His feet were planted firmly, just as they had been on that day over 10 years ago. The only difference was that his stance then had been one of brazen confidence, while now was merely a byproduct of his nearly unresponsive muscles.
That was the current count of renegades that had been cut down by the barrages of plasma streaming forth from James’ weapons. They had each met their end the moment that they had emerged from the cover of the Catholic pews.
James allowed his mind to relax. This was his reward, he told himself, for building his body to the point where it could lift two vehicle weapons and operate them. The desperate attempts of the people before him to stand and retaliate went most unnoticed by the dark-skinned behemoth, who was content now to methodically sweep his line of fire back and forth, like a farmer harvesting his crop.
A dull thud echoed through the lab as James dropped heavily onto his knees. Pain briefly registered in the ex-soldier’s mind, but was quickly overridden by the urgent focus the situation demanded.
In allowing his knees to buckle, James had allowed gravity to move his body faster than his muscles would have been capable of while under Josh’s constriction. As a result, he was able to gain the attention of the timid researcher in the corner.
Fortunately, the agent’s eyes could still move in discrete leaps, as they would under normal circumstances. As they made contact with Dr. Reeves, James willed them to flick to Josh, then to the containment chamber at the back of the lab, then back to the pale scientist, in a three way loop.
Being an exterminator of such superfluous pieces of old-world cultural baggage such as religion, James had no deity to pray to. But if things had been otherwise, he certainly would be beseeching a higher being for aid. Containing Joshua Brooke was now entirely dependent on Eric Reeves understanding the part James needed him to play. Now that he was no longer on his feet, there was no way he would be able to reach the metacognite in time to interrupt whatever he was doing via the conjured brain.
The last time James had fallen to his knees like this, it hadn’t been his decision.
The God of War felt pain as something impacted his right shoulder. A bullet; ammunition not uncommon to the Free Expression rebels.
James grunted in discontent. He had been shot many times before. However, when another bullet lodged itself in his hip, he gave a cursory glance around him. His team was supposed to eliminate targets that had a clear shot at him.
To his surprise, he saw that his strike force was being routed. The reason was simple: the rebels were fighting back – at high cost of life – instead of scrambling for cover and being cut down one by one.
Their tactic had been countered by a willingness to die. James barely had time to register the thought, which was an unusually philosophical one for him, before two more rounds struck him in the chest and arm. One was another bullet, and the other was the familiar painless third degree burn of a plasma bolt.
The burning sensation began an instant later as the peripheral regions of the plasma scorch immediately blistered and reddened. James felt his grip on one of his weapons loosen.
More bullets battered his body. The rebels had reached a turning point, where there remaining numbers were high enough for each to squeeze out more and more accurate shots before falling prey to the onslaught of the God of War’s sweeping plasma arcs.
Against every fiber of his will, James’ body crumpled and he fell heavily to his knees. A jubilant roar rose up from the surviving rebels.
This day, in the chapel of one of humanity’s oldest deities, a god had been slain.
Dr. Reeves furrowed his brow in consternation. It seemed like the larger newcomer, who had just fallen to his knees, was trying to communicate something to him.
The truth was, he did not want to get involved in this situation before him. While the scientist in him was absolutely gobsmacked by what he was seeing with his own eyes, his meek personality was simply hoping that the mysterious teenager would let him out of his binding when this was all over.
Luckily the glowing cord around his body did not hurt. If it had, he may not have had the presence of mind to see that the man across the room was moving his eyes rapidly in a fixed pattern.
‘But what does he want with me?’ Dr. Reeves thought to himself.