Stardock: Part 14

“Ghost,” Travis said, “get up there and observe. Let us know what you see.”

I made a mental note to shoot off a few of the observation roachbots when we got out from under the shield–which would be soon. Rachel faded out, her white costume turning transparent. The last I saw of her was an amused smile as she eyed Travis, reminding me of the Cheshire Cat–except that she wasn’t a cat, and I’d never been completely sure what Cheshire was.

It sounded like it ought to be a place, but why would anyone name a cat after a place in the UK when it lived in Wonderland?

Maybe it was Alice’s fault? I hadn’t read the book in a long time.

The air above us crackled with energies that I didn’t have the right equipment available to study.

Rachel’s voice broke through my distractions. “Night Wolf, they should go now. This is their best shot.”

Travis’ deep voice came over my speakers. “You heard her. Bees open it up, and let the group out. Patriot’s team, go!”

Ahead of us, the multi-colored shield opened, and I lifted into the air, following Izzy, Patriot Jr., and Theo. In most of our training, the Aurora Bees had been with us, so all the stuff we’d practiced that depended on letting them take damage while the rest of us used them for cover no longer applied. On the other hand, the glass cannons would get the most use out of a shield anyway.

We should have trained that way from the beginning. It just made more sense in a battle like this.

Patriot Jr. shouted, “Take the fastest, tightest route alongside the shield, and open up with everything you’ve got!”

That wasn’t a bad beginning. We’d done it a bunch of times in practice, but it showed Patriot Jr. wasn’t a complete idiot.

Remembering what I’d thought earlier, I let out a few observer bots as we shot up the side of the shield. I don’t know precisely how quickly we were moving, but the last time I checked before we cleared the shield was more than four hundred miles per hour–faster than I could accurately aim at anything.

Not that it mattered. I’d chosen my target before I’d left the ground, firing off a bot based on Cassie’s sword before I even cleared the shield (I’d made a lot since the last fight). It left, accelerating faster than I could, at least in the short term.

As I fired, Rachel’s voice came over the speakers, “Hit them but, don’t stop. They’re going to fire–”

The observer bots came online, and an overall view of the situation came into my HUD. The machine race soldiers were pointing toward the building we’d been behind. The moment we came up to attack the robots hammering the Aurora Bees’ shield, the more distant ones would be able to open up on us.

Time doesn’t stop though, and it definitely doesn’t stop for tactical revelations in the middle of a battle. That was a double edged sword, however, because we’d only accelerated since I’d checked our speed. It couldn’t make hitting us easier for them.

We came over the domed shield in a blur, and above us, the machine race soldiers shattered. I’d only been able to see three above us with my naked eyes. The HUD showed me seven, outlining the additional four in a digital glow. As we cleared it, my roachbots found an additional four more.

It didn’t matter. The seven immediately above us disappeared in a combination of roachbot missiles, Theo’s plasma blasts, Izzy’s massive sonic blasts, and whatever Patriot Jr. did that shattered anything directly ahead of him.

Theo had been the real star of the show though. His blasts left at least three blackened, partially melted hulks.

And that was great and all, but almost at the same time the machine race soldiers that floated between us and the alien ship started firing.

Our momentum carried us away from the building faster than any normal human could have hoped to respond to. Unfortunately, they were machines, so their reflexes were considerably better than a normal human’s, especially if all we did was move in the same direction without evading.

The sky around us became bright with beams of energy. We knew what to do, dip and weave, sink toward the ground, and fly behind other buildings. That didn’t stop them from hitting us. Alerts scrolled down my screen as a blast hit, but I stayed in the air. Near me, beams hit Izzy, and as they did, the air where the beams hit her seemed to turn into a mirror, but it may have been an illusion.

Whatever the case, the laser beams bounced off her, little more effective than spraying her with water.

We needed to try that sometime outside of combat. If I could replicate it for a suit, it would be incredible. Of course, it would also run down any batteries I had on me.

For Patriot Jr., the air around him blurred, hiding him from the beams. I may have seen dirt in the whirling that surrounded him.

I hadn’t thought of him as someone who controlled air, but that made the most sense given what I’d just seen.

My helmet’s display showed each machine’s line of fire. We were all under attack, but I realized that at least five of them had targeted Theo.

I don’t know how many beams hit, but he was on the outer edge of our formation, the one closest to them. As the barrage ended, and Patriot Jr. dived toward the back of a building, putting us out of their line of fire, Theo didn’t seem to notice.

At any rate he didn’t start to turn when I did.

Izzy noticed before anyone else, saying “Theo?” over the comm, and then swerving over to reach into the burning plasma that surrounded his arm, and pulling him in the same direction as the rest of us.

We passed behind a big brick factory, one of the buildings around Stardock. Beams hit it, but didn’t topple it. Still, I thought I saw a fire start in the front.

“Theo’s down,” I said on our main channel.

“Mmn okay,” he grunted.

He didn’t sound okay.

17 thoughts on “Stardock: Part 14”

  1. “Newsflash! This just in…ladies and gentlemen, I have exciting news for you. That news is…that there was no alien attack last night. That’s right. Reports of a massive aerial battle involving aliens and superheroes were all made up in one of the biggest outbreaks of mass delusions every witnessed by objective eyewitnesses who happen to hold jobs in various government intelligence agencies. These delusions, which appeared as a huge, colorful fight between flying machines called the Space Whirling Dervishes and members of various hero teams, absolutely did occur, even if such a battle, amazing as it would have been, did not. Possible culprits for the attack include Totally Not Space Aliens, Totally Not The Heroes League, and Willie Nelson’s tour bus. Mr. Nelson was himself being questioned about his role in last nights events, events which only included mass delusions and no alien spaceship fights, when he appeared to float off into the sky with his van. When asked how such a high-profile criminal could escape close police custody, officers only responded, ‘Second-hand smoke.’ Now, for a look at sports and the complete lack of an alien invasion over there.”

  2. Ah, the old double-edged sword – caught up to the latest post :), but caught up to the latest post :(.

    Typo – “floated between us an the alien ship started firing.” should probably be and, not an.

  3. And here we have alien technology being good enough to harm even Earth`s superheroes and machines working in a logical formation hitting targets that our modern honing systems would also hit.
    So much better than alien robots breaking by the thousands and being unable to hit the broad side of a barn like we see in so many movies.

  4. Theo’s not hurt, he’s stoned. Absorbing those alien frequencies messed with his mind, man. He’s probably also a bit sluggish from digesting that much power.

    Remember Theo, never fly after absorbing an enemy plasma attack.

  5. [[The air above us crackled with energies that I didn’t have the right equipment available to study.]]

    Everything you need to know about Nick Klein’s psychology in one line of description, ladies and gentlemen.

  6. Now I’m imagining Psycho Gecko’s news report as read in the style of “Welcome to Night Vale.”

    WA/Algae: Thanks for corrections. Things are now more fixed than they were.

    Eduardo: I try to make the “bad guys” competent. I like to think that helps create tension. Also, it’s kind of embarrassing to have people note any similarity to Imperial Stormtroopers.

    Farmerbob: And now I’m thinking of an old cartoon in which an ambulance mistakes human plasma for dog plasma, causing an injured human and dog to switch personalities. Not that that’s in any way relevant, but it would be weird.

    Matthew: You may be right about that, but I was mostly thinking about a fun way for Nick to describe the scene.

    Evil Twin: You know, the “bleeps” give a very different feel to that video…

  7. Nick is going to need a power source that he can fit into the suit. Batteries will only take you so far. Even if they are incredibly advanced ( which Nick’s are ). I wonder if he can miniaturize a fusion plant to suitable size safely.( pun intended ).

  8. And then there’s Cassie’s suit. Nick’s suit scavenges his movements for power. I assume Hers does the same. Since Cass can press tons, that’s a fair amount of power to scavange, enough that it should have a ‘recharging mode’ in order to maximize that.

  9. Without breaking the laws of physics I dont see how the suit could scavenge energy of nick. Hes too weak to move the suit by himself basically. So the suit has to expend energy to move it (energy loss). Then it scavenges energy from that ( energy loss ) to charge the batteries (energy loss)? I can gather enough suspension of disbelieve for incredibly efficient actuators and batteries, but breaking the laws of physics that far…..thats not what Nicks and his grandfathers tech seem to be about in all the desciptions of it.

    1. Early on (the first story) in the serial, I mentioned that by running someone could recharge the suit.

      The Rocket suit was designed to operate during war, often behind enemy lines–in places where no one is likely to allow you access to an electrical outlet.

      The suit’s physical power comes from “artificial muscles” that release energy (via a chemical process) when pressure is applied. The suit converts a small amount of that kinetic energy to electrical to keep the batteries charged. The batteries then power the sonics, helmet read outs, and similar things.

  10. Ah, so the suit requires regular maintenance or it’ll stop giving the strength boost? I can definitely imagine a slow-release chemical ‘propellant’ system working- it’s a lot easier to pack a ton of potential energy into solid state chemical bonds than it is into electrical potentials. For example, there’s a modern prosthetic limb (hand and lower arm) that utilizes the ability of (I think) Hydrogen Peroxide to flash steam at room temperature to ‘power’ it- it weighs no more than a flesh and blood limb would, and can run for about half a day if not longer on a single ‘charge’- which is actually just a little tank or pellet capsule or something that can be quickly swapped out.

  11. I hadn’t heard about the peroxide powered prosthetic. I wonder how close scientists are to developing a viable bioelectric to electrical interface instead of using muscle contractions for control?

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