Trees & Shields: Part 4

Jaclyn blurred, punching five of them before anyone else had a chance to respond—at least that’s what I saw when I replayed the moment with my implant later.

In the moment, I was too busy to watch what she was doing. Two soldiers landed in front of me, the first grabbing for my arm before I could back up to avoid him and beginning to pull me in.

Knowing the strength of my armor, I’ve always been worried about facing people capable of ripping it straight off me. Travis was one of them and these soldiers had the same powers. With nothing else coming as an option, I did what Lee had taught me to do when that was a possibility—punch them hard.

Before the one my right could react, I punched the one that had grabbed me—the one on the left—directly in the front of his helmet. The Rocket suit generates tons of force and unlike at home, I didn’t hold back at all, punching deeply into the soldier’s face, denting the helmet.

He died. I didn’t need to scan him with the sonics to know that for sure and didn’t. The goo flowing out of his helmet was enough of a clue—that and how he fell backward and lay there unmoving.

I didn’t pay attention to that either because I still had the other one to deal with. Twisting to throw the first punch had already “loaded” the second punch and I threw it even as the first body fell.

The second soldier had seen what happened to the first and raised his arm either to block my punch or to grab. He had a problem though. He wasn’t anywhere near as fast or as strong as Travis–who would have been able to grab my arm and guide my body to the ground.

This guy’s arm, despite being encased in armor, shattered with the strength of my blow, hanging at an angle that an unbroken arm couldn’t.

Trained to follow through, I threw another punch as he stumbled backward, hitting him in the head. He went down.

I’d almost never used the Rocket suit’s full strength and in this moment, I understood why. I’d known it intellectually and my grandpa had told me how he’d used it during World War 2, but some things you had to experience firsthand to get them.

At that moment, I understood in my bones that the Rocket suit didn’t need any weapons on it at all.

I’d killed two men and they lay on the ground ahead of me, one of them still jerking and twitching.

Off to the side of me, Dalat shot one soldier and Geman finished him off as he lay on the ground. After a couple of shots, he stopped moving.

On my other side, Marcus knocked one soldier and then another into Tikki’s field where she aged both of them into dust.

I took a breath and reminded myself that I’d killed before. I’d even killed this exact type of genetically modified human during the invasion of Earth where we’d killed Katuk’s father. That had been mostly with lasers and bots though. Punching them to death felt more personal somehow.

Turning their heads to goo felt more personal somehow.

My suit flashed “COLLISION ALERT” in my HUD, something it normally did only while flying and I looked up, pointing my laser in the air, and firing as I saw an Ascendancy soldier above me.

The laser could cut through a battleship’s armor. It cut through his chest as if he wasn’t wearing any armor at all.

He fell to the ground, making no attempt to land on his feet or to roll. The body hit and lay there motionless.

I checked above to see if there were more and there weren’t. I called back some spybots and stationed them around the top of the shields so that we’d know if this happened again.

While the bots moved to their new positions, I took a quick look around us. All the Ascendancy soldiers were dead—the ones that made it over the shields anyway.

More interesting, there appeared to be a lull in the fighting around the shields. It wasn’t that no one was firing, but before the shields had been impossible to see through as they deflected blast after blast.

It was almost as if someone outside wanted to see how we handled the troops dropping in on us over the shields.

As I thought that, the Ascendancy forces started firing again. I had a bad feeling that we’d find out if my suspicions were correct all too soon. In the meantime, I decided to watch the top of the shields and tell everyone else.

15 thoughts on “Trees & Shields: Part 4”

  1. He wasn’t anywhere near as fast or as strong as Travis would have been able to grab me and control my arm, guiding my body to the ground

    Seems like 2 versions of a sentence mixed together.

    1. Yeah it’s a little awkward. It could easily be reworked though.
      “Travis would have been able to grab me and control my arm, guiding me to the ground. He wasn’t nearly as strong as Travis.”

      1. I think even just adding a comma to help indicate that the third “as” is a sentence conjunction, not part of an “as ___ as” phrase, would work:
        He wasn’t anywhere near as fast or as strong, as Travis would have been able to grab me and control my arm, guiding my body to the ground.

  2. He fell to the ground, making no attempt to land on its feet or to roll. It hit and lay there motionless.

    There are various mixes of ‘he’ and ‘it’ throughout the chapter. Not sure if it’s intentional though.

    1. That’s one of those situations where I find myself looking for a gender that English doesn’t have. Basically, the gender I’d be going for is “gender currently indeterminate, but they’ve definitely got one.”

      I’m hesitant to use “he” because I’ve established in the past that they use both men and women as soldiers, but since armor that makes gender obvious is silly, they don’t know which just by looking. That said, “it” doesn’t seem quite right either in that they’re not machines.

      So, I’ve compromised with myself by using “he” except when I forget and use “it.”

      Thanks for noticing though. I think I found each gender mismatch.

  3. I like how you’re not dismissing the whole killing thing. Too many novels include that and then they resolve it in one big thing and then it never gets brought up again.

    1. I sympathize with those novels in that it’s cleaner to only use an issue once and not potentially annoy people by bringing it up again. That said, I feel better about revisiting it every now and again to remind people of where we’ve been with this and that we’ve crossed another threshold in the area.

      1. “I’d killed two men and they lay on the ground ahead of me, one of them still jerking and twitching.”

        I am catching up now, but I really do hope that Nick needs some help dealing with these memories later. The whole current team should, with the possible exception of Cassie, whose mental communion with the insane gun might protect her from PTSD, but THAT might have it’s own issues.

        There is a very good person who they could go to for this, who we’ve seen from time to time. C. I think it could be very good for C to spend a little time with each of the team when they get back. They won’t have to tell him they need help. He will easily pick it up from Jaclyn, I’m sure, and when he works the story out of her, he’ll know the rest of tem need help too.

  4. Don’t know if you’re still editing, but here:

    “He fell to the ground, making no attempt to land on [its] feet or to roll. The body hit and lay there motionless.”

    The pronouns should match.

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