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A short story by

Kal-El Bogdanove

The attack had been thirteen mutas, and they were lucky it hadn't been more. Rin scowled as she thought about what even one of these things could do, set loose in her town.

They'd carved the first nine out of the sky easily enough, and the next two had fallen to laser fire, but they had been too close for a missile strike, and the final two had made contact with the Flyswatter. Before Shaw had been able to knock them clear and riddle them with shot, both missile racks had been ripped to bits.

That brought the argument.

"They were hunting us, Shaw! They were hunting us!" Rin was packing her gear into the LAV as fast as she could. They'd been foolish to try this. The best I can do now is hightail it back to town and start an evac, get people safe, she thought. Then, if I'm goddamn lucky, having ten thousand refugees show up on his doorstep will get Strong's ass in gear.

"Mutas hunt! It's what they do!" snarled Shaw, stripping the last of a ruined missile rack off the Flyswatter.

"In packs of two or five or six! You killed them yesterday!" shouted Rin. "They are hunting us specifically, and we are going back to town to get my people safe!"

"I thought I told you to stick to what you know, Marshal!" Shaw growled.

"What I know is that I'm not gonna roll the dice on the lives of my people just so you can tromp around out here, playing soldier, until one of those things gets close enough to polish us off! We're heading back—"

Shaw shot her drive belt. One minute Rin was packing a functioning LAV, a vehicle she'd babied and rebuilt and loved, on which she was depending to get home and save Rita and Jasper and Doc Beele and all the rest, and the next she was loading her possessions into a useless hull. Shaw had taken his goddamn crotch laser and blasted her drive belt to hell.

"You're a maniac. You're a fekkin' maniac, and you're gonna get us killed!" sputtered Rin.

"The only things getting killed today are those bugs! I've blown a hundred spires to high heaven, and I'll blow a hundred more, and when we're watching that ugly lump of mucus boil into the ground, you will thank me, missy, for having guts where you've got empty air. Now climb in… I'll tow ya."

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