I didn’t want to hurt Mateo, but I also didn’t want to discover that he’d figured out Amy’s trick for ignoring armor. The question then became how to stop him. Lashing out with the full strength of my armor might kill him, but yanking the tentacle out might scramble his brains.
Deciding to go with what I was already trying anyway, I directed my mental energies toward the tentacles. Knowing that for Lee, they weren’t directed anywhere so much as everywhere around him. Of course, it could be that he didn’t try to direct them.
Either way, I did, and I didn’t stop there. Though I’d already been grabbing at the tentacles around Mateo, I grabbed harder and stepped sideways, putting the mass of tentacles between me and Mateo.
Mateo’s face tightened in what might have been pain, but maybe not his pain, and he slashed at me with his sword.
I’d trained with Mateo over the summer and I’d seen him when he wanted to hit. He struck in the same moment that I realized he was striking. This wasn’t that fast.
Better, it cut into the tentacles around me, but not into my armor, hitting it with a solid thunk, but not going through. Mateo might still be in enough control of his body that he wouldn’t go for the kill.
Even as I had that idea, a mass of cut tentacles fell off the front of my body and out of my hands. Better, they fell off him—including the ones in his head. There were three and they all had blood around the white bone tips.
“Take the regular vamps. Bloodmaiden and I will handle this guy—I hope.” I glanced over at Vincent to see how he was doing.
The answer? Surprisingly well. He’d avoided getting taken over by the xosk and more tentacles lay on the floor around him than I’d have thought possible.
Hearing me, he chopped away another two out of the air, and said, “Go for it. We’re not getting very far here and Blue Mask told me a couple of tricks I’d like to try on the regular ones.”
He wasn’t wrong. Cutting tentacles off the alien wouldn’t bring it down any time soon.
I didn’t know what kind of tricks he was talking about, but it looked like he’d have the opportunity. A crowd of vamps had broken off from the group by the coffins. In the little time I had to watch, I found myself staring at the group. They didn’t look like vampires. They looked like a motorcycle gang. Big bearded men in leather jackets with long canines ran toward us carrying knives and chains.
I supposed that it only took one vampire gang member to turn the rest.
Instead of attacking the regular vamps, it looked like Mateo and Vincent would have to keep them off us while we fought the alien.
I didn’t like those odds. I mean, the two of them were good, but…
With Mateo behind him, Vincent ran forward and as he got close to the vamps he shouted, “Today’s slaying has been brought to you by the letter S and the number 4, you overgrown muppets!”
Then he threw a handful of ball bearings across the floor, followed by another handful. The first vampire slipped on several at once, pitching himself face forward into the floor. Another ran into the first, tried to stay up, but stepped on more ball bearings and went down.
The rest started to count the rolling balls even as Vincent pulled out what looked like a piece from a broken broom handle and stabbed the nearest vampire in the chest.
“S stands for stake,” he said.
The vampires backed away from him, not wanting to get stabbed but unable to do anything else but search for and count the balls.
Mateo ran through the one next to him with his rapier—which flashed with a bright light, burning the vampire’s body and turning him to ash.
Mateo and Vincent were getting better at this. Maybe we did have a chance.
Turning away from a chorus of vampires counting ball bearings broken up by the occasional screech as one got stabbed, I gave the alien my full attention, running toward it, hoping whatever was radiating from my mind would confuse it more if I were closer.
Tentacles tried to grab me, but either didn’t have the strength or at a gut level didn’t want to touch me.
Why they kept on trying was a little bit of a mystery in the instant that the thought came into my head, but in the next instant, I remembered a bit from the alien encyclopedia entry the implant had force-fed my brain. The xosk was a consciousness composed of many lesser identities. So, it was possible that the main intelligence had enough control to use them to grab me, but that the individual tentacles had enough control to decide not to once they got a taste of my artificer inspired psychic defenses.
That was fascinating in its own way, but it didn’t change my backup plan in case disorienting psi wasn’t enough.
I planned to punch my way through its body to the outside and let the sunshine in.