1.51 Mutually Assured Destruction

1.51 Mutually Assured Destruction

Cogs: Malicious Designs
1.51 Mutually Assured Destruction

Before Zin’s fingertip touched Thorn’s temple, there was a click that drew everybody’s eyes to the other side of the room where Laurill, Gabe, and Maxian had been dumped against the bar.

Gabe crouched on one knee. In his right hand, he held a small blaster aimed at Thorn and his cadre. His left hand came up from the device that had bound Maxian’s feet and prevented him from shifting into his dualist form. The device fell to the floor, and Avril realized Gabe had used the cover of Zin’s conversation with Thorn to retrieve a concealed weapon and break Maxian and Laurill free.

The bonds that had held their wrists behind their backs had been cut, and a small knife was on the floor.

Avril registered that Laurill no longer wore the device that shone light into her eyes, and then she met his gaze and slid away into the shadows.

Before she went, Avril saw regret there, and he understood. Laurill, like Avril, believed Zin could help the cadre, but by escaping from their bonds the cadre would react with violence and a peaceful outcome was no longer available to them.

Maxian surged to his feet and charged the cadre with his thickly muscled arms spread wide to tackle as many of them as he could.

Avril wanted to shout that Zin was getting through to the cadre, that they didn’t need to fight, but Laurill was right. It was too late for that now.

Gabe dropped to a crouch next to Avril and worked on the catches that held the anti-jamming device in place.

“You never told me you were a jammer. I’m gonna have to start charging per rescue,” Gabe quipped as the device fell free.

Maxian had barreled into the cadre and knock three of them to the ground. Another two went down, and Zin stumbled backward, knocked aside by the clash.

The powerfully built dualist charged two more bondsan and took one of them down with a mighty backhand and collided with the other, knocking them into a wall and to their knees.

Other bondsan had recovered and raised their weapons toward Maxian.

As soon as the device around Avril’s wrists was free, he jammed the blasters.

Weapons clicked an instant later as the bondsan recovered and converged on Maxian, but the weapons didn’t discharge.

“Sweet,” Gabe said with a chuckle, and raised his blaster to start shooting.

Without thinking, Avril jammed his weapon too.

“We don’t have to fight them,” Avril blurted.

“Sweet Abyss!” Gabe snapped. “Are you fucking serious?”

Gabe stood from his crouch, watching the bondsan who were now gathering around Maxian as the dualist fought them off.

Avril tried to stand, but a wave of dizziness made him stumble, and he placed one hand on the floor and shook his head.

Gabe charged a bondsan from behind and hit them on the back of the head with the butt of his blaster. He turned back to Avril and demanded, “What are you waiting for?”

Avril stood and steadied himself against a wall.

“Jam the bastards!” Gabe shouted.

Maxian was surrounded now. He was strong and bigger than the bondsan, but he couldn’t fight them all, and the confines of the bar made it impossible for him to shift into his dragon form.

Avril gathered his will and tensed to incapacitate the bondsan by jamming their implants, but a window shattered and the small metal sphere that broke the pane of glass struck one of the bondsan on the back and then dropped to the ground.

Avril recognized it as the EMP bomb Laurill had taken from the car.

An instant later, the bondsan dropped to their knees with their hands clasping the sides of the heads.

Still backed against the wall, Maxian’s chest and shoulders rose and fell as he breathed. His fists were up and ready to fight, but he held his ground as the bondsan groaned in pain.

Another bondsan fell to the floor from their knees when Gabe struck them on the back of the head with the butt of his weapon.

“Don’t!” Avril shouted at Gabe and grabbed the other man’s elbow to stop him hitting anybody else.

Gabe yanked his arm free and turned on Avril with a confused expression. He was about to say something, but the front door into the bar slammed open. They both turned to see the new danger, but Laurill stood in the entrance with the heavy laser-cannon she’d taken from Avril’s car earlier.

Gabe grinned when he saw the weapon, but Laurill’s expression revealed her regret and she snapped, “We should have waited. Zin—”

“Pfft,” Gabe scoffed, and turned to gesture at the cadre.

He was going to say more, but Zin was carefully picking her way through the kneeling bondsan.

“What the fuck?” Gabe muttered, but everybody ignored him.

Zin crouched in front of one of the bondsan and gently placed her hands on his shoulders.

When the bondsan looked up, Avril saw the bullet wound on his cheek and realized this was Thorn, the first-sworn.

The pain in his expression eased, and he glanced around at his cadre-mates, who were all still kneeling and in pain. His gaze came back to Zin, and his eyes implored her to help.

Zin nodded and stood, guiding Thorn to his feet.

Avril strode into the center of the room to retrieve the EMP bomb Laurill had thrown through the window. Avril found the off switch and deactivated the disruptive pulse.

“What are you doing?” Gabe demanded.

Avril looked at him from across the room, but ignored his question to watch Zin and Thorn.

The bondsan’s groaning stopped and the cadre-mates on their knees looked at each other and then up at Thorn and Zin.

“Let me help you,” Zin said.

Thorn studied her for an instant, then lowered his head, and Zin reached up to touch his temple.