The Pen Is Mightier

Calliope Cervantes walked into her quarry’s store, ducking just in time to avoid a cheap lobotomy from a razor-sharp boomerang. Miles Johnson ran an upscale boutique that sold fancy old-fashioned pens and paper, which only rich people could afford. She knew that boomerang, though, and it didn’t belong to a middle-aged pen-pusher.

“Where’s my man, four-arms?” she shouted, stepping over broken displays.

“I was here first, chocolate chip!”

Blake Taurus disappeared into a back room, along with the muffled screams of, presumably, Miles Johnson. Taurus was a freelance bounty hunter, unlike Calliope, who worked for the good old IRS. And she’d be damned if that hulking biomod junkie swiped her commission. Especially in those awful fake crocodile-skin boots he always wore.

She clicked her heels, rocket boosters powering up, and launched herself through the store. The back door was, as expected, wide open, and led to a narrow hallway that ran the length of the building. This time she had to dodge a pair of boomerangs, twice, the flashing magnetized steel zipping back to the man who had thrown them. Calliope was lucky he had his hands full, or it would have been four. With a grin, she zipped after him.

Taurus had almost made it out a side door when Calliope careened into him like a missile with breasts and kinky hair. He lost his grip on Johnson, but the poor man was thrown against a concrete wall so hard that he was in no condition to run off. Taurus, meanwhile, was only bruised. And angry.

“Back off, sheila,” he growled. “I’ll get prime credits for this fella from the Bankers, and I’m in no mood to dance with you first.”

“You always were a lousy dancer, weren’t you?” she retorted. Bankers, eh? Citizen Johnson certainly owed the wrong people money, on top of old Uncle Sam.

The big man pulled an extra pair of boomerangs off his belt, but she was too close for him to throw them, so he took a swipe at her face instead. She leaned away, then jumped back to avoid getting a close look at her own guts. He spun towards her, all four of his arms slashing and stabbing so fast, it was all she could do to stay out of their reach.

Calliope went for her tasegun, but Taurus sliced her hand open and she dropped it with a curse. He kicked it and it skittered off behind her, back toward the shop. That left her with a pair of SCIDs, which she couldn’t use in close quarters if she wanted to walk away with all her bits. And, of course, her boots.

She kicked one boomerang aside with a snap of her foot, hooking it backward to catch another of the blades and drive it into the wall. Sidestepping a downward swipe, she used a quick rocket burst to launch her knee hard at Taurus’ head. He ducked and she turned her momentum into a roll, coming down next to the still-unconscious Johnson.

“Finders, keepers,” she said, grabbing the man and hefting him over a shoulder. Firing up her boots, she shot them both backward toward the exit door.

With a roar, Taurus charged, and she had to drop her quarry to dive out of the way. Taurus crashed into the door, buying her just enough time to get Johnson with her good hand and use her rockets to slide them across the floor of the hallway, back toward the pen store. The ground was slick with her blood, and Taurus slipped and skidded as he raced after them.

Calliope dragged the lump of a man into the store and looked around. She could get out with Johnson, but she didn’t know how Taurus had gotten here, so he might be able to follow and overtake her if she ran. She had to bring him down, fast. All she had were pens, pens and more pens.

She eyed a display of platinum fountain pens, on satin pillows behind glass. The things people would pay for… Still, those points looked pretty sharp. A sign above them proudly proclaimed, “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword! Lifetime GUARANTEE!” Well, that was good enough for her. She smashed the glass with her elbow and grabbed a pair of them.

A boomerang flew past her ear, so close it nipped off a lock of hair. She somersaulted into a crouch, then jumped toward the back room where Taurus stood, two of his hands clenched into fists while the other two held boomerangs.

Before he could react, Calliope drove the pens through the tops of his fake crocodile-skin boots, so hard she felt them hit the wood floor underneath. He roared in pain, and she rolled sideways, then forward as he tried to stab down at her. As he turned, she kicked his knee out, and he collapsed to the floor with a cry.

Gasping for breath, Calliope rocketed up and over him, narrowly missing a pair of flailing arms. She stalked back to dear Miles Johnson, who was starting to come around, groaning softly to himself.

“‘Come on, my girl!” Taurus called. “We can, we can split the credits!”

“Oh yeah?” she said, slipping an antigrav belt on her quarry. “How much?”

“Four–I mean, uh, one million!”

She whistled softly to herself, pulling out her medkit to slap a patch on her hand. That was an awful high bounty for a pen seller. It wasn’t just money he owed the Bankers, then; he must have some special friends, the kind that asked really sharp, pointed questions that didn’t have any right answers. The IRS would be very interested to hear all about his pals, she was sure.

Calliope grinned at Taurus over her shoulder as the weightless Miles Johnson bobbed along behind her. “Blakey, you’re a terrible liar.” She ducked a boomerang, which lodged itself into the doorframe. “G’day, mate. Gimme a call when you get yourself a new pair of dancing shoes.”

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