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And officers? Why you
listen to officers? Officers command ships because ships, they all officers
know!" He stepped up and put his horned brow against Nightwing's smooth
forehead. Their eyes inches apart, he hissed, "How you defend against superior

Then came the whisper, the soft sliding of steel across leather - - the
sound of a knife being drawn.

Nightwing moved without thought as Kulkis's arm came up, driving the
point of the knife at the back of his head. He twisted down and away, lashing
out with his right hand to catch the Nikto's wrist and twist it, to wrench the
knife free. The counterstrike from Kulkis's other hand caught him across the
face, opened a gash on the bridge of his nose, but he didn't release the hand
that held the knife. Using the momentum of the blow to his face, Nightwing
spun back and down, sweeping the Nikto's legs from beneath him and sending the
thick-bodied Commander to the floor.

For an instant, they both fell, the knife between them, their eyes

Then came the ripping, wet and unpleasant. Then came the stillness.
Nightwing looked down at the knife, buried in Commander Kulkis's abdomen, then
into the Commander's fading eyes.

"How do you defend against superior enemy?" Blood bubbled between jagged

"You wait until he moves," Nightwing said. His own voice sounded so far
away. He knew he should get a medpac. He also knew it wouldn't matter. "When
he overextends himself, you strike. Make his strength into his weakness."

A laugh brought more blood from Kulkis's mouth. "Is nothing wrong with
man who wields rifle," he murmured, his voice fainter by the word. "Sometimes,
is rifle who is wrong. Is broken. Sometimes.
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