Swamped Chapter 9 Page 7

Your first thought is to fling your skyslicer at the greatrat’s eye – it’s a sensitive spot, after all. Your slicer hits, and the greatrat shrieks in pain, but the slicer gets caught in the socket.

You’re not looking forward to trying to get it back.

“I think Marshall’s on to something,” Mark says. He tosses his mudpike, aiming for the other eye. Unfortunately, he misses, though he does pin the greatrat’s forepaw. It shrieks again, and struggles to swat away the pike with its other paw.

You notice that there’s nothing special about Mark’s gloves. Maybe you can ask him about that later. But in the meantime, you’re looking for something else to throw – there’s a lot of junk lying around here, after all.

Mark seems to have the same idea. He picks up a large pot.

“Juliet, mind if I try to get this on the rat? Could keep it busy long enough for you to get your strike in.”

“Just don’t break it if you can help it,” Juliet grumbles. “Took me three weeks to sculpt that.”

“Right. Um, everyone else cover me as best you can.”

Tom Eighth keeps prodding the rat from a distance. As he does, Stacy dashes in and strikes it, though the aquablade isn’t very strong – it’s more designed for functionality in water, after all. Mark keeps trying to shove the pot on its head, but he keeps backing off as it swipes the air around it.

“If someone could just distract it for a moment!” he grumbles. “Hit it in the head, maybe. Getting this on is going to be easier than getting a good axe slice.”

“It’s more aware of the space around its head,” Stacy says, poking it in the tail. “Even with its eyes wounded, it’s still got ears and a nose warning it. Hard to get close whatever you’ve got.”

“Well, then, Tom can throw his dagger or something!”

“Uh, I’m not much of a thrower,” Tom Ninth says apologetically. “Plus, well, I might hit one of you.”

“Well, do something!

Ninth seems stumped. You want to comfort him, but you’re not sure what to say.

Then you notice his squirming pouch and get an idea.

“No need to toss your dagger, Ninth.”

You walk over and grab his pouch. Carefully, you fling it, rat and all, right at the Greatrat’s nose.

The rat falls out of the pouch, and the greatrat seems to forget all its pain for a moment. It pounces on its prey, and lowers its head for a much-needed meal.

That’s all it takes. Mark drops the pot over its head, and Juliet slices the beast’s head off as it struggles to figure out what’s going on.

You all breathe a sigh of relief.

“Right. We’re telling Pest Control about the hole,” Tom Eighth says. “Don’t bother getting your weapons back right now; they’ll have greatrat blood on them, and that stuff’s not safe.”

“What if we run into another one?” Mark protests.

“Well, it looks to me like Marshall just needs something to throw. And Ninth’s not getting much use out of that dagger, so, we’ll use that on the next one. Which hopefully won’t be something we have to deal with.”

“The little one didn’t manage too well there,” Tom Ninth notes. “Seems the greatrat had time to crush the poor thing.”

“Pest Control would’ve just dealt with him anyways,” Eighth mutters. “I wouldn’t waste any pity.”

You can’t help but note that Juliet’s grabbed a sketchbook and started drawing the greatrat’s mangled corpse.

“You don’t have time for that!” Eighth says, scowling.

“How many opportunities like this am I going to have to draw a freshly-dead greatrat?” Juliet asks. “I can’t waste this one.”

“Oh, for… Talk to pest control about it! We’re done here for now. We can check the other rooms once the nest is dealt with.”

You all head off to report to pest control. It seems there’s not much for you to do now, except wait with the groups that have finished their checks and reflect on your first real experience in combat.

You’re now Dean, or “The Dean” as you prefer to be called. You’re heading the junior pest control squad.

You’re working closer with the senior squads than you normally would. A greatrat nest is a serious problem, and they need every available recruit to help out.

You can see why. There’s got to be dozens of the things, just laying around in a pile. You’d heard about this, but you’d never seen it for yourself before.

It’s as fascinating as it is disturbing, at least for you. The rest of your team is just disturbed.

But you’re not dealing with the pile directly. Three other squads are handling that. What you’re charged with is watching the side tunnels for other rats making their way back here.

Still… you can’t help but feel there’s a problem with the main strike force’s approach here. Something they’re not catching. You’ll need a moment to figure out just what it is you need to warn them about, though.

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There’s something other than just greatrats in here.

How come those side tunnels don’t just go in a straight line towards/away from the nest like they normally would?

Funny how greatrats manage to have these burrows in the swamp. Some folks think they produce a coagulating enzyme in their saliva that helps them firm up the muck. No one’s studied it much…or at least no one in the Bog Knights that is.