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The Ad Hoc catches the bullet, of course, but doesn’t seem prepared when the catch fails to stop it. The bullet careens off a thick conduit and then the concrete floor, trailing Ad Hoc, until they bury themselves in a stack of foam insulation.

Rita lowers the gun and walks up to it. She doesn’t smile, but her mouth quirks. “Hi,” she says. “Go ahead and tell your friends their pet isn’t unique anymore.”

She pries open one of the Ad Hoc’s eyes. Its pupil is clicking and fluttering, an inhuman twitch, like the wing of a beetle in a web.