Far too conscious of the limited number of boombots I had left, I tried to think through my next steps. Amy and I stood roughly back to back with her facing Andronicus Thing. The rock stood to her right and my left.
Latoya lay on the ground in front of the rock. Jillian Thing and Hank Thing rushed toward us from my right and they probably weren’t going to respect my agreement with Amy that I handle them while she handled Andronicus Thing.
Worse, I realized that we’d screwed up tactically, possibly lethally.
To be clear, that would be lethal to us.
The Cabal’s best troops were monsters of close combat. Between near invulnerability, massive strength, and regeneration, the smart choice was not to close with them at all. What I should have done was to shoot the guy with lasers, let Amy handle the lesser Things, and switch off and let Amy destroy The Thing That Eats while Andronicus’ legs healed.
With Amy’s ability to suck life from her enemies a risk because of the chance of possession, she couldn’t match the Cabal simply by using The Thing’s own abilities against it. She had to fight it with the Bloodmaiden’s strength and speed which were impressive, but nowhere near the Cabal’s elite soldiers.
Except for all my brilliant tactical analysis in hindsight, Amy wasn’t losing. She wasn’t close to winning either, but it wasn’t impossible that she would.
Even though she didn’t seem to be able to pierce its skin the way she seemed to think she could, she still drew blood and it wailed at each cut, however small.
Better, the cuts closed, but they didn’t disappear. Whatever her spear did, it hurt The Thing That Eats.
Of course, it wasn’t impossible that whatever mixture of Lee’s essence had affected her wards had affected her too.
Whatever was going on with Amy didn’t matter. If she wasn’t failing in the face of that, I had to hold up my end, preferably before Latoya Thing got herself together. Then I could shoot The Thing with a laser and make Amy’s life easier.
Knocking Jillian Thing and Hank Thing into the Wizard Council’s wall wouldn’t be easy either because I was between them and it.
That brings us back to where we were—specifically the part where our enemies didn’t care a bit about how Amy and I had divided up our responsibilities.
The first example? Jillian Thing took to the air, raising her arm to fire a blast of red energy. From the angle, it didn’t look like she was aiming at me. I stepped forward, standing between her and Amy, and firing off two boombots even as she fired at me.
One of her shots went wild, passing above me. The other hit my shoulder. I only knew it from the heat and the suit noting the damage.
I must have hit her somewhere. Because at the same time, Jillian tumbled out of control, flipping head over heels in the air, heading toward the wall.
For a moment, it appeared that she might be able to pull out before she hit. She seemed to be turning a little, but she didn’t turn enough, hitting with most of her body. I missed the details thanks to the blast of white light that exploded all around her as she hit.
Anyway, I only saw it out of my helmet’s peripheral vision. Hank Thing ran straight at me, his too large head, gleaming teeth and orange, jumpsuit wearing body protected by glowing cubes that adjusted as he ran.
I fired two more boombots at him. Both of them hit, one after the other, filling the air with heat and noise. He flew backwards, tumbling until he lay flat on his back in the grass in front of the nearest house.
His shields were still up though, and he pushed himself off the grass.
At least that’s what I assume must have happened because I didn’t get a chance to watch. The Thing That Eats lunged for Amy. Somehow she dodged it. Thousands of years of experience would help with that. She stabbed it in the thigh.
Except rather than letting the pain stop it, it took its chance to strike me from behind.
I noticed it, but not quickly enough to dodge. It punched the rocket pack on my back, hoping maybe to blow us all up. It didn’t. Grandpa had designed the fuel better than that.
The HUD reported, “Rocket pack inoperable. Repair in progress. Seven percent fuel loss before containment.”
It was hard to read though as I flew ten feet through the air, landing in the grass. Hank Thing ran toward me, using the force fields to extend his stride.
I had four boombots left and I needed to take him out. I fired them all.
The series of explosions threw him backward. I had no idea how many hit, but when the light faded away, he lay on the ground, shields off, but still connected to all his limbs and unburnt.
Also, The Thing That Eats’ head remained on his body even if he was unconscious.
That left me hopeful that I hadn’t killed him. If I had, I doubted that The Thing would stick around.
I pushed myself up, turning back toward Amy and Andronicus Thing. Somewhere between when I’d last followed the fight and now, the balance of power had changed.
Amy limped on her left leg, but still fought. Her limp, though, made me a little less hopeful. I ran to join her.