Little Johnny had never seen a 7.62 armalite rifle with a cut down stock, a modified gas suppressor, a rifle grenade attachment and a striped down reloader.
In fact he had never seen a gun, not in real life.
There were no guns in Edge city, not anymore, not since Overmind had taken over.
He had seen them on the cartoons of course, on "Scalpel, Protector of the Edge" but never outside, never in the shopping precinct.
He stood at the still open toilet door as the man pulled the assault rifle out of the garbage can. The man had not heard him come in. If he had then he wasn't showing it. Johnny watched him as he feverishly stroked the barrel of the gun, leering at it. He was wearing a dirty business suit, the pinstripes competing with dark stains that Johnny did not want too think hard about. His hair looked wet, like mummy's after she went down the gym. The man had whiskers and his fingernails were all dark.
Then Johnny saw the thing that froze his seven year old heart. The man had a strange purple blemish on his face, a fractal wine stain that covered the skin around his eyes, spiralling out around his cheekbones and daggering down over his lips and chin.
"Pangolin!" Johnny gasped.
The man swung his head around, a gutteral snarl as he did so. He brought the weapon around in an arc, stabbing at the trigger. Dry clicks came from the weapon as the safety catch stopped the firing pin from kissing the bullets.
Johnny pushed the door open and shouted back at the man as he ran from the room.
"You shouldn't have done that. You're in trouble good, the Scalpels are going to duff you up. "
His determined decalaration was punctuated by the sudden explosion of wood splinters from the door behind him. Machine gun fire demolished the portal as the dishevelled man finally released the safety catch. Johnny screamed as the shrapnel narrowly missed him. He dashed toward the food hall where his mother was waiting for him. Johnny knew what he had to do. The public info films on the kids channel were quite clear:
"If you see a Pangolin, or even someone who looks like a pangolin, run immediately to an adult. Do not talk to the Pangolin or accept guns from him. If in a public place, after telling an adult, locate one of the many alarms the Ivory tower has provided for your safety around Edge city. Simply depress the alarm and a Scalpel patrol will join you immediately. "
Johnny's mother Lily was standing at the entrance to the foodhall. She was already screaming, along with a group of shoppers scattering dropped fruit. Everyone knew what an explosion meant in Edge city. No point in talking to her, she was already hysterical.
"Hide mum! "he shouted as he skirted past her panicked embrace. He could see the big red button on one of the ornate columns across the other side of the circular marble concourse. People were hiding behind hot dog carts and pick and mix trolleys as the Pangolin burst from the washroom.
"You want it, we got it, Rock city!" he shouted as he staggered toward the concourse. Servitor robots dashed from shops and stalls to block the entrance to the food hall.