Author : Holly Day

The boy didn’t fly so much as claw his way up through the air, swinging first one arm, then the next, up over his head while he made his ascent. His arms and legs were twisted metal wrapped in plastic, and his face was completely covered with a clear plastic shield. The eyes that stared up at Valerie were bright and angry against a pallor of sagging, dying flesh.

Valerie eyed the boy coolly, automatically willing the projectiles in the palms of her hands to slide into place. It wouldn’t be any big deal to just circumvent the boy completely, but she hadn’t had a chance to try the tiny bombs out on anything yet. She sized up her opponent as he grew nearer, deciding that the large, clunky tube grenade launcher strapped to his forearms would be no threat to her.

Valerie slowed her decent until it was little more than a hover and waited for the deformed creature below her to draw close. It was funny, or ironic, how she felt right now—she wasn’t sure which. The short time she had spent in an adolescent, fully-human body, she had been riddled with insecurity about her body, her body language, what she was supposed to talk about with friends and what she was allowed to say to boys, and the whole experience had been just awful. But now, just weeks after officially joining the military as part of their Elite, she felt perfectly in control of everything around her. Everything. The boy below her posed no threat on any level. He could either attack her or try to kiss her, and she would have been able to deal with either situation perfectly.

“Wouldn’t it be strange if he did try to kiss me?” she marveled suddenly, almost laughing, then shuddered. The closer he drew, the more she could see how unlike her he, or at least his construction, was. He was a brutish pile of sharp metal parts and exposed tubes and wires, with bits of human flesh showing here and there as if left by accident. His mouth was an angry snarl of teeth, lips dry and split, gray. He probably would not try to kiss her.

As the boy drew nearer, Valerie coolly took survey of what she took to be vulnerable areas and aimed accordingly. She paused, not sure if she should just shoot the newcomer and get it over with, or if she should wait until he was within earshot and saw something menacing, or brave, or comic-book corny, like “Nice killing you!” or “Next time, make sure your arms match your feet before taking off, Lunkhead!”

It seemed as though her attacker was thinking the same thing. As she watched, the boy tried to shape his malformed mouth into words, finally settling on some sort of gesture which Valerie decided must be insulting. It had to be. She made a gesture of her own in return, then aimed carefully and fired.


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