Chapter 33

                “Allen, to your left! Amber, one in the back is starting to shake it off. Selena, you’re doing great, just keep it up.” Mary spat out the orders quickly, turning her focus to a Sim she’d already witnessed cause the concrete under them to ripple like an ocean wave. Probably linked to machines beneath their feet to simulate rock-manipulation or something. She didn’t really care about the how; Mary was more concerned with making sure it couldn’t get enough of its bearings to actually mount an attack.

                Her telekinetic strike dented its kneecaps, but didn’t have enough power to actually break them. Evidently, this one was packing some enhanced endurance. Power, however, was not something Mary lacked. In fact, learning to control her force enough to manage more delicate manipulation had been her highest hurdle at Lander. If this task required letting loose, then she would happily comply. This time, the strike shattered both metal kneecaps, bending them backward and sending the Sim tumbling to the ground. As it landed, Selena’s song took hold once more and it went limp.

                The plan had been a simple one, as soon as they realized who had gathered to take on the fight. Selena began to sing the Sims to sleep, while Amber put up a sound wall that amplified and directed her voice, making it much louder while pushing it away from the rest of the humans’ ears. The combination was devastating, as nine of the twelve immediately began to succumb to her song. Those who didn’t were easily spotted, and as soon as they were Allen, Mary, or Amber would pick them off with their ranged abilities. Some went down easier than others, but with Selena working as crowd control they were able to neutralize them carefully, focusing on injury over death. Her song wasn’t perfect though, and every now and then one of the conscious Sims would begin to fight off its effects. That was why Mary kept a keen eye trained on their opponents, ready for any signs of their will to fight returning.

                Allen had blasted off the limbs of his Sim, while Amber merely snapped her fingers and another dropped. Allegedly she was targeting their inner ears and making them too dizzy to stand, though Mary would be curious to see the actual reports when the test was done. Amber was powerful, no one doubted that, but her control had never been quite so well-honed. Then again, it had been a long summer with a lot to think about. It would be foolish to assume the only training that went on took place at that out-of-the-way camp.

                “This feels a little too easy,” Allen said. He wasn’t being boastful, there was genuine worry in his voice, and Mary could understand why. They’d lucked into a dynamite combination with Amber and Selena, but still… this was going a bit better than she trusted. Too many years in the HCP had taught her that if it seemed easy, she merely hadn’t grasped the true challenge yet.

                “Amber, can you do that echolocation thing again?” Mary asked. “There were a lot of straggler Sims outside the fights, and I want to be sure we’re not getting surrounded.”

                “One sec.” Amber puckered her lips and let out a long, low note that seemed to wash across Mary as it bounded out into the world beyond them. “I’ve got a blind spot where Selena is singing, obviously, but for the most part they’re staying… wait, never mind. We’ve got a group coming from the west. About five more, heading here fast.”

                “Damnit, they’ll come up right behind us,” Allen said. His distraction caused him to miss a shot, neatly tearing the head off a Sim, instead of merely injuring it. Mary winced involuntarily at the sight. Even in practice, that sort of thing set her teeth on edge.

                “Amber, can you wrap that sound wall around us in a circle?” Mary asked.

                “Probably, but it’ll take more concentration, so don’t count on as much firepower,” Amber replied.

                “That’s fine. Bring Selena closer, then wrap us up. I’ll go around that with a wall of force. As long as Selena is singing, we can keep picking them off one at a time.” Mary hesitated, doing a sweep of the remaining Sims still in her line of sight. “One thing, though. Telekinetic shields are usually only good against physical attacks, stuff with mass. Allen, you, and I have to take down every Sim we see wielding any kind of energy. If they get off a shot, we’ll be sitting ducks.”

                “It’s going to be hard to go for the knock-out at this range.” It wasn’t a request for permission, not really, but Allen still wanted her to know what her plan entailed. This method would come with casualties, and even though they were simulated, the students would be held accountable for them. That was what this training was all about.

                “Our priority is saving the civilians and putting down the Sims,” Mary replied. “If you can do that without killing, do. If not… well, we can’t let them run around destroying things. They made their choice.”

                “I’ll do my best to help out where I can,” Amber replied. “Just don’t try and depend on me.”

                “Got it, anything you bring down is only bonus, Allen and I will do the heavy lifting.” Mary glanced to the west, and now she could see the new Sims moving as they made their way between the buildings. Amber’s echolocation had pinned them perfectly, and Mary was thankful for it. They might have been caught unaware otherwise. However, thinking about that skill gave Mary a terrifying realization.

                “Amber, if you’re wrapping us in a sound wall and broadcasting Selena’s voice in all directions, does that mean you can’t do more echolocation?”

                “Fuck… yeah, it does.” Amber snapped her fingers and took down another of the original twelve Sims. There were only four still standing, all under Selena’s spell, but the longer it went on the more signs of life they showed. “As long as we’re hunkered down like that, we’re going to be blind to any other Sims’ movement.”

                “All the more reason to get it done quickly,” Allen said.

                “Quickly and carefully,” Mary countered. “Remember, Heroes don’t kill because it’s convenient.”

                Allen snorted, shaking his head just as the first of the new Sims finally stepped into view. “We’re about to be surrounded on all sides by robotic opponents, several of which are shaking off Selena’s song and the rest with abilities that we have no info on. What part of any of this feels convenient?”

                Though Mary would never admit it, Allen had her there.