That turned out to be a fool’s dream. Agent 957 barked out a command that my implant translated as, “Target him!”
“Him” in this case meant me and the four remaining soldiers ran at me, the front two firing their weapons, hitting my armor. I felt the warmth. Even as I began to aim the sonics directly at the nearest soldiers, one of them fell over, taken out because Tikki recycled one of their own shots.
Another of their energy blasts missed, flying above everyone’s heads and hitting the ceiling.
The soldier nearest me dropped his gun and jumped for me, claws out. While he moved faster than I could, he didn’t move faster than Travis or Haley, and I’d been training with both of them—Haley more than Travis. One thing I’d learned was that I could make up for less agility with timing. I might not be able to turn as quickly as they could when they were on the ground, but the moment they left the ground, they were traveling in one direction at a more predictable speed.
I stepped to the right, punching him in the chest as hard as I could in the suit, hard enough to kill a normal person several times over. These guys were covered in alien-made armor that had to be at least as advanced as mine.
Advanced as it was, I still hit with around ten tons of force on a good day. The punch threw the soldier into the wall on the left side of the tunnel with a crash that cracked the wall. The armor didn’t break, but after the soldier fell to the floor, he didn’t move.
In the meantime though, the remaining two soldiers had reached me. Before I could do anything about it, one hit me in the stomach with its shoulder, reaching around me to grab my arms. The other stood out of my reach, aiming its gun at me, hoping, I guessed, that close range and holding me in place would open me up.
It wasn’t impossible that they were right about that.
I bent forward and activated the rockets, shooting myself down the tunnel or at least it would have been that way if there were more space near the ceiling. I shot upward, trying to level out while an Ascendancy soldier hung onto me. We hit the ceiling at about the time we would have leveled out if I hadn’t been trying to compensate for the soldier’s weight, bouncing off of it and heading toward the ground.
The soldier on the ground careened sideways, trying to avoid the other soldier’s legs. Agent 957 and the four-handers dropped to the floor or leaned against the wall.
I’d gotten out of a bad spot, but it didn’t make me feel competent as much as a potential member of the cast for “The Three Stooges go to War.”
I didn’t feel more competent when we hit the ground, but on the bright side, I did land on the guy who’d been hanging on to me—for a little while. We flipped over a couple times. I wish I could say that I used that momentum to get back to my feet, but ended up on the floor next to the Ascendancy soldier and behind Agent 957 and the four-handers.
Thanks to the suit’s strength, I pushed myself up about as quickly as the soldier, charging him, and punching him in the face.
He went down and didn’t get up.
Back where I’d taken to the air, the sole standing Ascendancy soldier pointed his rifle at me and would have fired except that the wall developed hands and started battering the soldier against the floor until his gun bounced across the floor and he stopped moving.
Marcus reformed into a rocky version of himself, maybe five feet tall, but with big fists. Still obscured by her time field, Tikki stood behind him.
I’d say that we were down to a battle between the three of us on one side and Agent 957 plus the three four-handers except we weren’t.
The four-handers huddled against the wall together saying, “Mercy, we surrender!”
Agent 957 glanced over at them with no expression. That was probably standard procedure for them.
He held a wide-barreled gun in his hand but didn’t point it at anybody. Looking over at Marcus, he pointed at Tikki and said, “Kill her.”
Against the background of a quiet buzz, Marcus shook his head, “Sorry, but no. That’s not going to work.”
Looking at Tikki, he said, “You, kill him.”
Tikki looked at him and I tried to remember if I’d given Tikki an anti-voice countermeasure. I felt sure I hadn’t and hoped that her time distortion field might prevent that though I couldn’t think of a good reason that it would.
She smiled. “Your whole civilization is built on slavery. I’ll never help you.”
I thought it interesting that she talked as if she wasn’t part of that civilization.
In the same moment, Agent 957 pointed his gun at Marcus and fired.