I raced after the Awknerds. The complete embarrassment of their serenade still turned by ear tips bright red. And now I was going to get my vengeance. And they were going to stop. NOW.
And poor Aitan was going to stop being tormented too, but that was a secondary benefit, not why I was doing this.
I had put away my needler when I started running. It would have been awkward to run with it. I am twelve after all and if I had tripped and accidentally fired the needler by pulling on the trigger. I'd never run with my finger inside the trigger guard. That would be a recipe for disaster!
Every kid on Jefferson starting at the age of six gets a training course on how to use a needler. At age 8, every kid gets one. We practice every day. Needlers are small guns of a sort, really airguns, that use pressurized air to fire one of several types of needle at a target. Most ammo is the sort to knock out a Jefflife critter without killing it. A tranquilizer dart, really, we call a trankle. There is another type that makes a loud bang noise, a bangle. This is meant to scare away animals too, but can be a bit dangerous. Finally, there is a dart for Earthlife, too. But you are not given that until you are 18. My needler carries bangles and trankles.
Needlers are necessary tools on Jefferson. While most Jefflife leaves humans alone, there are critters that are very territorial. If you stumbled across a family of Thunder Pigs, you would be in trouble if they charged and lacked something to do. That's just bad luck. However, there are types of Jefflife that seem to be very offended by us being here. Most are not local to Shadwell. However, one type is.
Yoats are medium sized pack hunters. They howl, but in a cacophonous yowl that would offend the least picky coyote on Earth. They eat small Jefflife critters but seem to absoultely hate humans. They are not intelligent like a person or even a dog, but they are dangerous. They smell a lone person and they can hunt that person down. A Yoat wouldn't attack an adult, but when you're a kid, they are a danger.
Almost right after Shadwell was founded, they killed a kid, or so we are told, called Kenny.
So all kids older than 8 carried a needler and most adults, too.
I PROMISE, I didn't shoot any of the awknerds.
As I said and meant, no awknerds were harmed - by me! - in this adventure.
However, because I am a much better runner, than any of the awknerds, I nearly caught up to them and then stopped. Puffing a bit, I just ran fast! Sheesh! I pulled out my needler. I took aim...and...
Rosa, via her little Immie camera, screamed in my ear.
I had a bangle loaded and her scream made me jump: I hadn't noticed her Immie cam flying next to me. THAT nearly made me drop the needler. Fortunately, my finger was not on the trigger. It would not have been: pointing a needler at someone is really dangerous. Every kid knows that. It would have gotten me in trouble. I had been aiming above their heads, but when Rosa freaked, I jerked and had my finger been on the trigger I’d have nearly shot the dirt near the last of Aitan's jerk friends.
I screamed at Rosa and proceeded to fire a half dozen bangles in the air above the fleeing villains.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
The twins Kyle and Karen screamed. Aneiren wet his pants I heard later. Cadman shrieked with joy. He was going to be a problem later, I knew, but the others were cowed.
Except I didn’t really. What? You think I am that crazy and reckless!?! Shame on you!
I told you we all have boosters, right? The little computers that talk to the implants in our brains allowing us to control machinery around us. Remember?
I also told you I am a member of the Merry Pranksters.
You can do simple social math, right? Well, we’d hacked the Awknerds’ boosters a while ago. They loved tinkering with their boosters and even building custom ones. We happened to stumble across their oopses and found a way in. We’d planned on using it for a grand prank. Maybe make every Awknerd see a dancing banana instead of the teacher at school or some such. We had not decided as a group.
Well, I decided to just outright use the backdoor, the way into their boosters, to end my and Aitan’s obnoxious little tormentations. The Awknerds heard and saw the bangles going off around them. Their boosters were feeding in the sounds and sights to their brain. They, in their excitement and then fear, couldn’t tell the difference. Or so I hoped. I think I was right. I was worrid about Cadman though. He might have figured out what was happening.
I holstered my needler, unfired and safe from getting in trouble, at least that way, from the adults and parents. I quickly returned to chasing them and I yelled at the top of my lungs.
I ran down the last part of the hill and chased them into the forest. They decided they were going to lose me through trees. If what we had could really be called trees. Anyways, they put those big trunks between me and them.
I followed though pretty easily: they really needed to put down the VR goggles and get outside more.
We ran for what seemed like forever, really 20 minutes, when Kyle tripped and fell. Karen stopped to help him up and when she saw me, she surrendered. Kyle was sprawled out and dazed, so I helped her get him up. I made them both promise the humiliation of Aitan and I was over.
I made it VERY clear if they continued, they would really, REALLY regret it. My friends and I were known as the Merry Pranksters for a reason and they did NOT want to get into a Prank War. The last clique who attempted that still had their dogs dyed hot pink two years later.
When we got Kyle up, we noticed what he'd tripped over.
It was a helmet.
A combat helmet, like the sort my uncle Fred would have worn in battle.
And it had the Chakra and tricolor of the flag of India.