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attention to what it has got available. After an hour or two in the dark, a
human brain would start to realise it s not really  pitch-dark anywhere in
the Underhive. A faint backwash of light from settlements and even caravans
carries remarkably, reflecting off rockrete here and getting absorbed by
shadow there to give a grey, grainy illumination for kilometres around, not
unlike moonlight.
The hive was full of microscopic fungi and lichens everywhere, giving off a
faint phosphorescence that could be used to navigate through pipes and
tunnels. Most old structures and machines had lamps and telltales shining out
like beacons even though their long-dead masters would say that they were but
dim ghosts of their former selves.
With the help of her bionic eye, Donna had found that the dark was the
greatest ally a lone fighter could have in the Underhive. It became both her
cloak of invisibility and her sanctuary in one.
Peering down into the darkness, Donna saw it getting lighter in the pipe at
the bottom of the ladder and thought somehow that her hunter had crept up
silently enough that she hadn t heard anything. Nothing appeared in sight and
she waited, fretting about how exposed she would be if whatever it was chose
to just look up. Still nothing. She was about to climb down and look when she
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heard a whisper of sound.
Splish-splash-splish-splash.
It sounded like a group. The sewage threw what light there was into thin
pearly ropes on its surface as it rippled in response to the not-too-distant
disturbance. Donna caught the faint clink of metal on stone, and the murmur of
breath rasping from unhealthy-sounding lungs.
Splish-splash-splish-splash.
The light grew stronger and gained an amber colouration. There was a group
coming. Donna froze, willing her calves to stop trembling for a moment. A
shape appeared at the bottom of the shaft, weirdly underlit by something
casting a diffuse fountain of light that was caught and reflected by the
slurry. Donna mentally flipped her bionic eye to a passive thermal scan.
Ethereal blooms of heat from the skin of the weird figure below betrayed its
shape to Donna s enhanced vision as it glanced up the shaft towards where she
was hiding.
It looked like a Delaque.
Donna held her breath as the Delaque seemed to look straight at her. Part of
her mind registered that the light beneath his upturned face was the tiny glow
from a power readout on the ganger s laspistol.
After an endless moment, the black-goggled face turned away and the figure
moved further along the pipe. Donna willed herself to breathe in slowly
without gasping.
 Crap, the Delaque whispered. He made a low whistle.
Others moved down the pipe: six, maybe seven in all, it was hard to be sure.
It was also hard to hear their voices when they spoke. The sibilance
characteristic of this particular Delaque gang was always dancing at the edge
of perception. There was something about  Ulanti bitch, and  bounty. It
sounded like there was a disagreement going on. She heard  back  which could
have been about going back or a reference to the dead bounty hunter Kell Bak,
or to his live cousin, Shallej. Once again she wished for a frag-grenade but
knew it would probably kill her as well with the shockwave in such tight
confines.
One voice was raised above the whispers, and it held the tones of command.
 We split up and keeping looking, it rasped.  The bitch can t get to Relli.
Those are Bak s orders.
And that, apparently, was that. The group waded off along the pipe without
another word and would no doubt start splitting up at each junction they came
to. That left Donna in a prime position to descend and go in entirely the
opposite direction. Or it would have done if they hadn t left one of their
number behind to watch out for her in case she doubled back. The lookout was
out of sight from Donna, but by the amber light she could guess it was the
same ganger they had sent to scout ahead.  Ganger was a misnomer. He was
evidently a fresh-meat juve and jittery as hell.
It was typical of these particular Delaque to send in an expendable first, one
with a half-empty laspistol, and then to leave the kid behind as a back
marker. All he had to do was scream or fire his weapon and the rest of the
gangers would be back in an instant. Hell, he could even be bait for a trap.
The sad fact was that Donna couldn t stay hidden in the shaft indefinitely, as
sooner or later the juve would get bored and start poking his nose into things
he shouldn t. Juves were always doing dumb stuff it seemed to be a rule.
Donna started to ease herself down the ladder. She planned to hook her feet
over the rungs so she could swing down head first into the pipe and break the
kid s neck, assuming he was obliging enough to venture into neck snapping
range.
The juve was most obliging, even a little too much so. As Donna s feet reached
the lowest rungs, she looked down to see the moon-faced juve was below her
with one foot on the bottom of the ladder. He looked up and his mouth opened
in a wide  O of alarm.
Donna s boot heel scrunched into his face, snapping his head back and sending
broken teeth pin-wheeling into the sludge. She followed up instantly, swinging
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gracefully from the ladder and double-kicking his chest. His ribs were
splintered into dull knives that skewered heart and lungs as her powerful legs
pistoned into him with the full weight of her body behind them.
The juve flopped against the side of the pipe and slithered into the sludge
vomiting red froth from his shattered mouth. Donna nimbly dropped off the
ladder and onto his sagging chest to push him fully under the surface. He died
with barely a ripple. Donna glared about her, expecting a barrage of gunfire,
but all was quiet. In the distance she could occasionally hear the other
Delaque splashing around through the sewers. Time to go.
She started wading back along the pipe, trying to keep quiet and look in all
directions at once. She was perhaps half way back to the next junction when
she heard a low whistle echoing back eerily from the direction the Delaque had
taken. After a few more steps it was repeated, and a heartbeat after that
Donna heard the unmistakable splashes of many men running.
Ploughing through the stinking sewage was like a waking nightmare, bent over
and almost-running but moving so agonisingly slowly that she expected each
step to be her last. There was a deafening rattle of shots behind her and
autogun rounds whipped past as she breasted the corner. A las-bolt flashed
into a hissing cloud of steam as it struck the surface of the liquid, scalding
her as she dived sideways into the junction. Just as the situation seemed like
it couldn t get any worse, Donna heard a distant basso profundo roar cut
across the thunderous weapons fire. The natives were getting restless.
The firing stuttered and died away into echoes. An illusion of peace settled
for a moment, but it was only an illusion. Right now, Donna knew, the Delaque
would be slinking forward silently and fanning out to catch her in a net, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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