They hit me several times even as I gave the rocket pack more fuel, and twisted, shooting upward and unpredictably (I hoped) to the left.
Meanwhile, I gave each of them a full blast of the sonics, hoping that the way I’d tweaked my grandfather’s algorithm would find a resonant frequency that would break alien tech.
Nothing started smoking, and that was bad because Haley needed help.
She hadn’t stayed inside the van. She’d ducked around the corner, using the van for cover—which wasn’t a bad idea. It was better than staying inside until the alien machine burned through, but it didn’t stop the machine from hammering the van and everywhere around it with lasers.
I had no idea how she survived, but she rolled out from under the van on the near side—away from the road.
When the alien machine followed her she jumped up and landed on top of it, the rifle on her back, her arms tearing into the machine’s hull, shredding the bulge on top of the roof.
As much as I wanted to help her, aiming toward her would likely draw the other machines’ attention toward her. Better to draw it away.
I twisted again, aiming toward the trees off to the side of the road, and making the machines chase me if they wanted me. The sound of air passing the Rocket suit mixed with the growing roar of the rockets.
The machines appeared in my HUD, both of them following, and worse, gaining.
That was not good in so many ways. They were still firing and hitting me for one, and distance dispersed the beam, lessening the damage—if only by a little. Plus even for a machine, distance made the shot harder. I’d take a glancing blow over a direct hit any day.
A beam ran across the back of my thighs. It felt hotter than before, and it wasn’t my imagination. With as many times as I’d been hit, the error messages had been constant, showing me the level of damage.
[Red Alert! 30% of overall protection remaining!]
It wasn’t as bad as it sounded, but it wasn’t good. Armor still covered me, but the thinner it got, the more quickly it would get destroyed.
Where was everybody? I could see how everyone in Grand Lake might have a hard time, but Izzy could get here instantly once she changed, and she could easily bring Daniel along.
Well, unless the machines had attacked them too. That wasn’t impossible. In fact, in their position, it made a lot of sense.
I turned again, this time flying into the trees, taking a few shots as I slowed down to fly between them.
[Red Alert! 29% of overall protection remaining!]
The stand of trees blocked their view of me, but not entirely. They kept on firing. Laser blasts hit leaves, pine needles, tree branches, and tree trunks, burning and shattering wood. Still, it made it harder to hit me. Too big to fit in between the trees, they had to fly above them, firing down at me, but not able to get clear shots—not if I kept moving anyway.
I did, but it wasn’t easy. I stayed in the air, dodging branches, sometimes dropping to avoid the larger ones.
I gave a glance to our communication system, and saw that people were calling back. Icons jiggled, indicating messages. Izzy and Daniel were listed as responding.
A tree branch hit my arm, not seriously hurting me, but causing complaint from the armor anyway, and forcing me to pay attention to my flying or I’d shoot off in who knew what direction.
I couldn’t stay in the trees much longer. The machines would burn them down, and then me.
I sent orders to roachbots. They’d caught up and were waiting in the trees. I didn’t have many EMP or exploding bots left, but still had the flash bots and the bots meant for bugging and tracking. It wasn’t much but it was something.
I had one more thing though—a “bullet bot.” I’d designed its tip with the same system that made Cassie’s sword cut through nearly anything. I’d been planning to test it anyway. It was too bad I only had one.
On the comm list, Haley’s vitals went everywhere. She’d been hit. Or hurt. Something.
I didn’t have time to analyze why. I sent the roachbots the order to attack, and shot myself out of the wood in a burst of pine needles and broken branches.
Simultaneously several things happened. The bots enveloped the two machines that had been after me in clouds. I couldn’t be sure if their senses included what we could see, but I set the flashbots to explode in waves, and the tracking/bugging roachbots to broadcast on as wide a spectrum as they could.
I kept the exploding bots and EMPbots in reserve, flying out just in time to see Haley.
The machine she’d been fighting had extended some kind of tool from its back, and it had grabbed her leg.
As the machine dove, beginning to roll toward the ground, and clearly intending to scrape her off, she reached down, ripping the tool out of its back. Then she reached inside, pulling out a long cylinder.
The machine fell, and as close as I was, I wasn’t going to make it.
She pulled out a grapple gun from its holster, and shot the Rocket suit in the chest.