Trees & Shields: Part 24

Cassie turned to watch Jadzen walk toward the Ascendancy troops. Her lips twisted. “It had better be brilliant because there’s not much she can do if she’s just going to walk over there. I’m sure they’d be able to detect if she’s a suicide bomber or if she’s carrying a gun to shoot them or something.”

I thought about it for a second. “She’s a motivator. Maybe she’s hoping to use that? The impression that I got from Kals was that Jadzen was among their best before she decided to turn against the Ascendancy. I mean, Kals was in the same program or something and she could get past my anti-voice defense. We probably avoided getting taken over a few different times because she told me how she did it and I changed my system.”

Cassie cocked her head and then said, “I hope it’s something like that. I was figuring suicide bomb or that maybe she’d get close to the leadership and have the Waroo hit her position, killing herself and taking them out. That’s what I’d do, but I’d survive it. She won’t.”

Thinking about it, it made sense. She wouldn’t want to be reprogrammed into working against everything she cared about. Having the Waroo kill her and as much of the Ascendancy leadership as possible would give us a chance of fighting our way free and ending their reason for searching for her. They might still go after the Council or Kals, but neither had the political weight Jadzen had.

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made and that led to another thought, “What was I going to do about it?”

I passed those thoughts over to Cassie and then the whole conversation we’d had plus my thoughts over to Marcus and Katuk once I noticed that their implants had come online as well.

“That sounds right. Captain Tolker’s keeping everyone close. He’s not making it too obvious, but he’s got techs next to the shield generators. I think he’s hoping to get them back up again.”

I got a flash of Marcus’ perspective. He looked at Tikki who’d stepped over to one of the shield generators.

She frowned. “They can’t be fixed. Shield rams cause a surge in the shield matrix that burns out the generator and jumps to the next shield. I might be able to fix in an hour if I had the right parts and the pair wasn’t too bad.”

Kee was barely even trying anymore. Tikki had never claimed to know very much about shields and now she was diagnosing them. I wished she’d told Marcus back in the caves. I didn’t feel like pretending either. On the other hand, thanks to my implant, I knew the basics of shield technology if I thought about it and Tikki might not have an implant, but she had equivalent tech.

Maybe she was doing a perfect job and I was the problem.

Katuk stood next to Cassie and I. Over the implants, he said, “She must have some way to contact the Xiniti. If you check your implants’ tactical display you’ll find that our people are massing in spots around the edges of the Ascendancy’s forces. It looks as though we intend to attack certain units from both sides and then attack the main Ascendancy group from behind.”

Marcus broke in before I could reply. “Captain Tolker wants the three of you to come closer to the shelter—inside the inner ring if you can. He says to do it quickly, but be casual about it.”

Cassie laughed. “Right. We’ll do a casual retreat.”

“That’s what he’s suggesting.” Marcus shrugged.

Katuk, Cassie and I looked at each other. We weren’t far from the inner ring. If all Captain Tolker wanted was for us to be inside, it wouldn’t take much.

We moved, ash crunching under our feet as we made for the nearest open area between shield generators. We weren’t alone there at all. Ascendancy troops stood only ten feet away from us. They watched as we walked away, crossing over the line where the black and white ash ended and the normal dirt, grass, and leaf covered floor began.

They didn’t move to stop us, saying nothing either.

I didn’t feel safer as we crossed over, but I suspected that we must be or Tolker wouldn’t have made the request.

I checked Jadzen’s position. She’d passed beyond the inner shield ring and was walking toward a cluster of Ascendancy troops. Weffrik Aut, a seven foot tall Ascendancy soldier stood in front of the cluster. His hands held a rifle.

When she reached him, they stopped and began talking. I couldn’t hear them from this distance, but I could see their faces. Hers struck me as superficially friendly. She kept a controlled smile on it as she talked. Weffrik Aut’s face showed a wide smile as she walked up to him, but one that appeared increasingly uncertain as they talked.

By the end, he’d become expressionless. One of the nearby soldiers started talking and she replied to his question, leaving the soldier with his hand on his chin, staring at her.

I wondered if Jadzen might be so good that she’d be able to cut through whatever protections they had against her voice and take over the Ascendancy forces.

At the same time, I doubted we’d be that lucky.

2 thoughts on “Trees & Shields: Part 24”


    Well, okay, not really, but maybe she’s telling them that some member(s) of the resistance know about a human world of “blanks” that can easily adapt to any given powerset and can breed across any of the various lines of the Ascendancy. And that if they wipe them all out, they won’t be able to glean the information to find it, because she “told” those who knew to forget about that world if she dies or the resistance is captured or destroyed (not that she really told them to, but they don’t know that).

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