Planet in the Middle: Part 9

Knowing that Kals was handling herself, I could concentrate on everyone else. Cassie had made it across the gap between herself and Kamia and stood in front of her, firing the gun at Kamia’s shield.

The shield held.

I would have targeted it with my sonics, but I didn’t have a clear shot. There were Ascendancy soldiers rushing me and I found myself shooting, punching, and blasting them with the sonics, watching Cassie when I had a second. By the next time, I saw her, Cassie had pulled out her sword and switched her gun to the left hand.

With one strike, the sword cut halfway through the shield. The only thing that saved Kamia from having her stomach cut open was expanding the shield’s size and backing up.

With the sword in the shield’s sphere nearly to the hilt, Cassie had to pull it out. At the same time, Kamia fired one of her guns through the shield. My implant noted that the shield had opened when she’d fired. No doubt there was some way Cassie could use that but I didn’t have time to think it through. I found myself blanketing the soldiers nearest me with sonics with my right hand and narrowcasting the sonic on my left at a group of soldiers heading toward Cassie.

Smoke floated upward from one of the soldiers’ helmets. He threw it off his head, warning Cassie who jumped sideways, putting both Kamia and the soldiers to her left side, allowing her to fire the gun’s bright, white beam at the soldiers. They scrambled to avoid it, some of them getting burned.

Along with them, a couple of the trees nearby burst into flame, but it didn’t seem to be growing and spreading. Still, it stood out in the night.

I tried to find Jaclyn and Neves, but my HUD didn’t make it easy—though you could argue that the problem was less the HUD and more that Jaclyn and Neves moved to quickly to follow.

The HUD represented Jaclyn as a purple blur and Neves as gray. They didn’t stay in the same place, moving between the trees except when one or the other attacked. In that moment trees would crack, breaking in two or falling over because they’d been hit in the side.

As the trees burst into flame, Neves or Jaclyn threw an attack that broke the trunk of a tree in half. The upper half fell—only to be caught in the air by the density of the forest before it lost even five feet in its distance from the ground.

The gray and blue blurs in my HUD clashed again even as it fell—only this time I could see Jaclyn fly backward through the air, smashing into the side of a tree hard enough that the tree seemed disintegrate behind her. Half the thickness of the tree trunk fell to the ground in a cloud of sawdust and splintered wood as she bounced off the trunk and fell to the ground.

As she hit, I could see Neves appear next to her, driving his hand down toward the back of the neck in a move clearly intended to kill. Except then, in a move I recognized only afterward, she rolled back to her feet and instead of attacking him said, “Nick. Laser,” into her comm.

Not sure whey she wasn’t attacking herself, but confident she had a good reason, I aimed my laser at him and fired. It wasn’t an easy shot with all the Ascendancy soldiers on the ground, but at that moment I would have been okay with shooting through any number of soldiers as long as I could help Jaclyn out. She wouldn’t be asking if she didn’t need it.

The shot burned the arm of a soldier and a started a tree trunk burning before it found its target, hitting Neves in the ribs as he turned toward Jaclyn.

Knowing as I did that the laser could melt through the hull of a battleship provided I could stay next to the ship long enough, the most surprising result of hitting Neves was that the beam didn’t instantly emerge from the other side of his stomach. For a moment, I thought it had, but I was wrong. He’d only stepped back from the beam. It had melted through his armor as he gasped, leaving a wide red welt on his skin along with blackened flesh and the melted and charred remains of his costume.

I swung the beam in his direction as he backed away, and burned more trees and Ascendancy soldiers for my trouble, but not hitting Neves.

Neves had gone—which was good because I’d taken the laser’s dedicated battery down to about a quarter in that short time. If I wanted to save energy, I’d have to use it on the pulse setting.

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