“Caleb Caleb Caleb, I found this in the dump, can I keep it?”

Trace thrust a mangy-looking cat, which had a put-upon but resigned expression, onto Caleb’s workbench. The automatic rifle sear that Caleb had been carefully grinding down was immediately displaced, with its recoil spring disappearing into the corner with a weak ‘sproing.’

“Is this what you meant by catpacitors?” Chip added. “How do we soldier it into our parts?”

“IT’S VIBRATING!” cried Fuse, with his hands pressed to the feline’s flanks.

Caleb carefully scooped up the remaining pieces of his gun and swept them aside, taking special care to make sure that nothing was pointing at the kids–or their cat. “Why don’t you take that…catpacitor…outside?” he said. “If it decides to stick around, maybe it can do something about the mice.”

Trace, Chip, and Fuse excitedly grabbed up the cat and carried it off, leaving a pool of unidentified fluid and a fistful of identifiable hairs all over the workbench.

From the corner of the room, Sister looked up. “What? Why do the boys get to play outside? Do I have to steal TRACE’S parts to be allowed to play outside too?”

Caleb looked over at her. “You said you wanted to learn how to shoot,” he said. “The first 90% of shooting is learning how to degrease gun parts with a toothbrush like you’re doing.”

“Hmph,” Sister said, dropping the Hello Kitty toothbrush she had been using to scrub out the bore of a disassembled 9mm automatic. “You didn’t make the boys brush gun teeth when they pranked me.”

Caleb looked over at Sister. “You mean when you woke up and somebody modded your inputs?

“Yeah! They made it so that the sun looks like a big grinning scary face and the trees looked like fingers.”

Caleb chuckled a bit. “It took me hours figuring out how to fix that.” Then, his smile turned harder. “And in the meantime you was sobbing in terror as the sun kept setting and getting closer and closer.”

“And you told me never to let the boys see me cry,” said Sister, indignantly.

“It’s tough,” said Caleb. “I know. But if you let them see you cry, they know they’re getting through to you. And do you remember what else I said?”

“Always, always, ALWAYS get even,” said Sister, flatly, by rote.

“Exactly,” said Caleb. He pulled a small data disk from a drawer in his workbench and tossed it to her. “I think you’ll find that, sooner or later, that program will somehow find its way into the boys’ wireless hub,” he said with a wink.

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