“Let me try, Leader Moreno.” One of his guards moved forward and reached out his hand to the door.
Jak stepped to one side to make room and that movement saved his life. A laser burst lanced through the night, its fine red beam bisecting the guard’s arm and traveling upward into the guard’s neck, which exploded in a spray of blood and tissue.
The second guard behind Jak grabbed him and pulled. Jak fell back with the man, assuming he meant to move them both out of danger. Instead the man twisted until Jak was in front of him, the guard protected by the door at their backs. Jak was exposed to the night, the guard’s arm around his neck and his chest in his light beige shirt like a beacon in the dark doorway. Jak jerked, trying to unhook the man’s arm from his throat, but the guard had him tightly with just enough pressure to keep Jak close.
Another burst of laser fire slammed into the plascrete of the building behind them. Shards of razor sharp fragments spiraled around them and Jak felt one bite into his face, making him flinch away from the pain. The guard briefly loosened his grip and Jak took advantage of the moment, dropping to the pavement to kneel briefly then jumping up, pivoting and ramming his fist hard into the guard’s chest.
The man went down with a startled grunt and Jak grabbed him, rolling to the ground with the guard on top of him. The next burst from the weapon caught the guard in the chest and he died with a strangled shout, sagging back and momentarily pinning Jak to the ground.
Jak pushed the body off of him and spun away from the lights that illuminated the path under the walkway leading to the government building. Alarms were clanging inside and Jak saw people running through the walkways, weapons drawn. People spilled out of doorways, muted shouts and panicked cries mingling with the sound of distant explosions.
Jak turned and saw three guards racing across the courtyard toward him. They went just a few steps then laser fire crisscrossed in the night, overlying strands like deadly webs that ensnared the two men and woman, cutting them down in a bloody tangle.
Jak kept the apartment building against his back and began a dash to the government center where more guards – and more importantly, weapons – were housed. Adrenaline rushed through him and Jak used it to keep his panic at bay. Who is in on it? How did they get guards to attack me? Is the building still locked? He veered to the left, aiming for a different door. If all doors were locked, he would go to the front and break the glass there to get in. He had to cross some open space but he could minimize his vulnerability by staying close to the building most of the way.
He was halfway to the building when the lanterns that lit the courtyard flickered and died. The moon provided as much shadow as light, but Jak welcomed the darkness. He was nearing the side door leading to the common room on the lower level when he heard voices behind him.
Jak froze and looked over his shoulder. Two figures were emerging from the darkness, weapons in their hands. Shouts were loud from the building behind him and beyond the shadowy courtyard he saw more people coming, people with weapons.
There was no clear exit ahead of him and he had no idea what was happening in the building behind him. He had only a slim chance of escape and nothing to use as a weapon. Jak assessed his options in the blink of an eye and settled on the only thing remaining: his telepathic training.
He turned and ran toward the doorway to the government center. If he could reach the relative security of that building, he might find others inside who could help, or weapons he could use. As he moved Jak focused on the attackers and attempted to touch the mind of the man running toward him.
Nothing except a dogged thought was palpable: Kill Exo Moreno. The single-minded focus was intense and for the first time since the attack began, Jak felt fright. The man either had rigid mental shields or he’d been somehow programmed, all other thoughts and emotions purged to leave only murder.
A clone? Jak wondered as he reached the door and slapped his hand against the palm reader. Did they reprogram a clone to kill me? That’s the only thing that makes sense. No one could be that devoid of emotion or thought.
The door didn’t budge. Jak didn’t waste time. He spun away to face the men coming at him, their guns raised. I can kill at least one of them, maybe two, with a psychic burst, he thought grimly. He gathered his power and refused to look beyond the four people who paused and took aim at him.
He saw movement in the glass panel at the top of the door. A face, then two, peered out at him then suddenly the door swung open.
Jak jumped to the left as a lithe figure darted out of the shadows of the doorway and fired over his shoulder. More shots blazed from inside the building, and Jak’s attackers went down amid a barrage of laser fire, screams torn from mangled throats and chests.
Dru grabbed Jak’s arm. “Come on! Don’t just stand there. We have a planet to save!”