Sarcasm aside, the one good thing about being completely surrounded by your enemies is that your enemies are easy to find. At the same time, if you want to survive, it’s good to have a strategy that’s better thought out than, “kill everybody.”
Talking over the comm, I said, “Let’s help Blue Mask with the xosk.”
Off to the side and above me, Amy glanced over at the vampires in the middle of the room and then over to where Mateo and Vincent fought off tentacles. “Is that what it’s called? Yes. Let’s free up Blue Mask to fight the normal vampires and maybe open up a window.”
She’d said everything I was thinking but didn’t want to explain. I didn’t know whether that was because of years of training together, some kind of lingering connection because of how I’d saved her life, or the more than one thousand years of fighting experience she had access to through past lives.
Whichever it was, we turned toward the xosk, Amy flying downward toward Mateo while I ran parallel with her except that I was on the floor.
The xosk noticed, shooting out tentacles that ended in bony spikes.
Mind you, they weren’t much of a threat to me. Between whatever juicing my psychic defenses did and my armor, the tentacles wavered as they grew closer to me, bouncing off my armor in a series of clicking noises.
Amy didn’t get quite so lucky. Her armor stopped most of the xosk’s shots, but her armor wasn’t airtight. The helmet was open-faced.
One bone-tipped tentacle sunk into her cheek. Her face went slack and she began to fall.
I turned to grab the tentacle if I could, but I didn’t have to.
Grimacing, she stabbed the tentacle with her spear and it erupted into flame, starting from where she struck it and burning most of the way back to the xosk’s body. By the end, the tentacle had been turned to dust except for the bone tip and a few fatty bits.
A small part of my brain wondered if the fatty bits were alien bacon, but I brushed the thought away, asking Amy, “Can you do that to the whole thing?”
She raised an eyebrow, “Not all at once, but I can try.”
Ahead of us, the xosk wasn’t waiting to find out what we planned to do. Whether or not it guessed our intentions, it aimed dozens of tentacles at Mateo and Vincent.
It’s a tribute to their skills (and maybe Mateo’s mask) that they didn’t go down in the first barrage of bone-tipped flesh. Both of them moved with an agility I didn’t have in most versions of my armor. Even in this version of my armor where I had more than normal, I couldn’t swing a sword with the speed Mateo used, chopping half a dozen at a time in half.
Vincent did as well or better with his knives, but neither of them could keep it up.
By the time Amy and I came close enough to strike, the xosk had wrapped tendrils around their legs and arms and begun to pull them toward its mouths. Though they still pulled this way and then that, both had a dazed look on their faces (though I found the hamster’s face harder to read).
A mental wail seemed to fill my consciousness.
==Or we WILL devour them!==
As if to illustrate, it pulled Vincent and Mateo so far forward that Vincent was all but in its mouth.
Amy didn’t hesitate. She loosed her spear, throwing it into one of the mouths even as the alien opened it to take a bite with its mismatched teeth.
It would have been convenient if the whole creature had burned up then, but it didn’t. It screamed as blood and fire erupted from its mouth. Vincent, however out of it he’d appeared, slashed one tentacle after another, pulling himself halfway free, pushing away from the xosk one step at a time.
As much as I didn’t want Vincent to be eaten, I was barely aware of any of it as it happened because I was aiming for Mateo.
Tentacles grabbed my body as I moved between Mateo and the xosk’s nearest mouth. They weren’t strong enough to slow me down and even if they had been, I’d begun to realize that they hesitated before they tried to strike me.
I felt sure it had to be because of what I was doing with my mental defenses, but I was beginning to tire—not physically, but whatever part of me could tap into power outside myself? That felt tired, but only a little.
Ignoring the tentacles around myself, I grabbed the tentacles that were pulling on Mateo and started pushing away from the alien, figuring that if I ripped part of its body away it could only be an improvement.
It didn’t like it. I mean, I don’t think anyone would enjoy having their limbs ripped out of their body, but it attacked me. I began to breathe in short shallow breaths, feeling like something was about to strike.
If it had been the first time I’d ever felt someone else’s emotions try to masquerade as my own, I might have done something stupid, letting go of the tentacles and running, for example, but it wasn’t new at all.
Concentrating on moving, I pulled as hard as I could, hearing a sound somewhere between a snapping rubber band and tearing clothing with the addition of a splash.
I moved forward as something behind me gave—maybe I’d torn part of it away? I wanted to turn to check, but I couldn’t.
Ahead of me, Mateo’s eyes had changed from half shut to wide open. It was in that moment that I noticed that one of the tentacles holding him had sunk into the back of his neck.
He pointed his sword at me.