Fortunately for Dr. Griffin, most of the spray went to the soldier’s side, splattering everyone to his right.
Predictably, all the soldiers pointed their weapons at us, and began to fire back. Laser and plasma blasts shattered branches, started small fires, and with a thunderous crack destroyed the trunk of a tree.
It fell over.
None of us were in its path, but it was hard to miss seeing bits of wood fly everywhere, some of them burning, followed by what was left getting caught in the branches of other trees three quarters of the way down.
We didn’t stand still. Cassie and I both dropped to the forest floor during the initial barrage of fire. After all, I didn’t know how well my armor protected against plasma blasts.
Through my HUD, I could see everyone move. Jenny had split off into three more of herself, scattering as beams of light hit near her.
Vaughn moved away from all of us, staying near the edge of the woods, but not too near.
That was a good thing. I doubted his costume could stand up to alien weapons.
Jaclyn and Izzy had both launched themselves into the fight as per my plan. Of course, my plan had assumed that Rachel and Bloodmaiden had taken out the troop transports above us.
I didn’t want to find out what kind of anti-personnel weapons they had in place.
The observation bots saw Jaclyn only as a blur, and the effects of her passing. The group of humanoids in front of the building flew backwards, each taking flight in a slightly different direction, sometimes colliding in the air.
They reminded me of bowling pins.
Izzy took the outer ring of power armored combatants, a group with a much wider array of creatures–Hrrnna, and more humanoids, one of whom stood at least twelve feet tall.
In instants, the nearest five were rolling across the lawn, guns flying out of their hands.
The sixth was the twelve foot tall guy. Like Jaclyn, Izzy was little more than a blur, but in her case, a flying blur.
The giant reached out quickly enough to grab her right leg, and slam her into the lawn, firing missiles at her all the while–not that I could see it in detail. For me it was a blur of action and explosions.
Worse, the group Jaclyn had fought began to get up–not all of them, but enough. I didn’t know if this meant that despite what Lim had told us she wasn’t trying to kill them, or more frighteningly, if it meant that their armor could stand up to her blows.
Her voice came over the comm, “Cap? Rocket? Help?”
“I’ll help Jaclyn,” Cassie said, and pushed herself off the forest floor to run closer, gun in her hand.
Anything strong enough to hold Izzy was several times stronger than the Rocket suit. The EMP bots and using sound to break a device were both inconsistent on alien technology. That left me with deadly choices only–the suit’s laser and the “cut through anything” bots.
I didn’t like where that left me, but Lee had always told us to think about the circumstances under which we were willing to kill. I’d always thought I’d be willing to do it if it was necessary to save my life or others’ lives.
That meant that I armed the bots with full knowledge of what I was doing, and fired them off.
Izzy lay on the ground. Black smudges appeared even on the blue parts of her costume. So, something was getting through her shield. She wasn’t dead though.
Even as I raised my arm, she moved her leg.
The giant aimed a plasma rifle at her, and I fired. The bot flew through the forest, dodging trees, and flying into the clearing.
It entered the giant’s armor through the side, barely even slowing as it hit. Then it exploded.
The helmet’s faceplate cracked. Gouts of flame and smoke shot out of the joints. The giant fell over.
Izzy pushed off the ground, and punched an armored Hrrnna, one of the group that had run up while she’d been on the ground.
The punch bent the armor around the Hrrnna’s neck, and it fell over.
I barely had time to process it when the world went white. My helmet, shoulders, and upper chest all felt uncomfortably warm.
The helmet adjusted, and I realized that all the trees around me were burning, and that the branches above me had turned into grayish-white ash. One of the ships must have turned whatever beam they’d used to attack the building’s shield on me.
Knowing I needed to move before they did it again, I ran, watching the error messages run down the HUD. I ran the opposite direction from where Vaughn stood.
I desperately hoped he was prepared for the moment Rachel took down one of the ships.
The sooner that happened, the better. Judging from the error messages, the suit’s armor would be about 70% normal effectiveness when it finished repairing itself.
I didn’t want to get hit like that again.
My HUD showed that Cassie had fired again. A burning white light speared one of the aliens near Jaclyn, and it fell over.
Cassie had killed a… whatever it was, and so had I.
You could argue I’d already done it. The machine race soldiers had been sentient, but whatever we were fighting now was biological. That felt more real.
The explosion inside the giant’s suit replayed inside my head. I’d done it, and it had been so easy. I wasn’t sure I even felt bad about it.
Did that say something about me? I didn’t like it, if it did.
On the other hand, it might be that whatever I felt about it would catch up with me later, preferably when people weren’t trying to kill me.
Another blast of light came down from the transport ships, this time toward Jaclyn even though she was in the middle of the ship’s soldiers.
It burned the grass around them into ash, but the ship’s soldiers? They were still there, and still fighting.
Jaclyn though? Her purple suit appeared to be discolored, even burned where the light had hit.
She swayed, possibly dazed by the light and heat, and one of the soldiers fired a blast of light into her stomach at point blank range.
She didn’t go down. She blurred, and her punch sent the soldier back fifty feet.
I had to admit that it had been amazing, but if it kept up like this, we’d likely lose.