Metal skinned warriors though they were, the cyborgs took advantage of the rocks and boulders strewn on their side of the field. What few trees there were also got utilized along with the trees on the hillside where the super soldiers hunkered down and returned fire. Curiously, the super soldiers were not caught unprepared. The power beams from their rifles split the trees and shattered the corners of the stone.
Sung Ao watched as one cyborg got blasted dead center. It went down, but after a second, it started to get up again. It got blasted a second time, and this time it stayed down. Several super soldiers got struck and they tended to stay down.
Jai came up to Sung Ao’s shoulder and commented on the fight. “This could go on for a while.”
“Maybe not,” Sung Ao said and pointed. The cyborgs brought up their machine, or whatever it was. It floated on a gravity bubble and Sung Ao tried to remember where he saw such a machine before. He watched as the cyborgs kept the machine behind some rocks. It appeared to be protected by screens of some sort, but they were not about to expose it until they were ready. It came to him. Of course, Kirstie only saw it after Sukki and Elder Stow melted it, but it looked like the photon cannon the Flesh Eaters used in Norway back then… He wondered who Kirstie was, but then he had to concentrate on what the cyborgs were doing. The battle was going about even, but there were more super soldiers on the hill than cyborgs down below. That meant the super soldiers could lose half their men and still be victorious. Sung Ao wondered if the photon canon might be used to sweep the hillside.
Jai tapped his shoulder and pointed to the wide cave up the side of the hill. “A docking bay for their ship,” he said. “The Sevarese used to park in the same way when they came to earth.”
“Of course,” Sung Ao shouted, and quickly looked back from where he hid behind a boulder. The men in his camp all looked like they were drunk on something. The bandits across the way looked the same, or even worse. “The big bad is in the cave,” he concluded.
“That would be my guess,” Jai agreed.
Sung Ao heard a soft whine over the sound of battle. His eyes went to the photon canon. The cyborgs pushed it out from the rocks. He heard an answering whine come from the cave. Several cyborgs stood in front of the machine, like willing sacrifices. They got cut down with two or three shots, but the photon canon fired before the ship in the cave had a chance to return fire.
Sung Ao saw the screens in the cave turn red and rapidly climb the color scale to purple before they blacked out. Sung Ao ducked, and Jai ducked with him. The cave exploded. It was a massive explosion, but fortunately, mostly absorbed by the hill and mountain that contained it. The front of the cave completely collapsed. Perhaps the whole cave collapsed. The ground shook, and a few more good-sized rocks fell from the cliff. Then only little wisps of smoke came out the cracks left in the cave entrance, and Sung Ao had to say something.
“Thanks. I have to clean that up.”
The super soldiers collapsed. The five remaining cyborgs checked them briefly before their feet fired up, their legs stiffened, and they sped away at a good clip about two feet off the ground. They left the photon cannon where it was. Sung Ao had to run out and turn it off. Then he looked at his people and at the bandits. They all appeared to be unconscious.
Hardly two hours later, Sung Ao and Jai saw a ship take off for the outer atmosphere. “The cyborg ship, I presume,” Jai said.
Sung Ao nodded before he said, “God, I hope so.”
After another five minutes, the super soldiers woke up along with Sung Ao’s people and the bandits. roughly a third of the super soldiers went to join the bandits. They forgot their rifles but took their handguns with them. The men returned to their positions to fight. The bandits dismounted and prepared to do battle. Sung Ao and Jai both looked at the collapsed cave. They saw something slithering through the trees and Sung Ao swore. He turned the photon canon back on, but it would need a minute to warm up.
The super soldiers in the field fired on the men behind the wall and boulders. Some men died. The super soldiers that joined Sung Ao’s people returned fire, and some men in the field fell. A rain of arrows fell on the boulders. More died or were wounded. The men behind the boulders fired back and a few in the field got stuck, including a couple of super soldiers. Then came the charge and more arrows from the boulders. Super soldiers were firing in both directions, and Sung Ao saw Niccolo, Maffeo, and Marco pick up swords and run to get in the middle of it.
“No!” Sung Ao yelled, and curiously, everyone stopped, and all eyes turned on Sung Ao and Jai. Sung Ao vaguely remembered this happening before, maybe more than once.
The nearest men yelled at Sung Ao. “Why can’t I possess you?”
Jai put his hand to his head, but there was no way an abomination could possess a nature spirit, even in manifest form. It might give Jai a headache, though. Jai turned insubstantial so the abomination had nothing to latch on to. “Forgive me,” Jai said to Sung Ao.
“Quite all right,” Sung Ao responded before he shouted to the trees. “Even the gods of this world were not allowed inside my mind.”
“I am a god,” the abomination said through the nearest man, and it echoed among many men, bandits and super soldiers included. “I am the god.”
He no sooner finished speaking and Boston and Sukki came from the trees, followed by Lockhart and Katie, Lincoln and Alexis, Decker and Elder Stow. The wagon stayed in the woods with Nanette and Tony riding shotgun and Gan Ao driving the mule. Nanette complained, if only she had her magic back.
Everyone got down right away and pulled their weapons. Nanette and Tony whistled and got the horses back in among the trees. People raced to get behind the rocks and boulders in the field. Alexis pulled her wand and sent a great wind that scattered the bandits’ horses. Boston laid down a line of fire to keep everyone back. And Sung Ao yelled.
“Lockhart. Go for the trees on the hill.”
Elder Stow got confused. There had been a battle. They were in a battle. He thought to put the screens up against the people turning on them. He thought to pull his weapon to rake the enemy with fire, or maybe his sonic device.
Katie and Decker figured it out right away. They opened fire on the trees, and the bandits, Sung Ao’s men, and the super soldiers turned on the travelers, heedless of the wind or fire. They heard screams coming from the people but did not know if it was screams of anger or pain. They assumed it was the abomination verbalizing its pain. Bullets were a new thing.
Lockhart turned with his shotgun and started blasting the men and super soldiers that got too close. Those men forgot all about their bows, spears, and guns, and acted like animals that would only be satisfied with ripping the travelers apart with their bare hands. Lincoln and Tony came up to join in the melee, shooting men at random when they came close. Sukki finally reacted and threw out her hands. The whole front row of oncoming men became like charcoal. Sung Ao had one brief fear to lose the Polos, but by then, Elder Stow just about decided. Sung Ao fired the photon canon, and the trees lit up, showing exactly where the abomination was located. The abomination, however, figured out how to mentally project screens of its own, and they were strong enough to protect it from the photon cannon, at least for a bit.
“No!” Sung Ao yelled again and turned the canon back on. He held the switch against the abomination turning it off again. The abomination started to strain, and in a last effort, it ripped a boulder from the ground and heaved it at the machine. The people scattered when the photon canon got crushed, but by then, Elder Stow figured it out. He fired his weapon full blast at the thing in the trees. It tore through whatever flimsy screen the abomination could project and fried the thing. The men and few remaining super soldiers in the field collapsed again as the abomination rapidly burned to a crisp. The trees there also burned and would soon be charcoal themselves. It fell to the ground and appeared to shrivel up before it liquified, and Sung Ao pronounced it dead.
“Dead as a doornail,” Gan Ao said. Sung Ao hugged the old man with a word. “You should not be here.”