By shots, I mean burning blasts of energy and technically they didn’t ring out so much as sizzle through the air. Of course, a technicality of description wouldn’t make their weapons less lethal.
Marcus flattened out against the wall—though not before Tikki stood in front of him with her bubble of time distortion filling the tunnel. I was on the wrong side—the unprotected side. That wasn’t bad. I wanted to be able to do things, but it was inconvenient for Marcus.
That said, head on fights with people using energy weapons weren’t his strong point. Like Jaclyn, he’d inherited some level of toughness from their grandfather, but it worked better against physical hits.
All the same, the implant noticed that the area of Tikki’s field had increased by fifty percent. I would have loved to speculate why—had she been hiding it? Did risk to Marcus prompt a growth spurt? I didn’t have time for that.
More than one blast hit my armor, causing damage, but nothing major. I wasn’t immune to it, but I could take it for a little while. After nearly losing my arm to a fire-breathing dragon, I’d improved the heat resistance.
First, I had to slow down or stop their charge. I went with an idea I didn’t love, but thought might work. I fired off a killbot, turning off the bot’s default programming—which was to aim for a vital spot and explode on arrival. Reminding myself that innocent people would die if I didn’t do this (and maybe us too), I aimed for the heart and set it to hit the same spot on as many soldiers as it could.
I’d thought about trying it earlier, but now conditions seemed more favorable and maybe I was a little more desperate.
They weren’t quite in a straight line—it was more like two staggered columns, but it was close enough.
I felt a small push as the bot fired outward from my arm, hitting the first soldier in the heart, cutting through his armor like it wasn’t there, and then zigging to the right to hit the next soldier.
Like Haley and Travis, these soldiers had better than human agility, so the second soldier tried to dodge, jumping sideways toward the middle of the tunnel.
It didn’t work. The killbot swerved, hitting him in the chest and shooting out the back and zagging to the left toward the third soldier before the first soldier even hit the ground.
The bot killed four more in exactly the same way before it hit the eighth, going through the front, but worn down enough that it couldn’t cut through the back. As per its programming, it then exploded.
Up until the explosion, it had reminded me of the bits in “Guardians of the Galaxy” where Yondu’s arrow flew through people, killing them the same way my bot had killed the first seven.
We didn’t have the Disney corporation or the Motion Picture Association of America available to minimize the gore. The eighth soldier’s chest exploded, throwing bits of the soldier’s body, armor, and fire on to the stone below.
Bloody chunks hit the ground, some of them charred and glowing like the dying embers of a campfire. The smell reminded me of barbaqued pork.
Using the sonics, I used the implant’s command of the Ascendancy’s language to shout, “Surrender!”
Maybe they might have, but Agent 957 shouted, “Kill him!” in a way that activated my suit’s anti-voice system (now improved thanks to Kals).
Blasts of energy flew toward me, the first two hitting me in the chest. The third missed, absorbed by Tikki’s time bubble, but not destroyed.
She twisted, rotating the bolt around her, and aiming it back at the soldiers, hitting one of them and taking him down.
I didn’t think it was the one who’d fired the bolt, but it was impressive anyway, showing more control than I’d thought she had.
When you’re a fanatic soldier and you’re being urged to kill by mind control, that’s not enough to shake your morale, but it should be.
I fired off another killbot, knowing that after this I had only two left, but also knowing that it was the only bot that worked well enough to be useful. Maybe Tikki could help me convert the rest into something effective later.
The killbot took out six and then exploded on the seventh. They’d moved more when dodging than the first group. I could only guess that it had less force to work with or that the bot hit tougher sections of their armor.
Either way, we’d taken out 16 out of the 20 Ascendancy soldiers (including Tikki’s redirect), leaving four soldiers, three four-handers and Agent 957.
I decided not to use another killbot, partly because I only had two killbots left, partly because I didn’t want to see another body explode, and partly for a reason that both Lee and Hal would have approved of. Knowing that the bot wouldn’t work on Agent 957, that I wouldn’t need it to kill the four-handers, and that the killbots were a limited resource, using them on only four soldiers was inefficient.
It wasn’t a thought that made me feel good about myself, but it was true.
I decided not to dwell on it, turned on the sonics in the hope that they’d disable something, and ran toward the soldiers, hoping Agent 957 would let them surrender.