Rin awoke to the ka-chunk! ka-chunk! of a limping goliath.
Where? she wondered unhurriedly as the world strolled into focus.
As consciousness solidified, Rin realized she was jostling along in the lab pod on the barely chugging Flyswatter. She felt a slight pain in her forearm and looked down to find an IV drip of fluids pouring life back into her.
"Shaw?" she muttered dully, trying to fit the pieces together.
"Marshal Shearon! You're awake!" The voice was sure as hell not Shaw's. Champlain was alive, and he was driving the goliath.
His arm was in a sling, and he had to wrestle one-handed with the unfamiliar controls. Even so, when he struggled his head around to look at Rin, he was beaming with pride.
Rin sat farther up and saw the front half of Scar roped to the chassis. The monster's entrails were smoking gently, but the thorax was intact.
"You got your prize. You got your big fish!"
Brad turned and smiled back at her, and pushed his broken glasses up his nose.
Rin laughed a deep, burbling mountain river of a laugh that surged up out of her, as if her body needed a biological way to say, I'm alive!
And Brad began to laugh too.
And pretty soon the Flyswatter was weaving like a drunken man as Brad chortled and held his sides, and they laughed together.
As self-control started to reassert itself, Brad snorted, "I came to when you blew the spire up. Or, rather, when you made the big loud noise. I didn't know what it was till I climbed out of that gully. Not so easy with a fractured ulna, but I made it. And there the two of you were, the marshal and the mutalisk, just lying there."
"Well, Brad Champlain," Rin grinned, "my hero."
She looked back at the smoking carcass and sighed.
"I reckon the SRO put their money on the right scientist. I mean, shit, they get their goody, and all it cost me was a few fingers."
Champlain brought the goliath to a halt, looked back, and shrugged.
"I don't know. Maybe they should sweat about it a little. Maybe they ought to have to pay for it with something. Something like, say… a pair of Longbolt missile defense turrets?"
Rin looked ahead at the expression of impish delight on Champlain's face and grinned again.
"Whatever you say, Professor. You're the expert."
And they began the walk home.