Mac switched his rifle to full auto and cut a line across the room. Elena and Brook dropped down with their hands over their heads as Mac walked the fire across the room to Wu.
Wu leapt up to the top of the hole and his hands found purchase on the smoking dirt. But before he could pull himself up Mac’s fire cut into his back. The rounds passing clean through his body and embedding into the the dirt wall. Wu lost his grip and crashed down to the floor.
Then a second android fell to another spear shot.
“Run!” Mac yelled, pushing ahead of Brook to follow his own advice. Elena grabbed Bristol from where he was holding his bloodied nose and pulled him towards the hole.
Mac slung his rifle and gave Brook a leg-up first, the lithe little creature launching from Mac’s shoulder to deftly vault up to the surface.
Another droid took a spear shot and collapsed, leaving only the final droid shooting back.
Bristol didn’t need further encouragement and ignored Mac completely to step on Wu and pull himself out of the hole. Elena followed, kipping up the dirt wall to grab the ledge and scramble out.
As the last unlucky droid took two spear shots and dropped Mac followed Bristol out, his legs clearing the hole just as the constabulary reached the door and peered around with their guns up.
“Clear.” The first constable called. While he provided cover from the door, two more constables slipped into the room. The smoke from the hole in the wall was finally starting to disperse.
The gunfire from outside drew them up to the hole, where they found a bleeding Wu lying at the bottom.
Outside Mac got himself up the loading ramp of his ship and yelled into his nanoputer. [Wat, get us out of here. We got ’em.]
The ship’s engines roared and the craft took to the air. A constable on the ground emptied a barrage of spear shots up at the ship, but none of them penetrated the thick hull.
Back in the holding cells, the constables were locking the drunks back in their cells and tending to the wounded.
Penny knelt at the doorway where the night shift guard had taken a burst to the back. She looked at the constable tending to the wound. “Is he going to be okay?”
“I don’t know.” The worried constable replied, fishing into the kit next to her for the can of spray skin.
“The Sheriff’s just outside.” Penny explained. “She’s already called the ambulance. Where’s Wu?”
The constable indicated the end of the room with her head. “He’s in the hole.”
Penny got back up, but her heart stayed behind on the floor. With Wu dead she was done. Her career was over and any chance of finding Ranger Rodgers dissipated quicker than the smoke from the hole in the wall.
Penny moved over to the hole and checked in on him. Wu was lying on his back, his shirt torn open so the constable could apply the spray skin. Penny stopped herself when she realised she could see him breathing. “He’s alive?”
“Yeah.” The constable said as he cleaned the excess off Wu’s wounds. “You can add another count of ‘illegal use of nano-programming’ to his charge sheet, but he’ll survive.”
Penny felt a wave of relief wash over her, then immediately cast a guilty look towards the night shift guard. The constable looking after him quietly wiped a tear from her eyes as the medical droids gently raised him on the stretcher and took him away.
Sheriff Rose waited at the doorway for the stretcher to pass by and watched as one of her own was carried away. Her jaw gained an angry set to it as she turned back towards the holding cells.
The Sheriff moved to the control panel for the cells and flicked them open, just as Mac had done earlier.
“Alright everybody.” She called out to the now very sober alcoholics. “You’re all free to go home, let your families know you’re okay. I’ve had enough calls forwarded to me already and I’d rather you were out of my hair while I dealt with this. Now get.”
The drunks did not need to be told twice.
Sheriff Rose called out to Penny from across the room. “Ranger. Come with me, I could use your opinion on something.”
Penny followed the Sheriff out to where the constables had stacked the wreckage of the labour androids. She knelt down and ran a finger across the torso of one of the droids and raised the finger up to Penny’s eye line. “See this?”
Penny took a closer look, the Sheriff’s finger had a fine layer of what looked like purple salt on it.
“What is it?”
“Kerium.” The Sheriff said, wiping her hand on her duster. “When its unrefined state is exposed to the surface atmosphere it crystallises. The longer it’s been exposed the more brittle it becomes.”
“So you’re saying these droids came from a mine?”
“A local one at that.” The Sheriff said. “If they’d come from off-planet, even from one with a kerium mine the crystals would have broken down into dust and blown away by now. Crystals like that mean that these have been taken out of a mine less than a few days ago.”
“So the bandits stole or purchased them locally? Maybe if we can find where the bandits got them from we can find the bandits?”
Sheriff Rose nodded. “I’m kinda short-staffed right about now. So I want your help on this. You’re stuck here ’til Friday anyhow and if we can track these vermin down having someone of your calibre on hand could keep more of my people alive.”
Penny pursed her lip. It was a big ask. “Alright. I’ll give you a hand on this, but when that Jumpship arrives I’ve got to be on it. No two ways about it.”
“Good.” The Sheriff said. “We start tomorrow.”
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