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.”