Retreat: Part 10

Jaclyn spoke through the implant, “Do you see anything?”

As the person with the better overall view, I flew north of the town, avoiding the burning field where the starport had been. Flying upward, but still below 200 feet, I followed the land as it rose, but I didn’t have long before I did see something.

The starport field lay closest to the ocean, south of the long rocky cliff with the tunnels. On either side of the town lay open fields and more fields lay further inland, up the hill that Kals and I had climbed while looking for Katuk. In the fields between Landing, the town we’d stayed in and the colony’s other two towns, I saw the Human Ascendancy’s ships.

Thanks to years of simulations, I knew what they were. The long, squat, winged cylinders were dropships. Typically they carried forty troops, assuming the troops were human or human-sized. Given that we were facing the Human Ascendancy, that was probably the case. I counted twenty of them—which meant 800 troops, overkill when you considered that they were facing 6000 civilians, many of whom were children.

On the other hand, when you considered that some of the civilians had powers while others had been domestic terrorists, it might have been reasonable. Either way, they probably had more troops on the ship.

In the air, ten additional ships hovered above the dropships and their troops—fighters, all of them in the classic wedge shape. It worked well in atmospheres and in space. That’s what fighters needed.

So we were looking at a full squadron of dropships and a half squadron of visible fighters—with the probability that the other half of that squadron was here, but not visible. They could be higher up in the air, watching for an attack from space or flying further inland or up or down the coast, or all of the above.

“Here’s what we’ve got,” I told Jaclyn and proceeded to fill her in on the details of what I’d seen, finishing with, “and that’s it, but the other half of the fighter squadron could be down here too, but far enough away that they’re not obvious yet.”

“Alright,” Jaclyn said, “then we’re going to see how close you have to be to town to get an ansible connection. Join up with us and we’ll all watch each other’s back while Katuk sends a message to the Celestial Ghosts.”

“Sounds good,” I twisted around and aimed the Rocket suit toward their position, watching the fighters in case any of them peeled off to chase me.

Fortunately, the Human Ascendancy didn’t typically have to fight troops in flying, powered armor. They mostly fought other humans and that meant that their opponents had powers and didn’t need powered armor.

I decided to be thankful for that and hope it didn’t mean that they were searching the air with telepaths.

It didn’t take long to find Katuk and Jaclyn’s position. They were in the middle of town in an alley between two blocks of stores. As I landed, Jaclyn said, “We could have connected with the ansible from the edge of town, but there wasn’t any cover. I thought we might blend in better here.”

“Good idea.” I fired off four observation bots, enough to give a 360-degree view of our surroundings, watching as Katuk informed us, “I’ve made a connection,” and began to request help in what the implant informed me was very formal language.

I didn’t pay attention to the details. I had him and his ansible connection whispering directly into my mind while also watching all four bots feeds. That was enough information that I didn’t have room for details.

Eventually, Katuk reached the end and closed the ansible connection.

Jaclyn glanced over at him asking, “Was there any response?”

Katuk blinked. “Not as such.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “What does that mean?”

He eyed her. “I received an automated response—“

Her lips curled. “Something like, ‘We at the Celestial Ghosts appreciate your inquiry, but we’re busy helping other people right now. We’ll get to your question as soon as possible’?”

“Well,” he said, “not in those precise words, but in essence.”

“Oh, God.” She looked up and down the alley, her head a blur. “We’d better get out of here before someone notices us. How’s it going, Rocket?”

I checked the feeds again. “Nobody’s coming to kill us so far.”

“That’s what I like to hear.” She took a few steps down the alley to the corner and we followed her. Once on the road, we had a mostly straight shot across the colony’s shielded strip of land to the outside.

Before we began to run, a voice appeared in our implants on what the implant labeled an “emergency communication channel.”

A man appeared in my mind. Dark haired with light brown skin and a square jaw, he wore a bulky, red and black armored uniform with a pistol on its belt. His broad shoulders gave the impression that he might be a big man underneath the uniform, but given the armor, it was anybody’s guess.

“I’m Agent 957 of the Human Ascendancy’s Genetic Management Office. I’m here searching for criminals and all who aid them. Surrender now or face the might of the Human Ascendancy.”

7 thoughts on “Retreat: Part 10”

  1. Welp, Jim, I’ve caught up after a couple months on the road again.

    It may be my imagination, but I feel as if your writing flow and style has improved noticeably since I started reading a couple years back. Nick and company have always been well written as characters, but your command of the environment around them has grown more proficient.

    Perhaps this is a side benefit of editing the early story into the LoN books?

    1. That might be true (I’m not sure at all). Editing does force a person to reflect on how you’re doing things (but only a little bit at a time). I know I’m more conscious of writing descriptions now. In addition to that, I’ve been reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” a bit and recommend it. Whether or not a person likes horror, King’s great at the writing part of writing and does have things to teach.

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