“Do it.” The turret popped out of the bottom of Crawls-Through-Desert’s pot.
Asan and Sian ran toward the nearest force field pole and the nearest section of wall stopped glowing. We all ran inside and the blue glow appeared behind us.
The plant waved a branch toward the hill. “Run into town. Once we get out of sight we’ll decide where we want to come out. Don’t go into any buildings without my permission.”
That left us running up the same path we’d taken when we’d landed on Hideaway even if it wasn’t the same place. Right next to the starport, the force fields only protected a path up the hill. Here, near the lower edge of town, the force fields protected an area almost as wide as the town.
On the far side of the force field, the Ascendancy troops would have to go entirely down to the starport and possibly around it in order to catch up to us, assuming we stayed on this side of the town. We’d probably have to, considering that the caverns were also on this side of town.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad plan. If we started running from where we’d been, it was mostly open fields between here and the caverns, meaning they’d be able to take potshots at us from a distance the entire way. This way, it would be hard to guess where we’d come out of the force field, and even if they had people who could take down or fly over the walls, we knew the streets of Landing better.
With any luck, we wouldn’t have to find out either how effective their armor was or how effective their weapons were on us. Thinking back to how much time Hal had spent running me through space combat simulations, I felt all too aware that I hadn’t done as many first person shooters set in space, meaning I didn’t know the Ascendancy’s hand to hand combat tools and techniques anywhere near as well.
Also, the soldiers’ body shapes and sure movements reminded me of Haley and Travis. That worried me.
It didn’t take long before we’d reached the first full block of houses. We jogged down the dirt road, moving down the cross street and out the view of anyone who might be watching.
Thinking about that, I released a couple spybots so that if anyone did fly down from the sky I’d see it.
Kals caught up with me as we ran, sending a message directly to my implant. “How did it go? I know that it worked because you made it here, but how many more do we have to worry about?”
I told her. “This is about half of the uninjured survivors. The other half is searching the camp for anyone they can still save.”
She stared at me for a moment. “That’s a lot more dead at once than I expected. How was Maru?”
I checked the spybots feed in my HUD. Nothing. So I answered her, “He did fine. He helped get the herd moving. He didn’t try to betray us.”
She grinned. “I didn’t think he would. My mom was worried about him. She didn’t think he should go so soon after everything Alanna made him do. She was worried he might take crazy chances to prove himself.”
“Maru?” He didn’t seem like a crazy chances kind of guy.
She checked over her shoulder. “I didn’t think so either. Hey… I need to go back and push some of our people to keep up. Talk to you later.”
I checked behind us in my HUD. She was right. Three of the rifle-carrying townspeople were lagging behind. Kals turned and ran back to join them, running and talking alongside them, keeping her voice low.
The most interesting thing to me was that my anti-voice defenses never buzzed, meaning that she wasn’t using her power to get them moving. It was something to respect at least.
I glanced over at Maru. He ran next to a few of the other townspeople without saying anything. For all I knew, he could be having a long and drawn out conversation via implant with one of them. On the other hand, in his place, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to use my implant. So it might be that he was just running next to them, but didn’t want to talk because he didn’t know what they would say.
Crawls-Through-Desert whirled around, stopping in front of a block of eggshell shaped houses. “We’re close to leaving Landing. If we follow this street out, we’ll have some cover from trees and there’s a ridge that we can follow. It should give us cover at least part of the way there and we’ve got a floating platform hidden nearby. Follow me.”
Near me, Jaclyn said, “It’s nice not to be in charge.”
At the same time, I saw a flash of light, but not in front of me—in my HUD. I found it after searching frantically through the pictures. It wasn’t the flash I found though. It was the flash’s creator.
The spybots were high enough that their pictures showed only the upper parts of row after row of egg-shaped buildings, some larger than others. At least ten of the Ascendancy’s troops hung by their claws on the sloping walls, leaping toward us.