Courtesy: Part 56

I started with the obvious. I had no shortage of goobots since there was no point in trapping fungus creatures that even their creator regarded as disposable.

Plus, they’d worked before.

I sent out a barrage of bots pointing my arms in both directions, setting the bots to explode where they clustered, but also targeting the first Guardsman in each group.

The explosions of goo did what I wanted them to, spreading across the rows, touching the mounds on either side and turning into logjams. When I hit clustered Guardsmen, it was even better. In one case, the logjam was five people deep, all of them stuck to each other as well as the mounds on either side.

Mixed with the surge of relief I felt came worry. I’d created bottlenecks on both ends of the row, but I hadn’t taken out all of the National Guardsmen. I hadn’t even taken out a tenth of them.

A tenth? My implant had counted them in the background as I was fighting and it had counted 102. That was a lot more than I’d realized the National Guard’s base had. I supposed that they might have come to the conclusion that having an internationally visible superhero team might require increased staffing because we might get targeted.

When you considered that they were now targeting us, it seemed ironic.

Still, they were stopped for now. I reminded myself of that and hoped that Kals would get Alex to move so that we could take this all down.

As one Guardsman tried to fly over them, I fired off a goobot which reached him as he was lifting off, exploding into strands that stopped him above the Guardman in front, adding another layer above the first and making it even harder for someone to fly over that.

Kals, meanwhile, talked to Alex. I didn’t see any sign of movement on his part which reflected well on Julie and Daniel’s collaboration, but wasn’t convenient in the least.

Observing in all directions with my helmet, I noticed that the humonsters were now creeping up over the far sides of the mounds with only their heads visible. They were going to do something. I didn’t know what.

I shot off a boombot, letting it explode within a group of them and watching the others. That turned out to be a good idea. I couldn’t watch or shoot off boombots in all directions at once.

When the first boombot exploded, the rest of them crawled over the mounds, avoiding the goo-covered soldiers to aim for Kals. I recognized it from their path over the mounds and used boombots to blast them to bits.

But they weren’t only aiming for Kals. They’d left the comatose bodies alone when we were running, but not anymore. They went straight for Daniel, Katuk, Amy, and the various copies of Jenny.

They went for Alex and Kals as well, but Kals noticed, pulling out her pistol and burning the first one coming toward her even as it came over the mound. She only got the one next to it after it jumped, but she got it.

My brain, meanwhile, was working on overdrive, recognizing this move as very human. The Fungus Collective wouldn’t think to do it, but Arete would have.

If he pulled my focus in too many directions, we’d lose and I had every reason to let my focus get pulled. Even if Kals was having a hard time bring Alex up, what if Arete had a better approach or a worse approach but was able to brute force it by producing more humonsters and working on our people in isolation?

I shot off boombots, and used killbots for precision strikes to remove limbs, keeping them off Daniel and Jenny. It turned out that I didn’t need to do anything for Katuk. He didn’t move and when a humonster grabbed him, Katuk’s suit moved, grabbing the humonster’s neck and severing its head.

He didn’t move after that, but they left him alone.

For a moment I’d hoped he was back, but it must have been a command built into the hardware of his cybernetic systems.

As I whipped the killbots around, severing a hand from a humonster that was trying to grab a Jenny, Kals muttered a Human Ascendancy word that my implant translated as “entrails.”

In that moment, I realized that they’d grabbed Amy. She’d been on the other side of Kals and Kals had been focused on keeping Alex. She either hadn’t seen them or she’d had to make a choice, the kind of choice I’d been trying to avoid.

Except… As the three humonsters that had her began to climb back over the mound, Amy moved. A bright red light washed over her and she jerked her arm out of the hands that held it, sticking the blade of the Bloodspear into the humonster holding her other arm.

The humonster shriveled up into a thin, brittle remnant of itself.

Then she stabbed and drained the other two in quick succession, making a strangled war cry each time. I’d never heard her make that sound before and I’d fought my way up a skyscraper full of vampires with her. She’d had plenty of opportunity.

I didn’t know it for certain, but everything from the war cry to a new looseness in her stance told me that this wasn’t Amy. One or more of the previous Bloodmaidens was now running the show.

I could only hope that she or they were doing this as a last resort. If it were some kind of takeover, I wouldn’t have the faintest clue about how to get Amy back in the driver’s seat.

As I understood this, the Bloodmaiden stepped around Kals to behead a humonster while simultaneously sucking its life force out. As the shriveled body fell, she’d already speared two more, giving the Bloodspear a strong, red glow I didn’t think I had seen in Amy’s hands.

If we ever got Amy back, I wasn’t going to mention it, but I had a feeling that this Bloodmaiden was better.

4 thoughts on “Courtesy: Part 56”

  1. We have a “Danial” (two a).
    There is also “I had every reason let my focus get pulled” (I think this is missing to between reason and let)

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