I sent everyone a picture of the troops jumping from one eggshell to another along with the thought, “Are we upwind or downwind of them?”
It wasn’t as if I could feel that inside the suit.
“No wind,” Cassie sent back, pointing her gun upward and shouting, “Incoming!”
My bots showed the Ascendancy troops two rows off from us, but that didn’t matter. They knew where we were and they were leaping between the houses in the nearest row to get at us.
The first one to jump died before he landed, hit by a bright beam from Cassie’s gun that burned through his chest and out his back. As for myself, I fired off goobots. Some people might see that as taking the situation insufficiently seriously but I saw it differently. I only had so many killbots along and didn’t know if my standard bulletbots or boombots would pierce their armor.
The goobots, on the other hand, stuck to armor.
I hit the guy right behind Cassie’s hit with a goobot that covered the guy in goo with strands of goo flying far enough behind him that they stuck to the nearest house. He never reached the ground. His momentum carried him in front of the house, sticking him to it fifteen feet above the ground.
Claws didn’t help him get away. His arms stuck in the goo as it hardened.
Out of the corners of my eyes, I saw the rest of the fight even though I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved—Katuk firing beam from his arms and then the middle of his chest, Jaclyn jumping to meet one of the soldiers in the air, Marcus stretching upward to grab someone in the air, and the townspeople’s marksmen firing constantly.
It would have gone perfectly if they were less agile or stupider, but instead of continuing to come in from the direction we expected to see them, they changed course, splitting up, landing on the street to the right or the left of the group.
I wheeled around to help. While I don’t know exactly how close the Ascendancy’s troops were to Haley or Travis in performance, my estimate is that they were close enough.
I couldn’t hit either one easily when they were close enough for hand to hand combat and I couldn’t hit these guys either. According to Haley, it was agility, but that understated their better than human senses. The combination of both was hard to deal with though.
I fired a goobot at one after he landed on the street in a crouch, but he smacked the bot into the street and jumped away before it expanded onto him.
With a jump and a slash of his hand, he made a long gash across the stomach of one of the townspeople. He would have gone for the person’s belly again except that Maru leaned in to kick the soldier in the chest, knocking him backward into a roll. He jumped forward toward Maru except that Maru had pulled out a pistol and shot the soldier in the faceplate of his helmet.
The soldier fell backward and lay on the street.
Meanwhile, Tikki had pulled the injured townsperson into the darkened sphere of time manipulation that she’d called up. I barely had time to speculate that she might be able to accelerate healing when I noticed another soldier leaping toward the road from an eggshell house.
I tagged him with a goobot, which, like the last one, expanded to stick to the nearest house. Only this time the house was two houses down the street from where we were, something we were grateful for because the house exploded.
Pieces of the house fell into the street, all of them covered with black scorch marks, and still burning. The same could be said of the guy I’d covered with goo.
I didn’t have time to wonder who would rig their home to be that easy to explode or think too hard about the guy who’d just died. More Ascendancy soldiers were landing on the street than I’d seen with my bots, meaning that they were coming from another direction as well or that I’d been wrong about there being ten of them earlier. It also meant we were in a real danger of being overwhelmed.
One landed on top of me as I checked my HUD to see if anyone needed my help.
The Ascendancy fighter hit the base of my neck with enough force to leave me paralyzed or dead if I hadn’t been wearing armor. Since I was armored, I fell forward. I didn’t have a clever countermove for handling this, but my reaction time was good enough that I grabbed the man’s legs. So even though I fell forward, so did he, hitting the street.
It didn’t damage either of us much, but I had the presence of mind to let go of one leg and fire a goobot up his body as we hit the ground, gluing his entire right leg, left thigh and right arm into one position.