Trees & Shields: Part 8

In the dark, the ship was practically invisible with the black shield that surrounded it. Plus, Hal hadn’t fired from just above the trees. Knowing the range of the main gun, he could have been miles away.

Given that the atmosphere interfered with the beam, he’d probably been within a mile though.

So all I could know was that the beams and explosions didn’t send pieces of the ship crashing down on us from above. It seemed reasonable to assume that he’d made it.

Deciding to assume the best for the ship didn’t help me with my other problem—the Ascendancy soldiers that had come over the top of the shields while the shield went down.

Blasting away with the sonics at frequencies that destroyed tech was not an option. I turned away from the downed shield, hoping that others would be able to handle whatever came from the front. Bearing mind that I saw only ash from that direction at the moment, it seemed likely.

It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. Our snipers had taken out quite a few on the way down. Plus, Jaclyn and Tikki had come back inside while I’d been conversing with the ship.

The dog had even taken one down, grabbing him by the neck, biting down and shaking until the soldier’s limbs stopped moving.

I’d seen Marcus fighting too. While he used guns too, flexible limbs let him pull off armor or grab soldiers and swing them into trees, sometimes while they were still in the air.

While I didn’t see Rachel directly, I saw evidence that she was in the fight. Beyond heads exploding from her bullets, soldiers’ bodies would sometimes spasm as she reached through their armor to touch them with the taser gloves I’d made her.

I’d been planning to watch for any soldiers aiming for the generator poles, but I didn’t have to. As one soldier made a break for the nearest pole, a purple blur appeared, knocking him backward to the ground, unconscious or dead.

In the end, I helped take down the ones that were jumping from tree to tree, trying to avoid getting shot and get closer to the generator poles. I also helped with the few that were still jumping in.

By the time they stopped, no Ascendancy soldiers were left alive within the circle. They weren’t even trying to rush the open spot in the shields.

I activated the rockets and flew to the top of the shelter, using it to look all the way around us.

I couldn’t see anyone.

The ship had burned down anything that Jaclyn hadn’t knocked over. The only things blocking my view were the trees next to and within the shields and the shields themselves. Otherwise, we had at least fifty feet of flat, ash-covered ground on all sides.

I could understand why the Ascendancy might back off in the face of the ship, but knowing that they were giving chase to it, I had no idea why they wouldn’t be pouring troops into here now that it was gone.

Adjusting the suit’s sensitivity to audio, I listened for hints of what might be going on.

I heard the sounds of fighting—a lot of it. My first thought was the Xiniti, but the Xiniti we’d seen weren’t a large enough group to do much more than hit the edges of a larger force—maybe even carve chunks out of that force. They weren’t large enough to force the Ascendancy to reassign their entire landing force when what they wanted was to capture Jadzen.

Beyond that, it was way too optimistic to hope we’d intimidated the Ascendancy into giving up.

Rachel appeared next to me on the roof. “Have you figured it out yet?”

I opened my eyes and looked at her. “Why they left?”

She smiled. “And who’s coming.”

Then I heard a gun fire. My implant identified it as a laser rifle commonly sold to mercenaries within the Human Quarantine but  one that wasn’t commonly used among Human Ascendancy troops.

That narrowed it down. I knew who to expect before they appeared—hundreds of colonists, all of them dressed in the same light armor and carrying the same rifles as the people we already had. Crawls-Through-Desert floated along next to them, giving directions.

That wasn’t all. They arrived with more shield generators—many more, setting another circle around the one we had.

In the distance, I could see flashes of bright light and heard screams. My implant identified the lights as Xiniti weapons. They had to be distracting the  Ascendancy soldiers so we had time to set up defenses.

On the roof, I turned to Rachel. “How did you know?”

Her mouth twisted. “I pick up what the other Ghosts know sometimes. It’s not all good. The Ascendancy is getting reinforcements.”

4 thoughts on “Trees & Shields: Part 8”

  1. [[Her mouth twisted. “I pick up what the other Ghosts know sometimes. It’s not all good. The Ascendancy is getting reinforcements.”]]

    It mattered that Nick’s group was able to hold out until they got their reinforcements, but it seems like it’ll ultimately boil down to who gets more reinforcements overall.

    I suppose I understand the Ascendancy’s win conditions to be “kill or capture all the rebels”, but I don’t have a good grip on what it will take for Nick’s side to win this. How many Ascendancy troops and ships do they have to kill before it’s “enough” and the Ascendancy retreats? Do they know?

    The Ascendancy seems big enough that theoretically they could just keep bringing in more and more ships and win eventually if they really want to, so it’s more a question of when they decide the cost is too high.

    1. I don’t think the ascendancy is any bigger than the Xinitii, so I think it’s just a matter of when they recognize that the Xinitii have won. If they win the battle in space, they win he ground battle in effect. Vice versa as well, so it’s really just Nick’s group holding out until the Xinitii hopefully win IIRC

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