Courtesy: Part 52

The humonsters ran after us, ignoring Cassie and they didn’t just run. They leapt. They tumbled. The talons that grew out of their hands and feet clacked against the floor.

They weren’t slow. Only the fact that Alex, Jenny, Kals, and Katuk had started first kept them from being caught—that and Katuk’s shooting ability.

Without looking, he pointed the gun under his forearm backward and fired, scattering blasts of white light behind him. The first two caught humonsters full on, severing the right arm from one and the entire lower half of the other.

By the time the second one got hit, the humonsters had started leaping to the right and left, trying to get cover by the mounds, running into openings, and disappearing into the unseen rows between them.

Alex glanced over at the humonsters, aiming a few shots at them and hitting them several times. The small unit of Jennys did the same, peppering the group. Their misses hit the mounds, causing them to shudder, but they hit more than they missed and the humonsters all disappeared into the mounds on that side of the room. I breathed out a sigh of relief. Forcing them to go the long way could only buy us time.

Over the comm, Alex asked, “Which way?”

Daniel pointed toward an opening between two mounds that was across the room, but at the moment could have been in another state. Alex muttered, “Damn,” and sprinted forward with multiple copies of Jenny running with him, Kals and Katuk just behind, and Amy, Daniel, and me following after.

We flew past the body of the boy and the pool he’d emerged from. He didn’t move and the pool remained calm, reflecting the glow from the ceiling and mounds around us.

With no one barking orders at us, we had a few moments to concentrate if we wanted them, but that could only slow us down. If we hurried, maybe we’d find that there were no defenses ahead. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but I could hope.

That optimism didn’t even make it across the room.

Flying gave me a better view than I’d get running—the kind of view that punctures illusions. In this case, it punctured my illusion that we’d have an easy time.

I’d known that the National Guardsmen in Rocket suits were coming, but I’d assumed that they’d have to go through the only entrance to the circle. What I probably should have assumed was that if the center of the Fungus Collective were about to be destroyed, the Collective would make new doors in itself because that’s what happened.

Holes appeared in the outside walls, showing us the parking garage around the circle. Rocket suits flew through the openings and dropped out of sight. I couldn’t see them well enough to know where they were going. Most of the mounds reached the ceiling and the Collective wasn’t or couldn’t make them smaller so that the troops could fly through.

We were three-quarters of the way across by then and had caught up to the rest of the group. I landed near the front near Katuk. “National Guardsmen in Rocket suits are here. If we can, I’d like to leave them alive. It’s not their fault they’re fighting us.”

Katuk said, “That sounds difficult.”

“I know. It might not be possible. We’ll try.”

That conversation took us to the opening Daniel had pointed to. Only a few inches wider than one person and between two nondescript mounds, Daniel’s recommendation was its only distinguishing feature.

If I’d seen them on any other day, I wouldn’t have thought so. They had fleshy, grey skin that glowed with green, bioluminescent light, pulsed every few seconds from some internal process, and quivered as if alive. On any other day, they’d have worried me, but today, I checked in both directions for hostile mushroom people, didn’t see any, and stepped into the corridor. Daniel said, “Turn right,” over the comms as I did, answering my unspoken question.

I did, Katuk following me in and everyone else following him.

Over the comm, Alex asked, “You said the second row. This thing to our left?”

“Further,” Daniel.

It didn’t look any different further down the row than it did at first. As we moved though, something did feel different. As someone who’d used telepathy ever since discovering his best friend had it, I knew the feeling.

If I had to bet, I’d have bet that we’d reached the generation point of the anti-teleportation signal in addition to the clairvoyant fuzz Danial had mentioned before.

Now that we were near the point where it began, I could also feel its strength. For lack of a better phrase, the psychic pressure it created felt on par with Daniel’s or better. I could even feel an undercurrent of pain in its thoughts. Remembering when Daniel released a psychic attack at it, I could at least guess at its cause.

Ahead of me, another Rocket suit stepped into the corridor. This one had been in green, brown, and beige camouflage colors. The helmet obscured the face of the operator inside. I could only guess at his or her expression as he raised a massive automatic rifle and charged, firing.

7 thoughts on “Courtesy: Part 52”

  1. “with Dnaiel’s or better.” I think this is not the spelling that you were intending.

  2. “We were nearing the generation point of a psychic signal.
    If I had to bet, I’d have bet that we’d reached the generation point of the anti-teleportation signal in addition to the clairvoyant fuzz Danial had mentioned before.
    Now that we were near the point where it began,”

    Please consider rephrasing, too many ‘points’ I think. Unless it’s intentional as Nick is under stress and slowly becomes an unreliable narrator with speech impediments, which I would be in his place by now.

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