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       Ketairne, p.2

           Kell Inkston
 
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was going to tell the robot to shoot, it did, set the tracking device into its back, and then I took my shot. Now, my gun wasn’t as great as the O.E.L. folks, but it certainly wasn’t anything to sniff at; my Ywnron rifle is the same model that the O.E.L. uses, just an earlier version, and I knew enough about their guns to add a few personal adjustments of my own.

  My shot hit right on, but the creature’s plates absorbed the shock; I cracked him up a bit, but no blood. By this point the creature knew where we were, and then disappeared from sight, like turning invisible . . . no, really, it happened! So then it tore right out of there while we were reloading, but even though I couldn’t see it, the robot could.

  “Your rifle,” it said. I handed it over, and it reloaded that thing faster than I could blink. So then the robot shot down again, and I heard it hit something; nasty-good shot, those A.C.E. model robots. It reloaded and fired again a few times, stood still a bit, and then handed me its own rifle from the ground. I followed the robot along the barren highland, and I spotted Metland and the subspacer down still in the swamp; it looked to me like the two O.E.L. guys could see the same thing. I wouldn’t really be surprised if they could, they almost look identical with all that high-tech armor, after all.

  We ran along and Metland pulled out his rifle down below- started shooting. I figured he was a pretty good shot too, because I was hearing some racket from the beast; the scream hurt just hearing it. After a few hit shots from the two of them, the creature reappeared right before he turned into a canyon. Metland and the subspacer ran right in, me and the machine were still like, two minutes away from their spot. We caught up the best we could, and then things started getting really dark.

  It was explained to me at the work office, after this little story, that Ketairne is a planet that has a one hour day, and a six-hour night. I didn’t understand then why the O.E.L. had made it illegal to live there, I did then.

  The robot and I ran down back into the swamp and into the ravine; I took a wild guess that we were faster than the other two, so I figured it wouldn’t take long to catch up with them. We went through the canyon just just a minute, chose the right fork in the ravine, and then something swiped at us from a cave.

  I didn’t see much but it was bigger than a ballenrue and angrier than that one time on vacation with Yane, you know the one? Yeah, I thought I told you that one.

  Right, so I didn’t have a real gun, the robot had the one with bullets that actually hurt things in it, piece of shit. I thought I was dead, but that machine turned right around and shot that bastard’s head clean off with three shots; hell, I couldn’t have gotten one of by the time it had fired those three.

  After that it was pretty obvious to the robot that it’s the best with the gun that has actual ammo, and so it turns to me and said “sorry for not being quicker with that, Varv, perhaps you have brought more than one weapon” like I was hurt or something. This got me thinking about all the stuff I have in my sack, and I realized I probably brought a few things along I could have used.

  “Yeah- thanks,” I said, then we just moved on. The robots aren’t perfectly intelligent. Sometimes they do things that don’t really make sense to me.

  Anyway, somehow I knew the beast wasn’t watching us right now, maybe it’s a hunters sense I’ve developed over the years; I dunno. So, we kept going down, the robot mentioned that we were coming up on “the decommissioned forward post.” We came up to a clearing, and standing out of the water is this awesome metal structure, you should have seen it; with radars and monitors and shit all sticking out- it was really cool. Then we heard a racket of gunshots and what sounded like explosions.

  So we ran out into the clearing, right under the post, and then the subspacer came up while firing some arrows into the canyon; I thought when I first saw her that she had no idea what she was doing; who brings a bow to a gunfight? But turns out it was a magic bow, and shot magic arrows. I’ve never really gotten wizards, I mean, why would you spend all this time learning spells that guns can do faster and better? But that aside, the girl rushes up to us and she’s like “inside, it’s behind me!” So we rush in the two of us, but the robot just stays out. It just stood there, and then it raised up its gun. I was watching from up in the outpost, by the way, it had some pretty big windows. It got really quiet then; the only thing I could hear was the girl’s breathing, which wasn’t heavy at all even though she was running a ton just then; I guessed she was used to this sort of thing.

  “So where’s the other guy?” I asked.

  “He’s dead. It ambushed us,” she said.

  “No way,” I thought, but it does makes sense; considering he’s not there anymore. I realized that if the creature can use a gun, it’d have Metland’s now, ammo and all. But yeah, this wasn’t the first time a partner died on a hunt, but I was really shocked with this one; you can usually tell if someone doesn’t have their head screwed on right, but the O.E.L. guy didn’t seem like the type.

  I yelled “Get the hell up here!” to the robot. And then it said something like “the target is approaching,” technical-sounding, you know.

  Carrying on, the robot was just standing outside, and then it started shooting into the canyon. It was too dark for me to see, so I flicked on my light, something I should have done earlier I’d say, and I could just barely see in the distance, it was Metland!

  “What the eff?” she said. Now kid, you know that’s not what she said, but it’s not something that should be said, so I won’t.

  Anyway neither of us could believe our eyes, the robot was shooting at the wrong guy, and it was obvious that Metland wouldn’t take that. So he pulled out his own gun and shot back. It was around this time that a funny idea got in my head: what if this here creature, being so flexible, could fit into one of the O.E.L.’s armored suits?

  It was too late, anyway, because by the time it came to mind, the robot was a pile of gears and oil and shit. So Metland came up and called us to come out; said something about the creature affixing the tracking bolt to him, so that the robot would mistake him or something. Next to me the subspacer was just staring, and I asked her if we should go out. She was like “eff no” and honestly I agreed with her. That definitely wasn’t the real Metland, I thought; why else would the robot shoot at him?

  So I responded to the not-Metland and was all like “Take off your mask so we’ll know it’s you!” And he was all like “no! the beast is right out here! It’ll take a shot!”

  “Don’t trust it,” the subspacer said. We both knew for sure now that it was the creature; wouldn’t even take off its helmet to show us its face. The rifle with tracking ammo that the machine gave me wouldn’t help much, so instead I reached into my sack and pulled out my launcher.

  . . . Yeah, kid, I know, I don’t always remember the shit I have on me; relax . . . Don’t give me that shit! . . . I didn’t use it against the furry beast because it would have blown me up too! . . . Yes! . . . Okay, now shut up and listen.

  So usually I’m okay with getting my beasts, but sometimes you just gotta’ blow ‘em up. Remember that when some bright-eyed dumbass asks you to go hunting “sand worms” for ‘em; if you do your job right it’ll be more hole than worm by the time you finish.

  Anyway, she shot her bow and I shot my launcher and Metland went up like a light; practically into bits. I cheered, called it a few names I shouldn’t have, and then the two of us went down; if we couldn’t bring it back alive, at least we could get some DNA; the O.E.L. usually lets it slide then. So just in case I searched the robot and got the little syringe thing; I didn’t know for sure if the bastard was still alive or not, but he sure as hell was the brightest thing in the clearing . . . yeah, just like a flood light, I swear! So me and the girl went up really carefully, but whatever was in that armored suit sure as hell wasn’t anymore; everything was on fire. So I got my clasps, took some DNA, and stowed it in one of my sample jars. Then the two of us congratulated each other on the successful hunt, and went back in
to the ex-outpost to rest a bit.

  You been listening, kid? . . . No, I’m not done . . . So you like it so far? . . . Good, it only gets better.

 

  Okay, it was me and the subspace lady and it was raining really hard. It was pretty comfy in the outpost though; it was still totally operational, I’d guess all of the crew was killed by the beasts and stuff. So yeah, it was quiet, except for the rain outside. The subspacer took a seat at one of the tables and took a load off, and I looked around; something in me just told me to be searching. And so I looked around a bit and passed all these high-tech devices, but then I find one I really recognize: a DNA analyzer, just like the one in the bounty office. I had my sample, and I was sure it was the beast, but I thought I’d give it a shot. So I made sure the instruments were clean, connected the analyzer to the Omni-net, put in the sample, and it started going through the motions.

  Around this time the subspacer called over to me, saying that we might as well be on way back to the space gate; I didn’t see why, but I guessed she was desperate to turn in the bounty.

  Then, there was a long, annoying beep. I looked over to the analyzer, and it connected the DNA signature to Metland; it
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