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A simple job
There was blood in his mouth, in his nose. He blinked. Pain flooded Lih’s skull and his right leg. He was busted. The pain speared into him so sharply he couldn’t move. Vision began to go—


The light died. Lih cursed, and flicked at his flashlight. He was sure the battery had been a fresh one, but it was dead. Lih sat back and took a moment to look up. He was tired. He took a deep breath. Blind pain and tension had put a tiny tic in the corner of his left eye and a tremble in his hands. Furthermore, he had blacked out for a second. At least he hoped it was no more than a few seconds.

He glanced up at the ceiling, a blankness against the yellowy dark. There was still a kind of light. It twinkled through the windows. Amber, dull. Just enough to pick out the landscape of no-man’s land; just burst pipes and wreckage.

Lih’s heart began to race even faster. Fumbling with muddy, gloved fists, he felt his leg again. Something had smacked into it hard when he fell. The impact tore muscles in Lih’s right leg. Bleeding, but he could still move freely.

This was a joke. Not a fun one. Somewhere, some god or similar higher being, possibly one seated upon a shiny throne, was having a laugh at Viktor Lih's expense. Ordinarily, he'd like to believe, he had a refined appreciation of good irony, but the special irony of this particular situation was simply making Lih curse and swear. He wasn't hit anywhere; he had just fallen on his own.

Then that special god had started laughing. What faced him now was a grueling backwards retreat in the dark as he was having to break out and run, after all. He wasn't looking forward to it. He missed having Costa with him. Word was Costa had joined the domovoi after recovering from the bite wound. Costa had a great rep for rescuing people. What would he do?

The thought stopped him. Costa. Lih felt a terrible ache. Where was he? What was he doing, right now? Was he even alive?

How stupid was this, scampering through the darkness and smoke with a gun in your hand, when some things really mattered?


… would have considered this situation carefully and decided what action needed to be taken. It reminded him, painfully, of the night Costa saved his skin. Lih had never made that connection before. He made a point of not thinking about that incident unless he had to.

“Fine,” he said.

He was. He was fine. He was officer Viktor Lih, CCD domovoi, the youngest cop who’d ever made that cut. He wasn’t about to f— it all up now. It didn’t matter what he felt about Costa, or Alex or Dorian.

He’d chosen to be a cop, and worked to get the badge. He was a serious, thoughtful officer, determined, just like the other officers, to prove to the Captain and Dorian that they’d made a good choice of promotions. Where he lacked experience, it was in calm judgment. He was all too aware of the fact he had nothing of his senior's charisma. He’d never be popular the way Costa was.

Lih concentrated. He was sweating hard, more scared than he dared admit. He’d fought monsters before, and had killed before, but this was his first time without a partner in an active operation. Once upon a time, going-it-alone had made some kind of tactical sense. But pride was an anchor he didn’t need. Not right now.

So he’d decided the best way to help Boda was to call for help. He needed to go to his car parked outside Boda's, and make sure the patrol radio wouldn’t suddenly blare into life and give him away. He could rig the car signals for dispatch headphones only. It was a smart move, the sort of thing that a prideful cop might have overlooked, but Lih had played nice with the technicians and knew about those things.

He levered his lean frame up. The smoke and darkness closed in on all sides. The darkness seemed solid, vicing him in. There was no sign of Boda or the rest of the attackers. Lih hobbled along, leaning heavily on the walls. His leg hurt. He knew he’d pushed himself too hard, and the pain was beginning to erode the sense of relief that blacking out hard briefly provided. His wounds were wet and raw, and moving made them worse.

He reached a short flight of steps and lowered himself carefully down onto them. Just sit for a minute, he thought, just a moment. His colorless skin was pale and clammy and sweat streaked his forehead. He breathed heavily. He had no wish for any of Boda’s attackers to see him. Even the thought was too terrifying.

And the house was bigger than Lih had first thought. Tall. Thick walls, what was left of them. He stumbled almost blind through the mess of debris. He’d never get near his patrol car without the attackers noticing him... And what would calling for help achieve? There was no part for police to play. Not unless the attackers left. Were they likely to leave? What margin could one man with a handgun achieve? All he could do to live was bide his time until he was faced with his kind of fight. And if he died, why care about the details?

Don’t know why, don’t know what. He needed to go to the car. Wanted to know what’s going on. Without expecting to, he found himself oddly concerned for the welfare of Boda. That concern had surprised him to an extend he found dismaying. He questioned his focus even as he moved on.

Just… something, Lih knew, even if it scared the living daylight out of him, he had to do. This was going to be hard. Something big was waiting for him. Old and hard and cunning, like a wily beast ready to pounce.

Ready to kill.

Viktor Lih
Hood Wrote:There was a moment, briefly, as Hood made his way out of the kitchen to the hallway, where he saw, briefly, that old fart darting out the door in his fucking pajamas. Then he was shouldering down a sliding door that led back into the dining room, the chamber the shitstain coward Channeler was running through. The idiot was focused on killing the old man and getting the fuck out of Dodge, as if maybe if the old man was dead, Hood would give up and go home.

There was also a brief moment where he was certain he heard movement in the kitchen; someone stumbling about, the sound of the back door falling off its hinges, the stunned sounds of someone being hit by said door. The cop, maybe? Two maybe, one had doubled around back only to get clobbered on their way inside? Whatever. Not his immediate problem.

He burst into the dining room through that door nearest the kitchen; it would have made more sense to either follow the Channeler through the door straight from the kitchen, or to head straight for the front door to cut the bastard off from reaching the old man. But he'd come through the middle, intent to take the fool off guard; it was all theory of course, but he was pretty confident taking Channelers by surprise was an important tactic when it came to killing the fucks. After all, those Atharim culty fucks pulled it off from time to time.

So he came through, spotting the cowardly asshole mid-way through the room, and brought both pistols up. Revolver and semiautomatic, and both snapped up to bear on the Channeler, a brief rain of bullets cutting across the room into the man's vicinity.
Ryker moved swiftly through the house. Power-sharpened gaze swept shadows and corners alike, but it was the front door that was his primary target. When lights flashed outside, reflex flicked his gaze where Boda streaked through the yard. Powers formed another bomb, but before he could hurl it through the window, the cat that just won’t stop pounced.

He dashed aside, flinging bombs in return. Half-formed, they were more like piss-poor fireworks than grenades, but it was all he could do while retreating for cover. Others deflected some of the bullet-paths, spraying rounds into the walls or burying them in cushions of furniture.

Pissed off, Ryker typically found little personal satisfaction in killing combatants, but he would be glad to end this annoying cocksucker as soon as possible.

Pressed to a wall, he was all too aware of the penetrating power of that gunfire and the thinness of Boda’s walls, but the path would be slowed significantly, and hitting body armor would do little more damage than a slap of a hand. The same couldn’t be said if he jumped into the line of fire again. He preferred to not be shot in the head.

With a split-second to think, his second greatest power was conjured. Fire shot across the carpets, blazing all in its path. Smoke immediately obscured his movements, red and orange dancing across his face with hellish shadows. He turned to obliterate the window behind with just as much fanfare as the back door, when he suddenly realized his arm no longer hurt.

The power slipped away like sand through fingers, and anger took its place. He had no time to strike another slash, and he expected the bodyguard to double-back from the fire any moment. A spray of gunfire punched holes through the double-paned windows, and he hurled a chair through the weakened plates in a dazzling spray of shards. Jumping through was little effort, but before running toward the street, he snatched one of the shards and pulled the point across the top of his hand.

The power blazed in glorious return as he raced through the grass.
Lih was covered in plaster and looked like he’d been rolled in flour. He sat still for as long as he could, knowing he needed the rest, needed to wait for daybreak, but there was a ticking impatience inside him. He wasn’t out of this, and every step seemed triumphantly and incredibly, worse than the last. Looking out the window he had hoped for daylight, prayed for light—light would make everything better...

He blinked when he noticed Boda fleeing the house in… attire of questionable taste, unless he were about to ransack a vessel and put the crew to sword and ship to torch. As Lih was quite confident this was not the case he was sure Boda had some other agenda. Maybe, he didn’t have time to change after the show?

It was odd that he had not noticed Boda earlier. The attackers inside the house certainly had their attention riveted to Boda. Lih imagined some with looks of anger—probably those with whom Boda had been involved in the past—although if that were the case, Lih made their faces, dark-skinned and handsome in his mind, even more angry as he limped back toward Boda.

Almost immediately, the street lit up.

He had managed to reach a doorway on the other side of the house close to where Boda's, and Lih’s, cars were. He narrowed his eyes and watched the light show for a few seconds.

He had one of the choicest and most vulgar replies of his life ready to throw at Boda (even though they were on the same side), but a sound from beyond the front door interrupted him.

It was the sound of Ryker's bomb. The first of many in the night.

And it was swiftly followed by the sound of gunfire.

Pushing through the disorder of flames and smoke, he couldn’t see a bloody thing. A series of enemy fire, hot red or hotter white, the lines of shots bent through the gloom and struck the wall behind Lih’s location and blew out thick chunks of plaster and brick. Two loose rounds hit a pillar in the middle distance and knocked him, flailing, off his feet. Other shots arced down mercilessly into the dark; chopped into the pavement, or thudded dully into the distant, hunched shadows.

Lih kept his head down. The battle Boda stirred up was so intense there wasn’t a chance of Lih making it across to join him. He was still pinned around a corner of the house.

“Oh sh—!” Lih cursed, down in cover once he’d assessed the pattern, as if relaying the situation to CCDPD command. “At least two weapons. Not standard. But they’ve got something heavier. A bomb or even some kind of cannon?”

Prone, he had a very limited field of view low against a side wall, but it was enough for him to slide his newly-issued pistol through and clear its sights. The street beyond resolved in the cold, green shimmer of his thermal scope. He had to tweak the gun’s visual down, way down, because the shadows thumping fire at each other were testing the limits of the heat contrast on his gun’s lens.

Better. A hot spot. Very hot. Something big; super, duper heated. He looked again. More hot spots. Smaller. Cooler. He swept out of cover and darted after them, keeping close to the wall.

But it made no sense. He frowned, surveying the attackers’ handiwork as he got into a covering position at the next corner. What could change a round’s trajectory like this? He studied the play of firepower in the air, watching for the fat, dull red ones. The heavy had so much kick, it brought down another door by chopping clean through the frame. And… was that a flying chair just now? Somebody not-Boda was running through the lawn, about a hundred paces north and west, near to where the destruction of Boda’s house made a burning crater in the roadway.

It was ugly, as ugly as anything he’d ever known. This was a f--ing nightmare. He was caught between the ruthless fire of the attackers and the virtually helpless Boda. Like he had the remotest bloody idea what was going on…

Laughing he caught himself longing for the tunnels, as the enemy closed down the fresh angle of attack with a heavy sheet of actual fire. He knew he dearly missed his broken lens. Light, but how useful would Sage’s lens have been right then—see clearly… call for help… hack into the house’s blueprints?

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, without enthusiasm.

Of course, one of them brought a flamethrower… He couldn’t see who it was through the smoke. But he could see for sure he was trapped; this house was too large, too meandering. Every corner, every hallway, every wing and doorway a deathtrap. In a tunnel, you at least knew the enemy was right in front of you.

Viktor Lih
Hood Wrote:Fuckin' scar faced shit-stain set the place on fire. Of course he did. Flames leapt up, carpet and drapes and fabric of furniture all burning far too quickly to be entirely natural. And then the window shattered, the sudden shift of air pressure and wind causing the smoke to waft deeper into the house, the light breeze of cold night air passing from shattered window and open front door, out through the back door of the house.

The firework display was fuckin' adorable too. Reminded him of a pyro ripoff of an old X-Men character. Well, with the ass hole out of the house, all Hood could do was give chase. Slowly. He stepped back into the front hallway only to find what must have been the police officer up and moving again, hiding with pistol drawn to stare into the dining room and out the shattered window at the street beyond.

A fucking kid, by all accounts. Hood just shook his head, walking calmly through the front hall towards the open front door. A flick of the wrist opened the cylinder of his revolver and six empty shells dropped to the floor. A moment later and a speed-loader was slammed home, twisted free of the fresh load of rounds, and tossed aside. Another flick, revolver snapped shut, then the magazine was dropped free of his pistol, replaced quickly with a fresh one. A flick of the thumb and the action rocked forward, chambering a round as he stepped passed the cop towards the front door.

"You should probably call the fire department, Mr police officer. And write the old man a speeding ticket." He stepped out the front door then, passed Lih. He had dallied a few seconds, expecting that the scar-faced walking bomb would have expected him to come out the shattered window. That would have been the bold, aggressive move, much like his stunt in the kitchen. So the front door, while close, would probably not have been where the ass was aiming.

Of course, he came out guns at the ready, only to spot the fuck out onto the street, dragging a piece of glass across his arm. The fuck was the idiot up to? Job botched, better fucking kill myself?! So damn many fanatic idiots in Moscow. Too many.

He stepped onto the front porch, side stepped to one of the rails, revolver extended to draw a bead on scar-faced emo shit, firing five shots in rapid procession, with a sixth fired from the semi-automatic into the deck. If the ass was good enough to count rounds, and if this shit show dragged out any longer, having a spare in the seemingly empty revolver might come in handy.

All he had to do now was distract the scarred fuck long enough for the old fuck to escape, while hoping the police fuck didn't get in the way, or get killed. Would make the paper work a lot easier if he had a witness that he was legally trying to kill the scarred fuck for breaking and entering.

Thought abandoned, body maddenly sluggish, Boda’s bones carried him swift as they could, but to his dying day he would curse aging. Lights flared halos around the house as he streaked to the car. Crashes and booms echoed in his ears like thunder pounding his ribcage. His heart beat wild as a crazed horse. Feet pattered across wet asphalt, knobby fingers fumbling at the car door. He knew if he just got to the car he’d be safe! They couldn’t outrun a car. No matter what kind of monster chased him down. Bullets flew faster than legs, though. He kept his head low, wary of the fragile glass. The engine roared to life. Dashboard glowing in neon blurs. So close! In his youth he drag-raced around the Ring Roads, raging ahead at the speed of lightning. He remembered laughing, throwing his competitors a long-middle finger as he passed them by. Jaxen raced too. Many a night they shared stories over vodka, the young prick amazed at the absurd things old men did when they were young cocks.

Faster than he ever did as a dick-sucking kid, he flew into gear and the vehicle sped off to the sound of screeching tires. The inferno behind him grew smaller as the street blurred by. The blurry world fogged, and his heart pound harder than he knew it could, but he was escaping. By the skin of his teeth, he was escaping.

Then time slowed infinitely down. The car stopped, but he kept going. Claws shrieked past his face and hands. Crashes pounded his ears. He gasped to scream, but no air came in. His old bones wouldn’t move except to lift a hand for help. The last thing he saw were the blood-streaked shreds of his wrist. He laid his cheek on the windshield, warm from the engine beneath, and laid his eyes to rest one last time.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
Seems the fire delayed his competitor only a few seconds, but it was enough time for Ryker to conjure what was sure to be an epic fireball. Complete with its own little version of a mushroom cloud and everything. He did appreciate a spectacle, and given that this night was absolute piss in the toilet, might as well throw off the mask and finish things once and for all. He was about to hurl the mighty mushroom upon Boda’s car when the first rounds of fresh fire popped in his ears.

The bomb held in the back of his mind, a seeming cloud of threads pulsing with light from within, lights only he could see of course, but things would be quite bad if he hurled it haphazardly in the general direction. Depending on what it hit, he might live to regret the hasty decision.

He ducked behind the shelter of a wide tree. Armor piercing rounds or not, unless the bodyguard wielded a bazooka, nothing would bite its way through oak. The strain of holding the bomb so that it didn’t implode right over his head was about to break him apart, but he waited for headlights to speed away. The screech of tires said that Boda made it. Twin lights pierced the empty road. Engine revved and Ryker made ready to blast him into oblivion.

The car streaked and he stepped forward to hurl the bomb. Instead, the car took a sudden turn. A thunderous smashing of metal stopped him in his tracks as the car slammed into a mighty tree.

Boda flew through the windshield, bleeding out on the hood of the car. Well. The agency wanted it to look like an accident. Guess they got what they wanted. Goddammit.

The bomb winked to nothing as the throbbing in his own bleeding hand subsided.
He didn’t feel good at all, but he knew there wasn’t time for any self-indulgence. Feeling like crap was his problem.

Lih knew what to do. He needed to go and set things in motion. The captain wouldn’t have assigned him this without expecting Lih to take proper action to protect his charge. If Boda died, then Captain would flay him alive and use his skull as a drinking cup. Captain never stuck him as a man fond of games.

Smoke and fire be damned, Lih knew he had to get to Boda fast. He got to his feet. He was unsteady as he rose. He had a sick feeling in his gut, but it was nothing compared to the burning turmoil in his head. He couldn’t even remember running toward the dining room. I mean, scared or not, this was a matter of protocol.

From the vantage in the dining room Lih kneeled, peering out into the dark land beyond the house. He had his weapon raised. In the shivering glow of the flames, the trees look like statues. Lih swallowed. His unease returned. His pulse began to race.

There was something in the trees… Look! Look there! Something was moving out in the trees. Something was approaching them — a figure. A running, scarred figure with a bleeding hand.

In an effort to display the sort of composure that ought to distinguish an officer of the police department, Lih went back to his chosen hiding spot, got behind the cabinet, and determinedly began to quietly stare into the darkness. His uniform was torn, the jacket tails wet with mud, and his hard-boned face pricked with blood when he teared and clawed through the debris in his haste. Boda’s house monitor lights flickered and pulsed.

After a few minutes, he heard a pop from off in the distance, not unlike the sound corks made when pulled from bottles of aged French wine. There was another one shortly afterwards, then two more in quick succession. Two more pops. Then an odd rattle, followed by another sound, muffled and far away.

He cleared his throat, swallowing hard again.

That was when he heard weapons cock.

A dangerous man wearing strange clothes stood over Lih. He stood there was if it was a matter of fact.

Lih watched a very hard muscled, sharp figure step quietly out of darkness, gleaming in the soft flicker of half light around them, suddenly apprehensive as he saw the ridiculously big glossy-black rifle come out.

Who, who are you?

Though Lih wanted to ask this, he didn’t say anything. He was unable to do a thing but stand and watch. He really wanted to say something. But he failed to give voice. The albino felt a cold, stony weight sink into his gut.

Droplets of sweat were beading his forehead. He didn’t feel good at all. The gun felt slick in his grip. He realized that his hands were shaking. His knees felt soft. There was no space in which to turn. He couldn't back away. He was fairly certain that the soldierly man would be too quick.

Does that speed really exist. He couldn’t imagine it. You couldn’t obtain that stealth even if you were to train until vomiting blood. Lih at least possessed that level of imagination…

How big was the difference between this man and himself? The gap between him and this man was overwhelming. Not only did he have huge guns, Lih also didn’t notice him closing in on him. He knew his opponent wasn’t serious. Even so, he only lived because the man didn’t kill him off.

This was unsightly. The only option remaining was the one he wanted to avoid most of all. He had to do the smart and proper thing. He had to surrender… He raised his hands and looked away at some nearby bullet holes in the side wall.

Ignoring this, the man took another gun and loaded both this and his rifle, quickly and surely; and ruthlessly, soullessly urged Lih to do something about their emergency conditions under fire.

It appeared to be a joke, though the punchline wasn’t obvious. He was looking at Lih with a faint, forgiving attitude.

Lih saw no structure to the man’s humor. He was a slight man, who looked much younger than his actual age. For Lih, every day was a battle for people to take him seriously.

Lih felt slightly light-headed. He looked up at the man, but did not rise. From his comments, the man could be a friend of Boda. He certainly spoke of the old man as though they knew one another. Or he could be hired to protect Boda.

Either of those explanations suited Lih fine.

The third one, at the back of his mind, the idea that somehow this man attacked Boda for his own gains, did not. He set the thought aside, even though it made him uneasy, and an odd sensation of brooding in the air, and his legs refused to work.

“I would if I could,” he said, belatedly when he was alone.

As the man hurried away down the long corridor toward the front door, Lih gave quiet thanks the other man wasn’t with him anymore. Stilll, he didn’t move.

He could only keep watching.

Hunters, and hunters hunting hunters.

Rivals were closing on Boda’s lawn, and when they finally met, the result wasn’t going to be good at all.

Worse still, it reduced him and Boda to one thing: prey.

When Boda’s car crashed Lih saw it happen.

He saw everything.

He could do nothing other than watch.

There was nothing else to do. Boda was done. Lih needed to send a signal… for… for help

Yes, but…

“Boda! Boda!”

Lih broke free of his hiding place, and stumbled into the adjoining room toward the exit. He wrenched his way through the piles of loose timber and plaster after the armed man. Metal containers clattered as they fell. Trying to keep his feet as he ran out the front door and across the lawn, the albino advanced through the wood and metal debris with his arms milling and clawing, scattering the obstacles out of his way. He came to a halt just shy of the burning car and blinked, trying to focus, trying to see.

Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD
Hood Wrote:The world was a strange place. People made strange decisions. You could stand a man before two paths; one clear and safe and secure, the other dark and twisted and rough. And as soon as a wolf was thrown at the man's back, it was a fair gamble which path he'd choose. It wasn't a conscious thought; just an overwhelming urge to flee, to escape. And often, that first step was without thought.

People panicked. They ran. They made poor choices.

Hood paused with one foot on the concrete path, the other resting toes down on the last step from the porch. Pistol was still trained on the burned-faced fuck-knuckle that had set the damn house on fire. But, for a moment, he glanced down the street at the crashed car and the corpse in the grass under the light pole hardly half a block down the street.

The cop went screaming past a few moments later, running down the street to the dead old man. And Hood took a step clear of the porch towards the emo walking grenade. The revolver was holstered, a fresh magazine was drawn and driven into the pistol. The action was released, the slide rocked forward, a fresh round chambered. But the gun wasn't aimed just yet.

A few more steps towards the man, before stopping. Maybe ten yards apart, and he half turned towards the distant cop and dead old man. "That wasn't you?" A vague gesture at the crashed car, then he nodded slightly. "Good. I wasn't getting paid either way." He'd taken the favour for the chance of a good fight, and the emo Channeler wasn't putting up one. Too busy running, too busy reacting.

"Well. Your people better keep this whole shit-show quiet. Write it off to a psychotic episode. Drugs. Just an old man going senile in his last days. Nice and clean." Shadow wars were exactly that; meant to be kept in the shadows. No one wanted to know that there were highly paid mercenaries and assassins and hitmen running around their cities. That their own government would order the death of its own citizens. So it behooved both sides involved to keep things quiet. Revenge was messy. Bringing the cops into things rarely went well.

It was all very business like. Hood eyed the man one last time, then holstered his pistol as well, and brushed some suit and charred fabric clear of his jacket and shemagh. Unconcerned about being ID'd at the scene, he then turned and started walking away down the street. "And give the cop some credit in the official story would ya? He was in way over his head. Tell your people to tell his people to get their heads out of their ass and not send rookies alone into this sort of shit."
He stood in place, hovering somewhere between dumbfounded and furious at the turn of events. On the periphery, a figure approached. The guard from the inside paused, attending to his action, stricken with the anti-climactic conclusion to the mark’s life.

Sweat from the fire glistened his brow, glowing in the dancing light as he studied the man at his side. Despite everything, this mall-cop stood up to some of Ryker’s best tactics, though honestly, they weren’t entirely focused on him at the time. They caught eyes, then. For some reason, neither Ryker did not raise aim.

The man walked away: either brave or stupid. He thought about reforming the bomb he was going to drop on Boda’s car and plucking it down on this dumbass’s head. But what a fucking shame that would be. Made the night far more entertaining than he ever anticipated. Even if he was going to get his ass chewed later and dropped into a chasm of paperwork from which he might never climb out. Fuck the cop. That guy had desk-job written all over him. He was made for case files.

He let the merc leave unharmed. If that’s what he actually was. For someone not getting paid, that was a poor contract on his part. He pulled the rifle low, slinging it behind his back and holstered the sidearm from his hands.

Then he did something ballsy that the cop might piss-himself over. He walked up to the car and stood over the cop’s shoulder. “Get the fuck out of my way,” he said, aiming the land-warriors upon Boda’s shredded body for video confirmation. Satisfied, he studied the kid’s face, gathering more information. Like the merc said, someone would clean this shit up, and like hell it was going to be Ryker.

He kept a hand near the pistol just in case the cop decided to make a stupid move, like attempt to arrest him. He smiled, eerie and faint in the fire glowing from Boda’s car. “Probably should move back. The gas tank could blow any second.” The fire danced shadows over the wrinkles of his scarred face. His warning was shared from experience. Gasoline fires were nasty pieces of work. Almost as bad as radiation fire.

“You’re a brave sonofabitch. I tell you that much. Have fun with the paperwork.” He grinned and departed, aiming to gather the rifle bag he dropped behind the house and clear the scene fully.

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