Gunmetal Black 4
Chapter 6 - Break The Night
Lewis Smith

© Copyright 2000, Lewis Smith.

Kienan looked up at the figure now grinding the point of her foot into his wrist. Her eyes were cold, emotionless, and eerily glassy. The rest of her seemed equally unnatural--sleek blue and black, framed by a cloud of mist that surrounded her as if she were a ghost.

Who's she trying to fool? Kienan wondered. He would have tried to stall her, tried to rest a little more, but whatever she was doing was sending numbing cold seeping through the weatherproofing on his body armor, and the two knives she quickly drew behind him told him everything he needed to know about how much time he really had.

Her eyes locked with his and Kienan tried to pull his arm out from under her foot. She leaned forward, her body and her two knives glittering in the city lights. They locked eyes for a moment, the cold determination of both reflected in the other's gaze.

Then Kienan smiled, whipped his other pistol from his holster and emptied an entire clip into her at point blank range. She didn’t draw back, but took some of the weight off his arm, allowing him to slip out from underneath her grip and shove her backwards by planting his feet against her chest.

She flew backwards off the truck, heading for the edge, stopping herself at the last minute by slamming one of the knives into the roof of the truck. Kienan rolled to his feet, guns at the ready. His arm felt all right, just a little numb from the cold.

She drew herself up onto the roof of the truck again, her lips curled in an icy sneer. "Nice," she said. Her voice was like metal against an iceberg. "Tried to distract me. Well, that won't work again. Just try."

Kienan did as she asked, firing six shots at her heart. She smiled thinly, drawing herself up. The cloud of mist around her seemed to coalesce and become more opaque, the bullets harmlessly struck her skin, frozen to absolute zero by her ice-field, and shattered like sleet against a car windshield.

"My turn," she said, rising her knives. Her fingers rippled almost imperceptibly over the hilts and they changed shape. They still looked like knives, but the shape was unmistakable.

Kienan felt the adrenaline surge within him and went with his instinct, pushing backwards off the roof of the truck as the rushing air was split by a screeching noise from the blades. The roof where Kienan had just been standing bulged, then split. Kienan scrambled down onto the hood again, spared the driver a glance as he begged for his life again and took a longer look over his shoulder.

He shoved off the hood, somersaulting backwards. The night spun in a wild blur around him as he fired downward. The driver slumped against the controls of the truck, causing it to veer wildly.

Kienan landed on the edge of a smaller car, his eyes still on the truck. The girl was hanging on, however unsteadily as the truck lurched back and forth, swinging close to the side of one building, then into the other lane. She attempted to right herself again, and even from a distance, Kienan could see her eyes, still fixed implacably on him. Kienan slapped two more clips into his pistols and clambered up onto the hood of the car.

The girl leapt off the truck, grabbing upwards for one of the sensor masts from a nearby light pole. She swung around, vaulting onto another car. Kienan looked over his shoulder and leapt to a car in the opposite skylane, trying to stay one step ahead of her, the adrenaline rush keeping him going, but just barely.

"Control, this is Sweep 2," Harrison Long said, gently maneuvering the manipulator controls to take the pod into his small maintenance shuttle. "I found a discarded lifepod in Sector K. Taking it aboard for inspection, but no lifeform or radiation readings. Will advise, over."

"Sweep 2, this is Control," The neutral voice on the other end of the line said. "Take pod aboard and return to base. Colony control has advised us to clear traffic pattern--we're due to have company. We can do the decon and recycle routines at base, over."

"Understood, Control," Long said, tapping a sequence of keys to bring the pod into the secondary bay and pressurize the hold. "I'm on my way back now."

He closed the communications circuit and set the autopilot to take him back to the colony. A slow course. Once that was done, he unbuckled himself from his safety harness and exited the cockpit

Colony Sweep was as dull and menial a job as one could dream up, and it was just as low-paying as it was boring. So every moment of excitement--and every bit of pay on the side for smuggling cargo past the usual security network--was to be savored.

He took a small box from the worktable at the forward section of the bay. The pod sat in the middle of the hold, its dull, off-white surface streaked with dark smudges. He used a small screwdriver from his tool belt to open a service panel on the side of the pod, and once he had pried it open, flipped the bank of switches within.

There was a loud pop as the top of the pod door opened. Long quickly tossed the door to the side and looked at the cargo within, opening the toolbox.

Inside was a girl, a few years younger than he was, clad in black and green. Except for the slow rise and fall of her chest, she looked like a corpse. Her eyes were closed and her gloved hands cradled a bottle of oxygen between them. He studied her face. Despite her youth there was something about her eyes, even though she seemed to be sleeping, her expression was one of rage.

He shook those thoughts away and took the small patch from his toolbox, peeling the backing from it. He moved her hair from the side of her neck and pressed the adhesive patch against her skin.

Then he waited. The stimulants in the skin patch would soon bring her out. And by then they'd be back at base.

Kienan jumped clear of the car just as Koriojo's weapon blasted through the windshield of the sky-taxi he'd been standing on. He rolled to the side, just barely catching a footrest of the cargo pod of another truck, and quickly hauling himself up, hand over hand, and rolling onto the roof, strafing the car she was on with a steady stream of fire.

This is stupid, Kienan thought. Can’t nail her, and she's good enough--and fresh enough--to keep up with me. And I'm running out of cars and tricks to keep her off my back. Another double shot from Koriojo blasted the cargo pod he was standing on. Kienan growled under his breath and slammed another clip into his pistol. One of his special types of loads, for when armor-piercers didn't get the job done.

He waited, watching her leap from one car to the next, her footfalls leaving small dents in the roofs as she moved closer to him.

Come on, Kienan thought. He was playing a dangerous game--the smart voice in the back of his head he was presently ignoring said it was stupid to even think this would work; that he should run as fast and as far away as he can.

On the other hand, he was gambling on Koriojo's arrogance, and confidence in her invincibility, and so far, she seemed to be doing exactly what he wanted.

He spared himself a look, to get his bearings. Uptown, he thought. 800 block. I think I'm near enough a place where I can make a stand. Koriojo skipped over to another car as the driver pounded his fist against the roof, audibly voicing his displeasure. She raised her gunblades--

And Kienan raised his pistol and fired. Once.

The bullet struck her in the shoulder, shattering the white-armored shoulder guard, then bursting into flame. Kienan smiled as she dropped one of her gunblades, nervously batting at the flame, her expression now uncontrolled panic.

He gave himself a second to enjoy it, then leapt up for one of the sensor masts, grabbing it and leaping to the windowsill of a nearby building, drawing his knife and climbing up as far as he could.

Behind him, Koriojo was livid. She balled her hands into fists, willing her temperature back to normal. She pointed her gunblade at the roof of the car and fired repeatedly as she leapt to the cargo truck, then to the sensor mast.

She looked up at Ademetria, and smiled. He certainly wasn't making this easy, and frankly, she enjoyed the challenge. It was amazing enough that he'd survived fighting with Tenma, but to hold her at bay in a chase 50 meters off the ground.

The man was certainly as skilled as advertised, she thought, leaping to the windowsill, her eyes fixed on him. Incredibly talented, or certifiably insane. Perhaps both. He should have been one of us. She sheathed her gunblade and began climbing up the wall behind him.

Mao sat up in bed, pressing the "respond" button on his night table.

"What is it Chang?"

"I have the information you requested," Chang replied quietly. The tension in his voice told him everything he needed to know.

"Very well," Mao said, swinging his feet over to the side of the bed. He hadn’t managed to get much sleep, anyway. Too much on his mind, too many awful thoughts of what could have happened to Kienan.

He sighed as he reached for his robe. He'd gotten so wrapped up in his search for Kienan that he'd almost forgotten about Wong coming to the colony, would have skipped the meeting later this morning, had Chang not reminded him.

He tied the blue silk sash around the dark red robe and walked to the door.

Chang stood before his lord, his wizened face inscrutable and impassive as he handed Mao a data folio. "You said you wanted this delivered immediately once I’d finished compiling it."

"These are all his contacts?"

"All that we were able to confirm," Chang said, walking into the bedroom and shutting the door behind them. "He has others in the colony, but they seem to have disappeared."

"Do you think they've gone into hiding?"

"I do not know," Chang said. "But Kienan was an intelligent man. Surely he had a contingency plan to protect himself and those he cared for should someone attack him here?"

"No doubt he did," Mao said. "It's curious that he didn't ask me . . .ask the Syndicate to intervene on his behalf."

"Perhaps he was trying to protect us as well."

"It's possible," Mao said, paging through the information in the data folio. In a way it was hard to believe Kienan was capable of anything that demonstrative. For the many years he'd served the Blue Dragons, Kienan had asked for very little for himself, and very little from Mao personally, and yet, Mao found himself fretting over the fate of his chief assassin as he would a son.

He pondered it, and the answer came swiftly.

I've never had to doubt his loyalty. I never had to command his respect through fear or influence. I had it simply as a matter of course. There was trust between us. Chang stood before him, clearing his throat quietly.

"What is it?"

"I'm afraid there's more," Chang said. "One hour ago, and explosion was reported in a nearby city block. One apartment was destroyed. Going from the information in the file, I have surmised it was Ademetria's apartment."

Mao grimaced. Chang never made educated guesses unless he was already sure the answer could be trusted. He closed his eyes. "Has Colony command issued a statement yet?"

"Not yet," Chang said. "It appears the explosion might be part of an ongoing disturbance, but my people have not reported back to me yet."

Mao sighed and stood up again. He took a deep breath, centering himself and calming his mind. "I'm going to get dressed," he said. "What time is the meeting with Wong?"

"0900 this morning," Chang said. "You’re taking tea with him in the garden."

Mao frowned. That only gave him a few hours. "Let me know as soon as you've heard from your people," he said, walking towards his closet. "We'll meet again in a quarter of an hour in my office."

"Ademetria," Koriojo hissed. Her feet crunched into the gravel on the dark rooftop as she busily looked around, one hand on the hilt of her gunblade. "Come out. Running didn’t do you any good. Hiding won’t either."

"I'm through doing either," Kienan's voice came back. Koriojo turned in the direction of the sound. She moved towards the only light on the rooftop--a small skylight that glowed and pulsed with colored lights from within, like a prism separating light into different colors.

"You’re giving up, then?" Koriojo asked, sliding her gunblade quietly from its sheath. Where was he?

"I don’t give up," Kienan said. "I've already killed one of you Onikage. And I'm going to kill you soon."

Koriojo smiled tightly, her head turning over her other shoulder. He's moving. "You know who we are, then."

"I know enough," Kienan said.

Koriojo looked back over her other shoulder. Of course, she thought. He's trying to get behind me, perhaps damage my regulator . . . "I know you, too, Ademetria." Koriojo said, deliberately turning to look over her other shoulder.

No answer.

She felt something strike her shoulder and turned to look just in time to see the butt of a cigarette bounce off her shoulder armor. Before she knew it, Kienan was moving towards her, black shadows suddenly forming into a flash of blood red fury.

He had his pistol drawn, ready to fire one of those incendiaries into her at point-blank range, no doubt.

But this time, Koriojo was ready for him. She sliced at the gun, knocking it aside and slashing it in two as she did so. Kienan drew his knife and blocked her follow-up strike.

His emerald eyes were no longer radiating cold determination--no, this time they were blazing with fury. Koriojo struggled for leverage, slipped her head under his chin and headbutted Kienan under his jaw.

Kienan's head snapped back and she punctuated his backpedaling with a hard kick to his stomach. Kienan stumbled back, his grip still on the knife, but his feet were barely holding him up.

Time to finish this, Korojo thought with cold satisfaction.

She reached for him, hooking her fist hard into his chest. She found she couldn’t freeze his blood--something about his body armor made it hard for her cold generation to penetrate, but after all the trouble Ademetria had put her through, killing him the old-fashioned way was not without a certain appeal.

Kienan tried to block, but that lucky shot Koriojo had gotten in had taken the last of the adrenaline rush. The fatigue from the battle in his apartment--from all the way back to confronting Karasu was weighing him down. His arms felt like lead.

But he was determined to hold on.

Koriojo seized him by his red vest, widening the tear Tenma's blade had started back at his apartment. She clamped one hand around his neck, looking deep into his eyes, her blue lips parting in a smile.

"I like you, Ademetria," she said. "I like your spirit, your passion. It burns very bright indeed. That's why I'm going to make your passing somewhat enjoyable. A kiss before dying, you might say."

She pressed his lips against his, and Kienan suddenly felt a shock go through him. The fatigue was gone, replaced with a numbing cold, as if she were sucking the body heat out of him. He sucked in a gasp of air from his nostrils as she pressed even closer, groping for clarity, fighting the numbness that was grabbing him.

His fingers tightened around his knife. It took all his willpower to be able to feel the hilt of the blade in his hand as the cold took him more and more. It took even more effort to raise his arm, but he was going to do it.

He'd been through fire, ice, and death before. He wasn't going to give in and die. Not now. Not ever.

He slammed the point of his knife against the white hexagon Koriojo wore on her back. He was so weak the blade only cracked the housing but it had the desired effect. Koriojo panicked and shoved him away. Kienan rolled to his feet, tightening his grip on the blade.

One more second and she'd have killed me, Kienan thought. Fortunately, it seems a dose of cold water was just what I needed. His eyes focused on Koriojo, even now raising her blade and shifting it back to gun mode.

Once chance at this . . . Kienan sheathed his knife and rushed her, shoving her backwards against the skylight. It shattered under their weight, sending Koriojo, Kienan, and several hundred shards of glass raining down on the floor below.

Kienan threw his body outwards, his arm catching on a metal rail. He tightened his grip and looked around. Behind him, Koriojo landed hard on a table, destroying it on her way to the floor.

They were in a club, Kienan realized as he grasped the rail with his other hand. He grimaced as he heaved himself over the rail, brushing whatever shards of glass that he could out of his clothes and skin. As he wiped away the bits from his shoulders he saw thin rivulets of blood, made worse when he pulled the larger chunks out of his shoulder.

On the plus side, he thought grimly pulling a large jagged piece from his left shoulder; the cold's gone. He knew he should dress the wounds, but there wasn't time. He had one more pistol and five shots worth of incendiaries to finish her off.

Koriojo was below, throwing people, tables and chairs in all directions, furious and more than a little out of control. Kienan ran the length of the balcony, stopping just outside of the DJ booth.

He flicked on the heavy spotlight, narrowing the beam and pointing it at Koriojo. Just a little something to delay her.

"ADEMETRIAAAAAA!" She screamed as Kienan threw open the door to the DJ booth. The spotlight exploded with a blast from the gunblade as he stepped inside, gun drawn and pointed right between the eyes of the young man within.

"Out," Kienan said. "Now." The kid didn’t wait for the command to be repeated, flipping open a trapdoor and shuffling down the service stairs below as Kienan turned his attention to the mixing table.

He watched the meters as he slid all but two of them down. Suddenly, the bass meter went all the way to red, as status warnings popped up. Two minutes of this and the speakers would explode.

Kienan flipped two more switches on the lights and opened one of the pouches on his gunbelt. He slipped the earplugs inside the pouch into his ears, hoping that would be enough time.

He hit the floor of the booth and rolled to the back just in time to miss Koriojo explode the glass window. Kienan slithered down the service steps as quietly as possible, hitting the ground ready. His eyes looked around to what was available.

The club had cleared out fairly rapidly, only he and Koriojo remained within, their shapes vanishing or distorting as the house lights shifted from red, then green, then blue, then yellow.

A smile crossed his face seconds before he felt the air near him displaced and leapt out of the way of one of Koriojo's blasts. The stairs and the rail were blown into strange shapes as Kienan hopped onto a chair, a table, kicking over a table and firing two shots over it in her direction. Then he broke into a run for the dance floor, the abandoned drink glasses vibrating with the throbbing of the bass.

Kienan holstered his pistol and drew his knife again as he moved on her. She stood her ground, casually drawing her gunblade up to his head.

One pull of the trigger and the hypersonic vibration would cleave his head like a guillotine. She offered him an almost regretful smile as she waited for him to come closer.

Such heroic nonsense, she thought. One last bold charge into the breach. Kienan struck her outstretched arm with the edge of his knife, hoping his hunch was going to pay off. As he spun into her, drops of his blood hit her skin, freezing and turning black as they did.

Koriojo's arm shattered just below the wrist. Kienan slashed at her again, this time cutting a cruel slash over her chest. Koriojo screamed in terror, kicking wildly at him to keep him away.

She tried to steady herself, tried to balance her temperature to compensate for the damage but she couldn't. Something was making it difficult for her to concentrate. And it was getting worse with every step she took.

She glanced over her shoulder, reaching for her gunblade with her other hand. To her horror, it was starting to show hairline cracks of its own.

Of course, she thought. The sound. He's trying to shatter me. She screamed, her cloud of ice flaring like a sudden blizzard as she fired on the speakers. Four of them exploded as she fired. There were two more, further away, but they were hard to see with the light show.

She exhaled, raising her arm. The cracks were still there, but this was tolerable. The sound was still there, but too far away to damage her.

Ademetria, however, I can no longer tolerate, she thought. He's pushed me too far now. I'm going to-- She never finished the thought before the bullet struck her between her shoulder blades. White-hot panic shot through her as surely as the incendiary bullet erupted through her regulator pack.

Unable to do anything, she screamed, and as she did, Kienan was on her. He kicked her other arm, breaking it off just below the shoulder. He seized a chair and smashed her backwards, the wood splintering as he bashed her again and again.

Perhaps her regulator would have survived the fall, the sonics, even the bullet, had Kienan not managed to crack the armor with his knife. Not only had that devil Ademetria found her weakness, he'd created one to exploit, even as she'd nearly killed him.

Kienan's assault was unrelenting, even as the flames from her regulator pack spread to her hair. He grabbed another chair and shoved her backwards, the flames starting to melt the rest of her prostheses. She tried to scream, but couldn't. The delicate circuits that compensated for her paralyzed vocal cords had fused.

But she could still hear. She heard Kienan walking towards her, slowly, deliberately, wounded but not even seeming to be slowed down by any of his wounds, or the fatigue.

His eyes locked on hers with cold fury. Slowly, as if time had slowed down to a crawl, his lips parted, and Koriojo heard the last words she would ever hear.

"Go to hell."

Kienan kicked her with all the strength he had left precisely where he'd let the wound in her chest. She went sprawling backwards and would have hit the floor, had she not been braced against something.

Something that the fire on her back was even now catching on.

No . . . Kienan raised his pistol, taking aim at her.

NO! He squeezed the trigger, and the liquor rack behind her disappeared, alcohol-fueled fire lashing out over her like a wave from hell. She reached out with her rapidly melting stumps, trying to silently plead with him to save her life.

Kienan watched her burn, his expression cold and hateful as the ice queen was swallowed in fire.

As the sweep shuttle came into dock, she finally came out of her stupor. She hadn't said more than ten words to Long, at most she'd asked him for some tools and gone to work on the lifepod while Long had seen to parking the shuttle.

So when she appeared at the door to the cockpit, smiling gently, he was more than surprised. She had wrapped a long grey coat around herself, and the flush of life seemed to be back with her now, well, everywhere but her eyes, which seemed to be picking him apart with implacable darkness. "I owe you my thanks," she said. Long smiled. Her voice was like honey. "Once I'm inside the colony I'll contact my people and see you get twice what we promised you."

Long walked past her to the docking hatch. "Twice as much?" He repeated, unable to believe his good luck.

The woman nodded, leaning against one of the bulkheads. "You may use it to treat your wife to something special," she said, smiling thinly.

Long keyed the door to open. "I'm ah, not married," he said, the sound of embarrassment he made afterward drowned out by the hiss of air from the airlock release.

"Not married?" the woman repeated. "Not even a girlfriend?" Long shook his head and looked sheepish. "That's a pity. You’re quite a catch." Her manner turned serious for a second. "This hatchway leads out to the colony?"

Long nodded. "Just follow the green arrows on the wall and you'll get to the exit. Since we're getting off early there shouldn’t be anyone about, and the monitoring system on that exit is broken . . .you should be able to get into the colony elevator OK."

"Lucky me," she said. "Thank you. You've been more than helpful."

"You're welcome, miss . . .ah, ma'am."

Long stood at the door, watching her walk past him, the grey canvas coat rustling as she moved by him. She walked a few steps down the airlock, stopped, and slowly turned around.

He must be waiting for me to give him my name, she thought.

"Korin," she said. "Korin Xai Jian. You know something?" She said, her lips parting into a grin far too broad to contain any kindness in it. "I think I'll give you that bonus I promised you . . .right now."

Korin's coat flared open, and her dark eyes shone bright as she brought her weapon to bear on him. The gunsight swiveled into position, and she squeezed the trigger. A brilliant orange line burned from the tip of her gun, terminating at Long's chest. The orange fire consumed his entire body before he could scream.

In the blink of an eye, there was no trace of him at all. Korin smiled and holstered her weapon again, walking calmly but quickly along the path he'd shown her.

In a couple of hours it'll be daybreak here, she thought, the strange grin still on her face. I want to be there to see it. I want to be there on the last day of Kienan Ademetria's life. His, and my dear father's.