74: Nam


If she had more time remaining, she could circle around and direct Rogan and Jack’s attention down the opposite slope, grouping the skirmishers on the ground and the wingers pursuing her on the same side in the bargain.

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She did not have the luxury of more time, at the rate at which she was tiring.

Fatigue ate at her limbs, so there was nothing for it. She reached the end of the tree cover and made her final weaving sprint uphill toward the safety of Rogan’s heavy-duty barriers. Just as she predicted, a round struck the dirt to one side of her. The men fired above her head at the approaching wingers as the image from Ooe showed her the ground troops now reaching the edge of the forest undergrowth.

Too late, she realized her speed was too high to stop inside the redoubt. It would require more flux than she could channel in her state.

It would require several additional une, and she would pay dearly for it later, but she had no choice. As she reached the summit and her foot hit the top of the breastwork, she triggered the owl feather and went invisible. Through Ecoue’s eyes she could see Rogan continue to fire, but Jack was tracking her arc over his head. As she’d gambled, her stealth wasn’t working on him at all. He crossed to the opposite wall in her wake while she charged downhill at the incoming soldiers. Behind her, Jack hollered a warning to Rogan as he discovered the new threat.

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The ground troops, alerted by the fire from the men, emerged from the trees in a wide arc. A dozen Gireid, most of them equipped like the two who had supported the Earther half-breed Ilidi girl. Those did not worry her. The aging female squad leader readying a heavier anti-materiel weapon was different matter.

Her sense told her the pair of wingers had taken separate paths around the hill. Rogan landed a hit on the one circling to the east. She was shielded, but the force of his flux-enhanced round drove her into a dive, putting her out of the fight for the moment.

Nam veered away from the squad leader, taking aim at the soldier at the end, but the other winger was focused on her now and she had to shield both directions. The force of the lightning bolt striking the ground would have overwhelmed it, had the winger placed the shot better. Her owl unen was failing, but still effective enough to throw off the girl’s aim.

She was weakening rapidly. The soldiers could see her now, as well. They couldn’t all be superior flux artists, so that meant she was becoming visible to eyes as well as flux-sense.

Jack fired on the winger. Without flux enhancement, his bullets would never penetrate the girl’s barrier, but the winger didn’t know that, and so banked away from it. Nam gave him a silent thank you, then concentrated her barrier fully ahead and plowed between the two soldiers on the end, her scaled-up eagle’s claws raking deep wounds in their arms as she cleared the screens on their weapons.

Rogan was engaging the ground threat now. Althem must have directed him to the squad leader. He was using his remaining ammo on her.

You’ve done your job, Nam, she told herself. Time to find a hiding spot.

Except that the winger had extended her bank into a wide circle, to return to the fight. It was possible she realized that Jack’s weapon was an ordinary handgun. Nam switched to a course intercepting her, her mind spinning furiously to figure out what she could do.

And that damnable squad leader appeared to be pursuing her as well. She was now running far too low on answers while still possessing far too many problems.

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