A flood of something almost incomprehensible struck her. She reeled back, waving her hands through the air, uselessly.
For a second or two, she did not even understand what was hitting her. Bullets? Is this what bullets felt like? Had she lost? Had she won?
And then she understood the nature of the attack She identified some little raindrop in the flood as an idea, as words:
[CHARLESCOMM REQUESTS PARLEY. PLEASE RESPOND.]
This was the sensation of a Thinkamancy hail, but multiplied hundreds of times. Requests to establish a call came to her mind in an unceasing flood, blocking her vision with boxes upon boxes of inquiries. She tried rejecting them. It was a trivial thing to ignore one unwanted request. But they came to her faster than she could banish them.
She physically staggered away, lowering her head and instinctively shielding her eyes against the onslaught with her pistol arm. It did no good; they kept coming, they…
The Archons closed around her. They yanked the Either-net out of her hand.
She looked up, half blind with rage and dazzled with Thinkamancy noise. Her prizes… Someone took the net and passed it to one of the Archons with an intact veil. It melted away, turning into boxes of "[CHAR[CHAR[CHARLESC[CHARLESCOMM REQUESTS PARLEY. PLEASE RESPOND.]OND]OND]" and vanishing.
Her mission [CHARLESC had failed. She could [CHARLESC not do as Chief [CHARLESC Parson had [CHARLESC ordered. But she [CHARLESC could still [CHARLESC do one [CHARLESC thing for [CHARLESC the side. The [CHARLESC formation had broken. [CHARLESC she staggered past [CHARLESC them, dashed forward [CHARLESC and fled around [CHARLESC the corner.
The requests kept coming, kept blinding her, and she bumped into the walls as she ran. She didn't dare take to the air, but she knew where she was, and where she had to go. It wasn't far. Two halls and two turns. That's all she had to do to get back.
A turn, a stumbling dash at full speed down the hallway. The second turn ahead. [CHARLESC[CHARLESC[CHARLESC[CHARLESC shut up, Charlie! Not far. Turn the corner.
Something brushed past her.
"No…" she pleaded, and stumbled forward. But she slammed herself awkwardly into an open hatchway door and fell down again. Was the hatchway here before? Was this the right hall?
She looked up, frantically clearing boxes from her mind's eye, and tried to see to the other end of the hall.
And then, light. Pressure. A bump that was nothing worse than another stumble. She even stayed on her feet. Her ears rang.
Somebody had beaten her to the bomb, and tripped it. Lilith hadn't taken a single point of damage from here.