They were still
scanning the empty sky when urgent calls came from the other end
of the box. Ferren whirled.
were abandoning their louvres and sinking to the floor. Ferren,
Miriael and Neb did the same.
In the next moment,
the steel walls resounded with bumps and thumps and clattering.
Black shapes moved in the louvres, blocking the light on one side
of the box.
along the floor to rejoin the others. He didn't need to ask what
was happening. The Humen front line had drawn back as far as their
own hideout. Now Hypers were using the overturned machine as a defensive
barrier. He could hear the snarls of their voices and occasional
bursts of gunfire. The black shapes were their rubber-clad legs
Residuals whispered among themselves. The Hypers' attention was
entirely upon the advancing angels. They weren't likely to look
in through the louvres. But some of the Residuals wanted to take
a more active role.
'Shoot them through
the louvres,' suggested Zonda. 'We could wipe them out before they
know we're here.'
Kiet. 'Sabotage behind the lines. That's what we came to do.'
round from face to face. There were many eager nods and no-one clearly
opposed. Miriael nodded approval too.
do it,' he whispered. 'Choose your target. Wait for my signal.'
poised on their heels, directed their guns. Ferren swung his arm.
It was an instant
eruption. Everyone leaped up, pushed the nozzles of their guns into
the louvres, loosed off shot after shot. Ferren fired at a leg,
heard a scream, swivelled and fired at another.
The steel box
rang like a bell. Dart-guns, spike-guns, tracer-guns, flamethrowers
. . . Every Residual claimed at least one victim. There were yells
of triumph as the Hypers tumbled. The psychic deposits in their
bodies exploded to create a kind of firestorm. The air was filled
with a smell of smoke and burning.
When the firestorm
cleared, the Residuals looked out through the louvres. All that
remained was a shambles of shattered bodies. A few torsos were still
moving and twitching, but the Residuals took aim and finished them
Soon there were
no survivors within a radius of thirty metres. The Residuals cheered
and waited for the angels to rush up on the other side. But the
angels were slow to seize their opportunity.
'Where are they?'
cried Miriael. 'What's wrong with them?'
Beyond the zone
of destruction, the Hypers had reformed in a menacing ring. Light
gleamed in their eyeslits, metal teeth showed in their mouthslits.
They knew now where their secret enemies were hidden - and they
yelled Ferren. 'Keep them back!'
But the Hypers
were too numerous. They raced forward in a wave, shooting from the
hip. The Residuals fired frantically, with hardly a moment to aim.
turned into a contest for possession of the louvres. The Hypers
tried to force their guns in through the slots, clashing barrel
against barrel. The Residuals tried to shoot at the arms that held
the guns. Sometimes they wrenched at the Hyper's weapons with their
Pedge of the
Skinfellows howled as a blast of tracer-fire took away his jaw.
Tunks of the People gurgled and collapsed with a dart in his throat.
Pinnet of the Nesters flung herself onto the nozzle of a flamethrower,
blocked out the flame with her own chest. Shrieks of pain . . .
shouts of desperation . . . the crash and rattle of guns . . .
And then suddenly
it stopped. The Hypers withdrew their guns and vanished. The Residuals
were left fighting thin air.
As the clamour
died down, a new sound could be heard. It was the sound of angels
singing. There was a sense of radiance outside, a brightness filtering
in through the louvres.
hardly dared to believe it. Kiet was the first to look out.
she exclaimed, half laughing and half crying. 'We're surrounded