Upon landing, the Cabal soldiers were met with the jet’s anti-personnel lasers, spraying laser beams everywhere with uncanny accuracy, hitting all of the Cabal soldiers.
The jet’s anti-personnel weapons hadn’t been designed with the Cabal in mind. They’d been designed more to slow and discourage than to kill. They could kill, but not Cabal soldiers.
On the other hand, they were still lasers, however thin they might be, and in this case, they were being operated by Hal, our AI, whose primary purpose had once been to model space battles. Essentially, he’d been created to assist aliens in how to most efficiently kill each other, and long before this battle, I’d given him permission to listen to the rest of the team and help them as effectively as he knew how.
He was doing that now.
The thin beams raked across the Cabal soldiers, their attacks aimed most often at the face, centering on the eyes.
Under other circumstances, I wouldn’t feel right about permanently maiming them, but this was not one of those.
A beam crossed both eyes of one of them and he threw his hands up to cover them, but it was too late. Others were luckier, losing only one eye or protecting both at the expense of having long strips burned on their skin.
If that weren’t enough, Daniel was using a combination of prescience and telekinesis to pick the right person to mentally throw out of the fight. Starting with the closest to Haley, Travis, and their parents, Daniel pitched them sideways, often into groups of trees.
Making matters worse for them, Vaughn used the same tactic—except his winds weren’t anywhere close to Daniel’s precision even if Vaughn could keep them in the air longer. That meant that he had to attack the ones on the edge or give Daniel’s victims an extra long boost.
Either way, the two of them made use of the greatest weakness of physical strength—it’s only useful when you have something solid to push against.
They weren’t the only ones acting. Cassie and I were firing at them, me from above and Cassie from the forest.
We didn’t get everyone. Three of them jumped out as Cassie and I started to fire, but those three were the only ones that made it out undamaged. I couldn’t see where they went. They’d jumped out toward the forest and we were too busy firing on the others that were still fighting their way toward the jet.
As all that was going on, Travis opened the tote bucket next to the open hatch. Their parents stepped inside.
Travis let out a breath and looked out toward the falling, retreating, or blinded opponents, and the edges of his mouth curled upward. I knew what he was thinking. We’d won. It wasn’t over, but now all we had to do was get his parents out of there.
Even as I fired on the remaining Cabal soldiers, barely paying attention to him, I saw Travis begin to frown. He’d noticed something I hadn’t yet. It was about to get more complicated.
At almost the same time, I noticed a ball of fire off to my left side and heard, “Rocket, he’s aiming for you!”
I hadn’t been paying attention to Izzy fighting Johnny Destruction, but even though his flying was limited, he apparently hauled ass when he did fly because Izzy flew at several times the speed of sound—slower than the jet, but still fast.
I stopped firing at the Cabal soldiers and tried to shoot forward, come around, and fire at him, but that didn’t work out. In the time it took me to notice him, stop firing, and begin to dodge, he’d closed with me.
Grabbing me, he flew forward, increasing the heat he radiated as he went. I’d nearly lost my hand to a dragon a few years earlier, so I’d had every motivation to improve my suit’s protection against fire.
That was good because it meant that I wasn’t burning to death, accompanied by explosions as every bot inside my suit detonated. To judge from my suit’s error messages, it was still a near thing.
The stream of errors said that the temperature was hitting dangerous levels and that the bots and my rocket fuel might explode at any time.
Fortunately, at that moment Izzy caught up with him and punched him. This left the two of us tumbling through the air. As we did, I began to pull his arm away from me, firing the sonics into him after my first shot with the laser didn’t seem to do anything.
As much as I’d always heard about the danger of being near Johnny Destruction while he burned at full power, I’d heard very little about his strength. I should have. The Rocket suit could lift around ten tons and removing his grip from my body wasn’t easy.
An elbow to the man’s face gave me the surprise I needed to break his hold and find myself tumbling downward out of his fiery aura and toward the forest that was now below us.
I aimed myself toward Haley and Travis as the rockets kicked in, wondering how they were doing. Checking the GPS positions on the map, I realized that they were fighting, that the jet was gone, and that they needed help.
How that happened I only knew later when we reviewed the fight, trying to see what we could have done differently.