Trees & Shields: Part 33

Whatever my reservations, it didn’t matter. The bubble expanded to cover the entire battlefield and that included all the troops that had been waiting in the wings and beginning to charge.

Connected to Kee’s not-quite-telepathy, I could sense how far it went—more than one hundred yards away in every direction.

Past the edge, the Xiniti that had promised to show up and help stood, staring at the bubble.

Inside the Ascendancy forces stood still, unable to move at all.

Kee, as I’d started to think of her again, said, “Do you want any of them to survive?”

I couldn’t read her mind, but I could feel her focus. I said, “I’d like them all to survive, but I don’t have any specific use for any of them.”

“I can’t hold them this way forever. The moment I step away, they’ll start trying to kill you again. I’ll end them now.”

Before I could say anything more, she pulled in more energy from each of the many sources she’d opened up. I could feel her pulling it in, allowing it to build up, and then she released it into the bubble, all of it directed into individual Ascendancy soldiers.

I knew somehow that she wasn’t aging them. She wasn’t using Tikki’s powers at all. She disintegrated them, absorbing the heat as the bonds that held their bodies together dissolved, leaving dust and bits of bone.

Then the bubble faded away and the skies became bright once again. I wasn’t sure why being within the bubble dimmed the light. I had theories but hadn’t had time to devote more than an instant’s thought to them.

Now it looked as though I might have more time. The small piles of dust all over and the complete lack of fighting told me what I already knew—no Ascendancy soldiers survived.

The Xiniti I’d seen through Kee’s eyes walked toward us slowly, looking from one side to another as if they expected creatures to appear out of thin air, burst out of the ground, or attack with no reason and no warning.

It wasn’t unreasonable given that the Ascendancy soldiers had just disappeared for no reason they knew of and no warning.

I considered using my implant to contact them but figured they’d contact us if they wanted us. It would be better to determine who’d survived all this. I asked the implant for a status update on all of us and it replied. Jaclyn was alive but hurt, Cassie alive and already healed, Katuk was alive, and Marcus was alive.

I looked around the camp for the others. Kals was alive and walking toward the shelter. She had to be looking for her mom.

Jaclyn’s dog stood over the piles of dust, sniffing them. Then he raised his leg and peed on one. Meanwhile, Rachel was solid and walking across the ground toward me.

I waited for her, planning to tell her that I was going to follow Kals and find out what had happened to Jadzen, but then I heard Marcus’ voice.

“Where’s Tikki and what are you doing here?” He faced Kee. His rifle lay on the ground.

Kee stood next to him where Tikki had been. When I thought about it, Kee and Tikki weren’t so very different. The body she wore as Kee appeared to be in its thirties and Tikki appeared to be in her early twenties or late teens. “Kee” had fuller lips and a squarer face, but they both had the same shades of dark hair and light brown skin.

If I’d seen them at the same time, I might have guessed they were sisters or maybe mother and daughter. They were variations on the same face and body.

“I’m sorry for the deception,” Kee said, “but I couldn’t leave K’Tepolu with you in this form. It would have raised too many questions and gotten too much attention. I really did like you as Tikki. I still like you, but if you think about what I did, you’ll know what I am. You already know one of my people and you know why this can’t work.”

Marcus’ eyes widened. “Oh, god.”

It wasn’t a completely inappropriate line under the circumstances.

Now standing next to me, Rachel said, “This isn’t going to be pretty. Take it from someone who been there.”

“I know your breakup with Travis was bad, but I really don’t think it’s the same.“

Still staring at Kee, Marcus said, “We had sex.”

I don’t know that I would have gone there next, but it did raise some interesting questions.

12 thoughts on “Trees & Shields: Part 33”

  1. Marcus, you banged an interdimensional god like being like a champ. You rocked that funky joint to the point that she developed feelings for you. You have bragging rights. Enjoy your bragging rights.

  2. Nick’s ability to “feel” what Kee is doing with her power despite not apparently having any senses that would give him such information is hopefully worthy of some self-reflection on his point in the near future.

    Lee has claimed before that his interest in Nick revolves around visions of the future where Nick is fighting at Lee’s side in the big showdown, brawl-for-it-all battle that Lee sees in the future. But what exactly does that mean? I’m starting to think less that it’s Nick dressed in some homemade technological armor and more something else?

    Put it Rachel’s claim that she has potential to become a Cosmic Ghost with the statement that the ghosts are related to Lee’s people, and consider that Rachel and Nick are siblings with the same heritage… sure raises some interesting ideas.

    But all of this is obviously author-intended for us to speculate. The question is, will Nick act on this in some way? It’s not safe for him to experiment with whatever abilities he might have directly, since that would risk bringing down the Destroy faction. Perhaps he’ll do what he always does- build a machine that he can use as a tool for investigation.

  3. I apologize in advance but I am thinking that the story went something like this….

    Still staring at Kee, Marcus said, “We had sex.”

    I don’t know [that’s] where I would have gone next, but it did raise some interesting questions.

    Could Kee reproduce? Could Kee reproduce with Marcus? Are Marcus and Kee biologically compatible? Was it like inserting an Apple II-GS 5 1/4 inch floppy into an IBM supercomputer and hoping that the code would work? Maybe HAL had the answer.

    Unfortunately, before I had a chance to really ponder any of these insane machinations running through my head, Marcus blurted out, “What are you really? I thought you were like us. Like me. A human. A. Human. Who–what–what are you? What did I give myself to? I was willing to die for you. For us. I… I feel so used–”

    “WHATEVER!” Kee retorted with a vocal and mental pressure that quickly quieted Marcus. “I should be the one that feels used. You. Used. Your. “Body enhancement powers”. On. Me.”

    “You didn’t complain,” Marcus childishly snapped — barely able to contain his quickly redding face.

    “I would have if I had not used my powers to slow down time.”

    “OH SNAP!” Cassie burst out laughing.

    Sensing the impending danger of angering a celestial demi-godlike being, I need to do something to de-escalate this lovers’ quarrel. The whole “make love not war” mantra wasn’t going to work here. We were already in the middle of a war zone. We did not need a second battle.

  4. Well, considering that we’ve been sorta told that Nick is descended from Lee, I guess Kee/Tikki could be cross-fertile with Marcus is she wanted to.

  5. I agree that this hasn’t been the strongest arc of the story, but that ending is rather hilarious, Marcus is fantastic.

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