Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Defensive fields shimmer, but they don’t conceal the beam cutter clutched in a white-knuckled grip, and the gleam of intent in their eye. This will not end-
Defensive fields crackle and spark as they collapse. There’s a beam cutter on the floor, the eyes are bulging, and there’s a metre-length of something sticking out of their ribcage.
I look back to the bar. Glatchman catches my eye and points a limb towards the balcony above. Running my eye up the gleaming claw, I track upward to meet the green gazes of Tazia and Chyrm.
Tazia grins: “New toy.”
Chyrm shakes its central head: “Hardly. We have merely recreated and repurposed an ancient siege weapon.”
I look to their left. All I can see of the device is two wide strips of gleaming alloy sitting one above the other. The upper one is bent backwards to either side of its centre.
“Siege weapon?”
Chyrm enthusiastically nods all three heads.
“It is called a ‘ballista’. After consideration of the recent occurrences of violence here, we have doubled the striking capacity. Also, we sited it so the central field of fire covers the entry point favoured by all of the perpetrators.”
I ambulate across to the Eltainian pinned to the wall by the entrance. I grab the end of the giant bolt and wiggle it. It flexes a little, but doesn’t move. I bring another arm to bear. Nothing. Same lack of result for third and fourth. Allowing myself an annoyed beak click, I fold down and sucker myself to the floor with two arms, then use five with the added leverage of being fixed to the ground.
With a splintering sound that doesn’t bode well for the wall, the bolt comes free. Stopping the upper body flopping about with my sixth arm, I lower it to the ground before releasing my grip on the floor.
I look at the crater in the wall, then roll the body.
“You’ve certainly overcome the problem presented by the new generation of personal defence fields, but you might want to consider armour plating the wall around the entrance. Also, I would recommend using javelin-style bolts instead of broadheads.”
Tazia comes up next to me.
“Why? They seem remarkably effective.”
“At this range, they strike like giant magnum bullets. They also seem to explosively decant the softer inner components of the body, possibly due to the transferred momentum and size of the exit wound.”
I roll the body further so she can properly see the aftermath.
She gargles in a mix of distress and laughter.
“Oh, that’s nasty. Quite colourful, though.”
“The cleaners do not appreciate such. You’ll need to pay them more. You also need to get someone to cut the chunk of wall off the end of the bolt before the cleaners can start.”
I peer under the body at the spreading pool of blood and less pleasant seepages.
“You probably want to arrange both quickly.”
Glatchman shouts from behind the bar: “I’m busy. Get someone else.”
Tazia gives me a beaming smile.
She pouts.
“It’s your new toy.”
She stamps a delicate hoof, guessing what I’m about to say.
I drop the body into the pool of ick and ambulate away.
“So it’s your mess to tidy up.”