anything they could imagine at him. The only hope was to stay lost in the morning rush of traffic. Sleek, high-tech craft buzzed around them, darting effortlessly between the slower, antiquated ships that didn’t rely on nanotech. If you wanted to fly between cities, away from Forges, you had to go old school.
The Ares Corp. headquarters wasn’t hard to spot. They had their logo, a fist grabbing a planet, covering one whole side of the building. Another side had the name itself running diagonally across the plate glass and hardened plastic.
Like any self-respecting Martian corporation, Ares had some very visible defensive weapons on display. Duran’s computer zoomed in on flak cannons and even a couple missile launchers. He was pretty sure those weren’t legal to have in cities, but a city government wouldn’t dare stand up to a hemisphere spanning company like Ares Corp.
Warning lights flashed across Val’s dashboard. They’d entered restricted airspace. If they kept approaching, they’d be shot down. The incoming radio crackled. Val was trying to stall whoever was on the other line. Duran looked at the other people cramped into the back of the helicopter and then down at the Ares grounds below. Grabbing a handle, he slid a door open and rushing wind filled the cabin.
“What are you doing?” Gent asked.
“Giving you a diversion. Meet me on the ground.”
Duran leapt out backwards into the thin Martian air.