Trees & Shields: Part 16

I’d never been hit by Cassie’s gun at full blast. In training, we’d sparred a few times with it, but never at full power.

It would be nice to say that I don’t have anything to compare the pain to, but that would be wrong. Fire from a dragon hit my arm a year earlier, cooking it all the way through. That had been intensely painful in the first instants and completely painless after that when my arm became little more than cooked meat.

This felt much like that. The heat hit, surrounding my entire chest, combining with the pain to make it hard to breathe, much less scream. It had one crucial difference from my experience with the dragon though. It didn’t cook me. As the heat hit me, the suit’s air conditioning turned on, flooding the inside of the suit with cold.

Better, even though there were error messages, there weren’t many. The suit hadn’t melted. If it worked as designed, it hadn’t absorbed much of the heat.

The error messages stated that the suit was repairing damage, but didn’t indicate any special danger—which meant all that I’d done to improve the suit’s resistance to heat had worked. I still didn’t know if I’d survive a dragon so old it was practically a god, but surviving an Abominator gun was good enough for the moment.

This time around I couldn’t assume that Lee would be there to pull my butt out of the more than metaphorical fire.

Not waiting for her to fire a second shot, I jumped 30 feet sideways. My helmet’s near 360 degree vision and the Xiniti implant’s passive recording and recall left me with a good sense of Kamia’s expression as I leaped sideways. Her eyes widened and she leaned forward, mouth in a straight line.

I opened up on her with the sonics. They seemed to be working on everyone else’s shield. Why shouldn’t they work on hers?

Her shield flickered. For a moment, it definitely went down, but the shield generator restored it within seconds.

She aimed the gun at me again, firing—except this time I moved again, jumping forward as colonists behind the shield ring fired on her and all of the Ascendancy soldiers behind us.

The Ascendancy soldiers, in turn, were firing at the shield ring, but also sometimes at me.

Hearing and feeling a boom that shook the ground, I spared a moment’s thought to wonder where Jaclyn and Neves were fighting, but I didn’t have time for more than that. Whatever else might be true, I was the only thing between Kamia and taking down the shield for the moment.

Ignoring the possibility that it was already too late, I activated the rockets and hurtled toward her again, aiming for her shield and taking hits from Ascendancy forces as I flew.

She’d changed her shield to be form-fitting rather than round earlier and so this time when I hit, she fell over, her shield making her too slippery to grapple.

I slid across her onto the ground, pulling myself up at about the same time she did. She began to move her gun in my direction and as I jumped to the side of her, she dropped her arm and ran toward the shield ring. She didn’t just run, but she jumped, landing within 20 feet of the wall.

At about the same time, the Ascendant Guard caught up with us and a big Guard member hit me in the lower side with his shoulder in a move that wouldn’t have been out of place on a football field.

I came around with a palm hand strike to his nearest shoulder, knocking him sideways, flipping him over. In that moment, I decided that risking being shot might be better than getting tackled by hundreds of soldiers.

I gave the rockets fuel and shot upward, looking for Kamia and seeing her running toward the shields. Even as I began to turn toward her, one of the Guard jumped up, grabbing my legs.

I wasn’t sure what he thought he’d do, but he wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the moment. The flying Guard members started throwing energy blasts in my direction despite the Guard member hanging on me.

Not wanting to give the guy on my legs time to start ripping my armor off or to make it easy for the flyers to get me, I did what I planned to do anyway, aiming myself toward the shield ring and Kamia. With any luck, I still might have time to distract her.

The guy on my legs didn’t improve the Rocket suit’s mobility, but on the other hand, he also didn’t have time to attack me since he was too busy trying to hang on.

With blasts of red energy passing me in the air, I caught up to Kamia as she neared the shield. My hit caught her in the shoulder, knocking her over, but even as I did it, I could see the blue of the shield fade.

A section of the outer shield went down and the Ascendant Guard, followed by Ascendancy soldiers rushed toward it.

6 thoughts on “Trees & Shields: Part 16”

  1. I’m caught up. I started reading years ago, then fell off for an extended multi-year break. I recently found it again, maybe in October or November, and picked it back up from early in the first year of Nick at College, and no I’ve caught up. It’s astounding, and a great read.

    Thank you Jim

    1. You’re welcome, and thanks for coming back. I wonder how often people do what you did. It’s a reasonable choice to take a break and come back when one or more novel sized chunks are finished (or are close to finished).

      1. I took a break for a month or two, after a re-write or something like that a while ago, memory is fuzzy.

        It really is a great read

          1. I started back when I was in high school sophomore year maybe so like 7 years ago or something and I’ve done my best to read every chapter as it comes out but I did take a long break at one point, couldn’t stay away tho

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