On the one hand, I agree with Tiberias. We’re exposed up here, and who else would be waiting in the trees, watching us scramble? But I understand Tyton too. I know what it is to pour lightning into a person, to sense their nerves sparking off and dying. It feels like a small death of your own, an ending you can never forget.
“Get Evangeline,” I mutter. “And tell Davidson. We need to be sure.”
Next to me, Tiberias huffs. But he doesn’t argue. He pushes off the transport, intending to stalk after Evangeline.
The breeze strengthens, playing across my face. Pine needles brush my skin, soft as trailing fingers. I try to catch one, but it dances off on the growing wind.
And it sprouts before my eyes, a sapling growing in midair. It spears a soldier before any of us can react.
The attack is not the storm of bullets we expected, but the spray of pine needles blasting in a strong, sudden gale. It catches Tyton head-on, tossing him off the wrecked transport. He rolls onto the road, head smacking against the pavement. He stumbles to a knee, then falls, oddly off balance. I throw up an arm to protect my eyes and drop to a knee as needles scratch across my exposed skin. Where they land, roots and trunks burst forth in curling, living explosions. The Hawkway cracks and transports heave, tossed by the forest growing before our eyes. My balance shifts with the road, and I fight to keep upright, bracing against the wrecked transport at my back.
Tiberias reacts without thinking. He tosses a fireball, charring the pines sprouting up around us as fast as they can grow. The ash swirls in the growing wind, obscuring the road lights, making my eyes water.
The air shudders with the sound of crushing metal and shattering glass. Evangeline and her crew are done wasting time. They flatten the wrecks that remain in the way, reducing them to solid puddles of iron and steel. The transports that still work roar, revving their engines as they lurch forward, fighting over pulsing roots and ripping branches. Evangeline leaps through the smoky air, climbing up onto a transport frame. Gunshots ring out, but the bullets fall to the wayside, tossed off by her ability.
Blue shields spring to life on either end of the Hawkway, tall and ethereal against the smoke and ash. Davidson controls each one with an outthrust fist. More shots sound, rippling over the shield. They can’t penetrate. The guns can’t reach us.
“Tyton!” I scream, looking for the electricon. “Tyton, kill them!”
He hoists himself to his feet, teetering as he wags his head back and forth. Trying to shake away the daze. Using the nearest transport, he props himself up, leaning heavily.
“Give me a second!” he yells back, shaking his head again.
We still can’t see the raiders, safe from their nests in the trees. There have to be greenwardens, at least. Tiberias’s flames spread across the surge of pines on the road, twisting like a snake, attempting to devour each new tree as it sprouts. His Lerolan guards run between the trunks, laying hands on each. They explode at their touch, splintering in clouds of bark and blooming fire.
“Get on the transports!” Davidson roars over the chaos. He still holds the shields, defending us from a hail of bullets. “We have to get off the mountain!”
I suck in a deep breath, steeling myself. Focus. In the dark, I can’t see the clouds gathering overhead, but I can feel them. Storm clouds, thunderheads. Growing at my command, ready to strike.
Someone pulls Tyton onto the approaching transport, buckling him in. On the road, Tiberias directs his inferno through the lethal forest trying to trap us on the cliff or push us off it. The rest of our detachment does their best to dodge the trees or destroy them, clearing the way for the transports and our escape.