On “Three,” Jaclyn ran toward Neves, Cassie ran toward Kamia. I turned on the sonics, aiming them at the largest groups of soldiers. My initial blast of sound started as noise meant to distract, turning into sound meant for destroying technology.
As disquieting as fighting soldiers who, for all you can tell, could be cousins of your girlfriend and her brother might be, it had one good point. I knew exactly how to attack them. Please don’t take this as some sort of repressed urge toward domestic violence, though–I didn’t like it. It was strangely nice to go someplace where nothing was familiar and find that my enemies had the same powers I’d been fighting in training for last three years. The only major difference being that here the owners of said powers fully intended to rip my throat out.
That difference meant that for once I did not at all feel bad about exposing sensitive ears to frequencies that caused them pain.
I wasn’t the only one doing it either. Behind me, Kals opened her mouth in a scream that might not have been as loud or focused but had the added benefit of carrying a compulsion along with it.
My implant translated her command as, “Run!”
They didn’t all run. The Ascendancy had enough enemies with motivators to craft helmet tech that allowed their own motivators’ voices to get through and prevent their rivals’ from doing the same.
As my speakers found resonant frequencies in the soldiers’ equipment, about a third of them turned and ran. Others leaped forward despite crackling noises coming from their helmets, far too many of them deciding that I was the threat that had to be taken down.
If they were doing it because of my armor’s resemblance to the Xiniti’s, I wasn’t impressed, but I had a bad feeling that they’d recognized the synergy between my sonics and Kals’ voice. That, I respected, because they were right.
All of my familiarity didn’t make me immune to fear as Ascendancy soldiers jumped toward me, mouths open and filled with long fangs. I don’t know if humans’ fear of that is instinctive or learned, but whatever the origin, it comes easily.
Having spent as much time training as I had by then, the response is natural enough—fire bots from your right arm and spray sonic destruction from your left. The Ascendancy armor worked against my standard bots, but not entirely.
When the bots exploded (and this was true especially if the soldiers were in the air), they had a solid pushback even if they couldn’t get through the armor. Plus, if your armor was designed to allow you to bite people, that’s a point of vulnerability.
I’d made modifications to the standard bots’ programming during my downtime. First, knowing that the bots couldn’t penetrate, I’d set them to calculate the angle that would force them the furthest off course. That didn’t bother me, but the other one did. I’d set them to aim for the mouth if they had the opportunity. It didn’t make me feel good to do it, but we were at war here and I decided I had to prioritize the lives of the people we were protecting and my friends over the people who were trying to kill us.
So when they swarmed me, the soldiers that jumped for me found bots exploding against their sides throwing them off course and into the trees. Hitting the trees was less due to programming than the density of tree trunks here. It was harder to miss them. Less agile than Travis or Haley, more than one soldier hit the trunks and went down. More managed to redirect themselves by using a tree trunk to change direction again, but it wasn’t easy. Some of them still hit trees.
Of the two changes I’d made, that allowed the kinder possibilities—if you regarded being bludgeoned unconscious or to death as kind. You could argue that was kinder than having your head explode, something that happened at least twice in my sight.
The second time came as I began to use my helmet’s 360 degree view to check on Kals behind me. In paying attention to my peripheral vision, I let one get too close. He raked out with his right claw, grabbing me by the neck and beginning to squeeze.
I brought up my right arm, firing off a bot which whipped past the soldier, turned in a tight circle and went through the mouth opening where it exploded. The soldier died in a burst of blood and fire.
It’s the memory of images like that that give war a bad name.
At the same time, I did get to see how Kals was doing—okay. I knew that she was physically equivalent to Cassie, but tended to forget it. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her fighting with a pistol in one hand and a long knife in the other. She dodged out of the way of a soldier’s rifle, distracting him, but not stopping him with her voice, and driving the knife into his heart. Then she stepped back, pulling out the knife and firing her gun at the next one.