Under Dark Sky Law
further south in the remains of the
national forest. The lack of vegetation made for a very different
desert than it was down in the Tucson pits where the cactus and
Palo Verde had managed to grow and mutate in response to the
environmental challenges. She usually just accepted how things
were, but there was something about the destruction of her desert
that hit home. Still, even through the insulated walls and tinted
windows of the car, she could feel the heat of the desert reaching
through the windows, and she smiled at being able to escape the
chill sulfuric air of the flats.
    Her eyes were focused on finding the last
bits of scrubby bushes clinging to small bits of the landscape when
the back of the vehicle reared up and tipped them towards the
    “Fuck!” Xero said, cursing at herself for
letting her guard down.
    The vehicle teetered on its nose for a few
minutes before giving way to physics and completing its pitch
forward. Thank god for seatbelts and safety cages. They landed
upside down, but uninjured, and the vehicle seemed to be
maintaining its shape under the weight of its own bulk.
    Without any further words, they looked at
each other and jumped into action. They released their seatbelts
and got to the new bottom of the vehicle with limited awkwardness
and no injuries. The vehicle was sinking into the sand, wedging the
door shut.
    “Watch your eyes,” Sanchez said, and fired a
shot into the windshield. Safety glass sprayed around the interior
of the car, and they scrambled out through the new opening in the
glass. They assumed tactical positions on either side of the
vehicle, and she was extremely happy that she had Sanchez with her
instead of one of those idiot recruits. They knew how each other
worked, and they knew that the other could be trusted to react
properly in an attack. It was the next best thing to being with one
of the Grease Weasels.
    There as another of the tactical vehicles
wedged behind their toppled vehicle, and from the plates and
government markings, she knew it was one of theirs. At first she
thought perhaps it was just one of the new recruits not knowing how
to drive through the thick sand, but when she saw a skeleton exit
the driver’s side of the door, there was no doubt about what was
happening. Hot sand seeped into her shoes, and she was immediately
pissed off at her impractical attire. She kicked off the pumps and
left them in the dust.
    She took aim with the new laser at the place
where the skeleton’s Calaca suit had a flaw in the armor. It was
only a miniscule gap—right at the joint between the throat and the
clavicle notch. She squeezed the trigger, ready for the realistic
recall that Sanchez had warned her about. Her shot hit its mark and
the skeleton’s head exploded clean off its torso. Xero was a
seasoned combat veteran, but the decapitation even took her by
surprise. She’d never seen something like that from such a small
laser. Sanchez hadn’t been kidding. This thing was probably strong
enough to pierce a Calaca suit, albeit likely with far less
dramatic effects than she’d just seen.
    Explosions rocked the desert and she dove for
cover at the front of the vehicle. She slammed into Sanchez as he
followed suit. Great minds think alike. Her stupid pencil skirt and
restrictive jacket were getting in the way of her movements, so she
stripped them off, leaving her wearing nothing but the white blouse
and a pair of pink panties.
    “Don’t even start,” she said and gave Sanchez
a look.
    He shrugged but kept two hands on his laser.
“Wouldn’t ever dream of it,” he said.
    “What in the fuck is going on?” she asked.
“Do you actually screen these guys before letting them go into the
    Sanchez didn’t take his eyes off the area of
the enemy, but she knew there would be exasperation smudged across
his face. “This doesn’t have anything to do with my guys. Okay, so
they weren’t prepared to deal with something like this, but I have
no idea

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