Old Dog

Roy had been doing business with the Aegis for years, but he still didn't know very much about them, and what he knew about little girls made an even shorter list. Yet, here he was, sitting in the cab of his transport with Sarah, who was both

She hadn't been exaggerating about being hungry either. She'd been "outside" as she called it, for nearly three months avoiding the marauders, and she ate like she'd been starving for half that time - so much so that she'd made herself sick.

What was he going to do with her? He couldn't very well have left her where he found her, a little girl in the forest - but he couldn't keep her could he? How would he explain showing up with an unexplained ten year old? What would happen the first time someone saw her eyes flash?

She'd said there were more like her, lots more, but she couldn't tell him where. And she'd said it as though it wasn't a secret - surprised that he didn't know, and wasn't able to take her back.

He was afraid of what that represented - what she represented. If the Aegis had found a way to reproduce, that would terrify a lot of people, and terrified people did stupid, rash things. And what about the Aegis themselves? Were they just taking steps to prevent their extinction, or was there another, less innocent reason for secret children?

He glanced over at the brown haired girl in the cab next to him. She was thoroughly engrossed with the rapidly changing scenery outside. Watching her, with her face almost pressed against the glass, it was hard to believe she could be source of so much trouble.

His mechanic Eli, had warned him that dealing with Threshold would be a headache, but he didn't think "surprise children" is what he'd meant.

How many years had it been since the war? He knew it had been at least twenty since they closed the camps and tried to integrate the Aegis into the general population, but things were still tense. Most of them had moved out of the city to Threshold, with the majority of the sympathetic non-Aegis, and that meant there was no place in the city safe enough for him to take her.

He was so preoccupied, he almost missed the fallen tree blocking the road.

He cursed under his breath and slammed on the brakes. This was the second time he'd been caught not paying attention on this trip. Perhaps he was senile. The sudden deceleration threw Sarah forward against her seatbelt, startling her, and he tried to apologize as they skidded to a stop.

"Sorry about that, You ok?"

She nodded, eyes flashing.

Usually he'd just deploy the transport's forward plating and plow through. It was one of the benefits of the vehicle being military surplus - but this tree was the largest he'd seen. He'd need to get some chains around it and winch it out of the way.

He shook his head.

"It's just one thing after another."

Sarah undid her seatbelt and rubbed her chest where it had cinched her. Roy unlatched the door and kicked it open.

"Stay here while I get this tree hooked up."

She nodded again.

It'd been a long time since he'd needed to pull anything this size off the road, and it took him a while to hook the chains to the front of the transport and drag them to the tree. Loading and unloading shipments kept him in reasonably good shape for his age, but the chains were heavy and he was nearly exhausted by the time he'd fastened the last one. The other guys had co-drivers to help with these kinds of things, but for him, the whole point of driving a transport was the solitude.

He was leaning on the tree to steady himself when he heard the first voice.

"You're a long way from home gramps."

This was the third time since last night he'd been caught unaware. First, Sarah, then the tree and now marauders? Why had he been so careless recently?

There were three of them, one on either side and the third standing above him on the downed tree - all of them filthy, and smeared with orange face paint. It was a wonder he hadn't smelled them before he'd seen them.

"It's dangerous to be out here alone."

The two on the ground laughed.

Roy took a step back. He'd never be fast enough to unholster his sidearm before they'd be on him.

"Don't go, we promise to play n.."

But before he could finish his taunt, he was thrown backward, off the tree, by a searing flash of ozone.

The two on the ground panicked and tried to run. The first was cut down almost immediately, but the second made it almost to the tree line before a third flash threw him into them.

Stunned, Roy looked back toward the transport to find Sarah shouldering the impact rifle he'd kept hidden under the dash, eyes ablaze. She'd fired through the window, hidden by the door he'd kicked open.

"They were going to kill you. I've seen them do it."

He glanced at the bodies, then back at her. Three shots, three dead. A smile crept across his face. Maybe he'd just tell people she was his granddaughter.