Release the Hounds: Part 12

Moments like that cause you to rethink what you’ve been doing. I’d left 60 bots out of my calculations. In addition to the others, I had 20 observation bots, 20 spybots and 20 EMP bots. I’d left out the observation bots and spybots because they weren’t much use in a fight and the EMP bots because I’d been assuming Ascendancy soldiers would be using equipment hardened against EMP bots at my tech level.

When I considered the question in that moment, the implant gave me the Ascendancy equipment’s known specs and I compared them to my bots.

Instants later, I fired off ten of the 20 EMP bots, targeting all the nearest soldiers. On Earth, I might have used one, but now I knew what would work here.

The bots set off a simultaneous blast of static that filled all the channels my suit and implant were monitoring. Both devices worked well enough to filter it out, but reports scrolled down my readouts. Over my implant, I flashed Kals what I’d done, making clear the important detail that their helmets shouldn’t be able to filter her voice out anymore.

She probably could have guessed. The moment the EMP bots exploded, the soldiers ripped at their helmets, claws out, tearing chunks away.

She shouted, “Surrender!”

When they held their hands up in the air, she told them, “Watch to see if anyone attacks us. If they do, attack them!”

With that, I finally had time to look around again both literally and figuratively. Above us, the spybots showed the few Ascendancy soldiers retreating, jumping away from us. It looked to me that they were going in the direction of the starport, the last place I’d seen the main group heading.

We’d won. Paying attention to the ground gave me a sense of the price. Four of the houses around us were burning. I wasn’t sure what it said that I could only remember two of them exploding.

Beyond the houses, the bodies of soldiers littered the ground, a few of them covered with goobot goo, not all of them hit by me. Jaclyn and I had been working on options for her beyond punching people. We’d come up with a sling and several types of ammunition (one of which included depleted uranium) that she could fling at people (and vehicles) from a distance.

Many of the soldiers had broken legs, smashed arms, large burns and were sometimes missing sizable chunks of their bodies.

Jaclyn stood next to Kals, bending over Maru’s body. Behind losing his intestines, his lower body appeared to be covered in blood. “He’s dead. See there? That’s his descending aorta. The soldier ripped it open. My guess is that he’s lost almost all his blood. I’ll bring him to Iolan, but he’s got no pulse.”

Jaclyn picked him up and disappeared in a blur.

“Over there,” Crawls-Through-Desert’s pot flew down the street and we all followed, escorted by our squad of mind-controlled soldiers, stopping at one of the eggs. After removing a floating platform from the garage, we all climbed aboard and flew toward the caverns. We left the soldiers on the ground, commanding them to stay there—which they would—until the end of time or until someone noticed they were there.

No one followed us or attacked us which surprised me. I’d expected an attack on the way back, but on the other hand, they didn’t have many people and we’d found a way to get around their ear protection.

We rode across the near-empty plain between the caverns and Landing, floating over the green grass with Cassie, Tiger, and Katuk ready in case any of the local megafauna decided to take a piece out of us—Cassie and Katuk to shoot them, Tiger to bark at them.

Kals didn’t say much during the first half of the ride. When she did, she began with, “You know, I never even liked him. He was a friend of my dad, sure, but after my dad died, I thought that his devotion to my mom bordered on creepy. That’s true of a lot of people. The resistance is just short of worshipping her half the time. Maru though, he was around all the time and made it visible to me in the way that the others didn’t. Also? Maru was good at his job. Mom thinks in the big picture. Maru thought in the small details. He made things work.

“I don’t know where we’ll find another person like him. Mom needed him a lot.”

She stared out at the grass. “I don’t know how I’m going to tell her that he died for me.”

9 thoughts on “Release the Hounds: Part 12”

  1. A slight continuation of the conversation from the previous page. But this brings up another point. The implant seems to be generally giving 20/20 hindsight not foresight. Hence not knowing the EMPbots could work at all.

    Before I go to far. Still love the work and find myself rereading it over and over. Beautifully done.

    1. The information is available, but Nick has to think specifically how to ask for it, and then think of how to use it.

      1. Considering he has had the implant only a few days at this point and as usual as both a main combatant, and the pilot, and the technician of the trip. He has little time to ‘play’ with the implant and see what he can get from it that is useful.

        Though I adored how he was getting more information and at an accelerated rate and hadn’t realized everyone else was slower.

  2. God I love this story so much. Nick has a way of getting out of sticky situations by taking a moment to analyse and compare all the data instead of just loading up with Killbots and going all Punisher on everything in sight.

    He also has a way of getting into sticky situations by overanalysing, but heck… it’s part of the reasons why I love him.

    I feel sorry for Maru, and I know this arc isn’t complete yet, but from the start I had a “Somebody dies this issue!” vibe and I am glad it’s not Jaq or Marcus (yet).

  3. What do you mean, he’s had the entire trip to play around with the implant! I’m pretty sure the implant isn’t actually an AI – it just has really good Natural-Language Processing – so it’s unable to anticipate what info Nick might need before he originates everything. That seems like the simplest explanation at least. Awesome’s razor and all that.

    The Xiniti really ought to have provided a readmebeforecombat.info for common best practices or something. Or maybe Nick will write it, and…are the Xiniti capitalist by chance? They seem more likely to be socialists of some sort. Maybe Nick would just become the next Alexey Pajitnov in that case.

    1. Well sir. From what I read. After getting said implant he was the one flying to the next station. Then he had to find and fabricate spares for the ship. Found out he was being cornered by an elder god. Then rescue Tikki. Then as they fly out get intercepted by a fleet. Where by the seat of his pants he pulls off an escape no one saw coming. At that point when they were clear of danger he has time. And no reason to look up Alliance personal combat vulnerabilities. So everyone relaxes.

      On arrival they almost get kicked from the world. (The colony should be damned glad they resisted that order.) Then have to rescue some colonists from sabotage. Then try to find a saboteur. Finally the Alliance shows up. And he is the chief combat pilot again.

      So I think I can stand by the statement that he has had no time to play with the implant. Because you don’t look up vulnerabilities to people you honestly do not expect to see again. Other wise you need to say everyone of the League is failing the same prescience. Cassie likes to fight and didn’t look it up. Nor did Jackie or Marcus.

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