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Showdown
by Darrell Whitney


The watcher remained still and silent as he observed the impending confrontation. The two creatures eyed one another across their prize, each wary of the other's abilities but unwilling to back down.

One raised a chitinous foreleg tentatively as if feeling out the best place to strike. It flexed its mandibles, crushing jaws capable of slashing deeply into its foe's body, savaging flesh and organs. Slowly, it advanced.

The other creature buzzed its wings in a loud warning, a threat of death and pain against any who would dare face it in battle. Its mouth parts moved, preparing to deal a cruel bite which not only would tear flesh and chitin but also inject an irritant poison contained in its saliva. The watcher knew this well; he had been bitten by its kind before.

The two beasts crept forward slowly, the winged monster advancing in short, jerky bursts, as if it was not quite so sure of itself on the ground, while the mandibled creature proceeded forward slowly and steadily. Both were very near their prize now. It would be only a matter of time before one would have to give up its intent or choose to lock horns with its rival in the elemental duel of mortal combat.

Unwavering beneath the heat of the desert planet, the watcher's gaze was fixed upon the incipient combatants. A bead of perspiration trickled down his back, but he forced himself to remain still. He knew well that any noise or any sudden movement could draw both creatures' attention away from their current goal and towards him.

The mandibled beast made its move first, charging towards the prize in an attempt to seize it. Its foe prepared to take wing, to fly in to salvage its position.

Then, cataclysm struck.

"Chaz!"

The watcher's head jerked up. The fly buzzed off. The beetle scuttled off to some dark corner.

"Chaz, stop staring off into space. You're supposed to be doing your history lessons."

"Yes, Alys," the watcher groaned.

"And just look at this table. You've got crumbs everywhere. If you don't clean up after yourself once in a while, you'll wind up attracting bugs!"

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