“Step away from the tree, Dyan,” Cheela said. She stood squarely downhill from Dyan, her feet planted apart and under her shoulders, her long coat pulled back behind her, her fingers flexing above her belt. “You too, Jaik.”
“Jak,” he said.
“You’ve been watching too many funvids about Outriders,” Dyan told her Crechemate. “You don’t need to call me out, whatever problem you think you have with me.”
Cheela was quiet for a moment, which was ominous, given that her back was to the fires and her face was entirely in shadow. Then she hiccupped. “I’m not calling you out,” she replied. “I’m calling out the tree.”
Dyan scrambled out of the way. Jak was a little slow to move, and wore a puzzled look on his face, so she grabbed his wrist and pulled him with her.
“You’ve been drinking!” she accused Cheela.
Cheela ignored her. The dark girl in the Outrider get-up stared down the tree stump fiercely. “You’ve escape for the last time, you damn dirty renegade,” she growled.
“Duck,” Dyan whispered.
“What’s she going to do?”
“Just in case.” She pulled Jak with her, down into a crouch.
“Draw!” Cheela shouted. The big-eared boy Milt fell back in surprise, she grabbed a bola off her hip, instantly elongating its monofilament cord with the slightest pressure from her fingers as she simultaneously whipped the weight-end of the bola around once, releasing it in the direction of the tree—
and the bola disappeared into the shadow of the grass, hitting the hillside with a soft thump.
“Got you, you dirty dog,” Cheela muttered. She pressed a button in the bola’s holster and the bola flashed red in the darkness so she could find it. She passed to the uphill side of the tall stump and bent to pick up her weapon.
“So… you missed,” Milt sneered. “Gee, that was amazing.”
Cheela said nothing. Standing uphill of the tree, she reached out one arm, leaned against the trunk, and pushed it over. The log, sliced in two with an utterly clean precision typical of monofilament instruments but otherwise impossible, tipped forward—
and slammed to the ground right beside Milt.
“Holy Mother!” Milt snapped. “You almost took my toes off!”
Cheela looked at her fingernails with exaggerated indifference. “You want to see something even more amazing?” she suggested. “Find me a big rock.”