PBES-172 sorted through the overlapping sensory impressions. Even with bioenhanced senses as keen as a Patchwork had, it was still a human brain that had to make sense of them all. So many moving bodies, their sweat filled with the smells of fear, anger, and aggression could confuse even a skilled hunter. The Patchwork was tempted to just lay waste to them all, prey, bounty hunters, and police alike. He had the freedom and armaments to do so. But it would cheat him of the thing he relished, the personal kill.
There was time yet. Any good hunter has to include patience in his weaponry.
He ignored the marks left on him by the bumblers who called themselves bounty hunters and cops. The torn flaps of skin and cloth that hung loose and revealed the subcutaneous armor were a nuisance, but no more than that.
In his retreat in the concession stand, PBES-172 concentrated, separating one scent from the melange, discarding it, and moving on to the next. It was only a matter of time.
* * * * *
The medi-strip had done for him what it could. Aaron knew that his sanctuary was temporary, and the time had come to move. He studied the boardwalk and made note of what cover there was. Behind him, the shouts and gunfire were dying down as the cops and bounty hunters sorted themselves out. Somewhere the most dangerous of all was hidden, waiting with its inhuman speed and strength. Aaron would have to find a way to lose them all if he wanted to stay alive.
That maintenance shed. Should be able to get there... carousel should block line of sight... Aaron slowly laid out his plan: head to the shed, and then a run to the edge of the boardwalk. Once he was down on the beach, he would be able to move under the sagging and weathered boards of the walk. It would give him some cover while he put distance between himself and his pursuers.
Crouching low, Aaron made his move. His back prickled as he made the move from the carousel to the shed, expecting at any moment to hear a shout of discovery or feel the impact of a bullet. He made it safely behind the shed and leaned against its rickety side for a moment. There was no cover left. He would have to make a break for it and hope that he was fast enough to escape detection. The sun was nearly down, and the long shadows thrown by the buildings at the edge of the boardwalk made the area toward the sea dim. It wasn't a great chance, but at least it was a chance.
Aaron took a deep breath, gathered himself, and ran.
* * * * *
The police had the last of the brawny bounty hunters down and cuffed. Good. Let them remain distracted. Their stink was dissipating, and the smell of the prey was coming clear.
Ocean side. Moving. PBES-172 found the trail and moved. The Patchwork was in time to see Aaron slip over the edge of the boardwalk to the sand below.
Tyler Fuse let out a bellow as he saw his brothers' killer burst into the open. The muscular bounty hunter forgot all about a payday. At this moment, his blood burned for one thing - revenge. He attempted to surge upward despite the cuffs, but didn't get far before the cops on him had him pinned against the old boards.
The Patchwork ignored the commotion falling rapidly to the rear as he covered the distance to the edge of the boardwalk at inhuman speed. He didn't pause when he reached the railing, but leaped it easily and landed in a crouch on the trash-strewn sand below.
The polluted tide was rising rapidly, and only a small slip of sand remained beyond the edge of the boardwalk. Shadows were heavy hear as the day finished burning itself out into night. A fitful breeze from the sea broke the scent trail, bringing it to him strongly and then playfully taking it away again.
The Patchwork squinted, forcing a set of lenses, complexed in gel and surgically implanted beneath the lids, to slide down over his eyes. The beach took on new brightness and colors as the infrared lenses picked up surrounding heat signatures. Standing out like a beacon in reds and oranges, Aaron was clearly visible moving along the sand as quickly as he could in the unsure footing.
The bioenhanced soldier drew a pair of knives. It had been a good hunt, but all good hunts must have their bloody ending.
Softly though the metal rang as PBES-172 drew the knives, the sound carried along the sand to Aaron. He looked over his shoulder without stopping and saw the bulky shadow behind him. He abandoned his plan at once; it did him no good now that he'd been found. Instead, he sprinted straight across the sand for the filthy ocean water. The Patchwork surged behind, each step sinking deeper in the sand than a common man's would. By chance, Aaron had found one of the few things that could slow the Corporacracy's killing machine down. The accumulated weight of the Patchwork's enhancements meant that the sand hampered him far more than it did Aaron.
Aaron raced for the sea, and dove into the first breaker as the Patchwork gave up its planned kill. It dropped the knives and instead drew its machine pistol. Bullets peppered the water, sending up spray. Aaron swam under water for as long as he could, putting precious distance between himself and the Patchwork.
PBES-172 stopped at the edge of the water. Swimming was not an option for his model. The weight of his enhancements would drag him to the bottom.
But Aaron couldn't stay in the water forever. And when he came out, the Patchwork would find him.