Doot doot doot.

“Run or make a stand, there’s hardly a difference.” Peleon gingerly pulled the sleeve of his button up shirt onto his good arm. “The past is rapidly receding either way. What you mistake for solid footing is just your heels digging into the dirt as you desperately and stupidly try to fend off the future.”

Romm scowled and turned to Xiv. “Is he always ridiculous and sentimental, or is it only when he’s been shot?”

Xiv held up his hands, showing her that they were empty of any comprehension of the moods and whims of Peleon Flood. “I’ve never seen either.”

Peleon struggled to reach for the other sleeve, the fresh stitches in his shoulder pulling the raw, red skin there tight. The mangled faring over his bicep made the simple motion nearly impossible. Even if he could pull it on, the cracked and jagged plastic was sticking out at such an angle that it would rip the already torn fabric apart all the way down to his wrist. The bottom half of the peacock that usually danced around his upper arm was frozen and flickering on and off. Purple background, grey fuzz. Quivering green feathers, diagonal neon stripes.

Xiv found this more off putting than if the screen had just gone dark. There was no part of Peleon capable of just giving up. It was both admirable and frustrating. Xiv snagged the collar of the shirt and pulled it so that he could drape the blood soaked shoulder of it over Peleon’s own shoulder. Peleon let his arm remain hanging at his side and pulled the shirt closed over it. He started slowly doing up the buttons one-handed.

“If you tell me the past is a foreign country,” Romm said. “I’m going to punch you in that bullet hole, and then again in the face.”

Peleon shrugged, then winced. “Think of your skin as your passport. You’re on this trip collecting new marks whether you like it or not. Some people just like to have control over how they’re stamped.”

“Great,” she said, “peachy. So what you’re saying is that these people who are shooting at us found the most complicated way to forge a person new papers and you want them to stop. Why not just work with them? The millions of dollars they make using your robot’s reclaimed skin doodles have got to be more than you make through both new tattoo work and art showings combined.”

“Have some fucking respect,” Peleon snapped. “These people entrusted a part of their death to us, not to us and any old yahoo with a fabricating DNA cloner.”

“And anyway,” Xiv said. “They weren’t shooting at you. You just picked the wrong time to get greedy.”

She tilted her head and stared intently into the space between Xiv and Peleon for a long moment. Xiv thought she was probably running a probability check on the likelihood of their success. It wasn’t, he was sure, going to come out in their favor. She blinked and then she was looking at them again, eyes flicking between their faces.

“There is never a wrong time for that,” she said.