Trace staggered backwards, snickering madly and desperately trying to keep Caleb’s order to be quiet. Sister, for her part, angrily wiped away enough mud that it wasn’t in any danger of slipping into her mouth.

“Aww, c’mon, sis,” Trace said as she glared at him. “It was just a little joke, huh? Have a sense of humor.”

“Oh, I do. I do have a sense of humor. You know what would be really funny right now? EATING SOME MUD PIES!” Sister swept her synthetic leg, knocking Trace’s lanky limbs from beneath him like ninepins. Like an expert wrestler, Sister had Trace pinned in a moment, despite his greater height and longer reach, and was forcing a double handful of mud into his face.

Trace flailed about; his cybernetic arm gave him the strength to flip Sister away after a moment, and he doubled over, gagging.

“You got my mouth all dirty,” he spat.

“Your mouth was dirty already,” Sister snapped back. “I just put mud in it. You should think next time you play a mean joke on someone.”

“Hmph,” scoffed Trace. “Grandfather didn’t mind. He used to encourage me. Thought it was funny.”

“And now he’s dead,” Sister replied. “Just like you’ll be if yo get me all dirty again.”

They were about to go at it again when they noticed Caleb had returned. He was leaning on a tree, nonchalantly observing them while quietly cleaning his rifle.

“If this is quiet,” he said, “I’d hate to see noisy and squabbling.”

The kids had already begun to point at each other, and accusations were already on their lips, when Caleb held up a hand.

“We’re being tracked,” he said. “Something big, something fast. We’re moving now, and unless you want to walk home by yourself, looking over your shoulders the whole way, we’d better get moving.”

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