Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Snipe hunt

“What’re they doin’?” the voice on the radio asked.
“Looks like they’re attempting to repair their stupid stickboat.”
“Enh, I’m guessing religious crazies.  Not enough stuff on the boat to trade.  This is just a crossing.”
“Damn!  At least merchants we could requisition the cargo.  Fanatics are more than worthless.  How many of them are there?”
Emmit circled the buzzdrone around the boat for a three sixty view before answering, whistling to himself as he worked and waited so the boss would know he wasn’t ignoring her.  She could be a bit touchy and he didn’t like to step on her toes.  Happy wife, happy life some of the married guys said.  And they only saw their wives for a few weeks at a time.  A female officer could make your life miserable twenty-four-seven.  So Emmit had his own saying, “HapCO, HapAO.”  Happy Commanding Officer, Happy Area of Operations.  “Counting four.  Though by the look of the vitals of the one, they’ll be three soon.”
“Desert Fever?”
“Heat signature like a flare.”
“Guaranteed the ‘tooths see them too then, I swear they introduced that disease to make us easier to spot at night.”
“Who knows what a ‘tooth sees but that certainly sounds like their brand of cold and sneaky.  Though I doubt they have the reasoning capacity to…rut-roh.”
“What is it!?”
“Speak of the devil.  We got an inbound loper comin’ at them from the far side.”
“You sure it’s a ‘tooth?”
“Uh, yeah, pretty sure.  Permission to engage?”
“Whaddya got left?”
“I got one last party popper in the tubes.”  The voice on the radio went silent.  She did not owe him a thinking sound to show she heard.  Commanding Officers were above such niceties.  “Fight them here or fight them at home…”
“Don’t do that, Emmit!  Don’t manipulate me!  Just lemme think, dammit!”
Emmit went quiet.  No humming or whistling this time.  She might see that as trying to rush her. 
“There’s just the one?”
“That’s all there is right now.  Dunno what’s out of range.”
“Okay, do it.”
He hit the fire button, having taken a reasonable guess what she would decide and loading the targeting information into the warhead while she was thinking.  A door on the tank opened on heavily greased hinges just above his head.  A magnetic rail slung a small projectile out, silently dispersing the puff of wind of its passage.  No one knew what a Monotooth saw and no one for damn sure knew what they could hear so no one still alive these days took any chances. 

The dark, silent projectile traveled just under the speed of sound in a ballistic arc out over the desert.  When it reached a predetermined point that even a Monotooth’s twitchy, inhuman reflexes couldn’t save it, it fired.  Launching its warhead straight down into the hapless creature at a speed the Monotooth couldn’t dodge.  It had looked up at the last second, taking the round right between the eyes.  “Hit!  Scratch one more itchy!”
“Nice work.  Guess you’d better return to camp if that was your last popper, you won’t be much good to them pilgrims whoever they are.”
“What?  Goddammit, Emmit!  You know I hate when you…”
“That ‘tooth wasn’t alone.”
“Oh God.  How many more?”
“More’n enough.”
"Any sign they spotted you?"
"None.  They're dead set on the stickboat."
“How long they got?”
“Probably till mid morning.  Not enough time to get to camp, refit and come back.”
“Well, tough break for the pilgrims.  Getcher butt back here before you get caught in the middle.  You can’t do anything more for them.  And they should have known better than to come out here.  We’ve already gone above and beyond.”
“Aye-aye, cap’n.”  Emmit took one last look at the four people working on their boat, completely oblivious to what was coming, rushing to beat nothing more dangerous than the dawn Sun.  “Sorry, folks,” he whispered, “you guys must be truly the most unlucky God-nuts that ever lived.”

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