Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 14: Hot Air

Session One

Trigger finger held forward, Molly marched onto the scene, her stride brisk and in time, as if following the hastened beat of some unheard drill instructor. Her face was already steel, yet managed to grow even colder when she saw Renee's predicament. Initially, Red wore a smirk that eagerly awaited a more worthy opponent. One look at Molly's face reminded Red why parity and fairness were not admirable qualities in demonkind. She was scary, unflinching and above all- pissed.

Her first order of business, naturally, was to berate Troy. “Please, Monroe, what good are you if you can't even save Renee?” she said.

Troy wanted to say something along the lines of saving her twice out of three opportunities, but he used the time to catch his breath instead. He had neither the energy nor the courage to smart off to Molly.

Red clutched Renee's collar tighter and looked Molly in the eyes. Quickly seeing the folly of that, he stared at her forehead instead. “Okay, Sunshine, what's your first move?”

Molly dropped to a knee and pulled a marker from her jacket pocket. With it, and without removing the cap, she calmly drew a circle on the ground.

With a dismissive chuckle, Red shot a flame at her.

“Troy,” Molly said firmly, without looking up.

“Right.” Troy obeyed the command, countering the fire spell with his water.

She completed the circle: the marker's cap dug just enough into the ground to make an impression. Molly fired her trigger and the circle glowed. Standing, she flicked her finger toward Red and Renee. The circle shot forward in that direction.

Red shot a fire spell at the light, but it continued unimpeded. Molly again ordered Troy to douse the fire. Once the circle reached Renee, Molly ordered it to stop and turn around. It did- Renee went with it. The additional force it created let Renee pull herself from Red. She managed to keep her balance as she rode the saucer of light back to her sister. Molly caught Renee and set her down alongside Kathryn.

“Yuki!” Molly barked. “Go to work.”

Yuki stood over Kathryn and Renee, laying side by side. “Uh... which one first?”

With Red still staring her down, none too pleased by the circle trick, Molly could only afford a cursory glance at the two. Both had taken their licks. Renee's nose bled, her right eye was swelling and the bruises on her forehead were sure to get worse before they got better. Meanwhile, besides the burn marks on the collar of her shirt, Kathryn looked fine. Her head was tilted back, gasping for air, but there was no apparent damage to her person.

That made Molly's decision easy: “Kathryn.”

“Molly?” Renee protested in a weak voice, wiping blood from her upper lip.

Molly ignored her sister and focused on Red, lacking both the time and the reason to reconsider. Not only was Kathryn more useful against these demons, but her pain appeared to be caused by a spell, which Yuki was more skilled at healing. Renee's injuries were clearly the result of something physical like, oh let's say, running head first into a wall.

Regardless of whom Yuki healed, for the moment it was up to Molly and Troy to represent the good guys. They faced Red, but Molly noticed that Yellow was up and seemingly active as well. Although she didn't know what this second demon was capable of, she was already planning to take him on alone, leaving Troy with Red. Just as she had calculated the best way to get Yellow to show his hand without putting herself at risk, the earth below her shook. Not a dramatic shaking that could topple even the most balanced, but strong enough to gather attention and prevent any further action.

She stepped back, waiting for a subsequent attack, but both Yellow and Red succumbed to the rumbling as well. In fact, the only one who didn't seem to notice was Green, making it obvious that he was responsible.

“Hey, what gives?” Red said, more surprised than inconvenienced.

Green's hands unclasped and latched onto Yellow's tie. “Let's go,” Green declared.


“We're done here.” Green insisted, folding his hands together again. With this spell, he levitated.

Yellow felt his head again, still smarting. “I'm okay with that,” he said, following Green's lead.

Red grumbled. He looked at Molly once more. She was starting into her trigger. Puffing on his cigarette, he shot a pillar of fire directly in front of her, before joining his two companions in flying away from the scene.

Troy put the fire out, keeping an eye on their withdrawal. The demons didn't fly fast; anything faster than jogging speed required too much energy. They hovered over the field and slowly drifted into the distance. Troy found it strange and a little concerning, but mostly anti-climactic. Their sudden entrance resulted in an even hastier retreat.

Molly watched them leave, shrugged and pinched her ear. “They just left.” She proceeded to answer some yes/no questions. Eying the position of the school and direction the demons had flown off, she replied “southeast,” presumably so the MST could follow them.

“Molly?” Renee moaned. Even if they weren't worth Yuki's attention, her injuries still really hurt.

“Excuse me, I need to tend to my sister,” Molly told her telepathic contact.

“Oh, I can-” Troy volunteered, but Molly gave him a look. It was more of a threat to use the glare than the glare itself. 'Do we need to have another talk?' her look said. Troy stepped away, nodded, and replied, “I'll stand guard.”

Although Yuki was not able to magically heal physical damage, she still carried a proper first aid kit in her satchel in case of certain inevitabilities. Molly used it to dress Renee's wounds. As she did, Yuki finished her work with Kathryn, who sat up, rubbed her chest and sighed. The potion had removed the compressing pain Kathryn had felt, along with any other traces of Red's fire magic. Besides a few nicks here and there, she was all set.

Kathryn got to her feet and, noticing the lack of an enemy, walked up to Troy. “So that was it, huh?” she asked, almost but not quite disappointed.

“Yeah. As soon as Molly shows up, they fly off,” Troy replied, stealing a glance at Molly. Yuki had taken up the task of treating Renee while Molly had resumed communication with the MST.

“Whatever. We got a few shots in.” Kathryn managed a smile. “Nice shooting, Troy.”

They bumped fists. Troy's smile was a bit brighter. “I think we did pretty well. Glad it's over though.”

“Drink these,” Molly said, suddenly right next to them. She offered them two small vials filled with neon green liquid.

The color alone made Troy wince. “Uh, that's okay. I'm good.”

“Drink these,” Molly repeated, this time making it clear that it was not a suggestion.

“Yes, ma'am,” Troy replied, taking one nervously. He removed the stopper, thinking twice before deciding not to smell the contents. One sip and Troy gagged, finally spitting it out. During the short round trip down and back, he sensed the taste of black coffee, Tabasco sauce, lime Gatorade and possibly battery acid. It had ginseng too, but that did nothing.

“God, what is this?!” he cried.

“Energy replenisher,” Molly replied, handing a vial to Kathryn. Kathryn held her nose, took a deep breath, downed it all in one gulp and soon felt that compressing pain in her chest again.

“Can't we get those at Speedway?” Troy asked, confused.

“No time. We'll have to settle for Yuki's moonshine. We can't let them get too far ahead.” Molly stared at the field where the demons had fled. She didn't like the order to pursue, but did not protest the MST's command. Not only did she want to know why they had attacked, she especially wanted a chance to rip into them herself.


Session Two

Troy wasn't sure what he found more repulsive- the order to chase after the three demons or the energy potion he was attempting to digest. And we use the term 'potion' loosely, as that suggests a liquid fit for human consumption. MST Crafting programs don't focus on making potions taste like anything remotely tolerable until students reach their second year. And that's more of a culinary elective, mandated more by a Crafter's teammates than the school itself.

“What do you mean we have to go after them?” he said, struggling to convince his stomach not to reject the potion. He leaned over the grass in case he was unsuccessful.

Molly shook her head. “This situation is far too irregular to drop and let Uriel drag his feet over it.” It wasn't just the whole 'attacking MST students' stigma that perplexed Molly. The timing was too good- less than two weeks after Richard Herman had left the area. Recognizing that they were likely Zukoni, she dismissed the possibility of an alliance with Kendrick: few factions were as disparate as the elitist Hokoni and the Zukoni who made their living appealing to the lowest common denominator.

“So they expect us to take those guys down ourselves?” Kathryn asked, immediately suspicious.

“No, thank God,” Molly replied. “They're mobilizing some forces to help us out.”

“Mobilizing?” Yuki cried in surprise. “They never mobilize in this world!”

Molly nodded, well aware that this didn't come up often on Earth. “Apparently Uriel developed a contingency plan this time. But I'm told it will still take time for help to arrive, so we have to hold them off until then.”

Kathryn pointed southeast. “But they just flew off! How are we supposed to follow them?”

“Magic,” Molly said, shrugging. “You all know flight spells, right?”

“Uh... flying?” Kathryn had never quite figured out the basic Weaving spells. Retaining such information was right out.

“I can fly,” said Renee, sitting up and holding a small cold pack to her eye as Yuki treated her nose.

“Me too!” Yuki concurred. “I got that down okay.”

Kathryn folded her arms. “Great, so now I look worthless,” she said, stubbornly.

“That's not a problem. I was planning on riding as well to conserve energy. I'd rather not tap out again,” Molly said.

“R... riding?” Renee asked, suddenly less confident.

“Yes, I'll ride on your back and Kathryn can ride on Troy's,” replied Molly, dismissing the implications and logistical challenges and making it sound instead like a settlement over who rides in which car.

“I, uh, don't think...” Troy attempted to say something insinuating that Kathryn was heavier than him, but arguing with Molly while trying not to insult Kathryn was too hard for him to attempt. In fact, Kathryn shook her head unhappily and looked away just at what he did let out.

Molly also realized what he was getting at. “Not a problem.” She walked over to Renee, who was now finishing up to the last of her potion (which she downed like any other drink with no reaction one way or another). “All right, Renee...” Molly pointed to her sister. “Up.”

Renee rose to her feet, a little uncertain about this idea. Molly wrapped her arms around Renee's waist and lightly draped her toes over Renee's feet.

“Now fly,” Molly ordered.

With a nervous gulp, Renee did as instructed and the two hovered over the ground. The weight of an extra passenger did have a little effect, but it didn't require much more energy to sustain the spell than when she was unladen. As flight spells were already giving the finger to gravity anyway, taking on additional loads required a disproportionately light amount of additional juice.

“I guess that works,” Troy said. “Hop on, Kathryn.”

Kathryn did, wrapping her staff across Troy's stomach and using it as a sort of handlebar. “Giddy-up,” she said.

Troy cast his spell and the two hovered higher. Finding the new center of gravity and maintaining balance was harder than the actual energy expenditure. Troy and Renee took some time to acclimate as Yuki packed up her satchel, cupped her hands and blew. She joined the four.

“Are we read- eep!” Yuki shrieked as she realized her handicap: her trigger involved exhaling and wasting a breath on talking made her fall. She recovered in time and sailed back up.

“Yes, if we're all set, let's move out. I'll explain the plan on the way,” Molly said, pointing forward. Her gesture tilted Renee forward.

“Uh, please don't move much. I'm still getting the hang of this,” Renee said, adjusting.

Troy and Renee proceeded forward, past the parking lot and over the moonlit field where Troy and Kendrick had their first run-in nine months prior. They floated past it and ascended to scale the nearby woods. Kathryn gasped and squeezed her staff tighter, a painful blow to Troy's stomach.

“Ow!” He managed to keep control of the spell anyway. It was just a matter of focus and concentration; that vile drink had restored enough of his energy for it not to be an issue.

“Sorry. I'm not used to this,” Kathryn replied. She couldn't help but look down. They were only a few feet over the tree cover and trotting along slowly. She wasn't comfortable with this flying thing, and even less accustomed to ignoring the physics that would demand some sort of propulsion, speed and lift to stay adrift so long. Then again, she never was that great in science class. She leaned her head on Troy's shoulder and tried to enjoy the view.

“Hanging in there, Yuki?” Renee asked out of courtesy. Yuki had managed to work out a system where she would elevate higher than the other two, then let herself fall as she regained her breath, resuming the spell before she crashed into the trees. She had already had two close calls with high-reaching oaks.

“Try shorter bursts instead of bouncing up and down like that,” Molly suggested.

Yuki couldn't respond, but gave it a shot. This worked much better, and allowed her to stay more even with her fellow travelers. She still bobbed up and down, more frequently now but with much less dramatic climbs. Renee found Yuki's 'flapping' technique terribly amusing.

“Hey, what happens if someone sees us?” Renee asked.

“We've been in a displacement since just before Kurt called me. I imagine one of the demons put it up,” Molly answered. The notion that the demon in question had not yet taken it down did cross her mind, as well as the fact that they had flied off instead of teleported away. She was sure there was a good reason for both. She just didn't like some of the possibilities that suddenly cropped up. As she had considered before, the timing on this was just too good.


Session Three

The two parties traveled at about the same steady pace. If anything, the demons moved a little faster. To pose a math problem- assuming that the rate of speed remains the same, with the demons moving one mile an hour faster, how long before Molly and company catches up? Rather than make you pull out scratch paper and a calculator, we'll just go ahead and tell you that the answer is a) Yes, this poses a problem. Partial credit for answering d) They're moving so slow that by the time anything happens, the story will be over.

So something had to get in the way of the demons to either slow them down or bring them down. This is where Blaine and Bryce came in.

“I'm kind of uncomfortable with this,” Blaine whined for the tenth time as he tried to maintain flight with Bryce riding piggy-back.

Over Blaine's shoulders, Bryce peered into the distance, seeing only night. “They're taking their sweet time. Molly said they were coming this way, right?”

“I think so.” Although 'southeast' was pretty vague. If it was actually south-by-southeast or some other odd degree, they could be miles off.

That, or Molly had been right and the demons were going southeast with compass-like precision. Bryce spotted the trio hovering high over a hilltop. His 'taking their sweet time' analysis was spot on.

“There they are. Want me to take over so you can shoot something at them?” he asked Blaine.

“Sounds like a plan,” Blaine said, leaning back and letting Bryce take over the flying duties. While Bryce whirled his crystal around (much like a helicopter would if its blades whirled instead of rotated), Blaine took a moment to let the Zukoni get in range before firing three air gusts at them.

“Incoming,” Yellow shouted. All three dodged.

“Try it again,” Bryce said. Blaine did. Three more misses.

“One more time, then go back to flying so I can try something.” Bryce held back a smile. Given the situation, he probably shouldn't have been this amused by Blaine's failures.

Blaine took a deep breath and gave it one more try, assuring himself that he wasn't this incapable of scoring a hit. But no, Yellow saw the third wave of attacks and orchestrated another evasion.

“Ha! You think I can't see right through those puny-” Yellow began, before crashing into the invisible barrier Bryce had set in front of him. Red and Green flew right into their own walls. All three were able to recover their flight, but damned if it didn't smart.

“And Bryce connects and takes a three-nothing lead!” Bryce boasted, resuming flight responsibilities. “That should soften them up a bit.”

This time, Blaine switched to water and fired at Red first. Red was shaking off his collision and didn't see the blast until it struck him in the face. His head reared back, which in hindsight wasn't too smart as it stuck his cigarette right in the heart of the stream. It fell and therefore so did Red. The demon crashed face-first into the middle of the field below.

“How many points do I get for that?” Blaine asked Bryce. But Bryce was occupied- busy watching Yellow flying at them. Bryce focused on a new spell to counter whatever Yellow was about to do... which in hindsight was just plain stupid as it canceled the flight spell both he and Blaine were relying on. They dropped instantly. Blaine recovered; Bryce didn't and ended up kissing dirt alongside Red.

Blaine didn't have time to mourn as Yellow was still threatening and now holding higher ground... er... air. So Blaine flew under Yellow, ignoring him, and went after Green instead. He flew back up and hovered in front of Green, who was more earth-oriented and thus pretty helpless in the air. Blaine canceled his flight to launch an attack. Even as he fell, he carefully kept his focus and concentrated on executing the spell.

He failed, his concentration broken when his target was nailed by a different projectile spell. Resuming his flight, Blaine looked up and saw Yellow wincing.

“Uh... sorry!” Yellow shouted. “Didn't think the kid would drop like that!”

Not that Green could hear, as the attack had sent him to join Red and Bryce.

So after one honest kill and two unforced errors, two magi remained- both air magic specialists capable of casting mid-flight. As embarrassing as the falls of Bryce and Green were, this match-up had promise. An aerial duel certain to become a three-dimensional chess match as both Blaine and Yellow tested each other's limits.

What fun it would have been had it turned out like that. Unfortunately, the whole thing took ten seconds. Blaine fired, Yellow dropped his flight to both dodge and launch his own spell to send Blaine sailing into the horizon. Pay-per-view subscribers everywhere would understandably demand a refund.

Yellow took a moment to savor his victory. The second wave had been vanquished, and he had survived where his comrades had fallen! The pride he felt lasted about a minute. Then he got bored and floated down to see if Red and Green were still alive.

They were, but neither considered themselves lucky. Both had managed to get protective spells up to cushion their fall, but all that did was limit the ringing in their brains to 'blend' instead of 'puree.' Bryce remained on the ground fifteen yards away, not moving.

“Oh... damn!” Red exclaimed, standing up slowly. He lit another cigarette while he waited for his surroundings to stop moving around him.

“How far did we get?” Yellow asked.

“No idea,” Green replied, clutching his head. “Good call, Jim. Time for a smoke.”

The demons were content to take five minutes or so to recover and regain some stamina before hitting the skies again. They were nice and isolated in what was probably a cornfield the rest of the year. Only a gravel path connected it to civilization, and even then to a scarcely-used back road. The moon was still bright and thanks to the distinct hill to the northwest, they still knew where they were going.

As they they chattered amongst themselves, they didn't hear the deep guttural laugh that echoed nearby. It grew louder, until the figure emerged and stood over Bryce's unconscious body.

“Fools!” he shouted. But they still didn't hear him. So he summoned an energy ball and threw it at them, striking Yellow in the back. It did no damage, but at least it got their attention. The three demons turned around and finally saw him.

Even in the darkness, Donovan's evil smirk gleamed in the moonlight. He could not have executed his plan more perfectly. Not even if he had actually done any of the difficult steps.

He struck a dramatic pose. “You may have defeated my minions, but in doing so you have fallen into my trap. The web is upon you, the spider is descending and you will find escape is impossible. Should you move, you will only become trapped further.” Hands on his hips, Donovan boomed, “Prepare to meet your end at the hands of Donovan Dunmar!”


Session Four

Maintaining flight for a long distance, at any speed and regardless of passengers, tested the stamina of even experienced magi. For Troy, Renee and Yuki, it was beyond grueling. Historically, this sort of travel was reserved for the classic broomstick, at least until the advent of cars and public transportation. Some of the older tradition-steeped academies still taught broomstick flight, but contemporary logic dictated that if there isn't a car nearby to get you places, what are the odds of being near cleaning implements?

Seeing that Troy was beginning to tire, Kathryn offered an alternative. “Hey, maybe you can ride on the staff or something,” she suggested.

“I don't think it works like that,” he replied.

“No, but I can arrange it,” Molly interrupted. Troy and Kathryn looked at her, both surprised by what was seemingly a helpful offer. “Hold it between your legs.”

After a good deal of uncomfortable positioning, they did so. Troy squeezed the staff with his legs while Kathryn squeezed Troy tighter.

Molly carefully aimed her finger. “Now hold very... very... still.”

She fired off a levitation spell on the staff. It hit and took immediate effect, darting up and striking Troy between the legs. Not only did he yelp in pain, but he broke off his spell. Thankfully the staff stayed airborne, falling just a little from the sudden weight it bore.

Troy recast flight and fought back tears. “Thanks, Molly,” he squeaked.

“You're welcome,” Molly replied, smiling deviously. Now in the unlikely event that Troy somehow did find his way to Renee, at least his ability to procreate was a little weaker than before.

“Uh, Molly?” Renee asked. “I hate to interrupt you injuring Troy, but what's that up ahead?”

Molly squinted and barely made out the shape of an errant air gust spell. “It's an air spell. Don't fly into it.”

The gust was nowhere near the three flying groups, so it wasn't an issue. The series that followed, however...

“Jeez!” Troy shouted, barely escaping between two more gusts. Yuki and Renee needed evasive action as well as nine or ten total gusts flew right past them. After getting a frighteningly good look at one, Troy said, “Call me crazy, but those looked like something Blaine would do.”

“If he did, he has terrible aim,” Molly replied, motioning for Renee to continue forward. With any luck, they were almost at their destination.


Donovan lasted approximately 6.5 seconds until Yellow raised him skyward and dropped him to the ground. As grand an entrance as Donovan had made, he was not actually prepared to deal with the victims he had ensnared. So it didn't take long for him to join Bryce in an unconscious heap.

“So anyway,” Green began, completely unaffected by Donovan's antics and subsequent demise. “We'd better tell Kaz we're running late.”

He attempted to dial the boss with his cell phone, but got zero reception in such a remote area. “Damn, there's no service out here. How's he gonna know where we are?”

The answer, of course, is magic. A pair of high-beam headlights shined directly on the three. They were attached to a pick-up truck that also carried Kaz Pormoglio himself. He exited the passenger side of the vehicle and approached them. Even against the blinding lights, the henchmen could tell it was him just by the silhouette.

“What the hell are you guys sitting around for?” said Kaz, eying each of them impatiently.

“We had some pests to deal with. Made some of us crash,” Yellow answered, gesturing to Green and Red.

“Crashed?! Against those kids? Don't even start. If that Hokoni found out, he'd laugh his head off. I'll tell him you stopped for a cigarette break.”

“We can vouch for that,” Red replied, hoisting his evidence.

“So are the other ones following us?” Green asked.

Kaz nodded. “Yep. That went down nice. Should be good and tired by the time they get to the spot too.”

“And the force?”

“On their way, but I'll take care of that.”

Red scratched his head, still ginger around the sore spot. “So what's wrong with us taking our time? It's going to take the kids forever to find us and we don't want the force beating them to us.”

“Actually...” All four heads turned skyward as they heard the harsh female voice. The three figures flew over their heads and descended down towards Donovan and Bryce. Renee and Troy landed gracefully with their passengers. Yuki fluttered through a turbulent descent marred by choppy breaths and a failure to land on her feet.

Molly ignored her and finished her dramatic statement: “Having us reach you first won't be much better than the MST.”

As Kathryn attempted to shake the levitation out of her staff, Troy panted. “Can we, uh... take a sec before we fight them?”

“No. If you require it, Yuki can prepare another energy potion.”

Troy stiffened. “Actually, I think I'm getting a second wind now.”

“Should I look at Donovan, then?” Yuki asked, hopping to her feet.

Molly shrugged. “Might as well.”

Kaz surveyed the group. He already knew Molly was worth taking seriously. Kathryn as well- a big girl with a big stick. After them? Not a whole lot. He let out a chuckle and said, “So this is it, huh?

“Why are you here, Kaz?” Molly asked, ignoring his attempted put-down.

Kathryn glanced at Molly, unwilling to take her eyes off the demons for long. “You know him?”

“Local bar owner. Suspected ties to the Zukoni faction. Pretty bold to expose yourself like this, isn't it?”

Kaz flashed a smile. “I'm not worried. By the time my guys are done with you, nobody still alive will know I was involved.”

“What about us?” Yellow asked. Kaz stared at him blankly.

Rather than argue, Molly pinched her earlobe. “Yes, it was instigated by Kaz Pormoglio and several local Zukoni,” she reported.

Jaw falling slightly, Kaz had no response. Now it was Molly's turn to grin. She didn't, but she could have if she felt like it.

“Bitch,” he muttered.


Session Five

“So really, what's all this about?” Molly had a finger at the ready in the event of any funny business, but wanted to know what was going on before the goings on went. It also gave Renee, Troy and Yuki a chance to recover from their long flight, but Molly was only 33 percent likely to care about that.

When Kaz didn't answer, Molly tried the direct approach. “You wouldn't happen to know a Hokoni named Kendrick, would you?”

“Yeah. Snotty punk wanted us to shelter him a few months ago. We threw him out on his ass.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Did he say why he wanted shelter?”

Kaz smiled. “Yeah. We had a good laugh when we heard what you did to him. Probably deserved it too. Nice work.”

“Then why are you going after us?” Kathryn asked. Molly shot her an annoyed look. This was her interrogation.

“It's December. Nothing on TV. You guys came up again and we were kinda wondering how tough y'all were. A few beers and a few bets later... here we are.”

Molly frowned. For all the battles between good and evil out there (in certain worlds, variations on Armageddon played themselves out every few weeks), she ended up in the one started by a drunken wager.

She readied herself to counter whatever attack would come first. Despite her defensive shift, she replied, “Then I look forward to making your injuries financial as well as physical.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Kaz shouted, putting his hands up. “I ain't fighting you! Just these guys.”

Molly raised an eyebrow. Honestly, she didn't think much of those three considering they had struggled with just Kathryn, Renee and Troy. Adding herself and Yuki into the mix, Molly hoped there was some sort of point spread involved to assist anyone betting on the Zukoni.

“Oh...” Kaz continued. “And these guys.” He put two fingers in his mouth and whistled. Or tried to at least; not everybody could whistle like that. Failing, he shouted, “Over here!”

At first, Molly's unit didn't see what he was signaling. It still sent a ripple of fear through them. Even without knowing exactly what it was, Kaz was bringing somebody or something into the mix that was apparently evening up the odds.

The artillery came in the form of six men, all as burly as Kaz and Red. They hopped down from the bed of a second pickup truck, cracked their knuckles and started the walk up to the field. They had no weapons (or colors to assign, unfortunately), but whatever they were capable of, Molly and company had good reason to be sufficiently worried.

Seeing the fear on their faces, Kaz smirked. “Have fun with these guys. I gotta go set up my alibi.”

Yes, villains often fall into the trap of leaving before ensuring the good guy is dead, but at least Kaz had an excuse. Calling his lawyer and deflecting suspicion when the MST comes calling was more important that seeing a bet through. He turned towards the first truck and took two steps.

That's when he walked into a barrier that had suddenly appeared before him. He reeled back and shook the sting out of his face. Rubbing his nose, Kaz saw that the barrier stood not just in front of him, but also stretched far to the sides, surrounding both the demons and the students. At the root of the circle was a glowing line of table salt. Before he could imagine how such a circle had gotten here, he heard that familiar guttural laugh echoing throughout.

Donovan had risen to his knees, suddenly healthy and with no sign of pain. Yuki jumped backwards; she hadn't gotten halfway through her potion when his frightening laugh announced his revival. Now rising to his feet and raising his arms in triumph, he faced his victims. “Going somewhere?” he said mockingly.

Kaz clenched his teeth. Not only was he not going anywhere, but the support for Green, Yellow and Red were still outside the circle, no matter how much they pounded.

“Jim! Do something!” he shouted to Red. Red, now with a replenished cigarette, shot a hefty flame straight at Donovan.

It died as it passed Molly. She had been on guard the whole time. And although she'd never admit it out loud, Donovan's circle was awfully convenient. The reinforcements were locked out and the ringleader was locked in. Molly returned to position, ready to weave another spell.

With a grumble and a heavy sigh, Kaz loosened his tie and unfastened the top two buttons on his business suit. “Whelp...” he began, scratching his chin. “If you guys really want me to play too... guess I have to oblige.” He made a fist and extended it forward. The fist unclenched and released a pale amber mist into the circle. It rose slowly, starting on Kaz's side, but within seconds had spread enough to threaten Molly on the other side.

Yellow wasn't that patient; with a spell, he propelled some of it forward at Molly, who threw up a shield in time. He persisted, pushing harder against the shield, but she wasn't letting down. So he shifted directions and sent the gust after Troy and Kathryn.

The air pressure Yellow had summoned hurt far more than the mist did. Although Kathryn held her ground and was only pushed back a foot, Troy was sent flying into Donovan's barrier. They both got a heavy dose of mist in their mouth and nostrils. It didn't taste awful, better than Yuki's energy drink at least, but within seconds they both felt slightly dizzy. The taste registered with Kathryn: just as Troy had tried to make his water spells more acidic through cola, decades of alcohol consumption had given Kaz's magic an intoxicating kick.

The effect wasn't significant yet, but as the mist engulfed the entire circle, clearly it would start to invade everybody's bloodstream before long. An extended battle would favor the demons in the long run, making Troy realize one more problem.

“Donovan! You trapped us in here too!” he shouted, looking up at the section of the barrier he had just collided with.

Donovan's laugh continued. “Indeed,” he boasted.

“But what happens if we can't beat them? What if help arrives and they can't get in?!”

But there was no stopping Donovan. He laughed once more and replied, “There is no turning back now. Either in victory or defeat... this will be our finest hour!!”

Backing away from Donovan, Troy tried pounding on the barrier. No dice. By his own device, Donovan had made himself right, and Troy could only hope they all weren't doomed by such circular logic.





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