The hunters were the first to crest the hill. Their eyes followed a trail of twisted, broken metal. At the end of the wreckage was the blackened remains of the small ship, trailing black smoke. It looked like a ball of trash that had been crumpled up and thrown away.
The side of the ship exploded outward and a large robot emerged, cradling a small man in his arms.
The manticore slammed to the ground and Char slid down to the sand. Spells of healing flashed across his mind. He was ready now. “Is he ok?”
The robot turned his massive head to respond. His eyes were large, and the iris were rings of electronic lines. When he spoke, it was loud enough for all to hear, like from a machine. “He’s fine. His breed faints any time there is real danger.” He laughed, a harsh, metallic rumble, “That’s why he’s not a combat pilot.” He paused. “He’s not much of a combat anything.”
Char squinted at the robot. He was covered with a grey plastic that almost looked like skin. Was that sweat under his arms? “Who are you?” the next question tumbled out before he could stop himself. “ What are you?”
The robot tilted his head back in an amplified laugh. “The name is Liam. I may look like a machine, but I’m still a human on the inside. I’m what you call a ‘a full-conversion cyborg.’ This here is Nicko, the cat-man.”
The other women were gathering around them. They admired the new pair with interest.
“Cat… man?” asked one.
Samia stepped forward. “I don’t know what a cyborg or a cat-man is, but we would like to know your intentions.”
Amaunet tightened her grip on a notched arrow. She kept her eyes locked on the newcomer making his way up the slope.
Liam lowered Nicko in the dirt like a delicate package and straightened again, raising both hands in peace. His gaze took in the surrounding women, ignoring the multiple arrows aimed at him. “Don’t worry about that guy. He’ll be fine. He’ll be awake shortly.
“I really wanted to thank you ladies for the assist back there. We didn’t have our escape plan completely thought out.”
Samia nodded at him, cautious, “You were escaping from a UN outpost. We are at war with the UN. Any enemy of the UN is a friend of ours.”
Liam laughed again, this time with hands on his hips. “How about that? Today started as just another boring day.”
Zahra spoke up. “These creatures have escaped from a UN outpost. They will be out to search for them. We need to hide ourselves.”
Char cleared his throat. “I have that covered.”
Closing his eyes, Char murmured a spell. Hot air shimmered in waves around them. Suddenly, green grasses and trees begin to pop out of the ground-lush and green. Behind them, a lake formed, seeming to grow out of the sand.
“That should do it,” said Char. “A little phantasmal terrain will keep them searching.”
“Looks like y’all have yourselves a little wizard. Pretty handy, that.”
He admired to lush jungle that had appeared around them. He switched his vision to infra-red. It looked real to all his sensors. That means it would look real to anybody looking for them.
He nodded. Nice.
He looked back to Samia. She was clearly in charge.
“We literally didn’t have any plans. Wanna see where this goes? Where are y’all headed? My borg abilities will come in handy.” He looked down at Nicko, “Sadly, this one has very few skills that will come in handy, but at least he’s entertaining.” He looked up at the rest of the group. It was a decent size party. “What other capabilities are we working with?”
Samia held up her hand, “You first. I don’t know what a cy-borg is. Our city had little use for technology.
Liam tapped his head. A hollow clank reverberated. “Up here, I still have the brain of a human. Aside from my eyes, that’s all I have left. That’s the ‘full-conversion’ part. Some cyborgs are just a little robot.” He motioned up and down on his body, “I’m all heavy metal, baby!”
Maani grunted under her breath, “I don’t know if he answered the question.”
Liam looked from face to face. “No? Nothing?”
Kerr raised his hand, “Yeah, I’m tracking with you. Go on.”
“As far as abilities, most of my senses are enhanced. If I had my weapons mounted, I’d be set up for battle. As it is, they only equipped me for hauling boxes. Unfortunately, what you see is what you get.” He tapped his chest. The metal twanged. “My hull can take a lot of damage. Your arrows there can’t penetrate me.”
Amaunet murmured. Her arrow flashed in light. “How about an arrow of light?”
Liam chuckled. “Like a laser? Wouldn’t even tickle. Go ahead, try it.”
The words were barely out of his mouth before Amaunet let fly with her arrow. The women collectively sucked in a breath.
The bolt of light crushed into the metal of his chest. He didn’t even flinch. The arrow crumbled and tumbled to the ground, a smoking pile of ash.
Kerr was curious. “Energy absorption?”
Liamed turned his focus to the scientist. “Most forms of energy. Kinetic energy can penetrate my armor with sufficient force.”
Kerr nodded. “Interesting.”
Samia raised an eyebrow. “Impressive. Now what did you mean by ‘inhassed sinces?’”
Liam shrugged his massive shoulders. “I can hear things a normal person cannot. For instance, I can hear the woman who is approaching us through the desert. You should probably take up defensive positions.”
Samia’s eyes widened for a split second, but she was quick to mask her surprise. She motioned at her archers with two fingers and then waved them in a circle above her head. Take defensive positions.
The hunters complied, quick and silent. They arranged themselves in a protective arc in the front. Each had her bow raised and pointed toward the jungle behind them.
Now they could all hear the noise. A panting and crashing. Whoever it was, she was making no attempt to mask her approach.
A woman emerged from the underbrush, gasping for air. Her face was red and a large, leather-bound tome was clutched to her chest.
Isis brightened, “Yaasmin!”
Originally published at https://mwmccabe.com on January 27, 2020.
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