I wasn’t sure whether Neves was dead, unconscious, or unconscious and dying. Either way, there was something bugging me.
“How did you get him? I thought he absorbed punches.”
Looking down at Neves’ body, Jaclyn said, “I knew that punching him would give him faster and harder to hurt, so I ran from him, thinking that maybe I’d be able to wear him down and then maybe run him past a bunch of Xiniti so they could shoot him with energy weapons. The problem was that he realized it and used a burst of energy to catch me. I punched him then because I had no choice. It knocked him sideways like I intended, and powered him up like I was trying to avoid, but it broke his… absorption field? and hurt him a little.”
She stared down at Neves’ body. “I guessed that the less energy he had to work with, the less force he’d be able to absorb. So, I did what I could to wear him out again, and get some help. That way, when I did punch him again, I’d be in a position to finish it.”
Noting the burn and hole in his chest from my laser, I said, “I’d say it worked.”
Her lip twisted. “I guess. I didn’t really want to kill him. I just wanted all of us to survive.”
“Speaking of which,” I said, “that’s still open. We’d be best off getting back while the Ascendancy’s still disorganized.”
We both turned to look at the small army of soldiers surrounding the shelter.
“Assuming it still is,” Jaclyn said. “Let’s go.”
Jaclyn cleared the crowd with a short run and a long leap that took her almost to the edge of where the internal ring of shields had been. I flew after her, catching up while she was in the air.
We landed at about the same time. The first thing I did upon landing was to turn around to look at the Ascendancy’s troops.
They were still there, standing in the sunlight past the inner ring. Some watched us. Some stood, unmoving. I guessed that the unmoving ones were involved in politicking and discussion about who was going to run things.
I felt sure that Lee would be attacking them all right now if he felt that he had a chance of winning—whatever he viewed his winning condition to be. Captain Tolker wasn’t sending us out to attack. I assumed that he didn’t think we’d win and I couldn’t say I disagreed.
Even now with the Waroo blasting at them from a distance, keeping them from fully committing to a charge, they were still better armed and all of their forces had powers while ours didn’t.
Despite that, I wished Lee were here. I didn’t know for sure how he’d handle it, but if Lee were here, I’d suggest that the Ascendancy’s soldiers should go over their wills one last time.
We’d worked out some ideas in case they attacked, but we’d be using them for the first time together here.
Kals walked up as everyone else did. She didn’t stamp her feet as she walked, but gait made me think that she should be stamping her feet. As Jaclyn explained what happened to Neves, Kals stopped next to me.
“We need to do something and Captain Tolker says we need to wait. We can’t just sit though. We need to do something.”
A shot from the Waroo ship slammed into the ground, killing at least ten Ascendancy soldiers that were moving closer to our camp. The rest scattered and ran back toward the main body of their troops as Ascendancy forces fired back with their bigger guns.
That in turn brought a response from the ship. A beam struck a group of troops clustered around a long barreled energy weapon, leaving them blackened and the gun bent and broken.
“I know, but we can’t strike out with no plan. We can’t outfight them one to one. We need to make them lose the will to fight. Otherwise they’ll swamp us with numbers. Um… How’s your mom?”
Kals took a breath. “Dying, and everyone knows it. We’ve said our goodbyes. I was thinking that maybe if we were lucky, we win soon enough that we could bring her to Iolan’s lab and…”
She stopped. She wasn’t crying, but the corners of her eyes glistened. If we weren’t in the middle of a fight and if I didn’t have my armor on, I’d have put my arm on her shoulder and maybe given her a hug or talk about it and let her cry or something.
In armor, a hug wouldn’t work.
I said, “I’m sorry,” and put my left hand on her shoulder anyway.
Looking up at me, she said, “Thanks.” Glancing over at my arm, she added, “Nice try, but please stop. Right now, I know I don’t have time to cry. Right now, we need to kill them all.”
I withdrew my hand and I felt like I should say something, but in that moment my implant notified me that we’d received a communication from the Xiniti—real ones, not us.
“Xiniti trainees. We understand why you didn’t go as told and respect it. We didn’t tell you that to force you to leave your clients unprotected or your mission unfinished. We did it because we don’t like to lose promising young ones. Now, like us, you may die on this mission.
“Our surveillance indicates that the Ascendancy has sent down fighters to attack the Waroo ship and that the Ascendancy have resolved their leadership issues and will attack soon. We’ll try to assist you.”
From the Ascendancy forces came a loud shout and the sound of thundering footsteps.