Brand pulled the segmented metal door up and shoved it into its open overhead position, then gazed down at the collection of futuristic laser guns, particle beam weapons, grenades, smart flyers, hoverbombs, drones, and racks of ammunition that filled the little storage unit. He looked it over once, then nodded his head. He did not smile.
Turning back in the direction he’d come, he allowed himself a slight wince at the pain radiating from the searing injury he’d suffered a short time earlier. The radium laser round had mostly bounced off the surface of his deflector suit, but the power level had been sufficient and the range close enough that a significant portion of the blast had gotten through and gouged out a chunk of his side, just below the ribs. The pain was bad enough—though his suit had by now pumped something like a gallon of painkillers into his system—but he didn’t even want to think about what the radium charge on it was doing to his internal organs. He needed to get into the med-coffin right away. Unfortunately, he had too much else to do before he could indulge in such luxuries.
Growling softly at the pain that flared up as he turned back toward the storage unit, he reached in and detached a quad rifle and a blast pistol from the racks of weapons, along with sufficient charges and ammunition to see him through the job that lay ahead. He held both weapons up, one after the other, inspecting them carefully before sliding the pistol into his empty holster and setting the rifle against the outside wall next to the door. He also grabbed some fresh clothes, all in black, along with a hoverdisk and a force-sphere generator. Lastly he took a new deflector suit—one that didn’t currently sport a six-inch-wide hole in the left side.
Satisfied, Brand stepped back and reached for the overhead door. He pulled it back down, closed it securely, and locked it in place.
It took him longer than he would have liked to change out of the old suit and clothes and into the new ones. The pain was growing more severe by the moment. He shrugged it off. Nothing more to be done about it for now.
The new clothes in place and the weapons secured to his person, Brand walked a dozen yards to the intersection at the end of the short aisle he’d occupied. Rounding the corner, he stared down a corridor at least a hundred yards long. Clean and pristine white were the walls, floor, and ceiling, with the gray rectangular outlines around the doors the only color breaking up the image. The doors were different from the overhead garage-style one he’d just closed, too—these were standard, eight-foot-tall jobs with brass knobs.
He started forward. Doors went by on left and right; none of them revealed any markings at all. It didn’t matter; he knew which one he was looking for.
A few more steps and he stood before his objective: Just another white door, unmarked like all the others. But he knew it was the one. Drawing his pistol in his right hand, he reached out with his left and seized the knob. He turned it and the door swung open onto a nightscape blinding in intensity and flooded with sounds of blaring electronic music and shouts.
His eyes narrowed. He hated confusion, noise, distractions. Hated those things with a passion.
But this was where he needed to be. Where he had a very particular job to do. It was time, he knew, to get to it.
He checked his pistol once more, then stepped through the doorway into another time and place. The door to his own world swung soundlessly closed behind him.