Marcus shifted back to normal, looked over at the three colonists near him. “Stand next to me and do it now.”
The colonists listened even if their eyes widened when his arms turned into tentacles and pulled them into one group. “Nick, you want to take us over?”
“Sure,” I ran over to him. He sprouted two more tentacles and grabbed my legs. Knowing what was needed, I activated the rockets and took to the air, slowing as I neared the end of the tentacles’ full length, and then flying upward slowly enough that Marcus could still hold on.
It didn’t take much to fly back over the wall.
We landed as Katuk ran back between the force field and the barricade. He must have run out past the wall to check if there was anything else out there, and at the speed he was running (more than two hundred miles per hour), he could cover some ground.
At almost the same time, Tikki gasped and the shimmer around the final terrier/tiger disappeared. Before I could move, it had turned toward Tikki, beginning to pounce.
It didn’t matter. A white beam fired from Katuk’s chest, cutting a hole halfway through the creature’s head.
It fell forward, slumping onto the ground.
Katuk’s voice carried over the group channel. “There are no more creatures of this type nearby.”
“Good to know,” Jaclyn started walked toward Cassie. “Ready to jump back over?”
Cassie shook her head. “I think I better incinerate these things with the gun. If we let the dead bodies rot here, who knows what we’ll attract?”
Cassie cleaned her sword with a rag from her utility belt, sheathed it, and pulled out her gun.
Geman’s voice came over the implant. “Good idea. The bodies would only have attracted more and with people working there… Well, it’s not worth the risk.”
“And it stops the thing from complaining that it didn’t get to do anything,” Cassie told us on a private channel. She aimed a wide, white beam at the nearest dead body. It took a few passes, but the gun converted it to ash.
“It’s too bad,” Cassie walked toward to the next one as Jaclyn watched. “They’d almost pass for dogs if they were smaller.”
“They are dogs—mostly,” Geman broke into the conversation again. “The Abominators terraformed this place around the time they were modifying humans. Like a lot of their terraforming projects, it was supposed to test us and almost all the genetic material comes originally from humanity’s homeworld, wherever that is.”
Jaclyn blinked, watching as Cassie destroyed another. “I thought they just looked like dogs. That’s sad.” She shook her head. “My uncle’s dog could almost pass for one of their puppies—if they have puppies. Could they be dogs like our dogs?”
“Want one?” Marcus grinned at her.
She laughed. “Oh, sure. Can you see me walking one? Or coming home to find that it’s eating a cow on the front lawn? Thanks, but no. Even if we could train them, we’d have to keep it in HQ.”
She turned serious. “Hey Geman, I’m going to grab your force field poles.”
Geman’s voice rumbled through the connection. “Yeah. Bring ‘em in. We’ve got people who might be able to figure out why they failed.”
She did, and by the time she’d gathered all of them, Cassie had finished burning the remains. One of the workers lowered a section of force field and Tikki, Katuk, Jaclyn, and Cassie stepped inside.
The tallest of workers, all of whom looked like Viking stereotypes, clapped Jaclyn on the shoulder, giving a small bow as he did.
“I’m Sentok. You have our deepest thanks. You are, all of you, remarkable fighters—even you, Tikki. We’re all trained soldiers ourselves, but our true strength sleeps for now. If we’d fought them maybe one of us would have survived. Ask us for help whenever you need it.”
They escorted us back to the Council building, explaining to us that they wouldn’t be working any more tonight. The woman (I’d missed her name) commented, “We shouldn’t even have been working tonight if it weren’t for this world’s crazy animals.”
They left us at the door and we all walked back into the Council building and our rooms.
After the doors shut and we heard Sentok and his friends walk away (one of them had started singing), Tikki’s lips curled as she said, “Even you-Tikki.” She shook her head. “I suppose I should be grateful that they noticed.”
Marcus turned to her. “How did you even get out there?”
She gave a small smile. “That kind of force field flickers on and off multiple times per second. I stepped through when it was off and I took Katuk with me.” She frowned. “Which was why I had less time to use than I needed.”
Marcus shrugged. “It worked out. You won’t do it again.”
Tikki laughed. “I can’t promise that.”
We all stood together in the room where we’d been playing Monopoly. Because it had been virtual reality provided by the ship’s AI, we hadn’t bothered to sit at the table, but our chairs were still in a circle next to the fireplace.
Jaclyn looked at the chairs and sighed.
“YES,” the gun’s voice sounded in our heads. “WE WILL PLAY MONOPOLY AND I WILL BURN YOUR HOUSES AND HOTELS LIKE I HAVE BURNED SO MANY THINGS!”