Outpost Twelve by Pete Warner

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SUMMARY: Entry for the November 2009 Flash fiction contest, topic: Hunger.

Straddling his Tawsion Canon with only a hangover and a madman for company, Tobias was hoping for a quiet shift. But he knew the Law of the Great God Bastard. It was etched in his marrows, tattooed across the numb skin of his life. He was not surprised when Cavot started hollering.

"Dead bitches at three o'clock!"

Tobias sighed, pinched his temples. "Relative to what, Cavot?"

"To twelve o'clock, of course."

He glanced at Cabot, quick enough to check which way the man had swivelled on his canon. Assuming the direction was Cabot's three o'clock, he made a note of the strand of withered oaks that obviously served as that day's twelve on Cavot's ever changing clock. He wrenched his canon, Silence, around on its shaft, popped up the scope. He found the women without much panning or re-focusing. No question they were Mortic. Eyes as blank as pearls, milk pale skin webbed by veins made dark by blood like soil. In life they must have been borderline obese. He briefly imagined them strolling slowly between tea shops, eating cakes, talking about weather, back in the good old days. Now they sprinted with horrifying speed towards Outpost Twelve, screaming wordlessly through gaping mouths.

His Tawsion-bolt took the foremost woman in the neck an instant after Cavot's bolt disemboweled the one just behind. The women were lit in negative for a split-second as the bolts discharged their savage payloads. Sparks flared in silhouetted forms, fireflies writhing in shadow prisons. Splinters of glory in black, dead veins and a heartbeat later, a pile of smoking ash.

"You're slow today, Tobes," said Cavot.

"I've a lot on my mind," said Tobias. Like thoughts of the blood he'd been finding on his pillow in the mornings. Shapes in his peripheral vision, that only he could see. The whispers only he could hear. Thoughts of his beloved Ursa before she succumbed to the Call.

"Like what?" asked Cavot. Tobias thought about telling him the truth. A ticklish thought, quickly scratched.

"Like about eight pints of beer," he said instead. Cavot grinned. Spotting movement to his right, Tobias swung and checked his scope. "Little ones at - " he squinted at the withered-oaks, "- at seven. Ish." He winced as Cavot's canon squealed on its rusting shaft. "Don't even think about it, Cav-"

But the idiot had already fired Mercy. His bolt missed the pack of Mortic children by mere yards, punching a burning hole into a hill.

"By the Holy Bastard, Cavot, you idiot. You goggle eyed fuck. Burning the little ones is forbidden. We let 'em through. We snare 'em in the nets!"

Cavot rounded on him. Literally. His canon pointing squarely at Tobias like a lethal phallus. "I missed 'em, didn't I? Wanted to scare 'em off is all. Better than letting McAndrew get hold of 'em in her nets. You know what she's got for 'em, same as I do."

"Sonic pulse. Easier for -"

"A lucky few, yeah. Just enough to hit the numbers. The rest of 'em, the good Doctor takes for her 'school'." Abruptly, the man seemed to realise he was pointing Mercy at his Watch-mate.

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