Author : Michael Varian Daly

The woods went dead still. Carmichael did a breathing pattern to slow his pulse, keep his temperature down, not overtax his battle suit.

He had a moment of peace a few dozen heartbeats back, laying upon moss, visor open, taking in bird songs, sunbeams through leaves, fresh air. Now, sealed up, all he could smell was fear.

The Bible in his pack was a comforting weight. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” he mentally recited. Waking into this nightmare to find his cancer cured, but the world upside down, God had been his Bulwark. Carmichael had smiled at the rulers, scrounged gear from the ruins, then disappeared into the hills, leaving that Hell Spawn behind.

But he didn’t understand what was happening right now. He’d lived peacefully in the hill country for decades after The Prohibition. There had been resistance at first, but that was easily crushed. He had withdrawn, not ventured far, hunted and gathered, been off their radar forever. Why the sudden hunt? It’s not like he was going to breed. He hadn’t even seen another human in four, maybe five years.

He did a thermal scan. Three large masses registered.

“Shit!” he thought, “Military cyborgs, gotta be a half ton each.” He powered up his pulse laser to maximum, armed three seeker drones, set coordinates, prepared to fire. He didn’t notice the cyborged mosquito hovering right behind his helmet.

“Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me…” The air turned bright blue, his muscles turned to water. Blackness…

Darkness faded. He was strapped to a Med palate. Two tall women looked down at him. “Aztec priestesses in SS uniforms,” he thought fuzzily.

“Who is this one?” asked the woman with the yellow catlike eyes.

“Carmichael, Thomas Francis. Came out of Cryo only three decades before The Prohibition. Pre-Collapse ex-military,” said her XO.

His eyes were hard with Fear and Hate.

“Oh, you’re a scared little bunny, aren’t you?” Cat Eyes cooed, kneeling next to him. “This will make you feel better.” Something cool against his neck. A soft ‘chuff’…and microfine tendrils sped into his cerebral cortex. Warmth and happiness overwhelmed him. But a hard core resisted.

“Why?” he croaked.

“You males left a lot of shit behind,” Cat Eyes said, “Mother is riddled with pernicious hydrocarbons and radioactive isotopes. We’re going to seal Her up and give Her a good scrubbing. So everyone has to go.” She smiled. “Especially pingititos like you.”

The core melted. “Okay,” he burbled happily. The Med palate floated him toward the orbital transport parked in a clearing.

“He might be useful as a historical archivist,” Cat Eyes mused, then turned to her XO. “Any more in this sector?”

“No, thank Goddess. He was the last one.”

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