As the creatures gained speed, I realized that I could hear their feet hitting the ground from the air. It was the sound a thousand bass drums might have made if they’d been played by elephants with a poor sense of rhythm, a cacophony of thumping noises that overlapped each other.
I’d worried that Cassie’s gun or my sonic weapons might warn the Human Ascendancy’s forces of our attack, but it didn’t matter. The creatures’ running drowned out everything we could have attempted.
Thanks to the Rocket suit, I had the best view of anyone. As Jadzen Akri had described, the Ascendancy troops weren’t organized. People at the far end of the camp stood at attention while on the other end of the camp, they stood in groups, many of them holding weapons or holding their ears.
At the same time, people from the organized end of the camp walked out of formation, accompanied by guards. When they reached the groups of milling people, the groups would break up and join the formation.
Through our implants, Jaclyn asked, “What are they doing? Do they know we’re coming?”
“No,” I watched as one group shot a man from the formation only to line up themselves as another shouted at them from another side. “It looks like one group is trying to get control and the rest are resisting the motivators, but I don’t think their hearts are in it.”
I angled the sonics downward as a group of the beasts began to veer away from the main group. Giving them a blast of high pitched noise followed by tiger-terrier barks inspired them to rejoin the main group. For all I knew, the barks were enough.
Maru spoke through the implant link. “It’s the agent. The spacers and soldiers aren’t comfortable with him running things, but they also aren’t comfortable openly rebelling. The motivators will have them in minutes. It’s not hard to use that.”
He might have said more but Crawls-Through-Desert’s voice. “We’re in position and turning off the shields. Are you ready?”
Jaclyn said, “Yes. We’ll be another 30 seconds. Does that look right to you, Rocket?”
I used my helmet’s HUD to measure the distance. “That works.”
It didn’t feel like thirty seconds and maybe it wasn’t. Maybe we gained speed as we went. It felt like we did. As we grew closer, the formation broke. Why it had held, I didn’t know. Maru might have. It was most likely simple to explain. My best guess was that it had been hard enough to get people into formation that they didn’t want to let them out.
I saw the people run in all directions, grabbing for weapons or trying to escape.
No one appeared to be listening to anyone when the glow of the force fields faded, leaving the open area past the town of Landing unprotected. At the same time, the shields around the shuttles turned into thin lines and began to cut.
The shields around the towns stayed up, but it did no good for the Ascendancy’s people. They couldn’t go through.
The Rocket suit didn’t include cameras good enough to see emotions on people’s faces as the first wave of creatures hit and I felt grateful for that. There were so many beasts and so many people that the creatures weren’t even trying to hit. They were only trying to run between the gap between the two towns with glowing force fields—except that there were so many of them that they had to stay close.
The Ascendancy soldiers dodged, and ran. A few of them flew, but it didn’t matter. They couldn’t move quickly enough to avoid being trampled. They were buried under a gray wave.
That’s not to say that they didn’t try. Weapons fired. Lines of bright light hit creatures in the herd, killing them or hurting them, but not enough to stop the herd from coming.
A few of the one man fighters made it into the air, but they made it into the air with wings broken and damaged grav plates. The constant wobbling made it clear that they were lucky to be in the air at all.
One started to take shots at the herd (or maybe at us) before its wild shots made it clear that it couldn’t hit anything. It wheeled around to limp after the other fighters.
When the gray wave of beasts finally broke and the herd made it out the other side, we could see what we’d done. From one side to the other, everything appeared to be flat, from vehicles to people. It wasn’t literally flat, but it felt that way.
Tents, small buildings, and small vehicles had all been smashed. People too.
That had been the plan, but a plan was abstract whereas the blood and broken bodies were real.