4.7 A Flame Inside the Sun

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Extreme distance seemed like more of a threat to Alex than the missiles. He could easily take control of wind currents and knock the missiles aside ... but in order to do so, he'd need to stretch across miles of empty air. Unlike rock or metal, air confused his sense of limits, and his sense of scale. Air encouraged him to expand.

Wearing all that air, he would be larger than a city. He might cause massive tornadoes just by breathing. Somehow, he would need to stay in touch with his human core and remember who he was.

His only other choice was to wait until the last few seconds, and then expand only a little bit, just enough to shield the ship and intercept the missiles all at once, fast and flawless.

"Alex." Thomas sounded tense. He pointed skyward. "There are more."

Smoky blots marred the twilight sky above. The objects must be racing downward, because they grew fast in apparent size. A hailstorm of missiles was coming.

"I thought you said the Torth want us alive," Margo said.

"They do." Thomas tracked the missiles with his gaze. "My guess is they're trying to wear down our protector. They want Alex exhausted enough to make a mistake, so we'll be easy pickings."

They had all but succeeded. Alex glanced down, to where the city Rare Moonrise MetroHub glinted like a splintery mess in the desert. He could no longer see the wrecked spaceport. Somewhere in that distant wreckage lay the mangled pieces of his mother.

"You think they have a trap set up?" Margo was asking, with her gaze fixed on the sky above.

"Probably," Thomas said with impatience. "I need less stress if you want me to make stab-in-the-dark guesses. Alex! We won't survive a collision!"

Alex touched the invisible wall; a physical reminder of where he was. His fingertips might keep him tethered to his human self. Outside, the daylight was a dusky indigo, almost too serene to be real.

Were all these attacks part of an elaborate trap? It made a sick kind of sense. When Alex was in the spaceport, the Torth could have—maybe should have—obliterated him with a nuclear bomb, without any warning. Instead, they had sent in hundreds of Red Ranks to try to distract him, to sneak up behind him, to attempt to get close enough to disable him with pain seizures and the inhibitor serum.

This whole battle was playtime to the Torth. Deaths were just a game to them.

Alex took a deep breath and tried to expel his fury. He needed to stay in control of his emotions, and not spike out in rage.

Cautiously, gently, he sent his awareness outward, until he became more than a person sitting inside a fast-moving spaceship. He was sunlight and wind and vapor.

He stretched further and further, airy and vast. Finally, he sensed the incoming threats. Projectiles shrieked through his airy self, all on a trajectory towards his core self.

He might stop them one by one. He had enough power to redirect the missiles, or tear them apart, but he knew from experience that he had trouble splitting his focus too many ways. He might accidentally lose track of the speeding projectiles and miss one.

There seemed to be a better, more efficient way to get rid of these threats. He could do it in one massive sweep.

Alex rolled air together. He twisted it, compressing it, forming what he suspected would be an immense thunderclap. If there had been any clouds in the cloudless sky, they would have roiled into a sideways vortex.

He released his twisted thunder. Air exploded outward in a shockwave that batted missiles aside.

He would have liked to watch every missile fall towards the distant ground, to make sure he hadn't missed any. But his devastating shockwave raced towards the ship which cradled his core self. Alex collapsed his awareness into a tube around the ship. He built up the air pressure, so the thunder ripped around the ship, leaving it untouched. He funneled air to push the ship higher.

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