Kendrick emerged in the
call center, lit with just enough moonlight for him to verify
that yes, he was out of that godforsaken room. He made it a
short hop mainly to test whether he could use his magic, but
there was another reason: now he had the freedom to search for
the book himself.
Summoning a light ball,
he made his way to Darren's office but the door was locked. No
matter- now that the negator had been negated, he was free to
use his full magic arsenal. In particular, a nifty little
lock-picking spell he picked up in Pittsburgh. He cast, he heard
a click, and he was in.
Eschewing his light ball
for a light switch, he began his search. While he went through
the motions of searching Silars' desk and bookshelf, he did not
sense the book's aura in the room. Its dampering briefcase was
left on the street, so that meant Grimoire 17 either wasn't in
the room or something was shielding it. Thus began the search
for secret buttons, secret passages, or secret safes hidden
behind wall paintings. Such toys weren't unfeasible for the
Chioni: they did have a legion of goons after all.
But no- after feeling up
every spot on the desk, pulling every book on the shelf and
nearly dismantling the Monet print on the wall, there was
nothing. The book was not in the building, and it was time for
Kendrick to leave.
He passed back through
the main office and down the hall, moving quickly but not fast
enough to miss Ellen shouting “Where the hell did you go?!” from
the other side of a door. It froze him. Initially, he just
wanted to get out of there and save his own skin. Abandoning
Ellen would have been harsh, but demons never did wield the most
oriented moral compass. Plus she was associated with the MST and
he certainly had no reason to do them any favors.
Still, a mother of an
enemy was still a mother, and an innocent bystander foolishly
dragged into this at that. The MST may have had the nerve to get
Ellen in trouble, and he found it appropriate that a demon get
her out. He had to weigh the issue for a moment: it was a
complex quandary for a demon, without foreseeable agenda, to do
the right thing.
Ellen, by now, was a
nervous wreck. She had never formed any sort of emotional bond
with Kendrick, and never had any inkling that this was a man to
be trusted. So when he disappeared, she was stuck facing two
scary possibilities. Despite the lack of trust, there was a
mutual feeling of being in the same predicament, so she had
assumed that they'd be released together. His leaving so
suddenly suggested an extreme lack of sympathy on his part,
making him pretty much a big jerk.
The second possibility
was that he was still in the room. She had gathered that
Kendrick was incapable of using magic, either because he was a
civilian like her or because his powers were being restrained by
Golden Sun or relied on the artifact. But she didn't take
anything for granted. And now that she had revealed that she was
not a mage, he would know she was defenseless. With a hundred
ways to magically hide oneself in a room, she was also afraid
that he was planning to attack her... which would make him an
even bigger jerk.
conversation about the MST dragging her into this brought a
memory to the surface- that ringtone. After the disaster with
the text message beacon, Ellen couldn't imagine how bad the
ringtone was. But Uriel had said to use it when in danger, and
this was as close as she'd ever care to get.
She pulled up her list of ringtones and found the new addition,
listed as 'Salva Nos.' Uriel's instructions were to play it in
an enclosed space; Ellen stuck it in the cabinet under the
counter, played the music, shut the door and plugged her ears.
To her surprise, it
didn't sound bad at all. Just a simple Latin hymn. An operatic
soprano sang the first verse for about ten seconds and that was
it. And just like that, the door snapped open.
Ellen ran out into the
hallway and looked around, but nobody was in sight. The lights
were off and the place was deserted the way she imagined it was
every night. She could barely fathom the idea that Uriel had
been looking out for her the whole time. The ringtone somehow
knew just which door to unlock and open. The wonders of magic.
She went back in to
retrieve her phone, not noticing Kendrick standing behind the
door, holding it open. Now that she was liberated, he teleported
away to plan his next move.
When Ellen opened the
cabinet, she realized what the ringtone actually did. On top of
her cell phone was a shiny, silvery pistol. She took both
instruments and marveled at the gun. She had never seen one like
it before. Not that she had an intimate knowledge of firearms,
but she did watch movies, TV and the news and nothing compared.
For starters, the barrel
was impossibly small, almost as narrow as a pinhole. And if
bullets did somehow pop out of there, Ellen had no idea where
they would originate: the gun had no chamber to speak of.
Instead, the barrel sprouted from a small orb, to which the
handle and trigger were also attached. Ellen looked around the
cabinet for either an instruction manual, some sort of
ammunition or a Nintendo to plug it in.
Finally, she gave up and
realized that the door was open and she wouldn't need it anyway.
She took it with, mostly to keep it away from anyone else in the
office, but dropped it in her purse as soon as she collected her
things from her cubicle. Ellen labored for a moment on whether
to grab more than her daily essentials, as she was probably
either fired or quitting. But she passed, figuring that getting
the hell out of the building was priority one.
Ellen hustled out of the
office and down the stairs to the front door. She noticed that
one of the front windows had been broken in. She did not notice
the magic circles in front of the exit, at least not until she
stepped into one. Instantly, she found herself at the end of a
dark hallway in a different building, with rows of doors on both
Upon her arrival, all of
the doors flew open.
Winston's barrage of air attacks left Molly and Kurt dodging and
deflecting, with very little doling out in response. While they
doubted that each individual dart had the power to level either
of them as it did the final nameless goon, they weren't taking
chances. Yuki hid in the hallway and made potions. Clearly, they
were going to be needed.
they were dodging and deflecting quite successfully and Mr.
Winston was getting frustrated. At this rate, the match would
have ended with all three running out of mana and collapsing,
thereby giving Yuki the default victory. Nobody would be
satisfied with that, so Mr. Winston stopped, readying his
trigger for any attempt at a counter.
and Kurt held their guard. The end result was about the same,
only this time without the energy expenditure. With Mr. Winston
clearly ready to fire in an instant, neither Molly nor Kurt
could really attempt anything.
Winston fired again, this time a large burst of flame that Kurt
wanted no part of. It wasn't as fast as the air attacks, so he
dodged it easily. Even better, with the demon still committed to
the spell, Molly had an opening. She charged up an energy
never got it off. Instead, Mr. Winston maneuvered the flame
until it changed course and slammed her in the back. Even when
using other elements, air magi had a nasty ability to do funny
things with their projectile attacks.
Kurt shouted, not that he had time to look as Mr. Winston
resumed his normal regimen of air darts for Kurt to dodge. Molly
fell to a knee and clutched her back, but was otherwise alive.
Another shout came from Yuki, who ran to her guardian's
attention. Kurt could only keep the demon off them.
that wasn't difficult: Mr. Winston's machine gun approach was
rhythmic and consistent and Kurt found his timing easily. That
is, until the Chioni stopped abruptly, throwing Kurt off for
just a moment. Long enough for Mr. Winston to turn to the girls
and ready a spell. Molly, despite her condition, put up a shield
while Yuki cowered behind her.
wasn't an attack. Instead, another glass dome fell around them.
Once it dropped, Mr. Winston returned his attention to Kurt.
Kurt couldn't pay too much attention to the girls pounding the
glass within, but after throwing up a stone wall to block
another wave of attacks, he did like the concept of an obstacle
in the room. He ran behind the dome opposite Mr. Winston.
demon moved to his right; so did Kurt. A clear obstacle was even
better as he saw Mr. Winston's movements. Mr. Winston tried
firing shots over the dome, but the extra time necessary let
Kurt evade them easily. Finally, Mr. Winston shrugged and used
another flame attack- curving it around the dome's entire
circumference. Again, Kurt had a solution- flight. He flew up to
the top of the dome, avoiding the fire. Unfortunately, it also
left him wide open for a standard air attack. Mr. Winston's next
spell struck him in the chest, sending him back down to the
the dome, Molly was busy sulking. Though Yuki had healed her
back, she was still out of the action. Kurt survived the hit and
the fall and continued to play ring around the rosie, but she
was stuck inside a glass structure that, by all standards of
Thrusting logic, should have dissipated long ago.
tried teleporting, but clearly someone upstairs was stifling
that. Were she and Yuki really trapped for the duration of the
afraid this would happen,” said Yuki, reaching into her satchel.
“Thankfully I came prepared!” She produced a standard glass
cutter, available at your local hardware store.
is no way that will work against...” But Yuki tried it out, and
the tool scored the glass. Yuki outlined a small doorway for
them to crawl out of and smiled back at Molly. “See?”
nodded. “Good. Now break through it.”
the catch. The glass wasn't that thick, but a five dollar
cutting tool wasn't going to pierce it easily. Yuki managed to
get a little ways in, but actually sawing through the outline
she had made was going to take some time. Her cutting was slow
and laboring; she never would have passed shop class without
Molly cast a spell. Suddenly, the cutter moved more quickly,
taking Yuki's hand with it. She held on and kept control of it,
but now Molly was in command.
Kurt was just trying to avoid Mr. Winston and his flurry of
attacks. If he was attacked from one side, he'd go to the other
side. From both sides, he's go up. From above, he'd dive out of
the way frantically. The only time he attempted anything
resembling an attack resulted in several boulders changing
direction and flying his way.
Mr. Winston got tired of it all and just flew to the top of the
dome. Standing up there, he could pelt Kurt with whatever he
wanted to. Kurt shielded himself, but he no longer had any place
to hide. He ran around the circle, but blocking attacks the
whole way, taking a few incidental shots in the arm, and
generally having a lousy time.
concentrating on Yuki's cutting project, Molly picked up on this
as Kurt ran his laps. “Keep going,” she instructed Yuki, halting
her contribution and taking out her marker. She walked to the
other end of the dome, staring disapprovingly at Mr. Winston,
and drew a small circle. After enchanting it, she calmly
returned to Yuki, giving the demon another cold stare and
charging up another spell.
might want to stop for a moment,” Molly said.
Yuki stopped and looked up.
cast a huge bolt of energy at the top of the ceiling. It didn't
hit Mr. Winston, but the impact of the blast rattled the dome
and shook him off his perch. He tumbled down to the floor as the
spell ricocheted off the dome and straight into the circle on
the other end, which promptly absorbed it.
back to work,” Molly said, enchanting the glass cutter again.
Mr. Winston with a mild fire spell before ducking to the other
side of the dome to catch his breath. The demon returned to his
feet, hardly fazed, and pursued Kurt. If it meant not needing
another shielding spell, Kurt was content with playing cat and
mouse for a few minutes. They circled around and around, every
so often throwing an easily-avoidable spell over the dome, but
with no real progress or outcome.
perfect for Molly and Yuki as they were able to finish cutting
the glass. All that was left was to kick it open. But before
they could, Mr. Winston used another fire spell to force Kurt
out of the circle. In this case, into a corner of the room
facing Yuki's exit. Sensing the opportunity, Mr. Winston dashed
around the circle to finally catch the mouse.
as he was in front of the carving, Molly fired off her trigger
and the glass door flew forwards and took out Mr. Winston's
legs. Landing before the doorway, she cast a binding spell to
secure his arms to the floor. The demon resisted, but Molly's
spell held and Mr. Winston was subdued. Kurt walked up, trigger
at the ready.
get a sleeping potion ready. This guy's taking a nap once he
answers our questions,” Kurt said. Yuki did indeed start mixing
said I'm answering your questions?” Mr. Winston replied.
smiled and picked up the shard of glass. “Well, the potion would
be nice and humane, but I'm sure I can get creative with this if
you'd like. It's very sharp.”
you want to know?”
room,” he said, defiant despite his honesty.
where's the break room?”
Winston cracked a smile. “Back in L. B. Gould.”
frowned, his suspicions confirmed. “So where are we?”
a brief look of concern, Kurt said to Molly, “We'll get a hold
of Richard as soon as we can.”
nodded, then jabbed her trigger finger into Mr. Winston's cheek.
“Where's the grimoire?”
Winston grunted. “Darren has it.”
where's Darren?” She pushed it in further.
Kurt's help, Yuki forced a vial of sleeping potion down Mr.
Winston's throat. He gagged for a moment and tried to cough it
back up, but one wave of glass from Kurt and Mr. Winston
swallowed and was out moments later. Molly undid the binding
spell, Kurt pulled him away, and the two girls crawled out. Kurt
called for the elevator and the doors promptly opened...
revealing the mangled remnants of a carriage and severed cords.
raised his eyebrows. “How 'bout the stairs?”
Bryce and Kathryn down the hole, Mr. Cedric was looking forward
to engaging Donovan. Or, rather, seeing Donovan try to engage
him. He stood still, waiting for the boy to make the first move.
Certainly, Donovan was going to do something insane that Mr.
Cedric could turn against him. Any minute now...
did absolutely nothing. Mr. Cedric, being a speed-oriented
Weaver and a pretty high-strung businessman, didn't like the
pause. Tic in his eye, he said, “Well? Don't you have anything?”
a commotion from the elevator shaft drew Mr. Cedric's attention.
He jumped to the side, ready for anything from either the shaft
or Donovan. Kathryn was trying to get her feet back onto the
floor. She struggled, as one arm was holding her staff overhead.
The staff levitated.
she planted both feet and got away from the shaft. “You
bastard,” she spat. “You made me cast a spell.”
Cedric chuckled. “Fly, my pretty, fly,” he mocked.
charged, he gleefully evaded and at first, round two looked an
awful lot like round one. Mr. Cedric's speed magic allowed him
to dodge every attack, often countering with one of his own
before Kathryn could prepare for it. Nothing damaging on their
own, but after a few in a row she backed off. Mr. Cedric stood
still, apparently letting her rest, then in a flash was directly
in front of her to deliver a chop to the neck.
attempted to simultaneously rub her wounds, hold her staff up in
defense and catch her breath. She found this much easier to do
standing behind Donovan. Mr. Cedric attacked him instead.
Although she didn't see what happened, Donovan's head rocked
back for a moment, then returned to its original position as if
nothing had happened.
he cast a shield spell in case Mr. Cedric tried again. And Mr.
Cedric did, flying right through it and shoving Donovan into
Kathryn. She forced him back up with her staff and shouted, “So
you can't do anything either?”
impervious to my shielding,” Donovan muttered. “Unless I
attempted a circle...”
sounds good,” Kathyn huffed. “What do you need?”
distraction and salt.”
sighed. She could probably handle being the distraction; Mr.
Cedric didn't hit terribly hard. Part two, however, was tricky.
“Let me guess... you didn't bring any salt.”
Bryce had plunged down the elevator shaft before Kathryn; in the
middle of her own free fall, she forgot to worry about him.
Cedric smiled. They weren't sure if he was toying with them or
if his tremendous speed magic failed to include any substantial
'finishing' attack. Either way, he was taking his time.
Donovan was getting impatient. “Do you plan on killing us any
get paid enough to kill children. I'm merely charged with
ensuring that you don't proceed. We don't even have to fight if
you don't feel like it.”
the alternative?” Kathryn asked.
lock you up in the basement and triple the ransom.”
grumbled. “Back to fighting then.”
Cedric fired a standard energy ball. Donovan's shield was still
up and absorbed it easily. Shrugging, Mr. Cedric stood on his
toes, then turned and fired into the elevator shaft.
cried Bryce. He had found his crystal and was flying back up the
shaft when Mr. Cedric fired. Bryce cast a spell to block it,
immediately losing his flight capability. In a way, he dodged
and shielded at the same time.
Carefully peeking into the room, he saw Mr. Cedric waiting and
stayed under cover. But that gave Kathryn an opening to charge
in. Mr. Cedric heard her, evaded the attack, and threw Kathryn
against the wall, but Bryce was at least able to get back to the
Bryce quickly thought to step to his right to avoid Mr. Cedric's
sudden charge. The demon stopped in front of the elevator,
turned toward Bryce and took flight to avoid a point-blank
flying himself, Bryce pursued Mr. Cedric, but the demon proved
to be as nimble in the air. He dodged two bolt attacks from
Bryce's crystal. Both stopped when Donovan, smirking, took to
the air as well. He stared at Mr. Cedric, silently boasting his
ability to match the other's flight capability.
Cedric, though, had another trick. Responding to the blatant
affront, he used his speed burst to drive himself into Donovan,
knocking the boy into the wall, out of flight, and heading for
the floor. Bryce switched gears, dove forward and cast a spell
to cushion Donovan's fall. Mr. Cedric also enlisted the minion's
help: the speed burst cost him his flight as well so he guided
himself to land on top of Bryce.
result- Mr. Cedric could go back to dealing with Kathryn again.
She was guarding herself on the other end of the room, still in
pain, but eying Mr. Cedric all the same. She held her staff up,
pretending that maybe she'd get a chance to see him approach, to
react to what was ultimately simple pushing and shoving. It was
just that he was too damn fast and his momentum transferred to
his target... and the nearest wall.
wish he'd slow the hell down,” Kathryn muttered under her
something in her right hand as it clutched the staff. It was
responding, swelling with energy and begging to be released. By
this point, she was just pissed enough to try it. Mr. Cedric
stood on his toes, charged in again, and Kathryn focused on him
still running, but not at ridiculous speeds. After a moment in
awe at her achievement, she held her staff up, keeping him in
line until she could strike. Once she did... the spell was
canceled and in a flash he had gone past her staff and pushed
her into the wall again. As he wasn't moving as fast, she was
unfazed, bouncing off it and facing him again. She threw her
staff right back up and cast it again.
Cedric ran forward again, undeterred and now with extra
incentive to stop her. But she just backpedaled, dodging him
whenever he got close. After leading him around in a circle,
with Kathryn careful to avoid Donovan and Bryce's bodies, Mr.
Cedric stopped and fired an energy blast at her. Kathryn slapped
it away with her staff and immediately resumed her spell. He
immediately resumed his now-modest charge.
another lap, Kathryn realized that she wasn't getting anywhere.
Yes, she had him at a stalemate, but she couldn't attack him
unless she dropped her spell. Yet if she dropped her spell, she
would miss him anyway. Furthermore, the spell was draining her:
her arm felt heavy and seemed ready to go limp. How Troy and
Kurt were able to cast so persistently was beyond her.
Little help here?” she shouted, continuing to run around in
circles with Mr. Cedric still encroaching. “Guys?”
she got some help. Donovan fired a ball of energy into Mr.
Cedric's back. It didn't do any damage, but it got his
attention. He stopped, turned around, and sneered back at
Kathryn dropped the spell and clunked him on the head with her
staff. Mr. Cedric fell to his knees, then to the floor. She
sighed heavily, swinging her arm around to get some feeling back
enough,” she muttered.
Now that Bo had reloaded
his stock of exploding rocks, he returned to the battle. More
accurately, as he was the sole representative of the Chioni and
was impervious to Troy and Blaine's attacks, he restarted it.
While Blaine had taken a good licking during the intermission,
he was still conscious and Bo still tabbed him as the primary
target. Back against the wall, Blaine clutched his chest, forced
himself to his feet, and immediately dove out of the way to
avoid the first grenade.
There was really no
point in getting up. Somehow, Bo had come to the conclusion that
Blaine needed to go down first and paid little attention to Troy
and Renee. As Bo readied his second try at Blaine, Troy fired
another ice attack. It struck Bo directly on the shoulder and
did nothing. Blaine scurried out of the way of the second
grenade throw, hiding behind Troy and Renee.
“Hey, you're the minion!
You're supposed to be between us and the demon!” Renee shouted.
“Renee!” Troy tugged on
Renee's arm, getting her to turn around. Bo was clearly after
Blaine, but not that discriminating, and tossed number three in
their general direction. Screaming, Renee threw her hand up and
impulsively fired her trigger. She closed her eyes as Troy
clutched her shoulder, bracing for the impact.
Instead, the stone
banged and exploded against her newly-formed shield. Renee was
as surprised as anybody that it worked. Despite the
disappointing outcome, Bo shrugged it off, sat down, and pulled
out his bag to enchant another round of stones.
Worse yet, he turned his
back to his opponents. Troy squirted some water at him, but Bo
didn't notice. His suit didn't even seem to get wet.
“How can he just turn
his back to us?” Renee said, echoing Troy's thought.
“Well, it's not like
anything's hurting him,” Troy replied, unhappily. He continued
the water attack, but not only did it not faze Bo, it seemed
like a paltrier stream than he was used to shooting.
Blaine crawled up from
behind them. “Well, you can't figure an ice bolt to be as
effective in the middle of the summer. And maybe there's not
enough water to tap.”
Troy frowned. Three
terms at Central had taught him enough on elementary Thrusting
(elementary, in this case, both in the fundamentals of the trade
and its focus on the classical elements). For a Thruster to use
an element magically, he had to draw from a presence of that
element around him. Most of the time that wasn't a problem as
traces were always around. The atmosphere itself had both
moisture and the ability to spark fire. But every so often, an
element would find itself hard to come by. In this case, a
nearby dehumidifier went a long way in inhibiting Troy's
“So if we had some more
water, we might be able to do something?” Troy asked Blaine,
looking around the room. Bo finished charging his second grenade
and proceeded with a third.
“Why, know where to get
some?” Blaine replied.
Troy turned to Renee.
“Mind getting wet?”
Renee looked at her
shirt- a tight-fitting top tinted a very light purple. She also
wore pink shorts. Yet given the situation, was she really in any
position to say no?
The question was more
rhetorical anyway as Troy didn't wait for an answer. He called
forth a small flame and shot it straight up, hitting an overhead
sprinkler. In seconds, the entire system kicked on and poured
water into the room. Bo looked up, befuddled but otherwise
ambivalent to the change in weather.
But now Troy was ready
to cook. He charged up a huge water blast attack and fired at
Bo. Again it struck Bo in the back. This time, the demon
stumbled a little and turned around, staring unhappily at Troy.
At any rate, his new crop of grenades was ready and he was eager
to get things moving again.
The water blast may not
have done anything, but the clear increase in power encouraged
Troy. He followed it up by casting steam clouds across the room,
creating a thick mist throughout and making Bo's job even
“All right! Now he-” The
first grenade interrupted Renee's cheer, although clearly Bo's
aim was now off as it landed wide and short. Renee and Troy
stepped away from their previous spot. Even so, Renee cast
another shield in front of them. Good thing too, as the second
grenade fell straight into it.
“We'll need more than
this!” Troy said, still maintaining his mist spell. “Blaine?”
“Hold onto something,”
Blaine replied, holding his trigger, executing, and casting
something big. With his free hand, Troy clutched the back of
Renee's shirt and backed them against the wall as the tempest
As implied, it was a
doozy. Wind gusts carried the misty water, still pouring and now
accumulating on the floor, around in a whirlwind. Troy and Renee
struggled to keep their spells up as the wind grew stronger.
Even Bo staggered about, finally acknowledging an opponent's
Eventually, Bo stopped
fighting the whirlwind and let it push him around the room. He
used it to get closer to his targets. As soon as he got a clear
view of one of them, he tossed his third grenade.
It connected, slamming
into Blaine and knocking him out.
This killed off the
tempest, but the rain and the mist still remained. Troy and
Renee couldn't see Bo, and they heard nothing besides the
persistent shower spattering against the pooling water. Renee
dropped her shield.
“What are you doing?”
“He's already thrown his
three. He's gotta be reloading,” she replied, taking a step
forward. “I'm gonna try something.”
She had seen how Blaine
worked the air into a circular motion. Although she wasn't
considered a Thruster, she still got the notion that she could
do the same thing. Taking a deep breath, she focused her energy
on circulating the water around and swung her right hand
forward. It started out slowly, and it never reached the
strength Blaine's did, but the wind picked up once again. Troy
again had to hold onto Renee to prevent them from flying off.
“Nice! Keep it up; I'm
going to take a breather for a second,” Troy said, cutting off
the mist. It subsided and they both saw Bo on the other end of
the room, trying to forge a new batch of grenades with the wind
blasting cold water in his face.
As Troy prepared to hit
him with another strong water blast, Bo pulled out a cell phone,
snapped it open and pressed a button. He spoke into it like a
walkie-talkie: “Cut the fourth-floor sprinklers.” The phone
beeped, acknowledging the message.
Seconds later, the
sprinklers stopped. “Thank you,” Bo said. He pocketed the phone
and finished his third grenade of the set.
Even without the
sprinklers, there was still a lot of water pooled on the floor
and Renee's spell still twisted some of it around. Enough that
it directed Bo's first throw off target, slamming into the wall
far to Troy's right. Undeterred, he fired his trigger and the
standing water undulated, forming waves. Renee caught on and
added a wind gust. Together, they were now forming tidal waves.
But before they could
create anything substantial to subdue Bo, Bo resisted the waves
that had attempted to sweep him away and launched a grenade at
Troy. Without Renee's shield, it nailed him on the upper arm.
His fall was broken only by the six inches of water.
“Troy!” As he was still
clutching Renee's shirt, she fell too, but she would have gone
down to tend to him anyway. She scooped him up, making sure his
head and his injury stayed above water. In doing so, she got her
first glimpse of the damage- the explosion had peeled most of
the skin away from the area, and blood trickled from the wound
into the water.
Troy moaned in pain, his
head leaning back against the wall. Renee instead offered
herself as a pillow, figuring his head would much prefer lying
against the nape of her neck.
Problem was, Bo was
still encroaching and had one grenade left. She quickly shifted
him to her left, although this now put him practically on top of
her. This allowed her to use her right hand to cast a shield in
front of the both of them. She got it up in time to intercept
the attack, earning her a much needed breather as went back to
But reload he did, and
now they had no way to stop him.
naturally disorienting when not prepared for it. When taught at
the academy, Prof. Melrose stressed to her TAs to let students
get acclimated to it before letting them beam around as they
pleased. So to Ellen, who hadn't been magically transported
since her marriage (and that a Valentine's Day surprise from
Frank that she'd rather forget), the sudden arrival in a foreign
building in an unknown location was more harrowing than being
locked up with Kendrick.
Before she could fully
take in her surroundings, the hallway doors opened and out
poured another dozen of the flunkies in tailored suits. This
particular batch seemed a little more lost than the ones that
had faced Kathryn, Kurt and Molly. And that was before they saw
“Told you we didn't miss
them,” said one in the back, who could not see Ellen.
The front row, however,
were plenty confused. Not that the assemblage didn't scare
Ellen: she backed up against the useless emergency exit door, as
tense as the group was puzzled.
A presumptive leader
pulled out a cell phone and, like Bo, treated it like a radio
communicator. “Mr. Silars? Yeah, group three here. Were we
supposed to get a woman? I thought they were all teenagers.”
Ellen patiently waited
out the conversation, although she slowly reached into her purse
and clutched that strange gun.
“We missed the signal?
Seriously?” He cringed. Clearly Mr. Silars wasn't happy about
that. “Okay, so Bo can take care of them. What do we do with
her?” Another pause. “Alive, right?” Ellen gulped. “Just making
That wasn't much relief.
The leader put away the phone, cracked his knuckles, and shot a
fireball at Ellen. From his conversation, she was ready for as
much. She spun out of the way and, in one instinctive motion,
pulled the gun out of her purse and fired.
A white spark shot out
and flew at the line of enemies. Though not encased by anything
tangible like a bullet, it sure flew like one. Ellen missed the
group's leader, however, her mark far to the left. It hit the
guy next to him in the chest. For a brief moment, he wore a look
of pure ecstasy, overcome with harmony and serenity. Then he
fell over, unconscious. The other demons backed away, looking up
at Ellen as soon as they saw what happened to their fallen
The xC, as the gun was
called, used the same technology embedded in the smiter swords
students received for their field exams at Central. A single
blast carried enough positive energy, optimism and sunshine to
incapacitate most demons. Some even woke up reformed and ready
to give humanity another try. These were powerful weapons; they
even had a strong effect on some pessimistic civilians (entering
a Hot Topic with one is a felony in some districts). The MST
doled them out carefully, often given to non-magi who may be
thrust into harm's way.
Neither Ellen nor any of
the rank-and-file demons across from her knew any of this. To
them, it was very simple: funky gun makes bad guy fall down.
Just to make sure, Ellen fired on the one who had made the call
to Silars. He too toppled.
The other demon in the
front row started into his trigger gesture, thus making him
target number three. Ellen pointed, fired, and watched his magic
shield intercept it. As she recovered from the very minimal
recoil and waited for the trigger to allow another shot, a
process of just over a second, the other demons leading the pack
had followed suit and cast shields.
Still, when Ellen fired,
they backed up, even if no damage was done. That gave her a
little more room to maneuver, and even an opening: she could now
reach the first row of side doors without shoving someone over.
And she preferred taking her chances in a new room than at the
end of this hallway. Using a rush of adrenaline and a couple
shots for cover, she dashed to the entrance. The only demon who
could attempt to stop her got the door slammed into his face.
The new room wasn't much
better. A table, some chairs, and a second door into the same
hallway. She dove for the table, along the way hurling a chair
back at the doorway. Then she crawled underneath the table,
tried in vain to control her breathing, and pointed the gun at
The first entry came
from the second door. Ellen turned and fired cleanly; no problem
there. A second demon entered from where Ellen had come in, with
his shield up. That shield did not help him against the folding
chair she had thrown. He tripped over it, broke off his spell
and was an easy target.
Ellen shot at the next
goon entering the far door, but his shield was up too and there
was no loose furniture for him to stumble on. Granted, he
couldn't get a shot off, so it was a very brief stalemate. A
moment later, it was broken by the second demon rushing into the
near door, tripping over the chair (and the body sprawled on it)
and making another easy shot for Ellen and the xC she was
getting quite proficient with.
During that distraction,
the far door Chioni got an offensive spell off. Ellen turned
just in time to see him cast it, and didn't wait to see what it
was. She dove out of the way, rolling away from the table. The
table's legs gave way and it crashed to the ground, but Ellen
stopped rolling, set and fired at the goon while he was in his
fit of property damage.
No longer happy with
this room, Ellen jumped up and ran to the far door. Before she
could make it out, it slammed shut. Back against the wall but
still facing the door, she took a few deep breaths, pausing when
she heard someone enter behind her. She exhaled again and waited
for one more moment. Then, with her gun hidden under her left
arm, she shot blindly at him and jumped away to avoid the blast
of water he had fired. She turned to him, confirming that she
was on target and there was one fewer to worry about.
Rather than rush wildly
back into the hallway, Ellen pushed the door open but did not
run through it. Good thing too, because as soon as the door flew
out, a strong charge blasted it apart. And if she was shocked,
the demon standing right behind the door was aghast. He was also
a sitting duck. Ellen took him out, then rushed wildly
into the hallway before the demon who blew up the door could
Ellen had a clear path
out of the hall, save for the monster behind her. She tried
another blind shot as soon as the xC let her, but missed. Rather
than look back into the hallway, Ellen zig-zagged, stopping as
soon as she heard a spell and watching the ensuing energy ball
whiz by her and hit the elevator doors. Already dismissing the
lift, Ellen opted for the stairwell.
Her momentum carried her
to the stairs leading down, and she wasn't going to argue until
she saw one of the goons waiting for her. She fired at him and
he ducked out of the way, giving her time to stop and change
direction. He gave chase. Ellen got about halfway up the higher
staircase, stopped, and looked down. The demon was climbing the
lower staircase and wasn't expecting Ellen to peg him on the
With him down, she
continued upstairs and turned around to scale the next flight.
Another demon was waiting for her and fired immediately. She
leaped out of the way, over the railing toward the staircase
below. Below her, a third goon burst through the door she had
originally entered and charged up a spell. In mid-flight she
fired, taking him out before she landed on the stairs. She
hopped to her feet and shot the demon above just as he descended
to find her.
Perched on the stair,
Ellen waited for the next attacker, but it never came. Gun still
pointed at the stairwell's entrance, she afforded a moment to
try to calm down. She doubted this day at work would get any