Trees & Shields: Part 31

Jaclyn couldn’t take them all out, but she tried. She moved too quickly for me to see, but with the Xiniti implant, I processed her movements well enough to notice the blur of where she’d been.

Ordinary people didn’t even notice that and had to rely on the explosion of blood and the way the Ascendancy soldiers’ bodies toppled off their torsos to the ground.

That didn’t mean the Ascendancy soldiers couldn’t hit her though. One of them, an Ascendant Guardmember by the symbol on his chest, shot her in the thigh with a yellow beam.

She tumbled as he twisted to take another shot at her.

I tried to point my laser in that direction, but it didn’t matter. A beam of light burned away his head.

His body flopped to the ground as my implant outlined Katuk—who had now started aiming at other soldiers. Cassie meanwhile had burned down several at once.

Jaclyn made it to her feet, setting off again, but my implant informed me that she wasn’t moving as quickly as before. She’d moved from extremely fast to not quite as fast, but it was still faster than the Ascendancy soldiers could react to.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many shots she could take before she couldn’t move at all.

Not that it made much of a difference in the moment. For all that we’d done, the Ascendancy still descended upon us in waves. In my helmet’s 360 degree view, I could even see them coming from behind.

They weren’t targeting us yet. The colonists were still fighting, but it was only a matter of time.

I fired the sonics at a group of soldiers as they landed in front of me, burning them with the laser on my other arm. Meanwhile, Kals shouted a word that made another group stop in their tracks, unmoving.

Behind me, Marcus had elongated his legs. From where he stood next to a group of skinny trees, he used one of our particle accelerators as a sniper rifle. As he burned the soldiers from above, Tikki stood below, absorbing anything that came her way into her time bubble and sometimes turning the bubble to redirect it back toward the Ascendancy.

In the middle of all of that, I called Rachel again. “I don’t know where you are, but they’re in the camp now and colonists are fighting them hand to hand. So, basically, we just lost. Now would be a great time for the Ghosts to show up.”

Rachel’s voice came over the comm. She was all but shouting into it as the hiss and crackle of different energies burned through the air in the background. “I know! I called them. They’re not coming.”

“What?” Now I was yelling. Behind me, the gun under Crawls-Through-Deserts’ pot burned three Ascendancy soldiers in a shotgun-like blast of light.

“They see the future. They’re attacking the Ascendancy ships fighting the Xiniti fleet. They said you’ll think of something.”

“Ugh.” I tried to think of a response with more words than that.

“Look, I know. Don’t argue. Do it and we can all go home. Keeping you alive isn’t getting any easier.”

An Ascendancy soldier that had landed in front exploded, starting with his head and ending partway into his body. Rachel floated behind it, holding her pistol. Then she faded out and I heard static over the comm.

In the chaos and screams, I thought of my next best option after Rachel and opened a connection to Tikki with my implant.

She took the call and time seemed to stand still, presumably because mind to mind communication was so much faster than speech. I couldn’t assume it had nothing to do with the powers Kee showed as Tikki.

“Hey,” I kept my voice calm and low. In reality, she was on Lee’s level of power and I was about to end forever any chance at a life she liked. “You know how you said you’d tell Marcus that who you really were? We need that version of you right now. We need Kee more than Tikki. I mean, if you think you can take everyone out as Tikki, I’m fine with that, but I suspect you’ll need to be yourself to make this work.”

The pause before she spoke seemed to be unending, but I knew it wasn’t because nothing seemed to be moving around us.

“No.” Tikki’s face tightened. “If I reveal myself, the Destroy faction will come here. You won’t survive it and neither will I. Thanks to Lee, I know they’re active now. He’s been fighting one or more of them. I’ve felt the aftereffects of their battles.”

“You don’t have to reveal yourself to your people. You told me that you were the one that truly understood your species’ powers and that you’d designed the weapon that Lee stole from the Destroy faction before he disappeared. I’m pretty sure you told me that you could hide using your abilities better than he could—better, I’m guessing, than any of your people, right?”

I knew I had her attention then. By that, I mean I knew it because I could feel it. Lee had told me I’d feel something when I encountered one of his kind and Kee hadn’t triggered it much at all.

Now though, I could sense something big in the air around me, an almost physical weight. It was the kind of weight you might feel if you met a being billions of years old, that consciously existed in an infinity of universes, that had the power to unmake the planet with a thought, and you’d said something that made it decide to give you its full, undivided attention.

9 thoughts on “Trees & Shields: Part 31”

      1. I feel like “Chekhov’s Deity” might be a better description since I’ve been foreshadowing Lee’s people’s involvement in this story (and specifically Kee’s/Tikki’s) since almost the beginning of the book.

        Deus Ex Machina is what you get when the author has written himself into a corner and has no idea how to fix it except by bringing a god in to fix everything (and no spoilers but she can’t fix everything).

  1. Just caught up after a few months. I’m enjoying this arc, but the pacing is such that I think I’ll take a longer break and read 50+ chapters at a time next time. And maybe re-read from the beginning of the space travel arc, because I’m forgetting who some of the colonists are.

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