I considered if we had any alternatives to making a last stand in the tunnel. We could run to the next intersection and take another tunnel, but if they were managing to track us anyway, that wouldn’t help.
I could try to bring down the tunnel behind us. The Rocket suit could do it, but I’d have to punch the wall or ceiling. It might land on me.
My laser was powerful enough to punch holes in the ceiling, but I’d still have to be close to cut any appreciable amount of rock.
Plus, with the artificial earthquake we’d just experienced, I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk messing with the tunnel’s structural integrity.
That left bots and hand to hand combat. Remembering how well that went in the Landing fight, it didn’t make me feel confident. I only had ten EMPbots left and 28 goobots. I had a bunch of standard bots, but they hadn’t been effective.
Raising my arm and pointing it down the tunnel, I told them, “I’m going to send off a spybot to find out how many we’re facing.”
“Good idea,” Marcus stared into the tunnel’s darkness. “I’m not sure how we do this except that I’m going to have to be careful. Back home, guns aren’t much of a problem for me. Here, their guns cut through me in a second. I can put myself back together, but it takes more out of me.”
Tikki bit her lip. “Are you sure you should be part of it? I might be able to hold them by myself. I’ve been using my powers more lately and I think I might be able to freeze them in time and keep them here.”
Marcus frowned. “But what about you? Wouldn’t you have to stay for that to work?”
Tikki looked up at him, eyes wide. “Yes, but I think maybe that I can keep the field here and run away. It would be my first time, but I’ve almost worked out how.”
Shaking his head, Marcus said, “But you’ve never tried it before. Don’t. If you’re going into a fight, you’re going to want to know what you can do. We can’t depend on something you’re trying for the first time.”
In my HUD, the feed from the spybot showed the dark, gray stone of the tunnel for a while, but then a human-shaped figure appeared. An Ascendancy soldier stood waiting as more approached, all of them in combat gear.
I counted twenty soldiers, three four-handers and one more guy—Agent 957. I recognized him from the broadcast he’d made telling us to surrender.
That seemed like ages ago and while he looked the same—the same square jaw, light brown skin, and red and black armored uniform—he also looked worse.
The uniform had scrapes across its armored plates. Dirt stained the fabric. He had taken off his helmet and a look at his face revealed a man with bags under his eyes with the expression of a man whose favorite football team was losing.
Landing on the ceiling ahead of the group, the spybot picked up enough sound that my implant could translate, “—they’re less than five minutes ahead of us.”
Agent 957 replied, “Then this is it. Move ahead as quickly and as quietly as possible. We’ll attack as soon as we’ve got a clear shot.”
Then he tapped a device on his belt and his suit glowed. My implant identified it as a shield modified from an Abominator design. That wasn’t good news. On the other hand, a killbot went partially through Kamia’s. Maybe his wasn’t as good.
Then he pulled his helmet back on. “Let’s go.”
Unwilling to find out if the four-handers could detect the spybot if they got closer to it, I recalled it. It dropped from the ceiling and flew a few inches from the floor until it was out of their sight.
As it flew back, I told them what I’d seen. “There are around 25 of them, all in armor. There are three four-handers and they probably won’t fight directly, but Agent 957 is with them. I don’t know what he fights like, but it sounds like he’s not open to negotiation. They’re going to shoot us the moment they see us.”
Marcus sighed. “That’s the worst case scenario for me. All I’ve got with that is to spread myself thin around the top of the tunnel and drop on them from above or reform and fire at them from behind when they pass.”
“I think that could work,” I told him. “I’ll be the obvious target. You can hide and do whichever of those fits the situation. I think I can reuse the killbots if I do it right. Maybe I’ll use the EMPbots. Otherwise nothing else affects them—except maybe the laser and I have a limited number of shots with that. Well, the goobots do too, but I don’t have very many now.”
“No!” Tikki turned to me. “You can do more than that. You could—“
And from there she described a way I might be able to modify the EMPbots phase out and through armor. It was an amazing idea, requiring some subtle adjustments, tools I didn’t have on me, and a part I didn’t have either.
I told her so and she said, “Oh, but what about—“ and she described a way I could tweak the killbots to get them past the force field. That was brilliant too, but it required me to take apart the bots which would take longer than five minutes.
And then we had one minute left. My HUD gave me hints of the sound of their footfalls before they appeared, giving us time to get into position and giving me enough time to think about Tikki and how weird it was that a life support engineer with an interest in AI suddenly had insight into my tech.
I had an idea, but no time to pursue it because in seconds, shots rang out and they were upon us.