Not until later did Martin track exactly what had happened. He had been turning after this exchange with Naoko to see how Ivy was handling the other hostages, and to get someone to come put restraints on Naoko, except as he turned something bright slashed past. He didn’t even think. He knew a bolt when it missed him by a scanty clip. Dropping down and sidelong, he rolled up, grabbed Naoko, and dragged him into the trees. His breath was coming fast; his heart thumped.
“I told you,” Naoko said smugly.
“Fuck up.” He dragged the holder further into the trees. Down on the road, plasma bolts slashed through dark to slap into the trees, into the sedan, into the frozen ground, sending up gouts of steam and dirt. Other than that, and muffled cries from the bound hostages belly down on the paving, silence. All the cots had vanished. “Crap,” Martin muttered, trying to see everywhere at once. He jerked the holder. “On your knees.”
“I will not.”
Martin drove the barrel of the Lopaka into his spine. “Knees!”
Naoko went down. Martin made him lock his hands behind his neck and went over him swiftly. No weapons: no surprise. Naoko would have made a move before this if he’d been armed. Yanking the loop-tie from around the holder’s neck, one of the fancy sort which actually tied, thank shit, he used it to bind the holder’s hands. Then he gagged him with his handkerchief, used his belt to hobble him, and knelt on his back, looking over the terrain below.
He spotted Ivy behind a burr tree, knotted around her rifle, peering desperately about, and Liam in among the rock fall. No sign of Dallas or Nazir. Couldn’t see who was doing the shooting, but probably it was Parliament Security shadowing Naoko. Sliding the Lopaka’s sight over the road, and then more slowly through the trees, he tried to pick up anything: moonlight on flesh or one of those clips Security liked to wear patched to their lids. The insect noise had quit, a bad sign.
Greenbacks ain’t use to trees, no Security was. He told himself he would hear them coming. He tried to believe it. The skin down his back was tight. Full squad of ’Backs was twenty-four. Too many. Not likely even someone of Naoko’s standing would have a full Squad attached to him. Half-squad, surely, and Will’s lot would have taken out some. How had they got past Will to begin with?
He nearly missed the shape, dark in the dark trees. Parliament Security wore deep green uniforms, which showed black in the night. This one was coming up on Ivy’s position. Martin muttered, gauging the range. He was a rotten shot, always had been. Shifting the sight over, he tried to guess whether Ivy had spotted the Greenback. He had another swift look about for Dallas, swore again, and, bracing his rifle against his knee, drew down on the ’Back best he could. He squeezed the trigger. The bolt ripped the dark, a crack of light, and slapped into the hillside just beyond the Security. Snow and dirt exploded. Martin cursed, jacked up another bolt, and tried to sight on the Greenback, except he had vanished, surged off into cover.
Jumping to his feet, Martin launched himself over the bound Lord Naoko just as a bolt sliced through the space where he had been, blowing into a burr tree. He yelled, more shock than fear, fell, rolled down the hill, lost his rifle, yelled again, anger at his own stupidity, tried to scramble back up the hill – never let go of your weapon, never – slid further, and got landed on by a Greenback, who slammed the butt of his rifle into Martin’s head, or tried to. Martin got an arm up in time to take the blow on his forearm, which that hurt plenty enough. He struck up with his other arm, trying to hit the Security in the throat, only before he could get any torque, the Security drove him into the ground so hard all the air smashed from his lungs. While Martin was trying, without wind, without balance, without leverage, on his back, head-down against the slope, to recover, the Greenback drove the barrel into his neck. Martin tried to get a grip on the ground, find a rock, anything. Leaves and ice-slick dirt were all he felt. Something hit him. Not a plasma bolt. He fell the rest of the way to the road. The ’Back and Will nearly landed on him. He kicked himself out of the way. Someone’s boot slammed into his face. Will bashed the Greenback, bashed him again, reared up and slammed his head into the road. The Security went limp.
Will got up, breathing in gulps, scowled at Martin, and looked up the road. “Yo!”
“Clear!” someone shouted.
“Clear!” someone else agreed; several others shouted too.
Will was listening, no doubt running a tally in his head. He scowled at Martin. “In shit’s that Naoko?”
Martin waved unsteadily up the hill toward where he had left his hostage. Will jerked his head at one of his crew, who scrambled up the rise. “What about your lot?” Will demanded.
Martin whistled through his teeth. He didn’t have strength to shout. Ivy was across the road, with her hostages. Naz emerged unharmed from the trees, Dallas next to him. No Liam. Will swore. “He was in the rocks,” Martin said raggedly.
Will went bounding off.
“Wait!” Martin was still short of breath. “Will!”
Avi and Kit, the two closest, went after him. So when the Greenback in the rocks launched himself at Will, they were in range to counterattack, and a good thing: unlike Liam, Will ended up only wounded.