It didn’t take long to realize that the leader wasn’t obvious. With implants, you didn’t need to do anything visually to know who was running things. Plus, as my implant informed me, armies had policies for hiding who the officers were.
They didn’t have policies that hid what an aerial view from my bots showed. The colonists may have stalled the charge earlier, but now the army was massing close together. When they rushed us, they weren’t going to stop.
I contacted Crawls-Through-Desert who seemed to be acting as Captain Tolker’s lieutenant or something like it.
After I sent him a series of pictures from the bots through my implant, he said, “I’ve told Tolker. We’re adjusting. Do what you can to hold them back.”
I passed the images over to everyone else—including Tikki and Kals who had fished out their bracelets from somewhere and connected to us.
“Shit,” Cassie said, “we’re screwed. Jaclyn, take this. You’ll need it.”
She unbuckled her belt and held her sword out.
Jaclyn stared at it. “No. I don’t want to use that thing.”
“We’re not on Earth. There are no cops or jails. You’ll need it.” Cassie waved it at her and Jaclyn took it and buckled it on.
“All hail Blender.” Cassie grinned at her.
Jaclyn shook her head. “Don’t call me that.”
She took out the sword and turned it on. “I’m going to be lucky if I don’t cut off my own leg.”
Marcus imitated the hum of a lightsaber. “Nah. You’re going to be great.”
Even as he said it, I saw the Ascendancy troops begin to charge. From above, it was a line of blue-white shields followed by a mass of people in armor. Worse, the line went around our entire camp completely unbroken.
They all ran forward at once, focussing their fire at specific spots in the colonists’ lines, shattering shields. Other colonists moved in to fill the gap, but I could see it wouldn’t last long.
I wasn’t the only one. Jaclyn jumped over both front lines, landing in the middle of the Ascendancy’s troops.
Before I could fly after her, Katuk ran after her, jumping after her, not quite landing as far into the Ascendancy’s soldiers as she did. I realized that that might have been intentional when I saw that she’d pulled out the sword blade.
It flashed in the sunlight, decapitating a body with every strike.
It didn’t take long before Katuk caught up with her, hitting any Ascendancy solders that came too close with lasers.
I breathed a little easier because Jaclyn wasn’t alone, but it wasn’t enough. The Ascendancy troops didn’t stop fighting. They continued except that they assigned people to fire beam weapons at Jaclyn and Katuk.
Energy weapons could hurt Jaclyn. I’d seen her skin get burned by hot plasma. While she walked away from it without even getting any special care, it still hurt her.
I hoped that if she got so hurt that she couldn’t fight, Katuk would be able to get her out of there—or that she’d recognize what direction things were going and retreat on her own.
I didn’t have time to fly out there to help.
Jaclyn and Katuk weren’t the only ones able to jump over the battle lines. Ascendancy soldiers did exactly that as the lines got closer, attacking the colonists’ line from behind.
Of course, we didn’t just let them. Cassie burned down soldiers as quickly as she could, but it meant that she wasn’t firing into the advancing front line. She was firing carefully within our side, burning down Ascendancy soldiers while trying to avoid shooting colonists in the back.
As for myself, I ignored the feed from my bots as a fanged and clawed soldier landed in front of Dalat as the thin man attempted to fire at it.
It eviscerated him before he landed a shot. Geman, seeing the death of his fellow pilot, fired his rifle into the creature, the shots not making it through the soldier’s armor.
It ripped out Geman’s throat.
I landed next to it at that point, throwing a punch that hit with nearly ten tons of force, more than enough to get past its armor. Its chest exploded, throwing bloody spray and bits of rib cage backward.
I had a bad feeling that image would haunt me later.
I hit two more soldiers, saving a couple colonists from being torn to shreds even as I processed the fact that Geman and Dalat were dead. I hadn’t known them well, but they’d deserved better.
Ahead of me, the Ascendancy line had broken through ours, but at the same time, they were in complete disarray. Between Jaclyn and Katuk, this section of the Ascendancy’s line had a hole. Body after body lay on the ash-covered ground, some of them put there by me, all of them burned or dismembered.
But as I said before, it wasn’t enough. Even as I saw that we had the beginnings of a horrible Pyrrhic victory, the bots showed me that at three other points around the circle, the Ascendancy had broken through and were entering the circle, killing colonists as they went.
Captain Tolker was directing them to fall back and reform a new line over colonists’ communication channel—except then he cut off mid-sentence. I looked over the battlefield to see him lying on the ground with a bloody clawed Ascendancy soldier standing over him.
Over the channel, soldiers screamed and asked for help. Crawls-Through-Desert shouted at the soldiers, getting some of them to form ragged groups that were again firing back.
Even though the Ascendancy soldiers weren’t doing as well near us, they seemed to know they were doing well everywhere else and bounded toward us in great leaps, determined, I assumed, to make up the difference.