K’Tepolu: Part 9

I fired the sonics at both waroo on the theory that sound would hurt anything with ears and it turned out to be a good theory. The waroo’s charge stopped and they tried to cover their ears with their front paws.

I kept the sound on them, hoping they would run away, but suspecting they’d charge me to make it stop.

Contacting Marcus through our implants, I asked Marcus, “Can you grab her and fly away? I’ll keep them off you.”

“It sounds better than fighting alien bears and evil space ponies.” He twisted and ran toward Tikki, wings growing on his back.

At about the same time, the hrrnna used their small forelimbs to pull pistols from holsters on their chests. At about the same time, a series of popping noises came from the plant’s direction. Then in my helmet’s 360 degree vision, blue sparks spread from a spot on the hrrnna’s chest.

It fell over as the hrrnna on its left dodged sideways, causing other aliens on the walkway to scatter. The hrrnna on the right aimed its gun at Tikki, charging as it fired.

I turned, deciding that hitting the hrrnna with sonics took priority over the waroo, but it wasn’t necessary. The bubble shaped space around Tikki changed, stretching and rippling like everything outside a spaceship in near space. Surrounded by the bubble, the hrrnna slowed to a crawl. It looked like slow motion replays from a baseball game or maybe from The Matrix, but slower, much slower.

Whatever it was that the hrrnna had fired appeared as an orange ball within the bubble. It had fired three times before the bubble appeared, and the three balls glowed, each on a slightly different trajectory, all of them aimed at Tikki.

Unlike anything else within the bubble, Tikki wasn’t affected. She blurred, knocking the gun out of the hrrnna’s hand. Waiting until all of its legs were off the ground, she pulled each leg toward herself and pushed the hrrnna’s body away from her until it was diagonal in the air.

I would have watched longer but a roar told me that the waroo had realized that I’d stopped aiming the sonics at them. I jumped to the side of Tikki’s time bubble (or so I guessed), partly because the waroo were charging straight at me and I wanted to avoid them, but also because the hrrnna’s burning orange balls were flying in my direction and I didn’t want to be there when the bubble dropped.

Once I landed, I unloaded the sonics at them again, causing the waroo to freeze, but not for long. This time they ran straight toward me.

Off to my side, Marcus was shouting, “We’re from the Xiniti. We’re here to help!” into the bubble. Past Marcus, the plant had hit the only loose hrrnna with what I was calling a taser bullet. It fell in a shower of blue sparks.

At almost the same time, the bubble fell and everything inside sped up to real time. The orange balls turned into orange streaks. Two of them hit one of the waroo on its side. It had been trying to avoid the bubble, but that meant presenting its side lengthwise in the wrong direction at the wrong time. One shot hit its first torso segment, releasing red and black gooey liquids. The other hit the meat of one of its legs, blasting through its furry exoskeleton and leaving chunks hanging. The creature howled and fell over.

The third shot flew over it and down the street. I hoped it didn’t hit anybody.

That wasn’t all for the bubble’s effects though. Tikki’s attempt at hrrnna tipping had been successful. The creature landed on its side with audible cracking noises.

Meanwhile, Marcus had elongated his legs, using them to reach Tikki in one step, grab her and fly away, shrinking his legs on the way up. Tikki didn’t resist.

I activated the rocket pack, shooting into the air after them. The remaining undamaged waroo snapped at me, but not with any real chance of catching me. After that, it pulled  something from its pouch, and sprayed it on the other waroo’s wounds, keening all the while.

I contacted K’Tepolu’s emergency address with my implant and reported the attack, giving video that my implant had logged to support my claim, and telling them that the hrrnna and waroo would need medical attention.

The computer voice on the other end asked, “And who will be paying for their medical care?”

“Them?” I replied. “Their insurance company? I don’t know. Is that my problem?”

In an emotionless voice, it responded, “K’Tepolu has a financial understanding with the Hrrnna Confederacy. The Hrrnna will receive care. The Waroo Peerage lacks any similar agreement.”

I landed behind Marcus and Tikki on one of the platforms for fliers. Tikki was moving her hair away from her face and back over her shoulders. “So, you’ll just let them die?”

The voice responded, “That’s correct.”

“Then I’ll pay for it.” Hopefully the Xiniti wouldn’t be annoyed.

“That will be acceptable.” The connection ended.

I followed them off the landing platform and onto the gravity train’s boarding platform. The train wasn’t there yet and there wasn’t much of a crowd, so we stood together, but basically alone.

As my suit absorbed my helmet, Marcus grinned. “I guess that worked. It was kind of scary for a second there. I thought they might try to beat us up, but when the hrrnna pulled out guns? That was terrifying.”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “I don’t know what those were—“ except then my implant told me and we both said, “plasma guns“ together. “Anyway, I didn’t know if they’d make it past my armor since this is just a version of the stealth suit.”

Tikki reached out and tapped my armor. “I’m no expert on armor, but it might have.” Then she nodded at me. “I’m Tikki, and I’m so sorry you had to come all the way out here for me. I didn’t know the ship was leaving. None of us have implants, so we have to use comm bracelets. Mine has been having problems connecting. I just got all the messages here on the platform.”

She held out her left arm to show me a cream colored bracelet that stood out against her skin. As she did, my implant informed me that it’s customary among the Abominator bred humans here to bow, but younger people would nod except in formal situations. I could tell that information was connected to specifics about Abominator breeding practices, but I didn’t have time to pursue it.

Giving a nod, I said, “I’m Nick,” and began to say, “Why did you come out here anyway—“

A rustling noise came from behind me. The implant interpreted it as, “You’re leaving and you’ve got a ship?”

We all turned to find the plant hovering next to us in its pot. “I need to get out of here.”

Marcus and I looked at at each other, but before either of us could say anything, the plant continued, “Look, I helped you. Don’t flake out on me.”

17 thoughts on “K’Tepolu: Part 9”

    1. I was just saying over at TGAB that it was great seeing TGAB in the top spot. The rankings there are more accurate than usual right now; this is the only story significantly underperforming it’s quality anymore! There’s NO WAY it should ever be out of the top 10, and that’s being modest about it. There simply aren’t 10 stories on there that are better than this one.

      My theory is that the title (Leigon of Nothing) doesn’t really seem appropriate for what the story has turned into, and I don’t always even remember the title. Plus, that title is competing with “In My Daydreams,” further diluting it. I can’t help but think that better, more consistent branding here would lead to more (and more consistent) vote-getting at TWF.

      I think a better title would be Hero’s League. Or Nick and the Hero’s League

      1. For what it’s worth, changing the name of the domain is at the top of a long list of technical issues I want to work on related to this site. I’ve got the domain legionofnothing.com and it even leads here. Unfortunately, changing things, in this case, is a several hour project that is secondary to revising/editing the third novel and getting all the Kickstarter rewards out.

        My priorities then are:
        1. Regularly producing updates.
        2. Revising print/ebook edition.
        3. Site improvement/maintenance.

        The first two are enough work that I don’t get to the third as much as I’d like. Also, those three priorities ignore the other priorities in my life (wife, kids, dog, 40 hour a week job, occasional freelance web development work, playing bass…). So it’s easy for people to say “change this,” but in this case it’s something I decided to change years ago. It’s just that on any given day there are also other claims on my time.

        Changing the name after 10 years (and two published novels) is something I’d consider, but it’s not something I’m likely to do. If it happens though, it’ll probably happen after book three is published and not before.

  1. Thanks for the chapter!

    After reading up through the archive, I’m left with a burning question:

    What does the title have to do with anything?

    1. Do you mean of this chapter or of the series? If you mean the chapter, it’s the name of the place.

      If you mean of this book in the series (Xiniti Gambit), um… I’m not telling right now.

      If you mean of the series as a whole, then it’s a combination of things…

      I wanted something that sounded old, but with a little twist. There are a lot of legions in comic history. For example, The Legion of Superheroes, The Newsboy Legion, The Legion of Doom… Combining that with the word “Nothing” let me reference a few different things.

      First, the answer “nothing” that kids often give when asked what they’ve been doing (especially if the parents will disapprove).

      Second, the ambivalence Nick feels about doing it at first.

      Thirdly, the contrast between the more inspiring names and the word I chose. One of the on-going themes in the story is the contrast (and relationship) between superheroes and normal people. Best to have it in the title in some way.

  2. Ah, I did mean the name of the serial, not the chapter/arc.

    Now that you explain it, that does make some sense? I will say, though, that I didn’t pick up on any of that through reading. My best guess was that it had something to do with the Abominator heritage; they’re descended from storm troopers who went rogue, making either them or their ancestors an unattached army unit, a ‘Legion of Nothing’.

  3. I feel like Nick’s decision to pay for the medical care will come back to bite them… it leaves a record, a trail that might have been otherwise difficult to pick up. I could be wrong. Random wondering, when Nick’s suit absorbed his helmet, did the sunglasses reappear in his pocket? He had them on, they were absorbed into the helmet, then back into the suit… so where are they, exactly?

    I was also a little disappointed we didn’t get more explanation of the plant after the battle, but now it looks like s/he may be going with them, so that’s cool.

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