Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 4 –

– 4 –

The scissors-lights have filled the scissors-panel. There’s just one bright and brilliant glare.

The wolf-light is flashing. The wolf-magnet’s come on. On the marvelous threat-tracking displays of the space station of the House of Dreams, the wolf-hairs — like cross-hairs, only for wolves instead of crosses — drift slowly towards the location of the boot.

The scissors-shield’s grid’s monitor sulks with a dismal, powerless grey.

“I think we can still do this,” Cheryl says. “We can still kill them.”

She’s rubbing at her nose. She’s thinking about folding.

“What we do is, we send over an away team of origami soldiers,” she says. “To kill the life support on the enemy ships. And we hold off on stomping until we’ve got Peter up here and launched. He’s got a Scissors-Smushing Cannon that should smush the scissors. And then, once he’s out there and going, wham, flat wolf. Is there anything else threatening the world right now? Do we need to tackle global warming? Hell ants? Anything?”

Tom glances at the Hell ant monitor and the global average temperature index.

“We’re good,” he says.

“Thank God,” she says.

She pounds on the Anything-Ending Button, experimentally. It’s mostly depleted — it’s not an Everything-Ending Button — but it still ignites one of the Fan Hoeng warships in a brief, fierce flame. She kicks a scissors-grappling button with one foot and sends a bootlace lashing out to grapple with the scissors. An elbow activates the Saint-Speeding Turbo-Device and dials it up to full.

Tom looks amused for a moment. Then slowly the smile on his face fades away.

“Cheryl,” he says.

“I’m busy,” she says. Her precognitive heart monitor flatlines. She rolls her chair to the side until it kicks up again. A Fan Hoeng laser bursts through the pseudo-glass and scorches where she’d been.

“Cheryl,” he says.

She stops. She turns. She looks at him.

“When I was a kid,” he says, “you’d have been there, doing this to me and my brother.”

“Yeah,” she says.

“I would have been all, grr, I’m a world-ending threat, and this kid here’s the antichrist, Linus, and you’d have been all up here in a boot, going grr, argh, bam, gragh, fire!”

She makes a face. Then she sighs.

“It’s not the same, Tom.”

“Oh,” he says.

“They have to die,” she says. “There isn’t any alternative. If they don’t die, then —”


She sighs. She beats her head against the Head-Powered Anti-Alien Missile Battery, and finally rests it there.

“It’s Gotterdammerung, Tom,” she says, without lifting her head. “They have to die.”

He licks his lips.

Then he nods.

“I’m going to go do forbidden things,” he says.

“Don’t switch sides,” she says.

“I’m not going to switch sides,” he says. “I’m just going to — you know . . . do stuff.”


“Good luck with that . . . apocalypse-fighting thing,” he says.

“Yeah,” she says. “Thanks.”

“Cheryl,” he says. His voice is rough.

“You told me not to die,” she says. She looks out at an endless wall of scissors; at the Fan Hoeng scissors-ships; at the indicator for the world-devouring wolf. “This isn’t fair, Tom. Surviving is hard enough.”

And she flicks the Tom-Ignoring Screen upwards with a finger, and there’s nothing more that he can say to her; and he watches as she kills them, the ships of the Fan Hoeng empire, and all their screaming, living, breathing soldiers, one by one.

Then he goes off.

To do, you know, his stuff.



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