Rod whirled around more quickly than I’d have expected. Not Jaclyn’s (“a blur knocked me out”) level of speed, but fast enough that if I ever got thrown into Faerie and had to fight trolls, I’d give them some respect.
Fast enough that his punches took out two of them at once, and their automatic rifles might as well have been shooting marshmallows. He didn’t seem to care.
They were pouring into the room. I didn’t know how many there were. More than twenty for sure. Probably more than forty.
Well, except that after Rod took out like, half of them, they were backing up and not firing a whole lot.
A few stayed in the doorway, but the rest retreated into the hall. Voices shouted words I couldn’t make out mingled with the beeps, clicks and flat tones of walkie-talkies.
They were planning something, and we didn’t want to wait for it.
I pulled the staff out, extended it.
“Hey, you guys, over there.” I waved the Look-Alike Squad and the guys toward the wall next to the hallway. “Hex, we’ve got to talk.”
I figured our best chance would be send Rod down the hall first with all of us following. He hadn’t been too bugged by the shark bite. There’s no way for a bloody half-circle of puncture wounds to look good, but it had scabbed over in no time.
Sam came over.
“What do you think?” I said. “Can he take it if we charge down the hall? I say we face them head on right away, and they’ll buckle. If we wait, we’re screwed.”
Not taking his eyes off the men at the door, Rod growled, “Let’s do it.”
Score one for troll hearing. I’d been talking quietly. Oh and the growl? I could feel it in my bones.
The men at the door held their guns up, but honestly, they looked just short of pissing themselves.
The men on the floor, of course, didn’t move.
“I think I could stop them from noticing the others.” Samita nodded toward the wall. The people we’d saved had listened.
“Kick ass. Ready?”
Except then the machine said, “TACTICAL ASSESSMENT INCORRECT.”
Concentrating like I did when talking with Daniel, I thought at it, So what’s the CORRECT tactical assessment?
“A HOMINID APPROACHES. AN ENERGY MANIPULATOR. IT CAN DESTROY YOUR SERVANT.”
What servant? He’s just this guy I know.
WAR LEADER. I’VE SERVED GLORIOUSLY IN NO LESS THAN FIVE ERADICATIONS. I OFFER MYSELF TO YOUR SERVICE.
Sam frowned, “Are you okay?”
“Why would I not be okay?”
“Look, we’re going. Get over to the wall, and make the hostages disappear. And if you’ve still got some lightning, zap people. I’m going to help Troll.”
I started walking toward Rod, trying not to look too threatening, and I totally succeeded at that. I was a teenage girl wearing a costume that covered only a little more than my swimsuit, and carrying a staff.
One of them took time out from being scared of Rod to whistle at me.
I pressed the button that charged the ends of the staff with electricity, and thought, “Wait till we charge, guy.”
“ 1… 2… 3… Let’s go.” I spoke quietly. He’d hear me.
For the first few seconds, it was beautiful. Rod stepped forward, and they three guys in the doorway ran—and not in any organized way either. They scampered away like little bunnies.
Then Rod stepped out into the hall, and that’s where things started to go wrong. He had to scrunch down to walk. We all knew he would, and it didn’t slow him down much at first. There were a bunch of them standing in the hall, and they weren’t standing tall. They were, running or getting punched.
Every punch seemed to take out three of them, because even if they didn’t get taken out, one of their buddies did, so they had to grab their buddy, and pull him away.
I took down the people he missed. I got hit a few times. The bullets couldn’t go through the costume. They knocked me around, but not down. A few hit my arms and legs, but that healed up quickly—faster than they used to for sure.
After that, it turned ugly.
One thing that had changed since we’d last been in the hall was that someone had turned the lights back on. Because of that, I could see when they stopped running. That was when something bright started walking down the hall. The Nine’s men squished themselves against the walls to avoid it, but barely had time.
It moved quickly. Not long after it first appeared, I could see what it was—a man surrounded by a golden glow. Except it didn’t stop with the glow. Golden, sparkly arms, or legs, or tentacles or whatever held the man above the ground.
An energy manipulator. Crap. The telepathic thing was right.
I had a really bad feeling about what was about to come next, and an uneasy sense that it was all my fault.
“Troll? Let’s get back into the room!”
And you know, it’s easy to say stuff like that, but it’s a lot harder to do it when the thing’s turned into a blur of limbs, made it over all the people between you and them, and grabbed your leg.