Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

Dust settles in a silence broken only by the slow drip of shattered optics. The fools who thought it nothing but a bar brawl are either fled, dead, or wishing they had while pretending to be. In the centre of the room, a petite woman in red leathers points a weapon seemingly too big for her at something that resembles a creature from the myths of Old Earth.

Wulf points a furry finger at her.

“Bang.”

Ruby doesn’t blink. The blaster in her hand is steady.

“Oh, come on.”

The weapon doesn’t waver as she spits dirt from the corner of her mouth.

“You ate my grandmother, you son of a bitch.”

“That’s no way to talk about Mumsie.”

She grins: “I’ll talk about her any way I like. Daddy loved her. I didn’t.”

His claw hands twitch, aching to either rend her or draw down on her.

“Now, now, brother Wuff, don’t be doing anything foolish.”

“Don’t call me that.”

Her eyes turn colder: “Wuff.”

His eyes turn red.

Any moment now, she thinks. Her grip on the blaster tightens infinitesimally.

“Ruby Rodenhud, Wulf Rodenhud. Stop where you stand.”

Ruby howls. Wulf blinks, then laughs. His fighting arms drop to rest atop his plain arms.

“You nearly got me to attack, you cow. Good try.”

Shaking his head, Sheriff Dave Donaghue strolls in, stops, and sighs. Those who had been playing dead get up and shuffle out. Dave tags the ones who bear marks of fighting. Officers will detect the markers, added by his cyberware, and nab the brawlers as they attempt to leave the vicinity.

He turns to Wulf: “You hurt?”

Wulf grins: “I don’t get hurt. I do the hurting. That’s why the army paid for these.” He flexes his fighting arms, then ruffles his refractive hyperfur.

“That payment was a gamble, boy. Against you developing the smarts to put the biotech to good use. From what I see, they pissed it up the wall. I messaged the base, yer pass is revoked. Now git yer gear and git gorn.”

Wulf leaves without another word. Dave takes several deep breaths. His accent only cuts through when he’s mightily peeved.

He turns to Ruby: “Put that pistol down, momma.”

Ruby holsters the blaster in a single, practised move.

“But, Davey-”

He raises a hand: “Every. Bloody. Year. Halloween comes round an’ you get to dwellin’ on yer Granny’s passin’, snort too much of whatever you c’n git yer hands on, an’ work up a killin’ fuss. So, fer the last time: Wulf was mid-enhancement. He shouldn’t have been let off the base. The fools who let him out are still in prison. It. Was. Not. His. Fault.”

He takes another deep breath as he slowly lowers his hand.

“But, Davey-”

“No. They tried all the fancy ways to keep you in check, but, deep down, you can’t let it go. That tells me you saw it, no matter what you told the medicos back then, and at every psych eval since. So, we’re done with this. Next year, you’ll be offworld for Halloween.”

Her eyes widen.

He stands a chair up, sits down on it, then looks up at her: “If you’re a very good Deputy between now and then, I might even cut myself a two-week furlough and accompany you.”

Her eyes narrow and the ghost of a smile crosses her face: “Doesn’t my behaviour as your lady friend count?”

Dave laughs: “I can’t judge you objectively on that. And you know it. Leave be, woman.”