Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 25: Salva Nos

Session One

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.

Thankfully, that 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 sides.

Upon her arrival, all of the doors flew open.


Session Two

Mr. 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.

Still, 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.

Molly 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.

Then Mr. 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 attack.

She 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.

“Molly!” 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.

Again, 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.

It 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.

The 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 floor.

Inside 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.

She tried teleporting, but clearly someone upstairs was stifling that. Were she and Yuki really trapped for the duration of the battle?

“I was 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.

“There 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?”

Molly nodded. “Good. Now break through it.”

“Um... right.”

That was 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's interventions.

“Here,” 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.

By now, 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.

Finally, 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.

Despite 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.

“You might want to stop for a moment,” Molly said.

“Why?” Yuki stopped and looked up.

Molly 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.

“Okay, back to work,” Molly said, enchanting the glass cutter again.

Kurt hit 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.

This was 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 soon 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.

“Yuki, get a sleeping potion ready. This guy's taking a nap once he answers our questions,” Kurt said. Yuki did indeed start mixing something.

“Who said I'm answering your questions?” Mr. Winston replied.

Kurt 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.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Where's Ellen?”

“Break room,” he said, defiant despite his honesty.

“And where's the break room?”

Mr. Winston cracked a smile. “Back in L. B. Gould.”

Kurt frowned, his suspicions confirmed. “So where are we?”


Sharing a brief look of concern, Kurt said to Molly, “We'll get a hold of Richard as soon as we can.”

Molly nodded, then jabbed her trigger finger into Mr. Winston's cheek. “Where's the grimoire?”

Mr. Winston grunted. “Darren has it.”

“And where's Darren?” She pushed it in further.

He winced. “Upstairs.”

“Thank you. Yuki?”

With 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.

Kurt raised his eyebrows. “How 'bout the stairs?”


Session Three

With 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...

Donovan 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?”

Instead, 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.

Finally, she planted both feet and got away from the shaft. “You bastard,” she spat. “You made me cast a spell.”

Mr. Cedric chuckled. “Fly, my pretty, fly,” he mocked.

“Oh, you're dead.”

She 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.

Kathryn 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.

Still, 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?”

“He is impervious to my shielding,” Donovan muttered. “Unless I attempted a circle...”

“Circle sounds good,” Kathyn huffed. “What do you need?”

“A distraction and salt.”

Kathryn 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 has it.”

“Crap.” Bryce had plunged down the elevator shaft before Kathryn; in the middle of her own free fall, she forgot to worry about him.

Mr. 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.

In fact, Donovan was getting impatient. “Do you plan on killing us any time soon?”

“I don't 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.”

“What's the alternative?” Kathryn asked.

“I can lock you up in the basement and triple the ransom.”

Kathryn grumbled. “Back to fighting then.”

Mr. 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.

“Jeez!” 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 floor.

And 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 counter.

Without 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.

Mr. 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.

The net 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.

“I just wish he'd slow the hell down,” Kathryn muttered under her breath.

She felt 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 and fired.

He was 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.

Mr. 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.

After 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.

“Hey! Little help here?” she shouted, continuing to run around in circles with Mr. Cedric still encroaching. “Guys?”

Finally, 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 Donovan.

So 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 into it.

“Good enough,” she muttered.


Session Four

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 abilities.

“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 harder.

“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 arrived.

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 magic.

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?” asked Troy.

“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 reload.

But reload he did, and now they had no way to stop him.


Session Five

Teleportation was 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 Ellen.

“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 sure.”

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 comrade.

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 door.

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 recharge.

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 head.

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 less crazy.





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